Category Archives: Musicality

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Randy’s Reviews – Randy’s Record Reviews: Putumayo Presents… African Odyssey

 

Randy’s Reviews – Randy’s Record Reviews: Putumayo Presents… African Odyssey (Randyjw; October 22, 2016)

 

Putumayo Presents… African Odyssey. (p) and © 2001 Putumayo World Music: 411 Lafayette, 4th Fl., New York, New York 10003 ph: (212) 625-1400; (www.putumayo.com). Barcode Reader: 790248019123; ISBN: 1587590476.

 

Another compilation disc of African music from around the region presented on an acoustic level with profundity and sophistication.

 

1. Manecas Costa – Fundu Di Matu  – Guinea-Bissau (5:30)

Portuguese-influenced song.

 

*2. Seydu – The Well – Sierra Leone (4:22)

Interesting; hard to peg; really nice. Soft, rambling xylophone and percussion, in a ’70’s, jazzy-ish style with scary punches of accent on the highs.

 

3. Les Go – Sou – Ivory Coast (3:12)

Plucky and monochromatic. Complex arrangements of overlaid vocals to simple music in offbeat rhythm.

 

*4. Oliver Mtukudzi – Raki – Zimbabwe (7:05)

Slow-moving reggae-ish sound. I like it; it grows on you, throughout, ’til you’re slo-mo bopping.

 

5. Augusto Cego – Mar – Cape Verde (5:15)

Ocean tide and Portuguese guitar in a ballad style.

 

*6. Bidinte – Kecu Minino Na Tchora – Guinea-Bissau (3:14)

I love this happy, little song with its bluesy start and scale-runs and “Junior” -like backup.

 

*7. Aura Msimang – Kulala – South Africa (4:34)

This is a really neat one with multiple influences presented in such a cool-sounding mix.

 

8. Adama Yalomba – Miri Yoro – Mali (8:24)

Steely strings and wah-wah synth combined with a low voice makes for some really weird and great stuff.

 

9. Doctor King’esi – Nipelaki Kwa Baba – Kenya (2:54)

Reminds me of some old, Israeli music.

 

10. Habib Koite’ – Sinama Denw – Mali (3:25)

Interesting notes put together in a unique minor-major way (puns always intended).

 

Starred standouts on this album include tracks: 2, 4, 6 and 7.

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Man Bands

 

Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles — these were the “boy bands” of my day. In fact, there was really not such a thing until the term defined it, in the 1990’s, with the likes of Boyz II Men, ‘N Sync, and The Backstreet Boys. Wikipedia places it earlier, and there are some evolutions referred to, but I still give it to the ’90’s, with nods to Donny Osmond and Michael Jackson of the 1970’s and 1980’s spurring the young boy popstar phenomenon, further opening the music market to teen male pop poster-boys, along with their bands, during the later 70’s, popularizing maledom everywhere.

 

My era saw macho “man bands” slicing and dicing their way through rousing rock tunes with no intimation, whatsoever, regarding gender. Such things didn’t matter. Neither did race. Perhaps it would have continued to develop more naturally and organically, had we not indulged in exaggerated scrutiny to the matter, peering and prying into every aspect of its being, making sure to attach a label to it so that it would become a sure phenomenon.

 

Such is the nature of competition in the marketplace, the requisite publication of the theorem, welcoming admittance to the doctoral student into their professed occupations. No wonder the plethora of grant-driven studies in minutaie.

 

Nevertheless, good marketing and better formulas die a slow, ignominious death. So, here we have continuing boy bands, worse for the wear and the tear, with regard to the golden standards to which they now must attain. This is the same trajectory, by the way, as taken by the “girl bands”, pretty much, except the path preceeded the boy bands by about a decade or so (popularly considered — say, by The Bangles, or the Go-go’s, etc. — Yep, I spun double turntables, back in the day, but nothing fancy).

 

Girl and Boy Bands, as a concept, are almost on the verge of becoming passé. Until you come to this one: Celtic Thunder. This group is really wonderful. They comprise almost the right quantity of individuals to be considered a choir, but fall ideally just short.

 

Last night, I happened to leave my television tuned to the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) in America when I left off from watching the Stephen Hawking series, Genius. Turning it on for a little noise beyond the whirrings of my mind this following evening, a PBS special, with its accompanying fund drive, was broadcasting Celtic Thunder: Legacy. It was already past the halfway point, and I already missed quite a bit. Sad to say, as I enjoyed it very much.

 

Through the packing tape holding the lens to the frame of my spectacles (for that is what it surely is) from where it broke in two places, and on the small screen with few channels, perhaps first-gen cable-ready, I made out what appeared to be a Brad Pitt or Val Kilmer look-alike, with this beautiful voice and charming persona. I’m sure both Brad and Val can sing wonderfully, but this gentleman had a fine singing voice.

 

The rest of the ensemble were equally wonderful, as well. Hailing from Ireland, they sing an eclectic mix of heritage-style songs and those geared to their audience. Since the audience was American, they did some doo-wop tunes and classic tunes familiar to all. For that is what it is: a group geared for good, old-fashioned family fun and entertainment.

 

This is a show for young and old alike, and just about all would be able to appreciate it. If you can see it, whether on t.v., or live in-concert, or hear their shows via CD, I recommend them as a great, enjoyable group you can feel happy about listening to.

 

 

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Lazer Focus

 

Lazer Focus (Randyjw; April 30, 2016)

 

We often find our highest forms of expression in music. Bridging language barriers, it spans the divide to reach into our souls and to bring forward our humanity.

 

For years, music lyrics were often the first means used to broadcast the cultural mores represented within our society — the ones which our youths would most often like to see changed!

 

So, “message music” became a popular way to start a popular movement of the masses in protest of the ways society was presently operating. Folk music of the 1960’s and 1970’s expressed a subset of society’s displeasure of our war efforts in VietNam and toward authority, in general. Because radio reached a broad audience, the influence of mass communication became palpable, though often overstated (Many people still don’t realize that the “loud” voice that the mass media displays neither makes it, necessarily, the popular, nor the majority, opinion).

 

In any case, the modes and methods of the message delivery system may have changed, but the basic precept is still there, and always will be. People need to be heard. They need to feel that they are important, and that their opinions matter. They are the clarion call to wake us up to our mistakes and to correct our actions, before it becomes too late.

 

One such man, with important things to say, is Lazer Lloyd. He is a blues musician with a prescient message, no matter where you stand on the political spectrum. His latest release, “America”, puts together all the shortfalls we could express about this great nation, while still acknowledging that this is a good land, overall. The beauty in the fretwork, and the wording of the sentiments, express what I would’ve also brought up in past wrongs America has committed. On a personal level, to those we’ve hurt, or to those I might have hurt, as well, I would add, “I’m sorry”. This song was touching and I have to admit that I cried while listening to it. Please visit YouTube and click the black arrow in the white portion of the YouTube song identification area to see the lyrics while viewing the song video.

 

“The Bomb Shelter Blues” addresses the realities of being expected to live under the insane conditions imposed upon us in Israel, while others who have the power to stop and change this warring against us hypocritically do nothing and, instead, condemn those upon whom the bombs and rockets fall. I particularly like the message revealed when you click the black YouTube arrow at YouTube.

 

Giving away the surprise, “Back Porch” feels like a really great Indian-style instrumental piece, but simple lyrics about serving G-d find their way between the meditational meanderings of the acoustic arrangement. I really like this piece.

 

“Eye of the Storm” is a really good “L-rd Have Mercy” plaint, plain and simple. Hear the sample, below.

 

“New Year’s Blues (Tears For Dikla)” is a really mellow, really wonderful blues tune to chill out to. I think you’ll enjoy it. It’s on YouTube, for those who don’t have Facebook.

 

Here social justice in action via the Jewish voice (our concept of repairing the world, in Hebrew, called “tikkun olam” and via righteous works, called “tzedakah”, or “charity”, is prevalent as a precept in our traditions). Here a sampling of this in a YouTube link to Lazer Lloyd’s “Eye of the Storm”:

 

Eye of the Storm:

(https://youtu.be/CGlODsUCioU)

 

“Lazer Lloyd”, the album by Lazer Lloyd, was the Number Three Blues-Rock Album of 2015 (RMR). He also had the number two Blues-Rock song and the number six Blues-Rock song for the year, as well. His song, “New Years Blues (Tears For Dikla)” received over 3.1 million views on Facebook, was shared more than 33,000 times, and generated more than 14,000 comments.

 

Lazer Lloyd is now on tour. See his official website to verify dates, times, locations, updates and additions to the touring schedule – Go to: (http://lazerlloyd.com/)

 

Pennsylvania:

Erie – 04/30/2016 – Erie Harley/9:30

New York:

Buffalo – 05/01/2016 – DHU Strand Theater/7:30

Ohio:

New Lima – 05/02/2016 – RSVP for Location/6:00

Columbus – 06/01/2016 – Woodlands Tavern/7:30

Illinois:

Decatur – 05/22/2016 – Pop’s Place/3:00 – 6:00

Springfield – 05/23/2016 – Alamo/8:00

Kankakee – 05/24/2016 – Moose Hall/8:00

Chicago – 05/26/2016 – Buddy Guy’s Legends/9:00

Berwyn – 05/29/2016 – Fitzgerald’s/9:00

Indiana:

Griffith – 05/25/2016 – Wildrose Brewing Co./7:00

Wisconsin:

Silver Lake – 05/28/2016 – Benders/9:45

Michigan:

Petoskey – 05/30/2016 – Crooked Tree

Arts/6:00

Grand Rapids – 05/31/2016 – Open Source Studios/7:30

Indiana:

Indianapolis – 06/02/2016 – Slippery Noodle/8:30

Missouri:

St. Louis – 06/04/2016 – Beale on Broadway/10:30

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Bela Fleck: Throw Down Your Heart: Tales From The Acoustic Planet, Vol. 3 – Africa Sessions (CD)

 

Bela Fleck: Throw Down Your Heart: Tales From The Acoustic Planet, Vol. 3 – Africa Sessions (CD)

2009; Produced by Bela Fleck Productions Inc. Under exclusive license to Rounder Records. (http://www.rounder.com/); info@rounder.com

 

1. Tulinesangala – Uganda (2:50)

Nakisenyi Women’s Group

Chanting, clapping

 

2. Kinetsa – Madagascar (4:16)

D’Gary

Really cool. Appalachian banjo-like sounds. Reminiscent of a familiar song I can’t figure out. Violin.

 

3. Ah Ndiya – Mali (3:49)

Oumou Sangore

Bluesy start, progressing into Chinese/Arabic/funk-like stuff. Cutting woman’s voice.

 

4. Kabibi – Tanzania (2:30)

Anania Ngoglia

Woah… crazy-jazziness sounding like Elmo — No, not St. Elmo’s fire, but Elmo from Sesame Street! With xylophone-like accompaniment providing Caribbean island sounds and vocal runs up and down the scales (even they laugh at the end).

 

5. Angelina – Uganda (2:51)

Luo Cultural Association

Rambling safari-like trek with interplaying percussionist pluckings running around in the background. High-pitched ululations sound like human mosquitoes!

 

6. D’Gary Jam – Madagascar, Uganda, Mali, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Cameroon (6:15)

D’Gary, Oumou Sangare, Richatd Bona, Baba Maal, Vusi Mahlasela, Afel Bocum, Anania Ngoglia, Toumani Diabate and Friends

I figured I’d find Toumani Diabate on this compilation… I was indeed actively searching for another great production from him. This one is like a nightmare, but intriguing. You can’t stop listening, even though everyone is going off in their own directions, doing their own things. Strangely, it all blends together in a scary, compelling way.

 

7. Throw Down Your Heart – Mali (5:07)

Haruna Sumake Trio and Bassekou Kouyate

This soft instrumental sounds more like an Ali Farka Toure/Toumani Diabate collaboration, the kind I was hoping to find. Also Jethro Tull tune toward the end.

 

8. Thula Mama – South Africa (3:59)

Vusi Mahlasela

A little bit of bebop in an African vibe with English subtitles.

 

9. Wairenziante – Uganda (2:55)

Muwewesu Xylophone Group

Having once or twice picked up a pair of mallets, I can appreciate the xylophone/marimba dexterity exhibited here.

 

10. Bunibalal – Mali (4:32)

Afel Bocum

A standout of a song. Soft male voice, Japanese/Arabic intro, Irish-tinged, totally African.

 

11. Zawose – Tanzania (3:20)

Chibite – The Zawose Family

How can people make such sounds? And offbeat, too? By true musicianship and artistry. This one’s a trip.

 

12. Ajula/Mbamba – The Gambia (4:31)

The Jatta Family

Quick tempo, probably what many Western minds would automatically associate to African music.

 

13. Pakugyenda Balebauo – Tanzania (2:58)

Warema Masiaga Cha Cha

E.T. went to Africa, instead. Neat question-answer format with kazoo/didgeridoo loose-stringed backup.

 

14. Jesus Is The Only Answer – Uganda (3:24)

Ateso Jazz Band

I love this one so much. So happy and uplifting. Upper register music and vocals. You’ll be smiling with this one!

 

15. Matitu – Tanzania (4:19)

Khalifan Matitu

Xylophone only, building up with background stuff sounding like a rainfall in a dense, tropical forest.

 

16. Mariam – Mali (3:51)

Djelimady Tounkara

I don’t know if I know what this song wants to be. It just is what it is — Ole’!

 

17. Djorolen – Mali (5:04)

Oumou Sangare

Delta meets Asio-Africa in rather soulful ballad. Love it.

 

18. Dunia Haina Wema/Thumb Fun – Tanzania (7:13)

Anania Ngoglia

Find myself not sure if I like it, yet enthusiastically starring it, just as well. Obvious mastery of the musical instruments, as well as the vocal chords echoing additional instruments. Sounds like you’re privileged to listen in on a jam going on.

 

———————————————————————–

 

This album started as an idea, when Bela Fleck heard the sounds of African music coming from the computer of his musicians on the tour bus. Enjoying what he heard, he decided to investigate the origins of his preferred instrument, the banjo, in West Africa, engaging Sony to underwrite the affair. After the tickets were booked, the field engineers reserved, the details and logistics arranged… Sony backed out.

 

So much had already been riding on this venture. With everything in place, Bela couldn’t let everyone down. Not only is he a folk hero in pioneering banjo music and styles, he turned folk hero in helping his fellow musicians continue with the job for this project. He hired his half-brother, Sascha Palladino, putting the venture to visuals in a documentary release now available through Netflix, or via purchase at New Video, a part of Cinedigm Entertainment:

 

(http://www.newvideo.com/)

DVD Cat: NNVG158461

DVD UPC: 7-67685-15846-3

SRP: $26.95

DIGITAL CAT: NNVG1839

 

The album won two 2009 Grammy® awards for Best Contemporary World Music Album and Best Pop Instrumental Album. Standout tracks on this African collaboration include numbers 10, 14 and 17, as well as number 18.

 

He’s now on tour in North America, with the following states and dates – For more details and to purchase tickets, visit his friendly website at: (http://belafleck.com/shows/)

 

INDIVIDUAL VENUES:

with Louisville Symphony Orchestra: KY – 04/30/2016

with The Flecktones: IL, MO, NC, NH, OH, PA, VT – June

with Abigail Washburn: AK – May; UT, CO – July

 

FESTIVALS:

Colorado:

Telluride Bluegrass Festival with The Flecktones – 06/16/2016

Telluride Bluegrass Festival All-Star Jam – 06/19/2016

Rocky Grass Festival with Abigail Washburn – 07/30/2016

District of Columbia:

American Acoustic with Chris Thile – 06/24/2016

North Carolina:

Brevard Music Festival – 06/28/2016

Wisconsin:

Blue Ox Music Festival with The Flecktones – 06/11/2016

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Yiddish Folksongs: Orchestra of the Jewish Theatre Bucharest (CD)

 

Yiddish Folksongs: Orchestra of the Jewish Theatre Bucharest (CD)

 

Conductor: Chajim Schwartzmann; International Passport; Laserlight Digital 15 185. (p) 1990 Delta Music Inc., Los Angeles, CA, 90064. © 2002 Delta Entertainment Corporation; 1663 Sawtelle Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA, 90025. Laserlight Digital is a registered trademark of Delta Entertainment Corporation. According to Wikipedia.org (accessed April 11, 2016), the company filed for a reorganization under Chapter 11, and decided by mid-2008 upon liquidation, including the sale of 170 music licenses. The dust jacket website for Delta Entertainment didn’t come up in my search, but, instead, I found this very interesting website from the digital library at the University of Pennsylvania, listing extensive notes corresponding to the album and CD, including transliterations of the Yiddish, and other unique information:

(http://digital.library.upenn.edu/webbin/freedman/lookupalbum?catlg=B-051(a))

 

Wow, does this take one to another era. It’s a good thing, too, because nobody’s culture should be systematically eliminated, as the Germans tried to do to the Jews by barring their participation in the arts in Germany during various phases in their history, but especially during the Nazi regime, leading to the murder of six million Jews.

 

Each song represents the European settlement period following our expulsion from Spain, ordered by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella in 1492. Heading East across Europe, we settled mainly in the areas of Germany and Poland (Russia would do the same, transferring us to a slim area of its territory called the Pale of Settlement, essentially the first Jewish ghetto).

 

Generally blessed with a sardonic sense of humor and optimism, we infused our song during this period with appropriate emotion reflective of our inner drive to rise above our situations. And yes, despite the worst, we have.

 

  1. A Ngindl (2:49) – female
  2. Gei ich mir spazim (1:48) – female
  3. Leig ich mir mein kepale (3:05) – female
  4. Iamce ram ciam (1:35) – man / Really good
  5. Di Mame is gegangn (2:27) – female
  6. Inter a klein Beimale – male
  7. Di Warnicikes – female / I hear something about “schmaltz” (fat) in this
  8. Ein mul ti ich si banaien (2:42) – male
  9. Lomir singen ciri bim, ciri bom (2:43) – male and female
  10. Wus dergeisti mir di lurn (3:22) – male and female
  11. Oi Awram (1:16) – female
  12. Di Mame kocht Warenikes (1:43) – male
  13. Mamaniu, liubeniu (3:53) – female / The best “Oy!” at the end
  14. Mit a Nudl un a Nudl (2:17) – male
  15. Asoj wie-s is bitter (2:40) – female
  16. Bin ich mir a Schneiderl (1:25) – male / Good representation of humor and emotion, like Italian
  17. Meheteineste meine (2:29) – female
  18. Wus-je wilsti? (2:13) – male and female

 

Singers:

1, 7: Rochele Schapira

2, 3, 5: Nuscha Grupp-Stoian

11, 13, 17: Leonie Waldmann-Eliad

4, 14: Dorian Livianu

6, 9, 10, 18: Bebe Bercovici

8, 12, 16: Carol Marcovici

9, 10, 15, 18: Trici Abramovici

 

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Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan: Dust to Gold (CD)

 

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan: Dust to Gold (CD)

 

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan & Party (p) © 2000 Real World Records Ltd. Licensed exclusively to, and manufactured and distributed by: Narada Productions Inc., 4650 N. Port Washington Road, Milwaukee, WI, 53212. All tracks published by Womad Music Ltd./EMI Virgin Music Ltd. The dust jacket website reference doesn’t fully connect, so please see Real World Records for info: (https://realworldrecords.com/artist/458/nusrat-fateh-ali-khan/)

 

The liner notes say that Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s hometown was Lahore, Pakistan. It becomes complicated, as much like Israel (known then as “Palestine”) had been partitioned to carve an Arab state from its midsts (known as “Jordan”), so, too, had India been partitioned to carve a Muslim state from its midsts, known as Pakistan (not to mention that India had first fallen under Colonial occupation and rule by the British). According to Wikipedia.org (accessed April 10, 2016 and applicable to the rest of this information): (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nusrat_Fateh_Ali_Khan), the ancestral Khan household was situated, prior to Partition, at Basti Sheikh, in the city of Jalandhar, East Punjab, British India (now in Punjab, India).

 

Ali-Khan was born, after Partition, on October 13, 1948, and grew up, then, in central Faisalabad, Punjab, Pakistan, finding early affinity in the family tradition of Sufi devotional music, known as Qawwali. He ascended to leadership of his family Qawwali party upon the deaths of his father, and afterwards, also, an Uncle, and gave his first public performance, via a studio broadcast recording, during the annual music festival known as Jashn-e-Baharan, arranged by Radio Pakistan.

 

He only lived to age 48, expiring of a heart attack in London, England on August 17, 1997, awaiting a kidney transplant, due to renal failure.

 

His music has garnered multi-national awards, and he is known as a pioneering force in world music. He partners with Ofra Haza in the song “Forgiveness”. While I can only recall his utterance in this mostly instrumental song as a singular one, it is, nevertheless, a good one. Both he and Ofra solely, and soulfully, wail, using their voices non-lyrically as instruments.

 

I had not, yet, discovered his rendering in “Forgiveness” prior to hearing this “Dust to Gold” CD, and so my opinions were proferred as a neophyte to his music. Had it been the reverse, perhaps I would have heard him in a more-flattering context; as it were, I did not. Frankly, I feel that this music is a fail. Much as the failed process of alchemy whereby the synthesization of precious metals, like gold, is attempted to be created through dust or other materials, the synthesization from “Dust to Gold” in this music, simply put, doesn’t work.

 

  1. Khawaja Tum Hi Ho (Master It Is Only You) (Rajasthani Hindi) 15:44 – The inside jacket explains that this song, sung in a female persona in the classical style, praises a Sufi saint. I find it an annoying semblance of a screaming, dying cat.
  2. DATA Teira Durbur (Master In Your Court) (Urdu) 16:21 – This song also praises a Sufi saint, and may be even more annoying than the first. Oy!
  3. Koi Hai Na Ho Ga (There Was No-One, There Will Not Be Anyone) (Urdu) 15:08 – Apparently not. This song praises the Islamic “Prophet”, and has a more familiar tune. Interestingly, it mentions Aksa mosque (Jerusalem), but makes no mention of the Dome of the Rock (Al-Aksa is the small, silver mosque on the Temple Mount; the Dome of the Rock, the familiar representation of Islam in Israel, is not actually a mosque).
  4. Noor-E Khuda Hai Husn-E-Sarapa Rasool (The Light of G-d is the Embodiment of the [Islamic] “Prophet”) (Urdu) 17:09 – Praises the Islamic “Prophet”. Also more familiar; almost hypnotic.

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Putumayo Presents South Africa

Putumayo Presents South Africa

Putumayo World Music (p) and ©2010 Putumayo World Music. (http://www.putumayo.com)

Missing liner notes.

 

1. Soul Brothers – Ujaheni

Good song about moonbeams, or something…

 

2. Bholaja – Mbombela

Hey la’Osteen! Island-vibe; nice tune. I like this singer’s voice.

 

3. Mahube – Oxam

Xylo-centric; starts off Christmas-y. Beta-wey (Better Way?)

 

4. Blk Sonshine – Nkosi

Really cool – Sounds like human mouth instruments. Then it’s a rap-slide jazz thing. In English.

 

5. Nibs van der Spuy – Beautiful Feet

English lyrics. Reggae-plucked Flamenco-cooled. Weird.

 

6. Steve Dyer – Mananga

Fast-moving familiar tune done in a hoot-like way. Instrumental only.

 

7. Miriam Makeba – Orlando

Sounds like old-time 20’s/30’s/40’s flapper and War Era sister groups (like the Andrews sisters) in African language. Miriam Makeba receives a brief mention in Andrew Hussey’s book, The French Intifada: The Long War Between France and Its Arabs, on page 215, and is described as an anti-apartheid militant, mentioned in the context of having attended the first Pan-African Cultural Festival in Algeria in 1969.

 

8. Phinda – Tiki Tiki

It does sound like African take on Polynesia emerging from the ’40’s and ’50’s.

 

9. Johannes Kerkorrel – Halala Afrika

Acoustic guitar, Dutch folk-style, with Ha-la-la Afrika background.

 

10. Zoro – Work

Reggae. I think I’ve heard this tune before. Cliff? Marley? Tosh? Sounds too low and too harsh – Guess it makes a point.

 

11. Kaya – Vulamasango Mandinke

I like it. Very rich in vocals.

 

12. Soweto Gospel Choir – Ngahlulele

The high voice is so round and able. A good fit for the closing song of the album (CD).

 

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