Claritzel Miyares is a Cuban-Spanish singer/songwriter, who first made waves with a 2012 appearance on La Voz (the Spanish version ofThe Voice), where she impressed the show’s judges with a unique blend of traditional Cuban music, Reggaeton and modern pop. Since her appearance on La Voz, the Cuban-Spanish artist has been busy: She has spent the past few years touring across the world, her native Spain and the Canary Islands with a 10-to-11 member backing band.
Last year, the Cuban-Spanish artist celebrated her tenth anniversary as a musician and performer with the release of two singles last year:
“Te Equivocaste,” a single released to widespread acclaim.
“Vive Y Deja Vivir,” which derives its title from a familiar phrase in Spanish and English — live and let live. The song, which features a highly accomplished cast of collaborators including her brother, Grammy Award– winning Carlos Miyares (sax), Alejandro Delgado (trumpet), Eduardo Sandoval (trombone) and Carlos Reyes Compota (percussion). Naturally, the song is rooted in a much-needed message of peace, respect and understanding. “It really is an honour for me to collaborate with such impressive award winning musicians. I feel we have formed a dream team for this single and have produced a masterpiece with this record. The message is very important too,” Claritizel Miyares said in press notes at the time. “Most Cuban songs are about love and relationships but this has a much wider meaning. I want to encourage people to ‘live and let live’ and stop fighting about things in the world.”
Miyares closed out last year with a piano-led cover of Bad Bunny‘s “Amorfado” with master pianist and producer Adrián Ghiardo that retains the swagger and heartache of the original but paired with an old school pop/jazz feel and the Cuban-Spanish artist’s incredibly expressive and soulful delivery. While further continuing upon her unique blend of Cuban traditional music, pop and Reggaeton, Miyares’ rendition of the Bad Bunny hit is a perfect vehicle to introduce her soulful and expressive vocal to North American audiences.
Rising Brooklyn-based quartet Razor Braids — Hollye Bynum (she/her) – lead vocals, bass; Janie Peacock (she/her) – lead guitar; Jilly Karande (she/her) – rhythm guitar, vocals; and Hannah Nichols (they/them) – drums — is a queer, all female/non-binary indie rock outfit that combines the vulnerable, self-awareness of indie rock with the dynamic instrumentation of 90s alt rock paired with soaring harmonies and a driving rhythm section.
The Brooklyn quartet’s full-length debut, 2021’s I Could Cry Right Now If You Wanted Me To was warmly received. Building upon a growing profile, the band released two singles last Spring, “Kelloggs” and “Megachurch,” which received praise from BrooklynVegan while landing on several Spotify Fresh Finds playlists.
For the new year, the band plans to release new music, which will expand on their unique sound with more confidence and sense of purpose. But before they moved forward with new material, the members of the band felt it necessary to take a look back at some older material with fresh eyes: “one is our own and the other a throwback favorite,” the band says.” The first single “Nashville, Again” is a thorough reworking of their debut single “Nashville” that turns the rousing rocker into a slow-burning, honky tonk centered around the act’s gorgeous harmonies and shimmering guitars. “Nashville, Again” was the first song we released as a band and in revisiting the single we got to breathe new life into a song that always feels like coming home when we play it live.”
The second single sees the rising indie outfit covering Weezer’s 1994 smash hit “Buddy Holly.” Interestingly, the Razor Braids cover begins as a lovingly straightforward cover rooted in the act’s gorgeous harmonizing paired with the original’s rousingly anthemic hooks. But unlike the original there’s a trippy and expansive bridge that reveals the band’s love for the original — and their sense of humor. “As for ‘Buddy Holly,’ mid-90s alt-rock is a big inspiration for us and ‘Say It Ain’t So’ tends to show face at every Razor Braids-attended karaoke so we thought it’d be fun to try our hand at another Weezer classic,” the band explains. “We wanted to call it ‘Buddy Hollye’ but didn’t. But please know that we wanted to.”
The band will be embarking on a month-long tour next month and it includes a stop at this year’s SXSW. Check out the tour dates below.
2/23/2023 Asbury Park NJ Bond Street Bar 2/24/2023 Philadelphia PA MilkBoy 2/25/2023 Washington DC Pie Shop 2/27/2023 Asheville NC The Grey Eagle 3/1/2023 Atlanta GA Vinyl 3/2/2023 Charlotte NC Snug Harbor 3/3/2023 West Columbia SC New Brookland Tavern 3/4/2023 Tallahassee FL The Bark 3/7/2023 New Orleans LA Gasa Gasa 3/8/2023 Houston TX House of Blues – Bronze Peacock 3/13 – 3/18 Austin, TX SXSW 3/22/2023 Nashville TN The Basement 3/24/2023 Chicago IL Subterranean 3/25/2023 Toledo OH The Ottawa Tavern 3/26/2023 Ferndale MI The Parliament Room at Otus Supply 3/28/2023 Cleveland OH Beachland Tavern 3/29/2023 Pittsburgh PA Club Cafe
Silversun Pickups — Brian Aubert (vocals, guitar, keys). Nikki Monniger (bass, vocals), Chis Guano (drums, percussion, programming, vocals) and Joe Lester (keys, samples, sound manipulation, guitar and vocals) — released their Butch Vig-produced, sixth album Physical Thrills earlier this year. The album’s material came together serendipitously during a particularly dark period: The acclaimed Los Angeles-based outfit started 2020 touring to support 2019’s Widows Weeds. The pandemic halted the rest of their tour and forced the band to retreat to their homes.
With touring on hold, Silversun Pickups’ Brian Aubert channeled his energy into taking care of his son. Although his focus initially shifted from the band to domestic affairs, he found that he couldn’t escape the new melodies that had been germinating in his head. “I would sneak off and start writing these songs, and I didn’t know what they’re for because I didn’t really think about Silversun on any level. I was just doing it to keep myself calm and keep myself company,” Aubert explains. The songs were so different from what he’d previously written for Silversun Pickups that he initially thought he might have been writing a musical. He would describe them as “dream shanties” with gentler vocals, horror-inspired sounds and newer elements coming to mind. But the material isn’t meant to be somber; instead, Aubert manages to explore his own comfort — and discomfort — in seemingly indefinite, newfound isolation.
When Aubert presented the new material he had been working o to his bandmates, they readily embraced what would be a new direction for the band. They decided to continue their collaboration with Butch Vig, who had produced and recorded Widow’s Weeds at his Wisconsin home studio. Once Aubert made plans to visit Vig and play him what he had worked on, more music came. Aubert immediately began recording material with Vig, with the rest of the band joining later.
When Aubert revealed the new material to his bandmates, they readily embraced the new direction—and so did producer Butch Vig. The band reunited with Vig, who first worked with SilversunPickups on Widow’s Weeds, recording the album at the famed producer and Garbage-member’s home. Once Aubert made plans to visit Vig and play him what he had, the music began pouring out. He immediately began recording with Vig, having the rest of the band join later.
With the album arguably being the most exploratory of the band’s catalog, each of the band’s members felt much more free to explore and traverse new ground: Guanlao, who usually shies away from drum fills, took inspiration from The Beatles documentary Get Back and Ringo Starr’s drum work on Let It Be threw some in on the album. Monniger’s vocals were showcased much more than on their previously recorded material. And Joe Lester took on a larger writing role, writing the piano part for “We Won’t Come Out,” which became the backbone of the song.
Although the album features an eclectic mix of sounds and melodies, each song on the album is interconnected with each other, and meant to be experienced as a whole body of work. “All of our records are designed for people who want to listen to them all the way through and hopefully stick around with it,” says Aubert. “After a while, maybe you’ll catch on to the little things—not just the [pattern of] the dream songs, but maybe you’ll hear that, and you’ll hear a melody from the first song in the last song. There are crossover things happening.” Monninger adds, “We’ve been together for twenty-two years; it’s really interesting that we still love doing this. We know that we’re fortunate to still be together after all these years, seeking out the silver lining. I feel like we still have many more things to say, and we’re so happy with how this album turned out.”
Silversun Pickups close out 2022 with a slow-burning and shoegazey, Butch Vig-produced cover of Low’s “Just Like Christmas” that pulls out the gentle yearning and wistfulness out a bit further to the forefront. All proceeds from the song will be donated to Union Gospel Mission, a charity of Alan Sparkhawk’s choice — in Mimi Parker’s name. Silversun Pickups suggest that you should consider directly supporting and listening through Bandcamp — and based on the fact that it’s worthwhile cause, you should.
We’ve been fans of Low’s beautiful music for a long time now. When we heard the news about Mimi’s passing, we were incredibly sad. With Alan’s blessing, we decided to cover one of their Christmas songs, with hopes of raising money for a cause dear to Alan in Mimi’s name. Low’s Christmas is a classic. It was the first one I ever heard that made me feel holiday music could be cool.”
The band will resume touring to support Physical Thrills in 2023. Check out the tour dates below.
Tour Dates Fri, Feb 17, 2023 Birmingham, AL Iron City Sun, Feb 19, 2023 Knoxville, TN Mill & Mine Mon, Feb 20, 2023 Asheville, NC Orange Peel Tue, Feb 21, 2023 Louisville, KY Mercury Ballroom Thu, Feb 23, 2023 McKees Rock, PA Roxian Theater Fri, Feb 24, 2023 Cincinnati, OH Bogarts Sat, Feb 25, 2023 Chicago, IL Radio Show Tue, Feb 28, 2023 Little Rock, AR The Hall Thu, Mar 2, 2023 New Orleans, LA House of Blues Sat, Mar 4, 2023 San Antonio, TX The Aztec Theatre Sun, Mar 5, 2023 Ft Worth, TX Tannahill’s Mon, Mar 6, 2023 Dallas, TX House of Blues Tue, Mar 7, 2023 Houston, TX House of Blues Thu, Mar 9, 2023 Austin, TX Emo’s
Red Hot has been producing great music to promote diversity and equal access to health care since 1990. The first project was the Cole Porter tribute Red Hot + Blue, quickly followed by Red Hot + Dance, No Alternative, Stolen Moments: Red Hot + Cool, and Red Hot + Rio. Over the past 15 years Red Hot produced two successful projects with Aaron and Bryce Dessner – Dark Was The Night and Day of the Dead – along with a tribute to Arthur Russell and several other projects.
The 20th anniversary reissue is remastered and features two hours of bonus material, including a previously unreleased cover of “Sorrow Tears & Blood” by Bilal, an acoustic version of “Trouble Sleep” with Baaba Maal accompanied by the late and legendary kora player Kaouding Cissoko, and an extended version of Sade’s “By Your Side” by Stuart Matthewman. The original release had to be heavily edited to fit the time limit of a physical CD, and the reissue also features a wealth of bonus material, including extended versions of many album tracks, along with early mixes, acapallas, instrumentals, and much more.
And lastly, the folks at Red Hot have released the album on digital streaming platforms for the first time ever.
Just to refresh your memories a bit: Fela Kuti was — and still is — one of the most important African musicians, bandleaders and activists of his time. Sadly, Kuti died at age 58 in 1997 of causes related to HIV/AIDS, two years before Red Hot began the project.
The idea for the Red Hot Fela tribute came from Questlove during sessions for Red Hot’s Gershwin tribute compilation, which featured a collaboration between The Roots and the late and legendary Bobby Womack. Questlove suggested that Red Hot do a cover of Sly Stone’sThere’s a Riot Goin On but they couldn’t secure the rights.
The ongoing HIV/AIDS crisis in Africa, along with a love of Fela Kuti’s work transformed the project into what we now know. Red Hot secured the rights to Fela’s music, as well as his master recordings, which allowed for both covers and sampling. Questlove kicked things off with a superstar session at Electric Lady Studios covering “Water Get No Enemy,” with a band led by D’Angelo and Fela’s son Femi Kuti, along with members of the Soultronics — James Posner, Pino Pallodino and the aforementioned D’Angelo and Questlove — and Femi’s backing band Positive Force. Nile Rodgers, Macy Gray and Erykah Badu joined the session, although Badu’s vocal didn’t make the final mix. Red Hot producer Beco Dranoff brought in legendary Brazilian artist Jorge Ben Jor to the session a bit too late to join in, but he recorded the basic track of what would become “Shuffering and Shmiling” in another room at Electric Lady overseen by producer Andres Levin.
Red Hot spent the the next two years recording material around the world and at the Fun Machine studio that Andres Levin built in the SoHo office of Funny Garbage, the digital design company co-founded and run by Red Hot’s co-founder and creative director John Carlin. Coincidentally, the Baaba Maal session for Trouble Sleep,” the first session at Fun Machine was on September 10, 2001. 24 hours later, the World Trade Center, which could be seen from the studio windows was attacked. It was a tragic and tumultuous time, but the recordings continued and by the end of the year, there was a joyous celebration of Fela’s music and life about to be released.
The 20th anniversary of Red Hot + Riot is a cause for celebration, but also a sober reflection on the continued devastation of HIV/AIDS, particularly as Sub-Saharan Africa is disproportionately affected by the HIV epidemic: Sub-Saharan Africa currently accounts for 71% of people living with HIV, a devastating reality where 75% of global HIV-related deaths and 65% of new infections occur. I think these numbers will give you a better sense of HIVs impact on Sub-Saharan Africa: Of the 38.3 million people living with HIV worldwide, 27.3 million are in Sub-Saharan Africa. 7.8 million of the 27.3 million infected people are in South Africa, including 6,.3 million young adults and children. 11% of the global population is in Africa but it accounts for over 71% of the global impact in terms of infections and mortality.
The stigma around men who have sex with other men, women’s lack of resources and agency and the vilification of sex workers and drug addicts halt all progress that can be made to aid the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Frequently, ignorance is used to distance the culture from undesirable and uncomfortable topics like intimate partner violence, sex education, the LGBQT+ community and women’s lack of agency and access to proper care.
Tragically, young women and girls bear the brunt of the impact from cultural silence and their pain and misfortune is passed onto future generations. The HIV/AIDS epidemic’s root is the intersection of structural and cultural setbacks in awareness, acceptance, understanding and treatment.
Red Hot celebrates the 20th anniversary reissue by sharing the expanded album’s first single, “Sorrow Tears and Blood,” off the bonus material, a joyous yet righteous, pan-African Diasporic take on the original that sees its talented crew of collaborators — Bilal, Zap Mama and Common — seamlessly meshing elements of jazz, neo-soul, hip-hop and Afrobeat. As Black folk — hell, as people — we need to be concerned with what’s going on in the Motherland, the very cradle of all of us.
Singer/songwriter and pianist John Grant started his career in earnest as the frontman and primary songwriter for alternative rock outfit The Czars. Over the past decade, Grant has carved out a reputation as a prolific and acclaimed, solo artist.
Johnny Cash’s version appeared as temporary music in an edit of Netflix’s smash hit series Inside Man. The show’s director Paul McGuigan claims that it was composer David Arnold’s “brilliant idea to use the song.” They were looking at a cut of an episode when Arnold said “Well this is perfect, so why don’t we do a version of that?”
Grant was recruited to record a new version of the song — specifically for the show. Appearing as the theme song for Inside Man, Grant’s David Arnold-produced cover is a bold re-imagining of the song, giving the song a gritty, modern gospel meets electro rock air.
“I’m so incredibly honored to have the opportunity to sing this fantastic track and to work with David Arnold,” Grant says.
Platinum-selling British electro pop outfit Years & Years formed back in 2010 as a full-fledged band featuring Olly Alexander, Mikey Goldsworthy, Emre Türkmen, Noel Leeman and Oliver Subria. Between their founding and the release of their first two singles — 2012’s “I Wish I Knew” and 2013’s “Traps,” Leeman and Subria left the band.
As trio Years & Years wrote and recorded their full-length debut, 2015’s Communion, which debuted at #1 on the UK Albums Charts — and was the fastest-selling debut album of the year from a British signed band. Communion single “King” reached #1 on the UK Singles Chart and was on the Top Ten Charts in Australia, Austria, Bulgaria, Denmark, Germany, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Ireland and Switzerland. “Shine” reached #2 on the UK Singles Chart.
Their sophomore album, 2018’s Palo Santo was set in a dystopian world, where androids were the majority and humans were the minority. The album featured singles “Sanctify” and “If You’re Over Me” — with “If You’re Over Me” reaching Top 10 on the UK Singles Chart.
Last March, the acclaimed British pop outfit announced that their third album, the 11-song album Night Call was in production. That same day, the band announced that Goldsworthy and Türkmen had stepped down as active members — and that the outfit would continue as Olly Alexander’s solo project.
Released earlier this year, Night Call debuted at #1 on the UK Albums Chart. Thematically, the album talks about embracing submission and twisting power play to reclaim your strength. And as a result, songs about heartbreak are few; traditional ballads are almost non-existent. “A lot of the songs are patchworks inspired by random memories and hook-ups, or men that I’ve met,” Alexander explains. Album singles “Crave,” “Starstruck” and “Sweet Talker” feat. Galantis have proven to be pulsating queer anthems.
Adding to a big year for the British pop outfit, Years & Years just shared a cover of Crystal Waters’ 90s house/dance pop classic “100% Pure Love,” which will soundtrack Target’s 2022 holiday ad campaign. While still being an enormous club banger, the Years & Years cover is a subtle reimagining that somehow feels and sounds even more 90s house than the original.
“I knew right away that I wanted to work with Georgia and Mark Ralph to bring this cover to life,” Alexander says. “Crystal’s vocal in the original is so captivating, she has such a special energy and that really inspired me when I came to record my vocals. I’m really hoping people enjoy it, it has such a positive message and liberating feel to it…I love it!”
JOVM mainstay Kendra Morris is a Florida-born, New York-based singer/songwriter, musician, and multi-disciplinary artist. As a singer/songwriter and musician, Morris can trace the origins of her music career to discovering the joys of multi-tracking and harmonizing with herself on a karaoke machine in the closet of her childhood home.
Morris went on to play in cover bands in Florida before relocating to New York with her band, which played her original material. Her first band split up and she dealt with the aftermath by writing material alone on an 8-track recorder in her closet. Sometime after, she met longtime collaborator and producer Jeremy Page and signed to Wax Poetics, who released her full-length debut, 2012’s Banshee.
The Florida-born, New York-based JOVM mainstay self-released her sophomore effort 2016’s Babble. She went on to collaborate with the likes of DJ Premier, 9th Wonder, MF DOOM, Czarface, Ghostface Killah, Dennis Coffey and Dave Sitek among others. And while being a grizzled, New York scene vet, Morris’ work generally embodies a broader sense of American culture, drawing from a wide array of influences across music and film dating back to the mid 20th Century.
Morris’ most recent album Nine Lives was released earlier this year, Karma Chief Records. While being her first full-length album in about a decade, the album for Morris represents a major turning point in her life both professionally and personally: For Morris, the album heralds the beginning of a new chapter, an evolution to the next level of adulthood — and the first on her new label. The album’s material encapsulates moments from what could easily be nine lifetimes lived over a chronological time period — or nine lives lived simultaneously in parallel and convergent realities in the multiverse.
I wrote about three of the album’s singles:
“Penny Pincher,” a slow-burning ballad about reaching the end of the road in a relationship, fueled by regret, heartache, acceptance and steely determination to go forward with your life.
“Nine Lives” is a strutting, hook-driven bit of soul pop jam centered around Morris’ sultry vocals, stuttering boom bap beats, squiggling guitar, and glistening Rhodes arpeggios that sounds as though it could have been released between 1992-1996 or so.
“Circle Eights” is a slow-burning song centered around twinkling Rhodes, a sinuous bass line, a steady rhythm and Morris’ soulful vocals full of a deeply aching yearning.
Earlier this year, Morris stopped at Colemine Records’ Cinncinnati area-based Tupelo House Studio to lay down some stripped down version of tracks from her then-forthcoming album. While she was there, she recorded a hauntingly gorgeous version of the Jeff Alexander and Tony Wilson penned “Come Wander With Me,” a song written for and featured in a 1964 episode ofThe Twilight Zone with the same name. “Come Wander With Me” was the final episode to be filmed of the series — and interestingly, the song has a connection to Cincinnati: The Twilight Zone can trace its origins back to Cincinnati, where it was originally known as Rod Serling’s The Storm in the mid-’50s.
Both versions are so gorgeous, so haunting that I stopped in my tracks when I heard them. Rooted in heartache, longing, the desire to escape a sad world of devastating heartbreak and loss, “Come Wander With Me” at its core, is a lament older than time itself.
Drummer and composer Tim Carman is best known for his work with acclaimed Boston-based blues act GA-20, an act which also features Pat Faherty (vocals, guitar) and Matt Stubbs (guitar), who is also an acclaimed bandleader and composer in his own right.
Carman’s latest side project, Tim Carman Trio, which features Carman, Steve Fell (guitar) and Ken Clark (electric organ) can trace its origins back to 2020: While quarantining in a New Hampshire cabin, Carman spent his time revisiting records records that his first drum teach and mentor Bob Gullotti introduced him to during Carman’s formative years as an aspiring jazz drummer.
Inspired by 60s soul jazz artists like Jimmy Smith, Brother Jack McDuff and others, The Tim Carman Trio is a no-fills, B3 organ, soul jazz outfit. The trio’s Carman and Dave Brophy co-produced full-length debut, Key Lime is slated for release this year through Color Red Music.
So far I’ve written about two previously released singles from the band’s forthcoming debut:
“Blues for Bob,” the Carman written composition, written as a tribute to his mentor and drum teacher, is a cool and funky strut centered around Carman’s steady and efficient time-keeping and some self-assured and fiery soloing from Fell and Clark.
A shuffling Art Blakey-like Latin take on the Bud Powell composition “Buster Rides Again,” centered around Clark’s muscular organ work, Fell’s bluesy guitar lines, Carman’s hi-hat-driven time-keeping and some additional percussion accents from Dave Brophy.
Key Lime‘s latest single is the trio’s take on “Not A Tear,” inspired by Wynton Kelly Trio’s take, which appeared on 1964’s It’s Alright. It’s a rarely covered, beautiful tune that makes a unique transition from slow-burning ballad to 6/8 bembe-like feel. The Tim Carman Trio take is a loose yet soulful take that displays the individual members’ musicianship and their unique simpatico — with a subtle reworking of the arrangement to accommodate organ and guitar.
Carman mentions the the composition is “fun as hell to play” and notes that the trio had a great time working it out in the studio.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve spilled a copious amount of virtual ink covering the Blinker The Star, led by its Pembroke, Ontario-born and-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and creative mastermind, Jordon Zadorozny. Initially started as a solo recording project, Blinker The Star has gone through several different iterations throughout its existence, including being a full-fledged band, as well as featuring a rotating cast of collaborators and players.
Continuing upon his long-held reputation for being remarkably prolific, Zadorozny’s 11th Blinker The Star album is dropping later this year. The album’s third and latest single, “Touch” is a cover of a song originally written and recorded by Digital Noise Academy, a project that featured Zadorozny, Failure‘s Ken Andrews, Creeper Lagoon‘s Sharky Laguana and an acclaimed cast of collaborators. The song appears on the project’s only album to date, 2013’s Synemy.
The Blinker The Star cover, which features Montreal-based vocalist Emmanuelle Boies is a fairly straightforward cover of a criminally under-appreciated and lushly arranged pop ballad featuring some well-placed, razor-sharp hooks, twinkling keys, shimmering guitars and some Guitar Hero-like guitar licks paired with Zadorozny and Boies’ gorgeous harmonies. But underneath the careful, deliberate attention to craft is a song full of palpable, earnest longing.
“I’d always loved the song and thought it deserved more attention,” the Pembroke-born and-based JOVM mainstay explains. “Emmanuelle and I had a few days alone at the studio this past spring, so we decided to see what our voices would sound like together and thought that ‘Touch’ would be the perfect song. It was written to be sung as a duet and once we lined our phrasing up, I knew it was going to work.
“It’s a very sensual song and not only was it fun to sing, I loved getting a bit loose with the electric guitars during the end part. A lot of my time in the studio is spent in a very sober, analytical frame of mind, so it was fun to chug a beer and put on my Joe Perry hat for an hour.”
Deriving their name from the Yoruba word for twins ibeji, the acclaimed French-Cuban, London-based twin sibling duo and JOVM mainstays Ibeyi (pronounced ee-bey-ee) — Lisa-Kainde Diaz and Naomi Diaz — can trace the origins of their music career to growing up in a deeply musical home: their father, Anga Diaz, was best known for his work as a member of the intentionally acclaimed Buena Vista Social Club and for collaborating with Ibrahim Ferrer,Ruben Gonzalez and Compay Segundo. Anga died when the twins turned 11.
After their father’s death, Lisa-Kainde and Naomi began studying Yoruba folk songs and the cajon, an Afro-Caribbean drum that the twins’ father played throughout most of his career. Interestingly, although Yoruba is primarily spoken in Nigeria and Benin, the African language has been spoken in some form in Cuba since the 1700s, when the slave trade brought Africans en masse to the Caribbean. So when the twins started studying their late father’s musical and culture heritage, they had a deeper understanding of their father and of their ancestral history.
Ibeyi’s 2015 self-titled debut was released to widespread, international critical applause. Thematically, the album dealt with the weight of the past — in particular, their father’s life and death, their relationship with each other, their origins and their connection with their roots. Sonically, the album saw the Diaz Sisters quickly establishing a unique sound with elements of electro pop, hip-hop, jazz, the blues and Yoruba folk music.
The French-Cuban JOVM mainstays’ sophomore album 2017’s Ash saw them writing songs firmly rooted in Afro-Cuban culture and history — but while arguably being among the most visceral, politically charged material of their catalog to date, with the album’s material thematically touching upon race, gender and sexual identity.
Slated for a May 6, 2022 release through XL Recordings, Spell 31, Ibeyi’s third album derives its title from “Spell 31” in The Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead, which interestingly enough became the premise of the album’s first single “Made of Gold,” a lushly textured song featuring atmospheric synths, buzzing bass synths, skittering tweeter and woofer rattling beats, the twins’ gorgeous and dreamy harmonizing and a guest spot from Gambian-British emcee Pa Salieu.
When the twins returned to the studio to write and record new material, they had felt a sense of chaos, informed by the chaotic state of the world surrounding them. As they got to work, they set out to invoke the age-old teachings of their ancestors to remobilize the power of their birth-given destiny as Ibeyi.
The album reportedly sees the twins on a path to restoration in pursuit of true harmony, healing and magic — all of which, we desperately need right now. The JOVM mainstays commissioned activist and storyteller Janaya Future Khan to write an essay for them, after meeting the activist and storyteller. Khan explains “Ibeyi’sSpell 31 is their boldest offering yet, an antidote to apathy in a divided world.” They explain further, “Spell 31 casts with conviction, transmuting nihilism into sangoma, binaries into endless dualites, moral austerity into abundance. A subversive and halcyonic manifesto from queens of a sovereign land, Ibeyi occupies the liminal, the space between life and death, past and present, right and wrong, and calls for the interior revelations that create the systemic revolutions we long for.”
Continuing their successful collaboration with their long-time producer Richard Russell, Spell 31‘s 10 songs were written, produced and recorded by the duo and features appearances from Jorja Smith, BERYWN, the twins’ father and mother, and the aforementioned Pa Salieu. The album also features a reimagining of Black Flag‘s “Rise Above.”
Earlier this year, I wrote about album track “Sister 2 Sister.” Centered around a hyper-modern production featuring wobbling bass synths, skittering beats, glistening synths and the twins’ uncanny and gorgeous harmonizing, “Sister 2 Sister” is inspired by their Afro-Latin roots and their sisterhood: The song sees the twins recalling a fond memory of singing along to Shakira in the mirror. But they also talk of the knowledge that despite the times they might be at odds with other, they know they can always depend on and rely on each other.
Spell 31‘s latest single sees the JOVM mainstays re-imaging Black Flag‘s 1981 anthem “Rise Above” that features a guest spot from London-based artist BERWYN. Having never heard the song before, Lisa-Kainde and Naomi were presented the song’s lyrics by their producer Richard Russell. They quickly got to work, looping an old sample of their father drums, improvising a completely new sonic take for a song originally written back in the 80s, that still resonate now.
Centered around stuttering, reverb-drenched beats, buzzing bass synths, the Diaz Sisters soulful and impassioned delivery, the Ibeyi take on “Rise Above” still calls out the rich and powerful, who control us — and young people’s desire to stand up and make a new, fairer world. BERWYN delivers a fiery guest verse in which he says “if the revolution is now, I’m the first to join in the fight!” The collaboration between the JOVM mainstays and BERWYN manages to make a vital connection between punk rock, hip-hop and Black Lives Matter — reminding the listener that the struggles of punks in the 80s are the pretty much the same as BLM today.
“We read the lyrics and we immediately felt their relevance to how we felt about the world in its current state,” Lisa-Kainde Diaz explain sin press notes. “We got to work on the melody and had the full song done in 5 minutes. Jorja Smith heard the track and told us we had to get BERWYN on the song. We had him by the studio to listen to the full album. I left to make tea, upon returning to the studio BERWYN had already written his verse for “Rise Above,” before he had even finished listening to the album. We knew we had something special, what a gift!”