Category: Afro pop

New Video: Celebrated Malian Musician Afel Bocoum Releases a Gorgeous Glimpse into Malian Life in Visual for “Avion”

Afel Bocoum, a celebrated Niafunké, Mali-born and-based singer/songwriter and guitarist is among the last of a breakthrough generation of African artists, who mixed their traditional music with the new sounds that arrived from all over the world during the 20th and 21st centuries. Interestingly, music hasn’t been an easy dream for the celebrated Niafunké-born and-based singer/songwriter and guitarist: While most aspiring musicians face stiff parental and societal opposition; however for Bocoum, the parental opposition he faced was deeply perplexing, given the fact that this father Abakina Ousmane Bocoum, a.k.a. Kodda was one of the most famous and beloved njarka players of the 20th century. 

But Bocoum wasn’t deterred. Music was omnipresent: it was in the holey or spirit dances of Songhoy, in the melodies of the Fulani flue, in the gumbé drum sessions with their wild moonlit dancing, in the stories and poetry of the griots and in the hymn of the local Protestant Mission.  For a young Bocoum, music was more than just entertainment; it taught people about life and the right way to live it. It guaranteed social cohesion and the strength of the collective conscience, especially in a society that was at the time, largely illiterate and had no access to modern media. “There was no radio at the time, no TV, nothing. It was incredible,” Bocoum remembers. “When you saw someone with a guitar, you followed him everywhere.”

As a teenager, the legendary Ali Farka Touré exerted a powerful hold on the young Bocoum. When Bocoum first met Touré in the late 1960s, he was a barely a teenager and Touré was already considered one of the region’s most famous and greatest son. Bocoum hung out with Touré as much  as he could, eventually becoming a member of Asco, Touré’s backing band — and as a member of of Asco, Bocoum toured with the legendary singer/songwriter and guitarist throughout the 80s and 90s, appearing on Touré’s 1992 effort, The Source. 

The idea of releasing his own music arose  from a gentle curiosity, rather than any self-serving ambition or desire to upstage his beloved mentor. “Everybody seemed to be releasing albums all around me, so it was like, ‘why not?’” Bocoum says in press notes. Tourè hooked his mentee up with Nick Gold, artistic director of  World Circuit, which led to Bocoum’s 1999 full-length debut, Alkibar (The Messengers), an effort that established Bocoum as an international star in his own right.  

Interestingly, as a result of Alkibar, Bocoum was invited to work with Blur and Gorillaz frontman and creative mastermind Damon Albarn and Toumani Diabaté on the 2002 album Mali Music. From there, he became a regular contributor on the Africa Express compilation series, collaborating with a who’s who list of internationally acclaimed artists, including Béla Fleck, Habib Koité, Tarit Ensemble, Oliver Mutukudzi and others. “You have to collaborate, otherwise you’ll get nowhere in today’s world,” Bocoum says of his work with those artists. “All those collaborations were positive.”

Bocoum’s forthcoming album, the Damon Albarn and Nick Gold produced-Lindé is slated for a September 4, 2020 release through World Circuit Records. Deriving its name from a wild expanse near his hometown, the album which was recorded in Mail’s capital city of Bamako, reportedly finds the celebrated Malian singer/songwriter and guitarist drawing from the timeless sounds of the Niger River bend with a variety of styles across the globe, as he collaborates with a diverse and eclectic array  of artists including eminent Malian artists like Madou Kouyaté, the late Hama Sankaré and Madou Sidiki, along with the recently departed, legendary Afrobeat pioneer and Fela Kuti collaborator Tony Allen, Bob Marley and Skatalites collaborator Vin Gordon (trombone) and Joan as Police Woman creative mastermind Joan Wasser on violin. 

You’ll hear traditional African folk instruments like ngoni, njurkele, kora and calabash with guitars, percussion and call-and-response vocals with the end result being something both timeless and mystical yet modern. But at its core, there’s a deep and abiding message: in the face of an uncertain and turbulent world and a homeland struggling with jihad, poverty and tribal warfare, the album’s material  urges the listener to hope, solidarity and unity. “We have to meet each other, talk to each other, look each other in the eye and tell the truth,” Bocoum says. “If we’re not united, I can see no solution. Our social security is music. That’s all we’ve got left. People love music, so we have to make use of that fact.”

“Avion,” Lindé’s first single is a uplifting and breezy track, centered around the shimmering guitar work of Mamadou Kelly, Oumar Konaté and Lamine Soumano, call-and-response vocals, propulsive polyrhythm that is playful and optimistic ode to air travel, complete with the prerequisite safety announcement  — in French, of course —  that quickly takes off and soars upward. But it’s also a gentle yet urgent call for all people to band together around the most human of all things — music, love and dancing; that music can take us to the promised land of peace and equality among all. Considering recent world events, we  need more uplifting calls for unity and love. 

The recently released video gives the video a gorgeous glimpse of daily life in Mali, as we see fisherman, goat herders, the nomadic and proud Taureg people riding horses and  camels, massive metropolitan areas and the like. It reveals a world that’s more diverse and interesting that what most Westerners would know or acknowledge with a gentle  and kind viewpoint. 

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New Video: Emerging Producer Kyf Releases a Kinetic Visual for Dance Floor Friendly “Savage”

Kyf is a mysterious yet emerging Cameroonian producer and songwriter. Earlier this month, he released his latest EP, Mood Avion and the EP’s latest single “Savage” is a bold and vibrant track, centered around shimmering synths, wobbling polyrhythmic beats and a shout-along worthy hook. And while possessing a breezy, club friendly sound, the track reveals a decidedly Pan African approach, drawing from wide swaths of the Diaspora: the song meshes elements of dancehall, house music, Afro pop and Timbaland’s futuristic production style in an infectious and ambitious manner. 

Directed by Sara Yemoja, the recently released video features the Cameroonian producer and songwriter and two dancers in a kinetically shot and edited visual, shot in an abandoned, graffiti covered building and in the woods. 

New Audio: DJ Almighty Teams Up with DMA for a Breezy and Infectious New Single

DJ Almighty is a Ivory Coast-born, Paris-based producer and sound engineer, who has spent the past 17 years spinning at clubs around the world, developing a unique experience at the club — the videomix, an audiovisual experience. He also streams broadcast of his videomixes on an ADSL hookup that can be heard in 70 countries across the world.

Adding to a growing profile, the Ivorian-born, French-based producer and sound engineer has released a handful of attention-grabbing compilations through labels like Wagram Music, Musicat, and Oubo Music. Back in 2018, DJ Almighty signed with Universal Records Africa for a series of collaborations with internationally-based Afrobeat and Afropop artists from France and Francophone countries. 

Earlier this year, the Ivorian-born, French-based producer and sound engineer launched a new collaborative concept: 7 tracks that features emerging artists ranging in songs ranging from Afrobeat to Afropop. “Catch Your Vibe,” is a breezy and infectious mesh of dancehall, roots reggae and Afropop centered around a looping and shimmering guitar line, shuffling riddims and irie vibes paired with upstart DMA’s coquettish vocals. The end result is a pan African track that’s summery and manages to be both club and lounge friendly. 

New Video: Phillipe Blaze Releases an Intimate Look at Guadeloupe in New Visual for “DLO”

Phillipe Blaze is a Guadeloupe-born and-based singer/songwriter, guitarist and composer, whose family moved to France when he was small.  Spending much of his life in France, Blaze’s musical career can be traced back to the 80s: he participated in Paris’ reggae and rock scenes before relocating to Nantes. Eventually, Blaze wound up returning to Guadelope and while there he discovered the traditional music of the island — Zouk and Gwo Ka which is played with a big drum, locally known as ka. 

After working with the island group’s biggest names, Blaze released his first bit of solo material in 1996; however, by the following year, he founded JÒD LA (which in French means today) and through the release of three albums, the act honed and developed Gwo Ka Evolutif, which meshes the 7 rhymes of traditional Gwo Ka and Western instrumentation — i.e., guitar, piano, bass, sax, etc. Since then, Blaze has gone solo — and his latest single, the 13 song Eritaj features 8 compositions and 5 songs, including the album’s latest single, “DLO.” Centered around shimmering and looping guitars, propulsive polyrhythm and fluttering flute, the track is a breezy bit of Afropop influenced Tropicalia. 

The recently released video offers a glimpse of daily life on the Guadeloupe island group — but there’s a decided focus on the importance of water in our daily lives. 

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.

 

 

 

 

Sangit Segal is a rising Israeli-born and based multi-instrumentalist songwriter and producer, best known as Sangit, whose passion for music has led him to collaborate with an eclectic array of artists from different backgrounds and cultures. Born in Hadera, Israel, Segal grew up on Kibbutz Kfar-Glikson, a collective agricultural community with an idealistic social mission. His father managed the kibbutz factory while his mother worked in the nurses, when she was taking care of Segal and his four sisters. At his parents’ insistence,  Segal took music and dance lessons throughout his childhood, but his love of music truly blossomed when he turned 11 and picked up the saxophone. Although his earliest musical influences came from listening to classical music records with his grandfather, the young Segal preferred Israeli, British and American rock music. Later in life, Sangit discovered African, funk and electronic music, which have gone on to become fundamental to his own sound.

Disgruntled with the kibbutz’s agenda, Segal’s parents relocated the family to nearby Zikhron Yaakov when he turned 14. In Zichron Yaakov, Segal began to play the drums and was inspired by his djembe instructor to develop both his musical and spiritual sides. When he turned 19, the self-described troublemaker and individualist flew to India rather than join the army. And while in India, he embarked on a journey of self-discovery: learning from the philosophies he encountered, he began taking tabla and sitar lessons. When he turned 21, Segal underwent a Sannyasa imitation ceremony, receiving the name Sangit, which means music in Sanskrit. (In Hinduism, Sannyasa is a life stage in which adherents renounce material desires and pursue a life of peace, love and simplicity.) “The name Sangit really grew on me, and it strengthened my true calling in life––music,” Segal recalls.

Returning to Israel, Segal attended the Rimon School of Music, studying composition and music arrangement, but after a year, he left to study percussion in Cuba — and later to play with African masters. In 2004, the Israeli-born multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and producer along with Alon Yoffe and Abate Berihun co-founded the Ethiopian jazz act Kuluma. The act released the critically applauded album Mother Tongue.

In 2012 Segal released Open Channels, his first collaboration with his wife Noa Golan, who he had met in Aviel, Israel, a small village in Northern Israel, where they currently live with their children. On their property, he built a recording studio, where he invites musicians and artists of diverse backgrounds to join him on his inventive recording and film projects, including a series of audio-visual collages as part of his Studio Sessions Project, which has featured dozens of musicians and darncers in each music video. Throughout the years, the Israeli-born multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and producer has collaborated with an impressive and eclectic array of artist including legendary Afrobeat drummer Tony Allen, video mash-up star Kutiman, vocalist Karolina, Ethiopian legend Mahmoud Ahmed, Tel Aviv-based funk act Funk’n’stein and many others. Interestingly, Segal has long embraced experimentation through collaboration, allowing the music to essentially write itself and evolve out of the ideas and styles of each musician and artist.

Sangit’s debut EP, 2016’s Afro Love found him blending African grooves with a funky, global fusion sort of vibe. Eventually, the Israeli-born artist’s work caught the attention of Cumbancha Records, who released his full-length debut Librar yesterday. Blending and meshing African, Afro-Cuban roots music, jazz, funk and Moroccan Gnawa trance music with Ethiopian scales and a bit of Caribbean flavor, the album finds Sangit crafting a unique, global-spanning, difficult-to-pigeon hole sound. The album as he describes in press notes, is “a reflection of my creative momentum. I am passionate and fanatical about my music. And this album,” he says “represents my spiritual journey, my evolution.”

The album’s material features musicians healing from Mali, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Morocco, Iran, Congo, as well as Isreali musicians repenting a diverse array of cultural influences — and naturally, the album continues his personal mission to collaborate with artists from different backgrounds in creative projects that move him and audiences across the globe. Interestingly, the album has lyrics written and sung in nine different languages by 11 different vocalists from around the planet. (His live band is a nonet and from what I understand is currently setting the groundwork for their first international shows in 2020. Hopefully, they’ll be a New York City Metropolitan area stop at some point!)

“Turn Your Head to the Light,” the infectious and incredibly upbeat new single off the recently released album is centered around a a propulsive and sinuous bass line that recalls Stevie Wonder‘s “Superstition,” an enormous and ebullient brass line, and features vocals from Funk’n’stein’s Elran Dekel. And while sonically being a seamless synthesis of Motown-era funk, gospel, and Afrobeat, the song has a decidedly positive message that reassures the listener that “if you are going through some bad days or a gloomy night, all you have to do is turn your head to the light, focus in the positive, believe in yourself.”