MAGIC MIX

world . african . latin

WEEK STARTING 15 Nov

Genre pick of the week Cover of Antoinette Konan by Antoinette Konan.
It makes sense that Antoinette Konan’s eponymous album features nothing more than her ahoko on the cover. The deceptively simple traditional percussion instrument transformed Ivory Coast’s Baoulé music scene when Konan deployed it against a roaring electrified backdrop of synth, bass guitar and drum machines. Released in 1986, the album is a veritable UFO of instrumental force and contemporary pop sensibility landing in a boiling pot of diverse, creative characters inhabiting Abidjan, Ivory Coast (Côte d’Ivoire). Known as the “Queen of the Ahoko” among Ivorians, Konan singlehandedly put the central-Ivorian instrument on the map when she gave it a 20th-century re-introduction. The three-piece wooden idiophone is handmade from a thin, ribbed, flexible stick, against which a smaller chunk of wood is rhythmically scraped.

A hollow nutshell held in the non-scraping hand amplifies and manipulates the resulting overtones. Despite the ahoko's diminutive appearance, Konan and her powerful voice have remained at the forefront of Ivorian music for decades now, in an extremely diverse country—approximately 70 indigenous languages—with a competitive, internationally-recognized music industry. Music plays an important role in Baoulé cultural life, heard and seen in festivities, funerals and more. They are the largest ethnic group in Côte d’Ivoire and descend from Akan peoples who migrated from presentday central Ghana. Baoulé vocal music is characterized by polyphony, melodies built on parallel thirds and call-and-response. All of this can be heard in Konan’s music. Konan’s fingerprints are all over Antoinette Konan, she says, as it was meant to be a highly personal recording. She wanted to portray the suffering, injustice, frustrations, humiliations, personal career struggles, experience of child birth and poverty she sees in society. Taking on the producer role for the first time, Konan was the architect of her dancefloor-ready neo-traditional sound. But crucial to the recording was arranger Bamba Moussa Yang. A creative and versatile musical mind who was known for his work with legendary Ivorian singer Ernesto Djedje, Konan met him in 1986 after she had already released two albums.

Yang brought a touch that matched Konan’s expectations, she says, because he knew her work so well. As she reflects on her long career today, Konan remembers Yang as her favorite arranger. Over the years Konan’s popularity grew to the upper echelons of Ivorian society: Ivory Coast’s first president Felix Houphouet Boigny’s would regularly invite Konan to perform at official ceremonies with foreign dignitaries. Through her charity and advocacy work on behalf of female musicians, Konan is still a force in the country’s music community. You can see her performing or speaking on television and around the country all the time—yet she still maintains several entrepreneurial projects in the farming sector. Konan has recorded more than 15 albums so far and plans more recordings soon

Elite digger, Redlight runner and Music From Memory man Abel Nagengast takes the controls for the latest offering on Passport To Paradise, sharpening his scalpel and applying expert edit pressure to a quartet of killers from his cavernous vaults. "African Sheikh"  sets our heels in motion with a glorious combination of chanted African vocals, tunnelling acid-boogie bass and the occasional blast of funk organ. If you're looking for a peaktime pearl for your next left-of-centre set, you've just found it. Solid percussion, body moving bass and tribal psychedlia come together wonderfully for a floorfiller which I can hear Harvey, Marco, MDCE, Floating Points, KDJ etc, etc playing - must have! Next up, "Impossible" shocks us with 1000 volts of euro-lectro energy, harnessing crunchy Bobby O synth sounds, body popping percussion and a rolling synth bass to get the party in a headspin. Throw in some perfectly naff vocals and you've found a winner. Onto the B-side and "Confusion" keeps the good stuff coming with a steady 4/4, slick bass work and some suitably wiggy guitar work. Minimal and nocuturnal, this slick bit of street soul utlises gently vocoded vocals and tape chewed synth lines to reach the sleazy synth funk heights you'll hear in the equally dope Avant Garde record on Spacetalk. Next up, "Impossible" sticks with the 80s aesthetic, this time taking us on a slow boat through some strung out fusion delight. Reverb soaked drums, limber bass work and chorus heavy guitars form the perfect backdrop for the breathy vocals and suspicious chimes which lend this number a delightful City Pop mystique. Unsurprisingly, it's all killer, no filler from the Redlight man.

STAFF COMMENTS

Patrick says: Heavy cosmic, Afro killers and Balearic manoeuvres from Redlight man Abel Nagengast here on Passport To Paradise - it sold out in an instant last time out, so make sure you don't nap again.

Peter King

Omo Lewa - Reissue

    Super-funky business from Nigerian-born multi-instrumentalist, Peter King; fuses funk, jazz and highlife vibrations. ‘Omo Lewa’ follows his ‘Miliki Sound’ album, also available on Mr Bongo. Recorded in London, originally released in 1976 by Orbitone, this is one of his finest records.

    Second release on Mister T and it's a highly electrified trip into Brazil as Mundo edits up another veritable selection of his country's disco musica...

    "Jangada" opens proceedings with a fiery workout containing flanged guitar chops, vocal chants and chorused bass, encapsulating the in-the-pocket grooves prevalent across the continent.

    "Infernal" takes a step back further in time stylistically, tapping up that original late 70s vibe perfectly with its heavily orchestrated arrangement and emotive chord changes; again further elevated with a fabulous vocal section.

    "Melo Do Camelo" canters in with all the buzz of the party, an electric arpeggio and 4/4 disco drums perfectly highlighting the south American vocal inflections and buoyant keyboard work. If you've ever caught the legend that is Neil Diablo DJ'in in recent weeks - you'll already be familiar with this catchy jam!


    STAFF COMMENTS

    Sil says: Three heavily Brazilian cuts quantized and curated just for you. Digging for edits seems to never stop!

    Aside from his brief inclusion on Light in the Attic’s "Kankyō Ongaku: Japanese Ambient, Environmental & New Age Music 1980-1990" (compiled by Empire of Signs’ Spencer Doran), Horizon presents this work outside of Japan for the first time.

    Remastered from original tapes in cooperation with the artist .

    Almost completely unknown in the west, Masahiro Sugaya has been composing and producing music since the 1980s in an exceptionally wide range of fields and practices. From arrangements for musical acts like the acoustic guitar duo Gontiti to acousmatic diffusion at spaces like Paris’s Groupe de Recherches Musicales (GRM), Sugaya’s reach is almost exhaustive in its breadth, but it was in the 80s bubble-era kankyō ongaku scene that he first found his musical voice. Horizon, Volume 1 presents a window into these works, culled from Sugaya’s early scores for experimental Tokyo theatre group Pappa Tarahumura.

    As a teenager, Sugaya would visit the avant garde hub of record/book shop Art Vivant run by Satoshi Ashikawa of Sound Process, guided by Ashikawa’s recommendations into the worlds of experimental composition, jazz and ethnographic music. It was there he also met musician Yoshio Ojima—the two would become close friends and contemporaries, working within a circle of Tokyo musicians that also included Midori Takada, Hiroshi Yoshimura and Satsuki Shibano. Ojima, an early adopter of new musical technology, would introduce Sugaya to the possibilities of composing with computers, synthesizers and samplers, which would become a trademark in Sugaya’s early works. Surprisingly, the sound sources on Horizon are entirely digital, showcasing Sugaya’s ability to organically recreate complex musicianship approaches via keyboard using hyper-realistic samples. Much like Ojima and Yoshimura’s work, the results eschew electronic music’s usual coldness for something more warm and inviting, the feeling of a human in deep conversation with technology.

    Flourishing within the boom of experimental theatre subsidized by corporations during the bubble economy, Pappa Tarahumura forged a unique dream-like style that merged performance art, modern dance and fantastical installation-like stage sets. Sugaya fashioned multiple soundtracks for their productions in collaboration with director Hiroshi Koike, the first two of which, The Pocket Of Fever_ (熱の風景) and Music From Alejo_ (アレッホ – 風を讃えるために), he self-released in 1987 on cassette, handing them out at Tarahumara performances. The third, The Long Living Things (Zoo Of The Sea) (海の動物園) followed in 1988 as a CD on Yukio Kojima’s ALM records. 


    Emotional Rescue completes its trilogy exploring the music of Vox Populi with "Alternatif Realisme", highlighting the music that followed 1989's "Aither" (ERC030) as they transitioned from ethno-industrial roots towards a more expressive "world" sound, until the band's dislocation in 1994.

    The band's development saw original members Axel Kyrou (electronics), Mitra (vocals) and Arash Khalatbari (percussion) augmented by a number of guest musicians, bringing an energy to their spontaneous recordings sessions at their studio.

    The additional vocals of Dierdre Dubous is indicative of this change. Her onomatopoeia singing features heavily, lending songs "Letsam La", "Chaque Jour Est Un Bon Jour" and the ethereal "She Walks So Easily Across The Sky" a hypnotic beauty which perfectly compliments the soaring vocals of long time member Mitra, who steals the show on "Chaque Jour Est Un Bon Jour", "Razaye Axel Jube Hast" and closing paean "Chirine". Surrounding instrumentals - often built out of long improvisational jamming - provide an irresistible backdrop to the vocal numbers. "Soleymani Dub" with its Laswell dub groove is a clear stand out, while the melodics of "Vapanda's Electric Garden" come on like a wonderful Woo outtake.

    Largely unreleased, the recordings were a step outside of the changing shift towards a more digital sound. The album captures Vox Populi! mixing their atmospheric mastery with heartfelt arias, both familiar and completely unique.

    In the 1950s, a few young men, known as Badius, embarked on a nearly 2,500-mile (4000 km) journey from the northern rural interior of Cabo Verde’s Santiago Island to the island of São Tomé off the Atlantic coast of central Africa. They made the arduous journey and worked for years not to earn a better living or send money back home — but to simply buy an accordion, locally known as a gaita. Returning home, they slowly formed an elite class of self-taught gaita players. The gaita became the maximum expression of Badiu identity, one defined over centuries by a persistent culture of revolt and rebellion against domination and injustice. In a land lacking electricity, the acoustic instrument is king. Mastery of a hard-won instrument gave birth to raw Funaná music, undoubtedly a sibling of Cumbia. Hypnotic notes on aged accordions tuned and flavored in ways found nowhere but Santiago infused with inviting baselines, raucous rhythms, blade-on-iron percussion, and the bubbling lyricism and lament of the island’s finest ambassadors. Their music was outlawed under colonial rule, with strict curfews to prevent large, potentially subversive gatherings since Funaná was dance music meant for large crowds, centered on one of the many star gaiteiros. Yet, naturally defiant, Badiu Funaná continued unfazed at the risk of arrest and detention. Funaná remained an isolated style, largely an affair for Badiu ears only. This compilation distills eight tracks from a short period in the late ‘90s when cherished pioneers, who risked everything give their proud culture a sound, got their one chance in a recording studio. Pour yourself a grog, Cabo Verde’s local moonshine made from sugarcane crushed by bulls, imbibe responsibly, listen carefully, and dance recklessly.



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