Rounder Records Continues Pushing Their Catalog to Digital With April Release of World Music Sets

Rounder Records is continuing their effort to move much of their catalog, built up over the 45 years that they have been in business, into the digital realm with 21 titles out of World Music.

Before “world music” became a common term, Rounder was releasing roots-oriented records from around the world. Their newest digital re-release program includes many of the best of them, including the calypsonian Growling Tiger with the Trans-Caribbean All-Star Orchestra, featuring the Cuban trumpeter Alfredo ‘Chocolate’ Armenteros, and the Klezmer Conservatory Orchestra’s celebratory Oy Chanukah!. The twenty-one albums now available for the first time on all the major streaming services include music from Ghana, Puerto Rico, China, Zaire (Democratic Republic of the Congo), Cape Breton, St. Croix, Trinidad and Mexico. There’s also a good measure of Texas conjunto music. All in all, it’s a treasure trove of fresh sounds for the adventurous audio explorer!

In previous months, Rounder has celebrated the sound of New Orleans (February) and Bluegrass (March).

This month's releases:

Oy Chanukah! - The Klezmer Conservatory Band
The Klezmer Conservatory Band, founded by Hankus Netsky at the New England Conservatory in Boston, has become an institution, with its deft celebration of klezmer music—both its roots and its new directions. The fusion of the traditional music of Eastern European Jews and American jazz has never found a more joyful incarnation than in this album of Chanukah music, primarily drawn from traditional sources.

Somos Boricuas / We Are Puerto Rican: Bomba y Plena en Nueva York -  Los Pleneros de la 21
Los Pleneros de la 21 are masters of the African-derived bombo and plena drumming styles of Puerto Rico. Led by drummer and composer Juan José Gutierrez-Rodriguez, this twelve-piece New York-based ensemble, which also includes keyboards, bass, and string instruments, is one of the outstanding proponents of traditional Puerto Rican music. The New York Times said of this recording, “the melodies are gorgeous and the tunes perfectly arranged, precise rhythms making way for singing or a drum section.”

Master Drummers of Dagbon, V. 1 - Alhaji Ibrahim Abdulai & the Master Drummers of Dagbon
Musicologist and author John Miller Chernoff, who made these recordings in Northern Ghana, writes, “There are heavy spiritual repercussions when masters of drumming express themselves in a tradition of artistic genius. The singing of the drums resembles the breathing of the wind, and when the sound of the drumming dies, it moves away like exhaled breath. The bass drums vibrate inside the earth.” The album offers a glimpse into a rich musical and spiritual tradition, as well as a unique listening experience when played loud.

Africa Worldwide: 35th Anniversary Album - Tabu Ley Rochereau Et L'Orchestre Afrisa International
Recorded in Louisiana during an extended stay in the U.S. during the 1980s, this album celebrates the exciting legacy of the late soukous star and originator Tabu Ley Rochereau. Along with several other musicians, including Papa Wemba and Pépé Kallé, in then-Zaire in the 1960s, Tabu Ley brought Cuban rumba rhythms back to Africa, adding shimmering electric guitar sounds, a horn section, and his sweet lead vocals—a warm, inviting, and thoroughly delightful sound.

Crucian Scratch Band Music - Blinky & the Roadmasters
From the island of St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Blinky and the Roadmasters play a captivating style of Caribbean dance music that fuses calypso, African-derived rhythms, Hawaiian ukulele, and a two-saxophone front line that might be otherwise heard in a Texas polka band. The word play in the English-language songs and the happy spirit of the music make for an irresistible listening experience.

Music of Veracruz - Los Pregoneros del Puerto
This exquisitely beautiful music from the Gulf Coast state of Veracruz in Mexico features diatonic harp, the four-string requinto, and the eight-string guitar called the jarana. The powerful vocals of group leader José Gutierrez and supported by string harmonies, while the majestic harp playing of Gonzalo Mata is a marvel to behold.

Raw Kaiso I: Live in Concert in Port of Spain, Trinidad - Mighty Zandolie & Black Prince with Lord Blakie
Here are the roots of modern calypso music, performed by three of the most colorful characters and wicked satirists in the genre. “In this collection we present three men who belong to a time of few inhibitions, no 'political correctness,' just raw feelings, vivid paintings of our life and times, off-the-cuff love-it-or-leave-it stuff. In other words… RAW to the bone.” –David Rudder

The Return of El Parche - Steve Jordan
The late Estéban “Steve” Jordan was the greatest triple-row accordion player in Texas, and perhaps in the world. His experimentation with electronic effects and synthesized sounds earned him the title “Jimi Hendrix of the accordion,” while his musical excursions often went beyond the boundaries of most conjunto music. The 12 songs on this collection, which include original, traditional songs and a Spanish language cover of the Coasters “Yakity Yak,” were originally recorded for the Freddie and Joey labels.

Conjunto! Texas-Mexican Border Music, V. 1 - Various Artists
This outstanding collection, the first of a multi-lbum series released by Rounder Records, offers a good overview of the conjunto music of South Texas. Included are Los Gavilanes, Tony De La Rosa, Steve Jordan, Los Hermanos Barron, Flaco Jimenez, Los Cachorros de Juan Villareal, Ruben Naranjo Y Los Gamblers, Los Linces, and Ramon Ayala y Los Bravos Del Norte.

El Huracan - Steve Jordan
The late Estéban “Steve” Jordan was the greatest triple-row accordion player in Texas, and perhaps in the world. His experimentation with electronic effects and synthesized sounds earned him the title “Jimi Hendrix of the accordion,” while his musical excursions often went beyond the boundaries of most conjunto music. This collection of songs, originally recorded for Hacienda Records, includes Jordan originals such as “Oaxaca,” traditional songs, and a cover of Tito Puente’s “Ran-Kan-Kan.”

Arriba el Norte - Flaco Jimenez
Through his collaborations with artists such as The Rolling Stones, Ry Cooder, and Carlos Santana, and his touring with bands such as the Texas Tornados, accordionist and singer Flaco Jimenez is the best-known figure in Texas conjunto music. These fourteen rancheras and polkas were originally recorded for the DBL label in San Antonio. Here is traditional Mexican-American music at its best.

Así Se Baila En Tejas - Tony De La Rosa
Tony De La Rosa is a key figure in traditional conjunto music who was at least partially responsible for modernizing the sound of the music by adding electric bass and drums in the early 1950s. Producer Carl Finch, of the Texas band Brave Combo, delivers a joyful album that fully inhabits the spirit of the album title—“this is how we dance in Texas!”

I Love My Freedom, I Love My Texas - Mingo Saldivar y Sus Tremendos Cuatro Espadas
Mingo Salvidar is one of the unheralded local stars of the South Texas conjunto scene. Produced by Carl Finch of Brave Combo, I Love My Freedom, I Love My Texas taps songs from forty years of Saldivar’s career, including his own “Lindo Cariñito,” the traditional “Sacate los Piojos, Chencha” the June Carter Cash-Merle Kilgore standard “Ring of Fire” done as “Rueda de Fuego,” ranchera style.

No Strings Attached - Zlatne Uste Balkan Brass Band
The Zlatne Uste Balkan Brass Band performs the exuberant music of the brass bands of Bulgaria, Macedonia, and Serbia, which have a deep and long tradition. From hummable, toe-tapping tunes to humblingly complex rhythms and melodies, this music moves the body and touches the soul. This group of Americans, none of whom have Slavic roots, has often performed overseas, and stages the annual Golden Festival of Balkan music in New York each year.

Best of Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys - Steve Riley & the Mamou Playboys
Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys represent the best of the Cajun bands following in the footsteps of fiddler Dewey Balfa, who stalwartly fought for the vitality of Cajun music through many lean years. These recordings feature the frontline of accordionist/fiddler Riley and fiddler David Greely, with a repertoire and sound that range from the purely traditional to genre- pushing edges that extend the tradition. This is a true greatest hits collection, and a foundation of any modern Cajun music collection.

Old Time Wedding Reels, And Other Favorite Scottish Fiddle Tunes - Joseph Cormier and Friends
Joseph Cormier plays the delightful Canadianized Scottish fiddle music of French-speaking Cape Breton, where he was born. As in much Cajun and Celtic music, traditional melodies dominate, often performed in medley fashion. Cormier’s bright tone and spot-on execution of these songs, here presented with piano, bass, guitar, and mandolin accompaniment, place him in the first rank of traditional fiddlers.

Live - Natalie MacMaster
Natalie MacMaster is the best-known young fiddler to have emerged from Cape Breton, giving traditional Scottish, Canadian, and French tunes a new sound with full-band support, including electric guitar and keyboards. This two-album set presents her live in two different settings, one with her fiddle supported by the rock and funk-tinged grooves of her full band., and another playing a strictly traditional dance, backed only by piano and acoustic guitar.

Tides and Sand: The Art Of The Chinese Hammered Dulcimer - Sisi Chen
Sisi Chen is one of the great virtuosi of the Chinese hammered dulcimer, or yangqin, which may have origins in the Middle East. It’s an appealing sound, whether heard on a traditional piece such as “Spring Arrives on the Qin River” or an impressionistic composition such as “Beautiful Africa.”

Moonlight In Vietnam - The Khac Chi Ensemble
Based in Vancouver, the Khac Chi Ensemble plays music from the varied cultures of Vietnam on a variety of traditional instruments, including the dan bau, a one-stringed zither; the trung, a bamboo xylophone; and tam thap luc, a hammered dulcimer.

Knockdown Calypsos - Growling Tiger
Growling Tiger, born Neville Marcano in Trinidad in 1915, was one of the stars of the golden age of calypso music, recording forty-six songs for Decca Records in the 1930s. Following a period in which his classic sound became dated to younger ears, he recorded for Alan Lomax in the 1960s, played the Newport Folk Festival, and made this album for Rounder

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