Sahel Sounds (remember them?) released two new full length albums the other night: Pheno S’s Kani and Afelan by Mdou Moctar. A quick listen reveals that they’re both totally great.
Pheno S. was a standout artist from our recent program made with label owner Christopher Kirklehy, and Kani reminds that it was no accident. The record opens with the very mellow “Alazalika”, which is calm like a good cup of coffee on a Sunday morning. But things really start cooking with the very excellent track-2, “Waihidjo”. Autotuned to perfection and with a beat so laid back and catchy that four minutes and 35 seconds hardly seem enough, this track says great things about the young rapper’s future. Bonus points: even though Islamists seized Pheno’s equipment and tapes last year when they took over the northern part of Mali, the record was still put out and the rapper is still alive and well.
Mdou Moctar’s Afelan sounds like a fun, messy romp through a midnight dance party on the dunes. We covered the Bombino concert in Prospect Park recently, so while the hypnotic beat is familiar, hats off to Moctar for bringing so much soul to the record. “A Fleur Tamgak” has more scruff and dirt on its hands than a lot of the music that’s been coming out of Mali’s north lately, and it’s all the better for it. While there’s plenty electric guitar on the record, it’s the acoustic songs that will really pull you in. It scarcely gets more intimate and touching than recordings like, “Nikali Talit”.
On top of these two new releases, Sahel Sounds’ Chris Kirkley posted a hilarious, insightful, and more than slightly sad open letter to the Department of Homeland Security on the Sahel Sounds site a few days ago. Major props to him for his candor and patriotism. Check out the full catalogue of Sahel Sounds records at their website.