INTERNATIONAL BEAT: Morgan Heritage, Thomas Mapfumo, Cesaria Evora …

Heritage to join Vans/Warped Tour; Mapfumo tours Southwest; Evora to release new album.

Jamaican-American roots-reggae family Morgan Heritage will be the first reggae act featured on the Vans/Warped Tour when it joins rock acts Rancid and Less Than Jake July 25 at Atlanta's Lakewood Amphitheater for the tour's Northeast leg. The five siblings' most recent album, More Teachings, will be released tomorrow (March 13). ... Zimbabwean chimurenga star Thomas Mapfumo and his Blacks Unlimited will play several late-April and early-May dates in California and the Southwest beginning April 20 at Fitzgerald's in Houston. Mapfumo (whose new album, Dreams and Secrets, will be released this spring) will also perform in Dallas (April 21), Austin (April 22), Albuquerque, New Mexico (April 25-26), Taos, New Mexico (April 27), Berkeley, California (May 3-4), Santa Cruz, California (May 6) and Eugene, Oregon (May 9-10). ...

Cape Verde diva Cesaria Evora will release her new album, Sao Vicente Di Lone in April. Her guests on the disc include Bonnie Raitt, Cuban jazz pianist Chucho Valdes, Cuban band Orquestra Aragon and Brazilian singer/songwriter Caetano Veloso. ... Reggae Rocks — The Tide Is High to be released May 15, inaugurates a six-CD series featuring reggae cover versions of rock hits (or a rock cover of a reggae hit, in the case of the title track). Produced by Henry "K," The Tide Is High features "Feeling Groovy" (Sugar Minott), " "Start Me Up" (Toots and the Maytals)," "Hotel California (Edi Fitzroy), "We Can Work It Out" (Steel Pulse), "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" (Ken Boothe) and 13 more. ...

The instrumental world/jazz quartet Oregon hits the road this month for seven shows. The tour follows the nomination of their most recent album, Oregon In Moscow, in four Grammy categories. Founding members Ralph Towner (guitar), Paul McCandless (oboe, English horn) and Glen Moore (bass) will be joined by new percussionist Mark Walker for shows in Lexington, Virginia (March 15), New York (March 17), Boston (March 18), Northampton, Massachusetts (March 21), Pawling, New York (March 23), Minneapolis (March 24) and Chicago (March 25). ... Brazilian pop and funk fans are getting a too slaphappy for psychologists, sociologists and opponents of violence against women, according to The Guardian International. "When we make love, what does she ask for? S-s-slap in the face," sings the group Pagod'artin "Tapa na Cara" (Face Slap) (RealAudio excerpt), the hit of this week's Carnival in Rio de Janeiro. And in the funk hit "Tapinha" (Little Slap) dancers slap their hips to the hook, "Just a little slap doesn't hurt." ...

Moreno Veloso, son of Brazilian star Caetano Veloso, will play 18 dates in North America in support of his debut release, Music Typewriter. He will support techno-Latin fusionist Señor Coconut beginning March 15 in Austin, Texas, then open for countrywoman Virginia Rodrigues on her North American trek, which opens March 28 in Toronto and concludes with New York shows on April 13 and 14. Veloso will also play several solo shows. ... Raul Ortega, new lead singer for regional Mexican group Banda Machos, was kidnapped and beat up in Mexico in February, according to his record label. Ortega was warned that he would be killed if he goes on tour with Banda Machos. He is currently in Los Angeles preparing for a U.S. tour with the group. ...

Egyptian shaabi (urban pop) star Hakim will tour North America beginning with a February 23 appearance at a Borders outlet near the University of California-Santa Barbara. His five other public appearances include dates in San Jose, California (February 24), Inglewood, California (March 3), Brooklyn, New York (March 10), Montreal (March 16) and Toronto (March 17). Hakim's most recent album is Yaho, which has sold more than a million copies in the Middle East. … Former Mano Negra leader Manu Chao, whose 1999 solo release Clandestino has now sold more than a million copies worldwide, is set to release Proxima Estacion: Esperanza this spring. He'll also begin a North American tour in July. ... World fusionists Afro Celt Sound System will issue their third disc this summer, featuring guest vocal turns from Peter Gabriel and former Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant. ...

The eighth annual Billboard Latin Music Awards will be held April 26 in Miami Beach, Florida. Based on the magazine's Latin albums and singles charts, the competition pits Son By Four and Marc Anthony against one another in seven categories. Special awards will be given to Los Lobos, norteño group Los Tigres del Norte and percussionist Mongo Santamaria. Buena Vista Social Club alumni Omara Portuondo, Ruben Gonzalez and the Afro-Cuban All Stars compete against Gisselle and Grupomania in the tropical album categories. Shakira, Gloria Estefan and Conjunto Primavera were each nominated in three categories. …

The Premios Lo Nuestro Awards, held February 8 in Miami Florida, proved a love fest for Puerto Rican boy band Son By Four, who walked away with six awards. Fellow islander Chayanne was honored, as were ranchero singer Joan Sebastian and Argentinian star Libertad Lamarque. Winners of in the popular vote, run through the Univision television website, were Azul Azul, Carlos Vives and Banda el Recodo. …Three France-based bands will hit North America in July for a 12-date "Vive le World" tour. The lineup (subject to change) consists of Cuban rappers Orishas, Esperanto rockers Ekova and cross-cultural fusionists LóJo. The tour begins in Quebec on July 11-12 and wraps up in Los Angeles on July 22. ...

Afrobeat star Femi Kuti is working on his follow-up to last year's Shoki Shoki in Paris. This spring MCA will release a single-disc version of the two-disc album of Shoki remixes released in Europe last year. Kuti will tour the United States this spring with dates in Austin, Texas (April 26-27), Houston (April 28), New Orleans (May 2-3) and Los Angeles (June 17), with more to be added. …

Guitarist/producer Ry Cooder was able to return to Cuba in January thanks to the assistance of former President Clinton, according to the Baltimore Sun. Cooder produced 1997's Grammy-winning Buena Vista Social Club in Havana, and was fined $25,000 by the Treasury Department in 2000 for failing to obtain a license for the 1996 trip during which the album was recorded. Hoping to return to the island to record guitarist Manuel Galbãn, his application was initially rejected by the State Department's Cuban Affairs section. Days before leaving office, however, Clinton facilitated permission with the help of Secretary of State Madeline Albright. Cooder, who contributed $10,000 to Hillary Rodham Clinton's Senate campaign, plans to return to Cuba in March to record another disc with Buena Vista singer Ibrahim Ferrer. …

— sonicnet.com staff report