Category: African Diaspora Music

Acclaimed Malian-born, Paris-based kora player Ballaké Sissoko comes from an equally acclaimed and deeply musical family: Sissoko is the song of the late, legendary kora master Djelimady Sissoko, best known for his work with Ensemble Instrumental Du Mali. Drawn to the kora at at a very young age, the younger Sissoko was taught the instrument by his father.

Tragicaally, Djelmady died while his children were very young — and Ballaké stepped up to take on the role of the family breadwinner, eventually taking his father’s place in Ensemble Instrumental Du Mail.

Interestingly, Ballakè Sissoko has had a long-held fascination with genres and sounds outside of the scope the Mandika people — i.e., flamenco guitar, sitar and others — which has inspired and led to a series of critically applauded collaborations with a diverse and eclectic array of musicians across the globe including Vincent SegalToumani Diabaté, legendary bluesman Taj Mahal and Ludovic Einaudi.

Now, as you may recall Nø Førmat Records released Sissoko’s 11th album Djourou earlier this year. The album features solo compositions while continuing upon his long-held reputation for collaborating with a cast of diverse and unexpected artists including Nouvelle Vague’Camille, African legend Salif Keita, young, leading female kora player Sona Jobareth, the aforementioned Vincent Segal and Malian-born, French emcee Oxmo Puccino among others. 

Deriving its name from the Bambara word for string Djourou can trace its origins to when Sissoko approached Nø Førmat label head Laurent Bizot with the proposition of blending solo kora pieces with unexpected collaborations. Interestingly, the label and Sissoko mutually agreed that he taake teh time to confirm enriching and challenging parternships with artists, who were also fans of Sissoko’s work. The album took a painstaking yet fruitful two years to write and record.

Over the past couple of months I’ve written about three of Djourou‘s released singles:

  • Frotter Les Mains:” Deriving its title from the French phrase for “rub hands,” the mediative track is centered around the simple percussive element of Sissoko rubbing his hands back and forth, shimmering plucked kora and Malian-born, French-based emcee Oxmo Puccino’s dexterous and heady bars in French. While being a much-needed bit of peace, thoughtfulness and empathetic connection in a world that’s often batshit insane, the two artists make a vital connection between the ancient and the modern, the West and Africa — with an important reminder that hip hop is the lingua franca of post-modern life. 
  • Album title track “Djourou,” which sees Sissoko collaborating with leading Gambian-born, female kora player Sona Jobarteh. Centered around the duo holding a musical conversation by trading expressive and shimmering, melodic kora lines paired with ethereal interwoven vocals, the track finds its collaborations making connections with across both contemporary African borders and through time. Interestingly, Sissoko sought out Jobarteh with a specific wish to connect with the younger generation of kora players — to rejoin with their common forebears, to weave a connective thread across borders that were unknown and unimagined to the griots of the Malian Empire’s presence over much of West Africa. 
  • Kora,” a collaboration with Nouveau Vague’s Camille centered around the electric and playful interplay between Camille’s coquettish vocals and Sissoko’s expressive yet melodic bursts of kora. The song itself is a love letter to the kora that suggests that the instrument holds an ancient, mystical power.

Djourou‘s latest single “Jeu Sur La Symphonie Fantasique 2” is an album bonus track that features Patrick Messina (clarinet) and frequent collaborator Vincent Segal (cello). This particular collaboration can trace its origins back to when the trio were all playing at the annual Berlioz Festival held in France: The trio were invited to create a piece to mark the 150th anniversary of Hector Berlioz’s death. The end result is a gorgeous re-imagining of “Symphonie Fantasique” that focuses on the composition’s “March To The Scaffold” segment that manages to draw parallels between the martial themes of the original composition and the historic battles of Sissoko’s Mandinka people. Interestingly, while being breathtakingly gorgeous, the track feels like a witty and playful conversation between three masters of their craft.

New Video: Rising Burundian-Tanzanian Artist Young Spit Releases a Summery Banger

Niyomwungere Eric is rising 24 year-old Burundian-Tanzanian singer/rapper, whose family emigrated to the States when he was a child. Best known to the world as Young Spit, the Burundian-Tanzanian artist rose to prominence with the release of his first two singles “Shanna” and “Cinderella,” which appeared on his full-length length debut, last year’s Era 257. Those early singles and his debut found the young artist quickly establishing his unique sound, a mesh of Afro pop, Caribbean music and hip-hop paired with lyrics that draw from his personal experiences.

Clocking in at a smidge under three minutes, Era 257’s latest single “Uwanje” is a summery banger that’s both club and radio friendly — while drawing from an eclectic array of influences: the song manages to mesh trap, contemporary pop and R&B and dancehall as it prominently features twinkling synth arpeggios, skittering tweeter and woofer rocking beats, brief blasts of squiggling horns, a scorching guitar solo and the rising Burundian-Tanzanian artist’s gently Autotuned yet expressive vocals. But underneath the glossy swagger, the song is actually a tender and very sweet love song that gives it a subtle Quiet Storm vibe.

Directed by the rising Burundian-Tanzanian artist, shot by 21G productions and edited by Easy.Cuts, the recently released video for “Uwanje” is part behind-the-scenes-like footage of a photo shoot with the rising artist and some beautiful women split with footage of Young Spit rocking out to the song. The video has a playful charm that’s as infectious as the song itself.

Live footage: Mariaa Siga Performs “Weetay” at Vagh & Weinmann Music

Born Mariama Siga Goudiaby, singer/songwriter Mariaa Siga hails from the Casamance region of Southern Senegal. Back in 2009, Gouidaby won a local talent show and the attention of Senegalese act Joan of Arc. Joan of Arc’s frontperson mentored the young Goudiaby, helping her refine her style and further develop her musical skills. The next year, Siga landed a role in Mon Réve, a film which aired on the national TV network RDV. 

As a musician, Goudiaby grew up with the traditional rhythms of Casamance but curiosity led there to discover and experiment with more Western styles in her work including the blues and jazz. In 2016, the rising Senegalese artist was a winner of the Festival des Vielles Pirogues‘ Tremplin competition. Building upon the growing buzz surrounding her, she released two singles “Ya sama none” and “Asekaw,” the following year.

2018 saw Goudiaby perform in Casamance for the first time with a set at that year’s Kaiyssen Festival. Yoro Ndiyae featured Goudiaby on his Sunu Folk compilation. And she capped off a big year with a French tour in November. Late last year, the Senegalese artist released “Lagne Boote,” a breezy and infectious song that subtly hinted at soca and other Caribbean sounds paired with Afro pop that reminds the listener to never forget their roots. “When you get lost and don’t know where you’re going, go back to your sources,” Goudiaby explained in press notes.

Goudiaby and her backing band recently released a live, acoustic version of Asekaw album single “Weetay,” which translates into “loneliness” was filmed and recorded at Vagh & Weinmann Music in Salernes, France. Filmed in a single take to replicate the conditions of a live concert, the stripped down version of “Weetay” is centered around shimmering acoustic guitar and Siga’s gorgeous vocals, which manage to express desperate loneliness.

New Video: Jujuboy Star Releases a Summery Club Banger

Osaretin Rock Akhib is a 25 year-old Nigerian singer/songwriter and producer, best known as Jujuboy Star. Hailing from the the same city in Edo State as contemporaries Rema and Santi, the Nigerian singer/songwriter and producer can trace the origins of his music career to joining the local church choir when he turned eight. As a teenager, he learned about music production from a neighbor — and by the time he was 16, he was producing his own beats at his grandmother’s house, using Fruity Loops and a USB mic.

From those rather humble beginnings, Jujuboy Star has gone to collaborate with Jidenna, Adekunle Gold, Simi, Gospelonthebeatz. Seyi Shay and a lengthy list of others. Adding to a growing profile, the Edo State, Nigeria-based artist has become the first artist to be signed to the recently formed partnership between Aristokrat Records, the Nigerian entertainment company that discovered and developed international superstar Burna Boy and Universal Records. “Juju is by far one of the most exciting artists I’ve come across over the past decade and represents the next generation of African superstars,” Aristokrat Records founder and CEO Priye Isokari says in press notes. “We are glad to finally be introducing him to the world.”

Quickly following up on “I Dey There,” the rising Nigerian artist’s latest single, the Kel-P-produced “Enjoyment” is a sexy, feel-good club anthem centered around a slick production that meshes elements of Afrobeats, R&B and reggae: the listener will hear skittering and shuffling polyrhythm, squiggling synths, warm blasts of Nile Rodgers-like funk guitar, a strutting bass line paired with Jujuboy’s self-assured yet achingly vulnerable vocals. To me, it’s the sort of song that you’d likely hear in the club while you’re trying to pick up that pretty young thing.

Directed by Earthboi, the recently released video for “Enjoyment” follows the rising Nigerian artist as he wakes up bleary-eyed and staggering from a wild house party with some of the most beautiful Black people I’ve ever set eyes on — including a gold clad woman, who plays the stunning love interest.


Founded in 2014 by Fez, Morocco-born, New York-based master musician Maâlem Hassan Ben Jaafer (sintir, vocals), the New York-based Grammy Award-nominated act Innov Gnawa, which currently features core members Casablanca, Morocco-born, New York-based Amino Belyamani (chorus, qraqeb, piano) and Salé, Morocco-born, New York-based Ahmed Jeriouda (chorus, qraqeb, cajon) and a cast of collaborators, specialize in Gnawa, the ritual trance music of Morocco.

Frequently refereed to as the Moroccan Blues or the Sufi blues, Gnawa is rooted in centuries of history with the musical genre and dance being traced to the mixing of rhythms and polytheistic spiritual beliefs of West Africa — primarily from what is now known as Mali and Mauritania — with Islam and Morocco’s indigenous culture. Lyrically, Gnawa songs are prayers and invocations to saints and spirits for liberation, peace and freedom from worldly suffering and so on. Geaturing unique instruments that are often handmade, including the lute-like sintir, he three-stringed African bass, the guembri, metal castanet-like qarqaba, which are used to pound out clattering and hypnotic rhythms, symbolically meant to represent the clinking and clanking of the slaves’ chains and shackles paired with call and response vocals, Gnawa possesses a hypnotic power that has won over audiences and musicians from all over the globe, including Jimi HendrixPaul Bowles and Randy Weston. And in the band’s native Morocco, the genre is revered as a treasured, indigenous soul music, much like the blues and country are to Americans. 

Produced by Daptone Records‘ founder and self-professed Gnawa enthusiast Gabriel Roth, the acclaimed Brooklyn-based act’s forthcoming album Lila is slated for an April 30, 2021 release through Daptone Records. Deriving its name for a Moroccan term for “night,” Lila is traditional ceremony in which the group dedicates an evening of cleansing and healing through music that was recorded in an epic five hour, one-take session. 

Earlier this year, I wrote about album single “Chorfa.” Clocking in at 13:51, “Chorfa” was centered around an expansive arrangement featuring the double bass-like guembri, the hypnotic polyrhythm of the qarqaba and call and response vocals led by the collective’s Ben Jafaar. The song finds the members of the acclaimed act tapping into a deeply spiritual and universal longing for freedom, clarity, peace and healing that feels — and of course sounds — older than time. “El Ghaba” continues in a similar vein as its immediate predecessor: the double bass-like guembri paired with the hypnotic clicking and clacking of the qarqaba and melodic call and response delivered vocals before ending in an explosive flourish. “Ask a forest dweller about primordial darkness and they will say it is beginning and end, mysterious and all-knowing, dreadful and welcoming, powerful yet invisible,” the band’s Amino Belyamani says of the song.

Lila is slated for an April 30, 2021 release through Daptone Records. 

New Video: Madagasacar’s LohArano Releases Another Mosh Pit Friendly Ripper

LohArano — Mahalia Ravoajanahary (vocals, guitar), Michael Raveloson (bass, vocals) and Natiana Randrianasoloson (drums, vocals) — is a rising Antananarivo, Madagascar-based trio that formed over six years ago. And since their formation, they’ve develop and honed a remarkably unique, boundary pushing sound that meshes elements of popular and beloved Malagasy musical styles — in particular, Tsapiky  and Salegy — with metal. The Antananarivo-based trio’s sound and approach represents a bold, new generation of young people in their homeland, a generation that respects and honors the traditions of their elders but roaring with the fierce urgency that our moment requires.

Building upon the buzz that they received with their debut single “Andrambavitany” and a handful of standalone singles, the members of LohArano released their self-titled debut EP last Friday. The EP’s latest single is “Tandroka” continues a run of enormous, mosh pit friendly rippers centered around a rumbling, down-tuned bass line, thunderous drumming, scorching guitar riffs and Mahalia Ravoajanahary’s Karen O-like vocals, which alternate between feral howls, screeching and shouting. We can’t have mosh pits for a bit longer — but play this one as loud as possible and remember what it was like to be colliding with sweaty bodies in a dark room.

Directed by Andriamanisa Radoniaina, the recently released video follows the trio as the embark on their every day life, from the band’s members getting up to start their day, meet up and rehearse, write material, play a friend’s house party — before moving up to an actual club.

New VIdeo: Ballaké Sissoko Teams Up with Nouveau Vague’s Camille on a Gorgeous New Single

Ballaké Sissoko is an acclaimed Malian-born, Paris-based kora player. who comes from a deeply musical family: Sissoko is the son of equally acclaimed, kora master Djelimady Sissoko, who may be best known for his work with Ensemble Instrumental Du Mali. Drawn to the kora at a very young age, the younger Sissoko was taught the instrument by his father. Tragically. Djelmady died while his children were very young — and Ballaké stepped up to take the on the role of breadwinner, eventually taking his father’s place in the Ensemble Instrumental Du Mali.

The younger Sissoko has had a long-held fascination with genres and sounds outside of scope of the Mandika people — i.e., flamenco guitar, sitar and others — which, inspired a series of critically applauded collaborations with a diverse and eclectic array of musicians across the globe, including acclaimed French cellist Vincent Segal, Toumani Diabaté, legendary bluesman Taj Mahal and Ludovic Einaudi.

Sissoko’s 11th album Djourou is slated for an April 9, 2021 release through his long-time label home Nø Førmat Records. The album will feature solo compositions and a number of thoughtful collaborations with a collection of diverse and unexpected artists outside of the Mandinka musical genre for which his griot caste is celebrated globally, including Nouvelle Vague’s Camille, African legend Salif Keita, young, leading female kora player Sona Jobareth, the aforementioned Vincent Segal and Malian-born, French emcee Oxmo Puccino among others.

Djourou, which derives its name from the Bambara word for string, can trace its origins to when Sissoko approached Nø Førmat label head Laurent Bizot with the proposition of blending solo kora pieces with unexpected collaborations. The label and Sissoko mutually agreed that he take the time to confirm enriching and challenging partnership with artists, who were fans of Sissoko’s work. The album took a painstaking yet fruitful two years to complete.

So far I’ve written about two of Djourou’s released singles:

“Frotter Les Mains,” deriving its title from the French phrase for “rub hands,” the mediative track is centered around the simple percussive element of Sissoko rubbing his hands back and forth, shimmering plucked kora and Malian-born, French-based emcee Oxmo Puccino’s dexterous and heady bars in French. While being a much-needed bit of peace, thoughtfulness and empathetic connection in a world that’s often batshit insane, the two artists make a virtual connection between the ancient and the modern, the West and Africa — with an important reminder that hip hop is the lingua franca of post-modern life.
Album title track “Djourou,” which sees Sissoko collaborating with leading Gambian-born, female kora player Sona Jobarteh. Centered around the duo holding a musical conversation by trading expressive and shimmering, melodic kora lines paired with ethereal interwoven vocals. Much like its immediate predecessor, the track finds its collaborations making a vital connection — this time across both contemporary African borders and across time. Sissoko sought out Jobarteh with a specific wish to connect with the younger generation of kora players — to rejoin with their common forebears, to weave a connective thread across borders that were unknown and unimagined to the griots of the Malian Empire’s presence over much of West Africa.

“When I met Ballaké, we said to ourselves that to talk to each other we had to play together, and that’s how we spoke best: we played under a tree, outside, and part of the melody came to me like that,” Camille recalls. “I wanted to write a song about the kora, the mystery of this instrument, and I started asking him questions: about woodwind, etc. but it’s not a luthier’s song, it’s a love song. Love is fire, love is water. And the sound of the kora is like flowing water.”

“Kora,” was realized with a simple yet strikingly shot bit of live footage shot in Paris’ Bois de Vincennes Park by Julien Borel and Vladimir Cagnolari , which captures the duo’s incredible musical simpatico.

New Audio: Acclaimed Act Innov Gnawa Releases a Gorgeous and Hypnotic Single

Founded in 2014 by Fez, Morocco-born, New York-based master musician Maâlem Hassan Ben Jaafer (sintir, vocals), the New York-based Grammy Award-nominated act Innov Gnawa, which currently features core members Casablanca, Morocco-born, New York-based Amino Belyamani (chorus, qraqeb, piano) and Salé, Morocco-born, New York-based Ahmed Jeriouda (chorus, qraqeb, cajon) and a cast of collaborators, specialize in gnawa, the ritual trance music of Morocco.

Frequently refereed to as the Moroccan Blues or the Sufi blues, Gnawa is rooted in centuries of history with the musical genre and dance being traced to the mixing of rhythms and polytheistic spiritual beliefs of West African — primarily from what is now known as Mali and Mauritania — with Islam and Morocco’s indigenous culture. Lyrically, Gnawa songs are prayers and invocations to saints and spirits for liberation, peace and freedom from worldly suffering and so on. Featuring unique instruments that are often handmade — including the lute-like sintir, the three-stringed African bass, the guembri, metal castanet-like qarqaba, which are used to pound out clattering and hypnotic rhythms, symbolically meant to represent the clinking and clanking the slaves’ chains and shackles — paired with call and response vocals, gnawa possesses a hypnotic power that has won over audiences and musicians from all over the globe, including Jimi Hendrix, Paul Bowles and Randy Weston. And in the band’s native Morocco, the genre is revered as a treasured, indigenous soul music, much like the blues and country are to Americans.

Produced by Daptone Records’ founder and self-professed Gnawa enthusiast Gabriel Roth, the acclaimed Brooklyn-based act’s forthcoming album Lila is slated for an April 30, 2021 release through Daptone Records. Deriving its name for a Moroccan term for “night,” Lila is traditional ceremony in which the group dedicates an evening of cleansing and healing through music that was recorded in an epic five hour, one-take session.

Clocking in at 13.51, Lila’s latest single “Chorfa” is a centered around an expansive arrangement featuring the double bass-like guembri, the hypnotic polyrhythm of the qarqaba and the call and response vocals led by the collective’s Ben Jafaar. The song, much like the rest of their work finds the act tapping into a deeply spiritual and universal longing for freedom, clarity, peace and healing that’s seemingly older than time with a gorgeous, heartfelt sincerity.

Lila is slated for an April 30, 2021 release through Daptone Records.

New Video: Ballaké Sissoko Teams up With Rising Gambian Kora Player Sona Jobarteh on a Meditative Single

Ballaké Sissoko is an acclaimed Malian-born, Paris-based kora player. who comes from a rather musical family: Sissoko is the son of equally acclaimed, kora master Djelimady Sissoko, who may be best known for his work with Ensemble Instrumental Du Mali. Drawn to the kora at a very young age, the younger Sissoko was taught the instrument by his father. Tragically,. Djelmady died while his children were very young — and Ballaké stepped up to take the on the role of breadwinner, eventually taking his father’s place in the Ensemble Instrumental Du Mali.

The younger Sissoko has had a long-held fascination with genres and sounds outside of scope of the Mandika people — i.e., flamenco guitar, sitar and others — which, inspired a series of critically applauded collaborations with a diverse and eclectic array of musicians across the globe, including acclaimed French cellist Vincent Segal, Toumani Diabaté, legendary bluesman Taj Mahal and Ludovic Einaudi.

Sissoko’s 11th album Djourou was originally scheduled for release this week — but its release has since been rescheduled for an April 19, 2021 release through his long-time label home Nø Førmat Records. The forthcoming album will feature solo compositions and a number of thoughtful collaborations with a collection of diverse and unexpected artists outside of the Mandinka musical genre for which his griot caste is celebrated globally, including Nouvelle Vague’s Camille, African legend Salif Keita, young, leading female kora player Sona Jobareth, the aforementioned Vincent Segal and Malian-born, French emcee Oxmo Puccino among others.

Interestingly, Djourou, which derives its name from the Bambara word for string, can trace its origins to when Sissoko approached Nø Førmat label head Laurent Bizot with the proposition of blending solo kora pieces with unexpected collaborations. The label and Sissoko mutually agreed that he take the time to confirm enriching and challenging partnership with artists, who were fans of Sissoko’s work. And as a result, the album has taken over two years to complete.

Late last year, I wrote about Djourou’s first single, the meditative and gorgeous “Frotter Les Mains,” which features acclaimed Malian-born, French-based emcee Oxmo Puccino. Deriving its title from the French phrase for “rub hands,” “Frotter Les Mains” is centered around the percussive element of Sissoko rubbing his hands, shimmering kora and Puccino’s dexterous and heady French lyrics. The end result is a song that’s simultaneously a much-needed bit of peace, thoughtfulness and kindness in a world that’s often batshit insane, a vital connection between the ancient and the modern, the West and Africa — and a reminder that hip hop has become the lingua franca that binds us all.

Djourou’s latest single, album title track “Djourou” is a mediative track that sees Sissoko collaborating with leading Gambian-born, female kora player Sona Jobarteh, centered around the duo trading shimming and expressive melodic bursts of kora paired with ethereal, interwoven vocals. Much like its immediate predecessor, the track finds its collaborators making a vital connection — this time across both contemporary African borders and across generations. Sissoko sought out Jobarteh with a specific wish to connect with the younger generation of kora players — to rejoin with their common forebears, to weave a connective thread across borders that were unknown and unimagined to the griots of the Malian Empire’s presence over much of West Africa.

“You grow up listening to somebody, and that’s the person that has in many ways been your teacher, your inspiration since a very young age,” Jobarteh says of her collaboration with the Malian-bor, Parisian-based kora master. “The first time I heard him, sounded so different to me, the tone that he gets out of the instrument is so different. He says something to me, the phrasing and the melody he picks – and he’s technically amazing, but he doesn’t let that become more than the music. That’s something I’ve always respected about him.”

Directed by Benoît Peverelli, the recently released video for “Djourou” features intimately shot footage of Sissoko and Jobarteh in the studio. The visual manages to convey the meditative peace of the song.

The Republic of Djibouti is a small country located in the Horn of Africa, bordered by Somaliland to the south, Ethiopia to the southwest, Eritrea to the north and the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden to the east. Interestingly, on the eve of the small East African country’s independence, a densely packed archive was pieced together in a quiet corner of the national radio. And over the years, it became an outstanding yet largely unknown archive that housed thousands of master reels and cassettes of some of the region’s finest sounds.

The archive has survived and endured fires and even theft of invaluable recordings. Those scars linger on the delicate films of quarter-inch reels and cassette tapes. And yet, it remains one for he most expansive, well-maintained archives in Africa — but it’s simultaneously been one of the most restrictive: for decades, the archives remained off-limits to foreign entities of any kind until 2019.

As Ostinato Records explains in press notes, they operate on the guiding principle that no physical historic recordings should leave a country and agreements with archives should be a win-win trade, not aid. Part of the deal for archival across and licensing rights included a finely refurbished Technics reel-to-real player from the ’70s with upgraded software to replace a worn-out model for RTD to continue their digital preservation of the entire archive in high quality.

Although it took several years of negotiations Ostinato Records became the first label granted access stop the archives of Radiodiffusion-Télevision de Djibouti (RTD), a vault of secrets and stories from East Africa, including Somalia, Ethiopia, and of course Djibouti.

Somali supergroup 4 Mars, the act behind one of the most popular songs on their Grammy-nominated Sweet As Broken Dates compilation is the first chapter of their “Djibouti Archives” because of their incredibly rich, globalized sound reveals a new history of the world — and of music. For centuries, all roads lead to Horn of Africa. As a a major port and transit point connecting African, Asia and the Mediterranean, goods, ideas, foods, people and culture were briskly exchanged: Musically, Egyptian, Turkish, Arab, Persian, Indian and Chinese traders and tastemakers dropped anchor in Djibouti’s Gulf of Tadjoura, with each arrival influencing the region’s sound and aesthetic.

Today, a third of all world trade passes through Djibouti’s straits and a similar mix of diverse and eclectic characters roam the streets and docks. Reportedly, a South African diplomat pointed to Djibouti and told the folks at Ostinato “This is the future.” But for the sake of this post, let’s talk about 4 Mars. 4 Mars offers a bright window into Djibouti’s past, when the country was starting from scratch. Their name — Quatre Mars in French — refers to March 4, 1977, the founding date of The People’s Rally for Progress, the political party in charge of the small East African country since its independence. And interestingly enough, 4 Mars was the party’s band.

New countries are in desperate need of unity — and of unifying ideals. The country’s leaders saw music, and 4 Mars especially, as the ideal soundtrack to an independent era. Almost all music was brought under the state’s wing. But interestingly enough, it wasn’t propaganda music — not in the sense as we would understand it. Music was seen as a way of quickly building a national identity and to instill values. And acts like 4 Mars were seen as having a key role in nurturing and teaching a new nation.

4 Mars is largely unknown outside of Horn of Africa region because it was a massive 40 member entourage featuring actors, singers, dancers, musicians and percussionists. Only super wealthy leaders like Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi could invite them to tour. But in Djibouti, they played at the once-lavish national theater, developing a reputation for amazing live shows, some of which were recorded by RTD.

Slated for a February 19, 2021 release globally and a February 26, 2021 release in the States, (Djibouti Archives Vol. 1) Super Somali Sounds from the Gulf of Tadjoura: 4 Mars was authorized by booth RTD and The Palace of the People, which founded and overseas 4 Mars. Compiled from master tapes and reels recorded at RTD Studios and from live performances at the national theater between 1977 and 1994, this collection is a seminal anthology that offers a perspective shifting journey through East Africa.

So, to build up buzz for the compilation Ostinato Records released three singles off the compilation — “Hoblaayeey Nabadu! (Hello Peace!),” “Dhulka Hooyo (Motherland)” and “Aabo Usha Noohaay (Father Hold the Stick for Us).” These three tracks are a wonderful example of 4 Mars’ sound — a sound in which disparate and eclectic sound and ideas mesh into something familiar yet completely new. The songs are a heady and mind-bending mesh of Afrobeat and Bollywood-inspired vocals, shuffling off-beat reggae licks, which some will argue came from Jamaican reggae while others will say come from Somali Dhaanto rhythm, Egyptian and Yemeni rhythms, Sudanese song structures, American jazz and funk-inspired horn lines, Turkish-inspired synth melodies, Egyptian and Yemeni rhythms and so on delivered with a feverish intensity and urgency.

While the material has an old and dusty analog sound, it’s a bright vision of a genre-less, border-less future ruled by the exchange of ideas and sounds and drive by funky groove — 40 years before anyone here dreamt of it. Djibouti past and is the world’s future, indeed.