République Amazone (Amazon Republic) brings together some of West Africa’s best female singers with highly percussive electronic music.
While the women provide the lead and background vocals, Irish producer Liam Farrell, also known as Doctor L, contributes most of the instruments in the form of electronic bass and beats. The focus is on powerful, deep bass sounds, developing a hybrid sound that combines traditional world music vocals and club-style dance beats.
Les Amazones d’Afrique (the African amazons) include Angélique Kidjo, Kandia Kouyaté, Mamani Keita, Mariam Doumbia, Mariam Koné, Massan Coulibaly, Mouneissa Tandina, Nneka, Pamela Badjogo and Rokia Koné.
Additional instrumentalists on some of the songs include Mouneissa Tandina on drums, Mamadou Diakité on guitar, Harouna Samaké on kamele ngoni, Vincent Courtois on cello, Patrick Ruffino on bass.
For about 4 years Alyona Minulina has been known as Alyona FolkBeat – a beautiful folk singer and beatbox musician from a rising star group FolkBeat. In February 2017 Russian label FireStorm production released their new album “I’m marching on my own” that was recorded and produced by Alyona but at the same time their fans were shocked by news about her leaving the project. Alyona tells us what happened and what’s next.
Q:How did the group FolkBeat get started?
Alyona Minulina: FolkBeat grew up from a student’s ensemble. It was called differently and consisted of a large number of participants. Later I began to study beatbox and electronic music, so I thought it was interesting to combine it with Russian folk songs. So FolkBeat has traditional Slavic polyphony, surrounded by electronic arrangement, which is close to the styles of EDM trap, dubstep, trance and crunk. The compositions are often performed with beatbox – imitation of drum machines and music effects using vocal apparatus and articulation organs.
Q: How would you describe your musical journey so far?
AM: When we started we made music for ourselves and gradually our music started to be interesting to other people. We didn’t think about genres, we were passionate about making music with each other, it was really awesome. When we went on stage the audience felt our special energy.
Q: Did you perform in Europe or only in Russia?
AM: In 2016 Folkbeat took part at EuroRadio Festival and had a concert in Viljandi (Estonia). Besides this we visited Madrid, Munich, Athens and Tallinn with festival of Russian cultural FeelRussia.
Q: As I know – you love collaborating with different music genres and bands: what are the features of Russian folk music that makes it possible for you to collaborate with other musicians?
AM: The most interesting thing for me is the fact that people connect with each other, share cultures, and different genres and traditions mix too. Now I have plans to record some songs together with the master of throat singing Alexei Chichakov from Mountain Altai. This will be the connection of his own Altai traditions and Slavic melodies.
In every collaboration I’m looking for special feeling when the spark runs between musicians (chemistry in our relationship), because then, every performance becomes memorable for listeners. This is the highlight for me. Of course with Folkbeat we often had this feeling. When the head is full with ideas – I always find the way to realize them. But sometimes I get tired and I need to allow some rest for myself. This is the most difficult thing for me.
Q: What music instruments do you use?
AM: Different electronic things (loop station, keyboards), sometimes folk wind instruments like kugikly and kaliuk, khomus.
Q: What can you tell us about the contemporary Russian folk scene?
AM: Despite the fact that the Russian folk scene is a real “folk star” and a budding young musicians, it hasn’t been formed yet. We do not have enough support and solidarity between each other. Although we have more opportunities for advancement than 10 years ago.
Q: How are your albums being received by audiences?
AM: Our first album «Joyful meeting» became favorite Russian-folk album on EBU Folk Festival in 2016. In Russia it was in the top twenty music albums of 2016. This year we released the album «Sama idu» (I’m marching on my own). We collaborated with different electronic musicians and DJs, so it can be classified as pop-folk.
Q: Who would you say are the leading influences in your musical career?
AM: My teachers, who always said something like this: pull yourself and work, work hard, if you really love it.
Q: So what happened to FolkBeat?
AM: With Folkbeat we are friends, but we do not work together anymore. If the world gives us a chance to sing together again, I will take this chance.
Now I work on original songs album with the texts of famous Russian poets from XX century. And together with Jewish, Armenian, Russian musicians and composer from Canada, Ivan Popov, we have created a world music project “Under The Same Sky” which intertwined tunes and melodies of different national cultures. In March we will have a concert of Slavic-Jewish music.
Q: Are Russian audiences, venues, labels and artists open to collaboration?
AM: It depends on various factors, but if you play interesting music, you can always find a way.
Q: Where do you see yourself 10 or 15 years from today?
AM: I see myself chewing pasta in my favorite little pizzeria in Italy, resting in a cozy wooden house on the Solovetsky Islands in Russia, and playing my set at the Burning Man.
Q: Do you also teach workshops for students and musicians?
AM: I opened vocal beatbox and body percussion workshops named “Pulse” in Moscow recently and it’s getting popular. I have a lot of new ideas and projects in my head and I hope my music experience with FolkBeat will help me to create something really unique and internationally interesting.
Bajofondo Tango Club was put together by Rock en español musician and producer Gustavo Santaolalla, winner of two-time Academy Awards and Golden Globe-winning composer of Brokeback Mountain and Babel. It is a collective of artists and musicians creating an array of music based on the fusion of electronica (dub, house, drum&bass) with the traditional sounds of tango.
Bajofondo Tango Club quickly caused a stir in Argentina’s music underground and the world at large. The debut album, Bajofondo Tango Club, certified platinum in Argentina soon after its release in 2003, won the prestigious Premio Gardel for Best Electronica Album and a Latin Grammy as Best Pop Instrumental Album.
After sold-out performances in Chile, Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay, the collective was invited to tour Europe in July 2004 with unforgettable performances at Roskilde Festival (Denmark), across Eastern Europe, Spain, London (UK) and beyond. What began as a music project became an amazing touring group of musicians, DJs and visuals.
The members of Bajofondo Tango Club come from the worlds of tango and electronic music. The original members were: Gustavo Santaolalla (Argentina), Juan Campodonico (Uruguay), Marcelo Castelli (Uruguay), Emilio Kauderer (Argentina), Juan Blas (Argentina), Didi Gutman (Argentina), Luciano Supervielle (Uruguay), Jorge Drexler (Uruguay), Adrian Iaies (Argentina), Pablo Mainetti (Argentina) and Javier Casalla (Argentina).
The band shortened the name to Bajofondo after they felt their musical genre had broadened. As on their earlier recordings, their Mar Dulce album sees Bajofondo’s musicians lead listeners through a sensual soundscape of tango, trip-hop, drum & bass and pop elements that redefine the essence of tango for the 21st century. Mar Dulce features guest performances by Elvis Costello, Nelly Furtado, Julieta Venegas, Gustavo Cerati, Ryota Komatsu, La Mala Rodriguez, Santullo, Juan Subira and the final recorded performance by legendary Uruguayan tango diva Lagrima Rios.
“With Bajofondo,” says Santaolalla, “we don’t like the label ‘electronic tango’ because we try to make a contemporary music of Rio de la Plata (the river that forms part of the border between Argentina and Uruguay) music from Argentina, from Uruguay. Obviously, if you want to do music that comes from there or represents that part of the world tango is going to be part of it – but, in our case, so is rock ‘n’ roll, electronica and hip hop. Hopefully a new language, not pure tango.”
On Mar Dulce, Bajofondo was comprised of Gustavo Santaolalla on guitar, percussion, and vocals; Juan Campodónico on programming, beats, samples and guitar; Luciano Supervielle on piano, keyboards and scratch; Javier Casalla on violin; Martín Ferrés on bandoneon; Gabriel Casacuberta on upright bass and electric bass; Adrián Sosa on drums; and Verónica Loza as VJ and on vocals.
Balkan Beat Box (BBB) blends electronic music, hip hop beats, and hard-edged folk music from the Balkans, North Africa, and the Middle East.
BBB is a natural reaction of musicians who wanted to erase political borders (our ears don’t have them, why should we, as one band member put it). A band of New Yorkers, Israelis, Africans, and Bulgarians, led by ex-Gogol Bordello member Ori Kaplan and Firewater / Big Lazy’s Tamir Muskat, BBB brings together music, video projections, and a rotating cast of guests including the Bulgarian Chicks, Victoria Hannah, Jeremiah Lockwood, gnawa player Hasan Ben Nafar, Israeli MC Tomer Yosef, and more.
Ori Kaplan and Tamir Muskat have lived in New York City for over ten years, where they led a new scene of underground immigrant-based music (J.U.F Jewish Ukrainian Friendship and Gogol Bordello), which was based on the idea of taking ethnic music and modernizing it for contemporary audiences. Balkan Beat Box is a progression of this style of music, taking a worldly approach to the music of their ancestors, and evolving it to include not only the region of the world that they personally emigrated from, but also to incorporate the musical styles from their parents and grandparents birthplaces.
As Israelis born to Eastern European Jewish immigrants, Ori and Tamir learned their ancestors’ Eastern European music while surrounded by the music of the Middle East. Through their own migration to the United States, the blend of Eastern European and Middle Eastern music was transformed again. What emerged was a blend of musical cultures; traditional sounds from two distinct parts of the world have been melded together with modern instruments and beats, to create a musical genre displaying their multinational roots.
The band’s fifth studio album, Shout It Out, was recorded in Vibromonk in East Tel Aviv. New influences include ‘ghettotech’, bluegrass, and pop.
Brixton act The Dandadda, created by producer Dan Vinci, has developed a fabulous hybrid sound, mixing electronica, reggae and other genres. The single “Heart Attack” is now available on video. This is the first single in a series of releases The Dandadda is planning to publish in the near future.
“Heart Attack” is motivated by the hyper-gentrification of Brixton. Dan Vinci grew up in this culturally diverse English city. He’s worked with reggae musicians from early in his career. The Dandadda has also involved well-known names in the project, such as Horace Andy (Massive Attack), Earl 16 (UB40), Junior Dan (Gorillaz), John Holt and The Ragga Twins (Skrillex).
Fans of the Brazilian songwriter and songstress Luisa Maita are set to be rewarded a big payout on their patience in waiting around for her follow-up recording to her 2010 hit recording Lero-Lero. It’s not like she hasn’t been busy with world touring, working with the electronic band Ladytron’s Daniel Hunt, recording with British group Da Lata and lending her voice to Rio’s Olympic Games opening ceremony. One listen to Ms. Maita’s Fio da Memoria or Thread of Memory, set for release on September 23rd on the Cumbancha music label, and one gets that this sleek, silky lushness isn’t something pounded out in an afternoon.
Teaming up DJ and electronic musician Tejo Damasceno and bass player and producer Ze Nigro, Ms. Maita has taken popular Brazilian musical constructs like the samba and bossa nova, along with pop music and the rich collection of Brazil’s female singers, and squeezed and condensed that sound through a filter of electronic and beat music. The effect is densely lush and cutting edge delicious.
Ms. Maita says of the recording, “It is a very subjective, personal and emotional record. I tried not to limit myself to a certain musical style, and in this diversity there is unity. I wanted to revisit the Brazilian rhythms and other sounds that I have heard growing up from a contemporary, electronic and urban perspective.”
Opening with a subterranean sultry on “Na Asa,” listener come up against the wonderfully seductive vocals of Ms. Maita against a backdrop of the hip sharpness of electronica conjured up on Fio da Memoria. And, it just gets better with an almost predatory combination of bass, guitar and percussion on the fierce “Around You.” Wrapped up in synthesizers, electronic beats, effects, Brazilian percussion and Ms. Maita’s tantalizing vocals, Fio da Memoria rides waves of electronic edgy and savagely cool.
“The record is about what Brazil is today aesthetically, in this electronic age,” says Ms. Maita.
The deliciousness gets good with the meaty beat and razor sharp electronica on “Porão,” the kickass groove of title track “Fio da Memoria” and the guitar laced “Sutil” and the Brazilian percussion packed “Folia.” Perhaps my favorite track is the dreamy “Ela” with its lazy coolness punctuated by Ms. Maita’s sultry vocals and an easy and jazzy feel. Fio da Memoria closes with “Jump,” a lush listen to Ms. Maita’s layered solo vocals that is much too short but well worth a listen.
If this is what Brazil’s electronic age sounds like I’m all for it.
Cheb i Sabbah was a world renowned artist, composer and producer. Born Haim Sérge El Baaz, Cheb i Sabbah left his native Algeria in the 1960s, and made a career out of blending music from all over the world into kaleidoscopic, dance-floor mixes ever since.
The Algerian-born musical mystic got his start spinning American soul in mid-1960s Paris as a scrubby 17-year-old. But his outernational obsession didn’t really take hold until 1980, when he launched a Parisian monthly club featuring Brazilian, North African, and Indian sounds, along with accompanying dancers and visuals.
His approach to music reflects a passion for bringing people together. ”Dance music can only grow bigger, because it’s one way all people [can] have some sort of communion that’s not present in Western society.”
Cheb i Sabbah’s interest in audience interaction stems from his late-’60s experience with the Living Theater, an experimental performance group that explored innovative ways to involve the audience – including taking LSD and getting naked. When Cheb i Sabbah moved to San Francisco in 1986 to raise his two children, he became involved with the similarly minded Tribal Warning Theater. While there, he began exploring new musical avenues as a DJ, splicing together disparate musical parts for the theater’s soundtracks.
He continued to inject theater into music – and vice versa – with his now-defunct world music series “1002 Nights.” Aiming to expand San Francisco’s internationalist reputation, Cheb i Sabbah invited artists such as the late Pakistani qawwali singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, London’s bhangra son Bally Sagoo, and Indian sarangi stylist Sultan Khan to perform. He organized these nights thematically, so that the music, video collages, decor, and food all reflected the performer’s home country. His goal was to create a world the audience could feel and inhabit, if only for a night. ”There was a period of six or seven years where I put on 41 concerts,” he said. When reminded that our tally shows 961 nights to go, he laughs. ”The expenses are so high that not many people take chances,” he said. “I took 41 chances with a credit card.”
Nonetheless, Cheb i Sabbah’s largest innovations came through music alone, inside both the club and the studio. At “Africa/India/Arabia” and his other frequent gigs, the DJ mixes traditional Indian ragas with the work of British artists Asian Dub Foundation and Nitin Sawhney, fellow Algerian Rachid Taha, Senegalese pop star Baaba Maal, and Egyptian-styled singer Natacha Atlas, whom Cheb i Sabbah first broke on the club scene. Despite the variety of his source material, his vision ran distinctly counter to that of other sample-happy DJs who grab freely from the multicultural pickle jar. ”I play an actual song,” Cheb i Sabbah explained. ”It has a story: a beginning, a middle, and an end.”
His first three albums for Six Degrees Records, Shri Durga (1999), Maha Maya: Shri Durga ReMixed (2000), and Krishna Lila (2002), are cult classics in which India’s time-honored traditions merge with the universe of possibilities afforded by contemporary recording technology. This trilogy established him as a unique artist who creates bridges between cultures with a deeply moving sound drawn from DJ wizardry and world music aesthetics.
His fourth release was a continuous DJ mix titled As Far As, on which the traditions of Asia, Arabia and Africa, Sabbah’s main sources of inspiration, are all represented as if the listener were attending one of his renowned live sets. From here he turned his attention to North Africa with La Kahena.
For La Kahena, Cheb i Sabbah returned to the roots of his native North Africa where he gathered some of the most distinctive female singers from the Magreb in a studio in Morocco. With tracks by vocalists from many different traditions of North Africa, La Kahena compellingly illustrates the diversity of this region. Sabbah then added his own “dj Science” or modern aural magic to these performances.
Just as MahaMaya transformed the music on Shri Durga, La Ghriba (2006) put a new spin on La Kahena. La Kahena was a global adventure and a personal journey for Sabbah, but when it came to remixing, he wanted fresh ears involved in the project. ”When you make a record like La Kahena,” he said, ”there’s no way you could say, ‘i want to make one track that’s drum-and-bass, then I’m going to make one dub thing, one trance thing, one hip hop thing.’ I don’t think like that. I just do the songs, and the way they come out, that’s what they are. So if you want go to the next step, if you ask eleven different people, you’re going to get eleven different creative vibes. The idea of remixes is to push it, make it more club-oriented, usually with less lyrics, and more emphasis on the beats and on the dance, rather than the original song.”
Sabbah began by calling people he knew, both the famous and the not-so-famous. Sandeep Kumar, whose cool, clubby remix of the hook-laden “Toura Toura” leads off, is a young bhangra DJ living in Southern California. Kumar had opened up club shows for Sabbah, who “liked his energy.” Kumar’s first full-blown remix is the picture of simplicity. For Sabbah the track is a great example of the maxim he heard often from his mentor, Don Cherry: “Simplicity is very hard to achieve.”
Sabbah recorded source material for La Kahena in Morocco, and while in Marrakesh his rapper son, Elijah Opium, befriended a local rap group called Fnai’re. It didn’t take long to learn that Fnaire was one of the most happening rap acts in the country. Fnaire shared the stage with Sabbah at the 2005 Gnawa Festival in Essawira, and on La Ghriba they remixed the song “Sadats” with deep swing and spiritual, chant-like rapping.
Two other Moroccan acts contribute to La Ghriba as well. Tahar and Farid from the London-based Moroccan group MoMo offer a completely different take on “Sadats: The Sufi Sonic Mix.” This time, a roots feeling pervades with Tahar adding his own, thrumming guimbri track. Veterans of modern Moroccan music, Adberrahim Akkaoui and Pat Jabbar surprised Sabbah by picking what he considered one of the most difficult tracks on La Kahena to tackle. Currently billed as Dar Beida 04, Akkaoui and Jabbar spin out a dizzying fury of percussion on “Alia Al ‘Hbab: The Hydrophobia Mix.”
Sabbah brought Japan into the mix when he reached out to Makyo a “zen dub” DJ who’s been spinning since 1993. Sabbah had long corresponded and exchanged music with Makyo a.k.a. Gio. Makyo layers a funky 4/4 groove with a synth-bass line in 6/8, recasting the African music’s polyrhythms in techno-space before slotting in rich acoustic sounds: women ululating and singing, and a deep-toned nay (flute).
Sabbah called on another old friend via cyberspace, Yossi Fine, bassist, producer and mastermind of Ex-Centric Sound System, a group that threads together African music from all over the world with techno-beats and electronica. The two finally met face to face last year and Sabbah gave Fine a copy of La Kahena. The result is “Jarat Fil Hub: The Chalice Remix,” which artfully interweaves elements from “Toura Toura,” while alternating between driving, club trance, and ephemeral passages of riffing violin.
Temple of Sound was the brainchild of TransGlobal Underground veterans Neil Sparkes and Count Dubulah. On “Esh ‘Dani, Alash Mshit: Ray of Light Club Mix” they created a slow build to ecstasy featuring the incendiary voice of rai legend Cheba Zahouania. Temple of Sound particularly impressed Sabbah by creating not one but four remixes of the song, one of which appears on the Six Degrees annual compilation Traveler ’06. On the Temple of Sound remix, Zahouania’s chant “Algerie, San Francisco,” actually hints at Sabbah’s own biography, as the DJ-maestro has spent a good deal of time in California.
There are other California connections here as well. On “Alkher Ilia Doffor: The Bassnectar Remix,” San Francisco Bay Area producer Bassnectar-a.k.a. Lorin Ashton- pushes the rhythm hard to match the energy of the bhangra, raga, and dub that are his stock in trade.
The Chakadoons, Marc Cazoria and Alex Stiff who work as remixers for Quincy Jones were intrigued by Cheb i Sabbah’s artistry which initiated their reworking of “Toura Toura.” This track incorporates Chakadoons’ own performances on guitar, bass, and Fender Rhodes, while leaving the song’s slinky, Gnawa groove largely intact.
The set ends with work from two of Sabbah’s old friends, both seasoned veterans of world music electronica. Bassist, producer and label owner Bill Laswell is a virtual dean of the movement. He gives “Esh ‘Dani, Alash Mshit” a subtle treatment here, beginning with elemental sounds-wind and water-and driving the bass hard behind Zahouania’s extraordinary vocal. “Bill is so cool, man,” said Sabbah, “So low-key. He sent it and I asked if he had a name for it. He said, ‘You give it a name.’”
For the final track, “Im Ninalou” Sabbah taps Gaurav Raina of the MIDIval PunditZ, also part of the Six Degrees family. Raina’s mix is grand and dramatic with weighty bass, snapping percussion and ambient electronica.
Cheb i Sabbah returned to India for Devotion (2007), his seventh album on Six Degrees Records. India, a country Cheb i Sabbah visited several times, had been a theme with Cheb i Sabbah before, on the previous CDs Shri Durga (1999) and Krishna Lila (2002). He worked on Devotion for several years.
The CD includes an impressive cast of guests. Jai Bhavani (Praise to Bhavani, another form of Durga), features Anup Jalota, the pre-eminent singer of Hindu kirtans and bhajans in India. Koi Bole Ram Ram, (Some Say Rama Rama) is sung by Rana Singh, a reputed Sikh gurbani singer. Kinna Sohna (How Beautiful Did God Make You?), is a Sufi tune written by the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and sung here by Punjabi Master Saleem. Qalanderi, another Sufi track features the vocals of Riffat Sultana, daughter of the late, great Pakistani classical singer Ustad Salamat Ali Khan. Haun Vaari Haun Varaney, is sung by Harnam Singh Morey Pya Bassey, features Indian classical singer Shubha Mudgal.
Cheb i Sabbah died on Wednesday, November 6th, 2013 of cancer.
Shri Durga (Six Degrees, 1999)
Maha Maya: Shri Durga ReMixed (Six Degrees, 2000) Krishna Lila (Six Degrees, 2002)
As Far As (Six Degrees, 2003) La Kahena (Six Degrees, 2005)
La Ghriba (Six Degrees, 2006) Devotion (Six Degrees, 2007)
Your Connection to traditional and contemporary World Music