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7 albums you should listen to this week

This week, Jupiter & Okwess express nostalgic dreams of returning to the Congo, while Alfa Mist evokes similar feelings attached to his native Newham in the British capital. Blue Lab Beats also pays tribute to London's multiculturalism. Runtown brings together several African artists on his new R&B-tinged album while Toumani Diabaté united classical music from both Africa and Europe alongside the London Symphony Orchestra. This desire for unity is reflected by the union of Italian producer Khalab and the M'Berra Ensemble collective, made up of musicians living in a refugee camp on the Mauritanian border. Jaymie Silk also seeks to offer some joy to the youth in difficult times with his album Young, Broke & Fabulous.

Na Kozonga
Jupiter & Okwess

After numerous concerts all over the world, Jupiter had only one desire: to return to the Congo, the country of his ancestors, where he has always drawn his inspiration. Following the closing of the borders during lockdown, Jupiter was stuck in Paris and  produced an ode to the return to Africa, entitled “Na Kozonga,” which means “I’m going back.” Here, he returns to different African myths, like Mami Wata, which are still present today beyond the borders, from West Africa to South America, through to the Caribbean. The video for “Na Kozonga,” features Jupiter’s late father, Tata Bokondji, who appears for the last time with his son, when the artist was still in Paris.

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Sound God Fest Reloaded

For this new album, the Nigerian singer brings together many African artists, such as Ghanaian DarkoVibes, Nigerians Bella Shmurda, Minz and Made Kuti and South Africans Emtee, Rowlene and Gemini Major. On an R&B soundscape, Runtown exposes different aspects of his personality, leaning into romanticism on “Tell Me What You Want” while declaring himself a “sex symbol” in the lust-driven track “Fuck Eh Up.”

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Bring Backs
Alfa Mist

With this new project, the Alfa Mist honors Newham, his native district in East London. The album features a variety of genres, including grime as well as hip-hop. He defines it as a way to explore his own musical education. This multi-instrumentalist also seems nostalgic on certain pieces, remembering his past as a drummer on the streets of London. Here, Jazz and hip-hop form a perfect harmony, tinged with melancholy throughout.

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Toumani Diabaté

Toumani Diabaté joins forces with the London Symphony Orchestra for an original project, sumptuously blending kora and classical music. “Kôrôlén” means “ancestral” in the Mandingo language. The term reflects the album’s arrangement, exquisitely combining ancient melodies dear to the djeli (griots) with arrangements designed for a Western symphony orchestra. The Malian giant and the conductor Clark Rundell were able to explore a thousand facets of this musical symbiosis together on the stage of the Barbican Center in London where this concert was performed and recorded back in 2008.

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M’berra Ensemble

The M’berra Ensemble is a community of Arab and Tuareg musicians bearing the same name as their refugee camp on the border of Mali, which hosts about 50,000 people. Music is a tool of solidarity in this context, aiming to restore the dignity of musicians, while preserving their identities. This album also supports the Intersos humanitarian project, an Italian aid organization working worldwide to help victims of armed conflicts. For the collaboration, the Italian electro producer Khalab was accompanied by the ethnologist Barbara Fiore in order to better understand the Tuareg traditions. It marks a true bridge between the past and the present. The vinyl edition of this album is accompanied by photos of the musicians of the M’berra camp, taken by the French photographer Jean-Marc Caimi.

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The Sounds of Afrotonica
Blue Lab Beats

Consisting of multi-instrumentalist Mr DM and producer NK-OK, the duo combines groove, jazz and funk. Blue Lab Beats is inspired by the pioneers of hip-hop but also by the musical diversity of the African diasporas, like today’s multicultural London. NK-OK explains: “Most of our music is instrumental, so for us that makes it accessible.” He adds: “We grew up listening to everything we could get our hands on: from soul, funk, jazz, Afrobeat, highlife, grime. Our parents used to play all this music at home all the time; it’s an important part of London’s culture. We wanted to put that soul and energy into our releases.” Despite the considerable diversity of musical genres on their new album, Blue Lab Beats wonderfully holds a common thread together, from the jazz of “Sweet Shop” to the electro of “Out of the Ruins” to the Afro hip-hop of “Soul Makosa.”

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Young, Broke & Fabulous
Jaymie Silk

The French-Canadian producer and DJ dedicates his new project, Young, Broke & Fabulous, to optimism. A vibrant and colorful album, the cover sends a message of hope to the youth who are among the main victims of this health crisis. This blend of house music with French Touch, funk and reggaeton transports us to a joyful universe, contrasting with the news, which seems full of precariousness and suicide. Jaymie Silk reminds us that it is still possible, despite everything, to be “poor and fabulous.

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