Tag: Fela Kuti

Throwback: Happy 82nd Birthday Fela Kuti/It’s a Felabration!

JOVM celebrates Fela Kuti’s 82nd birthday.

New Video: Montreal’s The Brooks Release a DIsco Soul Ode to Unrequited Love

The Brooks is a rising Montreal-based soul act that formed over eight years ago. And since their formation, the Montreal-based act proudly claims some of that city’s most accomplished musicians:

Florida-born, Montreal-based singer/songwriter and frontman Alan Prater has toured with Michael Jackson — and the band itself can trace much of its origins to behind the walls of the Motown Museum:
Alexandre Lapointe (bass) has worked alongside Joel Campbell, the musical director for Tina Turner and Janet Jackson.
Prater and Lapointe are joined by Maxime Bellavance (drums), Phillips Look (guitar, vocals), Daniel Thouin (keys), Sébastien Grenier (sax), Hichem Khalifa (French horn), and Phillipe Beaudin (percussion).

Developing and honing a sound that draws from James Brown, D’Angelo, Fela Kuti, Herbie Hancock and J. Dilla, the members of The Books have a songwriting approach that eschews rules and trends, fueled by the dual missions of spreading joy and the funk. And with the release of two albums and an EP, the band, which was once named the“best kept secret of Canadian funk” by La Presse, and nominations, and award wins at GAMIQ, Independent Music Awards, ADISQ, and others has built up a provincial and national profile.

Slated for an October 23, 2020 release through Duprince Records across North and South America and Underdog Records through Europe and Japan, the Montreal-based soul outfit’s third album Any Day Now finds the band firmly establishing their unique songwriting approach and sound. Earlier this year, I wrote about the strutting and stomping party anthem “Turn Up the Sound,” a track that recalled The Payback-era James Brown, Dance to the Music and Stand!-era Sly and the Family Stone while encoring people to get up out of that seat, dance and enjoy themselves, and escape their worldly concerns for 3-4 minutes or so. “I just wanted to write a fun song to get you to escape from whatever you’re doing,” the band’s Alan Prater explains in press notes.

Any Day Now’s latest single “Gameplay” is a slick, two-step inducing synthesis of 70s disco soul, funk and psych soul centered around a supple bass line, shuffling Nile Rodgers-like rhythm guitar, wah-wah pedal -driven lead guitar, a soaring string arrangement — within an expansive, yet pop-leaning song structure. Thematically, the song as the band’s Alan Prater explains is about a fairly common experience that countless straight men have had: “This song is about a boy wanting the girl that’s out of his league, but he has to have her. I’m Sure most guys have been there…haha”

Directed by Fred Remuzat, the recently released video for “Gameplay” visually recalls the animation style of Gorillaz — but while sweetly telling the song’s central story: boy falls for girl, who may not know he even exists. And yet through music, the boy makes his earnest plea of devotion and love, which manage to move the woman. The video is a blast of something adorable that I desperately needed. I suspect y’all will feel the same.

New Video: Crammed Discs to Re-issue Zazou Bikaye’s Forward-Thinking Electro Take on Afrobeat/Afrofunk Originally Released in the 80s

Tracing their origins back to an encounter between Congolese vocalist and composer Bony Bikaye, French musician and producer Hector Zazou and modular synth act CY1, Zazou Bikaye released a groundbreaking Afro pop/experimental electronic album with their 1983 full-length debut Noir et Blanc, an album that has since garnered cultish devotion by music cognoscenti, musicians and fans.

After the release of Noir et Blanc, Zazou Bikaye turned into a proper band that started to develop and hone their own special brand of digital Afrobeat/Afrofunk. Zazou took on writing and programming duties while Bikaye expanded on the extroverted side of his vocal stylings. They then set out to record a large batch of material with five tracks eventually being released in 1985 as the 32-minute mini album Mr. Manager, an effort released to acclaim through Crammed Discs in Europe and through Pow Wow in Japan and the States. The act toured Europe and played a couple of shows in New York — and two of the album’s tracks “Angel” and “Nostalgie” became underground club hits across the States and Europe.

With a backing band that featured Philipe “Pinpin” de la Croix Herpin (woodwinds), Tuxedomoon’s Luc van Lieshout (trumpet and harmonica), Vincent Kenis (guitar), Chris Jouris (percussion), Bigoune (percussion), Mwamba Kasuba (backing vocals), Nicole MT (backing vocals) M’Bombo K (backing vocals) and Marc Hollander (sax), the Hollander, Zazou Kenis produced sessions recorded between 1985 and 1986 were supposed to be appear on a full-length album. But as it turned out, the members of Zazou Bikaye moved on and recorded an entirely different album of material, 1988’s Guilty. Some of the tracks from those 1985-1986 sessions came out as remixes but most of the material was left aside, unfinished.

Slated for an October 16, 2020 release through Crammed Discs, the expanded and remastered reissue of Mr. Manager features the mini-album’s original five tracks plus nine rediscovered tracks recorded during those abandoned 1985-1986 sessions. And to celebrate the occasion, Zazou Bikaye and Crammed Disc re-released album single “Nostalgie. Centered around shimmering and arpeggiated blocks of synths, thumping polyrhythm, call-and-response vocals, an ebullient, Branford Marsalis-like sax solo and an enormous, crowd pleasing hook, “Nostalgie” may strike some listeners as a sleek and mischievous synthesis of 80s Peter Gabriel synth pop, Man Machine-era Kraftwerk and Fela Kuti. But interestingly enough, it actually presages the wildly experimental dance pop coming out of the Democratic Republic of the Congo — i.e. Kokoko! and Tshegue among a growing list of others.

Mr. Manager also featured a colorful album cover art and the recently released video for “Nostalgie” features animation by Sylvia Baldan that draws from the album’s artwork, which she originally designed.

New Audio: Celebrated Malian Afel Bocoum Releases a Breezy Genre-Defying Single

Afel Bocoum, a celebrated Niafunké, Mali-born and-based singer/songwriter and guitarist is among the last of a breakthrough generation of African artists, who have mixed their traditional music with the new sounds that arrived from all overthe world during the 20th and 21st centuries. But interestingly enough, despite the accolades that surround him, music hasn’t been an easy dream for the celebrated Niafunké-born and-based singer/songwriter and guitarist: Most aspiring musicians face stiff parental and societal opposition; however for Bocoum, the parental opposition he faced was deeply perplexing, given the fact that this father Abakina Ousmane Bocoum, a.k.a. Kodda was one of the most famous and beloved njarka players of the 20th century.

But Bocoum wasn’t deterred. Music was omnipresent: it was in the holey or spirit dances of Songhoy, in the melodies of the Fulani flue, in the gumbé drum sessions with their wild moonlit dancing, in the stories and poetry of the griots and in the hymn of the local Protestant Mission.  For a young Bocoum, music was more than just entertainment; it taught people about life and the right way to live it. It guaranteed social cohesion and the strength of the collective conscience, especially in a society that was at the time, largely illiterate and had no access to modern media. “There was no radio at the time, no TV, nothing. It was incredible,” Bocoum remembers. “When you saw someone with a guitar, you followed him everywhere.”

As a teenager, the legendary Ali Farka Touré exerted a powerful hold on the young Bocoum. When Bocoum first met Touré in the late 1960s, he was a barely a teenager and Touré was already considered one of the region’s most famous and greatest sons. Bocoum hung out with Touré as much as he could, eventually becoming a member of Asco, Touré’s backing band. And as a member of of Asco, Bocoum toured with the legendary singer/songwriter and guitarist throughout the 80s and 90s, appearing on Touré’s 1992 effort, The Source. 

Interestingly, the idea of releasing his own music arose  from a gentle curiosity, rather than any self-serving ambition or desire to upstage his beloved mentor. “Everybody seemed to be releasing albums all around me, so it was like, ‘why not?’” Bocoum says in press notes. Tourè hooked his mentee up with Nick Gold, artistic director of  World Circuit, which led to Bocoum’s 1999 full-length debut, Alkibar (The Messengers), an effort that established Bocoum as an international star in his own right.

As a result of Alkibar’s success, Bocoum was invited to work with Blur and Gorillaz frontman and creative mastermind Damon Albarn and Toumani Diabaté on the 2002 album Mali Music. From there, he became a regular contributor on the Africa Express compilation series, collaborating with a who’s who list of internationally acclaimed artists, including Béla Fleck, Habib Koité, Tarit Ensemble, Oliver Mutukudzi and others. “You have to collaborate, otherwise you’ll get nowhere in today’s world,” Bocoum says of his work with those artists. “All those collaborations were positive.”

Bocoum’s forthcoming album, the Damon Albarn and Nick Gold produced-Lindé is slated for a September 4, 2020 release through World Circuit Records. Deriving its name from a wild expanse near his hometown, the album which was recorded in Mail’s capital city of Bamako, reportedly finds the celebrated Malian singer/songwriter and guitarist drawing from the timeless sounds of the Niger River bend with a variety of styles across the globe,  through collaborations with a diverse and eclectic array of artists including eminent Malian artists like Madou Kouyaté, the late Hama Sankaré and Madou Sidiki, along with the recently departed, legendary Afrobeat pioneer and Fela Kuti collaborator Tony Allen, Bob Marley and Skatalites collaborator Vin Gordon (trombone) and Joan as Police Woman creative mastermind Joan Wasser on violin.

Throughout the album’s material, you’ll hear traditional African folk instruments like ngoni, njurkele, kora and calabash with guitars, percussion, horns and call-and-response vocals, and the end result is something timeless and mystical, yet modern.  At its core, the material possesses a deep and abiding message: in the face of an uncertain and turbulent world and a homeland struggling with jihad, poverty and tribal warfare, the album’s material urges the listener to have hope and to seek solidarity and unity. “We have to meet each other, talk to each other, look each other in the eye and tell the truth,” Bocoum says. “If we’re not united, I can see no solution. Our social security is music. That’s all we’ve got left. People love music, so we have to make use of that fact.”

Earlier this year, I wrote about Lindé‘s first single, the breezy and uplifting “Avion.”  Centered around the shimmering guitar work of Mamadou Kelly, Oumar Konaté and Lamine Soumano, call-and-response vocals, propulsive polyrhythm that is playful and optimistic ode to air travel, complete with the prerequisite safety announcement  — in French, of course —  that quickly takes off and soars upward. But it’s also a gentle yet urgent call for all people to band together around the most human of all things — music, love and dancing; that music can take us to the promised land of peace and equality among all.

Lindé’s  latest single “Bombolo Lindo” features Skatalites’ Vin Gordon (trumpet), Songhoy Blues’ Garba Touré (guitar) and Toumani Diabaté’s brother Madou Diabaté (kora) on a song that broadly draws from across the Pan Africa Diaspora: you’ll hear shuffling and uptempo reggae riddims, shimmering guitar and kora, an infectious and soaring hook and some sweeping trombone lines. And while seemingly possesses irie vibes, the songs’ lyrics attempt to realistically temper the dreams of African youths desperately attempting to escape to Europe — with the hopes that it’ll be some promised land of money and opportunity.  “The small percentage of people who manage to make it to Europe shouldn’t cry ‘victory!’ because there are still many problems left for them to overcome, including finding a place to live, a job to do and food to eat,” Bocoum explains. “They mustn’t forget that, from the moment they arrive, they’re subject to the laws of the receiving country. And then they have to learn how to communicate and deal with the climate. Add it all up and you’ll see that overall, there’s more loss than benefit, and finding that anticipated happiness is just a lottery. More often than not, you’re talking about a 1 in 100 chance of success.”

New Video: Celebrated Malian Musician Afel Bocoum Releases a Gorgeous Glimpse into Malian Life in Visual for “Avion”

Afel Bocoum, a celebrated Niafunké, Mali-born and-based singer/songwriter and guitarist is among the last of a breakthrough generation of African artists, who mixed their traditional music with the new sounds that arrived from all over the world during the 20th and 21st centuries. Interestingly, music hasn’t been an easy dream for the celebrated Niafunké-born and-based singer/songwriter and guitarist: While most aspiring musicians face stiff parental and societal opposition; however for Bocoum, the parental opposition he faced was deeply perplexing, given the fact that this father Abakina Ousmane Bocoum, a.k.a. Kodda was one of the most famous and beloved njarka players of the 20th century. 

But Bocoum wasn’t deterred. Music was omnipresent: it was in the holey or spirit dances of Songhoy, in the melodies of the Fulani flue, in the gumbé drum sessions with their wild moonlit dancing, in the stories and poetry of the griots and in the hymn of the local Protestant Mission.  For a young Bocoum, music was more than just entertainment; it taught people about life and the right way to live it. It guaranteed social cohesion and the strength of the collective conscience, especially in a society that was at the time, largely illiterate and had no access to modern media. “There was no radio at the time, no TV, nothing. It was incredible,” Bocoum remembers. “When you saw someone with a guitar, you followed him everywhere.”

As a teenager, the legendary Ali Farka Touré exerted a powerful hold on the young Bocoum. When Bocoum first met Touré in the late 1960s, he was a barely a teenager and Touré was already considered one of the region’s most famous and greatest son. Bocoum hung out with Touré as much  as he could, eventually becoming a member of Asco, Touré’s backing band — and as a member of of Asco, Bocoum toured with the legendary singer/songwriter and guitarist throughout the 80s and 90s, appearing on Touré’s 1992 effort, The Source. 

The idea of releasing his own music arose  from a gentle curiosity, rather than any self-serving ambition or desire to upstage his beloved mentor. “Everybody seemed to be releasing albums all around me, so it was like, ‘why not?’” Bocoum says in press notes. Tourè hooked his mentee up with Nick Gold, artistic director of  World Circuit, which led to Bocoum’s 1999 full-length debut, Alkibar (The Messengers), an effort that established Bocoum as an international star in his own right.  

Interestingly, as a result of Alkibar, Bocoum was invited to work with Blur and Gorillaz frontman and creative mastermind Damon Albarn and Toumani Diabaté on the 2002 album Mali Music. From there, he became a regular contributor on the Africa Express compilation series, collaborating with a who’s who list of internationally acclaimed artists, including Béla Fleck, Habib Koité, Tarit Ensemble, Oliver Mutukudzi and others. “You have to collaborate, otherwise you’ll get nowhere in today’s world,” Bocoum says of his work with those artists. “All those collaborations were positive.”

Bocoum’s forthcoming album, the Damon Albarn and Nick Gold produced-Lindé is slated for a September 4, 2020 release through World Circuit Records. Deriving its name from a wild expanse near his hometown, the album which was recorded in Mail’s capital city of Bamako, reportedly finds the celebrated Malian singer/songwriter and guitarist drawing from the timeless sounds of the Niger River bend with a variety of styles across the globe, as he collaborates with a diverse and eclectic array  of artists including eminent Malian artists like Madou Kouyaté, the late Hama Sankaré and Madou Sidiki, along with the recently departed, legendary Afrobeat pioneer and Fela Kuti collaborator Tony Allen, Bob Marley and Skatalites collaborator Vin Gordon (trombone) and Joan as Police Woman creative mastermind Joan Wasser on violin. 

You’ll hear traditional African folk instruments like ngoni, njurkele, kora and calabash with guitars, percussion and call-and-response vocals with the end result being something both timeless and mystical yet modern. But at its core, there’s a deep and abiding message: in the face of an uncertain and turbulent world and a homeland struggling with jihad, poverty and tribal warfare, the album’s material  urges the listener to hope, solidarity and unity. “We have to meet each other, talk to each other, look each other in the eye and tell the truth,” Bocoum says. “If we’re not united, I can see no solution. Our social security is music. That’s all we’ve got left. People love music, so we have to make use of that fact.”

“Avion,” Lindé’s first single is a uplifting and breezy track, centered around the shimmering guitar work of Mamadou Kelly, Oumar Konaté and Lamine Soumano, call-and-response vocals, propulsive polyrhythm that is playful and optimistic ode to air travel, complete with the prerequisite safety announcement  — in French, of course —  that quickly takes off and soars upward. But it’s also a gentle yet urgent call for all people to band together around the most human of all things — music, love and dancing; that music can take us to the promised land of peace and equality among all. Considering recent world events, we  need more uplifting calls for unity and love. 

The recently released video gives the video a gorgeous glimpse of daily life in Mali, as we see fisherman, goat herders, the nomadic and proud Taureg people riding horses and  camels, massive metropolitan areas and the like. It reveals a world that’s more diverse and interesting that what most Westerners would know or acknowledge with a gentle  and kind viewpoint. 

New Video: Montreal’s The Brooks Perform Their Funky New Party Anthem “Turn Up the Sound”

Montreal-based soul act The Brooks formed over eight years ago — and the act can claim a lineup featuring some of the French Canadian city’s most accomplished local soul musicians: Florida-born, Montreal-based singer/songwriter and frontman Alan Prater has toured with Michael Jackson and the band itself can trace its origins to behind the walls of the Motown Museum: Alexandre Lapointe (bass) has worked alongside Joel Campbell, the musical director for Tina Turner and Janet Jackson. Prater and Lapointe are joined by Maxime Bellavance (drums), Phillips Look (guitar, vocals), Daniel Thouin (keys), Sébastien Grenier (sax), Hichem Khalifa (French horn), and Phillipe Beaudin (percussion). 

Developing a sound that draws from James Brown, D’Angelo, Fela Kuti, Herbie Hancock and J. Dilla, the members of The Brooks have developed a reputation for a songwriting approach that eschews rules and trends while spreading joy and funk — and for an energetic live show. And as a result, the band has built up a profile both across the province and nationally over the course of two critically applauded albums and an EP: Named the “best kept secret of Canadian funk” by La Presse, the band has received a number of nominations and awards at GAMIQ, Independent Music Awards, ADISQ, and others. 

The French Canadian soul outfit’s third full-length album Anyway Now is slated for a release this full through Duprince Records across North and South America and Underdog Records through Europe and Japan — and the album’s first single is the stomping, strutting and funky party anthem “Turn Up the Sound.” Centered around an arrangement that nods at The Payback-era James Brown, Dance to the Music and Stand!-era Sly and the Family Stone, the upbeat song was written to be played loud and to get you to get up out of your seat, escape your daily concerns for a few minutes and dance. Everything may seem canceled or postponed but music is still there to bring you joy — and to remind you that brighter days will come in time. “I just wanted to write a fun song to get you to escape from whatever you’re doing,” the band’s Alan Prater explains in press notes. 

The single is accompanied by a live footage of the band performing the song in the studio, and it manages to reveal the band’s creative chemistry while being an introduction to the band to new listeners. 

Live Footage: Burna Boy Performs “Anybody” for Vevo CTRL

  With the release of 2013’s Leriq-produced full-length debut L.I.F.E., which featured attention-grabbing singles like  “Like to Party,” “Tonight”, “Always Love You”, “Run My Race” and “Yawa Dey,” Burna Boy, a Nigerian Afro-fusion singer/songwriter, born Damini […]

 

Professionally known as Kaleta, Leon Ligan-Majek is a Benin-born, Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, bandleader and producer, who leads the up-and-coming local, Afro-funk act Kaleta and Super Yamba Band. Although the project is relatively new to the scene, Ligan-Majek can trace his music career back to Lagos, Nigeria, where Ligan-Majek spent his teenaged years playing in local churches. Eventually, the Benin-born, Brooklyn-based signer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, bandleader and producer caught the attention of renowned juju pioneer King Sunny Ade. “I was at Church when I heard King Sunny Ade sound checking one block away. By the time church service was over Sunny Ade’s gig was in full gear,” Ligan-Majek says of his first encounter with King Sunny Ade. “I infiltrated the gathering, snuck into the front row to watch the show. At the strike of the last note, right before Sunny Ade disappeared I went between him and his body guard and told him point blank my desire to play guitar for his band. He invited me to his house. I went the next day with a cassette containing songs and guitar riffs I wrote with him in mind.”

Kaleta went on to spend several years in King Sunny Ade’s backing band, recording four albums with the Juju pioneer before leaving the band to join Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti and Egypt 80. Unsurprisingly, the Benin-born, Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer learned how to fuse elements from an electric array of West African genres and styles — including highlife, juju, Afrobeat, Afro-funk and Afro-dance.

In 1991, Ligan-Majek relocated from Lagos to New York after Fela Kuti and Egypt 80  completed the North American leg of their world tour. And almost as soon as he set foot in New York, he wound up being the co-founder of two Afrobeat ensembles, Akoya Afrobeat and Zozo Afrobeat — and as a member those acts, he had shared stages with the likes of Jimmy Cliff, Yellowman, and Lauryn Hill. “Lauryn Hill was rehearsing in the same music complex when she heard my music from another room,” Kaleta recalls. “She stormed into Zozo Afrobeat’s rehearsal, and two weeks later, I was on tour with her playing guitar and traditional Beninese percussion. . . we performed about 45 dates all over the world.”

While Ligan-Majek’s chops suited him well to back some of biggest names in music, he had an irresistible drive to create his own unique work. He searched for a band of his own but he knew that he needed a perfect combination  — an irrefutable explosion of creative energy that came from a dedicated, like-minded group of musicians. Interestingly, Ligan-Majek credits his ambition and his vision to his older brother’s massive influence. Ligan-Ozavino Pascal was an obsessive music listener, with a passion for funk and soul. And as the story goes, Ligan-Ozavino Pascal occasionally weaponized his record collection to teach his younger brother discipline. When Kaleta misbehaved, his older brother would lock him in his room with a pile of records. The price of his freedom? A careful listen. “I had to submit to his huge love for music,” says Kaleta. “He introduced me to James Brown, Otis Redding, and other American, French and Cuban music.”

The Brooklyn-based Super Yamba Band, comprised of Daniel Yount (drums), Evan Frierson (percussion), Walter Fancourt (sax), Sean Smith (trumpet) have long been students and devoted fans of vintage West African, psychedelic Afro-funk. When they met Kaleta, who sang and played guitar over roots-rhythms while bbringing his infectious style to the project, things clicked. “I loved the way they stick together as a team,” says Kaleta. “Their exuberance. Their love for African music, notably Benin funk… I found out they were listening to my idols, too.” Between the members of the project, it became obvious that they stumbled upon something rare, exciting and in need of further cultivation and exploration. The members of Super Yamba Band had the skill and dedication that Kaleta had long sought for his solo work — and in turn, Kaleta brought the heard-earned wisdom from four decades as a professional musician that he was eager to share with bandmates. 

Since their formation, the band has spent the past couple of years honing their material and playing live shows across town and elsewhere, including an opening set last year for Niger-based Afro funk/Afro pop act Tal National and an appearance at last year’s Barbes and Electric Cowbell Records Secret Planet APAP Showcase. Interestingly, the band’s “Mr. Diva” was remastered and re-released earlier this year — and as the story goes, the band was so encouraged by the success at recreating their live sound in the studio, that they set out to record what would eventually become their forthcoming full-length debut Medaho.

 

Slated for a September 6, 2019 release through Ubiquity Records, Kaleta and Super Yamba Band’s full-length debut derives its name from the Goun and Fon word for “big brother,” “elder,””teacher” — and the album is dedicated to the memory of Kaleta’s brother Ligan-Ozavino, who died earlier this year. Sonically, the material finds the band unabashedly paying homage to its massive influences, including James Brown, Fela Kuti, Orchestre Poly-Rythmo, El Rego, The Funkees, among others — but interpreting their work, learning from it, deconstructing it when necessary, amplifying it, defying it and pushing it and the sound into the future.

Mèdaho‘s first single is album title track “Mèdaho.” Centered around a looping, wah-wah and other pedal effected guitar lines, a sinuous groove, propulsive percussion and Kaleta’s grunts and howls, the song manages to recall He Miss Road/Expensive Shit-era Fela Kuti, The Payback-era James Brown, as it possesses a similar grit and forcefulness — but unlike the period specific work that has influenced the track features a lysergic haze.