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