Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Africa in Your Earbuds Vol. 8-DJ Sabine

Dig the latest in the afro-heavy mixtape series from OkayAfrica, Africa in Your Earbuds, courtesy of DJ Sabine.


Sunday, December 4, 2011

Afrika 21 Mixtape Vol. 3

Society HAE has turned a mixtape into an institution. Dig the latest installment, then read more about what they've got going on here.
AFRIKA21 The Mixtape vol. 3 by AFRIKA21

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Ocote Soul Sounds Kickstarter

Ocote Soul Sounds is going on tour, and they could use some extra help in paying their bills along the way. Won't you lend a helping hand?

Ocote Soul Sounds - Primavera by afrobeatblog

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Felabrations Across the World

As I write this blog post, I'm sitting in front of my computer in Accra, Ghana. I'm privileged to be on the continent on the day the chief priest Fela Anikulapo Kuti was born seventy-three years ago. I'll be writing in detail about my trip for OkayAfrica.com, so look for that in the coming days. Until then, I'd like to give a shout out to a few Felabrations going down all over the world. Today, Femi Kuti is hosting Les Nubians and Blitz The Amabassador at The Shrine in Lagos, Nigeria to celebrate his father's life. In the coming weeks, there are several more parties going down:

Joe's Pub - New York, NY w/ Emefe

All-Asia Bar - Cambridge, MA w/ Uhuru Afrika

Knitting Factory - Brooklyn, NY w/ Zongo Junction

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

DJ Afro-Marc in BK this weekend

It's about that time. I'm returning to the big apple this weekend to spread the afrobeat message before I take a pilgrimage to Ghana with Blitz The Ambassador next week. I'll be spinning at Southpaw tomorrow night when Emefe, Mokaad, and Ms. Lady hit the stage.

Then on Sunday, I'll be spinning at Disco Recovery, a benefit party for the Jillian Lanier Fund at the Tip Top Bar in Bed-Stuy, BK. Funk will be doled out in extra-large portions at both occasions. I'll be blogging about my trip to Ghana both on The Afrobeat Blog as well as OkayAfrica.com, so stay tuned for what will be unfolding from here on out.

FELA! Afterparty w. The Funk Ark in DC

For all those in D.C. who have yet to see FELA!, what are you waiting for? Tomorrow night is a particularly good night to catch it as the FELA! band will be playing an afterparty with The Funk Ark at The Rock and Roll Hotel. An extremely talented group of musicians will be collaborating throughout the evening so if you're in or around the capital, def check it out.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Elder's Corner Kickstarter

If your a fan of Nigerian music of any era, whether it be Orlando Julius, Osunlade, Sunny Ade, or Fela, you owe it to yourself to support this project. Siji is a Nigerian filmmaker and musician attempting to document the history and music of Nigerian's legendary music scene. He's got some distance to travel to reach his goal, so please help him reach his goal. A small donation can go a long way...

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Joni Haastrup/Mono Mono Reissue

Joni Haastrup is one of the most influential forces in 1970's Nigerian music. He was at the forefront of the burgeoning Afro-Rock movement and rode the wave all the way through disco to afrobeat. Soundway and Tummy Touch Records are collaborating to showcase that progression by reissuing three albums: two releases from MonoMono, Give The Beggar a Chance and The Dawn of Awareness, and Haastrup's debut solo album, Wake Up Your Mind.

The World Might Fall Over - MonoMono by Soundway

Joni Haastrup descended from Yoruba royalty in Western Nigeria. While his choice to pursue a career in music was not embraced by his family, he rose to popularity quickly with his flashy stage presence and strong voice. He eventually sang lead vocals on Orlando Julius Ekemode's Super Afro-Soul LP and became known as Nigeria's Soul Brother #1.

I first discovered Haastrup via Nigeria Special as his disco jam Greetings made recurring appearances in my dj sets. These three albums provide an unabridged look at Haastrup's work, showcasing the span of styles he embraced throughout his career. Any of these three albums will provide some interesting listening material, but my favorite is definitely Wake Up Your Mind. I love Nigerian Disco, this is some of the best out there. Dig a free track off of The Dawn of Awareness here.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Fela Soul

Don't you love it when beatmakers mashup afrobeat instrumentals with hip-hop lyrics? I do, which is why I love Fela Soul, Amerigo Gazaway's remix creation combining De la Soul and Fela Anikulapo Kuti. If you love either artist, you're going to especially love this. Dig it here.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


If you haven't heard Kuduro, the crazy sounds coming from Angolan beatmakers, it's about time you have. I don't think I could find a better introduction than Bazzerk - African Digital Dance, a compilation put together by Jess & Crabbe for Mental Groove Records that showcases not only the original Angolan beats but also their descendants in Brazil, Cape Verde, Portugal and elsewhere. Be careful with this one.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Zongo Junction, The Funk Ark, Big Mean Sound Machine, and DJ Afro-Marc @ Southpaw Tonight!

I'll be on the 1's and 2's this evening when three seriously funky afrobeat bands hit the stage at Southpaw in Brooklyn, NY: Zongo Junction, The Funk Ark, and Big Mean Sound Machine. Definitely a night not to be missed. $10 at the door, come prepared to dance...

Friday, September 9, 2011

Dub Invasion 2011

The Dub Invasion is officially about to take over New York! Over the course of the next week, The Sound Liberation Front is curating a series of dub-related concerts, classes, film screenings and lecutres at different locations across the city. If you're into dub, this is the week it all comes together for you. Find a complete list of events below:

Fri Sep 9At Dominion 428 Lafayette St, NYC 21+ 10:00 pm $12 Advance / $16 Door

Adrian Sherwood ft. Brother Culture
Adrian Sherwood ft. Brother Culture- Subatomic Sound System- Channel U
UK-based music producer Adrian Sherwood has been a pioneer in expanding the scope and context of dub music. To celebrate the 30th anniversary of his legendary On-U-Sound label, he will be making a rare US appearance alongside UK rasta MC Brother Culture and NYC’s mighty Subatomic Sound System.

Sat Sep 10At Dubspot 348 West 14th Street 1:00 pm OPEN DOOR

Dubspot Hi Fidelity EDU Session
Photo Expo by Seb Carayol(1-6PM)- Panel Discussion(TBD)- Gear Demo(1-6PM)
Come celebrate Dubspot’s expansion with a showcase featuring the latest in music technology from Ableton, Propellerhead, iZotope, Native Instruments, and more. Join us for revolving presentations, workshops and sound sessions about DJing, music production and the history of dub.

Sat Sep 10At Dubspot 348 West 14th Street 3:00 pm Free with RSVP

Dub Masterclass Pt 2

Clive Chin (3-4PM)
Legendary producer Clive Chin, along with innovative engineer Errol Thompson laid down the foundation of the dub sound and originated some of the genre’s earliest recordings. He will demonstrate how to dub a track using original material. Experience the culture with one of its originators… A festival highlight! Workshop will be streamed live on the Dubspot website. Event is Free but space is limited so make sure you RSVP.

Sat Sep 10At B.B. King's 237 West 42nd St, NYC 21+ 8:00 pm $22 Advance / $25 Door

Lee “Scratch” Perry
Lee “Scratch” Perry- Subatomic Sound System- Jahdan Blakkamoore
Whether you call him a genius or a madman, Lee «Scratch» Perry is without a doubt a towering figure in reggae. The Grammy award winning producer, mixer, and songwriter, was behind the early Bob Marley classics, and along with King Tubby, helped shape the sound of dub music. Collaborators on recent Perry dubstep releases, Subatomic Sound System & Jahdan Blakkamoore, will be supporting.

Get limited super-discount $19 advance tickets at Ticketmaster by entering our festival code “dub”!

Sun Sep 11At Sullivan Hall 214 Sullivan Street, NYC 21+ 9:00 pm $10

Universal Sundays presents Alive Dub
Dub Poet Infinity- Super Hi-Fi- Top Shotta Band feat. Screechy Dan- Prince Polo- Double 05- King of Zulu Entertainment- DJ Sal P
A night of live performances headlined by Dub Poet Infinity alongside Super Hifi, cornerstone of the critically acclaimed Afro Dub Sessions concert series.

Mon Sep 12At Cielo 18 Little W 12th St, NYC 21+ 10:00 pm $12 with RSVP / $15 Door

Francois K & Badawi aka Raz Mesinai
Francois K- Badawi aka Raz Mesinai- Dub Poet Infinity
Consistently acclaimed as one of New York’s Top DJ party, Deep Space is the project of legendary house music producer Francois K. This special festival edition features “sound alchemist” Raz Mesinai aka Badawi.

Tue Sep 13At Dubspot 348 West 14th Street 2:00 pm Free with RSVP

Dub Documentary Screenings
Devon D’s Dub History(2-3PM)- Musically Mad(3-4PM)- Dub Echoes(4-6PM)
Get inspired and learn about the history and culture behind the sound during this day-long music documentary marathon. Event is Free but space is limited so make sure you RSVP.

Wed Sep 14At Kush 191 Chrystie St, NYC 21+ 9:00 pm Free with RSVP

Liondub Presents Pressure “Dub”
Ticklah- Dave Q- Liondub- DJ Lifeline- DJ Deluxe
Pressure Drop is downtown NYC’s freshest Wednesday night reggae affair with resident DJ’s Liondub, Lifeline and Deluxe. This dub edition will feature multi talented producer/instrumentalist Victor “Ticklah” Axelrod and Dave Q of the famed Dub War parties.

Thu Sep 15At Happy Ending 302 Broome St, NYC 21+ 10:00 pm FREE with RSVP

DTR in a Tribute to King Tubby’s
Deadly Dragon Sound System featuring Artists TBD- DJ Linh
NYC’s premier foundation reggae party, Downtown Top Ranking, presents a Tribute to the Father of Dub – King Tubby’s with Deadly Dragon Sound and guests celebrating and expanding upon the music, the mixes and vibes of the man himself in pure vinyl style.

Thu Sep 15At Dominion 428 Lafayette St, NYC 21+ 10:00 pm $10 Advance / $ 12 Door

TOTH International Dub Showcase
Spy from Cairo- Dr Israel- Nickodemus- DJ Lil Tiger
Nickodemus, founder of the legendary Turntable on the Hudson parties, curates this international dub showcase with a set of globe-trotting producers. Expect middle eastern influences, punk rock and ragga jungle sounds to blend seamlessly into a dubwise dancefloor extravaganza!

Fri Sep 16At Dubspot 348 West 14th Street, New York 6:00 pm Free with RSVP

Dub Masterclass Pt 3
Mad Professor (6-7PM)
Legendary second wave UK dub producer and disciple of Lee Perry unveils the secrets that made the Ariwa label one of the leading forces in dub music. Workshop will be streamed live on the Dubspot website. Event is Free but space is limited so make sure you RSVP.

Fri Sep 16At Knitting Factory Brooklyn 361 Metropolitan Ave, BK 18+ 11:45 pm $18 Advance / $20 Door

Mad Professor
Mad Professor- Twilight Circus Dub- Q-Mastah- Majestic Twinsound
Since the early 80s, Mad Professor has been one of the leading figure of dub’s new generation. His legendary Ariwa studio in South London has been the epicenter of dub’s foray into the digital age. Supporting the mad prof will be Twilight Circus Dub as well as NYC’s Q Mastah and Majestic Twinsound

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

All Together Now Kickstarter

If you've been following my blog, you know I'm a huge fan of a specific family of musicians based in Brooklyn, NY. One of those musicians, Tim Allen of Thought and Hylofi among others, is taking on an amazing project to capture the energy and collective consciousness taking place right now via a documentary film. In order to make his vision a reality, he needs your help. Make a donation via his kickstarter page, and check out the concerts they'll be documenting at Southpaw in December.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Underground System Afrobeat EP Teaser Video

Dig this video from Underground System Afrobeat, a Brooklyn based afrobeat ensemble who plan to release their debut EP in the coming months. This video is dedicated to the bootyshakers of the world...

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Album Review: From The Rooftops - The Funk Ark

I've often said, funk is the universal language. The Funk Ark, an 8-piece afro-funk band out of Washington D.C. who released their debut LP From The Rooftops August 16, 2011 on ESL Records, definitely subscribe to that philosophy. Blending elements of 1970's Latin, African, and American funk music, The Funk Ark truly does embrace the ark of what funk is all about.

This album has a gritty, rhythmic vibe that gets inside of you and makes you want to move, or at least strut with a bad-ass look on your face. Due in part to the fact the majority of the album is instrumental, the interlocking guitars, keys and bass take on the identity of The Funk Ark's sound. Like a dirty funky Afrika 70 hook, Meters' Jam, or Juan Pablo Torres ostinato, their polyrhythmic, patchwork textured sound has an infectious effect on your midsection. It's that indescribable funky thang all good funk music has in common that's all over this record.

I'll be on the 1's and 2's when The Funk Ark throws down at Southpaw in Park Slope, Brooklyn (one of my favorite music venues on the planet) on September 10th along with heavyweights of the BK afro-scene, Zongo Junction and upstate afro-representatives The Big Mean Sound Machine. If you're in and/or around New York, definitely come get your doctor prescribed dose of funk as it will be doled out in extra strength portions all night.

The Funk Ark - Diaspora by afrobeatblog

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Afropop Takes You Inside the Antibalas Experience

Of all the amazing bands I've ever seen perform, and all the inspiring musicians I've interviewed, Antibalas and Martin Perna sit at the top of both lists. This video from Afropop gives you an idea why.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

A Dub for Mali from Afrolicious

If you've ever been to an Afrolicious party in San Francisco, you know they bring the funk. If not, dig this track to get an idea:
Afrolicious - A Dub For Mali by INgroovesmarketing

Friday, August 12, 2011

New EP from The Green

Love and Affection, the new EP from The Green out August 9, 2011 on Easy Star Records, is a contemporary, updated take on traditional roots reggae sounds. As with anything that comes out on Easy Star Records, there is a high standard of production quality and musicianship that shines through on this release. Definitely check it out.

Love&Affection by thegreen

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Concert Review: Seun Anikulapo Kuti and Egypt 80 @ SOB's

Contributed by Erin Steadman

Seun Anikulapo Kuti & Egypt 80’s most recent New York show at SOBs on July 27th, proved that Afrobeat is still a very sought-after sound and experience. Possessing the high cheekbones and sweet eyes of his Father, you would have thought you were in front of the man, Fela, himself. Seun might be the youngest son of Afrobeat pioneer Fela Anikulapo Kuti, but in no way did he fall short of mesmerizing the crowd with his high energy and political disquisition. Between saxophone solos in “Rise” from their newest album, ‘From Africa with Fury: Rise’, Seun set a more solemn, yet groovy, mood over the crowd as he chants about Africa needing to rise against diamond and petroleum companies bringing them down.

At sight of the band, the crowd was already dancing. Though the ultra-high BPM of “Mr. Big Thief” is what really turned the venue known as SOBs into 4,000 square feet of a mini World dance party. It was no longer a show anymore; it was an experience. If you closed your eyes, you could hear the different layers in the music and you were suddenly moving your body in ways you didn’t know you could. Political verse would then make its way through, telling African soldiers that they need to put their uniforms down. At the end of this powerful song, Seun stands shirtless, in the famous stance of his Father. Seun then proceeds to break the ice even more by letting Americans know that they should always turn Kuti on when things go down in the bedroom.

All in all, Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 is an experience not to be missed. If you have the chance to see this band, do yourself a favor. If you are unable to see them live, at least familiar yourself with their new album ‘From African with Fury: Rise’ and be ready to embark on a real, raw journey.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Album Review: Janxta Funk! - The Pimps of Joytime

There are some who believe the golden era of funk music has come and gone. Bands and artists like P-Funk, Prince, James Brown, and Rick James either have their best days behind them or have passed on. Then comes along a band like The Pimps of Joytime, proving funk is still very much alive and well as evidenced on their album Janxta Funk!, out June 21, 2011 on Wonderwheel Recordings.

01 Janxta Funk! by The Pimps Of Joytime

Janxta Funk! takes contemporary funk music to new levels. Incorporating elements of hip-hop, Latin, blues, and New Orleans style musics, The Pimps of Joytime definitely have a unique take on the world and their own funky attitude. Hailing from Brooklyn, NY, it's apparent they're influenced by the variety of cultures and styles present in the Brooklyn scene. Right from the first track, Take the L Train, The Pimps bring the funk with a Brooklyn attitude.

What I love the most about this album is how The Pimps pay homage to classic voices and artists while still maintaining a contemporary original identity. One can definitely hear a lot of Prince in lead singer Brian J's voice, as well as a lot of JB's in the horn lines throughout. Several funk luminaries guest including Roy Ayers and The Neville Brothers. While the funk legends all make their presence felt, The Pimps have a way of sampling the best of all them to create their own sound.

Janxta Funk! is available on Itunes or via thepimpsofjoytime.com. The Pimps will be touring all over the US during August and September, so def look out for them as they come to a town near you. These guys know how to throw it down, so whether you just download the album or see them live, prepare yourself to get funked up.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Live From the Continent @ Lincoln Center

If you're physically able to get to Lincoln Center in Midtown Manhattan this weekend, DEF go see the finest music makers of today's generation coming from the continent throw it down. Blitz The Ambassador, Spoek Mathambo, Iyadede and Chief Boima will all be in attendance. If you need any more inspiration, check out the preview video below:

Live from the Continent! from MVMT on Vimeo.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Seun Kuti Returns to SOB's

While I'll be checking out Seun Kuti this weekend at the Grassroots Festival, he'll be playing SOB's in NYC one week from tonight. Seun is currently on tour playing several dates across North America. Definitely catch him live if you have the opportunity.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Chorizo Chunks 10

chorizo chunks 10-live afro-latin mix by chorizofunk

If you're looking for the perfect soundtrack for an outdoor summertime barbecue/dance party, hit play on this live mix recorded at the monthly Body Rock party by DJ Chorizo Funk in Austin, TX.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Roots of Chicha Album Release Party and Free Mix

If you caught any of The Roots of Chicha, the compilations that unearthed volumes of Peruvian psychedelic cumbia, then you'll be excited to hear Barbes Records is teaming up with Fat Beats to re-issue a best of double LP, out tomorrow. They're throwing an album release party at Drom this Thursday the 21st. To get an idea of what to expect at the party and on the comp, check out this free mix:

Barbes Chicha mix tape by Barbes Records

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Album Review: Labrador - The Polyrhythmics

The Polyrhythmics are an 8-piece afrofunk band from Seattle, Washington. Labrador, their latest album independently released June 1st, 2011, is a downright funky collection of songs that embrace the phenomenon of the polyrhythm whole-heartedly. Similar to other instrumental afrofunk bands like The Budos Band, Ikebe Shakedown or The Superpowers, their fierce, yet smooth horn section assumes the identity of their sound although their rhythm section lays down a seriously funky back drop over which the horns do their thing.

This album is about as funky as anything you're likely to hear. The Polyrhythmics definitely put Seattle on the afrobeat map. They're hoping to make an east coast swing in the fall, but until then you can catch them up and down the west coast. If you're out that way, definitely check them out. While I haven't seen them live myself, a band with this kind of attitude and style always can put on a good show.

The Polyrhythmics - Moonroof by afrobeatblog

Friday, July 15, 2011

Sound Liberation Soundsystem Returns to Coney Island

Some of the funkiest people with which I've ever had the pleasure of associating, The Sound Liberation Front, are returning to the Coney Island Boardwalk this Sunday to bump some sounds and spread some good vibes. If you can make the trek out to the beach, it'll def be worth the trip. Dig the vibe in the video from last year:

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Afrika Bambaataa Meets Chico Mann

In case you were wondering where I'll be July 28th, the Waxpoetics Records Showcase: Afrika Bambaataa Meets Chico Mann is going down at Le Poisson Rouge. Chico Mann is my favorite musical act on the planet. Enough said.

Chico Mann - Ilusión de Ti by afrobeatblog


If you dug Mos Dub, you'll really dig Ghostfunk, the latest mixtape from Max Tannone, pairing Ghostface Killah with vintage African funk, highlife, and psych-rock. Dig it.

Ghostfunk by Max Tannone

Friday, July 8, 2011

Quantic Remixes Owiny Sigoma Band

Dig this Quantic remix of Owiny Sigoma Band's Tafsiri Sound. The original album, a collaboration between traditional Luo musicians from Kenya and British artists visiting the East African nation, was released April 18, 2011 on Brownswood Recordings with the support of Gilles Peterson. The Remix EP drops July 12th. Def cop it when it drops.

Owiny Sigoma Band - Tafsiri Sound 12" by Brownswood

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Interview with Martin Perna

Martin Perna is perhaps best known for founding Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra, but his work with Ocote Soul Sounds is equally respected and renowned. Taurus, the fourth studio album from Ocote out June 7, 2011 on ESL Records, represents the latest progression of his collaboration with Adrian Quesada and a host of other extremely talented musicians. I've interviewed Martin twice before, both times in connection to his work with Antibalas. This time we focused on Ocote (although we did sneak in a question or two on Antibalas). If you haven't heard the album yet, I would absolutely pick up a copy, but only if you like danceable, smooth, funky ass music:

Ocote Soul Sounds - Primavera by afrobeatblog

Marc Gabriel Amigone: First of all, congrats on an amazing new album, I've been spinning this a lot when I dj as of late and it's been getting people dancing. I feel like this album has a different vibe than Coconut Rock. Was that a conscious effort, or more of a natural evolution?

Martin Perna: One of the biggest difference between Taurus and the previous albums was that we had a chance to do some touring last year, opening for Thievery Corporation where we first had the chance to play several shows over a concentrated time, and this allowed us to really see how the music resonated in different people in different places. We didn't sit down and consciously address these reflections in the album-making process but I think it ultimately shows on Taurus- there's more songs people can sing to, and the bass and drums have a lot more clarity than on previous albums which translates into a heavier impact on the dance floor. Working with Eric Hilton and the engineers at ESL helped us get much better results sonically.

MGA: The thing that stands out to me the most about this album is the groove. It steadily flows from song to song throughout with a very smooth, danceable production value and rich texture. Was that a goal you set out to accomplish when recording the album?

MP: Again, I don't know how explicitly conscious it was but it was the result of working together with a shared vision that we didn't always need language to articulate. All of our previous albums are definitely groove-oriented to them but this album probably has the most sonic consistency from song to song. It helped that we worked on all the songs at the same time rather than piece by piece months apart like we did on previous albums.

MGA: Could you give a run-down of who played what on the album?

MP: Adrian Quesada- guitars, some bass, some keys. Martín Perna- flutes, baritone sax, some acoustic guitar, some bass, shekere, and other percussion and vocals. John Speice plays drums, congas, bata, and other percussion. Will Rast plays keys, organs, and clav--all the solos and elaborate stuff are him. Marcos García and Courtney Morris sing. We also have some guest vocalists: Courtney Morris and from Thievery Corporation- Verny Varela, Natalia Clavier, Sitali Siyolwe, and Sista Pat. Eric Hilton of Thievery Corporation makes some cameo appearances on percussion as well. They were all around in the DC neighborhood when we were making the record and we became friends with them while in the road so it made sense to make some music together. The live band

MGA: Marcos Garcia definitely makes his presence felt on this album. How did you and Marcos first meet, how would you describe your musical relationship with him and the impact he has on Ocote?

MP: Marcos and I have been playing together for almost ten years with Antibalas, and are close friends. I love the music he makes with Chico Mann, and on our last album Coconut Rock, he recorded some vocals and other instruments. Over the years he and Adrian have started a good collaborative relationship and we all work together pretty well, over time and space. It's fun working with him and he brings a lot to the group, especially on the albums..

MGA: Who is your target audience for this album, if you have one?

MP: That's a tough question because I never have felt like my music has had one target audience. When you consciously try to please everybody, you don't end up pleasing anybody. Ultimately, if my peers- musicians and DJs like it, it is successful to me. However, it makes me really really happy when people tell me, "my twelve year old brother who only listens to Lil Wayne really dug the album" or "my mom heard you on NPR and went out and bought your record."

MGA: Living in Austin, Texas, your music has access to a Spanish speaking population. Is your music marketed and/or distributed in Spanish speaking countries in Latin America at all?

MP: This is kind of a loaded question since folks were speaking Spanish on the continent for at least a hundred years before English was common place and we find both new and generations-old Spanish speaking populations across North America so Austin is just one of many bilingual cities. We do a fair amount of Spanish press down here and have performed in a lot of Spanish language events like Pachanga Festival and some big Cinco de Mayo jams, and our music gets air play on a lot of university, public, and underground radio stations in the Spanish speaking US and Latin America, but hasn't ever cracked the big bubble of Spanish commercial radio. We performed at Summerstage last year for the LAMC and got a really good response, but the mainstream Latin music world can be as shallow, fractured and corrupt as the Anglo music industry. I'm not really concerned about kissing anyone's butt or trying to convince people to like the music- if they get it, good.

MGA: Has Ocote ever toured/performed in Mexico, Central or South America?

MP: Adrian and I have been there with our other groups but not yet with Ocote. With Ocote, touring is harder to do because we have to squeeze everything in between other tours and family stuff. I would love to do some more performances in Latin America but it's considerably harder to do because there's not the same amount of resources or infrastructure to tour there as opposed to western Europe. Given the violence along the border, there are a lot more very real risks dipping down to Monterrey or Torreon to play a show, even if it's only five or six hours away by car.

MGA: Your work with Antibalas makes no attempt to hide its anti-establishment message. Ocote's message although definitely anti-establishment, is a bit more subdued. Do you feel like you can reach a wider audience with Ocote due to the fact the songs are more palatable to a mainstream audience and record industry standards?

MP: I don't think the songs are any less political...they just have a different mood and a different voice. That said, with Antibalas and Afrobeat music we operate within a genre, a musical idiom and musical legacy that is explicitly political, or should be anyway given the history of the music. Ocote isn't necessarily beholden to the expectations or inheritance of solely one genre or tradition so there's not that same push to be explicit, although several songs on the album definitely are. Politically, I think the music is shaped mostly by the nueva canción protest music tradition of the 60s/70s in Latin America more than anything else- artists like Victor Jara, Daniel Viglietti, Mercedes Sosa, Violeta Parra, Silvio Rodriguez, as well as some Brazilian artists from the Tropicalia era like Caetano Veloso and Tom Zé.

MGA: What are you listening to these days that's inspiring you?

MP: At this very moment, Donald Byrd "Street Lady". I have been going back to a lot of the early funk that i grew up listening to like Slave, Aurra, Lakeside, and a lot of the eclectic soul and funk, and house played by the great djs at the Loft, Paradise Garage, Warehouse, and Music Box. I love the latest Erykah Badu album. I'm always inspired by music made by my musical family- Budos band, Echocentrics, Dap Kings, Charles Bradley, Lee Fields, Karl Hector, Michael Leonhart, Superhuman Happiness, Beyondo, TVOTR, Brownout, etc. I'm biased, but I do feel like thats some of the best music being made today.

MGA: What artists/bands would you recommend to fans of Ocote looking to hear what inspired you and your bandmates to create this music?

MP: Cymande, Larry Harlow, Frankie Dante, Celso Piña, Grupo Folklorico y Experimental, Los Pasteles Verdes, Toto la Momposina...

MGA: I just picked up a copy of Rat Race on vinyl, does Antibalas have any plans to record more new music anytime soon?

MP: I don't know about soon, but definitely, yes. Antibalas has a very deep well of creative juice. It just takes a long time to extract it.

Friday, July 1, 2011

New EP from Beyondo

Dig this new EP from Antibalas trumpeter Eric Biondo featuring several other members of the Antibalas/Daptone/Truth and Soul fam. It can be yours forever for only one dollar, but no one will complain if you feel like paying more...

Sunday, June 26, 2011

New EP from Captain Planet

Dig this track from Captain Planet's new EP, Ningane, out June 28, 2011 on Bastard Jazz Recordings. If this track doesn't get you moving, you better check your pulse.

Dame Agua by DJ Captain Planet

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Interview with Seun Anikulapo Kuti

Seun Anikulapo Kuti is one of the most dynamic young musicians in the world. Youngest son of Fela Anikulapo Kuti, founder of afrobeat and African musical icon, Seun released his second full-length album, From Africa With Fury: Rise, yesterday on Knitting Factory Records. He's currently touring Europe and is about to cross the Atlantic for a string of dates all over North America, including the Grassroots Festival the third week in July. I had the honor of speaking with Seun on music, politics, working with Brian Eno, and more:

Seun Kuti - You can run by djdemonangel4

Marc Gabriel Amigone: I read you set out to do something different with your new album, a departure from your first. When I listen to the new album I feel like the horn lines are more complex and aggressive. The album as a whole is a lot more aggressive. What did you focus on to achieve your goal of doing something different?

Seun Kuti: Well, when I set out to do something different I wanted to improve on the last album. I had in the back of my mind when I was working on the album, without leaving afrobeat I have to make my music as different from the last album as possible. While still making an improvement without leaving the genre, that was difficult, you know, staying in the genre while still improving it. But I guess I was able to do that, I was able to complete that.

MGA: So did you focus on anything specific like the horn lines or the rhythms or something?

SK: Yea, from the horn lines to the music, to the rhythm section, I was more confident. With my first album, I didn't want to be too brash or too soft, you know, a lot of things go through your mind when it's the first time. It's just like having sex the first time, you don't know how to do it, you really don't know what's up. About the second time , you're more confident than the first time.

MGA: Right, right you have experience from which you can draw the second time around.

SK: Exactly, so that's how it went with the new album.

MGA: How did your relationship with Brian Eno come about? Who contacted who?

SK: For this album I contacted him. I told him about it. For me I like him because he invited me to come with the band to play a show, I was actually surprised he knew my music, that was two years ago.

MGA: What was it like working with him?

SK: Brian is one of those people who will teach you about you. He'll show you things you didn't even know, and if you're really honest with yourself he's telling you the truth, you'll be like yea man you're right.

MGA: To me the song Rise captures the essence of what you're trying to say with this album. When you talk about companies like Haliburton and Monsanto and you're asking people to rise up agains their power. Who are you targeting specifically with that message? Is that for Nigerians, Americans, everyone in the world?

SK: No, no this is Nigeria! I'm talking about Africa, Haliburton and Monsanto in Africa, not Haliburton and Monsanto in America, no, this is in Africa. Dick Cheney has been indicted in my country like three months ago for everything, for a deal he tried to run under the table, it was an 18 million dollar scandal. Haliburton bribed people, they paid our officials to take bribes. Contracts, real things you know?

MGA: So do you think many people in Nigeria are aware of the role Multi-National companies play in their lives as well as the global economy?

SK: Yea they know, but they are led to believe that without these international companies, they cannot have jobs, we cannot do anything on our own. We are made to believe without these countries Africa cannot develop. This is what is ruining Africa.

MGA: Who do you think is brainwashing them to think that? Is the government playing a role along with the companies?

SK: Of course, they give them all these kickbacks, they come to Africa and they donate four hundred million dollars to Nigeria. They're not giving this money to the people, the government officials take this money and steal it. They don't want Africa to develop. In Africa, Nigeria, wherever they will never create an operating system for a computer that we can use in Africa and buy and make money for Africa, whichever way Microsoft believes, Africa needs to develop as a manufacturer. Do you understand what I mean?

MGA: Yes I do.

SK: This is what is happening, it's not just Haliburton and Monsanto. All the multinationals are in Africa.

MGA: Right, it's a bigger problem than just those two companies.

SK: You don't come and make all kinds of donations in Africa never to the people, always to the government officials to help the people, but they never give the money to the people, they put it in their pocket.

MGA: Right. Which is something that's been going on for decades in Nigeria.

SK: That's right, yea.

MGA: What did you think about the way the most recent elections were carried out in Nigeria?

SK: All these politicians have dragged the ruling politicians into court. The elections were not free and fair.

MGA: Would you ever consider running for political office in Nigeria?

SK: Yes of course, it's one of my big plans for the future. When we get to that I will call you again.

MGA: Ok, cool. What are your thoughts on the way the West is choosing to intervene or not intervene in the uprisings across the middle east and North Africa?

SK: I do not support any intervention in Africa by Europe and America, political, economical, social, any kind of intervention. We should be able to manage all of our own situations ourselves. What the West is doing in Libya today is a big shame. What's going on in Libya is wrong.

MGA: Well, what about the situation in the Ivory Coast? The final resolution to that came after the French troops extricated the president from his palace, right?

SK: What they are teaching Africans is that only through force can you achieve any kind of progress. When a big country like France brings their military to commit a coup, because what happened in the Ivory Coast was a coup. When the military goes and kicks out the president, that's a coup. Whether they call it a good coup, it's still a coup. This is what they teach us. They come here, and the only way they get anything is by power. We will come and remove this guy. Why? So whenever anyone else wants to kick this new guy out, they will use force because that's the only option we've been taught here in Africa to use.

MGA: Right so that's the model that Africans now use for their own power struggles in the future, and that's dangerous.

SK: Well in Africa using force is easy. Why aren't they going to bomb North Korea, man? If they're worried about Gaddafi killing his own people, why don't they bomb North Korea? The people of North Korea are not protected. How about Syria, Yemen, Bahrain? They're killing their own people there too. Why isn't anyone doing anything there? Because the governments there are submitting to the West, you know?

MGA: So do you think the West should intervene in Bahrain and Syria and all of those other countries?

SK: No, they shouldn't because it's none of their business. That is none of their business as well.

MGA: So what do you propose should happen?

SK: If they intervene in Libya, they should be in Syria, Bahrain and Yemen as well. Do you understand what I mean?

MGA: I don't really. It seems like you're advocating they don't intervene but if they are going to intervene, they should intervene everywhere.

SK: Exactly, the only way they can justify their intervention is to be everywhere. So if they're not everywhere and only in Libya, that makes me ask, why Libya? Do the people of Libya deserve freedom more than the people of Syria? Do the people of Libya deserve democracy more than the people of Bahrain? I don't understand that. They are in Libya for the oil. Nobody should tell you otherwise because I know the west, France, US, Britain, they were all in the United Nations discussing human rights in Africa. They were all in their pocket. They all went in to negotiate how BP can get in there to get some oil. Tony Blair went to Libya to do business. They released the Pan-Am bomber, The Lockerbie they released him so that they can get their oil.

MGA: I agree. Well let's get back to music for a little while. Are there any other musicians or bands playing afrobeat today that you listen to?

SK: Right now, I listen to a lot of reggae right now. I listen to a lot of reggae, I'm not a hip-hop fan anymore, so reggae is my thing right now. Hip-hop is boring.

MGA: Are there any African hip-hop artists you find inspiring?

SK: Just the way I don't think Americans can play afrobeat, I don't think Africans can play hip-hop. If you want to make hip-hop music, go out and make hip-hop music the way it's supposed to be made. If you want to make African music, make African music the way it's supposed to be made.

MGA: That's interesting. What did you think of the FELA! play on broadway and its effect on afrobeat's popularity globally?

SK: It was great for afrobeat. Everyone in the world loves something successful. I think it was successful. It increased the popularity of afrobeat in the US.

MGA: Is it true that you were offered the role of Fela in the play?

SK: Yes I was.

MGA: And you didn't want to do it.

SK: No I didn't want to do it because of my music career, you know? I would have to move to New York to rehearse, to tour with the group, and be there with them. I'd have to put my music on the side.

MGA: People are constantly comparing you to your father and other members of your family. What are some of the ways you feel you're different from your father the most?

SK: I was wondering when this question was going to come up. Well for me I don't try to be different from my dad because that's not my aim. I'm a musician of afrobeat music. I never try to enter into a competition with my dad. I only try to be a good afrobeat musician. We have a different personality too. I feel like your personality plays a big role in your music, it gives it that feeling of my identity which is different from my father's. My father's music has its own personality. I'm looking forward to a world where there are lots of afrobeat bands playing the music correctly with their own personality in the music.

MGA: Does it bother you that every interview you do someone asks you about Fela?

SK: No it doesn't bother me. I get used to it. He's my father, you know. I expect that. Actually, I look forward to it, I think when is this question going to come?

New Single from Superhuman Happiness

Check out Needles and Pins, the new single from one of my favorite bands, Superhuman Happiness, led by one of my favorite people, Stuart Bogie. You know Stuart from his work with Antibalas, FELA!, The Sway Machinery, TV on the Radio, and a whole bunch of other great music. If this is an introduction to Superhuman Happiness for you, let it be the beginning of a lasting relationship. This is a band on the rise with a unique sound, def check them out.

"Needles & Pins" Superhuman Happiness by Royal Potato Family

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Lagos Disco Inferno @ Zebulon This Weekend

To all those interested in receiving a heavy dose of afro-funk in and around Brooklyn, NY, go to Zebulon this Saturday night to hear Frank Voodoo Funk Gossner kick out some serious jams. To those who are unable to make it to BK this weekend, check out his preview mix to tide you over.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

101 Things to Do in Bongolia

Electric Cowbell Records is an independent record label based in Brooklyn, NY specializing in pressing the freshest new music to 45's. I first heard of Electric Cowbell when label founder Jim Thomson handed me a 45 while I was spinning at Southpaw last summer. "How'd you like a piece of vinyl?" he said as he reached across the turntables. "I'd love one," I responded. He handed me a copy of Think (Pensamiento) by Spanglish Fly backed with Let My People Bugalu and said, "That's what I thought." Not coincidentally, Superhuman Happiness was on the bill that night, the other Electric Cowbell 45 handed to me that night by Stuart Bogie.

"GMYL" | Superhuman Happiness by Calabro Music Media

Both bands are featured on 101 Things to Do in Bongolia, Electric Cowbell's first digital release compilation. Dozens of DJ's across NY could probably recount stories identical to mine. Electric Cowbell is the essence of a grassroots, guerrilla marketing, old-school indy record label. No corporate money to finance PR campaigns, fancy packaging or major distribution. They're an artist-run operation dedicated to putting out good music, plain and simple.

Bands featured on the comp include Bio Ritmo, Debo Band, CSC Funk Band, Amazing Ghost, and several more. This comp gives listeners a taste of some of the best music happening in NY today. It's like a snapshot of a musical family that stretches across genres and styles. Use it as an introduction and dig deeper into any and/or all of the bands that sound good to you. You won't be disappointed.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Interview with Blitz The Ambassador

Blitz The Ambassador is the epitome of a conscsious hip-hop artist. He describes himself as a combination of Public Enemy, Desmond Tutu and Fela Kuti. Originally from Accra, Ghana, he moved to Brooklyn after studying at Kent State University, and has quickly moved to the forefront of the class of hip-hop musicians hailing from the continent. Blitz manages to keep a foot in both worlds, maintaining a strong African identity while still bridging the gap with American audiences. His latest album, Native Sun, which features guest appearances from Les Nubians and Chuck D, is the latest in his ongoing ascent to the top of the hip-hop world. His short film with the same name is currently available online as well on the film festival circuit. I had the pleasure of speaking with Blitz several weeks ago upon his return from his European tour:

Blitz the Ambassador - Dear Africa ft. Les Nubians by embassymvmt

Free Track from Native Sun

Marc Gabriel Amigone: So you've been touring as of late over in Europe?

Blitz The Ambassador: Yea man I was in Europe for the past month or so mainly France, Germany, Switzerland, but yea man it was a great time getting around playing this music.

MGA: That's great, how was the reception over there?

Blitz: The reception's been awesome, I mean when you're playing music of any kind that people appreciate that's a huge deal for me, so I've been fortunate and lucky enough to be at a point in my career where people want to hear what I have to say so it's a good look.

MGA: Absolutely, was that your first time performing in Europe?

Blitz: No, I've been about three times, this is my forth, and every time I go it gets bigger and better. It's dope.

MGA: How would you compare your reception over there to your reception in the States?

Blitz: Obviously you're playing for people who don't live where hip-hop was born so there's always a greater appreciation, which is to be expected, you know? In America, and especially in New York, people have kind of seen it all. It's much harder to get them hyped about anything. In Europe they're just beginning to find out what hip-hop is so it's much more exciting to them especially with the live band feel, it's bigger and better.

MGA: What's the meaning of your name, Blitz The Ambassador?

Blitz: Well, first the Blitz part is really out of the style that I wanted to have. My style has always been fast-paced something that comes at you hard. That's kind of the name that after I evolved past the rapper and I realized my role in this game is much bigger than just rap I added the ambassador and that's quite obvious coming from Accra, Ghana. Not everybody's up on what's happening outside of America so I found myself in that position all the time having to kind of school people. And vice versa, back home I find myself being the liaison to what's happening outside of Ghana so I found it appropriate to name myself the ambassador putting the two of them together.

MGA: That leads me to my next question, you definitely have a foot in both words. You're an African representing the continent but you're also living in the Western-US world. Do you feel that gives you a unique perspective most people don't have?

Blitz: Absolutely man, more than a perspective it actually gives me an advantage because I'm able to have influences that most regular people don't due to my background of course. I have a new look at hip-hop that most people who grew up here don't. It's kind of like an outsider looking in. I've had a chance to scope it much wider than people who were born in it. When I first integrated here it wasn't much of an advantage because hip-hop was still in a place where it hadn't hit the stalemate where it is right now. As years have gone by, I'm realizing that's my biggest fortune, I'm able to bring something from a new perspective to hip-hop that doesn't exist currently.

MGA: Do you feel like people are opening up to more worldly sounds from different parts of the globe than they had before?

Blitz: Absolutely. It's quite obvious the reason why it is because we kind of hit a point in hip-hop where it's kind of plateaued you know? Things are not that exciting right now, so if there was ever a time where people would be curious, this is the point where they can be curious because there's something they're not up on and it's entertaining enough to be interested in.

MGA: Right and I feel like as a culture we've become more and more open to new things and cultures just because of the internet and all kinds of factors have opened people up to new ideas and things.

Blitz: You don't have to look past Barack Obama, that's the big example to me. A guy who's of African and American ancestry, half and half, ends up being the first black president. It's like the time where if anything international was going to be popular in America, this is the time.

MGA: Do you credit any other artists out there like K'Naan or Bajah that are leading the charge with you from the continent bridging the gap?

Blitz: Absolutely, man, these guys are all people that I know personally and between K'Naan, Bajah, Nneka, these are all people who have been on their grind for many years, and this thing is a movement. For me to make sense, K'Naan has to make sense, Bajah has to make sense, a lot of people have to make sense so it's important that we're all moving and striding, keeping this movement moving forward. I truly believe this is the next step, even if it's not African hip-hop, I believe it will be hip-hop with an international lean to it.

MGA: You can really hear the intentional consciousness in your music. You were talking about the IMF in one of your songs, have you ever heard another rapper reference the International Monetary Fund in one of their rhymes before?

Blitz: I mean, you know, I'm sure many people talk about these issues. These conglomerates exploit different parts of the world, not just the African continent. South Americans and other places, I'm sure if you look into Latin American rappers, the ones who have a message at least, you'll find this content. It's really about bringing this all together under one thing. That's really what this is all about. When I say a movement, I really mean that this thing has to end up congealing into one solid thing that people can put their heads around. That's the next step for us as rappers with international, global consciousness, working in conjunction with one another to fully make sure these subjects we're talking about aren't just a drop in the bucket but are part of a larger conversation people are having. I think it's an important time.

MGA: Right, I wouldn't necessarily call it a movement, but it's definitely a dynamic where the multinational corporations and the multinational organizations like the IMF and the World Bank are all working together on the same page to impose their will and it's up to us to join together to fight back against them.

Blitz: That's important stuff, man. They don't sleep, so why do we sleep?

MGA: Exactly.

Blitz: That's how I look at it.

MGA: There was one rhyme on your album, you liken yourself to a combination of Public Enemy, Fela Kuti and Desmond Tutu. I couldn't think of anyone else who would pick those three iconic images. Could you expand on that a little bit for me? What attributes from each would you say you encompass?

Blitz: Man, from Day One, Public Enemy has been the reason why I started rapping so if you want pure unadulterated hip-hop in its most raw form, you're talking PE. Fela Kuti is the other extreme, you know? He's another guy that's so unapologetic about his ideas while at the same time sonically brought the fire. And then linguistically, there's no better icon of the South African apartheid era besides of course Nelson Mandela, there's no one who's more able to speak on what's going on during those times. Linguistically, that's the Desmond Tutu in me. So it's like sonically those two parts and the vocal part. That's the equation.

MGA: That's powerful, that's three powerful images to combine like that. So tell me a little about the film Native Sun. It's a short film?

Blitz: Yes, it is a short film, we shot it in Ghana and basically it combines what's going on sonically with visuals. When we got to Ghana we tried to capture visuals that would compliment the sonics that people were hearing, so that's how we arrived at this short film.

MGA: So what are you guys trying to do with the film? Are you submitting it to film festivals, how are you putting it out there?

Blitz: Absolutely, it will be on the film circuit, and eventually it will come out as a dvd with the album so that people can see it when they purchase it.

MGA: Do you know of any specific festivals the film will be playing at so people can look for it and go check it out?

Blitz: Currently the only one is the African Film Festival in New York. It just played at BAM, we've submitted to a plethora of other places and we're just waiting to hear from them.

MGA: The thing that always blows me away when I see you perform is you come with a full ensemble with a full horn section. Is there a specific hip-hop band that inspired you to bring that paradigm or are you taking different elements from a few like you talked about before with Afrika 70 and PE and stuff like that.

Blitz: It's definitely a combination of a lot. If you see a PE show, that's what we're bringing, if you see a Roots show, that's what we're bringing, if you see a James Brown show, that's what we're bringing. For me, I'm a student of this, I spend hours dissecting, I watch videos, I watch tapes, I'm constantly focused on how can I make my band better and bigger. The reality is that we don't have a hit record, at least not yet, so when people come see you, you're expecting them to stand around for 35-50 minutes of stuff they don't know, so they have to be presented in the most in your face way and the most punchy way so they at least can't look away because it's stuff they don't know. That's the way the old Motwon cats did it. Those bands, when they put them on the road they made sure the show was impeccable because at the time none of them had a hit record. Your show is really your hit record, you know? So that's what I take it back to, I make sure the stage presence is impeccable and the sound is on point.

MGA: Right, giving people their money's worth when they come see you.

Blitz: That's it.

MGA: That's what's up man, I feel like that's a knock that people have on live hip-hop these days that it's just some cat up there and wit turntables and they've got ten dudes on stage all with microphones and they're not really performing. When you bring the live instrumental presence it really fights against that stereotype.

Blitz: That's it.

MGA: Are there any other hip-hop cats that when you go see you feel like you get your money's worth that are performing these days?

Blitz: Um yea, absolutely, The Roots are always worth the price of admission no matter when and where you see them. I mean it's a lot of the old heads, De la Soul, KRS-One still puts on one of the best live shows ever, I just came off of doing a gig with PE at Central Park Summerstage, impeccable showmanship. These guys are still on that level. At the end of the day they're still unstoppable live. Honestly I can't really name a whole lot of new guys who I can pay money for who I'm fully entertained. One person I can say I saw recently that was beyond my money's worth is Janelle Monae. I would pay extra to see her live, she brings the passion and she's a true artist.

MGA: Yea man, I haven't actually seen her live but a friend of mine saw her and said she was incredible.

Blitz: She is beyond bro, she is what the game needs to be, you know?

MGA: Is this your first or second full-length album?

Blitz: My second.

MGA: Are there any specific goals you have for this record or are you just trying to steadily keep building, and keep getting your message out there.

Blitz: Definitely it's important to make sure there's consistency in the art, but very important to me I hope this album somehow lays down some kind of foundation, some kind of blueprint, for guys like us who are of immigrant background who are trying to forge a way and trying to figure out a way to combine that background with popular music. I hope there's some kind of groundwork for that. I hope this inspires this movement that I'm talking about so we can all get together and join and work together. Those are my goals.

MGA: Are there any African artists out there you feel should be getting a bigger shine, cats you might have listened to growing up like Reggie Rockstone, if you stopped people on the street they wouldn't know who he was, but if you're a fan of African music then that's a big name to you. Are there any other cats like that out there that you wish more people knew about?

Blitz: Yea man, absolutely. There's a guy Wanlov The Kubulor, a guy named HHP from South Africa, another guy named Tumi and The Volume from South Africa who plays with a dope live band, a guy named MI from Nigeria who's super worth checking out. There's a song on my album called Wahala I feature a guy from Mexico named Bocafloja who rhymes in Spanish, a guy names Baloji who rhymes in French, he's from Belize but lives in Belgium, I feature this guy out of Brazil out of Rio, who rhymes in Portuguese, so for me it's all about trying to make sure all these guys have legitimate voices in the game. That's my goal.

MGA: So you're really trying to take the global movement approach.

Blitz: Yes sir.

Native Sun • A short film by Blitz the Ambassador & Terence Nance from MVMT on Vimeo.