Tag: Bob Marley

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.

The Detroit, MI-based proto-punk/punk rock band Death can trace their origins back to when The Hackney Brothers — Bobby (bass, vocals), David (guitar) and Dannis (drums) formed the band back in 1971. Initially, they started out as a R&B and funk-based band — that is until The Hackneys caught The Who and Alice Cooper live. After those concerts, David, the youngest of the siblings pushed his two older brothers towards a much more hard rock-leaning sound, which interestingly enough presaged punk and post-punk and a name change — Death. And as Bobby Hackney explained in 2010, David’s concept was spinning death from the negative to the positive. “It was a hard sell.”

In 1975, the Hackney Brothers with engineer Jim Vitti recorded a handful of songs written by David and Bobby at Detroit’s United Sound Studios. And according to the Hackney family, Clive Davis funded the recording sessions but while doing so, had repeatedly implored that the band change their name to something more commercially palatable. When the Hackney’s refused, Davis pulled out, leaving the band with seven recorded songs instead of the planned for 12. By 1976, the band self released in an extremely limited run of just 500 copies, the “Politicians In My Eyes”/”Keep Obn Knocking” single, recorded from those sessions, followed by their full-length debut with very little fanfare.

By 1977, the Hackneys ended the band, and then relocated to Burlington, VT where they released two alums of gospel rock as The 4 Movement in the late 70s and early 80s. However, by 1982 David had returned to Detroit while Bobby and Dannis remained and eventually formed the reggae band Lambsbread. In 2000, David Hackney tragically died of lung cancer but reportedly before he had died David Hackney told his older siblings that although they were misunderstood and forgotten in their day, history would prove them and their work as Death as being truly revolutionary — even if it was after his own death. In a wild spin of serendipitous fortune that seems written by a screenwriter, several years after David’s death, Bobby’s sons had stumbled upon the original Death masters hidden away in their parents’ attic. And Bobby’s sons were so impressed by what they heard, that they began covering Death’s material during their own sets as a loving homage that began to receive attention both to them and their father’s and uncles’ work together.

Drag City Records, re-released Death’s original recordings in 2009, 35 years after its initial recording and release, and from those recordings the material managed to not just up hold up, but to reveal an important historical place both for American music history and for Black music history, as their sound, which effortlessly meshed reggae, proto-punk, metal and punk rock managed to presage the punk movement by 3 years while serving as a convincing bridge between Parliament Funkadelic and Bob Marley and Bad Brains, Fishbone, Living Colour, Lenny Kravitz, TV on the Radio, Prince and a growing list of contemporary acts that include Unlocking the Truth.

Since the re-release of their demos and full-length debut, the current lineup of Death featuring surviving brothers Bobby (bass, vocals) and Dannis Hackney (drums) with Bobbie Duncan (guitar) have had a documentary about their story, released some new material and spent a lot of time touring and playing some of the country’s largest festivals, including Afropunk Festival, introducing their sound and aesthetic to new audiences.

Death’s latest single “Cease Fire” will continue to cement the band’s growing reputations for pioneering sound that meshes punk, metal, funk and soul while being politically charged and urgent as the song features buzzing and crunching guitar chords and some impressive soloing, soaring synths and propulsive drumming and a sinuous bass line while being politically charged — and in particular, their sound and thematic concerns clearly presages the likes of Living Colour and Fishbone, some 10-15 years before they began playing. As the members of the band explain, their newest single “is a continuation of the social conscious voice that Rock ‘N’ Roll music states to all people. If John Lennon were alive in this world today, we are sure he would echo the same sentiments, because we first have to put the guns down and stop the senseless shooting so we can ‘Give Peace A Chance.'”

 

New Video: Tinariwen Reminds Us That Music is a Mighty Weapon

The recently released music video for “Sastanàqqàm” is reportedly inspired by real life events. When the members of the band returned to their homeland in 2006 they spent some time wandering around looking for old friends, associates, family members, neighbors and the like. Roughly 1,000 miles away from their homeland in Northern Mail, the members of Tinariwen came across six young musicians who hailed from M’Hamid el Ghizlane. These boys were the only boys that the members of the collective came across during their visit; but they immediately saw a reflection of themselves, their dreams and aspirations in the music they heard the boys play. In the subsequent years, the boys from M’Hamid el Ghizlane learned the Tinariwen catalog note for note, word for word although they couldn’t speak a word of Tamashek. When the members of the band returned to the town to record the material, which would comprise Elwan, their disciples had displayed a mastery of Tinariwen’s catalog — and the members of the band recognized that they had passed the torch on to their young disciples; in fact, the band decided to invite their disciples to be in the music video for “Sastanàqqàm,” symbolically standing in for the members of the band. The video follows as some of Tinariwen’s elder members wrapped new turbans around the heads of their young disciples, symbolically marking the passage from boyhood and manhood; but also marking how music can be transmitted across generations and influence young men and women to pick up instruments and speak truth to power. Let that serve as a reminder that music and art hold great power — a power that even the most autocratic demagogue can’t possibly stop.

Over the years, I’ve written quite a bit about the internationally renowned Saharan blues/Saharan rock collective  Tinariwen, an act that can trace its origins to the late 197s when its founding member, guitarist Ibrahim Ag Alhabib, who as the story goes had been inspired to learn the guitar from an old Western film, in which a cowboy played guitar, joined a small group of Tuareg rebels living in refuge camps throughout Libya and Algeria. Interestingly, Ag Alhabib and his fellow rebels had been influenced by the radical chaabi protest music of Moroccan groups like Nass El Ghiwane and Jil Jilala; Algerian pop rai; and western artists like Elvis PresleyLed ZeppelinCarlos SantanaDire StraitsJimi HendrixBoney M, and Bob Marley, and started writing music that meshed the traditional folk music of their people with Western rock, reggae and blues-leaning arrangements

After relocating to Tamanrasset, Algeria, Ag Alhabib started a band with Alhassane Ag Touhami and brothers Inteyeden Ag Ablil and Liya Ag Ablil that had played traditional Tuareg music with both Western and traditional instrumentation and arrangements at weddings, parties and other occasions across the Algeria, Libya and Mali. When this quartet started, they didn’t have a name; however, people across the region, who had seen them play had began calling the quartet,  Kel Tinariwen, which in the Tamashek language (the tongue of the Taureg people) translates roughly as “The People of the Deserts” or “The Desert Boys.”

In 1980, Libyan dictator, Muammar Gaddafi released a decree inviting all young Tuareg men, who were living illegally in Libya to receive full military training, as part of his dream of forming a Saharan regiment, comprised of the best young Tuareg fighters to further his territorial ambitions in Chad, Niger, and elsewhere across Northern Africa. Al Alhabib and his bandmates answered the call and received military training. Whether or not the founding members of the band truly believed in Gaddafi’s military ambitions would be difficult to say — but on a practical level, a steady paycheck to support yourself and your family back home certainly is an enticement. Five years later, Ag Alhabib, Ag Touhami and the Ag Ablil brothers answered a similar call by leaders of the Libyan Tuareg movement, who desired an autonomous homeland for their people, and wound up meeting fellow musicians Keddou Ag Ossade, Mohammed Ag Itlale (a.k.a “Japonais”), Sweiloum Ag Alhousseyni, Abouhadid Ag Alhousseyni, and Abdallah Ag Alhousseyni — all who had sang and played guitar. At this point, the lineup of Tinariwen was completed and the members of the collective began writing songs about the issues and concerns of their people.

The members of the band built a makeshift studio and then vowed to record and then distribute music for free for anyone who supplied them a blank cassette tape. And perhaps unsurprisingly, their DIY cassettes were highly sought after and were traded throughout Saharan Africa.

In 1989 the members of the collective had left Libya and relocated to Ag Alhabib’s birthplace of Tessalit, Mali; however, by the next year Mail’s Tuareg population revolted against the Malian government, with some members of the collective participating as rebel fighters. After a peace agreement known as the Tamanrasset Accords were reached in early 1991, the  members of Tinariwen left the military and devoted themselves to music full-time, and by the following year, some of the members of the band went to  Abidjan, Ivory Coast to record a cassette at JBZ Studios, which they followed up with extensive gigs for their fellow Tuaregs across Saharan Africa, which helped further establish the band’s reputation by word-of-mouth.

After collaborating with renowned French world music ensemble  Lo’Jo, the members of Tinariwen started to receive greater international attention outside of Saharan Africa, including their first British live set at Africa Oye, one of the UK’s largest African music/African Diaspora festival. Building on the increasingly buzz they were receiving, the band released their first full-length effort, The Radio Tisdas Sessions, their first recording to be released outside of their native Northern Africa. As the collective has pushed forward throughout the years, it has gone through lineup changes, incorporating a younger generation of Tuareg musicians, some who weren’t even born during some of the military conflicts of the older generation or whose lives were impacted by the fighting during the 1990s,  including bassist Eyadou Ag Leche, percussionist Said Ag Ayad, guitarist Elaga Ag Hamid, guitarist Abdallah Ag Lamida, and vocalists Wonou Walet Sidati and the Walet Oumar sisters.

As the collective started to see greater international attention, they’ve toured regularly across the European Union, North America, Japan and Australia, often playing at some of the world’s biggest and highly renowend music festivals including GlastonburyCoachellaRoskildeLes Vieilles CharruesWOMADFMM Sines Thomand Printemps de Bourges. And although they employ both Western instrumentation and traditional instrumentation and arrangements, their sound has always managed to evoke the surreal and brutally harsh beauty of the Saharan Desert, the poetry and wisdom of a rough and tumble, rebellious and proud people whose way of life is disappearing thanks to encroaching Westernization and technology.  And most recently yet another bloody and contentious war has splintered several nations across the Tuareg territory — including devastating wars across Mail and Libya. Now, if you had been frequenting this site over the past couple of months, you’d likely recall that the Tuareg collective’s forthcoming album Elwan (which translates into English as The Elephants) is slated for a February 10, 2017 release, and the album thematically focuses both on the disappearing traditions of the Tuareg people and of being forced into a reluctant and begrudging exile — with the realization that many of the collective’s members may never see their homeland again.

With Elwan‘s third and latest single “Assawt” the band’s frontman, guitarist and founding member Ag Alhabib turns the focus to the women of the Sahara, strong women who in his words are “searching for their freedom” and “who toil for the revolution,” recognizing their role and place in the long and often bloody fight for a Tuareg homeland. Ag Alhabib’s mournful yet soulful vocals are paired around a shuffling and snaking acoustic guitar line, a sinuous bass line, propulsive handclap-led percussion with the band joining in on a harmonized and anthemic hook. Interestingly, while drawing from the Tuareg tradition, the song also manages to subtly nod at the sounds of Mali, Nigeria and elsewhere as it continues to cement the collective’s reputation for crafting tight grooves.

The band and their label have done a kind favor by providing an English translation of the song’s lyrics, which you can check out below.

That’s the voice
of the Tamashek women
Searching for their freedom.
Those are the thoughts
of the old women
Living in a Sahara devoid of water,
Desiccated and miserable,
My wish is for it
to stop being subservient.
This is a message for those
Who toil for the revolution.

The band will be embarking on a North American tour, which will include two NYC area dates at Brooklyn Bowl. Check out the tour dates below.

30 MARCH 2017 – SOLANA BEACH, CA : BELLY UP TAVERN
31 MARCH 2017 – LOS ANGELES, CA : THE FONDA THEATRE
01 APRIL 2017 – BERKELEY, CA : THE UC THEATRE
02 APRIL 2017 – PORTLAND, OR : REVOLUTION HALL
04 APRIL 2017 – SEATTLE, WA : BENAROYA HALL
05 APRIL 2017 – VANCOUVER, BC : CHAN CENTRE FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS
7 APRIL 2017 – SALT LAKE CITY, UT : THE STATE ROOM
08 APRIL 2017 – DENVER, CO: SWALLOW HILL MUSIC ASSOCIATION
10 APRIL 2017 – MINNEAPOLIS, MN : CEDAR CULTURAL CENTER
11 APRIL 2017 – CHICAGO, IL : OLD TOWN SCHOOL OF FOLK MUSIC
12 APRIL 2017 – TORONTO, ONT : MASSEY HALL
13 APRIL 2017 – MONTREAL, QC : PLACE DES ARTS
14 APRIL 2017 – BOSTON, MA : ROYALE
15 APRIL 2017 – BROOKLYN, NY : BROOKLYN BOWL
16 APRIL 2017 – BROOKLYN, NY : BROOKLYN BOWL
18 APRIL 2017 – PHILADELPHIA, PA : UNION TRANSFER
19 APRIL 2017 – WASHINGTON, DC : BARNS AT WOLF TRAP
21 APRIL 2017 – PITTSBURGH, PA : CARNEGIE OF HOMESTEAD HALL

 

Comprised of founding members  Ousmane Ag Mossa and Cheick Ag Biglia along with Aghaly Ag Mohamedine,  Ibrahim Ag Ahmed Salam, Mahmoud Ag Ahmouden, Mossa Ag Borreiba, Fatma Wallet Cheick, Bassa Wallet Abdamou and Wannou Wallet Sidaty, the members of Tamikrest hail from the region around the city of Kidal in Northeastern Mali; in fact, all of the members of band attended the Les enfants de l’aurar school in Tinzawaren where they met and received basic music training. And with the members of the band being in their late 20s and early-to-mid 30s, their youths were shaped by the Tuareg Rebellion of 1990-1995 as each of the bandmembers had family, friends and others fought and died in their people’s fight for autonomy. Much like the members of the internationally acclaimed Tuareg collective Tinariwen, the members of Tamikrest began playing their people’s traditional music, as well as the music of Tinariwen — and thanks in part to the intent, the members of the band got a chance to listen to and be influenced but he work of Western artists like Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley, Pink Floyd and Mark Knopfler.

When another series of riots exploded across Kidal and elsewhere in 2006, the band’s founding members decided the it would be best for them to fight with their instruments and songs — with songs that called attention to their people’s cause. Interestingly, a chance meeting with American-Australian band Dirtmusic at 2008 Festival Au Desert led to both friendship and to a lengthy collaboration in which the members of Tamikrest were invited to play on Dirtmusic’s 2010 sophomore effort BKO, which was recorded in Bamako, Mali. Chris Eckman, a member of Dirtmusic and The Walkabouts produced Tamikrest’s 2010 full-length debut Adagh and the band’s 2011 sophomore effort Toumastin

Kidal, the band’s fourth, full-length effort pays homage to the town in which the band was formed, as well as the town that’s one of their people’s main cultural centers. Historically, Kidal has been fought over, conquered and re-conquered many times over — and as a result, the town is a long-held symbol of the Taureg people’s defiance, resistance and hope. As the band’s co-founder explains of the album, “Kidal talks about dignity. We consider the desert as an area of freedom to live in. But many people consider it as just a market to sell to multinational companies, and for me, that is a major threat to the survival of our nomadic people.”

 

And although the Tuareg have traditionally been a nomadic people, there was a brief moment in which they actually had a homeland when the Tuaregs collectively rose up in 2017 and declared the Azawad region of Mali, an independent state. Sadly, it lasted less than a year as Al-Qaeda militants came in from the north and imposed strict Islamist rule and was followed by the French military, who arrived to liberate the area. And as a result, the Tuareg people were left with little or no chance for immediate self-determination; however, the dream remains for the Tuareg people, even if it seems trapped between several different governments, religious terrorists groups, and greedy, global corporations. As the band’s associate Rhissa Ag Mohamed mentions in press notes, “Kidal, the cradle of all of these uprisings, continues to resist the many acts perpetrated by obscure hands against our people. The album evokes all the suffering and manipulations of our populations caught in pincers on all sides.” And much like the aforementioned the members of Tamikrest feel an obligation to preserve and protect their people’s culture, while informing the world of their people’s plight — and unsurprisingly, Kidal‘s first single “Wainan Adobat” possesses a forceful urgency that belies its gorgeous yet cool self-assuredness. Interestingly, while the track nods at Tinariwen, the track also is reminiscent of Brothers in Arms-era Dire Straights. But perhaps most important, this song should be a reminder that in the difficult times that seem to be coming up ahead, that music and art should be used both as spiritual sustenance and as one of the most powerful political weapons known to man.

 

 

Featuring brothers Alix, Miles and Reece Melendrez and schoolmate Matt Mumician, Decorator  is an up-and-coming Los Angeles, CA-based indie rock/indie soul quartet, who publicly claim a rather wide and diverse array of influences that include the music the Melenderez Brothers heard quite a deal of while growing up — Jimi Hendrix, The Isley Brothers, Bob Marley and contemporary acts like Lauryn Hill, Wu-Tang Clan, Gorillaz and others. And interestingly enough, the project which attribute their name from a famous Frank Zappa quote “without music to decorate it, time is just a bunch of boring production headlines or dates by which bills must be paid” can trace their origins to when the Melendrez Brothers taught themselves how to play covers of the songs they heard so much growing up. As high schoolers, the Melendrez Brothers began writing their own music — and their folks drove them to school night gigs in which they played in bars they weren’t even be allowed in without their gear.

 

Wanting to master their instruments and to do their own thing, the Melendrez Brothers enrolled themselves at Silverlake Conservatory of Music, founded by Red Hot Chili Peppers‘ Flea, where they met and befriended fellow student Mumician and started writing music together. However, it took several years before the band took their music out of garage rehearsals and house parties and were able to concentrate on their music full-time, as the band’s youngest member, Reece Melendrez honored his promise to his folks to graduate from high school before making music a full-time effort.

With the release of their 2014 self-released debut EP Transit, the band quickly received a growing local profile and fanbase, including their first headlining set at the renowned Troubadour, thanks in part to a sound that draws equally from classic soul, indie rock, contemporary pop and neo soul — and in a way that manages to be uncompromisingly difficult to pigeonhole. The Los Angeles-based quartet’s latest single sonically speaking seems to owe an equal debt to Tame Impala‘s Currents, the Cascine Records roster, Neon Indian and 80s synth soul as the quartet pairs shimmering and undulating synths with a sinuous groove, an infectious hook and Miles Melendez’s sultry falsetto.  Lyrically, the song’s vulnerable narrator admits to be run around in circles by an unrequited and cruel love interest, with whom he feels desperately and inexplicably pulled towards — and as much as he wants to pull away, to move forward with his life, he feels trapped in a vicious and unfulfilling circle. Certainly, what’s remarkable to me about this band is the fact that their material manages to possess a maturity and self-assuredness that belies their youth.

 

 

 

 

 

New Audio: Tinariwen Return with a Hypnotic and Triumphant New Single

Last month, I wrote about Elwan’s first single “Tenere Taqqal,” a slow-burning and hauntingly gorgeous song that possessed an understated yet aching longing for a way of life and for a home, which as Thomas Wolfe once wrote and the members of the band recognize, they may never be able to return to and will never have again. And certainly while there’s a tacit acknowledgement within the song that life continues onward as it always does, there’s also a brooding and pensive urgency within the song that comes from the members of the band recognizing that they have a sacred and profound duty of ensuring that something of the old traditions could be preserved and passed on to future generations. The album’s second single “Sastanàqqàm” is as the band’s Abdallah Ag Alhousseyni explains “an ode to the Sahara and its Nomads. It expresses the needs of the traveller as he crosses the desert on his mount. Essential needs: find water and a way to preserve it, find a good mode of transport. But also the love-hate relationship with the desert, the natural elements and the certainty that we will always go back to it.” Pairing those sentiments with a shuffling and deeply hypnotic groove and a propulsive and stomping percussion give the song a hopeful and downright joyous feel. At it’s core it’s the hope and promise of returning to the ancestral homeland — of its smell, of seeing beloved sights, of returning to the place where your ancestors have lived, played, prayed, wandered, hunted and died.

The band and their label have done a kind favor by providing an English translation of the song’s lyrics, which you can check out below.

Sastanàqqàm Lyrics

SASTANÀQQÀM

I QUESTION YOU

TÉNÉRÉ, CAN YOU TELL ME OF ANYTHING BETTER THAN TO HAVE YOUR FRIENDS AND YOUR MOUNT,
AND A BRAND NEW GOATSKIN, WATERTIGHT,
TO FIND YOUR WAY
BY THE LIGHT
OF THE FOUR BRIGHT STARS OF HEAVEN,
TO KNOW HOW
TO FIND WATER IN
THE UNLIKELIEST OF PLACES, AND ENLIST THE MOMENTUM OF THE WIND
TO HELP YOU MOVE FORWARD

TELL ME, TÉNÉRÉ
HOW YOU AND I
CAN REMAIN UNITED,
WITH NO HATE FOR EACH OTHER.
TÉNÉRÉ, I CAN NOW ADMIT THAT
I HAVE TRAVELLED FAR THROUGH THIS WIDE WORLD.
TÉNÉRÉ, I GIVE YOU MY OATH
THAT AS LONG AS I’M ALIVE,
I WILL ALWAYS COME BACK