Category: Afro pop

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, 

Live Footage: Burna Boy Performs “Anybody” for Vevo CTRL

  With the release of 2013’s Leriq-produced full-length debut L.I.F.E., which featured attention-grabbing singles like  “Like to Party,” “Tonight”, “Always Love You”, “Run My Race” and “Yawa Dey,” Burna Boy, a Nigerian Afro-fusion singer/songwriter, born Damini […]

 

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.

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.