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Archive for the ‘Nigeria’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: MDOU MOCTAR-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #213 (May 24, 2021).

Mdou Moctar has been getting some well deserved recognition lately.  It’s pretty great to see a Nigerian performer, who plays distinctly Nigerian style music making an impression on American audiences.

Of course, since I’m contrary, I’m more attracted to Moctar’s drummer who is playing a calabash–in this case red object that looks like a turtle shell and makes a remarkable range of sounds.  But really the focus should be on Moctar’s guitar playing.

Get ready for some fiery desert guitar-shredding, Saharan style, with the music of Mdou Moctar. Producer and American bassist Mikey Coltun told me that “the concert was filmed outside of the house we were all staying at in Niamey, Niger, in November/December 2020.” He continued, “As with any sort of musical happenings in the region, once some music is blasted, that’s an invitation for anyone to come join, sing, clap, dance, and just come together as a community. We wanted to present the Tiny Desk exactly like this, from when we started playing to finally the energy growing with fans crowded around filming on their cell phones and passing around Tuareg tea.”

And so, the four musicians, seated on a blanket (designed with oversized roses) with amps on either side, start playing with no fanfare.

The (home) concert starts off with Mahamadou Souleymane, a.k.a. Mdou Moctar, playing a melodic line on acoustic guitar, with Ahmoudou Madassane on rhythm guitar, Souleymane Ibrahim playing percussion on a calabash, and Mikey Coulton on his Fender Mustang bass on the song “Ya Habibti” from the album Afrique Victime. It’s an album of songs dealing with intense subjects close to Mdou Moctar’s heart: colonialism, exploitation, inequality, but also love.

The song almost feels like a drone because the bass and rhythm pretty much never change throughout.  The drumming is muted–effective but never sharp.  And Moctar’s voice and lead guitar work is subtle.  I’m sure since I don’t understand what he’s singing (which sounds pretty intense), I find his voice very soothing.

“Tala Tannam” follows in the same pattern–except the bass is even less mobile and the way Moctar sings it feels like a lullaby.  The best part is watching Ibrahim and Coltun clearly enjoying themselves–smiling to each other and even hugging at one point.  It’s hard to know how long these songs are as they seems to just go until they stop, but this one does have a deliberate ending.  It’s when he puts down his acoustic and grabs the electric guitar.

You can hear the real musical fire on the last song, the roughly 7-minute psych-rock title track to Afrique Victime. “Africa is a victim of so many crimes,” Mdou Moctar sings in French. “If we stay silent, it will be the end of us.” Silence is not something in Mdou Moctar’s vocabulary.

Moctar’s soloing was subtle on the other songs, but you can really here it standing out with this sharp electric guitar sound.  It’s nice to watch his fingers fly around the neck. There’s some guitar god moments in the soloing–including some finger tapping–but having him seated and equal with everyone else, the solos never seem showoffy.  I also like the way the song speeds up incrementally as it goes–mostly notable by how fast Ibrahim is suddenly hitting the calabash.

[READ: June 10, 2021] Losing the Girl

This final book of the trilogy was a little disappointing for me.

I don’t know what I was expecting, but I feel like there wasn’t enough resolution for anyone.

The book opens on Nigel.  Claudia has shown up to tutor him in math.  He is so smitten he writes a poem that he submits for class.  He calls it “Teacher” and his teacher assumes it is about her.  I can’t even believe that he would submit a poem with the line “teach me how to make puppy love turn into doggy style”  (Nigel is so clueless).

Next we see Brett at his mother’s funeral.  Johanna tries to comfort him but he blows her off demanding to know why she didn’t tell him about her and Paula.  They smooth things over and she asks if his father knows that his mother died.  He says no, he hasn’t talked to his father in a long time.  Jo says her mother might know how to get in touch with him.

The next section is about Darren.  He is by himself remembering how his father hurt his mother and how he doesn’t want to repeat the cycle. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BLACK COFFEE-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #180 (March 11, 2021).

Black Coffee is such an excellent name.  And yet the music he creates is nothing like what I was expecting.

Born in Durban and raised in the Eastern Cape in Mthatha, Black Coffee’s subculture of soulful … house music has always been about love. It’s a form of sonic escapism that provides a sanctuary for all beings, regardless of race, age, or gender. Therefore, it’s only fitting that Black Coffee rocks a tee embossed with “I Heart You” across his chest.

Black Coffee stands behind a big mixing board as he generates most of the sounds.  Although next to him is Pansula on the drums.  And Pansula is possibly the real star of this set, with his persistent and powerful rhythms.

Black Coffee, a figurehead of the global South African dance movement, is known for his undeniable DJ sets and AfroHouse anthems that (under normal circumstances) light up dancefloors around the world. He brings that same feeling to his Tiny Desk (home) concert, but with a unique configuration: live instrumentation.

Kicking off the set is “You Rock My World” featuring Soulstar, a classic dance joint from his Africa Rising album whose convergence of pulsating percussion, a calming melody, and the sultry vibes of Soulstar’s voice feels like a spiritual palette cleanser.

It starts with drums and drums and more drums from Pansula.  Black Coffee’s samples provide most of the music with some fleshing out from Nduduzo on the keys.  Then Godfrey Mntambo plays some sultry sax as the lead melody.

The backing singers (Musa Nhlapho, Sandisiwe Sishuba and Bonokuhle Nkala-Mtsweni) start cooing and then lead singer Soulstar sings.

“Flava” is up next with lead vocals from Una Rams and Tellaman.  My favorite part comes at the end of each verse as Black Coffee thumps the bass and Pansula echoes with cymbals.  The gentle keys on this track provide some nice high end amid all the bass.

“Flava” and “Wish You Were Here” come from his new LP, Subconsciously, whose litany of special guests — include Diplo and Pharrell.

“Wish You Were Here” is a bit more mellow and includes a much wider array of samples–guitars, flutes and crashing sounds.  Singer Msaki has an Annie Lennox vibe and sounds really great.  Nduduzo plays a jazzy piano solo as the song nears the end, which adds a fun new component to this house song.

[READ: March 31, 2021] “Real Food”

The September 3, 2007 issue of the New Yorker contained several essays by their writers about the subject “Family Dinner.”

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie explains that when she was little she hated garri, a food served for lunch every day except Sunday in her house.  Her mother was concerned that she was not eating at all and sat with her to watch her eat the garri.

It was made in various ways, with different ingredients (primarily yams) but was always cooked, stirred or pounded in a mortar until it became a soft mash: “it was jokingly called ‘swallow,’ because one swallowed the morsels without chewing.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: COMING 2 AMERICA, SOUNDS OF ZAMUNDA-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #179 (March 10, 2021).

I thought that this name meant that it was the soundtrack for the movie.  But no, this release highlights

the new compilation Rhythms of Zamunda: Music Inspired By Coming 2 America.

Tenuous connection to the movie, perhaps, but the results are great:

six artists representing four countries in Africa perform a megamix of selections from the project. Each performance from the pan-African project bridges the distance between the countries and cultures.

The songs jump back and forth to different locations

In addition to the sweeping range of the showings, the look of each set is stunning: vibrant, opulent colors; meticulous Tiny Desk shelf recreations; gorgeous African artifacts; and a few nuggets dedicated to King Akeem of Coming 2 America.

The majority of the songs are filmed in South Africa.

South Africa’s Nasty C — who’s arguably the biggest rapper on the continent — opens the set and trades verses with Tiny Desk alumni Ari Lennox on “Black and White.”

The set looks like the original Tiny Desk Room with cluttered bookshelves.  I like the lines where Nasty C pauses before saying the last word.  Ari Lennox’s vocals are really great.  Fundile “FD” Dlamini plays drums while Christer Kobedi and Vaughan Fourie play keys.

He then sends us over to Cameroon for some Afrobeats flavor, courtesy of Locko and his stripped-down version of “Magnet.”

His book-filled room is also a nice backdrop.  I enjoyed this song more than the previous because of all the instrumentation–drums (Marc Nzana), guitar (Benjamin Mouangue Bossamo), cool bass (Joel Parfait Ondigui) and even a violin (Martien Oyono).  Brice Essomba fleshes out the songs on the keys.

We then circle back around to South Africa to hear from R&B newcomer Ricky Tyler.

It’s the same set as Nasty C, but this time with a full band.  There’s deep bass from Tendai “Shoxx” Shoko and soft guitars from Innocent Mzizi.  The keys from Zādok float throughout grounded by drums from Tino “Beatboy” Damba.

From there, we head north to Nigeria to do the “Jiggy Bop” with Alpha P.

Alpha P is lounging on a zebra bean bag chair.  Then his hype man (David Osang?) gets everyone going and then comes a seriously funky bass from Ayodele Agbabiaka Oluwasegun.  Rocking guitars from Best Amakhian and rocking drums from Ebenezer Olayinka really power this fun dancey jam.  Olabiyi Julius sprinkles melodies from the keyboards throughout.  The backing vocalists (Agu Chinyere Gift, Tosin “SDK” Tade, Femi Jacobs) keep the song flowing nicely.

Then it’s back to that original set as

we take one last trip to South Africa for award-winning dance DJ and producer Prince Kaybee’s “Fetch Your Life,” featuring Msaki.

I haven’t heard of Msaki but her voice is really beautiful.  Prince Kaybee lays down a thumping ground track (while wearing one glove to twist the knows).  There’s a cool guitar solo from Zādok (who returns to show off his multi-instrumental skills) and gentle keys from Fundile “FD” Dlamini.  Like with the other songs, the thumping bass, this time from Katleho Motlatla really grounds the song.

Finally, Togo duo Toofan dares us not to dance to “Yé Mama.”

This song has a great island feel with lots of percussion (Therence Egue), grooving bass (Martin Lawson) and vocals from Barabas and Masta Just in French.  When Lionel Adjovi plays his guitar licks you can really hear where Paul Simon got the tunes for Graceland.  Paul Akakpo keeps the sound full on the keys while Sylvie Akpedjo and Lamabara Paul provide backing vocals.

This is a pretty great introduction to music from all over Africa.

[READ: March 31, 2021] “Choke”

The September 3, 2007 issue of the New Yorker contained several essays by their writers about the subject “Family Dinner.”

Anthony Lane was in France on a student exchange program.  The family he stayed with was wonderful.  Until they dropped an artichoke on his plate.  It steamed with the promise of pure malice.

Can you imagine a food less appetizing than one that possessed: “bristles, bottom and choke.”

The family watched him in bemused delight as he tried not to look like a an irredeemable hick–not knowing what to do with this hand grenade

He watched Madame rip off a spiky leaf, dip it into butter and then eat the inside.  He followed suit and felt like Tigger eating one of Eeyore’s thistles. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BENNY SINGS-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #50 (July 14, 2020).

I watched a Benny Sings Tiny Desk Concert back in 2016.  I wasn’t that impressed.  I thought it sounded fine, describing him as a slower Elton John.  Since then, he has apparently gone on to bigger things (and must have many fans).

I’ve never come across a moderate Benny Sings fan. The Dutch singer-songwriter and producer has maintained a cult following for over 15 years and performed in the United States for the very first time at the Tiny Desk back in 2016.

Benny and his band play three songs.

Recorded at his studio in Amsterdam, the set list reads like an inventory of quarantine essentials, opening with “Apartment” from last year’s Free Nationals LP (shout out to Anderson .Paak).

As with all of the songs, the music is lightly R&B with some disco flavors.  Each song has a loud low end from  Bram Wassink’s bass and crisp drums from Colin Lee.  The songs are gentle and catchy.  “Apartment” is less than three minutes long.

“Sunny Afternoon” was written with PJ Morton and is a bit catchier (and sweeter).  There’s a nice backing vocal “oooh” solo from June Fermie while Adam Bar Pereg play s anice piano solo.

The set ends with “Music.”  Honestly I can’t imagine a worse title for a song than “Music,” but it is about music.  And the blurb admires the sentiment:

The hook reminds me that I’m not the only one who continues to seek refuge in song. He sings, “Music help me through this / I can’t do this on my own / But music help me through this / Whenever I’m down.”

I will not be an immoderate Benny Sings fan.  His music is pleasant, but forgettable.  Although he seems like a very nice fella.

[READ: July 20, 2020] “The Dinner”

As the United States roils with protests about institutional racism and out immoral leaders conduct illegal schemes of violence against citizens, it was an very charged time to read this story about racism in Ireland.

As Roddy Doyle stories tend to do, this story has a lot of heart and humor in it.  It begins by introducing Larry Linnane and his family.  He loves his family.  He loves his girls (he and his wife have four) and his son.

But he especially loved hearing his intelligent girls as they talked about everything at the dinner table.  And, as usual, Doyle’s ear for dialogue is spot on.  Larry is a pretty open minded guy, he doesn’t even mind hearing his daughters talking about their love lives.  Nothing they said or did ever shocked him.

Until Stephanie brought home the black fella. (more…)

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