Various Artists

New York City: Global Beat of the Boroughs - Music From New York City's Ethnic....

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This double-CD collection (for the price of a single disc) is a wonder of modern music from around the globe, all centered -- deeply -- in the international communities residing in New York City's boroughs from Brooklyn and Queens to Manhattan, Staten Island and the Bronx. The Smithsonian Folkways project has assembled, from the heart of the ethnic communities themselves, a transnational montage of such beauty, power, and passion, it is almost impossible to take both CDs in at one listen. While some of the performers here are well known, such as Manny Oquendo's y Libre and Simon Shaheen, Eileen Ivers, the Klezmatics, Cherish the Ladies, and Andy Statman (all of whom have deep roots in the communities as cultural workers), the rest are virtually unknown outside their neighborhoods. There is the deep Columbian charanga blues of Los Macondos juxtaposed with the Jewish mountain music of El Tereza; the listener will find the radical swinging gospel of Rev. Timothy White and the Grace Tabernacle Choir near the traditional Puerto Rican bomba preached by the "Singing Newspaper" Los Pleneros de la 21. And while diversity in an of itself is no guarantee of quality in a series of proceedings like these, the production care and attention to detail in the sequencing -- let alone the phenomenal liner notes -- create a world that is united not only in song, but in the proximity of their region, as separate cultures thriving and succeeding in carrying on as traditional cultures in a single territory. And as the traditions take on new shades of meaning and expression from their new homeland -- Dominican singer Luis Dias' "Los Vecinos Oyen," which carries its traditional melody into the den of rock & roll dynamics and viscera, or Yuri Yukanov's melding of free jazz with Bulgarian and Ukranian wedding music -- a transcultural extension of music itself occurs. There are 31 selections here, from many nations, from Greece to Russia, to Latin America, the Middle East, and Southern Africa. All of them reflect the determination of preserving their heritages in a foreign land, while widening this new terrain with those traditions, cultural mannerisms, and artifacts, in this case the wealth and breadth of music. This was the finest collection of world music to come out on any American label in five years. That all of these musicians were residing in the city of New York makes it the most important cultural document since Harry Smith's original Anthology of American Folk Music.

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