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.