Category: World Music

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Audio: Omar Souleyman Releases a Mesmerizing, Club Banging, Love Song

Omar Souleyman is a Tell Tamer, Syria-born, Istanbul, Turkey-based Sunni Arab vocalist, whose music career started in earnest back in 1994 when began as a part-time wedding singer. His overall sound has largely been influenced by  the incredibly diverse milieu of Northeastern Syria — and as a result, Souleyman and a rotating cast of musicians and producers he has worked with since his early days have found a way to draw from and mesh the sounds and themes of the Kurdish, the Ashuris, the Turks, the Iraqis and the larger Arabic world in a way that’s both familiar and novel. Since then, Souleyman has become the region’s pioneer of dance floor friendly wedding music. 

Amazingly since 1994, Souleyman has managed to be wildly prolific, releasing well over 500 studio and live albums with about 80% of those releases made at weddings. Most of those recordings were first presented to the newlywed couple, and then later copied and sold at local kiosks. Now, as you may recall Souleyman has released four compilation albums and three full-length albums of original material: 2006’s Highway to Hassake, 2009’s Dabke 2020, 2010’s Jazeera Nights, 2011’s Haflat Gharbia: The Western Concerts and 2011’s Leh Jani,  2013’s Wenu Wenu, 2015’s Bahdeni Nami and 2017’s To Syria, with Love — and all of those albums have not only brought the sounds and grooves of the Middle East to the West, his recorded output has helped to expand the Tell Tamer-born, Istanbul-based vocalist’s profile internationally. 

Adding to a rapidly rising international profile, Souleyman has played sets at some of the world’s biggest festivals, including Paredes de Coura, a Caribou co-curated ATP Festival, ATP Nightmare Before Christmas, Bonnaroo, Roskilde Festival, Mostly Jazz, Funk and Soul Festival, Pukkelpop Festival, Electric Picnic,  Treefort Music Festival — and oddly enough, one of the strangest House of Vans bills I’ve ever seen, in which he opened for Future Islands. And before I forget, he’s also collaborated with Bjork, contributing vocals for three remixes, which appear on an Biophilia.

Deriving its title for the Arabic word “how” or more literally “which color,” Shlon, which is slated for a November 22, 2019 release through Mad Decent/Because Music is the first batch of new material from Souleyman in a couple of years. The forthcoming album featres double keyboard work from Hasan Alo, a fellow native of the Hasaka region of Northeastern Syria, who has recently been active in Dubai’s vibrant nightlife scene, a well as saz work from Azad Salih, a fellow Syrian, who currently resides in Mardin, Turkey. The album also finds the Tell Tamer-born, Istanbul-based vocalist continuing his longtime collaboration with Syrian-born, Turkish-based lyricst Moussa Al Mardood, who the wrote most of the album’s lyrics spontaneously during the recording sessions.

Unsurprisingly, his fourth album is vintage Omar Souleyman — 6 songs which mesh the dabke and baladi music of music beloved by the Lebanese, Jordanians, Syrians, the Kurdish and Iraqis with thumping, synth-led techno — but at its core, the material is comprised of swooning tales of devotion, adoration and love. Now, as you may recall Shlon’s first single was the propulsive, club banging “Layle,” which was centered around Alo’s dexterous and dense layers of synth arpeggios, tweeter and woofer rocking polyrhythmic beats and Souleyman’s imitable vocals. But at its core, the song is a slick synthesis of classically-inspired poetry and modern production.  The album’s second and latest single “Shi Tirdin,” which translates into English as “What Do You Wish For?” is a high energy, club banger featuring mesmerizing layers of synth arpeggios and thumping beats and fluttering synths. And while continuing the album’s overall vibe of meshing techno and dabke music, the track is a swooning declaration of devotion, in which the song’s narrator readily offers his love anything she wishes for. 

New Video: French Shoegazers Dead Horse One Releases a Languid and Cinematic Visual for Shimmering “Saudade”

Valance, France-based shoegazers Dead Horse One, currently comprised of founding trio Oliver Debard, Ludovik Naud and Antoine Pinet, with Maxime Garcia and Ivan Tzibousky can trace their origins back to their formation in 2011. While recording their full-length debut, 2014’s Without Love We Perish, the members of the French shoegazer act reached out to RIDE’S Mark Gardener, who wound up taking up production duties. 

Following the release of their full-length debut, the band spent the next three years touring across the European Union, sharing stages with the likes of The Telescopes, The Wands and Sound Sweet Sound, and they made an appearance at Liverpool Psych Fest.

After a busy period of touring, the band went into the studio with Fleeting Joys’ John Loring, who produced the band’s sophomore album, 2017’s Season of Mist, which they supported with a tour that included a handful of opening dates with RIDE during the legendary shoegazer act’s European tour. And building upon the growing buzz surrounding the band, they shared the stage with The Brian Jonestown Massacre and the Philadelphia-based band NOTHING. 

Since then, the band went back into the studio to work on their forthcoming third, full-length album The West Is The Best. Slated for a November 22, 2019 release through Requiem Pour Un Twister, the album finds the French shoegazers continuing their ongoing collaboration with John Loring — while marking a second time they’ve worked with Mark Gardener, who mixed the album. Thematically, the album as the band’s Oliver Debard explains is “a collection of thwarted love songs in the spirit of Sparklehorse and other such 90s bands.” 

“Saudade,” The West Is The Best’s first single is a slow-burning track, centered around layers of shimmering guitars and plaintive boy-girl harmonizing, which gives the song an aching yearning — while nodding heavily at classic late 80s and early 90s shoegaze. “This song is a special song for us because it was written by Rorika Loring, her husband John and ourselves,” the band told Northern Transmissions. “Rorika and John play in Fleeting Joys, which is none less than one of the best shoegaze bands of the second wave, post 2000. From another point of view, the song joined the title of the album since it is a French, English collaboration by the presence of Mark Gardener at the mix table, and American, the Loring family is from Sacramento.”

Directed and edited by Pedro Wilde, the recently released video was filmed in a gorgeously cinematic black and white on location in the Portuguese cities of Porto, Gaia and Aveiro and stars Carolina Marques. Languidly shot, the video evokes the old-world and old-fashioned charm of Europe as Marques wanders around with a lute — but there’s also a desire to be contemporary without losing that sense of connectedness to one’s roots. 

New Video: Juana Molina Releases a Vibrantly Colored Animated Visual for Exuberant and Playful “Paraguaya Punk”

Over the past few years, I’ve written a bit about the  Buenos Aires-born and based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer and actress Juana Molina. Born to renowned tango vocalist Horacio Molina and actress Chunchuna Villafane, a young Juana Molina grew up in an intensely musical home: her father taught her guitar when she was 5 and her mother introduced Molina to the family’s extensive record collection. As a result of 1976’s military coup, the Molina family fled Argentina and lived in exile in Paris for several years, and during that time, the teenaged Molina’s musical tastes were vastly expanded by regularly listening to a number of French radio stations known for programs that spun music from all over the globe. 

When Molina was in her early 20s, her and her family returned to Argentina. As a young woman, Molina was determined to be independent and pursue a musical career – and like many young people, her initial aspirations were to earn some decent money for a few hours of work a day while having enough time to write songs, record and play live shows. She had a talent for imitations and looking for a decent gig, she auditioned for a local TV program. Based on the strength of her impressions and imitations, she got hired on the spot. 

Molina quickly became one of her country’s most popular and beloved comedic actors. Within three years of that initial addition, Molina starred in her own show Juana y sus hermanas, a Carol Burnett-like show in which she had created a number of characters. The syndicated show was wildly popular in Argentina and in its neighboring countries. After about four years on the air, Molina became pregnant and the show went on hiatus. On maternity leave with a lot of free time on her hands, Molina found herself reflecting on her rapid rise to stardom. At the time, despite having a wildly popular TV show, she couldn’t help but think “this isn’t quite what I wanted to do.” So Molina quit acting to focus on her lifelong passion — being a musician. 

Her decision to quit her popular show was one that many Argentines bitterly held against for a number of years. Her full-length debut, 1996’s Rara was critically panned by journalists, who resented her career change. Fans of her TV show would show up to her live shows, expecting to see her pay homage to her TV work but instead they found they couldn’t understand this new “folk singer character” that sung strange songs without any obvious jokes. Feeling dejected by the criticism and feeling misunderstood but wanting to continue onward with music, the Buenos Aires-born singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist. producer and actress relocated Los Angeles, where her work as much better received and began familiarizing herself with and experimenting with electronics.  

After spending time licking her metaphorical wounds and honing her songwriting and sound, Molina returned to Buenos Aries, where she wrote, recorded and produced her sophomore effort Segundo, which began a run of material that found her meshing organic arrangements with electronic production — typically layered and sampled loops of acoustic sounds with beats and synths. Interestingly, Molina’s third album, the breakthrough Tres Cosas was championed by David Byrne, Will Oldham, and others and landed on The New York Times’ Top Ten Records list. 

Halo Molina’s seventh album further cemented the Argentine artist’s long-held reparation for being a restless and mysterious master of sophisticated, experimental pop  — but her soon to be released 4 song Forfun EP is a decided and exuberant sonic left turn. Derived from a set in which Molina and her band had to improvise, when they found themselves on the stage of a major festival without all of their instruments, the material is imbued with a DIY ethos and spirit that’s indebted to punk rock and garage rock. Interestingly,  the EP’s latest single “Paraguaya Punk” reveals the underpinning fierce playfulness and grit of Molina’s work in a stripped down and forceful fashion. 

The Forfun EP is slated for release on Friday through Crammed Discs.

The recently released video for “Paraguaya Punk” features the animated and vibrantly colored, child-like line drawings of Dante Zaballa. It’s a seemingly simplistic explosion of colors and lines but it manages to capture the exuberant and mischievous air of the accompanying song. 

New Video: Rising French Pop Act Isaac Delusion Releases an Achingly Tender Visual for Breezy and Nostalgic “pas ‘habitude”

Deriving their name from a playful, Anglophile nod towards the famed physicist Issac Newton, the Paris-based electro pop act Isaac Delusion was formed back in 2010 by its core duo, longtime friends Loïc Fleury (vocals, guitar) and Jules Paco (keys). Shortly after their formation, the project expanded to incorporate a rotating cast of musicians. With the release of 2014’s self-titled debut effort, the act received attention for a sound and approach that meshed the acoustic instrumentation with a bold use of electronics — while nodding a bit at dream pop. 

Building upon the growing buzz surrounding them in the French electro pop scene, the act toured extensively across France and Europe to support their full-length debut. Interestingly, the band’s sophomore effort, 2017’s Rust & Gold found the act’s sound shifting away from ethereal and atmospheric dream pop and focusing on tangible emotions and soulful rhythms paired with insightful observations on love and the human condition. 

Since the release of the French electro pop act’s first two albums, they’ve amassed over 500,000 Spotify streams a month, played Pitchfork Paris, as well as sold-out headlining shows at venues like  L’Olympia and Elysee Montmarte. 

Slated for a November 8, 2019 release through Microqlima Records, the rapidly rising French electro pop’s forthcoming, third album uplifters is the highly-awaited follow-up to 2017’s Rust & Gold, and the album is reportedly centered around a misplaced nostalgia for long-passed youth, which is fitting for the act’s core duo, as they’ve inched into their 30s. And as a result, the material is imbued with a longing for the freedom and unguarded honesty of their younger selves — and a regret for the missed opportunities you can never get back. Much like its predecessors, most of uplifters is written and sung in English with a handful of songs written and sung in their native French. 

Interestingly, uplifters latest single “pas ‘habitude” is one of the few album tracks written and sung in the act’s native French, and while being a breezy synth pop song built around shimmering synth arpeggios, plaintive and dreamy vocals,  a sinuous bass line and an infectious, razor sharp hook — but the song’s breeziness is at best superficial, as it’s possess an underlying bittersweet nostalgia and heartache. 

Directed by Leo Chadoutaud, the recently released video for “pas ‘habitude” follows touches upon ideas of isolation and acceptance, as it follows the behind-the-scenes life of  living and breathing Hollywood monster, who’s painfully lonely and desperately seeking connection with others. And even in his loneliness, the video’s protagonist finds moments of sublime, childlike joy. 

Formed back in 2014, the New York-based Anbessa Orchestra — Wayne Tucker (trumpet), Eyal Vilner (alto sax), Eden Bareket (baritone sax), Nadav Peled (guitar), Dor Heled (keys), Ran Livneh (bass) and Eran Fink (drums) — have received attention locally and elsewhere for a sound that’s heavily influenced by 60s and 70s Ethiopian funk, soul and jazz: their repertoire features interpretations and arrangements of classic material from the period that has largely influenced their sound, as well as original compositions heavily influenced by the same period.

Adding to a growing profile, the act has shared stages with Ethiopian music legends like Hailu Mergia and Hamelmal Abate — and they’ve contributed material to Beyond Addis, Vol. 2,  a compilation series dedicated to new. original music inspired by Ethiopia that also included contributions from The Daktaris and Manu Dibango. Along with that their latest album Negestat, which translates to Amharic Kings has received airplay from KCRW, WNYC and WFUV.

The New York-based septet’s latest single is the hypnotic “Tch’elema (Darkness).” Further establishing the act’s enormous and vibrant sound, the expansive composition is centered around shimmering and arpeggiated keys, a propulsive, stomping rhythm and explosive blasts of horns and some expressive and dexterous soloing. Unsurprisingly,  “Tch’elema” is arguably the funkiest track I’ve heard in a few months — and while displaying some impressive musicianship, the composition manages to capture the energy and feel of their live sound.