Beating Heart

Beating Heart: remixes of African field recordings for a good cause

beating heart

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I’ve been listening to a lot of Beating Hearts lately, specifically its debut release from last year that includes remixes of old Malawi field recordings. This month, the collective released its South Africa compilation, and I’m excited to see what countries the albums cover from here.

Learn more about the organization here.

From Bandcamp:

“[We are] a collective of artists and enthusiasts who believe in the power of music to create a world without borders. Born in the heart of Sub-Saharan Africa in 2016, the project sprung from a vision to bring the world’s largest archive of African field recordings into the present day. For this album, [we] inspired some of today’s hottest producers to build new compositions using original field recordings made in Malawi in the 1950s…Moving nation by nation, each release from the collective raises monies for the communities that created the original music.”

Beating Heart: Website SoundCloud 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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ShellacHead

ShellacHead: dedicated to exploring world music from the 78 rpm era

ShellacHead

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ShellacHead is an Oakland-based label that reissues world music via 45s and 78s from Albania, the Persian Gulf, Sardinia, and more. Learn more here. The label’s 2015 The Lost 45s of Sudan collection is especially good.

From Bandcamp:

“[This] world music blog dedicated to 78 and 45 rpm records, is happy to present this compilation of incredibly rare tracks from Sudan’s “Golden Age” of recording, the 1960s-70s. A hypnotic blend of traditional Sudanese sounds with influences from abroad, these legendary artists thrived during this brief period until authoritarian Islamists brought the Golden Age to an abrupt end in the 1980s.”

ShellacHead: Website Facebook Twitter

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Noura Mint Seymali

Noura Mint Seymali: Mauritania’s great psych blues artistnoura mint seymali

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I’ve only recently discovered the incredible music of Noura Mint Seymali, whom Vice Noisey rightfully called the Mauritanian psych blues artist you need to know about. All of Seymali’s albums are great, especially last year’s fast-paced Arbina, which features some of the best riffs you’ll ever hear on any instrument from any musician in the world.

From Bandcamp:

“Arbina is Noura Mint Seymali’s second international release. Delving deeper into the wellspring of Moorish roots, as is after all the tried and true way of the griot, the album strengthens her core sound, applying a cohesive aesthetic approach to the reinterpretation of Moorish tradition in contemporary context.

…Supported by guitarist, husband and fellow griot, Jeiche Ould Chighaly, Seymali’s tempestuous voice is answered with electrified counterpoint, his quarter-tone rich guitar phraseology flashing out lightning bolt ideas. Heir to the same music culture as Noura, Jeiche intimates the tidinit’s (Moorish lute) leading role under the wedding khaima with the gusto of a rock guitar hero. Bassist Ousmane Touré, who has innovated a singular style of Moorish low-end groove over the course of many years, can be heard on this album with greater force and vigor than ever before. Drummer/producer Matthew Tinari drives the ensemble forward with the agility and precision need to make the beats cut.

Many of the songs on Arbina call out to the divine, asking for grace and protection. “Arbina” is a name for God. The album carries a message about reaching beyond oneself to an infinite spiritual source, while learning to take the finite human actions to necessary to affect reality on earth. The concept of sëbeu, or that which a human can do to take positive action on their destiny, is animated throughout. While final outcomes rest in the hands of the creator, the duty to use one’s capacities as a human to work towards our hopes and highest intentions roots us in life and relationship to God. The title track ‘Arbina’ applies this concept to specifically empower women in their decisions about preventative healthcare. It advocates for the concrete task of early screening to prevent breast and uterine cancer, sickness that claimed Noura’s own mother at a premature age, while offering an appeal to the ultimate benevolence of God. “Ghizlane” invokes the concept through metaphor, describing the elusive nature of our dreams and the innate obligation to follow. “Richa” reflects of the power of music as a vehicle.”

Noura Mint Seymali: Website SoundCloud 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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Afous D’Afous

Afous D’Afous: Because there’s more to Tuareg rock than Tinariwen

Afous D'Afous

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The latest Sahelsounds release is a collection of songs by Tuareg rock band Afous D’Afous, one of the Sahara’s best guitar bands and a leading group of what we know as “desert blues” in the West. Based in Tamanrasset in southern Algeria, Afous D’Afous’ music is more upbeat and pop-sounding compared to the serious and heady grooves of Tinariwen, who are probably the most famous Tuareg rock group outside Africa.

From Bandcamp:

“In the past decade, there has been an explosion of ethnically Tuareg rock bands on the world music stage. Built around the electric guitar, the genre ranges from stripped down minimalist nostalgia filled ballads to distortion heavy tracks for dancing. Known collectively in the West as “desert blues” for its pentatonic scales and finger styles that recall Americana, in the Sahara it’s simply known as “guitar.” The style has emerged as contemporary pop music back home and today there are hundreds of bands, playing locally in weddings and public celebrations. The effect of the world music industry is not lost on the Sahara however, and the Western music market still maintains dominance over the Tuareg guitar scene. For the majority of Tuareg “guitar” bands, success still comes via the West. Artists travel abroad to record albums, and there are no shortage of indie-rock heavyweights anxious to jump into the role of producer.

An exception to the rule is Kader Tarhanine’s group “Afous D’Afous.” This six person rock outfit from Tamanrasset in southern Algeria is by all accounts unknown in world music circles. However, at home in the Tuareg community, they are without a doubt the most celebrated, famous, and in demand group, second only to Tinariwen. Kader Tarhanine rose to popularity in 2010, with his recording of a song “Tarhanine Tegla” (My Love is Gone). The track, a low-fi love ballad, recorded with a crunchy electric guitar over a pacing drum machine, went on to become an anthem throughout the diaspora (earning Kader the nickname “Kader Tarhanine”). In 2015, Kader formed his group “Afous D’Afous” and traveled to Algiers to record the full length debut “Tenere.” The 9 track album was released on CD in a limited run in-country, accompanied by a huge press rollout. The band appeared on Algerian national television, quickly becoming a country favorite and representative of the Tuareg ethnic minority. The album quickly disseminated throughout the diaspora, traded on cellphones in the conflicted Azawad, beamed through private WhatsApp pirate networks, and soundtracking smuggler’s routes, blasting from Land Cruisers at high speeds through the border zones of the open desert.

“Tenere” is a departure from the rest of the contemporary Tuareg rock albums. Of the myriad of Tuareg releases that have caught the ear of the West, only a tiny few are produced at home, sans Western producers. “Tenere” offers some of the most complex compositions in the genre to date, tightly arranged and polished. There is something sonically throwback, though Afous D’Afous crawled out of 70s rock studio album. It is long cited that Tuareg rock styles are largely inspired from heavyweights Dire Straits. This may be the most true to form rock album to date, and there is certainly a few riffs that recall Mark Knopfler. The electric guitar, front and center, drives the tracks with uptempo rhythms, all led by the soulful voice of Kader, measured and balanced with the chorus call and response. In addition to this classic rock aesthetic, the production adds some unlikely elements, reflective of contemporary globalism – layering pitch bending North African synthesizer, reverb saturated dub, and even Indian tabla and sitar!

While Tuareg guitar has become a commodity in the world music industry, Afous D’Afous has continued to in relative obscurity, all while remaining one of the most popular guitar outfits amongst Tuareg fans. They tour constantly throughout the Sahara to sold out crowds in Bamako, Niamey, and Agadez. They have yet to tour abroad. The irony is not lost on the band, and we’re excited for the opportunity to partner with them to correct this glaring oversight.

The remastered Sahel Sounds release of “Tenere” pulls together the complete recordings from their debut album, available for the first time outside of the diaspora. The vinyl edition of 1000 features old school 3-color offset printed jackets.”

Afous D’Afous: 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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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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