Bombino

After a 'brief' 25 hour delay in Morocco on his way from Niger, Bombino arrived in Woodstock, New York to record his new album at Applehead Studio with Dave Longstreth (Dirty Projectors). Applehead is a beautiful studio in a converted barn on farmland where goats, pigs, and other animals roam freely. The band stayed in a guest house a few steps away from the studio, and took turns making meals. Apart from a morning invasion of the guesthouse by a 700-pound pig, Applehead was the perfect atmosphere for Bombino and his group to create new music over the course of the 10 days they had there. Longstreth, meanwhile, proved to be a fantastic match for Bombino as this album’s producer. He has a deep respect for the Saharan music tradition and guided their sessions with a gentle but skilled hand.

Fans of Bombino and Tuareg music in general will notice a few remarkable innovations on this album. The first is the introduction of a new style Bombino is pioneering that he affectionally calls 'Tuareggae' - a sunny blend of Tuareg blues/rock with reggae one-drop and bounce. Another is the first-ever use of Western vocal harmonies in recorded Tuareg music, (due to Longstreth's influence) which give the songs new depth and color. Finally, the band behind him is tighter and more energetic than ever before. The result is Bombino's best, most well-rounded, and groundbreaking album to date: Azel.

The word "Azel" has three meanings in Bombino's native Tamasheq language - first, it is the name of a small desert town just a few kilometers from where he grew up, in Agadez, Niger. His wife's family is from Azel, and it is the site of the first and only Tuareg school in the country. Bombino has long held aspirations of developing a Tuareg community center and arts school in Agadez, so the town of Azel holds a special place in his heart. Second, the word azel means the roots or stems of a tree. This album is a reflection of Bombino's unique place in Tuareg music where he at once honors the traditional roots of the music while also taking it into brand new territory, hence the roots and the stems. Finally, the word azel is also slang in Tamasheq, loosely the equivalent of 'That's my jam!' in American English. The significance of that meaning should be instantly obvious to anyone who listens to this album.

Janka Nabay and the Bubu Gang

Janka Nabay is the undisputed king of bubu, a frantically-paced dance music with ancient, magical origins in Sierra Leone. The Bubu Gang are the posse of musical collaborators he has hooked up with in the US (featuring members of Skeletons and Gang Gang Dance among others), to create a wild, high-octane juggernaut of call-and-response vocal interplay, juddering dancefloor rhythms, synths and guitars: throw in a taste for tearaway improvisation and you have an absolute blast of a sound, that keeps it quick, loose and natural and runs on pure musical joy. Ready to hit hard and true in full band format at festivals worldwide in 2012. An EP drops on True Panther Sounds in March before a full-length album on David Byrne’s Luaka Bop label later in the year.

Janka single-handedly radicalised bubu in his native Freetown, Sierra Leone in the nineties, adding drum machine kicks and twitching synths to its airy hum of blown bamboo shoots and carburetor pipes. Then he relocated to Philadelphia, and after a decade off the musical radar he found a Stateside vessel for his infectious music in True Panther Sounds, who released a well-received EP in 2010. This caught the well-tuned ears of the mostly Brooklyn-based players who would go on to make up the Bubu Gang, namely Doug Shaw (Gang Gang Dance, Highlife, White Magic), Jason McMahon & Jonathan Leland (Skeletons), Michael Gallope (Starring) and vocalist Boshra Al-Saadi (Saadi): a series of sweatbox US shows followed, and all involved realized they had birthed something beyond the sum of its parts: “We speak one language now”, says Janka of these exciting new sounds, that draw as much from Janka’s own bubu as they do from the sunny energy of Ghanaian highlife, the extended improvisations of 70s Miles Davis, the hypnotic rhythms of classic Afro-beat and the swirling echoes of 60s and 70s psychedelia.

Mamarazzi

Rooted in the sweaty dance floor revivals that have defined their live shows over the past five years, Brooklyn’s 8-piece Afro-funk-hoppers mamarazzi serve up a deliciously greasy dish with spices cultivated from across the planet. Spontaneously combusting under the careless scientific supervision of a group of Wesleyan University (MGMT, Das Racist, Santigold, etc) alumni, mamarazzi has since been on its perpetual quest to leave no genre behind and no hip unshaken. The band likens its sound to a laced grapefruit: tart funk, acidic groove, pulp-n-rind hiphop, and nectar of ancient lullaby. Think of an orgy with Fela Kuti, Thom York, Maceo Parker and Lauryn Hill. Then stop thinking about that.

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