The Apollo Theater in partnership with World Music Institute will present its annual festival Africa Now! on Saturday, March 3. The show presents emerging and established artists of today’s African music scene.
This year’s edition will showcase the continent’s current trends in electronic music and will feature South Africa’s megastar DJ and electronic music producer Black Coffee, and the U.S. debut of Afrobeat/techno duo Tony Allen & Jeff Mills.
Additional events include Apollo Music Café performances by Meklit on March 2 at 10pm and an after-party performance by Afrotronix on March 3.
“Every year in partnership with Apollo Theater we proudly present the best in contemporary African music with this unique event. This year we focus on the continent’s current trends in Afrofuturism and the contemporary movements in African electronic music,” says Par Neiburger, Artistic Director of World Music Institute. “Africa Now! is all about what is happening now in African music, and it’s a thrill to bring over some of the most forward thinking artists from the continent.”
After nearly 10 years since she recorded her last album, the great world music star Oumou Sangaré has a new album titled Mogoya. Oumou is Mali’s finest female and a leading figure in African and world music. She’s also a songwriter who writes most of her material.
Mogoya is a fabulous recording that combines Malian tradition with western trip hop modernity along with some good humor.
Oumou invited trailblazing Nigerian drummer Tony Allen, one of the pioneers of Afrobeat, who adds his memorable signature drum style on “Yere Faga,” a song that provides support to individuals suffering from depression.
The lineup includes Oumou Sangaré on vocals; Toni Allen on drums; Kandy Guira on backing vocals; Guimba Kouyaté on guitar; Benogo Diakité on kamele ngoni; and French production collective A.L.B.E.R.T. (Vincent Taurelle, Ludovic Bruni and Vincent Taeger), who added cutting edge electronic keyboards and other instruments tastefully.
Mogoya is an excellent, beautifully-crafted album by Oumou Sangaré, one of the greatest vocalists in Africa. It was well worth the wait.
Despite the persisting perception that Haiti is a place most readily associated with brutal dictatorships, impoverished masses and natural disasters, it is more so a land of great music. African and Creole roots have combined with varying levels of outside influence, evolving technology and a growing diaspora, resulting in a music scene that includes such globally renowned artists as Tabou Combo, Boukman Eksperyans, RAM and Emeline Michel.
The underlying African-birthed grooves of Haitian music give it a rhythmic flexibility that’s rife for fusion or simply being left to move you on its own indomitably spirited terms.
A multigenerational band calling itself Lakou Mizik takes a largely traditional approach on Wa Di Yo (Cumbancha, 2016). But despite being heavy on voudou drums, rara horns and melodies steered in no small measure by the Francophone sway of an accordion, the group also makes a few concessions to modern times in the form of electrified guitar and bass and even an occasional hip hop cadence in the vocals. Make no mistake, though. This crew, which formed in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake, is mostly about passing along the music of the older generations to the younger ones.
Some tracks are traditional songs but as many are originals, and the fact that both are equally strong in terms of waist-winding infectiousness, joyously evocative singing and rhythmic forward motion is a testament to the mettle of those who created the music and the culture that created them. Highly recommended.
A title like Tanbou Toujou Lou: Meringue, Kompa Kreyol, Vodou Jazz & Electric Folklore From Haiti 1960-1981 (Ostinato Records, 2016) may be wordy, though it’s barely sufficient in summarizing the variety of richly superb music the compilation of that name includes. Through the course of 19 tracks from a shade over two decades, you’ll want to dance yourself into ecstasy as your ears absorb the ingenious ways in which the rhythmic and vocal cadences of Haiti blended with Afro-Cuban, Colombian, pan-Caribbean, mainland African, soul, jazz, psychedelic and big band influences, resulting in irresistible music that such terms as “melting pot” and “golden age” don’t describe the half of.
From the rumba-like percolating of Les Gypsies de Petionville to the Latin stew of Super Jazz de Jeunes and stirring majesty of Orchestre de la Radio National D’Haiti, the 75 minutes of music on this disc (which was the result of considerable scouring about in both Haiti and New York City by compiler Vik Sohonie) resounds with must-have essentialness from beginning to end. Simply amazing. (www.ostinatorecords.com)
The self-titled CD by Afro-Haitian Experimental Orchestra (Glitter Beat, 2016) benefits from the presence of Afrobeat drummer extraordinaire Tony Allen on the kit and a host of noted Haitian percussionists and singers recruited by vocalist and ethnology standard-bearer Erol Josue. They’re joined by Mark Mulholland (guitar), Jean-Philippe Dary (bass) and Olaf Hund (keyboards, electronics) on a set of crazy-cool jams culled from rehearsal sessions that were done in preparation for a live festival performance in Haiti a few years back. The raw tracks were given cohesive mixes, and the results hit the mark.
Allen’s chugging, serpentine drums blend seamlessly with multiple hand percussion layers above call-and-response vocals sung and chanted as bending, twisting waves of contemporary sound take everything on a wildly controlled ride. Haiti’s African roots are brought into the present and thrust headlong into the future, and though some moments are spliced a little too cacophonously, the album is an invigorating listen with a lot of inspiration behind it. Let’s hope the participants can get together again sometime.
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.
Afro-Haitian Experimental Orchestra is an instinctive, seductive and finely crafted celebration of African and Haitian music.