Category: World Music

 

J. Hacha De Zola is a Rahway, NJ-born, Jersey City, NJ-based singer/songwriter and musician, who became a scientist and a musician because of his father: a year within a Ph.D. program in Biochemistry, Hacha De Zola’s father died. He had to quit school to support his mother and the rest of the family, but the situation presented another life change that pushed him into pursuing a life long passion — music.

With the release of 2016’s Picaro Obscuro, the second of his two “urban junkyard” albums of that year, Hacha De Zola publicly insinuated that he might not continue on to make a third and that if he did, his plan was to “lighten up” the sound that he has previously described on some occasions as “boozegaze.” 2017’s Antipatico was the third album Hacha De Zola and his backing band had written and recorded in over two years — and with each successive album, Hacha De Zola increasingly found his own voice.

Hacha De Zola’s  John Agnello-produced fourth full-length album Icaro Nouveau is slated for a March 8, 2018 release through Caballo Negro Records and much like his previously released material, the New Jersey-born and-based singer/songwriter and his backing band practice his “reductive synthesis” method of what he has called “shooting the arrow and painting the bullseye around it.” Hacha De Zola explains, “I never go to the studio with songs written. I allow the musicians to be themselves and throw all they got at it. Then I’ll go and peel back the various layers to fashion a song from it all. It’s a pretty risky way of making an album because when it’s all done, you may have something that isn’t agreeable to you. Other times, you arrive at something truly magical and the songs take on a life of their own. There’s a certain kind of voodoo there that could not be planned.”

Interestingly, the album’s material is also deeply influenced by the life and death of longtime collaborator, Ralph Carney, a saxophonist best known for working with the legendary Tom Waits. Carney not only served as a player but a spiritual guide and mentor for Hacha de Zola. “He was an integral part of this sound. He was my secret weapon,” Hacha de Zola says. “His horns were ever–present, as was his input. Not having him around for Icaro Nouveau was unsettling for me.” But his spirit was still in the room while they were writing and recording the album.The album’s latest single “On A Saturday” finds Hacha De Zola and his backing band, sonically drawing from classic, barrio salsa — but seemingly played through rusty and busted instruments and with a drunken, lilting wobble.

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New Audio: Ibibio Sound Machine Globalist and Genre-Bending Take on Dance Music

Fronted by Nigerian-born vocalist Eno Williams and featuring Alfred Kari Bannerman (guitar), Anselmo Netto (percussion), Jose Joyette (drums), Derrick McIntyre (bass), Tony Hayden (trombone, synth), Scott Baylis (trumpet, synth) and Max Grunhard (sax, synth), the London-based act Ibibio Sound Machine through the release of their first two albums 2014’s self-titled album and 2017’s Uyai has received attention both nationally and internationally for a sound that draws influence from golden era West African funk and disco, and contemporary post-punk and electro pop. 

The London-based act’s third, full-length album Doko Mien is slated for a March 22, 2019 release through Merge Records, and the album which derives its name from the Ibibio phase that translates into English as “tell me,” reportedly finds the act crafting a sonic world of entrancing specificity and comforting universality, essentially blurring the lines separating cultures, between nature and technology, between joy and pain, between tradition and the future. 

Doko Mien’s latest single, album title track “Doko Mien,” is centered around a glimmering and mind-bending production featuring  80s synth funk meets disco-like beats, arpeggiated synths, African polyrhythm, a sinuous bass line and pizzicato guitar and an explosive horn arrangement. Sonically, the song strikes me as a wild, genre-bending amalgamation of I Feel For You-era Chaka Khan, Prince, Michael Jackson’s “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’,” Chicago house and Fela Kuti — and adding to the globalist vibes, Williams soulfully sings lyrics in both English and Ibibio, the Nigerian dialect from which the London-based act derives its name.  Simply put, the track is a club banger with an infectious, jubilant hook. 

New Video: Acclaimed British Producer Swindle Teams Up with Kojey Radical on a Genre-Defying Take on Grime

Swindle is an acclaimed London-born and based-producer, who can trace the origins of his own musical career to when he built his first studio in his bedroom when he was 14. Excluded from school for having “way too much energy,” his blues guitarist father guided and mentored him by teaching him guitar. His father’s record collection, comprised of soul, funk, and jazz was vital inspiration for his full-length album Love Live The Jazz, which was released on Mala’s Deep Medi Musik back in 2013. His follow up, 2015’s Peace, Love & Music was written and recorded in studio sessions across the world and with an explosive live show, further cemented his growing reputation for being a singular artist, with a unique scope and ambition.

Since the release of his sophomore effort, Swindle has done production work for a number of artists including Kojey Radical, Joel Culpepper, D Double E, Mahalia, and others.  And interestingly enough, his soon-to-be released third album No More Normal, the acclaimed British producer and guitarist working with an All-Star cast of some of the UK’s best emcees including the aforementioned Kojey Radical and D Double E, along with Ghetts and P Money; vocalists including Etta Bond, Eva Lazarus, Daley and Kiko Bun; and musicians including Yussef Dayes, Nubya Garcia and Riot Jazz in a wildly genre-defying fashion that draws from grime, dubstep, jazz, P-funk and others — sometimes incorporating all of that into one song. “No More Normal is the idea of us doing our thing, our way, with no rules or limitations,” Swindle explains in press notes. “It is jazz influenced as much as it is grime influenced. It’s London influenced as much as it is LA influenced. I can work with D Double E and Nubya Garcia, these records are my imagination brought to life in musical form.” 

“Coming Home,” which features Kojey Radical is a perfect example of the British producer’s challenging yet paradoxically accessible approach as its centered around a production featuring shuffling beats, a regal and old-timey jazz horn arrangement, blasts of bluesy guitar and wobbling bass synth to create a sound that’s mischievously anachronistic, self-assured and unlike anything you’ll hear on mainstream hip-hop radio. Kojey Radical contributes some incredible and profound verses about gaining a new wisdom and perspective that puts you a world apart from your old friends and your old neighborhood –and that it’s necessary and should be celebrated. But it’s also a celebration of achieving hard-fought, hard-dreamt dreams against some incredible odds — and with a helluva lot of naysayers. 

Directed by Olivia Rose, the recently released video seems to have been shot in a series of extended long takes. And while gorgeously shot and symbolic, the portrayal of black men within the video reveals both our beauty and complexity, showing us to be kings and poets, as well as entertainers. 

New Audio: Acclaimed Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings Member Releases a Song that Aims for the Timeless

Best known for a 15-year stint as a member of Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, the California-born, New York-based multi-instrumentalist Cochemea Gastelum has a lengthy and acclaimed career as a soloist, bandleader, musical director, composer and ensemble player, including releasing a critically applauded album The Electric Sound of Johnny Arrow several years ago.

Interestingly, Gastelum, who has Yaqui Mescalero Apache Indian heritage, grew up in a rather musical home — with both of his parents being musicians. And although his name actually means “they were all killed asleep,” he grew up without knowing much about his own heritage.  Ironically, the California-born New York-based saxophonist, bandleader, musical director, composer has spent the bulk of his musical career writing, performing and recording various iterations of roots music; but his forthcoming solo effort All My Relations, which is slated for a February 22, 2019 release through Daptone Records finds Gastelum connecting with his roots through music. “All My Relations is a way for me to explore my roots through music,” the California-born, New York-based saxophonist, bandleader, musical director and composer says in press notes. “Some of it is a memory that is imagined from a time and place I’ve never been (‘Sonora’) or a musical impression of ritual (‘Mitote’). I felt compelled to add the way I feel when I go to ceremony, when I feel connected with my ancestors, to the musical narrative.”

Originally conceived during Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings’ final year of touring, Gastelum along with Daptone Records head and producer Gabriel Roth casted a varied but familial set of local musicians to bring Gastelum’s ideas to life. Unsurprisingly, a large portion of the album was created through improvisation and collective writing, where its  10 musicians created a melodic, percussive conversation. “It was a beautiful experience – people would start playing and we’d work up these arrangements on the spot, then record it,” Gastelum says of the recording sessions. 

Album title track and first single “All My Relations” is centered by an arrangement featuring tribal percussion, chants, ethereal flute, and a gently propulsive bass line to create a type of ceremonial music that feels and sounds primordial and older than our own perception of time. But perhaps most important, the track finds the musicians aiming for something much more profound — a connection with the infinite. 

New Video: Visuals for Rocky Dawuni’s “Let’s Go” Offer a Small Slice of Daily Ghanian Life

Rocky Dawuni is an acclaimed Grammy Award-nominated, Ghanian singer/songwriter and guitarist, humanitarian and activist, who was once  named one of Africa’s Top 10 Global Stars by CNN and a UN Ambassador. As a singer/songwriter and guitarist, Dawuni’s specializes in a crowd pleasing sound and songwriting approach that features elements of roots reggae, soul, pop, Afropop and Afrobeat in a warmly familiar yet unique fashion. And naturally, Dawuni’s sound has proven to be immensely popular; in fact, he’s performed with the likes of Peter Gabriel, Stevie Wonder, Bono, Janelle Monae, Jason Mraz, John Legend, and a lengthy list of others.

Although, it’s been several years since I’ve personally written about him, Dawuni has been rather busy. His forthcoming and highly-anticipated seventh full-length album Beats of Zion is slated for a March 8, 2019 release through Six Degrees Distribution, and the album reportedly finds Dawuni expanding upon his self-dubbed Afro Roots sound to include the diversity of the contemporary Ghanian music scene, as well as a deeper global perspective inspired by his travels around the world. “Beats of Zion was born out of my desire to use my diverse global musical influences and exposure to various traditions to paint a multi-cultural musical vision of the world that I perceive,” Dawuni says in press notes. “The beginning of the year saw me visit Ethiopia and India. In Ethiopia, I visited Lalibela, witnessing ancient Christian rites and my journeys in India also exposed me to its diverse spiritual culture and the shared similarities I saw to Africa.” He adds, “The title Beats of Zion is inspired by a vision of the drumbeat of awareness and elevation of consciousness; a musical call to arms for my audience to be proactive in this day and age as to each person’s responsibility to be an active instrument for positive change.”

Written and recorded over a two year span in various studios in Accra, Ghana, Nairobi, Kenya and Los Angeles. Several songs being recorded at Village Studios, where Bob Dylan, Elton John, The Rolling Stones, John Lennon and Fleetwood Mac recorded albums — with Dawuni recording in the same room that Fleetwood Mac once used. As he was working on the album, Dawuni found out that Fleetwood Mac was among a group of American rock bands that visited Ghana in the 70s, making the experience much more special to him. 

Beats of Zion’s latest single is the breezy and uplifting “Let’s Go.” And while clearly sounding as though it were inspired by Bob Marley  (“Three Little Birds” and “One Love”  immediately come to mind), it focuses on a small yet wonderful pleasure — riding a bike with a friend and having the wind blow through your hair. The recently released 360º video finds Dawuni teaming up with Cadbury Bicycle Factory to celebrate a decade of turning long walks to school into shorter bike riders — and unsurprisingly, the video which is set in Ghanian countryside follows local students riding from home to school. From watching the video, it should serve as a reminder that kids everywhere are essentially the same; in fact the video reminds me of seeing kids riding bikes to school in Dordrecht and Amsterdam, as well as kids in my own neighborhood. 

New Video: M.I.A. Releases a Previously Unreleased Collaboration with Elastica’s Justine Frischmann

Born Mathangi Arulpragasam, the London-based rapper, electro pop artist, singer/songwriter and activist M.I.A. is the daughter of the founder of Sri Lanka’s armed Tamil resistance. As a child, Arulpragasam and her family were forced to flee to London, where she became precocious a nd creative immigrant teenager, who her friends called Maya. As M.I.A., Arulpragasam emerged on the global stage with a mashup, cut-and-paste aesthetic that drew from Tamil politics, art school punk, hip-hop beats and the unwavering voice of burgeoning multicultural youth. 

Released earlier this year, the documentary film MATANGI / MAYA / M.I.A was drawn from a never-before-seen cache of personal footage that spanned several decades of the artist’s life, offering unparalleled and intimate access of her battles with the music industry and mainstream media as she became one of the most outspoken and provocative figures in contemporary music. The film was first released on iTunes and other digital platforms here in the States, Canada and the UK — and recently, the film’s producers announced that the film will be available on digital platforms across Australia, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Latin America, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Scandinavia, Singapore, Spain and Sweden between March and April 2019 with more countries and regions to be announced. Interestingly, on the heels of the iTunes release of the documentary, the acclaimed Sri Lankan-born, London-based electro pop artist released a previously unreleased song and music video from her archives, “Reload.” 

Originally recorded in 2004, before the release of her critically acclaimed full-length debut Galang, “Reload” was cowritten by Elastica‘s Justine Frischmann, who wrote the beats by experimenting with a Roland 505 beat machine with Arulpragasam writing the lyrics — before Arulpragasam began writing and recording as M.I.A. The song is brash, swaggering mix of thumping hip hop, electro pop, feminist art punk that’s dance floor friendly while revealing an artist, who was just about to come into her own as an artist. 

The video was shot in Justine Frischmann’s basement and features Maya with her friends Rudy, Marsha and Deborah dancing to the song. It captures a brash confidence of young women, fucking around and grooving to their favorite song, while slapping fuckbois and douchebags away. 

New Audio: Combo Chimbita’s Propulsive and Psychedelic New Single

Throughout JOVM’s eight-plus year history, I’ve covered Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP)’s annual conference in some fashion or another. As a national service, advocacy and membership organization for those within the performing arts — particularly within dance and theater, APAP over the years has developed a reputation for their role in assisting musicians and groups, who specialize in “world music.” Along with the annual conference, which features discussion panels, lectures, networking sessions and the like for artists producing, recording and creating artwork in our extremely complicated and confusing political landscape, there are a number of carefully curated showcases hosted and/or sponsored by this city’s best known “world music” venues.  Now, as you may recall, the Lower East Side world music venue DROM hosts Barbes’ and Electric Cowbell’s annual Secret Planet APAP showcase — and earlier this year, their wildly eclectic showcase featured the New York-based Colombian folk collective Bulla en el Barrio; the Brooklyn-based act Drunken Foreigner, which specializes in a sprawling, psych rock-like iteration of the Akha and Lam Lao musics of Thailand and Laos; the Cleveland, OH-based Afro-futuristic soul act Mourning [A] BLKSTAR; the New York-based Afro-futuristic-inspired, psychedelic cumbia act Combo Chimbita; the New York-based Ethiopian funk and jazz-inspired septet Anabessa Orchestra; and the New York-based act Hearing Things which specializes in a sound that draws from Middle Eastern music, surf rock, and 60s soul and R&B.

Featuring Bulla en el Barrio’s Carolina Oliveros (vocals) along with Prince of Queens (synths and bass), Niño Lento (guitar) and Dilemastronauta (drums), Combo Chimbita began experimenting with different traditional music styles during their late night residencies at Barbes — much of this experimentation included explorations between visual identity and improvisational long-form trips that eventually lead to their thunderous 2016 self-recorded debut, El Corridor del Jaguar. Interestingly, much like Mourning [A] BLKSTR, the New York-based act is deeply inspired by Sun Ra’s Afro-futurism — while championing their own take on it, which they’ve dubbed Tropical Futurism. As the band says “the idea that the future doesn’t necessarily have to be this super white Western high-tech Star Wars stuff; that the indigenous ideas and culture of people of color, people of Latin America, can also represent a magical and substantial future. It’s a vision that maybe a lot of people don’t necessarily think about often. The old and deep knowledge that indigenous people have of the land has been neglected for many years as part of capitalism and colonization.”

Their Lily Wen-produced sophomore full-length album Abya Yala was released through Figure & Ground Records was released back in 2016, and the album further established the band’s unique futuristic take on cumbia. And along with an incredible live show, led by Oliveros powerhouse vocals and commanding stage presence, the New York-based act has begun to receive quite a bit of buzz. In fact, renowned Los Angeles-based label ANTI- Records, a label known for having a roster of wildly eclectic array of artists that includes the legendary Mavis Staples, recently signed the band. As the band’s Prince of Queens says in press notes, “ANTI- is a special label. It is crazy to be part of such a diverse pool of artists, feels extra special being an immigrant band singing in Spanish. I grew up in Bogota listening to a lot of bands on Epitaph and not understanding a word they were singing but it made me want to be in a band and learn music. It feels like full circle working with [Epitaph’s sister label] ANTI-.”

The members of Combo Chimbita will be closing out a big year with a series of live shows the include sets at Lincoln Center and Philadelphia’s PhilaMOCA before joining Parquet Courts for the Midwestern leg of the indie rock’s current tour. You can check out the tour dates below. But before that, the band has released a trippy new single “Testigo,” a track centered by a looping Afro pop-like guitar line, shimmering and arpeggiated synths, rolling and propulsive percussion, a sinuous bass line and Oliveros’ powerhouse vocals. Sonically speaking, their sound serves as a power reminder of how much contemporary music — particularly Latin American music — draws from Africa, as much as it does from their own native traditions, and they do so in a wildly anachronistic yet dance floor friendly fashion.