The Wanton Bishops: American Blues-Influenced Rock ‘n’ Roll in Lebanon
The Middle East has an established Tuareg blues scene, but American blues-influenced rock ‘n’ roll isn’t as easy to find throughout the Middle East from the states. The Wanton Bishops is one of those rare finds that catches me off guard by how American it sounds and how strong it is; Delta harmonicas, bluesy riffs, and mournful howls are all here, but there’s also a very modern drive and light electronic touch that makes this more than just “American rock.” Listen to the whole album and be prepared to be pleasantly surprised.
“The Wanton Bishops is the vision of one very eclectic man – Nader Mansour. A cultural anomaly, considering the fact that he was born and raised in Beirut, Lebanon, Nader as lead singer is the very epitome of a howling blues man. With a wide range of influences, Nader’s music draws from blues, psychedelic rock, classic rock to the sounds of the Tarab.”
MUNIR: Indonesian Disco
Not sure if MUNIR is intentionally named after Munir Said Thalib. If so, this adds an interesting political angle to this excellent disco music. If not, it’s still fun to turn your brain off and shake shake shake it. Check out more via Diskover Records.
“DISKOVER is a sister-label of BHANG RECORDS focusing on dance music.”
Jo Tongo: Parisian Funk via Cameroon
The latest Africa Seven release is a collection of old and new tracks from Parisian funk great Jo Tongo. Active for many decades, Tongo is apparently working on new music to come out soon. Give this new collection a spin to hold you over and get your daily fill of high-quality afro-funk.
“Our hero, Jo Tongo (born Joseph Ekambi Tongo Mpondo) was born and raised in Douala Cameroon. In 1964 he headed off to Paris to begin Pharmaceutical studies. Somewhere along the way the music in his soul eventually won out and he embarked on a life of music. In the latest of our series of “Funk Experimentals” LPs we dig for the funk. Not necessarily the artists greatest hits but most definitely the funkiest ear benders. We proudly compile together tracks from 1968 to 3 new brand new exclusive tracks from present day 2017. And yes, they all have the funk. In spades.
The album opens up with stunningly catchy Jangolo. Jo’s awesomely funky bass and percussive “jangly” guitar. The track is underpinned by African drums, funky stabs and 70s nascent synthesiser string machines. Next up we take a trip to 1979 and “Funky Feeling” from Jo’s “Those Flowers” album. Here the beats are big, the strings are sweet and the clavi is into overdrive. We then jump back to 1976 for the evergreen, horn-puncher, funk stomper “Piani”. Before the sweet smooth funk of “Those Flowers”.
Next up is “American Lady” with the bright strings, jangly guitars and driving keys. All locked on to maximize the groove. We then take a trip back to 1968 for Jo’s second single the ever so funky and ever so ahead of its time, “Dig It Babe”. Soul, horns, groove and punch all in two perfect packages. Part 1 and Part 2. Next up it is the funk boogie afro swingers “Ewande”.
Bringing things up date we jump forward to 2017, present day. Jo has been making music more or less non-stop and here we are lucky to premier three brand new tracks. The drums are punchy, the guitars ooze the funk and the locked on keys tie the tracks together in one tight-as package. Jo is on the production and at the controls for the mix. “Lion Roar” is first with its driving clavinet and all-out-assault funky drums. The brass is big and this song is Bold with a capital “B”. “It’s The D Day” is next with swinging soul style groove before “Mystic Power” features a ballsy brass-laden beat and jazz funk overtones.
Many thanks Jo for choosing the music. Nearly 50 years at the top of the game.”
Frida Sundemo: “the exquisite alt-pop songstress channels wide-eyed beauty and desolate melancholy”
I love everything about Frida Sundemo‘s “Gold.” I love how it starts out like Robyn singing Sigur Rós before turning into Charli XCX scoring a Christopher Nolan film. I love how everyone in Sweden knows how to write perfectly melancholy pop bangers. AND I love Sundemo’s voice and how little she needs to rely on a massive band, though “Gold” sounds big in the best way.
“In between hope and despair stands Frida Sundemo. Wrapped in echoes and surrounded by pattering synths, the exquisite alt-pop songstress channels wide-eyed beauty and desolate melancholy with each spellbinding note and delicate breath, with each and every heartbeat.”
Los Amos del Universo: experimental neo-psychedelia from Peru
So this is what a late ’60s dance party inside a burning rocket ship crashing into earth sounds like. Los Amos del Universo takes Krautrock and meshes it with Jimi Hendrix-like guitars into something overwhelming and chaotic and beautiful.
Peru’s Superspace Records is home to Universo and other great bands taking on neo-psychedelia and making it exciting and relevant rather than rehashing it like your older brother’s college roommate. The label is also home to techno house, glitch, acid rock, indietronica, and other genres your older brother’s college roommate ruined for you but Superspace will redeem for you.
“The masters of the universe corresponds to a desire to pay homage to the krautrock of the 70’s, it is also the result of the reunion of its members, which presents an evolution of its members in the creative field. The masters of the universe was born and was born in the town of Belloto Norte, commune of Quilpué, Chile during the month of January 2017.”
RiFFRaFF Rap From the Working Class: Socialist hip-hop from the Middle East
Also known as “the human megaphone,” RiFFRaFF Rap From The Working Class is a Middle Eastern MC who is not that Riff Raff but raps in Arabic and English over steady beats, tasteful saxophone, and sometimes banjo. Socialism and class politics is the name of RiFFRaFF’s game, which he backs up with plenty of energy. Check out more RiFFRaFF via Bandcamp.
CROCODELIA: psychedelic surf rock from Taiwan
Of course, when you think of fuzzy garage surf-rock, you think of crocodiles. Taiwan’s CROCODELIA, a band formed around 3100 BC, knows this, so they have perfected the art of the freakbeat with this excellent six-track EP. You can pick up Out Of The Swamp via Bandcamp.
Msafiri Zawose: keeping the traditional Tanzanian Gogo style relevant
I’ve heard Gogo a few times, though I think Msafiri Zawose‘s take is the most accessible and immediately enjoyable. Zawose’s music is also the most “modern” sounding because you can actually hear a bass (and some synth!) and it sounds sample-friendly; someone call Kanye West and get some zeze on his comeback record.
Read more about Zawose’s life here.
“Zawose is renowned for his traditional Gogo style music, which relies heavily on the zeze & limba in combination with distinct lyrical harmonies. This rich musical tradition is from the Wagogo people Dodoma in Central Tanzania. Zawose, son of the late Dr. Hukwe Zawose, continues this musical tradition while fusing with more modern styles, creating a truly distinct and unique sound.”
EABS: Polish Jazz for an Eclectic New Generation
Polish jazz? Right away I’m hooked. But before you know it, EABS (Electro-Acoustic Beat Sessions) quickly turns the corner into darker, jazz-influenced hip-hop a la BADBADNOTGOOD. Then it all gets violent and explodes in sound and then comes back all together again in a mesh of grooves. And it’s all dedicated to Krzysztof Komeda. And it’s only the first song. It’s so great.
Check out more music via Astigmatic Records.
EABS debut album entitled “Repetitions (Letters To Krzysztof Komeda)” is a dedication to Polish Jazz legend Krzysztof Komeda. This album is an analysis of conscientiously selected compositions by Komeda between 1962-1967. EABS explores some of Komeda’s lesser-known compositions featured in ballet etudes, movies, short films, documentaries, animations and compositions illustrating Polish poems recited in German.
Carefully chosen compositions, the background of the movies for which the music had been written and Marek Pędziwiatr’s lyrics all add up to “Repetitions” being some kind of a concept album about the condition of the human soul in the 21st century. The questions one may ask might be similar to those which could have been asked by the artists witnessing post-war debris: will history come full circle? Lack of knowledge, flourishing idiocracy, aggression, aiming for conflicts, shortage of community spirit and love may lead to another doomsday. Perhaps we simply aren’t able to see the impending doom now… Just like in a poem by Czesław Miłosz, “A Song on the End of the World”, to which Krzysztof Komeda wrote “Waltzing Beyond”.
Les Mentettes: “Buenos Aires Stereo Sound”
Be right back, gonna get my groove on and break-dance in a cool Reebok commercial that’s playing Les Mentettes‘ killer synth-pop. I can’t actually break-dance, but the Argentinian group makes me feel just hip enough that I can do anything.
“Les Mentettes makes dreamy indie pop studded with off-beat instruments, catchy yet haunting hooks and a style that both nods to and transcends their influences. Led by singers Adrián Rivoira and Eugenia Brusa, the Argentinian band has deep roots. The two started out playing together as kids, performing at school concerts in the early 90s. Coming from very different musical backgrounds, the Rivoira and Brusa as well as their bandmates have a myriad of influences that range from Ziggy Stardust to Nina Simone and Brian Wilson.
In 2008, they formed [and] released their first full-length album, Let’s Mentettes. The following year, music conductor Manuloop arranged their songs for orchestra. They recorded [Orchestra] with over thirty musicians, bringing a variety of instruments to the group’s sound, including, trombone, oboe and glockenspiel. In 2011, the band, now a hybrid of rock band and orchestra, released their third album, Song for an Imaginary Film. Their latest EP release, Bouh!, is a return to their sparkling indie-pop roots. Whether playing with an orchestra or not, [they] exudes warmth and a beguiling playfulness.”