Join us on Episode 642 of Folk Roots Radio for another hour of the latest folk and roots releases. This time around we kick things off with a great world music set featuring Kimi Djabaté, Lenka Lichtenberg, Jaffa Road and Catrin Finch & Seckou Keita. We also include excellent songs from Deidre McCalla, Cameron Nickerson, Basset, Ray Bonneville, Peter Mulvey & Sistastrings, John McCutcheon, James Keelaghan, Mimi O’Bonsawin, AV (Ann Vriend) and Kirby Heard. We wrap things up with “Water Protectors”, a powerful call to support natural resources from Manitoban folk duo Spirit Trail. It’s a fun and uplifting hour. Remember, If you like the artists you hear on this show and want to support them, don’t just stream their music – BUY their music, and then you’ll really make a difference to their income at a time when it is becoming much more difficult to make a living as a musician. Check out the full playlist below.
The start of the show very much had a world music feel to it. We kicked things off with Kimi Djabaté, who was raised in Guinea-Bissau, in a village known for its ‘griots’ – that’s hereditary singer-poets whose songs of praise and tales of history and legends play an essential role in West Africa’s music and social life. Now based in Portugal, the song we played “Dindin” comes with a clear and powerful message that you should refrain from anything that hurts others. You can find it on Putumayo’s new “Acoustic World 2 EP”. It will also be the title track of Kimi’s upcoming album.
We followed that with Toronto based singer-songwriter Lenka Lichtenberg who is of Czech-Jewish decent, with “Kam jsme to zašli? (What is this place?)” from “Thieves of Dreams”, a fantastic recording project based around poems her grandmother Anna Hana Friesova wrote while detained during WW2. An album with a gorgeous sound, it’s definitely well-worth checking out.
“This project is about women. Creative, strong, breaking social taboos, and in some ways… invisible. My maternal grandmother Anna Hana Friesova was a stunning, well-educated woman from an entirely assimilated Czech Jewish family: assimilation was fairly common; in her case, it was based on fears of pogroms witnessed by her husband. She was an accomplished artist both with a pen and a brush, and nobody took her seriously – I suspect not even herself: she never mentioned her art to me. Only when my mother recently passed, I discovered two worn notebooks among her possessions: poems Anna Hana wrote between the years 1940 and 1945, just before and during her two-and-a-half-year incarceration (1942-1945) in the Terezin (Theresienstadt) concentration camp. I was stunned by the intensity of her words, the erudite vocabulary, the raw and often disturbing honesty. I find her words just as poignant today as they were eighty years ago.”
“Wordless Melody” comes from “Until When”, the third album from Jaffa Road who are based on Toronto and weave together a whole range of different styles – Jewish music, classical Arabic and Indian music, modern jazz, blues, electronica, rock, pop, funk and dub to produce a sound that is all their own and incredibly danceable.
“In both Hebrew and Yiddish the word Niggun refers to a wordless vocal melody. The singing of Niggunim (plural) is a longstanding tradition in Jewish music where wordless vocal melodies are sung with a variety of syllables. Different Niggunim can be used for dancing at celebrations or for quiet contemplative meditation. They are usually pre-composed but can also be improvised; and traditionally, they were handed down from spiritual teacher to student. The practice originated among the Hasidic communities of Eastern Europe, who emanated from the circles of natural mystics that surrounded the Ba’al Shem Tov. In recent decades the practice has become well known and practiced in mainstream Jewish culture around the world. With Wordless Melody, we imagine a post-genre Niggun for the 21st century.”
We wrapped up the best with Welsh harpist Catrin Finch and Senegalese kora player Seckou Keita with “Dimanche” from their third album “ECHO”. It’s actually not just a song about Dimanche (Sunday), but rather any day you might choose to be your weekly rest for the soul.
“In the throes of lockdown, the rhythm of everyday life went completely out of sync. Normal days lost their meaning, tunes and melodies started coming to the surface at all times of night and day. Ironically it became a productive time for me creatively and by the time we were able to play together the ‘tune banks’ were full of pent-up music ready to be aired.” (Catrin Finch)
“I remember waking up in the morning thinking ‘I’m actually going to be writing today’. Oh my God! After all this lockdown, all the travel restrictions all over the world. But I’m looking forward to going there and being creative.” (Seckou Keita)
“When The Ground Shifts” comes from Deidre McCalla‘s fifth independent album, “Endless Grace”. It’s a song that explores how our collective experience of the world changed as the COVID pandemic brought everything to a standstill.
“High and Alone”, from Halifax NS singer-songwriter Cameron Nickerson, could have been written about the COVID experience but it’s actually a song that Cameron wrote in 2016 after experiencing a panic attack from smoking too much weed. You’ll be able to find it on Cameron’s soon to be released second album “Submission”.
“I wrote “High and Alone” in 2016 while having a panic attack after smoking to much of the green gloop! Though I don’t usually take part in the recreational activities I sing about in High and Alone as much as I did back then, I have found that the meaning of the song has takin a whole new life when I think about my cold exposure and breathing journey I am on. Breathe in, and Breathe out have been two life changing words for myself this past year, just in a different way as I originally wrote them.”
Sam Clark and Yasmine Shelton make music together as Toronto’s Basset. “Change Of Time” comes from their lockdown inspired release “In the Clay”. It’s actually a song that wasn’t written about life in COVID times, but rather being caught in the rain – actually drenched, more like, while on a trip to Italy after graduating from university, during a time they both made the big decision to make music their chosen career, rather than continuing with school.
“I couldn’t believe how much Italy looked like a movie; it was so beautiful it was almost ridiculous. While we were in Florence we got caught in the rain, and not a little shower, it was a total downpour. We were soaked in seconds, but we didn’t mind at all. We had nowhere to be, and the rain wasn’t cold, so we just stood there while the water made rivers in the streets. Later that night we took a walk, with the street lights reflecting off the canals and the wet cobblestones. It was total catharsis, and the perfect thing to mark that transition in our lives.” (Yasmine Shelton)
“The Way It Was Before” is the latest single from Canadian expat singer-songwriter Ray Bonneville who is now based in Austin TX. A remorseful look back at a lost relationship it was written during COVID lockdown. It could also describe how many people feel about how things have changed since the start of the pandemic.
We also squeezed in singer-songwriter Peter Mulvey from Milwaukee WS with his coming out of COVID song “Early Summer Of ’21”. You can find it on the excellent “Love Is The Only Thing” which was recorded with Sistastrings who feature Chauntee Ross on violin, and Monique Ross on cello.
Acclaimed songwriter John McCutcheon challenges you to ‘seize the day’ on “The Ride”, one of more than 50 songs he wrote during the pandemic, and now released on his latest album, “Leap!”.
Staying with the theme of fabulous songwriters, “Walk On” is an upbeat positive take on the current times that Canada’s James Keelaghan wrote with Catherine MacLellan. You can find it on James Keelaghan’s latest album, “Second-Hand”.
North Eastern Ontario’s Mimi O’Bonsawin has written a fabulous song about female empowerment, “Here’s To The Women”. It will appear on Mimi’s new album “Willow” which is due in 2023.
“Don’t Wait” is another song about not waiting for life to come to you. You can find it on “Everything Matters”, the latest album from Edmonton’s Ann Vriend, who now makes music as the artist AV. It’s another excellent recording.
Continuing the female empowerment theme, Kirby Heard reflects on life’s lessons on “Things Sure Do Change” which comes from “I Am – Songs By Lynn Swisher Spears”, 21 songs about hopes, dreams, joys and heartache, that also feature 13 exceptional female vocalists.
We wrapped up the episode with “Water Protectors” a rallying cry to support natural resources inspired by protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline protests at Standing Rock ND. It comes from Manitoba based folk duo Spirit Trail, who feature Destiny Fiddler – who is Cree from Mathias Colomb First Nation from Pukatawagan, Manitoba and Chas Piper from Windsor ON.
Out on the frontline
Rockin’ in the street it’s time
The Water Protectors
Of the Sky and Earth
From Standing Rock, North Dakota
It ain’t over till it’s over
Oh sister and brother
We’ve got to stand
Defend the sacred Mother
“Water is our lifeblood and it is our responsibility to care for and protect it before it is too late,” Destiny says. “There’s no time to take lightly the degradation and poisoning of our sacred waters. Where will we be when there’s nothing clean to drink and the medicine won’t grow?” (Destiny Fiddler)
That’s all we have time for. Thanks to all the artists who share their music with us, and thank you for listening. We have lots of great music and interviews to bring you on future episodes.
If you enjoy the music we play on this show and want to support the artists – don’t just stream their music – that earns them much less than a penny per play. Instead, buy their music – and really make a difference to their income. They’ll love you for it!
Stay safe and well everyone!
You can listen to this episode again on Soundcloud by following the link below. You can also listen to episodes of Folk Roots Radio, on-demand, via Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher and Tune-in Radio. (Click on the highlighted link to reach your chosen platform.)
Nicolas & The Iceni (Theme)
Lucy She Rises
Roll Right (2019, self)
Acoustic World 2 EP (2022, Putumayo)
Kam jsme to zašli? (What Is This Place?)
Thieves of Dreams (2022, Sunflower Records) CDN
Wordless Melody (Niggun)
Until When (2021, Self) CDN
Catrin Finch & Seckou Keita
ECHO (2020, bendigedig)
When The Ground Shifts
Endless Grace (2022, MaidenRock Records)
High and Alone
Submission (2022, Self) CDN
Change Of Time
(single) from In the Clay (2022, Self) CDN
The Way It Was Before
(single) (2022, Stonefly Records) CDN
Leap! (2022, Appalseed)
Second-Hand (2022, Borealis Records) CDN
Here’s To The Women
Willow (2022, Self) CDN
AV (Ann Vriend)
Everybody Matters (2022, Self) CDN
(single) (2022, Self) CDN