Tag: world music


If you had followed this site throughout the course of 2016, you would have come across a small handful of posts featuring the genre-defying, world music duo Xylouris White, comprised of Melbourne, Australia-born, New York-based drummer Jim White, who’s best known as a member of the internationally acclaimed instrumental rock act Dirty Three and for collaborating with a number of equally renowned artists including PJ HarveyNina NastasiaCat PowerBill Callahan a.k.a. Smog and others; and beloved Crete-born vocalist and laouto player Giorgos Xylouris, the son of renowned vocalist and lyra player Psarantonis Xylouris, and who is best known best known for leading the Xylouris Ensemble.

Interestingly, the duo can actually trace their origins to when the renowned Cretan and his ensemble was touring Melbourne in the early 1990s. As the story goes, White was a member of locally-based avant rock band Venom P. Stinger, when he had met and befriended Xylouris, who would later collaborate with The Dirty Three whenever he was touring Australia. And unsurprisingly, the collaboration with Xylouris and The Dirty Three was a rather fruitful collaboration based on a healthy mutual admiration and the influence that both Psaratonis Xylouris and his father Giorgos had on the Melbourne-based trio’s sound and compositional approach.

Straggly enough, although White and Xylouris had been friends and collaborators for more than 20 years, it wasn’t until 2013 that they decided that they should directly collaborate together, a process that was accelerated when the duo played together at a Nick Cave curated  All Tomorrow’s Parties festival. And unsurprisingly, the duo’s long-held admiration and friendship have found a way to influence who they write, record and perform together — with their compositions frequently sounding as though they were dancing, as though at any given point, one instrument leading with the other one following and quickly shifting in a wildly fluid fashion. Goats, Xylouris White’s debut was  largely inspired by their creative approach, an approach that Xylouris poetically described as being “Like goats walking in the mountain. They may not know the place, but they can walk easily and take risks and feel comfortable. Really, the goats inspired us.”

Black Peak, Xylouris White’s sophomore album furthers the goat analogy, with the album’s title being derived from one of Crete’s most famous; however, the album, which was “recorded everywhere,” as Xylouris jokes in press notes and produced by Fugazi‘s Guy Picciotto, found the duo expanding upon their sound as the material possesses a subtly modern take on traditional sounds and motifs — at points sounding as though it drew from classic rock, as you’d hear on album singles “Black Peak,” and “Forging.

Mother, the duo’s third, full-length effort together is slated for a January 19, 2017 release through Bella Union Records, and as Psaratonis Xylouris explains in press notes, the album was named to denote “new life.” “Mother is the extension of Goats and Black Peak,” Xylouris adds in press notes. “Three things, all part of a whole. Goats are mothers, Zeus was raised on Amaltheia’s milk, Black Peak is Mother Earth . . . Mother Earth is the mother of everything.” Reportedly, the duo will further cement the duo’s reputation for having a fluid and mischievous chemistry in which they intuitively known exactly when to listen, when to accommodate, when to lead and get out of the way, and to find something completely new together. “A theme of the album is the significance of simplicity and a child-like approach,” Xylouris explains. “So, we connect mother and child and play instruments as toys. Xylouris White is still gestating.”

The album’s first single “Only Love” is a rollicking yet passionate stomp of a song featuring White’s propulsive drumming, which gives a lot of room for Xylouris’ incredibly dexterous, heavy metal-like louto and an infectious hook, accompanied by Xylouris’ sonorous baritone, singing lyrics in Greek — and while possessing a swooning and urgent passion, the song reveals the duo’s mischievous, free-flowing improvisational-like nature.


Martin Morales is a Peruvian-born, British-based, DJ, record collector, audiophile and pioneer of Peruvian food in the UK and was recently named GQ‘S Food and Drinks 2017 Innovator of the Year — but he’s also known as the co-founder of renowned world music label Tiger’s Milk Records. And although he’s spent half of his life in the UK, Morales in recent years has frequently returned to his birthplace — and in particular, the Andes — in search of recipes, records, sounds and inspiration for a variety of projects under the umbrella of his London-based company Ceviche. Morales, along with Tiger’s Milk co-founder Duncan Ballantyne, former Soundway Records label manager, and Peruvian DJ and crate digger Andres Tapia del Rio teamed up to create a series of compilations featuring the sounds of the Amazon and Andres, starting with the ANDINA: The Sound of the Peruvian Andes — Huayno, Carnaval and Cumbia 1968-1978. 

The compilation is meant to offer a fresh perspective on Peru’s multifaceted heritage, brining to light the divergent, exciting traditions that have emerged from Peru’s strip of the Andes Mountains, including cumbia, folkloric harp, Lima-based big band jazz that was influenced by their highland countrymen and so on; however, the compilation was never intended to be a definitive or complete overview of Andean music. Besides focusing on a particular period of music, 1968-1978, the compilation is selection of what they think are the most exciting insights into Andean musical culture, with the debut release of many tracks outside of Peru since their original release on Peruvian labels like Iempsa, Sono Radio and El Virrey — but perhaps more important, the sound most represented is a cumbia where groups imbued a tropical, Colombian style with Andean folk rhythms and rock-like electric guitars, the number of traditional folk numbers recorded and released during that era and of course, carnaval music; in fact, some of the featured bands took touchstones on much-loved music criolla — black music from the coast — but filtered through cumbia, and others employ Afro-Peruvian sounds. Or in other words, the Andean sound draws influences from the musical and culture legacies of indigenous Latin America and the African diaspora. The album’s first single Los Compadores Del Andes’ “La Mecedora” pairs is a cumbia featuring a tight, African Diaspora-influenced, percussive groove with a breezy, organ-led tropicalia, and bright blasts of brass, but perhaps most important, the song reveals a deep truth about the sounds of Peru and its Andean regions — that it’s arguably one of the most unique yet dance floor friendly of the entire region, while giving you a view into the sounds that were popular during the late 1960s.









Reflecting on his connection to the Andes, Martin Morales remembers: “Growing up in the coastal city of Lima, it was my grandmother who kept our family’s connection to the mountains alive. Our visits to her home high up in the Andes in the province of La Libertad and the fascinating 18 hour trips we made to reach her passing through villages and towns, sounds and flavors, imparted in me a strong sense of the Andes’ traditions, creativity and rich artistic textures.” The Andes’ different cultures have resulted in a myriad of ever-evolving hybrids as shown by this collection, which opens the door onto just a few of its most fascinating musical examples.

New Video: JOVM Mainstays IBEYI Return with Strikingly Gorgeous Visuals for New Single “I Wanna Be Like You”

Over the past three or four years, I’ve written quite a bit about French-Cuban twin sibling act Ibeyi (proounbed ee-bey-ee), who have become JOVM mainstays and an internationally applauded act. And as you may recall, Lisa-Kainde and Naomi Diaz’s self-titled, full-length debut thematically focused on the past as it drew upon the loss of their legendary father Anga Diaz, their relationship with each other, their origins, and a connection to their roots– while sonically meshing elements of contemporary electro pop, hip-hop, jazz, the blues, Cuban folk music and Yoruba folk music in a way that brought Henry Cole and the Afrobeat Collective‘s Roots Before Branches to mind.

The duo’s highly-anticipated sophomore effort Ash was released today and the reportedly the album’s material finds the duo writing some of the most personal, visceral and politically charged material they’ve released to date — and while continuing to be firmly rooted in the Afro-Cuban culture that has influenced their personal and creative lives, the material thematically focuses on who the Diaz sisters are now, in a period in which the world has seemingly turned upside down, and issues of racial, gender and sexual identity continue to be at the core of society’s most vexing sociopolitical issues. 

Ash’s fourth and latest single “I Wanna Be Like You” pairs the Diaz Sister’s gorgeous harmonies with a sparse and hyper modern production consisting of Afro-Cuban percussion emphasized with stuttering beats, whistling and shimmering synths and an effortlessly slick and soulful hook but much like it’s predecessors, the song continues a further exploration of the sisters identity within a world in which identity, and being true to it is desperately needed. 

Directed by Remi Besse, the recently released video for “I Wanna Be Like You” continue a lengthy string of striking visuals that emphasize the Diaz Sisters unique role as twins and as separate individuals, with their distinct personalities and moods  — and of course, throughout they also remind the listener and viewer that they have a profound intimacy. 

New Video: JOVM Mainstays Ibeyi Team up with Mala Rodriguez on Sensual New Single “Me Voy”

This weekend will be the among the busiest weekends I’ve had in some time, as I’ll be covering The Meadows Music and Arts Festival, so I don’t know how much I’ll be able to post — but it’ll be absolutely fucking worth it; however, in the meantime, let’s get to the business at hand, right? 

Now, over the past three or four years, the French-Cuban twin sibling duo Ibeyi (pronounced ee-bey-ee) have become both internationally applauded and JOVM mainstays. And as you may recall, the duo comprised of Lisa-Kainde Diaz and Naomi Diaz derive their name from the Yoruba word for twins — ibeji. The Diaz Sisters’ self-titled full-length debut was released in 2015 to critical praise, and the album thematically focused on the past — the loss of their legendary father Anga Diaz, their relationship with each other and their origins and a connection to their roots, with the album sonically meshing elements of contemporary electro pop, hip-hop, jazz, the blues and traditional Yoruba folk music in a way that brought Henry Cole and the Afrobeat Collective‘s Roots Before Branches to mind.  

Up until recently some time had passed since I had written about the Diaz sisters but as it turns out, they had spent the better part of last year writing and recording the material that would eventually comprise their highly anticipated sophomore, full-length effort Ash, which is slated for a September 29, 2017 through  XL Records. The album’s first single “Away Away,” lyrically and thematically focuses on accepting pain as a part of life, and recognizing that it’s a necessary part of life, while celebrating life for its complicated entirety. Of course, sonically speaking, the track further cements their  reputation for resoundingly positive messages sung with their gorgeous harmonizing paired with slick and swaggering electronic production. However, the material overall reportedly finds the Diaz sisters writing some of the most visceral, politically charged material they’ve released to date — and while being firmly rooted in Afro-Cuban culture and history, the material thematically centers on the present — who the Diaz sisters are now, after a year in which the world has turned upside down, and issues of racial, gender and sexual identity are at the core of our most vexing political issues.

“Deathless,” Ash‘s second single found the Diaz sisters collaborating with Kamasi Washington, who contributes saxophone lines that mange to be mournful, outraged, proud, bold and riotous — within a turn of a phrase. Thematically speaking, the song is inspired by an outrageous and humiliating experience Lisa-Kainde had when she was 16 — she was wrongly arrested by French police for a crime she didn’t commit. Throughout the song is a sense of fear, knowing that the police could practically do anything they wanted without reprisal; of righteous rage that’s palpable yet impotent in the face of a power that can crush you at will; of the recognition that you can never escape racism or unfair treatment; and the shame of being made to feel small and worthless while knowing that it’ll happen repeatedly throughout your life. As Lisa Kainde explains in press notes I was writing Deathless as an anthem for everybody!” For every minority. For everybody that feels that they are nothing, that feels small, that feels not cared about and I want them to listen to our song and for three minutes feel large, powerful, deathless. I have a huge amount of respect for people who fought for, what I think, are my rights today and if we all sing together  ‘we are deathless, ’they will be living through us into a better world.”

“Me Voy,” Ash’s latest single finds the Diaz sisters collaborating with Mala Rodriguez, the Latin Grammy Award-winning rapper known for sensual and provoking lyrics, in a slickly produced and sensual club banger in which Naomi Diaz’s bata is interacted with big, club rocking beats and swooning electronics finds the Diaz sisters singing lyrics completely in Spanish for the first time. As Naomi Diaz explains “English, Spanish and Yoruba inspire us to write different kinds of music and lyrics.” “We needed to sing in Spanish to set a sensual tone for this song. When women feel sensual, not only is it sexy, but also powerful,” adds Lisa-Kaindé Diaz. 

Directed by Manson and produced by Canada, the recently released music video features Ibeyi and Mala Rodriguez playing prominent roles. Beginning with the women hanging out together and singing the song, splits time between the women dancing sensually to the beat in front of strobe light or singing the song in a surreal, Adam and Eve-like backdrop. 

Now known as the Federal Republic of Somalia, most Westerners view the country as being a lawless, dysfunctional and broken country, split and reeling from a brutal and bloody civil war between two or three different factions — and while that has been true over the past 25-30 years, what Westerners and others have sadly forgotten is that because of its location,the Eastern African nation for known for more than a millennium for being a major trading post, with several powerful Somali empires dominating regional trade, including the Ajuran Empire, the Adal Sultanate, the Warsangali Sultanate, and the Geledi Sultanate. And as one of antiquity’s major trade posts, the cultures and peoples of the Arabian Peninsula, Persia, India, Southeast Asian and China found a way to influence and slowly work their way into the region’s unique musical culture and sound.

In the late 19th century, the British and Italian empires through a series of treaties with Somalia’s historical empires and sultanates gained greater control of parts of the country’s coastline, establishing the colonies of British Somaliland and Italian Somaliland while Mohammed Abdullah Hassan’s Dervish State fought and defeated the British four times before a crushing defeat by the British in 1920. Italy, then acquired full control of the northeastern, central and southern parts of the country after defeating the Majerteen Sultanate and the Sultanate of Hobyo — and their occupation of the country lasted until 1941 when the British took over with a military administration. British Somaliland would remain a protectorate of the British while Italian Somaliland became a United Nations Trusteeship under Italian administration, the Trust Territory of Somaliland.

Throughout the late 1950s and 1960s, independence movements across Africa helped to redefine the map; in fact, by 1960 Italian Somaliland and British Somaliland united in 1960 to form the Somali Republic under a civilian and democratic based government. Sadly, democratic government didn’t last long; by 1969, the Supreme Revolutionary Council led by authoritarian Mohamed Siad Barre seized power and established the Somali Democratic Republic.

Now that I’ve gone through roughly 1000 years or so of Somali history in a couple of hundred words, things musically for us begin in more contemporary times — 1988. You see, back in 1988 on the eve of a bloody, two-decade civil war, Siad Barre launched a series of punishing air strikes in Somalia’s northern region, known known as Somaliland in an attempt to smash a growing independence movement within that region of the country.

Musically speaking things for us begin in relatively contemporary times — 1988. On the eve of a bloody, two decade plus civil war, Siad Barre launched a series of punishing air strikes in Somalia’s northern section, now known as Somaliland in an attempt to squash a rumbling independence movement within the region. Unsurprisingly, one of the targets Said Barre targeted for airstrikes was the regional radio station Radio Hargeisa, as a way to prevent the organization of further resistance. Knowing that an attack on their radio station and their hometown was imminent, a handful of radio operators, tastemakers and historians recognized that they needed to preserve more than 50 years of modern Somali music as quickly as possible — and it meant finding a way to remove thousands upon thousands of cassette tapes, records and master reels and then dispersing them to neighboring countries like Djibouti and Ethiopia — or in many instances, burying the tapes deep underground to protect them from theft, airstrikes, fire and so on.

The Somali Civil War broke out in 1991 and it resulted both the collapse of Mohamed Siad Barre’s government and a number of armed factions fighting for influence and control throughout the country’s southern region. With the absence of a central government, Somalia quickly began to known as a failed state with residents returning to customary and religious law in most regions, along with a couple of autonomous regions — namely Somaliland and Puntland. But interestingly, the early part of the millennium saw the creation of several fledgling and sputtering federal administrations, including the Transitional Federal Government, which in 2004 reestablished national institutions such as the military. And with the assistance of Ethiopian troops, the Transitional Federal Government assumed control of the country’s southern conflict zones, beating back the Islamic Courts Union, which eventually splintered into a several radical Islamicist groups, including Al-Shabaab, a group that continued an ongoing battle with the Transitional Federal Government and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) for control of the region and its territory.

By 2012, insurgent groups had lost most of the territory they had seized, and a political process that provided benchmarks for the establishment of a permanent democracy  — and it included the drafting of a provisional constitution, which reformed Somalia as a federation. At the end of that lengthy process was the creation of the Federal Government of Somalia, the first permanent government in the country in well over 20 years, followed by a period of necessary and hopeful reconstruction in Mogadishu.

Remember those audio recordings that the engineers, programmers, historians and tastemakers dispatched to Djibouti and Ethopia and buried in various locations across the region? Interestingly enough, those recordings were recently excavated from their shelters with some of those recordings being kept in the 10,000 cassette tape archives of the Red Sea Foundation, the largest known collection of Somali music and cassettes, located in Somaliland’s capital Hargeisa. (Yes, things do and can come full circle.)

Ostinato Records, best known for the preservation, digitalization, and distribution of obscure world music was able to digitized a significantly large portion of the Red Sea Foundation’s archives, choosing 15 songs as part of their latest compilation of African music Sweet as Broken Dates: Lost Somali Tapes from the Horn of Africa. And while revealing the diversity of styles and sounds of Somali musicianship, the compilation also provides a glimpse of life in Mogadishu in the 1970s and 1980s, when the coastal capital was referred to as the “Pearl of the Indian Ocean.” At the time bands like Iftiin, Sharero and Dur Dur played at some of East Africa’s glitziest nightclubs, while Waaberi Band played packed to the rafter sets at the national theater.  Nightlife, music, culture and art were enormous — and interestingly while there were renowned male vocalists like Mahmud “Jerry” Hussen, Somali music of the 70s and 80s were best known for beloved female vocalists Faadumo Qaasim, Hibo Nuura, Sahra Dawo and a collection of truly empowered, prolific women; in fact, half of the compilation features songs sung by and written by women.

This cultural and musical golden age occurred under a socialist, military dictatorship, which effectively nationalized the country’s music industry. The state owned a thriving scene and essentially music was recorded for and by national radio stations, and it was distributed and disseminated through public broadcasts or live performances. Privately owned labels were non-existent and the work of a generation of artists was never made available for mass release in the way it is elsewhere — and until recently, hadn’t been heard outside of Somalia or its immediate neighbors. Most of that period, Somali music was largely influenced by the cultures and people who traveled to the region throughout its history as a major trade port; however, during the height of the Cold War, Somalia had periods of financial and logistical support by both the Soviets and the US in the Ethio-Somali War — and with about a decade of US backing, American soul, funk and hip-hop captured the imaginations of Somali youth, adding to a unique element to the country’s musical culture and sound.

While compiling the tracks on Sweet as Broken Dates: Lost Somali Tapes from the Horn of Africa, members of the Ostinato Records team spent the better part of a year traveling back and forth between Mogadishu, Hargeisa, Djibouti and across the Somali Diaspora in parts of Europe, the US and the Middle East to track down the musicians, songwriters, composers, government officials, scenesters, radio personalities and other folks, who had played a role during the 1970s and 1980s and got their stories down in a detailed, 15,000 word liner note booklet.


As the folks at Obstinato Records explain in press notes “Along side the story of Somalia’s music before the civil war, the selection is also focused on the pan-Somali sound. Spread over much of the Horn of Africa, Somali language and culture transcend arbitrary borders. Somali singers from Djibouti were at home in Mogadishu.” They add that “this compilation  seeks to revive the rightful image, history, and identity of the Somali people, detached from war, violence, piracy, and the specter of a persistent threat.”

Now, as you may recall, the compilations’ first single Danan Hargeysa’s “Uur Hooyo (Mother’s Womb)” feat. Mohamed “Huro” Abdihashi was recorded and released back in 1987 and the breezy confection nods at the trippy psychedelia of dub and dubstep as the collaborators pair a shuffling, two-step-like rhythm with explosive blasts of horn, shimmering synths, Nile Rodgers-like guitar and a strutting bass line, and while revealing an obvious reggae and calypso influence, the song possesses an undeniably sunny and funky vibe. Recently, the folks at Ostinato Records released two more singles from the compilation, Aamina Camaari’s “Rag waa Nacab iyo Nasteexo (Men are Cruel and Kind)” and Sharaf Band’s “Kadeed Badanaa Naftaydani (My Life is Full of Tribulations)” feat. Xawoo Hirraan in anticipation of its official release on August 25, 2017.

Aamina Camaari’s “Rag waa Nacab iyo Nasteexo (Men are Cruel and Kind)” is an achingly gorgeous and slow-burning lament of a song that pairs Camaari’s ethereal and plaintive vocals with a lush and soaring Middle Eastern and Indian-inspired string arrangement and percussion and Casio synthesizer-like beats that dimly reminds a bit of Omar Souleyman, The Bombay Royale and JOVM mainstays Tinariwen while being absolutely unlike anything I can quite describe; but at its core is an an ancient and timeless ache. Sharaf Band’s “Kadeed Badanaa Naftaydani (My Life is Full of Tribulations)” feat. Xawoo Hirraan is a swaggering and funky track that manages to sound as though it drew influence from Afrobeat and American soul and funk; but much like the preceding single, it features the ethereal and plaintive vocals of Xawaoo Hirraan, which give the song a similar ache.

Certainly, all three tracks from the forthcoming compilation evoke a far simpler time full of laughter, flowing beer and wine, of dancing until the sun came up and walking home in a drunken and elated shuffle, with arms draped over the shoulders of a companion or two, softly singing — and of sad love songs that speak directly to the lonely heart. No matter the language, it’s the sound of fleeting youth and swooning hearts before life’s ambiguities and horrors.


New Video: The Bombay Royale Return with Trippy Mortal Kombat-like Visuals for Swooning and Coquettish New Single “I Love You Love You”

Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site over the course of its history, you may have come across a couple of posts featuring the Australian-based Bollywood outfit, including a glowing review of You Me Bullets Love, an album which was conceived as the soundtrack of an imaginary yet prototypical Bollywood feature film — in this case, an epic production that was one part international, espionage thriller, full of double, triple and even quadruple crosses, a lengthy one take chase scene shot through in Kolkata, Delhi or someplace like that, a comedic sequence, three or four insanely choreographed dance sequences, and lastly a love story to boot; in other words, one of those one-size-fits-all, crowd pleasing sort of movies, which in theory shouldn’t work but somehow sort of does. And even if you couldn’t take the tonal shifts and thought of it all as some of the dumbest stuff on earth, you’d dig the soundtrack; in fact, with You Me Bullets Love, the album’s material manages to effortlessly meshed propulsive, four-on-the-floor-based disco and funk, Ennio Morricone-like film scores and psych rock with traditional, Indian instrumentation and chord structures. 

It’s been a few years since I’ve written about the Australian-based, retro Bollywood collective but as it turns out, they were busy writing and recording the material, which would comprise their forthcoming Tristan Ludowyk-produced, third full-length effort, Run Kitty Run. Much like its predecessors, the band’s third full-length album, which is slated for an August 11, 2017 release through Hope Street Recordings was conceived as the soundtrack to a lost Bollywood film but interestingly enough, the album also finds the band expanding and experimenting with their sound a bit. While further cementing their reputation for crafting a sound, primarily based around retro Bollywood and featuring lyrics sung in Hindi, Bengali and English, Run Kitty Run filters things through 80s electro pop and New Wave, psych rock, surf rock and desert rock/stoner rock to create an imaginary soundtrack for a film based in a dysfunctional, post-Apocalyptic future full of robotic horsemen, killer satellites, grinning sadhus, love, betrayal, seemingly hopeless situations, impossible escapes and unlikely salvation. 

Interestingly, Run Kitty Run’s second and latest single, album title track “Run Kitty Run,” 
focuses on a romantic situation that should feel familiar to most of us — in particular, a rom com-like meet cute that becomes a budding romance of sorts between a jaded woman, who may be wild about this latest suitor but just doesn’t buy him completely and a plaintive man, who practically says “there’s someone out there for you — it’s me.” And as a result, the song which nods at 80s Talking Heads as angular guitar chords are paired with fiery blasts of horns, a sinuous bass line, psych rock and shimmering synths reveals the band’s dedication to crafting dance floor-friendly hooks; however, the song reveals a band restlessly experimenting with their sound and songwriting approach in a way that’s familiar yet alien while wildly crowd pleasing. But perhaps much more important is that while retaining their renowned cinematic bombast, the song may arguably be one of the best examples of the collective actively writing ambitiously crafted yet coquettish songs. 

Directed and produced by Yoav Lester, the recently released video for “I Love You Love You” is a wild, psychedelic romp that features a couple of epic dance-for-you life dance sequence/battle set deep into the cosmos and while being goofy and wild, the video also manages to nod at Mortal Kombat and others.