Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Damon Albarn Records in Kinshasa for Good Cause

Damon Albarn, most known for fronting the not defunct UK-pop outfit Blur and the alternative rock meets post-hip hop "virtual band" Gorillaz, was reported earlier this year to be recording an album in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Since then, more details have been released, and it turns out to be all for a good cause.

The album, Kinshasa One Two, is a special release in collaboration with Warp Records and Oxfam. All proceeds of the album will go towards efforts by Oxfam to relieve the thousands that are poverty stricken in the country. Kinshasa One Two was recorded in a mere five-day span and feature over 50 African artists. The album also includes production efforts by Dan the Automator, Actress, Gil Scott-Heron collaborator Richard Russell, Jneiro Jarel, and Kwes.

Yesterday, Albarn released three tracks from the album for streaming. Check them out below.

DRC Music - Kinshasa One Two (see ) by DRC Music

Albarn is actually no stranger to pairing African music with good causes. In 2002, Albarn released a similar album called Mali Music that was also in collaboration with Oxfam. He has also worked on numerous occasions with Tony Allen, the original drummer of Fela Kuti's backing band The Africa 70.

Check out the official website for more information on Kinshasa One Two. You can also learn more about the album via the video trailer below.

-Saxon Baird

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Cobra Krames x Spoek Mathamblo x Cerebral Vortex - "Drunk Like That" (video)

DJ Krames, fan of stripes
 Brooklyn-based DJ Cobra Krames recently dropped a new single with South African weirdo-rapper Spoek Mathamblo and Texas rapper/entertainer Cerebral Vortex. The bouncy track is full of woozy synths and a rattling bass. An ode to late-night imbibing, "Drunk Like That" is loose bachanalian fun meant for less thinking and more dance floor moving. Or is it?

Watching the video, you can't help but think that there is an underlining sarcasm undercutting the track. After all, it’s a bit of a departure for Mathamblo lyrically, who is known for spitting creatively concealed socio-political rhymes. On the other hand, there isn't really anything offensive going on here. Girls wear wigs, put on lip stick and dance while Krames, Spoek and Vortex pour out foamy spirits for each other and everyone else.

Can't there be space in music for even the conscious artist to kick back a few bottles on the late-late? We certainly hope so. Spoek and company make their case.

CEREBRAL VORTEX x SPOEK MATHAMBO - DRUNK LIKE THAT (prod. Cobra Krames) from spoek mathambo on Vimeo.

As you may be aware, we are pretty big fans of Spoek. He was featured in our Trans-National Hip-Hop Train a few months back. His latest single, "Put Some Red on It," was featured on our July mixtape which you can download and/or stream for free right HERE.

(h/t Discobelle)

-Saxon Baird

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Video: DJ Shadow - "I'm Excited" f. Afrikan Boy

Well isn't this the perfect cultural-music mash up! Afrikan Boy, a Nigerian-born MC currently residing in the UK (Check out our coverage of his latest mixtape) recently teamed up with crate-digging legend DJ Shadow for a new track off Shadow's forthcoming LP The Less You Know, The Better.

We covered the collaboration a couple months ago and really dug the track. Now the two have released a video for the song that is one politically-charged psychedelic trip. There is some sort of commentary going on here with Afrikan Boy dressed as a military/political leader who drinks too much of his own "kool-aid." This leads to a Terry Gilliam-type nightmare.

We love it, even if we don't fully understand. What's your take?

-Saxon Baird

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Reggae Saturday at NYC's SummerStage

Last weekend on a scorching Saturday, two reggae acts with African roots played lively sets back to back at the Central Park SummerStage show in NYC. The first of these two acts was Brooklyn-based Meta and the Cornerstones. Over 10 members strong, the band brought a fully fleshed-out brand of positive roots-reggae with a blaring horn section, dualing ska guitars, heavy bass lines, keys and a synthesizer. Led by Sengalese-born singer Meta Dia, The Cornerstones blend various styles into a focused sound that is international in nature as are the lyrics, which are sung in various languages from English and French to Wolof and Fulani. After a hour long set, Meta and the Cornerstones closed with Bob Marley's "Concrete Jungle," a perfect ending for a crowd of heat n' street-worn New Yorkers looking for some weekend relief from the city life.

The closing act was African reggae legend Tiken Jah Fakoly who recently released a new album, African Revolution. Fakoly is a favorite amongst many Africans with his socio-political lyrics detailing the struggles many oppressed Africans face due to corrupt governments and an unsatisfactory quality of life. In an interview that we recently did with Fakoly (to be published soon), the reggae star told us that he saw reggae as a "message music." However, Fakoly has taken a step further by seamlessly incorporating a sound that melds roots-reggae and traditional African rhythms into catchy, mid-tempo numbers with a socio-political message calling for an "intelligent revolution." Fakoly told me he purposely wanted to incorporate African instrumentation (many of his new songs use such instruments as the kora, ngoni and balafon) as a way to musically connect Africa with reggae -- which has always topically kept Africa in its sights. Clearly, the musical bridge resonated with the crowd which pushed to the front, in hopes of getting as close to the star as possible.

It was a unique day of music that was more than merely a summer reggae show. Instead, it was an exciting exhibition of a two reggae acts, rooted in Africa and a positive message, that resonated well-beyond borders.

text & photos by Saxon Baird

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Guyanese Soca Madness from 2HOPE2HYPE

Rainstick & Veggie Man are two dudes who used to host a global radio program on East Village Radio called Cool Places in NYC. The show spun a feverish array of various and obsure styles rarely heard elsewhere. Since the show ended, the two now make up a duo called 2HOPE2HYPE that would have been keeping busy spinning at NYC parties and running this crazy, psychedelic tumblr.

Now, thanks to a Ghetto Bassquake, 2HOPE2HYPE dropped a deep mix of Soca madness from Guyana and beyond. Perfect timing as a prelude to the end of Summer. Get your sweat in! FREE music, y'all!

Download: 2HOPE2HYPE - Soca-ing Crazy Mix HERE

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Cairo Journal: Koranic Recitation

Text and photos by Banning Eyre
The sound is ubiquitous in Cairo--in taxis, on radio, emanating from loudspeakers on mosques, and especially during Ramadan, in grocery stores and elevators.  It's a single voice, male, intoning the words of the Koran with carefully correct pronunciation of classical Arabic--the art known as tajweed.  To an outsider, this sounds like singing, and indeed, recitation does make use of the Arabic system of musical modes, or maqamat.  The melodies can be quite expressive.  Yet for the reciter, this is not music.  The melodies--always improvised, never composed--are used to bring out emotional expression, but the focus is on the words, the revelation of the Koran, immutable and foundational.  The Koran was always meant to be spoken aloud.  It came about at time when Arabic poetry was highly advanced, and the text's poetic perfection is one of its essential features.  What's more, the Prophet himself made sure the Koran was recited by the most beautiful voices available, that it might move as many people as quickly as possible.

Koranic recitation exists throughout the Muslim world, but it has special characteristics in Egypt.  The mellifluous marriage of sacred text and musical art blossomed here, so that by the start of the 20th century, the great musicians of the era--notably Umm Kulthum--would have their start as reciters.  Indeed, Umm Kulthum's father used to dress her as a boy so she could travel and recite publicly without ruffling conservative feathers.  In the 1960s, there began to be cassette recordings of reciters, and some became superstars, like Sheikh Mustafa Ismail (1905-1978), famous friend of both Kulthum and Gamal Abdel Nasser, among other luminaries.  In fact, it is said that Kulthum would sometimes park her car near where Ismail was reciting, her curtains drawn, that she might gain inspiration from him.  This is not surprising when you consider that the repetition of lines--Koranic lines for the reciter, poetic ones for the singer--with greater and greater emotional content delivered through expert improvisation based on the maqam system, is a fundamental source of tarab, the ecstatic sensation listeners can experience when they hear great music or great reciting.

As you might imagine, this closeness to music, along with the notion of reciters becoming superstars based on their ability to generate tarab among listeners, was problematic for some religious people.  Indeed, during the 1980s, after Anwar Sadat created an opening to Saudi Arabia, a flood of Saudi recitation recordings began to arrive in Egyptian cassette stalls as a more austere alternative to the ever more elaborate local variety of recitation.  Meanwhile, the Egyptian recordings continued to spread throughout the Muslim world and to enjoy great popularity.

Mosques in Old Cairo

Today, there are less reciters actually working in mosques, since most mosques rely on recordings.  Aficionados of the art of recitation bemoan this development, and indeed, a general decline in the quality of recitation.  Few are more vocal on that score than Abdel Mustafa Kamel, protege of Mustafa Ismail, and one of the most innovative teachers of this art to be found in Cairo.  We found Kamel thanks to the diligence of our intern Mariam Bazeed, who became fascinated by Kamel's remarkable videos of lessons posted on YouTube.  (See her earlier blog post on this.)  Even our principle guide, Kristina Nelson (author of the landmark book The Art of Reciting the Qur'an) was intrigued.  Particularly striking was Kamel's technique of reciting a line with melodic content, and then expecting the student to repeat the line exactly.  This is unusual because the act of repetition edges the practice that much closer to unambiguous music, potentially dangerous territory.  This is apparently no concern whatever to Kamel, and when we met him late one night during Ramadan at his apartment in north Cairo, we discovered that this was but one of his idiosyncrasies.


Mali's Queen of the Desert Blues visits Chicago

Khaira Arby, the regally beautiful and immensely talented diva of Malian music, came to visit Chicago for the second time ever. Having recently received the Tamani D'Or Award, Mali's highest musical honor since she last came, we were excited to have her grace our presence once again.

I had the chance to visit with her at The Empty Bottle before her set, which was as was a wonderfully intimate opportunity to converse about how she came to be a musician. Her story, she told me, began at about age 11, when she started gaining renown as a singer in school and her neighborhood, eventually becoming well-known in the musicians’ circuit in her hometown Timbuktu. At that age, she was elected to compete in a regional music competition in Gao, but her father was reluctant to give her permission to attend. At this point in the story, Arby shakes her head emphatically and laughs, saying her father would say, “ What is this little girl thinking? She is not even a griot!” It took the older musicians some time to persuade him to allow her to travel, which he allowed only because they pledged to take excellent care of her.

Arby placed first in that competition, and proceeded to place highly at a national competition, after having to overcome the organizers’ incredulous attitude that such a young child had been chosen by the other musicians to represent their region. Her father was pleased with her successes, but it took Arby the next five years to convince him that music was her path for life.

Arby says she vowed early on to use her music transform the society. She began to champion the rights of women to become singers and the freedom to make their own changes. I asked her if that spirit dovetailed with the topics of many of her songs, for example, the one about female mutilation. I don´t understand much French, but I could hear the indignation in her voice as she answered: “It is a terrible things! It must end!” And she added that music was the perfect medium for her messages: “Not everyone goes to conference halls to listen to speakers and find out why it is bad and should end. But message can be gotten through music, because people will even listen to it on street.”

However, Arby clarifies, the topics she likes to sing about do not begin and end with women: “I sing about what touches my life – my last album has two love songs.” She adds that she also tries to praise and thank people who have helped her, so that inspire others to help like she has been helped.

As our conversation came to a close, I asked if there was anything in particular she wanted to communicate to young women, and once again the powerful, warm tone in her voice came out: “Be courageous. Always be your very best. If you are an engineer, be the best. If you are a government official, be the best. Don’t let them supersede you, but always respect the men.”

After the conversation, the Queen of the Desert Blues swept onto the stage and sang for us. Her voice soared and caressed the air, layering rich sparkling tones upon the bluesy riffs provided by the excellent younger musicians backing her up. Her words still rang in my ears, and it was a special experience to listen to the songs with a little bit more insight as to the powerful message that she shares with us.

-Catalina Maria Johnson

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Video: Antibalas Live in NYC

Sometime last year we piled into a hot, steamy NYC club during the coldest months and experienced a fiery set from Brooklyn’s very own afrobeat ensemble Antibalas. In addition, Afropop contributor Nova Ami was able to sit down with the founder of the band, Martin Perna.

Then the footage went missing!

Fortunately, the footage was re-discovered not long after its disappearance. After some quick edits, its finally here! Check out our video below featuring both live footage and our interview with Perna.

Better late than never...

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Cairo Journal: Wrapping Up

Banning, Mariam, Sayed Rikaby of Jaafra
Well, it's the eve of our departure from Cairo, and I have fallen off badly in my blogging duties.  Here's why.  We've been having 2-4 musical adventures every day--ranging from interviews with composers (Fathy Salama, Mohamed Refat, Hassan Khan, Moody El Emam) to producers (Hamid el Shari, Mohamed Sakr, Khalid Nabil), new bands (Estakasat, Eskenderella, Wust Al Balad, Arabian Knightz, Destiny in Chains) and amazing traditional groups (Jaafra, Bedouin Jerrycan Band, Nuba Noor, Rango, El Tanbura), concerts (Wust Al Balad, Nass Makan, Naseer Shamma) and much more...  We typically get into the hotel around 2 or 3 AM, and by the time we get all the data downloaded and hit the hay, we have about 4 hours to sleep before it all starts again.  This has been the case pretty much consistently for the past 30 days, and it is taking a toll!  So we will be spinning out reports on our work over the coming months, but I wanted to send one quick postcard while we're still in this noisy, rich, sleepless gem of a city.  Bottom line: We've really fallen in love with Cairo and Egypt and hate to leave (even though it means we will finally get some sleep).

Meanwhile, we have got some local coverage in the form of an article about Afropop in the English edition of Al Ahram.  

Sayed Rikaby at Makan
We've spent some lovely evenings at Makan, a small, atmospheric traditional music venue that has done fantastic work in making young and elite audiences in Cairo listen to marginalized traditional music with new ears.  Makan and Mastaba (of which much more in coming posts) mark a big change on the Cairo music scene in the past decade.  Both are champions of this country's diverse folklore and traditional music, and we've been blessed to spend time in the presence of truly great musicians at both venues.  To take just one example, Sayed Rikaby and his group Jaafra perform the folklore of Aswan, the southernmost Nile River town in Egypt, and a unique seat of culture.  Rikaby's improvised, sung poetry and tour of that regoion's tricky rhythms will make a gorgeous segment on an upcoming Afropop program.  And there's so much more...

We met with the veteran composer and bandleader Fathy Salama, the Egyptian arranger behind Youssou N'Dour's 2004, Grammy-winning CD, Egypt.  Fathy is a wise veteran these days, a skeptical analyst of Egypt's political and cultural revolutions.  We have had deep discussions about the latter.  In a nutshell, veterans like Fathy tend to be a bit dour in their prognosis for the future, feeling that Egypt is suffering from decades of poor arts education that has sapped talent from the market, and dumbed down audiences.  Happily, there are far more optimistic voices coming from younger observers, like Karim Rush of the hip hop act Arabian Knightz, who believes that the openness of young Egyptians will allow them to work together and bring together the mainstream and the marginalized to create truly new and exciting music in the years to come.  It just might be that Egypt's Youssou N'Dour will emerge from the Sufi/sha'bi wedding singers of Cairo's ghetto neighborhoods.  Observers as diverse as Fathy and Karim have pointed here when asked for the most exciting new music in Egypt.  This ghetto music, full of techno artistry and over-the-top vocals is truly a revelation to us, and, again, the subject of much future writing and radio.

Fathy Salama

I must say a word about one especially rich field trip.  Our key Hip Deep advisor, longtime Cairo resident Kristina Nelson, drove us to Port Said, the northern reach of the Suez Canal for an evening of Delta folk music with El Tanbura and Rango.  Both of these groups are within the Mastaba stable of artists, overseen by veteran activist and folklorist Zakaria Ibrahim.  We met Zakaria at WOMEX in 2006, and he was one of the people who put Egypt in our heads as a prime destination.  All that paid off bigtime when we caught a double bill of these two remarkable bands on August 3 (the day all of Egypt was riveted by the televised trial of Hosny Mubarak).

El Tanbura are champions of Delta music, reviving and developing instruments that go back to Pharoanic times.  We saw 4000-year-old simsimiyya and tanbura harps in the Egyptian museum, and it was a treat to hear them played along with rowdy songs sung by hearty men of the sea, and accompanied by most excellent and joyful dancing.  Tanbura had just returned from headlining the "Night in Tahrir Square" concert at London's Barbican Center, and were in fine form, despite a lite, Ramadan audience.  The venue, by the way, was across the Suez in Port Fouad.  When we took the free ferry across to the gig, we technically (geographically) crossed from Africa to Asia, a provocative thought.  But that gig, by the Mediterranean, was decidedly African in its spirit and ambiance.

Crossing to Port Fouad

Thursday, August 11, 2011

KCRW Offers Free Stream of new Fool's Gold Album

Los Angeles-based Afro-inspired indie outfit Fools Gold will be releasing their sophomore effort, Leave No Trace, next Tuesday, August 16th via IAMSOUND. However if you can’t wait for until next Tuesday to hear the new release, the LA-based public radio station KCRW is currently offering a stream of album in its entirety for free. Listen here.

The group also has a series of tour dates this summer.


08.22: Las Vegas, NV: Foundation Room @ The Mandalay Bay

09.03: Los Angeles, CA: FYF Fest

09.13: Tulsa, OK: Cain’s Ballroom

09.14: San Marcos, TX: Texas Music Theatre

09.15: Dallas, TX: South Side Music Hall

09.18: Chicago, IL: Brilliant Corners of Popular Amusements Festival

09.19: Columbus, OH: Skully’s

09.20: Philadelphia, PA: Kung Fu Necktie

09.22: New York, NY: Mercury Lounge

09.24: Brooklyn, NY: Brooklyn Bowl

10.01: San Francisco, CA: Brick & Mortar Music Hall

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Mystery Flavor from Liberia: Sped-up Socadancehallremixdopeness?

Alvin shows his "true" colors
Disclaimer: If you're not interested in listening to a coked-up Alvin-and-the-Chipmunks-style soca/kuduro/dancehall Auto-Tuned jam at 12,000 BPM, that's totally fine.  You're not gonna be into this.


If you ARE, then oh man, we have a treat for you.  Due to our relentless RSS feed, we saw that Ghetto Bassquake had received this joint from a cabdriver named Poko in the Monrovia. According to Poko, this style of music is blowing out speakers all throughout the Liberian capital...but no one seems to know what it is.  Is it kuduro sped up? White noise slowed down?

We have no idea.  But this is the oddest, most-far out zooted mind-warping banger we've heard all summer.

We just wish we knew who remixed it, or sung it, or played on it.  But that only adds to the romance of the mystery track.  Much like the Dum Dum mystery lollipop flavor, the mystery track is ineffable and ephemeral, coming in and out of our consciousness until Wikipedia steps up its game. For now, though, we have nothing intelligent to say about this prime slice of lunacy–at least until the corresponding dance move comes out.

Check it out on Ghetto Bassquake's website and stay tuned for more weirdness:

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

South African Caiphus Semenya + Watch the Throne

As you may have heard, hip-hop superstars Kanye West and Jay-Z are releasing their long awaited collaboration album called Watch the Throne this week. The album is one of the most highly-anticipated album of the year seeing how these two may be the most well-known celebrities in the U.S. and even on the planet.

So what does that have to do with Afropop?

Well, thanks to the blog Africa is A Country, it has been brought to our attention that one of the tracks from the album samples a piece from South African musician/composer/musical director Caiphus Semenya. The song “Murder to Excellence” off Watch the Throne, which subject matter deals with violence in black communities in the U.S., samples a piece that Semenya helped compose for the film The Color Purple called ‘Celie Shaves Mr./Scarification Ceremony’. The score to the film was co-written by Semenya along with Quincy Jones Harvey Mason Jr., Joel Rosenbaum and Bill Summers.

Here’s the original:

While we are unable to stream you the cut from Watch the Throne (legal stuff), we thought it was worth noting the influence of African musicians and music throughout various genres and popular styles of music, even if you don’t realize it.

Read more on Caiphus via Africa is A Country and hear another one of Semenya’s songs sampled by a South African rapper.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Manu Chao Tours the U.S.

Manu Chao may be French-born but his music has cross borders and cultures seamlessly with great success. Whether its singing about love with Caribbean rhythms or raising socio-political questions with feverent rock vibes, Chao's music has something for everyone and truly embodies the idea of "world music," in that it's for the entire globe!

Well, if the summer is not already packed full of great concerts, Chao has confirmed a handful of dates in the U.S. Lucky us!


8.31: Boston, MA - House of Blues
9.02: Philadelphia, PA - Penn's Landing
9.04: Terminal 5 - New York, NY
9.05: Terminal 5 - New York, NY
9.07: Charlotte, NC - The Fillmore
9.09: Miami, FL - Bayfront Park
9.11: Atlanta, GA - Masquerade Music Park
9.13: Chicago, IL - The Congress Theater
9.16: Austin, TX - Stubbs
9.18: Austin City Limits Festival

Spotlight: Karthala 72

You may not have heard of Electric Cowbell Records but if their latest release is any indication of what they're about then maybe we all should get a little more familiar. Last week, we got word that they were dropping a 7-inch (that's vinyl for you young Afropoppers) by a group that goes by Karthala 72. The single, "Dans Le Coeur Du Feu," brings some seriously dark, driving funk meets Afrobeat. There isn't much on the group out their on the internet. We can't even figure out exactly where they are from. In fact, their Facebook page as of right now has only 9 likes. Nevertheless, Karthala 72 claims that their sound takes "from the traditional music of the Comoros, to Anatolian bazaar jazz to the more familiar beat of percussion led afro-funk."

Sounds awesome. So does the single below. Sneak a listen and get your Monday morning going.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Vieux Farka Touré Tours the U.S.

Malian singer, guitarist and son of the famed Ali Farka Touré is returning to the U.S. this summer in support of his excellent 2011album, The Secret. Unfortunately, the tour takes him to some odd places and he doesn't quite make it to the west coast. Nevertheless, if you find yourself within a 3-hour radius, this is a show you definitely don't want to miss.

If you haven't heard anything from the new album, you can check out "Aigna" featuring Derek Trucks on our June mixtape which is still available for download.

Tour Dates: 

8.24 - Brighton Music Hall: Cambridge, MA
8.25 - Iron Horse: Northhampton, MA
8.26 - South Island Field: New York, NY
8.27 - The Rotunda: Philiadelphia, PA
8.30 - 9:30 Club: Washington, D.C.
8.30 - 9:30 Club: Washington, D.C.
9.1 - Local 506: Chapel Hill, NC
9.2 - Orange Peel: Asheville, NC
9.3 - Riverfront Nights: Chatanooga, TN
9.4 - Georgia Theatre: Athens, GA
9.5 - Calvin College: Grand Rapids, MI
9.7 - SPACE: Evanston, IL
9.8 - Elinora Jazz Festival at Krannert: Urbana, IL
9.11 - Cedar Cultural Center: Minneapolis, MN

New Kuduro Tracks from Up-and-Comer Cabo Snoop

In a follow-up for our Kuduro post a while back, here are two follow-up tracks of insanity from Angolan Cabo Snoop.  A.k.a Ivo Manuel Nemus, as a child he was called "Nobody" because his mother had already lost three children, and did not expect him to survive.  Well, survive he did, and his latest album features some of the bangin-est beats, on either side of the equator and thanks to Tropical Bass, we have this gem, called "Windeck," after the Angolan city and ghetto. "Windeck" features a lot of brightly colored pants, 6 pounds of attitude in a five-pound package, and too-catchy rhythms to carry you into the weekend.

And if that still isn't enough, wrap your eardrums around the poly-rhythmic and syllabic "Prakatatumba," featuring a hilarious and informative video about the intricacies about this phenomenon.  Seems that gold digging is a global thing.

Free Afropop August Mixtape Out Now!

 August is here and with it is another awesome free Afropop mixtape! Our monthly free mix this month includes new music from Côte d'Ivoire Reggae star in exile Tiken Jah Fakoly, Colombian singer/songwriter Andrea Echeverri, popular dancehall hip-hop duo FOKN Bois from Ghana, Afrofunk by way of San Francisco outfit Wontanara and a whole bunch more.

Click the little black arrow on the right of the player to download!


Afropop August Mix 2011! by Afropop Worldwide

1. Wontanara Revolution - "Sabu Fanye" (from Audio Refuge Compilation)

2. Guarco - "3 Monster" (from Fiebre out 8/9) -  4:48

3. Ocote Soul Sounds - "En El Tremblor" (from Taurus out now via ESL) - 7:56

4. FOKN Bois - Thank God We're Not A Nigerians (free download) - 11:35

5. Patafunk - NegraChinaLatina ft. Ferrari Snowday (free download via Remezcla) - 15:34

6. The Funk Ark - Carretera Libre (off From the Rooftops out now via ESL) - 18:45

7. Patcheko - Sala Makasi (from self-titled album) - 22:31

8. Tiken Jah Fakoly - Votez (off African Revolution via Wrasse Records) - 26:48

9. Andrea Echeverri - Buen Augurio (from Dos out 8/30 via Nacional Records) - 30:23

10. Lata -" Ink Jet Dub" (free download) - 33:10

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Malaysian M.I.A.? Arabyrd Drops 'Disco Nected' EP

In late September we will be premiering our next Hip Deep show Africa in East Asia: Shanghai Jazz to Tokyo Rastafari. The show, as the title explains, will delve into the mostly unknown world of Japanese Rastafarian Dancehall, pre-Mao jazz in Shanghai and other informative, mind-blowing aspects of how African styles have penetrated subcultures across East Asia.

Thanks to Tropical Bass, we recently caught word of Malaysian singer/MC Arabyrd who just dropped a 3-track EP with slabs of dancehall bass with an M.I.A. delivery called Disco Nected. We're loving the sounds and the Asia-connection to our forthcoming show.

Listen for yourself:

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Los Van Van Cancels U.S. Tour

Today we've got word of the unfortunate news that Cuban legends Los Van Van have had to cancel their U.S. tour for what is described as "circumstances out of their hands." The exact reason for the canceled tour has not been specified. Although, we can assume that it had to do with Visa issues. This wouldn't be the first time Los Van Van has had issues entering the U.S., most recently having to do 14 make up gigs late last year due to Visa problems.

Los Van Van is often awkwardly cited as the "Rolling Stones of Cuba." They have been featured on numerous Afropop programs including our recent encore of Live Latin Extravaganza. Led by bassist Juan Formell, they are still one of the most recognized post-revolution Cuban bands. Over the years Los Van Van has fused various styles of changui and son montuno, including including rock, funk, disco, and even hip hop into a style coined as songo.

Here is the official press release from New York City-based club SOBs regarding the canceled Los Van Van tour:

Unfortunately SOBs has just received word that the Los Van Van tour and subsequently their NY show here is cancelled.

Due to circumstances completely out of SOBs' hands, the band wont be coming to the United States.

SOBs apologies on behalf of the band for any inconvenience to our fans and customers and appreciate your time and understanding.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Tribal Guarachero Ready for Takeoff: 3Ball MTY - "“Inténtalo (Me Prende)”"

Over the past year, a new style of Mexican dance music has been seeping out of sweaty clubs of Mexico City (Monterrey too!) and into the internet cables of nu-whirled music lovers everywhere called tribal guarachero. What is it exactly? Electro-music gurus XLR8R investigated this question a bit last August when those of us stateside were just getting word of the new style. Interviewing tribal guarachero producer Erick Ríncon, the Mexico City native DJ gave some insight into the trend:

"Approximately five or six years ago, the genre began with a producer from Mexico City named Ricardo Reyna.  He began mixing tribal house rhythms with Pre-Hispanic singing, flutes, and drums; from there came the name 'Tribal Pre-Hispanic.'" While these Pre-Hispanic sounds and bits of other more traditional Latin genres—cumbia is often cited as a major influence—are still present in the music, over time the style has been increasingly infiltrated by house, techno, and electro, resulting in a present-day tribal guarachero that is explicitly electronic. "

Then a few months ago The Fader delve deep into the country and filed a lengthy report on the scene. A must read if you dig this stuff. Now, with a steady buzz circulating the Mexican dance-club genre, 3Ball MTY (Ríncon is a member) just dropped a video full of slurpy triplet rhythms, at 133 BPMs along with a weird aesthetic visual mix of pre-pubescent clubbers and shiny mariachi cowboy outfits.  I think we just joined the tribe.

Want more? Check out this tribal guarachero remix of a Scandinavian folk tune by Ríncon (!).

- Saxon Baird

Video from El Sawy Metal Show in Cairo

Here's the head banging video from the Origin and Destiny In Chains concert at El Sawy that we mentioned in our earlier blog post.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Bombino Performs on KCRW

Our summer-favorite Tuareg guitarist Bombino performed "Ahoulaguine Alkaline" live in studio at KCRW last week. The recording is beautiful and Bombino's playing, as always, mesmerizes.

 Read our review of his new album here and check his tour dates here

Cairo Journal: Heavy Metal and Ramadan

Text and photos by Banning Eyre

Varden at El Sawy Culturewheel
Today is the first day of Ramadan and on the suggestion of our key adviser here, Kristina Nelson, I am joining the faithful in fasting, as she put it, "to see what it's like."  We will be attending a "break-fast" this evening with Kristina in Heliopolis, a sprawling residential extension of Cairo heading towards the airport.  So far, I've only foregone breakfast and the stomach rumbling is mild.  But after a day of beating around Cairo without drinking water, I may get a taste of what Muslims will endure for the next 30 days.  Ramadan is a particular ordeal when it falls in summer, as the daylight hours when one cannot eat or drink last 17 hours.

For this post, I go back to a couple of evening outings from last week.  First, a visit to the Cairo Jazz Club, a cozy nighclub favored by ex-pats, well-informed visitors, and progressive Egyptians.  Alcohol is served, few women wear the scarf, and people dance, not necessarily in couples.  If all this seems normal, it does contrast with other choice music performance venues in Cairo, which are alcohol free, and also with the far sleazier environment of the belly dance bars downtown and along Pyramid Road.  The Cairo Jazz Club, not far from downtown, presents local DJs spinning Egyptian varieties of "electronic music," also blues, funk, rock and, yes, jazz, acts.  But the night we visited showcased an unusual singer named Mohamed Bashir (also Beshir).  Bashir comes from Upper Egypt--that's upriver and, counter-intuitively, south of here--and he uses folk melodies and rhythms from that region as source material for his urban electric band.  This was a discovery, a truly organic blend of roots and rock.  Instrumentation included oud, violin, bass, drums, keyboards, saxophone and percussion.  The grooves were strong, and notably different from the tried-and-true rhythms of most Egyptian pop.  Bashir is a powerful singer, and a warm presence on stage--shades of the younger Cheb Khaled.  Bashir had his loyal fans too, dancing in the tight space before the stage, some stepping high and coiling their bodies in distinctive ways that suggested knowledge of the Saidi (Upper Egypt) folk culture that inspires Bashir's original sound.  We are pursuing an interview with the man. 

Bashir at Cairo Jazz Club (Eyre)

The next night, we ventured into Cairo's touted heavy metal scene.  The venue was El Sawy Culturewheel, a short walk from our hotel in Zamalek.  In recent years, Sawy has established itself as a key venue for various kinds of alternative music. The venue is arranged around a rather complicated intersection between two major roadways, so there are tunnels and bridges connecting an outdoor garden space right along the Nile with four or five performance spaces, an art gallery and offices.   Even on heavy metal night, no alcohol is served.  This party runs on caffeine, sugar, and the pent-up energy of youth.  There is much to say about Egypt's heavy metal scene, which was pioneered by brave young musicians determined to buck the trends of predictable local pop.  Concerts were closed down by police, people were arrested, even jailed, and accused of promoting satanism.  But the musicians persisted, and since the revolution, they have been breathing a little easier.  The 800 or so kids that showed up for this Tuesday-night lineup of four bands were exuberant and fun-loving.  There was no hint of fear in the air. One young metal head lamented the fact that the metal scene was still so small. But he also expressed hope that it would flourish in the new Egypt.  He did not seem at all worried about the effects of a potential Islamist government.  Those guys will have much bigger things to worry about than heavy metal concerts in Zamalek.

The first band we caught was called Varden, and they cranked out a fairly standard, tuneful take on the genre.  They addressed the audience and sang in English, an intriguing characteristic of this genre given how few Caireans speak the language.  A woman got up and sang one song, winning loud approval from the crowd.  This band's lead singer worked a little emo into the act, even a little melisma.  At one point his expression and gesturing reminded me of a tarab singer, perhaps Umm Kulthum herself.   Overall the act presented fairly rote rock histrionics, but the mood in Sawy's Wisdom Hall was electric.  Teens and twenty-somethings in their element, mostly boys, but a number of girls too, wearing head scarves and mingling in an alcohol-free party mode that was at once wholesome and exhilarating. 

Varden lead singer at El Sawy Culturewheel
Varden guitarist
There was special excitement about the next group to take the stage, Origin.  A couple of guys whispered to us that they were the best on the bill.  The genre, we were told, was "Oriental Metal."  This apparently meant that they sang in Arabic, but that wasn't all.  As the band took the stage, a row of girls made sure they made up the front row.  Among them was woman in her 60s, without a doubt the oldest person there, but seized with the same giddy enthusiasm of the girls around her--perhaps a musician's mother, or grandmother.  Origin certainly delivered an experience, a campy blend of toga-era costumes, emo rock, metal flourishes.  There were two lead singers, a guy and a girl, both in white robes.  Their voices were strong but their art rock torch songs seemed too fraught with pretension to have much visceral affect on us.  Not that the crowd seemed to mind.  Even when a guest artist sat in rather timidly on clarinet, and another more confidently on oud, they welcomed him warmly.  In theory, the notion of a local metal band bringing in Arabic language and musical touches seems interesting, but in this formulation, it seemed lost in a fog of experimentation.