EM Records again shines the spotlight on legendary Thai producer Surin Phaksiri in this second edition of his classic productions from the 1960s-80s. The first edition, released in 2019, focused on his innovative productions in the luk thung* style. This 2022 release features his stellar, glowing molam gems from the 60s-80s, drawn mainly from his golden era in the late 70s and early 80s. Surin Phaksiri is a highly esteemed figure in Thai music, rooted deeply in his native region of Isan in northeast Thailand, a producer with a deep respect for the traditional artistry of his culture, yet always moving forward, looking outward, listening ahead. The molam style of Thai music showcases the voice; indeed, the genre’s name means “expert singer”, and Thailand is blessed with an abundance of experts, singers with amazing control, grace, vitality and finesse.
Strut presents the first compilation of legendary Afghan Ghazal singer Dr. Mohammad Sadiq Fitrat a.k.a. Nashenas, recorded at the Radio Afghanistan Studios and later released on singles by the Royal label in Iran. Nashenas first made his move towards music aged 16 in 1951 when he approached Afghanistan’s national radio station, Radio Kabul, with an idea for a broadcast and, impressed with his language skills, they offered him a permanent job. “I was in close contact with some of the big names in Afghan music like Jalil Zaland,” Nashenas explains. “My father had a gramophone and we listened to other singers like Ustad Qasim Khan and Kundan Lal Saigal.” After unsuccessful initial forays into singing sessions for the station, he honed his skills as a writer, singer and musician, playing the harmonium. Inspired by a movie he had seen at the cinema, Nashenas wrote a new poem and sang on air again after the evening news, using the name ‘Nashenas’ (meaning ‘unknown’) for the first time. Following a wave of positive feedback from the public, he was given a new weekend slot and built his reputation through film song interpretations, famous poems set to music and his own compositions sung in Dari and Pashto. Nashenas would witness turbulent times as Afghanistan found itself caught up in the Cold War and the early ‘90s civil war until it became too dangerous to stay in the country. Through a friend in the U.N., he was able to seek asylum for himself and his family and take up residence in London, continuing to work as a musician and giving concerts globally. Most of Nashenas’ recordings during this period were only made for broadcast, later surfacing on singles through the Royal label in Iran. Life Is A Heavy Burden is compiled from these singles by Chris Menist and Mads Jensen. All tracks are remastered by The Carvery and both formats feature new liner notes including an interview with Nashenas. The album is part of the new United Sounds of Asia series curated by Chris Menist and Maft Sai of Paradise Bangkok.
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.
Outer-national dance discourses, that strive for no country and obey to no flag: when Düsseldorf based producer, Stefan Schwander creates music as Harmonious Thelonious, highly percussive rhythms, dissonances and melodic twists tango chatoyant virtuosic. All eight musical objects collected on “Instrumentals!” document a chapter in Harmonious Thelonious’s work, that left the noisy background drones behind in favor for a signature sound full of echoes of ancient rituals and ecstatic ceremonies. Eight growing outlaw music studies crammed with living, deeply haunting entities. They all came to life in different cities like Berlin, Düsseldorf, Hamburg, London or Paris, first published on labels like Asafa, Disk, The Trilogy Tapes, or Versatile. United under one roof, they unfold their magical groove symbolism, notable hypnotic harmony and agitating rhythm archetypes in a total overpowering coalition.
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.
Legendary master drummer Ivan ‘Mamão’ Conti teams up with Brazilian producer Grassmass on two experimental funk monsters of the highest order that perfectly illustrate the Azymuth founding member’s constant desire to push his signature sound towards the future. Recife born/São Paulo based bass player, producer and founder of experimental label UIVO Records Rodrigo Coelho aka grassmass is not only a long time collaborator with influential names like Naná Vasconcelos, Arto Lindsay and Ivan Conti “Mamão”, but also hosts projects with some of today’s brazilian edgiest talents Negro Leo and Thiago Nassif. Advanced Brazilian music on Rush Hour’s sister label New Dawn.
Balkan Taksim is a band known for raising a groovy-balkan storm with their intoxicating blend of sharp contemporary electronic music with Balkan psychsounds & vocals. Balkan Taksim is the corduroy-clad brainchild of Bucharest-based multi-instrumentalist/ artist Sașa-Liviu Stoianovici who, along with his electronica producer companion Alin Zăbrăuțeanu, is on a quest to inform, educate and entertain audiences around the globe about Balkan psych, roots and grooves. The project started by searching for something to link the sense of what has been with what will be. Sașa’s exploration of traditional music of the Balkans, ancient Romanian music and Slavic cultures led him to travel a lot through the region and work with local singers and musicians to record the traditional tunes he later reworked with contemporary electronica sounds, heavy bass and powerful beats. Their stylish electronic psychedelia and bass flow directly from their roots in Romania and the Balkans upstream to global dancefloors. A project that’s constantly evolving, exploring rhythms and sounds from every corner of the Balkans gently fused with electronic beats and tribal basslines. The debut album ‘Disko Telegraf’, recorded in its entirety in Sașa’s and Alin’s home studios in Bucharest during the last two years, is an emotional Balkan roller coaster which has its roots and preconception ideas many years ago when Sașa traveled alone through the Balkans, but especially through Anatolia.
Sci-Fi and library funk specialists Eleven76 return with an otherworldly breakdance double-sider. Their debut album ‘Space Voyage’ for Warner’s music library covered extra-terrestrial spheres and found its way into many films, TV programmes and documentaries. The scarce promo vinyl copies on Mocambo Records are already priced collector’s items among DJs. This 45s contains two hot slices of insect-themed outernational grooves with tropical and arabian flavours. Vintage synthesizers and hot tape-recorded drums continue to lead Eleven76’s mystique travels through unknown funk territories, all while frenzied percussion-heavy break beats keep b-girls and b-boys moving on the floor.
Modern sounds for the 21st century featuring modal, progressive and esoteric contemporary jazz. The 13th volume of the Spiritual Jazz series turns our attention to what’s happening NOW. Over the course of 24 tracks and spanning 2 x 2LPs, Jazzman presents an overview of the contemporary exponents of Spiritual Jazz; musicians who are intent on bringing something personal to the table, as much as they recognize the importance of those who have paved the way for them. This is music recorded within the past 20 years and from 15 different countries, including modern classics from veterans Steve Reid and Idris Ackamoor, providing a vital link between the past masters and the enlightened new generation. It’s pioneers such as John Coltrane, Sun Ra, Pharoah Sanders et al, with their innovations in reaching another plane of consciousness that was and remains uppermost in the minds of exponents of Spiritual Jazz. Fittingly, several of the artists featured on this compilation, such as Cat Toren and David Boykin, are practitioners of the art of music therapy and sound healing, and have absolute conviction in the role of song as solace. The pioneers may no longer be with us, but their saintly selves loom large, shining a light in the darkness, inspiring many a brave new disciple today, as this album will testify: the new wave of jazz is gathering pace and still sounds fresh, vibrant and as relevant as ever.
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.”
Legendary Turkish psych innovators Moğollar grace the Artone Studios in Haarlem for a masterclass in the original Anadolu psych roots, cutting a compendium of their rawest hits and most-wanted psychedelic rock classics. Formed at the end of 1967 with five young musicians, Moğollar were the original Anadolu psych originators. They were the first Turkish pop band who tried to blend the microtonal folklore and traditional instruments of rural Anatolia with Western pop and rock; they were the first Turkish psychedelic band to achieve overseas recognition. More than fifty years after first forming, Moğollar materialised in the Artone Studios to give a masterclass in fuzzed-out folklore and Turkish psychedelic roots for Night Dreamer’s Direct-to-Disc series – a fitting follow-up to Night Dreamer’s BaBa ZuLa set, coming straight from the group who laid the foundations of the genre. For this Night Dreamer session, Moğollar spent two days in the Artone studios, recording sides A and B on the first day, and C and D on day two. With BaBa ZuLa’s Murat Ertel adding contemporary sonic punch behind the boards, the band revisited their most renowned hits to lay down energised new versions, and dusted off some of the most sought-after cuts from their enormous catalogue. The result is a showcase set by a band that are one of true pioneers in global psychedelic rock, and a masterclass in the true roots of the Anadolu psych sound: fuzzed-out, committed, and straight from the source.
If you’ve ever travelled to Egypt and wandered through its crowded streets, you probably ended up buying a cassette or a CDR of popular synth based music heard in most cabs, cabarets, or alleys around town: the almighty Shaabi. Raed Yassin and Paed Conca based their project PRAED on research between Shaabi and Mouled (traditional trance music from Egypt) and the hypnotic structures of both these genres. Repetitive beats, loud Mizmar and loads of energy, with a strong influence from psychedelic rock, free jazz and electronica. During the years in which the duo produced 4 albums and performed on an endless number of stages around the globe, PRAED started working on anambitious expansive project: an orchestra that could transpose this study of rural and popular culture into an immense, iconic work. In autumn 2018, supported by the Sharjah Art Foundation, PRAED Orchestra! premiered “Live in Sharjah”, interpreting new material merged with some of the band’s iconic pieces. The composition process started with the choice of musicians: the line-up consisted of some of the most innovative artists coming from a wide spectrum of musical practices. Each musician was chosen for a defined role, and the common denominator was their capacity to interpret written material, and their ability to improvise effortlessly. Each role was clearly set to work in unison with the rest of the group, while simultaneously sustaining a centrality in the choir. Solo parts masterfully drawn over the structure as a fil rouge connecting every piece of the entire concert; massive and powerful orchestral sections leading to a breathtaking trance-like state of mind; all of this material ultimately coalescing into an Egyptian Operette that narrates the sorrow, love, and deeply rooted culture of this urban music called Shaabi.
Anna Vs June is the alias of Anna Papaioannou a contemporary music composer from Greece. She captures the perfect balance between electronic and traditional sounds, representing her western and eastern musical influences. Having traveled extensively in rural areas around Greece, she has gathered diverse singing practices from a wide range of areas stretching from the island of Crete to the North East edges of Epirus. In the third release of the newcomer Yalanchi, Anna comes into the picture to share her musical interpretation of growing up in a country that is constantly experiencing an identity crisis. Encompassing her aforementioned research, all tracks on the record are based on traditional music from different parts of Greece, featuring the voices of Anna herself, in addition to guest performances by Stephanos Theodoropoulos from Nea Kios, Nikos Mais-Zogos from Lefkada and Alexis Voutouris with a violin performance.
Hailing from the Voodoo backwoods of Benin, Oladele Franck Komolou, founded the band Frankosun And The Family in Helsinki 2013. Since then, the band has conquered peoples hearts with their amazing music, shows and energy. Heavily influenced by the rhythms and history of the Nago. The word “Nago” derives from the word “Anago”, a term Fon-speaking people use to describe Nago – Yoruba speaking people residing in Benin. The Nago–Yoruba community is characterized by the masked dance called Guèlèdè – a special dance rich in songs, music, epic and lyrical poems under the rhythms, and sounds of tam-tams. The band excellently combines 70’s and 80’s style beninese and nigerian afrobeat with afrofunk and afrorock.
”Joseph Van Het Groenewoud”, who would later become known as ”Nico Gomez”, was a musician & composer from the Netherlands. He spent his youth in the Antilles, Cuba and other islands of the Caribbean, which had an unmistakable influence on his music. As a passionate musician and skilled guitarist he was familiar with the typical rhythms and melodies of this region. Later he returned to the Netherlands, before fleeing from there to Belgium in 1946 to escape from serving in the Dutch army in Indonesia. From then on he called himself ”Nico Ooms”. It’s said that he was so obsessed with Cuban music that he changed his name to ”Nico Gomez” – in any case, the name fit better with the Latin American music he brought to the stage. ”Baila Chibiquiban” is a killer cut, which is now finally available again on 7” single. The original version is complemented by a great edit by Frenchman ”Tonton Boom” (aka ”Mr. Boom”).