Tag: Femi Kuti

Throughout this site’s nine-plus year history, I’ve written about and championed a number of acts from across Northern Africa — in particular, Mali. During that same period of time,  Mali has been split apart by a bloody civil war between several different factions. In 2012, the National Movement for the Liberation of Azaward (MNLA) took control of Northern Mail; but shortly after, they were pushed out of the region by Ansar Dine, a jihadist group, which quickly imposed sharia law: cigarettes, alcohol and music were banned across the region. And as a result a large number of the country’s acclaimed musicians including Songhoy Blues’ founding trio Garba Toure, Aliou Toure and Oumar Toure (no relation, but all Songhoy people) were forced to relocate south to Bamako, the country’s capital.

As the members of Songhoy Blues have said, the band was formed “. . . to recreate that lost ambience of the North, and make all the refugees relive those Northern songs.”  The band recruited Nathanael Dembélé to compete their lineup, and began playing shows across the Bamako club circuit, attracting both Songhoy and Tuareg fans.  Interestingly, by September 2013, Africa Express, a collective of American and European musicians and producers led by Damon Albarn traveled to Bamako to collaborate with local musicians. The members of Songhoy Blues successfully auditioned and were introduced to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs Nick Zinner, who produced and recorded “Soubour” (which translates into English as “patience”), which appeared on that year’s African Express compilation Maison Des Jeunes. 

Following the success of “Soubour,” the band returned to the studio with Zinner and co-producer Marc-Antoine Moreau to record their 2015 full-length debut Music in Exile, which was a commercial and critical success, receiving praise from The Guardian, NME and others, and as a result the band received nominations for “Best New Act” at the Q Awards and “Independent Breakthrough Act” at the AIM Awards.  The quartet has opened for Alabama Shakes, Julian Casablancas and Damon Albarn, and have played sets at Glastonbury Festival, Bonnaroo Festival, Latitude Festival, Roskilde Festival, Green Man Festival, Byron Bay Bluesfest, WOMADelaide and The Great Escape Festival.

Building upon a growing international profile, the band’s sophomore album, 2017’s Resistance was released to critical praise, with Rolling Stone naming it one of the best albums of that year. Since then, the act has been busy touring, including a stop at Union Pool‘s Summer Thunder last year — and the writing and recording of their forthcoming EP Meet Me in the City, which is slated for an October 18, 2019 release.

The effort finds the acclaimed Malian act collaborating with Will Oldham, Matt Sweeney, Junior Kimbrough and Femi Kuti. Interestingly, the EP’s first single, the Will Oldham, Matt Sweeney and Songhoy Blues co-written “Time To Go Home” may be the most electronic-leaning they’ve released to date, it still retains some dexterous and trippy guitar work and the hypnotic grooves of the Desert Blues. And interestingly enough, it finds the band ambitiously desiring to pass the messages at the heart of their material to a much larger, international audience. (There are two different version of the track. One mixed by Grammy-nominated producer Blake Mills and one mixed by David Ferguson.)

Songhoy Blues says, “We’re really happy to introduce this new EP and our English-language debut on the song ‘Time To Go Home.’ Please enjoy it and get ready for a heavy new album coming up very soon.”

Matt Sweeney adds, “I think it’s safe to say that the brave poets of Songhoy Blues have a different idea what a ‘bad day’ is than pretty much all other rock bands. Their music and singing are powerful beyond words. Making a new song with them was a humbling honor and an unforgettable joy.”

On PBS’ American Masters, Will Oldham spoke of working with Songhoy Blyes, saying, “They are a Malian band that’s really trying to make sense of what they’ve been witnessing, what they’ve been experiencing, and create or transmit a message to people about what they’re seeing and how they’re trying to understand it and make change…And to think, well I want them to know that I’m trying to listen and trying to understand, and if I can give voice to some of what they’re experiencing, that they might be emboldened by this musical connection.”

Songhoy Blues will be embarking on a month long Stateside tour that includes two NYC area dates — September 22, 2019 at The Great Green Wall at The United Nations and October 24, 2019 at Baby’s All Right. Check out the rest of the tour dates below.

 

Tour Dates

09.21 – Franklin, TN – Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival 2019
09.22 – New York, NY – United Nations | Great Green Wall
09.23 – Atlanta, GA – The Earl
09.24 – Birmingham, AL – Saturn
09.26 – Oxford, MS – Proud Larry’s
09.27 – New Orleans, LA – One Eyed Jacks
09.28 – Austin, TX – Antone’s
10.01 – El Prado, NM – Taos Mesa Brewing
10.04 – Los Angeles, CA – Moroccan Lounge
10.05 – Berkeley, CA – Cornerstone Berkeley
10.06 – Petaluma, CA – Mystic Theatre
10.09 – Eugene, OR – WOW Hall
10.10 – Portland, OR – Doug Fir Lounge
10.11 – Seattle, WA – Columbia City Theater
10.12 – Vancouver, BC, Canada – Rickshaw Theatre
10.15 – Boulder, CO – Fox Theatre
10.17 – St. Paul, MN – Turf Club
10.19 – Chicago, IL – Lincoln Hall
10.22 – Toronto, ON, Canada – Great Hall
10.24 – Brooklyn, NY – Baby’s All Right
10.25 – Easthampton, MA – New City Brewery
10.26 – Portland, ME – Port City Music Hall
10.27 – Boston, MA – Brighton Music Hall

New Audio: Sampha Shimmering, Dance Floor Friendly Remix of Legendary Malian Vocalist Oumou Sangare’s “Minata Waraba”

Oumou Sangare is a Bamako, Mail-born and-based, Grammy Award-winning,  singer/songwriter and musician, who comes from a deeply musical family, as her mother, Aminata Diakite was a renowned singer. When Sangare was young, her father had abandoned the family, and she helped her mother feed the family by singing; in fact, by the time she had turned five, Sangare had been well known as a highly gifted singer. After making it to the finals of a nursery school talent show, a very young Sangare performed in front of a crowd of 6,000 at Omnisport Stadium — and by the time she was 16, she had gone on tour with a nationally known percussion act, Djoliba.

Sangare’s 1989 debut effort, Moussoulou (which translates into English as “Women”) was recorded with renowned Malian music master Amadou Ba Guindo, and was a commercial success across Africa, as it sold over 200,000 copies. With the help of the world renowned Malian singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Ali Farka Toure, the father of Vieux Farka Toure, Sangare signed with English record label World Circuit — and by the time she turned 21, she had received an internationally known profile. Interestingly, Sangare is considered both an ambassador of Mali and the Wassoulou region of the country, just south of the Niger River, lovingly referred to as “The Songbird of Wassoulou,” as her music draws from the music and traditional dances of the region while lyrically her work has been full of social criticism, focusing on the low status of women within Malian society and elsewhere, and the desire to have freedom of choice in all matters of one’s life, from who they can marry to being financially independent.

Interestingly, since 1990 Sangare has performed at some of the world’s most important venues and festivals including the Melbourne Opera, Roskilde Festival, Gnaoua World Music Festival, WOMAD, Oslo World Music Festival and the Opera de la Monnaie, while releasing several albums including — 1993’s Ko Sira, 1996’s Worotan and 2004’s 2 CD compilation Oumou. Adding to a growing profile, Sangare has toured with Baaba Mal, Femi Kuti and Boukman Eksperyans, and she has been named a Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters in 1998, won the UNESCO Prize in 2001 and was named an ambassador of the FAO in 2003.

Mogoya which translates into English as “People Today,” was Sangare’s first full-length effort in over 22 years, and it was released to critical praise from the likes of Dazed, The Fader, The Guardian while making the Best of 2017 Lists of Mojo, the BBC, the aforementioned The Guardian as well as Gilles Peterson — and the album found the renowned Malian artist collaboration with the legendary Tony Allen and French production team A.L.B.E.R.T. and pushing her sound in a new, direction; in fact album single “Minata Waraba” features  Sangare’s gorgeous and expressive voice with shimmering African instrumentation paired with a slick and hyper modern production that emphasizes a sinuous, electric bass line and shuffling, complex polyrhythm that reminds me of a 2013 Fela Kuti tribute compilation, Red Hot + Fela, which featured contemporary artists re-imagining some of the Afrobeat creator’s signature tunes.

Sangare will be releasing the Mogoya Remixed album through Nø Førmat Records today, and the album features remixes of the album’s material by contemporary artists and producers, who have been high profile fans of her work; in fact the album’s latest single is from the British-born and based producer and artist Sampha. Sampha has split his time between solo and collaborative work, and has worked with the likes of SBTRKT, FKA Twigs, Jesse Ware, Drake, Beyonce, Kanye West, Solange and Frank Ocean. His full-length debut Process won the Mercury Music Prize last year, and earned him a 2018 BRIT Award nomination for Best British Breakthrough.

Sampha has publicly mentioned his love of Oumou Sangare’s music, explain in press notes, “My dad had a copy of Oumou’s album Worotan and no other album has spoken to me quite like that. Her music has been a huge inspiration ever since and it’s a real honour to have remixed some of her music.” Sampha’s remix retains Sangare’s crystalline vocals but pairs it with a thumping production, featuring tribal house like beats and shimmering arpeggiated synths that while modern, still keeps the song rooted to Africa. Interestingly, Sangare has mentioned being bowled over by Sampha’s remix, saying  “When I first heard Sampha’s remix, I was amazed at the beat. Our rhythmic patterns are not always easy for Western people. But, wow, Sampha’s beat is definitely African, definitely. Listening to it I can tell that Sampha has African blood in his veins. I am really excited by this version, I play it again and again.”

New Audio: Seun Kuti and Egypt 80 Team Up with The Legendary Carlos Santana on a Funky and Powerful New Single

Lagos, Nigeria-born and-raised multi-instrumentalist, bandleader and singer/songwriter Seun Kuti is the youngest son of the legendary and controversial Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti. And as the story goes when Seun was nine, he expressed a desire to perform with his father — and within a short time, Seun started performing with his father’s backing band Egypt 80. Much like his older brother, Femi, Seun Kuti has followed the political and social ethos of his late father, continuing to push their father’s pro-Black, pan-African/pan-African Diaspora, anti-colonialist, sociopolitical messages to wider, international audiences. Oddly enough, during Fela’s life, he was in many ways the bane of the Nigerian political establishment, as he bravely called out the hypocrisy, inequality, inequity, corruption and brutality that they and their fellow countrymen faced on a daily basis — while pointing out that corruption and brutality is always the same.

However, with increasing international attention on both Fela and his sons over the past 20 years, the Kutis have managed to walk a careful tightrope of siding with the little guy and courageous speaking truth to power at all costs, including risk of life and limb while also becoming unofficial ambassadors to Nigeria, their proud and beautiful people and their culture. Around the time, I started this site, I caught Femi Kuti and Positive Force at Irving Plaza and there was a proud contingency of Nigerians, who spoke of Femi and his father with proud, reverential terms, at one point referring to Femi as “Professor!” “Speak Professor, Speak!” They would exclaim whenever Femi would say something that resonated with them. In some way, I was reminded of how older Jamaicans speak of Bob Marley.

Fela died in 1997 when Femi was 35 and Seun was just 14. Almost immediately upon his father’s death, Seun took over the frontperson duties of his father’s legendary backing band, a band that features members of his father’s backing bands Afrika ’70 and Egypt 80 — many of whom were with Fela, when he was speaking out about the Nigerian government at a time, when doing so could mean risking jail, brutal beatings an/or death. And interestingly enough, Seun’s 2008 debut effort Many Things was produced by Martin Meissonnier, who produced two of Fela’s albums.

Now, as you may know live, Seun Kuti has developed a reputation for sets being a fair mix of his own original material, along with covers of his father’s material, and because his father rarely (if ever) performed songs he recorded in the studio live, Seun covering his father’s material is often seen as an opportunity for fans to hear songs like “Water Get No Enemy,” “Shuffering and Shmiling,” “Colonial Mentality” and “Army Arrangement” live — and with a dynamism that rivals that of his late father.

Seun Kuti’s fourth album with Egypt 80, Black Times is slated for a March 2, 2018 release through British label Strut Records, and the new album reportedly finds Seun and company honoring the revolutionaries who have come and gone before while being a much needed rallying cry for the torchbearers to come. And to further emphasize that theme, the album finds Seun and the legendary Egypt 80 collaborating with a list of acclaimed musicians and artists, including Carlos Santana and Robert Glasper, among others. As Seun Kuti explains in press notes, “Black Times is a true reflection of my political and social beliefs. It is an album for anybody who believes in change and understands the duty we have to rise up and come together. The elites always try to divide the working class and the poor people of the world. The same oppression felt by workers in Flint, Michigan is felt by workers in Lagos and Johannesburg.”

The funky yet blistering album title track and first single “Black Times” features the imitable guitar work of Carlos Santana in a song that’s meant to shine a black light on society, exposing its rot, immorality and hypocrisy while pointing out the need for Black folk all over the world to band together and demand justice and inequality for all people. But beyond that it suggests that everyone needs to take a serious look at themselves and their world in order to truly begin to change it — and while it may be hard work, it’s necessary work to make the world better.