SOME STUFFS: Live Fela Kuti recording from 1986 to be released

The first time I became aware of Fela Anikulapo Kuti was in one of the first issues in the first year of Spin magazine. It was discussed in a way which suggested that this was the man to listen to, and as a fan of long songs, the idea that this guy could do a song 10, 20, or more than 30 minutes on a regular basis was unheard of, at least outside of the genres I regularly listened to. Even back then, it was close to impossible to find his music. If I wanted to get his music, I either had to make a special order, which would either take one to two weeks to receive a record, only to perhaps get a response that it was OOP (out of print). Or I had to go out of town to find those records, and as someone who moved from Honolulu to a small town in the Pacific Northwest, what was a normal task to my favorite record store meant I had to deal with a mom who didn’t like to take long drives. I was a hungry music fan. Eventually, I found a store that had his CD’s, not his properly released albums but a CD that had three or four of his songs, but I bought it. Loved it, had to have more. Eventually, I bought a lot more and understood what everyone was talking about.

These days, it’s much easier to find the music of Kuti, to the point where he now has a Broadway play to his name. You can go to iTunes, Amazon, eMusic, Spotify, or wherever and hear him. Despite how much his music has been explored and reissued in the last 15 years, there’s a new album featuring a recording that most people have not been aware of.

The album is called Live In Detroit, 1986, to be released by Knitting Factory Records. The live show is from the first U.S. tour by Fela Kuti & Egypt 80, after earlier attempts to travel to North America had failed for him due to legal/governmental hassles. Before he performed at the Fox Theater, Kuti was aware that the venue was where Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder made their presence known in the 1960’s, but commanded it and the crowd in his own way, to where some felt his performance had the same vibe and importance as Michael Jackson, Bob Marley, Frank Sinatra and James Brown. Keep in mind that at the time, Kuti’s music was primarily known among deep fans of African music and college crowds who were always in tune with what they would prefer to hear that was not on mainstream radio. The image of the bad boy political rebel was a part of Kuti’s appeal, but when mixed in with music that was political, tribal, social, spiritual, and sexual, you couldn’t help but fall in love with emotions you didn’t know could feel that way. Songs on the album will include “Just Like That”, “Confusion Break Bones”, “Teacher Don’t Teach Me Nonsense”, and
“Beasts Of No Nation”.

There are fans who will battle between Kuti’s work with Afrika 70 and Egypt 80, while others feel it’s all part of a big umbrella of sound that Kuti managed to share with the world before he died.

Live In Detroit, 1986 will be released on May 8th.

FREE MP3 DOWNLOAD: “Two Syllables Volume Six” (compilation)

Photobucket First Word Records has made some outstanding music in 2011, and this compilation serves as a sampler of what has come from them so far, and what is to come. It’s called Two Syllables Volume Six, and if you’re a fan of soul, funk, jazz, reggae, dub, and hip-hop, this may be a compilation that you’ve been wanting for awhile but have not been able to find. I love the diversity these guys offer, and if they are not known to you yet, check it out. This compilation album is available for free, and you can download this as 320kbps MP3’s and FLAC lossless, so transfer to your digital device or include these in your DJ sets if you are club savvy.

If the player is now showing up below, you can click here to stream and listen, then download.

REVIEW: Ikebe Shakedown’s self-titled album

Photobucket 15 years ago, you probably wouldn’t be able to hear anyone touch or push Afrobeat into the mainstream, or even in the underground. Sure, there are a handful of DJ’s and collectors who have loved the music, but when it came to the music that Fela Kuti popularized, it was a style that you had to seek. These days it’s as common as going to your favorite section of a record store or website and going “hmmm, who should I listen to next?” Sometimes a band does it well while others tend to be going through the motions. Ikebe Shakedown do it, and other things, quite well, on their self-titled debut album (Colemine/Ubiquity).

This Brooklyn sextet know how to play and play well the kind of music that may very well be indigenous to Africa, but also takes some of its cues from the paths the music had traveled to travel to and from there. Ikebe Shakedown seem to share that journey without anyone realizing it, so what you’ll hear are sounds that Nigerian music junkies may know all too well, but you’ll also hear hints of American soul and funk that show how tightly knit all of this musics were without there being a proper connection. Is it cultural, is it social, it is uncertain but Ikebe Shakedown know that it is indeed musical that affects the mental, so when you hear these groups, they are meant to groove, get down, dance, and just stir up any room of boredom.

Personally, I love Afrobeat when it goes on the long journey, so I enjoy the Fela-type excursions when the songs are 15, 25, 35 minutes in length. For Ikebe Shakedown they do songs that are perfect for the vinyl 7″ single: mere bursts of energy that are meant to charge you, take you to a place, but leave you wanting more. I’m certain these guys take the music into deeper territory in a live setting, but I like how it’s done here. The way the album is programmed may remind some of classic blaxploitaton soundtracks of the 1970’s, where you might imaging the “airport scene”, the “driving into downtown at 3:47am scene”, or “cops suspect you have cocaine when in truth they don’t know you’re a baker who just came home with a lot of flour on your sleeves scene”. In other words, lots of textures and tonality that can move the mind into thinking any scenario, even though it’s nothing more than good music played amongst good musicians and friends.

What I also like too is how raw and primitive sounding it is. I’m not speaking of bootleg quality, but it sounds like how those old Afrobeat records sound, with rejected company equipment passed on to a foreign label studio. The recording sounds direct to analog, the mixing isn’t widely stereophonic, and the mics aren’t super sophisticated so do not expect this to sound like a super clean Lady Gaga digital production. This sounds like something from a tape library circa 1976, and it’s damn good vintage.

FREE MP3 DOWNLOAD: DJ Nu-Mark’s “Take Me With You”

DJ Nu_Mark is someone who I’ve been wanting to hear a lot more of for the last ten years. I’m a lifelong devotee of the Cut Chemist way of life, but there were moments on Jurassic 5‘s albums where I said “yes, now Nu-Mark will get some prime time shine too.” He has been relatively low-key compared to his Less Than Six partner, but he’s about to drop what is said to be the first of a number of mixes and productions to come in the new year, here’s the first.

This one is called Take Me With You, and is described as an audio guide on your musical trip around the world. This has an island/tropical feel, perfect for those of us who are suffering from the bone chilling temperatures. You can download an excerpt of it right now by clicking here (19.1mb). The full mix will be released on January 18th.

REVIEW: Richy Pitch’s “Ye Fre Mi Richy Pitch”

Image and video hosting by TinyPic Richy Pitch is a producer/DJ who has a love for all of the music he plays and collects, with a deep fascination with the music of Africa, specifically in Ghana. He spent some time there and became familiar with the local musicians, which lead to him creating an album and putting together the results. Ye Fre Mi Richy Pitch (BBE) is an album that not only shines the spotlight on his production and organizational skills, but is also shares the kind of music that makes music in itself such a powerful force.

Maybe it’s due to it being “the start of a decade”, which allows people to reflect, look back, and perhaps reconsider things. Some might argue that the 00’s was one of the worst decades in mainstream music. Even though digital technology has made it possible to obtain any and every piece of music available, there has been an infatuation with music of a low standard. It has left many to wonder if there’s something in the air. In New York City, there has been a very successful Broadway play on Fela Kuti going on. As pop music takes a nosedive, it has made people look at music and artists from the homeland, from the ultra obscure to those who have managed to gain an audience outside of their hometowns and countries. Just as hip-hop heads tapped into soul, funk, and jazz in the late 80’s and early 90’s, it seems the scope of exploration has moved further and deeper, as if it has been an unspoken way of saying “maybe something is missing, let’s go back to the essence.” It is a theme that was a major element of hip-hop music for years, and now it exists as a way to archive the music of the past in order to find music’s future.

In Pitch’s case, it’s about archiving not so much “the past”, but historical and cultural traditions. Ye Fre Mi is an album that seems to have a message that may not be obvious at first, perhaps subtle in its execution but one that is not hidden. In the music and the lyrics, there seems to be a message about “coming home”, returning to something that we as individuals may have left. It can be spiritual, emotional, or habitual, but it’s also about keeping things close to heart and believing in it and ourselves. With the sound of Africa as its core, Pitch brings together not only what Africa has influenced, but how Africa has been influenced by different sounds from other locales. “Show Me How” may sound like something fresh from the mountains of Jamaica but the horns could easily be from Detroit, or maybe Los Angeles via Brazil. “Dey Suffer”, featuring vocalist Yasmeen, sings about the sufferers around the world and how some abandon their roots in order to find some sense of better. The end result of that is seeing those roots crumble and fade away, and it’s done over a nice, club-style dance beat that you could easily mix alongside tracks by Casa Mena or Mondo Grosso.

One of the more intense tracks features MC M.anifest in “Black Star”, and what I love about the track is that it starts out like something that could be a club banger, and you want to nod your head, dance, and rotate in figure eights. The tempo slowly gets faster before it reaches a comfortable level for the first chorus, but then the tempo slows down to a pace where I was wondering “holy crap, how is M.anifest going to do this.” The closest thing I can compare this to is J-Live‘s “Them That’s Not”.

Other guests on the album talk about holding true to what makes you the person you are, how it pays to live life in a sensible manner and perhaps more importantly, enjoy life as you see it, be happy with what you have and try not to rely on false hopes. Another theme I enjoyed is the reality of growing older, being comforted in knowing it’s okay to leave certain things behind, as there are more things to enjoy and learn in the life we have ahead of us. It’s a sense of positivity that at times feels like a rarity, but it’s about stopping everything and allowing ourselves to not only pay attention to our surroundings, but to actually be in tune with ourselves. It’s rootsy, it’s very much a folk album, but there’s some funk and soul, some jazz touches, and the one thing it never forgets is to enjoy the music by letting your troubles go away, and simply dance. The production is very good and take a deep listen to how it was assembled. It might feel like a cross between Jazzanova and Quantic but after awhile the comparisons fade away and all one hears is how well this was put together.

Ye Fre Mi Richy Pitch shares the beauty of Africa through its music and words, and very much its people, with the help of a curious DJ who wanted to get closer to the source by working with them. The concept of home is different for all of us, but through this album you’re able to hear it with clarity and hope at a time when perhaps they are needed the most.

SOME STUFFS: Antibalas’ “Who Is This America?” re-released by the dope people of Rope-A-Dope

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Antibalas have gained a lot of attention in the last few years for their music and live performances, and their horn section have become, to this generation, the equivalent of the Tower Of Power, Chicago, and Earth, Wind & Fire horn sections.

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2004’s Who Is This America? pushed them outside of their core audience and into a wider realm, and now Ropeadope will be reissuing the album on August 17th with a bonus track, the previously unreleased track “Money Talks” produced by Scott “Scotty Hard” Harding. Those who purchase it through iTunes will get an additional track, “Paz”. The label will also create a limited edition CD package featuring a link to download the album, and the “Running Man” T-shirt. The limited package will be sold exclusively through Ropeadope and Antibalas’ own website.

REVIEW: Orgone’s “Cali Fever”

Image and video hosting by TinyPic Orgone‘s Cali Fever (Ubiquity) is the perfect party album for those who love their soul and funk with a hint of Afrobeat, and while that might be describing their music in the simplest terms, the music is sure to provoke its listeners into doing complex things.

When it comes to their brand of soul, Orgone seem to love the early 70’s immensely, with sounds that could have easily been pulled off of those prized records, right down to the sound of their keyboards/organs, it’s a retro-feel but not dated. When they feature songs with vocals, it sounds like Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings being pulled to a different era as the Antibalas horns decide to jam with them (which makes sense if you know what members are in both groups.) Add a sprinkling of Brass Construction in the mix and it feels like some funky disco, and all but one song will fill up the dance floors, including one track that’s a little over eight minutes (the tripped out “The Cleaner”). It feels like freedom, and Orgone is more than capable of bringing as many people as possible to their land of opportunity. Can you dig it? Yes you can.

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RECORD CRACK: Sofrito to begin new series of vinyl

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Sofrito specializes in “Heavy Afro Latin Sounds”, and are a collective who do so through creating mixes and regular DJ sets. Their love of the music goes one step higher with the start of a new series of records called Sofrito Super Singles, and they’re digging deep with major rarities that haven’t been heard about in decades. The first release will be The Soweto Disco EP, featuring songs from Teaspoon & the Waves and The Nzimande Allstars, and you can sample the tracks from the EP here.

They only say the record is coming “very soon”, but this series looks like a winner.

REVIEW: Max Wild’s “Tamba”

Image and video hosting by TinyPic Africa is a vast continent, rich with cultures and languages that are quite complex to the outsider. Its music is just as diverse, with every country having characteristics that are different from one another, indigenous in spirit but also sharing some of its many outside influences. Max Wild takes in his outsider mentality and brings it within the heart of African to create Tamba (Obliqsound).

The music is very happy and proud, and in this case it’s a mixture of jazz with pop. It is not as heavy or funky as Fela Kuti, one might argue that it may sound like tourist/resort music, or “ready made for Disney” but that would be avoiding the power of the pride of the country they sing about. It is accessible, and with songs like “Kuvakidzana” and “Rudo Rwako” you may reminisce about the first time you were exposed to African music, with a team of vocalists who sing for love, honor, pride, and simply for being. While tracks such as “Voice”, “Butterfly”, and “In Your World” may be easier for the Western tongue to say, they do not lose any of the impact these musicians and singers offer, and Wild is able to bring forth the elegance of these songs while gluing them together with his saxophone work.