;After my Aug. 3 column ;about the "world music" download site run by National Geographic and Calabash Music (worldmusic.nationalgeographic.com) some people have asked me for my own recommendations. As it happens, I've had a stack of CDs piling up on my desk over the past few weeks due to repeated plays, so that seems as good a place as any to start.
;;The fine folks at the Rough Guides continually surprise me with their ability to compile substantial overviews of various international music scenes. A recent design overhaul of the discs makes them more attractive and user-friendly (an enhanced CD format includes features like an interview with the disc's curator). Addressing a localized style in 15 tracks or so is a difficult task; exploring an entire nation/continent is impossible. But as two recent titles — West African Gold and Malaysia — make clear, the Rough Guides do better than any other similar attempts. My fave among the two is the Malaysia disc, if only because it plays right into my affinities for traditional music and trashy pop from Southeast Asia, South Asia and the Middle East, all of which show up in that island melting pot. Spreading a wider geographical net is West African Gold, which brings to light some of the continent's prime non-Fela funk. Driving highlife, banging Afrobeat and stars like Orchestre Baobab make for a great introduction.
;;Speaking of playing to my affinities, the self-titled debut album by Spanish group Dhira is described as having "strong influences of Asian ethnic music and pop." Right on. A seriously pan-ethnic amalgam, Dhira melds contemporary electronica sounds, dub, Indian instrumentation, a little hip-hop, some Latin rock and a lot of not-caring-about-genre. Too often, pie-in-the-sky stylistic conflations like this come off sloppily and with lots of "good intentions" caveats, but in the case of Dhira, the mix is effortless and infectious. Rumor has it they're a stunningly effective live band, and from the sound of unique tracks like "De Calcuta a Madrid" and "Riddim From Vrindavan Town," I don't doubt it.
;;Similarly indescribable, Tuvan throat-singing punk band Yat-Kha has returned from a three-year hiatus. with a covers album, in which songs like "Love Will Tear Us Apart," "When the Levee Breaks" and "Orgasmatron" are rendered in their inimitably gut-rumbling style … and miraculously wind up sounding completely perfect. Though I might have chosen "Bela Lugosi's Dead" instead of the Joy Division song, the track listing is stunningly appropriate for the basso profundo of the group's sound.
;;Moving on, the rather straightforward garifuna sounds on the From Bakabush compilation document the decade of homegrown Afro-Caribbean music captured by the Stonetree label in Belize, Honduras and Guatemala. Gritty, emotional and evocative, the 10 tracks are a stunning overview of what could reasonably be called the Central American blues.
;;The second solo album by Cafe Tacvba's Joselo Rangel (Lejos) also explores the blues — if not in musical style, then at least in emotional tenor. The largely acoustic, deeply expressive and slightly weird sound of Lejos will be something of a shock to those accustomed to the accomplished rock en Español of Rangel's primary band. False starts, unusual tempos, occasional off-key singing … it's unpredictable and thick with emotional purity.;;
;Out and about
;I managed to miss the Syd Barrett tribute at the Peacock Room on Friday night (Aug. 11) because, by 11:30, the thing hadn't even started. Even though it was nice to hear the United States of America and Os Mutantes blaring out of the sound system, I had to get down the street to catch a bit of Kow's last performance at Will's Pub. Not surprisingly, I walked in to hear Anthony Cole quoting George Clinton, and, not surprisingly, a giant smile crept across my face. The stage was filled with some of Orlando's finest, as was the near-capacity audience, which, though skewed to the "legacy" end of the scene, was in rapturous good form, cheering the band on, dancing and generally behaving like people ought to at a funky show.
;;Saturday night saw me playing in the Philips Phile poker tournament at the Church Street ballroom. To my chagrin, I was not announced as a celebrity. But I did get to sit next to Lauren Rowe, who was, um, entertaining. To my surprise, I lasted through nearly two hours of play without buying back in. Even better, a friend — Matt Gersting of the Sugar Oaks — made it all the way to the final table and wound up placing third, out of more than 300 players. Sticking around through it all to watch Matt represent meant missing the debut of the brand-new lineup of Spacebar — they've added producer/;remixer Bill Hamel to the band on keyboards — so I've yet to hear their newly achieved "blend of Depeche Mode and Weezer" (their words).firstname.lastname@example.org