Robbie Judkins visits Tanzania to witness first hand the attempt to save a quarter of a century of musical history from oblivion. Listen to an exclusive mix of tracks newly digitized by the Tanzania Heritage Project
"A revolutionary story of guitars, motorcycles, cell phones – and the music of a new generation” is how director Christopher Kirkley describes his West African re-imagining of Purple Rain. Set in the Saharan city of Agadez in Niger, Akounak Tedalat Taha Tazoughai (Akounak for short) is a visually sumptuous and musically thrilling movie that works splendidly with or without the Purple Rain mythos. But riffing on Prince’s tale locates Purple Rain’s universal heartbeat
Aby Ngana Diop was a practitioner of taasu (alternately spelled "tassou"), a form of performance poetry practiced by female griots in Senegal. In the 90s, she was "a sought-after performer at the weddings and funerals of the rich and powerful" (according to a tangentially related article from The Verge). In 1994, she released her only widely distributed album, Liital, which fuses traditional taasu with the more modern mbalax, a popular style of Senegalese dance music. It's worth it for the title track alone. [more inside]
“Before the trip, Nigeria was a dim set of associations in my mind: my parent’s stories of their childhood, highlife cassette tapes, dated images from Google searches, negative news headlines, the taste of rice and stew. Going back gave me vivid experiences to call part of my life, to draw from when I talk about the country, my identity, what kinds of people I come from, and the roots of why I do what I do.”
The Banjo Bands of Malawi is a video clip featuring three different performances of a certain strain of folk music from the small African nation. Totally raw and homemade instruments are employed in the service of urgent, percussive music (some of it a bit reminiscent of bluegrass) topped off by tight harmony vocals. What's not to like?
Journey dot Africa. Fancy three hours of primo African music with Idris Elba as your guide? BBC Radio 2 and the iPlayer has you covered. [more inside]
My Africa Is Lagos: WeCyclers. The Floating School. Avante Garde Fashion Photography. Dakar: Le Journal Rappe. Malika Surf Camp. Sunu Street Project. Diaspora: Sonic Diaspora. Os Kuduristas. Technologie Democracy. (via)
According to the Daptone Gold compilation liner notes (auto-playing music, click on "Biography"to read the notes), written by Pitchfork contributor Douglas Wolk, "the world capital of soul" has moved from the US ("between Memphis and Detroit, with occasional stopovers in New Orleans, Cincinnati and elsewhere") in the 1960, to Lagos in the 1970s, then it went into hiding, finally reappearing in Brooklyn, with Daptone Records. Let's go back - why Lagos in the 1970s? [more inside]
Ghanaian R&B singer Y'akoto bemoans her lack of Perfect Timing - and the same bikers support Ghanaian/Brookylnese rapper Blitz the Ambassador reminiscing about his Ghanaian childhood in Make You No Forget (via).
The Hausa people of the north of Nigeria like Bollywood films so much that around 20 years ago they started making their own local productions. The films of Kannywood (for Kano, the capital city) feature song and dance - and the incredible music that defines Northern Nigeria: autotuned robotic vocals combined with frenetic drum machine rhythms and intricate, interwoven synths in a hybrid of local styles and Indian influence. Hear a generous sampling of it here.
Sir Elvis is his stage name, but his real name is Elvis Otieno, and he may be the most successful country musician in Kenya. That's partly because Kenya doesn't have many country musicians. [more inside]
Les disques africains collects, rips, and uploads out-of-print records (and their sleeves!) from the golden age of vinyl in francophone Africa. Don't miss la belle chanteuse Sali Sidibé, psychedelic grooves from Benin, or this incredible 35-minute oral-musical history of Bobo-Dioulasso. New posts appear, as if by some rare magic, every three to four days.
The point being, an angry song about a political prisoner in South Africa, held captive for 21 years (at the time of writing), and written and performed by a bunch of chippy former pop stars who appeared hellbent on throwing their success back in the faces of their fans, has no business being this happy, this celebratory, and this powerful.
Lindsey Stirling in Kenya..
Many of you are perhaps familiar with the berimbau, a musical bow with a calabash resonator, best known as an instrument for accompanying the Brazilian dance/martial art known as capoeira. But the roots of the instrument lie, as you might guess, in Africa. Still, it's not often we get a chance to hear the original African version of the instrument being played. This video, though, in which one Chris Haambwiila of Zambia conjures up an intricate, bewitching groove, is one that will be of interest to those who enjoy elemental and unadulterated human rhythmic expression. And the two little boys getting down to the sound will win your heart, for sure.
An effortless melding of Malian and western styles topped off by the gorgeously smoky voice of Fatoumata Diawara. The infectiously brisk tempo, chiming guitar artistry and tight, rapid fire harmonies of Shirati Jazz. The warmly grounded choral expression of South Africa's Black Umfolosi. The delicate, calmly unfolding wellspring of melody (starting off with a classic Morricone spaghetti-western quote!) of kora master Toumani Diabate. The loping, balafon-driven groove over which the majestic, declamatory voice of Oumou Sangare soars. The classic, Cuban-inspired rhumba (but with the distinctively African feel and sound) of Orchestra Baobab... all these modern treasures of African music and much, much more from Africa and beyond at the World Circuit Soundcloud page. Enjoy the ride!
Like folk enthusiasts and field recordists John and Alan Lomax did in the US, Englishman Hugh Tracey documented an astonishing amount of traditional music. Tracey's love was the music of central and southern Africa, and his recording work came at a crucial time in the history of the region, when, due to repression from Christian missionaries as well as great social change and migration, traditional music of various kinds was fast disappearing. The hour-long audio documentary Discover and Record: The Field Recordings of Hugh Tracey is an excellent introduction to the man and his work, and is chock full of some absolutely fantastic music. [more inside]
This cover of Lady Gaga's "Telephone" (video) is performed by Slovenian vocal/a cappella group Perpetuum Jazzile. [more inside]
I don't think you could find a better illustration of the grace, beauty and compelling power of African rhythm and sensibility than this 10 minute film.
Tempero Brasileiro (mp3) is a collection of rare Brazilian tracks originally issued on 7″ vinyl. Compiled by Edson Carvalho, one of the top São Paulo crate diggers. [more inside]
OkayAfrica keeps up to date with pop culture and news from across the continent. Africa In Your Earbuds gives DJs and musicians from across the diaspora the chance to curate a playlist or mixtape of their favorite African and African diaspora music. Chief Boima of Dutty Artz starts off Africa In Your Earbuds. [more inside]
"In Calabar they have over two hundred inches of rain a year. This night they proved it. Everybody got soaked. It's a wonder no one got electrocuted."
Seven intense minutes of Fela Kuti and The Africa '70 performing in a night club in Calabar, a small Nigerian port city, in 1971, filmed by Ginger Baker. Seven years later, in one of their last performances before The Africa '70 disbanded, they performed at the Berlin Jazz Festival: V.I.P. (Vagabonds In Power), Power Show, Pansa Pansa (part 2), Cross Examination of the African Colonial Soldier.
The Pan African Space Station continues to arrive... I previously posted about Chimurenga's Pan African Space Station. Back then they were doing special events, but they opened up a world to innovative and experimental African musical artists. Now the Station has gone live and is broadcasting all night/all day! (Yes, that is a popup radio player...) [more inside]
Can the human head itself function as a percussion instrument? Why, yes! Yes it can!
Nants ingonyama bagithi baba! It's been nearly two decades since that glorious savanna sunrise, and once again The Lion King is at the top of the box office. It's a good chance to revisit what made the original the capstone of the Disney Renaissance, starting with the music. Not the gaudy show tunes or the Elton John ballads, but the soaring, elegiac score by Hans Zimmer which, despite winning an Oscar, never saw a full release outside of an unofficial bootleg. Luckily, it's unabridged and high-quality, allowing one to lay Zimmer's haunting, pulse-pounding, joyful tracks alongside the original video (part 2, 3, 4), revealing the subtle leitmotifs and careful matching of music and action. In addition, South African collaborator Lebo M wove traditional Zulu chorals into the score, providing veiled commentary on scenes like this; his work was later expanded into a full album, the Broadway stage show, and projects closer to his heart. Speaking of expanded works, there were inevitable sequels -- all of which you can experience with The Lion King: Full Circle (download guide), a fan-made, three-hour supercut of the original film and its two follow-ups. Want more? Look... harder... [more inside]
Want to know what's going on in African electronic / dance music? The BAZZERK blog will help bring you up to speed. Chock full of fun, fresh stuff. [more inside]
The Music of Group Doueh. Doueh is a guitar genius from the disputed territory of Western Sahara. [more inside]
Sahel Sounds is the blog of ethnomusicologist Christopher Kirkley, a.k.a. MeFi's own iamck. It's about the contemporary music of the Sahel, which is the Southern border of the Sahara, focusing on West Africa. It has long been a region of great musical ferment. The most famous musicians today are Tinariwen (previously), but there's a great deal more out there. Kirkley travels around trading music, Western songs in exchange for Saharan, which he mostly receives off cellphone memory cards. Kirkley has made three compilations, Sahelsounds, the Promo CD and Music from Saharan Cellphones volumes 1 and 2 (the numbers link to downloads). Kirkley has also collected and recorded videos. The Guardian interviewed Kirkley on the subject of cellphones' effect on Saharan music, which he has written about. Mark Richardson of Pitchfork was prompted by one of Kirkley's collections to write about musical scarcity in today's infoglut society. Besides the collections, there are a lot of other songs on the blog, the entire archive is wonderful and worth reading through.
Vuvuzela time! View any web site like you're at the South Africa World Cup!
Borne in the succession of rebellions, Tichumaren has redefined the image of the Tuareg. Popularized on the international stage in 2001 via the success of Tinariwen, the "desert blues" has changed the conception – from the exotic blue men of the desert to the Kashniklov/guitar strumming desert rebels. [more inside]
When you think of African music, flutes may not be the first instruments that come to mind, but across West Africa there are some flute traditions that often involve a unique combination of vocalizing and blowing into the instrument, resulting in some amazing music that's a hella lotta fun to listen to. There are some nice examples on YouTube here, here, here and here.
The other day someone asked me "who's the most deeply grooving and truly exciting electric guitar player you've heard lately?" and I said "this guy".
Condomise, sings Babsi! Babsi, born 1933, playing the song Mabelete (Bitches) on the "Fenjoro" which he built from a plastic container, wood and strings from a handbrake cable of a car: it normally has 4 strings like the violin, but one broke.
OK. Alright. That's it. Ronnie of Botswana is my new favorite guitarist.
Waka Waka Hey Hey - tracing a tune's spread across the world.
John Storm Roberts, 1936-2009. A magnificent scholar and record producer, and the author of great classics including The Latin Tinge and Black Music of Two Worlds,, and the founder of Original Music, John Storm Roberts passed away at the age of 73 back on Nov. 29. Few figures have had such a profoundly intertwined influence on both musical scholarship and popular musical culture. [more inside]
All you need is love - from 156 countries, all at the same time. Join in the chorus; each video leads to a 5-cent donation from Starbucks to the RED Global Fund for AIDS in Africa.
Forty years ago, just after the Biafran War, Nigeria was home to a cultural boom that paralleled its skyrocketing oil revenues. These heady days not only produced afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti, but also, in the genre of music called highlife, created a star known as the Ultimate Dr. Sir Warrior (born Christogonus Ezebuiro Obinna) a member of the nebulous Oriental Brothers International Band. Listen to the music of Dr. Sir Warrior and the Oriental Brothers International Band. [more inside]
The James Koetting Ghana Field Recordings has 142 reels of Ghanaian music, almost all of which have more than one track, collected by ethnomusicologist James Koetting. There is a glossary of musical terms should you want to know a bit more about Ghanaian music and Koetting's notebooks should you want to know a whole lot more. All the music is wonderful but here are a few that stood out to me. Here are two tracks featuring postal workers whistling over a rhythm beat with scissors and stampers. Flute and drum ensemble. Brass band blues. And finally, twenty teenage girls singing over some nice rhythms. [requires RealPlayer]
Just in case you were wondering, yes, indeed, it is the people who dance to Zinli music in Benin who have the coolest, freshest dance moves on the planet. Once you get past the extended a cappella intro, and that delicious slow groove kicks in at the 3:26 minute mark, this video will treat you to some of the most undulating funky moves EVAR. Now, whether you wanna try some of these gyrations yourself, or whether you just dig a nice, slow, cooly percolating West African groove for listening, go here for more from singer Alekpehanhou the "Roi du Zinli Rénové". [more inside]
Me Le Se and Dance Medley - live clips of King Sunny Ade and his African Beats in Seattle last month just before being inducted into the AfroPop Hall of Fame. More clips from the show ... [more inside]
chimurenga is an art and culture journal out of africa. they do internet radio, too. it's called the Pan African Space Station. and it bumps.
Motownship, the combination of Cape Town township music, traditional African instruments and motown tunes, is the topic of this Radio 4 documentary. While purists - both of the African music and motown persuasion - may think this is just a gimmick, it is hard not to have a smile on your face when you listen to the tunes on Abavuki's album Africa Got Soul. What is even more amazing is the background of these musicians - kids who grew up in one of the most deprived townships in South Africa, Langa. To check out the band for yourself, see them playing at the legendary Mama Africa club, via youtube (this is not a motown tune from the album).
Clips from the BBC documentary, The African Rock n' Roll Years - Part 1 l Part 2 l Part 3 l Part 4 l Part 5 l Part 6 - a six-part series mixing interviews with key artists, concert footage and news archives, the series examines and explains the "styles that make up the continent's music, and the political and social pressures that led to their development." BBC documentary details. Found in YouTube member, Duncanzibar's, good collection of mostly African music videos. [more inside]
Fela: Music is the Weapon is a documentary film from 1982 featuring a wealth of live concert footage (from his club in Lagos, "The Shrine") as well as interviews with the legendary Nigerian singer, bandleader and social critic. Here's part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6. [more inside]
Soukous Radio is an online radio station that plays/streams this energizing, joyous, African fusion music, known for its bright guitar sound and rumba/salsa beat. The name, Soukous, is derived from the French word secouer, to shake. A popular, recent Soukous video by two Ivory Coast singers, DJ Eloh and DJ Mix, The Bobaraba (which means “big bottom” in the local Djoula language), celebrates booty shaking. [more inside]
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