This week opens with a haunting tune from Guadalcanal, then into various European takes on modern African music, mainly dancehall. Which I guess adds up to a European take on an African take on Jamaican music. As is often the case, things get darker, especially with a swerve into Shanghai intensity, but there's some Zimbabwean gospel at the end to make it all all right.
Broadcast on Dublin Digital Radio at 7pm on January 20th 2019
|'Are'are||Danses De Femmes Aate||00:00|
|Clap! Clap!||Conqueror (Action/Assault/Conquest)||04:00|
|Still||Banzina (Banzina Riddim)||13:00|
|Mina||Balafon Bata (ft Sillati)||19:54|
|Scratcha Dva||Drm Walk||35:03|
|Bad Zu||MSCW GQOM||38:33|
|Sonia Calico||Desert Trance||41:42|
|33EMYBW||Golem (Zutzut remix)||48:00|
|W. John Ondolo||Tumshukuru Mungu||53:48|
|Machanic Manyeruke & The Puritans||Ndofara||56:31|
To start - the music of the Solomon Islands. This is a brand new discovery which came as quite a revelation. The 'Are'are people live on Malaita, Guadalcanal and other parts of the Solomon Islands. They have a musical tradition of a sophistication and variety equal to anything found in this world - in particular the richness of their harmony and polyphony, the use of distinct scales and intonations for specific settings - and probably more - I've only scratched the surface. They have a variety of vocal traditions with a delicate use of harmony and phrasing. Their male polyphony rivals that of Georgia in its richness and emotion. Some of the melodies rival those of Irish music for tenderness of phrasing. And some of the pan pipe music makes me think of Beefheart at his most out-there in that it's a complex combination of parts obviously requiring skill and talent to play, but put together in a way so unique and unfamiliar that it sounds deranged and just plain wrong.
I originally discovered them through this piece:
It is an excerpt from the film by the Swiss ethnomusicologist Hugo Zemp called 'Are'are Music and Shaping Bamboo which he filmed in 1974. He also released several albums of their music which are well worth checking out. The music of this people probably deserves a post all of its own at some stage.
A big theme of this week's show appears to be Europeans with their own take on the music which is currently happening in Africa - "appears" because this was in no way planned in advance and just became apparent afterwards. But it's a good theme...
And a good place to start is with Dancehall, and Mina. She's from the UK and makes some really fun music. Plus she's been to Africa, several times - in fact is recording and gigging out there right now. Most of her collaborations with African rappers and MC's were recorded in Africa - e.g. her collaboration with Bryte.
Another dancehall collaboration between Euopean producer(s) and African MC are the Umoja/K.O.G. tracks. Umoja are Dutch and not to be confused with the South African Bubblegum star of exactly the same name. K.O.G. is from Ghana, living in the UK, and also is part of Onipa, who were featured on the show a few weeks ago.
Lisbon must be one hell of a place to go party these days what with Enchufada, Principe and the whole Lusophone diaspora . This week's show has tunes from Diron Animal and DJ LILOCOX who are both based in Portugal. The former is Angolan, The track played on the show is pretty unrepresentative, being a dark brooding percussive monster.. up until 2 minutes in where it goes in a different direction. I didn't play that bit. It's called curating. Most of his stuff bounces - for example this tune (which featured on this show before):
The Diron Animal track featured this week - Help - features that killer combination of dark European electronics over tense African percussion that is kind of a defining feature of this show. I guess it's been building for years, but especially so since Gqom exploded on the scene back in 2015 or so. It's been kind of a back and forth between Europe and Africa, a dialogue which is still going on. The show has a few more lines from this dialogue....
First, the track Conqueror (Action/Assault/Conquest). Clap! Clap! is from Italy and has some great moments - this tune is a killer mix of hard edged beats over a tribal sample - until it goes all house music for the middle bit. Also check out a great remix on his Ode to The Pleiades EP that was played on this show before.
Also Italian is STILL - who has more an art-world approach and who allegedly
follows the unearthing of the histories that connect his hometown of Vernasca to Ethiopia and Jamaica, explored under his visual arts project Invernomuto as an in-depth fieldwork lead to ‘Negus’: a series of sculptures, installations, a book, and a long-feature experimental documentary, screened at Unsound 2016."
Which is all well and good, but it does fell like maybe the source material is buried a bit too deep under the European electronics. But still... tracks like the Banzina Riddim have a fractured darkness to them that's hard to resist.
On a similar vibe is the "Moscow Gqom" of Bad Zu, (Russia, obvs). There are tracks from the album Zupreme featured. Again while the blurb talks about the "fusion of African traditional music and grime" maybe the source material is buried under the European electronics. But again, the fractured darkness is hard to resist.
Leaving Africa and disapora for a while, but staying with the intense percussion - this show has featured Tzusing a few times before - it was good to hear something so challenging coming out of China. It turns out he's not alone - there's a whole scene in Shanghai, according to this article, which at first glance seems like a load of fashion magazine nonsense, full of pictures of pretty young Chinese people pouting in impractical clothes, except that if you follow the links some of the producers are making some really out-there tunes - this podcast features two tracks from 33EMYBW from the Golem album, and one from Sonia Calico. Looks like there's a lot more worth playing from the SVBKVLT label - most likely will be a regular on this show.
Somehow fitting into the whole edgy percussive vibe are tracks from Randomer and Scratchclart aka Scratcha DVA. The former is lifted straight from a recent Arad and Friends mix on Dublin Digital Radio that I really enjoyed.
In order to bring things to a nice conclusion after things got a little dark and intense we conclude with two guitar tunes from Kenya and Zimbabwe. The African Guitar Box) is a sprawling compilation covering all of Africa - from it we have a song by Kenyan W. John Ondolo. Another player in that wonderful Kenyan tradition - George Mukabi has featured on this show before, and probably will again. Lastly we have the joyful Zimbabwean gospel of Machanic Manyeruke & The Puritans - Ndofara got a quite a bit of airplay on BBC Radio 1 in the early 90's from John Peel and Andy Kershaw. According to the wikipedia article Mechanic Manyeruke recorded his first album with the wonderful Four Brothers in 1973 - another entry on the long long list of fabled African recordings that maybe some day will be resurrected and made available.