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Sahra Halgan

SAHRA HALGAN TRIO Faransiskiyo Somaliland Buda 4758652

Somaliland is a country in north-east Africa, or else it isn’t, depending on who’s talking. Officially it’s a self- declared state in northwest Somalia, internationally unrecognised. But according to Somalilanders, sizeable communities of whom live

in Britain, Somaliland is a free and indepen- dent nation. It has been so since 1991. Sheffield, Cardiff and now Tower Hamlets Councils agree.

Singer Sahra Halgan is a kind of cultural flag-bearer for the nation. She now lives in Hargeisa, the capital. But she lived in Lyon for the last 20 years where she met two sympa- thetic French musicians who play on this CD. Aymeric Krol plays percussion – ‘strange drums’ as it says on the album credits – and ngoni while Mael Selètes plays guitar. And that’s the trio we hear here. With no more than occasional overdubs and the odd guest musician, they conjure a big, varied sound of direct appeal and considerable depth. They fill their stage.

Sahra has a voice capable of everything from high-power declamation to soulful mur- murings. The parallel that springs to mind might be Ethiopia, someone like Aster Aweke. Mael Selètes’ guitar is reminiscent of a Tuareg bluesman, but with more variety and complexity. He really is a one-man lesson in what a single electric guitar can be made to express with minimal electronic treatment. A fine and resourceful musician, as is drum- mer Krol who conjures powerful syncopation and propulsion from slender means. All serve Sahra, and Somaliland. It comes with accom- panying film on DVD.

Hear a track on this issue’s fRoots 57


Rick Sanders


The Long Way Home Hands On Music HMCD39

Immaculately packaged, beautifully produced, finely recorded…the Hands (as we groovy types in the meejah like to call them) don’t put many feet wrong wherever they happen to tread.

In this case it’s a careful- ly measured twelve-track

path that embodies trad songs (a rather mag- nificent Hambledon Fair included), contem- porary songs by Chris Hoban, Andrew Cadie, Dick Gaughan and Brian McNeil and five new Steve Knightley songs. Yet this isn’t quite the Knightley extravaganza we tend to antici- pate from SoH albums. The arrangements are well-rounded and more varied than we’re used to hearing, Phil Beer gets to take lead vocal on a couple of tracks (including a rather moving cover of one of the late Tony Rose’s greatest hits, ’Twas On One April’s Morning) and there are guest appearances from Ange Hardy, Phillip Henry, Hannah Martin, Jackie Oates (harmonising sublimely on Hambledon Fair), not to mention Knightley’s thirteen- year-old son Jack on cajon.

They definitely benefit from sharing the

load; Hoban’s two songs Hallow’s Eve and The Old Lych Way offer a wholly different dimen- sion, rooted as the songs are in a mystical past and accorded suitably spiritual, atmo- spheric arrangements; while Keep Hauling, written by Cadie (of the Broom Bezzums) is a glorious modern sea shanty that will soon surely be accorded the ultimate accolade of being attributed to Mr Trad.

Previous accusations of being formulaic

certainly can’t be laid here. Knightley rather cleverly references his own back catalogue on Walk With Me (When The Sun Goes Down) and in Mesopotamia he’s constructed a love song of rare tenderness and fragility, ably abetted again by the harmonies of Jackie Oates.

With ol’ gravel voice reining in his more grandstanding inclinations and Beer excelling himself with his sweeping array of fiddle landscapes, the accustomed freneticism is rarely heard on a thoughtful album of warm shades and lower temperatures that sounds surprisingly… well… folkie. Colin Irwin

VESEVO Vesevo Agualoca Records ALCD008

Vesevo are a trio based in Naples including two mem- bers of Spaccanapoli, whose Real World album got them a fRoots cover back in 2000. Their area of interest is the traditional music to the south of that city, of Calabria.

Each member brings his particular strength to the band. Francesco Paolo Manna is a fine percussionist whether playing drum kit, djembe or beautifully marking tarantellas with a hand drum. The tarantellas also have a role for a soaring fiddle and that and key- boards are handled by Antonio Fraioli. He also contributes some accompaniments on marranzano (isn’t that a much better name for the instrument than what we call the ‘jew’s harp’? Perhaps I should start a cam- paign for us to ‘go Italian’ on this one.)

The third member is the guitar playing vocalist Antonio Di Ponte and it is his emo- tionally charged, pleading voice that is the most appealing on an album that is full of great moments. His singing on Muntagna Pe Muntagna and Tammurriata – just voice and hand drum this latter one – is as exhilarating as anything that I have heard in a long time.

You can hear a track on this issue's

fRoots 57 compilation.

Vic Smith

Photo: © Judith Burrows

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