Thursday, July 29, 2010

New Release from Akwaaba

Akwaaba Productions, the fair trade record label doing more for African music than anyone, is back with a new hiplife compilation from legendary Ghanain beatmaker Appietus. Appietus has been an established icon of the Ghanain music scene for over a decade. This compilation is a collection of bumpin hiplife tracks that will get any dance floor shaking from San Francisco to Accra. If you like what you hear, and you'd like to know what else is blasting from soundsystems across the continent, check out Akwaaba's catalog.

<a href="">Miss Doctor by Appietus</a>

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Album Review: Adje! Adje!-Elikeh

Adje! Adje!, the new album from Washington D.C. based Togolese Afro-Rock ensemble Elikeh, out May 27, 2010 on Azalea City Records, is a politically charged collection of songs that utilizes guitars, horns, percussion and vocals to create a uniquely distinguishable sound. Coming from Togo, Elikeh's leader, Massama Dogo, is determined to forge an identity for Togolese music in the international music scene. His combination of funk, rock, highlife, and reggae have successfully created a hallmark brand of music all his own.

One of the things I like the most about Elikeh is their conscious decision not to fall into any one category. Elikeh has recently been touted as a modern extension of afrobeat's musical legacy by the mainstream media, and I can see why. The way the guitars play off each other forming polyrhythms and the political overtones of Dogo's lyrics are both reminiscent of afrobeat, but that's simply one element of Elikeh's style.

When Dogo chants Adje! Adje!, he means to say "Watch out! Here they come again - the multinationals and the corrupt governments." Adje! Adje! is music with a purpose. This isn't music to put on in the background, maybe dance a little bit, and feel good. These are songs that challenge you to think, songs that call attention to the injustices of global society especially from an African perspective. This is a soundtrack for a protest, music to make you stand up for that which you believe in.

Elikeh will be performing in the DC metro area in early August and then again at Joe's Pub on Saturday the 28th. Come check them out, but come prepared to stand up and dance.

Adje Adje by afrobeatblog

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Grassroots Fest 2010

This Thursday, the 20th Annual Fingerlakes Grassroots Festival kicks off in Trumansburg, NY. While I don't usually cover events like this, I had to take notice of this festival due to the amazing lineup that includes a heavy dose of afrocentricity. Burning Spear, Chiwoniso, Arrested Development, The Black Seeds, Oliver Mtukudzi, John Brown's Body, Locos Por Juana, and a host of other acts will hit the stage ready to unleash a dance fervor upon the masses. Tickets are still available, so if you can make it to Trumansburg, NY this weekend (Just outside of Ithaca in the finger-lakes region of upstate NY) I highly recommend checking this jam out.
One band that's been rocking Grassroots for almost a decade straight is John Brown's Body. JBB has earned a reputation for their modern interpretation of roots reggae/dub all over the world. Part of the band hails from Ithaca, so they have a dedicated following upstate. Their latest album, Amplify, came out in 2008 on Easy-Star Records. I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing JBB drummer, Tommy Benedetti, on the band, Grassroots and Reggae music:

MGA: I've seen many labels attached to your music, Future Roots Music, the most commonly used. How would you describe your sound in your own words?

TB: I think the term "Future Roots" does describe our music pretty well. We all love and respect Jamaican reggae/dub from the 70s and 80s. So our songs are generally built from a heavy dub influence. But we have many other influences that go into our sound as well. And i think its our job to keep our sound progressing and keep things as fresh as possible. JBB is a thick sound. A big, loud machine.

MGA: How were you first introduced to reggae and who were the artists that made the biggest impact on your musical development?

TB: I was introduced to reggae as I was finishing up at Berklee College of Music in Boston. I took the gig with The Tribulations and went on a crash course of reggae and dub. Kevin Kinsella and Elliot Martin dropped some heavy stuff on me to check out. The Gladiators, Burning Spear, Black Uhuru, Alpha Blondy. It was a whole new world for me to dive into. Sly and Robbie had a huge influence on my approach to playing dub, and still do to this day.

MGA: The personnel in JBB has changed a lot over the years. How would you describe what the most recent changes have brought to the band?

TB: We've been lucky, that everytime we've lost someone, we've brought in a musician thats really helped JBB progress and get to where we are today. We are very much like a family. Theres a lot more involved in being a member of JBB than just being a killer player. This current lineup has been traveling the planet together for over 4 years, which is pretty good for our business.

MGA: How would you describe the evolution of Reggae music over the last twenty years and where it fits in the global music scene?

TB: Reggae is a very far reaching genre. I see a lot of kids all over the country that are being inspired by reggae; a lot of times on tour we will have a local act open the show ,so it's cool to see everyone's unique approach to playing the music. Some of my favorite reggae these days comes from all over the globe. Black Seeds from New Zealand and, Dubmatix from Toronto, Midnite from St Croix...there are alot of hard working bands doing some real good things these days.

MGA: You guys have played all over the world. How does the reception vary in different places and cultures?

TB: Generally, people come to our shows and are very appreciative i think. We bring something different to the table so not everyone gets it. But we've had some great shows in France, Hawaii, New Zealand, there's always gonna be some places that are better than others, just like in the states, but when we come to town we're gonna throw down, no matter where we are.

MGA: JBB has been playing grassroots for several years. Could you describe the vibe and energy of the festival for those who haven't been there before?

TB: I think i can speak for most of the guys and say that Grassroots is one of, if not our favorite summer fest to play. I always have a great time and the caliber of music is really off the charts. This is probably around our 10th one, so we play to a real big crowd and its an incredible feeling. I recommend it to all of my friends.

MGA: One band I'm especially looking forward to seeing is The Black Seeds, a band with a similar sound to JBB who you guys have toured with extensively. Could you describe their sound and how you feel about it?

TB: They have more of a soul/funk vibe than JBB does maybe, but we share many common influences. I am a huge fan. We had them open a US tour for us last year and they returned the favor by bringing us to New Zealand for 3 weeks of shows. It was a real life changer. To me,they have it all..theyre amazing musicians, great songs, and a sound thats all their own..and you know i have to say their drummer Jarney is one of my favorites!

MGA: Who are some of the other acts to which you're especially looking forward to seeing this year at G-Roots?

TB: Unfortunately this year we have to leave Saturday to play a big outdoor show in Boston,so i won't be able to catch as much music as i usually do, but i would be psyched to see Oliver Mutukudzi and Railroad Earth..we did the jam cruise with them back in January..they are a great band..and i think The Black Seeds are playing the same night we are, so i can not wait to see them and party with them

MGA: JBB has evolved and changed quite a bit over the years. Where would you like to see JBB go from here on out musically and otherwise?

TB: I want us to be happy continuing doing what we do..further crafting our sound and bringing it to the people.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Two Afrocentric NY Shows This Weekend

Zozo Afrobeat Ensemble is throwin down tonight at Zebulon in Williamsburg along with To Nokwe all the way from South Africa. Zozo is a draw by themselves--their afro grooves will send tremors through any dance floor. Having To Nokwe on hand is all the more special of a treat. She's been singing, educating, acting, and writing in her native S. Africa for decades and has garnered praise from abroad several times over.

Tomorrow afternoon, a crazy nasty lineup will be hitting the stage in the Prospect Park Bandshell. Konono No. 1 will be headlining along with Chiwoniso, Omar Pene & Super Diamono, and Meta & the Cornerstones. Summertime is when African musicians go on world tours and beautiful happenings like these take place. Take full advantage of the opportunity because it only comes once or twice a year.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Album Review: The Budos Band III-The Budos Band

The Budos Band III, the third full-length album from Staten Island's funkiest collective, out August 10th on Daptone Records, wastes no time kickin out some seriously funky grooves. The multi-layered percussion, the funky guitars, the organ and horn-lines straight out of a B-Horror Movie, they're all back in full Budos form. They're currently touring across N. America in support of the new record.

While Budos I and II both were seriously funky, tightly arranged albums, Budos III has a different attitude. It's almost as if they've proven they can bring the funk, now they want to do something a little different. The first two tracks on the album, Rite of The Ancients and Black Venom, set the tone for the entire record. They both have a dark, creepy vibe. Black Venom especially could serve as a soundtrack to a "being chased" nightmare sequence. Other songs on the album are slower, deeper tracks like The River Serpentine and Nature's Wrath.

The Budos Band has always had a distinctive attitude. This album doesn't necessarily forge a new identity for the group, but it does reinforce and accentuate what was already there. Any record cut in Bushwick, Brooklyn at Daptone Records will have a certain old-school, earthy sound, and Budos Records are no exception. As Gabe Roth often says, however, it's not the recording techniques, it's the musicians.

Black Venom by afrobeatblog

Monday, July 12, 2010

Album Review: Dunya - Bibi Tanga & The Selenites

Dunya, the new album from Bibi Tanga and The Selenites out June 1, 2010 on National Geographic Records, is a multifaceted collection of songs that touch on a variety of influences and worlds. Jazz, funk, broken beat, and African musics all appear throughout the album filtered through an intellectual Parisian sensibility. Singing in French, English and Sango (his mother tongue) Bibi Tanga puts his stamp on the future of funk and its global presence.

Born in Paris in 1969, bassist and vocalist Bibi Tanga traveled extensively throughout his childhood due to his father's career as a diplomat. After a coup d'etat in his parents homeland, Central African Republic, ended his father's international career, he settled in the suburbs of Paris at the age of ten. It was there that his musical education took shape.

"My father had a lot of records. I grew up listening to everything. Franco and Tabu Ley from Congo, Fela Kuti from Nigeria, Bembeya Jazz from Guinea, I grew up on all of that," Bibi describes the music to which he was exposed during his youth, "American music, too - James Brown, Curtis Mayfield, Jimi Hendrix and of course Bob Marley. I love disco, funk, soul, reggae, R&B. It's all like a big library to me. I feel like there's this heritage of black music from around the world, and I'm the heir to it."

Listening to Dunya, one can hear all of that and more. I feel a strong Prince presence throughout, both in Bibi's voice, as well as in the general attitude and vibe. Certain tracks are more funk and less African, like Swing Swing, while some are a page ripped right out of Fela Kuti's song book, like Shine.

My personal favorite track off the album is Be Africa, the album's signature track in my opinion. It's distinctly African while at the same time maintaining a signature Parisian attitude. The lyrics are in Sango with a hard driving bass line laid down over an electronic drum beat. Similar to the way Tony Allen incorporates electronic drums into his music, Be Africa forges a uniquely contemporary African identity.

Be Africa by afrobeatblog

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Spoek Mathambo - Mshini Wam

Spoek Mathambo is hitting the world hard with his take on Afro-futurism. His forthcoming release, Mshini Wam, out July 27th 2010 on BBE Records, is one of the most bangin tracks I've heard in a really long time. If this track doesn't make you stop in your tracks and take notice, you need to check your pulse to make sure you're still breathing...

Spoek sees himself as a part of a new wave of energy in Africa, which is intent on nurturing a sense of progressiveness while maintaining a pride in culture. He represents the contemporary wave of musicians building on the ingenuity and progressive creativity for which South African musicians have been know for decades.

SPOEK MATHAMBO - GHOST OF BONES from spoek mathambo on Vimeo.

Body Beat Pool Party

For those in and around DC looking for an afrofunky jam, check out the Body Beat Pool Party July 17th presented by The Lunchbox Theory. DC's hottest dj's will be on the one's and two's including DJ Jahsonic, Underdog and Cam Jus. Since we all know afrobeat parties often turn into a sweaty hot mess, this soirée will be poolside to cool off after a night of getting after it on the dancefloor.