Metropolitan Music

Two continents, ten cities, 50 musicians and 20 authors: the Ten Cities is an initiative funded by the Goethe Institute that explores and juxtaposes the club scene of global metropolises from Africa and Europe. At the heart of this music project is the question, what would happen if these scenes, their sounds and the artists behind them were to meet head on?

The project began by twinning cities from the two continents: Naples with Luanda, Bristol with Lagos, Kiev with Johannesburg, Lisbon with Nairobi and Berlin with Cairo. Some of the leading producers and DJs behind the thriving electronic music scenes of these cities, names like Batida, Pinch, Dirty Paraffin, Okmalumkoolkat, Afrologic, Just A Band and more (full tracklist below), came together and collaborated on a series of tracks, live shows and special events.

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Alongside mixtapes, free-downloads and visual content, the core piece of content will be a 17 track album showcasing the outcomes of this collaborative process released on Soundway Records this month.

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South America to the world

Over the past ten years the international music media has sporadically raved about the latest bubbling scene from the ‘hip’ city of the moment, be it Montevideo, Bogota or Buenos Aires. These days when we talk about modern, underground Latin American music it’s not about disparate pockets or unconnected scenes but a thriving, diverse, border crossing movement of cross-pollination and global interaction. How we view traditional Latin American music has been turned on its head and these developments are having reverberations across the world.

In the mid 2000s now household names in the scene like Frikstailers, Chancha via Circuito and Matanza, helped by platforms like ZZK Records, began to make noises for their fresh take on the continent’s traditional rhythms and music. However, they demonstrated there was something beyond the nucumbia or ethno-techno tags they had been assigned, laying the foundations for a new generation of beatmakers constructing and deconstructing a ‘New Latin American Sound’.

You could call Chancha Via Circuito one of this movement’s godfathers. In fact the quietly spoken Argentine shaman directly bequeathed his own sound and productions techniques to the new generation through his now famous production tallers (classes) in his home city of Buenos Aires. Three years on from his last album Rio Arriba, Chancha this week released his latest work Amansara and in doing so demonstrated how the sound of him and his contemporaries has revolutionised modern Latin American folk music.

Simultaneously organic and electronic, local and global Amansara is his most accomplished album yet. An album that carves out and refines his beautiful interpretation of folk music in a modern, international context. On the heels of fellow Argentine folk-tronic trio Tremor, Amansara is released on Wonderwheel, the New York based imprint run by Nickodemus.

This very Latin American sound, deeply grounded in the continent’s sounds, landscapes, mythology and cultures has made waves across the world and in turn impacted a new generation of producers in South America and beyond. A nod to the scene and testament to the family that has grown up around it, Amansara includes a beautiful ‘apprentice and teacher’ moment on the track Sabiamantis which features Barrio Lindo and Sidirum, two young producers who both attended one of Chancha’s classes.

The legacy of this ‘ZZK’ generation is clear to see in the sound of producers like Sidirum, taking inspiration from the scene’s instigators whilst adding their own influences and driving in new directions. Yesterday the Chilean based net imprint Sello Regional released their 20th EP, a collection of global remixes of Sidirum’s fantastic Le Soleil EP showcasing this next generation of like-minded producers from Latin American, Europe, the US and beyond. With guests like Haarlem’s (the Dutch one…) Umoja, Ecuador’s Nicola Cruz and Hamburg’s bombombum this is an international affair and another hint at how the scene has expanded to influence young bedroom producers across the world. The description to Le Soleil remixes sums things up nicely:

‘Generar unión por medio de la música y mostrar la visión que pueden entregar diferentes artistas de un mismo objeto. Así es como queda una obra colectiva, libre y con mucho amor por la música.’

‘Generating union through the medium of music and showing the different interpretations that artists can create from the same object. In this sense this is a work that is free collective and filled with a love for music.’

Autonomous Africa III

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Autonomous Africa return for the third edition of the afro-grooving, beat crunching, border crossing music project curated by Glasgow’s legendary DJ and producer, JD Twitch. This series of small run, independently released 12″s and the accompanying fundraising nights are raising money for the Mtandika Mission, a charity working to offer education and improve conditions in the village of Mtandika, Tanzania.

Musically, the EPs are distinctly dancefloor orientated, the producers taking the kick vs snare 4/4 structure and splicing it with grooving African infused samples and rhythms. Volume III features tracks from Midland (who grew up in Tanzania), Glasgow stalwarts Auntie Flo and General Ludd, alongside a tack by rather special track from JD Twitch himself.

The project also has a sharp political edge and a message to get across, best explained by Twitch himself

“An autonomous Africa run by the people for the people, where African land is predominantly used to feed African people and Africa’s vast wealth of resources is used to benefit the people of Africa seems the only logical way forward. Autonomous Africa’s goal is to highlight this message and here presents to you 4 tracks of African inspired grooves….Individually we have little power but collectively, the power is ours”

Volume III will be released in July / August. There are also plans afoot to release a full Autonomous Africa compilation featuring music made in Africa itself.

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Worldwide Ting Vol. 1

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Despite his limited output, Uproot Andy has made it on to my very exclusive list of reliable producers. Nearly everything (if not everything) the US based producer has released has a real quality about it. His productions have that rare combination of being melodically catchy, well produced, unique and absolutely killer on the dancefloor. This selection, the first release on Que Bajo Records maintains his reputation – 5 sure fire refixes of 5 different musical styles from 5 different countries. And they’re free.

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Denver Nights Volume 1

Denver Nights Volume 1

From the team responsible for Amsterdam’s rijsttafel of a club night Denver NightsDenver Nights Volume 1 is a glance into Amsterdam’s continously exciting and diverse electronic music scene and the producers behind it. Celebrating the club night’s two year anniversary, this compilation (available for free download) unites some of the artists that have graced the decks at Denver’s now regular Amsterdam haunt, Canvas. The result, much like the club night itself, is a mix of fresh styles, sounds and tempos – each with an eye for the Denver dancefloor.

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DJ iZem – EP2

DJ IZem - EP2 COver

Lisbon based French producer DJ iZem has been quietly bubbling away over the past couple of years as a producer on the rise. The few tracks and remixes that he has released have demonstrated a talented artist with a unique style blending tropical rhythms with funk influences, smooth synths with live instrumentation and deep basses with smooth vocals, epitomised by 2011’s brilliant Quiver / Debaixo D’Agua EP. He returns with his 2nd EP… EP2, offering another slice of quality, warm, soulful, topically infused electronica. What’s more, it is available for free download (!)

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Los Diablos Del Ritmo (Analog Africa)

I have been sitting on this wonderful album released by Analog Africa for a while but have only just got round to fully immersing myself in it. On paper this is another compilation celebrating the seemlessly endless resource of brilliant Colombian music. In reality, it is a collection of tracks meticulously chosen over a six year period representing a moment in history when the cross-roads between Colombian and African culture were at their height.

Back in 2007 label head Ben Redjeb travelled to Colombia’s Caribbean coast with a suitcase filled with two hundred 7-inch singles and around 100 LPs of African music. His aim: to meet local record collectors and exchange his collection with their own, collating an album that would  document the heyday of Afro-Colombian roots revivalism on the Caribbean coast in the 1970s.

Central to this scene were the Picó soundsystems and their DJs who would play rare African tracks brought by traders and sailors to eager crowds. The DJs’ reputation relied upon the exclusivity of the records they were playing – sleeves were thrown away and label stickers scribbled over to maintain the secreccy of these killer tracks. So, when Redjeb arrived with his suitcase of these exact same records  he was met with unexpected fervour from the collectors who instantly recognised the tracks but had no idea of the names or artists.

“African music was not ours and we didn’t understand the lyrics but we could feel our roots and the connection with our ancestors – that was beautiful for me.” Fabian Althona

Much as the African music that was being played in the 1970s was incorporated into the local scene, in a strange, 21st century, globalised way Redjeb was carrying on this cross-continental cultural tradition. A 21st century fusion of African rhtyhms with Colombian DJs via a German record enthusiast.

As he came offering such valuable goods, he was able, in turn, to collect thousands of rare records from the local enthusiasts and picóteros.  These were carefully whittled down to the 32 tracks on the album, offering not only a collection of rare musical gems but also a snapshot into the thriving and electric music scene on the Colombian Carribean in the 1970s.

“Diablos Del Ritmo” celebrates this fusion of rhtyhms and styles, the meeting of Afrobeat, Terapia and Lumbalú with Colombia’s own Gaita, Puya, Porro, Cumbiamba, Mapelé and Chandé. This is epitomised on tracks such as Alfredo Gutiérrez y sus Estrellas’ Pajaro Madrugado or Myrian Makenwa’s brilliant Amampondo.

The tracks not only mix the rhythms but also the language, incorporating words of African origins with Spanish and English. The 32 songs move between classic cumbias to reverb filled, Colombian Afro-beat and off into territory that you would never have associated with Colombian music. It is impossible to sum up the intricacies of this music and its historical context but the album comes with a rich 60 page booklet detailing the artists, the music and the story. A unique and highly recommended release.

BUYAnalog Africa