In 2020, Sahel Sounds hosted a project called Music from Saharan WhatsApp. This series consisted of ephemeral digital EPs, documenting live performances by some of the most exciting acts in the Sahel playing music, including Nigerién techno, wedding rock, Woodabe guitar, WZN, traditional music, Mandingue music, and more. Responding to an open call from our network of artists, musicians recorded a handful of tracks on their cellphone and sent them over the popular mobile app WhatsApp. Each session was hosted for a month on Bandcamp and sold on a sliding scale, with all profits wired directly to the musicians. After a month, the EP would disappear, replaced by another one. Now, some of the label’s favorite tracks from this series are collected for the first time outside of Bandcamp as the Music from Saharan WhatsApp compilation LP. This LP features tracks by established Sahel Sounds artists such as Etran de L’Aïr, Hama, Alkibar Jr, Amaria Hamadaler (of Les Filles de Illighadad), and artists new to the label like Bounaly and Andal Sukabe.
E&S Brothers’ 1985 album Taduma holds a unique yet overlooked place in the history of South African dance music. When Shadrack Ndlovu and Ernest Segeel teamed up with Dane Stevenson, owner of Blue Tree Studio in downtown Johannesburg, and journeyman producer Taso Stephanou, South Africa’s bubblegum era had just begun, spurred on by the success of Shangaan disco. The relative success of their debut 12” ‘Don’t Bang The Taxi Door’, marketed aggressively at taxi ranks throughout the country, helped put the Blue Tree label on the map and E & S were invited back to record a full album: Taduma, featuring on keyboards Dr Buke, an in-demand session player from Soweto.
E&S Brothers’ 1985 album Taduma holds a unique yet overlooked place in the history of South African dance music. When Shadrack Ndlovu and Ernest Segeel teamed up with Dane Stevenson, owner of Blue Tree Studio in downtown Johannesburg, and journeyman producer Taso Stephanou, South Africa’s bubblegum era had just begun, spurred on by the success of Shangaan disco. The relative success of their debut 12” ‘Don’t Bang The Taxi Door’, marketed aggressively at taxi ranks throughout the country, helped put the Blue Tree label on the map and E&S were invited back to record a full album: Taduma, featuring on keyboards Dr Buke, an in-demand session player from Soweto. Rooted in Africa, yet purely electronic, Taduma was a moderate hit, spurred by tracks like ‘Taxi Door’ and ‘Mhane’, its hypnotic refrain ‘Mhane, famba na wena’ meaning ‘Mother, I am going to you’. Other tracks like ‘Mapantsula’ and ‘Be Careful’ place Taduma within the street-savvy ‘pantsula’ style and dance synonymous with consecutive waves of music from disco to kwaito, house and beyond, while ‘Sikele Masike’ repurposes a traditional Shangaan work song. Vocally E & S are closer to rapping than singing, in a combination of English and vernacular – predating other credited pioneers of kwaito in SA like Senyaka and Spokes H. Driving the music instead of vocals are waves of searing synths over rudimentary but explosive drum machine sounds – the word ‘Taduma’ meaning the sound of the drum.
Not much is known about the mysterious pop sensation Vumani or his short musical career. Originally from KwaZulu Natal he made his way to Johannesburg in the mid 80’s to follow his dream of becoming a recording artist. He was able to make that dream come true when talent scouts from Decibel Music came across the charismatic youngster. At the time Decibel was still a small fish trying to make waves and the label believed in Vumani they had found the star they were looking for. Being a label with mostly groups signed to the catalog they needed a Front Man to push into the growing demand for Solo Artists that were dominating the airwaves and catching the hearts of youngsters. In 1896, they released two singles by Vumani, Black Mampatile and Guy Fawkes. Both singles were received well and a few more tracks were later recorded to create the full album Isiqedakoma.
Kalita unveil the first ever album reissue of one of – if not the – strongest South African kwaito/bubblegum albums in existence, Jivaro’s 1989 masterpiece ‘Saturday Fever’. A super strong South African bubblegum album with that characteristic infectious bassline sound all over. Also includes two synth-heavy reggae numbers. Produced, arranged and composed by Victor Ndlovu, with backing vocals by Beleoi Khamsule and Magengenene sisters Lizy and Ntsaleni.
Dick Essilfie-Bondzie was all ready for his 90th birthday party when the Covid pandemic hit. The legendary producer, businessman and founder of Ghana’s mighty Essiebons label had invited all his family and friends to the event and it was the disappointment at having to postpone. That prompted Analog Africa founder Samy Ben Redjeb to propose a new compilation celebrating his contributions to the world of West African music. Essiebons Special features a selection of obscure workouts from some of the label’s heaviest hitters, including a 12-page booklet. But in the course of digitizing his vast archive of master tapes, Essilfie-Bondzie found a number of Afrobeat and Instrumental masterpieces tracks from the label’s mid-70s golden age that, for one reason or another, had never been released. Those songs are included here for the first time. Sadly Essilfie-Bondzie passed away before the compilation was finished. But his legacy lives on in the extraordinary music that he gave to the world in his lifetime.
Arp Frique’s second album on Colorful World, exploring the globe via a concoction of sounds that takes in disco, synth boogie, funk and the sounds of the Caribbean, West and East Africa. The result is an album that feels potently alive, sonically exploring the globe via a concoction of sounds that takes in disco, synth boogie, funk and the sounds of the Caribbean, West and East Africa. The album radiates the feeling of a lost gem, the kind that a crate digging aficionado may find in some far flung place that ends up with a re-release. Whilst Arp Frique expresses a real fondness for such classic sounds – “honestly I wouldn’t even know how to make modern stuff, I am stuck in the 70-80-90s and I love it there” – a tired exercise in retro nostalgia this isn’t. Instead, the album feels more like a fresh take on sounds that once ignited dance floors across the world.
The first new album from Les Filles de Illighadad in four years At Pioneer Works is the highly anticipated new album by the Tuareg Avant-rock group. Les Filles de Illighadad recorded the album in Brooklyn at the tail end of a two-year-long world tour. At Pioneer Works finds Les Filles at the height of their powers, creating a sound that transcends all known genres. This is a heavy and meditative set of music from one of the world’s most exciting bands.
Analog Africa presents their 32nd compilation, “Cameroon Garage Funk”, highlighting Yaounde’s 1970’s underground music scene. The quest to assemble the puzzle-pieces of what seemed to be a long lost underground scene took us to Camroon, Benin and further on to Togo and it was in the cities of Cotonou, Lome and Sotouboua that we managed to lay our hands on most of the songs presented in this compilation. Since there were no local labels, no producers, and almost nothing in way of infrastructure in Cameroon at that time, the artists had to be everything: musician, producer, executive producer, arranger, financier, promoter and sometimes even distributor. The sixteen tracks on Cameroon Garage Funk pulse with raw inspiration and sweat DYI mood uniting the featured diverse musicians around their willingness to do everything themselves in order to take a chance in the music scene.
Getatchew Mekurya is probably the most revered veteran of Ethiopian saxophone. A real giant, both physically and musically. Not only is he at the very top level of Ethiopian saxophonists, but he is the ‘inventor’ of an extremely distinctive musical ‘style.’
Alèmayèhu Eshèté is no less than one of the great voices of the heyday of modern Ethiopian music, the swinging sixties which, in this country, went on until the fall of the Emperor Haile Sellassie 1 in 1974. On a par with Tlahoun Gèssèssè, Bzunèsh Bèqèlè or Mahmoud Ahmed, Alèmayèhu is a star at the top level of the constellation that once lit up the wild nights in the capital.
A banging South African bubblegum tune, with house club mix on the flip! The start of the 90’s brought the final wave of House music that would cement it as the future of South Africa’s music scene. In the years leading up to the new decade, Disco had already naturally evolved into the very early stages of what would become South Africa’s signature House sound, with Instrumentals and Dub Mixes earning themselves spots on the Pantsula records leading the charts of the late 80s, it would be an influx of remixes appearing on import singles that would make the “House mix” the premier b side sound for those bubblegum artists trying to stay relevant in the 90’s.
Kumasi, New Orleans’ own 14-piece Afrobeat orchestra, is back with their third LP and first live record. After two private-press releases, Kumasi is presenting Live at Marigny Studios to an international audience for the first time via Hiatt dB’s New Orleans-based Mystery Zone Records. Live at Marigny Studios, features 4 original compositions: jazz-centric interpretations of Fela’s classic form that incorporate rhythms and sentiments from New Orleans and the surrounding Afro-diaspora, namely Cuba, Haiti, and Brazil. It’s a bold effort that perfectly captures the infectious mix of heavy rhythms, spontaneous, improvisatory musicianship, and inclusive, participatory style that characterize Kumasi as a group, as well as Afrobeat as a whole.
Official replica re-issue of a South African jazz-funk rarity from Teaspoon & The Waves. Released in 1977 on Soul Jazz Pop, a subsidiary label of Mavuthela Music Company / Gallo, Teaspoon & The Waves’ self-titled album is an absolute masterpiece. Best known for the song ‘Oh Yeh Soweto’, which is an astonishing adaptation of Lamont Dozier’s anthem ‘Going Back to My Roots’, this track has become a contemporary underground club classic in recent times and has been featured in sets from a cross-section of DJs. ‘Saturday Express’ is a jazz-funk/disco stomper which will soon be lighting up dancefloors again. ‘Wind and Fire’ is true afro-jazz-funk excellence, with great spacey synths and reggae-inspired guitar grooves riding throughout. The opener, ‘Friday Night’, also has a slightly reggae-tinged tropical groove, whilst ‘Got Me Tight’ finishes off the session with a feel-good jazz-funk workout that features cool, quirky, Patrick Adams-esque synths.
Nahawa Doumbia’s new album Kanawa concisely captures this current moment in Malian history. The singer, whose storied career spans more than four decades, reflects on the immigration crisis from the Malian perspective in the title of her new album Kanawa. Across eight songs recorded in Bamako with a band including traditional and modern instruments, Doumbia merges her early work that relied on a spare expression of her trademark didadi rhythm with the bombastic range of contemporary Malian pop. The beautifully complex musical accompaniment that results is courtesy of the large ensemble she pulled together with producer and arranger (and day one collaborator) N’gou Bagayoko. The band features two highly expressive Malian string instruments, the ngoni and the slightly smaller kamalé ngoni, as well as a variety of percussion, drum programming, karignan (a metal scraper) and acoustic and electric guitars. Doumbia weaves together a roadmap of her psyche when it comes to the good and bad life has to offer. She talks about marriage and women leaving home to join another through the metaphor of a tree in the garden; she includes gunshot samples in the song “Foliwilen” to honor the bravery of hunters, soldiers and other courageous people; she uses a bird in “Djougoh” to talk about lazy people; and, in “Ndiagneko” she advises people to ignore critics, just do you. Mali has gone through an intense period of regional strife and terrorist incidents over the last ten years and Doumbia roots the album in tragic local concerns with deep global implications.
“The meaning of Kanawa is so simple. We see our children trying to cross the ocean all the time. I said that many of our children die in the ocean and some of them die while crossing the Sahara. But I ask them why do they leave their country? They said that they leave because of the family situation or problems like poverty and unemployment. I ask them to stay and work in their country. I call on the UN and African leaders so that we can coordinate our efforts to find a solution, to create jobs for them so that young people stop leaving. That’s why I chose it as the title of my album so that everybody can learn from it and also so that there is a reduction in the number of people emigrating. So that some will hear the message and stay home and grow the land. Leaving is not the only solution. My message is to help the youth find jobs.”
Strut present the brand new album from Alostmen, led by Stevo Atambire, a band at the forefront of kologo music in Ghana. Formed by Stevo and Wanlov The Kubolor (Fok’n Bois) at the suggestion of co-producer Percy Yip Tong, Alostmen’s music is based around the Frafra traditions of the kologo, a stringed lute and uses purely traditional instrumentation in entirely new ways. “I always like to do something “out” withmy instrument, I like to force it to work,” explains Stevo. “I’m a yout’man and into different kinds of music: commercial, rap music, reggae, Malian sounds. I add all of it to the band’s sound in different ways.” Wanlov continues, “The kologo is traditionally played a certain way but Stevo will play it at the shortest end of bridge and accentuate, almost Hendrix-style! He plays with a pedal sometimes and can keep it an octave down with a bass sound. He has evolved the instrument in his own way.”
Created in Brussels in 2015, Azmari is a weaving musical odyssey that expertly fuses ethiogroove, dub, psychfunk and eastern sounds. Azmari, literally “one who praises” in Amharic, is an Ethiopian singer-musician, comparable to the European bard or the West African griot often accompanied with a masenqo – one-stringed fiddle or krar – lyre, two traditional ethiopian instruments. The nine tracks that make up debut album ‘Sama’i’, released via Sdban UItra, is a deeply hypnotic experience where mesmerising rhythms and winding improvisations send the listener in to a higher state of consciousness. From the magical sax of album opener ‘Zegiyitwali’, to the dubby template of ‘Cosmic Masadani’ and joyous horns of ‘Kugler’, Azmari seamlessly blend African and oriental melodies with effortless precision, providing a fresh take on the ethiojazz sound. Elsewhere, the heavy, rhythmic sounds of ‘Tariq Al Sahara’ and the mystical and cosmological ‘Azalai’ continue our sacred journey full of raging saxes and wig-out percussion, while the free-spirited, trippy ‘Kadikoy’ coming in at nine minutes in duration, lends a trance-like quality to proceedings where psychedelic jazz meets afro-funk.
Two deep sought after sultry late eighties South African house-inspired nuggets finally brought back to light.
Presented in collaboration with Sheba Sound, and originally released on the ‘Eastern Connections’ this compilation was Paradise Bangkok’s first foray into East African music. This album presents a selection of contemporary recordings from Ethiopia, an ancient country where incredible musical traditions have been brewing for centuries, unbeknownst to much of the Western world. The Horn of Africa nation is most often associated with the famous Ethio-Funk sounds produced during the latter years of the Imperial era, which lasted until 1974. But in this defiant culture – Ethiopia was the only African state never to be colonised by Western powers – the golden age for music never ended, despite decades of war and social upheaval. Ethiopia is home to over 80 ethnic groups, each with its own deep-rooted language and culture. Contemporary musicians living outside Addis Abeba, the capital, have little opportunity to record their mesmerizing sounds. Sheba Sound is redressing this by recording and releasing high-end audio music of local stars. So far, Sheba Sound have recorded more than 25 groups in ‘pop-up’ studios across Ethiopia.
Habibi Funk’s 13th outing is a release by Sharhabil Ahmed, the actual King of Sudanese Jazz (he actually won that title in a competition in the early 1970s). Sonically it sounds very different from what Jazz is understood to sound like outside of Sudan. It’s an incredible unique mix of rock’n’roll, funk, surf, traditional Sudanese music and influences from Congolese sounds.