Tag: African Diaspora Music

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, 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Video: Rwandan Folk Act The Good Ones Latest is the Heartbreaking Lament of a Desperate Father

The Kigali, Rwanda-based folk act The Good Ones, which features core trio and founders  co-lead singer Janvier Hauvgimana, co-lead singer and primary songwriter Adrien Kazigira and Javan Mahoro can trace their origins back to the roughy 1978. The members of the band, who were children were taught music and how to play by Hauvgimana’s older brother. Tragically, Hauvgimana’s older brother, who was also blind, later died in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. The members of The Good Ones formed the band as part of the healing process after the genocide and interestingly enough, the band’s original trio featured individual members of each of Rwanda’s three tribes — Tutsi, Hutu and Abatwa — symbolically and metaphorically reuniting a country that had been split apart at its seams. But on a personal level, for each of the band’s founding members, the band was an active attempt to seek out “the good ones” after witnessing and enduring unthinkable horrors.

Most of the members of the band are small plot, subsistence farmers — with two of the band’s members living on family plots that  have been passed down through several generations. Because most Rwandans are very poor, instruments are very rare. Like countless musicians. who are poor and barely getting by, they find ways to be creative. Sometimes they may find and use a broken guitar. But in most cases, they’ll make their own instruments, sometimes incorporating their farm tools. 

Now, as you may recall, the Rwandan folk act’s forthcoming album Rwanda, You Should Be Loved is slated for a November 9, 2019 release through Anti- Records, and the album’s material can be traced from a batch of over 40 songs that the band’s Adrien Kazigira had originally written. Most of the material thematically centered around meditations on his 13-year-old daughter Marie Clare and the life-threatening tumor that has afflicted her left eye. Interestingly, the album was recorded live and without overdubs on Kazigira’s farm  — and the sessions were imbued with loss’ their longtime collaborator and producer Ian Brennan‘s mother died and a former bandmember and founding member had both died during the sessions.

While the album was recorded during a period of profound loss for the band and their producer, the album focuses on a variety of things in the bandmembers’ lives and experiences. Rwanda, You Are Loved’s first single “The Farmer” celebrates the critical role farmers play in society and to a national — but it’s also an aching lament, acknowledging the bitter irony that farmers often can’t feed their own families and are struggling to barely get by. Built around a sparse arrangement of strummed guitar, harmonized vocals, the song is a timeless one that has seemingly been sung by generations upon generations across the world — and in a variety of languages. The album’s second and latest single “Where Did You Go Wrong, My Love” is a heartbreaking song that’s one part aching lament, one part desperate plea, one part bittersweet reminiscence over the loss of innocence of a young one, as the song is about a father’s desperate attempt to rescue his daughter from going down a bad path in her life. And as a result, the song is imbued with the powerless fear that countless parents have felt about their children. Much like it’s predecessor, the song is centered around a gorgeous yet sparse arrangement: al looping and shimmering 12 bar blues-like guitar, galloping percussion and the interwoven harmonies between the band’s primary songwriter Kazigira and co-lead vocalist Havugiamana.

Sonically, the material may draw comparisons to bluegrass, country, Americana and acoustic, Mississippi Delta Blues but while coming from an older, primordial source. Countless artists consciously aim to create something timeless, the members of The Good Ones somehow manage to seemingly do so in an effortless, breezy fashion while talking about the plight of their fellow farmers, countrymen and working men. (The song features a guest appearance from Wilco’s Nels Cline.)

Throughout this site’s nine-plus year history, I’ve written about and championed a number of acts from across Northern Africa — in particular, Mali. During that same period of time,  Mali has been split apart by a bloody civil war between several different factions. In 2012, the National Movement for the Liberation of Azaward (MNLA) took control of Northern Mail; but shortly after, they were pushed out of the region by Ansar Dine, a jihadist group, which quickly imposed sharia law: cigarettes, alcohol and music were banned across the region. And as a result a large number of the country’s acclaimed musicians including Songhoy Blues’ founding trio Garba Toure, Aliou Toure and Oumar Toure (no relation, but all Songhoy people) were forced to relocate south to Bamako, the country’s capital.

As the members of Songhoy Blues have said, the band was formed “. . . to recreate that lost ambience of the North, and make all the refugees relive those Northern songs.”  The band recruited Nathanael Dembélé to compete their lineup, and began playing shows across the Bamako club circuit, attracting both Songhoy and Tuareg fans.  Interestingly, by September 2013, Africa Express, a collective of American and European musicians and producers led by Damon Albarn traveled to Bamako to collaborate with local musicians. The members of Songhoy Blues successfully auditioned and were introduced to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs Nick Zinner, who produced and recorded “Soubour” (which translates into English as “patience”), which appeared on that year’s African Express compilation Maison Des Jeunes. 

Following the success of “Soubour,” the band returned to the studio with Zinner and co-producer Marc-Antoine Moreau to record their 2015 full-length debut Music in Exile, which was a commercial and critical success, receiving praise from The Guardian, NME and others, and as a result the band received nominations for “Best New Act” at the Q Awards and “Independent Breakthrough Act” at the AIM Awards.  The quartet has opened for Alabama Shakes, Julian Casablancas and Damon Albarn, and have played sets at Glastonbury Festival, Bonnaroo Festival, Latitude Festival, Roskilde Festival, Green Man Festival, Byron Bay Bluesfest, WOMADelaide and The Great Escape Festival.

Building upon a growing international profile, the band’s sophomore album, 2017’s Resistance was released to critical praise, with Rolling Stone naming it one of the best albums of that year. Since then, the act has been busy touring, including a stop at Union Pool‘s Summer Thunder last year — and the writing and recording of their forthcoming EP Meet Me in the City, which is slated for an October 18, 2019 release.

The effort finds the acclaimed Malian act collaborating with Will Oldham, Matt Sweeney, Junior Kimbrough and Femi Kuti. Interestingly, the EP’s first single, the Will Oldham, Matt Sweeney and Songhoy Blues co-written “Time To Go Home” may be the most electronic-leaning they’ve released to date, it still retains some dexterous and trippy guitar work and the hypnotic grooves of the Desert Blues. And interestingly enough, it finds the band ambitiously desiring to pass the messages at the heart of their material to a much larger, international audience. (There are two different version of the track. One mixed by Grammy-nominated producer Blake Mills and one mixed by David Ferguson.)

Songhoy Blues says, “We’re really happy to introduce this new EP and our English-language debut on the song ‘Time To Go Home.’ Please enjoy it and get ready for a heavy new album coming up very soon.”

Matt Sweeney adds, “I think it’s safe to say that the brave poets of Songhoy Blues have a different idea what a ‘bad day’ is than pretty much all other rock bands. Their music and singing are powerful beyond words. Making a new song with them was a humbling honor and an unforgettable joy.”

On PBS’ American Masters, Will Oldham spoke of working with Songhoy Blyes, saying, “They are a Malian band that’s really trying to make sense of what they’ve been witnessing, what they’ve been experiencing, and create or transmit a message to people about what they’re seeing and how they’re trying to understand it and make change…And to think, well I want them to know that I’m trying to listen and trying to understand, and if I can give voice to some of what they’re experiencing, that they might be emboldened by this musical connection.”

Songhoy Blues will be embarking on a month long Stateside tour that includes two NYC area dates — September 22, 2019 at The Great Green Wall at The United Nations and October 24, 2019 at Baby’s All Right. Check out the rest of the tour dates below.

 

Tour Dates

09.21 – Franklin, TN – Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival 2019
09.22 – New York, NY – United Nations | Great Green Wall
09.23 – Atlanta, GA – The Earl
09.24 – Birmingham, AL – Saturn
09.26 – Oxford, MS – Proud Larry’s
09.27 – New Orleans, LA – One Eyed Jacks
09.28 – Austin, TX – Antone’s
10.01 – El Prado, NM – Taos Mesa Brewing
10.04 – Los Angeles, CA – Moroccan Lounge
10.05 – Berkeley, CA – Cornerstone Berkeley
10.06 – Petaluma, CA – Mystic Theatre
10.09 – Eugene, OR – WOW Hall
10.10 – Portland, OR – Doug Fir Lounge
10.11 – Seattle, WA – Columbia City Theater
10.12 – Vancouver, BC, Canada – Rickshaw Theatre
10.15 – Boulder, CO – Fox Theatre
10.17 – St. Paul, MN – Turf Club
10.19 – Chicago, IL – Lincoln Hall
10.22 – Toronto, ON, Canada – Great Hall
10.24 – Brooklyn, NY – Baby’s All Right
10.25 – Easthampton, MA – New City Brewery
10.26 – Portland, ME – Port City Music Hall
10.27 – Boston, MA – Brighton Music Hall