Nihiloxica: A Darker Take on Traditional Bugandan Drumming
The Buganda, Uganda’s largest ethnic group, hold the drum in highest regards. The instrument is used in ceremonies, for dance, and is played when a child is born and when anyone dies. The Kabaka’s (king’s) drums are considered holy. Each clan has its own drum rhythm. And when women were allowed to play drums, it was a sign of their new power over the strict patriarchy.
The music of Nihiloxica is a celebration of drumming’s special place in Uganda, still ever so present. However, the added synth does indeed make the music “darker” and brings the Buganda appreciation into the 21st century.
“A darker take on traditional Bugandan drumming. Comprised of seven percussionists, one kit drummer combined with an analog synth player. Recorded live in single takes at Boutiq Studios in Kampala, Uganda between the 26th and 29th of August 2017.”
Blick Bassy: Cameroon-raised, France-based musician further explores “Folk Afro Blues”
During his recent Bruxelles Ma Belle session, Cameroon-raised, France-based musician Blick Bassy sounds like the wind. He performs “Ndjé Yém” live with only a string man and a trombone player, both only coming in when absolutely needed. Bassy fills the air with his whistle and voice, at times gentle, humming, and even furious. He is a wondrous singer.
Bassy’s latest album is 2015’s Akö, and more info can be found on his website.
“Blick describes the music on Akö as “FAB” or “Folk Afro Blues” music. It’s a title which perfectly explains the roots of the music, though does not hint at the inventiveness within. This is no attempt to simply emulate blues music. On Akö, Blick is proposing a completely new variant of the style. There are hints of gypsy swing on “Wap Do Wap”, beautiful atmospheric harmonies on “Aké” and the Malian folk music of Ali Farka Toure on tracks like “Tell Me” and “Mama”. Then there’s the final track, “Ndjel”, a sparse guitar motif overwhelmed at times by cello for a mesmerizing, menacing and truly original finale.”
Mobraibrahim: Trap music from Nigeria
I like my trap music with as much sweet melody as possible, and Nigerian rapper and producer Mobraibrahim delivers. The secret weapon here is that I hear a bit of R&B groove in a song that could otherwise just be in-your-face trap. The simple production and the new artist’s singing elevates the song into something I wish I could hear more of. New EP Capiche is out this Friday, October 27th.
“A rapper and R&B artist and a music producer who grew up on the beats of Michael Jackson, 2pac & Heartbreak, [he] came out from Nigeria with a relaxed style that connected the dots between Young Thug [and] Drake.”
Olvido Records: Preserving Kenyan “Omutibo” Acoustic Guitar Music
Olvido Records is a US-based label that restores and circulates obscure music from around the world – a dream label for anyone wanting to discover older sounds from cultures outside of America. A recent release of theirs that I’m really enjoying is Usiende Ukalale: Omutibo From Rural Kenya, a collection of acoustic guitar music from Kenya. To me it’s like listening to old John Prine or Mississippi John Hurt records – just a guitar and voice is all you need to tell a good story.
“‘Omutibo’, a uniquely Kenyan style of acoustic guitar music, was invented by George Mukabi in the late 1950s, and quickly adapted by his neighbors in a region that proved truly fertile for guitarists. In 2016, Cyrus Moussavi (Raw Music International) set out along the banks of the River Yala to document the songs of the old days. Recorded on location in homes and yards, these are the songs and stories of a golden era Kenya on the brink of Independence, beautifully resurrected by the songwriters themselves, over 50 years later. Featuring performances by, and interviews of: Johnstone Ouko Mukabi, Shem Tube, Fanuel Amimo, Jimmy Bongo, Sukuma Bin Ongaro, Peter Akwabi, Zachariah Omufumbwa, Omari Machio, and Johanias Kiunya.”
Travi$ Harvey: “Indigo Golden Soul” from Namibia
I’m not too well versed in Namibian hip-hop, but if Travi$ Harvey reflects any scene, I’m all in. “Hip-Hop Back” takes me back to Jay-Z’s original Blueprint era with a large, cinematic sound that highlights his wordplay. Harvey calls this “Indigo Golden Soul,” and I like the moody way that music looks. The Walvis Bay artist, poet, songwriter, and producer is also one-half of New Breedz. According to The African Hip Hop Blog, Harvey’s upcoming solo release will be out sometime this month.
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.”
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.”
Los Camaroes: Analog Africa Rediscovers Cameroon’s Lost Great Band
The next release from Analog Africa is the 1979 final album by Los Camaroes, the legendary Cameroon band with a legendary backstory worthy of some Wes Anderson movie (I can see Anderson entering his tropical Afrobeat phase for his next movie). The full album will be available digitally on September 29th.
“Los Camaroes emerged at the end of the 1960s from the town of Maroua in the northern, predominantly Islamic area of Cameroon. After changes in name, in lineup and in management, they worked their way south to the capital to make a name for themselves; in the span of only a few years they changed Cameroon’s music scene forever, leaving a trail of sold-out nightclubs and monster radio hits in their wake. Then, at the height of their popularity, they broke up.”
Mdou Moctar: Niger guitarist soundtracks a Tuareg Purple Rain
Our love of Tuareg guitars is pretty obvious, so of course I have to write about Niger’s Mdou Moctar. Also, I recently (two years late) started listening to the original soundtrack for Akounak Tedalat Taha Tazoughai, a Tuareg film reimaging Prince’s Purple Rain in the Saharan Desert. This explains why the album cover looks so familiar and why I’m drawn to this record.
The album was produced by Christopher Kirkley, the man behind the sahelsounds project we often cover here.
Moctar kicks off his US tour next month and will be in New York in September and October. Full dates here.
“Rocking soundtrack recording from “Rain the Color Blue with a Little Red in it,” a revolutionary story of guitars, motorcycles, cellphones – and the music of a new generation. Original compositions from Tuareg guitarist Mdou Moctar from the film about his rise to fame in the city of Agadez. From the raucous heavy psychedelic to the beautiful pentatonic sublime. Includes original compositions and reverb heavy intermissions film score.”
Class Suicide: Mid-00’s Kenyan hardcore punk
Though not unheard of, established African punk and metal scenes are not well known outside the continent. If you’re going to start anywhere, start with Nairobi’s Class Suicide, a mid-00’s hardcore punk band often credited to be one of the first hardcore bands in Eastern Africa. Debut album Storm The Gates doesn’t sound pretty, but it does everything a punk record should do and is compelling in how it engages and surprises.
Read more about the history of Nairobi’s fascinating punk and metal scene via OkayAfrica.
“Class Suicide was a band that brought the heavy metal and punk rock sounds of Nairobi together for 2 brief chaotic years. A politically driven bunch of crusty fellows from far away en Afrique (Nairobi, Kenya) Croe (guitars & vox) and Gearz (Bass), both formerly of the punk rock band Impish, joined forces with Adam (vox) and Kwame (percussion) who had been playing in heavy metal cover bands in late 2003. Croe had a tape in his car containing songs from: W.B.T.D., Tragedy and Catharsis. The band found common ground in the sounds and style of crust and within 2 weeks already written a handful of songs and performed live. The sound is of deep guttural vocals and violent tones and rhythm. This is balanced by melodies and rhythm both confident and delicate. The band has forged these qualities together with their live energy on their debut release ‘Storm The Gates’ originally released in December 2005 on CD in Kenya.”