Category: African Diaspora Music

New Video: Celebrated Malian Musician Afel Bocoum Releases a Gorgeous Glimpse into Malian Life in Visual for “Avion”

Afel Bocoum, a celebrated Niafunké, Mali-born and-based singer/songwriter and guitarist is among the last of a breakthrough generation of African artists, who mixed their traditional music with the new sounds that arrived from all over the world during the 20th and 21st centuries. Interestingly, music hasn’t been an easy dream for the celebrated Niafunké-born and-based singer/songwriter and guitarist: While most aspiring musicians face stiff parental and societal opposition; however for Bocoum, the parental opposition he faced was deeply perplexing, given the fact that this father Abakina Ousmane Bocoum, a.k.a. Kodda was one of the most famous and beloved njarka players of the 20th century. 

But Bocoum wasn’t deterred. Music was omnipresent: it was in the holey or spirit dances of Songhoy, in the melodies of the Fulani flue, in the gumbé drum sessions with their wild moonlit dancing, in the stories and poetry of the griots and in the hymn of the local Protestant Mission.  For a young Bocoum, music was more than just entertainment; it taught people about life and the right way to live it. It guaranteed social cohesion and the strength of the collective conscience, especially in a society that was at the time, largely illiterate and had no access to modern media. “There was no radio at the time, no TV, nothing. It was incredible,” Bocoum remembers. “When you saw someone with a guitar, you followed him everywhere.”

As a teenager, the legendary Ali Farka Touré exerted a powerful hold on the young Bocoum. When Bocoum first met Touré in the late 1960s, he was a barely a teenager and Touré was already considered one of the region’s most famous and greatest son. Bocoum hung out with Touré as much  as he could, eventually becoming a member of Asco, Touré’s backing band — and as a member of of Asco, Bocoum toured with the legendary singer/songwriter and guitarist throughout the 80s and 90s, appearing on Touré’s 1992 effort, The Source. 

The idea of releasing his own music arose  from a gentle curiosity, rather than any self-serving ambition or desire to upstage his beloved mentor. “Everybody seemed to be releasing albums all around me, so it was like, ‘why not?’” Bocoum says in press notes. Tourè hooked his mentee up with Nick Gold, artistic director of  World Circuit, which led to Bocoum’s 1999 full-length debut, Alkibar (The Messengers), an effort that established Bocoum as an international star in his own right.  

Interestingly, as a result of Alkibar, Bocoum was invited to work with Blur and Gorillaz frontman and creative mastermind Damon Albarn and Toumani Diabaté on the 2002 album Mali Music. From there, he became a regular contributor on the Africa Express compilation series, collaborating with a who’s who list of internationally acclaimed artists, including Béla Fleck, Habib Koité, Tarit Ensemble, Oliver Mutukudzi and others. “You have to collaborate, otherwise you’ll get nowhere in today’s world,” Bocoum says of his work with those artists. “All those collaborations were positive.”

Bocoum’s forthcoming album, the Damon Albarn and Nick Gold produced-Lindé is slated for a September 4, 2020 release through World Circuit Records. Deriving its name from a wild expanse near his hometown, the album which was recorded in Mail’s capital city of Bamako, reportedly finds the celebrated Malian singer/songwriter and guitarist drawing from the timeless sounds of the Niger River bend with a variety of styles across the globe, as he collaborates with a diverse and eclectic array  of artists including eminent Malian artists like Madou Kouyaté, the late Hama Sankaré and Madou Sidiki, along with the recently departed, legendary Afrobeat pioneer and Fela Kuti collaborator Tony Allen, Bob Marley and Skatalites collaborator Vin Gordon (trombone) and Joan as Police Woman creative mastermind Joan Wasser on violin. 

You’ll hear traditional African folk instruments like ngoni, njurkele, kora and calabash with guitars, percussion and call-and-response vocals with the end result being something both timeless and mystical yet modern. But at its core, there’s a deep and abiding message: in the face of an uncertain and turbulent world and a homeland struggling with jihad, poverty and tribal warfare, the album’s material  urges the listener to hope, solidarity and unity. “We have to meet each other, talk to each other, look each other in the eye and tell the truth,” Bocoum says. “If we’re not united, I can see no solution. Our social security is music. That’s all we’ve got left. People love music, so we have to make use of that fact.”

“Avion,” Lindé’s first single is a uplifting and breezy track, centered around the shimmering guitar work of Mamadou Kelly, Oumar Konaté and Lamine Soumano, call-and-response vocals, propulsive polyrhythm that is playful and optimistic ode to air travel, complete with the prerequisite safety announcement  — in French, of course —  that quickly takes off and soars upward. But it’s also a gentle yet urgent call for all people to band together around the most human of all things — music, love and dancing; that music can take us to the promised land of peace and equality among all. Considering recent world events, we  need more uplifting calls for unity and love. 

The recently released video gives the video a gorgeous glimpse of daily life in Mali, as we see fisherman, goat herders, the nomadic and proud Taureg people riding horses and  camels, massive metropolitan areas and the like. It reveals a world that’s more diverse and interesting that what most Westerners would know or acknowledge with a gentle  and kind viewpoint. 

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New Video: Emerging Producer Kyf Releases a Kinetic Visual for Dance Floor Friendly “Savage”

Kyf is a mysterious yet emerging Cameroonian producer and songwriter. Earlier this month, he released his latest EP, Mood Avion and the EP’s latest single “Savage” is a bold and vibrant track, centered around shimmering synths, wobbling polyrhythmic beats and a shout-along worthy hook. And while possessing a breezy, club friendly sound, the track reveals a decidedly Pan African approach, drawing from wide swaths of the Diaspora: the song meshes elements of dancehall, house music, Afro pop and Timbaland’s futuristic production style in an infectious and ambitious manner. 

Directed by Sara Yemoja, the recently released video features the Cameroonian producer and songwriter and two dancers in a kinetically shot and edited visual, shot in an abandoned, graffiti covered building and in the woods. 

New Audio: DJ Almighty Teams Up with DMA for a Breezy and Infectious New Single

DJ Almighty is a Ivory Coast-born, Paris-based producer and sound engineer, who has spent the past 17 years spinning at clubs around the world, developing a unique experience at the club — the videomix, an audiovisual experience. He also streams broadcast of his videomixes on an ADSL hookup that can be heard in 70 countries across the world.

Adding to a growing profile, the Ivorian-born, French-based producer and sound engineer has released a handful of attention-grabbing compilations through labels like Wagram Music, Musicat, and Oubo Music. Back in 2018, DJ Almighty signed with Universal Records Africa for a series of collaborations with internationally-based Afrobeat and Afropop artists from France and Francophone countries. 

Earlier this year, the Ivorian-born, French-based producer and sound engineer launched a new collaborative concept: 7 tracks that features emerging artists ranging in songs ranging from Afrobeat to Afropop. “Catch Your Vibe,” is a breezy and infectious mesh of dancehall, roots reggae and Afropop centered around a looping and shimmering guitar line, shuffling riddims and irie vibes paired with upstart DMA’s coquettish vocals. The end result is a pan African track that’s summery and manages to be both club and lounge friendly. 

New Video: Rising Côte d’Ivoire-born Swiss-based Emcee KT Gorique Releases a Self-Assured New Single

KT Gorique is an emerging Côte d’Ivoire-born, Swiss-based rapper. When Gorique turned 11, her family emigrated to Switzerland — and over the next 16 years, she was separated from a large part of her family and from her roots. As a third culture child, the emerging rapper had a difficult time understanding who she was and where she came from but music was where she found comfort and where she could best express herself. 

WIth the release of 2018’s EP Kunta Kita, the emerging Côte d’Ivoire-born, Swiss-based emcee quickly established a unique take on contemporary hip-hop, one that drew from and meshed elements of reggae and African music. With Kunta Kita EP, Gorique believed that she was on the right track but ultimately felt as though something was missing; that she hadn’t quite fully realized her sound or her musical voice. 

In June 2018, Gorique traveled to Abidjan and the trip was a transformative experience: the Côte d’Ivoire-born, Swiss artist reconnected with her roots, and during the trip, she realized her voice and sound, discovering that her work lacked balance — the balance between everything that made her what she was, without excluding anything. The end result of what she has dubbed “Future Roots,” a mix of her oldest loves and her vision for her future.  

Released earlier this year, KT Gorique’s latest effort AWKWABA derives its name from the Baoulé word for “welcome.” The album’s material is meant to be an invitation to the listener to enter and discover a new world — but also to inspire a change for the better, towards a better version of ourselves and our world. Sonically, the album’s material is centered around unique arrangements that includes guitar, kalimba, balafon and other traditional African instruments. Thematically, the album finds the Ivorian-born, Swiss-based emcee covering subjects she hadn’t previously written about — money and faith, in particular, while offering motivating and inspiring messages. 

“Kendrick,” AWKWABA’s latest single is a perfect example of the rising emcee’s sound and approach: Gorique’s delivers her rhymes French with a determined and defiant self-assuredness of a woman, who has found her voice and purpose over a forceful yet defiant production, centered around tweeter and woofer rocking trap beats, twinkling keys and an enormous hook. It’s a party anthem but with a brash and positive, “you-go-girl spirit.” Set in a seemingly dystopian future, the recently released video for “Kendrick” features Gorique and a crew of dancers, dancing on what appears to be smoldering rubble. 

New Video: Phillipe Blaze Releases an Intimate Look at Guadeloupe in New Visual for “DLO”

Phillipe Blaze is a Guadeloupe-born and-based singer/songwriter, guitarist and composer, whose family moved to France when he was small.  Spending much of his life in France, Blaze’s musical career can be traced back to the 80s: he participated in Paris’ reggae and rock scenes before relocating to Nantes. Eventually, Blaze wound up returning to Guadelope and while there he discovered the traditional music of the island — Zouk and Gwo Ka which is played with a big drum, locally known as ka. 

After working with the island group’s biggest names, Blaze released his first bit of solo material in 1996; however, by the following year, he founded JÒD LA (which in French means today) and through the release of three albums, the act honed and developed Gwo Ka Evolutif, which meshes the 7 rhymes of traditional Gwo Ka and Western instrumentation — i.e., guitar, piano, bass, sax, etc. Since then, Blaze has gone solo — and his latest single, the 13 song Eritaj features 8 compositions and 5 songs, including the album’s latest single, “DLO.” Centered around shimmering and looping guitars, propulsive polyrhythm and fluttering flute, the track is a breezy bit of Afropop influenced Tropicalia. 

The recently released video offers a glimpse of daily life on the Guadeloupe island group — but there’s a decided focus on the importance of water in our daily lives. 

New Video: French Emcee Flem Teams Up with Vieux Farka Touré on a Politically Charged Single — and Visual

Flem is a rising French emcee, who has developed a reputation for his fluid flow and conscious themes — and as a result, he has worked with an eclectic array of French artists includes Sages Poètes de la Rue’s DanyDan, Assassin’s DJ Duke, La MC Malcriado’s Izé Bosineau and Aethority’s Mattias Mimoun and a growing list of others. His forthcoming album Nomades, which is slated for an October 2020 release finds the rising French emcee collaborating with acclaimed Malian singer/songwriter Vieux Farka Touré — with the result meshing contemporary hip-hop and traditional African blues. 

Interestingly, the duo’s collaboration and friendship can be traced back over a decade — with Flem and Touré sharing stages at festivals at shows from Paris to Timbuktu. Some time ago, the pair were performing in Niafunké, Mali, a stronghold of the Touré family,. when Flem along with a small group of Westerners were quickly evacuated to Bamako, Mail, narrowly escaping an attack. This particular event managed to strengthen the pair’s friendship and reinforced the need for them to create a new project that was much more urgent, conscious and militant than they had done individually. 

Over the better part of the past decade, Mali has been split apart by a bloody civil war between different warring religious and ethnic factions, undermined by unbalanced international relationships, rampant corruption and terrorism. Nomades touches upon the historical and cultural link between Europe and Africa, the ethnic conflicts that have been used by foreign countries, who have economic interests across the continent, the emigration of African youth for a better way of life anywhere they can, monetary independence, freedom, love and hope and so on. 

Nomades’ first single is a perfect example of the album’s overall sound: Touré’s looping, shimmering and expressive guitar, gently padded percussion and Touré’s lilting voice are paired with an infectious hook and Flem’s fiery lyrics, which touch upon his love of Mali, its food and its people, while praying for an end to war, racism, colonial oppression and more. The song manages to bring the African blues sound to the modern day — while also reminding the listener that hip hop has become the sound and voice of resistance everywhere.

“I went to Mali for the first time in 2003 with my friend Moctar, at his family home. We stayed for a month and a half and travelled from Bamako to Timbuktu,” the rising French emcee writes in a lengthy statement. “This trip inland, which is no longer possible today, changed my life. Abdulaye, Moctar’s cousin, introduced me to Vieux Farka Touré in 2009. The artistic connection was instantaneous and after a jam at his house, Vieux invited me to the prestigious Festival au Desert stage in Essakane, in the north of Mali.

Three years later, while I was recording the arrangements for my debut album Passeport, war in the Sahel broke out at the end of my stay, in January 2012. I was staying at Vieux Farka’s, in the family home in Bamako. It was important for Vieux Farka to show me his village and invite me on stage, this time for a festival in honour of his father. It should be remembered here that the late Ali Farka Touré was first a truck driver, then an internationally renowned artist and Grammy Award winner, but also the mayor of his village: Niafunké. The day after the concert, the intelligence and security services in Mali, who were protecting the area at the time, warned us of an imminent attack on the village. The terrorists had seen on television that a few Westerners were there. They interpreted this presence as a provocation to Sharia law, which was beginning to be imposed in the north of the country. Vieux Farka woke me up in my room and said: ‘You’re leaving right now!; I wanted to go back with him, but it was too dangerous. I was evacuated by the Malian army via the river. He came back as we had come, in a 4×4. The boat trip was magnificent, I had always dreamed of doing it, but the conditions were particular. Later, the rest of the Touré family also left the village to take refuge at Vieux’s house in Bamako.

In October 2015, my first album was released. There was no tour in France, but there was a one-off concert with Vieux Farka Touré at La Boule Noire in Paris. February 2017: the Institut Français (French Institute) and the CCF (French Cultural Center) in Bamako invited me for the start of the literary season, which ended with a concert by Vieux Farka Touré and myself. I went there with the pianist Mattias Mimoun and the harpist Katell Boisneau. We had a lot of fun playing again all together.  I felt more than ready to prepare my second album.

In 2018, after the first night of recording with Ilan Sberro at the St-Ouen Auditorium, Vieux started listening to my lyrics and asked me: “Did you write a song for Mali?” I hadn’t, not intimately, not totally.  Maybe I didn’t feel legitimate to do it. I love this country; I’ve got friends there who I consider to be members of my family. And I’m welcomed there as family. This country has given me a lot of love and has taught me things that can’t be explained. I was born, I grew up and I live in France, but I’ve been going to Mali regularly for 17 years now. Here’s my song Mali on a music by Vieux Farka Touré, accompanied by the superb voice of singer Amy D.

Mali Nébifé, Mali I love you. Flem.”

Directed by Dominique Milherou, the recently released video is split between footage of daily life in Mail from kids riding bikes and kicking around a soccer ball, to women dancing in the streets — to intimately shot footage of Flem, Amy D and Touré in the studio  recording the song and performing the song. When the song hits sociopolitical commentary, we see footage of some of the Western leaders, who have helped to exploit and profit off the region’s people, resources and conflicts. 

New Video: Infectious East African Pop Act From Vermont Release a Breezy Ode to Love and African Women

A2VT is a rising Burlington, VT-based world music/Afro pop act that initially  featured three African refugees who sing songs written in eight different African languages  — Somali-born Said Bulle, Tanzanian-born George Mnyonge and Burundian-born Cadoux Fanoy — who emigrated to Vermont in the early aughts, when the men were teenagers. With the release of “Winooski, my town” off their 2012 Dave Cooper-produced full-length debut Africa, Vermont the trio became regional viral sensations: not only did the act earn a place within the county’s growing refugee community, the song wound up becoming their adopted hometown’s unofficial motto.

Since the release of Africa, Vermont the band went on a hiatus that has seen both personal and personnel changes to the act: Bulle has become a a father of three, who has recognized that he has become something of a role model for his extended family back in Somalia. In press notes, Bulle laughingly explains that his family back home thinks that  because he lives in America and can be seen on music videos on YouTube, he must be wealthy. Along with that, the band has continued onward as a duo with Bulle and Mnyonge, who on stage go by Jilib and Pogi respectively. Interestingly, the band’s recently released sophomore album Twenty Infinity finds the act focusing on crafting decidedly upbeat, dance floor friendly material centered around faster tempos and catchier hooks than its predecessor. And as a result, the duo feel that they’re coming into their own artistically and creatively as artists. 

“On the first record, I was still like, ‘What are we doing here'” A2VT’s Bulle recalls. Mellow Yellow’s David Cooper, who has been an essential part of the band’s team, acting as their mentor, producer, audio tech and creative consultant adds in press notes “Then, they were novices with a lot of passion and desire and no experience. Now, they’re seasoned professionals. They know exactly what they’re doing.” The duo go on to say that this newfound confidence and self-assuredness comes from the increasing wisdom of age and experience, which has found them proudly accepting their roles as family men and community leaders.  As I mentioned earlier, Bulle is a father of three. And interestingly enough, Mnyonge notes a marked change in the attitudes of the area’s local refugee from when he was a teenager, perhaps in part due to the band’s influence. As  teenage, he used to frequently fight and get into altercations on his walk home from Winooski High School. “What I’m seeing right now: Nobody’s fighting, and the kids do good in school,” he notes. “And they’re trying to be like me and do music.”

Twenty Infinity’s latest single “You Ma Numba 1” is a breezy and infectious reggae-tinged on Afro pop, centered around a strutting bass line, stuttering beats, an infectious hook,  subtle African polythryhm and the duo’s sweet harmonizing. At its core the song is a sweetly endearing, two-step inducing ode to love and to Black women. The world may seem especially bleak it’s still Spring — and as long as there people, people will fall in love. 

Directed by Jackson Stone, the recently released video was shot in Vermont and stars Fredrica Appau, Pogi, Meax, Jilib. Mr. Oli, Xclipxe, Lui Lui, King Janja and the Wanjanja Boys (Elia, Omar, Jaden, Janvier) and despite the verdant background, the video is boldly African and features these young and beautiful black people being joyous — and in love. 

New Video: JOVM Mainstays KOKOKO! Release a Cinematically Shot and Feverish Visual for Brooding Album Single “Zala Mayele”

Led by Makara Biano and prolific French producer débruit, the pioneering Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo-based DIY electronic collective KOKOKO! is inspired by a growing spirit of protest and unrest among their hometown’s young people. Much like young people everywhere, Kinshasa’s young people have begun to openly question centuries-old norms and taboos, and have openly begun to denounce a society they perceive as being paralyzed by fear — namely, the fear of inclusiveness and much-needed change. The collective and their counterparts have done this with a fearless, in-your-face, punk-rock sort of attitude and ethos. That shouldn’t be surprising as the rapidly rising collective’s name literally means KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK! — with the collective viewing themselves as the sound and voice of a bold, new generation defiantly and urgently banging on the doors and walls, and yelling “OUR TIME IS NOW!” 

Speaking of DIY, the collective’s members operate in a wildly inventive DIY fashion, creating self-designed and self-made instruments from recycled flotsam and jetsam and recovered junk. They even built a recording studio out of old mattresses, reclaimed wood and an old ping-pong table. Unsurprisingly, the act’s creative processes is centered round the notion that poverty and the desperately urgent need to survive often fuels creativity. Now,  as you may recall the Congolese collective exploded into the national scene with their debut EP 2017’s Tokoliana, a forward-thinking, urgent effort featuring a difficult to pigeonhole sound with elements of disco, post-punk, hip-hop, reggae, retro-futuristic funk, Afro-futurism and the region’s traditional music that seemed to come from an alien yet familiar near dystopian future in which the ghetto and the club are intertwined. 

Tokoliana’s follow-up TONGOS’A EP further explored themes of survival within the desperate and uneasy sociopolitical climate of their homeland, in which the average person may be forced on absolute certainties — the small, deeply human pleasures we, in the First World sometimes take for granted. 

Last year’s full-length debut Fongola was released to critical acclaim from the likes of NPR, The Guardian, Mixmag, Mojo, Dazed and i-D Magazine. The Congolese collective made their live, Stateside debut with a tour stop here in NYC, as well as an NPR Tiny Desk Concert, which helped them gain a following here in the States.  

Building upon their rapidly growing profile, the Kinshasa-based collective start off their 2020 with the latest single off their critically applauded full-length debut, the percussive “Zala Mayele.” Centered around layers of thumping polyrhythm, a propulsive bass line, a looping sample of a gorgeous string section and distorted vocals, the track may arguably be the most brooding and atmospheric tracks on the entire album — while still being remarkably dance floor friendly. 

“‘Zala Mayele’s lyrics are about the dangers in Kinshasa’s streets (thieves, sorcerers, gangs, and more) and the importance of distinguishing what is what, what is hidden under what shape, in disguise and around the corner, in the shadows.” The cinematically shot video for “Zala Mayele” follows a young boy — Issa — as he wanders the streets of his hometown on his own. During his journey, he encounters and is threatened by a variety of dangers booth real and imagined that blind, titillate and confuse him. These dangers “little by little, he will be able to notice and take control with a trip on the other side of the mirror,” the band says in press notes.