Tag: Fela Kuti

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. 

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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.

New Audio: JOVM Mainstays Here Lies Man Releases a Cinematic and Lysergic Single

Over the past couple of years, I’ve written quite  bit about the Los Angeles, CA-based JOVM mainstays Here Lies Man, and as you may recall, the act which was founded by Marcos Garcia and Geoff Man has received attention across the blogosphere for a sound that seamlessly bridges Fela Kuti Afrobeat grooves with classic Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin-era, power chord-fueled rock.  

The Los Angeles-based JOVM mainstay’s sophomore album, last year’s You Will Know Nothing found the band refining and expanding their sound. “We’re very conscious of how the rhythms service the riffs. Tony Iommi’s innovation was to make the riff the organizing principle of a song,” the band’s Marcos Garcia explained in press notes. “We are talking the same approach but employing a different organizing principle: For Iommi, it was the blues, for us to comes directly from Africa.” The album also found the band focusing on writing catchier, much more anthemic songs with thematically conceptualized lyrics focusing on states of being and consciousness. Additionally, they aimed for slicker production values than its predecessor. “We wanted to go deeper with the sonic experience. Even though it sounds more hi-fi than the first record, it was important that it didn’t sound too polished,” Garcia added. 

Sonically, the material was composed with music theory in mind — interludes between songs were written and recorded with them specifically being 2/3rds to 3/4ths of the tempo of the song proceeding it. “The reason it breaks down to 2 over 3 or 3 over 4 is that everything in the music rhythmically corresponds to a set of mathematical algorithms known as the clave. The clave is an ancient organizing rhythmic principle developed in Africa,” Here Lies Man’s Geoff Mann explains in press notes. 

Slated for an August 16, 2019 release through RidingEasy Records, the forthcoming mini-album No Ground to Walk Upon finds the band continuing the aesthetic they’ve developed through their first two albums but conceptually the material is essentially the soundtrack to an imaginary movie with each song being the score for a key scene of that movie. The mini-album’s swaggering and strutting, first single “Clad in Silver”  is centered around buzzing power chords, propulsive Afro-Caribbean rhythms and punchily delivered lyrics within an expansive, hallucinogenic song structure. As the band explains in press notes, the mini-album’s lead single “is the soundtrack snippet of a  journey to the imaginary place called home, which can never be arrived at. With every step, the character imagines getting closer, bu it is a hallucination that fades in and out of perception.” 

Last month, I wrote about the Toronto, Ontario, Canada-based psych rock quartet Possum, and as you may recall the band, which is comprised of Brandon Bak (guitar, vocals), Tobin Hopwood (guitar), Patrick Lefler (bass) and Bradley Thibodeau (drums) met within their hometown’s psych rock and garage rock scenes. The members of the band bonded over their mutual love and appreciation of acts like of CAN, Grateful Dead, Fela Kuti and Ty Segall — but the end result is a sound that can be loosely described as a fusion of garage rock, krautrock, psych rock and ethno jazz, complete with rapid tempo and time signature change, hypnotic riffs and chugging, motorik grooves.

Live, their shows are an immersive experience in which the band pairs high energy performances and trippy sounds with lysergic visual projections by The Oscillitarium. And as a result of their live show, the members of Possum have shared stages with the likes of the aforementioned Ty Segall, All Them Witches, Shannon and The Clams, Bombino, L.A. Witch and Chad VanGaalen.

Interestingly, the Canadian psych rockers have maintained a steadfast and ardent DIY ethos in which they’ve independently recorded, mixed and produced their material using old analog tape machines — and they’ve packaged their music themselves. In fact, Possum’s full-length debut, Space Grade Assembly, which is slated for release later this month continues the band’s DIY ethos with the material recorded almost entirely live and mixed by the band’s Brandon Bak and Tobin Hopwood. Album single “The Hills” was an expansive and heady mix of Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin power chord-fueled riffing, thunderous drumming, Afrobeat and Latin-tinged percussion that found the band’s production nodding at shoegaze, classic psych rock and krautrock simultaneously.

Clocking in at a little over eight minutes, “Worms Hollow,” Space Grade Assembly‘s latest single is a mind-altering and expansive track that’s one part 60s inspired garage psych, one part motorik groove-driven krautrock and one part space rock centered around a focused and urgent performance.

Possum is currently on a lengthy North American tour. Check out the remaining tour dates below.

Tour Dates
June 7 – Chicago, IL (Emporium)
June 8 – Kansas City, MI (TBA)
June 9 – Denver, CO (Second City Music Collective)
June 11 – San Francisco, CA (Knockout Lounge)
June 13 – Portland, OR (Post 134)
June 14 – Seattle, WA (Clock Out Lounge)
June 16 – Vancouver, BC (Static Jupiter)
June 17 – Victoria, BC (Copper House)
June 18 – Nanaimo, BC (Nanaimo Bar)
June 19 – Kelowna. BC (Fernando’s)
June 20 – Kamloops, BC (Blue Grotto)
June 21/22/23 – Calgary, AB (Sled Island Muisc Festival)
June 24 – Regina, SK (TA Vinyl and Fashion)
June 25 – Winnepeg, MB (Handsome Daughter)
June 26 – Minneapolis, MN (Terminal Bar)
June 27 – Milwaukee, WI (Cactus Club)
June 28 – Detroit, MI (Kelly’s Bar)