Category: African Diaspora Music

New Video: Haunting Visuals and Sounds of Tinariwen’s “Tenere Taqqal” Captures a Rapidly Disappearing Way of Life

Interestingly, Tinariwen’s forthcoming full-length effort Elwan (which translates into English as The Elephants) is slated for a February 10, 2017 release, and the album thematically focuses both on the disappearing traditions of the Tuareg people and of being forced into exile — oddly enough as the members of the band were touring the world. And the album’s gorgeous first single “Tenere Taqqal” possesses an understated longing for a way of life and for a home, which as Thomas Wolfe wisely suggested they can never return to and will never get back. And yet there’s a tacit acknowledgment that life must continue onward and that they have a profoundly important duty of ensuring that something of the old traditions can be preserved and passed on to future generations. As a result, the single while being slow-burning and brooding also manages to possess an understated, quiet urgency — all while feeling older than time itself. Every time, I’ve listened to this track I can picture sitting among the Tuareg or the Bedouins at a campfire, as they tell tales of creation or of the great mystics and teachers, who have led flocks of faithful . .

The recently released animated video was directed by Axel Digoix and it vividly depicts the desert’s harshness, cruelty and beauty, and the profound spiritual and physical connection that the Tuareg people have towards it, while pointing out that their traditions and their world is being violently torn apart.



While most Westerners are most likely familiar with Afrobeat, Malian blues and several other genres that have hit European and American shores since the early 1970s, there’s actually a lesser known genre primarily based in the Western African nations of Togo and Benin called vaudou, named after both the culture and rituals that birthed it; in fact, part of vaudou rituals reportedly involve the use of characteristic lines sung to various divinities that differ wildly from everything one may hear in neighboring cultures. Sadly, many of the genre’s key figures including Poly-Rythmo of Cotonou, Dama Damawuzan, or El Rego have had their popularity confined to crate-digging and groove-obsessed Afro-groove and Afro-funk fans.


Lome, Togo-born and Lyon, France– based Peter Solo (lead vocals and guitar) stumbled upon this energetic Afro-funk and found a natural extension between vaudou and the blues, funk and R&B of James Brown, Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett and others. Solo then recruited Vicente Fritis (keys, backing vocals), Ghislain Paillard (sax, percussion and backing vocals), Guillhem Parguel (trombone, percussion, backing vocals), Jeremy Garcia (bass, backing vocals) and Hafid Zouaoui (drums, backing vocals) to complete his band Vaudou Game.

Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site for some time, you’d know that I’m frequently multi-tasking while working on posts and it has lead to the serendipitous discovery of a handful of acts that I’ve written about — including the aforementioned Vaudou Game. Check out “Revolution,” the opening track off the band’s latest effort Kidayu, a single with an infectious and deep groove reminiscent of early 70s James Brown (think of “The Payback”), and Open and Close/Afrodesiac-era Fela Kuti and Pazy and the Black Hippies’ Wa Ho Ha with lyrics sung both in English and one of the local dialects spoken in Togo — while being equally politically charged.


New Video: Afro-Haitian Experimental Orchestra Bridges the Sounds and Cultures of the African Diaspora with Funky Grooves

Album title track “Bade Zile” employs the use of propulsive and complex polyrhythms paired with call and response voodoo chants, a driving groove and swirling electronics to craft a sweaty and funky free-flowing jam that subtly nods to reggae and funk while directly and overtly nodding to Afrobeat and traditional Haitian music in dizzying and seamless fashion.

The recently released music video was primarily shot in Port-au-Prince during Fete La Musique and it captures the island nation’s stark poverty, its people’s beauty, dignity and pride, some gorgeous voodoo relics and the musicians of the Afro-Haitian Experimental Orchestra in the rehearsal room and on stage jamming, as well as the audience at the festival rocking out and enjoying the proceedings. And the entire time I watched the video I couldn’t help but be awed by such a proud, beautiful people, who have suffered so greatly.

Congolese-born, Minneapolis, MN-based guitarist, singer/songwriter and composer Siama Matuzungidi has had a lengthy, decades long prolific career that began in earnest when he left his home in rural Democratic Republic of the Congo, then Zaire with a guitar strapped to his back. He then travelled to Kinshasa and Uganda before eventually landing in Nairobi, Kenya. And during those travels a young Matuzungidi was a studio musician, songwriter and or cowriter with some of soukous’ biggest and brightest names including Kanda Bongo Man, Sam Mangwana, Moni Mambo with Shika Shika, Lovy Longomba, Tshala Muana and Samba Mapangala with Virunga; in fact, Matuzungidi has played on more than 100 singles, including some of soukous’ most beloved radio hits while developing a reputation for material based around tales of love, desire and betrayal paired with catchy hooks and a wry and ironic sense of humor — although on many of those songs he wasn’t officially credited.


As a result of his prolific songwriting and incredible guitar work, Matuzungidi became considered one of soukous’ legends — and in a highly competitive genre in which writing catchy song just wasn’t enough to stay relevant. During the genre’s golden age during the 70s and 8os, it took more than writing a catchy song to keep listeners ears and fans buying albums, and the genre’s songwriters and musicians began writing songs with a deeper complexity and nuance, so you’d hear intricate hooks, complex scales an more. And interestingly enough, that period of experimentation may arguably have prepared and influenced the Congolese soukous legend’s future interest in experimenting with his sound.

Now as the story goes, after spending time performing in Japan and Dubai, Matuzungidi relocated to Minneapolis, the soukous legend quickly realized that he was in for a rather big professional and personal change — “for the first time there wasn’t anyone to play soukous with. I was worried I might have to stop playing but another voice told me to try new things,” Matuzungidi explains in press notes. So the Congolese singer/songwriter and guitarist decided to invite a number of local and locally-based emigre musicians to collaborate with him including Carnatic Indian singer and veena virtuoso Nirmala Rajasekar, renowned gospel singer JD Steele, master Tibetan multi-instrumentalist Tenzen Ngawang, classical cellist Jacqueline Ultan and Joe Savage on pedal steel. As Matuzungidi continues “I invited musicians to share what they feel when they hear my music. I didn’t tell them what to play. I just encouraged them to express themselves in their own way. The music still sounds like home but they’ve added so many cool ideas to it.”

And as a result Matuzungidi’s recently released full-length Rivers is a bit of a modern and highly global take on traditional Congolese music. I have the unique privilege of premiering Rivers‘ opening single, the upbeat 6/8 “Jungle Zombie” which pairs a twisting and looping guitar line with bright blasts of horn, playful polyrhythm and a jazz-leaning bridge in a loose composition that allows room for each of the musicians a few brilliant moments to show off in a brilliant solos, along with call and response vocals. Reportedly, the song is loosely inspired by and is meant to channel the imagery of Matuzungidi and his family walking through the bush to get to their farm, where they grew their own food. Interestingly, as the press notes mention the song’s lyrics translated from Lingala simply say “Bring me water. Bring me food . . ” But the main thing is that the song is so joyous, so fun that you can’t help but want to dance along.







Comprised of Massama Dogo (lead vocals, guitar), Clayton Englar (sax), Megan Nortrup (sax), Scott Aronson (bass), Franck Martins (lead guitar). and Aaron Gibian (percussion and drums), the Washington, DC-based sextet Elikeh has developed a reputation for material that sonically has been classified as Afropop, as it draws influence from Western Africa — frequently meshing traditional Togolese rhythms with rock, funk, jazz with lyrics that deal with global themes and personal journeys.

Dogo, the band’s leader was born in Togo and while in the African nation, he played and sang in several local bands, including a local band also named Elikeh, with whom he released one album, Nyade in 2007. Several years later, Dogo relocated to Washington, DC met the current lineup and then wrote, recorded and released their 2010 Stateside debut, Adje! Adje! The sextet’s 2012 release Between 2 Worlds featured renowned Malian guitarist Vieux Farka Toure and Further and Dark Star Orchestra‘s John Kadlecik received international attention in World Music circles.

As the story goes, the band was considering calling it quits, finishing out the songs they had booked and moving on to other creative endeavors. During a band meeting in which the members of the band were going to discuss their future and splitting up, the band’s guitarist Frank Martins kept playing the entire time. He came up with a musical idea, someone else would join in, another band member would join in and then everyone began jamming — until they developed a song. One of the sax players had recorded the jam session and while listening to that session, the members of the band realized that their break up talk was premature. “We’re all excited about the band now,” Dogo mentioned in press notes. “It’s lucky the guitarist didn’t want to put down his instrument. The EP saved us.”

 That jam session inspired “The Conversation,” which appears on the Washington, DC-based sextet’s recently released Kondona, an EP that gets it title from ” a ceremony they hold every five years in the northern part of my country,” Dogo explains. “It’s an initiation, a way to welcome the young men into the adult part of the community. It seemed right for what had happened to us, although we still have a long way to go.”
The EP’s first single the aforementioned “The Conversation” manages to possess clear elements of Afrobeat and sounds partially influenced by Fela Kuti (in particular Afrodesiac/Open and Close and Expensive Shit/He Miss Road-era Fela) and contemporary American Afrobeat bands, including fellow DC area band The Funk Ark, NYC’s Ikebe Shakedown and others,

as the song begins with an introductory section with soaring organ chords throughout  before establishing the tight, percussive groove that holds the entire song together, and allows for each section and each instrumentalist to show off their immense chops — and conversing with each other throughout the length of the song. Of course, each region of the world specializes in subtle variations of the genre so that Togolese Afrobeat won’t be exactly the same as American Afrobeat or Nigerian Afrobeat — and in the case of Elikeh, the band’s sound possesses subtle elements of highlife, the genre that influenced Fela, thanks to its upbeat feel. But interestingly enough there’s subtle elements of pop and other African traditional sounds, which helps to set them apart from a very crowded DC Afrobeat scene. And yet somehow, from listening to this single it’s surprising to me that they’re not much larger than what they currently are; hopefully, the blogosphere can get it right.

New Video: OkayPlayer Catches Up with French-Cuban Sibling Duo Ibeyi For an Acapella Rendition of “Ibeyi (Outro)” in Central Park

Deriving their name from the Yoruba word for twins, ibeji, electro pop act Ibeyi (pronounced ee-bey-ee) are comprised of 19 year-old French-Cuban twin sibling duo, Lisa-Kainde Diaz and Naomi Diaz, who come from a rather […]