Category: Afro pop

 

Professionally known as Kaleta, Leon Ligan-Majek is a Benin-born, Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, bandleader and producer, who leads the up-and-coming local, Afro-funk act Kaleta and Super Yamba Band. Although the project is relatively new to the scene, Ligan-Majek can trace his music career back to Lagos, Nigeria, where Ligan-Majek spent his teenaged years playing in local churches. Eventually, the Benin-born, Brooklyn-based signer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, bandleader and producer caught the attention of renowned juju pioneer King Sunny Ade. “I was at Church when I heard King Sunny Ade sound checking one block away. By the time church service was over Sunny Ade’s gig was in full gear,” Ligan-Majek says of his first encounter with King Sunny Ade. “I infiltrated the gathering, snuck into the front row to watch the show. At the strike of the last note, right before Sunny Ade disappeared I went between him and his body guard and told him point blank my desire to play guitar for his band. He invited me to his house. I went the next day with a cassette containing songs and guitar riffs I wrote with him in mind.”

Kaleta went on to spend several years in King Sunny Ade’s backing band, recording four albums with the Juju pioneer before leaving the band to join Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti and Egypt 80. Unsurprisingly, the Benin-born, Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer learned how to fuse elements from an electric array of West African genres and styles — including highlife, juju, Afrobeat, Afro-funk and Afro-dance.

In 1991, Ligan-Majek relocated from Lagos to New York after Fela Kuti and Egypt 80  completed the North American leg of their world tour. And almost as soon as he set foot in New York, he wound up being the co-founder of two Afrobeat ensembles, Akoya Afrobeat and Zozo Afrobeat — and as a member those acts, he had shared stages with the likes of Jimmy Cliff, Yellowman, and Lauryn Hill. “Lauryn Hill was rehearsing in the same music complex when she heard my music from another room,” Kaleta recalls. “She stormed into Zozo Afrobeat’s rehearsal, and two weeks later, I was on tour with her playing guitar and traditional Beninese percussion. . . we performed about 45 dates all over the world.”

While Ligan-Majek’s chops suited him well to back some of biggest names in music, he had an irresistible drive to create his own unique work. He searched for a band of his own but he knew that he needed a perfect combination  — an irrefutable explosion of creative energy that came from a dedicated, like-minded group of musicians. Interestingly, Ligan-Majek credits his ambition and his vision to his older brother’s massive influence. Ligan-Ozavino Pascal was an obsessive music listener, with a passion for funk and soul. And as the story goes, Ligan-Ozavino Pascal occasionally weaponized his record collection to teach his younger brother discipline. When Kaleta misbehaved, his older brother would lock him in his room with a pile of records. The price of his freedom? A careful listen. “I had to submit to his huge love for music,” says Kaleta. “He introduced me to James Brown, Otis Redding, and other American, French and Cuban music.”

The Brooklyn-based Super Yamba Band, comprised of Daniel Yount (drums), Evan Frierson (percussion), Walter Fancourt (sax), Sean Smith (trumpet) have long been students and devoted fans of vintage West African, psychedelic Afro-funk. When they met Kaleta, who sang and played guitar over roots-rhythms while bbringing his infectious style to the project, things clicked. “I loved the way they stick together as a team,” says Kaleta. “Their exuberance. Their love for African music, notably Benin funk… I found out they were listening to my idols, too.” Between the members of the project, it became obvious that they stumbled upon something rare, exciting and in need of further cultivation and exploration. The members of Super Yamba Band had the skill and dedication that Kaleta had long sought for his solo work — and in turn, Kaleta brought the heard-earned wisdom from four decades as a professional musician that he was eager to share with bandmates. 

Since their formation, the band has spent the past couple of years honing their material and playing live shows across town and elsewhere, including an opening set last year for Niger-based Afro funk/Afro pop act Tal National and an appearance at last year’s Barbes and Electric Cowbell Records Secret Planet APAP Showcase. Interestingly, the band’s “Mr. Diva” was remastered and re-released earlier this year — and as the story goes, the band was so encouraged by the success at recreating their live sound in the studio, that they set out to record what would eventually become their forthcoming full-length debut Medaho.

 

Slated for a September 6, 2019 release through Ubiquity Records, Kaleta and Super Yamba Band’s full-length debut derives its name from the Goun and Fon word for “big brother,” “elder,””teacher” — and the album is dedicated to the memory of Kaleta’s brother Ligan-Ozavino, who died earlier this year. Sonically, the material finds the band unabashedly paying homage to its massive influences, including James Brown, Fela Kuti, Orchestre Poly-Rythmo, El Rego, The Funkees, among others — but interpreting their work, learning from it, deconstructing it when necessary, amplifying it, defying it and pushing it and the sound into the future.

Mèdaho‘s first single is album title track “Mèdaho.” Centered around a looping, wah-wah and other pedal effected guitar lines, a sinuous groove, propulsive percussion and Kaleta’s grunts and howls, the song manages to recall He Miss Road/Expensive Shit-era Fela Kuti, The Payback-era James Brown, as it possesses a similar grit and forcefulness — but unlike the period specific work that has influenced the track features a lysergic haze.

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New Video: TSHEGUE Return with a Dark and Cinematic Visual for Politically-Charged New Single “M’Benga Bila”

Earlier this year, I wrote about the French-Congolese electro pop act TSHEGUE, and as you may recall the act — Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo-born, Paris-based frontwoman Faty Fy Savanet and bandmate, Cuban-French producer Nicolas ‘Dakou’ Dacunha — derives its name from a childhood nickname given to Savanet, a Congolese slang term for the boys who gather on Kinshasha’s streets, and the act can trace its origins to when Savanet was introduced to Dacunha. 

Their debut EP, 2017’s Survivor thematically explored the challenges faced by the African Diaspora paired with Dacunha’s forward-thinking, hypnotic, club-banging productions which features elements of Afropunk, garage rock and electro-clash. Survivor EP was championed by the likes of Mura Masa and Noisey, which led to a growing international profile. And adding to a growing profile, the video for “Munapoto,” which was shot on the Ivory Coast received a UK Music Video Award nomination alongside videos for tUnE-YaRdS and Chaka Khan.

The Telema EP, the much-anticipated follow-up to Survivor EP was released earlier this month, and from EP single “The Wheel,” the duo further cemented their growing reputation or crafting swaggering, forward-thinking, genre snd style-blurring bangers. Centered around a percussive production featuring ricocheting industrial clang and clatter, stuttering tweeter and woofer rocking beats, explosive blasts of bass synth and Savanet’s commanding flow, the song — to my ears, at least — bore a resemblance to JOVM mainstays Kokoko! but with a punk rock flair. 

Telema EP’s second attention single “M’Benga Bila” features a hypnotic, genre-blurring production that’s one part trap, one part grime, one part electroclash, one part club anthem centered around a hypnotic production featuring looped shimmering guitar, thumping tweeter and woofer rocking beats, brief blasts of bluesy electric guitar, and wobbling and arpeggiated synths. Savanet’s self-assured, commanding flow paired with a call-and-response vocal section during the song’s rousing hook imbue the song with the urgency of our sociopolitical moment as it’s both a call to action and an expression of weary frustration and bitter rage. Interestingly, the track’s title translates from Savanet’s native Lingala into English as “Call the Police!” And as the band explains ‘It’s a protest, a scream from a society that still struggles to accommodate the differences and the freedoms of all. The threat ‘I’m gonna call the cops!’ for us represents a systematic formula, which too often forces the point of rupture between two people, the end of a dialgoue.”

Directed by Sacha Barbin, the recently released and gorgeously shot video for “M’Benga Bila” was filmed Paris’ 18th arrondissement’s Goutte D’Or area, one of the city’s most multicultural neighborhoods, which coincidentally is where TSHEGUE’s Faty Sy Savanet has called home. The video is a partial tribute to acclaimed French director Leos Carax’s 1986 cult film Mauvais Sang as the video focuses on shady, underworld activities. 

New Video: Introducing the Brash Style-Defying Sounds of South Africa’s Sho Madjozi

Sho Madjozi is an up-and-coming, indie rapper from Shirley Village, Limpopo South Africa – – and with the release of her critically applauded, full-length debut Limpopo Champions League late last year, Madjozi emerged both nationally and internationally for her writing and rhyming in both her native Xitsonga and English, her vibrant fashion sense and for crafting material that at points focuses on being a young African woman, a proud member of the Tsonga tribe. Building upon a rapidly growing profile, Madjozi was nominated for a Nigeria Sound City Award for Best New Artist, was named Apple Music’s Artist of the Month for January and played a critically praised set at the CTM Festival in Berlin — and her Edcon Fashion clothing line debuted across 22 Edgars Fashion shops across South Africa. 

Limpopo Champions League’s latest single is the infectious “Idhom” is centered around Madjozi swaggering and self-assured rhymes in Xitsonga and English over a tweeter and woofer rocking production featuring blocks of shimmering, arpeggiated synths and thumping beats and an enormous hook — and while indebted to grime an trap, the song possesses a brash, youthful and coquettish energy paired with a proud, defiant Blackness /African-ness.

Directed by Sho Madjozi, the recently released video was shot in Madjozi’s home village Shirley Village and features the kids in her home village, in an extended selfie with their local hero with a group of kids passing along a cell phone to each other, capturing day to day life in a small African village, paired with some bold animation from PUKS. 

New Video: Up-and-Coming Angolan-Portuguese Global Dance Music Artist Pongo Releases Pastel Colored Surrealist Visuals for Sultry “Chora”

Pongo is an up-and-coming Luanda, Angola-born, Lisbon, Portugal-based pop artist. As a child, the Angolan-Portuguese pop artist’s family was forced to feel Angola to escape a lengthy and very bloody civil war that decimated their homeland. Pongo and her family eventually settled in Lisbon, where she’s lived ever since. 

The Angolan-Portuguese pop artist got the attention of the acclaimed, Portuguese act Buraka Som Sistema, an electronic dance music act that specialized in a sound that meshed tech beats with zouk, a rapid-fire  musical style from Martinique and Guadeloupe and kuduro, an up-tempo dance music genre from Angola that blends elements of soca and samba, in what was dubbed zouk bass and progressive kuduro. In 2008, Buraka Som Sistema released their smash hit, “Kalemba (Wengue Wengue), a single that went on to sell 10 million copies and eventually landed them a MTV Europe Award for Best Portuguese Act. Adding to a growing international profile, the track received co-signs from the likes of Diplo, Hot Chip and Shakira.

Released last year, Pongo’s solo debut Baia EP was a genre-blurring, globalist affair that found the Angolan-Portuguese artist pairing Portuguese lyrics with a sound that meshed elements of Angolan kiduro with Western styles like techno and bass. Released just before her appearance at this year’s Great Escape Festival, the expanded edition of the Baia EP features a new track, “Chora.” Deriving its title from the Portuguese word for “cry,” Pongo’s latest single meshes dancehall, soca and trap within a slick production consisting of glistening bursts of steel drum and snares, stuttering, tweeter and woofer rocking beats and self-assured and vaguely trap and hip-hop inspired vocal delivery from the Angolan Portuguese artist. The Baia EP expanded edition also features remixes of “Chora” by 20syl, who has remixed and re-worked material by King Krule, Schoolboy Q, and Rihanna — and a remix by Anoraak, which will be released through renowned French electronic music label Kitsune next month.

Created by French direction and production duo Rush Hour, the recently released video for “Chora” is a pastel-colored, Dadaesque, pan-African dream, centered around a stunningly beautiful, up-and-coming, global star. 

New Video: Seba Kaapstad’s Forward-Thinking Take on Soul and Electro Pop

Over the past few months, I’ve written a bit about the up-and-coming indie electro pop/neo-soul act Seba Kaapstad, and as you may recall the act, which is comprised of founding members Sebastian “Seba” Schuster, Zoe Modiga and Ndumiso Manana along with their newest member, Philip “Pheel” Scheibel is split between Cape Town, South Africa and Stuttgart, Germany, and can trace its origins to when Schuster landed in Cape Town back in 2013. While studying at the University of Cape Town, Schuster met Modiga and Manana and began working together in an informal setting, in which they jammed playing standards and rearranged songs of their choice. And as they continued working together, the trio recognized a deeper chemistry within their work.

Before Schuster returned to Germany, he asked his future bandmates if they’d be interested in recording material back in his homeland. And over the next few months, Schuster spent time writing and organizing sessions with the focus on what would eventually turn into Seba Kaapstad. After a series of phone calls, emails and trips back and forth to Cape Town, the act’s founding trio had written the material that would eventually comprise their full-length debut, 2016’s Tagore.

The newly-constituted quartet’s highly-anticipated, sophomore album is slated for a May 17, 2019 release through Mello Music Group, and the album finds the act further expanding on a genre-mashing, globalist sound that draws from neo-soul, hip-hop, jazz, electro pop and Afro pop — while adding a new member Philip “Pheel” Scheibel. Album single “Africa” was centered around a slick and mind-melting production that features elements of smoky jazz, swaggering hip hop, soul and Pan African vibes that brings Soul II Soul, Erykah Badu, theeSatisfaction, The Roots and Flying Lotus to mind. “Bye,” was centered around glistening and atmospheric production featuring a sinuous bass line, fluttering synths, thumping beats paired Manana and Modiga’s ethereal boy-girl melodies and harmonies describe the self-doubt, anxiety and uncertainty filled moments of attraction at first blush.

The album’s latest single “Don’t” is centered by a trippy Flying Lotus-like production featuring a looped, twinkling piano line, stuttering tweeter and woofer rocking beats, wobbling bass synths, reverb-drenched vocal samples. The song also features Modiga revealing an incredible vocal range, alternating between soulful multi-octave, pop belting solos expressing plaintive yearning and swaggering speak singing — while Manana contributes a plaintive falsetto to the mix. And then song ends with a gorgeous string section. Interestingly, the new single finds the act pushing the soul ballad in a revolutionary new direction. 

The recently released video for “Don’t” continues a run of mesmerizing post-apocalyptic-like visuals featuring grainy, security footage, the act’s vocalists in a variety of different lights and backgrounds and so on, which creates an anxious vibe. 

New Video: Speed Through the Streets of Kinshasa in Visuals for TSHEGUE’s Thumping “The Wheel”

Born in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Faty Sy Savanet and her family emigrated to Paris when she was eight. In her early twenties, a mutual friend connected Savanet with Robert Wyatt collaborator Bertrand Burgalat, whose label, Tricatel has been referenced as a major influence of the likes of Air and Daft Punk.

Burgalat encouraged and enabled many of Savanet’s formative musical experiments, including a short-lived voodoo ‘n’ roll band. Interestingly, Savanet’s latest project TSHEGUE, which derives its name from her childhood nickname, a Congolese slang term for the boys who gather on Kinshasa’s streets, can trace its origins to when she met her bandmate, French-Cuban producer Nicolas ‘Dakou’ Dacunha.

Their debut EP, 2017’s Survivor thematically explored the challenges faced by the African Diaspora paired with Dacunha’s forward-hthinking, hypnotic, club-banging productions which features elements of Afropunk, garage rock and electro-clash. Survivor EP was championed by the likes of Mura Masa and Noisey, which led to a growing international profile. And adding to a growing profile, the video for “Munapoto,” which was shot on the Ivory Coast received a UK Music Video Award nomination alongside videos for tUnE-YaRdS and Chaka Khan.

“The Wheel,” the first bit of new material from the duo since the release of Survivor EP, and I’m certain that it’ll further cement TSHEGUE’s growing reputation for crafting swaggering, forward-thinking, genre and style-blurring bangers. Centered around a wildly exuberant, hypnotic and percussive production featuring ricocheting industrial clang and clatter, stuttering, tweeter and woofer rocking beats, explosive blasts of bass synth paired with Savanet’s commanding flow, the song bears a resemblance to JOVM mainstays Kokoko! as it sounds as though it comes from a sweaty, post-apocalyptic future where the club and the ghetto are one and the same — but delivered with a decidedly punk aggressiveness.

Directed by Renaud Barret, who was also behind the Africa Express documentary featured Damon Albarn, Peter Hook and Tony Allen, the recently released video for “The Wheel” was filmed in a gorgeously cinematic black and white amidst the chaotic traffic of Savanet’s hometown, follows members of the local, mixed-gender, teenaged skating club, Club Etoile Rollers hitching rides on the backs of speeding busses, cars, motorbikes through the heaving megalopolis’ crowded streets. Speaking about the video Barret says ““An ordinary day in Kinshasa. I’m in a taxi on Lumumba Boulevard, when suddenly I’m in the middle of this gang of kids slaloming between cars. We exchange thumbs up, signs of complicity, rolling side by side for a moment. One of them spots my camera, and comes closer to shout ‘Hey sir! Do you wanna shoot something crazy?’ I couldn’t refuse. This is the magic of a limitless city where each and every day brings incredible spontaneous possibilities. Now as I watch the beaming faces of these kids, thrown at full speed on their crumbling rollers, almost out of control, intoxicated by danger and only protected by their faith in good luck; I can only see a metaphor for the Congo’s situation. But also a middle finger to a society trying to maintain an illusion that everything should be controlled, supervised. These free riders remind us that life must be lived in the present.”

The duo has begun to make a name for themselves with commanding live performances, including sets at Lowlands and The Great Escape Festivals and from what I understand the act will be announcing a series of headlining UK live shows to coincide with the release of more new material.

 

Earlier this year, I wrote about the up-and-coming indie electro pop/neo-soul act Seba Kaapstad, and as you may recall, the act which is comprised of founding members Sebastian “Seba” Schuster, Zoe Modiga and Ndumiso Manana along with their newest member, Philip “Pheel” Scheibel is split between Cape Town, South Africa and Stuttgart, Germany, and can trace its origins to when Schuster landed in Cape Town back in 2013. While studying at the University of Cape Town, Schuster met Modiga and Manana and began working together in an informal setting, in which they jammed playing standards and rearranged songs of their choice. And as they continued working together, the trio recognized a deeper chemistry within their work.

As the story goes, before Schuster returned to Germany, he asked his future bandmates if they’d be interested in recording back in his homeland — and over the next few months, he spent time writing and organizing sessions with the focus on what would eventually become Seba Kaapstad. After a series of phone calls, emails and trips back and forth to Cape Town, the act’s founding trio had written the material that would eventually comprise their full-length debut, 2016’s Tagore.

Thina, Seba Kaapstad’s highly-anticipated full-length sophomore album is slated for a May 17, 2019 release through Mello Music Group, and the album finds the act further expanding on a genre-mashing, globalist sound that draws from neo-soul, hip-hop, jazz, electro pop and Afro pop — while adding a new member Philip “Pheel” Scheibel. Album single “Africa” was centered around a slick and mind-melting production that features elements of smoky jazz, swaggering hip hop, soul and Pan African vibes that brings Soul II Soul, Erykah Badu, theeSatisfaction, The Roots and Flying Lotus to mind.

The album’s latest single “Bye” is centered around an atmospheric and  cosmically shimmering production featuring a sinuous bass line, fluttering synths, thumping beats while Manana and Modiga’s ethereal boy-girl melodies and harmonies describe the self-doubt, anxiety and uncertainty filled moments of attraction at first blush. Splitting between the male and female perspective, the song’s central story should feel familiar: it’s the internal monologue many of us have had when we’ve encountered a new potential love interest.

 

New Video: Introducing the Futuristic Genre Blurring Sounds of Seba Kaapstad

Comprised of founding members Sebastian “Seba” Schuster, Zoe Modiga and Ndumiso Manana with their newest member, Philip “Pheel” Scheibel, the members of indie electro pop/neo-soul act Seba Kaapstad are split between Cape Town, South Africa and Stuttgart, Germany — and interestingly, the act can trace its origins to when Schuster landed in Cape Town, South Africa in 2013. While studying at the University of Cape Town, Schuster began working with Modiga and Manana in an informal setting, in which they jammed standards and rearranged songs of their choice. As they continued to work together, the more it seemed as though the trio were experience a much deeper chemistry within their work and music. 

Before Schuster returned to Germany, he asked Modiga and Manana if they’d be interested in recording in his home country — and over the next few months, Schuster spent his time writing and organizing sessions, focusing on what would eventually become Seba Kaapstad. After a series of phone calls, emails and trips down to Cape Town, the members of the project had written the material that would eventually comprised their debut, 2016’s Tagore. 

Slated for a May 15, 2019 release through Mello Music Group, Seba Kaapstad’s highly anticipated sophomore full-length album Thina finds the act adding a new member, Philip “Pheel” Scheibel while further expanding on a genre-mashing, globalist sound that draws from neo-soul, hip-hop, jazz, electro pop and Afro pop that’s intended to demonstrate humanity’s shared commonalities. Interestingly, the album’s latest single,  “Africa,” a is track centered around a slick yet mind-melting production that features elements of moody jazz, thumping and swaggering hip hop and sultry soul and Pan African vibes that at points recalls Soul II Soul, Erykah Badu, theeSatisfaction, The Roots and Flying Lotus simultaneously — but with a futuristic leaning. Shot in a smoky purples and reds, in a mirrored room, the recently released video for “Africa” evokes the moody atmospherics of the song, while being equally futuristic.