Tchiya Amet – Celestial Folk Music (2012)

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[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9mZKY3R1MIQ&w=500&h=305]

Tchiya Amet creates this interesting subtext, weaving a mystical tapestry of stories, myths, legends and spells through a varied rhythmic landscape. But even if you aren’t familiar with the source material, Celestial Folk Music charms.

Largely recorded in Rio, and sounding every bit like the cultural crossroads that city has always been, Celestial Folk Music begins with “Esho Funi,” a lithe reggae-informed number that showcases Tchiya’s smoke-filled vocal — very much, at times, like Sade’s, but with a far more direct sense of purpose. The track, digging deeper, is actually a meditation on a one-with-nature teaching from the Lotus Sutra, but there’s no shame in saying you could swing and sway to this all night with that information only lodged somewhere deep in your subconscious.

That’s just how ingratiating “Esho Funi” is, and the same holds true for the balance of Celestial Folk Music.

“Keep Chanting,” a sweetly conveyed Buddhist theme sung over a spritely swinging rhythm, is followed by “Master of Desire” — a soulful cry focusing on the teachings of the Baghavad Gita, presented through the prism of another lilting island rhythm. The horn-driven “Love and Joy” makes a direct reference to these sessions’ surroundings, as Tchiya offers a popular Brazilian song with this breathy confidentiality.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i0HuEPeNqkg&w=385&h=280]

She switches to an unusual 6/8 cadence for “Egyptian Blues,” a song that’s enlivened by her adaptations of an ancient African chant. “Egyptian Blues” returns, at album’s end, in instrumental form, this time with a brilliant solo by Youssoupha Sidibe on the Kora, a 21-stringed instrument from West Africa.

The hypnotically sensual “Ast Matt: RU Sirius Enuff,” which pays tribute to the goddesses of Aset and Matt, could — in a less stringently formatted world — find a home on a contemporary R&B format. Elsewhere, Tchiya references cultures as diverse as the Native American Cherokees (“Where the Dog Ran” and “No Kwi Si Iga”) and the South American Quechua tribes (“Fire Water”).

In an interesting twist, she also shows an affinity for American jazz, with updates of tunes associated with John Coltrane (“Equinox”) and Louis Armstrong (“What a Wonderful World). Of course, here as elsewhere, Tchiya adds her own charming world-music twist: On the former, she sings with a sultry romanticism over a propulsive rhythm, while on the latter Tchiya adds a loping Rastafarian groove.

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Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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