Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Femi Kuti and Positive Force @ Lincoln Center

For those in and around NYC, Femi Kuti and Positive Force will be performing at Lincoln Center July 12th. For those who would like to improve their ability to shake their nyash, a dance lesson will be facilitated at 6:30 by Rich Medina, Sahr Ngaujah, and Maija Garcia (associate choreographer from FELA!). Femi hits at 7:30.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Vieux Farka Touré Live

If you've ever seen Vieux Farka Touré in concert, then you know it's an event you won't soon forget. If you haven't had the privilege, now is your chance to see what you've been missing. Vieux Farka Touré Live, out June 29th on Six Degrees Records, exhibits why VFT is one of the fastest rising acts on the international music scene. Following up his performance at the World Cup opening concert in Johannesburg, South Africa earlier this month, VFT Live gives listeners a taste of what makes him such a dynamic live act.

Vieux's self-titled solo debut, released in 2005 by Modiba Productions, introduced him to the world and symbolically passed the torch from his legendary father, Ali. While Ali was known as a bluesman of the desert, Vieux has established himself as the Hendrix of the Sahara. If people listened to his debut due to his father's reputation, people listened to his sophomore follow-up, Fondo, due the its widespread critical acclaim. VFT Live only builds on that progression, further establishing him as an African guitar hero.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Interview with Tony Allen

Tony Allen is a legendary musical icon. He was the drummer of Afrika 70 and influential co-creator of afrobeat music with Fela Anikulapo Kuti. He is currently on tour promoting his latest album, Secret Agent, out April 13, 2010 on Nonesuch Records. I had the distinct honor of speaking with Tony a couple weeks ago before he set out:

Marc Gabriel Amigone: My first question is you’re about to embark on a N. American Tour, are there any dates about which you’re particularly excited?

Tony Allen: No, not really.

MGA: So you’re excited about the whole tour?

Tony Allen: I’ll be coming to NY, and Toronto, and then I go back through the states and do the rest of my shows in the states.

MGA: I heard you’re going to be on Jimmy Fallon with The Roots and ?uestlove?

Tony Allen: Yes, in New York.

MGA: Do you have a relationship with ?uestlove or the Roots? Have you played with them before?

Tony Allen: I’ve never played with them before, but I’ve seen them play. You know,` so now we’re going to be working on the same program.

MGA: And you like The Roots?

Tony Allen: Oh yes, ?uestlove is a drummer himself too, so…

MGA: Right. So on your new album, Secret Agent, I’ve been listening to it a lot recently. How would you describe the direction you’re taking your music on your new album?

Tony Allen: Direction? It’s afrobeat I’m playing, you know? And I like different styles of afrobeat. It just comes from evolution.

MGA: Cool, cool. So throughout your career, I’ve heard a lot of your albums, you’ve been doing it for a long time. You’ve always demonstrated openness to new ideas, new sounds and instruments. For instance on Secret Agent you feature an accordion, which is not traditionally seen as an “afrobeat instrument” per se. Could you describe you the way that new sounds inspire you and the process by which you incorporate them into your music?

Tony Allen: Well, you know, it’s music. It’s not the instrument, the instrument doesn’t play itself anyway, you know? The point is the music of the instrument, whichever instrument I put in my music. It’s the sound, it’s soundwise, you know? It’s not a question of which instrument I use, it’s what I compose.

MGA: So if a sound catches your ear, it doesn’t matter what it is, you just want to put it into your music.

Tony Allen: Exactly.

MGA: Cool. So how would you describe how your music has developed and evolved from your first solo album, NEPA, to now, with Secret Agent.

Tony Allen: Ah, I will not try to explain it, I’ve done enough explaining. I’ve done NEPA, I’ve done Afrobeat Express, I’ve done Black Voices, I’ve done Psycho on The Bus, I’ve done Homecooking, Lagos No Shaking, and this one. Every one has its direction, but its still afrobeat.

MGA: One of the most famous quotes that’s most often associated with your name is from Fela Kuti, who said, ‘Without Tony Allen, there would be no afrobeat.’ Could you elaborate on that a bit, and explain how you contributed to afrobeat’s creation?

Tony Allen: Well, that is something that people are not supposed to be saying that, people that have been watching me, people that spoke with me. I’m just doing my job. I’m doing my job, and I’m creating. I like to be creating all the time because I can’t just keep playing the same shit all the time, you know? I have to create something else, whether people are going to take it or not, I’m just going to be moving forward, you know? That’s all.

MGA: What musicians or musical styles were you and Fela listening to when you were coming of age in Nigeria?

Tony Allen: I was playing my music before I met Fela, you know? There is a lot of music in the country, all different types of music. Jazz, waltz, two-step, tango, whatever, highlife, before I met Fela. Then when I met Fela, he said ‘ok, stop playing all those other styles’ and dictating.

MGA: Right, and do your own thing.

Tony Allen: Right.

MGA: So who are you listening to right now that’s inspiring, what are you listening to these days that you find interesting?

Tony Allen: Right now, I’m working with my band, I just finished our latest album, and now we’re taking things on the road, so that’s what I’m concentrating on now.

MGA: Cool, so what other bands or musicians within the genre of afrobeat do you find interesting or inspiring?

Tony Allen: Ah well, there’s a lot of them. Everybody’s doing their own style, so as long as they have the afrobeat, it’s cool. I don’t want to commit myself for anything. They’re all good.

MGA: You don’t want to single anybody out since there’s so many out there?

Tony Allen: No, I don’t.

MGA: What is your take on the Antibals-Bill T. Jones FELA! Production currently running on Broadway in New York?

Tony Allen: It’s afrobeat, so it’s cool. I’ve said before I would not comment.

MGA: Have you noticed any increased interest from the mainstream culture due to the popularity of the play?

Tony Allen: No.

MGA: Really, you haven’t noticed any increased interest?

Tony Allen: Well, when I said I wouldn’t comment, it means that… well you know there’s positive side of things. I can’t analyze everything, but it’s very good to expose afrobeat to people that never know what afrobeat is.

MGA: Word, word.

Tony Allen: I know there’s a positive side of things there, and I just hope it expresses enough to make more spring up.

MGA: Right, right. So in what direction do you see afrobeat evolving as more and more musicians take up afrobeat? Do you think the electronic side of things will take the lead with artists like Wunmi is going to grow, or do you think on the instrumental side of things?

Tony Allen: Well, it’s ok, I just know that afrobeat is music that has to be played by human beings together. I’ve experimented with electronics in my music but not taking out the drums that’s supposed to be played with it, so it depends on what everybody likes, you know? That’s why I don’t like to criticize what everybody’s else is playing. I just know what I’m playing.

MGA: Are there any goals or things you’d like to accomplish by the end of your career?

Tony Allen: The point is I look forward, I look forward. I never preview nothing, with my music. The day I decide, the day is there. If I decide I like something then I do it. There is a song on Secret Agent called Celebration.

MGA: Right, Celebrate Your Life, that’s a great song.

Tony Allen: Celebrate means celebrate everything, not just Christmas, or marriage, or anything it means celebrate all the time. Why should we not celebrate every day? Every day. You see, because every time you can go to sleep and wake up the next day, that’s something to celebrate. Because whatever you do is whatever you do. Simple as that.

MGA: Yea man, I agree 100%.

Tony Allen: Haha, you agree 100%?

MGA: Absolutely. I agree, I think every day should be a celebration.

Tony Allen: Absolutely, that’s the way I look at my life.

MGA: One last question. Your album Psycho On The Bus, I’ve always thought of as the quintessential afro-dub album. Were there any particular dub artists that inspired you to make that album?

Tony Allen: No it was a collaboration. It’s music. It’s afrobeat with a certain production style. You know, I have other things to think about.

The Black Seeds Summer Tour

The Black Seeds are one of the premier music acts to come out of New Zealand. They toured with John Brown's Body last year, and are bringing their tight reggae grooves back to N. America this summer hitting festival stops like Camp Bisco, Grassroots, and High Sierra along the way. Their album Solid Ground is a must have for any reggae aficionado. No matter where you are in North America, you'll have a chance to see them throw down:

July 03 - High Sierra Festival - Quincy, CA

July 04 - High Sierra Festival - Quincy, CA

July 07 - The Venue - Vancouver, British Columbia

July 08 - Gariabaldi Lift Co - Whistler, British Columbia

July 09 - Tofino Community Hall - Tofino, British Columbia

July 10 - Victoria Ska Festival - Victoria, British Columbia
July 11 - Nectar Lounge - Seattle, WA
July 14 - Cervantes' Other Side - Denver, CO

July 15 - Fox Theatre - Boulder, CO
July 16 - Music Hall of Williamsburg - Brooklyn, NY
July 17 - Camp Bisco - Mariaville, NY

July 18 - Higher Ground Showcase Room - S. Burlington, VT

July 20 - The 8X10 - Baltimore, MD

July 21 - Electric Factory - Philadelphia, PA

July 23 - GrassRoots Music Festival - Trumansburg, NY
July 25 - Belly Up Tavern ­ Solana Beach, CA

July 26 - Velvet Jones - Santa Barbara, CA

July 27 - Catalyst Club (Atrium) - Santa Cruz, CA

July 28 - Slim's - San Francisco, CA

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Chico Mann East Coast Swing


Chico Mann has some dates coming up in NYC and Miami. If you can make it to either city, and you want to get down, come check one of the hottest acts in the country.

Angelique Kidjo Video

If you need something to brighten up your day...

Monday, June 14, 2010

Dub Inc Comes to NY

For all those in NYC interested in the Dub side of things (and you should be) def check out Dub Inc, the French-N. African Dub outfit that's coming to NYC this week. They're throwin down at 92Y Tribeca with Sengalese rockers Meta and The Cornerstones this Friday night. Definitely a show not to be missed.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Akoya Afrobeat Returns to Southpaw this Friday Night w/ Ikebe Shakedown, Superhuman Happiness and DJ Afro-Marc


I'll be on the ones and twos this Friday night at Southpaw when three seriously funky bands hit the stage. Akoya Afrobeat Ensemble is one of the most authentic afrobeat bands in North America. Led by Egypt 80 vet Kaleta, and boasting a 13 head deep lineup of musicians known across the Brooklyn scene, Akoya is the real deal.

They're joined by Ikebe Shakedown who released their first EP in December of 09 to critical acclaim, and have been building a following for their afro-influenced funky jams since. Superhuman Happiness is the solo project of Stuart Bogie, tenor sax player of Antibalas, TV on the Radio, and lead soloist in FELA! on Broadway. His band explores multiple genres and ideas creating a uniquely original sound.

I've seen Akoya rock at Southpaw more times than I can count on one hand, so I can vouch for their ability to make asses shake. I've also seen Ikebe and Superhuman Happiness move crowds, and you can bet I'll be unabashedly dispensing funk all night as well, so don't bother coming, if you're not ready to get down.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Album Review: 82-Just a Band

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: nobody is doing more to expose the best underground music in Africa to increasingly wider audiences than Akwaaba. The fair trade record label started by Benjamin Lebrave has given the world possibly their best album yet, 82 from Kenyan pop outfit Just a Band.

You may know Just a Band from their incredibly popular youtube video for Ha-He, but Just a Band has much more to offer than imitations of Chuck Norris. This album covers many bases, mixing bumping club tracks with cooler hip-hop and heartfelt down-tempo tracks. The three artists that make up Just a Band, Blinky, Dan and Jim, bring out different elements of their personality to collaboratively create a style all their own.

Just a Band accomplishes something truly impressive: they manage to create music that has widespread mainstream appeal without totally foregoing their integrity as artists. Many African musicians struggling to find their way often go for easy cop outs and cheesy effects, but Just a Band creates a production style that sounds contemporary and clean. They also know how to mesh hip-hop style lyrics in English or Swahili with R&B style vocals and electronic beats. The end result is something new and interesting you probably wouldn't expect to come out of Africa.

This album is something new and different. If you were to listen to it blindly, you might think it came from a house producer in Miami. That's what I like about it though, it's maintains its African identity while simultaneously being obviously affected by European and American electronic musical styles. While it's not easy to cross over as a Kenyan pop star, these guys have as good a shot as anybody.

War Don Don Screening

War Don Don means war is over in Krio, the language most widely spoken in Sierra Leone. War Don Don, is also a film examining the trial of Issa Sesay, the accused leader war criminal responsible for the dismemberment of hundreds of innocent people. Filmmaker Rebecca Richman Cohen gives the audience unprecedented access to all of the involved parties, including Sesay himself as he goes through the different stages of the trial. She also commissions Bajah + The Dry Eye Crew to contribute two songs to the soundtrack (reason to see the film alone in my opinion).

War Don Don is screening at the Lincoln Center Film Society beginning this Saturday night and running through the 16th of June. It travels to Silver Spring Maryland after that, and will most likely continue to tour film festivals internationally. Find out where and when you can see the film here.