earthings! World Cup of Music: Round of 16, part one

earthings! World Cup of MusicWe’ve reached the heady last 16 stages of the earthings! World Cup of Music, and here’s your chance to read about sixteen singer-songwriters literally slugging it out and trying to knock out their fellow artists – before we sell the rights to the idea to a Japanese game show for a huge wedge of cash. [AW]


Our first pairing (and yes, I have worked all this through based on positions in the group stages and the official draw) puts Denmark against Argentina, both countries which should have some interesting artists to consider.

From Argentina I’ve been listening to the extraordinary Billordo and the equally unusual alt-folk artist Dat Garcia. However I’ve chosen the the multi-talented Cecilia Zabala who takes influences from many genres to represent Argentina.

Pitched against her we have the might of a Danish country that has produced so many really good songwriters of late from Agnes Obel to the likes of EXEC. Then there’s new artists such as Fred Seul and Francis Bowie too. But I’ve loved listening to this artist over the last twelve months, a really hot propsect, and enormously respected by other Danish musicians I’ve spoken to: here’s Esben Svane with “The Radar Post”.


Our next match pairs off Uruguay and Iran, and exploring the Uruguayan underground music scene for singer-songwriters that deserve some attention has been a real treat. I’ve been listening to Carmen Sandiego, Vincent Vega (okay, so technically a duo, but…), Ana Prada and jazz vocalist and songwriter Valeria Matzner. But my choice for Uruguay is another artist who takes influences from many genres, traditional and modern, Pablo Sciuto, and looks like he has a new album out too.

Contrast that with Iran, who on the surface might not have such a wide selection to choose from, but as we discovered in the last round, have many interesting musicians such as Ali Azimi. But Kavus Torabi, the frontman from Knifeworld and guitarist for the Cardiacs, is of Iranian descent, and his recent debut solo EP is an extraordinary mix of progressive and psychedelic sounds – stick with it guys, it just takes some listening to.


Croatia are certainly setting the World Cup alight, and musically they have a vast array of talents to consider, and I’m conscious I’ll have barely scratched the surface. On the more traditional side of things there’s the likes of Lidija Bajuk, but I’ve also been listening to Dino Pavlov and Dina Rizvik. But my Croatian singer songwriter is Irena Zilic, who I think has an extraordinary voice, check out her track “The Moon”, it’s really good.

Meanwhile I just know I won’t do Korea justice: the musical output is pretty vast. There are well-known artists in the folk genre like Yang Hee-eun, but I very quickly came across Gus Benevolent’s solo project which has some interesting songs, and then there’s the offbeat pop sounds of Aseul and Yeseo, and London-based Jade – and I liked Suchard too. But my Korean selection is a singer with more of a folk influence – this is Drain and “On a Day Like This”.


Finally, back in Part 1, we considered England and Colombia – interesting enough given these two will now actually meet in the knockout stages, where I can get really frustrated at England losing at penalties. Again.

We’ll start with the folk influenced Vanessa Forero, who has a real dilemma as she is half-British, half-Colombian – but there’s plenty of other Colombian songwriters to consider. Salomón Beda has established himself in the last couple of years as one of the more well known, whilst Juan Pablo Vega was already very well known as a Latin Grammy nominee. But my Colombian singer songwriter is the totally engrossing sounds of Loyal Lobos, I really think this track “Dirt” is a bit special.

Of course I’m a bit biased what with England being my home country, and I have so many artists I’d want to mention – from personal favourites such as Lucy Rose and Justin Sullivan, to artists getting recognition such as Passenger and Martha Hill. But I’ll try and be relevant, because I do think that Mahalia has got something really different and special about her, even if it’s not instinctively my go-to music genre.


So progressing to our quarterfinals are… Denmark, Iran, Korea and England!


[On Thursday: part two of the knockouts.]

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