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As promised, here is the next installment of great Internet resources for tracking down international music. My last post featured three sites that sell mostly to specific ethnic communities, while today’s trio are geared toward a broader clientele even if their catalog’s are somewhat regionally specific.
Sambastore has more variety in its inventory than its name might suggest, but all the music comes from Brazil. Though Chicago’s Dusty Groove is probably the best place in America to find new and old sounds from Brazil, Sambastore is far more comprehensive--it sells bossa nova, samba, forro, choro, sertanejo, mangue-beat, hip-hop, rock, MPB, and more, from both majors and independents. They don’t have everything, but I don’t know of a better source that also offers English descriptions and instructions. Prices are competitive, but thanks to the sinking value of the dollar they’ve been climbing of late. If you buy four or more CDs, shipping is free.
Descarga is the be-all, end-all for Afro-Caribbean music. This New York-based operation doesn't sell cheap--most everything in its huge catalog is offered at list price--but there’s no arguing with the selection and the user-friendly writing. Former New York Times critic Peter Watrous is among the writers providing content to the site. Danzon, son, timba, Latin jazz, boogaloo, rumba, salsa, cha-cha--you name it, Descarga has it.
Passion Music carries a wide range of music from eastern Europe and specializes in folk and Romani styles from countries like Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, and the former Yugoslavia. You can also find a decent selection of salsa and klezmer, as well as releases from Russia and the Czech Republic. From old-school fiddle music to blasting Balkan brass bands to straight-ahead jazz, the selection is impressive. There are also audio snippets from most of the titles. Given the way the pound is spanking the dollar, it’s amazing that this British outlet’s prices are still so good--though of course they're not as good as they were a few years ago.
Paolo Angeli, Tessuti: Paolo Angeli Plays Frith & Bjork (ReR)
Spiritulaires of Hurtsboro, Alabama, Singing Songs of Praise (CaseQuarter)
Fennesz & Sakamoto, Cendre (Touch)
Bruce Eisenbeil Sextet, Inner Constellation, Volume One (Nemu)
Steve Kuhn, Live at Birdland (Blue Note)