Tuesday, December 18, 2012

What are you doing for the end of the world?

Got plans for the end of the world?  How about Friday night?  If you live in either New York or Boston and are into afrobeat, I've got two great options for you to spend what may be your last moments on God's green Earth.

If you're in or around Boston, check out Federator No. 1, Endangered Speeches, and Kina Zoré at The Church of Boston.  All three bands bring the afro-noise in a big way.  What better way to usher in the beginning of the next cycle than to shake that ass to some afroheavy grooves.  Dig the details.

If you're in or around New York definitely check out Armagedd-It-On featuring Rubblebucket Orchestra, Super Hi-Fi and the SLF DJ Crew.  If you've been to a SLF extravaganza before, then you know they know how to get down.  Don't waste a chance to catch this collection of amazing music.  You may never have another opportunity.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Super Hi-Fi: Dub to the Bone

Do you love the trombone?  How about nasty bass-lines that vibrate the ground underneath your feet, shaking your insides to a reggae rhythm?  If your answer is yes, Super Hi-Fi has a major dose of what you love waiting with their debut EP Dub to the Bone, out today on Electric Cowbell Records.  Super Hi-Fi is the brainchild of Ezra Gale and the inner-workings of his Afro-Dub mind.  Ezra has been a friend of mine for several years now.  I first saw him perform with Aphrodesia, the bay-area afrobeat ensemble that introduced me to the experience of live afrobeat, back in 2005.  

Ezra moved across the country to New York around 2009 where he started to put together the lineup for Super Hi-Fi.  The band has evolved into a known entity around New York where their brand of dub is in demand.  Dub to the Bone is the culmination of their early efforts, 8 tracks of thick, heavy, sub-woofer empowering dub.  I'll be checking them out this Friday night at Toad in Cambridge, MA.  They're sharing the bill with Rubble Bucket Orchestra on December 20th for Armagedd-It-On at The Lab in Brooklyn, NY.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Funk Ark Begins Bi-Monthly Residency at NuBlu Tomorrow Night

The Funk Ark, the funkiest group of cats D.C. has to offer, are beginning a bi-monthly residency at NuBlu in the E. Village NYC tomorrow night.  They'll be rockin solo tomorrow night but will be incorporating members of the extended Afrobeat Blog family EMEFE, Superhuman Happiness, Zongo Junction and others as the months move forward.  I've long held The Funk Ark up as one of the most original, dynamic, funky-ass groups around today.  I've seen them live before, so I can personally attest to their ability to make people dance.  If you're in or around NYC, definitely go check them out.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Macrotones Record Release Party at Johnny D's Saturday Night

The Macrotones, Boston's own homegrown afrobeat ensemble, are celebrating the release of the third EP, Darvaza, out December 4, 2012 on Music ADD Records, this Saturday night at Johnny D's in Somerville, MA.  The Macrotones have been at it for a while with their percussive, heavy sound driving dance floors into a frenzy.  Darvaza was recorded and produced by the legendary Sean Slade (Radiohead, Pixies, Morphine, Mighty Mighty Bosstones) and the Boston Music Award-winning Benny Grotto at Mad Oak Studios in Allston, Mass.  The record captures the 9-piece ensemble's dark and dense sound in a warm and gritty analog setting. The six meticulously constructed tracks move from traditional afrobeat to funk, to rock, to ethiojazz – and stay persistently infectious with chunky horn lines and pulsating percussion.  If you're in or around Boston, come get a taste of their new tunes live in person this Saturday night.  Then cop the record on vinyl, CD, or digitally on the 4th when it drops.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Zongo Junction Releases New Single in Advance of Tour w/ Souljazz Orchestra

Zongo Junction, one of the best young afrobeat ensembles uplifting the genre out of Brooklyn, NY, have released their new single, The Van That Got Away via their website.  Zongo is about to embark on a tour of the eastern and mid-western U.S. with The Souljazz Orchestra.  This a double-bill for the ages.  I'll be checking them out this Thursday night in Boston.  Get to a city where they're playing near you.

Nov 28 - Burlington VT - Higher Ground
Nov 29 - Boston, MA - Brighton Music Hall
Nov 30 - New York, NY - Studio at Webster Hall
Dec 2 - Philadelphia, PA - World Cafe Live
Dec 4 - Buffalo, NY - Nietzsche's 
Dec 5 - Detroit, MI - The Crofoot
Dec 6 - Columbus, OH - Woodlands Tavern
Dec 7 - Chicago, IL - Empty Bottle
Dec 8 - Madison, WI - University of Wisconsin 
Dec 10 - Oberlin, OH - Oberlin College

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

E4RTH - It's Where We Live

This video from E4RTH for their new single It's Where We Live featuring Amy Douglas, White Lion and Amaze The Icon just made my day.  It completely speaks for itself.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Edem Drops Mass Production

Edem, Ghana's hottest MC reppin the Ewe people of the Volta Region, dropped his sophomore album, Mass Production, out November 12, 2012 on Akwaaba Music.  If you're looking to hear what's hot on the streets of Accra, this is it.  Perfect for your next dance party.

Africa In Your Earbuds # 31

It's been a while since I posted an OkayAfrica mixtape, so dig the latest in the Africa In Your Earbuds Series from Boddhi Satva: Ancestral Soul.  This mix goes deep, so prepare yourself for some afro-heavy soulful dopeness.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Brand New Life Comes to NYC

Have you ever dreamt of The Brand New Life?  Well, your dreams can soon come true.  The North Carolina based afro-fusion oriented ensemble is on a Northeastern U.S. tour and coming to NYC this Friday night.  Check out their unique take on the afrobeat sound at The Bitter End this Friday night.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Smoove Brings the Funk with First Class

Smoove, one of Europe's dopest beat makers, has put out a new album of remixes perfect for your next dance party on Jalapeno Records.  Featuring remixes of cuts from The New Mastersounds, Afrika Bambaataa, and a host of others, check out the comp and cop it at your leisure.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Fangnawa Experience

Fangnawa Experience, out November 13, 2012 on Strut Records, is a groundbreaking fusion of two distinct African musical styles: West African Afrobeat, and North African ceremonial Gnawa Music. Originally brought together by the forward-thinking Détours du Monde festival in Montpelier, French Afrobeat collective Fanga and Moroccan master musician Maâlem Abdallah Guinéa have found musical common ground on their performances and recordings together.

Performed primarily in Morocco and South-western Algeria, a traditional Gnawa ceremony re-creates the genesis of the universe, incorporating trance-inducing music, a clairvoyant, incense, and ecstatic dancing in a complicated liturgy. Gnawa music mixes classical Islamic Sufism with pre-Islamic African traditions, and in recent decades has begun to be performed outside of the traditional closed-door ceremonies, to the wider Moroccan public, and to global music audience at large.

Afrobeat as a genre was born out of fusion.  Many in musical critical circles judge afrobeat projects based off the measuring stick of how well they are able to mimic Fela's Afrika 70 sound.  I would put myself into that category when I first started writing about the music in the early 2000's, but I soon discovered that most artists seek to create their own sound and forge their own identity.  Fanga is taking an immensely ambitious step forward in that direction.

Dig this short video about the project to get a taste.  Then cop the album when it drops next week.  If you like music that's unique, you won't want to miss out on this one.


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Brasilian Afrobeat Mixtape

Afro-followers may or may not know that the funky nation of Brazil was very much affected by the spread of afrobeat throughout the African Diaspora.  For those unaware, Wolfram from Soundgoods put together a mixtape choc full of Afro-Brasilian afrobeat goodness.  Dig it.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Grant Phabao Afrofunk Arkestra Debuts New Cut on Compilation from Paris DJ's

This track is pure unadulterated afrobeat heaven.  I dare you not to move while you listen to Ogun from Grant Phabao Afrofunk Arkestra feat. members of Souljazz Orchestra, a track off of Dis Is Good For You - Tropical Grooves and Afrofunk International a forthcoming compilation from Paris DJ's Soundsystem.  If you dig this track (which you absolutely should) then check out the rest of the comp for more afrobeat goodness.

Staff Benda Bilili

I'm a little behind the curve on this one, but these guys are so awesome I figured I'd share it anyways.  Staff Benda Bilili have released their second full-length album, Bouger Le Monde, on Crammed Discs Records.  If you're not familiar with their story, you can read all about it here.  These guys are truly inspirational.  Check out a preview video below and cop the album at your leisure.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Felabration is almost here!

It's that time of year again.  74 years ago Monday, Olufela Olusegun Oludotun Ransome-Kuti was born.  The man the world came to know as Fela Anikulapo Kuti, legendary musical icon, political leader, and inspirational force that he was, left an indelible effect on the world.  The fact you're reading these words right now is testament to the fact that Fela's message was spread far and wide.  In that vein, October 18th is always a day to celebrate that legacy and continue that story.  Depending on where you're located geographically, here are a few parties going down to celebrate Fela, his music, his message, and his legacy.  No matter where you are, put on some Fela tomorrow, have a dance party, and offer whatever libations you deem fit to the legendary chief priest.  

Littlefield - Brooklyn feat. EMEFE, Mokaad, The Funk Ark, The Rainbow Children, DJ Monk-One

Neighborhood Theater - Charlotte, NC feat. DJ Rich Medina, The Marksmen

The Echo - Los Angeles, CA feat. DJ Rich Medina

Maria's Package Goods and Community Bar - Chicago, IL feat. DJ King Scratch

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Hurricane Season in Brooklyn

If you haven't heard of the Analog Players Society, it's about time you have.  Their new album, Hurricane Season in Brooklyn, out September 25, 2012 via Studio Brooklyn is a beautiful collection of songs that breathe life and humanity into some songs previously known as highly-produced radio hits.  

Analog Players Society is a project spearheaded by percussionist, engineer, and producer, Amon.  I first  came into contact with Amon at a party in Brooklyn in the summer of 2008 when he was playing congas accompanying Chris Annibell's dj set, a role he played at Turntables on the Hudson parties often.  It's that live, human presence that Amon brought to the party that shines through on his studio work.  Analog Players Society is about catering to the human aesthetic, to creating sound that can't be re-created with electronic sounds.  Celebrating that earthy, warm sound that only real live musicians are capable of creating is what Analog Players Society do best.  

For fans of APS who've been waiting for this album, you won't be disappointed.  Dig the title track below for a sample, then cop the rest at your earliest convenience.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Conquering Lion Video from Souljazz Orchestra

In case I haven't hyped this album enough already, The Souljazz Orchestra's video for Conquering Lion, a track off their latest release, Solidarity, surely will give you a taste of how nasty this album really is.  Souljazz is about to embark on an international tour, so if you like what you hear, imagine how much better it would be to catch this massive afrobeat sound in person:

Oct 10 - Paris, France - La Bellevilloise
Oct 11 - Pau, France - Showcase Time
Oct 12 - Marseille, France - Cabaret Aléatoire
Oct 13 - Lille, France - Bal à Fives
Oct 14 - Chalon-sur-Saône, France - La Péniche
Oct 17 - Lyon, France - Afrosoul Festival - La Marquise
Oct 18 - Milan, Italy - Black Gusto Live
Oct 19 - Bordeaux, France - BT59
Oct 20 - Montpellier, France - Le Jam
Oct 22 - Antwerp, Belgium - Trix
Oct 23 - Amsterdam, Netherlands - MC Theatre
Oct 24 - Vienna, Austria - Cabaret Fledermaus
Oct 25 - Bratislava, Slovakia - Bratislava Jazz Days
Oct 26 - Prague, Czech Republic - Agharta
Oct 27 - České Budějovice, Czech Republic - South Bohemia Jazzfest
Oct 28 - Dornbirn, Austria - Conrad Sohm
Oct 31 - Cologne, Germany - Stadtgarten
Nov 01 - Athens, Greece - Gazarte
Nov 02 - Athens, Greece - Gazarte
Nov 03 - Thessaloniki, Greece - Gaia Live
Nov 04 - London, UK - Jazz Cafe
Nov 09 - Toronto, ON - Wrongbar
Nov 10 - Kingston, ON - The Mansion
Nov 15 - Québec, QC - Le Cercle
Nov 16 - Montréal, QC - Le Belmont
Nov 17 - Gatineau, QC - Petit Chicago
Nov 28 - Burlington, VT - Higher Ground *
Nov 29 - Boston, MA - Brighton Music Hall *
Nov 30 - New York, NY - Webster Hall *
Dec 01 - Washington, DC - Jammin Java
Dec 02 - Philadelphia, PA - World Cafe Live *
Dec 04 - Buffalo, NY - Nietzsche's *
Dec 05 - Detroit, MI - The Crofoot *
Dec 06 - Columbus, OH - Woodlands Tavern *
Dec 07 - Chicago, IL - Empty Bottle *
Dec 08 - Minneapolis, MN - Triple Rock

Chorizo Chunks 13

DJ Chorizo Funk out of Austin, TX is back at it again.  If you've ever heard one of his Chorizo Chunks Mixes before, you know to get excited for what vol. 13 has in store.  Dig the mix and if you're in or around Austin, TX, definitely check this mix-master out in the flesh.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

EMEFE & NUMBASALA Come to Nuyorican Poets Cafe

If you're in or around NYC, do yourself a favor and check out EMEFE and NUMBASALA at the legendary Nuyorican Poets Cafe September 22nd.  EMEFE, fresh off the release of their bangin' new album Good Future, are an extremely talented group of young musicians making a name for themselves in the afrobeat community.  NUMBASALA are an 8-piece ensemble hailing from Colombia and Guatemala blending a mix of afro-influences.  This is definitely a show worth catching.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Interview with Antibalas' Martín Perna

I had the privilege of interviewing Martín Perna, the founder of Antibalas and icon of the modern day afrobeat movement, for the forth time last week.  As always, he provided a multitude of interesting, thought-provoking insights into his music, his politics and life in general.  If you're a fan of Antibalas, but you're not familiar with Martín's work outside of the group, definitely check out all that he's done.  Antibalas may be that for which what he's best known, but he's played a lot of music in a lot of groups over the years (similar to the rest of the members of Antibalas):

Marc Gabriel Amigone: The last time we spoke, you were in grad school at UT-Austin.  Are you still in school? How do you spend your time when you're not touring or recording with Antibalas?

Martín Perna: I'm done. I earned an M.Ed in Educational Technology from University of Texas-Brownsville. It was all online, and taught by regular members of the UTB faculty with courses mirroring what's taught in the classroom. I wanted to have the experience of being an online student and experiencing good online teaching and I definitely got it. I have been involved in educational projects since I was in high school, working at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia and facilitating learning has always been important to me. Touring makes it difficult, but now I've been working with Dubspot (an electronic music institute in NYC) to help build a division of their online school, as well as design curriculum for their NYC-based classroom courses.  That's taken up a lot of time in the past two years but it is a valuable investment of time in a few ways. First and foremost, it is our job as musicians to educate as well as entertain. If we don't educate people about how to understand music, its history, and its historical context, very few people will really appreciate the music and what it takes to make it. Second, I am following in the path of a lot of my elders as far as continuing to be creative while planting roots in some type of educational institution. Things are changing so fast that all of us, whatever we do, have to be crafty and wear lots of hats in order to make ends meet.

Outside of that, and all the travel, that doesn't leave too much time. I spend the rest with family, and working on other songs and figuring out what best works for Antibalas, Ocote Soul Sounds or other collaborations.

I'm just getting acclimated to Houston--I'll be here on and off for the next two years but still with roots in Austin and NYC (for work). Houston is fascinating. Very diverse and multilayered, and enormous. It's now apparently bigger than Chicago.

MGA: You mentioned onstage in Brooklyn a couple weeks ago that when you guys started out playing in New York, there sometimes were more people on stage than there were in the audience.  How did it feel to play in front of such a big crowd in the city where the band was born?

MP: It was definitely gratifying. It was a privilege to share the music with a lot of people, but I was more wrapped up in the good energy of the family reunion happening backstage.

To play for an audience of 7000 people was great, but we've had copies of our albums that barely broke 7000 legal sales. It would be great if all the people that dug our music pitched in to help sustain us like they might have with a band they liked in 1992, pre-download era. 

MGA: It's been 14 years since Antibalas was founded.  How would you describe the evolution of the band in that time both in terms of sound and personnel?

MP: There are definitely different historical eras, defined by where we were playing, clusters of musicians in the band, etc. There were times when we were sloppier, but a lot more spontaneous. I would say our current state is very precise and measured, but since we're going on tour and playing night after night for the next 3 months, we'll be able to develop and re-establish a lot more spontaneity. The music is elastic and after we play it awhile, it will inevitably stretch out in different ways.

Personnel wise, the core of about 7-8 musicians has been solid for 8-10 years now. In the past 2 years, we got a new bassist, Nikhil Yerawadekar, who began playing with the group as a rhythm guitarist, as well as drummer Miles Arntzen. They play well together and we have a lot of momentum with them. 

MGA: How does it feel to be garnering attention from mainstream media outlets like late night TV shows?

MP: It's too early to tell. The ultimate reason why we did it was so people would come out to see us live and check out the recordings that we've made. It was a crazy privilege to be on the show, but it was just a tiny sip of what it is we really do. It would be nice if there were more national shows like Soul Train, Old Grey Whistle Test, Austin City Limits, etc. that had more of a focus on live performance and getting to the work of different bands.

MGA: How did recording Antibalas at Daptone Studios in Brooklyn affect the creative process and execution of the record?

MP: It was hard work, but a lot of fun. It was demanding in that we recorded to tape and there was little room for error and no computerized cut-and-pasting to make things sound right. As such, there are a few imperfect stitches in the musical tapestry that we hope make it more unique and sincere. It was great to get to spend so much time with the band, all thinking with a common mind and purpose. Gabe Roth helped us make some hard decisions about song choice and arrangements, as well as some compositional and harmonic suggestions that really opened up the songs for us.

MGA: What's the song writing process like for the band?  Does one person generally start with an idea and then invite collaboration, or do people generally have a song written in their head from start to finish before bringing it to the group?

MP: It really depends on the song. More and more we're seeing them come from one or two people. Jamming and creating collaboratively takes a lot of time and space and unfortunately we haven't had that luxury in a while. 

MGA: Why did you go with a Self-titled approach for the fifth full-length LP?

MP: As I've said in quite a few interviews, we feel like this is the album that best represents the group. We thought of some other titles but this one stuck.

MGA: It sounds on the record, and felt when watching you guys perform, like you're channelling Fela's afrobeat more on this album than you have on others, particularly Security (your last full-length).  The structure of some of the songs (Dirty Money, The Ratcatcher, Sare Kon Kon) the direct political messages, the call and response lyrics are all very typical (to my ears at least) of Afrika 70 song structures and formats.  Was that something intentional, to simplify things?

MP: I don't know if channelling is the right word. Afrobeat, as a musical form is perfect and balanced, just like an arch is in architecture. Does every architect who uses the arch in a building channel the inventor of the arch? Maybe, maybe not. Aesthetically, The difference between "Antibalas" and "Security" had a lot to do with the producer, as well as the studio facilities. McEntire was the first and only engineer we've made an album with that's used digital, as well as synthesizers. We experimented with those things, as well as a lot of odd, non-Afrobeat sounds and textures on quite a few songs. Gabe Roth is coming from much more of a classical place than John McEntire, as far as looking at afrobeat as a form with lots of structural elements that should fit together in a certain way, and sound best with a certain type of presentation. I think the album reflects that. However, there were a few b-sides that we recorded that are quite different from Fela's classical models of afrobeat. 

MGA: As the country gets ready to elect a president, what is your outlook on the social and political spectrum of the United States today?

MP: I am really weary in a lot of ways, but not losing focus. A lot of very ugly politics have re-emerged in the past four years, particularly racism, homophobia, and xenophobia. These have been used to stoke fears, create scapegoats, and often times make millions of people vote against their own best interests as well as the best interests of the country. Fundamentalism here is pushing to be as bad as it is in Islamic countries, as far as blending patriarchy with state authority and selective interpretations of holy scripture by often hypocritical, out of touch men. In addition, we're seeing a huge transfer of wealth from the lower and middle classes to the rich and super rich, who in turn use this to continue rigging political and financial systems in their favor. In short all of us need to be paying attention, voting, organizing, and having sincere conversations about what the consequences of economic and social policies are, and how they can be inclusive and more sustainable.

MGA: I remember you telling me you campaigned for candidate Obama in 2008.  How did you get involved last time around and what is your opinion of Obama's first four years as president?

MP: I was going to pick up some free tickets to see him at a speaking appearance in Austin, and the guy in charge saw that I spoke Spanish and recruited me to canvas door-to-door around Austin, particularly in bi-lingual neighborhoods. The best part about it was the group camaraderie, and getting to have sincere discussions with total strangers in the greater Austin area. While I was out canvassing in a rowdier part of Austin, I was chased by two stray pit bulls and crashed my scooter into a utility pole. My bike was wrecked. My head was bleeding, my ribs were stinging, and I had to go to the emergency room to get x-rays. The scooter repairs cost more than the small stipend that I got for helping the campaign, and I still don't have proper health care, and this contributes in no small way to me feeling bittersweet about the past four years. Obama is brilliant in a lot of ways, and I guess he had to do his due diligence by trying to include everyone across the spectrum in discussions, but he didn't really have a grip on how easily people are manipulated, and how many racist folks really don't want to have a Black president, period.  People also overlook the fact that he's deported more people than George Bush, and other things that are more typical of a right-wing president. The drone wars, foreign prisons, Guantanamo--that is all shameful and he's done nothing to address that in any substantial. Instead, he gets the Nobel Peace Prize. Part of our job is getting organized so that there is a broad base of support and strategy for an America that's not hell-bent on empire, but it's not anywhere near that yet.

MGA: Do you notice a big change in the energy and enthusiasm surrounding his campaign from 2008 to 2012?

MP: There is definitely a big change of energy from 08 to 2012. However, I think a lot of people will support him because he is not Romney, and because in his second term he may have the experience and/or the political will to establish some things that we all need and would benefit from, whether its bank regulation, health care, scaling down or eliminating the war machine, dealing with the prison industrial complex, etc. I think it's the French who have a saying something like "we will vote, but holding our noses" meaning that there is a conscious critique of what stinks about the candidate but also a realization that at this point, this is the best we've got. It's our own collective fault for not believing in, participating in, supporting, and sustaining other options, at least not as far as the presidential election. Local and state elections are another story, equally important but with more possibilities for breaking up the false dichotomy of Republicans and Democrats.

MGA: Is part of the message and mission of releasing this album to wake the American public up to what's happening around them and inspire them to act?

MP: That's embedded in there, for sure. Particularly on "The Rat Catcher" and "Dirty Money". The Rat Catcher was written several years ago after the "War on Terror" began. Like millions of everyday Americans and people across the world, we experienced all types of losses of liberty but no increase in feelings of safety. The song talks about the paradox of a world where we make misguided efforts in order to become safer and imprison ourselves in the process. It is definitely a critique of the US creeping, and sometimes leaping, towards fascism.

Dirty Money is a critique of the way the financial system is rigged, and various aspects of it. The video that we made and the puppet imagery used shows a few ideas--first, the widening discrepancy between executive pay and worker pay, as well as the ways that disaster capitalism--corporations profiting off of misery and disaster without alleviating the conditions--is a major part of our economy, via prisons, pharmaceuticals, crisis relief, foreign aid, military aid, etc.

I don't ever see us as having the mantle of the "political band of the moment"--we are all dealing with our own internal contradictions just like everyone else. Our CDs are made of plastic. We burn loads of fuel and create lots of carbon when we take airplanes...that's just the tip of the iceberg. However, that's because of the paradigm. If there were a biodiesel or solar boat that could get us to Europe quickly, safely, and affordably, we'd take it. However, our options, whether it's food, fuel, shelter, are limited and come through much more powerful and centralized channels. For example, in Houston, Texas it's easier to find grapes from Chile than it is from a vineyard in South Texas.

However, it's important to be part of a larger culture of resistance, of groups who are using their voices to imagine better ways of doing things, better ways of living in the US and the world. No single group can do it alone.

MGA: What does the (foreseeable) future hold for Antibalas?

MP: We will be doing a ton of touring across North America, parts of Western Europe, Australia, and New Zealand between now and Spring 2013. We have a lot of new songs in the oven and we'll be working on them a little bit at a time while on tour so that hopefully we'll be ready to go into the studio sometime late next year.

In the meantime, Daptone will be releasing one or two 45s with unreleased songs from the "Antibalas" sessions. We'll also be doing some collaborations with various musicians, as a group and also with clusters of musicians from the band.

Friday, August 31, 2012

This is Africa Premier

This is Africa is a collaboration between hiplife and ragga musicians from Ashaiman, Ghana (just outside the capitol, Accra) and a traditional Kusaasi gonje (one-stringed violin) player from Binaba, far to the north. The gonje player's name is Alalba Awin, but in his home town and the surrounding areas, everyone knows him as "Bob Marley."

The beat was put together by American musician, Luke Bassuener (Asumaya), who was a Peace Corps volunteer in the town of Zebilla from 2003 - 2005, and returned in 2008 to found a traditional musician cooperative called Bawku West Collective. He was back again earlier this summer, when his former student - and rising hiplife star - Awuni "Judicious" Bismark, took him to Phayaworks studio in Ashaiman and introduced him to producer, Mad Beatz. Judicious and frequent collaborator, BB then recruited ragga artist, Reeload, from the group Spotlyte Reality, and they wrote the verses that became "This is Africa." Mad Beatz recorded their vocal tracks and grabbed some of the raw Bawku West Collective recordings to produce more collaborations of the like in the future.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Souljazz Orchestra Stands in Solidarity

Solidarity, the new album from The Souljazz Orchestra out September 18, 2012 on Strut Records, is pure fire.  While you may know Souljazz for their afrobeat leanings, Solidarity spans a wide variety of styles and sounds with the help of several guest vocalists from different corners of the globe.  The album was cut to a temperamental Tascam 8-track tape machine inherited from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police at a surplus sale.  The album definitely sounds like it's been recorded on a garage sale 8-track machine but not at all in a bad way.  The gritty, retro sound quality lends itself to the classic sounds the orchestra is kicking out.  It's almost like they put out a record of soulful funky music around the world circa 1974.  Solidarity is definitely a fitting theme for this record.  All ten tracks have a unique style and sound, but they all have a common soulful theme at the same time. 

Listening to this record will definitely get you excited to see these guys live.  If you live in the midwest, eastern US or Canada you'll get your shot sometime soon.  When they cross the border they'll be touring with Brooklyn afrobeat luminaries Zongo Junction.  I can personally attest to these guys' ability to tear up the stage.  Check out the Souljazz tour dates starting November 9th in Toronto:

Nov 09 - Toronto, ON - Wrongbar

Nov 10 - Kingston, ON - The Mansion

Nov 15 - Québec, QC - Le Cercle

Nov 16 - Montréal, QC - Le Belmont

Nov 17 - Gatineau, QC - Petit Chicago

Nov 28 - Burlington, VT - Higher Ground **

Nov 29 - Boston, MA - Brighton Music Hall **

Nov 30 - New York, NY - Webster Hall **

Dec 01 - Washington, DC - Jammin' Java

Dec 02 - Philadelphia, PA - World Café Live **

Dec 04 - Buffalo, NY - Nietche's **

Dec 05 - Columbus, OH - Woodlands Tavern **

Dec 06 - Detroit, MI - Pike Room **

Dec 07 - Chicago, IL - The Empty Bottle **

Dec 08 - Minneapolis, MN - Triple Rock
** - w/ Zongo Junction

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


The Easy Star All-Stars are back at it again.  This time around it's the legendary Michael Jackson to whom they're paying homage with Thrillah, a dubbed out set of covers of all the MJ hits out today on Easy Star Records.  If you've heard Dub Side of the Moon, RadioDread, or Easy Star's Lonely Hearts Dub Band, then you'll definitely want to hear this.  Thrillah puts a natty spin on classic Michael Jackson cuts like PYT, Wanna Be Startin Something, Beat it, Billie Jean and of course Thriller.  Tomorrow is MJ's birthday, so amongst all the obligatory spins that all his classic cuts will be getting, throw in some Thrillah along too.  You can catch The Easy Star All-Stars live this fall as they'll be touring throughout the US and Canada before crossing the pond to the UK:

Oct 04 – New York, NY @ Irving Plaza – w/The Aggrolites, Passafire
Oct 06 – Carrboro, NC @ Cat’s Cradle – w/The Aggrolites
Oct 07 – Washington, DC @ Howard Theatre – w/The Aggrolites
Oct 09 – Ann Arbor, MI @ Blind Pig – w/The Aggrolites
Oct 11 – Chicago, IL @ Reggie’s – w/The Aggrolites
Oct 12 – Waterloo, ON @ Starlight – w/The Aggrolites
Oct 13 – Toronto, ON @ Lee’s Palace – w/The Aggrolites
Oct 14 – Syracuse, NY @ Westcott Theater – w/The Aggrolites
Oct 16 – Boston, MA @ Paradise – w/The Aggrolites
Oct 17 – Stowe, VT @ Rusty Nail – w/The Aggrolites
Oct 19 – Charlottesville, VA @ Jefferson Theater – w/The Aggrolites
Oct 20 – Philadelphia, PA @ The Blockley – w/The Aggrolites

Nov 01 – READING @ Sub89    
Nov 02 – MANCHESTER @ Band on the Wall  
Nov 03 – KENDAL @ Brewery Arts Centre    
Nov 04 – NEW BRIGHTON @ Floral Pavilion
Nov 06 – NOTTINGHAM @ Rescue Rooms
Nov 07 – YORK @ The Duches
Nov 08 – BILSTON @ The Robin 2 
Nov 09 – FALMOUTH @ Princess Pavilion
Nov 10 – EXETER @ Phoenix
Nov 11 – SOUTHAMPTON @ The Brook
Nov 13 – BRISTOL @ Fleece
Nov 14 – LEEDS @ University
Nov 15 – LONDON @ Garage
Nov 16 – BRIGHTON @ Concorde 2
Nov 17 – FOLKESTONE @ Quarterhouse
Nov 18 – NORWICH @ Waterfront

Friday, August 24, 2012

Afrobeat For Ya Soul Returns to BK

The Lunchbox Theory is bringing the internationally known Afrobeat For Ya Soul back to Brooklyn August 30th at One Last ShagGirl Vs. Machine will be on the decks once again.  Face painting will be offered free of charge.  BBQ will also be served up with drinks in abundance.  All for no cover charge.  What more could you ask for?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Between Two Worlds - New Album from Elikeh

“I always describe Elikeh’s music as like taking Fela Kuti and mixing him with Bob Marley. Put in a pot and stir for three minutes and add some Osibisa and Togolese traditional music to it and let it all boil for two more minutes.  Then you add a sprinkle of rock and you have Elikeh.”  I couldn't have put it better myself.  Massama Dogo described his music as perfectly as only the creator of the unique collage of sounds and rhythms that is Elikeh could.  

The leader of the D.C. based Afro-funk outfit, hailing from Togo West Africa, puts Togo on the map in an afrobeat community dominated by musicians from Nigeria and Ghana.  Take one listen to Between Two Worlds, their new album out tomorrow on Azalea City Records, and you'll hear how Elikeh distinguishes itself from the pack in a very real way.

Afrobeat is a mixture of different styles.  Funk, jazz, Latin and traditional African rhythms, all play into the mix.  Elikeh picks up where Fela left off, adds in a little reggae, and good chunk of rock.  They also incorporate the sounds and language of Massama Dogo's native Toga.  The result is a uniquely original brand of funky African music that makes a political statement while also making people dance. 

If you're in or around the D.C. area, check out Elikeh for yourself at The Black Cat tomorrow night for their album release party.  If you can't make it tomorrow night, definitely cop the album before your next dance party.


With a genre name like this, how could I not spread the love?  Dig the track from Brazilian beatmaker Malka - Electropicalia.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

2012 Olympic Sierra Leonean Anthem

Janka Nabay, the undisputed king of Bubu music from Sierra Leone, has teamed up with Pupa Bajah and Luaka Bop Records to create Nar London, an anthem for the 2012 Olympic Games in London.  While the traditional Olympic theme most likely won't be replaced anytime soon, Nabay's Olympic Anthem brings a unique perspective from an African Nation participating in the games.  The song was created to inspire and support the two athletes representing Salone in London, Ola Sesay and Ibrahim Touray.

Janka Nabay's debut LP, En Yay Sah, was released yesterday on Luaka Bop Records.  This is music you're unlikely to hear anywhere else.  If you dig the Olympic Anthem, definitely check out the LP.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Antibalas is Back!

Antibalas wastes no time kicking things off with an infectiously danceable, politically astute, track that leaves no doubt in listeners' minds: Antibalas is back and better than ever.  5 years was a long time to wait for hardcore fans such as myself, but the wait is over, and I dare say it was worth it.  While band-members got involved in a variety of solo projects and collaborations, the music was all-the-while growing and percolating.  Creative juices were flowing.  Getting a band this big together to record and perform is no small task.  When the stars finally aligned, the afrobeat gods smiled once again.

I'll have an in-depth interview with founding member Martin Perna in the coming weeks.  I'll also be catching Antibalas live in Brooklyn on August 18th.  They'll be touring across the US and Canada, so don't waste an opportunity to catch this world-class act live.

Antibalas 2012 Tour Dates:
Fri Aug 10 — San Francisco, CA — Outside Lands
Sat Aug 11 — San Luis Obispo, CA — SLO Brewing Co
Sun Aug 12 — Solana Beach, CA – Belly Up Tavern 
Tue Aug 14 — Los Angeles, CA — The Echoplex 
Wed Aug 15 — Pomona, CA — Fox Theater 
Sat Aug 18 — Brooklyn, NY — Williamsburg Park
Tue Sep 11 — Minneapolis, MN — First Avenue
Wed Sep 12 — Milwaukee, WI — Turner Hall
Thu Sep 13 — Chicago, IL — Lincoln Hall
Fri Sep 14 — Detroit, MI — Majestic Theatre
Sat Sep 15 — Cincinnati, OH — Taft Theatre
Tue Sep 18 — Toronto, ON — Lee’s Palace
Wed Sep 19 — Montreal, QC — Corona Theatre
Thu Sep 20 — Boston, MA — Paradise
Tue Sep 25 — Washington, DC — Black Catt
Wed Sep 26 — Richmond, VA — Capital Ale House
Thu Sep 27 — Carborro, NC — Cat’s Cradle
Fri Sep 28 — Charlotte, NC — Visulite
Sat Sep 29 — Asheville, NC — Grey Eagle
Mon Oct 1 — Knoxville, TN — Cider House
Tue Oct 2 — Nashville, TN — Mercy Lounge
Wed Oct 3 — Louisville, KY — Bomhard Theater
Fri Oct 5 — Atlanta, GA — Goat Farm
Sat Oct 6 — Athens, GA — 40 Watt
Sun Oct 7 — Birmingham, AL — Bottletree
Tue Oct 9 — New Orleans, LA — Tipitina’s
Wed Oct 10 — Houston, TX — Warehouse Live
Thu Oct 11 — Dallas, TX — Kessler Theater
Sat Oct 13 — Austin, TX — Austin City Limits Festival

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Mandingo Ambassadors New Album: Tougna

Anyone familiar with the New York African music scene will surely have heard the Mandingo Ambassadors display their gracefully artistic sound to the delight of listeners and dancers.  For those unfamiliar with the African musical stylings of this virtuosic ensemble, now is the time for your introduction.  Their new album, Tougna, out July 24, 2012 on 1-2-3-4-GO Records, will transport you into another world of dancing and pure musical bliss.

Guitarist, bandleader, and griot, Mamady Kouyate, represents a lineage of musicians stretching back through generations spanning hundreds of years in his native Guinea.  He was raised on the traditional music of his people but bridged the gap to the modern music of the times, transposing the traditional music to the electric guitar.  He was in the middle of the movement led by President Sekou Toure to form a new national identity for newly independent Guinea, made famous by bands like Bembeya Jazz, of which Mamady is a veteran.  

In 2004, Mamady moved to the USA as a political refugee.  It was there, in Brooklyn, NY where he started the Mandingo Ambassadors.  Composed of African musicians from his native Guinea, as well as Europeans and Americans, he continued the legacy and spread of African music to new generations.  The ambassadors' new album, Tougna, is a beautiful collection of songs highlighting Mamady's virtuosic guitar playing with the backing of a lively rhythm section, sailing horns, and the majestic vocals of Bebe Camara.

The Mandingo Ambassadors perform regularly around New York.  They were the first African musical act I saw live in person when I was 22 and visiting the city.  I saw them in a packed room in Barbes in Park Slope.  My mind was completely blown at the beauty of their compositions and their ability to turn the room into a complete dancing frenzy.  I've seen them live several times since, and they've never disappointed me in the least.  Check out their new album, and if you like what your hear, absolutely see them live in person to experience the real thing.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

GrassRoots Festival of Music and Dance 2012

That time of the year is almost here...The Finger Lakes GrassRoots Festival of Music and Dance is set to go down next weekend beginning Thursday July 19th.  This year's lineup features Khaira Arby, SMOD, John Brown's Body, Thomas Mapfumo and The Blacks Unlimited, Locos Por Juana, and a long list of other acts from several corners of the globe.  If you've never attended GrassRoots before, this is a great year to start.  You'll be eager to make it a yearly tradition I'm sure.

Dig the interview I conducted with John Brown's Body Drummer Tommy Benedetti in advance of the 2010 GrassRoots Fest:

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. There's 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 a lot 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..they're amazing musicians, great songs, and a sound that's 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.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

New Sofrito Compilation

Sofrito is at it again.  The international coalition of dj's and producers committed to making people dance across several continents are set to release their second compilation, International Soundclash, July 24th in conjunction with Strut Records.  Sofrito take an approach that I love: taking the best danceable music from all over the world and mixing it together to create a consistent, funky vibe.  Funk is universal, and Sofrito is your interpreter.  Dig a free track in advance of the album's release next month.  For those across the pond in the UK, check out their record release party in London July 20th.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Afrobeat for Ya Soul BK Edition

Afrobeat for Ya Soul, D.C.'s hottest Afrocentric dance party is coming to Planet Brooklyn June 28th courtesy of The Lunchbox TheoryMickey Perez will be on the 1's and 2's along with Girl vs. Machine at One Last Shag starting at 8pm.  Best of all, admission is free.  Just bring your positivity and energy to share.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

New Afro Disco Track

Many of you know, I have a deep love for all musics afro-disco associated.  This remix of The Bank's track from Frank Agrario touches my afro-disco soul. Dig it.

New Video from SL Refugee All-Stars

The World Food Program USA and Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars have joined forces to bring attention to the urgent issue of global hunger. Their new video Big Fat Dog, off their seriously nasty new album Radio Salone (produced by Ticklah) was filmed in Freetown, Sierra Leone and addresses an issue that's all too familiar to Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars: the divide between those who have plenty and those who have little. 

For the third time in a decade, drought in the Sahel region of Africa is threatening millions of people with hunger. Meanwhile, conflict in Mali has forced at least 300,000 people to flee their homes, adding to the hunger crisis both in Mali and neighboring countries. The UN World Food Program and its partners have launched a regional response to bring food assistance to more than 9 million people in eight countries.  Dig the album, join the fight against global hunger and support World Food Program USA. Text AID to 27722 to make a $10 donation. 

Catch The All-Stars in Concert on their World Tour:

Thu Jun 21   Chameleon Club, Lancaster PA
Fri Jun 22   Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square PA  
Sat Jun 23   Iron Horse, Northampton MA  
Sun Jun 24   Brighton Music Hall, Boston MA  
Tue Jun 26   The Hamilton, Washington DC  
Thu Jun 28   Bearsville Theater, Woodstock NY  
Fri Jun 29   Highline Ballroom, New York NY  
Sat Jun 30   Rochester International Jazz Festival, Rochester NY  
Sun Jul 01   TD Toronto Jazz Festival, Toronto ON   
Tue Jul 03   The Beachcomber, Wellfleet MA  
Thu Jul 05   Bridge Street Live, Collinsville CT  
Fri Jul 06   West Kortright Centre, East Meredith NY  
Sat Jul 07   Higher Ground, South Burlington VT  
Sun Jul 08   RBC Royal Bank Ottawa Bluesfest, Ottawa ON   
Tue Jul 10   Festival Nuits d'Afrique, Montreal QC   
Wed Jul 11   Festival D'été International De Quebec, Quebec QC   
Fri Jul 13   Masala Festival, Hannover Germany  
Mon Jul 23   Mar de Musicas, Cartagena Spain  
Sun Jul 29   Festival Du Labyrinthe De La Voix, Saint-Junien France  
Thu Aug 02   Pickathon, Happy Valley OR   

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

New Dopeness from Nickodemus

One of the dopest dj's NY has ever seen is spinning this weekend in BK.  Nickodemus will be on the 1's and 2's this Sunday at the DeKalb Market (for free!) to celebrate the release of his new album Moon People, out June 19th on ESL Records.  Dig the link to a live mix from the master blaster below to get a taste of what he's all about.  

Nickodemus LIVE @ theLIFT / 1 year anniversary Jan. 2011