Last year, San Francisco, CA-based label Stronghold Sound released Sembah Ma Fe Fe, a compilation of Guinean hip hop and reggae. As a compilation the album, the album managed to reveal the soul of a proud people who are crawling out from the wreckage of generations of oppressive dictatorships. Of course, following up a critically well-received album can be quite difficult — you can ask several dozen bands about that and they’d say the same.
After spending time in Guinea, the Syrian-American founder of Stronghold Records, Dub Snakkr went on to Beirut, Lebanon with the objective of putting together a compilation of the most interesting and representative artists of the underground Arabic hip hop scene. Khat Thaleth, Third Line: Initiative for the Elevation of Public Awareness was a 23 track compilation of conscious and politically-charged hip hop that will give Westerners a real glimpse into the hearts and minds of the people of Tunisia, Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon and others. But what made the compilation really stand out is that various artists team from different regions and often different countries team up to deliver commentary on their larger political and cultural world — and in fact, much of the commentary dealt with the sobering realities of their every day life. Certainly, what made this album important is that it revealed that hip-hop is not only the lingua franca of kids everywhere, it also revealed that real hip-hop can (and is) the voice of people seeking positive change. It should also remind you that the hip-hop you’ll hearing on your super conglomerate radio station is empty, soulless drivel …
Stronghold Sound’s Dub Snakr, returned to Guinea to dig even deeper into Guinea’s musical heritage for Sembeh Ma Fa Fe: Roots Volume. Of course you’ll hear some of the region’s beloved folk instruments the djembe, the belafon, and the grio – each rich with a deep history and significance; in fact, the Mandeng kings considered each instrument as possessing supernatural powers. But importantly you’ll also hear several Guinean artists that deserve greater attention including Mybaby (a.k.a. Kadiatiou Sylla) who’s best known for blending salsa and Guinean folk music; Aicha Sidibe, known for singing a traditional form of folk music called Mamaya; newer artists such as Saran Diabate and her brother Lanciney Diabate team up to create a sound that combines Guinean soul with funk; Cissoko Abobacar, who sings something that sounds closely like Guinean blues but in the Mamayan folk style; and in addition to that, includes 4 dance floor remixes, which were released earlier this fall on 7 inch vinyl as Guinea Folk Remix.
Captain Planet was enlisted to remix Guinean vocalist Sara’s “Tounkan,” featuring Bosta and the end result is a throbbing club banging track with layers upon layers of synths that seem to wrap around Sara’s powerful vocals. The remix manages to retain some of the original track’s percussion at points, while adding to it. Overall, the track sounds like you could easily hear in the clubs of Conakry or in some club here in Brooklyn.