IMPRINT

Bamako Nights • Live at Bar Bozo 1995

01. Nu tugula mogo mi ko
02. Banani
03. Dunuya
04. Sigui nyongon son fo
05. Ne kele kanuba
06. Dibi
07. Bamaku N.tichi

Bamako Nights captures the incendiary genius of Lobi Traoré, a soulful singer/songwriter and blazing electric guitarist of Mali, who died too young – just 49 years old – in 2010. Lobi produced five studio albums during his career, as well as four live releases, including the solo acoustic session Rainy Season Blues (Glitterhouse 2010). But Bamako Nights offers the deepest and most intimate record of this artist’s astounding power on stage in a small Bamako nightclub.

In 1995, the Bar Bozo was a unique destination. Mali’s democracy was just a few years old, and people were finding new ways to exercise freedom. The bar was an unglamorous, downtown nightspot, dark and often crowded. It didn’t cater to elites, but working people, who came to drink and dance and enjoy a live band long into the night. Lobi Traore was still emerging as a popular artist in Bamako. His earthy blend of Bambara roots and edgy electric guitar, and his philosophical songs of social life and the challenges rural people face in the city, were made to order for Bar Bozo. No wonder he packed the place on a weekly basis.

Lobi had begun recording albums by that time, and performing in Europe with an acoustic ensemble. But at Bar Bozo, he and his small electric ensemble were developing a new, rawer sound, one that would make Lobi a staple of Bamako’s live scene, and a legend of African blues celebrated around the world. You can hear in this smoldering session Lobi’s joy at having recently acquired a flanger pedal. His solos build to soaring, ecstatic heights, as unhinged as anything in African rock since.

The set starts out slow and meditative with “Ni Tugula Mogo Mi Ko,” conjuring a trance atmosphere that Lobi elevates systematically with his keening vocal and eloquent picking. You can almost feel the weight of a sweltering Bamako night as Lobi forcefully guides his band though musical catharsis. By the time they kick into high gear on “Sigui Nyongon Son Fo,” the weight has lifted and spirits are flying.

It’s hard to say enough about Lobi as a guitar stylist. His sound echoes older Malian pentatonic guitarists, notably the iconic Zani Diabate, whom Lobi accompanied briefly. And there are clear rock echoes; Lobi was a fan of AC/DC’s Angus Young! But in the end, Lobi’s guitar voice is his own, unmistakable, deeply informed by tradition and graced with sparkling personal epiphanies – even with the flanger set to 110%.

A few weeks after this recording was made, Bamako authorities closed down the Bar Bozo, and Lobi had to move his joyful party to an obscure venue on the outskirts of town. Bamako Nights is a time capsule recording. It evokes an artist, a time, and a place that came together with amazing potency, and can never be recreated.

×

Lobi Traoré • Rainy Season Blues

01. Moko ti y lamban don
02. Djougouya magni
03. Hinè
04. Alah ka bo
05. Melodie de Bambara Blues
06. Siguidialen
07. Sorotemimbo
08. Moussa de Konina
09. A Lamèn
10. Koumayé Niyé

Lobi Traoré (1961-2010) was a true African original, a guitarist of profound depth and originality, a singer and songwriter with universal appeal, and a performer who became part of the very fabric of Bamako, one of the world’s most musical cities. Not long before he died—suddenly and unexpectedly in June, 2010—Lobi recorded an unprecedented solo CD—just him and his guitar, in a single session with no overdubs. Rainy Season Blues turns out to be Lobi’s final statement, and we are lucky to have it, for it captures the pure essence of his artistry in full flower.

Lobi was born Ibrahima Traore, in Bakaridjana in the Segou region of Mali, the center of the 19th century Bambara Empire. Lobi recalled, “A Muslim teacher came to my village to see my father, who was a great marabou. He came for his business, but he had an acoustic guitar, and I became very interested in it.” It would be a few years before Lobi got his hands on an axe, but the seed had been planted. Lobi’s first gig was playing maracas in a neighborhood band. “Right from the first time they said it was good,” he recalled, “I had music in my blood.” He went on to play timbales with a wedding band from Bamako, but spent so much time borrowing a guitar to practice with that the bandleader bought him one of his own, later reimbursing himself out of Lobi’s future pay. “It was an acoustic guitar and its neck was all twisted,” Lobi recalled, “but I managed.”

From his earliest days, Lobi was an avid rock and blues fan who listened to players from John Lee Hooker to ACDC’s Angus Young. This history combined with the fact that he started out as a percussionist says a lot about the expressive, highly rhythmic, and transcendently bluesy guitar style Lobi went on to develop.

The wedding band he played in specialized in Manding music, melodious, heptatonic praise songs drawing from an old standard repertoire. “I didn’t really understand Manding music,” said Lobi. “I come from the inspiration of Bambara music. At home, when I’d take up my little guitar, I would play what I sing. In the beginning, it wasn’t any good, but little by little it got better. I started to understand pentatonic melodies on the guitar. So when we went with this band to play at weddings, often I would ask if I could do a Bambara song. I would take the guitar and play a song, and everyone was happy with it. In the end, they would always ask for these songs. “Play a Bambara song!” they would shout.”

This led to Lobi’s debut on Malian national radio, his first recordings, and his recruitment by a band from Abidjan, where he spent the next seven years refining his art. Lobi returned to Bamako and his lifelong tenure in the city’s late-night bars and clubs—Bar Bozo, Makelekele, The Djembe, Espace Academie, and others. In a city where most people enjoy their music at weddings and concerts and do not drink alcohol, the clubs where Lobi played were frequented by working class couples keen for a night of dancing. Lobi also drew fans of the more earthy African electric music music, and no doubt, a few more unsavory types as well. It was all part of the gritty ambiance of Lobi’s pungent, late night sessions in Bamako.

Lobi became a skilled songwriter specializing in exhortations to party, or celebrations of love., but many of his lyrics delivered keen social messages applicable to the daily lives of his fans as well. Discussing some of his most beloved early compositions back in 1996, Lobi said, “In ‘Dene Kele,’ I talk about property, and the people who sell food in the street. I tell them, ‘You must sell proper food. You must not sell bad food that will make people sick when they eat it.’ Then there is ‘Nama Da Yele.’ That one says that there are people all over Africa whose daughter likes a boy and they prevent the girl from seeing the one she loves. The two are in love and they want to be together. So the song says, ‘If you don’t open the door, I will enter by the window. I will pursue my love.’ I advise parents that if they protect their daughters too much, they will drive them to rebel.”

When Lobi’s first cassette Bambara Blues appeared in 1989, things began to take off. Lobi had mixed feelings about the “blues” tag. “I listened to a lot of blues,” he said, “Especially John Lee Hooker. Maybe I was inspired by that. Maybe the blues was inspired by Africa. Maybe the resemblance is just a coincidence. But listen, for me the music I play comes from me, from my place. Someone who hears my music and says it’s the blues, well, to me blues is American music. We don’t even have that word. Each place has its arts. It wasn’t me who came up with the idea of Bambara blues. People kept saying, ‘Bambara blues, Bambara blues.’ In the end, I accepted it. But I don’t think the blues is our music.”

In 1990, Lobi was invited to perform with an acoustic trio at the Africolor festival in France, and this became an annual ritual. He returned to Abdijan for the MASA festival where he played electric with a group of percussionists—“modern traditional music” as he called it. Lobi recorded three CD releases for the Cobalt label: Bamako (1994), Segou (1996), and Duga (1999).   But there was a schism in Lobi’s musical persona during these years. His international releases presented a toned-down, acoustic side of his music, while his club dates in Bamako became ever more wild, raw, and raucous.   Subsequent CD releases like The Lobi Traore Group (Honest Jon, 2005) did capture the more unbridled, rocking side of Lobi’s chameleon musical persona. But all of it is Lobi, an artist with many faces.

Lobi sought to dignify a profession that many Africans still view as dubious. “I believe that music is legitimate work,” he said. “Not everyone can be a bureaucrat or businessman. I’ve chosen music as the way I express myself. It’s all I know in life. If there are things wrong with what I do, I hope people tell me. I need criticism. If there’s a way I can improve my music, I want to do it.”

The fruit of that attitude, and Lobi’s rich and varied experiences are abundantly evident on Rainy Season Blues. In his final years, Lobi was driven to record and to demonstrate how he had grown as a musician. Producer and guitarist Chris Eckman had returned to Bamako to record the Tuareg desert rock band Tamikrest, but Lobi more or less demanded a hearing. When it became clear that a full band recording would not be possible right away, Lobi turned up with just his guitar, and recorded this remarkable set of ten songs, new and old.

Thank God he did! The session offers a magnificently lucid record of Lobi’s core talent. His playing has never sounded cleaner, fresher or more nuanced. No guitarist alive phrases the way Lobi does, and to hear him unaccompanied like this is a treat not found on any of his other nine albums. Lobi’s voice shows all its colors, from a soothing half-whisper to a world-weary growl, to keening melodic power vocal.

Among those who will be grateful for Rainy Season Blues is Bonnie Raitt, who heard and jammed with Lobi during a trip to Mali in 2000. “What I love about Lobi’s playing,” recalled Raitt, “is how hypnotic, bluesy and emotional it is. He got me from the first time i heard him—absolutely his own style, but in direct line with the deep, modal Delta blues I love. He was a rising star, carrying on the soulful, improvisational style of Ali Farka and John Lee Hooker, but adding his own innovations on the electric guitar. He was also wonderful man, beloved by so many and it’s a terrible loss he was taken so soon. I’m honored to have had the chance to know and play with him.” And we are all honored that Lobi left with this singularly intimate and deep recording.

×

Noura Mint Seymali • Tzenni

01 Eguetmar
02 Tzenni
03 El Barm
04 El Madi
05 El Mougelmen
06 Hebebeb (Zrag)
07 Soub Hanallah
08 Tikifite
09 Char’aa
10 Emin Emineïna Chouweynë

 

“Noura Mint Seymali, from Mauritania, comes from an ancient family of griots, and she has a commanding, wide-open voicethe pentatonic melodies of her songs had something in common with the blues. But her fusion was particular and selectiveShe only meets American music on her own terms.” – New York Times, January 13th, 2014

“She cleverly merges her powerful voice with the twangy guitar sound created by her husbandthis Mauritanian music is an excellent example of roots rocketed into the 21st century.” – Songlines, April/May 2014

TZENNI in Hassaniya means to circulate, to spin, to turn. It‘s the name for a whirling dance performed to the music of Moorish griots, often under khaima tents thrown up for street gatherings in the sandy quartiers of Nouakchott and out across the wide deserts of Mauritania. Tzenni is an orbit, the movement of the earth around the sun, the daily progression of light and dark, lunar cycles, tides and winds. Tzenni, the dance, comes forth as the cyclical trajectory of a Moorish musical gathering builds to a fervorous pitch. It‘s a word whose expansive valence reminds us how only the most basic reality can create such romantic metaphor.

Produced and recorded across an appropriately dizzying array of locations and social contexts (New York City, Dakar, Nouakchott) the album Tzenni is a contemporary articulation of Moorish griot music from Mauritania—an artform that has been evolving and gaining momentum for centuries – as voiced by Noura Mint Seymali, an artist profoundly steeped in its history and rigorously devoted to its global resonance.

Noura Mint Seymali comes from a long line of visionary musicians. Seymali Ould Ahmed Vall, her father, was a scholar-artist instrumental in opening Mauritanian music to the world; devising the first system for Moorish melodic notation, adapting music for the national anthem, and composing works popularized by his wife (Noura‘s step-mother), the great Dimi Mint Abba. From her precocious beginnings as a teenaged backing vocalist with Dimi Mint Abba, Noura Mint Seymali now drives the legacy forward, re-calibrating Moorish music for our contemporary moment. Her band‘s arrangements, rigor, and experimental spirit may be understood as a continuation of the tradition of Seymali, Dimi, her grandmother Mounina, and countless others.

Together with her husband, heroic guitarist Jeiche Ould Chighaly, who brings the force of yet another powerful branch of Moorish musical lineage, the band on this recording was conceived as a distillation of essential elements, the ―azawan‖ and the backbeat. The ardine & tidinit (or guitar) together are the ―azawan,‖ the leading ensemble of Moorish traditional music, while bass & drums, played here by Ousmane Touré and Matthew Tinari, fortify it with genre transcendent funk and a basic pop urgency. Tzenni re-visits several classics of the Moorish repertoire, but does so within a novel formation, conversant in the pop idiom, and with Noura Mint Seymali’s personal history interwoven throughout. The practice of aligning music to a given socio-historical and personal moment is an essential charge of the iggawen, or griot, and, we believe, of artists everywhere.

As we seek to convey another turn in the Mauritanian musical dialectic, Tzenni is ultimately an album about shape shifting, faith, and stability found through instability. It‘s about taking the positive with the negative in a world that can only ever keep turning at break neck speed. We invite you to spin with us, to dance with us, through the music on this recording! –Matthew Tinari: producer/drummer for Noura Mint Seymali

1 – Eguetmar
Eguetmar recites a simple dialogue between two men meeting in a foreign land:
A: I feel like a stranger here, alone and without my family. My longing makes me feel desperation as a baby being weaned from its mother. I fear I must try to forget my family in order to succeed.
B: Have faith; I guarantee you will return to your family. In the name of God, I shall offer you all you need to return. ―Bismillah.

2 – Tzenni
Tzenni is a reflection on change and instability. The poet is tormented and troubled, but takes refuge in the fact of impermanence. ―Everything turns, everything changes. Nothing in this life is stable; everything can change at a moment‘s notice. Sometimes life brings happiness and sometimes sadness. What real decisions can be made, what course can be taken in a world that‘s always changing?

3 – El Barm
A classic of Mauritanian traditional repertoire, ―El Barm‖ is a love song. Sung in the voice of a restless, unstable man who believes he may never change and is destined to wander forever, he now marvels at how his life has ultimately been altered by a woman, in whom he has at last found stability. Their love has changed his course in a way he thought was impossible; as impossible as combining the East with the West. Various metaphors for the impossible ensue.

4 – El Madi
―El Madi‖ means ―the past.‖ The song is the reflection of a prisoner jailed in the time before Mauritania‘s independence. He addresses a lover on the outside, remembering their past: ―The judge will not free me to see you. I‘m imprisoned unjustly and long to see you again. As I dream of you I‘m blinded by the gold of your headdress, shining so brightly in my memory.‖ In traditional context, ―El Madi‖ is a dance performed by women.

5 – El Mougelmen
El Mougelmen is a dish in Mauritania made from a mix of spices and flowers. Similarly, the song‘s lyrics are a mix of different lines of poetry, thematically unrelated and chosen for musicality, mashed up via free association in a way similar to the ingredients of the dish. ―My thoughts are on the women of today,‖ Noura sings – women implicitly being the makers of El Mougelmen. ―God bestows blessings and takes them away,‖ blessings such as food and sustenance.

6 – Hebebeb (Zrag)
Composed by Seymali Ould Ahmed Vall. The poet is overtaken by the beauty of a woman, named Mariam, picking dates in a grove of trees. Rather than addressing Mariam directly, he pleads with her friend, Heydana, to sing for Mariam in order to attract her attention. He asks Heydana, ―repeat after me, ‗Hebebeb…‘ Always sing this song for her early in the morning, in the afternoon, and in the evening‖

7 – Soub Hanallah
A sacred song devoted to the prophet Mohammed (p.s.l.) and asking God for forgiveness. May God forgive and protect parents, sisters, brothers, and all loved ones. May God grant mercy upon our sins. Soub Hanallah recites numerous praise names for the prophet.

8 – Tikifite
Tikifite is an herb that is believed to heal the liver and stomach. ―Stir the tikite‖ a man asks, he wishes to be healed and together with his soul mate. A song often performed by Dimi Mint Abba, poetry written for her is often included; ―Dimi when you sing for me it heals me.

9 – Char‘aa
Char‘aa is primarily a dance. The title refers to the dance / rhythm which precedes the singing. The text here is that of an old praise song, sung originally for the prophet Mohammed (p.s.l.) upon his return to Medina after victory in battle.

10 – Emin Emineïna Chouweynë
Dedicated to Noura‘s paternal grandmother Mounina, a great singer and musician, the song assembles various lines of poetry written about her. The title, literally ―where are you ugly?,‖ originates from a line questioning popular criticism of Mounina by posing a simple question; ―they may say that you are ugly, but where can this ugliness be found?‖ Another line concerns Noura herself, offered to her as a compliment, by a poet who says her voice is as beautiful as Mounina‘s. The text mourns how Mounina‘s absence leaves a void.

01 Eguetmar
02 Tzenni
03 El Barm
04 El Madi
05 El Mougelmen
06 Hebebeb (Zrag)
07 Soub Hanallah
08 Tikifite
09 Char’aa
10 Emin Emineïna Chouweynë

www.nouramintseymali.com/
www.facebook.com/nouramintseymali.music

×

Sonido Gallo Negro • Sendero Mistico

1. La Patrona
2. El Ventarron
3. Serenata Güajira
4. Virgenes Del Sol
5. Alfonso Graña (Selvatica)
6. Tzantza Soul
7. Valicha
8. Inca-a-delic
9. Coup De Poudre
10. Mistery Of Zangbetos

 

Sonido Gallo Negro (Black Rooster Sound) is a stunning 9-piece, instrumental combo from east Mexico City (Aragon) that channels both the mystique and mysticism of 1960’s Peruvian cumbia. The band integrates styles like Amazonian cumbia, huayno, sonidero cumbia, boogaloo and chicha with electric guitars, Farfisa organ, Theremin, flute and of course fluid Latin percussion. Spaghetti western soundtracks, psychedelia and surf music also echo in their compositions.

Their premiere album Cumbia Salvaje (Wild Cumbia) was released in Mexico in 2011 and it quickly catapulted them out of Mexico City’s heated underground scene and onto major festival and television performances. Albeit a very young group, they were invited in 2012 to the Kustendorf Festival in Serbia, curated by the famed Serbian Director Emir Kusturica (Time of the Gypsies). Also in 2012, they performed in Italy and Spain.

Their shimmering second album, Sendero Mistico (out in Mexico in 2013) will be their first ever-international release, and Glitterbeat’s first full-fledged release away from the African continent.

On the new album Sonido Gallo Negro follow the lay lines between cumbian sounds and instrumental rhumba tracing the heritage left by masters like Jaime Llano, Tulia Enrique Leon and the Hammond driven sounds of Eduardo Azurite. But for all its glances to the past, this is decidedly contemporary music, also evoking the band’s collective love of indie rock and post-psychedelic moods and textures.

The mind-bending ritual of this music can best be understood by witnessing their live show. Clothed in monk robes and backed by spectral video and light projections, on stage Sonido Gallo Negro is a very impressive proposition. These video links give a glimpse of the spectacle:

 

http://tiny.cc/yx08bx

http://tiny.cc/1y08bx

 

The band’s liner notes for Sendero Mistico climaxes with this sentence:

Instrumental cumbia can show you impressive, disconcerting and mysterious images, where everything invisible becomes present.

This is instrumental music with discernible and bold intentions.

The Black Rooster Sound has arrived.

It is time to set your controls to the heart of: Sonido Gallo Negro.

 

SONIDO GALLO NEGRO is:

Gabriel López: electric guitar, organ
Enrique Casasola: timbales
Israel Martínez: bass
Edwin Irigoyen: congas
Lucio de los Santos: flute, bongos
Dario Maldonado: second electric guitar
Robert Bañuelos: güiro, claves
Julian Perez: organ, synthesizers, samplers
Dr. Alderete: theremin, tagtool, artwork

×

Samba Touré • Albala

01. Be Ki Don
02. Fondora
03. Ayé Go Mila
04. Awn Bé Ye Kelenye
05. Aye Sira Bila
06. Albala
07. Ago Djamba
08. Al Barka
09. Idjé Lalo
10. Bana

 

When you meet Samba Touré in person, he comes off as a soft-spoken man, a man who easily charms you with his abundant smile and optimistic gait. But on his third album, Albala, which in the Songhai language means “danger” or “risk”, a weighted and at times defiant side of his personality emerges. To call Albala his darkest album is an understatement, but it is not a self-absorbed darkness. The cause of Touré’s worry is the crashing world around him, and more specifically the troubles echoing out from his beloved northern Mali homeland.

The last year has brought cataclysmic change and upheaval to northern Mali. The tragic details of this have been globally reported, so there is little point in sensationalizing them here. But the cumulative effect of these events on Samba’s music seems palpable. There is an added gravity to his voice and his words, an additional sting to his electric guitar; there are sharper edges and more complex undertones in his musical arrangements.

On “Fondora (Leave Our Road)” Samba sings with indignation:
I say, leave our road/ All killers leave our road/ Thieves leave our road
Looters, leave our road/ Rapists, leave our road/ Betrayers, leave our road

And on the haunting “Ago Djamba (Life Betrays Us)” Touré warns: We do not all have the same opportunities/ Here, nobody is born rich but we all have the same value/ Life betrays us.

As a band member, and valued collaborator of the late Malian legend Ali Farka Touré, Samba established a significant reputation, and through his first two solo albums Songhai Blues and Crocodile Blues (World Music Network) his confidence and musical prowess grew proportionately.

But Albala is a new flash point. There is more power, there is more grit, the mood is deeper, and aptly, given the album’s title, Touré takes more musical risks.

Recorded at Studio Mali in Bamako, in the autumn of 2012, Samba is joined by his regular band members Djimé Sissoko (n’goni ) and Madou Sanogo (congas, djembe) and guests such as the legendary, master of the soku (a one-stringed violin) Zoumana Tereta and the fast-rising Malian neo-traditional singer Aminata Wassidje Traore. Additionally, Hugo Race (The Bad Seeds, Dirtmusic, Fatalists) contributes an array of subtle atmospherics on guitar and keyboards.

On the opening song, “Be Ki Don”,Samba sings: “Everybody welcomes Samba Touré.”
With an album as soulful and captivating as Albala, that might not be an over-statement.

 

×

Dirtmusic • Lion City

01. Stars Of Gao (feat. Super 11)
02. Narha (feat. Aminata Wassidjé Traoré)
03. Movin’ Careful
04. Justice
05. Ballade De Ben Zabo
06. Red Dust (feat. Samba Touré)
07. Clouds Are Cover
08. Starlight Club
09. Blind City
10. Day The Grid Went Down
11. September 12 (feat. Ibrahima Douf)

 

Dirtmusic’s previous album “Troubles,” released in June of last year, was recorded in Bamako, Mali in the dark days of the 2012 political upheaval. A propulsive collection of cinematic Afro-rock, “Troubles” for the most part rose out of improvisational sessions involving Hugo Race (Fatalists, Bad Seeds) and Chris Eckman (The Walkabouts) of Dirtmusic and the nimble, balafon driven Ben Zabo band. Malian luminaries like Samba Toure, Zoumana Tereta, Aminata Wassidje Traore and Virginie Dembele from the Rokia Traore band, brought exhilarating vocal and instrumental contributions to the collective.

“Troubles” was not a mere construct or hybrid, but rather something deeply collaborative and genre-busting. Louder Than War wrote: “an incisive and unique journey in soundthis album is rock, it’s roll, its funk, it’s African, it’s an aural delight.”

“Lion City” the new Dirtmusic album, is culled from the same Bamako sessions as “Troubles” but offers a decidedly different atmosphere and ambiance. While the Ben Zabo band is still the core collaborator, the textures and tempos are slower and more opaque. Organics and electronics intertwine and unfold unpredictably. There are less guitars and more liquid sounds. The outward frustration and fear documented on the previous album has given way to something more insular and pensive. The echoing space between the notes is emphasized and subsequently so are the voices and the texts.

Samba Toure provides a vocal and lyric for “Red Dust” a song that enshrines the contemplative mood of the album. Over a swirling dub-scape he intones:

How can we reconcile and forgive?

How can we bring peace to those that hate us?

Yet we have no choice

We need to stop fighting

 

While Samba Toure, Ben Zabo and his band, and Aminata Wassidje Traore previously appeared on “Troubles”, “Lion City” also features an inspired team of new collaborators.

+Tamikrest members Ousmane Ag Mossa (guitar), Cheikhe Ag Tiglia (Bass) & Aghaly Ag Mohamedine (percussion) appear on the bluesy and meditative “Movin’ Careful.” This is the first time the two groups have collaborated since Dirtmusic’s BKO album from 2010.

+The iconic Takamba band Super 11, from northern Mali, exchange thorn-like trance sounds with Hugo and Chris on the album’s opening number “Stars of Gao.”

+MC Jazz, an up and coming Bamako Hip Hop artist adds a fiery incantation to the mostly instrumental “Day the Grid Went Down.”

+Ibrahima Douf, a young singer from Senegal, provides a stunning vocal on the album’s final track “September 12.” The song is an ode to his grandmother.

The 21st century claims to be borderless. A world of hyper-communication and instant nostalgia that is both celebrated and feared. On “Lion City” Dirtmusic stayed clear of such theorizing and just got on with the practice. The collective joy they found in making this music is what mattered most.

×

Dirtmusic • Troubles

01 Chicken Scratch
02 Fitzcarraldo
03 The Big Bend
04 Wa Ya You
05 Up To Us
06 Troubles
07 La Paix
08 Take It On The Chin
09 Wa Nazu
10 Sleeping Beauty
11 God Is A Mistery

Troubles is an album from DirtmusicChris Eckman (The Walkabouts) and Hugo Race (Fatalists/True Spirit/Bad Seeds) – recorded in Bamako, Mali, in September 2012 during the high-tension and tragic recent crisis – hence the name, ‘Troubles’.

Originally a trio with Chris Brokaw (Come/Codeine), Dirtmusic released their eponymous debut in 2007, a gritty collection of acoustic ballads drawn from their American and Australian frontier roots. The band’s explorations of raw, psych-folk-rock then took a radical detour out to the Saharan desert, to Timbuktu, performing at the legendary Festival-au-Desert.

Dirtmusic’s encounter at the Festival-au-Desert with the Tuareg band Tamikrest was the catalyst for the second album, BKO (2010), a classic, one-of-a-kind trip through the interzone between ‘western’ and Tamasheq desert rock. The two bands toured Europe extensively and the album received major shout outs from both the rock/pop and “world” music press:

With the departure of Chris Brokaw, Race and Eckman decided to head further ‘upriver’, composing and recording an album from scratch in full collaboration with a select crew of Malian artists. Dirtmusic arrived in the Malian capital of Bamako with notebooks of lyrics, but without written songs or preconceived strategies.

Drawing on musicians from the Ben Zabo and Samba Toure bands as a core rhythm section, Race and Eckman produced the sessions on the dance floor of Salif Keita’s Moffou Club, inviting in guest vocalists including not only Ben Zabo and Samba Toure, but also Virginie Dembele (from the Rokia Traore ensemble), rising star Aminata Wassidje Traore and soku-master Zoumana Tereta.

There are many voices telling stories on Troubles, singing in Songhai, Bambara, Tamasheq and English, stories of war and peace and love and doubt in the shadow of an oncoming storm, and like a musical version of cinema verite, everything is real, in-the-moment and utterly direct.

Inspired by the collision between West African rhythms, digital sorcery and rock’n’roll, Troubles is a singular and border-slicing musical journey. And Troubles is only the first release from the sessions, with a second volume in the pipeline for a release on Glitterbeat in early 2014.

×

Dirtmusic • BKO

Disc: 1
1. Black Gravity
2. All Tomorrows Parties
3. Ready For The Sign
4. Desert Wind
5. Lives We Did Not Live
6. Unknowable
7. Smokin Bowl
8. Collisions
9. Niger Sundown
10. Bring It Home

Disc: 2
1. Documentary
2. Black Gravity
3. All Tomorrow’s Parties
4. Desert Wind
5. If We Run (Audio)
6. Ain’t No Grave (Audio)
7. Bogolon Blue (Audio)
8. The Angel’s Message To Me (Audio)

 

BKO’ is the international abbreviation for Bamako Airport in Mali’s capital city. It is also the title of the forthcoming album by Dirtmusic, a group of rock’n’roll veterans from the USA and Australia, which was recorded at the famous Studio Bogolan in Bamako – set up by the late Ali Farka Touré.

All three members of Dirtmusic have a long lasting history as musicians and songwriters in various bands: Chris Eckman is the leader of acclaimed US band The Walkabouts, and has also collaborated with Willard Grant Conspiracy and many others. Chris Brokaw has collaborated with Evan Dando and The Lemonheads, Liz Phair and Thurston Moore. The two Americans are joined by Australian-born Hugo Race, the leader of True Spirit and one of the original members of The Bad Seeds. Eckman and Race were label mates and in 2006 they got together with Brokaw to form Dirtmusic. Dirtmusic’s first album, recorded in 2007 in Eckman’s adopted home city of Ljubljana, Slovenia, somehow got into the hands of the booker of Mali’s annual Festival of the Desert who invited them to perform.

Eckman had been a fan of African music for years, so when in 2008 he found himself silky dunes of Essakane at the 2008 Festival of the Desert, it was like a baptism, a revelation, an epiphany. “I spent those three days very much in a dream state,” Eckman recalls. “The music, the sounds, the sightsit was just something absolutely overwhelming.” Next to Dirtmusic’s tent was that of young Touareg desert blues/ rock band Tamikrest. The two bands found themselves jamming together almost non-stop and discovered that their ideas and music fit perfectly. It was clear that this jam somehow had to continue after the festival.

So a year later Dirtmusic returned to Mali to record their new album “BKO” – with Tamikrest backing them in the studio. Connecting in lateral ways, swapping jokes and mixing up English and French and Tamashek (the language of the Touaregs), the mutual language of both bands is really music, and the reunion became a jam session, a discussion in word and rhythm – traditional songs, Dirtmusic songs, Tamikrest songs, passing hybrids of the two. During their meeting in the desert they had played The Velvet Underground’s legendary “All Tomorrow’s Parties” together. When Brokaw struck up the first few chords of the song, Tamikrest just jumped right in without a second thought, as if they’d been listening to the Velvet Underground since the release of the ‘Banana’ album – which they hadn’t. Luckily, they recreated this jam in the studio to include on the album. The blend of sounds and influences on this track is stunning but also feels completely natural. The natural process continued throughout the recording. For instance, Tamikrest leader Ousmane Ag Mossa spontaneously sings in Tamashek over the groove to “Black Gravity” and a kind of fusion erupts between Dirtmusic and Tamikrest. (Whilst most songs are composed by either Eckman, Race or Brokaw, “Black Gravity” contains Ousmane’s own composition “Imidiwan”, meaning ‘friends’, which he ‘gave’ to his new friends of Dirtmusic to include inside their song “Black Gravity”.)

Other Malian stars paid visits to the studio: Fadimata Walet Oumar from the famous Touareg group Tartit lends her sublime vocals to “All Tomorrow’s Parties” and “Desert Wind”. Two master musicians from Toumani Diabate’s Symmetric Orchestra jam on several abstract pieces, with one of them, “Niger Sundown”, being included on the album, while guitar legend Lobi Traoré plays on closing track “Bring It Home”.

Soon after recording the Dirtmusic album, Eckman returned to Mali, this time to produce Tamikrest’s debut album ‘Adagh’ (out 1 March 2010). And the collaboration continues: in May the two bands will be performing together throughout Europe, including a show at The Borderline in London on 19 May 2010.

×

Dirtmusic • Dirtmusic

01. Erica Moody 3:06
02. The Other Side 5:37
03. Sun City Casino 5:30
04. Face Of Evil 3:35
05. The Returning 5:30
06. Still Running 5:37
07. Summer Days 3:29
08. Ballad Of A Dream 7:15
09. No Sorrow More 4:51
10. Panther Hunting 2:04
11. Wasted On 4:06
12. Morning Dew

×

Bombino • Agamgam 2004

Side one:
01 Tenere Tenere
02 Imuhar
03 Amidinin
04 Intidgagen
05 Azaman

Side two:
01 Illilagh ténéré
02 Adounia adounia
03 Tazidert halal
04 Akh al zaman

By any measurement the last couple of years have been an exhilarating ride for BOMBINO, culminating in 2013’s album NOMAD, which was produced by Dan Auerbach of the arena filling Black Keys and was released to widespread acclaim. AGAMGAM 2004 is a beautiful contrast to the Nashville recorded NOMAD. This is Tuareg music in its most pure and unadulterated form.

In late 2004, BOMBINO recorded acoustic versions of nine songs in the Ténéré desert, which became this, his first real album. He sings and plays several of his own compositions and also pays tribute to other Tuareg artists (Abdallah Oumbadougou, Hasso, Kedou). Recorded mostly around the campfire, his assembled friends join in on handclaps and undulations.

BOMBINO himself picks up the story:

I worked as a guide or cook’s helper and once the season ended, I bought a guitar and strings. I did that for some years, working wherever I could. In 2004, a Spanish team came to make a documentary film and organized a gathering in the Ténéré desert to the north of Agadez (Niger). I was there as a cook’s assistant and in the evening would play guitar in the camp. They decided to record what we were playing in the desert, in the place that’s called Agamgam. Since that’s where the recording came from, I wanted it to have the name of the place where it was made. It was completed in two days.

The rush of the desert wind, snippets of between song conversation and the sound of grazing animals in the distance are essential elements of the album’s deep atmosphere. AGAMGAM 2004 is not only an intimate, privileged view of BOMBINO’S roots; it is also one of the most authentic documents of modern Tuareg music ever released.

The AGAMGAM 2004 LP is beautifully re-mastered from the original recordings, housed in a gatefold sleeve and pressed on 180-gram vinyl. A download code is also included. The album is being released in conjunction with the French label Reaktion and has been directly licensed from Bombino

×

Aziza Brahim  • Soutak

01 Gdeim Izik
02 Julud
03 Espejismos
04 Lagi
05 Aradana
06 Soutak
07 La Palabra
08 Manos Enemigas
09 Ya Watani

 

Voiced with deep passion and grace, Aziza Brahim’s music adeptly travels the expanse between her Western Saharan roots and Barcelona, the European cosmopolis where she now lives. Aziza is both a contemporary sonic poet and a prominent and eloquent spokesperson for the Saharawi people and their ongoing struggle for recognition and justice.

Born and raised in the Saharawi refugee camps lining the frontier between Algeria and Western Sahara, Aziza’s life has been marked by both daunting hardship and inspired will. Fleeing from these camps and the regime of political oppression that followed Morocco’s 1975 invasion of Western Sahara, as a young teenager Aziza travelled to Cuba for her secondary school studies. There she experienced first hand the deep Cuban economic crisis of the 1990’s and the subsequent denial of her request to pursue a university degree in music.

Music had been Aziza’s passion since she was a small girl and despite this setback she returned to the Saharawi camps in Algeria and began singing and playing in different musical ensembles, a process that continued when she moved to Spain in the year 2000. There she founded the eclectic Saharawi/Spanish band Gulili Mankoo with whom she released two acclaimed self-produced recordings: the EP “Mi Canto” (2008) and an album “Mabruk” (2012) both on Reaktion, a French label specializing in Saharan music. In the last years Aziza has performed extensively appearing at major festivals and venues including WOMAD Cáceres (2012) and Queen Elizabeth Hall in London (2009).

Aziza’s new album Soutak (“Your Voice”), her debut for the Glitterbeat label, is her first recording to predominantly focus on the cadence of her majestic voice and the soulful critique of her lyrics. The album was produced by Chris Eckman (Tamikrest, Ben Zabo, Dirtmusic) and was recorded live and direct in Barcelona in June of 2013.

In the liner notes to the album Aziza describes her vision for Soutak:

“Feeling the need to make an acoustic record, I imagined a somewhat modest musical outline, which would not involve too many instruments and in which the voices would take the expressive emotional lead. I wanted to further explore the range of possibilities found in the Haul, the Saharawi’s traditional rhythmic sources, played on the tabal and a source of inspiration for the Desert Blues.”

The hand picked band she assembled for the album consists of Spaniards Nico Roca (percussion) & Guillem Aguilar (bass), Malian Kalilou Sangare (acoustic lead guitar), Aziza’s sister Badra Abdallahe (backing voice) and in addition to singing, Aziza contributes acoustic rhythm guitar and the tabal, the traditional Saharawi hand-drum.

The music on Soutak is a powerful and nuanced mixture of musical cultures and features Malian, Spanish, Cuban and contemporary Anglo-European motifs all held together by Aziza’s deeply rooted knowledge of traditional Saharawi song and sound.

Throughout Soutak, the band frames Aziza’s voice with dignified restraint and leaves unvarnished space for her lyrics, lyrics which range from the sharply political “Gdeim Izik” (named after the “Camp of Dignity” crushed by the Moroccan-backed authorities) to the whispered enigmas of “La Palabra/The Word” (“Cradled by the wind it left/ it went around the world and returned/ and there beyond the word was heard”)

The song “Julud,” dedicated to Aziza’s mother, is possibly the most emblematic song on the album combining intimate and stark desert poetry with an unyielding faith in the Saharawi political struggle:

 

You are like the night and the stars/ Your voice goes beyond the top of the clouds/

You are the smiling breeze of today/ You are an example of humanity and of fight.

Resist, immortal, resist.

 

Though the songs on Soutak can be unsparing in their details of oppression, there is more often than not a “smiling breeze” to be found. Aziza’s essential voice, headstrong commitment and subtly inventive music are that breeze.

With Soutak Aziza Brahim has delivered an empowered flight to freedom; an alternative world where hope is imminent and dancing is justified.

 

×

Aminata Wassidjé Traoré • Tamala

side A:
01. Afrique
02. Alfouleila
03. Tamasheq
04. Takamba

side B:
01. Tamala
02. Un Jour
03. Senkou
04. Yerma Do Fafa

Aminata Wassidjé Traoré is a rising voice in Mali. Tamala is her debut album, recorded in Bamako and released in 2009. Born in Diré, near the fabled city of Timbuktu, Aminata was raised within northern Mali’s rich cultural brew. From an ethnic Songhai family, Aminata started singing as a young child. Her music, like the environment that surrounded her growing up, incorporates various cultures and traditions. On Tamala, an album she self-produced with the help of the artist Mamadou Kelly and arranger Baba Simaga, she sings in Songhai and Tamasheq.

While northern Mali still suffers the repercussions of religious and ethnic warfare, Tamala sends a message of reconciliation and inclusion. Aminata believes people can work together for a solution, and sees the vast potential of Mali’s diverse north. Moving to the Southern capital of Bamako not only enabled her to develop as a musician, backing up well known artists like Baba Salah, Khaira Arby and Afel Bocoum, it also enhanced her vision of a diverse and connected Mali.

Tamala is considered a neo-traditional album in the context of the Malian music scene: it is rooted in northern folk musical traditions, but arranged in a contemporary way and mixes drum programming and synthesizers with the banjo-like n’goni and the sokou, a one-string violin. Hints of Hip Hop and electronic dance music sit side by side with the pentatonic sounds of the interior Niger delta.

Afropop Worldwide wrote this about Tamala:

“And then there’s the music—in a word, sublimesolos burst forth with forthright clarity and consistent eloquence. Western sounds and production techniques have been appropriated here, but the melodic phrasing, rhythms and modalities in the music are 100% local.”

In 2013, Aminata began a collaboration with Glitterbeat Records when she appeared on the album Troubles by the Austrailian/American group Dirtmusic. The Guardian (UK) noted in their enthusiastic review of the album that »La Paix, an impassioned cry against the terrorist invasion of Mali, is voiced thrillingly by Aminata Traore.”

Glitterbeat Records is releasing Tamala in a limited vinyl version of 1,000. It will be pressed on 180g vinyl with a gatefold sleeve. The album is coming out in cooperation with Studio Mali, a Bamako based label.

A few words about the songs:

Afrique: This is a song calling for unity among Africans, to work together not against each other, for Peace and progress.

Alfouleila: Always be straightforward with people. If you are honest and upfront, you will have everything you need. Everything comes in it’s time, to people who are good and faithful.

Tamasheq: In Diré we have everything. There are many different ethnic groups in Dire. There are great things in Dire, great teachers, healers and wonderful families. Young people need to realize this and stay there.

Takamba: The North needs so many things. The people who are causing problems are from the North. Why are they causing problems wrecking their country. There are no roads. The north is underdeveloped. The north needs everything, everything that was started has been stopped.

Tamala: The history of the Maiga and Toure families, and how they solved their conflicts to live in peace. It tells the story of how the two families developed their “cousinage,” or how they became cousins.

Un Jour:  About a couple who are in love, but the young woman’s parents don’t want them to be together. The young man has lots of questions and worries, and the young women assures him that one day it will all work out and they will be together.

Senkou: Sabotage. Making fun of someone who has less is wrong, remember, it is God who gives and it is God who takes it away.

Yerma Do Fafa: This is a song about having a strong family and the relationships between brothers and sisters. Family members should always be there for each other. Brothers and Sisters should always help solve each others’ problems

×

Ben Zabo • Ben Zabo

01 Wari Vo
02 Sènsènbo (Hommage à Dounaké Koita)
03 Danna
04 Dimiyan
05 Cinquantenaire
06 Bwa Iri
07 Ya Be Ma`e

Malian Afrobeat may be two words that you don’t hear together very often but 2012’s most exciting new Afrobeat band may well be hailing from Bamako, Mali. Named after their bandleader, Ben Zabo, they are about to release their self-titled debut album, full of funky and gritty tunes, wonderful musicianship, and songs of peace and hope that could not be more timely or necessary. The album is also a testament to the lesser-known culture of the Bwa people; it is the first international release of a Malian of Bo descendant with all songs in the Bo language and rhythms.

Born into nobility in 1979 in the Segou region of Mali, Ben (real name Arouna Moussa Coulibaly) chose music as a career because of his passion but against the wishes of his parents who wanted him to pursue a career as a pharmacist.

In 2007, whilst trying to establish himself as a guitarist, singer and songwriter, Ben also started working as an assistant sound engineer at the famous Studio Bogolan in Bamako. It was in this studio that he first met Peter Weber, owner of the German-based Glitterhouse Records, and Chris Eckman, American music producer, leader of acclaimed US band The Walkabouts, member of Dirtmusic, and collaborator with Willard Grant Conspiracy and many other bands. Weber and Eckman were at the studio on several occasions, to record Tamikrest’s albums ‘Adagh’ and ‘Toumastin’, Dirtmusic’s ‘BKO’ and the late Lobi Traoré’s ‘Rainy Season Blues’. They were blown away by Ben’s enthusiasm, drive and talent. Weber agreed to record and distribute Ben Zabo’s debut album for the international market, with Eckman producing it, again at Studio Bogolan.

Chris Eckman explains:

“Much of the Malian music that has been released on European and American labels in the last few years shares one thing: it is mostly down-tempo and reflective. The kora majesty of Toumani Diabate, the Songhi blues of the late Ali Farka Toure, the singer-songwriter tropes of Rokia Traore and the dusted, acoustic meditations of Tinariwen (on their most recent album) are a demonstration of this point. Even the later albums of the once exuberant Salif Keita have grown more melancholy and ethereal. The music of Ben Zabo is a clear break from this quietude. His music is a string of firecrackers igniting on the dance floor of a midnight party. It is a music that has been perfected in the loud, sweaty, open-air clubs that line the outskirts of Bamako, places where the competition to get heard is fierce, and the chances of moving upward and outward are next to none.
When I first came across Ben’s music it seemed unlike any contemporary Malian music that I had heard. Its direct physicality, its polyrhythmic complexity and its raw but focused energy set it apart. But as I dug more into Mali’s musical past, I realised there are antecedents for the music Ben and his band create.
In the 70’s and 80’s, like in much of Africa, musicians in Mali were creating a powerful, and at times edgy musical fusion that brought together traditional rhythms and chants with the urban (and often western) sounds of the fast growing cities. Electric guitars and James Brown motifs stood side by side with age-old storytelling. It was a music made out of a complex dialogue: the village reaching to the city and the city reaching to the village. And while it would be too simplistic to gather all such music under one name, due to Fela Kuti’s pan-continental influence and his coinage of the term, much of this music came to be known as Afro-beat. In Mali, during that fertile time, artists like Moussa Doumbia, Le Super Djata Band du Mali, Super Biton de Segou, and Sory Bamba and his many groups (especially L’Orchestre Kanaga de Mopti) were articulate, original purveyors of this cutting-edge musical experiment. Just to satisfy my own curiosity, I once asked Ben Zabo if he had ever listened to Afro-beat and its Malian offshoots. His face lit up and his answer was quick and to the point. “I have listened to too much Afro-beat!” he said, grinning. He went on to acknowledge the deep debt he felt towards the musicians (of all stripes) that have come before him. On another occasion Ben proudly told me that his Malian “Afro-beat” forbearers Super Biton de Segou and L’Orchestre Kanaga de Mopti, had both incorporated the unique Bwa rhythms from Ben’s own minority ethnic group, the Bo people, into some of their classic songs, even though those artists were from a different ethnic background.
With the release of Ben Zabo’s self-titled album an older tradition is renewed and an uncharted path begins. Mali’s Afro-beat past is fused with the pulse of Bamako in the new millennium and the rarely heard sounds from the Bo musical culture. This album is the first album ever to be released by a Malian of Bo descent. Because of this, Ben routinely refers to him and his band as “musical warriors.” In this chaotic and often indifferent world, they are fighting to have their voices heard, their rhythms felt and their cultural legacy recognised. They are funky, charismatic and committed. They are not going to give up easily.
Bwa power has arrived!”

 

What is Bwa power?

Ben Zabo and his band have a mission which they intend to accomplish through their music. It is to promote their Bo culture at a national, African and international level with music, dance and Bwa traditional apparel. The name “Ben Zabo” means “son of Bo and Bambara” in Bomu etymology, evoking his belonging to the double cultural identity Bambara and Bo. While perpetuating the traditions of his native Bwatun, Ben Zabo developed a mixed style of rhythms and melodies of Bwa in which one can detect sounds and influences from other modern and western musical styles: Afrobeat, funk, reggae, blues, rock and even jazz. With modern instruments and musical arrangements that highlight his intimate songs, his music is also enriched with Malian instruments such as balafon, tama and the ara’o bara, etc.

Ben Zabo’s songs are mostly written and sung in Bomu, his mother tongue. The Bwa are an ethnic minority group living in a small territory called Bwatun (Bwa country), which straddles the border between Mali and Burkina Faso. The Bwa of Mali occupy the area southeast of the Segou region, specially encircling San Tominian and serves approximately 216,000 people. The rhythm of the music of Ben Zabo encourages dancing. It is both an expression and assertion of cultural identity. It is also the voice and form of a social conscience and ethical pride.

In his compositions, Ben Zabo develops themes relating to social values such as brotherly love, peace, justice, tolerance, solidarity, work and good governance. All of those are for him sustainable human development factors, which remain the only guarantee of integrity and social cohesion.

At the same time he strongly denounces greed, hypocrisy, discrimination and demagoguery, the principal evils which undermine the stability of our society and deprive some citizens of freedom, dignity and well-being. On the political front, Ben Zabo encourages all African countries, especially Mali, to become more involved in a true democracy and freedom of people. That every individual and every people have an inalienable right to speak and the sovereign decision of their own destiny.

For women, they are not forgotten in the songs of Ben Zabo: a tribute to them is made – to all the mothers of the world – for the suffering they endure while giving birth. He also writes about their beauty, bravery, love, charm and tenderness.

 

Ben Zabo are:

Ben Zabo (Arouna Moussa Coulibaly) – lead vocal, guitar
Siméon Diarra – bass
Soboua Dieudonné Koïta – lead guitar
Jean Diarra – drums
Kassim Keita – percussion, balafon
Yodé Nepehi Richard – saxophone
Virginie Dembélé – vocals
Patricia Koïta – vocals

 

×

Ben Zabo • Démocratie

1 Démocratie
2 Dana (Harmonius Thelonius Meets Ben Zabo)
3 Wari Vo Dubwise (Mark Ernestus Meets Ben Zabo)
4 Dana Dubwise (Mark Ernestus Meets Ben Zabo)
5 Na Yafa (Tamana Dub) (Studio Zuma Meets Ben Zabo)
6 Coup de Gueule

Following the slamming success of his first European tour, Malian Afro-rock pioneer Ben Zabo returns with a 31-minute digital-only EP. Diverse and forward-looking the EP includes three new songs, both “Mark Ernestus Meets Ben Zabo” mixes (only available till now on an out-of-print 12″) and a dance-floor heavy reworking of “Dana” by Harmonius Thelonius. The horn-driven title track “Democratie” is a breathless and passionate plea for sensible democratic leadership in Ben’s troubled homeland Mali. Ben’s much-awaited new album will appear in the spring of 2014.

×

Black Mango

Side A: Naked Venus
Side B: Soft Kicks

A mysterious two-song release, licensed directly from a group of Bamako musicians who, with the exception of the Souku master Zoumana Tereta, choose to remain anonymous.

In the last years, the political turmoil in Mali has caused many of the cities clubs to shutdown and dried up other sources of musician income like weddings and festivals. With less work and more downtime, small recording projects like this one have been given more of a chance to happen. The situation continues to be desperate, but the music remains a powerful force: both a refuge and a medicine.

These two Black Mango tracks are ethereal, hard to classify artifacts, seemingly influenced in equal parts by Ali Farka Toure and Lou Reed. In fact, the titles of the songs name check compositions by the recently passed Rock & Roll legend, though they are clearly not cover versions, as much as explorations on themes. The backstory of how and why these two tracks came into being remains untold, and we are left to purely enjoy them as moments captured.

The one credited musician Zoumana Tereta is a legend of Malian music, having played his Sokou, a single-string, horse-hair violin, on albums by Oumou Sangare, Bassekou Kouyate, Samba Toure, the National Ensemble Instrumental du Mali and many others.

We can only hope that this is not the last musical transmission we will hear from Black Mango.

×

Mark Ernestus Meets Ben Zabo • Wari Vo Dubwise / Dana Dubwise

01 Wari Vo Dubwise
02 Dana Dubwise

 

The debut release by Glitterbeat Records is a limited edition 12” with two dubbed-up remixes by electronic music explorer, Mark Ernestus. The tracks are pulled from Glitterbeat artist, Ben Zabo’s self-titled and highly touted, 2012 debut album of frenetic, Malian Afro-rock.

Mark Ernestus’s influence on the last twenty years of electronic music is well established. With partner Moritz von Oswald, Ernestus spearheaded two legendary projects: the minimal techno pulse of Basic Channel and the avant-roots-dub of Rhythm and Sound. Since the mid-2000’s Mark has increasingly focused on African music. In addition to his remixes for Konono no.1, Tony Allen and the South African electro group BBC, Mark dropped two 12”s last year made in collaboration with the Senegalese band Jeri-Jeri.

“Mark Ernestus is the genetic engineer behind the Techno sound that has become the European heartbeatthe music remains ageless…”
The Wire/February 2010

Ben Zabo on the other hand, is a relatively new name. Belonging to the Bwa ethnic group, a culture whose musical traditions are more poly-rhythmic and energetic than most Malian music, Zabo released his first album in May of 2012. Backed by a full-throttle 7-piece band, Zabo’s music pleads for love and justice while barnstorming the dancefloor. The album ended-up on several African music year-end top-ten lists and was widely reviewed and widely hailed:

“This fantastic debut by a new name from Malihas all the intensity of Africa 70 or Ok Jazza triumph.”
Mojo

By paring down Zabo’s tracks to their rhythmic, hypnotic essentials, Ernestus has created an inspired soundscape. These “dubwise” mixes somehow succeed in feeling both organic and reinvented. They are not dogmatic; they are a real-time conversation between two music-makers adept at stretching and morphing boundaries. They are tracks that completely live up to their name: Mark Ernestus Meets Ben Zabo.

×

 Tamikrest • Chatma

01. Tisnant an Chatma
02. Imanin bas zihoun
03. Itous
04. Achaka Achail Aynaian daghchilan
05. Djanegh etoumast
06. Assikal
07. Toumast anlet
08. Takma
09. Adounia tabarat
10. Timtar

 

Tamikrests’s new album “Chatma”, their third, deftly navigates these experiences and fashions them into a fully persuasive and poetic musical document. The album is filled with sober reflection, moral indignation, musical experimentation, cultural celebration and the kick of rock and roll.

“Chatma” is also Tamikrest’s first album to be wholly written around a defined theme. In Tamashek “Chatma” means “Sisters” and the band has dedicated the album in their own words to: “the courage of the Tuareg women, who have ensured both their children’s survival and the morals of their fathers and brothers.”
The opening track “Tisnant an Chatma (The suffering of my sisters)” is a heartbreaking homage: «Who can estimate the
suffering felt by the soul / of one who sees her sisters exhausted from waiting/ of one who sees her sisters exhausted from
waiting between countries, in deep distress /and daily oppression?«

Fittingly for an album so lyrically evocative, “Chatma“ also delivers Tamikrest’s most wide-screen and wide-ranging sonic statement to date. The infectious, sing-along rock stylings of “Imanin bas zihoun“, the acoustic seduction of “Adounia tabarat”, the Pink Floyd influenced montage “Assikal” and the lush, melancholy ambiance of the albums finale, “Timtar”, all add up to a sustained audio adventure. Echoes of dub, blues, psychedelia, funk and even art-rock are seamlessly weaved by Tamikrest into their increasingly individual take on the Tuareg musical tradition.
And on an album where the title translates as “Sisters”, it makes perfect sense that this time around we hear the full emergence of
the haunting voice of female vocalist Wonou Walet Sidati in tandem with lead vocalist Ousmane Ag Mossa. A new guitarist, Paul Salvagnac has also joined the band, bringing with him fresh textures and possibilities.

×

Tamikrest • Toumastin

1. Tizarate
2. Fassous Tarahnet
3. Nak Amadjar Nidounia
4. Aratan N Tinariwen
5. Ayitma Madjam
6. Aidjan Adaky
7. Addektegh
8. Tarhamanine Assinegh
9. Nak Akaline Tinza (Tinzaouatene)
10. Tidit
11. Dihad Tedoun Itran

 

Music always is a borderline experience. Especially when not only stylistically boundaries are shifting, but the centres of musical creativity are moving.

It certainly would be an exaggeration to state that cities like London and New York, Manchester and Los Angeles have played itself out, but certain symptoms of fatigue are visible in the steady process of looking for ‘the next big thing’. So it is a breath of fresh air that a country like Mali is offering new musical possibilities. Mali-based pop stars like Amadou & Mariam, Salif Keita, Habib Koité or Tinariwen, just like the legend of Desert Blues, the late Ali Farka Touré, have moved beyond the boundaries of just World Music fans. Mali is a huge West African country that combines various languages and cultures, different races and traditions. If one hears music with open ears, one can’t ignore Mali.

But there are not only the big stars that have proved themselves in Europe and the United States – more and more new bands are making themselves known. One of the young and upcoming bands is Tamikrest, who are about to release their second album called “Toumastin”. Their debut album “Adagh” already generated a buzz throughout the world and was met with enthusiam from fans and critics alike who agreed that these young musicians are focusing the rebellious power of rock music in their own special way.

Tamikrest are from Kidal, a remote desert town in the northwest of the Sahara, some 2,000 kilometres north of the capital Bamako. The band members are all Tuaregs, a group of people that is spread all over North and some of West Africa, i.e. Niger, Mali, Algeria, Burkina Faso and Libya. In ancient times the Tuareg were the proud rulers of the Sahara, but their territory was divided in different countries and they had to fight long and hard for independence. Between 1990 and 1995 this fight evolved into a bloody civil war.

After the war many of the rebel fighters traded the Kalashnikovs and hand grenades for guitars and microphones. The band Tinariwen is the most prominent example for the unusual establishment of peace through the spirit of music. But their mission is carried further in their songs. The members of Tamikrest are substantially younger than Tinariwen’s and they have not actively fought in the war, but there is a close resemblance between both bands. Just like Tinariwen Tamikrest have found a way to translate the pulse of the Blues – whose roots lie in North Africa – back to the Tuareg language Tamaschek.  They take generators deep into the desert to have electricity for their guitars in search for the perfect synthesis of their traditional ritual drumming with the music of Jimi Hendrix and Bob Marley.

Tamikrest’s leader Ousmane Ag Mossa is quick to admit his influences: “When I was young I listened to a lot of traditional Tuareg music as well as Tinariwen. There was no other music. I started to learn the guitar around that time and it was only in 2000 that I had access to cassettes of Bob Marley and Dire Straits. That changed my musical vision completely and I stopped to classify music. Music is just music, no matter where it comes from. Music is just too big for me to comprehend in its entirety. My goal is to broaden my horizon step by step.”

Tamikrest are on a trip into the infinite world of music. When the band was founded in 2006 they had a hard time getting exposure in their homeland as it proved to be difficult for music with ancient traditions in a country that is flooded with Western-influenced hip-hop and pop. Things changed abruptly when they played the Festival Au Desert in 2008 and met with the American/Australian band Dirtmusic made up of Chris Eckman (Walkabouts), Chris Brokaw (Come) and Hugo Race (Hugo Race & True Spirit). Ousmane talks about the fateful meeting: “We jammed in tents, open air in the desert sand and on stage. This has extended my musical knowledge tremendously and from that point on I played my guitar in a different way. Through Dirtmusic we had the chance to work in a professional studio for the first time. There was no way had we would let that opportunity pass, so we travelled the long way from Kidal to Bamako.”

With their second album “Toumastin” the young Tuareg rebels create their own universe using even brighter colours. The enchanted ancient mystique of the songs captures the ear immediately, but as the music carries on the band bridges the gap between the African Blues and hypnotic dub, psychedelic funk and an almost supernatural kind of desert garage. The guitars are more offensive, the groove deepens and the Tamaschek chants are merging with the meandering guitar riffs like a caravan voyage through ancient times.  Tamikrest are ready to embrace the future while proudly maintaining the rich tradition of their folk.

×

 Tamikrest Adagh

01. Outamachek 3:25
02. Aicha 3:19
03. Amidini 4:17
04. Tamiditin 3:40
05. Aratane 5:12
06. Tidite Tille 3:53
07. Tahoult 4:14
08. Alhoriya 3:28
09. Ahar 3:09
10. Adounia Mahegagh 3:32
11. Toumastin 4:24

As far as I’m concerned, it’s Tinariwen who created the path,” declares Ousmane Ag Mossa, frizzy-locked leader of Tamikrest, in a pre-emptive strike against a thousand inevitable questions. “But the way I see it, if younger bands don’t come through, then Touareg music will eventually die. They created the path and now it’s up to us to walk down it and create the future.”

Ousmane was born twenty-seven years ago in a village called Tin-Zaouaten, a solitary speck squeezed up against Mali’s northeastern border with Algeria. It’s a remote marginal place.   Or to put it another way: there’s distant, there’s remote and beyond both of those there’s Tin-Zaouaten.

To an outsider, the village would appear to be nothing more than a motley collection of one storey adobe and breeze-block houses, huddling together for protection against the burning sun, the black rocky hills and the lonely immensity of the surrounding desert.   But to Ousmane, it’s home.

Like its ‘neighbour’ Tessalit, two hundred and fifty kilometres to the west, Tin-Zaouaten is blessed with a water table that lurks benignly just below the surface of the gritty soil. Dig a few metres and you can usually find water in abundance.   That’s why Tin-Zaouaten, or ‘Tinza’ for short, is famed in the desert for its gardens and garden produce. Ousmane’s father Mossa was born a nomad out in the bush, but by the time Ousmane arrived he had settled in Tinza, making a living from growing onions, beetroot, carrots and dates, and selling them in the local markets.

In 1985 drought shook desert life to its core.   The rains had failed for several seasons and the village was haunted by famine.   “I was born in a time of calamity,” says Ousmane. “In the middle of dreadful events for the Touareg people. My parents knew so much hardship. Then when I was five years old the rebellion broke out. It was 1990, the year of war. I was a child, and I used to hide in amongst the rocks with the other women and children, just a few kilometres north of the village over the Algerian border. When I think of that time, it’s as if it’s all still happening in front of me.”

Thus Ousmane’s childhood was buffeted by the searing winds of recent Touareg history.   The droughts of ‘68 to ’74 almost destroyed the animal herds and with them the ancient nomadic way of life of the Touareg.   The drought of ’84 to ’85 almost dealt the final blow.   Thousands of young men fled into exile in Algeria, Libya, Burkina Faso and beyond. That’s where the modern Touareg guitar style of music was born and then nourished by anger, homesickness, frustration and dreams of a better life.   It was this generation of Touareg men, known as the ishumar, who returned to Mali and Niger in 1990 to rebel against the callousness, corruption and arrogance of the governments in the distant capitals of Bamako and Niamey.

At first Ousmane just listened to traditional Touareg music at home, and the newer guitar music on battered old cassettes. “I well remember hearing my first Tinariwen songs. I was about five. After the death of my mother, my father was obliged to take me to live with my grown-up sister. One morning I was sitting in front of the house and this guy walked by singing a song by Inteyeden called ‘Imidiwan Kel Hoggar’ (‘My Friends the Hoggar People’). It went straight into my brainha ha ha.”

A few years later Ousmane began to play the guitar himself, and write songs. He was attending a school in Tinza called Les Enfants de l’Adrar, set up by a French NGO and a local man turned community leader called Hama Ag Sid Ahmed.   At the end of every school year the children would create and perform musical plays about pressing themes like ignorance, drought, education and culture.

Hama bought the school an acoustic guitar, and Ousmane adopted the instrument. With his constant friend Cheikh Ag Tiglia, he would write songs and perform them at the school shows. He learned the Tamashek guitar style by listening to a particular cassette which Tinariwen’s leader Ibrahim ‘Abaraybone’ had recorded in Algeria back in 1998.

In 2002, events once again undermined the tenuous calm and stability in Tinza. The village was home to one of the southern desert’s most infamous freedom fighters and warlords, Ibrahim Ag Bahanga.   For this reason it became a military no-go zone.   Ousmane’s father left to live with his eldest sons in Libya, and both Ousmane and Cheikh went south to Kidal

Kidal is the capital of the far north east of Mali, a region known as the Adagh des Iforas (‘The Mountains of the clan Iforas’).   With its wide sandy streets and dispersed one storey earthen houses, Kidal has the feel of a frontier town.   For the Adagh Touareg, it’s where it all happens.

Ousmane and Cheikh played the guitar and sang in hidden corners of Kidal, around a fire, drinking bittersweet Touareg tea with their friends.   Their reputations grew very slowly, steadily, without wild leaps or fanfares. After a while they heard that a local cultural centre called the DDRK or ‘Maison du Luxembourg’, founded by the Duchess of Luxembourg who had fallen in love with the town when she visited it in 2001, was offering music classes.   The teacher turned out to be Juhan Ecaré, a musician from Ivory Coast.

Then this French theatre troupe called La Calma arrived in town and enrolled over fifty young people to perform a massive theatre piece featuring sketches about a host of local issues. It went down a storm in January 2006 at a local festival called ‘The Saharan Nights of Essouk’.   Although Ousmane didn’t take part in the project, claiming disinterest in theatre (“I’m a musiciantheatre’s not my thing”), Cheikh went along and played with a local percussionist called Aghaly Ag Mohammedine and a bass player called Ibrahim Ahmed, aka ‘Pinnochio’ or ‘Pino’ for short.

On their return, Pino proposed that they form a proper band and record a demo at a small studio, which had been set up at the Maison du Luxembourg.   They also decided that they needed a name, and agreed on ‘Tamikrest’, which means the knot, the junction, the coalition, in Tamashek, the language of Touareg.   “Each of us came from a different place, a different zone,” explains Ousmane. “Cheikh and I from Tinza. Aghaly and Mossa Maiga from Kidal. Pino from Gao. But we found each other and we had the same ideas, the same intentions. We were like a coalition.”

On the 23rd May 2006, the army garrison in Kidal was attacked by a new Touareg rebel movement called the Alliance Démocratique pour le Changement (ADC). “It was a hard time for me,” remembers Ousmane. “I woke up early that morning and discovered that the town had turned into a nightmare.   Those who wanted to join the rebels had already done so. But, in general, that wasn’t the choice of me and my friends. Because we’d never been in the army. We were musicians, not people who carry arms.”

By the end of the year a fragile peace had been restored, although Tinza’s recalcitrant son Ibrahim Ag Bahanga refused to compromise and remained on the run with his own splinter militia. Tamikrest performed at the peace Forum in March 2007, when the Touareg rebels met with the Malian government and thousands of community representatives in Kidal to map out a way forward.

The group were developing their style and their fan base, which consisted mainly of Kidal’s younger generation.   They knew the Tamashek guitar style intimately, but they were also deeply into rap, metal, Maghrebi pop and afro-disco music from Ivory Coast. They had new tastes, new desires, new ambitions and Tamikrest was their band.

Pino was quite a mover and shaker. In late 2007 he contacted Manny Ansar, the director of the now world-famous Festival in the Desert and clinched a gig for Tamikrest. The band found the money to transport themselves the 600 miles eastward to Timbuktu.   In the silky dunes of Essakane they met Dirtmusic, a group of rock’n’roll veterans from the USA and Australia.   It was one of those meetings fashioned by fate in the workshops of destiny.

Chris Eckman of Dirtmusic remembers the meeting thus: “On our first morning in Essakane we woke up hearing music, so we went across the sand to the tent opposite ours and that’s where Tamikrest was playing. Chris Brokaw grabbed his dobro and headed over, then Hugo and I eventually did the same and basically for three days we didn’t leave.”

Once again music overflew all barriers of language, culture, style, shyness and reticence. The friendship formed at Essakane grew in the following months and lead to an invitation by Dirtmusic to come to the Malian capital Bamako to make an album, and contribute to Dirtmusic’s own oeuvre.   After another epic journey of 1,200 miles, by car and bus, Ousmane, Aghaly and crew entered their first professional studio and ‘Adagh’ was born.

“It felt very natural to play with Dirtmusic,” asserts Ousmane. “I’ve always appreciated all kinds of different music and it was such a pleasure to play with a different kind of band. Music isn’t something you study; it’s something you learn with your ears. I’d been listening and playing along to Bob Marley, to Marc Knopfler and Dire Straits, to Tinariwen for years. We’d been listening to so much international music and that’s why the marriage with Dirtmusic worked.”

The end of 2009 finds Tamikrest on the cusp of the world and the next chapter in their great adventure. “This opportunity to go to Europe feels like a big responsibility,” says Ousmane. “I feel like someone who’s done this exam and is now waiting for the result.   We’ve already achieved quite a bit, but the hardest is still ahead.”

One thing is certain: Ousmane is clear about the band’s mission.   “The situation of the Touareg is very difficult right now,” he declares. “Even before I played the guitar and started recording, I had this ambition to be a lawyer or you might say, an ‘advocate’. I wanted to be capable of expressing the hurt I felt in my heart, and speak out about the situation, even at the United Nations. Because we’re a people who don’t have journalists, we don’t have advocates.   But it was only later that I realised that a musician can play that role.”

“What is the weakest part of any nation or people? It’s ignorance. We are stuck in our ignorance. I see the world changing, racing ahead, and leaving us behind. And the only thing that is holding us back is our ignorance.   As artists, it’s our duty to make our problems known to the world, to sing songs about the nomadic life, about our traditions and culture. But above all, revolutionary songs, about what we see, about what the government is doing to our people, which makes no sense to me.”

There it isTamikrest, the knot, the coalition, the future.

Andy Morgan

×

Jon Hassell / Brian Eno • Fourth World Vol.1 : Possible Musics

01. Chemistry 6:50
02. Delta Rain Dream 3:26
03. Griot (Over “Contagious Magic”) 4:00
04. Ba-Benzélé 6:15
05. Rising Thermal 14° 16′ N; 32° 28′ E 3:05
06. Charm (Over “Burundi Cloud”) 21:29

“Jon Hassell invented the term “Fourth World” both to describe his music and as a general term applicable to other global-minded work. This evokes the optimistic notion of a trans-cultural harmony beyond the divisions and competitiveness we are now part of, and preparing us how to deal with it joyfully rather than defensively. I am reminded of Thomas Mann’s statement: ‘Art is to the community as the dream is to the individual.’ Hopefully Jon Hassell’s dream will prove to be prophetic.” — Brian Eno

Originally released in 1980, Jon Hassell and Brian Eno’s collaborative album “Fourth World Music Vol.I: Possible Musics” is a sound document whose ongoing influence seems beyond dispute. Not only is the album a defining moment in the development of what Eno coined as “Ambient Music” but it also facilitated the introduction of Hassell’s “Future Primitive” trumpet stylings and visionary “Fourth World” musical theories to the broader public. These vectors continue to enrich contemporary audio culture. Eno’s Ambient strategies are now fixed in the DNA of electronic music and the cross-cultural legacy of Hassell’s “Fourth World” concept is apparent not only in the marketplace genre “World Music” but also more persuasively in the accelerating number of digitally driven, borderless musical fusions we now experience.

Brian Eno has been an essential fixture of both experimental and popular music since the 1970’s: An art school education; early success as an androgynous synthesizer interventionist with Roxy Music; a run of influential vocal-oriented solo records; the embrace of the term “ambient music” and the application of it to increasingly discreet and oblique electronic instrumental albums; seminal collaborations with David Bowie, The Talking Heads, Robert Fripp and Krautrock pioneers Cluster; and by the mid-80’s chart-topping marquee productions for the Irish rock band U2.

Jon Hassell’s musical journey, while more obscured from the cultural mainstream, is every bit as storied and individual as Eno’s. A childhood in Memphis; a classical conservatory education studying the trumpet; composition and electronic music study with Stockhausen in Cologne; a passage through the New York minimalist sphere with Terry Riley, Lamonte Young and Phillip Glass; a singular and radicalized approach to the trumpet developed after a mentorship with the Indian vocal master Pandit Pran Nath; collaborative excursions with The Talking Heads, Peter Gabriel, David Sylvian, Bjork and Ry Cooder; an ongoing questioning of the dichotomies between North and South, sacred and sensual, primitive and futurist.

In an exclusive interview for the reissue liner notes, Hassell sized up his lifetime of musical experiences: “Without overstating it too much I don’t know who else has had the kind of experience that I’ve had in various kinds of music.”

These cross-pollinating influences and pan-cultural musical educations led Hassell to seek sonic solutions outside of the didactics of western music. The result of this search was the gradual development of musical concepts and gestures that he grouped under the umbrella theory: “Fourth World.” In a 1997 interview he describes the genesis of these ideas:

“I wanted the mental and geographical landscapes to be more indeterminate- not Indonesia, not Africa, not this or thatsomething that COULD HAVE existed if things were in an imaginary culture, growing up in an imaginary place with this imaginary musicI called it ‘coffee-colored classical music of the future’What would music be like if ‘classic’ had not been defined as what happened in Central Europe two hundred years ago. What if the world knew Javanese music and Pygmy music and Aborigine music? What would ‘classical music’ sound like then?”

By the time that Eno and Hassell met, Hassell’s experiments with a “Fourth World” musical vocabulary were well underway and in fact it was because of these experiments, particularly Hassell’s debut album “Vernal Equinox” that Brian Eno purposefully sought him out. Eno remembers:

“This record (Vernal Equinox) fascinated me. It was a dreamy, strange, meditative music that was inflected by Indian, African and South American music, but also seemed located in the lineage of tonal minimalism. It was a music I felt I’d been waiting for.”

Hassell picks up the story of their actual first meeting: “Brian came to a concert that I was doing at The Kitchen, an avant-garde performance space in New York at that time (1980), and I called it “Fourth World” something or the otherhe came up after the concert and introduced himself and said, “you know we should do something together.” So that’s how we met and we had a period of socializing and my introducing him to the things I was into, the musical things that I was into like the Ocora label and a lot of great ethnic music and recordings…”

Within a couple of months of Hassell’s performance at The Kitchen the duo entered Celestial Sound in New York City and began work on what would become “Fourth World Music Vol.I: Possible Musics.” Hassell invited previous collaborators like the Brazilian percussionist Nana Vasconcelos and the Senegalese drummer Ayibe Dieng to join the sessions. Most of the tracks carry a Hassell/Eno writing credit, though the 20-minute “Charm (Over ‘Burundi Cloud’)” was a carry over from Hassell’s concert repertoire. Hassell has made it clear in several interviews over the years that the album’s shared billing was at least partly inaccurate and that Eno’s contribution was mainly as a producer. In August of 2014 he offered these thoughts:

“He (Eno) had assumed that it was going to be a producer credit, you know on the cover, and I was thinking “gee I would really like to make some money off of this” and he was very, very popular at the time and his name meant a lot, so I said I’ll be first, it’ll be “Jon Hassell” slash “Brian Eno.” And that would help the sales… his contributions were in bringing the art school mind to the studio as in like “what would happen if we did this” right? For instance turning the tape over and getting the backwards echo…”

While Brian Eno has never commented publicly on the issue, a 2007 article he wrote for The Guardian, entitled “The debt I owe to Jon Hassell” makes it clear that he considered Hassell an influential mentor.
More spiky, angular and steeped in rhythm and exoticism than most of Eno’s records and more drone based, reflective and sonorous than most of Hassell’s outings, “Possible Musics”– whatever the actual division of labor in sound and concept – is a seminal highlight in both of their discographies. A meeting of two of the late 20th centuries most restless and prescient musicians, the album sounds as beguiling, indeterminate and other worldly today as it did 34 years ago when it was originally released.

The impact of “Possible Musics” on the contemporary music conversation was almost immediate. Just ten days after it was mastered Brian Eno and David Byrne convened in Los Angeles to continue experiments inspired in part by Hassell’s musical theories. The resultant album would be called “My Life in the Bush Of Ghosts.” All parties involved agree that “Ghosts” was originally conceived as a trio project that included Hassell but the idea fell apart over disagreements about logistics and musical direction. Hassell still remains bitter about what he considers the projects un-credited appropriation of his musical signatures. From there it was a short jump forward to the chart-topping, afro-futurism of The Talking Heads “Remain In Light,” an album that Eno co-produced and Hassell guested on.

“Fourth World” strategies have echoed, and can still be heard echoing in the music of Peter Gabriel (WOMAD & Real World), Nils Petter Molvaer, Bjork, David Sylvian, David Byrne (Luaka Bop), Ryuichi Sakamoto, Damon Albarn (“Mali Music”& Africa Express), DJ Spooky, Jah Wobble, Matmos, 23 Skidoo, Goat, Bill Laswell, Mark Ernestus, Adrian Sherwood (African Headcharge) and of course the ongoing projects of Eno and Hassell themselves.

Brian Eno offers this: “I owe a lot to Jon. Actually, a lot of people owe a lot to Jon. He has planted a strong and fertile seed whose fruits are still being gathered.”

Jon Hassell & Brian Eno: Fourth World Music Vol. I: Possible Musics: Glitterbeat is proud and honored to re-release and re-introduce this compelling, groundbreaking album.

 

×

Glitterbeat: Dubs & Versions I

01.Dennis Bovell: Ayé Go Mila Dubwize
02.Mark Ernestus Meets Ben Zabo: Danna Dubwise
03.Schneider TM: Be Ki Don (Cockpit Dub)
04.Nozinja: Tamala (Nozinja Version)
05. Harmonious Thelonious: Danna (healing-remix)
06. Dennis Bovell: Itous Dubwize
07.Larry Achiampong: Back Talk
08.Mark Ernestus Meets Ben Zabo: Wari Vo Dubwise
09.Mark Stewart: Smokin’ Bowl (Redemption Remix)
10.Studio Zuma: Na Yafa (Tamana Dub)

 

The Artists:

Track #1:

Mix – Dennis Bovell: Aye Go Mila Dubwize. One of the most revered dub and reggae producers, Dennis has been making his mark on contemporary music for over 40 years. Born in Barbados, Bovell moved to south London at the age of 12 and became deeply immersed in the emerging roots, lovers rock and soundsystem cultures. He spearheaded seminal British reggae acts like Linton Kwesi Johnson and Matumbi and was also notably involved in the late 70’s post-punk scene as producer for The Slits, The Pop Group and Orange Juice. In 2012, Dennis released the dub collection Mek It Run.

Original – Samba Toure: Aye Go Mila (Album: “Albala” / May 2013). Samba is a legend of northern Malian music. As a member of the touring ensembles for both Ali Farka Toure and Toumani Diabate, Samba gained musical experience and perspective that he brought together famously on his acclaimed third album Albala. A meditation on Mali’s humanitarian and political crisis, Folk Roots wrote that Albala “is a record full of passion, eloquence and incredible music.”

 

Track #2:

Mix – Mark Ernestus Meets Ben Zabo: Danna Dubwise. Mark Ernestus’ influence on the last twenty years of electronic music is well established. With partner Moritz von Oswald, Ernestus founded two legendary projects: the minimal techno pulse of Basic Channel and the avant-roots-dub of Rhythm and Sound. Since the mid-2000’s Mark has increasingly focused on African music. In addition to his remixes for Konono no.1, Tony Allen and the South African electro group BBC, Mark dropped two fantastic albums last year made in collaboration with the Senegalese band Jeri-Jeri.

Original – Ben Zabo: Danna (album: “Ben Zabo” / May 2012). Belonging to the Bwa ethnic group, a culture whose musical traditions are more poly-rhythmic and energetic than most Malian music, Zabo’s debut is the first album ever released by a Bwa band leader. Backed by a full-throttle 7-piece afro-rock band, Zabo’s music pleads for love and justice while barnstorming the dancefloor. The album ended-up on several African music year-end top-ten lists and was widely reviewed and widely hailed: “This fantastic debut by a new name from Malihas all the intensity of Africa 70 or Ok Jazza triumph.”–Mojo ****

 

Track #3:

Mix – Schneider TM: Be Ki Don (Cockpit Dub). Schneider TM is the multidimensional music project of the Berlin-based musician Dirk Dresselhaus. Starting in 1998, Schneider TM has released three electro-folk albums on City Slang/Mute and a cover version of The Smiths called ‘The Light 3000’ that was highly touted by the late John Peel. Recently Dirk has collaborated with Jochen Arbeit (of Einstürzende Neubauten), Damo Suzuki (Can) and members of Pansonic and Mum. In June 2014, Dirk went on a research trip to Mali and Burkina Faso for Balafo, an intercultural project rooted in West African balafon music.

Original – Samba Toure: Be Ki Don (Album: “Albala” / May 2013). (see #1)

 

Track #4:

Mix – Nozinja: Tamala (Nozinja Version). Pioneer of the Shangaan Electro genre, Nozinja has spearheaded an Afro-futurist strain of electronic dance music combining kwaito, Tsonga disco, South African house and local folk traditions. Nozinja is arguably today’s premier African electronic musician and he presides over a community of dancers, singers and musicians who he A&Rs, records, produces and releases across South Africa via Nozinja Music. This forward thinking approach has also found a kinship with DJs and producers such as Caribou, The Knife, Actress, and Mark Ernestus. Nozinja was recently signed to the influential Warp Records and will release his first album for the label in autumn of 2014.

Original – Aminata Wassidje Traore: Tamala (Album: “Tamala”/ March 2013). Aminata Wassidjé Traoré is a rising voice in Mali. Tamala is her debut album, recorded in Bamako and originally released in 2009. Born in Diré, near the fabled city of Timbuktu, Aminata was raised within northern Mali’s rich cultural brew. Her music, like the environment that surrounded her growing up, incorporates various cultures and traditions and mixes drum programming and synthesizers with the lute like kurbu and the sokou, a one-string violin. Hints of Hip Hop and electronic dance music sit side by side with the pentatonic sounds of the interior Niger delta.

 

Track #5:

Mix – Harmonious Thelonious: Danna (healing-remix). Harmonious Thelonious, is the electronic music project of Stefan Schwander (aka Antonelli). Combining the serial structures of American minimalist music with African rhythms and European sequencing the Düsseldorf-based musician creates hypnotic, beat-driven atmospheres that are danceable, challenging, and melodically playful. Besides producing an array of 12-inches, Harmonious Thelonious has released two albums: Talking (2010) and Listen (2012).

Original – Ben Zabo: Danna (album: “Ben Zabo” / May 2012). (see #2)

 

Track #6:

Mix – Dennis Bovell: Itous Dubwize. (see #1)

Original – Tamikrest: Itous (album: “Chatma” / September 2013). Tamikrest means “crossing” in the language of the Kel Tamashek, a traditionally nomadic Saharan people that are commonly referred to as the Tuaregs. It is an apt description of the band’s internationally renowned music, which fuses traditional melodies and rhythms with echoes of dub, blues, psychedelia, funk and even art-rock. Mojo’s four-star review of Chatma enthused: “a huge leap forwardthis is the desert-blues album for fans of Can and Pink Floyd to sink their teeth into.”

 

Track #7:

Mix – Larry Achiampong: Back Talk. Larry is a British-Ghanaian performance, visual and musical artist who has internationally exhibited projects at the Tate Britain/Modern, the Documenta in Kassel, and the Bokoor African Popular Music Archives Foundation in Accra, Ghana. He has released two albums of experimental plunderphonics that fuse high life and palm wine samples with abstract hip hop soundscapes: Meh Mogya (2011) and More Mogya (2013).

Original – Lobi Traore: Dibi (album: Bamako Nights/ November 2013.Bamako Nights captures the incendiary genius of Lobi Traoré, a soulful singer/songwriter and blazing electric guitarist of Mali, who died too young – just 49 years old. Lobi produced five studio albums during his career, as well as four live releases, but this album, recorded in 1995 in a small Bamako nightclub,offers the deepest and most intimate record of this artist’s astounding power on stage.

 

Track #8:

Mix – Mark Ernestus Meets Ben Zabo: Wari Vo Dubwise.(see #2)

Original – Ben Zabo: Wari Vo (album: “Ben Zabo” / May 2012).(see #2)

 

Track #9:

Mix – Mark Stewart: Smokin’ Bowl (Redemption Remix). Mark Stewart burst onto the British post-punk scene in 1979 as singer and raconteur for the Bristol-based band The Pop Group. Squalling and politically charged the band built its reputation on confrontation and its often violent deconstructions of funk and dub stylings. After the band’s implosion Stewart went on to collaborate with On-U-Sound’s Adrian Sherwood in both the New Age Steppers and Mark Stewart & the Mafia. An influence on artists as diverse as Nick Cave, Skinny Puppy and Fugazi, in 2012, Stewart released The Politics Of Envy featuring Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, The RaincoatsGina Birch, Primal Scream and Clash/PIL guitarist Keith Levene.

Original – Dirtmusic: Smokin’ Bowl (album: BKO/ April 2010).Dirtmusic is an inter-continental ensemble founded by Australian Hugo Race (Fatalists, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds) and American Chris Eckman (The Walkabouts). Dirtmusic’s encounter at the Festival-au-Desert with the Tuareg band Tamikrest was the catalyst for their second album, BKO(2010), a one-of-a-kind trip through the interzone between ‘western’ and Tamasheq desert rock. Uncut wrote: “BKO is a collection of dusty, yearning songs growled out over a nicely fused acoustic/electric mix… The atmosphere is infectious”

 

Track #10:

Mix – Studio Zuma: Na Yafa (Tamana Dub). Studio Zuma is the moniker for musician, producer (Tamikrest, Ben Zabo, Lobi Traore) and Glitterbeat co-owner Chris Eckman.

Original – Ben Zabo: Na Yafa. (see #2)

 

×

Fofoulah • Fofoulah

1. No Troubles (Kelinte)
Fofoulah/Gueye
Featuring Batch Gueye (vocals), Dan Nicholls (additional keys)
(6:46)

2. Hook Up (Nango Dereh)
Fofoulah/Camara
Featuring Juldeh Camara (vocals/kologo), Alex Bonney (trumpet)
(4:56)

3. Make Good (Soumala)
Fofoulah/Gueye
Featuring Batch Gueye (vocals)
(4:35)

4. Don’t Let Your Mind Unravel, Safe Travels
Fofoulah/Ghostpoet
Featuring Ghostpoet (vocals)
(4:44)

5. The Clean Up (Rahas)
Fofoulah/Gueye
Featuring Batch Gueye (vocals), Kaw Secka (vocals)
(5:28)

6. Blest (Issaâdiyen)
Fofoulah/Mezel
Featuring Iness Mezel (vocals), Nora Boyer (krakebs), Justin Adams (bendirs)
(3:34)

7. Fighting Chance
Fofoulah
Tom Challenger (keyboards), Kaw Secka (sabar), Dave Smith (drums)
(1:47)

8. Reality Rek
Fofoulah/Gueye
Fofoulah with Batch Gueye (vocals), Dan Nicholls (additional keys)
(7:38)

9. Last Orders
Traditional
Kaw Secka (sabar), Dave Smith (sabar)
(0:29)

 

UK singer / producer sensation Ghostpoet (courtesy of ‘Play it Again Sam’)

×

Hanoi Masters • War is a Wound, Peace is a Scar

1. For the Fallen (Phạm Mộng Hải)
2. Help Us in This Life – Hát Văn (Phạm Mộng Hải)
3. Road to Home – Về Quê (Nguyễn Thị Lân).
4. The Wind Blows It Away (Quôć Hùng)
5. I Long to Return to My Hometown – Quê Mẹ (Võ Tuấn Minh).
6. Heroine Song – Hát Hầu Cô Bơ (Xuân Hoạch)
7. Doomed Love – Xẩm Huê Tình (Xuân Hoạch)
8. The Rice Drum – Trống Cơm (Nguyễn Thị Lân).
9. Gratitude – Xẩm Thập Ân (Xuân Hoạch)
10. Please Wait for Me (Quôć Hùng)
11. Taking Your Spirit to the Next World – Hát Lô Hương (Phạm Mộng Hải)

 

“Hanoi Masters: War is a Wound, Peace is a Scar” is a haunting audio document recorded in the summer of 2014 by Grammy-award winning producer Ian Brennan (Tinariwen, Malawi Mouse Boys, The Good Ones). The sepia-tinged songs are sung and played live and direct by elderly Vietnamese musicians using half-forgotten traditional instruments. These musicians all have deep personal connections to the upheavals of the Vietnam War and the album’s mesmerizing mood navigates the blurred line between raw beauty and sadness.

40 years after the end of the Vietnam War, a war these Hanoi musicians still call the “American War”, the wounds and scars of that era are ever-present. “Hanoi Masters” is an album of cautious healing and an unforgettable meditation on conflict, resistance, collective memory, and the longing for what has been lost.

In the liner notes of the album, producer Ian Brennan discusses the experience of making “Hanoi Masters”:

We had gone to Hanoi to record veterans from their side. Some were music masters, one of whom had joined the army at age thirteen and whose job it was
to sing to the troops to boost morale and provide solace. Another was a former AK-47 issued village leader who had not sung in over forty years, and proved to be the most dead-on vocally. She did not hide or adorn, but quietly revealed muted emotions that a microphone often can detect more easily than face-to-face interaction. Then, immediately afterwards, she withdrew back into a stoic shell.

The streets of Hanoi are an almost direct inversion of western cities, with hordes of scooters displacing and grossly outnumbering cars. The chaotic ballet of riders, sometimes four or five to a single motorcycle, is offset by the reserve of the
riders. Many are masked to ward off pollution and only once was there witnessed even the slightest reaction to all the incessant horns and traffic violations by others.

Those who dismiss Asian music as without an edge, may have simply overlooked the intricacy. With a whammy-bar technology that dates back to the 9th century, it is fair to say that Vietnamese traditions had a bit of a head start over the headbangers of the 1980’s.

A startling revelation was a plucked instrument (the K’ni) that is clasped between the teeth as the local dialectic language is spoken through the
single string. What sounds like an extraterrestrial instrumental to the uninitiated actually contains coded, poetic lyrics. Again, futurist innovators like Theremin, clearly arrived alittle later to the party than commonly claimed.

Let it suffice to say that these artists are a far cry from the lip-synching
karaoke show that we saw on the local cable, with groups of teenagers
cavorting on a soundstage and mouthing the words to K-pop songs—air-Karaoke, if you will—that managed to render something pre-fab even less real.

These elders carry a haunting, but muted sadness that seems only fully revealed through the music that they valiantly keep alive in the face of industrialization, waning regard and interest, and the rapid homogenization and “progress” overtaking their homeland.

—Ian Brennan, producer/engineer “Hanoi Masters”

 

×

Bassekou Kouyaté & Ngoni Ba • Ba Power

1.Siran Fen
2.Musow Fanga
3.Abé Sumaya
4.Ayé Sira Bla
5.Borongoli ma Kununban
6.Waati
7.Fama Magni
8.Te Duniya Laban
9.Bassekouni

Bassekou Kouyaté & Ngoni Ba’s fourth album Ba Power (and his first for Glitterbeat Records) is a striking, career defining record marked by mesmerizing songs, razor-sharp riffs and full-throttle emotions. Following two years of worldwide touring for the much heralded Jama Ko album, Bassekou’s band, Ngoni Ba, has turned up the volume and dynamics significantly and Bassekou’s masterful ngoni playing has achieved a new level of intensity that can only be called: afro-rock. Distortion and wah wah and propulsive rhythms are now the defining backbone of his songs and the heat lightning vocals of his wife Amy Sacko, more than ever serve as the passionate and perfect foil. This is not the same Ngoni Ba. This is indeed: Ba Power.

When asked what Ba Power means to him, Bassekou told us: “Ba”, in Bambara means “strong” or “great” and it also means “group.” I called the album Ba Power because I think the messages on it are very important and strong, and it is also definitely the album with the toughest sound I’ve ever made. I want these songs to grab as many people as possible.”

In the last decade, Bassekou has firmly established himself as not only one of Mali’s, but as one of Africa’s premier global artists. A veteran of hundreds of worldwide concerts including major festival appearances at Glastonbury, Roskilde and WOMAD, Bassekou has also garnered a lengthy list of critical accolades. His debut album Segu Blue (2007) won two BBC Radio 3 Awards for World Music (‘Best Album’ and ‘Best African Artist’). The follow-up I Speak Fula (2009) was nominated for a Grammy Award. Jama Ko (2013) was named the Best World Music album in both Mojo magazine and Uncut magazines. The album was also #1 on the 2013 World Music Charts Europe (WMCE), and Songlines Magazine voted Bassekou, ‘Artist Of the Year’ for 2014.

“Kouyaté has updated the dry-gut plucking of the traditional ngoni, adding electric pick-ups, distortion and effects pedals, creating an extraordinary array of sounds from a spindly metallic plinking to a grinding bluesy roar.” The Daily Telegraph (UK)

Without question Bassekou Kouyaté & Ngoni Ba has revolutionized the sound and narrative possibilities of the ngoni, the lute-like instrument that is essential to Mali’s Griot culture. Griots are esteemed musician/storytellers whose lineage stretches back centuries. Bassekou was born into this resonant tradition but his relationship to it has been anything but static. From the beginning of his career, through his invention of a previously unheard repertoire built around the melodies and rhythms of four interlocking (and at times electric) ngonis, Bassekou has demonstrated his respect for the past by radically pulling it into the future.

The new album Ba Power is arguably the most inspired and fearless step in this process. It is clearly Bassekou’s most outward looking album, an album where he sharpens his view beyond the eclectic sounds of his Malian homeland and directly engages on his own terms with elements of Rock & Roll  (“Siran Fen”), Blues (“Bassekouni”), Jazz (“Ayé Sira Bla”) and other West African musics like Afrobeat (check out the riff on “Waati”).

And where the themes of the songs on Jama Ko often dealt with the internal political crisis in Mali, like the music itself, many of the lyrics on Ba Power focus on the universal and the transformative: “Musow Fanga” (Power of Women”) begins with these lines: Greetings to women all over the world/ Greetings to all African women!/ Being a woman is very important: It is not a meaningless phrase/ Who can say women do not count?

And “Waati” (Time) adopts a worldly, philosophical tone: Be prepared, there is a time for everything: Work in the fields, tending the herds, Be prepared, you have a visitor coming: It is time itself!

Ba Power was recorded in November of 2014 at MBK Studios in Bamako, a studio just down the road from the Kouyaté family home in the hills at the edge of the city. Produced by Chris Eckman (Tamikrest, Aziza Brahim) the album began with Ngoni Ba playing together live in a relaxed, intimate space. The band consists entirely of sons, brothers, nephews and spouses and these family connections and the extensive concert schedule of the past years have given the band an uncanny depth of musical communication. The original sessions were quick, raw and joyful.

But Bassekou didn’t stop there. He made it clear from the beginning of the process that he was eager for the music on the album to intersect with musicians outside of Ngoni Ba, both in Mali and beyond.  He specifically sought out instrumental textures he had either never or rarely used, such as trumpet, electric guitar and a drum kit.

Ba Power’s diverse collaborators include:
+Samba Touré: The legendary Songhai blues guitarist and a fellow Glitterbeat artist. Samba has played with Ali Farka Touré and Toumani Diabaté and has released four international albums under his own name. He plays lead guitar on “Fama Magni.”
+Zoumana Tereta: A veteran of all of Bassekou’s albums (plus albums by Oumou Sangare, Lobi Traore & many others) and a legendary master of the Soku, a horsehair, single-string violin. He sings and plays on “Fama Magni.”
+ Adama Yalomba: Within Mali he is a well-known Afro-pop artist and a mainstay on the Bamako club circuit. Sings the lead vocal on “Waati.”
+Dave Smith: Acclaimed drummer for Robert Plant’s current band: The Sensational Space Shifters. He also in a member of JuJu and the bandleader for the Glitterbeat-signed group Fofoulah. Plays drums on four songs including the opening track “Siran Fen.”
+Jon Hassell: A seminal figure from the last 40 years of electronic music, cross-cultural fusion and avant-garde jazz. Hassell coined the musical term “Fourth World Music” and has collaborated with Brian Eno, The Talking Heads, Bjork and Peter Gabriel. In what is a very rare session appearance, he plays trumpet and keyboards on “Ayé Sira Bla.”
+Chris Brokaw: A prolific and influential indie rock guitarist. Currently a member of the Lemonheads, Brokaw has played with Come, the Thurston Moore Band (Sonic Youth) and members of Tortoise and Sunn o))). Plays electric guitar on “Siran Fen” and “Abé Sumaya.”

Ba Power contains all the swagger, precision and wide-eyed excitement that the title implies. It is the album where Bassekou’s music engages with the world in ways he could have only imagined 10 years before. It is the album where he confirms his status amongst the 21st centuries most relevant musical artists.

I think African music and culture deserve to be spread to the broadest audience possible. That is what I want to accomplish with Ba Power.

–Bassekou Kouyaté

×

Sacri Cuori • Delone

01 Bendigo
02 Una Danza
03 La Marabina
04 Snake Charmer
05 Delone
06 Billy Strange
07 Portami Via
08 Seuls Ensemble
09 Madalena
10 Dancing (on the other side of town)
11 Cagliostro Blues
12 Serge
13 El Comisario
14 Dirsi Addio A Roma

The music of Sacri Cuori is a kaleidoscopic road trip through imaginary 60/70’s soundtrack music and post-folk sonics from Italy, Europa and beyond.

Sacri Cuori only half-jokingly calls themselves the bastard children of Fellini.

Hailing from Romagna, Italy, the band is led by guitarist/producer Antonio Gramentieri and plays (mostly) instrumental, topographical music that mirrors the varied terrain of their experiences whether that be a Rimini beach full of nostalgia and desire or the barrens of the Mojave Desert in the dead of winter.

Their sound palette is defined by a moody, Adriatic twang, falling somewhere between the old time dance music of their native Romagna and Lynch’s Mulholland Drive; between vanished innocence and dark dreams of the future; between Santo & Johnny and Ry Cooder (or Brian Eno).

Of course Ennio Morricone and Nino Rota are also present, as are Riz Ortolani, Piero Piccioni, Piero Umiliani, Armando Trovajoli and other maestros of Italian film music’s golden age.

Over their previous three albums Sacri Cuori have created a sensuous cinematic ouevre that has led them towards live and recorded collaborations with an inspired cast of characters: Calexico’s John Convertino, Dan Stuart (Green on Red), Hugo Race (Bad Seeds, Dirtmusic), Robyn Hitchcock, Italian heroes Vinicio Capossela and Il Pan Del Diavolo. David Hidalgo of Los Lobos, James Chance, PJ Harvey producer John Parish and many others…

In 2014, Sacri Cuori composed and performed the original score for “Zoran – il mio nipote scemo”, a cult movie that received several major awards from the Venice Film Festival. The soundtrack itself was awarded “best soundtrack of the year” at the Est Film Festival.

Delone (de-lone-e)

Delone is the new record by Sacri Cuori.

Delone is a man and a journey.

A journey into the geography of what was once.

A man obsessed with all that might have been.

In every sound and feeling on the album, Italy is the heartbeat.

But this is not the tale of a real Italy.

Delone’s Italy is the patria seen from afar, from the eyes of an expatriate or castaway, a misty Italy, a dream of an older time that tries to find elegance and pride in the impossible anarchy of the troubled present.

Delone’s story is an Italian story always told with a foreign accent, a story imagined on the remote border between joy and melancholy.

The album was crafted over the last two years in a series of sessions where the band consciously stretched the definition of who they are. While still primarily an instrumental affair, the album introduces the resplendent voice of Carla Lippis, the last Italian diva, who Sacri Cuori met in Australia and brought back to her ancestral homeland (and language). She sings in both English and Italian. Other vocalists include French chanteuse Emmanuelle Sigal and Howe Gelb of the famed American cult band Giant Sand.

As always Sacri Cuori is more like an enlarged family than a fixed ensemble and other guests include Evan Lurie (Lounge Lizards & Roberto Benigni’s soundtracks) on keyboards, guitar pioneer Marc Ribot (Tom Waits), Steve Shelley of Sonic Youth on drums and members of the Mexican Cumbia sensations Sonido Gallo Negro.

While certainly beholden throughout to its Italian musical roots, Delone collides in unpredictable ways with a variety of global sound transmissions. The breathless rush of the surf driven opener Bendigo cuts hard to the sultry romanticism of the second song Una Danza, which in turn, slyly gives way to the nostalgic twang of La Marabina. The album flows like this for the rest of its duration, brilliantly touching upon disparate soundworlds that range from the pastoral (Billy Strange) to the cosmopolitan (the Gainsbourg influenced Serge) to the classically pop (Delone).

There is passion and adventure, excitation and sadness. There is a magnificent sense of wonder.

Delone, the man, is in search of his identity, that familiar warmth, a sign that leads him home.

Delone, the album, plays like a treasured notebook full of restless dreams and nostalgic sketches, all of it edited together like a suspenseful, old TV movie.

It’s all here, forever now, forever assured: Sacri Cuori – Delone

Home page: www.sacricuori.com/
Facebook: www.facebook.com/pages/Sacri-Cuor…77217024?fref=ts
Twitter: twitter.com/sacri_cuori

 

×

Tamikrest • Taksera

Side A:
1. Tisnant An Chatma           
2. Tamiditin                         
3. Fassous Tarahnet           
4. Itous                  

Side B:
1. Achaka Achail Aynaian Daghchilan             
2. Outamachek                                                   
3. Aratan N Tinariwen                                       
4. Arantane N’ Adagh

“Taksera” (which in Tamashek means ‘a celebration with music’) is a rough and ready live album that is sure to give jolt to Tuareg-rock group Tamikrest’s already heady reputation. Recorded on a summer festival stage during their 2014 “Chatma” tour, the album vividly showcases the visceral and improvisational power of the band. The hypnotic grooves of the songs are blissfully extended, and the band’s signature drive and electric guitar telepathy are pushed up front and center.

The material on “Taksera” visits all three of the band’s acclaimed studio albums and gives a sharply focused argument as to why in the last few years Tamikrest has been one of the most lauded young bands from the African continent. Their 2013 album Chatma reached the #1 position on the World Music Charts Europe and graced year-end “best of” lists at Uncut, Mojo, Les Inrocks and The Quietus. Songlines magazine went even farther and gave them their “Best Group Award” for 2013.

“Taksera” was engineered and mixed by Jean-Paul Romann, who has produced seminal albums by Tuareg music legends Tinariwen and Terakaft. The album was recorded at the Burg Herzberg Festival in Alsfeld, Germany on August 1, 2014.

This RECORD STORE DAY LP is a limited edition pressing of 1500 on 180-gram audiophile vinyl with a gatefold sleeve and download code.

“Taksera” is in every way the celebration that the album title promises. It energetically underlines Tamikrest’s unique cultural mission and their commitment to explore new possibilities for Tuareg music.  It shows a band full of hard-earned confidence and swagger; a band in love with turning up their amps and letting it rip.

www.tamikrest.net/
www.twitter.com/Tamikrest
www.facebook.com/tamikrest

×

Hayvanlar Alemi • Visions of a Psychedelic Ankara

Side A: Visions of a Psychedelic Ankara (2010)

1. Adrasan Dub
2. Quantum Lio
3. Monsoon Circus Dub
4. Süper Fm Dub
5. Early One Morning (Assassinator Dub)
6. Uçarak Geliyorum
7. Şahane Tersane (outro version)

Side B: Selected Visions (2009-2011)

1. Güve Diskosu
2. Pet Şişede Cin Tonik
3. Biz Bir Aileyiz 2011
4. Gökte Güller Açıyor (2015 upgrade)
5. Crossroad Metamorphosis (radio edit)

Formed by three school friends in the Turkish capital of Ankara in 1999, Hayvanlar Alemi have established themselves at the vanguard of global psychedelic sound. Their acclaimed 2010 album Guarana Superpower was released on the buzz-label Sublime Frequencies and showcased the band’s unrepentant eclecticism and wide-eyed cosmic spirit. Interfacing with the golden age of Turkish psychedelic rock, surf music, Cambodian pop, West African guitar motifs, Middle Eastern traditional music and the knife edge of indie rock, it was clear from the beginning that Hayvanlar Alemi was an instrumental rock band for the unfolding millennium.

But in 2010 they also recorded and released (internet only) a dramatically different sort of album. The band had flirted with dub-reggae stylings since their inception and with Visions of a Psychedelic Ankara they at last realized their dream of making a full-blown dub album, though clearly a dub album that also embraced their own agenda. The album includes both covers of the Eek-a-Mouse classic “Assassinator” and a legendary Turkish radio jingle, and blends together re-workings of older Hayvanlar Alemi songs with freshly minted, dubwise improvisations.

Drummer Işık Sarıhan explains the album’s inception this way:
“We were listening to a lot of dub and reggae during the days leading up to this album.  We even ended up playing in a reggae festival at some point; we were invited for some reason, maybe because we had some reggae rhythms on a bunch of songs on the previous demos.  Anyway, we had this fantasy of creating a dub record, but in our own psych-rock fashion which led to Visions of a Psychedelic Ankara.  The title is a reference to the African Head Charge album Vision of a Psychedelic Africa.”

Visions of a Psychedelic Ankara is the flashpoint where dub music and global psych-rock melt together. It is a feast for all well-appointed sonic explorers.

Glitterbeat Records is releasing this album for the first time on vinyl (180gm/gatefold sleeve) in a limited edition of 500.

Side A is the complete Visions of a Psychedelic Ankara (2010) and Side B is a collection of related, unreleased songs and experiments entitled: Selected Visions (2009-2011)

 

 

×

Bixiga 70 • III

01. Ventania
02. Niran
03. 100% 13
04. Di Dancer
05. Machado
06. Martelo
07. Lembe
08. Mil Vidas
09. 7 Pancadas

“The energy and intelligence of the playing are irresistible.” – The Guardian

“A 10-piece orchestra heavy in percussion and horns playing extended jams that always threaten to tear the roof off.” – Sounds and Colours

Five years after their inception, the Sao Paulo based Brazilian group Bixiga 70 continues to travel musically forward, only to find themselves more and more at home.

The band’s aptly named third album, “III”, is a luminescent and energized admixture of Atlantic cultures. The album’s hyper-contemporary dialogue journeys between the sounds and rhythms of Brazil and Africa, and between the band’s ten musicians and their distinctive musical identities. Their collective influences include jazz, funk and Afro-Brazilian music, and stretch further afield into dub and reggae, electronics, cumbia and carimbó, ethio-jazz and samba.

Bixiga 70’s “III” is a breathtaking rhythmic storm where inspired solos, harmony and dynamics, beats and improvisation all mesh together in vital and unpredictable ways. Spanning between a joyous danceability, a sharp sense of humor and committed political reflections, the life-blood of this ten-piece unit is instrumental music, but it is an instrumental music that speaks profoundly.

Self-produced by the band in their own studio in Sao Paulo (and mixed by Victor Rice) all the compositions on “III” are written and arranged by the entire Bixiga 70 collective. There are no liner note details: the process of creation is decentralized and acknowledges the importance of each musician in the room. The album was recorded live in the studio to further assure the depth of this collaborative spirit and to accentuate the intensity of the band’s sonic experiments.

Following the global attention garnered by their previous album 2014’s “Ocupai” (Mais um Discos), Bixiga 70 headed out into the world. Their musical travels to Europe, the USA and Morocco, as well as the many varied regions of Brazil (including the streets of Bixiga) have all left a deep mark on the sounds and visions of the new album

Throughout the nine tracks found on “III”, styles merge and original syncretisms come to life. The album shape shifts contemporary afro-funk, Moroccan cumbia, spiritual jazz, adapted afro-brazilian chants, Cuban blaxploitation, sounds from São Paulo’s Black Rio movement, Arabian dub, Malinké drumming, Angolan guitar music and traditional bamboo fife bands.

There is no doubt that Bixiga 70 is one of the guiding voices of Brazil’s contemporary instrumental music scene and their new album “III” clearly demonstrates why.

They are a band that deftly searches for untracked and thrilling musical spaces to occupy.

And most importantly, they are a band that succeeds in finding them.

 

The band:

Décio 7 – drums
Rômulo Nardes – percussion
Gustávo Cék – percussion
Marcelo Dworecki – bass
Mauricio Fleury – keyboards & guitar
Cris Scabello – guitar
Cuca Ferreira – baritone sax
Douglas Antunes – trombone
Daniel Nogueira – tenor sax
Daniel Gralha – trumpet

 

×

Laraaji • Ambient 3: Day of Radiance

1.The Dance #1
2.The Dance #2
3.The Dance #3
4.Meditation #1
5.Meditation #2

“1980’s Ambient 3: Day Of Radiance – a coruscating wash of zither and autoharp tones, and one of the most ecstatic ambient releases of the decade.”
— FACT

“The album has a strong Eastern feel reminiscent of Javanese gamelan music, with ringing, percussive string tones and highly repetitive rhythms…Day of Radiance is a hypnotic listen.”
 — Pitchfork

“At once contemplative and joyous…Day Of Radiance established a template for the emerging New Age scene.”
— Uncut

Laraaji’s glistening album “Ambient 3:  Day of Radiance” has from the beginning been considered an outlier. Though widely celebrated at the time of its release in 1980 — as the third installment of Brian Eno’s emerging ambient music series (Ambient 1-4) — the album also brought with it an aura of mystification. Where did it fit in? An uncharted synthesis of resonating zither textures, interlocking, hammered rhythms and 3-D sound treatments (courtesy of Eno) “Day of Radiance” seemed to push open many doors at once, ambient music being only one of them.

In an exclusive interview for Glitterbeat’s reissue of “Day of Radiance” Laraaji commented: Down the line I noticed that this album was sort of separated from the rest of his (Eno’s) ambient albums, and there was some debate whether this was really “ambient” in relationship to the other albums in the ambient series.

Though there are certainly aspects of the album that find sonic common ground with other Eno-related “ambient” projects  (the tracks “Meditation #1 & “Meditation #2” in particular) the album is not easily boxed into a singular genre. “Day of Radiance” also mines the ethereal spiritualism of late 70’s New Age music (of which Laraaji is considered a pioneer), the harmonic and rhythmic repetitions of American classical minimalism (Terry Riley & Steve Reich) and traditional global sounds from India and Java (particularly gamelan music). And while Laraaji never explicitly embraced the “Fourth World” theories of fellow visionary and Eno collaborator Jon Hassell, “Day of Radiance” echoes a kindred exploratory exoticism.

Born Edward Larry Gordon, in Philadelphia in 1943, by the time Laraaji entered a Soho studio in 1980 to record in collaboration with Eno, he had already navigated many musical worlds and creative pursuits. As a child he learned to play violin, piano and trombone and eventually studied composition in Washington, D.C., at Howard University. After college, in the late 60’s, he relocated to New York City, where he took up stand-up comedy and acting, in addition to playing musical gigs. His music was increasingly influenced by both his studies of Eastern spiritualism and the presence of Eastern musical motifs in the Jazz and rock music of the time.  When he entered a pawnshop in the early 70’s, hoping to hock his guitar, he instead listened to an “inner guidance” and traded it for an autoharp, an instrument that he later adapted into a zither (by removing the chord bars) and electrified by using the speaker on a portable reel-to-reel tape recorder. This spontaneous decision brought on a fortuitous shift in Laraaji’s musical direction and led to his chance encounter with Eno several years later.

In the late 70’s Brian Eno — a cult producer/musician, at the time best known for his work with early Roxy Music and a series of idiosyncratic solo albums — had relocated to New York City from London and had begun a period of fertile intersections with musicians in his adopted home. These collaborators included The Talking Heads, Jon Hassell and experimental ensembles from the so-called No Wave scene. Laraaji recounts how him and Eno first crossed paths:

I was playing (zither) in Washington Square Park and I usually play with my eyes closed because I get into meditative trance states that way, and opening my eyes and collecting my little financial reward from that evening, there was a note, on notebook paper – it looked like it had been ripped form somebody’s expensive notebook – there was a note that says “Dear sir, kindly excuse this impromptu piece of message, I was wondering if you would be interested in talking about participating in a recording project I am doing, signed: Brian Eno.”

Laraaji called the phone number on the paper the very next day, and within a few weeks the duo had entered Greene St. Studio in New York and had begun work on the project that became “Day of Radiance.” Eno plied Laraaji in advance with his theories about the content and function of “ambient” music, and the pair reportedly fell naturally into their roles: Laraaji providing the compositions and the playing and Eno providing sound treatments and conceptual commentary. Compared to some Eno projects (“ambient” and otherwise), his sonic footprint is subtle and the transparency of Laraaji’s contribution is retained throughout. The album was completed in two sessions; the first one produced the faster, pulsing “Dance” compositions (side one) and the second session yielded something closer to Eno’s own ambient constructs: slow zither washes and waves with more pronounced sound enhancements (side two). While the album is deceptively simple in its construction, closer listening reveals its extraordinary depth of field and its polymath influences.

The appearance of “Day of Radiance” as part of Eno’s landmark ambient series massively elevated Laraaji’s musical profile. In the years following, while he maintained contact (both personal and musical) with Brian Eno, he delved deeper into projects that fused the ethereal qualities of his music with spiritual studies and teachings. Laraaji describes the purpose of such music this way:

I see music as an environment providing thinking, feeling and imagination, an alternative space, container, within which to behave differently. In the case of music as medicine, such music allows for thinking, feeling and imagery to reconnect to a deeper sense of integration, union, oneness…

Laraaji has experienced a resurgence in recent years, following a renewed interest in outsider new-age music (he appears on last year’s “I Am The Center” compilation on Light In The Attic) and a career spanning compilation (“Celestial Music 1978 – 2011”) and reissue project dedicated to his work by Eno’s All Saints label. Laraaji also continues to interface with other of musicians who have found inspiration in his work: Bill Laswell, Sun Araw, Blues Control, Julia Holter and many others.

He seems more than content with where he finds himself today: I find that people are having a chance to listen to a variety of the music I do and some of their eyes are opening to what they call the more spiritual side and some who thought they just liked the spiritual side are getting in touch with the artistic side, and the adventurous, exploratory side of myself. Young people are showing great interest…and people are asking for my other music and I am happy that “Day of Radiance” is getting back into the picture…

Glitterbeat is extremely proud to reissue Laraaji and Brian Eno’s seminal album “Ambient 3: Day of Radiance.” The album has been re-mastered and includes a lengthy interview with Laraaji. The LP is pressed on 180gm vinyl and is packaged in a gatefold sleeve.

 

 

×

Dennis Bovell • Dub 4 Daze

Side 1
1. Eye Water (D. Bovell/N. Green)
2. Dub Guide (D.Bovell)
3. Zion Dubb (D.Bovell/L.Donaldson)
4. Top Level Dub (D.Bovell/L. Donaldson)
5. Dub Affair (D.Bovell)

Side 2
1.Physics of Dub (A. Ellis)
2. Tumbledown Dub (D.Bovell)
3. Aged Dub (D.Bovell)
4. Jah Dub Man (D.Bovell/E.Campbell)
5. Tuned Dub (D.Bovell)

His contributions to reggae are huge…his dub albums were an inspiration to the likes of Adrian Sherwood and the Mad Professor.
—The Independent (UK)

 Dennis is the most important person in UK reggae…a legend.
—Adrian Sherwood

 It’s not entirely hyperbole to state that reggae in the United Kingdom wouldn’t exist without Dennis Bovell…Bovell’s contributions to the genre are immeasurable.
—Afropop Worldwide

One of the most revered dub and reggae producers, Dennis Bovell has been leaving his mark on contemporary music for over 40 years. Born in Barbados, Bovell moved to south London at the age of 12 and by his late teens had started a musical trajectory that profoundly influenced Britain’s emerging roots, lovers rock, soundsystem and dub cultures. As a musician, songwriter and producer, Bovell spearheaded the seminal British reggae acts Linton Kwesi Johnson and Matumbi and was notably involved in the late 70’s UK punk/post-punk scene as the producer for The Slits, The Pop Group and Orange Juice. Dennis has also worked with Marvin Gaye, Ryuchi Sakamoto, Fela Kuti and most recently Joss Stone.

Both under his own name and the moniker “Blackbeard,” Dennis has created a striking oeuvre of dub albums (“I Wah Dub,” “Strictly Dub Wize,” “LKJ in Dub”) and has been involved with countless dub mixes and dubwise collaborations. In 2012, he released the acclaimed dub collection “Mek It Run” and in 2014, contributed dub versions of songs by Samba Toure and Tamikrest to the Glitterbeat Records compilation: “Dubs & Versions I.”

Glitterbeat Records is very proud to release Dennis Bovell’s latest dub installment, “Dub 4 Daze,” an album that deeply mines Bovell’s inspired catalog of rhythms and sounds. Dennis describes the material as: a collection of different dub mixes I found buried in my archive, and a few newly mixed cuts, done after re-exploring some earlier recorded material. I baked some 2″ masters, transferred them to digital and mixed them using an analogue desk.”

“Dub 4 Daze” is a richly animated sonic journey that slips and slides between soulful roots (Eye Water), down-tempo brass (Top Level Dub), 3D mysticism (Jah Man Dub) and space echo abstractions (Physics of Dub). The album shows Dennis “Dubmaster” Bovell in full command of his craft, a craft he enthusiastically described for us: “for me, dub means the absolute freedom to express how well an engineer knows his equipment and the piece that’s being subjected to the treatment. Just like how the guests at Greek weddings smash the crockery…its fun to be demolishing, but re-building the track all at once, carving a different masterpiece from the same material…a must do in order to maintain my sanity level.”

The album showcases a plethora of top-flight reggae musicians including guitarist John Kpiaye (Matumbi, LKJ), drummer Jah Bunny (LKJ, Jah Shaka, Augustus Pablo) and vocalist Errol Campbell. Throughout, Bovell reveals the prowess of his own musicianship; on several tracks he both sings and plays most of the instruments himself.

Dub 4 Daze: Classic dub. Classic reggae. Classic Dennis Bovell.

 

 

×

Chimurenga Renaissance • Girlz With Gunz

1. I See You For Who You Are (featuring JusMoni)
2. Our Purpose Is Forever
3. Everything Comes Off Tonight (featuring Moon)
4.I Like You The Way You Are
5.Nunya Buziniez (featuring Nyoka)
6.Queenz With Cannnonz (featuring Mall Sain)
7.She Is The Fairest Of Them All (featuring Moon)
8.Prepare To Shoot (featuring Nyoka)
9.Peace Always Has A Price
10.When Its True Love, Shoot Farther (featuring Sassy Black of TheeSatisfaction)
11.Girlz With Gunz (featuring Moon)

Remembering Grace, a Girl with a Gun:

After spending the night listening to Girlz with Gunz, I spent the day remembering Grace Maseva. She was always cheerful, always smiling, and always making bawdy jokes. For her, sexual organs were a normal part of life. A person must pee and play with something. That’s just how things are; a tree has fruit, a baboon has that prideful butt, we have our special business. She would laugh and laugh. She was also a great cook. Always did the greens just right. She also fought in the Second Chimurenga, the war that ended white rule in Zimbabwe.

Grace was a trained killer.

Grace, who survived a brutal war but not the spread of AIDS, could clean, assemble, and load an AK-47. She knew when to duck for cover, when to charge, and when to fire her weapon. There were many women like her in the War of Independence, and their sacrifice, dedication, and general brilliance is celebrated in Girlz with Gunz. This is the spirit of the work. The collaboration between two very talented American-based African musicians, Tendai Maraire and Hussein Kalonji (aka Chimurenga Renaissance), translates the fire of the revolutionary African woman into a music that’s richly and thickly innovative.

It is fitting indeed that the most experimental, dazzling, and even dangerous work by Chimurenga Renaissance, a duo that is a part of the trans-African Black Constellation (Shabazz Palaces, THEESatisfaction, Erik Blood), is inspired by women like my cousin, Grace. She was once a girl with a gun. She was trained to kill her oppressors. She wanted to build and live in a better world. Peace always has a price.

— Charles Tonderai Mudede

 

“Merging hip hop and African instrumentation into something mesmeric and true.” —The Quietus

“Speaks to Zimbabwe’s history (“chimurenga” translates to “struggle”), but this is classic message rap that spans regionally.” —Pitchfork

Chimurenga Renaissance features Tendai Maraire, from the widely acclaimed Seattle group Shabazz Palaces, one of the leaders of hip hop’s “audacious progressive fringe”(New York Times).

Tendai hails from a renowned Zimbabwean musical lineage. His father, Abraham Dumisani Maraire, moved to the United States in the late 60’s and helped create a flourishing Zimbabwean music scene in the Pacific Northwest. Tendai’s partner in Chimurenga Renaissance, guitarist Hussein Kalonji, is a first generation Congolese American born in Washington DC. His father, Raymond “Braynck” Kalonji, is a Congolese guitar legend credited with pioneering the Rumba/Soukouss sound.

Girlz with Gunz is a 27-minute, 11-song EP (vinyl/download). It is Chimurenga Renaissance’s first release for Glitterbeat Records. A full-length album will follow in the autumn of 2016.

Otherworldly sonics, Zimbabwean beats, Congolese guitar ambiance, political heat.

 

 

×

Aziza Brahim • Abbar el Hamada

01. Buscando la Paz
02. Calles de Dajla
03. El canto de la arena
04. El wad
05. La cordillera negra
06. Abbar el Hamada
07. Baraka
08. Mani
09. Intifada
10. Los muros

Western Saharan musician/activist Aziza Brahim’s new album Abbar el Hamada (Across the Hamada), is a commanding and compassionate musical statement about, and for, the tumultuous age in which we live.

Raised in a Saharawi refugee camp in the Algerian desert, and living in exile for more than two decades (first in Cuba and currently in Barcelona), Brahim’s life and music embodies both the tragedies and hopes of the present-day migrant and refugee experience.

As walls and borders are again being raised though-out Europe and other corners of the world, Aziza Brahim’s passionately sung poetic defiance, is especially timely and profound.

Los Muros (The Walls), a dignified desert dreamscape; is emblematic of Aziza’s artistry. The lyrics morph from condemning the sand fortifications Morocco has erected along the Western Saharan border (to prevent the return of the Saharawi to their homeland), to a recognition that while walls are tragically universal, so is the imaginative spirit that encourages us to transcend them.

Another fleeting star was seen
Crossing the wall tonight,
Undetected by the radar,
Unnoticed by the guard.
On the land and the sea
The walls keep rising still.

Brahim’s previous album, the resplendent Soutak, made great strides towards spreading her message of liberation and resistance. Soutak spent an unprecedented three months atop the World Music Charts Europe, and was the chart’s top album for 2014. The album was also selected as one of Songlines magazine’s “Top Ten” albums of the year and appeared on several other year-end critics lists. An appearance on the legendary BBC television program Later with Jools Holland further cemented her growing reputation. Buoyed by this success, Aziza and her band toured extensively in Europe and beyond.

Soutak not only confirmed Brahim as the most important Saharawi musician of her generation, but it also gave evidence that she had become one of Africa’s most respected young musical voices.

On Soutak the musical nuances of Barcelona, her adopted home, were clearly audible. While these influences certainly have not vanished, on Abbar el Hamada, Aziza has consciously extended her reach deeper into the sounds of contemporary West Africa. This move has been reinforced by the introduction of Senegalese percussionist Sengane Ngomand drummer Aleix Tobias (who has studied drumming in Gambia and Senegal) into her band, and the return of Malian guitarist Kalilou Sangarefrom the Soutak sessions. Bassist/arranger Guillem Aguilarand guitarist Ignasi Cussó,also return from the previous band.

Recorded in Barcelona in the summer of 2015 with Soutak producer Chris Eckman (Bassekou Kouyate, Tamikrest), Abbar el Hamada, is a wholly persuasive example of Brahim’s pan-musical vision and is her most compelling and varied album to date. “It is meant to be a diverse, powerful album,” she says, “where Saharawi traditional rhythms (such as Asarbat and Sharaa) are mixed with drums and rhythms from West Africa (particularly Senegal) and of course Mediterranean sounds and rhythms also.

From the pulsing desert rock of Calles De Dajla, to the Afro-Cuban inflections of La Cordillera Negra (evoking 70’s recordings by the Super Rail Band) through the dusky elegance of El Canto Del La Arena and the raw balladry of Mani (featuring Malian blues-master Samba Toure on guitar), the music and lyrics on Abbar el Hamada masterfully reflect the restless, imaginative search for home, explicit in the album’s title.

Hamada is the word used by the Saharawi people to describe the rocky desert landscape along the Algerian/Western Saharan frontier where tens of thousands of their people are stranded in purgatorial refugee camps. “For me, Abbar el Hamada (Across the Hamada) is a title that synthesizes our destiny as a country over the last 40 years”, Aziza explains. “We are suffering an injustice that condemns us to try and survive in an environment as inhospitable as the Hamada.”

When recently asked how she would best describe her musical mission and methods, Aziza’s reply was like her music; revealing and beautifully stated: “I’m not able to separate politics, cultural and personal concerns. So, the focus of my music is all of these areas at the same time. Political, because of its commitment to the denunciation of social injustice. Cultural, because it searches for new musical ideas. Personal, because it expresses the worries of a person that aspires to live with dignity in a better world.”

Innovation, naked truth, humility and political outcry: these are the raw materials of Aziza Brahim’s ever expanding musical vision. On her new album, Abbar el Hamada she fuses and fashions these elements into an unforgettable work that is both deeply inspired and deeply inspiring.

 

                                              Abbar el Hamada (Across the Hamada):

A look around me after forty years of occupation, of exile, of diaspora. A conversation. A discussion between emigrants, refugees and stationaries; between patriots, expatriates and the stateless; between placed, postponed and displaced; between nomads and the sedentary; between Saharan, sub-Saharan, north Saharan and Saharawis. A conversation between countries, between cultures, between generations, between tribes, between beliefs, between people. People with no other resources than the word, their voices and the skin of their hands and drums. With no other intention than to change the situation by means of music, by means of the imagination, even if it is barely for a moment. Through the fences, the barriers, the camps, the iron bars, the walls, the barbed wire, the seas, the mountain ranges, the rivers, the borders. Across the Hamada.

—Aziza Brahim

 

 

×

Samba Touré • Gandadiko

01. Gandadiko
02. Wo Yende Alakar
03. Male Bano
04. Farikoyo
05. Touri Idjé Bibi
06. Chiri Hari
07. Gafoure
08. Su Wililé
09. I Kana Korte
10. Woyé Katé

Samba Toure’s previous album Albala was recorded during the fear-laden atmosphere of 2012, when northern Mali (including his ancestral village of Diré) had succumbed to sharia law and radical Islamist control and Bamako, his adopted home, still reeled in the chaos of the recent military coup.

Albala received widespread acclaim and was rightfully recognized not only as the best album of Samba’s career but also as an undeniable musical statement about the human toll of war and political crisis. Samba had spent years honing his artistry (including stints playing with Malian blues master Ali Farka Touré and Kora genius Toumani Diabate) and Albala signposted a mature artist, full of sonic imagination and narrative fire.

Gandadiko, the title of Samba’s potent, diverse and ambitious new album, translates from his native language Songhai as: “Land of Drought” or “Burning Land.” The title seems to indicate a return to the dark textures that marked Albala but in fact Gandadiko is a more complex story than that.

Philippe Sanmiguel, a record producer living in Bamako (Anansy Cissé, Mariam Koné)and Samba’s producer for both albums, provides the details:

“One thing I’m sure of is that we didn’t want to do a second ‘Albala’. For Samba that album was maybe a little too sad and he wanted something closer to who he really is: hopeful. So the challenge was to have something as strong as ‘Albala’, but with more variety in the rhythms and moods and colors. I think the album sounds musically less dark, it’s more danceable and up-tempo, but, sorry Samba, it’s not entirely a joyful album. Tension, troubles and danger are still there in many of the songs.

The drought in the north caused many economic problems and worsened the security situation. TV and Internet news often talk about wars, but all the human distress and consequences that ensue from it are rarely fully told. Since the crisis started, we saw many people losing all they had, jobs, herds in the north, friends, hope… a cow which was sold for 400,000 cfa (600€) less than 2 years ago is now sold at 40,000 cfa (60€), because they are so thin and weak. That is what the opening title track ‘Gandadiko’ is about.

Our tearsare not enough
tomakethe land fertile.

Animals die one after the other,
the ground becomes dry,
There is nothing more to eat for the herds,
Cows are only skin and bones.

–Gandadiko (Fireland)

Samba is a very good father for his kids and teaches them positive things, but he can’t teach the whole country except via songs that warn about certain issues. ‘Su Wililé(The Living Dead)’is a song about an old friend of Samba’s that I have never seen sober. This song is a warning song to the youth.
Nowadays in Mali, some Hip Hop artists celebrate beer and weed too easily without any sense of responsibility in front of their young audience. The song is a reaction against this.

When I see my childhood friend
Who looks twice my age
And who just can’t remember me.

When I see these living dead
I say thanks that the alcohol
Has never crossed my path.

— Su Wililé (The Living Deads)

A strange anecdote about ‘Su Wililé’: The day it was recorded was the same day I asked Samba to record the Djinn (a traditional evil spirit) song on the new album, called ‘Gafouré.’ Samba likes to play that song but he never thought to record it. He agreed to do it but said to me: ‘one day you’ll cause problems for me with this music, Holley (Djinn music) is really dangerous.’ That same night, Samba’s alcoholic friend, the one he sings about in ‘Su Wililé’, died. He was headed that direction for sure but Samba really thinks recording ‘Gafouré’ contributed to his death!”

The musical moods and textures found on Gandadiko often play against the moralistic, reflective and at times anguished tenor of the lyrics. For example, Touri Idjé Bibi (Black Fruits) breezes along with a straight-ahead, infectious dance groove, punctuated by soaring backing vocals. The hopeful sound that Samba had originally sought seems to have been found. But the final lines of the song are pointed and cautionary:

Oh earth, forgiveness, oh river forgiveness,
Everyday we offend you.

Touré is known to search for the seeds of his musical ideas in the assorted stack of CDs he listens to while driving through the chaotic streets of Bamako. The out-of-the-box musical inspirations he has picked up for his new album range from Serge Gainsbourg (Wo Yende Alakar) to Bo Diddley via Tom Petty (Su Wililé ) to funky psychedelia (I Kana Korto), though of course all the raw material is instinctually filtered through the traditional melodies and rhythms of his Songhai musical heritage.

The songs on Gandadiko are in fact framed by a restless eclecticism.

Samba’s guitar playing has never been so anxious, exploratory and rock and roll and his voice has never been as smooth and relaxed. Samba wants to be many places at once and the accomplishment of Gandadiko is that by successfully navigating these sorts of “contradictions,” Samba’s artistry has reached an even higher level.

But whatever sonic triumphs Gandadiko has, the key to Samba’s music is always found in the heart. The final song Woyé Katé, beautifully sung together with his good friend Ahmed Ag Kaedi (from the Tuareg band Amanar), is a timeless plea for pan-ethnic understanding and a world where possibility trumps destruction. Such a song would have been much harder to sing two years ago, when war and crisis and division were the watchwords. But here Samba and Ahmed have seized the current moment of fragile calm and have used their resplendent voices and guitars to call for unity.

Music simply can’t do much more than that.

You have to come back to your houses now
We shall reconstruct, all together
We shall reconstruct houses,
We shall reconstruct the country
And we won’t let anyone speak for us again.

— Woyé Katé (Come Back Home)

 

Samba Touré: guitars, vocals
Djimé Sissoko: ngonis, percussion
Adama Sidibé: njurkel (monochord), njarka (sokou)
Baba Arby: bass
Madou Sidibé: acoustic bass
Kalifa Koné: calabash, djembé
Alassane Samaké: shaker, calabash & tambourine
Kalifa Koné: calabash & shaker
Ibrahima Séré: calabash
Adama Diawara: shaker
Sidi Maïga: doun-doun
Ahmed Ag Kaedi: guitar and vocal
Mariam Traoré: backing vocals

×

Various Artists • Every Song Has Its End: Sonic Dispatches From Traditional Mali

1. Le Souvenir
Group Ekanzam
Instruments: Tindé, Water Calabash, Clapping
Musical Genre: Ekanzam, Ergassay Celebration music
Zone: Meneka, Gao

2. Taganraratt
Group Tagout
Instrument: Tehardent (Lute)
Musical Genre: Kel Tamasheq Djinn Possession Music, Issouwatt Music
Zone: Gao

3. Nianju Wardè (Walk in a Way That Shows We Are Important)
Kimsy Bocoum, Afel Bocoum, Hama Sankare
Instruments: Sokou (Violin), Calabash (Gourd Drum)
Musical Genre: Peul Seygalaré Music
Zone: Niafunke, Timbuktu

4. Houmeïssa (The Gold Chain)
Super Onze
Instruments: Amplified Kurbu (Lute), Calabash (Gourd Drum)
Musical Genre: Songhai Celebration Music
Zone: Gao

5. Taka Kadi (That Adventurer’s Song)
Boukader Coulibaly
Instrument: Danh (6 String Harp)
Musical Genre: Bambara voyager’s music
Zone: Mopti (But found all over West Africa)

6. N’Djaba (The Person I Love)
Bina Koumaré & Madou Diabate
Instruments: Sokou (African Violin), Jeli N’goni (African Lute)
Musical Genre: Bambara
Zone: Pélengana (Segou) & Niono (Segou)

7. Apolo (Do Not Give Your Daughter to a Coward)
Mianka Cultural Troupe
Instruments: Buru (Elk Horn), Djembe, Konkoni, Closhe
Musical Genre: Mianka Ethnic Group, Greeting Nobility, Important announcements
Zone: Koutiala, Sikasso

8. Kabako (Incredible)
Kassoun Bagayoko
Instrument: Bambara (Cultivator’s) Balafon
Musical Genre: Bambara Cultivator’s Music
Zone: Diamou, Sikasso

9. Donzo Fasa (Praise for the Hunter)
Sidiki Coulibaly
Instrument: Simbi (Malinké Hunters Harp)
Musical Genre: Malinke Hunters Music
Zone: Siby (Koulikoro), Mandé Country

10 Sidi Modibo (Hommage to the Marabout – Saint Sidi Modibo)
Inna Baba Coulibaly
Instruments: Hoddu (Peul Lute), Calabash
Musical Genre: Peul
Zone: Northern Koulikoro (Ouagadou)
11. Sigui lé (It’s the Wild Buffalo) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  7:04
Cultural Troupe from Nioguébougoula
Instruments: Djembe, Konkoni
Musical Genre: Bari, Sigui Mask Dance Rhythm
Zone: Wassoulou

12. Woyika (The Sorrow)
Ibrahim Traoré
Instrument: Bolon (Malinké Warriors Harp)
Musical Genre: Malinké Warrior’s Music
Zone: Mandé Country, Southern Mali

“If these instruments no longer exist, then we will have lost everything. I do not know how we will pass on our history, because the music itself permits us to know our past, to help us live, even today…it is our culture which will die.” — Afel Bocoum/Malian musician

Mali’s traditional life, customs and art forms (musical and otherwise) are in a steady process of decline. Bamako, the country’s vibrant capital, is the fastest growing urban expanse in Africa and the rapid turn of young people from the village to the city, has profoundly affected the value placed on Mali’s ancient musical traditions (musical instruments, songs, oratory, and dance). The repositories of these traditions (elders, artisans, musicians, dancers, healers) are finding it increasingly difficult to transmit their arts to the ascendant, transitory generation.

Bamako-based producer/educator Paul Chandler has been documenting the sonic and cultural complexities of Malian traditional music for more than a decade and “Every Song Has Its End” is an out-of-time, visceral collection of sounds from Chandler’s unparalleled archive. Echoes of these sounds can of course be heard in the urbanized Malian music that has been embraced throughout the world, but the songs, ritual soundscapes and accompanying images found here are undoubtedly more raw, foundational and filled with surprise than the Malian music we are accustomed to.

Over the past few years, accompanied by a recording engineer and a video-maker, Chandler has ventured to off-the-grid villages and crossroad towns all across the vast Malian landscape. Through a network of long-nurtured local contacts this small team has sought out practicing traditional musicians and their under-documented and often endangered musics. Immersive and exhilarating, these field recordings and videos give us a privileged glimpse into the intricacies of the Malian musical experience.

The tracks on “Every Song Has Its End” are in fact as varied as the land that they come from. The haunting modulations of the mostly female Group Ekanzam and the spiky, electrified drone of Super Onze were both recorded in Mali’s remote and embattled northeastern desert region. Conversely, the hypnotic, pulsing sounds of the Mianka Cultural Troupe’s elk horns (buru) and Ibrahim Traore’s warrior harp (bolon) have been recorded more than 1,500 kilometres away in Mali’s more verdant southern hill country. Some of the musicians are playing music that is tied to a specific traditional caste or village function. The declamatory “hunters” music of Sidiki Coulibaly and the “cultivator” balafon excursions of Kassoun Bagayoko are examples of this. And one track in particular, Sigui lé (It’s the Wild Buffalo) from the Nioguébougoula Cultural Troupe, seems to operate in a realm beyond mere music. The recording is a layered, 3D window into traditional village life, the “audience” and the “performers” interacting and fusing in a way that upends contemporary musical hierarchies.

When asked what compelled him to make these distinctive recordings, Paul Chandler offered this:

I realized that this stuff was quite precious and was starting to disappear…there are traditional instruments and there is music that is played in a traditional context…and while there are a lot of Malians playing music, music played in a traditional context, for ritual, for ceremony, to accompany activities in the village, that is becoming more rare…”

While it is ultimately impossible for us to fully grasp the cultural context and depth of the recordings on

“Every Song Has Its End: Sonic Dispatches from Traditional Mali,” it also seems nearly impossible not to be hooked in by the mesmeric sound culture that they mirror. Without doubt, this is Malian music at its finest.

The album/DVD package is available in the following formats: CD+DVD, Double 180gm vinyl +DVD and digital download/streaming.

 

 

×

Damir Imamović’s Sevdah Takht • Dvojka

1. Sarajevo (D. Imamović)      3:21
2. Tambur  (trad./D. Imamović)   4:25
3. Lijepi Meho     (D. Imamović)  3:26
4. Uzbrdo je mene bole none 3:33
5. Star se Ćurčić pomamio   2:30
6. Lijepa Zejno (D. Imamović)    3:20
7. Lijepa Mara      4:56
8. Čija li je ono djevojka malena (Jozo Penava)  4:44
9. Sen’ gidi sarhoš    2:29
10. Opio se mladi Jusuf-beg (D. Imamović)  5:00
11. Je li rano (trad./D. Imamović)    5:17

Musicians often struggle to articulate what it is they’re playing, where it comes from and where they’re going. Damir Imamović’s Sevdah Takht suffer from no such struggle. The new album, the follow-up to 2012’s critically acclaimed debut, is a wonder of clear-eyed thinking, crystalline melody and deep reflection.

Taking its name from sevda, the Turkish word for love, derived in turn from the Arabic sawda meaning ‘black bile’ (and hence melancholy), sevdah has been played in the Balkans in one form or another since at least the 15th century. Although the temptation to refer to it as ‘Bosnian blues’ is perhaps too infrequently resisted, its lyrical and musical preoccupations with love, longing and loss do provide us with a bridge to other European roots traditions, such as fado, whose central concept of saudade is itself related to sawda.

Sarajevo born and raised, Imamović has been steeped in the sounds of sevdah since childhood. Much has been said of his stellar family tradition – both his father and grandfather remain legends of the form. Since those early days, however, when he would ward off boredom during the siege of the city in the early 1990s by learning guitar chords in his basement shelter, Imamović has completely changed the rules of the game.

For this is not a man content to insert himself seamlessly into any line of succession – that would be too easy. He comes with questions and challenges above all: questions for those gatekeepers of the genre bent on reducing style, rhythm and repertoire to a narrow set of conventions; and challenges to the more recent 20th century orthodoxies that would make of sevdah a straightforward reflection of national character. Imamović’s art is nothing less than a quiet, steady insurgency within sevdah – deeply considered work that refuses the seductions of nationalism. It takes the music beyond its birthplace and shows it the world.

The new album takes these musical and cultural orthodoxies and plays the hell out of them. The title, Dvojka, refers (perhaps slightly provocatively) to the 2/4 rhythm of modern sevdah’s ‘golden age’ of the 1950s and 60s, when many of the conventions of the genre were codified, and when what you couldn’t do had as much weight as what you could. There is enough affection for those conventions to make it a tribute, albeit a sceptical one, to those earlier Radio Sarajevo generations; but this wouldn’t be a Sevdah Takht album if it did not strike out on its own from the very outset.

‘Sarajevo’, the opening track, puts the familiar sonic inflections of sevdah at the disposal of ‘the other Sarajevo’, the fading and forgotten generations of misfits and radicals that quietly underpinned the cultural and political life of the Bosnian capital. There is elegy throughout the album, of course, but slow-burning ecstasy too: from ‘Opio se mladi Jusuf-beg’ (another one for the Sarajevans among us) to the beautifully supple ‘Lijepa Zejno’, which shows precisely what the recent addition of a violin brings to Sevdah Takht. In between lie songs of hope and heartbreak in a stunning interplay between tradition and innovation, with the album being split more or less evenly between original Imamović compositions and songs by authors whose names have long been lost to history.

In the hands of a lesser musician, this might be mere archaeology. But behind Imamović’s wonderfully maturing voice, and the fun he is clearly having with his new, custom-made tambur, lies a band of rare, understated accomplishment: percussionist Nenad Kovačić, whose West African influences are the perfect gift to sevdah; bassist Ivan Mihajlović, playful and deadly serious all in the same bar; and new arrival Ivana Đurić, whose violin provides the anchor to the sevdah tradition that the title of the album teasingly promises.

Damir Imamović’s Sevdah Takht matches Glitterbeat’s cultural and musical enthusiasms perfectly. Theirs are global stories forged from a deep love for the regional tradition from which they come – a love strong enough to withstand the demands that this restless young artist places on it. As far as culture is always politics, and struggle in one is always struggle in both, this is a deeply political project; but it is also Imamović’s strongest personal statement to date. He was always going to make this album and we’re glad he’s made it with us.

 

 

 

×

M.A.K.U. Soundsystem • Mezcla

01. Agua
02. Thank You, Thank You
03. Let It Go
04. Positivo
05. La Inevitable
06. La Haitiana
07. What do You Wish For
08. Happy Hour
09. De Barrio

The immigrant experience is an opportunity to create, to find a voice that speaks loud and proud, to connect past and future. A chance to make history. That’s what the eight-piece M.A.K.U. Soundsystem does on their fourth album, Mezcla (‘Mix’). Through the eyes and ears of Colombians who’ve arrived and made their homes in New York City, it is, in every way, a mix, an invitation to think and to dance.

The band passionately elaborates, “The immigrant experience is complex. Though reasons and conditions for migrating vary greatly (modes of transportation, access to resources and language, fear of violence, health, etc.), one thing we can certainly say is that it is a life-changing, identity-shaping experience. As a group of curious and creative people, our immigrant experience manifests itself through the playful exploration of our musical roots and cultural heritage, while making commentary on our day to day realities, inevitably reflecting our times. For the past several years, M.A.K.U Soundsystem has come together week after week to practice communicating in multiple ways; musically, culturally, politically, and straight-up emotionally growing closer as we continue to develop a shared language. It’s not always a tight groove, but the point of our mixing is not to become homogenous. Our album “Mezcla” is about us coming together through and with our differences, to create a musical experience where we can all be truly present as unique and essential elements of that mix.”

Mezcla is a relentlessly honest record. The music hits the feet and the hips, powerful and overwhelming, while the lyrics reflect the lives the band members live. There’s the giddy flirtation of a summer Saturday night on ‘Haitiana’ and the thought that comes from looking around somewhere so different and asking ‘What Do You Wish For.’  But it also embraces darker political questions that don’t have easy answers. The opening track, ‘Agua,’ for instance, wonders why some people own the seeds that should be for everyone – who are those who have and who are the dispossessed? And ‘De Barrio,’ the warm, inviting waltz that closes the disc, examines the journey so many coming from Latin America to the US undertake.

“They’re putting their lives at risk to come to El Norte,” explains bassist and singer Juan Ospina. “But the borders they cross have all been created by man. Look down from space and you won’t see them.”

Every moment of Mezcla mixes the musicians’ past and their present. ‘Let It Go’ builds from a percussive root born in Colombia by way of Cape Verde, hits a groove straight out of West Africa, then adds bright retro Moog that comes from a ‘90s club, and tops it with horns that edge into jazz. It’s a perfect culture clash, the immigrant melting pot on disc. As the New York Times noted, the band merges “Afro-Colombian rhythms with hints of Afro-beat, delivering exhortations as dance grooves.” Colombia remains the foundation, in the DNA of the band members, but they’ve erected their own brand-new house on top of it, a structure that continues to grow and change. Welcome to modern America.

M.A.K.U. Soundsystem is a powerhouse that’s been built over years of rehearsals and gigs, criss-crossing America from the Lincoln Center Outdoors -in their adopted hometown of New York- to Chicago, Los Angeles, Toronto, Canada and around the globe to the Roskilde Festival in Denmark and onto the Atlantic Music Expo in Cape Verde. Everywhere they’ve won over friends: a storming appearance at globalFEST saw the band awarded a touring fund, while new outlets have kept heaping praise on them.

Afropop Worldwide praised the “frantic terrain” the band explores. NPR raved about the “driving and gritty energy…this raw-edged, punk-tinged band explodes with the propulsive force of traditional rhythms and urban restlessness.”

That restlessness, and the hope for the future, is perfectly captured in ‘La Inevitabile.’

Cards on the table
love and resistance
For it is inevitable
to hear the voices
of all colours
when in mixing and coming together
they represent
the rhythm of our beating hearts

It’s a statement, an embrace. Think and dance. A way forward delivered with the urgency that’s become a hallmark of M.A.K.U. Soundsystem. Mezcla captures the live sound of the band, that thrilling rawness where the rough edges become a vital part of the whole, plenty of freedom but with the tightness honed by night after night of gigs. And that’s exactly how Mezcla came together.

“We first recorded the songs two years ago, just after they were written,” Ospina recalls. “But when we listened to it, there was no sizzle. It didn’t sound the way we did on stage. So we decided to wait. But we played the material for audiences, we worked it in. Then, two years later, we were in the Creamery Studios in Brooklyn recording a track. Quinn McCarthy, the engineer, caught us perfectly. This was what we were like live. We knew we’d found someone who could really capture our sound, so we recorded Mezcla again with him. Each section of the band – rhythm and percussion, horns – played live. And what we’ve got really kicks. It’s who we are.”

It’s passionate and blazing, turning from anger to tenderness, to endurance and hope. M.A.K.U. Soundsystem is the modern immigrant experience in a microcosm – and it’s not so different from all the generations that have gone before. People carrying their own mix of the past and the present, the old and the new, tradition and modernity. Mezcla reflects the lives they’re building.

“We try to keep it human,” Ospina says. “To give people something they can relate to.”

To think and dance.

Produced by M.A.K.U SoundSystem.
Production Concept by Casa del Indio & M.A.K.U SoundSystem
Recorded by Quinn McCarthy at The Creamery Studio, Brooklyn, NY
Mixed by Victor Rice, Sao Paulo, Brazil
All Music and Lyrics written by M.A.K.U SoundSystem

 

×

Bixiga 70: The Copan Connection • Bixiga 70 Meets Victor Rice

SIDE A:
01. 100% Dub
02. Mil Vidas Dub
03. Machado Dub

SIDE B:
01. Jimmy Dub
02. Lembe Dub
03. Niran Dub
04. Ventania Dub

This is Bixiga 70, an instrumental dance band from Sao Paulo, Brazil known for their high energy and mix of styles. They combine American funk, Colombian cumbia and Nigerian afrobeat, and it’s made them really popular around the world. —Banning Eyre, NPR

Hot on the heels of their highly acclaimed Glitterbeat album “III” — an album The Guardian called “imaginative, progressive afrobeat”– Bixiga 70 returns with a limited-edition, vinyl-only release for Record Store Day: The Copan Connection: Bixiga 70 meets Victor Rice.

Whereas “III” was a highly contemporary take on the Afro-Brazilian, “Black Atlantic” musical conversation, The Copan Connection looks northward from Brazil to Jamaica, and embraces the repeat-echo history of dub music as its inspiration. On the album, Bixiga 70 producer Victor Rice applies shimmering, kaleidoscopic dub reinventions to tracks from “III” and the results are jaw dropping and ear opening. Rarely has the full arsenal of dub techniques and philosophies been applied to music that isn’t reggae, and while dub and Afro-Brazilian stylings do not immediately connect in one’s mind, once the album is heard pumping out of the speakers it is clear that this is both a natural fit and a ground-breaking idea.

The music swells, ebbs, flows, deconstructs and then blissfully reconnects in completely unexpected ways. The result is not a mere companion piece to “III” but a completely new, stand-alone sonic experience.

The dubmaster on The Copan Connection, Victor Rice is a transplanted New Yorker, now residing in Sao Paulo. His contribution to the Brazilian music scene in the last years has been massive. Besides Bixiga 70, Rice’s production skills have been sought out by a who’s-who of established and emerging Brazilian artists including the legendary Elza Soares and the recent Latin Grammy winner Tulipa Ruiz. But Victor’s discography is also chock-full of reggae, ska and dub productions including a contribution to the dubbed out, Pink Floyd remake album “Dubber Side of the Moon.” He is no dub dilettante that’s for sure. He works his magic in an old skool, King Tubby style, on a mixing board, with just a couple of effects and an abundance of inspiration and ideas.

Rice’s studio sits high above the megalopolis of Sao Paulo, in the famed Copan building, a classic of modernist architecture. His mixing board is pushed against a window and looking out one gets the sense they are floating above the beautiful madness of the city. It is a surreal setting perfect for the creation of shape-shifting, surreal sounds.

The Copan Connection: Bixiga 70 meets Victor Rice is a summit of equals. It is the music of a sensational band meeting the soundworld of a sensational producer. It pushes Afro- Brazilian music into a mind-blowing, alternate dimension.

×

Afro-Haitian Experimental Orchestra • Afro-Haitian Experimental Orchestra

01. Salilento (05:35)
02. Chay La Lou (04:59)
03. Yanvalou (04:57)
04. Bade Zile (04:33)
05. Poze (05:14)
06. Pa Bat Kòw (06:54)
07. Wongolo (06:10)
08. Mon Ami Tezin (03:47)

Seven-and-a-half thousand kilometres of cold ocean separate West Africa from Haiti. But music can cover that distance in a heartbeat, crossing the Atlantic to reunite the rhythms and religion of people torn from their homes to be sold into slavery on the Caribbean island. And on its self-titled album, the Afro-Haitian Experimental Orchestra honours those ghosts of the past even as it walks steadfastly and hopefully into the future.

Experimental by name, the band was definitely experimental by nature. The concept started with Corinne Micaelli, the director of the French Institute in Haiti. She wanted to bring drummer Tony Allen, the power behind Afrobeat and one of modern music’s towering figures, to the island. A performance with Haitian musicians at a major public concert would be perfect. Allen agreed, and Erol Josué, a singer, dancer, voodoo priest, and director of the Haitian National Bureau of Ethnology, helped to recruit local percussionists and singers. They decided, in order for different strands of Haitian music to be represented, that the musicians would be drawn from a cross-section of the country’s foremost bands, including Racine Mapou de Azor, RAM, Erol’s own band, the Yizra’El Band and Lakou Mizik, the group of Sanba Zao, one of Haiti’s leading percussionists and traditional singers.

Together, the musicians had just five days to compose and rehearse the set they’d play in the main square of Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, and broadcast live throughout the country.

“Putting it together was complete chaos,” recalls Mark Mulholland, who was drafted in as the Orchestra’s guitarist. “Madness. We were all in this tiny room, playing. We had 10 percussionists from all of Haiti’s top bands. Then there was Tony, Olaf Hund on keyboards, and Jean-Philippe Dary, an old friend of Tony’s, on bass. He became the de facto musical director. The sound was overwhelming.”

The music grew organically from long jams, some initiated by Allen and the other Western musicians, built around Allen’s Afrobeat rhythms and the grooves from Dary’s bass, like the eerie psychedelic dream of “Chay La Lou.”

“I’d find a riff and a few notes for the songs, but I tried to keep it simple,” Mulholland says. “The other songs came from the Haitian musicians. They grew out of voudou rhythms and a chant. All we had to do was put in some breaks. Honestly, I don’t think any of us knew what to expect when we began.”

What emerged from those long, hot sessions were a series of tracks with roots on both sides of the Atlantic, compelling layers of subtle polyrhythms that bridge centuries and cultures. Relentless grooves become the foundation for soaring, utterly modern melodies like the swirling, electronica-fuelled “Salilento” or the Afro Vocoder ritual sound of “Yanvalou” that’s inspired as much by Krautrock and Sun Ra as Lagos or Port-au-Prince. Flying on inspiration and adrenaline, it’s roots music for a global future.

“When we played in public after those five days together we just hoped it would work,” Mulholland says. “The gig was a big festival, La Fête de la Musique, and a few bands had been on before us, so everything was running late and we were tense. Then, just before our set, someone set off a tear gas grenade in front of the stage.”

Eventually, the Afro-Haitian Experimental Orchestra was able to play. They’d hoped to record the event, but technical problems prevented that. And with some of the main players leaving the next morning it seemed that the music would be no more than a fleeting memory.

“We still had multi-track recordings from the rehearsals, though,” Mulholland continues. “I decided to go through them and see what I could find. I wasn’t even thinking of releasing it. I just wanted to preserve what we’d done for posterity. We’d achieved something, created something important. It deserved to be remembered. So we re-recorded all the vocals with Erol Josué, Sanba Zao, and the other singers.”

But life has a habit of springing surprises. Later in 2014, after Mulholland had moved to Bamako, Mali, he ran into Glitterbeat’s Chris Eckman.

“I told him about what we’d done in Haiti and Tony Allen’s involvement,” Mulholland says. “He wanted to hear it. When I sent it to him, even though it was raw, he could sense the power in the music. Glitterbeat was interested, so Olaf Hund and I did proper mixes on a couple of cuts. Those turned out well, and we went forward from there.”

The result captures the Afro-Haitian Experimental Orchestra sparking on all cylinders. The music is alive with the sense of spontaneity and adventure, the members supporting and pushing each other, diving headlong into the music and creating something that stands outside geography and genre.

“I think the album captures the spirit of all of us together in that room,” Mulholland says proudly. “It’s anarchic and energetic. And I really believe it’s good, it’s honest, it’s new. It’s different. It was an experiment that worked.”

From the past to the future, it’s a sweep of music to grab and shake the listener. And proof that beautiful, dangerous music can rise out of chaos.

Songs 1-4,6 & 7:

Tony Allen – drums
Jean-Philippe Dary – bass (keyboards on Yanvalou)
Olaf Hund – keyboards and electronics
Mark Mulholland – guitar
Sanba Zao, Wolele, Zikiki, Beauvois Anilus , Edmond Gera and members of Rasin Mapou de Azor & RAM – Percussion
Vocals:
Salilento, Yanvalou, Bade Zile, Wongolo – Sanba Zao
Chay La Lou – Marc-Harold Pierre
Pa Bat Kòw – Zikiki & Mirla Samuel Pierre
Backing vocals: Zikiki, Marc-Harold Pierre, Wolele  & Mirla Samuel Pierre

Songs 5 & 8:

Tony Allen – drums
Mark Mulholland – guitar (plus organ on Mon Ami Tezin)
Olaf Hund – keyboards and electronics
Erol Josué – vocals

 

 

×

Khmer Rouge Survivors • They Will Kill You, If You Cry

01. Phnom Domrey Trom (“Where the Elephants Go to Die”) vocals by Rab Ban, accompanied on Kann by Mon Hai
02. Pjanch Meah (“Defeat the Giant”) vocals & Chapey Dawng Veng by Soun San
03. Aasojet Anet Mai (“Have Mercy on My Mother”) vocals by Keut Ran
04. Orano (“I Hate My Husband that Drinks”) by Rab Ban
05. Jivit Rongkroh Proh Songkream (“My Life as a Victim of War”) by Thuch Savang
06. Kontriev Doeung Kon Mai (“All Children Must Show Gratitude to their Mother”) vocals & Chapey Dawng Veng by Kong Nai
07. Prolop Phkaypreat (“Evening Stars are the Masters”) sung by by Mon Hai
08. Kamara Rongkaam (“Nation in Grief”) by Kong Nai
09. Ao Sat Sarika (“Where Has My Husband Gone?”) by Prom Chantol with her daughter Ouch Savy
10. Boonchnam Kamkosal (“My Grief Begins”) by Kong Nai
11. Pineak Doeulang Knong Soun (“Walk in the Garden”) by Keut Rann
12. Phleuv Dail Treuv Deu (“The Path You Should Take”) by Soun San
13. Bong Euy Sdaap Pkor (“Hear the Thunder”) by Thorn Seyma with Arn Chorn Pond on flute
14. Preh Kon Euypok (“A Father’s Honor”) by Soun San

Grammy-winning producer Ian Brennan (Zomba Prison Project, Tinariwen, Hanoi Masters) returns to Southeast Asia to record traditional-based musicians from Cambodia who survived the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime. The result is both heartbreaking and inspiring.

It would be disturbing anywhere to see a mob gathered around a street-pole as an electrocuted utility-worker’s lifeless body was lowered down by rope as if lynched, but especially in a land with so many ghosts.

Amidst skin-whitening overdoses and marijuana-pizza for the sex tourists, the stench of colonialism does more than just linger in Phnom Penh. “We hate the Vietnamese,” said the taxi-driver as a stark naked child ran into the street to urinate, “But our people are tired of war. We are tired of fighting.”

A reported three-million tons of carpet-bombs were dropped on Cambodia by the USA in the 1970s, more than were unleashed on Germany during all of WWII. And still today, Cambodia is laced with more landmines than anywhere else in the world, which results in two or three deaths on average daily, mostly to “peasants” in the field.

Following the bombings, dictator Pol Pot seized the moment, emptying the cities into shells, then pitting rural residents against the urbanites and launching a genocide that claimed somewhere around two-million lives (i.e., nearly 1/4th of the population). This particular holocaust was especially catastrophic culturally as it specifically targeted the artists and “intellectuals”, of whom it is estimated that less than 10% survived. During this period, daring to wear eyeglasses— which had become a stereotyped symbol between classes— guaranteed almost certain death.

Singer Thorn Seyma, had discovered by chance just days before our arrival that her father, Thom Mouy, had apparently been quite a famous singer in the Sixties before perishing himself in the killing fields.

As in many post-genocidal countries, communal living is common, with people assembling ad hoc, surrogate families. With a large group of such survivors, we visited a crowded shopping mall full of things that no one buys, just display after display of what people can’t have. And there singer, Chea Sean (age 45)— who has spent her life nearby as a rice farmer— rode an escalator for the first time, which was a main attraction for having brought us there.

With the majority of the population under age twenty-five, the populace has been shaken by a secondary, post-traumatic wave: that of the majority having little memory of the relatively recent tragic events that ravaged the country. That so many of the elite who were involved with engineering those massacres have remained unbrokenly in power ever since, and are now conducting mass evictions and selling off nearly half the landmass of the country to private foreign investors, is chilling.

The roads are dotted with glamour-shot posters of aging, military men in makeup. And along the lone stretch of oceanfront area, vacationing Russian gangsters openly assassinate each other in the streets and set luxury-cars afire at beachside resorts. A recurring theme of resignation among residents is “if you have money here, you can do whatever you want.”

We had the good fortune of recording with sixty-year-old Han Nai, from the mountainous far north, near the border of Thailand. He is reportedly one of two people left in the world who play the Kann (a bamboo horn). In a country where the pop-charts revealed that 19 out of 20 hit songs were in English, concerns about cultural extinction in this region are far from hyperbole.

Fifty-year-old poet and guitarist, Thuch Savanj, bears the scars of war on his face, having been deformed by the same shrapnel that claimed his mother’s life.

Musical director, flautist, and percussion player, Arn Chorn Pond managed to survive, first by playing music to entertain the Khmer Rouge troops, and later by himself becoming a child soldier against the Vietnamese, in a kill or be killed scenario. His weight had dropped down to 30 pounds due to lack of rations, before he was rescued by an American adoptive father.

“If you’re a soldier, they will kill you if you cry. Now I cry and feel better. The turning point for me was learning to cry and listen to my own words, rather than just preaching peace and forgiveness to others.”

On the road to visit the legendary Kong Nai (“the Ray Charles of Cambodia”) we passed aging bomb-craters the size of ponds that had filled with stagnant rain water.

Parents commonly warn their children, “If you try to play like Kong Nai, you too will go blind,” as a way to scare youngsters away from music, so that they will hopefully instead follow some other, more respectable career pursuit.

But as amazing a musician as Kong Nai is, he was rivaled by another virtually unknown chapie dwng veng (long neck “guitar”) master, Soun San. San was left with a crooked leg and walks with a crutch, but all struggle seems to vanish from his being when he enters trance-like blues states, where he literally tears the shirt from his own chest and beats the floor and walls to emphasize vocal phrases. Being that he lives in the capital’s flight path, that is a jet airliner that is audible, almost clipping his building and dovetailing exactly at the end of one song.

Another blind-singer, sixty year old, Keut Ran, keeps the Smot vocal style alive, one that bears an uncanny resemblance to the hollerin’ style of America’s backwoods in the Deep South.

When a young hipster from the city talked of knowing elders that played, “Country music,” it was intriguing. But upon further examination, it was discovered that what she meant was not cowboy hats and fiddles, but the murdered music of Cambodia’s own roots tradition.

There is an inherent disconnection of logic amongst Westerners that claim a culture like Cambodia, who speak a tone-language— where the meaning of many otherwise identical words is dependent on the pitch with which they are spoken— are not musical by nature. And, prejudice’s self-destructiveness is nowhere more apparent than in the common underestimation of an entire racial group as “passive,” particularly one with such a history of upheaval, perseverance, and resistance.

—Ian Brennan

×

Khmer Rouge Survivors • They Will Kill You, If You Cry

01. Phnom Domrey Trom (“Where the Elephants Go to Die”) vocals by Rab Ban, accompanied on Kann by Mon Hai
02. Pjanch Meah (“Defeat the Giant”) vocals & Chapey Dawng Veng by Soun San
03. Aasojet Anet Mai (“Have Mercy on My Mother”) vocals by Keut Ran
04. Orano (“I Hate My Husband that Drinks”) by Rab Ban
05. Jivit Rongkroh Proh Songkream (“My Life as a Victim of War”) by Thuch Savang
06. Kontriev Doeung Kon Mai (“All Children Must Show Gratitude to their Mother”) vocals & Chapey Dawng Veng by Kong Nai
07. Prolop Phkaypreat (“Evening Stars are the Masters”) sung by by Mon Hai
08. Kamara Rongkaam (“Nation in Grief”) by Kong Nai
09. Ao Sat Sarika (“Where Has My Husband Gone?”) by Prom Chantol with her daughter Ouch Savy
10. Boonchnam Kamkosal (“My Grief Begins”) by Kong Nai
11. Pineak Doeulang Knong Soun (“Walk in the Garden”) by Keut Rann
12. Phleuv Dail Treuv Deu (“The Path You Should Take”) by Soun San
13. Bong Euy Sdaap Pkor (“Hear the Thunder”) by Thorn Seyma with Arn Chorn Pond on flute
14. Preh Kon Euypok (“A Father’s Honor”) by Soun San

Grammy-winning producer Ian Brennan (Zomba Prison Project, Tinariwen, Hanoi Masters) returns to Southeast Asia to record traditional-based musicians from Cambodia who survived the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime. The result is both heartbreaking and inspiring.

It would be disturbing anywhere to see a mob gathered around a street-pole as an electrocuted utility-worker’s lifeless body was lowered down by rope as if lynched, but especially in a land with so many ghosts.

Amidst skin-whitening overdoses and marijuana-pizza for the sex tourists, the stench of colonialism does more than just linger in Phnom Penh. “We hate the Vietnamese,” said the taxi-driver as a stark naked child ran into the street to urinate, “But our people are tired of war. We are tired of fighting.”

A reported three-million tons of carpet-bombs were dropped on Cambodia by the USA in the 1970s, more than were unleashed on Germany during all of WWII. And still today, Cambodia is laced with more landmines than anywhere else in the world, which results in two or three deaths on average daily, mostly to “peasants” in the field.

Following the bombings, dictator Pol Pot seized the moment, emptying the cities into shells, then pitting rural residents against the urbanites and launching a genocide that claimed somewhere around two-million lives (i.e., nearly 1/4th of the population). This particular holocaust was especially catastrophic culturally as it specifically targeted the artists and “intellectuals”, of whom it is estimated that less than 10% survived. During this period, daring to wear eyeglasses— which had become a stereotyped symbol between classes— guaranteed almost certain death.

Singer Thorn Seyma, had discovered by chance just days before our arrival that her father, Thom Mouy, had apparently been quite a famous singer in the Sixties before perishing himself in the killing fields.

As in many post-genocidal countries, communal living is common, with people assembling ad hoc, surrogate families. With a large group of such survivors, we visited a crowded shopping mall full of things that no one buys, just display after display of what people can’t have. And there singer, Chea Sean (age 45)— who has spent her life nearby as a rice farmer— rode an escalator for the first time, which was a main attraction for having brought us there.

With the majority of the population under age twenty-five, the populace has been shaken by a secondary, post-traumatic wave: that of the majority having little memory of the relatively recent tragic events that ravaged the country. That so many of the elite who were involved with engineering those massacres have remained unbrokenly in power ever since, and are now conducting mass evictions and selling off nearly half the landmass of the country to private foreign investors, is chilling.

The roads are dotted with glamour-shot posters of aging, military men in makeup. And along the lone stretch of oceanfront area, vacationing Russian gangsters openly assassinate each other in the streets and set luxury-cars afire at beachside resorts. A recurring theme of resignation among residents is “if you have money here, you can do whatever you want.”

We had the good fortune of recording with sixty-year-old Han Nai, from the mountainous far north, near the border of Thailand. He is reportedly one of two people left in the world who play the Kann (a bamboo horn). In a country where the pop-charts revealed that 19 out of 20 hit songs were in English, concerns about cultural extinction in this region are far from hyperbole.

Fifty-year-old poet and guitarist, Thuch Savanj, bears the scars of war on his face, having been deformed by the same shrapnel that claimed his mother’s life.

Musical director, flautist, and percussion player, Arn Chorn Pond managed to survive, first by playing music to entertain the Khmer Rouge troops, and later by himself becoming a child soldier against the Vietnamese, in a kill or be killed scenario. His weight had dropped down to 30 pounds due to lack of rations, before he was rescued by an American adoptive father.

“If you’re a soldier, they will kill you if you cry. Now I cry and feel better. The turning point for me was learning to cry and listen to my own words, rather than just preaching peace and forgiveness to others.”

On the road to visit the legendary Kong Nai (“the Ray Charles of Cambodia”) we passed aging bomb-craters the size of ponds that had filled with stagnant rain water.

Parents commonly warn their children, “If you try to play like Kong Nai, you too will go blind,” as a way to scare youngsters away from music, so that they will hopefully instead follow some other, more respectable career pursuit.

But as amazing a musician as Kong Nai is, he was rivaled by another virtually unknown chapie dwng veng (long neck “guitar”) master, Soun San. San was left with a crooked leg and walks with a crutch, but all struggle seems to vanish from his being when he enters trance-like blues states, where he literally tears the shirt from his own chest and beats the floor and walls to emphasize vocal phrases. Being that he lives in the capital’s flight path, that is a jet airliner that is audible, almost clipping his building and dovetailing exactly at the end of one song.

Another blind-singer, sixty year old, Keut Ran, keeps the Smot vocal style alive, one that bears an uncanny resemblance to the hollerin’ style of America’s backwoods in the Deep South.

When a young hipster from the city talked of knowing elders that played, “Country music,” it was intriguing. But upon further examination, it was discovered that what she meant was not cowboy hats and fiddles, but the murdered music of Cambodia’s own roots tradition.

There is an inherent disconnection of logic amongst Westerners that claim a culture like Cambodia, who speak a tone-language— where the meaning of many otherwise identical words is dependent on the pitch with which they are spoken— are not musical by nature. And, prejudice’s self-destructiveness is nowhere more apparent than in the common underestimation of an entire racial group as “passive,” particularly one with such a history of upheaval, perseverance, and resistance.

—Ian Brennan

×

Noura Mint Seymali • Arbina

01. Arbina
02. Mohammedoun
03. Na Sane
04. Suedi Koum
05. Richa
06. Ghlana
07. Ghizlane
08. Ya Demb
09. Soub Hanak
10. Tia

 

Noura Mint Seymali hails from a Moorish musical dynasty in Mauritania, born into a prominent family of griot and choosing from an early age to embrace the artform that is its lifeblood. Yet traditional pedigree has proven but a stepping-stone for the work Noura and her band have embarked upon in recent years, simultaneously popularizing and reimagining Moorish music on the global stage, taking her family’s legacy to new heights as arguably Mauritania’s most widely exported musical act of all time. Gamely wielding the griot’s idiom, a form itself distilled from centuries of trans-Saharan musical knowledge, Noura Mint Seymali’s sound as heard on this record carves out a unique position in the musical cartography of West Africa, at once her country’s leading proponent of the avant garde and yet a rigorously devoted tradition-bearer.

 

Arbina is Noura Mint Seymali’s second international release. Delving deeper into the wellspring of Moorish roots, as is after all the tried and true way of the griot, the album strengthens her core sound, applying a cohesive aesthetic approach to the reinterpretation of Moorish tradition in contemporary context. The band is heard here in full relief; soaring vocals and guitar at the forefront, the mesmerizing sparkle of the ardine, elemental bass lines and propulsive rhythms swirling together to conjure a 360 degree vibe. Arbina refines a sound that the band has gradually intensified over years of touring, aiming to posit a new genre from Mauritania, distinct unto itself; music of the “Azawan.”

 

Supported by guitarist, husband and fellow griot, Jeiche Ould Chighaly, Seymali’s tempestuous voice is answered with electrified counterpoint, his quarter-tone rich guitar phraseology flashing out lightning bolt ideas. Heir to the same music culture as Noura, Jeiche intimates the tidinit’s (Moorish lute) leading role under the wedding khaima with the gusto of a rock guitar hero. Bassist Ousmane Touré, who has innovated a singular style of Moorish low-end groove over the course of many years, can be heard on this album with greater force and vigor than ever before. Drummer/producer Matthew Tinari drives the ensemble forward with the agility and precision need to make the beats cut.

 

Many of the songs on Arbina call out to the divine, asking for grace and protection. “Arbina” is a name for God. The album carries a message about reaching beyond oneself to an infinite spiritual source, while learning to take the finite human actions to necessary to affect reality on earth.   The concept of sëbeu, or that which a human can do to take positive action on their destiny, is animated throughout.   While final outcomes rest in the hands of the creator, the duty to use one’s capacities as a human to work towards our hopes and highest intentions roots us in life and relationship to God. The title track ‘Arbina’ applies this concept to specifically empower women in their decisions about preventative healthcare. It advocates for the concrete task of early screening to prevent breast and uterine cancer, sickness that claimed Noura’s own mother at a premature age, while offering an appeal to the ultimate benevolence of God. “Ghizlane” invokes the concept through metaphor, describing the elusive nature of our dreams and the innate obligation to follow. “Richa” reflects of the power of music as a vehicle.

 

Lyrically, the Moorish griot tradition is complex and associative. Poetry is held in a continuum between author and audience in which a singer may draw on disparate sources, selecting individual lines here or there for musicality to form a lyrical patchwork expressing larger ideas via association. A griot may relate her own thoughts and poetry, sing poetry written for and about her by a third party, and transmit lines from one party addressing another in the course of a single song. With this ever-fluid narrative voice, stories are told.

 

Arbina is a musical act of devotion, calling upon the creator to channel grace through us and uplift our actions.

 

Noura Mint Seymali: voice, ardine, songs

Jeiche Ould Chighaly: guitar

Ousmane Touré: bass

Matthew Tinari: drums

 

Mayassa Hemed Vall: backing vocals (tracks 5 & 6)

 

Produced by Matthew Tinari

Recorded & mixed by Tony Maimone at Studio G, Brooklyn, NY

 

www.nouramintseymali.com/
www.facebook.com/nouramintseymali.music

×

Orkesta Mendoza • ¡Vamos A Guarachar!

01. Cumbia Volcadora
02. Redoble
03. Misterio
04. Mapache
05. Cumbia Amor De Lejos
06. Mambo a la Rosano
07. Caramelos
08. No Volvere
09. Contra la Marea
10. Igual que Ayer
11. Nada te Debo
12. Shadows of the Mind

“Sergio Mendoza is probably my favourite musician of this time. He has the cumbia and mambo in his DNA, but he has the power to make it sound like today. His Orkesta is as punk as the Sex Pistols and as violent as Perez Prado” — Camilo Lara, Mexican Institute of Sound

“Orkesta Mendoza is one of the best live bands out there. Their music delves into a myriad of directions, rhythms and moods, big band orchestrations mixed with lo fi electronica, vocals en Español together with moving instrumentals.”Vamos a Guarachar” is epic and soulful, it captures that positive spirit of the Southwest” — Joey Burns, Calexico

Something is stirring in downtown Tucson. That’s no great surprise perhaps: Calexico have been sending out missives from the desert for 20 years now, Giant Sand for even longer than that, and the Green on Red revival is surely overdue. These three giants of American popular music ask questions of the form, chiefly because of where they are situated. Let us remind ourselves that this isn’t a big city in the American sense (it’s the country’s 33rd largest), but that its hinterland is indeed as big as it gets. For an hour south, Mexico starts. And this is where things get interesting.

Born in Nogales, Arizona, raised in Nogales, Sonora, multi-instrumentalist and band-leader Sergio Mendoza grew up listening to the Mexican regional styles jostling for headspace in a young, music-mad mind – cumbia mainly, but mambo, rancheras and mariachi too. The border is always a fierce arena of exchange, both commercial and cultural, and so there was American music too. At one point ‘rock and roll, the classics’, as Mendoza himself deadpans, seemed to win out and he stopped playing those ‘Latin styles’ for a good decade and a half.

The return to those sounds was a strong one in 2012’s Mambo Mexicano, co-produced by Mendoza and Joey Burns of Calexico – a band for which Mendoza has become an increasingly integral touring and recording member. While that record had a studied air, tentative in parts (as befits the renewal of an old love affair), ¡Vamos A Guarachar! is another beast entirely: by turns raucous (‘Cumbia Volcadora’, featuring Mexican electronic pioneer Camilo Lara), tender (‘Misterio’, surely Salvador Duran’s finest moment with the band so far) and plain serious fun, as in ‘Contra La Marea’ and ‘Mapache’, it also bears a robust electronic edge, a keen pop sensibility and all the hallmarks of Mendoza’s love of 60s rock, with the closing track, ‘Shadows of the Mind’, sure to be included if anyone decides to update the Nuggets collection for the 21st century. This is roundabout way of saying that it appears to have everything, but never too much of anything. Focused, fierce and beautifully executed by a superbly drilled set of musicians, it is a record that fully matches the band’s explosive live performances.

Nogales, Sonora, Nogales, Arizona: this is what the border looks like here – for now. To talk about borders and the diasporas they create, is to be pitched headlong into our era’s most urgent debate, marked by Trump’s lurid obscenities and the lines being hastily reinstated across Europe. Orkesta Mendoza’s contribution to that debate is to show us what the border sounds like and what masterpieces can be achieved by honest cultural exchange. What we decide to do with that information is up to us. With this record, however, we’ll have an awful lot of fun deciding.

You could, of course, take the trip to Tucson yourself, to the home of this essential set of field recordings. The scene hangs out together, so … if the stars align and their frantic tour schedules permit, you might see any number of folks from Calexico, Giant Sand or up-and-coming cumbia rockers Xixa deep in conversation somewhere in town with a quiet young man in black. That’s Sergio. Right now, in this endless game of Tucson tag, Orkesta Mendoza are IT.

Orkesta Mendoza:

Sergio Mendoza: vocals, keyboards, guitars, drums, percussion, programming, horns
Salvador Duran: lead vocals “Cumbia Volcadora,“ “Misterio” & “Cumbia Amor De Lejos”
Sean Rogers: bass, lead vocal “Shadows of the Mind”
Marco Rosano: sax, clarinet, trombone, keyboards, guitar
Raul Marques: backing vocals
Joe Novelli: lap steel

Selected guests:

Camilo Lara (Mexican Institute of Sound): voice “Cumbia Volcadora”
Joey Burns (Calexico): upright bass “Misterio”
John Convertino (Calexico): Drums “Misterio”
Gabriel Sullivan (Xixa): vocals “Nada te Debo”
Jairo Zavala (DePedro): vocals “Nada te Debo” & backing vocals “Misterio”
Ceci Bastida: vocals “Caramelos”
Quetzal Guerrero: vocals “Caramelos”
Tom Hagerman: string arrangement “Misterio”
Larry Lopez: drums
Jack Sterbis: percussion
Rick Peron-Trumpet

×

Gaye Su Akyol • Hologram Ĭmparatorluğu

1 Hologram
2 Akil olmayinca
3 Kendimin efendisiyim ben
4 Fantastiktir bahti yarimin
5 Kendimden kaçmaktan
6 Dünya kaleska
7 Eski tüfek
8 Uzat saçini Istanbul
9 Nargile
10 Anlasana sana aşiğim
11 Mona Lisa
12 Berduş

Istanbul has a deep, layered history. From its beginnings as a fishing village to one of the pillars of the Roman world. The final stop on the Silk Road. The centre of the Ottoman Empire as the Turks spread their huge net across the Middle East. Across the centuries the city drew in cultures and blended them. Growing up there, singer-songwriter Gaye Su Akyol breathed all that in every day, along with her family’s ancient roots in Anatolia. Those rich traditions combine to form part of the sound she’s developed on her album Hologram Ĭmparatorluğu (Hologram Empire), where sultry Turkish melodies twine around spiky, twanging guitars and insistent rhythms.

“It’s a cliché, but the city is a bridge that combines cultures, and that’s very true in music, especially the Greek influence,” Akyol explains. “When I was young, we visited Anatolia every year. I had the chance to observe and realise the different perspectives and practices of cultures. That made me feel closer to the diversity of Anatolian civilisation.”

But that, and the old music on Turkish Radio Television that she internalized, were only parts of the mix that helped shape her sound. She was constantly seeking out the new and the different, something to set off sparks in her emotions.

“When I heard Nirvana’s Nevermind for the first time, my mind blew up. I discovered other Seattle bands, then people like Nick Cave, Joy Division, Sonic Youth, and Einstürzende Neubaten. A bit later I heard Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit.” The dark, mellow mood of the music, the use of the instruments and the vocal technique of Grace Slick greatly inspired me and led me into psychedelia and then surf bands. What they all did seemed to fit with older Turkish singers I loved like Selda Bağcan and Müzeyyen Senar.”

By then Akyol was already part of a new underground music scene that had sprung up in Istanbul. A military coup in the 1980s led to a repression of rock across the country. After a decade the government’s grip was beginning to loosen, and Akyol became part of the new wave of music, exploring the mix of old Turkish music and rock that she heard in her head.

“Your own culture is important; your parents and grandparents give it to you,” she notes. “No culture is better than any other. I studied as an anthropologist; I know that. So I began finding my culture and mixing it, balancing the traditional and modern elements in my music. My art, my sound. People focus so much on the technical part, but you have to look inside to find out what you want to do. You have to say something new. I want to change the world forever.”

The daughter of acclaimed Turkish painter Muzaffer Akyol, Akyol earned a degree in social anthropology and worked as an artist before creating music took over. She experimented, feeling her way towards her vision. And when she met the band Bubituzak, something clicked. They understood what she was doing; they became part of her art. Together they recorded her debut, Develerle Yaşıyorum, in 2013, following it with acclaimed, masked performances in Turkey and at festivals across Europe.

“I love masks,” Akyol laughs. “They bring mystery and fun, flexibility and a psychedelic aesthetic. Since Bubituzak are already a band, we want to use masks to cover their faces in a mysterious and symbolic way.”

That first disc seeded the ground. The new album, Hologram Ĭmparatorluğu, bears the full fruit of the partnership. It digs deeper, fired with a seductive, shadowy passion. The thick swirl of Oriental strings on “Hologram” plunges towards the heated boil of “Fantastikir Bahti Yarimin.” The dark lullaby of “Dünya Kaleska” weaves a haunted post-punk spell before building to the album’s climax “Berduş,” where spaghetti western guitar cracks over a propulsive rhythm and a sensuous Anatolian melody. The sound is cinematic and gorgeous and Gaye’s luminous voice brilliantly orchestrates these shifting moods.

Echoing the bittersweet tendrils of Turkey’s faded past and dramatic present, her lyrics are bold and deeply personal. At times she embraces the nocturnal and romantic: “I feel immortal by your side/As if the world will be safe/If I drink another double raki.” In other instances, she navigates the surreal and the magically real: “Look at me/I’ve become a butterfly/Come and find me/Black holes are everywhere.” And in several songs she takes a sharp look at the stark realities of Turkey’s political moment: “You sold us out well! /You have a palace but/It’s just empty four walls /Possessions mangle mortals.” It is no surprise that she cites Turkish writers like Melih Cevdet Anday and Sabahattin Ali and the English poet William Blake as crucial artistic influences.

Her music, her art.

“I look for passion in music, lyrics, feelings, people, conversations. There can be no limbo, in between,” Akyol insists. “Passion talks with its very self-assured way to change something or convince someone. I believe we live in a hologram and art is my universe, so I organise the galaxies, planets, solar systems.”

And in Gaye Su Akyol’s universe, the past becomes folded into the present and launched into the future. Hologram Ĭmparatorluğu is heady, powerfully intoxicating and beautifully dangerous.

“Your art is something you have to find yourself,” Akyol says. “I’m looking inside my consciousness to my culture. I love rock but there are hidden things in my subconscious. Call it Turkish art rock if you like.”

Past, present, future.

Her music, her art.

https://www.facebook.com/Gaye-Su-Akyol-239638012909465/
https://twitter.com/gayesuakyol

 

×

Baba Zula • XX

CD 1:
01. Özgür ruh / Free Spirit / 2004
02. Gerekli şeyler / Essential Things / 2004
03. Erotika hop / 1997
04. Biz size aşık olduk / We Fell In Love With You (TV version) / 2002
05. Seksek / Hopscotch / 2001
06. Cecom / 2002
07. Aşıkların sözü kalır / Eternal Is The Word Of Poets / 2016
08. Efkarlı yaprak / Worried Leaf / 2016
09. Carino: La yegros / feat. Baba Zula/ 2015
10. Yororo kanto: Oki Dub Ainu Band / feat. Baba Zula / 2014
11. Bir sana bir de bana / One For You And One For Me / Delayaman / 2016
12. Çöl aslanları / Desert Lions / 2004 / Live Berlin Bada
13. Abdülcanbaz / 2013 / Live Pireas Resistance Festival

CD 2:
01. Alem Dub – 2016
02. Nobey Dub – 2016
03. Ufak Dub – 2016
04. Iki Alem Dub – 2016 – Dr Das (Asian Dub Foundation)
05. KK Dub – 2016 – Tolga Tolun
06. Hopche Dub – 2016 – Dirtmusic
07. Park Dub – 2009 – Uchi Uchida
08. Lemon Dub – 2009 – Uchi Uchida
09. Adultress Dub – 2005 – Mad Professor
10. BSAO Dub – 2005 – Mad Professor
11. Divan Dub – 2005 – Mad Professor
12. Meçhul Plak Dub (lost record dub) – 2003
13. Israr Dub – 2002
14. Erotik Adab Dub – 2002 – Mad Professor
15. Analog Anadolu Dub – 2000

A kaleidoscopic, two-disc, career-spanning compilation from Istanbul’s revered psychedelic explorers. Esteemed collaborators include Sly & Robbie, Mad Professor, Dr. Das of Asian Dub Foundation, Alexander Hacke (Einstürzende Neubaten) and more. Without a doubt one of the planet’s great musical adventures.

All too often these days, the world can feel like a dark and dangerous place. But music remains a light in the bleakness, offering a constant sense hope and joy and celebration. In Turkey the ominous shadows have been growing longer for several years but Baba Zula have been a shining beacon for 20 years, bringing the West and the Orient together in a glory of Istanbul psychedelia. To celebrate those two decades of existence, XX brings together tracks from across Baba Zula’s history, along with a second album of dubs created by artists like Mad Professor. Dr. Das of Asian Dub Foundation, and Dirtmusic.

“We wanted to have a compilation that was a little different,” explains group founder and electric saz player Osman Murat Ertel. “None of the pieces here are in their original forms. Instead, we picked remixes, re-recordings, collaborations, live tracks, all the possibilities, but none of these have been released before. And it’s a mix of recording techniques – digital, analogue, tape, mp3.”

Formed by Ertel and Levent Akman in 1996, Baba Zula took Turkish psychedelic pioneers of the 1960s like Moğollar as their inspiration and foundation for what they called Istanbul psychedelia, the fathers of a scene that’s since grown up around them.

“Those original bands of the ‘60s grew out of traditional Anatolian music,” Ertel says. “But the coups of the 1970s and ‘80s put an end to any experimentation. We picked up the reins to make music for the 21st century with electric instruments, effects, and machines, something contemporary and unique. I always tell people that they might not like us, but no one can say we’re not original!”

Baba Zula came into existence when Ertel’s previous outfit, ZeN, was asked to create a soundtrack by a director friend. Ertel and two other members were interested, and the band grew from that seed, with music for films very much a part of their output.

Since that small beginning, Baba Zula have played all over the world, won awards for their work in film and theatre, often been rewarded at the Turkish Billboard awards, and had their albums counted among the most prestigious ever released in Turkey. They’ve also built a global network of like-minded performers, experimental souls in all genres of music, working with people as varied as Turkish opera singer Semiha Berksoy, dub mixer Mad Professor, and Can drummer Jaki Liebzeit. And that, to Ertel, is one of the band’s great successes.

“It’s exciting to collaborate with people you listened to when you were young. It’s a great inspiration and a huge fulfilment in dreaming something and having it come true. And it becomes a link of friendship.”

Those links and the band’s deep and fascinating history are displayed in widescreen on XX. “Biz Size Aşik Olduk” (We Fell In Love With You), for instance, is the only song they’ve ever created for a television serial, one that catapulted them to popularity all across Turkey.

“I went to the market the day after it was shown,” Ertel recalls. “As soon as the girl at the cash desk knew who I was, she began singing it.”

But Baba Zula have always believed that music needs to make a powerful statement, and they’ve never pulled punches in their lyrics. On XX, both “Aşiklarin Sözü Kalir” (Eternal Is The Word Of Poets) and “Efkarli Yaprak” (Worried Leaf) make their points very eloquently.

“They’re both re-interpretations of songs we’ve released,” Ertel says. “They appeared on different albums, but we wanted to re-record them so they were closer to our live sound. The first is about how the words of the talking heads and politicians become meaningless so quickly, but what poets say resonate through the centuries. I wrote the second song for my uncle, who was a journalist. He and others fought with their pens and pencils, even though they were tortured and jailed. He died four years ago, and I composed this as a celebration of him.”

In typically perverse and playful fashion, although their biggest ‘hit’ – “Bir Sana Bir De Bana” (One For You And One For Me) – is here, it’s not the original Baba Zula version of the song, but one featuring a duet between an Armenian man and a French woman.

The disc closes with a pair of previously unreleased live tracks. “Çöl Aslanlari” (Desert Lions) was mixed by Einstürzende Neubaten’s Alexander Hacke, while “Abdülcanbaz” is taken from a performance at the Resistance Festival in Piraeus, Greece, with Ertel’s electric saz powering and pushing the group higher and higher over a swell of percussion, electric oud, effects, and vocals. They’re long, mesmeric cuts, the pulsing of an ancient Turkish soul in a very modern band.

“They’re very raw recordings,” Ertel agrees, “but they have power. A record made in the studio is very different to a concert. We’ve never put out a live album, so I wanted to show that side of us.”

And now, with 20 years behind them, what’s next for Baba Zula?

“I never thought it would last this long,” Ertel admits. “Maybe another 20 years is possible, maybe not. But living here in Turkey, I don’t know about the future. I hope the band could continue without me. We give our messages very carefully for those who can understand them. But I do know it’s important to carry on; you can be gone anytime.”

Baba Zula:

Osman Murat Ertel:
electric and acoustic saz, vocals, electric and acoustic guitar, synth, percussion, bass, theremin

Mehmet Levent Akman:
Machines, electronics, cymbals, spoons, bendir, percussion

Featuring:
Sly and Robbie: 1-2 drums and bass
Mehmet Güreli: 1 vocals
Hüsnü Şenlendirici: 1-4 clarinet
Özkan Uğur: 2 vocals
Emre Onel: 3-5 sampler and percussion
Oya Erkaya: 4-6 bass
Brenna Mac Crimmon: 6-7 vocals
Oki: 10 tonkori
Alexander Hacke: 12 bass
Melike Şahin: 7-8 vocals
Periklis Tsoukalas: 7-8-9-13 electric oud
Can Aydemir: 13 bass

 

 

 

×

Bargou 08 • Targ

01 – Chech el khater 4:38
02 – Mamchout 4:34
03 – Le min ijina 4:04
04 – Tarjaachi layem 5:30
05 – Wazzaa 5:20
06 – Hezzi haremek 5:27
07 – Dek biya 4:44
08 – Roddih 3:29
09 – Sidi el kadhi 4:55

It’s the forgotten place. Lying between the mountains of northwest Tunisia and the Algerian border, the Bargou valley and the village named after it lie isolated, away from the world. It’s poor, barren country, but standing apart, Bargou has developed its own culture that had never been documented until Nidhal Yahyaoui began the task. Born in the valley, he grew up hearing his parents and family sing the songs that belong to the region, and he was determined that the music and traditions shouldn’t slip away into obscurity. With Targ, the album he’s made with his band Bargou 08, Yahyaoui has perfectly fused the past and the present to place Bargou on the map.

“Nidhal began collecting songs from all over the valley more than ten years ago,” explains producer and keyboard player Sofyann Ben Youssef, who’s known Yahyaoui since they were both ten years old. “No one had ever done that before. He listened to the women, to the village elders, and he learned all the variations on the songs. This is his passion, and he asked me to join him.”

Together, they assembled a collective of both local and European musicians who spent three weeks playing in the Yahyaoui family home in Bargou village. They worked on the material, shaping a sound that harnessed the power of the tradition and connected it to something the young would understand.

“These songs are all in the Targ dialect,” Ben Youseff says. “It’s part-Berber, part-Arabic, the language people speak in the valley. Many of these pieces are more than three hundred years old. After the changes in Tunisia in 2011, we felt it was time for a new relationship with our roots, to have something true to the past but that was also intelligible to the young. We spent three weeks in Bargou, with people from the area, performing and listening. By the time we packed up, we felt we were creating something that managed that.”

They took the music they’d created on the road, playing it in cities and villages throughout Tunisia and around the globe, including roaring performances at the famed Roskilde festival in Denmark and the Rainforest festival in Sarawak. For touring, Bargou 08 became a five-piece band, with Yahyaoui on vocals and loutar, Ben Youssef on Moog, along with drums, bendir, and gasba and zokra flutes. By the time they arrived back in Bargou to finally record, they’d honed their ideas and knew how the album would sound.

“It was important for us to record there and to use some local musicians on the record. But we also wanted the young people in the village to see that something could be created right there and that they didn’t need a lot of money to do it, to inspire them.’

Made over the course of three weeks in the Yahyaoui family home, it hewed close to the tradition, taking its power from the root, with Ben Yousef’s synthesizer adding subtle touches at the top and bottom ends.

“Everything goes through the rhythm in this music,” he says. “If you grasp that, the picture becomes much clearer. I tried to imagine what would have happened if an aircraft full of Moogs had crashed in the valley years ago. How would they have integrated them into their music? That was what I did, just something simple but effective. I kept the instruments and voice in the middle and enhanced the top and the bottom frequencies. Those bass lines I play are all traditional rhythms; I just fattened up on the keyboard. To me, I was simply playing traditional music.”

Bales of hay were piled up in the rooms to act as acoustic baffles. Ben Yousef set up in the kitchen, operating the recording equipment with one hand and playing Moog with the other. It was an improvised setup, but it captured the fire and energy of the musicians’ performances. But it all revolves around Yahyaoui’s voice. Raw and emotional, plaintive and passionate, it proudly bears all the weight of history. And underneath, the thick, fat bass carries the music firmly into the 21st century.

But at the heart are the songs themselves, and the insights they offer into the life of the Bargou valley through time.

“We didn’t choose the material on Targ,” Ben Yousef says. “The songs chose us. The place made the selection for us. They brought it all alive. “Mamchout,” for instance, is a man describing his lover, saying how her hair feels like the feathers of an eagle, so dark. The words talk about how they speak to each other, how they kiss and make love, but all phrased in a way that obeys the taboo of the time. It’s history in your hand.”

Yahyaoui’s singing, whether about love or the sense of difference and isolation that marks the Bargou people, catches every strand of emotion in the songs, making them so real and concrete that the songs could have been written yesterday. Around him, the explosive rhythms of drums and percussion give a primal power to the bass grooves. It’s the trance of the past emerging from out of the speakers.

With Targ, Bargou 08 make sure that the valley and its people will never be forgotten.

 

Lassaed Bougalmi – gasba, zokra (traditional reed instruments)
Imed Rezgui – bendir (percussion)
Nidhal Yahyaoui – vocals, wtar (oud-like instrument)
Sofyan Ben Youssef – synthesizer, musical director
Benjamin Chaval – drums

 

 

 

×

 Tamikrest • Kidal

01. Mawarniha Tartit
02. Wainan Adobat
03.Manhouy Inerizhan
04. War Toyed
05. Atwitas
06. Tanakra
07. War Tila Eridaran
08. Ehad Wad Nadorhan
09. Erres Hin Atouan
10. Adoutat Salilagh
11. Adad Osan Itibat

All around Kidal, the Malian desert stretches in every direction. Endless horizons of rock and sand, barren and parched. This is the southwestern edge of the Sahara, the home of the Tuareg people, and the town of Kidal is one of their main cultural centres. Fought over, conquered and re-conquered, it remains the symbol of Tuareg defiance and hope, the spiritual home of a dispossessed people.

It is also the town in which Tamikrest first came together as a group, and on Kidal, Tamikrest’s fourth studio album, the band pays homage to this place that’s nurtured them and their people.

It’s a cry of suffering and the yell of rebellion. It’s power and resistance. This is pure Tuareg rock’n’roll.

“I wrote most of the songs when I was in the desert,” explains singer and lead guitarist Ousmane Ag Mossa. But it had to be that way, he says. “If you want to talk about the situation, you really need to live it.”

From the simmering intensity behind the opener, “Mawarniha Tartit,” through the sweet slide work of second guitarist Paul Salvagnac on “Atwitas” to the full-blooded roar on “Adoutat Salilagh,” this is a band fired with passion for their people and the centuries of injustice they’ve endured.

Kidal talks about dignity,” Ag Mossa says. “We consider the desert as an area of freedom to live in. But many people consider it as just a market to sell to multinational companies, and for me, that is a major threat to the survival of our nomadic people.”

The music on the album has deep roots in the Tuareg tradition, but it burns with a brilliant, modern flame. “My love is my country, my ambition is freedom,” Ag Mossa sings on “War Tila Eridaran,” a proud statement of intent. “No being must live in oppression, ignominy, and eternal repression.” It’s the sound of a people who endure their struggle every single day. To them, the idea of what Kidal represents is almost as important as the place itself.

The Tuareg have always been nomadic people, their lives in motion across the desert, sometimes taking with them only the bare essentials. But for one brief moment they possessed a home after the Tuaregs rose up in 2012 and declared the independent state of Azawad in the northeast of Mali. It lasted less than a year, as first al-Qaeda conduits swept in from the north, imposing Islamist rule, and then the French military arrived to liberate the area – once again leaving the Tuareg with little or no chance for self-determination. But the dream remains, still trapped between governments and the greed of global corporations.

“Kidal, the cradle of all these uprisings, continues to resist the many acts perpetrated by obscure hands against our people,” notes band associate Rhissa Ag Mohamed. “This album evokes all the suffering and manipulation of our populations caught in pincers on all sides.”

The songs on Kidal evoke a long history. And for all the electricity, as Ag Mossa observes, “It’s very traditional if you go deeply into what I’m playing.”

Everything here is focused. Everything burns. Ag Mossa punctuates his lyrics with inspired bolts of guitar. Even an acoustic song like “Tanakra” maintains a luminous edge.

But from their debut in 2010 onwards, Tamikrest have had the fire in their music, and it’s built with each release.  Chatma, their third disc, hit number one on the European World Music charts and was acclaimed as one of the Albums of the Year in publications across the globe. Songlines magazine gave them the Best Group Award, while their live performances showed a band whose sound sent sparks flying.

With Kidal, that blaze is roaring. Recorded in Bamako, Mali in the summer of 2016, the album was produced by Mark Mulholland (Afro-Haitian Experimental Orchestra) and mixed by David Odlum, who received a Grammy for his work with Tinariwen. It’s an album that’s taken two years to make, Ag Mossa says, “because we share the same difficulties of our people.” And the songs here mirror their joys, their pain and their unwillingness to accept things as they are.

There’s a raw beauty in Tamikrest’s rock’n’roll. It’s there in the driving, insistent groove that powers the songs, the lean, snaking bass lines and the guitars that twine and twist around the melodies, and the utterly natural musical blending of Sahel Africa, the Maghreb, and the West – a reflection of influences as diverse as Pink Floyd, Rachid Taha, and flamenco. Yet the Sahara, and the people who live there, is always firmly at its heart.

“This music was founded on a very precise cause, the Tuareg cause,” Ag Mossa told journalist Andy Morgan in 2013. They might be threatened on all sides, but they won’t give up, and this album celebrates who the Tuareg are, the Kel Tamasheq (“those who speak Tamasheq”), the keepers of an ancient and endangered cultural voice.

Tamikrest’s new album is the music of defiance, of hope. It’s rock’n’roll from the Sahara, the sound of the Tuareg dream, a dream that will be renewed again, in their ancestral town: Kidal.

++++++++++

Kidal was recorded at Studio Bogolan, in Bamako, Mali, August/September, 2016
Produced by Mark Mulholland
Mixed by David Odlum at Black Box Recording (Noyant la Gravoyere, France)

Tamikrest are:
Ousmane Ag Mossa – vocals, lead guitar, acoustic guitar
Aghaly Ag Mohamedine – djembe, backing vocals
Cheick Ag Tiglia – bass, acoustic guitar, backing vocals
Paul Salvagnac – lead & rhythm guitar, acoustic guitar, slide guitar
Nicolas Grupp – drums, percussion

×

75 Dollar Bill • Wood/Metal/Plastic/Pattern/Rhythm/Rock

01. Earth Saw
02. Beni Said
03. Cummins Falls
04. I’m Not Trying to Wake Up

The NYC based duo of Rick Brown and Che Chen, creates hypnotic, pulsing music that weaves an ecstatic line from raw electric blues, Arabic modes and entrancing folk minimalism back to the streets of New York.

We are proud that W/M/P/P/R/R is the first release on Glitterbeat’s new label imprint: tak:til.

NOTES ON W/M/P/P/R/R FROM RICK BROWN

I feel very lucky to have wound up playing in 75 Dollar Bill with Che. I’ll take some credit for the early setup, as I pursued the idea of us jamming together for a few years before we actually made some music together. But when it comes to focusing our sound, putting together a good set- list, imagining how to expand the group with guests and designing almost all of the visual/package aspects, Che has taken the lead. Obviously, he is responsible for his own parts and playing and his interest in the Arabic modes of Mauritanian music has marked our sound quite a bit but I have brought some things, too. The plywood crate I play is a big factor, defining, by its positive qualities (a nice warm “boom” sound) as well as by its simplicity, what we’re likely to do in the percussion realm.

WMPPRR, this new record, differs quite a bit from the previous one, notably in the rhythmic “tone.” Wooden Bag (released in 2015 on Other Music Recording Co.) was all forward momentum, stomping and shaking, but the new record explores a long-standing interest of mine: odd and “compound” meters. In most of my previous musical activities, I’ve convinced my partners to delve into this, but in 75 Dollar Bill it has just felt natural and I believe Che’s modal investigations and melodic/harmonic tendencies enhance (and are enhanced by) this combination.

The current record differs from the last in another big way: reinforcements! Over our few years together, Che and I have frequently had friends play with us at some of our gigs. There have been all sorts of permutations of instruments and some great friends/players who don’t all appear on this record but here we are lucky to have a bunch of them: Cheryl Kingan (of The Scene Is Now) on baritone and alto saxes, Andrew Lafkas (of Todd Capp’s Mystery Train) on contrabass, Karen Waltuch (of Zeke & Karen) on viola, Rolyn Hu (of True Primes) on trumpet and Carey Balch (of Knoxville’s Give Thanks) on floor tom. 75 Dollar Bill’s plans for the future involve much more playing with these friends and others in bigger and smaller combos – as well as me and Che stripped back to the core guitar and crate duo.

For the present, though, please enjoy WOOD/METAL/PLASTIC/ PATTERN/RHYTHM/ROCK.

***

EARTH SAW is one of our earliest tunes and, I think, the first result of this ‘compound meter’ approach. It’s a slow 9 beat phrase Che came up with for this odd groove (it’s aksak, meaning “limping”, as such rhythms are called in Turkish). BENI SAID, after its intro, has no fixed rhythmic cycle but a roughly unison melodic phrase and a pulsing, loose feeling of 3s and 4s played using a box full of bottle caps. CUMMINS FALLS, named after the beautiful Tennessee State Park and swimming hole you hear at its end, features Carey Balch on Diddleybeat floor tom and me reprising the maracas that were very prominent on Wooden Bag. I’M NOT TRYING TO WAKE UP is another of our compound meter songs, this one using an 18 beat scheme. The sax, guitar and percussion parts are built in layers of patterned variations of measures adding up to 18, while the trumpet wails above us, uncounted.

Rick Brown:
plywood crate, maracas, shakers, bells, a drum
Che Chen: 12 and 6 string electric guitars, bass, shakers

with guest musicians:
Carey Balch: floor tom
Rolyn Hu: trumpet
Cheryl Kingan: baritone & alto saxophones  Andrew Lafkas: contrabass
Karen Waltuch: viola

“New York’s 75 Dollar Bill are an astonishingly potent next stage in an ongoing cultural exchange…magnificent; like a gnawa ritual that’s been convened by Junior Kimbrough.” – Uncut (75 Best Albums of 2016, #32)

“The instrumental duo of Che Chen and Rick Brown have been blowing minds on the East Coast live circuit with little more than an electric guitar and a wooden crate rhythm section.” – The Wire (Releases of the Year, #16)

“Gloriously mind-frying, ritualistic splatter of Zen blues and Arabic and African music-influenced riff-rock repetition that shows Brown and Chen expanding their lineup with sax, violin, bass and second guitar. The sound may be bigger with a sweeter shine yet it remains unmistakably 75 Dollar Bill: epically shambolic, thrifty and jazzy guitarscapes dripping of ecstatic hypnotism.”
– The Observer (The Best Experimental Albums of 2016 – So Far)

“It’s hard not to slip into ridiculous hyperbole when it comes to 75 Dollar Bill. Best band in New York City? Best band in the USA? Best band in the universe?…they’ve definitely nailed down a thrillingly original sound. — Aquarium Drunkard

 

×

Joshua Abrams & Natural Information Society • Simultonality

01. Maroon Dune
02. Ophiuchus
03. St. Cloud
04. Sideways Fall
05. 2128 1/2

“Abrams makes music that falls between genres…but it all feels singular.”
— Pitchfork

Mesmerizing and explorative. A nexus of non-western traditional musics, minimalism, krautrock textures and jazz.

We are very proud that Simultonilty will be released in Europe on Glitterbeat’s new label imprint: tak:til

The follow-up to Joshua Abrams’s critically acclaimed 2015 album Magnetoception is here. Simultonality, credited to Joshua Abrams & Natural Information Society (NIS), is the first recording in the project’s nine year, four album history made by a regularly gigging manifestation rather than a special assembly of friends. Recorded in 2014 & 2015 in single takes by the full ensemble during & after tours of the U.S. & Canada, Simultonality sets out new pathways for Abrams & the NIS to reach the next summit, & once more affirms the project’s unique approach to joining traditional musics, American minimalism & jazz with the Gnawa ceremonial instrument the guimbri.

Stasis, continuity & repetition, central qualities of Abrams language, defined Magnetoception, a double album of beautifully spacious & unhurried music that rated high on both The Wire & Pitchfork’s lists of the best records of 2015. These same qualities form the heart of Abrams music on Simultonality. But where Abrams once said Magnetoception is about “winter & death,” Simultonality —in Abrams words— is an album of “pure motion.” Without sounding frenetic it is the most explosive NIS music on record, & without sounding over-determined it is Abrams’s most structured & thru-composed music yet. Much of it is also fast (“the last record was slow”), a mass of densely patterned elements swiftly orbiting constantly reconfiguring centers that are variously harmonic & rhythmic, clearly stated or implied. While so teeming & tightly packed as to sometimes seem impossible to parse, the music is at no time any more disorderly than a colony of bees pollinating a vast garden. Its many moving parts function in mutualistic relationship toward fulfilling Abrams’s long stated intention for the project: to help listener’s achieve a meditative center & to consciously use music as a gateway to living. Abrams credits the great bassist & composer William Parker as an inspiration for this intention.

The musicians on Simultonality date back to the nascency of NIS. Along with Hamid Drake, Mikel Avery & Frank Rosaly are Abrams first-call drummers for the project. Abrams prefers two or more drummers in NIS whenever possible. On Simultonality, Avery is in the left channel, Rosaly the right. The metallic shaker sound sometimes heard in the center of the stereo image is the rattle attached to Abrams’s guimbri. Astute heads may recognize the rhythm in “Sideways Fall” as Jaki Leibezeit’s drum break in Can’s “Vitamin C.” For “Sideways Fall”, the two drummers divided the beat into separate parts at Abrams behest. According to Hamid Drake the rhythm was popularized, if not originated, by John “Jabo” Starks & Clyde Stubblefield of the J.B.’s. Nearly ten years into its existence, Abrams & the NIS wear their influences with creativity & ease.

Long standing NIS members Ben Boye & Emmett Kelly were previously together with Abrams, or not, in Bonnie Prince Billy’s band, & Abrams & Boye have at different times played in Kelly’s band The Cairo Gang (Boye & Kelly are presently in Ty Segall’s Freedom Band). Harmonium player Lisa Alvarado also contributes the large format pattern paintings used by NIS at concerts & for its album covers.

A note on Simultonalty’s closer, “2128½ South Indiana”. Abrams is back on bass, as he was in the 1990s when serving as house bassist for the weekly session at Fred Anderson’s Velvet Lounge (address 2128½ South Indiana Ave., Chicago). At the end of the night Anderson often played Alice Coltrane’s Journey In Satchidananda as he re-stocked the bar & the musicians packed up their instruments. The open-form group improv that starts the piece makes explicit Abrams & NIS’s roots in free music culture, until the journey to the spirit of Fred Anderson & back to the glory of The Velvet Lounge begins. Guest artist Ari Brown’s gently wheeling, prayerful solo comes from way deep inside Chicago’s heavyweight tenor saxophone history.

Along with the usual hooey about talent & vision, perseverance & sacrifice, great music just involves time. eremite released earlier recordings by this manifestation of NIS as bonus tracks —recorded 2012 & 2013 respectively— on our 2014 CD reissues of Natural Information & Represencing. With the release of Simultonality we now finally & definitively show the project’s direction of the last five years (& as anyone who heard Abrams’s November 2016 residency at Chicago’s Hideout Inn knows, he is already moving on).

To grow the project into a second decade by reaching a wider audience, eremite is partnered with Glitterbeat Records (Germany) to release Simultonality on LP & CD in the European market on Glitterbeat’s new imprint tak:til.

Michael Ehlers / eremite records

 

 

×