Jeich Ould Badu & Ahmedou Ahmed Lewla

Jeich Ould Badu & Ahmedou Ahmed Lewla: Instrumental synth and lute from the Sahara desert and Sahelsounds

Jeich Ould Badu & Ahmedou Ahmed Lewla

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‘Top WZN’ is another Sahelsounds collection that focuses on Mauritanian WZN (instrumental music), a sort of pop music for this West African country. Both Jeich Ould Badu and Ahmedou Ahmed Lewla are masters in their own right at the manipulated lute and the Arabic scaled pitch synth that, played together, sound oddly soothing in its freakouts and delicate tempos – you can never tell where the songs will go, which keeps you on your toes.

from Sahelsounds:

“The album (originally released on cassette in 2009) showcases Jeich Ould Badu and Ahmedou Ahmed Lewla, playing a signature genre of instrumental music. Known as اوزان (transliterized as “alwazan” “wezen” or “wzn”), literally translated as “rhythm,” it colloquially refers to a contemporary genre of instrumental music, defined by synthesizers, electric guitars and lutes, and electronic drum patterns. Jeich Ould Badu is from a celebrated family of griots, and learned to play music at a young age. He plays the tidnit, the traditional Hassaniya lute – modified and updated, the goat skin replaced by flattened tin, and hacked together with phaser pedals and built in pre-amps. Ahmedou Ahmed Lewla is one of the most well known keyboard musicians in Mauritania. He plays an Arabic moded synthesizer capable of the quarter tone scales adapted from the fretless strings of classical Moorish traditions.

Popular Mauritanian music is often performed publicly with large troupes of guitarists, tidnits, synthesizers, and multiple rhythm sections. But in the past decade, the influx of small recording studios and a booming cassette industry has led to artist driven productions. WZN has followed suit, and has been transformed into an established genre. The slick studio sound, warbling tidnit, and microtones of the synthesizer are an integral part of today’s musical landscape, blasting from open air music shops and taxi cabs throughout the capital.”

Sahelsounds / Jeich Ould Badu & Ahmedou Ahmed Lewla: Website Facebook Twitter SoundCloud

Brady is the founder of Headphone Nation. He’s responsible for all this mess. Sorry about that. He’s also on Twitter @BradyWGerber
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Damakase

Damakase: traditional Ethiopian themes meet West African grooves, banjo riffs, and funk.

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Almost one year old and Damakase‘s ‘Gunfan Yellem!’ still sounds just as fresh and exciting and manages to respect heritage without sounding stuck in the past. The foursome from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital, mixes traditional Ethiopian themes with West African grooves, banjo riffs, and funk.

From Bandcamp:

“Endris Hassen (The Ex, Ethiocolor, Imperial Tiger Orchestra, Nile Project, MistO-MistO etc) and Cory Seznec (Groanbox, Seznec Bros, solo, MistO-MistO, etc) joined forces in late 2014 to fuse sounds from east and west Africa. Hungry for a fuller sound, they brought in Misale Legesse (Ethiocolor, Addis Acoustic Project, etc) on kebero and Cass Horsfall on bass (Black Jesus Experience, Jazmaris, etc) to flesh things out and create Damakase, a name which comes from a plant used in traditional medicine in Ethiopia to heal “gunfan” (cold/flu) and other ailments.

By late 2015 they had enough songs for an album, and asked Kenny Allen to come in as producer.

Gunfan Yellem! (translated roughly as Fever No More!) is an album recorded live in Cory’s Glasshouse Studios. Guest artists were invited to add a little spice here and there, and Kenny fine tuned and tweaked the mix to perfection.

The music is comprised of 6 originals and two covers (Wuba by the Eritrean composer Tewelde Redda, and Mother’s Love by the Ethiopian pianist Emahoy Tsegue-Maryam Guebrou).”

Damakase: Facebook

Brady is the founder of Headphone Nation. He’s responsible for all this mess. Sorry about that. He’s also on Twitter @BradyWGerber
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Boomarm Nation

Boomarm Nation: Portland label releases experimental global sound system music

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Boomarm Nation is a Portland, OR-based label that releases experimental sound system music from around the world on vinyl, cassette, and digital. A recent highlight for me is the fuzzy, furious remix of Mali tehardent musician Aghali Ag Amoumine off January’s ‘Family Album 2017’ compilation.

From Bandcamp:

“Blessings to all the people of the world. May we unite aside our differences and together find peace and strength amongst the tyrants. 2017 – We ready.”

Boomarm Nation: Website Bandcamp Facebook Twitter

Brady is the founder of Headphone Nation. He’s responsible for all this mess. Sorry about that. He’s also on Twitter @BradyWGerber
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Kink Gong’s ‘Tanzania’

‘Tanzania’: a revision of one of Kink Gong’s best experimental field recordings

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Kink Gong (Laurent Jeanneau) is an artist who records ethnic minority music, mostly in Southeast Asia, and recomposes the original recordings into experimental soundscapes. ‘Tanzania,’ released two years ago via Discrepant, a London-based label that aims to “deconstruct, distort and re-assemble the lore of (un)popular music,” brings Jeanneau to the namesake country and offers reinterpretations of the field recordings he made there in the late ’90s.

From Laurent Jeanneau via Bandcamp:

”December 1999, Tanzania. I had an appointment with James Stephenson an American friend from the 90s in NYC, he used to skip the American winter every year to be with the Hadzas bushmen and other Tanzanians tribes in Tanzania. Whilst there, James and I lost completely track of time and did not give a shit about what day Christmas was, or New Years for that matter- with the majority of the planet knowing they were heading into the 21st Century.At some point end of December or early January 2000(?) we asked a group of

At some point end of December or early January 2000(?) we asked a group of Hadzas we were hanging out with, “what’s the date today?” None understood the question but one Hadza who had been sent to school in the early 70s answered that we must be in 1975! Tanzania in 1999/2000, this intense trip away from all the millennium bullshit celebrations. I gathered all kinds of sounds, not only music, that expresses proximity and that was the first time I decided I was going to remix those raw recordings into a decent soundscape. It was also the first time I was pleased with the result- to go into a direction of redefining world music, away from the commercial clichés. This has been the direction I’ve taken and focused on ever since with the recomposing of my Asian recordings.”

Tanzania in 1999/2000, this intense trip away from all the millennium bullshit celebrations. I gathered all kinds of sounds, not only music, that expresses proximity and that was the first time I decided I was going to remix those raw recordings into a decent soundscape. It was also the first time I was pleased with the result- to go into a direction of redefining world music, away from the commercial clichés. This has been the direction I’ve taken and focused on ever since with the recomposing of my Asian recordings.”

Kink Gong/Discrepant: Bandcamp Website Facebook Twitter

Brady is the founder of Headphone Nation. He’s responsible for all this mess. Sorry about that. He’s also on Twitter @BradyWGerber
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Togo Soul 70

‘Togo Soul 70’: Hot Casa Records takes us to ’70s West Africa

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‘Togo Soul 70,’ released via the Paris-based Hot Casa Records that specializes in afro-Cuban soul and tropical funk, is a collection of rare Togolese recordings from the ’70s. The music is consistently groovy in its faster and slower moments and includes some excellent guitar work.

From Hot Casa’s website:

“A treasure-trove of rare and unusual recordings mostly recorded in Lomé during the 70’s, a fusion of traditional voodoo chants, raw soul and Afro jazz. Finding these tracks and their rights holders hasn’t become any easier even after few trips all over this west African country bordered by Ghana, Benin & Burkina Faso.

We, at Hot Casa Records decided to select thirteen tracks, a snapshot of some hundreds of rare and often forgotten tapes from the most prolific, professional and exciting phase of the country’s recording history included international stars like Bella Bellow ( who even performed to Maracana stadium in Brazil ) to Roger Damawuzan compared as the James Brown from Lomé to forgotten tapes and brilliant songs in Mina, Kabyié and Fon language. Many of the tracks featured here are peppered with innovation and experimentation highlighting how diverse the music scene in Togo was at the time even if the political context influenced their creation.

A must have for all music lovers and soundtrack of the documentary Togo Soul 70 directed by Liz Gomis & Dj Julien Lebrun!”

Togo Soul 70/ Hot Casa Records: Website SoundCloud Facebook

Brady is the founder of Headphone Nation. He’s responsible for all this mess. Sorry about that. He’s also on Twitter @BradyWGerber
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Analog Africa

Analog Africa: the German label brings back retro jams from Burkina Faso.

Analog Africa

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Analog Africa is a label based in Überlingen, Germany that specializes in sharing tropical dance music from Africa. This year marks the label’s 10th anniversary, so I’ve been going through many of the old releases and discovering a bunch of great music. Read here to learn more about the label’s impressive history.

So far, my favorite Analog Africa release is 2011’s ‘Bambara Mystic Soul – The Raw Sound Of Burkina Faso 1974 – 1979.’

From the Bandcamp bio:

“For its commemorative 10th release, Analog Africa indulges in Burkina Faso, one of the jewels of the Sahel, a harsh and arid strip that straddles the southern Sahara, stretching from Dakar in the west to Djibouti in the east. Formerly known as Haute Volta, Burkina Faso’s sound was organized and nurtured during the country’s time as part of a vast patchwork making up French colonial West Africa.

The rise of a post-independence urban middle class willing to invest in the Burkinabe arts spawned a cadre of singers, bands, orchestras and, most importantly, competitive record labels who all played their part in ushering in a golden age of music in their landlocked nation during the 1970’s – a decade marred by political instability in the country and an era of artistic enlightenment empowering the whole of Africa.

The Sahelian climate fortunately bore no influence on the Burkinabé sound, which is cosmopolitan as it was raw. West Africa was and continues to remain deeply interconnected. In search of better gigs, well-to-do producers and sufficient recording equipment, Burkinabe musicians ventured across the surrounding region, returning home with a wealth of knowledge of their neighbors’ distinctive styles.

The raw sound of Burkina Faso combined Afro-Funk, traditional Islamic rhythms and subtle Afro-Latin sounds brought over by visiting Cuban ensembles. Mandingue melodies and guitar techniques from Mali and Guinea, however, were by far the most defining traits of a potent African mix that distinguished the Voltaic style between 1974 and 1979.”

Analog Africa: SoundCloud Facebook Twitter Website

Brady is the founder of Headphone Nation. He’s responsible for all this mess. Sorry about that. He’s also on Twitter @BradyWGerber
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Auntie Flo

Auntie Flo: for fans of Four Tet and Gorillaz

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Auntie Flo is Brian d’Souza, a UK artist who’s been praised by The Guardian for his insightful and educational fusion of electronic and world influences. Check out his diverse body of work here.

I had never heard d’Souza’s music before, but after hearing “The Soniferous Garden,” it feels like I’ve been waiting for this kind of mixture ever since this website began – something that immediately hits you but then reveals more texture and color on repeated listens.

From Bandcamp:

“Produced and arranged over an intense, collaborative two day session at the Santuri studio as part of the Ugandan Bayimba arts festival in Kampala in September 2015, the project draws on Senegalese Sabar drumming, the plaintive notes of the Adungu (a Ugandan 10 string harp) and the vocals of Gio Kiyingi, underpinned by d’Souza’s arrangements and drum programming for two tracks clocking in at a healthy quarter of an hour each.

The title ‘The Soniferous Garden’ is taken from the writings of Canadian composer and environmentalist R Murray Schafer, a concept he defines as ‘a garden or place of acoustic delights’ – an aural space of retreat from the oppressive overabundance of acoustic information that characterizes the modern industrial world.

The two compositions are a response to this idea – drawing the listener into meandering, ever-evolving themes that weave in and out of a rhythmic base that is equal parts traditional percussion and electronic production.

The title track showcases the virtuoso Adungu playing of erstwhile Burnt Friedman collaborator Hakim Kiwanuka, and vocals from regular Highlife World Series contributor Giovanni Kremer Kiyingi whilst Rainfall on red earth (inspired by the vivid colours of the landscape around the studio) pushes the talking drum of Mama N’Dieck Seck Thiam to the fore.”

Auntie Flo: SoundCloud Bandcamp Facebook Twitter

Brady is the founder of Headphone Nation. He’s responsible for all this mess. Sorry about that. He’s also on Twitter @BradyWGerber
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Agrim Agadez

Agrim Agadez: Sahelsounds’ latest field recordings focuses on Niger’s guitar music

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Agrim Agadez is the latest release from Sahelsounds, an archival project started by Christopher Kirkley that explores the contemporary sounds of West Africa’s Sahel region. This latest batch of field recordings focuses on Niger’s guitar music.

From the Bandcamp bio:

“Agrim Agadez is a compilation of contemporary field recordings of guitar music from the Sahelian empire of Niger. Focusing on guitar music throughout the country, from meditative starlight ballads, fuzzy Hendrix covers, rag tag wedding bands, to political minded folk guitarists. A beautiful encapsulation of the diversity of guitar as it exists today, recorded over years of travels.

Like most of the Sahel, the guitar is found in every corner of Niger. Whether acoustic, electric, or built by hand, guitars are highly prized possessions and continue to inspire. Every corner of Niger has particular languages, customs, and cultures, and each corner has taken the instrument and transformed it in its own special way: from bar bands of the southern Hausa land, pastoral flock owning village autodidacts, rag-tag DIY wedding rock musicians, to political minded folk guitarists.

Agrim Agadez follows the sounds overheard playing on cassettes, seeking out the once legendary local heroes in their hometowns, and stumbling upon musicians in accidental chance encounters. The resulting record is a document of the guitar as it’s heard, experienced in the open air studios of Niger with a single microphone – with backdrops of children’s voices, crickets, and village ambience.”

Agrim Agadez / Sahelsounds: Website Bandcamp

Brady is the founder of Headphone Nation. He’s responsible for all this mess. Sorry about that. He’s also on Twitter @BradyWGerber
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