Monday, March 29, 2010

Choc Quib Town-Columbian Hip Hop

Columbian hip-hop group Choc Quib Town are one of the hottest acts on the global hip-hop scene today. Incorporating American hip-hop, reggaeton, funk, and a host of S. American musical styles, Choc Quib Town have a vibrant sound highlighted by lead mc Gloria Goyo Perea. Her ability to sing as well as rap make her a versatile double-threat. The group was nominated for a Latin Grammy in 09 for best new artist, and they show why on their new album, out February 16, 2010 on Nacional Records, the label doing the most to push the envelope in contemporary Latin music.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Album Review: I Learned The Hard Way-Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings

Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings new album I Learned the Hard Way, out April 6th on Daptone Records, is the latest chapter in the soul saga of Sharon Jones. Less funky, more soulful, this album is slower and deeper. Less of a dance party and more of a soul-session, Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings have more to say this time around. In the same way 100 Days, 100 Nights, their third album, represent a progression and maturation from their first two releases, I Learned the Hard Way is the next step in their evolution.

The French horns in the opening few bars of the album are a sign of what’s to come: down-tempo, soulful songs that tell a story and convey emotion. Woeful ballads like Window Shopping and The Game Gets Old reflect the mature, well-traveled identity of the band. The intricate horn arrangements on instrumental tracks like The Reason tell a little story all their own.

Better Things, my favorite song on the album, is a more upbeat display of maturity, but it still expresses an urgent dissatisfaction. The band is getting older and has already proved they can play infectiously funky music. Now they’re putting out music that’s honest, music that conveys their weathered emotions.

Mama Don’t Like My Man is a hand-clapping, raw soul song that speaks to the authentic down-home style at the core of who Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings are. Simply a guitar, bass, some hand-claps, foot-stomps, and harmonized vocals combine to create as true and soulful a song you’re likely to hear.

Honestly, I was a little surprised when I heard this album for the first time. I was expecting some raw funk, authentic dance music. This album isn’t that. It’s more than that. It’s raw, authentic soul music that tells a story. Put on one of their earlier albums if you want to have a dance party.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Album Review: Rise and Shine-Sierra Leone's Refugee All-Stars

Rise and Shine, the new album from Sierra Leone’s Refugee All-Stars out March 23rd on Cumbancha Records, is a celebration of life, music, and overcoming adversity. Recorded both in Freetown, Sierra Leone and New Orleans, Louisiana, a multitude of styles and sounds are blended in thirteen tracks that tap into a sincere commonality and diversity at the same time.

New Orleans style horns contribute to an already interesting mix of reggae and Sierra Leonie traditional songs. All three styles have common roots, fostering a globalized fusion of sounds that take on the identity of the well-traveled musicians. Serving as the cultural ambassadors of Sierra Leone, The All-Stars have toured the world several times and are about to embark on a US tour in support of their new album.

It’s a perfect match both musically as well as philosophically for The All-Stars to team up with some of New Orleans best horn players. Both groups of musicians have dealt with losing their homes and overcoming incredible adversity. That resiliency is apparent throughout the album. A range of emotions is on display from song to song, in true New Orleans fashion, expressing a melancholy downtrodden vibe on songs like Bend Down the Corner and Dununya but then turning around with upbeat tracks like Tamagbondorsu and Jah Come Down.

Sierra Leone Refugee All-Stars ability to use their harrowing experiences as inspiration for truly beautiful music is a powerful message to the rest of the world. What I love the most about this album is the happy, upbeat mood they convey while still managing to include the other end of the spectrum. The All-Stars Represent how contemporary African musicians are synthesizing different influences, both modern and traditional, to create a new original sound.

As I said before, they’re touring the US to promote their new album. Definitely check them out and see what they’re all about. US Tour Dates:

April 7 Burlington, VT Higher Ground

April 10 Woodstock, VT Woodstock Town Hall Theatre

April 11 Allston, MA Harper’s Ferry

April 12 Philadelphia, PA World Café Live

April 14 New York, NY Highline Ballroom

April 16 Vail, CO Downtown Vail, Outdoor Stage Spring Back to Vail

April 17 Dallas, TX Granada Theater

April 18 Austin, TX Auditorium Shores Austin Reggae Festival

April 20 Austin, TX Flamingo Cantina

April 21 Little Rock, AR Revolution Music Room

April 22 Memphis, TN Hi Tone Cafe

April 23 Nashville, TN Alumni Lawn, Vanderbilt University

April 24 New Orleans, LA House of Blues – The Parish

April 25 Lafayette, LA Jefferson Street Stage Festival International de Louisiane

April 27 Atlanta, GA Smith’s Olde Bar

May 2 New Orleans, LA New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival

May 5 Santa Fe, NM Santa Fe Brewing Company

May 6 Flagstaff, AZ The Green Room

May 7 Tucson, AZ Rialto Theater

May 8 Phoenix, AZ Musical Instrument Museum Music Theater

May 9 Phoenix, AZ Musical Instrument Museum Music Theater

May 11 Solana Beach, CA Belly Up

May 12 West Hollywood, CA The Roxy

May 14 Santa Cruz, CA Moe’s Alley

May 15 San Francisco, CA The Independent

May 18 Bend, OR Tower Theater

May 19 Seattle, WA Triple Door

May 20 Portland, OR Berbati’s Pan

May 22 Salt Lake City, UT Washington Square Living Traditions Festival

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Underground System-Super Hi-Fi @ Public Assembly Tomorrow Night


Two dope new bands on the NY afro-scene are playing tomorrow night at Public Assembly in Williamsburg. Underground System is a new band featuring members of Amayo's Fu Arkist Ra as well as a host of other veterans of the scene. Super Hi-Fi, the new project led by Aphrodesia bassist Ezra Gale, are joining Underground System and DJ Rodan to celebrate St. Paddy's Day with some afro-dub flavor. If you're in BK and interested in celebrating St. Patrick's Day with some afro-grooves, check it out.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Album Review: Blue Eyed Black Boy-Balkan Beat Box

Balkan Beat Box is out to prove why they’re one of the most dynamic acts on the planet with their third full-length album Blue Eyed Black Boy set to be released April 2010 on National Geographic Records in the US and Crammed Discs internationally. Infectiously danceable, uniquely innovative, and politically relevant, Blue Eyed Black Boy is BBB’s best album yet, expanding on their tradition of fusing disparate global elements to create a sound all their own.

When I interviewed drummer-producer-band founder Tamir Muskat in April 2009, he described how their upcoming album would be more personal, how they would express themselves politically and emotionally, something “they hadn’t done before.” True to his word, BBB takes an increasingly political stance in Blue Eyed Black Boy. Balkan Beat Box’s mission is to erase borders and build connections with their music, but never before have they made such outwardly political statements on their records. Songs like War Again, Look Them Act, and Why all speak out against war and institutions of power.

Horn player-co-founder Ori Kaplan, also told me about new rhythms and influences they were incorporating inspired by places in Latin America they’ve performed. Tracks like Balcumbia, Dancing With The Moon, and Marcha De La Vida affirm the exploration of Latin American rhythms and sounds to which Kaplan alluded, but Latin America isn’t the only place BBB has toured extensively that made an impression on them. Buhala features Moroccan musician Hassan Ben Jaffar, incorporating a Gnawan element into their already diverse presentation.

Part of the album was recorded in Belgrade, Serbia and features local musicians from renowned Roma orchestras. Tamir Muskat combines the traditional horns, accordion, and vocals with hard-hitting beats and bass lines to elevate the Balkan flavor to a new level, Balkan Beat Box’s signature sound. Tracks like Kabulectro Smartron and Lijepa Mare all feature ferociously intricate horn, accordian and vocal lines that mesh perfectly with Muskat’s punishing drum and bass lines.

Last but not least, several songs have an unmistakably bluesy, American feel. The album’s title track has some heavy blues guitar as well as Dancing With The Moon and My Baby. My favorite track on the album, Look Them Act, has a strong hip-hop vibe as well. It should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with BBB to see American music featured so prominently considering the group came to be in New York City. They’ve often ascribed the multitude of musical influences New York has to offer for the band’s creation and evolution; that evolution is extremely evident on this album.

Balkan Beat Box has already established a noteworthy reputation the world over with their first three albums for creating innovative, original music that combines elements from different parts of the globe. This album builds on that progress, elevating the global music scene to a new level. They are truly unique in their ability to make a powerful statement.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Afrofunky this Thursday Night


Afrofunky!, the afrofunkiest monthly dance party in Brooklyn is goin down this Thursday night at Cameo Gallery. Hosts Zongo Junction are being joined by No Small Money Brass Band, Emefe and DJ Stylus. No Small Money Brass Band is a monstrosity of Ghanaian big band flavor that is truly not to be missed. Admission is $5, come to this jam prepared to get funky--afrofunky!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Album Review: Ali and Toumani-Ali Farka Touré and Toumani Diabaté

Ali and Toumani, the new album out February 23rd on Nonesuch Records/World Circuit, is a beautifully enchanting collection of songs that add to the legendary careers of two world-class musicians. After winning a Grammy for In the Heart of the Moon in 2005, Ali Farka Touré partners with Toumani Diabaté and Cachaíto López for the second time. Their chemistry and collective brilliance has produced equally praise-worthy results this time around.

Toumani Diabaté educes a heavenly tone with his flowing kora lines, which twist and wind in and around Ali Farka Touré’s guitar melodies. The two legendarily gifted musicians blend their sounds together seamlessly as if they were born to play together. Their songs are enchanting and deep. They convey a calming meditative energy that almost forces relaxation while listening.

If you’re not familiar with either Ali Farka Touré or Toumani Diabaté, this album is a great introduction to both artists. By working together to converge their two styles they create an original, authentically beautiful sound that is truly unique. Anyone can appreciate beautiful music that is relaxing and peaceful, and that’s Ali and Toumani exemplifies most.