Monday, December 27, 2010

Album Review: Music Frees All-Emefe

Music Frees All, the debut album from NY based afro-funk ensemble Emefe, is a seriously funky collection of eight songs packed with energy and attitude. The album was recorded in the basement of drummer/band-leader Miles Arntzen, and you can hear that raw, untapped energy of young musicians pouring their hearts out onto all eight tracks on the album. Emefe is a highly talented group of musicians dedicated to paying homage to the tradition of Fela Anikulapo Kuti and the musicians who have followed in his lineage. This album is a great initial offering and a sign of even greater things to come if the group can continue to work together.

Music Frees All features several tracks that range in tempo and dynamic. Uptempo tracks such as Free Yourself, 221 Groove and Oh, That's What It Is are highly danceable, energizing tracks that will make any dancefloor jump. Slower tracks like The War and Consequence and Sumo are more sneaky, relaxed grooves that showcase Emefe's horn-section and its ability to accentuate winding, languishing lines. There are also tracks that display a range of tempos and dynamics within a single composition such as the opener Jump and Stomp and The Night.

As afrobeat continues to grow and flourish as a growing movement in multiple cities across the globe, bands continue to sprout from every direction. Emefe represents that growing trend of musicians riding the cresting afrobeat wave. While certain bands will label themselves afrobeat without delving into the history of the music or putting in the time to learn the form, Emefe clearly understands and respects those who have came before them in the afro-tradition. Judging from the quality of the horn and percussion arrangements on this album, they know what afrobeat is really about and how to build on its tradition.

Dig the album for whatever price you like here.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Ariya Astrobeat Arkestra Remix

It seems these days more and more afrobeat inspired bands are popping up all over the globe. It truly is a beautiful thing. Check out this remixed track from UK-based outfit Ariya Astrobeat Arkestra.

Herma Puma Jollys - (Ariya Astrobeat Remix) by Herma Puma

Zozo Afrobeat on BreakThru Radio

Check out this dope video courtesy of BreakThru Radio that takes you inside the world of afrobeat with NY-based ensemble Zozo Afrobeat as your tour guide.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Wudos Band Mixtape

What do you get when you take the funky beats of the Budos Band, and combine them with the ferocious lyrics of the Wu-Tang Clan? The Wudos Band, yes, that's right, the two best things to ever come out of Staten Island have joined forces. 8 mashups of Budos jams with Wu-Tang lyrics. What more could you ask for?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Some Afro-Love from Australia

Harmon - Melbourne World Edits #1 by congotardis
Check out this dope track from Melbourne beatmaker Paul Harmon...

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Album Review: Analog Africa No. 9-Angola Soundtrack

Analog Africa has unearthed yet another treasure chest of African funky goodness. This time around they draw from Angola, the Southwestern African nation, with Angola Soundtrack. Featuring several hypnotic styles such as Semba, Merengue, Kazukuta, and Rebita, these are songs you most likely have never heard, although due to the styles they amalgamate, they have a familiar feel. The percussion backdrop, the entrancing guitars, the call and response vocals, will all be familiar to any listener with an interest in post-colonial African musical styles. Highlife, afro-funk, and Mande swing all take elements from the musical styles of the Americas and combine them with homegrown percussion and vocal styles. The popular music of 1970's Angola is no different, but these songs definitely have their own style unique to the cultural factors present in Angola as opposed to Nigeria, Ghana, or Mali.

Analog Africa has an amazing track record of hunting down original music on the African continent, re-packaging it, and introducing it to a new audience. The world is a better place for it, and they have helped contribute to the budding revival African music is currently enjoying. Angola Soundtrack is the most recent release in the line of compilation albums that continue to push that revival forward. If you've enjoyed any of their other compilations thus far, definitely check this one out as well. You will not be disappointed.

Zé Da Lua - Ulungu Wami by afrobeatblog

Monday, November 29, 2010

Akoya Afrobeat Ensemble at Southpaw Next Friday Night

One of the nastiest afrobeat bands on the planet, Akoya Afrobeat Ensemble, is hitting the stage at Southpaw in BK next Friday night. $10 is a small price to pay to hear this afrobeat juggernaut send earthshaking afro-grooves through the dancefloor at one of Brooklyn's premier music venues. They're joined on the bill by dub outfit The Top Shotta and soul ensemble The Corner Club featuring members of Antibalas, Akoya Afrobeat and Ikebe Shakedown. If you want to dance, show up at Southpaw next Friday night with ten dollars in your pocket.

Akoya Afrobeat Ensemble - Wahala by afrobeatblog

Chorizo Chunks 9

If you need a soundtrack for your dance party, hit play on this bangin set from DJ Chorizo Funk.

Chorizo Chunks 9 - DJ Chorizo Funk Live @ Night Fever V. 7 by chorizofunk

Monday, November 22, 2010

New Sofrito Tropical Discotheque Mixtape

If you've been to one of the legendary Sofrito Tropical Discotheque Parties in either London, Brooklyn, Greece, or wherever else, you don't need me to tell you, they know how to make people dance. If you haven't, check out this track from their new comp due out January 24th of 2011 on Strut Records.

Fair Nick Stars - Arrete Mal Parle by afrobeatblog

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Concert Review: Luisa Maita at Lula Lounge, Toronto-November 12, 2010 (photos courtesy of Dave Burke)

Luisa Maita proved why she's one of the hottest acts on the international music scene last Friday night at Lula Lounge in Toronto. Her stage presence, passion, and beautiful voice were all on full display in a night packed with Brazilian music from start to finish featuring Roda de Samba, Baque de Bamba, and Rino.

Luisa kicked the night off with an early performance around 8:30. Performing for the first time in Canada, she came across as being truly honored such a large audience was in attendance. Her performance was full of passion, and the crowd responded to her energy enthusiastically.

Next up on the bill was Rode de Samba, a Toronto based Samba ensemble. As their set went on, the audience began to congregate in front of the stage singing along to their songs and dancing. The six-piece ensemble injected a large dose of energy into the night after Luisa Maita's mellow performance that set the tone for the rest of the night.

Baque de Bamba, a maracatu ensemble led by Aline Morales, followed Rode de Samba, and picked up where they left off. The thundering drums of the legion of percussionists filled the room with an incredible energy that unleashed a frenzy on the dancefloor. Morales voice contrasted beautifully with the percussion backdrop as she sang in Portuguese. I was totally blown away by the power and energy of Baque de Bamba, and I definitely hope to see them again sometime soon.

Rino finished off the night with a bang. Rino featured guitar, bass, trombone, trap drums, as well as maracatu bass drums creating a loud, intensely unique sound. They combined elements of funk, rock, samba, and something totally new and original. Watching a band cover songs by Jorge Ben with a presentation similar to punk rock was something I've never seen before. Despite a somewhat lengthy gap between their performance and Baque de Bambe while they setup, Rino managed to not lose any of the energy that was building throughout the night.

This Post is Supported by Concert Tickets Toronto 2011

Monday, November 8, 2010

Album Review: Afrocubism

Afrocubism is the project of which lovers of international music have only dreamt. One such dreamer, British producer Nick Gold, originally conceived of the project in 1996--pairing the best musicians from Mali with the best musicians from Cuba, two countries that have been speaking each other's musical languages for generations. The project failed to materialize the first time around; the Malian contingent couldn't make it to Havana, so Gold improvised and came up with Buena Vista Social Club. Not a bad substitute, but Gold persisted. He reconvened the all-star cast of musicians, this time in Spain, and "the music just poured out" according to Gold, recording 17 songs in 5 days. Musicians featured on the record include Eliades Ochoa, Djelimady Tounkara, Toumani Diabate, Bassekou Kouyate, Kasse Mady Diabaté, Lassana Diabaté, and Eliades' Grupo Patria.

Afrocubism - DJelimady Rumba by afrobeatblog

The album came out November 2, 2010 on World Circuit Records, and has universally lived up to the astronomical expectations which preceded it. It's infinitely interesting to listen to this album and ponder whether the African or Cuban elements are more prominent. It's a nearly impossible task to decipher since Cuban music is deeply influenced by its African roots. In part for that reason, West African music is deeply influenced by Cuban music. Francophone West African post-colonial governments also sent their budding musicians to train in Havana which helped usher in a generation of African musicians who were trained to emulate the Cuban aesthetic. Records and 45s from several Latin-American countries were widely distributed and consumed throughout West Africa beginning around the 1950's. Djelimady Tounkara even honed his guitar skills by accompanying Cuban radio hits.

This album has an entrancing sound that flows from song to song. Djelimady's mesmerizing guitar meshes with the relentlessly propulsive churning bass, gliding over the backdrop of congas, shekere, guiro, tala, and other varied percussion. Ochoa's vocals blend perfectly with the instrumental backdrop. Certain songs feature one instrumentalist more than others, such as Dakan featuring Bassekou Kouyate, Djelimady Rumba featuring Djelimady Tounkara, and Eliades Tumbao 27 featuring Eliades Ochoa. The instrument that provides the most character to the album throughout, in my opinion, is the balafon. It cuts through the already rich texture and adds a concise timbre to the composition.

This album is a testament to the cross-cultural exchange that has occurred for centuries and made its creation possible. Hopefully it will serve as inspiration for future collaborations. The ensemble is performing at Town Hall in midtown Manhattan tomorrow night and then touring Europe. If you are in any way able, I highly recommend seeing this group of musicians live. This collection of music provides a new definition to the term, Afro-Cuban.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Luisa Maita - New Remix Album - N. American Tour

If you haven't heard about Luisa Maita by now, it's about time you have. She's the Brazilian songstress taking the international music scene by storm, and her North American Tour kicks off tomorrow night at SOB's in New York. Her debut internationally released album, Lero Lero, came out earlier this year on Cumbancha Records and has garnered widespread critical acclaim. Her second release on Cumbancha, Luisa Remixed, is due out November 9th.

Luisa Maita - Lero-Lero (Seiji Remix) by afrobeatblog

If you can make it to one of the cities on Luisa's tour schedule, definitely check out this rising star while you have the chance:

11-03 New York, NY - S.O.B.'s
11-04 Washington D.C. - Bohemian Caverns
11-05 Philadelphia, PA - Kimmel Center
11-06 Montreal, QC - Belle et Bum
11-07 Burlington, VT - Flynn Space
11-09 Portland, ME - One Longfellow Square
11-10 Somerville, MA - Johnny D's
11-11 Montreal, QC - Balattou
11-12 Toronto, ON - Lula Lounge
11-13 Chicago, IL - Logan Square
11-14 Minneapolis, MN - Cedar Cultural Center
11-15 San Francisco, CA - Amoeba Records Instore
11-16 San Francisco, CA - Yoshi's
11-17 Santa Cruz, CA - Kuumbwa Jazz Center
11-18 Los Angeles, CA - KCRW's Morning Becomes Eclectic
11-19 Los Angeles, CA - Conga Room

Monday, November 1, 2010

Album Review: Hard Proof

Hard Proof, the self-titled debut album from the Austin, Texas based afrobeat ensemble is a groovtastically funky collection of jams that display a range of dynamics and themes.

I've often said, it's much harder to play slow afrobeat well than fast, and this album is a great example of how to execute a dynamic range. Utilizing slow, winding, interlocking guitar grooves, multi-layered percussion, and deep horn arrangements, Hard Proof sets a down-tempo, sinister mood on tracks such as Stolen Goods, Jimma and Mahout. They pick up the tempo on tracks like No Consideration, Buffalo, and Move In, but it's the slower tracks that creep along that truly stick out on this album.

Hard Proof will be celebrating the release of their new album on November 19th at the Ghost Room in Austin. If you're in the Lone Star State and you're hungry for some afro-love, definitely check them out. I haven't seen them live in concert yet, but listening to the album, you can hear their ability to push, build and release the energy of the music from song to song.

Hard Proof - Jimma by afrobeatblog

Bouncing Cats-New Film about Hip-Hop Culture in Uganda

Bouncing Cats is the inspiring story of one man's attempt to create a better life for the children of Uganda using the unlikely tool of hip-hop with a focus on b-boy culture and breakdance. The film features narration by Common and interviews with Will.I.Am, and K'Naan. Stay tuned for screenings in your community. Get tickets for the DC screening here.

Bouncing Cats Trailer from Bouncing Cats on Vimeo.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Society HAE Interview w/ Femi Kuti

Find more videos like this on SOCIETY HAE
Check out this dope interview Ngozi from Society HAE did with Femi Kuti

New Superhuman Happiness Video

GMYL by Superhuman Happiness from Tatiana McCabe on Vimeo.

Don't you love it when one of your favorite bands makes a video for one of their best songs, and the video makes you love the song even more? I do. Check out this new one for Superhuman Happiness' jam GMYL by Tatiana McCabe.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Sapabonde Remix EP

Dig this new Remix EP from the Brazilian lesbian Baile Funk group, Sapabonde. I guarantee it's something you don't hear every day.

Help Kickstart Zongo Junction's First Album

Zongo Junction, one of the dopest bands on the BK afrobeat scene, are heading into the studio to record their first album, but before they can lay down their first track, they need your help. They're looking to raise $5,000 by November 12th to finance the project. Go to their kickstarter page to kick in a few dollars and help them get further down their path. Depending on how much you give, you can get a physical copy of the album when it's finished, a Zongo t-shirt, or even a live performance by the band at your next private party. Give what you can to help some young artists get their music out into the world.

Ebo Taylor-Love and Death

If you haven't done so already, check out my piece on Ebo Taylor's new album, Love and Death, for The Huffington Post.

Ebo Taylor - love and death by afrobeatblog

Friday, October 15, 2010

Fela Day

I'd like to take a moment to honor the great Fela Anikulapo Kuti as today is his birthday. Enjoy this dope ass video, and try to listen to at least one Fela song all the way through today (that is if you're not going to a Felabration to dance like Fela would have liked).

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Felabration 2010


It's that time of year again. Olufela Olusegun Oludotun Ransome-Kuti was born in Abeokuta, Nigeria on October 15, 1938. He went on to make an indelible mark on the world, musically and otherwise, under the name Fela Anikulapo Kuti. As his birthday approaches, the world will rightfully celebrate the day he was born. The flyer below shows a list of parties across the United States where Fela's legacy will be alive and well. Come prepared to party like you know you should, "Everybody say yeeeeaaaahhh yeeeaahhh!!!"

Fela Anikulapo Kuti - Zombie by afrobeatblog


Monday, October 11, 2010

Album Review: Afrolution Vol 2-The Original African Hip Hop Collection-Various Artists

Afrolution Vol 2 is an impressively diverse collection of African Hip Hop that represents artists from multiple regions of the continent and highlights the emerging African hip-hop movement. This album makes an excellent introduction to African hip-hop to an interested observer or a great addition to the collection of a connoisseur. Representing French or English speaking countries, this album is a masterful collection of songs that represent the cutting edge of African music today.

Negrissim - My People by afrobeatblog

Afrolution is a UK-based website, label, and web TV station offering videos, interviews and more, all focused on the ongoing wave of young musical acts emerging from the continent. This is their second African hip-hop compilation. Their first, Yes We Can, featured artists like K'Naan who have left the continent. This album features mostly artists who still reside, representing twelve nations in East, West, and Southern Africa.

My favorite track off the album is Green Card by Wanlov the Kubolor from Ghana. It details a common predicament immigrants face, "Just to get of the slave yard, I must fight to get us a green card." Other tracks that distinguish themselves from the rest are She Smiles Easy by Goreala from Kenya and My People by Negrissim from Cameroon. Some tracks incorporate live instrumentation into their presentation such as Trenton and The Free Radicals and Tumi and The Volume, both from South Africa.

The wide range of nations represented on this album shows how wide ranging the African hip-hop movement is becoming, and outlets like Afrolution are greatly contributing to its proliferation.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Interview with Martin Perna

Of all of the musical accomplishments Martin Perna has claimed throughout his career, he is probably most famously credited as founding Antibalas. I had the pleasure of speaking with Martin last week about the re-issue of Who Is This America?, the state of American politics, the state of Antibalas as a band, and a whole lot more:

Who Is This America Dem Speak Of Today? by afrobeatblog

Marc Gabriel Amigone: When I listen to Who Is This America, I feel like I'm listening to a horror movie soundtrack. How does that jive with the mood and attitude you guys were going for when you wrote the album?

Martin Perna: Haha, well, the United States is definitely in the role of the climax of a particular type of horror movie in that time. You know, we didn't really sit down and say let's write a concept album, let's cover these songs. It was what was in everybody's head. And it was in the heads of the specific people who wrote those songs, but because we work as a collective, it was in everybody else's heads too. We were like alright, we see where you're coming from, cool, I didn't write it, but I'm down with it, let's do it, let's record it. And living in New York, the days after September 11th were some of the brightest moments that we had ever experienced living in new york in terms of seeing how kind and how generous and helpful people can be like that tragedy created a sense of community at least for a minute, that has never been created, at least in our lifetimes before or since. That moment was hijacked. For me the tragedy of the planes was a tragedy, but the bigger tragedy was how that moment has hijacked. And how that tragedy became basically a pretext to hijacked democracy, hijacked the world.

Martin Perna: Who Is This America? was before the second Bush Elections. Actually we finished the album in the spring of 04 and we toured all summer. Our second to last date on that tour after being on the road for months was in Portland, Maine the night of the Bush-Kerry election. It was this dark rainy night. It was funny because the tour was pretty good and we were pulling into Maine, and I was like, 'Man it's cool we didn't have to play any sports bars or have any rude awakenings.' And low and behold, when we showed up, the place that our agent had booked us at was this sports bar with all these big televisions. So we were playing and watching the election results come in, and the night just got darker and more and more depressing.

Marc Gabriel Amigone: So it was like a horror movie in a way?

MP: Yea, yea it was like playing the soundtrack to all these horrible things going on. Um, so yea it was definitely distopian and angry, and kind of like why? I don't think we ever felt alone in it, but this still is a culture of like, if you're a patriot you don't, patriotism and descent are like opposite sides of the coin.

MGA: That used to piss me off so much when people would say that shit, it used to drive me crazy when people would try to make that claim.

MP: But as a band none of us really bought that. And that's a cool thing, that there's an understanding and enough support that Stuart Bogie could go and write a song like Indictment, and we're all right there behind him. Or a song like Big Man. And I think a lot of our stuff, just in the vain of afrobeat it's a music that it's time still hasn't really come. More people know about it and are sort of attuned to it, but I still think it's very futuristic music because as the years go on, whether it's Fela's compositions or stuff that we're writing, it just becomes more and more relevant, rather than less relevant. It's a major difference between what some flash in the pan indie rock or some rock band will wear some crazy shit or be part of a look but it's like a fad. And Afrobeat's never been a fad for us. We're evolving but the intention and the feelings behind the songs are something that's momentary, but it's larger and deeper than that.

MGA: Now that the album's being re-released, where in today's political context do you see Who Is This America fitting? Where does it still apply?

MP: I feel like it's part of a lineage of other, I don't know if people consider it a concept album, looking back I don't know if it was a deliberate deliberate concept album because that's just where our heads were at but there are other albums that I like that I still listen to like Eugene McDaniels' Headless Horsemen of the Apocalypse. I don't know if you know the album but if you listen to it, you'll hear like thirty classic hip-hop samples in it. And he was writing that during Nixon's era in the 1970's, and it's a statement of the times that was never really necessarily meant to be like, he didn't put it out saying this is a statement of our times.

MGA: Right he was just reacting.

MP: He was calling it as he sees it, but you realize that compared to a lot of other albums, people really don't call it as they see it. Either they're trying to be fashionable or caught up on their own personal bullshit and they're working that out on the album or something. It's something that we're proud of that we're happy we were able to create and I don't know if it's changed or anything. You know we have a different president but the conditions are pretty much the same as they were when we wrote it, you know there's all this political double speak and the wealth in the United States, just looking at a song like Big Man, you know, the whole financial crisis, it's just a a continuation of the reshuffling of wealth from the poor to the rich, it was one of the largest losses of wealth by the black and latino communities in the history of the country. Stuff has gotten a lot worse since then. We all hoped that stuff would get better, and it wasn't like we're making this album and we had any illusions that, we're going to make this album and America's going to get better, but it's not our job to fix all these problems. What is our job as musicians is to be present and bare witness to these things and name them and try to express them in ways that other people can connect to.

MGA: Right, to speak out. Similar to other artists, particularly Fela how he was able to frame the argument and be the commentator. Draw attention to certain things that other people were afraid to say. I feel like your guys' album and the statement that it made was just like coming out and saying it. And, like you said, not everybody was willing to do that for whatever reason. And there's not a lot of people who would of made that statement at that time. Just when you play the song, Who Is This America?, when the horns come in on that song, it just kind of like, boom, it just hits you. It wakes you up, and calls you to attention, you know? And I think that's the function that the music really plays, trying to wake people up and ask the pertinent questions.

MP: Well, I mean that's the idea. Because the songs are so long, you can really flesh out certain ideas, and you can have 7, 9, 12, 19 minutes to flesh out an idea, you can basically do this subconscious mental climbing of the mind, where you can cognitively get people in a better place to receive those messages than if you try and cram everything into a three minute pop song.

MGA: Yea, totally. What was the reaction like when you guys toured, you mentioned you finished the tour in Maine on election night, what was the reaction like as you toured around the country?

MP: Well, I mean we were basically 3 and half years through the first Bush term and I think the tour in a lot of ways brought a lot people together who were furious and were horrified that this was happneing and we don't want this to happen anymore and this has got to stop. We don't know how but coming to a place where people are thinking the same way makes us feel good and hearing a band that's up on stage that isn't afraid, that's foolish enough, or unafraid enough or both to make songs about the same things we're talking about at work or around the kitchen table. It definitely created a sense of community. You know again, America in so many ways has been one disappointment after another, one false hope after another. I'm optimistic, but really, I volunteered and campaigned for Obama, I don't even want to go into it. I"m not really quite sure what it's going to take to see America become what it is capable of becoming because there are too many powerful people here who are too comfortable with the power that they have and really not try to extend that to anyone else.

MGA: Did you guys tour abroad after it came out?

MP: Yea in 04 we had been in France for something like 6 weeks. In 2004-2005 we were there quite a bit. We did a total of like 3 and a half months over those two years.

MGA: And did you guys play Womex around then?

MP: Yea we did Womex before the album came out in 03 in Seville.

MGA: Yea because someone told me they saw you guys there and the reception was really great, like you guys really brought it and people were really charged about what you guys were putting out.

MP: Yea it was a really good reception. We were the only band from North America that was invited to play, so that was really quite an honor because there's some really fantastic bands in North America, but the world music community in certain ways feels that America doesn't need any help promoting American music.

MGA: Yea, because we have the mainstream music culture.

MP: Right. So that those critical audiences and curators found value in our music and thought it was relevant. And didn't choose all of these other fantastic artists that could have been there and were playing whether it was Puerto Rican music or Tejano music, or country, or bluegrass or anything like that, but I feel a lot of that had to with the fact that we were from here but speaking to these ideas that generally, it wasn't just a national disappointment what was going on in the United States but a global disappointment. I think Bush being elected and the way that the response to September 11th was like, if anyone had it in their mind that the United States was still a friendly global superpower, all of that shit was washed away. Just in the way all of that was handled and just overnight, um, Muslims, particularly of Middle-Eastern descent were criminalized.

MGA: Right, and people just rounded up and locked up illegally and stuff.

MP: Yea, it's horrible, and it's still happening. It's still horrible.

MGA: Yea it just goes back to the way you described it as a hijacking. The international community was so behind the United States and was so willing to work with us. Even the people who came out to criticize us, the French government or the German government, when 911 happened everyone stood with us, and then we just flushed that all down the toilet. It all just went away the way that the government handled it. It's a really sad story in American history for sure.

MP: Yea

MGA: The first time I met you, when I interviewed you in 2007 at Governor's Island, I asked you if you feel like Antibalas carries the torch for Fela's legacy. Your answer was that's something people gave you but not necessarily something you wanted. You used the metaphor of a fruitcake, nobody really wants it, but it's been given to you so you're stuck with it.

MP: Hahaha, that's funny, yea I remember that. I still feel like it's like that. If you're a serious musician in any genre of music, inevitably you're going to try to honor the people that came before you. That created or contributed to that history and that lineage and that architecture.

MGA: But you want to be your own artist.

MP: But even more than what we want, we're from New York, we're a multi-cultural group, we're in the digital era. His torch, I don't know if anybody can carry his torch. You know even his sons who are in so many ways so much closer to his legacy, I don't think they're carrying it, Fela was a force of nature.

MGA: Well the reason why I asked is, now that the band is associated with the FELA! Broadway production which is introducing so many people to who Fela was and what his music was all about, it's kind of been re-dubbed upon the band. People considered Antibalas to be a torch-bearer before the play started its run, but now its on another level. That's why I asked the question.

MP: It's definitely not bad that we're associated with Fela, I don't think we'll ever disassociate. It's a real strange position to find yourself in because people inevitably place expectations on you, that you sound too much like him or not enough like him. Or people will listen to an album and say, it sounds just like Fela, and there are only two or three songs that really fit into the classical afrobeat mold, and there's all this crazy other shit on the album too. I think those pronouncements have a lot more to do with people, and music journalists', and the public's lack of literacy in music than actually what we're trying to do or what our musical goals are.

MGA: Yea it's more the reception than what you guys are putting out.

MP: It's like if you really really know music, you can listen to us and hear so many other things besides Fela that are so much stronger and more pronounced than Fela, but because they're so much more underground, Fela is the most recognizable thing. Like I remember the first 45 we put out in 98 or 99 and someone was talking about it in this column in Vibe Magazine, and he was like 'Wow that sounds like Santana.' Santana was his only frame of reference for a big-ass band that has horns and drums and isn't rock. An old Santana is awesome, I love it. I wasn't insulted by it, but I was just like, 'Ok this is where this guy is.' So I'm happy that people are becoming more musically literate than when we started the group in 98 until now.

MP: The internet barely had anything to do with music when I started the band in 98. If I wanted to burn a CD it took me like an hour and a half to burn a blank CD of some demo. And now, if I google us, I can find places to illegally download our music on like 90 blogs or 130 blogs across the world, but I think the upside of that is that people at least have the opportunity to be more musically literate. Whether they are or how they listen to music, or if they have ADD or if they're paying attention or not, I don't know. Some bands are real good at having real close connections to their fans and I feel like our fans are so broad and diverse that it's not like, some bands are playing to people who are basically exactly like them. You know, they're the same age, the same ethnicity, the same geographic area, the same aesthetic. And when we play it's not like there's a typical Antibalas fan. When you show up you could just as easily be a 65-year old black American who went to Nigeria in the 70's as you could be a 20-something white fresh faced college student whose friend ripped them a cd or put some stuff on their ipod. So that's been difficult because there's not some go to place where we can automatically, all of our fans gravitate to. But when we go out on tour we went to the west coast, this summer we did San Diego to Seattle, we don't have a new record out or anything, and they places were packed, a bunch of the people were sold out so people are still interested in us, and the audiences are as diverse as always. Although a note on the audiences, it depends on where we're booked sometimes we go to a city and sell tickets in a rock club or a world music club, or a festival so the venues which are generally beyond our control will shape the arc of who comes out. As well as the time, the time of the show, the night of the week.

MGA: How would you describe the ebb and flow of Antibalas' playing out as a group these days? With a band that big and the amount of work you guys do as musicians, I'd imagine it's gotta be tough to keep everybody together for long periods of time. What do you see yourself doing over the next couple years? Do you see yourself recording a new album anytime soon?

MP: Yea we have a bunch of stuff in the works. One of the things that we're working on right now is we're recording a bunch of cover tunes, basically recording other people's songs that we like that are really relevant to now. We've had a sort of double or triple curse in terms of breaking out with Antibalas. For starters we're playing this music that's a genre that's completely anathema to American pop music, second, a lot of this music isn't in standard English for people to listen to and get. Then on top of that, our average song is the length of three to four average pop tunes strung together, and all the music we've recorded has been original music. So there's nothing familiar about what we're doing at all.

MP: On a couple occasions, like a couple years ago the folks who are in charge of Bob Marley's catalog asked us to come into the studio, Island Records, asked us to come into the studio to record a couple Bob Marley songs, but not make them sound anything like the original. Totally twisted them, stretch them out, change the tonalities all these different things, recorded them, but that project never came out. One of the songs we recorded, Rat Race, we'd been playing out live, and people loved it, like crazy. People were saying, 'You've gotta record it,' We've discovered this other thing about ourselves that we have this odd particular talent for putting our own stamp on other songs. It sorta seems weird, we don't want to be known as a cover band, but all of our musical heroes from John Coltrane, Mongo Santa Maria, to Miles Davis to, um, whoever, they wrote their own stuff and they put their own voice into compositions written by someone else.

MGA: Right, in the Jazz tradition.

MP: Right, if you take Coltrane for instance, he took some cheesy ass showtune My Favorite Things from the Sound of Music, and made it this whole epic song that's nothing but Coltrane. So we're writing original stuff, but we're doing a whole bunch of different arrangements. Rat Race will be the first thing to come out on vinyl probably in the next month or two. We've had a lot of problems with getting a sold press of it, like actually a physical pressing of it that doesn't sound strong, but that's done along with a new original coming out.

MGA: That's dope.

MP: Yea so the next thing we're sinking our teeth into in terms of recording is covers, which is not something we intended to do but we discovered we have a knack for it, so I think it will be a real interesting thing to put out and record five or six songs that are familiar to people but will be listening to them in a totally unfamiliar way. Just to see what that does to people, you know, are you familiar with the producer Mark Ronson?

MGA: Yea.

MP: Yea he did Amy Winehouse and a bunch of other stuff. He called us the best cover band in the world.

MGA: Wow.

MP: It's kind of a weird compliment. It's sort of backhanded but sort of like well shit there's something to this.

MGA: Coming from Mark Ronson I'd say that's a compliment.

MP: Yea, so he's acknowledging this about us, what can we do with this? How can we actually take that and make something out of it that's interesting and maybe make a record that other people will be motivated to check out maybe our other original stuff or our side projects or something like that.

MGA: That's really cool. I definitely think it's in your best interest to release something now riding the wave of the FELA! production since it's introduced so many people to who you are. Also I guarantee you that almost every Antibalas fan out there is a Bob Marley fan and will love your guys interpretation of it.

MGA: You're living in Texas these days?

MP: Yea I moved down here a couple years ago, and I'm in grad school and married and am making a ton of music and working on some non-for-profit stuff.

MGA: Word, you're studying at UT?

MP: Yea at University of Texas.

MGA: What are you working on?

MP: A Masters in Education Technology.

MGA: That's cool.

MP: Yea, Austin is a good place to be a grad student.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


The Lunchbox Theory and DJ Underdog have released the third installment of their afro-inspired mixtape, Africa Africa Africa. If you've heard the first two editions, you'll know what's good for you and download this nugget of afro flavor asap. Get all three installments here.

&ampamp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;a href=""&ampamp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;AFℝICA ☗FRICA இFRICA 3 by Lunchbox Theory&ampamp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/a&ampamp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;

Mos Dub

If you have yet to hear this mixtape, stop what you're doing and check it out.

Mos Dub by Max Tannone

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Afro-Dub Session feat. DJ Afro-Marc @ Rose Live Music Saturday Night

I'll be on the ones and two's this Saturday night at Rose Live Music for the Sound Liberation Front monthly jam, The Afro-Dub Sessions. Resident band Super Hi-Fi will be hitting the stage pumping out their Afro-Dub jams, along with resident dj's Linh and Q-Mastah. I'll be laying down an all vinyl funk and afrobeat set that will be sure to get you out on that dance floor. If you can make it to Brooklyn Saturday night, come get some funk.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Album Review: The Electric Sound of Johnny Arrow-Cochemea Gastelum

Guardian Angel by afrobeatblog

To paraphrase the great Bill Cosby, this is the funkiest elevator music I've ever heard. The Electric Sound of Johnny Arrow, the debut album from Cochemea Gastelum out July 20, 2010 on MOWO! Records, is the soundtrack to the life of the fictional character Johnny Arrow. From the sound of the album, Johnny Arrow is a bad-ass player from the streets of Spanish Harlem in the year 2050.

Cochemea Gastelum is best known for playing Baritone Saxophone in The Dap-Kings, quite possibly the funkiest band on the planet. That funky sensibility is alive and well on this album but adjusted to Gastelum's electric modern sensibility. Fusing elements of Latin Jazz, Acid Jazz, Soul, and Funk, this album makes a unique statement. Certain tracks are danceably upbeat, while others are slow, soulful ballads. Using string arrangements, a fender rhodes, and a variety of soulful saxophones ranging from bari to electric alto, Gastelum has composed a complete album that conveys a range of moods and emotions, similar to the film score for The Mack (in case anyone besides me owns that record and therefore gets the reference).

The album's signature track is definitely Arrow's Theme. You can't help but imagine an opening montage to a movie about a smooth-talking street-wise hustler, or a slick spy with a bombshell on his arm. Either way the theme music fits. Other tracks have a decidedly Latin Jazz feel like Carlito! while still maintaining a strong Acid Jazz vibe. Then other tracks like You're So Good To Me and No Goodbyes have a smooth, funky attitude that tell a story all their own.

The tracks that grab my attention the most on this album definitely have to be the ones that most prominently feature electric drums fostering a vibe that's a mix between late Miles Acid Jazz like The Man with the Horn and Sly's 1973 funk masterpiece Fresh. Tracks like Guardian Angel, Impala '73 and Fathom 5 exude an elevator music vibe, but I guarantee you'll never hear elevator music as good as this.

While Cochemea Gastelum's work with Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings might draw people to this record, potential listeners should be aware, this record is not a direct extension of the Dap-Kings. While soul has a strong presence throughout the record, this is something different and unique, a new direction altogether from The Dap-Kings' sound.

Arrow's Theme by afrobeatblog

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Tim Turbo ft. Spoek Mathambo and Gnucci Banana

Tim Turbo Ft. Spoek Mathambo & Gnucci Banana - Hush (Iggy, Iggy) from BIG 'N' HAIRY RECORDINGS on Vimeo.

It's not terribly often that I write about German electronic music producers, but when they collaborate with African artists like Spoek Mathambo, who happens to be one of my favorite new African beatmakers, I make exceptions. Check out this tight video for their new single, Hush (Iggy, Iggy). If you like what you see, and hear, check out the rest of the album here.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Afro-Throwdown @ Sullivan Hall

If you're in or around NYC on September 17th, and you're looking for an injection of Afro-Funk flavor, check out Sullivan Hall for Emefe's Afro-Funk Throwdown. Underground System Afrobeat and Mokaad will be there to support, as well Antibalas front man Amayo. Emefe will be releasing their first full-length LP, Music Frees All--this is a jam not to be missed. Get tickets here.

<a href="">EMEFE SOUND - EP by EMEFE</a>

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


Have you ever imagined what it would sound like if the best musicians in Mali, recorded an album with all the best musicians in Cuba? If you have, your dreams have finally come true. Afrocubism, the upcoming release from World Circuit Records, is a collaboration between musical icons from Cuba and Mali, two countries whose musics have influenced each other across multiple centuries. Artists featured on this record include Eliades Ochoa, Bassekou Kouyate, Djelimady Tounkara, Toumani Diabaté, Grupo Patria, Kasse Mady Diabaté and Lassana Diabaté. Anyone who has read In Griot Time, the account of Banning Eyre's trip to Mali, will remember Buena Vista Social Club was originally conceived as a project between Cuban and Malian musicians. Afrocubism is the culmination of that project.

Dig this sample track until the album comes out next month.

AfroCubism - Al Vaiven De Mi Carreta by World Circuit Records

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Interview with Chico Mann

I've often said, Chico Mann is one of my favorite musical acts on the planet. The musical brainchild of Marcos Garcia combines afrobeat with latin freestyle and electronic musical styles with other latin musics to create something entirely danceable and inventive. Analog Drift, Chico's second full-length LP, is being released on Wax Poetics Records October 26th. I spoke with Chico Mann creator, writer, singer, etc., Marcos Garcia, about the new album, Chico's rise in popularity over the last year, and what's in store for Chico as they tour the globe and spread their afro-freestyle message:

(Check out my review of Analog Drift here)

Ilusión de Ti by afrobeatblog

Marc Gabriel Amigone: First of all congrats on the album being released on Waxpoetics.

Marcos Garcia: Yea, I'm glad I held out, you know? I've been getting to know the waxpo guys and we've become friends and it's alright.

Marc Gabriel Amigone: So in the last year and a half, things have really taken off for Chico Mann. You guys have toured all over the country, your music is reaching a wider and wider audience, how've you enjoyed the ride?

Marcos Garcia: It's been really good. It definitely has its moments. I'm a one-man manager, booking agent, road manager, band leader, all those things, so it gets stressful at times, but overall it's been really fun. Traveling with David and Caito, we're just havin fun on the road.

Marc Gabriel Amigone: Yea, I saw you guys are going to Australia, that's gotta be pretty fun.

Marcos Garcia: Yea it's gonna be crazy. It's like five shows in five days and it takes two days to get there. It's gonna be a whirlwind down under. It's gonna be really fun because I don't think Australians have heard anything like Chico Mann before.

Marc Gabriel Amigone: Word, and they're really open-minded down there, right so I'm sure they'll dig it.

Marcos Garcia: Yea, hopefully. I went there with Antibalas in the winter, well our winter, their summer, and the response was overwhelmingly positive. So I'm looking forward to receiving a similar energy and response from the audiences down there.

Marc Gabriel Amigone: Word up. So in that regard, you've done a lot of touring in a lot of different parts of the country, you've been out west, you were down in Miami, Texas at SXSW. Have you noticed a difference in different people's reactions and receptions to your music?

Marcos Garcia: Yea, I think it's funny. The West Coast is so open and so down to get down, and then you get to a place like L.A. and people are so reserved compared to San Francisco, I always thought that was really odd. So that was interesting that people didn't want to let loose, and I'm not trying to single out L.A., but it was noticeable you know?

Marc Gabriel Amigone: Kind of like Williamsburg in a way?

Marcos Garcia: Well, you know Williamsburg has a reputation for being too cool for school, but I don't really think so.

Marc Gabriel Amigone: People act like that, but as soon as they're into it they let loose and get down.

Marcos Garcia: Yea, I've never really felt that in Brooklyn.

Marc Gabriel Amigone: Well that's cool. I've heard you talk before about places like Miami and L.A. where there's a large Spanish speaking population you feel like your music can really connect with people. Did you feel that connection in places like Texas?

Marcos Garcia: Definitely in Texas, we played a couple times where it was like man, they're getting it. And Miami was like a totally natural fit. It's one of those things, in Miami there's so many Cubans, that I felt right at home.

Marc Gabriel Amigone: About a year ago, you changed the personnel in your live shows to a paired down ensemble with just the three of you guys without the female vocalists. How has that changed the dynamic of the band and do you think you'll ever go back to having vocalists on stage?

Marcos Garcia: Yea, I don't even think it's been a full year. In regards to how it's changed the dynamic, it's created a completely new dynamic. Having a smaller lineup has changed it a lot.

Marc Gabriel Amigone: Yea, I feel like it's a different band altogether. You guys were way more of an ensemble before, not that you're not an ensemble now, but the logistics and the financials of it all have to be a lot easier to deal with.

Marcos Garcia: Well yea it is because we're smaller, but having three people as opposed to five or six makes our energy really focused and directed, and so the dynamic of the performance is really charged.

Marc Gabriel Amigone: More intense.

Marcos Garcia: Exactly, the punch is greater.

Marc Gabriel Amigone: Word that's interesting. I actually haven't seen you guys with the paired down ensemble.

Marcos Garcia: Yea, well when you see it you'll notice immediately the difference. And I love having the backup singers and having Ticklah and stuff, that was fun but it ultimately wasn't sustainable. To be able to do things like travel and do what I need to do to move forward...

Marc Gabriel Amigone: So Waxpoetics has really contributed quite a bit to Chico's rise in popularity. How did it start and how has it evolved since then.

Marcos Garcia: Well, how did it start. Let me think, Amir came up to me at a Sharon Jones and Dap-Kings concert at the Beacon Theater and and was like yo give me a call, we want to talk to you. And then that was my first interaction with Waxpo.

Marc Gabriel Amigone: And when was that?

Marcos Garcia: Um, whenever Sharon Jones played the Beacon Theater, it was a while ago, but I didn't follow up with them for a while. It was actually Linh Truong who was actually gunning for Chico Mann over there, keeping the buzz happening in the office over there. I already knew Andre at the time, but I didn't really know Dennis, so you know, I had never met the folks over there other than Andre in passing. Over time things developed, it was months before we signed a record deal. There was kind of a courting period.

Marc Gabriel Amigone: And then they released the one track on the 45 with the Africa Issue.

Marcos Garcia: Right, and that was like a good faith gesture, like, yo. It was really nice actually. I gotta say. And I'm really happy that they're local, I can drop in on them, go out for a drink, it's nice. They're my friends, I count them among my friends for sure.

Marc Gabriel Amigone: A lot of people identify you as your credibility outside of Chico Mann as a guitarist for Antibalas, but what have you done in your musical career besides Antibalas and Chico for people who don't know?

Marcos Garcia: Well, I play with Ocote Soul Sounds too. I'm not sure what you mean, like what have I done in my life outside of music?

Marc Gabriel Amigone: Well, a lot of people for your marketing line say Marcos Garcia, guitarist from Antibalas, but have there been any other projects or bands you'd like to let people in on?

Marcos Garcia: Well, dude I've played with a lot of bands. One of my favorite bands I've played with is American Watercolor Movement, that was before Antibalas. That band broke up a couple years ago. It was one of my favorite things to do. It was like an art rock. Really cool stuff, but you know I've dedicated my life pretty much to doing Chico Mann full-time. Antibalas is kind of a part-time gig right now. We'll do Antibalas when it comes up but it's not like it used to be. There definitely was a time when Antibalas was full time and Chico Mann was part time. Ocote is also, when they go on the road, I'll be in on that.

Marc Gabriel Amigone: Word, that's cool.

Marcos Garcia: I've actually been trying to create Chico as its own entity, and I don't really use Antibalas in any of my promotional materials. I also don't want to be perceived as riding on the coat-tails of Antibalas. I have my own thing, it's quite distinct. But people tend to want to reinforce that association which is fine. I love Antibalas, so that's cool but that's not ever something that I try to use to further myself.

Marc Gabriel Amigone: Exactly which is why I asked the question, if people don't know you from Chico Mann than they know you from Antibalas, or Ocote but I know from knowing you as a person that you've done a lot of projects over the years, so it's limiting to put you in one sentence, Antibalas and then Chico Mann.

Marcos Garcia: Right, another thing is I've also assumed this identity as Chico, so that's fine to be known as that. It's kind of the role I play on TV. It's funny when we were in Australia with Antibalas and we played a show in Sydney, after the show and I was walking outside and some guy came up to me and said. 'holy shit Chico Mann, I didn't know you played in Antibalas!' And I thought that was really hilarious. I was like where are we right now and how does this guy know Chico Mann?

Marc Gabriel Amigone: That's hilarious. So would you describe Analog Drift being released on Wax Poetics as a milestone for your career?

Marcos Garcia: I guess so, yea. I haven't really thought of it that way. Regardless of the status of the album ie. where it's been released, I think of the album as the milestone. Finishing that album was a crystalizing moment in terms of the musical statement I'm trying to make. The things that I touch upon on that album are looking back and then looking forward and it's positing this idea of afro-freestyle, you know, electro-afrobeat, and it's kind of pointing towards this next album that I'm working on right now. It's something sonically totally different. Wait a minute, I guess I don't need to be talking about my next album right now while I'm promoting this one. (laughs)

Marc Gabriel Amigone: Haha, well, I was going to ask about that eventually.

Marcos Garcia: Regardless of the status of this release, I'm always thinking about the next one, or working on it, or developing the concept. Analog Drift points toward this next album.

Marc Gabriel Amigone: Word, which leads me to my next question, which is Analog Drift is worlds apart from Manifest Tone Vol. 1 sonically, what do you think has allowed that evolution to occur?

Marcos Garcia: Well it's been a really natural progression and a really organic evolution of my production aesthetic and my musical practice governing this musical landscape along with people hearing it for the first time, I just maybe stumbled across it for the first time.

Marc Gabriel Amigone: Right, there's no model off of which to build an afro-freestyle band.

Marcos Garcia: Well there are elements, I did an interview yesterday where I started getting into all the different fundamentals of how you build my sound. All the different styles that I work within. Then I thought better of it after he left, and thought, oh my god, I just gave away my trade secrets. I emailed him today, you can't use any of that. My friend was like, you told him everything? I mean, I'm friends with the guy who was interviewing me so it was really easy to tell him this is what I do, but that doesn't mean I want to share this with the world.

Marc Gabriel Amigone: Right that's like giving away your secret formula.

Marcos Garcia: Yea, there's elements that are pretty fundamental. I feel like the guys in Antibalas, and the guys in the band, they understand it, but it's definitely not something I want to give away the blueprint of.

Marc Gabriel Amigone: Well I think listening to it you can hear it. If you've heard Latin Freestyle, and you've heard afrobeat, and you've heard certain Cuban musics, you can figure it out on your own without getting the exact recipe down. It's kind of like tasting something.

Marcos Garcia: Exactly, but most people, I'm sure there's plenty of people who can hear that clearly but most people I don't think can.

Marc Gabriel Amigone: Right, I'm sure you're introducing freestyle to a lot of people and afrobeat through Chico Mann which is not just those things but you're still introducing those ideas to some people.

Marcos Garcia: Right and a lot of people have that experience where it sounds so familiar to them, and its because all these elements are incorporated but most people can't, they'll be like this reminds me of, and they'll connect it to something in their past. In the interview yesterday, I was breaking down the nuts and bolts of everything, like afrobeat and how it intersects with freestyle, like I was getting all scientific with it, and I was like oh my god what am I doing?

Marc Gabriel Amigone: So when do you expect to release you next album, or would you prefer to stay focused on Analog Drift for now.

Marcos Garcia: Well it's hard to stay focused on Analog Drift because it was an independent release, and now it's going to have a life for the general public, which is what I wanted all along. That's why I held out, you know putting it on Itunes or doing anything major with it. I have no idea when the next album will be released or finished. As soon as I go on the road that will stop the production, and then when I get back it will take me a while to get back into it. So I don't know. I can tell you wholeheartedly that doing that creative work is one of my greatest joys. I love to discover aspects of this musical landscape that I've kind of encountered in my life. And I want to just keep discovering these landscapes and textures. It's the whole idea of what could've been and now is.

Marc Gabriel Amigone: Yea that's gotta be a very gratifying feeling, that Analog Drift is being released on a record label and you're touring Australia with Chico Mann that's gotta be a good feeling.

Marcos Garcia: Yea with this kind of momentum anything's really possible.

Marc Gabriel Amigone: Well do you have any specific goals or are you going to continue to make good music and let the rest take care of itself?

Marcos Garcia: I do feel to a certain extent that things will take care of themselves and yes, that I'm going along for the ride, but there's also a self-direction going on from the beginning. I've really envisioned what I want from my career and what I want from my life and I've been focused on building that over the years, building my musical catalog, building my studio. I eventually want to move into a new spot and build a dream studio. I'd like to start producing other artists. I'd like to get more production experience under my belt and as I get older and I have more miles on me. I feel like what I need to do in the future is start shaping the sound of other artists by doing production. Over the years I've met so many talented people that I would love to say this singer would sound great over a Chico track, and I've already started to do that a bit, and I think that's going to happen over time. That's kind of the natural evolution of things, you know, I can't be on the road forever.

Marc Gabriel Amigone: And that's the best way to transition.

Marcos Garcia: I love going on the road, and I don't anticipate not doing that anytime soon. but I would love to be able to pick and choose a little bit more when I go on the road so I can make more time for the studio, because I love being in the studio. I love doing shows and performing, but it's the travel that's so tiring. And being in the studio can be exhausting as well, but when you stumble across the right take or the right melody, whatever it is. It's a magical thing.

Marc Gabriel Amigone: Absolutely. Well I know you produced one track off of Planet Rump's EP which dropped the other day, as well as provided guidance along the way.

Marcos Garcia: Yea man, they're great. I'm glad you introduced us and put us together. They're so sweet, I love those guys. I just listened to the EP last night, it just puts a smile on my face. They're so great.

Marc Gabriel Amigone: I know they have such great potential, I wrote on my blog, download this EP now so when they blow up in five years you can say you knew them now.