Category: African Diaspora Music

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. 

 

Jade Jana is an emerging, Yaounde, Cameroon-based singer and Afro pop artist. Deeply influenced by her maternal grandmother, who also an artist, a young Jade Jana found herself drawn to music at a very early age. As a child, she took part in public performances during religious ceremonies, eventually becoming the mascot of the children’s choir that her big sisters Aurelie, Rachel and Irene founded.

Her first time performing in a musical group came when her bass playing brother Martin asked a then-seven year old Jana to step in for the lead singer of his college band. Several years later, while a teenaged member of the local classical church choir, Jana started her first group VAST, which featured her best friend LilI Blandine. While a member of VAST, Jana met pianist Mbo’o Tchinda. Tchinda would become instrumental to a young Jana: Tchinda taught the rising Cameroonian singer the basics of jazz and blues.

Jana eventually relocated to Douala, where she met Calvin Yug and collaborated on S-Team’s full-length debut. Shortly after, she started a second group MARAKASS. MARAKASS played at Douala’s French Institute and made waves with “Te Wa Mbara,” which appeared in the 2006 compilation Francophonie du Midem. She then spent the next two years working on her own material, re-emerging in 2010 when she opened for Henri Dikongue.

Jana then collaborated with hip-hop act Afropeen Lyonnais Tchopdye, joining the act on a handful of French tour dates. She also collaborated with Lyonnais, appearing on Les Monstroplantes  — while touring with her own electro poppet Son Of Tube. With those experiences under her proverbial belt, the Cameroonian artist decides that it’s finally time to go solo, releasing material under her own name that thematically explores all the encounters that have one way or another influenced who she is today.

“Sassaye.” Jada Jana’s solo debut is an infectious and hook-driven track that draws from a variety of sources across the African Diaspora: there’s elements of soukouss, Cameroonian pop, Mandingo melodies and Caribbean groove and Jana’s sultry vocals. And while being a Pan African club banger, the track is simultaneously a bold and defiantly feminist anthem that calls out a specific type of man — a sort of fuckboi. “A sassaye is an easy man, who gets bogged down in his game of seduction and who too often forgets his dignity,” Jana explains.

 

 

 

 

New Video: Introducing the Global-Spanning Sounds of Mayotte’s M’Toro Chamou

Located in the Comoros archipelago off the coast of Southeast Africa, between Northwestern Mozambique and Northeastern Mozambique, the Department of Mayotte is a French overseas region, which consists of two islands — the main island of Grande-Teerre (or Maore), a smaller island of Petite-Terre (Pamanzi) and several islets around the two. 

Initially populated by people from nearby East Africa, Arabs, who brought Islam came later on — and by 1500, a sultanate was established. In the 19th century, Mayotte was conquered by Andriantsoly, former king of Ibonia (which was in modern day Madagascar), and later by the neighboring islands of Moheli and Anjuoan before being purchased by France in 1841.  

With a decisive referendum on the independence  of the Comoros region in 1974, the people of Mayotte voted to politically remain a part of France. Another decisive referendum vote in 2009 led to Mayotte becoming a French Department on March 31, 2011 — and an outermost region of the European Union on January 1. 2014. Although the islands are a politically recognized French territory, the majority of its inhabitants speak Shiamore, a Sabaki language closely related to the languages spoken in the neighboring Comoros Islands, not French. Kibushi, a Malagasy language, which features two dialects — Kibushi Kisakalava and Kibushi Kiantalaotra is also spoken by a significant portion of the population. Interestingly, according to a recent census report, a majority of the population aged 14 and older say that they can speak French — with varying levels of fluency. 

As a new department, the island region currently faces some enormous problems: as of this year, its annual population growth is at 3.8%. Half its population is less than 17 years old. Unemployment is at 35%. 84% of its inhabitants live below the officially recognized poverty line. And as a result of an influx of illegal immigration from its neighbors, 48% of its population are foreign nationals. As you can imagine, much like everywhere else on the planet, things socially and politically on Mayotte are rather turbulent. 

Over the past few years, the Mayotte-born singer/songwriter and guitarist M’Toro Chamou has created a unique sound and musical style that he’s dubbed Afro M’Godro Rock, which meshes the traditional M’Godro, Shigoma and Chengue rhythms of Mayotte with more Western sounds — primarily rock and blues. In fact, he’s deeply influenced by BB King, John Lee Hooker, Nina Simone, Ray Charles and James Brown, among a host of others. Thematically, his work exhorts people to come together as one rather than being torn apart by politics. Interestingly, his most recent album Sika Mila, which translates into English as “Preserve Your Culture” thematically focuses on the rapidly charging Mahoran culture while spreading messages of hope and unity to a fractious people. 

Chamou’s latest single “M’Godro Rebel” is a breezy and anthemic song centered around shimmering acoustic guitar, brief bursts of emphatic electric guitars, propulsive polyrhythm and call and response vocals. And while deeply rooted in traditional sounds, the song finds Chamou’s sound and approach nodding at Bob Marley-like reggae both thematically and sonically. As Chamou explains in press notes, the song is about the discrimination and oppression that limits the people of Mayotte and Black people everywhere. 

Directed by Lenz, the gorgeous shot and recently released video for “M’Godro Rebel” finds both the director and the Mayotte-born singer/songwriter purposefully highlighting the beauty, wealth and strength of African people: the video begins with Chamou and a cast of beautiful black people of all shades wearing 18th Century Rococo — or late baroque — style clothing, in opulent European-inspired settings that makes the first portion of the video seem indebted to the work of Kehinde Wiley. In the West, we rarely see Africa or Africans in such a proud, powerful fashion, let alone other Black people across the Diaspora — and it is defiant, boldly Black as fuck. During the video’s second half, we see the same cast wearing the vividly colored designs of South African designer Laduma Ngxokolo. The video says that Africans have a proud, rich history and an important place in the modern world. Simply put, everything about the video is black excellence.  

 

Urban Village is a rapidly rising Soweto, Johannesburg, South Africa-based quartet of young self-taught experimental musicians. With the release of their debut EP Bantu Art, the South African quartet developed a reputation for a sound that blends folk, funk, reggae, South African funk and regional traditional influences — while thematically, their material focuses on the day-to-day experiences of black folk in South Africa.

The members of Urban Village recently signed to acclaimed Parisian world music label Nø Førmat, who will release their highly-anticipated full-length debut next year. In the meantime, the band’s latest single “Sakhisizwe,” which translates into “To Build a Nation” in English, is the first official single off their full-length debut is a centered around a sinuous and propulsive bass line, looping Zulu guitar riffs, call and response vocals singing lyrics in English and Zulu, bursts of melodious flute within an unabashedly joyous song — with a hopeful and much-needed message of unity in our fractious and troubled times. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Video: Rapidly Rising Afro Pop Act ONIPA Releases a Vibrant Visual for Club Banging Single “Makoma”

Deriving their name from the Akan word for “human,” the London-based Afro pop/dance pop act ONIPA features an All-Star cast of collaborators that includes the act’s core duo, longtime friends, Kweku of Ghana’s and KOG and the Zongo Brigade’s KOG (vocals. balafon and percussion) and Nubiyan Twist’s Tom Excell (guitar, production, electronics) with Wonky Logic’s Dwayne Kilvington synths and MPC) and Nubiyan Twist’s Finn Booth (drums) joining the band for live shows. The act views its work as a message of connection through high energy and deep, dance floor friendly grooves. 

Following an attention-grabbing set at this year’s Felabration at Amsterdam’s Paradiso alongside Pat Thomas and Dele Sosimi, the rapidly rising London-based Afro pop act is gearing up for what may arguably be a momentous 2020: their full-length debut is slated for release next year through Strut Records and they’ll be supporting the album with an extensive tour across the UK and European Union during the Spring and Summer. 

“Makoma,” the full-length album’s first single is a buoyant and vibrant club banger centered around looping and shimmering guitars, stuttering polyrhythm, tweeter and woofer rocking beats, call and response vocals and a raucous, crowd pleasing hook. Mischievously nodding at soca, the Pan African song features lyrics sung in Twi and Sisaala while sonically being indebted to the sounds of The Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as Ghana — primarily soukous, but with a slick, modern production. 

The recently released video for “Makoma” features a collection of beautiful African people within a vibrant color palette riding bicycles across the African countryside for a bit, before stopping to sing and dance along to the song, The video captures the simple and profound joy of being with your friends and enjoying your favorite song,