Since the late 80’s Nigerian bandleader Femi Kuti has struggled to his assert his own voice over the imposing din of his father’s legacy. He’s done so with a quiet grace, incredibly adept at treading a respectful line between honoring his father’s music and striking out for himself. He began by playing with his father in Egypt 80, however in 1986 he started his own group Positive Force. He’s since released a slew of albums which possess that driving repetitive Afrobeat groove, but also draws on more fusion elements from other genres, often the jazzier elements, taking the music into new realms. He’s collaborated with US hip hop artists like Mos Def and Common, been remixed by Ernest St Laurent and Faze Action and even had his voice as a DJ on Grand Theft Auto IV. His most recent work Africa for Africa (Shock) is due to drop any day now and he’ll be in town soon as part of of the third annual Australian World Music Expo, playing on the 21st of November alongside local Bollywood fanatics Bombay Royale.
It’s great timing because the appeal of Afrobeat seems to be at an all time high, what with numerous compilations and the reissuing of his father’s entire oeuvre via Knitting Factory (Planet Company here). The most recent is the classic Shuffering and Schmiling which has been combined with No Agreement, which means you not only get trumpet from Lester Bowie (Art Ensemble of Chicago), but is also a savage indictment on the religions peddled by Africa’s colonial masters.
Then there’s Fela! The musical, a Tony award winning broadway play currently tearing it up in the US. Even if it’s terrible at least the music will be good. In fact the soundtrack has just been released (again via Planet Company) and features a backing band of no less than New York Afrobeat fanatics Antibalas doing covers of Fela’s music. A film of the performance will be playing at the Nova on the 5th and 6th of February 2011 so I guess we find out then.
Paris based Gotan Project have been applying the fusion blowtorch to tango since the late 90′s, merging tango with elements of electronica, jazz, house and dub, with a distinctly folkloric Argentine flavour. It’s almost club based music with the exotic flavours more often than not falling between their rigid 4/4 beats. Earlier in the year they released Tango 3.0 with guests like Dr John on Hammond B3. Their first single was the super cool electro of La Gloria which features the legendary football commentator Victor Hugo Morales offering some commentary inspired by Marradonna’s second goal against England. ‘Gooooooooooooooooooooal.’ They’re on their way to Melbourne and playing the Forum on the 8th of December. If you’re curious to know how they sound live check out their double cd from 2008 set simply entitled Live.
On a sweeter and more experimental bent Japanese avant pop chanteuse Tujiko Noriko is returning to Australia, this time with her trio consisting of sound artists Lawrence English and John Chantler. They’ve previously released U (Room40) together and the rough live footage I’ve seen from their European dates has Noriko gorgeously intoning above English and Chantler’s dark synthetic drones, delaying her voice yet still singing sweetly. It’s what’s always been so interesting about Noriko, her desire to treat and layer her voice, creating these gorgeous vocal melodies over all kinds of instrumentation. Crazily enough it’s at the Empress on the 4th of December and you can pre book tickets. You better, it’s going to be squeezy.
The first Womadelaide acts have been announced and whilst Afro Celt Sound System and lush Indian beat maker Nitin Sawney might be getting the most attention, some lesser known artists feel a little more exiting. Firstly there’s Hanggai, a bunch of ex Beijing punks now peddling a gentle traditional folk music with Mongolian throat singing and horse hair fiddle. They released their debut album Introducing on World Circuit (Fuse) a couple of years back, which mixed their traditional music with subtle flourishes of electric guitar and banjo. Beautiful. Secondly Rango, a Sudanese Egyptian ensemble play one of the only three balafon or Rango’s left in existence. They released Bride of Zar (30IPS/ Planet Company) earlier in the year, a spirit cleansing Nubian trance music, with heavy percussion creating a joyful rattling textural hypnotic stomp. More acts to be announced.
Finally I’ve regretfully discovered the passing of English composer and field recorder David Fanshawe in July. Best known for African Sanctus, his mind numbingly bizarre mix of African tribal recordings and English chorals, he left a legacy of pristine field recordings of Africa, the Middle East, and Pacific as well as a lasting effect on the tribes he visited. He was 68 and a true eccentric. Fragmented Frequencies will miss you David.