Tag Archives: African music

Artist Profiles: Jayme Stone

Jayme Stone – Photo by Leo Patrone

Canadian banjo explorer Jayme Stone is a musician straddling bluegrass, jazz, old time and African music.

Jayme Stone picked up a passion for music from an eccentric uncle who listened to records endlessly, placing his ashtray on the speaker so Stone could join him in watching how the cigarette smoke swirled to the music.

An unlikely set of circumstances has lent Stone a broader set of reference points than most banjoists and those early beginnings have influenced his sound, choice of material, and collaborations. It started with the architecture of the banjo, led to a mysterious librarian who stocked his local public library with a vast trove of banjo recordings, and landed him long-lasting lessons with a series of maestros, from Bela Fleck and Tony Trischka, to Dave Douglas and Bill Frisell.

His CD titled The Utmost (2007), was co-produced by David Travers-Smith, was made possible through assistance from the Music Section of the Canada Council for the Arts.

Jayme spent several weeks in Mali in 2007, where he sought out the roots of the banjo. His exploits included sitting in at Toumani Diabate’s Hogon nightclub with Toumani’s twenty piece Symmetric Orchestra.

Jayme Stone now leads 2 quartets – the eponymous JSQ and the Africa to Appalachia project.

Jayme Stone

JSQ’s repertoire is diverse, ranging from a twelve-part composition in eleven, a dirge for Ray Charles, and a medley of Appalachian fiddle tunes all in the same set. They travel from bluegrass hoedowns to jazz festivals.

The Africa to Appalachia project evolved from Jayme’s travels to West Africa to learn the history of his instrument, the banjo. Although Stone’s mission was to uncover common musical ground between Africa and Appalachia – like the shared affinity for sustaining culture and the similar open-string styles – he found the differences between two continents just as intriguing. This is the sound of traditional music re-imagined.

In 2015, Stone released Jayme Stone’s Lomax Project, a collaboration with several acclaimed musicians, including Tim O’Brien, Bruce Molsky, Margaret Glaspy, Moira Smiley, Brittany Haas, Julian Lage and others.

Discography

The Utmost (2007)
Africa to Appalachia, with Mansa Sissoko (2008)
Room of Wonders (2010)
The Other Side of the Air (2013)
Jayme Stone’s Lomax Project (Borealis, 2015)

Web sites

Official Web Site: http://www.jaymestone.com

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Where World Music Intersects World Jazz

Omar Sosa and Seckou Keita – Transparent Water (Ota Records, 2017)

Music fans should settle in and enjoy the sumptuous ride that is Transparent Water. Co-creator Omar Sosa, the Cuban-born composer, bandleader and pianist, has such recordings as Eggun – The Afri-Lectric Experience, Jog, Ile and Calma under his belt, while Seckou Keita, the Senegalese kora master, has released albums like 22 Strings/Cordes, Afro-Mandinka Soul with his own Seckou Keita Quartet and Clychau Dibon. Joining forces under the Ota Records label, Transparent Water, set for release on February 24th, pairs Mr. Sosa’s Afro-Cuban and jazz sensibilities with the lush African traditions of Mr. Keita’s long musical legacy of his griot family.

Transparent Water is where world music meets world jazz, where tradition meets improvisation and where the lines of spiritual and earthy meet. The result is stunningly evocative.

With Mr. Sosa on piano, Fender Rhodes, sampling, microKorg and vocals and Mr. Keita firmly enticing listeners with his kora mastery, as well as talking drum, djembe, sabar and vocals, listeners are treated to the interplay between these two musicians and composers. But as luck would have it, Mr. Sosa and Mr. Keita turn the music on its ears with the additions of Chinese musician Wu Tong on sheng and bawu; Japanese koto master Mieko Miyazaki; Venezuelan percussionist Gustavo Ovalles on bata drums, culo’puya, maracas, guataca, calabaza and clave; Korean geojungo player E’Joung-Ju; and Rajasthani nagadi player Mosin Khan Kawa.

Cuban rhythms, African melodies and Asian influences pile up, separate and mesh together in an expansive musical tapestry where it’s impossible to pull at one musical thread and undo the lot.

Like water, Transparent Water flows easy from the jazzy opening track “Dary” into the delicately piano and kora interplay of “In the Forest.” Lush track flows into lush track with goodies like the sheng laced “Black Dream,” the catchy African influenced “Mining-Nah” with Mr. Keita’s vocals warming up the track and mysteriously moody “Another Prayer.”

Listeners can’t help but be charmed by tracks like sassy offering “Fatiliku,” the dreamy musical landscape of “Oni Yalorde” with Mr. Tong on the bawu or the piano lines of “Zululand.” Transparent Water is one of those recordings that requires listeners stop and really listen and it’s best if you just go with its flow.

Mr. Sosa, Mr. Keita and company have conjured up a truly brilliant collaboration on Transparent Water. Mesmerizing, evocative and sophisticated, Transparent Water begs for a listen.

Buy Transparent Water in the Americas

Buy Transparent Water in Europe

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African Friends New and Old

It’s not likely I’ll ever get a handle on just how many great African musicians are out there, despite over three decades of loving and collecting music from the continent that’s arguably the root of all things musical. Recent arrivals at my doorstep have numerically favored new (to me) artists over those I’ve long loved listening to. No problem- the more African music I get wind of, the happier I am. And I don’t anticipate the well running dry.

 

Lorraine Klaasen – Nouvelle Journee

 

South African born and presently based in Montreal, Lorraine Klaasen offers up a rousing helping of Township-influenced music on Nouvelle Journee (Justin Time Records, 2016). The production is modern but the feel is traditional, complete with rich call-and-response vocals, lots of rim accents on the drums, guitars that ring out strong and a clear jazz influence on some tracks. That last is not surprising, given that Lorraine’s mother Thandie was a renowned jazz singer.

The younger Klaasen sings in multiple languages and a corresponding number of moods ranging from pensive and personal (“Polokwane”) to renewed vigor (the title track) to cautionary (“Where to Now”). Electric and acoustic musical backing frames Klaasen’s classy vocals to perfection, helping to make this a new day you’ll be glad you woke up to.

 


Élage Diouf – Melokáane (Pump Up The World, 2015)

 

Montreal also appears to have been the main recording site for Melokaane (Pump Up The World, 2015) by Senegalese singer/composer/percussionist Elage Diouf, who laid further tracks for his second album in Toronto, Paris and Dakar. Diouf’s brand of Afropop is similar to that of Youssou N’Dour, though his vocals are more mellow than muezzin. I’d peg him as a kind of African Peter Gabriel even if he didn’t cover Gabriel’s “Secret World” (in Wolof) on this disc, given his skill with musical hooks that are both melodic and melancholic.

Touches of reggae, Latin and more recognizably Senegalese styles (such as m’balax) figure into his arrangements, which are brought to life by a tasteful blend of real instruments and programming. Anthem-like tributes to Nelson Mandela, Patrice Lubumba and Thomas Sankara stand out most on first listening, but the balance of ambient and organic sounds that support Diouf’s sagely vocals make the whole thing a treat.

 

Seydu – Sadaka

 

The mischievous grin that Sierra Leone’s Seydu sports on the cover his CD Sadaka (Fol Musica, 2016) might make you think he’s up to no good. But really he’s looking to both preserve and expand upon the palm wine style of music for which his native land has long been noted. The disc’s title translates as “The Gift,” and it’s one given with laid-back charm and grace.

 

 

Seydu has the voice of a musical storyteller and his songs speak of essential things like lending a helping hand, appreciating beauty, remembering your roots and preserving tradition. Percolating, slightly insistent beats propel the tracks, with an overlay of acoustic and electric sounds sweetening vocals that don’t try to raise the roof and don’t need to. This music permeates slowly but completely, and guest turns by Lokua Kanza and Mariem Hassan add to its unfaltering beauty.

 

Bonga – Recados De Fora

 

A new release by Jose Adelino Barcelo de Carvalho, better known as Bonga, the king of Afro-Portuguese music, is always a reason to rejoice. The impact of his landmark Angola 72 album during Angola’s struggle for independence from Portugal cannot be overstated. Although these days he’s making music with less of a freedom fighter aesthetic, his grandly grainy voice is still one of the most distinctive on the planet.

Recados De Fora (Lusafrica, 2016) is something of a look back, with Bonga covering influential songs by B. Leza (“Odji Maguado”) and Alfredo Ricardo do Nascimento (“Sodade, Meu Bem, Sodade”) as well as paying lyrical tribute to the African and Portuguese dualities that shaped his musical outlook.

The upbeat tracks are laced with acoustic guitar, bass, piano, accordion and chattering percussion (even some fairly uncharacteristic horns here and there) while the slower, sparser ones are no less classic in their showcasing of Bonga as a balladeer influenced equally by Angolan pride and those vestiges of colonialism that were worth keeping. It’s all Bonga at his finest, which is to say you won’t want to be without it.

 

headline photo: Seydu

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Africa Oyé to Celebrate 25th Anniversary Festival in June 2017

Afrtica Oye 2016 – Photo by Mark McNulty

Africa Oyé, the UK’s largest free festival dedicated to African and Caribbean music and culture, will be celebrating its 25th Anniversary during Saturday, June 17th and Sunday, June 18th, 2017 at Sefton Park in Liverpool.

This year the world music festival will present artists from Oye’s 25-year history. “We decided that it would be fitting to feature a retrospective line-up of acts for Oyé 25,” says Oyé’s Artistic Director, Paul Duhaney. “The festival and organization has come so far since the days of the city center and Concert Square and this is a chance to celebrate our birthday with friends from Liverpool and around the world“.

Africa Oye’s 2017 program will also include film screenings, gigs, parties and exhibitions.

For more information visit africaoye.com

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African Music Festival Sauti za Busara Announces 2017 Program

Karyna_Gomes (Guinea Bissau)
Karyna_Gomes (Guinea Bissau)

African music festival Sauti za Busara announced today the 2017 lineup. The festival will take place February 9 – 12, 2017 in Stone Town, Zanzibar (Tanzania).

Sauti za Busara will present the following acts live on three stages:

Freshlyground (South Africa); Rocky Dawuni (Ghana); Yamoto Band (Tanzania); Sarabi (Kenya); Pat Thomas & Kwashibu Area Band (Ghana); Simba & Milton Gulli (Mozambique); Jagwa Music (Tanzania); Bob Maghreb (Morocco); Karyna Gomes (Guinea Bissau); Sami Dan and Zewd Band (Ethiopia); Chibite Zawose Family (Tanzania); Rajab Suleiman & Kithara (Zanzibar); Wahapahapa Band (Tanzania); Buganda Music Ensemble (Uganda); Batimbo Percussion Magique (Burundi); Kyekyeku (Ghana); H_art the Band (Kenya); Grace Barbe (Seychelles); Roland Tchakounté (Cameroon / France); Imena Cultural Troupe (Rwanda); Isau Meneses (Mozambique); Jessica Mbangeni (South Africa); Sahra Halgan Trio (Somaliland); Tausi Women’s Taarab (Zanzibar); CAC Fusion (Tanzania); Ze Spirits Band (Tanzania); Loryzine (Reunion); Madalitso Band (Malawi); Mswanu Gogo Vibes (Tanzania); G Clef Taarab Orchestra (Zanzibar); Afrijam Band (Tanzania); Cocodo African Music Band (Tanzania); Kiumbizi (Pemba / Zanzibar); Rico and the Band (Zanzibar); Usambara Sanaa Group (Tanzania); Mcharuko Band (Zanzibar); Taarab – Kidumbak Group.

More information at:

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The Music of Modern Africa at SummerStage in New York City

Three exciting African music acts, Mbongwana Star, Batida and Young Paris are set to perform on Sunday, August 14, 2016 at Central Park in Manhattan. Admission is free.

Mbongwana Star comes from Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Founding members Coco Ngambali and Theo Nzonza (of Staff Benda Bilili fame) assembled members of a new generation of Kinshasa musicians exemplifying the concept of “mbongwana,” or “change.” Together with Parisian producer Doctor L (Tony Allen, Stomy Bugsy), Mbongwana Star has created a sound that mixes traditional Congolese rhythms with rock bass and electronics made from recycled and reconstructed instruments. Their album is titled From Kinshasa.

Batida is Angolan artist Pedro Coquenão along with more musicians, images and people masked that sings and dance on stage. Dois is his latest album released on the British Soundway Records last year.

Milandou Badila, known as Young Paris, delivers a cross between rap and electronic dance music and samples heavily from traditional African drum beats. Along with five of his ten brothers and sisters, Young Paris performs live shows that merge dance and performance art.

DJ Underdog was born in Panama, DJ Underdog arrived to Washinton DC at age seven with his mother. He’s played many festivals like Coachella and Celebrate Brooklyn.

Doors 5:00 p.m. / Show: 6:00 p.m.

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Richard Bona Announces American Tour and New Album

Richard Bona - Heritage
Richard Bona – Heritage

Cameroonian bassist and singer-songwriter Richard Bona has a new album titled Heritage, scheduled for release on September 16 in the United States. To promote the album he will be touring the United States in September 2016.

Heritage, Bona’s eighth, is the first with the Afro-Cuban band Mandekan Cubano. This recording follows the roots of Afro-Cuban music back to its origins in the Mandekan Empire of the 15th century and earlier. The music explores the alchemy of African rhythms in Cuba.

Tour Dates:

Sept 2nd: Boston, MA, Sculler’s

Sept 6th: Washington, DC, Howard Theatre

Sept 9-10: NYC, Club Bonafide

Sept 13-14: Los Angeles, CA, Catalina’s

Sept 16th: Monterey, CA, Monterey Jazz Festival

Sept 20-21: Seattle, WA, Jazz Alley

Buy Heritage

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The Shiny Treasure of Vieux Kante

Vieux Kante – The Young Man’s Harp (Sterns Africa, 2016)

I suspect that unseen, undiscovered masters of all shapes, sizes and disciplines brush past us unnoticed and move on their way through life and probably more often than we would really be comfortable with if we had the slightest inkling. So, it must be a real coup for the art seller, movie director or record producer to catch that kind of brilliance and be able to hang it on the wall, capture it on film or snag that illusive talent on tape. There’s that one moment where the extraordinary is captured for all time. It must be like picking out that shiny bit from the dullness and slipping it into a pocket like a found treasure. Nothing could be truer of that shiny bit of brilliance captured than Sterns Africa’s release of Malian musician Vieux Kante’s The Young Man’s Harp.

Known throughout Mali’s Bamako’s music scene, but really unknown to the rest of the world’s musical landscape, Vieux Kante was the master of the kamele ngoni, going so far to add a couple of strings to the instrument to achieve his own vision of what the instrument could become.

Thrumming strings to capture the rhythm, bending notes like a seasoned blues singer and even mimicking the sound of a Brazilian cuica on the kamele ngoni, Mr. Kante, along with his band of jembe drummer, bassist and singer Kabadjan Diakite, crafted a sound that’s dazzling. The unfortunate tragedy is that music was silenced in 2005 when Mr. Kante died unexpectedly at the age of 31. But the clever producer Cheikh Oumar Kouyate saw the shiny treasure of Mr. Kante’s music for what it was and recorded Mr. Kante and that recording is now available as the release of The Young Man’s Harp.

A real treat for Malian music fans, The Young Man’s Harp opens with the fiery rich ‘Sans Commentaire’ with bluesy twists and turns that showcases the true mastery of Mr. Kante’s range on the kamele ngoni against a backdrop of percussion and bass. At first, the piece comes across as spare before the whirlwind of incendiary playing takes over.

‘Lambanco’ is ripe with that familiar feel good cheer of Malian revolving rhythm and vocals. The tracks ‘Fatoumata’ with vocalist Kabadjan Diakite and ‘Saradia’ are truly standout tracks. Listeners get a real sense of the complexity and mastery of Mr. Kante’s playing with these two tracks as they showcase hints at hard rock, Brazilian and jazz sensibilities woven into fabric of the music.

Equally delicious are the tracks ‘‘Sinamon,’ ‘Nafolo’ and the catchy closing track ‘Kono.’

I have no doubt that had Mr. Kante lived he and his band would have blazed a path across the world music scene. Brilliance might have just brushed past us, so it’s lucky someone caught and captured the bright, shiny strains of Mr. Kante’s music so that we might have it for a long, long time.

Buy The Young Man’s Harp in the Americas

Buy The Young Man’s Harp in Europe

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Artist Profiles: Manu Dibango

Manu Dibango - Photo by Louis Vincent
Manu Dibango – Photo by Louis Vincent

Emmanuel Dibango N’Djoké was born on December 12 of 1933 in Duala, Cameroon. Manu Dibango arrived to Europe as a young student. With his extraordinary musical talent and burgeoning love of jazz, the young Manu soon opted for a life devoted to adventure for the musical kind.

With jazz blaring in its every nook and cranny, Paris was the perfect place for Manu to mix, mingle, listen and learn. Manu was introduced to the music of Armstrong, Ellington, Young and Parker and all the multifaceted life of the Parisian jazz-scene.

His first stay in the French capital turned out to be relatively brief. It was a time when African nations were being born, either violently or more or less peacefully and words like “independence” and “afro centricity” were common currency.

The great Kabasele invited Manu to join his band, the African Jazz, to play Congolese music. The invitation was accepted and Manu returned to Africa. A love of jazz on the one hand and traditional African music on the other prompted Manu to experiment by combining various different styles of music to create his own unique blend.

With his inherent curiosity and sensitivity Manu has always been interested in widely divergent and different styles of music. A cursory listen to his output bears this out: jazz, reggae, rap… all these and more are in full effect.

In 1972 Manu scored his first international hit with the million selling “Soul Makossa”, which fared particularly well in the United States of America where it helped to create considerable awareness of African music and break down some prevailing musical prejudices.

Manu discovered a secret pleasure in going against the grain of entrenched ideas about musical purism and traditionalism. His purpose was and still is to build bridges between the continents.

Manu was the fist-mover in what became a deep-rooted relationship between the music of francophone Africa and Paris. He has recorded and released numerous albums. Today, as well as touring in the world, he spends considerable time supporting and encouraging young musicians and fighting humanitarian causes.

Discography:

Soul Makossa (Fiesta Records, 1972)
O Boso (London/PolyGram Records, 1973)
Makossa Man (Atlantic Records, 1974)
Makossa Music (Creole Records, 1975)
Manu 76 (Decca Records, 1976)
Super Kumba (Decca Records, 1976)
The World of Manu Dibango (Decca Records, 1976)
Ceddo O.S.T (Fiesta Records, 1977)
A l’Olympia (Fiesta Records, 1978)
Afrovision (Mango/Island Records, 1978)
Sun Explosion (Decca Records, 1978)
Gone Clear (Mango/Island Records, 1980)
Ambassador (Mango/Island Records, 1981)
Waka Juju (Polydor/PolyGram Records, 1982)
Mboa (Sonodisc/Afrovision, 1982)
Electric Africa (Celluloid, 1985)
Afrijazzy (Soul Paris, 1986)
Deliverance (Afro Rhythmes, 1989)
Happy Feeling (Stern’s Music, 1989)
Rasta Souvenir (Disque Esperance, 1989)
Polysonik (1992)
Live ’91 (Stern’s Music, 1994)
Wakafrika (Giant/Warner Bros. Records, 1994)
Lamastabastani (Soul Paris, 1994)
Bao Bao (Movieplay, 1996)
African Soul – The Very Best Of (Mercury, 1997)
CubAfrica, with Eliades Ochoa (Corason Records, 1998)
Africavision, Vol. 3: The Cinema of Manu Dibango (Buda Musique, 2003)
The Rough Guide to Manu Dibango (World Music Network, 2004)
African Woodoo (2008)
Choc’n’Soul (2010)
Afro Funk (2010)
Afro Soul Machine (2011)
Past Present Future (2011)
Ballad Emotion (2011)
Africa Boogie (2013)
Aloko Party (2013)
Lagos Go Slow (2013)
Balade En Saxo (2013)

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An Afro-Roots Experiment That Worked

Afro-Haitian Experimental Orchestra (Glitterbeat, 2016)

Nigerian Afrobeat drummer Tony Allen recorded a set of jams rooted in Afro-rooted rhythms from Africa and Haiti that appear on the self-titled AHEO Afro-Haitian Experimental Orchestra.

The idea for this project was spearheaded by Corinne Micaelli, the director of the French Institute in Haiti. She brought Tony Allen, an Afrobeat pioneer and trendsetter to perform in Haiti with local musicians. Erol Josué, a singer, dancer, voodoo priest, and director of the Haitian National Bureau of Ethnology, helped to recruit local percussionists and singers. They chose musician’s from Haiti’s leading bands, including Racine Mapou de Azor, RAM, Erol’s own band, the Yizra’El Band and Lakou Mizik, the group of Sanba Zao, one of Haiti’s top percussionists and traditional singers.

The musicians were given 5 days to compose and rehearse the musical pieces that they’d play in the main square of Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, and broadcast live throughout the country.

The band featured 10 leading Haitian percussionists, Tony Allen, Mark Mulholland on guitar, Olaf Hund on keyboards, and Jean-Philippe Dary on bass.

Due to technical problems the concert was not recorded but Mark Mulholland had the multi-track rehearsal tapes and that’s where the material on this album came from. The vocals by Erol Josué, Sanba Zao, and the other singers were re-recorded and the pieces were mixed. The final product is a captivating set of Afrobeat rhythms from Nigeria and traditional and modern beats and chants from Haiti interlaced with jazz and electronica.

The complete album lineup includes Tony Allen on drums; Jean-Philippe Dary on bass and keyboards; Olaf Hund on keyboards and electronics; Mark Mulholland on guitar and organ; Sanba Zao, Wolele, Zikiki, Beauvois Anilus, Edmond Gera and members of Rasin Mapou de Azor & RAM on percussion; Erol Josué, Sanba Zao, Marc-Harold Pierre, Zikiki and Mirla Samuel Pierre on lead vocals; Zikiki, Marc-Harold Pierre, Wolele and Mirla Samuel Pierre on backing vocals.

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Afro-Haitian Experimental Orchestra is an instinctive, seductive and finely crafted celebration of African and Haitian music.

Buy Afro-Haitian Experimental Orchestra in the Americas

Buy Afro-Haitian Experimental Orchestra in Europe

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