New Sounds / West Africa

“When the Europeans took blacks as slaves in the US, our ancestors brought their culture with them. They mixed their music with modern instruments, and created the blues, and that invented rock n roll, rhythm and blues, jazz, everything. The blues comes from here. We sing, we cry, and it brings you into a trance. We make Bori, we do Voodoo. Our ancestors brought this to the US. Little by little, it took in everyone.” — Mona (né Abdoulaye Bouzou)

A long overdue update on some of the most incredible music released this year, so far -- all from the incredibly robust and eclectic realm of modern-day Africa. The venerable Sahel Sounds, increasingly standing shoulder to shoulder with the Strut and Soundways labels, released two splendid, and wholly different, documents of new sounds coming out of West Africa earlier this year — one grounded in guitar-based field recordings, the other coming from a more experimental and electronic angle — patch working synthetic textures and organic sounds to mesmerizing effect.

Let’s start with the guitar record. A compilation of various guitar music, seemingly oozing out of every corner of Niger, Agrim Agadez is a testament to the infinite power of the unadorned and naturalistic recording process. Bringing together the likeminded contemporary passion of this musically dense and focal region, from musicians of all walks of life, the comp includes what the liner notes describe as everything from “bar bands of the southern Hausa land, pastoral flock owning village autodidacts, rag-tag DIY wedding rock musicians, to political minded folk guitarists.” In other words, all the real shit. Hypnotic blues chants are redefined in the pure, unabashed harmony of Mohamed Karzo’s “C'est La Vie,” a platitude that feels less and less of a cliché with each passing day of this modern age. The raw and genuine power of these performances are not diminished, but rather, strengthened by the collection’s eclectic nature — underscored perhaps most profoundly by the fact that the aforementioned life-affirming folk song is followed by an absolute blazingly ragged rendition of “Hey Joe,” courtesy of Azna De L'Ader (the outfit of the above quoted Mona).

Mohamed Karzo :: C'est La Vie

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