News, features & reviews
The Rumba Kings is a joyous exploration of the liberating power of music.
A celebration of a musical identity forged through the fight for freedom in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In the 1950s, when the country was a Belgian colony, a generation of Congolese musicians fused traditional African rhythms with Afro-Cuban music to create the electrifying beat of Congolese Rumba.
Dobet Gnahoré, one of Africa’s brightest stars releases her sixth full length album ‘Couleur’ on June 4.
The 2010 GRAMMY winner from the Ivory Coast delves into her country’s modern Afropop sounds with a fiery album that’s filled with danceable grooves, electronic beats and catchy melodic hooks soaking up the urban energy of a rising modern Africa.
The timely remastering of this album released 33 1/3 years ago is a celebration of a woman who has championed the Mbira and Shona Zimbabwean culture for more than 50 years. Chiweshe, now 74, is lovingly known as the ‘Queen of the mbira’.
The re-release by Piranha records has a title change – from Ambuya? Meaning grandmother? to Ambuya!
An affirmation that she is also the ‘grandmother of the mbira’
The debut album from Made Kuti propels Afrobeat into a new stimulating and refreshing arena.
Shaping his own sound Made Kuti experiments with the current British jazz scene, reggae, and latin rhythms, carrying the torch for the Kuti Afrobeat dynasty into the future.
Malian kora maestro Ballaké Sissoko duets with leading Gambian Kora player Sona Jobarteh on the new single ’Djourou’ – the title track of his forthcoming album due out on 9 April 2021. The single is accompanied by a live video – watch it here or stream on all platforms.
Urban Village are a quartet who grew up in the township of Soweto at the tail end of apartheid. Creating a unique spin on South Africa’s multiple musical genres, ‘Udondolo’ explores traditional Maskandi, zulu guitar, and jazz whilst blending their own indie folk with soulful harmonies that pays homage to the culture and people of Soweto.
Stay home, get cosy and embrace the potent and seductive melodies of Urban Village; you just might forget about the big bad world out there for a while.
Calabash! chats to Batch Gueye the Bristol-based Senegalese singer, musician, dancer and storyteller about the challenges of 2020 and what we can learn from his music.
For many, 2020 will be a year that we will want to forget, but from the 80 new African flavoured albums listed on Calabash! there were some truly memorable moments; from the inspiring stories behind the music to the joy of discovering a new artist, we are truly grateful for.
STAR FEMININE BAND
Star Feminine Band are an extraordinary group from Natitingou, a remote town in the north of Benin. The 7 members are aged between 10 and 17 years old, and the only all girl band in Benin.
Their sound is a garage rock style mix of afrobeat,congolese rumba and traditional Beninese rhythm dances. The girls’ harmonies may sound youthful but their songs are raising awareness about equality and empowerment for African women to a curious growing audience.
Thousands of concerts have been cancelled worldwide due to COVID-19. Hundreds of musicians from the African continent have lost their main income from international concert tours. It is uncertain by when musicians will be able to travel and tour again. Please, join #SOULIDARITY and donate. With your contribution you directly support musicians from the African continent.
Sidi Touré (Mali) – Afrik Toun Mé.
Full of lively acoustic Malian melodies and blues guitar riffs that radiate perpetual positive energy as Touré’s emotive voice sings about courage against adversity and urges people to embrace knowledge as a tool to unite Africa.
Touré has created a dazzling album of real optimism.
There is much to admire in this unique album.
The Nyatiti – an eight-stringed lyre, originating from communities around the shores of Lake Victoria, Kenya.
A story of an African village boy transitioning to a man with all its anxieties.
The preserving of traditional Lüo sounds whilst interpreting them for the modern world.
With the unmistakable groove of West African soul music, Awalé intertwines Senegalese, Latin American, funk, jazz and influences from London, where they are now at home. Yewoulen is a call for leaders of the world and everyday people alike to Wake Up and work together for the sake of humanity.
Tamikrest return with a vivid, irrepressible rock and roll statement. Their most powerful album since 2013’s wildly acclaimed Chatma, Tamotaït finds the band not only turning up the volume, but also sharpening their ruminations on the state of the Sahara and the world beyond. Features acclaimed Moroccan singer Hindi Zahra and Japanese traditional musicians.
Extra Soul Perception (ESP.) are a creative collaboration that brings together innovative artists from the UK, Kenya and Uganda for a week-long writing camp in Nairobi. The result will be an audio-visual album, documentary and series of live events.
See album video teaser and live dates here
Why not this year, go and see an African festival in the UK, or, if you are holidaying in Europe, why not plan it around a brilliant weekend of good vibes, great food and fantastic music. It’s a perfect way of immersing yourself into the local culture and giving back to the community.
It’s been an exceptionally busy year, we went to over 30 gigs, and in our New Music page, there are over 70 album releases listed.
With some absolutely sublime sounds from all over Africa and beyond, it was quite a task in deciding the top 10.
So here’s our pick of 2019.
Not listed in any particular preference – except for top spot.
A collection of artists that inspired, releases that enthralled and live performances that wowed us.
Thank you, Africa!
Haymanot Tesfa is a singer and krar (traditional lyre) player from Ethiopia, now living in the UK.
Loosening the Strings is her solo debut album, and is a collection of Ethiopian traditional songs and her own arrangements all sung in the distinctive Amharic language.
Throughout the album, Haymanot’s fingers flow through the six-stringed krar with nimble dexterity. The unfaltering plucked soft tones provide a foundation for Haymanot’s powerful and captivating voice. Using only
the krar and a drum it’s a bold debut. Yet, it doesn’t need anything else, as it’s simply beautiful.
The second release from Invisible System aka Dan Harper’s Malian project.
Dance to the Full Moon is the sequel to the instrumental Bamako Sessions album from 2018.
Delving deep into Mali’s traditional musical roots, griot, ngoni, kora, and Songhoy guitar are accentuated with the interfusion of dub, post-punk, techno, and R&B.
A more fulfilling album than its predecessor and with Dan Harper’s guidance and production finesse, has created a triumph of equilibrium.
Crisscrossing genres but keeping Mali at its heart and soul
London Afrobeat Collective’s latest album release Humans, unleashes the full force of their funky energetic afrobeat.
Full of musical gutsiness, with the fervor of their exhilarating live performances, the LAC sound is evolving beyond the sphere of Afrobeat.
An album striving for social justice has never sounded this good
If there was a TV series called ‘extreme homemade musical instruments’ KOKOKO! would be the hosts and Fongola would be the soundtrack.
Experimenting with engine parts to typewriters, the DR Congelese DIY’ers invent and build their own percussion and stringed instruments.
Flirting between, post-punk and electronic, the intoxicating and hypnotic grooves are blisteringly danceable.
KOKOKO! are currently on a world tour and are playing Fabric, London on November 28th
Known as the Malawian one-man band, Faith Mussa’s latest album is full of bright African guitars and soulful harmonies, whilst it slickly genre hops by blending modern beats and arrangements with traditional rhythms and instruments.
It’s an irresistibly catchy and classy production, with three years in the making and collaborating with various artists, it firms up Faith Mussa as a rising star on the international music scene.
It’s a massive privilege to have such a talent as Kadialy Kouyate based here in the UK.
The Senegalese kora virtuoso/singer hails from the line of Kouyate griots
and If you have ever seen him perform you will have been
bedazzled by the splendour of his kora mastery.
His latest repertoire is full of beautiful positive melodies, and you will feel your soul being gently nourished as the enchanting compositions unfold.
Ghanaian Isaac Birituro’s masterful xylophone style is explored by UK’s singer-songwriter Sonny Johns.
Lively West African beats, folky guitar and jazzy brass hues, harmonized with the uplifting Kalba Birifore Choir.
Recorded in Isaac’s hometown Kalba – the album title, a church became a makeshift mobile studio.
An intriguing story of different worlds embracing, it captures a genuinely warm-hearted community spirit.
In the 1960s, a group of Malian musicians travelled to Havana to study music.
The Maravillas de Mali band was formed and the groundbreaking
Afro-Cuban fusion style was born.
50 years on, Boncana Maïga the only remaining member has recaptured that revolutionary spirit by rejuvenating Africa Mia, the bands only album.
Featuring superstar Mory Kanté from Guinea.
A magnitude of free jazz, spiritual rants, raps and chants delivered with rock ’n’ roll fervency.
The 7 piece band from Soweto, South Africa inspired by indigenous music conjure extended trance-like songs, radiating positive energy as it challenges musical formats and simultaneously the harsh realities of African life.
Intrinsically deep-rooted with African dance sounds and styles, Kongo Dia Ntotila’s second release 360°is a profusion of adept musicianship.
Congolese guitar and energetic rhythms blend fluently with jazzy horns and bass lines inspired by the buoyant UK Jazz scene.
The listener is joyfully seesawed between Kinshasa and London.
It’s inventive, original and massively catchy. A feel-good fun ride from start to finish.
Desert blues at its finest, including dazzling reworks of songs legendary Ali Farka Toure also recorded.
A monumental Malian studio supergroup that encompasses traditional sounds, enriched by the verve of a new generation of musicians.
Progressive and compelling – essential listening.
Driving afro house, drum and bass beats, bold West African brass and exuberant electronics herald the welcome return of the Afro Celt Sound System
Dur-Dur of Somalia’s first 2 albums reissued by Analog Africa. Listen to the funky disco 70’s/80’s sound on irresistible triple vinyl and cassette (limited 200 copies only) and available to download.