INTERNATIONAL BEAT: Paolo Conte, Free People, David Krakauer ...

Conte to tour U.S.; Free People release SOS — Save Our Souls; Krakauer to release A New Hot One.

Paolo Conte, Italy's answer to Leonard Cohen, brings his smoky voice, world-weary tunes, stylish piano playing and eight-piece band to the United States next month for a cross-country tour that begins February 22 at Boston's Orpheum Theater and concludes seven dates later at Chicago's Symphony Center. Conte's most recent album is The Best of Paolo Conte. ... Free People, the 15 singing Greek Orthodox monks responsible for last year's I Learned to Live Free (a platinum hit in their home country), return with a new CD, SOS — Save Our Souls. Their earlier rock album provoked Greece's Holy Synod despite its admonitions against drugs, conformity and economic globalization. Their new record also criticizes money, power and technology, while their new video displays a man implanted with a monitoring microchip. ...

Avant-klezmer clarinetist David Krakauer and his Klezmer Madness! band release A New Hot One on March 13. Krakauer and his Klezmer Madness! band mix Rumanian folk idioms with klezmer, rock, funk and outside jazz. Krakauer was recently chosen by the Milken Archive of American Jewish Music to record several pieces for its upcoming 50-CD compilation of American Jewish music. ... Celebrated Romanian gypsy band Taraf de Haidouks, whose eponymous U.S. debut appeared in 1999, will undertake a major North American tour. The 24-date trek opens February 28 in Tucson, Arizona, and concludes April 1 in Toledo, Ohio. ...

Takira's Soul Makassar, which reunites the Madagascar-based band with their Indonesian roots, will be released this month in Europe and in the United States in April on Triloka. ... Label M and Graviton: The African Arts Network have created IndigeDisc to release classic African recordings worldwide. IndigeDisc will issue Sound Time by Chief Stephen Osadebe and Apala Messenger by Haruna Ishola this spring. The label plans to release contemporary African music as well as 1960s and '70s material from the legendary Decca West Africa archives by the likes of I. K. Dairo, Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey and Batile Alake and the Ramblers. ...

Zimbabwe star Oliver Mtukudzi's lighting engineer was arrested and charged under that country's Law and Maintenance Act earlier this month. The engineer allegedly illuminated President Robert Mugabe's portrait during a performance of Mtukudzi's hit song "Wasakara," which has been interpreted as calling for the President's retirement, according to the Zimbabwe Standard. "I cannot help it if people interpret my songs to mean whatever they want, but this song is not political," Mtukudzi told the paper. ... Finland's Värttinä, the theatrical 10-piece roots-based ensemble fronted by four vivacious vocalists, release their new Ilmatar (Goddess of Air) February 13 on the NorthSide label. ...

Buju Banton, Capleton, Baby Cham, Mr. Vegas, Ghost, Red Rat and Chakademus and Pliers will perform February 17 at the 20th annual Ragga Muffins Festival/Bob Marley Day (angelfire.com/indie/RaggaMuffins/) at the Long Beach Arena in Long Beach, California. The fest's second and more roots-oriented day will include Bunny Wailer, Toots and the Maytals, Shaggy, Culture, Wailing Souls, Marcia Griffiths and Ras Michael. The festival moves to San Diego February 19 and to San Francisco February 23-25. ... Last summer's Latin Alternative Music Conference (latinalternative.com), which drew some 700 musicians and industry types to New York for panel discussions, the Watcha Tour Showcase and "La Banda Elastica" Magazine Awards Show, will be reprised July 7-9 at the city's Hilton Hotel. ...

Luiz Bonfá, the Brazilian guitarist and composer known primarily for his score to the film "Orfeu Negro" (Black Orpheus), is dead at 78. Other Bonfá hits included "Manhã de Carnaval," "The Gentle Rain" and "A Felicidade," which were performed by Placido Domingo, Stan Getz and Tony Bennett among many others. ... Cape Verde morna singer Cesaria Evora's new album will be released March 28 in Europe and Africa on Lusafrica/BMG. It comes to the United States via RCA/BMG in May. ...

Shooglenifty, the Scottish band who mix folk, electronic dance music and improvised rock, have released their first U.S. album, Solar Shears (Compass). They will tour the country this summer. ... Moreno Veloso, son of Brazilian star Caetano Veloso, releases his first album, Music Typewriter, on February 20. The record combines Brazilian popular music (MPB), samba, bossa nova and electronic dance sounds. ... Tango-influenced Finnish accordion heroine Maria Kalaniemi and her band Aldargaz release their third record, Ahma, January 23 on the NorthSide label. ...

The hair of Hungarian pop idol Jimmy Zambo is missing from the hospital in Budapest where the singer died last week. Zambo, 42, was admitted to the hospital after an apparent handgun accident. According to a Reuters report based on a story in Hungarian daily newspaper Blikk, doctors had to shave off his long locks to perform brain surgery. Hospital staff report that the hair has vanished, with either illicit sale or obsessive fandom likely motives. ...

Los Fabulosos Cadillacs have parted amicably with their record label, BMG U.S. Latin, according to an open letter published on the band's web site. Two new live albums consisting of the band's hits, Hola and Chau, will still be distributed by the company March 3. ...

Sir Jimmy Shand, whose accordion playing helped popularize

traditional Scottish music (as heard on 1997's The Legendary Jimmy Shand), died on December 23 in Perth, Scotland, at the age of 92. Knighted in 1999, he began recording in the 1930s and was celebrated by singer-songwriter Richard Thompson in the song "Don't Sit on My Jimmy Shands." ... Singer Noor Jehar died on December 23 at the age of 75 in Karachi, Pakistan. Born in India, she was nicknamed the "Queen of Melody." Jehar began performing at age 8, and appeared in her first film in 1935. In the early 1950s she moved to Pakistan, where she continued to act in films and supply offscreen singing voices for actresses. Her death followed a long illness. ...

Beres Hammond, the Jamaican singer best known for his smooth lovers' rock style, will release his 15th album, Music Is Life, on February 6. Tracks include the single "They Gonna Talk" and "Dance4Me," which boasts a guest appearance by Fugee Wyclef Jean. ...

Los Super Seven, the part-time band featuring David Hidalgo and Cesar Rosas from Los Lobos, will release a new album in March. Guests will include Brazil's Caetano Veloso, Peruvian singer Susanna Baca and Raul Malo of country band the Mavericks. The record will include new versions of songs by Veloso, traditional Latin material and new material from Hidalgo and Rosas. The band's eponymous debut won a 1998 Grammy for Best Mexican-American Music Performance. ...

— sonicnet.com staff report