Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Afro-Dub Sessions Kick Off Party

Sound Liberation Front (SLF), a Brooklyn-based arts and music organization, is kicking off a new monthly party this Saturday night at Rose, The Afro-Dub Sessions.

The party will feature a different guest DJ the last Saturday of each month, beginning Jan. 30, with Ticklah, founding member of Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, Easy Star All-Stars and world-renowned afrobeat band Antibalas. Ticklah will also man the soundboard to create live electronic dub remixes during sets by house band Super Hi-Fi, which features members of Aphrodesia, Slavic Soul Party, The Superpowers, and the Blue Man Group.

The Afro-Dub Sessions is dedicated to the idea that dub, born in Jamaica, and African musical styles like afrobeat, afropop and afrofunk are natural partners in the origins of global dance music. The production techniques of dub have served as the foundation for much of today’s electronic music — from hip-hop to techno — while the African rhythms that form the backbone of styles like afrobeat are the basis for much of the world’s dance music. “It’s natural that these two forms of music mix together,” says SLF co-founder Quoc Pham.

This is going to be a party you should not miss. World-class music brought to you by the people who know more about multi-medium cross-genre events than anyone on the scene. If you don't have plans this Saturday night, you do now.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Album Review: Gente-Sambadá

Gente, the new album from Afro-Brazilian fusion collective Sambadá, set for release February 23, 2010, is an exhilarating, feel good collection of songs that will make you want to get up and dance. With a strong framework of Afro-Brazilian bloco-afro polyrhythmic percussion, every song on the album has a very danceable beat. Add a multi-faceted horn section, the harmonized voices of Dandha da Hora and Papiba Godinho, funky guitars and hot bass lines, and you’ve got a party.

Similar to bands such as Nation Beat and Toubab Krewe, Sambadá fuses Afro-Brazilian musical characteristics with American funk, rock and jazz. They tap into the same commonality shared between musical genres that dates back to the same original source—Africa. They use Brazilian instruments like the pandeiro, timba, and agogo bells mixed with electric guitars and saxophones to foster a uniquely original sound.

Perhaps Sambadá’s greatest strength is Dandha da Hora’s voice. Singing in Portuguese, her voice glides over the polyrhythmic backdrop beautifully. I find myself listening to the album repeatedly just to hear her. Sambadá has a great balance. They know how to play with each other and lock together like a puzzle, which is very important for Afro-Brazilian music since it depends on polyrhythmic interlocking sections to create an ensemble sound.

Sambadá is based out of the Bay Area, Santa Cruz, CA to be exact, so if you’re in that part of the world (which I wish I was), definitely check them out. Their live performances feature Capoeira demonstrations, and a lot of live percussion. Listening to their music at home can start a dance party spontaneously, so seeing them live only increases that effect exponentially.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Marc Gabriel Amigone Interview

I recently did an interview with Nigerian journalist Tony Ogaga Erhariefe. Check it out:

Tony Ogaga Erhariefe: As a genre, how is Afro beat thriving in the USA and on the internet?

Marc Gabriel Amigone: Afrobeat is on the rise in the US due to a combination of factors. While I'd like to take some responsibility for the rise of the movement due to my blog, my podcast, and advocacy for the genre, I think the band Antibalas Afrobeat deserves a lot of the credit. They got the ball rolling in the late nineties and introduced the genre to a lot of people. In the last couple years more specifically, Bill T. Jones' play FELA! has given the movement a huge shot in the arm, bringing the legacy of Fela Anikulapo Kuti and afrobeat music as a whole into the mainstream.

TOE: What inspired your blog and your decision to search for and promote 'lost' african sound?

MGA: I started my blog in 2008 while I was working as a free-lance writer in Brooklyn, NY. I started posting all my work on a website as a portfolio and most of it was afrobeat related. People started requesting coverage on it, so I started The Afrobeat Blog to give purveyors of the music publicity and express myself musically and otherwise. I found that afrobeat music and most other contemporary African musics were not getting nearly the attention they deserved and I wanted to do whatever I could to change that.

TOE: What are the challenges you face promoting African music especially afro beat?

MGA: I think the biggest challenge in promoting afrobeat is introducing people to the music. While afrobeat is definitely on the rise in popularity and familiarity in the mainstream is growing, most people still do not know who Fela is, or what to expect when they go to an afrobeat show. Once that initial barrier is broken, however, people can't get enough of it.

TOE: Did you ever dream of being an artiste?

MGA: I've always dreamt of being an artist and am proud to be one.

TOE: How did you become such an avid lover of African sound

MGA: My uncle first introduced me to African music and Fela specifically. Once it got into my blood, it spread like a disease and I've never looked back.

TOE: As an African in the Diaspora, what's your view of the black continent?

MGA: I think Africa is a diverse, beautiful place. It has many faces and many facets that are rarely visible from the outside. I think it can be very duplicitous--inviting and hospitable while at the same time intimidating and dangerous. I think it's one of the most culturally rich places in the world, but I also think it's one of the most tragic. As Femi Kuti says, "Africa is the richest continent, and the poorest continent".

TOE: How can Africa use its unique brand of music to rebrand itself?

MGA: I honestly don't think Africa can use its music to rebrand itself. Africa has been exporting its music for a long time but western mainstream culture has a way of extracting the entertainment value without bothering to look past the exterior. For example, when King Sunny Ade plays in Central Park, the crowd loves it and dances like crazy, but when the show is over, 90% of the people don't go home and even bother to read about Nigerian culture on the internet. What Africa and African musicians should do to help themselves and the continent, in my opinion, is re-invest their success into their communities. There are too many people like Tony Allen who left Africa their first chance and barely looked back, and not enough people like Femi Kuti, who tour the world annually, but return every time to contribute to the community from which he came.

TOE: What drives you?

MGA: I'm driven by my passion for the music and my drive to contribute to the world. I'm driven by people like you who find my blog and validate my efforts to publicize this music and contribute to the growth of the afrobeat movement. I'm of the opinion that African music is one of the most beautiful things in the world and I've taken it as my mission in life to spread it as much as possible. My uncle, who turned me onto African music, was famous for sharing music, knowledge, art, etc with everyone he knew. When he died a little over a year ago, his good friend Michael Veal (who wrote THE book on Fela and was originally introduced to the music by my uncle) and I decided it was up to us to continue his legacy of sharing and promoting the gift of music and knowledge. So I'm driven by my mission to continue my uncle's legacy.

TOE: What are your dreams?

MGA: I dream someday of pursuing a career in Ethnomusicology, writing books and making films about African music. I dream of marrying a beautiful African woman, making beautiful music, and living a happy life.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Afro-Funky This Thursday Night

Afro-funky, the new afrobeat monthly that brings the funk like nobody's business, is goin down this Thursday night at Cameo featuring Zongo Junction, Ikebe Shakedown, and The People's Champs, three seriously tight bands that feature some of the hottest up-and-coming musicians on the Brooklyn Scene. Formerly at Public Assembly, Zongo Junction has been throwing down in Williamsburg for a few months now on a monthly basis. This is the first installment of their new party at their new venue. If you're in BK and looking to get funky, check it out.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

New Album from Akwaaba

Kilamu is a pioneer of Kuduro, a hard hitting style of music hot on the streets in Angola. His new album, A Minha Face, came out yesterday on Akwaaba Records. With a slew of hits behind his name, Killamu has become an unavoidable producer on the kuduro circuit. But as this album shows, his versatility allows him to explore sounds beyond kuduro, starting with kizomba (Angolan zouk), but also, and perhaps most importantly for Western audiences, his experimentations into more instrumental, electronic kuduro beats have definitely set him aside within Angola’s kuduro community.

Akwaaba is a fair trade record label. They provide access to music that is not available through mainstream channels, and they insure the artists are compensated fairly. These are the causes we need to support, so that they continue to provide their service and fill their much needed role.

Check out the album on Itunes, and support fair trade music.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Akoya @ Southpaw Tonight!

Akoya Afrobeat Ensemble, the premier afrobeat group in North America, is throwin down tonight at Southpaw in Park Slope, BK along with The Revelations ft. Tre Williams. As Chris May of All About Jazz put it so eloquently, very few bands can create the gargantuan, multi-layered sound that not only pays homage to Fela's innovation but expands on his legacy. If you consider yourself even a casual fan of afrobeat, you owe it to yourself to see Akoya in their natural habitat, tonight.

Friday, January 1, 2010

The Afrobeat Blog Best Albums of 2009

Ready or not, 2010 is upon us. While revising my list of goals for the new year, I took a minute to look back on 2009 and all the great music that was created throughout the year. Last year, I made a top ten list for 2008 of African music. This year, I'm taking a more expansive approach, including 15 albums and not limiting my selection to any one continent. If you haven't heard any of these albums before, I strongly suggest checking them out:

1. Mulatu Astake & The Heliocentrics-Inspiration Information 3
2. Oumou Sangare-Seya
3. Justin Adams & Juldeh Camara-Tell No Lies
4. Extra Golden-Thank You Very Quickly
5. The Very Best-Warm Heart of Africa
6. Chico Mann-Analog Drift (Muy...Esniqui)
7. Aphrodesia-Precious Commodity
8. K'Naan-Troubadour
9. Staff Benda Bilili-Tres Tres Fort
10. Pax Nicholas and the Nettey Family-Na Teef Know De Road of Teef
11. Ikebe Shakedown-Hard Steppin'
12. Ocote Soul Sounds & Adrian Quesada-Coconut Rock
13. The Superpowers-Trance for Nation
14. The Black Seeds-Solid Ground
15. Gokh-Bi System-Voice of the Jeli

Here's to even more great music in 2010!