CD Review: Donné Roberts' Internation

CD Review: Donné Roberts' Internation

Donné Roberts - guitar and vocals
David Woodhead - bass & backup vocal
Walter Maclean - drums & percussion
Maryem Tollar, Sonia Aimy & Jani Lauzon - vocals
Rich Howse aka I-Sax - Sax & flute
Drew Jurecka - violin

Musically and lyrically, you'll criss cross the globe and back again on Donné Roberts' latest CD, Internation - and you may not even know you've done it. His unique gift, along with nimble guitar chops, is an impeccable musical sense that somehow lets him draw on languages and musical traditions the world over in a way that's seamless, that explores commonalities and convergences and brings them together for a sound that's fresh... yet familiar. Donné himself has a background that defies easy categorization, having been born in Madagascar and then grown up in Russia. In fact, he was the first black VJ on MTV Russia.

Some of Toronto's finest musicians contribute to this unique effort - we'll call it World Fusion, or Global Fusion, or something like that if it needs a name. What's appealing is the way that each song takes all those diverse influences and uses them in an organic flow of music. There's no formula here, in other words. Ela Bé blends Madagasy polyrhythms and melodic guitarwork with Celtic fiddles and flutes and quavering Middle Eastern vocals from Maryem Tollar. She's a mesmerizing singer and contributes to a few of the 11 tracks, sharing those duties with vibrant Nigerian singer Sonia Aimy and noted First Nations singer Jani Lauzon.

The song Ariengue brings out an irresistible percussive rhythm and call and response chorus that could come from anywhere in south Africa. Sayonara beings with a Russian chorus and accordion, then breaks into a bright and sunny Madagasy guitar tune, later embellished with Sonia Aimy's vibrant vocals. You'll find 14 languages in all on the CD's tracks.  Donné's guitar turns funky on Mama and jazzy in Madagaskar. His scintillating guitarwork is one of the common threads in all the songs, and they never stray too far from that swingy African groove. The songs never abandon melodic appeal to their experimentations, with a bouncy and danceable aural aesthetic.

To call it "unique" and "global fusion" seems far too bland a way to describe this very appealing and inventive CD. Donné performs a raw solo version of Ariengue here: