Tag: Fela Kuti

Throwback: Happy 83rd Birthday, Fela Kuti!

JOVM celebrates what would have been Fela Kuti’s 83rd birthday.

New Audio: Possum Returns with a Trippy and Expansive Jam

Toronto-based psych rock act Possum — Brandon Bak, Tobin Hopwood, Christopher Shannon, Patrick Lefler and Bradley Thibodeau — can trace their origins to their involvement and eventual meeting through their hometown’s psych rock and garage rock scenes, bonding over a mutual love and appreciate of acts like CAN, Grateful Dead, Fela Kuti and Ty Segall. Possum’s full-length debut Space Grade Assembly and the Toronto-based quintet crafting a hypnotic sound that drew from and meshed elements of garage rock, kraurock, psych rock and Ethio-jazz, centered around expansive arrangements full of shifting time signature changes.

Possum’s self-produced, sophomore album Lunar Gardens is slated for a July 2, 2021 release through Ideé Fixe Records, and the album reportedly finds the band further cementing their sound while pushing their songwriting into new, unchartered territory for them. Thematically, the album touches upon telepathy, ESP, thought transference, Ley line riding and the like; it’s a a psychic exploration of the collective cortex, the capture of cosmic energy and the alignment of astral flux. Trippy shit, indeed. 

“While Space Grade Assembly dealt more with space in a cold literal sense, Lunar Gardens’ approach is more ‘space as metaphor for consciousness in all of its infinite expanding fractal forms’, a surrealist escapist space fantasy of impossible spaces — the type of place you might go when the things are too heavy here in 3D,” the Toronto-based quintet says of the differences between their debut and forthcoming sophomore album. “If we were talking movies, one might say Space Grade Assembly is 2001: A Space Odyssey and Lunar Gardens is The Holy Mountain.”

In the buildup for the album’s release next month, I’ve written about two of the album’s single:

“Gala at the Universe City,” a languorous song centered around a slithering and musty funkiness that to my ears brought  Zappa and The Mothers of Invention and CAN to mind.
“Clarified Budder,” a song that acts as a bridge between their debut and sophomore album that begins with a languorous intro before quickly exploding out the gate, featuring rapid-fire drumming, a hypnotic motorist groove, wah-wah pedaled guitars and punchily delivered vocals. And the end result is a song that actively evokes the sensation of being weightless and floating away from your surroundings.

New Audio: Possum Releases a Hypnotic Cosmic Jam

Toronto-based psych rock act Possum — Brandon Bak, Tobin Hopwood, Christopher Shannon, Patrick Lefler and Bradley Thibodeau — can trace their origins to their involvement and eventually meeting through their hometown’s psych rock and garage rock scenes. Bonding over a mutual love and appreciation of acts like CAN, Grateful Dead, Fela Kuti and Ty Segall, the act’s full-length debut Space Grade Assembly found the act crafting a hypnotic sound that fused elements of garage rock, krautrock, psych rock and ethio-jazz centered around expansive arrangements full of shifting time signature changes.

The Toronto-based psych quartet’s self-produced sophomore album Lunar Gardens is slated for a July 2, 2021 release through Ideé Fixe Records, and the album reportedly finds the band crafting material that meshes elements of jazz, komische/krautrock, funk and psych rock while pushing their songwriting into new, unchartered territory for them. Thematically, the album touches upon telepathy, ESP, thought transference, Ley line riding and the like; it’s a a psychic exploration of the collective cortex, the capture of cosmic energy and the alignment of astral flux. Trippy shit, indeed.

“While Space Grade Assembly dealt more with space in a cold literal sense, Lunar Gardens’ approach is more ‘space as metaphor for consciousness in all of its infinite expanding fractal forms’, a surrealist escapist space fantasy of impossible spaces — the type of place you might go when the things are too heavy here in 3D,” the Toronto-based quintet says of the differences between their debut and forthcoming sophomore album. “If we were talking movies, one might say Space Grade Assembly is 2001: A Space Odyssey and Lunar Gardens is The Holy Mountain.”

Last month, I wrote about album single “Gala at the Universe City,” a languorous and slow-burning song that brought  Zappa and The Mothers of Invention and CAN to mind but centered a slithering and musty funkiness. Interestingly, the album’s second single, album opening “Clarified Budder” acts as a bridge between their debut and sophomore albums’ beginning with a languorous intro, the song explodes out of the gate, featuring rapid-fire drumming, a hypnotic motorik groove, wah-wah pedaled guitars and punchily delivered vocals. The end result is a song that evokes the feeling of floating away from your surroundings.

New Audio: JOVM Mainstays Here Lies Man Releases a Forceful New Ripper

Los Angeles-based JOVM mainstays Here Lies Man — Marcos Garcia (vocals, guitar), Geoff Mann (drums), JP Maramba (bass) and Doug Organ (keys) — will be releasing their fourth album Ritual Divination through their longtime label home RidingEasy Records later this month. Ritual Divination reportedly finds the band crafting what may arguably be the best rendering of their long established aesthetic The Los Angeles-based JOVM mainstays’ fourth album Ritual Divination reportedly finds the band crafting what arguably may the best rendering of their long-held aesthetic — Fela Kuti-inspired Afrobeat grooves paired with Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin -like power chords — with heavier and bluesier guitars, while maintaining the rhythmic formula of the clave. “Musically, it’s an opening up to more traditional rock elements,” the band’s Marcos Garcia (vocals, guitar) explains in press notes. “It’s always been our intention to explore. And, as we travelled deeper into this musical landscape, new features revealed themselves.”

Interestingly, the album marks the first bit of recorded output from the band as a full-time quartet while continuing the band’s equally long-held songwriting concept: the band crafting the soundtrack to an imaginary movie int chic, each song applying to a particular scene of that movie. “It’s an inward psychedelic journey, the album is the trip,” Garcia says. “The intention and purpose of the music is to create a sonic ritual to lift the veil of inner space and divine the true nature of reality.” Ritual Divination’s material is self-reflexive but with song possessing its own narrative and emotional arc, rather than the trippy, trance-inducing jams of their previously released material.

Perhaps as a result of all of these changes, the album also finds the members of the Los Angeles-based JOVM mainstays eschewing the fuzz and distortion pedal driven riffs of their previously released material and focusing on a live, more dynamic feel and forceful sound.

Over the past few months, I’ve written about two of Ritual Divination’s released singles:

“I Told You (You Shall Die),” a lysergic ripper centered a mind-bending and expensive song structure featuring scorching Black Sabbath-like power chord riffs, Afrobeat-like polyrhythm and enormous, arena rock friendly hooks.
“Come Inside,” a sinister and menacing track centered round chugging power chords, a forceful motorik groove and chanted vocals darting in-and-around the song’s instrumentation.

Ritual Divination’s latest single “Collector of Vanities” continues an impressive run of forceful, Black Sabbath-like rippers featuring squiggling keys, thunderous drumming, chanted vocals and an rousingly anthemic hook. And much like its predecessor, the track finds the band seemingly conjuring evil spirits out of the ether.

New Audio: JOVM Mainstays Here Lies Man Return with a Menacing New Ripper

Throughout the course of this site’s 10-plus year history, I’ve managed to spill quite a bit of virtual ink covering Los Angeles, CA-based JOVM mainstays Here Lies Man. Founded by Antibalas‘ Marcos Garcia and Geoff Man Here Lies Man has developed and honed an attention-grabbing sound that aesthetically bridges Fela Kuti-like Afrobeat grooves with classic Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin-era, power chord-fueled rock.

The Los Angeles-based JOVM mainstays’ forth album Ritual Divination reportedly finds the band crafting what arguably may the best rendering of their long-held aesthetic — with heavier and bluesier guitars while maintaining the rhythmic formula of the clave. “Musically, it’s an opening up to more traditional rock elements,” the band’s Marcos Garcia (vocals, guitar) explains in press notes. “It’s always been our intention to explore. And, as we travelled deeper into this musical landscape, new features revealed themselves.”

Ritual Divination marks the band’s first bit of recorded output as a full-time quartet, featuring JP Maramba (bass) and Doug Organ (keys). The album also continues their long-held and ongoing concept that has the band crafting the soundtrack to an imaginary movie with each song describing and being part of a parritucalr scene “It’s an inward psychedelic journey, the album is the trip,” Garcia explains in press notes. “The intention and purpose of the music is to create a sonic ritual to lift the veil of inner space and divine the true nature of reality.” As a result, the album’s material is self-reflexive: “On this album the feel changes within a song,” Garcia continues. “Whereas before each song was meant to induce a trancelike state, now more of the songs have their own arc built in.”

Interestingly though, Ritual Divination finds the band focusing on a a live, more dynamic feel with the band eschewing the fuzz and distortion pedals of their previously released work. The end result is a much more direct and forceful approach as you would hear on the album’s first single “I Told You (You Shall Die),” which I wrote about earlier this year. The song was a lysergic ripper centered around scorching Black Sabbath-like power chords, Afrobeat-inspired polyrhythm, and enormous arena rock friendly hooks within an expansive, mind-bending song structure.

“Come Inside,” Ritual Divination’s second and latest single is lysergic haze of a song centered around chugging power chords, driving drumming and a motorik-like groove and chanted vocals darting in and around the song’s instrumentation. While continuing in a similar vein as its predecessor, “Come Inside” manages to possess a sinister air.

Ritual Divination is slated for a January 22, 2021 release through their longtime label home RidingEasy Records.

New Video: JOVM Mainstay GUM Returns with a DIY Visual for Breezy Yet Yearning “Low to Low”

Carnavon, Australia-born, Fremantle, Australia-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer Jay Watson is an extremely busy and restlessly creative man: Watson splits his time as a touring member of acclaimed JOVM mainstays Tame Impala and POND. He’s also the creative mastermind the acclaimed solo recording project (and fellow JOVM mainstay act) GUM.

Spinning Top Music released Watson’s fifth GUM album Out In The World earlier this year. The album, which is the highly follow-up to 2018’s critically applauded The Underdog was written and recorded in between tours with Tame Impala and POND continues Watson’s long-held reputation for having a voracious taste for styles, sounds and different eras. Thematically, the album is fueled by the Carnavon-born Fremantle-based artist’s quest to make sense of modern life — with the album’s material being fueled by an untethered curiosity and the inherent anxiety of too much awareness and too much connectedness.

Sonically, Out In The World’s material may arguably be the most boundary pushing of Watson’s growing catalog. “This album is my attempt at making a record that combines my fascination of how other people live their lives, with my own internal desire to analyse mine and improve it,” Watson says of his latest album. “‘Out In The World’ was a phrase that conjured a lot of grandeur and ego, yet somehow felt really small and wholesome at the same time.”

I’ve written about two of the album’s singles:

“Don’t Let It Go Out,” the album’s second single, a track that sees Watson pushing his sound and songwriting in a bold new direction. Centered around a glistening arpeggio guitar riff, jangling acoustic guitar, propulsive four-on-the-floor and shimmering synths, “Don’t Let It Go Out” finds Watson pushing his sound and songwriting in a bold direction while retaining the hook-driven, carefully crated nature quality that GUM fans have loved.
“Airwalkin,” a swaggering 80s synth pop-like banger featuring tweeter and woofer rocking boom bap-like beats, squiggling synths, soaring strings and an enormous hook that sonically seemed indebted to J. Dilla. Odelay-era Beck, Future Shock-era Herbie Hancock and Kraftwerk.

Out In The World’s latest single “Low to Low” finds Watson pushing his sound into a new direction — but while arguably crafting what may be the funkiest song of his catalog. Centered around shuffling polyrhythm, explosive horn stabs, dusty breakbeats, tinny Casio-like synth arpeggios and Watson’s yearning vocals, the track sounds as though Watson had been listening to salsa, Expensive Shit/He Miss Road-era Fela Kuti, 80s New Wave and synth pop the deceptively breezy pop confection actually seems to express a fear of irrelevance and of being forgotten.

“I purchased an EHX DRM15 drum machine and the song developed from one of the preset beats, this ‘robot-latin vive with lots of spring reverb. It was the last song I recorded for the album, it’s bizarre stylistically, but I just went with it,” Watson says of the album’s latest single.

Co-directed with POND bandmate Jamie Terry, the recently released video for “Low to Low” was shot in Fremantle on grainy Super 8 or 16mm film, and the visual captures the sunny warmth of Western Australia — while following Watson walking around with an enormous plastic box. “ My mate Az gave me 16 panels of Perspex he had found, who knows where? GUM thinks outside (and inside) the box,” Watson says of the video. ““Now that the dust has settled on Out In The World,I think this is probably my favourite track from the album, and I know it is for lots of other people too, so I wanted to make a visual for it,” he adds.

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.”