This is the sixth feature in a series we call “Fresh Cuts.” It’s a selection of newly released tracks and videos from across Africa and the diaspora, featuring established and up-and-coming artists, and everything in between. Today we’ve got, among other things, hip-hop from Côte d’Ivoire and Nigeria, Afro-Greek trap music, Moroccan pop, brilliant Cuban jazz fusion and fresh Malian disco pop. In case you missed them, also check out our previous “Fresh Cuts.”
Here’s the full playlist on YouTube and Spotify (be mindful that these won’t include every song listed here due to the variety of platforms artists are using to share their music). Scroll beyond to read all about each artist. Enjoy!
Photo: Νέγρος Του Μοριά (Negros Tou Moria); Source: HuffPost
Amadou and Mariam: “Bofou Safou”
Amadou and Mariam are like musical royalty these days. This exceptional Malian musical couple began their journey together at Mali’s Institute for the Young Blind, where they bonded over music and began collaborating. Amadou (who used to play with Mali’s famous Les Ambassadeurs) plays guitar, and both he and Mariam sing. Although their sound is rooted in bluesy Malian guitar music, the couple have been boundlessly adventurous, exploring many different styles and attracting mountains of praise and many collaborators (e.g. Manu Chao, TV On The Radio, K’Naan, Nas).
And they’re at it again: here’s a new single from the duo. “Bofou Safou” is a step in a whole new direction, heavily laden with synthy disco and funk. They’re singing about the bofou safou of the world, the young laissez-faire guys who skip out on working to dance and party. The video is a fun, Technicolor gem chronicling the times of this bofou safou (and featuring Amadou playing a fly, etched-silver guitar). The couple is set to release a new album, La Confusion, later this year. Catch them on tour through North America and Europe: http://www.amadou-mariam.com/. For our fellow New Yorkers, they’ll be in Prospect Park for the BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn festival on July 21.
Kinté, Le Prince Héritier: “Oublier”
Kinté, le Prince Héritier, is a young Ivoirian MC (and Afropop collaborator) living in New York. He’s been making some very interesting music recently, rapping over trap beats built around sounds of kora and bluesy Mandé guitar, usually produced by Ibrahim Keita. He calls it “an inventive marriage of blues and trap” and in this song he uses it to push against “Africa’s political chaos.” Kinté wants his music to inspire unity and creativity. Dig it.
Νέγρος Του Μοριά: “Kofi Gavrilia”
Some bonafide Afro-Greek trap music coming at you from Νέγρος Του Μοριά (Negros Tou Moria), who was born in Athens to Ghanaian parents (his dad was a DJ). He’s built a solid name for himself in the Greek hip-hop scene with his richly textured sound and liquid rhymes, filled with wise lyrics pointed towards societal ills, namely racism in Greece. His musical style pays respects to the whole expanse of hip-hop, from the retro, soul-inflected sounds of A Tribe Called Quest to today’s sparse trap beats. (Trap music, for those not familiar, is a popular, assertive style of hip-hop driven by dark synths and the crisp snares, tinny hi-hats and deep bass drums of the Roland TR-808 drum machine). Negros Tou Moria deserves much more attention beyond his country of birth: Keep your ears out for a forthcoming Afropop Closeup all about the rapper.
Kwame Write: “Protruded Plastics”
This video shows the chops of one interesting character in the Ghanaian rap scene. Kwame Write is buds with Wanlov the Kubulor, of the free-spirited duo FOKN Bois, and his music shows that they are kindred spirits. Strange, creative, funny and incisive, Kwame Write is a wordsmith who fashions poetry out of everything. The words he uses to describe his own music can’t be beat. On his recently released album, Bloodlines, he says: “The artist rants out some social commentary concerning black world modern slavery, water pollution, illegal mining and plastic waste. Folk storytelling and groovy sounds explore and subvert the sonic landscape of Ghana, in all its intensity, funkiness, absurdity and flair.” (Incidentally, this album has a collaboration with singer Leila Adu, who was featured on a recent Afropop program). The sound itself is “An uncut splurge of visual metaphors forged into recited poetry, ‘some singing’ and fast paced rhythmic rap in fusion with Ghana’s Ebo Taylor and Alhaji K. Frimpong’s highlife chops…” Very cool. This video (shot by Wanlov) is a polemic on plastic pollution.
Okmalumkoolkat with Amadando: “GQI”
Some fiery dance beats from South African rapper Okmalumkoolkat, produced by Rudeboyz. It’s built on the vibes of gqom, a variety of house music that in emerged a few years ago in the townships in KwaZulu-Natal. As you can see from the video, this is music to get down to.
Nour with Elow’n: “Pain Condiment”
Nour is a young Ivoirian rapper making a name in the strong Cote d’Ivoire rap scene, thick with trap influences. His flow is on point and his production is slick and highly danceable. This track is all about the ubiquity and deliciousness of bread and sandwiches (“Even the president eats pain condiment”).
Runtown: “For Life”
Here’s another Afrobeats love song for the lineup, from Nigeria’s Runtown, a singer and producer who’s been getting lots of attention.
Tiwa Savage: “All Over”
Tiwa Savage was featured in our program about the unstoppable force that is Afrobeats. She’s a relatively rare female superstar in this male-dominated music industry, turning out hit after hit. Here’s her most recent, a bubbly love song with a sun-drenched video set in Miami.
TiiwTiiw: “Ma Fille”
TiiwTiiw (slang for “Little Devil”) is a singer and comedian born in Brussels to Moroccan parents. You can hear his music blasting from cars around Morocco, where he is among the ranks of many excellent Moroccan pop musicians. You could call his style a dance club version of chaabi, a broad label encompassing many varieties of rural and urban Moroccan folk music. You can hear in his beats the rhythms of rural chaabi and the distinctive sounds of darbuka, tambourine and handclaps that flavor it. This track is all about “Ma Fille”–my daughter. We’ll be hearing more from TiiwTiiw in an upcoming playlist.
Asma Lmnawar: “Andou Zine”
Here’s a Moroccan singer who’s perhaps at the top of the top: Asma Lmnawar. She is a force to be reckoned with: a singer with a big voice and big charisma. This recent track is a major hit, reaching around 29 million views (as of June 2017). The track was released by Rotana Records, the Arab world’s biggest record label, with which she signed in 2008 and released her recent album, Men Hina L Bukhra. The Casablanca-born star is not a newbie, however: She began singing in the mid ‘90s, though she didn’t make a career out of it until 2002. She was a headlining act at this year’s recent Mawazine Festival in Rabat, rocking the Moroccan stage perched on the edge of the Atlantic ocean. “Andou Zine” is an absolutely infectious track celebrating a marriage (as you can see by the wild wedding party in the video). “Andou Zine” literally means “He got the beauty”–in other words, his wife is beautiful.
Fnaïre: “Ngoul Mali”
Another Moroccan hit for you. Fnaïre is a trio of singers and rappers from Marrakech who have been making waves in the Moroccan pop scene since 2001. In their own bio, they purport to being often compared to the legendary Moroccan band Nass El Ghiwane–high praise indeed. Throughout their career they’ve made pop hits and also sung patriotic, politically charged songs, including “Ma Tkich Bladi,” (“Don’t Touch My Country”), which calls for contiguous Spanish territories to return to Morocco (and whose video offers a window into the past). This song is a bumping, futuristic dance tune that you could just put on repeat. Check the Gnawis who come in with those qraqebs at around 1:50 and the astronaut jamming on the guembri.
Koffi Olomide: “Tshou Tshou Tshou”
Yep, that’s the unmistakable bass of Congolese star Koffi Olomide. And at 60 years old, he’s showing no signs of slowing down. Olomide got his start in the soukous scene with the legendary singer and fashion maven Papa Wemba (who also gave him his stage name: “O L’Homme Idée,” the Idea Man, which evolved into Olomide). Olomide’s band, Quartier Latin International, was then a jumping-off point for younger soukous stars like Fally Ipupa and Ferré Gola. Here’s a recent track from the veteran singer with an expanse of backup dancers in tow.
Adekunle Gold with Moelogo: “Only Girl”
Here’s some Nigerian pop with a different palette than the dominant Afrobeats sound. Adekunle Gold, who labels his music “urban highlife,” is a singer from Lagos who first received major recognition for “Sade,” his cover of One Direction’s “Story of My Life.” This track, “Only Girl,” has that sunny highlife vibe, with echoing guitars, shuffling percussion, and warm vocal harmonies. Moelogo, a British-Nigerian Afrobeats singer features on this song.
Herencia de Timbiquí: “Sabrás”
Herencia de Timbiquí are major stars in Colombia and ambassadors to the world of the lush, marimba-centered Afro-Colombian music of the country’s Pacific coast (we heard some other artists from this region in our recent Fresh Cuts Vol. 5). This group is outstanding, producing some deeply moving and highly catchy music with their rich instrumentation, and not one but two remarkable lead singers. Here’s a new video for a 2014 track. It’s a heart-meltingly sweet, possibly autobiographical tale of long-time love set in a Colombian river town. Very hard not to love it.
Daymé Arocena: “La Rumba Me Llamo Yo”
Daymé Arocena is becoming a regular in the Afropop world and for good reason. The young Cuban singer, composer and bandleader is swiftly rising in the world scene, getting lots of love for her tremendous voice and ample curiosity in the vast musical landscape of her home country. Her compositions are wildly creative, rhythmically and melodically brilliant, bringing in flavors of rumba, son, Latin jazz, Santeria songs, and all else Cuban and grooving. Here’s a track from her red-hot recent album, Cubafonía. Head over here for an exclusive interview with Daymé Arocena.
Combo Chimbita: “Ampárame”
Put this one on rotation to wake yourself up. If you haven’t yet seen them on afropop.org, Combo Chimbita is a New York-based Colombian-rooted group who describe their uptempo psychedelic jams as “tropical futurism” and “cumbia-not-cumbia.” They’ve got driving cumbia-inspired drums, shimmery space-age guitar, metallic synths, and big, echoing vocals. A favorite here in the Afropop office. If you like “Ampárame,” there’s more where it came from: Hear Combo Chimbita’s recent album, Abya Yala, here. Be sure to pre-order this record, which releases June 21.
Ibeyi: “Away Away”
The freshest cut of the batch (released June 9), from the powerful Diaz twins, known as Ibeyi. We’ve heard from them in a previous “Fresh Cuts” and an album review. These sisters, daughters of the famed Cuban drummer Anga Diaz, have been crafting gorgeous, soulful and haunting music for several years and haven’t disappointed yet. Their spacious, minimal, vocally rooted sound draws in rumba clave, bátà rhythms and Santería invocations sung in Yoruba. This track is beautiful and dark, asking, “Why should I be racing/My fate of flames, my fate of flames.”
Assembled in collaboration with Deguet Koné, Nenim Iwebuke, Morgan Greenstreet, Akornefa Akyea, Jasmaine Quashie and Alejandro Van-Zandt Escobar.