Apr 23, 2015

Nubiyan Twist - Nubiyan Twist


Nubiyan Twist are a 12 piece outfit based in Leeds/London, fusing groove driven music from around the world with soundsystem culture and jazz inspired improvisation. A culmination of musicians, dj's and producers alike, the band strives to encourage artistic and social unity between different cultures and musical styles. Notable influences include the likes of Fela Kuti, King Tubby, J Dilla and Herbie Hancock.

Over the band's 3 year lifespan they have collaborated with Ruby Wood (Submotion Orchestra) and played alongside the likes of De La Soul, Hot 8 Brass Band, Quantic, Robert Glasper, DJ Yoda and DJ Vadim to name a few. With two one-off releases under their belt and an EP due in October 2014, Nubiyan Twist are now working on their debut album at Henwood Studios.

nubiyantwist.co.uk



What we mean by a "group" has grown in recent years to encompass everything from a boisterous guitar/drums duo to an amorphous horn-rich collective, and this Leeds-born band has made that journey of expansion as it embraced the music of Africa, America and Jamaica on the road to a very fine debut album indeed. Like our own Federation of the Disco Pimp or Fat Suit, Nubiyan Twist is packed with fine players, and, crucially, fronted by a charismatic singer in Nubiya Brandon. The jazz chops are present and correct, with opening track, Turu, built on an lovely arpeggiating sax figure, but this twelve-piece has an eclecticism that sets it apart. Straight Lines is the most retro offering, owing its style to the funk-bop of Lee Morgan or Hank Mobley that can still pack a dancefloor today, but Hypnotised owes more to the British reggae of Steel Pulse, Aswad or Capital Letters, complete with some old-school toasting (as distinct from rap). Figure Numatic is a slice of fusion funk, with hip-hop rapping this time, built on a trumpet riff and concluding with a drum solo that deliciously muffles out. Shake Me Down is a beautifully constructed 8 minutes 20 seconds of musical Minecraft. Addictive stuff.

heraldscotland.com 

LIVE REVIEW:

It was a privilege to watch this 12-piece dub/afrobeat/hip-hop group play at the Brixton Jamm. Before the night, I had only heard their recent single – ‘Work House’, which is a badass, well-produced, modern neo-soul classic, reviewed previously on Lost In The Manor. So while I was excited about their set, I didn’t quite know what to expect. ‘Work House’, it turns out, is not that representative of their live show. The song is a masterpiece, but compared to the rest of their set, somewhat conventional. Nubiyan Twist’s live show was an intense afrobeat, jazz party/workout with long improvised passages.
From the start it was clear that none of the members had let their obvious talent go to their heads. All 12 smiled unpretentiously as they created a groove that invited us all to join their party. The African rhythms took hold of us and no-one could help dancing despite the Brixton Jamm being so rammed that we could barely move. This was a completely inclusive relationship between band and audience: the glue between the two entities was the hypnotic afrobeat groove, taking hold of everyone’s consciousness like a drug.
She emerged gracefully from the shadows a few minutes into the first song, sidling between the keyboard player and the brass section to her place behind the microphone. With a look that could be described as somewhere between African Queen and Geisha, Nubiya Brandon used her long fingers and slender arms to form shapes in the air – looking like she could have come from an art-nouveau painting. Sassy yet elegant, feline yet powerful, Brandon cut an imposing figure on stage. However, what charmed about her performance was her lack of ego in terms of her place in the band. She oozed style and confidence, but as the frontwoman of Nubiyan Twist, saw herself as firmly being a part of the collective, and let all the other performers shine equally.
Within the framework of the groove, each performer was given a canvas on which to explore new territory in their solos. I particularly enjoyed Oliver Cadman’s keyboard solos, with spiky left hand chords climbing through unexpected changes, and a nimble and innovative right hand. Denis Skully’s explorations on the tenor saxophone were imaginative and reminiscent of Coltrane. It was also a thrill to have Tom Davison on the decks, whose scratching and use of effects brought an urban dimension to their sound. Standing in the darkness on the far left of the stage stood Brazilian multi-instrumentalist Pill Adami, who was on percussion and vocals throughout most of the set. In a subtle way he seemed to conduct the collective, with his perfect sense of rhythm and impassioned vocals. Nubiya had already dedicated one of their songs to Fela Kuti, but for their encore, Pilo Adami slung a guitar over his shoulder and took to the centre of the stage to lead the band through Fela Kuti’s ‘Gentleman’.
I bought the Nubiyan Twist CD and I can’t stop playing it. The performances are immaculate and the production tasteful. But every time a soloist gets going on one of the tracks, I just want it to continue. Listening to the record makes me want to see them live, to witness that incredible energy, that synergy of forces, the wild solos and to be a part of that Nubian Twist party again. - See more at: http://lostinthemanor.co.uk/blog/live-review-nubiyan-twist-at-brixton-jamm-14315/#sthash.NbMl3Ep9.dpuf
It was a privilege to watch this 12-piece dub/afrobeat/hip-hop group play at the Brixton Jamm. Before the night, I had only heard their recent single – ‘Work House’, which is a badass, well-produced, modern neo-soul classic, reviewed previously on Lost In The Manor. So while I was excited about their set, I didn’t quite know what to expect. ‘Work House’, it turns out, is not that representative of their live show. The song is a masterpiece, but compared to the rest of their set, somewhat conventional. Nubiyan Twist’s live show was an intense afrobeat, jazz party/workout with long improvised passages.
From the start it was clear that none of the members had let their obvious talent go to their heads. All 12 smiled unpretentiously as they created a groove that invited us all to join their party. The African rhythms took hold of us and no-one could help dancing despite the Brixton Jamm being so rammed that we could barely move. This was a completely inclusive relationship between band and audience: the glue between the two entities was the hypnotic afrobeat groove, taking hold of everyone’s consciousness like a drug.
She emerged gracefully from the shadows a few minutes into the first song, sidling between the keyboard player and the brass section to her place behind the microphone. With a look that could be described as somewhere between African Queen and Geisha, Nubiya Brandon used her long fingers and slender arms to form shapes in the air – looking like she could have come from an art-nouveau painting. Sassy yet elegant, feline yet powerful, Brandon cut an imposing figure on stage. However, what charmed about her performance was her lack of ego in terms of her place in the band. She oozed style and confidence, but as the frontwoman of Nubiyan Twist, saw herself as firmly being a part of the collective, and let all the other performers shine equally.
Within the framework of the groove, each performer was given a canvas on which to explore new territory in their solos. I particularly enjoyed Oliver Cadman’s keyboard solos, with spiky left hand chords climbing through unexpected changes, and a nimble and innovative right hand. Denis Skully’s explorations on the tenor saxophone were imaginative and reminiscent of Coltrane. It was also a thrill to have Tom Davison on the decks, whose scratching and use of effects brought an urban dimension to their sound. Standing in the darkness on the far left of the stage stood Brazilian multi-instrumentalist Pill Adami, who was on percussion and vocals throughout most of the set. In a subtle way he seemed to conduct the collective, with his perfect sense of rhythm and impassioned vocals. Nubiya had already dedicated one of their songs to Fela Kuti, but for their encore, Pilo Adami slung a guitar over his shoulder and took to the centre of the stage to lead the band through Fela Kuti’s ‘Gentleman’.
I bought the Nubiyan Twist CD and I can’t stop playing it. The performances are immaculate and the production tasteful. But every time a soloist gets going on one of the tracks, I just want it to continue. Listening to the record makes me want to see them live, to witness that incredible energy, that synergy of forces, the wild solos and to be a part of that Nubian Twist party again. - See more at: http://lostinthemanor.co.uk/blog/live-review-nubiyan-twist-at-brixton-jamm-14315/#sthash.NbMl3Ep9.dpuf
 It was a privilege to watch this 12-piece dub/afrobeat/hip-hop group play at the Brixton Jamm. Before the night, I had only heard their recent single – ‘Work House’, which is a badass, well-produced, modern neo-soul classic, reviewed previously on Lost In The Manor. So while I was excited about their set, I didn’t quite know what to expect. ‘Work House’, it turns out, is not that representative of their live show. The song is a masterpiece, but compared to the rest of their set, somewhat conventional. Nubiyan Twist’s live show was an intense afrobeat, jazz party/workout with long improvised passages.

From the start it was clear that none of the members had let their obvious talent go to their heads. All 12 smiled unpretentiously as they created a groove that invited us all to join their party. The African rhythms took hold of us and no-one could help dancing despite the Brixton Jamm being so rammed that we could barely move. This was a completely inclusive relationship between band and audience: the glue between the two entities was the hypnotic afrobeat groove, taking hold of everyone’s consciousness like a drug.

She emerged gracefully from the shadows a few minutes into the first song, sidling between the keyboard player and the brass section to her place behind the microphone. With a look that could be described as somewhere between African Queen and Geisha, Nubiya Brandon used her long fingers and slender arms to form shapes in the air – looking like she could have come from an art-nouveau painting. Sassy yet elegant, feline yet powerful, Brandon cut an imposing figure on stage. However, what charmed about her performance was her lack of ego in terms of her place in the band. She oozed style and confidence, but as the frontwoman of Nubiyan Twist, saw herself as firmly being a part of the collective, and let all the other performers shine equally.

Within the framework of the groove, each performer was given a canvas on which to explore new territory in their solos. I particularly enjoyed Oliver Cadman’s keyboard solos, with spiky left hand chords climbing through unexpected changes, and a nimble and innovative right hand. Denis Skully’s explorations on the tenor saxophone were imaginative and reminiscent of Coltrane. It was also a thrill to have Tom Davison on the decks, whose scratching and use of effects brought an urban dimension to their sound. Standing in the darkness on the far left of the stage stood Brazilian multi-instrumentalist Pill Adami, who was on percussion and vocals throughout most of the set. In a subtle way he seemed to conduct the collective, with his perfect sense of rhythm and impassioned vocals. Nubiya had already dedicated one of their songs to Fela Kuti, but for their encore, Pilo Adami slung a guitar over his shoulder and took to the centre of the stage to lead the band through Fela Kuti’s ‘Gentleman’.

I bought the Nubiyan Twist CD and I can’t stop playing it. The performances are immaculate and the production tasteful. But every time a soloist gets going on one of the tracks, I just want it to continue. Listening to the record makes me want to see them live, to witness that incredible energy, that synergy of forces, the wild solos and to be a part of that Nubian Twist party again.

lostinthemanor.co.uk 


Apr 22, 2015

Geraldo Pino


A playboy bandleader and singer, he helped shape African music


When he appeared at the Barbican in London last May, the singer, guitarist and bandleader Geraldo Pino, who has died aged 69, revealed himself as one of the forgotten fathers of African popular music. He had a major influence on west Africa's soul, funk and Afrobeat scene in the 1960s and 70s, and made a huge impression on the young Fela Kuti, yet his music had been largely unheard for the past 30 years.

Born and raised as Gerald Pine in Freetown, Sierra Leone, he was the son of a Nigeria-based lawyer and lost his mother and sister at an early age. Rebelling against his background, he started playing music at a social club and co-founded the Heartbeats at the start of the 1960s, playing covers of American hits and Congolese versions of rumba, then sweeping west Africa. The most famous Congolese musicians were Franco and Dr Nico, whose names inspired Gerald Pine to turn into the exotic "Geraldo Pino".

Playing Freetown nightclubs such as the Flamingo, Palm Beach and Tiwana, the Heartbeats became one of the highest earning bands in west Africa, and when television was introduced in Sierra Leone in 1962, Pino and the Heartbeats had their own show. In early 1963 they cut their first records - including Maria Lef For Waka, Heartbeats Merengue and Zamzie - which were released on his own Pino Records label. Zamzie is still used by Voice of America as a signature tune.

Africa was alive with dance music in those optimistic, post-colonial days and the Heartbeats provided a sophisticated, internationalised sound which began to challenge the ubiquitous highlife. Pino was also a great manager, promoter and businessman. Touring Ghana and Nigeria (1965-67), he was very much the playboy pop star, with a Pontiac convertible, flashy clothes and, most importantly, hardware unheard of in Africa at that time: imported amplifiers pumping out the sound of his electronic instruments and a six-microphone PA system.

Pino had the stage presence to match, impressing women and men equally. Among his 1960s and 70s hits were Power to the People, Give Me Ganja, Let Them Talk and Make Me Feel Good.

He impressed Fela Kuti (then still Ransome Kuti) when he played Lagos, Nigeria. At the time the Nigerian was playing jazzy highlife while Pino arrived with James Brown's style of music and formidable equipment. "He had all Nigeria in his pocket," Fela said in 1982. "Made me fall right on my ass, man."

Pino returned to Nigeria in 1967, and later that year took up a residency at the Ringway hotel, Accra, Ghana. The original Heartbeats broke up at the end of the decade and he recruited Ghanaians for the new Heartbeats 72 from a psychedelic band, the Plastic Jims. In the 70s they played west African concerts alongside Jimmy Cliff, Rufus Thomas and Manu Dibango. Pino's records made him famous as far away as Kenya.

In 1969 he settled in Nigeria and never left, buying a TV station and the Airport hotel in the city of Port Harcourt. There he introduced up-and-coming Camerounian musicians and played with Fela Kuti. In 2005 two of his albums were reissued, bringing his sounds to a new generation. In London last year, he played again with former Heartbeats drummer and arranger Francis Fuster, and despite failing health acquitted himself well.

Pino had cancer and was diabetic. A Port Harcourt paper reported that he was being treated for "a mere pain on the foot when he finally gave up the ghost". Pino never married, though he is believed to have fathered several children.

Geraldo Pino (Gerald Pine), musician, born 10 February 1939; died 10 November 2008

 theguardian.com

Apr 21, 2015

K'naan - The Dusty Foot On The Road


Unless you willingly accept half-assed jobs, it’s impossible to review this album and not give a lengthy rundown of K’naan Warsame’s life. Most hip-hop artists use their childhood and formative teenage years as fuel for the bulk of their career’s rhymes. That part is nothing new. Gangsta rappers speak of the “hood” as something they still exist in, committing horrible atrocities against their own people no matter how long ago they moved into multi-million dollar Orange County mansions. Privileged indie rappers often use their youth to paint pictures of social injustice or the quirky happenstance that made them the characters they are. K’naan is different.

Though he counts as a Canadian in the census these days, K’naan was born and raised in Mogadishu, Somalia. He lived there ‘til the tender age of 13, when the civil war became too heated. His family was lucky enough to get a visa on the last day the US Embassy was open and snag a ticket on the last commercial flight out of the country. An original import to Harlem, the Warsame family quickly relocated to Ontario and they’ve stayed there ever since. Before all that, young K’naan (which means “traveler” in his native tongue) was already honing his mic skills as he memorized Nas and Rakim verses phonetically since he spoke no English at the time. His grandfather had been one of his country’s most revered poets, so he came by the lyricist desire honestly.

With a flow often likened to a mix of a young Eminem (minus the mama done me wrong, kill my wife please bullshit) and poet of the people Bob Marley, Dusty Foot Philosopher hit the Canadian shelves in 2005. The Canuck version of the Grammys, the Juno’s gave it Best Rap Album that year and it received a nomination for the Polaris Music Prize (similar to the UK’s coveted Mercury Prize). It struck a chord with the socially conscious and resonated all the way back to Somalia, where several of the videos now included on the deluxe edition DVD were shot. Big fish K-os thought he was using the poor for commercial gain, but he really wants nothing more than to shed light on a troubled part of the world that developed countries find easy to ignore, a place that in many ways never left K’naan. That fact is evident in his words and in how he carries himself.

The opening track “Wash It Down” outlines his manifesto over a truly inspired instrumental, constructed purely out of splashing water. A disgustingly large percentage of the world does not have access to clean water and, working hand in hand with malnutrition, such contaminated supplies invariably cause a large portion of the illness in impoverished lands. Unbeknownst to most, water based diarrheal diseases actually lead to the death of around three-quarters of a million children under the age of five in sub-Saharan Africa and over half a million in south Asia every year. The gravity of this issue is alluded to by K’naan in stark contrast to the stress citizens of modern capitalist democracies live through, one based in bills, abusive advertising, unnecessarily overwhelming product selection, and warmongering governments.

As it fades, “Wash It Down” leads into the tribal rhythm of “Soobax” and the introduction of Track and Field’s production, a team best known for its work on the first two Nelly Furtado albums. Mixing Somali and English words, the track is a lyrical disembowelment of the gangsters who man renegade roadblocks in Africa and gun down those who refuse to pay or simply don’t live up to their fickle standards. In its own context, it’s a song of empowerment for the meek, those who are always in dire need of hope.  He may not live there any more, but K’naan clearly remembers what it was like to have three of his best friends shot in a single day, he understands the hope he desired at the time, and is doing his best to deliver it to the people who still need it. He is honestly trying to give back to the tragic birthplace of his soul, not merely profit from it like Fiddy Cent.

The subject of abusing the less fortunate for personal gain is given great elucidation by “What’s Hardcore?” NWA and thousands of subsequent wannabe thugs have made careers from saying, “fuck da police.” Far from living the dream, K’naan grew up where there were no police as well as ambulance, firefighters, or any semblance of a people-run government. As a child, playing around with what he thought was a potato, K’naan blew up half of his school when the pin fell out of the odd orb he dug from the ground, it started oddly ticking, he panicked, and tossed it as far as he could. Who do you call in that situation?  Scientologists? With purpose, at the ripe age of 13, his brother blew up a federal court. All of those gangsters at the roadblocks, thieves, riot provokers, and the like are practically indistinguishable from anyone else. Can you imagine what that would be like to live in? Well, it existed 15 years ago and it’s still going on today. The police may not be perfect, but once they’re gone, human nature dictates that all you can fuck is yourself. In 2008, there are pre-teens with no food, water, or basic formal education walking around with AK47s, and we’re supposed to think Curtis “P.I.M.P.” Jackson is a bad mutha because he wears a bulletproof vest while driving an armored Hummer around his gated estate in Farmington, Connecticut. As K’naan says, “If I rhyme about home and got descriptive / I’d make 50 Cent look like Limp Bizkit”. Strewth.

It’s been three years since Dusty Foot Philosopher first appeared in the frozen North, and this is its proper US debut. The messages are as urgent as can be and the production—mostly provided by Brian “Field” West and Gerald “Track” Eaton (a.k.a. Jarvis Church)—is as memorable today as ever. World music fueled beats will never go out of style, though it takes a special breed to carry them off. Still, it’s sad to say, but I can’t see the album having much of an impact in the land of the sleeping giant. We live in a world where Fiddy sells millions of albums boasting about being one of the roadblock gangsters shooting his own people and the only antithesis the commercial market seems willing to embrace is a lil’ pothead whoring lollipops and a guy in a glowing jacket who jams with Daft Punk.

America has spoken loud and clear about Somalia and Darfur, just like the poor in such cities as New Orleans and Detroit.  It would rather party to some chump covered in African blood diamond-encrusted gold crosses who has nothing deeper to offer than “throw your hands up” than deal with the reality that affords their illusions. You can’t blame them for not wanting to look behind the green curtain every day, it’s not the most fun way to live, but I don’t think it’s out of line to hope for more. Despite my pessimism, there are still millions of unerringly fantastic people in America today, and one person can still change the world for the better. It’s as easy as deciding to care and be aware that your actions have global repercussions. Even though the charts will likely never reflect your humanity, if all you ever do is throw away the selfish, chest-beating gangsta third-eye blindfolds and spread the good word to a few friends, the course of history will be grateful for such a small miracle. Any one of us has the ability to set in motion a domino effect of socially responsible positivism and at long last repeal the glorified lifestyle of woman-raping, drug-dealing, gay-bashing sociopaths with sideways hats. What you put out in the world comes back to you tenfold. K’naan has already done the hard work for us. All we have to do is walk a few steps in his shoes, walk away from what the corporate-strangled industry wants us to buy and towards something real. Take the path of the dusty foot philosopher.

popmatters.com 



K'naan means "traveler" in Somali. It is exactly what he has been all his life.

After living amidst a civil war in an impoverished Somalia up until the age of thirteen, K'naan began a new chapter of his life by utilizing his talents to its full capacity as he wanted to rhyme for a cause. First moving to Harlem with his mother and brother, they later relocated to Canada to begin a new life. Using his rhymes and spoken word to demonstrate the lack of response to Somalia's situation, K'naan performed for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in 1999 and later sought after for the 2001 Building Bridges album project which exposed exiled artists from Africa. After teaming up with Jarvis Church and the Track & Field team in 2002, "The Dusty Foot Philosopher" was released in Canada in 2005 and now will be released in the U.S. as a "Deluxe Edition" featuring newly mixed tracks, a bonus track, and an accompanying DVD in late June 2008.

Compared to a mixture of Eminem and Bob Marley, K'naan delivers socially conscious hip hop while ensuring his message of a struggling Somalia are heard. His fervor and passion for his beliefs clearly run through his rhymes and messages. The message is clear throughout "The Dusty Foot Philosopher"-Somalia is in need of help. K'naan exposes his audience to a country few know about and the real life situations still occurring in Somalia. It is the truth and this is what he speaks.
With this in mind, "The Dusty Foot Philosopher" takes us on a journey about the past, present, and future of life in Somalia through the eyes of K'naan as he envelopes us in his story full of reality and hope. K'naan relives his life while living in Somalia through his spoken word and in depth lyrics while painting a picture to his prior existence he once knew so well. As he explains in the beginning of "My Old Home" that many people always ask about his life back in Somalia, K'naan addresses the wonderment by his fans and elaborates on his past. In a spoken words cadence, K'naan explains his old house, the local people, his neighborhood and as the beat breaks he unfolds the darker side the life once lived. The factualness in his lyricism about the violence and chaos that erupted in Somalia is what his "old home" once consisted of.

With rapid drums and heavy synths, K'naan's message to criticize and challenge warlords who have pillaged Somalian soil comes to fruition in "Soobax." Although there has been a great deal of controversy with this track and religious values, K'naan openly decided to shoot the video for it in Kenya as he still decided it was something that needed to be done regardless of the slack he was receiving. As it was almost impossible to shoot back in Somalia as he feared for his life, K'naan felt the heat from fellow Canadian emcees that would later attest that K'naan was trying to be a "religious entertainer who wants to be a life saver." Amidst the upheaval drawn from "Soobax," K'naan's message is clear and concise as he shows that "soobax" simply means to "come out" as he pictures directly speaking in front of gunmen. A track that his brother even says K'naan could be killed for, in a different perspective "Soobax" instills the message of courage and fearlessness that many need to hear as he says:

"Basically, I got beef, I wanna talk to you directly, I
Can't ignore, I can't escape, and that's cause, you
Affect me, you cripple me, you shackle me, you shatter
My whole future in front of me, this energy, is killing
Me, I gotta let it pour like blood, soobax:

Dadkii waa dhibtee nagala soobax:
(Translation- you have exasperated the people so come out with it.)
Dhibkii waa batee nagla soobax:
(Translation - The troubles have increased so come out with it.)
Dhiigi waad qubtee nagala soobax:
(Translation- you've spilled the blood so that it drains on the Roads, so come out with it.)
Dhulkii waad gubtee nagala soobax:
(Translation-You've burnt the root of the earth, so come out with it.)"

 
Heavy electric and acoustic guitars summon "Strugglin'" as the slow beat enhances the message of the earnest effort for victory in an otherwise toxic environment. K'naan defines the true struggle of living in hostile areas while coping with the unrest of his country as he says, "Strugglin, and it's troublin', in this circumstance I'm dwelling in, I find myself in the corner huddling with some angry men and I gotta settle shit again before they gotta kill again." K'naan also brings to light the fact that unfortunate incidences are only appreciated after the fact such as Hurricane Katrina, the war on terrorism, or the upheaval in Somalia in "Hoobaale." With traditional sounds of Somalian strings and drums, "Hoobaale" begins with one of the best lines from K'naan to sum up the whole album as he says, "How come they fix the bridge only after somebody has fallen?"

Although K'naan is far from being liberated from the situation in Somalia, he remains optimistic that change will once happen. "'Til We Get There" featuring emcee M-1 of group dead prez and vocals from Stori James, explains the possibility of living in a world full of equality. Despite the reality of it all that we are still not at that point, "Til We Get There" shows the impossible is in fact possible if everyone stands by one another as K'naan and M-1 play off each other's rhymes as if speaking to each other about possible freedom.

Aside from the unrest in Somalia, K'naan delivers other poignant messages throughout "The Dusty Foot Philosopher." With a fast beat and hard bass in "What's Hardcore," K'naan discusses how the meaning to the word "hardcore" has become somewhat skewed in today's hip hop and youth K'naan shows that what most envision as "hardcore" isn't even half of it as he says:

"I'm a spit these verses cause I feel annoyed
And I'm not gonna quit till I fill the void
If I rhyme about home and got descriptive
I'd make 50 Cent look like Limp Bizkit
It's true, and don't make me rhyme about you
I'm from where the kids is addicted to glue
Get ready, he got a good grip on the machete
Make rappers say they do it for love like R. Kelly
It's hard, harder than Harlem and Compton intertwined
Harder than harboring Bin Laden and rewind"

 
The crux to "The Dusty Foot Philosopher" lies within the title track as K'naan explains what and who makes up that person. In a beautiful, poetic interpretation, K'naan unravels the mystery of "the dusty foot philosopher" who is "one that is poor, lives in poverty, but lives in a dignified manner and philosophizes about the universe" and who is represented by his old friend Mohamoud that was killed. Eloquent in his lyrics, his signature expressive nature describes a person who has "talked about things that well read people do and they've never read or they've never been on a plane, but can tell you what's beyond the clouds."

K'naan is an emcee like no other. His ideas of bringing forth an image beyond that of what is seen on television that merely depicts African and African children with dusty feet without knowledge is something he stands by strongly. In "The Dusty Foot Philosopher," his lyricism and strength to enlighten those otherwise unaware of constant upheaval existing throughout the world has opened many eyes to the reality of it all. Without hesitation or fear, he has shown the truths behind issues that were once ignored while incorporating his own life experiences to exemplify the severity of the situation. K'naan has opened doors for emcees in terms of content while showing that speaking the truth is the best type of lyricism. His unmatched articulateness and talents as an emcee only enhances the ever so changing hip hop industry while showing that self-expression is the only way to live even if it means living as a "dusty foot philosopher."

rapreviews.com 
 




Apr 17, 2015

"Ten Cities"


Soundway Records, along with the Goethe-Institute and Adaptr.org, present TEN CITIES a new compilation including, amongst many others, the likes of Bristol dubstep producer Pinch, Lisbon-based producer Batida and Kenyan group Just A Band, TEN CITIES is set for release on 10th November on CD, 3xLP and digital.

Between Autumn 2012 and Spring 2013 the TEN CITIES project brought electronic music producers and musicians from five cities in Europe (Berlin, Bristol, Kiev, Lisbon and Naples) to five cities in Africa (Cairo, Johannesburg, Lagos, Luanda and Nairobi) They were invited to collaborate and create, spending an intense time together making music in sticky studios and blacked-out rooms across the African continent.

TEN CITIES  put together approximately 50 electronic music producers and instrumentalists from the ten cities selected. They were invited to collaborate in studios over the course of more than six months. A selection of the outcome of these cross-continental experiments can be heard on this record.

It's no surprise that the results are far from what many would term 'World Music' and its often generic mixture of aural clichés, where all too often African music (as with that of the rest of the planet) from Mali to Madagascar, and from Morocco to Malawi is all filed under one ridiculous, meaningless genre. 

TEN CITIES attempts to do something quite different: whilst searching for common ground it is also trying to highlight the differences. As a result hip-hop from the squats of Naples, bass music from Bristol, experimental techno from Berlin or jazz-tinged deep-house from Kiev are thrust upon the pumping kuduro of Luanda, the free-thinking crackled electronica of Cairo, afro-jazz from Lagos or the Sheng street-slang of Kenyan rap.




Epic is the word that immediately springs to mind when trying to describe the laudable Ten Cities project. Effectively a stab at grasping the global fusion zeitgeist by fostering links between musicians, DJs and electronic producers across two continents, its’ aims run deeper. While this kind of cross-cultural collaboration is nothing new, it’s rarely been tried on this kind of grand scale. Of course, it’s the musical side of the project that will rightly grab the headlines, with this sprawling compilation on Soundway Records being the conclusion of a three-year process of cross-cultural studio collaborations and suitably celebratory parties and concerts throughout Europe and Africa. Ten Cities also encompasses research and academic publications focusing on the distinctive club scenes in each of the selected cities. A quick glance at the project website confirms the sheer number of people involved behind the scenes – not just 50 or so musicians, DJs and producers, but a similar number of researchers, curators and project coordinators.

The concept behind this project from Soundway is sound, essentially posing the question: what happens when you put together electronic producers from across Europe (Bristol, Berlin, Lisbon, Kiev and Naples) with musicians, vocalists and producers from the African cities Cairo, Johannesburg, Lagos, Luanda, and Nairobi? If Ten Cities is the answer, it might not initially feel as wild and adventurous as you’d expect, but the more you listen the more it’s inner qualities rise to the surface. For the most part, the music does a good job in pairing distinctive African elements – percussion, traditional instrumentation, and vocals, in particular – with complimentary electronic music styles.

Interestingly, there are few moments that jar on the compilation, despite the range of styles covered – experimental hip-hop, smoky dubstep, punchy kuduro, and dreamy deep house, and some harder to define musical fusions all appear. It might take a while to get your head round it all, but it’s worth the effort. Ten Cities is not without it’s immediate anthems, most notably the alien kuduro of “Boom Boom Boom”, Octapush’s hook-up with Kenyan combo Just A Band, and the Jamaica-to-Africa-via-Bristol-and-Berlin dubstep bounce of Rob Smith, Jah Device and Sasha Perera’s “Work!. There is also some fine deep house material, including, surprisingly, a 4/4 track from Bristol dubstep don Pinch, but it’s the more unusual and compositions that hit home hardest.

“10 Henry Nxumalo Street” by Dubmasta, Hannes Teichmann and Leon Erasmus stands out in particular. Featuring the distinctive beat poetry of Afurakan, occasional blasts of discordant percussion, dub techno textures, bubbling electronics and sublime ambient chords, it’s an unusual but brilliant chunk of cross-cultural pollination. Given his pedigree, its little surprise Ukrainian artist Vakula also impresses with the thrilling, Sun Ra style space jazz of “Jozi Sunset,” a collaboration with Planet Lindela. Oren Gerlitz and Karun’s “Orange Green” proves to be a fitting finale; a sparse exercise in electronic soul and one last musical twist on a compilation that’s full of them.
 
 
 
 


Tracklisting:
01. Octa Push Feat. Isaac – Khuchende Halala
02. Pinch Feat. Temi Oyedele – Are You Coming With Us?
03. Dirty Paraffin Feat. Hannes Teichmann – Choborops
04. Lunabe & Djeff Feat. MC Sacerdote & MC Yola Noivada – Temedo
05. Batida Feat. Cannibal – Mama Watoto
06. Just A Band & Octa Push – Boom Boom Boom
07. Lunabe Feat. MC Sacerdote – Quero Falar
08. Rob Smith Feat. Jah Device & Sasha Perera – Work!
09. Wura Samba & Gebru_der Teichmann – Antere
10. Diamond Version, Bikya & Wetrobots – DV_BK_WR_01
11. Vakula & Planet Lindela Feat. Okmalumkoolkat, Thuli Mdlalose, Tshepang Ramoba & Moonchild – Ten Cities Masala
12. Perera Elsewhere Feat. Aremu – Ebora (Spirits)
13. Dubmasta, Hannes Teichmann & Leon Ersamus Feat. Afurakan – 10 Henry Nxumalo Street
14. Diamond Version, Bikya & Wetrobots – DV_BK_WR_01
15. Afrologic Feat. Aremu, Temi Oyedele & Wura Samba – Omode Mewa (Ten Little Children)
16. Vakula & Planet Lindela – Jozi Sunset
17. Oren Gerlitz Feat. Karun – Orange Green

Apr 16, 2015

Highlife On The Move: Selected Nigerian & Ghanaian Recordings from London & Lagos 1954-66


In conjunction with compiler and highlife researcher Dr. Markus Coester, Soundway Records present a very special release. Double CD & triple 180g gatefold vinyl (with a bonus 7 inch).

This 45 includes the two first ever recordings by a certain Fela Ransome Kuti with his band The Highlife Rakers. Recorded by Melodisc in London in 1960 both tracks have been unearthed after more than fifty years in hiding.


In many ways this compilation is a prequel of sorts to Soundway's groundbreaking Nigeria & Ghana Special compilations, telling the early story of modern highlife's foundation & formulation. It traces the music from West Africa to London, adding elements of jazz, mambo and calypso along the way and paving the way for the afro sounds of the 1970s.

Accompanied by a 44 page CD booklet and 12 page vinyl booklet, the notes by Dr. Coester include rare photographs, labels and advert reproductions alongside some stunning and very rare recordings.

soundwayrecords.com



This two-CD (or three-LP) compilation covers a period of musical history that remains under-documented but has been hugely influential on the ensuing half century. It brings together thirty-eight tracks by musicians of Nigerian or Ghanaian origin, recorded in Nigeria, Ghana or London, between 1954 and 1966. An indication of the music's vintage is that many of the tracks were originally issued on ten-inch 78 rpm shellac discs or seven-inch 45's; however, there can be no quibbles about the sound quality of the compilation. Those thirty-eight tracks feature some twenty-five ensembles, ranging from those including well-recognised names through to quite a few that have long been forgotten. Irrespective of that, the quality of the music is uniformly high; the compiler seems to have selected on that basis more than of celebrity.

The album opens with a track by one of the better known names, Nigerian-born percussionist Ginger Johnson, who settled in London after World War II and played in various jazz band and orchestras. In the fifties he released several singles that were some of the first recordings of African music released in Britain. In the sixties he played with many jazz and rock performers, culminating in his appearance onstage with The Rolling Stones at their Hyde Park concert in 1969. (Incidentally, Freestyle Records is planning a re-release of the album African Party by Ginger Johnson and his African Messengers.) His opening track here, "Highlife No. 5," plunges us straight into the distinctive dance rhythm of West African highlife music, a sound which dominates the compilation; the track's free-blowing horn breaks, also typical of highlife, are certain to appeal to any jazz fan with a pulse.

Another name that leaps out of the credits is that of Kwamalah Quaye; better known as Cab Quaye. This English-born Ghanaian was the son of bandleader Caleb Quaye and so was part of a musical dynasty that included his own sons Caleb and Finley Quaye as well as trip-hop star Tricky. Cab had an illustrious career in jazz bands and orchestras before rediscovering his African roots in the fifties and forming his Sextetto Africana which blended African and Cuban music, as illustrated by their track "Son of Africa" here.

But if any name here is guaranteed to make aficionados of African music sit up and take notice it must be that of Fela Ransome-Kuti. The future Afrobeat superstar arrived in London in 1958 to study medicine, but soon switched to studying music. By the start of 1960 his first recording—credited to Fela Kuti & His Highlife Rakers—had been released. Never before re-released, both sides of that ten-inch 78 rpm single are included here, entitled "Fela's Special" and "Aigana." Heard in isolation, each of them is a powerful, horn-driven piece that is compellingly danceable (and destined to be sampled, no doubt!) But heard in the context of the whole album, they do not stand out as being special, eloquent testament to the uniformly high quality of the music here.

Another later track by Kuti—with his Koola Lobitos ("cool cats")—is also included and it throws light on another aspect of London during this period. Entitled "Nigeria Independence," the track is one of three tracks here celebrating independence, another being "Ghana, Forward Forever" by Lord Ganda & Rupert Nurse's Calypso Band. Between 1958 and 1966, many Commonwealth countries became independent. So, during most of the period covered by this compilation, Britain was still a colonial power, with many London residents having been born in Africa or the Caribbean. Consequently, the city was a melting pot in which there was frequent cross-fertilisation between different musical cultures. As with the Cab Quaye track, there is frequent evidence of that throughout this album, for instance with elements of calypso being obvious is some supposedly African tracks. This was decades before the "world music" label existed, but the influence of one continent's music on another's was already happening.

In addition to its thirty-eight fine tracks, this album is a mine of information, including a forty-four page booklet of rare photographs and notes by Dr. Markus Coestler, highlife scholar and compiler of the album. Although it is undoubtedly of great historic interest, the music here is far more than that and will be a source of enjoyment for many, for years to come. 

allaboutjazz.com



Apr 15, 2015

Apr 10, 2015

Zongo Junction - No Discount


Biography

Generating a well-deserved buzz in NYC’s exploding afrobeat scene, Zongo Junction electrifies dance floors wherever they perform. The Village Voice describes their live show as “Sheer energy with the force of a tractor-trailer that roars with power and noise.” With five horns, and a six-piece rhythm section, audiences can’t help but move no matter where the band is playing.

If the Talking Heads produced a Fela Kuti record of Sun Ra’s music, the product would probably sound something like Brooklyn’s Zongo Junction, and in an industry where it has become commonplace to watch bands perform with laptops & backing tracks instead of live musicians, Zongo Junction takes the stage 11 strong. “The only thing Zongo Junction has to do to start a legitimate dance party is show up and plug in – anyone within a square block earshot of this Ford-tough funk factory would be hard pressed not to join in the hoopla” says the Bay Area’s SF Station.

Zongo Junction formed in 2009, when drummer and California native, Charles Ferguson, returned from a six-month stay in Ghana, West Africa. “Growing up in the Bay Area, I was exposed to a lot of amazing music from many different cultures, a lot of which had roots in West Africa. As a kid, a few different music teachers introduced me to afrobeat, and the pioneers of the genre—Fela Kuti, Tony Allen, OJ Ekemode, Sunny Ade and others. My love of African music brought me to Ghana in 2008 and when I returned to New York, I knew I wanted to start this band.”

In college at the New School, Charles and a classmate put together a list of friends who they thought would be good fits for the band. Soon after they started rehearsing, Zongo Junction began performing and developing a following in East Coast clubs. They made their first album, Thieves! (2010), which included a collaboration with longtime Fela Kuti band member, Leon Kaleta Ligan-Majek, and quickly began performing at venues & festivals around the country including a residency at Brooklyn Bowl, a main stage performance at the Bear Creek Music & Arts Festival in Florida, and an appearance at the Kennedy Center in DC. More recently the band has collaborated with FELA! cast member Abena Koomson. Members of the band have performed or recorded with TV On The Radio, Man Man, Easy Star All-Stars and The Walkmen, among others.

The band is hard at work recording their second album, scheduled for release in 2013. “In writing this music as a collective, a lot of really cool new influences have emerged,” points out tenor saxophonist Adam Schatz. The music on the album embraces the individual members’ interests, from Dirty Projectors, to Albert Ayler, Wu Tang to Meshuggah. At the music’s core, you will always find the infectiously danceable West African grooves that are the foundation of Zongo Junction. The band effortlessly ties it all together, resulting in a unique version of afrobeat.




Zongo Junction, a multitudinous Afrobeat collective based in Brooklyn, sounds better on this LP than it did on its debut EP in 2010. Melanie Charles’ voice made them more Kuti, but removing the singing has made them more them. Words were distracting. Now the listener can concentrate on the patterns of instrumental texture as they’re being built up and demolished. On the inside of the cover they tell you the album is “Made for dancing. Please enjoy,”  but there’s something more conceptual going on as well, you realise, when you hear the musicians spaghetti-ing at the start of “Invented Search”—doing what?—searching—what can instruments search for?—a tune—but they’re in a tune. What else could they possibly be in? It’s not surprising to see free jazz credited alongside Fela as one of the group’s inspirations.

popmatters.com

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No Discount, No Holds Barred: Zongo Junction’s Hard-Grooving Afrobeat Trip from Accra to Brooklyn

Every journey, they say, begins with a single step. For Zongo Junction, that first footfall came in the Bay Area, when drummer and West African music explorer Charles Ferguson was young. His drum teacher began to show him the wide world of music that was waiting out there. It might have been a long trip since then, and sometimes a strange one, but it’s brought the band all the way to the sinuous Afrobeat grooves of their second release, No Discount (release: July 15, 2014; Electric Cowbell Records). The band is touring the West and East Coasts this summer and autumn in support of the album.

“My teacher exposed me to everything,” Ferguson recalls. “He’d played with jazz greats like Don Cherry and Joe Henderson, but also recorded with guys like Tupac and Taj Mahal. My problem was that I couldn’t fit into a niche; I wanted to try everything.”

Studying music at the New School in New York, Ferguson’s solution was to spend a semester in Ghana, studying traditional music from that region. “It seemed an obvious choice. I already loved West African music, and there’s such a rich history and heritage of drumming there,” Ferguson explains, and the music he soaked up during his travels changed his entire sense of what he to achieve. The dedicated drummer dug into an instrument that bridges melody and rhythm, the Ghanaian Gyil or wooden xylophone, with young but accomplished teacher SK Kakraba Lobi. It not only broadened his compositional skills, but also brought to light Afrobeat’s many Ghanaian connections.

“[Fela drummer] Tony Allen has Ghanaian roots,” explains Ferguson, “and Ghanaian highlife was a major influence on Fela. There are so many connections to Ghana, and hearing Fela drummers like Ghana’s Sisi Frank in person on his home turf, with his loose style, really helped me get deeper into Afrobeat.”

This first-hand experience lit a fire under Ferguson, and when he got back stateside, he knew what he had to do. “Before I left, I wanted to form an Afrobeat band,” recalls Ferguson. “I began to hear the music in a new way after I returned in 2009, and so a friend and I got some of our strongest musician friends together to really dive into the music,” friends who played with everyone from Antibalas to TV on the Radio.

For the first year of its existence, the 11-piece Zongo Junction played covers by the master of Afrobeat, Fela Kuti, immersing themselves in the feel of the music until it became second nature, and completely a part of their DNA. After their woodshedding, they began to work on original material, releasing Thieves! a year later, with former Fela sideman Leon Kaleta Ligan-Majek as a guest on the album.

No Discount finds them further down the road, in a place where musical adventure and the chops of the members can sit naturally next to sweaty Afrobeat drive. That’s a feel so perfectly captured on the opener, “The Van That Got Away,” where a swirl of psychedelia bubbles under an improvised baritone sax solo, while the bass and drums keep the relentless groove cooking.

The album is the product of four years of experimentation and bringing new elements into the sound, so that touches of funk and the avant-garde sit easily over the beat, while electronica and the boom of dub bring startling, unique textures to the music. During that time, there’s been constant gigging and filling the dance floor, taking their time to work up and refine new material, and performing with what the Village Voice calls ”sheer energy, with the force of a tractor-trailer that roars with power and noise.”

For a band so used to playing live, an approach reminiscent of Fela Kuti and his sons’ extensive live experimentation with compositions, it seemed perfectly comfortable to record No Discount live in a studio in Brooklyn, home to the members, and where they’re part of a large community of diverse and creative artists. Zongo Junction packed into the same room, just as they came off the high of a long tour. The approach brings a natural analog warmth and vibrancy to the sound. But the sessions themselves were only the beginning. Guitarist Mikey Hart, who produced, then spent 18 months fine-tuning everything, fretting over every detail, overdubbing percussion and adding layers of synthesizers and tape delay until the record was absolutely ready.

And No Discount justifies all the time spent on it. The music explodes in a massive sound, embracing a range from Fela Kuti to Albert Ayler to Dirty Projectors, everything fitting together as if it was simply meant to be. There are no stars, no egos; this is a group album. “We write as a collective,” Ferguson says. “Someone will bring in a skeleton of an idea or a groove, and we’ll workshop it. The songs have character, every member has an impact on them. It’s a challenging process, and very democratic.”

But it’s also rewarding. No Discount is evidence that Zongo Junction feel Afrobeat at a cellular level; it’s at the heart of all the music they make. Yet it’s what they add that makes them unique, like the way the five-piece horn section tosses around the swell and shimmy of “The National Zoo,” for instance, or the bop influences that bounce over the groove on “21 Suspects In Medina.” It’s a record that’s more than the sum of its parts.

To celebrate the album release, the band will be undertaking its sixth West Coast tour. In many ways, they’re just as much at home there as they are in Brooklyn, one of the world’s hubs for Afro-hybrid music. “Two-thirds of the original band came from the Bay Area,” says Ferguson, “and we’d go home for the holidays. It started out with a New Year’s gig that some of us did in San Francisco when we were home. Even though some of the personnel has changed, it has still kept building there, getting bigger and better with every return.”

Along with the 9-date California trip, Zongo Junction will be staking out new territory, with shows in Colorado, Utah and New Mexico, as well as a debut in Las Vegas, where they’ll share the stage with reggae icon Jimmy Cliff on July 22.

East Coast or West, and all the place in between, the band will light its unique Afrobeat fire. In a digital world, that sense of playing together, of working to get feet moving of taking everything higher, might seem old-school, but they don’t care.

“We’re a little retro,” Ferguson admits proudly, “but we want to do something different, to be unique. The music we make deserves that. We feel like we’re just getting started on this, just getting warmed up.”

rockpaperscissors.biz



Tracklist:

1. The Van That Got Away
2. Longtooth
3. Invented History
4. No Discount
5. 21 Suspects in Madina
6. Invented Search
7. The National Zoo
8. Tunnel Bar
9. Unknown Elsewhere