2019’s first semester is coming to an end. Here is a selection of our favorite releases of the last three months.
Graphic Illustration by Julie Jargeais
Four years after releasing “Akö”, the singer and songwriter Blick Bassy Presents “1958”, a tribute album to Ruben Um Nyobé, leader of the independentist movement in Cameroon who was executed in 1958 by French Colonial Forces.
In this poignant album, Blick brings up the hero and proves he is able to reinvent himself, straying further from the bluesy sounds of his former album and heading towards more subtle sounds, full of grace and inventiveness. An album to thaw the heart and sharpen the mind. Although its focus is specific, its themes – the bondage of neo-colonialism, the need for heroes, the relevance of history and the search for true identity – are universal.
He uses a wide palette of emotions, going from softness to rage, to convey his noble political message. 1958 urges the new generations to reconnect with their culture and History, to be able to shape a future for themselves that is actually fit for themselves. The release of the album was accompanied by a spectacular music video shot in South Africa.
Ilana: The Creator
Ilana: The Creator is Mdou’s first true studio album with a live band and certainly the most ambitious record to date. Accompanied by an all-star band like Ahmoudou Madassane’s (Les Filles de Illighadad) lighting fast rhythm guitar, Aboubacar Mazawadje’s machine gun drums, and Michael Coltun’s structured low-end bass, Mdou reaches back into Tuareg folklore for inspiration riffing on the hypnotic loops of takamba griots.
The album was driven by lots of spontaneity – Mdou’s preferred method of creation. Recorded in Detroit at the tail end of a US tour the band lived in the studio for a week, playing into the early hours. For Mdou, this style is to draw on both modern and traditional sources and combine elements into new forms.
One year after the release of their debut track “Abusey Junction”, that went over 20 million plays on Youtube, the Londoners issue their first EP KOKOROKO.
Lead by trumpeter Sheila Maurice-Grey, the band is formed by leading lights from the London jazz community. It draws as much from the nightlife energy, the musical influences of West African Pentecostal churches, than from references such as Ebo Taylor, Pat Thomas, Fela Kuti and Tony Allen. Throughout its 4 tracks, the project offers a broader vision of the band’s singular universe, deeply inspired by soul and afrobeat. It takes its roots in West Africa and incorporates it in a very london’s jazz aesthetic.
Tanzanian producer Jay Mitta released his debut album, Tatizo Pesa, via Nyege Nyege Tapes on January 11th. The producer hailing from the famed Sisso Studios in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, combines frenetic Tanzanian singeli – a style we can compared to super fast-paced kuduro and shangaan electro – and Swahili rap styles. He introduces Dogo Janja, a 14-year old singeli MC, on his title track.
Ibibio Sound Machine
After Uyai, Ibibio Sound Machine are back with a new album Doko Mien. Fronted by London-born Nigerian singer Eno Williams, Ibibio Sound Machine is a clash of African and Electronic elements inspired in equal measure by the golden era of West African Funk, Disco, and modern Post-Punk and Electro. Evocative Nigerian poetic imagery set against an edgy Afro-Electro soundscape gives the band a unique space within the wave of modern Afrocentric sounds sweeping the globe.
This third album alternates more words in English, like “Guess We Found a Way”, and in ibibio, translated in the booklet. It sounds a little different from the previous ones: “There is always Electro and Highlife, but we tried to capture a live sound, playing live in the same room,” explains Eno. “We always have a lot of influences, says saxophonist Max Grunhard, like Liquid Liquid, Talking Heads, 80s disco, Nigeria disco 70’s compilations, Kiki Gyan…”
The band has also recently been announced for several festivals this year including Boardmasters, Bluedot, Handmade, and Mostly Jazz.
Death Becomes Her
As an already established DJ and producer, Angel-Ho began to tease the internet towards the end of 2018, revealing in succession three brilliant and surgically precise instrumentals. From there, she has elevated her music to a new level, bringing out her pop diva outfit, to release her debut album Death Becomes Her. She enters the fold of the rigorously curated Hyperdub camp, whilst also at the same time running her own label, NON Worldwide.
Drawing inspiration from badass women like Lady Gaga or Missy Elliott, she manages to avoid the easy neo-pop labelling and tells us specifically the dimension she wants to share with her album: “I would define my sound as ‘a gigantic pop musical, both cinematic and narrative’. My songwriting skills have been pushed to the forefront of this record.” Read our interview here
When I Get Home
Two years after the notable A seat at the Table, Solange Knowles is back with a new album. The new project, titled When I Get Home, was released at midnight during the night of the February 28th to March 1st. Right during the transition between the “Black History Month” and the “Women’s History Month”.
The album features several prestigious collaborations such as Dev Hynes, Sampha, Pharell and Tyler the Creator. Recorded in 2018 between Jamaica, New Orleans and California, it cleverly blends Jazz, Funk, Hip Hop and R’n’b.
After several mixtapes that confirmed him as one of the most inventive artists of his generation, the Belgian-born rapper with Morrocan and Comorian origins just released his first album, Paradise. Featuring SCH, Aya Nakamura, Oxmo Puccino and Christine and the Queens, the album reveals the artist’s versatility and eclecticism. Hamza signs most of the productions of the album with his partner in crime Ponko, making the instrumentals in total symbiosis with his ethereal flow. Special mention for the featuring with Aya Nakamura, a two-parts tracks where both singers flirt in rhythm.
Tuba player and composer Theon Cross’s part of a thriving family network of young London-based musicians who have regularly supported one another in stretching and re-shaping the boundaries of the jazz genre. Having made a name for himself both as a member of the Mercury-nominated and award-winning quartet Sons of Kemet, Theon Cross returns with, Fyah, an impressive debut record who captures the sound of some of London’s most prominent trailblazers at the top of their game
It’s heavy, utilising the tuba in place of electronic basslines, whilst also making it a principle point of focus by merging the instrument’s traditional use with his own modern sensibilities. The album encapsulates the culture and influences that have surrounded Cross growing up in the city,incorporating elements of Caribbean music, hip-hop, grime, jazz, club and electronic music.
New sensation Koffee is leading the new wave of young talent in to take over reggae music with her refreshing spin on the genre. The 18-year-old jamaican artist made noise with her two songs “Toast” (followed by “Throne”), an infectious tune of classic roots-reggae lyrics and a more contemporary sound that reflects the genre’s direction.
As “Toast” continues to rise, (the video counts more than 17M views) Koffee shares her debut Rapture, a five-song EP via Columbia UK Records, including 2 new songs and the already famous ‘Throne’, “Raggamuffin” and “Toast “
With Rapture EP, Koffee is sending a message to the new generation : “I want to make a better world for the generation that’s coming up,” Koffee writes, “to promote love and peace, and even though I’m young, I feel that God has blessed me with talent and wisdom to get the job done.”
Nubiyan Twist are a 10-piece London-based collective blending elements of jazz, soul, hip hop, African styles, Latin, dub, hip hop and electronics in a flow of thought-provoking and life-affirming music
Released on Strut, Jungle Run features several tracks with vocalist Nubiya Brandon, saxophonist Nick Richards and Ghanaian star K.O.G, afrobeat originator Tony Allen and Ethio-jazz inventor and legend Mulatu Astatke features in “Addis to London.”
“Conceptually, “Jungle Run”; is all about connecting different people and cultures whilst exploring the journey of individuals. This album is the pinnacle of everything we have done to date and to collaborate with the godfathers of Afrobeat and Ethio Jazz and celebrate their music in a modern context was very humbling.” says producer and orchestrator Tom Excell.
South African rapper YoungstaCPT’s 3T is a 20-track long journey into the lives of Cape Coloured people. Colonialism, gangsterism, drug abuse and daily struggles of Coloured people are part of the topics he tackles in this project.
The songs are bound between eachother by CPT’s conversation with his grandfather, who details the history of Cape Coloured people, and gives his take on issues such as the apartheid and the current government’s corruption. The juxtaposition of these points of view depict an intriguing picture about the past and future of South Africa and its communities.
Nihiloxica blends traditional rhythms from former Bugandan Kingdom and electronic pulsations coming from two young British producers. Biiri strays further from afro-electronic clichés where the kick is prominent and structures sprinkled percussions samples. The band’s sound rather relies on the drums’ complex and heady polyrhythmics, as the tempo shifts, following the natural rhythm of the musicians. Electronic effects and drones create a dark and progressive atmosphere. Gloomier than their first EP, these tracks are road hardened constructions that demonstrate the evolution of the band, and the conversation between two cultures.
Produced by the band’s keyboardist Sofyann Ben Youssef, the mastermind behind the highly touted AMMAR 808, the new album strips things back to a power trio lineup and focuses on the crackling, forward-looking energy of Nigerien front man Anana Ag Haroun’s next level Kel Tamashek (Tuareg) rock songs.
Kel Assouf’s musical journey has flowed seamlessly from the well-spring created by Ishumar desert rock pioneers Tinariwen – that Haroun first encountered as a young musician in Niger – towards sonic horizons that include the rock classicism of groups like Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Queens of the Stone Age and the club beats and astral ambiance of European electronic music. On Black Tenere, the band pushes these different textures and influences towards a persuasive, raw-edged crescendo. Ag Haroun see’s the path to the new album and its new sound this way.
Born in Ghent, Belgium, Charlotte Adigery mixes traditional music from her martinican ancestors with a synthetic-electronic aesthetic, warmed-up by her soulful voice. She channels a blend of vivid story telling, catchy choruses and a quirky universe in this new EP. The understated dancefloor-filler “Paténipat” and the quirky pop ode to synthetic wigs “High Lights” attest to the artist’s versatility and talent.
Ghanaian duo FOKN Bois are celebrated for their most unconventional way of entertaining with ingeniously tasteful shock lyrics, revolutionary performance art & indulgent progressive afro sounds.
Afrobeats LOL is a collaboration with the emergent Hip-Life Accra scene like Mr Eazi, Medikal, Sister Deborah, Dex Kwasi and also high-life icon Gyedu Blay Ambolley.
They like to disturb, as shown in their name, ‘Fokn Bois’ being an old slang for ‘little rascals’. The name of the album embodies the duo’s identity as well: it’s a witty gibe to those who tend to gather all African music underground the “afrobeats”catch-all genre
Urban jazz trailblazer IAMDDB releases her new album Swervvvvv.5 on Union IV recordings, the final installment of ongoing EP series. Born Diana Debrito, the 22-year-old from Manchester – via Portugal and Angola –combines timeless soul and jazz in the tradition of Nat King Cole and Erykah Badu.
Swervvvvv.5 goes from laid-back jazzy tracks fusing vocals with trap beats, in an overall cloudy and chill-out universe.
In the early hours of Tuesday, Nigerian rapper and pop star, Falz released his fourth studio album, Moral Instruction. Few days ago, he released a viral single, “Talk” and followed it up with the release of the art cover for Moral Instruction. Moral Instruction is more than an album, it’s a movement, it’s a re-education, a re-orientation. It is us learning and unlearning some things…
The album contains nine songs with guest appearances from Demmie Vee, Chillz and producer/friend Sess. To buttress the subjects in Moral Instruction, Falz sampled three of Fela’s songs in the album, he said, “it was a lot deciding whether to do the samples but I wanted the elements of the original Afrobeat, that was one of the main reasons I wanted us to sample and it was a lot of ‘wahala’ to clear the samples.
After a first EP released in 2015, with Houmeissa, his first album, the Nigerien Hama, known as “Hama Techno” presents a groundbreaking album of traditional electronic desert folk songs, hovering somewhere between early 90s techno and synthwave.
Private driver of a rich expatriate, Hama received his first synthesizer from a neighbor. And when he was not driving his employer through the streets of Niamey, Hama was revisiting traditional desert songs, unknowingly beginning to develop a singular style. Quickly, the multi-instrumentalist begins to arrange his own melodies with the means of the edge, but especially with passion. From nomadic herding ballads, ancient caravan songsHoumeissa and sci-fi soundtrack, Houmeissa is a spontaneous and convincing record that promises to open doors far beyond Niamey
French national, Ibiza resident and intrepid beach digger Guts, has readied here something very special indeed. Now five albums deep into his recording career, he’s built a loyal fanbase and following from his early days as a beatmaker. Guts’ initial spirit of sampling, sequencing and programming still remains but it has now morphed into something of a full-on musical opus.
‘Philantropiques’ is an experimental yet sunny outing, comprising longer tracks that open up into carefully considered arrangements. A tropical afrobeat LP if you like. Afro trance, Brazilian jazz funk and frantic percussion are all explored over this 13 track offering. Lead singles ‘Kenke Corner’ and ‘Mucagiami’ step effortlessly between the dancefloor to ballad, the latter featuring a stunning vocal performance from Angolan vocalist, ‘Vum Vum’.
Alongside her work as a sonic activist and in curating and managing the NON Worldwide collective beside Angel Ho and Chino Amobi, Nkisi will release her first full album on Lee Gamble’s UIQ. 7 Directions is rooted firmly in the African Cosmology of the Bantu-Kongo and in particular the writings of Kongo scholar Dr Kimbwandende Kia Bunseki Fu-Kiau.
When we hear before we see, voice and sound waves interplay between consciousness and hallucinations. Allowing the rhythmic to experiment with conditions of perception, disrupting predetermined expectations…Through manipulating rhythm, we create movements of energy… this energy determines collective behavior and allows for new ways of producing knowledge…when we hear before we see, we can think about predicting the future and the manipulation of imagery that happens. through visionary possession we are renewed from within, in a system of systems… the pattern of patterns in being, it reaches and remains forever incomplete”
This bold debut from the 20-year-old rapper is a moving quasi-concept album, looking at relationship between the person and the world around them.
Inspired by his older brother’s therapy sessions while in prison, ‘Psychodrama’ follows a three-act structure of “environment”, “relationships” and “social compass”, where the piano-infused instrumental lay down the foundations for the wordsmisth’s thought-provoking verses.
The debut full- length album from Lafawndah, Ancestor Boy, is a bracing statement of intent, heralding an artist unbound in scope, scale, and intensity. Previous releases (such as the Tan EP and her collaboration with Midori Takada, Le Renard Bleu) plotted a highly personalized map of influence, shaping club-focused compositions and popular songs into thrillingly unresolved, ultramodern erotics.
Crafted with the aid of fellow travelers Nick Weiss, Aaron David Ross, and L-Vis 1990, Ancestor Boy’s maximalism – its overflow of details, of feelings, of ideas – serves to amplify a frequent lyrical motif: the sensation that one body, one lifetime, isn’t big enough for what you’re feeling.
The album’s devotional pop and widescreen body music is further brought into vivid relief by an array of comrades and kindred spirits, including John Hassell, Bonnie Banane, Emily King, Jamie Woon, Gaika, Julie Byrne, Kelsey Lu, Patrick Belaga, Valentina Magaletti and Joao Pais Filipe.
Angel Bat Dawis
Recorded using only her cell phone in various locations, from London UK to Cape Town RSA, Angel Bat Dawis debut album The Oracle has been created entirely by herself. She’s performing overdubbing & mixing all instruments & voices on her own.
Signed on the excellent Chicago’s label International Anthem, “The Oracle” is a vibrant free-jazz album exploring black experiences nowadays. The clarinettist, composer and vocalist Angel delivers a unique and spiritual album.
Bassekou Kouyaté & Ngoni Ba
Miri means “to think” in bambara. This new album, composed partly in his village of birth in his self-built home studio is a musical journey to his roots. The n’goni virtuoso delivers a very personal album, with a tribute song to his mother who passed away. Calm and powerful at the same time, the n’goni maestro tels in this album his concern about the situation in his country.“
Que Vola? “What’s up?” That’s what Cubans like to say when they greet each other. They
like it so much that the expression has become a kind of verbal gimmick in the heavily
musical Spanish spoken on the island. Que Vola? is also the name of this unique musical
project that brings a French jazz septet, assembled by Fidel Fourneyron, together with three young and highly-skilled Cuban percussionists who are as brilliant at the art of summoning Afro-Cuban divinities as they are at vibing up the clubs of La Havana, where they play their raucous rumba. The albums is like a journey as if it was a ceremony, whose trajectory brings you closer and closer to the beating heart of this musical encounter. It opens with a prologue (‘Kabiosile – saludo a Changó’) in which brass and wind ‘sing’ a salutation to Changó, god of lightning. And it finishes with ‘Resistir’, an epic piece that seems to go back over the long history of the Afro-Cubans, a history strewn with light and shadow, with chains and tears broken by the resilience of a people, opening up the pathways to its own liberty through music. Between them, the journey.
The Comet Is Coming
Trust In The Lifeforce Of The Deep Mystery
London-based trio keeps on furthering its psychedelic explorations releasing a new Cosmic-Jazz album. After being nominated for Mercury Prizes for their acclaimed debut Channel the Spirits released in 2016, The Comet Is Coming maintains the almost cult-like mystery surrounding them with a new burst of organic Free Jazz.
Their second release, Trust In The Lifeforce Of The Deep Mystery is all about the idea of “finding a meaning in the ungraspable and believing in a primordial energy”.
Sauti Sol’s Afrikan Sauce LP as a collective of “lushly produced tracks fusing African music’s tendency towards electronic music with acoustics”.
The aforementioned group, a band of four, was formed in 2005 by the vocalists Bien – Aimé Baraza, Willis Chimano and Savara Mudigi. A guitarist, Polycarp Otieno, later joined what was previously a three man a cappella band. From the onset, it is clear that these men are artistes of a certain vision, whose egos or personal interests couldn’t get in the way of the best possible interpretation of that vision. From the beginning, Sauti Sol had been a collaborative effort.
Burna Boy & DJDS
Steel and Copper
Afrofusion artist Burna Boy teams up with Los Angeles production duo DJDS to release their new collaborative EP via On A Spaceship/Our Bad Habit/Atlantic Records/Loma Vista. Steel & Copper marks the first collaboration between the two, as the duo seamlessly enmeshes Burna’s velvety vocals into their world of eclectic production that bridges pop, trap and global sounds, introducing both sets of fans to a new sonic experience.
Steel & Copper marks the latest in a number of collaborations for DJDS, who worked with The Dream, Khalid, Empress Of and more on their genre-bending 2018 album Big Wave More Fire. They also worked with Kanye West on his The Life of Pablo.
Recently signed by Don Jazzy’s Mavin Records, Rema is making a name for himself. The 18-year-old rapper shared freestyle clips and confirming on his Twitter that he contributed vocals for “Turn Up”, the DJ Tunez, Wizkid and Reekado Banks collaboration from last year.
Released on March 22nd, Rema is a delicious four-track EP with a sonic palette that goes from Afropop, Trap and smooth Bollywood soundtracks. His passion for Hindi singing was first established on “Turn Up”. But it is on track “Iron Man” that things gets more interesting. You can watch the music video above.
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