Tag: African music

Live Footage: Imarhan Perform Album Single “Tamudre” in Upcoming Documentary on Taureg Life

Comprised of Iyad Moussa “Sadam” Ben Abderahmane, Tahar Khaldi, Hicham Bouhasse, Abdelkader Ourzig and Haiballah Akhamouk, the Tamanrasset, Algeria-based quintet Imarhan formed back in 2008 and are among a newer generation of Tuareg musicians, who have yet to fight in the conflicts that have devastated Saharan Africa over the past 3 or 4 decades. Interestingly, the band has been mentored by members of internationally renowned Tuareg collective Tinariwen, while developing a reputation across the Tuareg world and elsewhere for pairing the ancestral tamashek poetry and rhythms of their elders with the much more contemporary sounds that reflect their urban upbringings, listening to a wide variety of music from across the globe. 

With the 2016 release of the Algerian quintet’s critically applauded, self-titled debut album, they quickly became a buzz-worthy act with a growing internationally recognized profile that found them opening for a number internationally renowned touring acts including Kurt Vile, the aforementioned Tinariwen, Songhoy Blues and Mdou Moctor at venues across the US, the European Union and China. Building upon a growing profile, Imarhan’s forthcoming and highly-anticipated sophomore album Temet is slated for a February 23, 2018 release through City Slang Records — and the Patrick Votan and Eyadou Ag Leche-produced album derives its name from the Tamashek word for “connections,” which shouldn’t be surprising as the album reportedly is an urgent wake up call to the listener, meant to remind them that we are all deeply connected and without unity and understanding, that we will never be able to solve our world’s most urgent and pressing connections — i.e., environmental destruction, inequality, racism, growing strife and conflict, etc. As the band’s Ben Abderahmane said in press notes some time ago, “People should love each other. They need to know each other, we need to know each other, everyone should get to know their neighbor. We need to have the same approach as our elders,” he continues. “You will stumble across an old man who knows the world and will hand down his knowledge to his children.”

Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site over the past few months, you may recall that the album’s first single “Azzaman” was a meditative, hypnotic yet subtly contemporary take on the region’s desert blues sound that nods at psych rock — while thematically the song focuses on the passing of time and the handing over of a heritage and traditions by each successive generation, and the importance of leaving the right legacy. But along with that, the song makes a point of connecting different cultures of mixing the old and the new in a sensible way. Temet’s second single “Tamudre” consists of a hypnotic and downright propulsive groove, punctuated with layers of percussion (both drumming and handclaps), call and response vocals and some impressive guitar work. Naturally, the song manages to remind me quite a bit of Tinariwen’s “Sustanaqqam” and “Adounia Ti Chidjret” but with a loose, bluesy vibe. 

As for the recently released live footage, the Parisian, independent filmmaker Vincent Moon set out of Algeria earlier this year, equipped only with a camera. ‘I never ever film with an object in mind,” Moon explains in press notes. “It’s more about letting it go and let[ting] the object materialize by itself. Interestingly, in this case, wound up being the members of Imarhan, who at the time, were in the middle of working on the material, which would comprise Temet. Moon followed the band for two weeks, documenting hours of music, conversations and pictures in Tamanrasset and within the neighboring mountain ranges, specially the Assekrem (Tamashak for “World’s End”) within the larger Hoggar Mountains in Southern Algeria. The end result is an hour-long documentary film Children of Tam, which is a portrait of the band and of the Tuareg people, capturing these proud people in their daily lives — and interesting enough, the documentary features live footage of the band performing album single “Tamudre” in their hometown. 

New Audio: Seun Kuti and Egypt 80 Team Up with The Legendary Carlos Santana on a Funky and Powerful New Single

Lagos, Nigeria-born and-raised multi-instrumentalist, bandleader and singer/songwriter Seun Kuti is the youngest son of the legendary and controversial Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti. And as the story goes when Seun was nine, he expressed a desire to perform with his father — and within a short time, Seun started performing with his father’s backing band Egypt 80. Much like his older brother, Femi, Seun Kuti has followed the political and social ethos of his late father, continuing to push their father’s pro-Black, pan-African/pan-African Diaspora, anti-colonialist, sociopolitical messages to wider, international audiences. Oddly enough, during Fela’s life, he was in many ways the bane of the Nigerian political establishment, as he bravely called out the hypocrisy, inequality, inequity, corruption and brutality that they and their fellow countrymen faced on a daily basis — while pointing out that corruption and brutality is always the same.

However, with increasing international attention on both Fela and his sons over the past 20 years, the Kutis have managed to walk a careful tightrope of siding with the little guy and courageous speaking truth to power at all costs, including risk of life and limb while also becoming unofficial ambassadors to Nigeria, their proud and beautiful people and their culture. Around the time, I started this site, I caught Femi Kuti and Positive Force at Irving Plaza and there was a proud contingency of Nigerians, who spoke of Femi and his father with proud, reverential terms, at one point referring to Femi as “Professor!” “Speak Professor, Speak!” They would exclaim whenever Femi would say something that resonated with them. In some way, I was reminded of how older Jamaicans speak of Bob Marley.

Fela died in 1997 when Femi was 35 and Seun was just 14. Almost immediately upon his father’s death, Seun took over the frontperson duties of his father’s legendary backing band, a band that features members of his father’s backing bands Afrika ’70 and Egypt 80 — many of whom were with Fela, when he was speaking out about the Nigerian government at a time, when doing so could mean risking jail, brutal beatings an/or death. And interestingly enough, Seun’s 2008 debut effort Many Things was produced by Martin Meissonnier, who produced two of Fela’s albums.

Now, as you may know live, Seun Kuti has developed a reputation for sets being a fair mix of his own original material, along with covers of his father’s material, and because his father rarely (if ever) performed songs he recorded in the studio live, Seun covering his father’s material is often seen as an opportunity for fans to hear songs like “Water Get No Enemy,” “Shuffering and Shmiling,” “Colonial Mentality” and “Army Arrangement” live — and with a dynamism that rivals that of his late father.

Seun Kuti’s fourth album with Egypt 80, Black Times is slated for a March 2, 2018 release through British label Strut Records, and the new album reportedly finds Seun and company honoring the revolutionaries who have come and gone before while being a much needed rallying cry for the torchbearers to come. And to further emphasize that theme, the album finds Seun and the legendary Egypt 80 collaborating with a list of acclaimed musicians and artists, including Carlos Santana and Robert Glasper, among others. As Seun Kuti explains in press notes, “Black Times is a true reflection of my political and social beliefs. It is an album for anybody who believes in change and understands the duty we have to rise up and come together. The elites always try to divide the working class and the poor people of the world. The same oppression felt by workers in Flint, Michigan is felt by workers in Lagos and Johannesburg.”

The funky yet blistering album title track and first single “Black Times” features the imitable guitar work of Carlos Santana in a song that’s meant to shine a black light on society, exposing its rot, immorality and hypocrisy while pointing out the need for Black folk all over the world to band together and demand justice and inequality for all people. But beyond that it suggests that everyone needs to take a serious look at themselves and their world in order to truly begin to change it — and while it may be hard work, it’s necessary work to make the world better.

Akuba Records is a new label, whose mission is to bring listeners the very best deep, cosmic, soulful and funky disco music out of their Africa, and their debut release is a split release between He’s The Man and Atik-A. The A side single He’s The Man’s “Squeeze  Me Tight” is an old school club banger, reminiscent of Parliament Funkadelic, Heatwave and oddly enough 45:33-era LCD Soundsystem, as the track features propulsive drumming, a sinuous bass line, an enormous brass section, soulful Lou Rawls-like vocals, complete with a sultry backing section, arpeggiated keys and trippy analog effects — with the end result being something both tribal and cosmic.

 

With the release of 2004’s, critically applauded sophomore effort Totobonalokua, the collaborative trio Toto Bona Lokua, comprised of French singer/songwriter Gerald Toto, Cameroonian jazz musician Richard Bona and Congolese singer/songwriter Lokua Kanza received international attention in world music circles for a sound that effortlessly blended traditions, cultures and languages  — and interestingly enough, the album was a commercial success in France, despite little promotion and no tour dates.

Since the release of Totobonalokua, the members of the trio have pursued a series of diverse solo projects, which kept them incredibly busy but throughout that period of time, each member of the trio would be regularly be asked by fans and the press when they would reunite to make a new album — or if they were plans to do so. Interestingly enough, although the trio’s paths seldom crossed, they managed to keep in touch, and as as the story goes, Gerald Toto eventually suggested that it might be time to get together and write new album. Of course, his collaborators and friends Bona and Kanza readily agreed. Understandably, it took some time to synchronize the schedules of three very busy people but eventually they found some time to write and record their forthcoming effort Bondeko, which derives its names from the Lingala word for “friendship” or “fraternity.”

Slated for a January 19, 2018 release through French record label Nø FørmatBondeko reportedly picks up where its predecessor left off but with the material managing the delicate balance of being nuanced and finely crafted, virtuosic yet spontaneous, playful yet profound — and they do so while retaining the gorgeous layered harmonizing and boundary blurring sound that won them international attention. In fact, Bondeko‘s first single “Ma Mama” finds the trio meshing the breeziness of Bossa nova with traditional African vocal chants in a way that will remind some listeners of Bobby McFerrin and of Crosby Stills and Nash; but perhaps more importantly, the trio manage to bridge the African Diaspora with a unique vision that’s both playful and compellingly profound.

 

 

 

 

New Audio: Here Lies Man Releases a Psych Rock Cover of Fela Kuti’s “Sorrow Tears and Blood”

With the release of their self-titled full-length debut earlier this year, the Los Angeles, CA-based act Here Lies Man founded by Marcos Garcia, who was a member of renowned Afrobeat act Antibalas and featuring fellow Antibalas bandmates Chico Mann (guitar, vocals) and Geoff Mann (drums), along with Rich Panta (percussion), JP Maramba (bass) and Kris Casto (organ), have developed a reputation for a sound that seamlessly bridges classic, Fela Kuti-era Afrobeat with classic, Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin-era rock. 

Building upon a growing national profile, the band will be releasing a 12 inch EP Animal Noises, which is slated for release on Friday through RidingEasy Records, and the EP’s first single is a psych rock cover of Fela Kuti’s “Sorrow, Tears and Blood” that manages to retain the song’s melody and furious outrage while turning into an blistering, arena rock-friendly jam. 

New Video: Up-and-Coming Tuareg Band Imarhan Release Meditative Sounds and Visuals on Modern Taureg Life in “Azzaman”

Comprised of Iyad Moussa “Sadam” Ben Abderahmane, Tahar Khaldi, Hicham Bouhasse, Abdelkader Ourzig and Haiballah Akhamouk, the Tamanrasset, Algeria-based quintet Imarhan formed back in 2008 and while being among a newer generation of Tuareg musicians, who haven’t fought in the various conflicts that have devastated the region; however, since their formation, the band, which has been mentored by internationally renowned Tuareg act Tinariwen, has developed a reputation across the Tuareg world and elsewhere for pairing the ancestral tamashek poetry and traditional rhythms of their elders with contemporary sounds that reflect their urban upbringings, listening to a variety of music from around the globe. (Interestingly, the connection to Tinariwen is not just a generational one of acclaimed elders wanting to pass their wisdom on to the young, new breed; it’s actually familial, as Tinariwen’s Eyadou Ag Leche is Ben Abderahmane’s cousin.)
 
In fact, with the release of their 2016, critically applauded, self-titled debut album, the band quickly became a buzz-worthy act with a growing profile that found them opening for the likes of Kurt Vile, the aforementioned Tinariwen, Songhoy Blues and Mdou Moctor at venues across the US, the European Union and China. And building upon that growing profile, the band’s highly-anticipated sophomore effort Temek, derives its name from the Tamashek word for “connections” and the Patrick Votan and Eyadou Ag Leche-produced album, which was recorded earlier this year in Paris reportedly is a urgent wake up call to the listener, reminding them that we are all connected and that without unity, we will never be able to solve our world’s most pressing problems — i.e., environmental destruction, inequality, racism, growing strife and conflict, etc. As the band’s Ben Abderahmane says in press notes, “People should love each other. They need to know each other, we need to know each other, everyone should get to know their neighbor. We need to have the same approach as our elders,” he continues. “You will stumble across an old man who knows the world and will hand down his knowledge to his children.” But along with that message, the album finds the band pushing their sound to include elements of funk, disco and rock; in fact, the album’s first single “Azzaman” is a mediative and hypnotic yet subtly contemporary take on the region’s famed desert blues sound, as the song finds the band hinting at psych rock, thanks to some impressively blazing guitar work.
 
Directed by Visions Particulières and filmed in Algiers, Algeria, the recently released video for “Azzaman” offers an equally meditative glance at Tuareg life, pointing out that while some things are understandably different culturally and linguistically, we share much more similarities than we expect. After all, people struggling to get by daily with their dignity intact is universal; and in fact, if you were watching the video in mute, it wouldn’t be until you saw the street scenes that you’d notice anything wildly different. As the band explains, the video’s concept “is about the passing of time and the handing over of a heritage by each generation. It’s about the importance of leaving the right legacy. It’s also about connecting the cultures, the mixing of the old with the new. The video was shot in Algiers to reflect the meaning behind the song, it’s a big cosmopolitan city, an urban environment which culturally offers a lot yet it’s still a place in which we can keep on preserving some Tuareg ways of life.”
 
 
 

Comprised of frontwoman and guitarist Fatou Seidi Ghali, Alamnou Akrouni and Madassane Ahmoudou, Les Fillies de Illighadad hail from Illighadad, a secluded and remote, rural commune in central Niger, near the edge of the Sahara Desert that’s only accessible via a grueling drive through the open desert. There’s little modern infrastructure in the village, and the town lacks electricity and running water with the surrounding countryside supporting hundreds of shepherd families, living with and among their herds of livestock, as their ancestors have done for centuries.

The sound that has long defined rural Niger is known as tende which derives its name from a drum built from goat skin stretched across a mortar and pestle and is rooted in sparse arrangements featuring vocals, handclaps and percussion while thematically, songs focus on life in the village, love and praise of ancestors. And interestingly enough, it’s a genre and style largely dominated by women; in fact, long known as being both collective and communal, tende is a specifically a tradition for the young girls of the nomad camps — and typically, tende is played during celebrations and to pass time during the rainy season. Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site over the past few years, you’d recall that there have been certain genres of Tuareg music that have received international attention from music journalists and fans in the West and elsewhere — in particular, the desert blues, pioneered by acts like Tinariwen, Bombino and Mdou Moctar have become synonymous with Tuareg music and culture to the West; however, music rooted in the use of the electric guitar is a relatively recent phenomenon with exiled Tuareg living in Libya and Algeria, who had also been equally influenced by Western rock, funk and punk rock began using instrumentation to mimic female vocalists. Out of necessity they replaced traditional tende percussion with plastic jerrycans. Naturally when those exiles returned to their ancestral homeland, they brought their new sound with them, and in time the new guitar sound came to eclipse tende — especially in urban centers. With tende being primarily sung by women, the desert blues was the male counterpart, and the Tuareg guitar scene is largely dominated by men.

Interestingly Les Filles de Illighadad’s Fatou Seidi Ghali is an extreme rarity — she’s one of the only female Taureg guitarists in Niger. As the story goes, Ghali would sneak away with her older brother’s guitar and taught herself how to play, and while being groundbreaking within her culture, it’s also a bold way of reasserting the role of tende and of women in Tuareg music; but while employing the use of electric guitar, they manage to use the traditional drum and a calabash half-buried in water instead of the more contemporary djembe or drum kit.  The trio’s full-length debut effort Eghass Malan was recorded while they were on their first European tour — and after a handful of shows. And as you’ll hear from the album’s latest single and album title track “Eghass Malan,” the trio recorded the song and the rest of the album’s material with a sort of impromptu minimalism of a band jamming together, thanks in part to rather bare bone arrangements of twisting, turning and hypnotic guitar lines, multi-part harmonies, simple yet driving rhythms and handclaps but with a clean, effortless production sheen — and although recorded in the modern fashion, the song points to a much more timeless and ageless sound that goes back to our nomadic and tribal origins while pushing an entire culture in a new direction.