Tag: afro pop

New Audio: Ibibio Sound Machine Releases a Shimmering and Funky Club Banger

Earlier this year, I wrote about the London-based act Ibibio Sound Machine, and the act, which is fronted by Nigerian-born vocalist Eno Williams and features 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) over the course of their first two albums — 2014’s self-titled debut and 2017’s Uyai — have received attention both nationally and internationally for a sound that’s influenced by golden era West African funk and disco and contemporary post-punk and electro pop. 

Now, as you may recall, 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. Album title track  and first official single, “Doko Mien,” was centered around a glimmering, hook-driven club banger  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.

Doko Mien’s second and latest single “Wanna Come Down” continues in a similar, club-banging vein as its predecessor as its centered around a rubbery, Bootsy Collins meets Flea bass line, an explosive horn line, arpeggiated synths and propulsive beats and Williams powerhouse vocals singing lyrics in her native Ibibio and English. Sonically, the song is a wild and seamless synthesis of 80s synth funk, Afrobeat and JOVM mainstays Escort — all while feeling like a sultry come on. In line with the track’s beckoning title, the band’s frontwoman Eno Williams says, “The Ibibio lyrics of the track are about the healing power of the river and the chorus. ‘Wanna come down, get ready ‘coz we’re gonna go’ is inviting people to come, dance and get involved with what’s going on.”

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New Video: The Gorgeously Cinematic and Symbolic Visuals for Blick Bassy’s “Ngwa”

Blick Bassy is a Cameroonian-born, French-based singer/songwriter, who released a number of award-winning albums with his backing band Macase, which culminated with the release of 2015’s Akö, an album that included “Kiki,” a track that was used to launch the iPhone 6. Bassy’s forthcoming album La Cigale is his first album in over four years, and it will be released through Nø Førmat Records.

La Cigale’s first single is the atmospheric and mournful “Ngwa,” which translates into English as “my friend.” Centered by a gorgeous horn arrangement, glitchy electronics and Bassy’s achingly tender vocals, singing in his ancestral Bassa language, the track sounds as though it were inspired by Peter Gabriel and Rubblebucket; but it evokes both a sense of profound and inconsolable loss and a mournful sense of missed opportunity from that loss that wonders “what could have happened if . . .?” The song is Bassy’s tribute to the heroes who fought and died for the independence of Bassy’s native Cameroon — in particular, Ruben Um Nyobe, the anti-colonialist leader of the Popular Union of Cameroon (UPC), who was murdered by French troops on September 13, 1958, just two years before the country became independent. Speaking of what drove him to write the song, Bassy says “Ngwa, I wanted to pay tribute to your fight, our fight, but also to your philosophy, where the values of equality, antiracism, anti xenophobia, serve emancipation and fulfilment for every human being.”

The UPC had been campaigning for independence for fifteen years, during which many people died — facts that had been subtly erased from the country’s history books by the French and Cameroon until recently.  Bassy wants to shed light on Um Nyobe’s story, saying in press notes,  “In school we studied the French version of what happened. The way I learned it in the books was that they were agitators, troublemakers. Which is wrong. Um Nyobé was in this movement hidden in the mountains, organising the Cameroonian People’s Union, and the truth about what happened has never been out.” 

Directed by up-and-coming South African director Tebogo Malope, the incredibly cinematic visuals for “Ngwa” was shot in Lesotho, and is a slow-burning meditation on the relationship between present-day Cameroon and its former French colonizers with Bassy embodying the spirit of Um Nyobe and the Cameroonian people. 
Speaking about the video – across which Bassy’s character is hunted down by French soldiers Malope says, “The narrative of Ruben Um Nyobé is one that resonates throughout the continent, one that is still grappling with the legacy of colonialism and attempts to redress the consequences thereof. This is echoed in the video’s initial scenes which reference renowned Kenyan renowned Author Ngugi Wa Thiongo’s book Matigari, where a freedom fighter lays down his arms for a supposed prosperous future where bloodshed shall be no more. Will he regret the decision? Another representation at the video’s end spawns from the images of a lifeless freedom fighter turning into a tree, reminiscent of South African political icon Solomon Mahlangu, who was killed by the Apartheid government. His last words before his death were ‘My blood will nourish the tree that will bear the fruits of freedom.'” 

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. 

Comprised of Peter Kaunda (vocals), Albert Manda (vocals), Solomon Nikho (drums), Myles Minthall (percussion, vocals) and Guta Manda (percussion, vocals) the Malawi-based act Tonga Boys emerged with the release of last year’s Tiri Bwino, an effort that vividly described African urban life — chaotic, crowded, desperate, frequently deprived of electricity and in many cases surrounded by sewage treatment plants. Sonically, the act meshed contemporary electronic music with the traditional music of the Tonga people.

Reportedly, the Malawian act’s sophomore album Vindodo finds the act pushing their sound in a more mature, dynamic and refined direction. While still centered around the lead vocals of Kaunda and Manda paired by the call and response vocals of the act’s remaining members. Musically, the act’s call and response vocals are accompanied with drums and improvised instruments — namely, plastic buckets, shovels, aluminum cans filled with gravel, and a guitar made of wires on an unheated board. The album was recorded in makeshift home studios in about five different sessions with the band telling their production team Pitor Dang, Czanry Latawiec and Wojciech Kucharcyzk to add more sounds to it later. Dang, Latawiec and Kucharcyzk incorporated a bolder use of electronics into the overall sound. Ultimately, the aim wasn’t to find a way to adapt Malawian act’s sound into European ideas about African electronic music or traditional folk music but rather to further emphasize the energy, rawness, joy and sense of dislocation and displacement within their music.

Album opener “Buranda” which is centered by a deceptively simple arrangement rapid fire call and response, bolstered by forceful tribal polyrhythm that gives the song an ecstatic, trance inducing vibe. Interestingly, as the folks at 1000Herz Records explain, the track is about a party in honor of an arriving stranger, presumably far away from their homeland. Focusing on the experience of a stranger in a strange and perhaps unforgiving strange land seems like a decidedly modern concern, but when rooted to a folk-based sound, the track points at the fact that it’s a timeless one.

 

 

Centered around the collaboration between core duo Martin Kuphukusi (vocals, lyrics) and Pitor Dang (electronics, sampler, production, mixing, lyrics, bass) Owls Are Not are an international collaboration primarily based in Warsaw, Poland that specializes in a minimal Afro funk/electro pop/electro punk that at points draws from footwork and dub, and live, organic Eastern African rhythms.

The act’s latest effort, Radio Tree released through the non-profit label 1000Herz Records is the result of several months of ethnomusicological research in Malawi and Tanzania. Adding to the Pan African and international flavor of the album, four of the album’s six songs were written with Eastern African vocalists, including Tonga Boys‘ Peter Kaunda, appearing as Certifyd, Sehno‘s Masaya Hijikata and Martin Kaphux Kaphukusi, the choir conductor of Christ Church of Malawi. Additionally, newspaperflyhunting and Vendrae Vendarum’s Michal Pawlowksi contributes guitar on a song.

Radio Tree‘s latest single is the thumping, club friendly “Asali.” Centered around arpeggiated synths and an infectious hook, the song manages to recall dancehall with a distinctly African flair. Thematically, the song like much of the album’s material focuses on love — and in a way that feels endearing and almost old school.

 

 

 

 

 

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New Video: Acclaimed Singer/Songwriter Gerald Toto Releases a Cinematic and Symbolic Visual for “Away Alive”

Last year, I wrote about the acclaimed trio of Toto Bona Lokua, comprised of French-Antillean singer/songwriter Gerald Toto, Cameroonian jazz musician Richard Bona and Congolese singer/songwriter Lokua Kanza, and as you might recall, with the release of  2004’s, critically applauded sophomore effort Totobonalokua, the pan-African act received attention across world music circles for a sound and aesthetic that effortlessly blended several different traditions, cultures and languages; in fact, the album was a commercial success in France, despite very little promotion and no touring.

Since the release of Totobonalokua, the members of the trio have pursued a series of diverse solo projects, which kept them incredibly busy. Of course, because of the success of their sophomore album, the individual members of the trio would frequently be asked by fans and the press if they would be reuniting to write and record new material — or if they had any plans to tentatively do so. Although the individual member of the trio’s paths seldom crossed, they managed to stay in touch, and as the story goes Gerald Toto suggested that it might be time to reconvene the trio and try to write new material. Bona and Kanza quickly agreed and while it took some time to synchronize the schedules of three extremely prolific and busy artists, they found time to write and record their third full-length album Bondeko, which was released earlier this year through French record label Nø Førmat. (By the way, the album’s title is derived from the Lingala word for  “friendship” or “fraternity.”)

This year has been a very busy one for Gerald Toto, as he followed the release of Toto Bona Lokua’s third album with his latest solo album Sway, and from the album’s first single “Away Alive,” Toto will further cement his reputation for crafting infectious and breezy pop that’s mischievously difficult to categorize. In fact, “Away Alive” is centered around a languid and tropical groove, featuring gently strummed guitar, brief bursts of arpeggiated synths and an infectious hook paired with Toto’s yearning falsetto. Sonically the song hints at Tropicalia, Bossa nova, 70s soul, Afro pop, French pop and folk while not being one thing in particular; but perhaps more important, the song encouragers the listener to slow down and pay close attention to gentle sway of life’s rhythms every now and then. 

Produced by Paris-baed company La Sucrerie and directed by R&D, the recently released — and incredibly cinematic — video follows Toto as he wanders about the desert. Speaking about the video, Toto says “The desert is an allegorical dream. An inner space where one seems initially lost, without reference or bearings, before finding, within, an anchor point from which to walk. With a heart open to all encounters.”

 

 

Last year, I wrote about the acclaimed trio of Toto Bona Lokua, comprised of French-Antillean singer/songwriter Gerald Toto, Cameroonian jazz musician Richard Bona and Congolese singer/songwriter Lokua Kanza, and as you might recall, with the release of  2004’s, critically applauded sophomore effort Totobonalokua, the pan-African act received attention across world music circles for a sound and aesthetic that effortlessly blended several different traditions, cultures and languages; in fact, the album was a commercial success in France, despite very little promotion and no touring.

Since the release of Totobonalokua, the members of the trio have pursued a series of diverse solo projects, which kept them incredibly busy. Of course, because of the success of their sophomore album, the individual members of the trio would frequently be asked by fans and the press if they would be reuniting to write and record new material — or if they had any plans to tentatively do so. Although the individual member of the trio’s paths seldom crossed, they managed to stay in touch, and as the story goes Gerald Toto suggested that it might be time to reconvene the trio and try to write new material. Bona and Kanza quickly agreed and while it took some time to synchronize the schedules of three extremely prolific and busy artists, they found time to write and record their third full-length album Bondeko, which was released earlier this year through French record label Nø Førmat. (By the way, the album’s title is derived from the Lingala word for  “friendship” or “fraternity.”)

Unsurprisingly, this year or so has been a very busy year for Gerald Toto, as he follows the release of Toto Bona Lokua’s third album with his forthcoming new album Sway, which is slated for an October 26, 2018 release, and from the album’s first single “Away Alive,” Toto will further cement his reputation for crafting infectious and breezy pop that’s enigmatic and mischievously difficult to categorize; in fact, “Away Alive” is centered around a languid and tropical groove, featuring gently strummed guitar, brief bursts of arpeggiated synths and an infectious hook paired with Toto’s yearning falsetto. Sonically the song hints at Tropicalia, Bossa nova, 70s soul, Afro pop, French pop and folk in a way that feels both familiar and new, but while encouraging the listen to slow down and to pay attention to the gentle sway of life’s rhythms every now and then.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Led by Makara Bianco and featuring production from prolific French producer débruit, KOKOKO! is a pioneering Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo-based DIY electronic collective inspired by a growing spirit of protest and unrest among Kinshasa’s young people. Unsurprisingly, these young people, much like young people everywhere have begun to openly question centuries-old norms and taboos, and have openly begun to denounce a society that they’ve perceived as being paralyzed by fear — namely, the fear of inclusiveness and change. And they’ve begun to do so with an fearless, in-your-face, almost punk rock-like attitude. In fact, the collective’s name literally means KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK! with the collective viewing themselves as the sound of a new generation boldly, loudly and defiantly banging on the doors and walls, yelling “OUR TIME IS NOW!”

I’ve written quite a bit about the collective, and as you may know, the collective’s members operate in a wildly inventive DIY fashion, creating self-designed and self-made instruments from recycled junk, flotsam and jetsam and claptrap. They even built a recording studio out of old mattresses, found wound and a ping pong table. Fueled by the underlying notion that desperate survival fuels creativity, the collective exploded into the international scene with their debut EP Tokoliana an urgent, forward-thinking, avant-grade-like effort centered around a sound that nods at disco, post-punk, hip-hop, reggae, retro-futuristic funk, Afro-futurism and traditional regional music — from a sweaty and grimy, post-apocalyptic future in which the ghetto and club are one and the same. It was arguably one of the most unique and exciting debuts I’ve come across in some time and unsurprisingly as a result, EP single and title track “Tokoliana” was one of my favorite singles last year.

Building upon a rapidly growing profile, the Congolese collective’s TONGOS’A EP was released last year, and the EP found the members of the collective further exploring themes of survival within the desperate and uneasy sociopolitical climate of their homeland — sometimes being forced to focused on small, deeply human pleasures and concerns. TONGOS’A‘s first single, EP title track “Tongos’a” (which translates roughly into “’til the morning light” in English)” was a sweaty, sultry and raunchy banger, centered around skittering drum programming and African percussion which helped to further cement the song’s overall theme — the necessity of getting good sex.

“Azo Toke,” the Congolese collective’s first single of 2018 features a production consisting of explosive blasts of static and feedback, tribal percussion, thumping and stuttering, tweeter and woofer beats, glitchy bursts of synth, throbbing low end, call and response vocals and subtly shifting moods and tempos — and while seemingly post apocalyptic, the track will further cement the act’s inventive approach to dance music, in which they seamlessly mesh African traditions with forward-thinking, hyper modern production.

 

New Video: Congolese DIY Collective KOKOKO! Returns with a Raunchy Club Banger

Bordered by Central African Republic and South Sudan to its north; Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania to its east; Zambia and Angola to the south; the Republic of the Congo to its west; and the Atlantic Ocean to its southwest, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is the second largest country by area in Africa and the eleventh largest by area in the entire world — and by with a population of 78 million people, the most populated officially Francophone country in the entire world, the fourth most populated nation in African and the seventeenth most populated country in the world.

Humans first settled within the expansive territory of the Democratic Republic of the Congo roughly 90,000 years ago, although various Bantu speaking tribes began migrating into the region in the 5th century and again in the 10th century. From the 14th to the 19th century, the territory was split into three different territories — to the West, the Kingdom of Kongo ruled for close to 500 years; while the central and Eastern sections were ruled by the Luba and Lunda kingdoms, which ruled from roughly the 16th century to the 19th century.

In the 1870s, European exploration of the Congo region was first carried out and led by Henry Morton Stanley, who was sponsored by King Leopold II of Belgium and by 1885, Leopold had formally acquired the rights to the Congo territory, making the land his private property. Ironically naming the territory the Congo Free State, the colonial military unit the Force Publique forced much of the local population into producing rubber and from 1885-1908 millions of Congolese died from exploitation and disease. Despite initial reluctance, the Belgian government formally annexed the Free State and the territory became the Belgian Congo.

Between the late 1950s and mid 1960s, revolutionary movements swept much of Africa, reshaping the map; in fact, The Democratic Republic of the Congo achieved independence in June 1960 as the Republic of the Congo, with Patrice Lumumba, a Congolese nationalist, becoming the country’s first Prime Minister and Joseph Kasa-Vubu, becoming the country’s first president. Within a few months, the provinces of Katanga, Moise-Tshombe and South Kasai attempted to secede and by September 1960, Lumumba was dismissed from office by Kasa-Vubu with encouragement by the US and Belgium after Lumumba sought assistance from the Soviet Union with what has since been known as the Congo Crisis. By mid September of that year, Lumumba was arrested by forces loyal to Army Chief of Staff Joseph-Desire Mobutu, who gained de facto control of the country through a coup d’etat. By early 1961 Lumumba was executed by Belgian-led Katangese forces.

In 1965 Mobutu, who later renamed himself Mobutu Sese Seko, officially came into power through a second coup d’etat, running the country, which he renamed as Zaire as a one-party state, with his Popular Movement of the Revolution as the country’s sole legal party for more than 30 years. By the early 1990s, Sese Seko’s government had begun to weaken and by the middle of the decade, growing disenfranchisement among the country’s eastern Congolese Tutsi population led to Zaire’s invasion by their Tutsi-ruled neighbor Rwanda, which began the First Congo War and eventually led to the end of Mobutu Sese Seko’s 32 year stranglehold on the country.

In May 1997, Laurent-Desire Kabila, a leader of South Kivu province-based Tutsi forces became President of the country and reverted the nation’s name to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Unfortunately, tensions between Kabila and the Rwandan and Tutsi presence led to the Second Congo War from 1998-2003, which involved nine different African nations and 20 different armed groups and eventually resulted in the deaths of 5.4 million people. Naturally, the decade long period of civil war and instability devastated the country and the larger region. And if you add several centuries of commercial and colonial exploitation, which continues to this very day, extreme poverty, inequality and inequity and a lack of infrastructure, you understandably wind up with a population that’s desperate and struggling to survive.

Led by Makara Bianco and featuring production from prolific French producer débruit, KOKOKO! is a pioneering Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo-based DIY electronic collective inspired by a growing spirit of protest and unrest among Kinshasa’s young people, who have begun to both openly question centuries-old norms and taboos and or openly denounce a society that they perceived as paralyzed by fear. In fact, the collective’s name literally means KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK! with the collective viewing themselves as the sound of a new generation boldly, loudly and defiantly banging on the doors and walls, yelling “OUR TIME IS NOW!” The members of the collective operate in a wildly inventive DIY fashion, creating self-designed and self-made instruments from recycled junk and claptrap — and they built a recording studio out of old mattresses, found wood and a ping pong table. (If that isn’t punk as fuck, I don’t know what is.) Fueled by the underlying notion that desperate survival fuels creativity, the collective received international attention with their Tokoliana EP, an urgent, forward-thinking, way out in left field effort featuring a sound that nodded at disco, post-punk, hip-hop, reggae, retro-futuristic funk, Afro-futurism and traditional regional music — but from a sweaty, grimy, post-apocalyptic future in which the ghetto and club are one and the same. 

ICI released the Congolese collective’s second EP TONGOS’A late last year, and the EP finds the collective further exploring themes of survival in the desperate and uneasy political and social climate of their homeland — sometimes focusing on small, deeply human pleasures and concerns; in fact, the EP’s first track, title track “Tongos’a (which translates roughly into ’til the morning light”) is a sweaty and raunchy club banger on the necessity of getting laid properly, rooted around skittering drum programming, thumping beats and a looped guitar and bass line that’s derived from the Mongo tribe repertoire, making the song a mischievous mix of the old and the new. 

Directed by débruit, Markus Hofko, Renaud Barret, the recently released video for “Tongos’a” stars a local dance act “l’homme capote” comprised of Mbuyi Tickson, Makoka, and Riyana sweaty and grinding seductively to the song, capturing the song’s raunchy, club-friendly vibe.