JOVM celebrates Robert Plant’s 73rd birthday.
JOVM celebrates Robert Plant’s 72nd birthday.
Daby Touré is a Mauritanian-born, Paris-based singer/songwriter, who has had a lifelong love and obsession that began with listening to The Police, Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson over the radio; however, he can trace the origins of his music career to when he taught himself the basics of guitar, while possessing an instinct that music was to be his life.
As a teenager, Touré relocated to Paris and his lifelong passion for music gradually drew him away from his studies in business; in fact, Touré began fully immersing himself in Paris’ jazz scene. And after several years of experimenting with his sound and songwriting, Touré met electronic music artist and producer Cyrille Dufay in 2003 — and the duo collaborated on Touré’s critically applauded breakthrough album Diam, an album that was signed to Peter Gabriel’s Real World Records. Interestingly, as a result the Mauritanian-born, Paris-based singer/songwriter opened for Gabriel during the renowned British artist’s 2004 Growing Up World Tour, which allowed Touré to have a growing international profile — with the album being added to playlists across France and the UK.
In 2006, the Mauritanian-born, Paris-based singer/songwriter was nominated for Discovery of the Year in that year’s BBC World Music Awards and he released his sophomore effort, in which he collaborated with sound engineer Ben Finlay, who has worked with Peter Gabriel, Sting, Simply Red, Jeff Beck and Robert Plant; and mixer and engineer Tom Oliver, who has worked with Sinead O’Connor, U2, Seun Kuti, Tony Allen, Susheela Raman and Charlie Winston. The following year saw the release of his third full-length effort Stereo Spirit, an album praised internationally for material that possessed catchy hooks and singalong-worthy lyrics — while pushing his sound towards the genre-defying.
By 2009, Touré collaborated with bluesman Skip McDonald on the Call My Name EP, an effort that Sing Out! described as being “neither African nor blues, but instead pulls from both and also from rock, a touch of pop and even dub for a unique, appealing and — its as to be said — quite commercial sound. The two voices and styles complement each other perfectly, and the songs they’ve created – for they seem more like creations than compositions – summon up echoes of their histories, but end up in a hybrid that’s essentially completely new.” With the success of his collaboration with McDonald, Touré has collaborated with an increasing number of internationally recognized artists including French pop artists Francis Cabrel and Maxime Le Forestier on Touré’s 2012 French language effort Lang(u)age — and he’s performed alongside Bob Geldof, Rihanna and Enzo Avitabile, among others.
As Touré explains in press notes “I was born in Africa And all the traditional music I picked up when I was young is still in me and that doesn’t change. But in my music I am still searching, and mixing, and trying things and that’s what I am doing now. I have travelled far from the ‘traditional’ or ‘folkloric’ music of my country.” In fact, over the past few years, the Mauritanian-born, French-based singer/songwriter has increasingly has merged the linguistic sounds of the six languages he speaks while moving towards a more globalized and universal sound — all while maintaining the accessibility that won him international attention.
Although his most recent effort was 2015’s Amonafi, which was released through renowned indie label Cumbancha Records, the internationally renowned singer/songwriter will be in town for two sets at Subrosa on Thursday night and to celebrate the occasion, released the music video for album single “Oma.” Sonically “Oma” is a breezy pop song that owes a debt to dub and reggae as much as it does to traditional African folk music in a seamless fashion and with an infectious, crowd-pleasing hook Throughout, Touré sings in several different languages — including English for part of the song’s hook, which gives the song a jet-setting, globalist universality. And yet, the song draws from a personal experience. As Touré explains of the song “One day as I was walking down the street, I passed a woman and her children. She was alone, sitting on the ground, and asking for charity and nobody seemed to care. This woman spoke to me that day. She inspired this song. Oma is this mother’s cry.”
The recently released music video for the song is a fairly straightforward take on the song, that follows after the song’s thematic concern with the video having Touré encountering a homeless woman and her child, and Touré approaching this woman and her child for a friendly and empathetic conversation that influences his song.
Born in Ogidi, a small village in Eastern Nigeria, as the youngest of 10 sons in a traditional Igbo family, Charleston Okafor moved to the US in 1985 with the intention of becoming a doctor and enrolled as a pre-med student at Western Kentucky University — although he had long dreamt of pursuing a musical career. In fact, some of his earliest memories involved longing to be involved in the traditional church naming and death ceremonies that his mother, Christina Akuadi Okafor led as a musical director of the woman’s acapella church group. As Okafor fondly recounts in press notes “As was the case in those days, and still is with the youths in my village today, young boys like me longed for the days when we could participate in our own masquerade or nkpokiti dance groups.”
While studying at Western Kentucky University, Okafor had two experiences that altered the course of his adult life — he discovered MTV and began two, deeply influential and lifelong musical friendships with bassist Bryan House, who has worked with Robert Plant’s backing band Band of Joy, Emmylou Harris, Sam Bush and Dolly Parton and engineer Bill Bitner, the first engineer to work with Okafor. The Nigerian-born singer/songwriter’s friendships with House and Bitner helped him begin his pursuit of a musical career — and interestingly enough paved the road for Okafor to eventually collaborate with renowned producers like Ticlah, who has worked with Easy Star All-Stars, Antibalas and Amy Winehouse and DJ Spooky, both of whom have also remixed some of Okafor’s work.
Some 11 years after moving to the States, Okafar began his musical career in earnest as the frontperson and musical director of the Cleveland, OH-based collective Asante Groove, a project that featured a rotating cast of friends and collaborators that received attention locally and regionally for a sound that possessed elements of dancehall reggae and smooth jazz. He’s also received attention for his WCSB radio program African Abstract, which started in 1992 and is one of Cleveland’s longest running radio shows, as well as a staple of WCSB’s Sunday afternoon programming. Interestingly, Asante Groove along with Okafor’s current backing band Hybrid Shakedown have opened for many of the acts he’s played on his radio program including The Meditations, Chaka Demus and Pliers, Black Uhuru’s Michael Rose, Oliver Mtukudzi and others. Oh and I must add that Okafor is also a high-school math teacher, which may arguably make him both the coolest math teacher you’ve ever heard of, as well as an extremely busy man.
Adding to the Nigerian-born, Cleveland-based singer/songwriter’s unusual background and career trajectory, instead of going about the prototypical music industry route of following a release of original material with a remix album, he recently released the remix EP in advance of his second album America, an album that thematically focuses on power and oppression, love and partnership while looking at his adopted homeland with a sense of promise and hope — even in light of one of the bitterest and most divisive election cycles in recent memory.
For the remix album, Okafor turned to some old friends — Dub Trio founder Joe Tomino, who Okafar has known since the late 90s; Dubmatrix, who Okafor has long supported on his radio show and was a dear friend of Okafor’s producer Ecodek; and Ray Lugo and Kokolo Afrobeat Orchestra’s Jake Fader, who recently started their own project together Los Terrificos. The album’s first single is Dubmatrix’s skittering and subtly psychedelic yet dance-floor friendly remix of “Rama Rama.”
The recently released music video for the Dubmatrix remix manages to be both psychedelic and flirtatious — all while capturing the infectious joy that Okafor seems to spread far and wide. Lord knows, in this world, we definitely need it.
Interestingly, Tinariwen’s forthcoming full-length effort Elwan (which translates into English as The Elephants) is slated for a February 10, 2017 release, and the album thematically focuses both on the disappearing traditions of the Tuareg people and of being forced into exile — oddly enough as the members of the band were touring the world. And the album’s gorgeous first single “Tenere Taqqal” possesses an understated longing for a way of life and for a home, which as Thomas Wolfe wisely suggested they can never return to and will never get back. And yet there’s a tacit acknowledgment that life must continue onward and that they have a profoundly important duty of ensuring that something of the old traditions can be preserved and passed on to future generations. As a result, the single while being slow-burning and brooding also manages to possess an understated, quiet urgency — all while feeling older than time itself. Every time, I’ve listened to this track I can picture sitting among the Tuareg or the Bedouins at a campfire, as they tell tales of creation or of the great mystics and teachers, who have led flocks of faithful . .
The recently released animated video was directed by Axel Digoix and it vividly depicts the desert’s harshness, cruelty and beauty, and the profound spiritual and physical connection that the Tuareg people have towards it, while pointing out that their traditions and their world is being violently torn apart.
If you’ve been frequenting this site over the past few months, you may recall that I’ve written about San Francisco, CA and Big Sur, CA-based singer/songwriter, guitarist and producer Jenny Gillespie. Gillespie can trace her musical career to he childhood — during drives to and from the Springfield, IL area, where she was born and raised, she spent quite a bit of time harmonizing in the backseat with her sister, who is a gifted and renowned pianist. When the San Francisco and Big Sur-based singer/songwriter was 13, she picked up her mother’s Martin guitar and began putting the poems she had been writing to her own original music. Gillespie’s life was further changed when a local record store clerk gave her album from three of the 90s most renowned singer/songwriters Tori Amos, Sarah McLachlan and Shawn Colvin — all of whom quickly became major influences on Gillespie’s music and songwriting.
After stints living in Virginia, Paris and Texas, Gillespie relocated to Chicago, where she self-produced and then released her sophomore album, Light Year, a folk and alt-country album that received quite a bit of praise. And as a result the attention Light Year received, Gillespie met Darwin Smith, an Austin, TX-based multi-instrumentalist, with whom she wrote her third full-length effort, Kindred, a sparse, experimental, electronica-based effort recorded in an old house in Wilmette, IL with contributions from Steve Moore, who has worked with Tift Merritt and Laura Veirs and Dony Wynn, who has worked with the legendary Robert Plant.
Inspired by a volunteer trip to Kenya that led her to an African fingerpicking class at the Old Town School of Folk Music and studying for an MFA in Poetry at North Carolina’s Warren Wilson College, Gillespie found her sound and songwriting approach expanding and becoming more refined. By the fall of 2011, she traveled to NYC to record the EP Belita with Shazard Ismaily, a multi-instrumentalist who has worked with Lou Reed, Bonnie Prince Billy, and St. Vincent. Interestingly, that effort possesses elements of pop, folk music, African and Asian rhythms and tones.
Featuring contributions from Emmett Kelly (Bonnie Prince Billy) on guitar and Joe Adamik (Califone, Iron and Wine) on drums, her last full-length effort Chamma was released to critical praise, including landing on Billboard Magazine‘s Top 25 Albums of 2014 List. Naturally, that has seen Gillespie’s profile grow nationally — and continuing on that buzz, the singer/songwriter is set to release Chamma‘s follow-up, Cure for Dreaming through Narooma Records at the end of the month. Recorded over the past couple of months and featuring contributions from Paul Bryan (Aimee Mann), drummer Jay Bellerose (Robert Plant and Allison Krauss’ Raising Sand), guitarist Chris Bruce (Meshell Ndgeocello), guitarist Gerry Leonard (David Bowie), and pedal steel player Greg Leisz (Lucinda Williams, Bon Iver), the album reportedly possesses elements of folk, progressive jazz, and 60s and 70s AM pop.
The album’s first single “No Stone” paired Gillespie’s unhurried and husky vocals with a spacious and subtly jazz-like arrangement of keys, guitar, bass, gently buzzing electronics and hushed drumming in a song that felt as intimate as a lover whispering sweet nothings in your ear. And at the song’s core was a conversational lyricism that possessed a novelist’s attention to detail — both physical and psychological — as you can picture a woman who hides her face by the ocean, cherry blossoms in bloom, and someone peering through a keyhole to see a depressed woman struggling to just start her day. And as a result the song’s narrator feels like a fully-fleshed out person, desperately struggling to push forward.
The album’s second and latest single “Part Potawatomi” pairs Gillespie’s unhurried and ethereal vocals with a hummable melody, a deceptively simple arrangement of guitar, drums, bass and ambient electronics that sonically bears a resemblance to Junip — and their frontman, Jose Gonzalez‘s solo work. And much like much like the album’s first single “No Stone,” “Part Potawatomi” reveals a Gillespie’s remarkable attention to detail, as the song frankly discusses the slow and seemingly inevitable dissolution of a romantic relationship metaphorically described as a storm brewing over the shore. The song’s narrator seems to evoke the sensation of being trapped in a relationship that’s going nowhere out of familial and moral obligation — and as a result, the song possesses a subtle yet increasing feeling of frustration and regret, while being one of the more beautiful songs I’ve heard in the past 10 days.
Although he never found commercial success within his tragically short life, singer/songwriter Tim Buckley has managed to become admired and deeply influential in the 40 years since his death for his innovative sound which possessed […]
Born and reared in the Springfield, IL area and currently splitting her time between San Francisco, CA and Big Sur, CA singer/songwriter. guitarist and producer Jenny Gillespie can trace her musical career to her childhood — during drives to and from town, a young Gillespie spent quite a bit of time harmonizing in the backseat with her sister, who is a gifted pianist. When Gillespie was 13, she picked up her mother’s Martin guitar and began putting the poems she had started writing to music. A local record clerk changed the young singer/songwriter’s life by giving her albums from three of the 90s’ most renowned singer/songwriters — Tori Amos, Sarah McLachlan and Shawn Colvin.
After stints living in Virginia, Paris and Texas, Gillespie relocated to Chicago, where she self-produced and then released the folk and alt-country influenced sophomore effort Light Year to a fair amount of critical praise across the blogosphere. As a result of Light Year‘s exposure, Gillespie met Darwin Smith, an Austin, TX-based multi-instrumentalist, with whom she wrote her third full-length effort, Kindred, a sparse, experimental, electronica-based effort recorded in an old house in Wilmette, IL with contributions from Steve Moore, who has worked with Tift Merritt and Laura Veirs and Dony Wynn, who has worked with Robert Plant.
Inspired by a volunteer trip to Kenya that led her to an African fingerpicking class at the Old Town School of Folk Music and studying for an MFA in Poetry at North Carolina’s Warren Wilson College, Gillespie found her sound and songwriting approach expanding and becoming more refined. And by the fall of 2011, she traveled to NYC to record the EP Belita with Shazard Ismaily, a multi-instrumentalist who has worked with Lou Reed, Bonnie Prince Billy, and St. Vincent. Interestingly, that effort possesses elements of pop, folk music, African and Asian rhythms and tones.
Featuring contributions from Emmett Kelly (Bonnie Prince Billy) on guitar and Joe Adamik (Califone, Iron and Wine) on drums, her last full-length effort Chamma was released to critical praise, including landing on Billboard Magazine‘s Top 25 Albums of 2014 List. Naturally, that has seen Gillespie’s profile grow nationally — and continuing on that buzz, the singer/songwriter is set to release Chamma‘s follow-up, Cure for Dreaming early next year through Narooma Records. Recorded over the past couple of months and featuring contributions from Paul Bryan (Aimee Mann), drummer Jay Bellerose (Robert Plant and Allison Krauss’ Raising Sand), guitarist Chris Bruce (Meshell Ndgeocello), guitarist Gerry Leonard (David Bowie), and pedal steel player Greg Leisz (Lucinda Williams, Bon Iver), the album reportedly possesses elements of folk, progressive jazz, and 60s and 70s AM pop.
“No Stone” Cure for Dreaming‘s first single pairs Gillespie’s husky and unhurried vocals with a spacious yet warm and subtly jazz-like arrangement of keys, guitar, bass, gently buzzing electronics and hushed drumming in a song that feels as intimate as a lover whispering sweet nothings in your ear. And at its core, is conversational lyricism that possesses a novelist’s attention to detail, as you can picture the woman who hides her face by the ocean, the cherry blossom trees in bloom, someone peering through a keyhole to see a depressed woman struggling to just starting her day — and a novelist’s attention to psychological detail. The song’s narrator feels like a fully-fleshed out person, desperately struggling to push on. Interestingly, each time I’ve played the song I’ve been reminded of how Gillespie sounds so much like Joni Mitchell — it’s incredibly uncanny.
Founded by Ibrahim Ag Alhabib, Tinariwen can trace their origins back to the mid and late 1970s when Alhabib, who had been inspired to learn the guitar from an old Western film, in which a cowboy played a guitar, joined other Tuareg rebels living in refugee camps in Libya and Algeria, who were exploring the radical chaabi protest music of Moroccan groups like Nass El Ghiwane and Jil Jilala; Algerian pop rai; and western artists like Elvis Presley, Led Zeppelin, Carlos Santana, Dire Straits, Jimi Hendrix, Boney M, and Bob Marley.
While in Tamanrasset, Algeria, Ag Alhabib started a band with Alhassane Ag Touhami and brothers Inteyeden Ag Ablil and Liya Ag Ablil, and they began playing the traditional sounds of the Taureg people at weddings and parties across Algeria and Libya. Interestingly, when they started, the band had no official name but people began calling them Kel Tinariwen, which in the Tamashek language translates roughly as “The People of the Deserts” or “The Desert Boys.”
In 1980, Libyan dictator, Muammar Gaddafi released a decree inviting all young Tuareg men, who were living illegally in Libya to receive full military training, as part of his dream of forming a Saharan regiment, comprised of the best young Tuareg fighters to further his territorial ambitions in Chad, Niger, and elsewhere across Northern Africa. Al Alhabib and his bandmates answered the call and received military training. They answered a similar call in 1985, by leaders of the Libyan Tuareg movement and wound up meeting fellow musicians Keddou Ag Ossade, Mohammed Ag Itlale (aka “Japonais”), Sweiloum Ag Alhousseyni, Abouhadid Ag Alhousseyni, and Abdallah Ag Alhousseyni — all who had sang and played guitar. The musicians joined together in a collective — now known across the world as Tinariwen — in order to write songs about the issues facing their people, built a makeshift stood and vowed to record music for free for anyone who supplied a blank cassette tape. And naturally, as a result their homemade cassette tape series were highly sought after, and were traded throughout Saharan Africa. (It’s also incredibly punk — perhaps more punk, than anything most Western artists could ever come up with.)
In 1989. the members of the collective had left Libya and relocated to Ag Alhabib’s birthplace of Tessalit, Mali; however, by the next year Mail’s Tuareg population revolted against the Malian government, with some members of the collective participating as rebel fighters. After a peace agreement known as the Tamanrasset Accords were reached in early 1991, the members of Tinariwen left the military and devoted themselves to music full-time — and by 1992, some of the members of the collective were to Abidjan, Ivory Coast to record a cassette at JBZ Studios, and they occasionally played gigs for far-flung Tuareg communities throughout Saharan Africa, which helped the band gain word-of-mouth popularity among their people.
Tinariwen started to receive international attention after they had began collaborating with the renowned French world music ensemble Lo’Jo — with the result being the highly acclaimed 2001 Festival au Desert in Essakane, Mali. Greater attention came to the band when the play their first UK performance at that country’s largest, free African festival, Africa Oye. And the year was topped by the release of their full-length debut, The Radio Tisdas Sessions, their first recording to be released outside of their native Northern Africa. Coincidentally, this has gone on as the collective has gone through some lineup changes, incorporating a younger generation of Tuareg musicians, musicians who didn’t live during some of the military conflicts of the older generation, including bassist Eyadou Ag Leche, percussionist Said Ag Ayad, guitarist Elaga Ag Hamid, guitarist Abdallah Ag Lamida, and vocalists Wonou Walet Sidati and the Walet Oumar sisters.
As the collective has started to see greater international attention, they’ve toured regularly across the European Union, North America, Japan and Australia, often playing at some of the world’s biggest and highly renowend music festivals including Glastonbury, Coachella, Roskilde, Les Vieilles Charrues, WOMAD, FMM Sines and Printemps de Bourges. And they’ve won over an incredible list of celebrity fans and champions including Carlos Santana, Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant, U2‘s Bono and The Edge, Radiohead‘s Thom Yorke, Coldplay‘s Chris Martin, Henry Rollins, Brian Eno, and TV on the Radio, among others. And it shouldn’t be surprising because of their hauntingly gorgeous music rooted in the poetry and traditions of the tough, rebellious people of Northern Africa — and in some way, the material captures the vast expanse of the desert as their sound seems to arch heavenward . . .
At the end of last year, the members of Tinariwen played a show in Paris and invited the legendary grand dame of Tamashek culture, Lalla Badi, one of Tuareg culture’s beloved master of the tinde, which is both a percussive instrument covered by taut goatskin, played by women and a poetic repertoire sung at ceremonies and special and intimate occasions. Not only is she considered the paradigm of Tuareg femininity, she has also long been an outspoken advocate for Tuareg culture and causes, as well as being a mentor to the members of Tinariwen in their early incarnation. The end result was a live recording of their Paris show, Live in Paris slated for a November 20 release through Anti- Records.
The first single off the live album “Tinde Final Tinariwen” is a hauntingly gorgeous track that begins with droning guitar chords, propulsive percussion and a collection of male vocals crying and chanting before Badi’s regal vocals joining in on a composition that marries ancient traditions with contemporary sound. Indeed, there’s a forcefulness to the composition but it arches heavenward with lilting, trance inducing beauty that’s awe-inspiring.