When: Thu., June 9, 6:30 p.m. 2011
On the new He Who Travels Far (Four Quarters), its second album available in the West, Chinese folk-rock band Hanggai beefs up the rock side of its sound—hardly a surprise, since bandleader Ilchi grew up in Beijing and played punk rock in a group called T9. He started Hanggai after becoming so obsessed with the traditional overtone singing called hoomei—long practiced in his father's homeland of Inner Mongolia—that he paid a visit to learn what he could about it. The group's music is similar to the Tuvan folk of Huun-Huur-Tu and the Tuvan-rock hybrid of Yat-Kha, but on the new record—coproduced by Ken Stringfellow, who's played in the Posies and the re-formed Big Star—it's the electric guitars that really stand out. Most of the songs are traditional, with galloping rhythms, twangy guitars, and nasal singing that recall American cowboy music.
With this year's gorgeous Laru Beya (Sub Pop/Next Ambiance/Stonetree), Honduran singer Aurelio Martinez established himself as the obvious heir to Belize's Andy Palacio, the previous ambassador of Garifuna music, who died suddenly in early 2008. Not only does Martinez share Palacio's passion for public service—in 2005 he became the first person of African descent elected to the National Congress of Honduras—but he casts a wide net with his rich music, expertly produced by Ivan Duran, in the process making explicit the connections between Garifuna culture and some of its African sources. Many of the tracks have a strong reggae vibe, illustrating the interaction between African and other Caribbean styles. Martinez spent an extended period in Senegal being mentored by Youssou N'Dour, and Laru Beya includes vocal contributions from N'Dour, members of Orchestra Baobab, and hip-hop crew Sen Kumpe. —Peter Margasak