Sunday, October 31, 2010

WOMEX 2010: Day 3


Posting this late, but as you can see, Sr. Wemba rallied for our interview, and had the above greeting for the Afropop community.  From that early start, the day and night provided non-stop action.  Interviews with Damily, the awesome Malagasy guitarist, who also played his "mandolin," and gave me a dizzying primer on playing tsapika guitar. 


We also taped a fascinating interview and session with the winner of this year's WOMEX prize, Daniel Waro of Reunion.  Waro has an amazing tale of music, rebellion, creole cultural identity and political awakening going back to the 1950s.

Daniel Waro

The night showcases were consistently good this night, making much work for the busy Afropop team!  One standout was a timbila pop band from Mozambique, Cheny Wa Gune Quarteto.  This band did a terrific job of working the complex and crazy rhythms of timbila music into a modern, small band context.  Cheny is also an irresistible front man.

Cheny Wa Gune Quarteto

Nathalie Natiembe (Reunion) and Fatoumata Diawara offered different takes on trad-rock.  Natiembe fitted her earthy roots vocal to a kind of garage band reggae vibe, a bit rad, but sincere and persuasive.  Diawara edged her wassoulou sound in a more smooth pop rock direction, effective at times, but overall a little packaged.  We await the CD, but the live show has room to grow.  Sexteto Tabala de Palenque delivered the hybrid village tradition of the Colombian coast--delightful.  But for me the pick of the night was Oudaden, an ecstatic, "tradi-moderne" Berber band from Agadir, Morocco.  Womexicans are known for their reticence on the dance floor, but long before the DJ hour, Oudaden had a trancey dance vibe permeating the the room.  Featured years ago on Afropop's Berber Rising program, this group more than lived up to the promise of their recordings.

Banning Eyre

Fatoumata Diaouwara
Sexteto Tabala de Palenque

Friday, October 29, 2010

WOMEX 2010: Day 2

The barrage of contact, activity, music, promo-mania, social hubbub, and did I mention? MUSIC, that is WOMEX was in full swing for the Afropop team from 9AM when we had our first interview, until 2AM when we finally left the cool zone of DJ Criolla (Brazil's) late night DJ set.  As another day begins (I'm due to interview Papa Wemba in one hour...), there is no way to even attempt to describe, but for this Afropopper afloat in the roiling sea of world music, suffice it to say it ultimately comes down to two words:


The Malagasy guitarist from Tulear and his band delivered what we believe to be the first pure set of genuine tsapika boogie ever heard outside Madagascar.  It was raw and real, authentic and virtuoso, so completely joyous that..... well, words fail.  So here's a shot of low-lit video to give you a hint.


And Wemba:

For all the talk that this Congo music veteran is still unbelievable. He delivered a short set of his greatest songs that was nothing short of majestic.  The voice, the charisma, the genius are all still there.  Now, let's just hope he's awake at 10 am.  More to come....

Banning Eyre

Thursday, October 28, 2010

WOMEX 2010: Opening Night

It's chilly and rainy in Copenhagen, but the world music faithful are gathering in their thousands for their annual summit.  The trade fair, held at the Copenhagen Forum not far from downtown, is abuzz with record labels, booking agents, festival organizers, and national and regional cultural organizations, many amid the hundreds of stands on the expansive trade floor, but just as many moving around with their computers and phones, virtual offices on two feet!

Night time concerts happen on the DR Koncerthuset, the "blue cube," as Womexicans affectionately call it.  Affectionately because it is a huge, stunning facility.  The three performance spaces WOMEX is using rival any this gathering has known in its sixteen years.  The opening night concert took place in the largest venue, a yawning, woody cavern of pleasure!  The show featured a remarkable presentation of Korean music called "The Chaosmos of Korean Music: Heaven, Earth, and Human."  As cosmic as it sounds, the performance featured a shaman, two Buddhist monks dancing with enormous cymbals, and three different ensembles of musicians who played first separately, and in the finale, together. 

For African music aficionados like Sean Barlow and myself, the most satisfying action turned out to be afterhours at an off-off-WOMEX nightclub called Global.  There, straight from Conakry, Guiniea, a rootsy but streetwise band called Les Espoirs de Coronthie cranked out a super-charged blend of Mande tradition--three strong male singers, virtuoso kora and balafon players, dancers, percussion, Wow!--with shades of ragga, rapping and hip hop beats.  A visceral taste of the new Africa.  So much more to come!

Banning Eyre

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Afropop to go Hip Deep with the BaAka "Pygmies"

In December, I will be producing the first program of Afropop's 6th season of Hip Deep. As many know, we recently received a new NEH grant to support a new round of these totally unique, mind-blowing programs. This time around, we'll be doing a lot more blogging and outreach as we produce, so you will have a much more detailed view of what is going on in Hip Deep land.  Coming up, shows on Columbia, Brazil, jazz, Angola, Egypt, electronica, Nollywood, and so much more...

But first up will be "Seizing the Dance," a program about the BaAka (pronounced bee-AH-kah) people of the Central African Republic.  The program, which will first air during the third week of December, showcases the work of Michelle Kisliuk of the University of Virginia.  Michelle has spent a lot of time in Central Africa, going back to the mid-80s.  A key aspect of Michelle's work is her commitment to participation.  She has learned to sing and dance among the BaAka, and does so expertly.  Heck, she even married one of her CAR research assistants.  Talk about commitment to the subject!

But seriously, Michelle believes you can't understand this kind of cultural music without experiencing it directly, and a huge part of her work has been teaching people to sing the amazing polyphony of Central Africa's forest peoples.  I have seen her do this with a group of uninitiated singers and it is remarkable.  In fact, as part of our Hip Deep production we will video Michelle in action with a group of singers and post a video allowing all of you to sing like the BaAka at home.  Naturally, if any of you have experience with this kind of music you want to share, or ideas for our program, don't hold back.  More to come.

Banning Eyre

Monday, October 25, 2010

Remembering Reggae Legend Gregory Isaacs

“If you want to be my number one,” is the chorus to one of Gregory Isaacs’ most famous hits, "Number One," a playful love song in his signature slow-groove style. The song itself would not be memorable, an uninteresting roots-reggae number with an unadorned rhythm and simple melody – great for dancing, but nothing amazing – if it weren’t for Isaacs’ brilliant vocals. His intensely personal, unhurried voice comes across like a revelation: it sounds like he is singing just for you.

This evocative tone was Isaacs’ unique gift. Of all the soulful Jamaican reggae singers, none could create such a powerful and immediate human connection as he did. This gift led him from the talent contests he regularly participated in as a teenager in Kingston in the 1960’s, to a long and prolific career as an international star. In a career spanning more than four decades, he produced over fifty albums of original material, and never stopped touring.

I will never forget seeing Isaacs live in Golden Gate Park one summer when I was a teenager. He held a crowd of thousands enthralled for hours, his mesmerizing voice effortlessly making everyone dance. The scene was idyllic and the atmosphere so much more than just friendly or positive – it was like the tender, human quality of his singing had touched the entire audience.

This music icon and reggae superstar will be sorely missed.

- Jeff Peer

Check out this video of Isaacs, performing at Reggae Sunsplash, in Jamaica, in 1983.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


Here’s the deal: We got a bunch of awesome CD's that we would love to give to you in exchange for a small donation. There are only a few months left to go in our 20/10 in 2010 Fundraising Campaign and we want make a strong finish.

So how do you get the CD? Easy.

The next 100 Afropop fans to donate $20 or more to the campaign will get a free CD (or gift card) drawn at random from our really, really eclectic, “Awesome Afropop Grab Bag Box.” You won’t know which CD you’re going to get, and frankly, we won’t either. Kind of exciting, huh? One thing is for sure, though: the CD will be awesome.

Payments can be made via PayPal by clicking the link below:

Or you can send a check or credit card information to:
World Music Productions, 688 Union Street, Brooklyn, NY 11215; fax credit card info to 718.398.6433 or call it in to 718.398.2733

Looking at the overflowing box, we’ve got Vieux Farka Toure’s Live album, King Sunny Ade’s latest, or Brazilian diva Luisa Maita’s new disc and some awesome record labels with surprises like The Roots of Chicha, The Psychedelic Aliens or The World Ends compilation. In other words, whatever you get will be awesome.

We love you. Do you love us? Now’s the time to prove it. 20 bucks, an awesome, mystery CD, and you help Afropop Worldwide continue to provide great programming and music for listeners around the world. Sound good?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Kiko Klaus Tonight @ Nublu

Roots rocker Kiko Klaus will be performing tonight at Nublu in the East Village as part of the CMJ Music Fest going on this week throughout New York City.

Hailing from the beautiful city of Recife, Brazil, Klaus has been gaining notoriety in his home country and throughout the world. His last release, O Vivido e O Inventado” was hailed as one of the best albums of 2009 in Brazil. Klaus has also been featured on PRI’s The World and, of course, here on Afropop Worldwide. Oh, and he once played a set here in our offices too! (see below)

Show starts at 9pm. Tickets are $10. Hope to see you there!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Psst! Kanda Bongo Man To Appear At 'Fela! The Musical' Tomorrow!

Psst. We got it under good authority that Kanda Bongo Man will be attending and speaking at Fela! The Musical tomorrow. We don't know much else than that. Before you go googling the information, though, we should also let you know that this is strictly inside information. Don't worry we aren't getting in trouble for leaking it to all our fans. We asked beforehand. Now go tell all your friends!

Tickets can be bought at the Fela! The Musical site.

Now here's some awesome footage of Kanda Bongo Man in action:

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Nigerian Music Online!

We know we have an extensive breadth of information here on However, there are some other sites out there doing a great job of covering music as well. So, while we gave you an initial list of Nigerian musicians and covered some new Nigerian hip-hop artists, we thought it would be good to share some other places where you can continue to find great music from this vibrant country.

In our continual celebration of fifty years of independence for Nigeria, here is a short list of some websites where you can explore even more Nigerian music for your listening pleasure.

Online Nigeria – A site dedicated to all things Nigerian, the music section of Online Nigeria has a breadth of links leading to a variety of great Nigerian music.

Nigeria Music Movement –A website that attempts to cover “the hottest in Nigerian Music” and all the news and fashion that follows.
Radio Palmwine - Radio Palmwine is an online Nigerian radio and music service that promotes artists and DJ’s using on-site features.

Nigerian Hip-Hop - A blog that covers the Nigerian hip-hop scene and all things related 24/7.

Streetnaij - A website dedicated to popular Nigerian arts and entertainment. Offers a streaming player to hear new tracks flooding the airwaves in Nigeria.

Nigerian Web Radio - An internet-based radio station dedicated to the Nigerian Diaspora community. The radio station was conceived to bring up-to-date news on music and even sports!

Wande Coal - Rising Nigerian Hip-Hop Artist

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Nigerian Hip-Hop? Yes, Please!

Last week, we covered the basics of Nigerian music in celebration of their 50 years of independence. As we stated, in no way was it suppose to be an all-encompassing article but just a starting place for beginners interested in the rich history of Nigerian music.

While all the pre-mentioned artist are of the utmost importance in Nigeria, we also realize that there is a whole new breed of Nigerian artist currently making waves through Africa and the world music community. Many of these artist have taken an interesting and unique approach to the genre of hip-hop. The popularity of hip-hop in Nigeria is growing substantially and now has an undeniable presence in music of this great country. Thus, we decided to put together a shortlist of some newer Nigerian hip-hop artist with links to their pages including videos for your listening and viewing pleasure.


2Face - A staple in Nigerian hip-hop, 2Face was originally a member of the now defunct R&B/hip hop group Plantashun Boyz. Currently, 2Face is one of the most popular artists on the African music scene having one countless awards.

Afrikan Boy - Nigerian-born grime/Afrobeat MC currently residing in London, made a splash on the world with a guest appearance on the track "Hussel" from the M.I.A. album Kala. Since then Afrikan Boy has been hard at work releasing mixtapes with a debut LP in the works.

Wande Coal - Recently coming up with big wins at both the World Hip-Hop Awards and the Nigerian Hip-Hop Awards, Wande Coal has quickly become one of Nigeria's biggest stars.

D'Banj - Twenty-seven year old D’Banj is a Nigerian singer and songwriter as well as harmonica guru with a charismatic stage presence full of boundless energy. D'Banj has won many awards and been a bridged to fusing various different styles of music together.

Sasha - Self-proclaimed "First Lady of Hip Hop in Africa," Sasha has shared the stage with international acts like Ginuwine, Dru Hill, Boys II Men, Akon, Ja Rule and Kevin Little. Her debut LP, First Lady is out now.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Mahama Konaté, Master Balafonist and Founder of FARAFINA, Passes Away

Sad news out of Burkina Faso: Mahama Konaté, talented musician, composer and master balafonist has passed away. Apparently, Konaté has been sick for awhile but the news still comes as a shocking blow to the African music community.

In 1977, the talented musician and composer, Mahama Konaté, founded the FARAFINA ensemble. This was more than just founding a group since he decided to abandon the electric guitars and drums to return to the instrumental origins of his musical roots. From then on, balafon, djembé, bara, doumdoun and kora became the instruments with which he gave free rein to his musical compositions. This was not folklore, but a resolutely contemporary step, in keeping with his time as much in his texts as in his orchestrations.

He was in his own way a precursor of the awareness of the real values of Africa, which also inspired the action of others, in particular Thomas Sankara and his revolution in 1983 through which he became President of Burkina-Faso from 1983 to 1987.

Since then, in Europe, North America and Japan, FARAFINA has been setting stages around the world ablaze. Nevertheless, the group’s recorded and mainly instrumental music is not well known. Their first albums, recorded in 1983 and later in 1985 at the Montreux Jazz Festival, are now collectors’ items. Over the years, Mahama Konaté made a considerable contribution through his musical approach, working also with other musicians, in particular with Jon Hassell, and was regularly invited by Womad to its festivals in Europe, the United States and Canada. An improbable meeting also led to a unique album named Flash of the Spirit and his path even crossed that of the Rolling Stones when Farafina was invited in 1989 to participate in the recording of Continental Drift on their Steel Wheels album.
Konaté will be sorely missed throughout Burkina Faso and the world music community.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Thomas Mapfumo unveils "Exile," his first new music in 5 years!

Thomas Mapfumo, the legendary father of Zimbabwe's chimurenga music, has pretty consistently released at least one new album of songs a year since sometime in the late 1970s.  Lately, though, the champion of Zimbabwe's liberation struggle has been facing a whole new kind of struggle, and that is the central subject on his new CD, Exile.  Mapfumo has not been able to return to his beloved country since 2004.  His current base is Eugene, Oregon.  Surrounded by his immediate family and a handful of key musicians, he has continued to compose, record and perform.  But for a variety of reasons, it has proven difficult to bring the music to market.  His fans around the world, especially in Zimbabwe, have been missing him badly during this time, but at last the long wait for new Mapfumo songs is over.

Click here to buy a download of Exile.

The CD Exile  has been years in the making.  It is the fruit of various sessions in recent years.  I actually participated in two of those sessions, and play some incidental guitar on a few tracks.  So take this as a non-objective assessment, but this is an excellent release.  These songs have been worked over and honed to a kind of perfection.  Moreover, Mapfumo has selected the strongest, deepest numbers out of the many he has tracked, and the end result is quite magnificent.  There are two brilliant numbers from the traditional mbira repertoire, the genre of music Mapfumo is best known for.  There are also songs that throw back to an earlier era of his career, full of the giddy, folksy rhythms of the Zimbabwean countryside.  And there are a number of songs that can only be characterized as Mapfumo creations.  Of particular note is the achingly beautiful "Ndangariro" (not to be confused with the 1983 album of the same name).  This new composition taps the emotional core of exile as it evokes the sadness of missing home, and the sadness his fans must feel missing him.  A real heartbreaker.

Exile will be available soon as a physical CD in the US, and Afropop will have much more to say about it.  But if you are like me and simply cannot wait, click here to order a download of Exile.  Chimurenga bliss awaits you!

Banning Eyre

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Live Footage of Khaira Arby

Apparently, we are not the only ones in love with Khaira Arby and her new LP, Timbuktu Tarab. Afropop Worldwide friend Michal Shapiro has some excellent footage of Arby in action on stage over at her site Inter-Muse.

Here is Khaira doing her thing at Bowery Poetry Club courtesy of Michal:

Inter-Muse is a great world music site with lots of awesome footage. We highly recommend checking it out on the regular.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Systema Solar - "Bienvenidos"

Oh the stuff we receive in our email account! Sifting through thousands of emails a week, every now and then we come across a real gem. Today, we were lucky enough to stumble upon some Colombian hip-hop from a group called Systema Solar. The group drops their debut self-titled LP on October 14th via

Here is their video equipped with a donkey-cart pulling a DJ and a massive sound-system.

The group is located on the Colombian Caribbean coast and is channeling the florescent exuberance by a favorite local institution, the pikos, or mobile sound systems akin to Jamaica’s pick-ups, movable parties that can be set up anywhere.

The piko evolved into its own quirky, vibrant format, with passionate competition between crews, insisting they’ll blow away anyone else’s pathetic speakers. Announcers imitate the undulating r’s and over-the-top diction of radio personalities. And musically, they’re apparently platforms for reshaping Afro-Latin styles on the spot.

We dig it. You?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Happy 50 Years of Independence, Nigeria!

This week marks the 50th anniversary of independence for Nigeria. As the most populous country in Africa, Nigeria has vibrant cultural history that is characterized by a rich musical tradition since its formation. Whether it’s traditional Hausa Music, the advanced drumming of Yoruba or the more modern styles like juju, afrobeat, highlife, apala, waka and even hip hop, a large part of Nigeria's young history has been characterized by its music. At Afropop we wish Nigeria a happy 50th anniversary and strongly believe that in the next 50 years, Nigeria will only continue to produce even more exciting and unique music to the world.

In celebration of Nigeria’s independence, we have created a quick list (equipped with links) of some Nigerian artists and styles that we have covered over the years at Afropop Worldwide. By no means is this a definitive list, but we think it’s a good starting point for exploring some of the great music that has come out of Nigeria.


King Sunny Adé
King Sunny Adé - Popular performer of Yoruba Nigerian Jùjú music, a Pioneer of Modern world music and classed as one of the most influential musicians of all time.

Ebenezer ObeyA pioneer and innovator of Nigerian juju music.

Fela Kuti –  Perhaps the bravest and most principled of Africa's great, visionary, 20th century bandleaders.

Femi Kuti - Son of Fela and an excellent artist on his own.

Barrister - A legend of Nigeria's percussion-and-vocal fuji music.

Lágbájá- Afrobeat musician who always wears a mask on stage as an icon of man’s facelessness.

Haruna Ishola - The great popularizer of Nigeria's Yoruba-Muslim music know as apala.

Fela Kuti (center)


Afrobeat - A combination of traditional Yoruba music, jazz, highlife, funk and chanted vocals, fused with percussion and vocal styles, popularized in Africa in the 1970s.

Apala -20th century percussion and voice music of Yoruba Muslims in Nigeria.

Highlife - Dance music played mostly in Ghana and Nigeria, represents one of the century's first fusions of African roots and western music, and before 1970, it ruled dancefloors across much of West Africa.

Juju -For many years the most popular style in Nigeria, juju music evolved from Yoruba folklore and a variety of international elements.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Live Footage of Chaba Fadela and Cheb Sahraoui

Chaba Fadela and Cheb Sahraoui are two of the most successful Algerian Raï musicians to ever record. Over their personal and professional relationship, the two vocalists were able to tour internationally and record widely in the 1980s off their success.

While Fadela and Sahraoui no longer work together, the legacy of their music still remains both in Algeria and the international world music scene. In lieu of this week's show on the music of the popular duo, we searched out a series of live clips from the Fadela and Sahraoui and the peek of their career.

Live in Nanterre, France 1989

Live in Santa Monica, CA 1990

Live in-studio