Thursday, December 30, 2010

Historic January 9th Referendum in Sudan

We've been keeping a close eye on Sudan as events unfold towards the January 9th referendum. Below is the statement which will open this week's eNewsletter. We'll also be passing this along to other friends of Afropop, our stations, etc. Please feel free to do the same.

As you probably know, there was a horrific civil war in Sudan for two decades, between the North (mostly Muslim) and the South (mostly Christian and animist). On January 9th, the South will hold a momentous referendum on independence. Depending on how things go, there could be a renewal of terrible violence with hundreds of thousands of civilians affected. This week, we are encoring our Hip Deep program on the history of Sudan to give you more background. Not only will the program air on our affiliate stations, but the stream is already available on our Hip Deep site for review (Just hit “Play Program” on the show page). You may also be interested in watching a video of George Clooney, who traveled to Sudan to see for himself what this referendum meant. If you feel inclined, you can also send a letter to President Obama encouraging him to do all he can to stop the possible genocide. A wealth of additional information and resources can be found at  

Monday, December 20, 2010

BaAka Pygmies go live on Afropop

Well, the first program of the new Hip Deep season is out in the world. "Seize the Dance: The BaAka of Central Africa," aired this past weekend and will be available for on-demand streaming next week. This was an epic production for us. Not only is the program itself quite beautiful and provocative, our companion online offerings are spectacularly rich, especially the video components. Click here for pygmy links.

MIchelle Kisliuk, Justin Mongosso
We also produced a video of Michelle Kisliuk teaching a BaAka song, "Makala," to a crew of golden-throated (more or less) New Yorkers.  This video is still in progress and will reach a final form within the next few weeks.  But it's already quite a treat.  Kudos to our tireless video editor Erich Woodrum for pulling together such a fine first edit in record time!

A few random thoughts on completing this most satisfying production.  First, Herbie Hancock's
"Watermelon Man" still kicks ass.  Awesome track, though he really should have credited his pygmy source.  Deep Forest sounds rather dated by comparison, but its best tracks do pre-figure the traditional music club remix technique that has since bloomed into its own mini-genre.  Also, the Rounder release Africa: The Ba-benzele Pygmies and Ellipsis Arts's "Bayaka" The Extraordinary Music of the Babenzele Pygmies are two of the most fabulous and listenable African field recordings to be found.   This music in general has surprised me with its holding power.  I've listened to hours and hours of it over the past couple of months, and it has not tired me out.  It is a rare example of a sound that conveys an entire world to the listener.  Our program deals in part with the "utopian" effusions of pygmy admirers over the ages--and the dangers in such idealization--but I must say, listening to these enchanting sounds, especially the voices, such over-the-top enthusuasm is understandable. 

All for now.  Hope some of you do try singing "Makala" at home after watching our video.  Check it again in a few weeks for the final edit.  And share your impressions and stories with us.  Meanwhile, Hip Deep sets its sights on Central and South America.... and the Cumbia diaspora.  Stay tuned!

Banning Eyre

Thursday, December 16, 2010

More From the World Festival of Black Arts and Culture

Wyclef Jean On Stage
Wyclef Jean wowed the crowd of mostly young Senegalese at the World Festival of Black Arts the other night. He seemed so psyched to be performing in Dakar, and he gave it his all, blasting on all cylinders for a five hour, non-stop concert. Rock star, sweat-drenched charisma all the way! Wyclef thanked Senegalese President Wade several times for inviting 188 Haitian university students to Senegal to continue their studies following the devastating earthquake there. That's why he said he had to come here to return the favor. He wore the Haitian flag. He wore the Senegalese flag. He shouted "Haiti is Africa!" One of my favorite moments was when three of his musicians picked up vaccines (that's the long tin trumpets played in rara music for carnival) and did their hocketing thing to the front of the stage with Wyclef holding out his mic for them. When Wyclef picked up his guitar and played with his guitarist...sweet! The massive statue of the African Renaissance, Wade's s signature statement, loomed above the stage. Next time you have a chance to see Wyclef Jean, do it!

As a post-note: Our delegation was at the Presidential Palace for a ceremony, and afterwards outside on a balmy night. All the Haitian students were there. I chatted with some of them. They looked happy, healthy. I asked if they were learning Wolof and they gave the look of "Yeah but it's not easy." Bon chance! They are living proof that Haiti is Africa. We already knew that from the deep, deep Afro-Haitian culture but this is something special.

--Sean Barlow

Some more photos of the Festival:

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Wanna See an Awesome Documentary on Hip-Hop Culture in Uganda?

Yo People of Afropop!

We got two tickets to give away for this awesome documentary on hip-hop culture in Uganda. Wanna go see it? Tell us WHY and we'll pick a winner tomorrow!

The WINNER will be announced ON OUR FACEBOOK page. Which can be found HERE.

Here's a trailer...

BOUNCING CATS film trailer from nabil elderkin on Vimeo

Monday, December 13, 2010

Sean Reports from Senegal's World Festival of Black Arts and Culture!

I’m sitting in my hotel room that faces the Atlantic Ocean in Dakar listening to a deejay on the radio play a whole set from Thione Seck’s fabulous new album “Diaga” that everyone here is raving about. (I will bring home a couple copies of Thione Seck’s “Diaga” to give away – watch this space). Last night I saw Thione and his “pure and tough” mbalax band Raam Daam at his spacious new down town club, Penc Me, perform before 500 or so oh so cool young Dakarois. Thione spotted me in the crowd (I was the only toubab or white person there and) he started to sing “Sean.” By the third time I realized he was singing to me I stepped forward to shake his hand. He apologized that his voice was not in great shape and I assured him he sounded fantastic to me. Now that was way cool.

Opening Ceremony

 To set the scene, I’m here in Dakar, honored to be part of a 150-person delegation of African-American leaders in scholarship, the arts, the media, politics and other fields. The occasion is the World Festival of Black Arts and Culture. There are over 16 disciplines represented, including music and dance, theater, cinema, painting, photography, design and architecture. The festival has a strong track of intellectual forums on everything from African Diaspora studies to Egyptology. This is only the third time since independence that such a monumental pan-African and Diaspora extravaganza has been mounted. The first festival was also held in Dakar back in 1966. The older folks here remember it for Duke Ellington’s orchestra, Alvin Ailey’s dance group and Langston Hughes among others. The second was the legendary 1977 gathering in Lagos.

The Grand Opening of the Festival was spectacular. It took place on Friday at the Leopold Sedar Senghor Stadium. Some 50,000 of us were treated to fireworks and a parade of Afropop stars. A wonderful kora player in the center of the soccer field chilled out the crowd with some tasty licks at the beginning.

Orchestre Baobab

Band from Martinique Night

Speech time---the presidents of Guinea Bissau, Mauritania and Equatorial Guinea made their remarks. President Lula of Brazil was a no show so the Minister of Racial Relations took his place. Finally it was time for the mastermind of this Festival, Senegal’s President Abdoulaye Wade. (Incidentally, I reported on the launch of another Wade project, the controversial Statue of the African Renaissance, last April.) At heart Wade is a pan-Africanist. His recurring themes are the importance of the African Renaissance and rallying the youth. The president spoke of his vision of creating the United States of Africa by 2017 whereby there would be free movement across borders, one currency, and all African presidents would become governors. Now that is radical! He then addressed the youth directly at the stadium, rallying them to dedicate themselves to building the African Renaissance. He led the call and response-- “Work”,“Work Again”, “Always Work”. The finale was the singing of the anthem of the African Renaissance (which Wade composed). It seemed that everyone in audience sang heartily.

Cue the fireworks. They burst, orange and bright, and everyone cheered. Out strode Ismaël Lô from the opposite side of the field singing his powerful signature song, “Jammu Africa”. Then from all sides raced about 1,000 dancers performing dramatic moves to the sky and also rushing to one corner of the field to the other to cluster in sub groups. It was hard to tell what all this meant but a Senegalese friend in our delegation told me the huge video screen behind the field showed minnows and sharks - a warning to the youth not to make the dangerous trip over the ocean to seek work in Europe. This is the fate of thousands of Senegalese every year.

Thione Seck at Penc Me Club

Next up—the royalty of Senegalese pop music, Youssou N’Dour and Baaba Maal. I was disappointed that Thione Seck did not get the call too. The chosen artists sang to tracks but that was the deal for everyone. Baaba, dressed in magnificent shiny brown traditional robes, strode from one side of the stadium to the other, getting everyone to sing and clap along. Youssou got a huge roar when he entered. And I was very pleased to see the crowd respond warmly to the Mahotella Queens from South Africa. What rich harmonies! At one point they just danced. They were like musical artists doing mime. I could hear so clearly the mbqanga in my head. And then the one and only Angelique Kidjo entered the field and sang a beautiful rendition of her trademark “Malaika”. What no “Mama Africa”?! Save it for later, she told me.

Back at the ranch, my friend Pierre Thiam (who owns Grand Dakar restaurant in Brooklyn) and I rallied about 15 fellow delegates to head downtown to the funky, open air club, Just 4 You Dakar, to catch the last set of Orchestra Baobab. We all spilled onto the dancefloor. A lot of fun. I chatted with the leader, Rudy Gomis afterwards and I’m glad to report that they are working on a new album that will be produced by Nick Gold for World Circuit.

We wound up the evening by walking down a long unlit street, past the home where AKON grew up and sallied into the super chic (and expensive) Golden Cup club at four in the morning. The theme was ancient Greece and back-lit panels of Greek erotica decorated the joint. I guess someone had a vision. There was a lot of romancing going on for this sharply turned out 30-something crowd, that’s for sure. We were definitely downscale by comparison but nevertheless we got on the dancefloor and boogied to hip hop, Latin, Dancehall, and more.

Stay tuned for more dispatches from the World Festival of Black Arts and Culture to come!

-Sean Barlow

Léopold Sédar Senghor in Painting

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Top 10 African Compilations

As promised another list of great African music that was released in 2010. Last week, Banning Eyre listed his personal choices for great African music stocking stuffers. In addition, Banning and guest producer Marlon Bishop compiled a the best music from Latin America. Today, we list some of the top African music compilations to be released in 2010. 

Also, be sure to comment what you think is the best music of 2010 and automatically enter to win a set of awesome CDs for FREE

Top 10 African Compilations of 2010

Africa: 50 Years of Music (Discograph, 2010) 

“18 CDs! Three each for North, West, Central, East, South, and Lusaphone Africa. Amazingly astute choices. Without question, the best survey of African pop ever compiled.” Banning Eyre

Angola Soundtrack: Special Sounds from Luanda 1965-1978 (Analog Africa)

 “Another landmark compilation from Analog Africa. These tracks reveal the inspired sound of Angola in its formative years as an independent nation. And Samy Ben Redjeb’s detailed notes reveal the personalities driving a remarkable history of creativity and conflict.” - BE

Éthiopiques 24: Golden Years of Modern Ethiopian Music 1969-1975 (BudaMusique)

“Another 20 funky, soulful tracks from the heyday of swinging Addis. Amazingly, the music from that singularly fruitful era keeps coming, and the quality never seems to flag.” - BE

Etoile de Dakar: Once Upon a Time in Senegal – The Birth of Mbalax 1979-1981 (Stern’s Africa)

“A 2-CD tour of the early days of Senegal’s signature popular music. Featuring priceless early recordings of Youssou N’Dour, who used this genre as a springboard to world fame.” BE

Roots of OK Jazz, Congo Classics 1955-1956 (Crammed Discs)

“Technically a reissue of a 1993 compilation, and so doubly retrospective. But the seminal Congolese sounds sampled here, including some of Franco’s very first recordings, are timeless.” BE

Shangaan Electro, New Wave Dance Music from South Africa (Honest Jon’s Records)

“This new music from the Shangaan sub-community of South Africa is a mix of traditional rhythms and vocals with speedy, techno production. It is homemade and rustic, but utterly of the moment. One of the freshest new sounds we’ve heard in awhile.” BE

Shirati Jazz & D.O. Misiani -The King of History: Classic 1970s Benga Beats from Kenya 
 (Stern’s Africa) 

“Expertly compiled by East African music maven Doug Patterson, this is the definitive set from a founding father of Kenya’s giddy, guitar-driven, super melodious benga music.” BE

Tabu Ley Rochereau - The Voice of Lightness, Vol. 2, Congo Classics 1977-1993 (Sterns Music 2010)

“A 2-disk set completing the definitive tour of one the greatest and most influential singers in Congo music history. This installment covers the period of the music’s internationalization and Tabu Ley’s exile in the late years of the brutal Mobutu regime. Every track shines, especially with the mature sound of Tabu Ley’s elegant, honey-sweet voice.” BE

The World Ends: Afro Rock & Psychedelia in 1970s Nigeria (Sound Way) 

“More funky, rocking 70s pop and soul from Nigeria. Not every compilation from this era is brilliant, but this one is exemplary. Delights and surprises at every turn!” BE

Yes We Can, Songs About Leaving Africa (Outhere Records) 

“Probably the best compilation of current African hip hop available. Exceptionally well chosen and fully translated, these tracks provide deep insight into the concerns and artistry of today’s African rappers. They will also surprise you with their musical inventiveness.” BE   

Friday, December 3, 2010

Top Latin Records of 2010!

In our continuing look at the year of 2010 in review, we present to you today our Top Latin Records of 2010.

The Afro-Sound of Colombia (Vampisoul Records) 

 The British label Vampisoul consistently puts out quality reissues and anthologies of the best in global soul, so its no surprise that their 2-CD Colombian collection is fantastic. The album compiles the best of Afro-Colombian cumbia, boogaloo, and tropical funk from the 60s and 70s put out by the legendary Disco Fuentes records.  - Marlon Bishop

Calle 13 - Entre los que Quieran (Sony U.S. Latin)

 Louis Head says these Puerto Rican “geniuses” have long been set aside as yet another reggaeton act, but that’s way off. This is one of the most creative acts in today’s Latin music, and you can’t confine Calle 13 to any single genre. - MB

Chico Mann - Analog Drift (Wax Poetics) 

“At long last, Chico Mann releases his brilliant first full-length CD, and it sounds like nothing else out there. The former Antibalas guitarist fuses the early proto-hiphop sounds of 80s electro and freestyle with Nigerian afrobeat and Spanish-language hooks to create a sound both vintage and cutting-edge at the same time.” MB.

 Choc Quib Town - Oro (Nacional Records) 

“The highly- anticipated debut album from this Colombian hip-hop trio, who hail from the country's lesser-known and underdeveloped Pacific Coast, won the group a Latin Grammy for Best New Song. Choc full of infectious hip-hop beats fused with the currulao and the other marimba rhythms of Pacific Colombia.” MB.

 Joan Soriano - El Duque de la Bachata (IASO Records) 

 “Irresistible bachata gems from one of the most charismatic and talented young stars on the Dominican scene. Sweet vocals, sultry grooves, and super-tasty acoustic guitar riffs.”

Joe Cuba - El Alcalde del Barrio (Fania Records) 

"’The Mayor of the 'Hood,’ Joe Cuba, Spanish Harlem boogaloo extraordinaire, passed away one year ago. To commemorate, Fania has put out 2-disc boxed set of beautifully remastered Newyorican Latin funk.” MB.

 Luisa Maita - Lero Lero (Cumbancha) 

“A splendid international debut from a rising star out of Sao Paolo. The voice is soft, but powerful, and the material draws expertly on traditions within modern song forms.” BE.

.Pablo Aslan - Tango Grill (ZOHO Music)

“New York-based bassist Pablo Aslan has long been a leading voice in the tango scene in the U.S., as leader of of  New York Tango Trio and Avantango. With Tango Grill, his experiments fusing classic tango with modern jazz reach their highest level of maturity yet.” MB.

The Roots of Chicha 2: Psychedelic Cumbias from Peru (Barbes Records)

“Another mind-blowing set of quirky chicha hits from 70s-era Peru. Lots of fun!” BE.

 Spanish Harlem Orchestra - Viva la Tradicion (Concord Records, 2010) 

Louis Head of KUNM-FM in Albuquerque calls this “the best salsa record out this year bar none.”

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Banning's Top Releases From Africa in 2010!

On our annual "Stocking Stuffers" show we will showcase an eclectic mix of some great releases this year. While we highly suggest checking out all of the records mentioned and played, there were a few that Banning wanted to single out as some of his personal, top releases. In addition to Banning's list, we will be posting Afropop's favorite releases from Africa, the top Latin records and best compilations of the year. So stay tuned!

What are your favorites? Be sure to comment and tell us what YOU liked in 2010 too! When you comment, you will be entered into a contest, which will result in one lucky listener winning a set of CDs from Afropop. After all, while we think were pretty cool, we DO miss things on the occasion.

Banning Eyre's "Top Releases From Africa in 2010"


AfroCubism - s/t (World Circuit/Nonesuch)

"This summit of greats from Cuba and Mali has a 14-year back story that dovetails with the inception of the legendary Buena Vista Social Club. That project's original inspiration at last comes to life producing music for the ages.” - BE (NPR Feature)

Konono No. 1 - Assume Crash Position (Crammed Discs)

“More hypnotic Congotronics grooves from this venerable, rural-gone-urban band. Konono made their name playing funerals—songs to ease the departed into the next world. This recording, made since their rise to international fame, sacrifices none of their authentic sound, despite subtle additions of electric guitar.” -BE

Angelique Kidjo - Oyo (Razor & Tie)

“The diva of Benin’s latest is filled with creative re-imaginings of the songs that made her love musician, from African highlife and Miriam Makeba to Sidney Bichet, Otis Redding and James Brown. Even as she nods to her heroes, she grows in stature.” -BE

Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba - I Speak Fula (Next Ambiance/Out Here Records)

“In his second release with his own group Ngoni Ba, Mali's most innovative ngoni (spike lute) player engages a dazzling array of guest Malian talent and makes a powerful statement about multiculturalism in West Africa. Plus, the music rocks!” (Full Review)

Bela Fleck -Throw Down Your Heart: Africa Sessions Part 2 (Acoustic Planet)

“More gems from banjo maverick Bela Fleck’s African adventures. These 14 tracks are every bit as rewarding as those on Fleck’s Grammy-Award winning Africa Sessions Part 1. Fleck shows himself the ultimate musical chameleon, blending subtly in setting after setting.” - BE

King Sunny Ade - Babá mo Túndé (Mesa Blue/IndigeDisc)

“After 10 years spent mostly at home in Nigeria, King Sunny Ade delivers a juju motherload on this fabulous double CD. Released just in time to mark Nigeria's 50th year of independence, this is the CD juju fans have been waiting for a long time.” (Full Review)

Samy Izy- Tsara Madagasikara (Network 2010)
“It’s been years since we heard the roiling acoustic grooves and searingly beautiful vocal harmonies of Madagascar’s Samy. With the debut release from his new group, Samy shows himself as charmed, virtuosic, and mesmerizing as ever. This will absolutely put a smile on your face.”-BE

Salif Keita - La Difference (Universal Music France)
“Salif Keita continues his introspective, acoustic phase of albums with an excellent third entry. He sings about albinism, celebrates difference, delves deeply into the elegance of Mande court tradition.” (NPR Feature)

Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars - Rise & Shine (Cumbancha)
“A spirited follow-up to the debut release from this band, formed in refugee camps during Sierra Leone’s long civil war. The All Stars recorded in New Orleans and their reggae-gospel-gumbe sound and optimistic message take on new worldliness, without losing homespun charm.” ( NPR Feature)

Tamikrest - Adagh (Glitterhouse)
“A new entry to the desert blues Tuareg band roster pioneered by Tinariwen, this young band shows talent, ingenuity, and a persuasive capacity to rock. The songs are textured and skillfully rendered whether evoking the spare loneliness of the desert or the defiant spirit needed to live there.”- BE