Category: Afrobeat

New Audio: JOVM Mainstays Here Lies Man Releases a Scorching New Ripper

Throughout the past handful of years of this site’s 10-plus year history, I’ve spilled quite a bit of virtual ink covering the Los Angeles, CA-based JOVM mainstays Here Lies Man. The act, which was founded by Antibalas’ Marcos Garcia and Geoff Man has developed and honed an attention-grabbing sound that aesthetically (and seamlessly) bridges Fela Kuti Afrobeat grooves with classic Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin-era, power chord-fueled rock through their first three albums — 2017’s self-titled debut, 2018’s You Will Know Nothing and last year’s No Ground to Walk Upon, as well as an EP Animal Noises.

The Los Angeles-based JOVM mainstays’ fourth album Ritual Divination reportedly finds the band crafting arguably the best rendering of their long-held aesthetic — with heavier and bluesier guitars while maintaining the rhythmic formula of the clave. “Musically, it’s an opening up to more traditional rock elements, the band’s Marcos Garcia (vocals, guitar) explains in press notes. “It’s always been our intention to explore. And, as we travelled deeper into this musical landscape, new features revealed themselves.” Interestingly, Ritual Divination is the first album recorded as a full quartet, featuring JP Maramba (bass) and Doug Organ (keys).

Here Lies Man’s fourth album continues their ongoing concept of the band writing and crafting the soundtrack to an imaginary movie with each song being a scene. “It’s an inward psychedelic journey, the album is the trip,” Garcia explains in press notes. “The intention and purpose of the music is to create a sonic ritual to lift the veil of inner space and divine the true nature of reality.” And as a result, the album’s material is self-reflexive: “On this album the feel changes within a song,” Garcia continues. “Whereas before each song was meant to induce a trancelike state, now more of the songs have their own arc built in.” But unlike their previously released material, the band actively giving attempting to give the album a live, dynamic feel — with the band eschewing the fuzz pedals and going for a much more direct approach.

“I Told You (You Shall Die)” Ritual Divination’s swaggering first single is an trippy ripper, centered around scorching Black Sabbath-like power chords, Afrobeat-inspired polyrhythm, and enormous arena rock friendly hooks within an expansive, mind-bending song structure. And unlike their previous material, “I Told You (You Shall Die)” reveals a rawer, more forceful sound than ever before.

Ritual Divination is slated for a January 22, 2021 release through their longtime label home RidingEasy Records.

New Video: Crammed Discs to Re-issue Zazou Bikaye’s Forward-Thinking Electro Take on Afrobeat/Afrofunk Originally Released in the 80s

Tracing their origins back to an encounter between Congolese vocalist and composer Bony Bikaye, French musician and producer Hector Zazou and modular synth act CY1, Zazou Bikaye released a groundbreaking Afro pop/experimental electronic album with their 1983 full-length debut Noir et Blanc, an album that has since garnered cultish devotion by music cognoscenti, musicians and fans.

After the release of Noir et Blanc, Zazou Bikaye turned into a proper band that started to develop and hone their own special brand of digital Afrobeat/Afrofunk. Zazou took on writing and programming duties while Bikaye expanded on the extroverted side of his vocal stylings. They then set out to record a large batch of material with five tracks eventually being released in 1985 as the 32-minute mini album Mr. Manager, an effort released to acclaim through Crammed Discs in Europe and through Pow Wow in Japan and the States. The act toured Europe and played a couple of shows in New York — and two of the album’s tracks “Angel” and “Nostalgie” became underground club hits across the States and Europe.

With a backing band that featured Philipe “Pinpin” de la Croix Herpin (woodwinds), Tuxedomoon’s Luc van Lieshout (trumpet and harmonica), Vincent Kenis (guitar), Chris Jouris (percussion), Bigoune (percussion), Mwamba Kasuba (backing vocals), Nicole MT (backing vocals) M’Bombo K (backing vocals) and Marc Hollander (sax), the Hollander, Zazou Kenis produced sessions recorded between 1985 and 1986 were supposed to be appear on a full-length album. But as it turned out, the members of Zazou Bikaye moved on and recorded an entirely different album of material, 1988’s Guilty. Some of the tracks from those 1985-1986 sessions came out as remixes but most of the material was left aside, unfinished.

Slated for an October 16, 2020 release through Crammed Discs, the expanded and remastered reissue of Mr. Manager features the mini-album’s original five tracks plus nine rediscovered tracks recorded during those abandoned 1985-1986 sessions. And to celebrate the occasion, Zazou Bikaye and Crammed Disc re-released album single “Nostalgie. Centered around shimmering and arpeggiated blocks of synths, thumping polyrhythm, call-and-response vocals, an ebullient, Branford Marsalis-like sax solo and an enormous, crowd pleasing hook, “Nostalgie” may strike some listeners as a sleek and mischievous synthesis of 80s Peter Gabriel synth pop, Man Machine-era Kraftwerk and Fela Kuti. But interestingly enough, it actually presages the wildly experimental dance pop coming out of the Democratic Republic of the Congo — i.e. Kokoko! and Tshegue among a growing list of others.

Mr. Manager also featured a colorful album cover art and the recently released video for “Nostalgie” features animation by Sylvia Baldan that draws from the album’s artwork, which she originally designed.

With the release of her debut Down at the Root, Part 1, the Amsterdam-born and-based Ghanian-Dutch singer/songwriter  Nana Adjoa began to receive attention across the European Union for an easy-going, 70s radio-like soulful sound reminiscent of Bill Withers and others. The Ghanian-Dutch singer/songwriter can trace the origins of her musical career to  being accepted at the prestigious Amsterdam Conservatory, where she would study jazz  — electric bass and double bass; however, she found the experience wasn’t what she imagined it to be. “It was very much like school,” she says in press notes. er/“We thought we wanted to go to the most difficult department, that we wanted to be the best, but it wasn’t a very fun experience.”

Interestingly, around the same time, the Ghanian singer/songwriter began to experience a growing divide between the restrictive and theoretical compositions she was studying and the melodic, free-flowing music she’d play while outside of the school environment. Adjoa quickly began to realize that pursing a solo career was the direction she needed to take, and so she formed a backing band and started record her original songs (which resulted in Down at the Root, Part 1 and Down at the Root, Part 2).

Several months have passed since I’ve last written about Adjoa — and as it turns out, she’s been busy working on new material that is slated for a release some time over the course of 2020. But in the meantime, Adjoa’s latest single finds her tackling the legendary Ghanian-born and-based singer/songwriter, composer, bandleader, arranger and guitarist Ebo Taylor’s “Love and Death.”

Adjoa’s take on Taylor’s “Love and Death” retains the original’s melody while being centered around an atmospheric and shimmering production and arrangement featuring a sinuous bass line, stuttering beats, twinkling keys, African polyrhythms, shimmering, angular burst of guitar — and most important, Adjoa’s easy-going yet expressive vocals.  Subtly recalling, Omega La La-era Rubblebucket, Adjoa’s take on Taylor’s “Love and Death” is imbued with the ache of inconsolable loss, while revealing an artist, who is adventurously pushing her sound in new directions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 Audio: JOVM Mainstays Here Lies Man Releases a Cinematic and Lysergic Single

Over the past couple of years, I’ve written quite  bit about the Los Angeles, CA-based JOVM mainstays Here Lies Man, and as you may recall, the act which was founded by Marcos Garcia and Geoff Man has received attention across the blogosphere for a sound that seamlessly bridges Fela Kuti Afrobeat grooves with classic Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin-era, power chord-fueled rock.  

The Los Angeles-based JOVM mainstay’s sophomore album, last year’s You Will Know Nothing found the band refining and expanding their sound. “We’re very conscious of how the rhythms service the riffs. Tony Iommi’s innovation was to make the riff the organizing principle of a song,” the band’s Marcos Garcia explained in press notes. “We are talking the same approach but employing a different organizing principle: For Iommi, it was the blues, for us to comes directly from Africa.” The album also found the band focusing on writing catchier, much more anthemic songs with thematically conceptualized lyrics focusing on states of being and consciousness. Additionally, they aimed for slicker production values than its predecessor. “We wanted to go deeper with the sonic experience. Even though it sounds more hi-fi than the first record, it was important that it didn’t sound too polished,” Garcia added. 

Sonically, the material was composed with music theory in mind — interludes between songs were written and recorded with them specifically being 2/3rds to 3/4ths of the tempo of the song proceeding it. “The reason it breaks down to 2 over 3 or 3 over 4 is that everything in the music rhythmically corresponds to a set of mathematical algorithms known as the clave. The clave is an ancient organizing rhythmic principle developed in Africa,” Here Lies Man’s Geoff Mann explains in press notes. 

Slated for an August 16, 2019 release through RidingEasy Records, the forthcoming mini-album No Ground to Walk Upon finds the band continuing the aesthetic they’ve developed through their first two albums but conceptually the material is essentially the soundtrack to an imaginary movie with each song being the score for a key scene of that movie. The mini-album’s swaggering and strutting, first single “Clad in Silver”  is centered around buzzing power chords, propulsive Afro-Caribbean rhythms and punchily delivered lyrics within an expansive, hallucinogenic song structure. As the band explains in press notes, the mini-album’s lead single “is the soundtrack snippet of a  journey to the imaginary place called home, which can never be arrived at. With every step, the character imagines getting closer, bu it is a hallucination that fades in and out of perception.” 

New Audio: JOVM Mainstays Here Lies Man Returns with an Anthemic and Scuzzy Take on Afrobeat-Tinged Psych Rock

I’ve written quite a bit about the  Los Angeles, CA-based act Here Lies Man over the past year or so, and as you ay recall, the act, which was founded by Marcos Garcia and Geoff Mann, both of whom had stints in renowned Afrobeat collective Antibalas have received attention across the blogosphere for a sound that seamlessly bridges classic, Fela Kuti-era, funky Afrobeat grooves with classic, Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin-era, power chord-fueled rock.

You Will Know Nothing, Here Lies Man’s highly-anticipated sophomore effort is salted for a June 15, 2018 release through RidingEasy Records, and the album reportedly finds the band refining and expanding upon their sound. As the band’s co-founder Marcos Garcia explains in press notes, “We’re very conscious of how the rhythms service the riffs. Tony Iommi’s innovation was to make the riff the organizing principle of a song. We are talking the same approach but employing a different organizing principle: For Iommi, it was the blues, for us to comes directly from Africa.” Additionally, the band members specifically focused on writing catchier, much more anthemic material and thematically conceptualized lyrics focusing on states of being and consciousness centered around somewhat slicker production that its predecessor. As Garcia continues in press notes, “We wanted to go deeper with the sonic experience. Even though it sounds more hi-fi than the first record, it was important that it didn’t sound too polished.”

The members of the band note that the album’s material is also centered around musical theory with interludes between songs being 2/3rds to 3/4ths of the tempo of the proceeding song. “The reason it breaks down to 2 over 3 or 3 over 4 is that everything in the music rhythmically corresponds to a set of mathematical algorithms known as the clave. The clave is an ancient organizing rhythmic principle developed in Africa,” Here Lies Man’s Geoff Mann explains in press notes. “We dove deep into the texture of the music, beyond the groove and the riff. Although something might sound like one instrument, there are subtle layers shifting through. It’s definitely a headphone album.”

Much like its predecessor, Garcia and Mann recorded You Will Know Nothing in their Los Angeles studio on a Tascam 388 8-track recorder. Congas were later recorded by percussionists Richard Panta and Reinaldo DeJesus. Then Garcia traveled to New York to record the interludes with former Antibalas keyboardist Victor Axelrod. The members of the band had to balance a busy touring schedule with mixing, which took most of the creative process of the album with the band having to find the proper sonic space of each particular layer of musical detail. Interestingly, the band split mixing duties with their debut’s engineer Jeremey Page mixing drum parts. 

“Taking the Blame,” You Will Know Nothing’s third and latest single continues in a similar vein as the preceding two singles “Fighting” and “That Much Closer” as its centered around some blistering and guitar pyrotechnics, propulsive drumming and percussion — and while it effortlessly meshes psych rock, stoner rock, Afrobeat and 70s era classic rock, the song is a dense and incredibly textured piece that requires multiple, careful listens making it ambitious yet anthemic and accessible headphone friendly rock.