Monday, December 21, 2009

Book Review: The Tao of Wu-The Rza

The Tao of Wu, a memoir by a founding member of The Wu-Tang Clan and music industry mogul, The Rza, is a deeply profound collection of stories, lessons, and thoughts. The Rza not only gives readers an insider's perspective on how The Wu-Tang Clan came to leave an indelible mark on the music industry, but he weaves the teachings of Taoism, Islam, and his own hip-hop philosophies into his story.

The Rza presents very meaningful, profound teachings through his own unique language and perspective. Using the common denominator of knowledge, The Rza is able to present truths taken from Taoism, Islam, the game of Chess, and a variety of other philosophies from different parts of the world. In using broadly accepted principles, he is able to let readers relate to his experiences, which is no small feat considering he has seen and done things of which most readers will only have dreamt.

For anyone who is a fan of the Wu-Tang Clan, this book is a must-read. The Rza details exactly how the group came to be from the Kung-Fu movies that piqued his interest in Eastern culture, to the strategies he employed to market and promote the individuals in the group to become stars and lift the profile of Wu as a whole. His heartfelt memories of the events leading up to Ol Dirty Bastard's death as well as his description of how he prevented Method Man from being shot to death in a housing project in Staten Island are both moving accounts.

This book is informative on many levels. It permeates knowledge both ethereal and material. The Rza is a perfect example of why hip-hop culture deserves much more credit than it gets as a legitimate, thought-provoking art-form.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Help The Sway Machinery Make Their Pilgrimage to Mali

As I mentioned in my article in The Huffington Post, The Sway Machinery have been invited to perform at The Festival in The Desert, a music festival in Northern Mali featuring some of the best musicians in the world. They're also planning on recording an album in Bamako, Mali at Ali Farka Toure's studio. They've enlisted an Emmy Award winning documentarian to go with them on their trip to share their journey with the world.

I'll let Jeremiah Lockwood, The Sway Machinery's frontman, tell you the rest: "The missing ingredient is not passion or artistic achievement or even opportunity...we have already received the invitation to perform at one of the largest music festivals in Mali on the same stage with the legends of West African music! The missing ingredient, sadly, is money. At this moment, I come to you all with open hands, wishing that you will open yourselves to our passionate desire to see this project to fruition and that you will help us in any way you can!"

If you are willing and able, please donate what you can to make this amazing journey possible.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Zongo Junction w/ Meta and The Cornerstones Tomorrow Night @ Public Assembly

If you're in BK tomorrow night and looking to get funky with some afrolicious flavor, check out Zongo Junction, the monthly afrobeat party at Public Assembly featuring Meta and The Cornerstones this month. This party is dedicated to showcasing the freshest afrocentric talent in the city, so take advantage of the opportunity and show some support to some of the freshest cats on the scene doing big things for the afro-community.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Film Review-Throw Down Your Heart

Throw Down Your Heart tells the beautiful story of Bela Fleck's journey to Africa to find the true history of his instrument, the banjo. Traveling from Tennessee to Uganda, Tanzania, The Gambia, and Mali, Fleck finds what he's looking for on a deeply spiritual level transcending language and cultural barriers along the way.

This film is more than documentation of Bela Fleck's trip across Africa. It is a testimony to the amazing power of music to unite and act as a universal language. The filmmakers and sound engineers do a spectacular job of capturing the process by which Fleck is able to connect musically and otherwise with musicians and people across the continent. The moment in The Gambia where he sees the akonting for the first time (the instrument most widely regarded as the banjo's direct ancestor) is truly priceless.

My favorite segments of the film were in Mali and Tanzania. Having spent time in East Africa myself, I could relate especially to the culture and scenery of Tanzania shown in the film. The city of Bagamoyo in Tanzania gives the film its name. Bagamoyo translates to Throw Down Your Heart in English. The city got its name from the East African Slave Trade. Slaves would be taken to the Tanzanian coast on the Indian Ocean. After seeing the beautiful ocean, the ships, the sand, the waves, they would never return to their inland village. They would, "Throw Down Their Heart" and never return.

Fleck's trip to Mali will make any African music enthusiast extremely jealous. He is greeted at the airport by Oumou Sangare and given an ambassador's welcome. He then collaborates with Malian musical legends Djelimady Tounkara, Basekou Kouyaté, and Oumou Sangare with the help of Brooklyn's own Banning Eyre (shout out to Afropop Worldwide) to make some beautiful music that bridges the gap across the Atlantic Ocean seamlessly.

This film and the album to which it gave birth, are not the first of their kind. American musicians have traveled to the motherland to get in touch with their musical roots many times before. I've reviewed albums and read books that all detail the same experience, but this film and album especially are different for several reasons.

First of all, Bela Fleck isn't just your average musician. Regarded as one of the best banjo players in the world, Fleck shows why in this film. His magically swift fingers glide up and down his fret board throughout the film which mesh perfectly with the African style highlighted especially by Djelimady Tounkara in Mali. Not just any musician could speak the African music language so fluently. A key element of the film was Fleck's experience time and time again, stunning people in new countries or towns with skill on the banjo. It's exactly that skill that allowed him to gain people's respect so instantly.

Second, because of his status, experience, and success as a musician, Fleck is able to go on a trip of which most musicians can only dream. He has the money and connections to go exactly where he wanted to go and connect with exactly the right people to make beautiful music everywhere he went. Having traveled in Africa myself, I can say from experience, it's not cheap or easy to fly from New York to Kampala, Uganda, to Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, to Dakar, Senegal, to Bamako, Mali, back to New York. Overall, that must have cost over $50,000 at least for him and his entourage, and that's just travel expenses.

All that money spent is definitely worth it. This is a beautiful film and album that give credit where it's due. It's not particularly common for established American musicians to travel across the Atlantic just to pay homage to Africa and its historical contributions to American music. This film will inspire you to make a pilgrimage of your own or simply to look at music of the American south from a new perspective.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Two Afro-Jams This Weekend

DJ Afro-Marc will be throwin down this Friday night at The Knitting Factory for Ikebe Shakedown's EP Release Party. Mamarazzi and Zongo Junction will also be hitting the stage in a night full of Afro-funk. Combining traditional African rhythmic textures with melodies and grooves steeped in American funk, soul, & jazz, Ikebe Shakedown offers a unique & powerful sound. The 8-piece, Brooklyn-based band formed in early 2009 and, after a slew of dates around NYC, recorded their debut 7” single and EP, Hard Steppin’, at Dunham Studios in June.

If you didn't get enough afro-funk on Friday, Saturday night, Makossa International is the summer dance party you needed: Highlife, Soukous, Afrobeat, and some hot new styles--bringing together some of the highlights in Brooklyn's equatorial music scene. The event takes place at Studio BPM, located at 237 Kent Avenue between Grand Street and N. 1st Street. Makossa International warms up at 10 P.M. with a DJ set from Awesome Tapes From Africa. King Expressers, on at 11pm, features players from Antibalas and Akoya Afrobeat. They bring a new style spun off of their favorite African dance music with soulful and exciting horns and harmonies.

Mandingo Ambassadors hit at midnight: led by legendary Guinean guitarist Mamady Kouyate, The Ambassadors play an entrancing, endlessly grooving style that is 100% Manding. The party continues into the night with more Awesome Tapes. There is a suggested donation of $10 at the door.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Bawku West Collective

Bawku West Collective is a loosely-knit group of musicians based around the community of Zebilla in the Bawku West District of northern Ghana. Luke Bassuener volunteered there in 2003 and incorporated some field recordings into an album for his Indie Rock band This Bright Apocalypse. He went back in 2008, and with the help of Charles Braimah (a.k.a. DJ Bones), made more field recordings and incorporated them into an album to benefit the artists that helped make the album.

Fair trade music production is a cause I whole-heartedly believe in. The music industry has a long long history of exploiting musicians, especially African musicians. Efforts such as these are a great start towards tipping the scales back in musicians' favor. Not only do the proceeds go back to the musicians and their families, but the beats are pretty tight as well. The album is available on CdBaby and Itunes. Do your part, and get a dope album for a good cause.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Album Review: Coconut Rock-Ocote Soul Sounds & Adrian Quesada

Sometimes music has a way of transporting your mind into another world, creating a new environment in your imagination, furnished with the perfect soundtrack/theme music. Coconut Rock, the album from Ocote Soul Sounds & Adrian Quesada set to be re-released on ESL Music December 8, 2009, contains that transcendental property to a higher degree than any music I've heard in a long time.

Ocote Soul Sounds is a collaboration featuring founders of two supergroups, Martin Perna of Antibalas, and Adrian Quesada of Grupo Fantasma. Perna drew his inspiration for the project from his experience living in a fishing village in Michoacán, Mexico. He sought to create music that was accessible without a 12-piece ensemble and a baritone saxophone. He began writing guitar music with more "intimacy and immediacy".

Perna and Quesada first collaborated several years ago when Perna passes through Austin, Texas on his way to Mexico. It was when his bio-diesel car broke down on the way back that their collaboration entered its second iteration, giving them the time to finish their first album, El Niño Y El Sol. Their complimentary styles have allowed them to create soundscapes made up of interlocking melodic and rhythmic elements that foster a Latin-psychedelic backdrop, transporting listeners to a funky Latin dreamworld.

Certain tracks allude to different Afro-Latin genres. Tu Fin, Mi Comienzo has a distinctly cumbia feel. Vendendo Saude E Fe has an Afro-Brazilan feel with Portuguese lyrics. Marcos Garcia of Antibalas and Chico Mann is featured as a vocalist on several tracks as well, lending his signature electro-afro voice to the cornucopia of styles present on the album.

Coconut Rock is the type of album you need to listen to more than once. It's a densely layered, intricate collection of compositions that blend influences and styles from track to track. I'll admit, the first time I listened to the album, I was expecting something other than what was there. Being a huge fan of Antibalas, I was expecting more afrobeat, more instantly gratifying grooves that hook you instantaneously. Going back and listening to the album for a second time, I've realized this is an album you that takes time to digest. It's deep. Once you gain access to what Perna and Quesada are saying, you'll connect on a much deeper level. That's when you'll gain access to their world.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

DJ Underdog-Africa Plays On 5

He's back again. Africa Plays On, the recurring afro-heavy mixtape from D.C.'s dopest beatmaker, DJ Underdog, has reached Vol. 5 status. If you missed the first four, all will be forgiven if you snag this juicy chunk of rhythmic flavor.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Zongo Junction @ Public Assembly-11/19

Zongo Junction, the new monthly afro-jam at Public Assembly in Williamsburg, is going down this Thursday night. No Small Money Brass Band and Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds are hitting the stage along with Zongo Junction. It's about time afrobeat grooves started emanating from venues other than Zebulon on a regular basis. Zongo Junction is leading the charge, carrying the afrobeat torch, breathing life into the music on a monthly basis. Come out and support a band that's on the cusp of the afrobeat movement.

Public Assembly-Front Room-Thursday Night

Monday, November 16, 2009

New Single from Toumani Diabaté and Ali Farka Touré

Kala Djula is the new digital singe taken off the forthcoming album from Ali Farka Touré and Toumani Diabaté, Ali and Toumani. The slow, enchanting song will be released with the rest of the album in February 2010, but is available via Amazon and Itunes in the meantime. The collaboration between the two icons of Malian culture was the second and last album they recorded together. Cachaito Lopez is featured as well.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Booty Crisis at Public Assembly this Saturday Night!

It's that time again party people, Planet Rump is throwin down at Public Assembly this Saturday night in a legendary night of electro-funk that will be sure to make history as one of the craziest parties to hit Brooklyn in years...

Planet Rump presents BOOTY CRISIS, the monthly dance party devoted to showcasing funky-fresh electro acts that will make you shake your ass HARD. This month they present flavors from around the world:
Chico Mann the king of instant-vintage electro-freestyle-Latin-Afrobeat, Tayisha Busay ---glitter-garnished fly-girls armed with synths, drum machines and live percussion, and Hiro Tha Jap---fashion icon spinning booty-shaking club music all night. Planet Rump will perform their infectious brand of live electrofunkrap. DJ A-ko will get the party started on the ones and twos. Plus the National Breakin' League will present a special dance showcase. It's a futuristic party from the past, every month at Public Assembly.
Saturday, November 14th10pm-4am$10
Public Assembly-front room
70 N. 6th St. (between Kent and Wythe)
Williamsburg, Brooklyn
(718) 384-4586
L to Bedford

Sunday, November 8, 2009

New Single from Kokolo-Afrika Man

Kokolo, one of the dopest afrobeat bands that's been doing it the longest on the international scene, recently put out a new single, Afrika Man. Get the track here. If you're reading this from Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, or Turkey, look for Kokolo at an afro-spot near you, as they're touring Eastern Europe in the month of November. Check out the video below.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Best of the Black President-Best of Fela Reissued by The Knitting Factory

As I mentioned in my article in the Huffington Post about FELA! the Broadway show about the Black President, The Knitting Factory is re-mastering and re-releasing all 45 Fela Kuti titles - his entire catalog - in unique digi-packs with the original artwork over the next 18 months. The reissue series marks the first time that all of Fela's titles will be released on vinyl in North America, as well as the first official release of the entire Koola Lobitos catalog, Fela's 1960s highlife band.

The first release, the Best of The Black President, comes with a dvd, A Slice of Fela. This dvd is jam-packed with amazing concert footage, segments of documentaries, and interviews with Bill T. Jones, Carlos Moore, and Sahr Ngaujah. As someone who considers himself pretty knowledgeable about Fela Kuti, I gained a lot of insight and information about Fela's life and music from the footage on that dvd, a reason to get the re-issued album alone.

Fela, and afrobeat, have been picking up considerable steam over the last several years due to the work of several artists and dj's like
Antibalas, Akoya, Rich Medina, and host of other people too numerous to name here (see my Afro-links section). This reissue series will only give that revival a serious kick in the ass. Get T-Shirts, tracks, ringtones, and a whole bunch of other Fela related goodness here.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

EarthRise Sound System-The Yoga Sessions

Any aspiring yogi knows that when channeling transcendental energy, nothing helps focus the mind like music. Especially music that is downtempo, deep, and steady. EarthRise Sound System, Derek Beres and David “Duke Mushroom” Schommer, have put together an album of remixed chants and percussive elements that will definitely help the mind channel its energy.

Derek Beres is a writer, yoga instructor, and dj. He blends those three elements of his personality with his production partner Duke Mushroom—a producer, writer, and performer who has played on over 50 records in the past two decades. Their objective with this record is to move you inside and out. They channel elements of their multicultural experiences seamlessly to create a deep expressive collection of songs.

Derek Beres and Duke Mushroom are two multi-talented cats are capable of making great music. The album doesn't officially drop until January 2010, but you can check
out the tracks on their myspace in the meantime.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

New Chico Mann Video-Say What Short Film

Chico Mann just released a new short film/music video that is downright funky. The storyline, production value, and music are all tight. Check it out!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Album Review: Warm Heart of Africa-The Very Best

If you were lucky enough to catch Esau Mwamwaya and Radioclit Are The Very Best, the free mixtape that took the music world by storm when it came out in late 2008, then you were most likely blown away by Esau Mwamwaya's voice and Radioclit's ability to seamlessly create inventive mashups that conveyed creativity, originality, and most of all, potential.

That potential is realized and then some on Warm Heart of Africa, the debut full-length album from The Very Best out September 29, 2009 on Green Owl Records, that upholds their claim and reputation. While Warm Heart of Africa doesn't have the instant gratification of the mixtape, its grooves are every bit as infectious. The album also features guest appearances from industry icons Ezra Koenig of Vampire Weekend and M.I.A.

The Very Best's ability to fuse their disparate sensibilities so seamlessly is unprecedented. Esau Mwamwaya's irrepressibly vivacious voice makes no effort to hide his Malawian roots singing in his mother tongue, Chichewa, on over 95% of the album. Radioclit, Johan Karlberg and Etienne Tron, are able to blend their self-proclaimed "ghettopop" sensibility perfectly with Mwamwaya's African personality creating a uniquely contemporary international sound.

Radioclit showcases their ability to recreate a track with an original identity on the album's title track (my personal favorite song on the album). Remixing "Guitar Boy", a highlife song originally recorded by Nigerian star Sir Victor Uwaifo in the 1970's, Radioclit create a backdrop that's irresistibly catchy over which Esau Mwamwaya and Ezra Koenig of Vampire Weekend's voices dip and sore. The Very Best remix of "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa" was one of the most popular songs off their mixtape; "Warm Heart of Africa" could be their signature hit this time around.

Other irresistibly danceable tracks include "Nsokoto", a beat that bumps hard like a club track yet still has an African identity. "Rain Dance" featuring M.I.A. is equally contagious and conveys a strikingly similar combination of raw African energy with an electronic dance beat. The Very Best remix of "Paper Planes" first caught international audiences attention, so it's good to see M.I.A. collaborating with the group again. "Kamphopo", a remix of "Heart it Races" by Architecture in Helsinki, is the only track held over from the mixtape.

Albums like this don't come around very often. The group's ability to turn mainstream audiences on to music with an unfamiliar African sound could result in a reception most African musicians singing in their native tongues are incapable of obtaining. Critics from mainstream outlets like the NY Times, Rolling Stone, Spin and a host of others have already lavished praise on the album, so time will only tell if mainstream listeners will open their minds, their ears and their wallets to give this album the success it deserves.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Album Review: King Coya-Cumbias de Villa Donde

Imagine if The Rza composed a film score to a horror movie set in the Argentine Andes. That's the vibe of Cumbias de Villa Donde, the new album by King Coya out October 13, 2009 on Nacional Records (the record label pushing the envelope the hardest in Latin Music). Downtempo, yet still danceable, the beats are eerily, electronically, funky.

King Coya is the digitalized, imaginary version of Gaby Kerpel, the renowned Argentine composer whose credits include the scores to De La Guarda and FuerzaBruta.
Kerpel is part of the critically-acclaimed Argentine experimental cumbia collective Zizek, an ensemble known for pushing genres and breaking rules.

Coya is a term used in Northern Argentina, referring to a local in a yarn cap, reserved in nature and small in stature, playing an instrument like the charango; the miniature guitar used in Argentine folk music. King Coya tracks grew out of live sets at Zizek’s infamous club nights, performing in front of raucous late-night crowds in Buenos Aires.

With the help of some special guests like Grammy-nominated Petrona Martinez and Cucu Diamantes (of Yerba Buena), King Coya has contributed a strong album that truly pushes the envelope of contemporary Latin music to a new level.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

OK Africa CMJ @ The Knitting Factory BK

As most New Yorkers know, CMJ is the time of year where you can see the most live music in the shortest period of time if you're so inclined to do so. I've stayed out of the mix for the most part this year, but I have to give a shout to my peoples over at Okayplayer and Modiba Productions for putting on this little soiree at the Knitting Factory this saturday night. African Hip-Hop luminaries Bajah + The Dry Eye Crew and Blitz the Ambassador are headlining the evening full of African beatmakers guaranteed to make that ass shake.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Help Support the New Chico Mann Album

Ever wanted to be an executive producer of a dope nasty album? Well, here's your big chance. Chico Mann is trying to raise some funds for their next album, and are accepting contributions to the beat-making fund. There's all kinds of incentives to contribute, and all kinds of levels at which you can. Even if you can just throw a few dollars their way, you'd be doing the world a favor by helping an artist share their gift with the world.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Three Felabrations Coming Up

October 15th, the birthday of Fela Anikulapo Kuti, is fast approaching. As is the case every year, disciples of the chief priest will be celebrating the day Fela came into the world at a few dance parties across the city. I give my afrobeat endorsement to these two Felabrations.

On Thursday October 15th at SOB's: This is definitely one party you do not want to miss. DJ's Rich Medina and Ian Friday will be hitting the decks in the same night with one common cause--paying hommage to the chief priest. Both DJ's are fully capable of unleashing a ferocious dance party on their own, but when their powers combine, Thursday night at SOB's, things could get crazy.

On Wednesday October 14th at the Knitting Factory: If you don't already know, Ikebe Shakedown is one of the dopest up-and-coming afrobeat bands on the ny scene. Their soon to be released EP, Hard Steppin, screams potential. Teaming up with DJ Frank Gossner of Voodoo Funk = one slammin dance party.

This latest addition to the docket is something particularly special. Zongo Junction, a new afrobeat band on the Brooklyn scene that recently started a monthly at Public Assembly in Williamsburg is celebrating Fela's B-day with Mamarazzi, one of the hottest bands on the scene. Stay tuned on this one, as it could turn into something special.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Album Review: Pax Nicholas and the Nettey Family-Na Teef Know De Road of Teef

Na Teef Know De Road of Teef, the previously unreleased album from Pax Nicholas and the Nettey Family, is a seriously funky slice of afro-funk recorded in Lagos at the height of afrobeat's summit. Nicholas Addo-Nettey performed and recorded with Fela Anikulapo Kuti and Afrika 70 as a conga player and backup singer from 1971 until 1978 debuting on Shakara and leaving the band during the Berlin Jazz Festival along with Tony Allen and several others. While Allen moved to Paris, Nicholas stayed in Berlin where he continues to make funky music today.

Na Teef Know De Road of Teef was recorded at Ginger Baker's studio in Lagos, Nigeria in 1973, one of two solo albums Nicholas recorded while with Afrika 70. The album previously went unreleased at the behest of Fela who upon hearing how uncontrollably nasty the album was forbade it to be played again. As Nicholas was currently living under Fela's rule in the Kalakuta Republic, he had no choice but to obey. As a result the album was virtually unheard until Frank Gossner ( discovered it in a record store in Philly. He brought it to the attention of Daptone Records who gave the world a gift of extreme afrofunk flavor.

This album is heavy. As a percussionist, Nicholas emphasizes a rich texture of interlocking percussion that takes on the identity of the tracks. Nicholas' voice is melancholy and gloomy which matches the keyboards and guitar lines that have an underproduced raw feel. Na Teef Know De Road of Teef represents the craze James Brown unleashed across West Africa and the legions of musicians who were enraptured by the funky interpretation Africa had to offer. Pax Nicholas and the Nettey Family is a cut above the vast majority to come out of the Afro-funk wave. Nicholas and the other musicians playing on the album had the pedigree of Afrika 70, the band able to put the most unique stamp on afro-funk, and their musicianship and attitude is evident.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Album Review: The Budos Band-The Budos Band EP

The Budos Band EP, out June 2009 on Daptone Records, represents the latest progression of the eleven piece afro-funk ensemble. From their start, Budos has always had a complex, layered, deep rhythmic sound, but with each album (this is their third) they’ve advanced to new levels of intricacy and depth.

If their first album was an introduction, a beginning of exploration to the concept, and their second a refinement or improvement, The EP is a continuation of that process. The grooves are more enchanting, more captivating and ornate. The principal strength of Budos has always been its power and strength generated by their ability to mend sharply contrasting sounds like the deep baritone sax and the sharp, piercing, trumpets all the while maintaining a steady groove with their unshakable rhythm section. That theme is continued upon and improved in this EP.

While Budos is often in between genres and classifications, they have always been and will continue to be universally funky. If you like the first two albums, you're going to really like this one.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

DJ Underdog-Africa Plays On 3

He did it again. DJ Underdog came back to make the world dance for a third time with his monthly mixtape, Africa Plays On. Check it here, but be prepared to move.

Monday, August 24, 2009

New K'Naan Mixtape

When a nasty producer and one of the hottest mc's on the scene use three of the biggest musical protest icons ever to live as inspiration, this happens: The Messengers, an ep featuring Somali rapper K'Naan and Okayplayer producer J. Period. Remixes of tracks from Bob Marley, Bob Dylan, and Fela Anikulapo Kuti will be released in four segments with a comprehensive release coming later. Check out the first three tracks here.

BLK JKS Album Release Party @ SOB's-9/8

THE baddest music promoter in the city, Manchild Black, is presenting South African rockers BLK JKS September 8th at SOB's to celebrate the release of their new album, After Robots. BLK JKS' multi-faceted sound combines ska, dub reggae, pop, rock, psychedelic, jazz and blues leaving everyone in the audience happy, impressed and ready for more. Coming from South Africa, they represent a long history of musical innovation and ingenuity. More than anything else, they represent the NEW South Africa with an updated consciousness and contemporary, global sound.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Two Dope Shows This Saturday Night

A dilemma that faces many New Yorkers every weekend: two parties that will blow your funky mind on the same night. This Saturday, that very problem will be testing my funkability with these two jams:

Planet Rump-The Booty Crisis

Saturday, August 15th
10pm - $7
Public Assembly (front room) 70 N. 6th St.
Williamsburg, Brooklyn
L to Bedford

Planet Rump is a new monthly dance party hosted by musician/DJ/promoter collective Planet Rump. Every third Saturday at Public Assembly, expect to see the freshest funkiest livest acts on the electro/dance/hip-hop scene. Kicking off the new party, we present Claire Hux, a hype Baltimore club duo with plenty of bass, booty and baby powder to spread around. Then Planet Rump will perform original club bangers using just a casio keyboard, some secret pedals, and 3 mics. Finally, Purple Crush will blast the party to freestyle bliss with catchy electro house that bumps, pops, and glides all over the dancefloor. Planet Rump DJs will keep you dancing between sets. It's a futuristic party from the past.

The Sound Liberation Festival
Saturday, August 15th
2pm-2am-$18, advance $15. Advance tickets available through
Littlefield-622 Degraw St (between Third and Fourth Aves)
Gowanus, Brooklyn
Subway: M, R to Union St

The Sound Liberation Front, devotees of “the power of music as a socially liberating and unifying cultural force,” tosses a full-scale party in Brooklyn’s copacetic art-and-performance space Littlefield. The event kicks off with the Sound Liberation Family Jam—a DJ workshop from DubSpot, dance instruction by the Afro Mosaic Soul Collective and similar activities for the young’uns. At 7pm, the party proper kicks in, featuring sets from the venerable hip-hop trio Brand Nubian, Afro-electro combo Chico Mann, dub producer Ticklah, Boogie Down Productions DJ Kenny Parker, the Rub’s Cosmo Baker, Libation’s Ian Friday and others. Go to for more info.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Album Review: Aphrodesia-Precious Commodity

Precious Commodity, the new album by Aphrodesia out July 8, 2009 on Shackrobeat Records, is an infectiously funky, diverse album that leaves you no choice but to get up dance while listening. Aphrodesia is a politically opinionated Afro-funk collective out of San Francisco, CA that has a reputation for their electric stage presence and ability to master a variety of African musical styles.

Aphrodesia came into existence as a band in 2003 in the "backyard shack" of bassist Ezra Gale. Their sound has always been powerful and innovative fueled by funked out guitar lines and churning percussion with an industrial-strength horn section belting out section lines and solos. What sets Aphrodesia apart perhaps the most are their female lead vocalists. Afrobeat was created as, and has been for the most part continued to be, a male-dominated genre where female voices were secondary, backup accompaniment, to the male lead vocals. As they've always been unafraid to do, Aphrodesia turns that institution on its head.

Their feminist, anti-establishment leanings extend past their arrangements and into their song lyrics throughout Precious Commodity. The song's title track is an allusion to prostitution in SE Asia. "The song is the story of this trans-continental sex trade, a kind of mockery of this old game where man thinks he is winning," explains singer and songwriter Lara Maykovich. "Power and money are evidently not the final quench. The thirst is satisfied by a more precious commodity. Sex, our most powerful possession and that which connects us to the unstoppable nature that man will never control. We began to think about the West's misconceptions on what is of value. The fear-driven mass of consumption, our denial of death that obstructs us from seeing what is truly precious.”

Aphrodesia as a whole takes on Maykovich's identity--her voice, the range of African styles and languages in which she sings, her forthright and dynamic style. Having spent time in Zimbabwe and Ghana, she brings an ingenuity to the band making it more than just an afrobeat band. That ingenuity is accentuated and replicated by the rest of the band who adhere to the same heterogeneous approach and philosophy.

Precious Commodity is a sensational album that continues Aphrodesia's trend of albums that push the genre of afrobeat to new levels. Incorporating instruments like thumb pianos and broadening their approach to their style has allowed for the group to make an album that is truly phenomenal. The album is available on Itunes as well as at You honestly do not have to be a fan of afrobeat, African music, world music, or whatever other label people you don't like to be associated with to enjoy this album. It is simply great music that is accessible to anyone.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Interview with Bajah of Bajah+The Dry Eye Crew

Bajah + The Dry Eye Crew are one of the hottest acts on the international music scene today. They were featured on The Blood Diamond Soundtrack in 2006, and released a mixtape earlier this week mixed by DJ Gravy. Their debut international release is due out in the fall with guest appearances by Talib Kweli, K'Naan, Black Thought and ?uestlove. I had the pleasure of speaking with Bajah, the group's frontman earlier today.

The Afrobeat Blog: What was your exposure to music like growing up? When did you first start listening to hip-hop and to whom did you listen?

Bajah: When I was growing up my father was listening to hip-hop and traditional african music. When I went abroad, I started listening to other kinds of music, hip-hop, reggae, Nigerian artists.

The Afrobeat Blog: Who were the first hip-hop acts to which you were exposed?

Bajah: Growing up I listened to a lot of hip-hop artists, the ones that I loved the most were KRS-One, Naughty By Nature, Wu-Tang Clan, all of those.

The Afrobeat Blog: What is your opinion of the growing popularity of African hip-hop on the international scene? Who are some other African hip-hop artists to which you listen and respect?

Bajah: Akon, K'Naan, a couple other Nigerian artists, I'm a music lover so I listen to a lot of different music, you know? Two Face from Nigeria

The Afrobeat Blog: Why do you think it is that African hip-hop artists are growing in popularity these days?

Bajah: Well, I think it's the right time for African musicians, they're getting the right promotion, so they're able to do big things. People have been listening to American hip-hop for a while and now they're getting into African hip-hop and I think they're gonna love it.

The Afrobeat Blog: I read on your website you guys are living in Brooklyn these days. How long have you been living in Brooklyn? What's the transition been like?

Bajah: Well, you know Sierra Leone is the least developed country, so if we can make it in Sierra Leone we can make it any other place, you know? We're trying to adapt to the American style.

The Afrobeat Blog: You guys are taking it day by day, taking things as they come?

Bajah: Yeah man, we just go with the flow. We're in Brooklyn as long as the music thing is moving, so we just go with the flow. We're here for the music because as far as I'm concerned Brooklyn is the place for music, we love it, Brooklyn is blowing up right now so I think it's the right place for us.

The Afrobeat Blog: What's it like being worshipped at home and seen as an up-and-coming new artist abroad?

Bajah: Sierra Leone is our homeland, so people already know what we're capable of doing, the fans are already going crazy for us, they really love what we're doing you know? We're for the people, and they already know us back home, but in Brooklyn, we're not yet known, so sometimes people give us the Dry Eye sign, and we'll keep things moving.

The Afrobeat Blog: Tell me about your name, The Dry Eye Crew? What does Dry Eye mean?

Bajah: Dry Eye is when people are talking about being bold, not afraid of things. When we were in Sierra Leone, and things were getting really bad, you know, people were afraid to say what they thought in the newspaper. Since we're musicians, we have a choice to play whatever kind of music we want to play. We could do phony music or we could make conscious music, you know, we believe in the right of the people to say what they want about the politicians, we take the risk, we just do it, so it's like being bold, the word Dry Eye is like being bold, not being afraid to say what you wanna say. It's like being outspoken, you understand?

The Afrobeat Blog: As ambassadors for Sierra Leone to the international music scene, what message would you like to send to the world about your home country?

Bajah: Well, you know, Sierra Leone back in the day was known as one of the best places in Africa to go to, and a lot has happened since then like the civil war, and the war has destroyed a lot of stuff you know? And after the war it's going to be a musical rejuvenation. So people will know that Sierra Leone is ready to contribute to the world musically, it's time to put down the guns and start making music.

The Afrobeat Blog: What is your hope for Sierra Leone as it continues to recover from the civil war and progress towards a functioning democracy?

Bajah: I want Sierra Leone to be one of the best places on the planet, but that's going to take everyone working together, the people, the politicians the musicians, all working together to make Sierra Leone a better place and to make Sierra Leone one of the best places for the arts.

The Afrobeat Blog: What is your opinion of Charles Taylor and what symbolic significance does his war-crime tribunal have for Sierra Leone and the rest of the continent?

Bajah: Well to me it means that whatever you do in life you have to pay the consequences, you know? In W. Africa in particular, and all over Africa, if there are laws that says nobody's supposed to be treated this way then that law should be accountable to everyone. And for Sierra Leonians, not everybody got hurt, but for the people that did, I don't think they want to see Charles Taylor living a better life than them, but they've already lost a lot of people and a lot of family, so I think they just want people to live by the law.

The Afrobeat Blog: What is your opinion of Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and her leadership in the region?

Bajah: Well I don't really follow what's going on Liberia right now.

The Afrobeat Blog: What are your goals for the new record coming out in the fall? What's it been like working with Talib Kweli, ?uestlove, and all the other hip-hop stars featured on the album?

Bajah: Since this is my first album, I really want it to be huge, but since it's my first, I just want to see the reception of the people. I don't know what people are going to like. When I did my thing in Sierra Leone I put out my first album in a different style and saw how people reacted and then changed things up from there.

The Afrobeat Blog: So what was it like working with Talib Kweli, ?uestlove and the other hip-hop stars featured on your new album?

Bajah: Back in the day when I was still in Africa, I used to see ?uestlove, Talib Kweli, I used to see these people on TV, I never knew I was gonna meet these people, shake hands with them, work with them, you know, so it's a blessing.

Baye Kouyate @ Joe's Pub-8/12

Baye Kouyate et Les Tougarakes, one of the most dynamic group of African performers I've ever had the privilege of seeing live onstage, is returning to Joe's Pub August 12th. Having seen them several times in the past, I can assure you they're more than worth the price of admission. Kouyate is a master of the tala, or Malian talking drum, and his band features some of the best African players in the city. Definitely a show not to be missed.

Bajah + The Dry Eye Crew-Kings of Salone Mixtape

If you've never heard of Bajah + The Dry Eye Crew, it's about time you have. Hailing from Sierra Leone where they're national superstars, The Crew is one of the fastest rising acts on the international hip-hop scene today. They've released ten albums at home and have their first international release scheduled for release in fall 2009 with guest appearances including Talib Kweli, K'Naan, ?uestlove and Black Thought. I have an interview with the guys scheduled for later today, but in the meantime, check out their brand spankin new mixtape put together by DJ Gravy.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Africa Plays On Vol. 2-DJ Underdog

The dopest dj in our nation's capital, DJ Underdog, has released the 2nd edition of Africa Plays On. If you are one of the unfortunate ones who missed the first go-round of this afro-heavy bangin' mixtape, and you feel like spontaneously unleashing a dance party, download Vol. 2 here.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Afro-Marc Podcast

The Afro-Marc Podcast has landed and donated three editions of funk to the world thus far. If you like what you hear, subscribe for weekly updates here...

Friday, July 24, 2009

Wunmi, Asiko, Rich Medina @ Le Poisson Rouge

Wunmi, the Queen of Afrobeat, is playing tomorrow night with Asiko, one of the tightest afrobeat bands in the city, Kofo the Wonderman, and Dj Rich Medina, one of the city's best proprietors of afrobeat, at Le Poisson Rouge. A lineup such as this at one of the dopest clubs in the I really need to say anything more?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Chico Mann, Planet Rump, The Superpowers, and DJ Dhundee @ Southpaw-7/23

Chico Mann, Planet Rump, The Superpowers, and DJ Dhundee are all descending on Southpaw July 23rd at 8pm to unleash an electronic explosion of funk and energy that will no doubt result in a dance party of legendary proportions.

Chico Mann is the multi-faceted side project of Marcos Garcia, guitar player from Antibalas. Casio keyboards, turntables spinning afrobeat breaks, latin percussion and vocals combine to make up Chico Mann's dance floor pulsating presentation. What had started as Marcos Garcia's personal Casio Afrobeat experiment has blossomed into a genre-defying, life-affirming, sweaty, politicized dance party that is evolving at an exponential rate.

Planet Rump is what happens when three funky ass people get together with a casio keyboard. DJ Tantric, Miss Strawberry, and Nasty Ness have discovered extraterestrial life through the intergalactic language of funk. They use their intergalactic funkability to rock shows on the regular throughout the east coast. They've shared the stage with Chico Mann before and the results have been electric.

The Superpowers, formerly known as The Boston Afrobeat Society, are a powerfully tight afrobeat band out of Brooklyn. The rock at Zebulon on the regular and have been known to make dance floors shake. Their new album, Trance for Nation, just hit the streets featuring Claude and Rudy Gomis of Orchestra Baobab.

Dj Dhundee is a Brooklyn staple, doing his thing on the regular at Deity and a host of other venues throughout the city. As if this dance party needed anymore ammunition...

This will be a night to remember at Southpaw. Brooklyn may never be the same...

Monday, July 13, 2009

Album Review: Chico Mann-Analog Drift (Muy Esniqui)

Just when you thought it was safe to put down the casio, Analog Drift (Muy Esniqui), the new full-length album from Chico Mann out July 2009 on Furious Panther Records, is now available online at

Chico Mann started as Marcos Garcia of Antibalas' side project, experimenting with some break records and a casio resulting in the debut album Manifest Tone Vol. 1 in 2007. Chico has grown by leaps and bounds both in the studio and on the stage since then, a progression immediately evident on Analog Drift (Muy Esniqui).

Chico Mann is one of the most unique ensembles you'll ever see on any stage. The combination of elements and influences foster a very unique mix including spanish lyrics, funky afrobeat guitar lines, casio keyboard percussion breaks, and synthed out bass lines. Combining turntables, casio keyboards, live multi-layered vocals and percussion, they have an old-school yet simultaneously futuristic sound.

Analog Drift (Muy Esniqui) is an evolved album with diversity from track to track. Some tracks are deeper down tempo cuts like Go To That Place which contrast with harder-hitting upbeat cuts like Guárdalo (El Silencio) and Ya Yo Sé. The genius of Marcos Garcia's (and therefore Chico Mann's) sensibility is their appreciation of things both new and old-school and their ability to marry the two worlds so seamlessly. The instrumentation and presentation allude to a strong old-school flavor yet the production quality and overall sound have a modern sensibility and refinement.

Although most of the song lyrics are en espanol, that definitely shouldn't keep you from singing along. If you're completely inept at interpreting international sounds, certain songs are in English including a cover of The Talking Heads-Once In a Lifetime. Chico Mann is one of the most innovative ensembles on the ny scene these days, and they especially bring it live. Check them out at Southpaw on July 23rd with Planet Rump, The Superpowers, and DJ Dhundee...

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Femi Kuti and King Sunny Ade at Toronto Harbour Front Centre Concert Review

While I admit it's not patriotic to go to Canada on the 4th of July, King Sunny Ade and Femi Kuti put on an amazing show at the Harbour Front Centre in Toronto.

On a beautiful outdoor stage about 50 yards away from Lake Ontario, King Sunny Ade came out with his legion of jolly African beatmakers and rocked out for a two hour set that got the whole crowd dancing. The Nigerian community in Toronto represented itself in numbers as the talking drums, voices, and guitars enraptured the crowd.

Femi Kuti and Positive Force went on around 8pm just as the sun was setting. By the time Femi hit the stage a several hundred deep crowd had formed around the harbour. Femi and his colossal ensemble roared out into the night pulsating the throng of fans who chanted and sang along as they danced. Femi switched between trumpet, keys, alto and soprano sax throughout his set. Reminiscent of his father he went on political rants in between and during songs, speaking about injustice, and, reminiscent of his father, the Nigerian government's antagonism of The Shrine.

The Harbour Front Centre is a beautiful place to see a concert. Free world-class music on a beutiful night is always a pleasure, but the atmosphere at the Harbour Front Centre is truly unique. I've seen a lot of live music, and I have to say, seeing Femi Kuti and King Sunny Ade last weekend was near the top of my list of concerts I've seen in a long time.