MTTimes - December 2012 (HTML)
Adobe Reader required
External links (takes you to youtube.com)
Exile and Beat the Border by Ugandan Geoffrey Oryema. Geoffrey was in his early twenties when his father was assassinated by Idi Amin's government and he narrowly escaped with his life across the border into Kenya.
Muhazi by Rwandan Mighty Popo. I heard the Mighty Popo for the first time at the Vancouver Folk Festival in July of this year. I thought him the star of the festival's finale.
African Voices, a collection compiled by Narada which includes Ayub Ogada.
Wonders of the African World, the soundtrack of PBS' documentary, written and presented by Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr.
Africa, the soundtrack from the National Geographic television series. It includes songs by Ogada and Oryema.
En Mana Kuoyo by Kenyan Ayub Ogada.
Shadow Man by Johnny Clegg and Savuka. South African musician who fuses white and black music. The result is irresistible and energetic.
Ghorwane by Majurugenta. Beautiful gentle sounds from a Mozambique group which traveled to England to record on Peter Gabriel's Real World label.
I picked up this wonderful double CD set in Morocco: Desert Blue, Ambiance du Sahara, a collection of ballads from Ethiopia, Sudan, Algeria, Morocco, Mauritania, Senegal, The Gambia and Mali. From Network Music, Frankfurt, Germany.
While in Morocco, I was introduced to this singer from Mali, and couldn't wait to order her CD set called Oumou.
Another of my favorite CDs is Senegalese Ismael Lo's Jammu Africa. This is sure to appeal to Western tastes.
Youssou N’dour: Rokku Mi Rokka (“Give and Take”): I saw N’Dour perform in the 80s in Oakland, California where he was part of the Amnesty International Concert Tour. This is long before I knew my destiny would take me to Africa. I have followed this famous Senegalese musician ever since. This is his latest effort.
Afriki by Habib Koite and Bamada: Koite is a famous Malian musician, a premier guitarist and Bamada is his group. He speaks to Malian and African youth in his latest CD, in the hopes of convincing them to appreciate their traditions and to cherish their African roots. "Africans", he writes, "are willing to risk death trying to leave for Europe and the USA, but they are not willing to take that risk staying to develop something here in Africa. Life can be really good or really bad wherever you live. People need to understand that. Even though Mali is poor, we still have good quality of life. You can walk outside and smile and someone will smile back. I have thought about it a lot, and I don't agree that poor countries always have a worse quality of life." Koite's lyrics resonate with me the most, but his music is beautiful as well. Its gentle, laidback songs remind me of Geoffrey Oreyema’s music. This is music which is good for the soul.
Congolese Soukous compiled by the Rough Guide to World Music: What are soukous you might ask? Well, it’s Congolese rumba, guitar-driven dance music, with its roots in the 1950s Democratic Republic of Congo when Portuguese visitors introduced the guitar to local musicians who quickly traded in their thumb pianos for the new instrument. I can now vouch for the Congolese love of dancing and singing. I have only to sit outside my house after sunset and all the music venues happening around the neighborhood are carried to me through the still night.
Le Droit Chemin (The Right Road) by Fally Ipupa: This is Brazzaville's favourite music at the moment, from a musician known as Fally who hails from Kinshasa across the river. Without paper, inks and printers, advertisements in Congo are painted by hand. Many images of Fally are around town, especially to demarcate tape shops and men's hairdressers. With Congolese pop, it possible to think that all day long the same song is playing. However, I can differentiate between Fally's tracks and his voice is silky smooth. I brought copies of this tape to Tanzania for all my driver/guides. The CD is available at Amazon and for a better price than in Congo.
Music of the Ba'Aka of Dzanga-Sangha: the only way you can get a hold of this music is through Louis Sarno, the American who recorded it and who has lived with this Central African pygmie group for over 20 years. You may also see if you can find a copy of Louis' book Song from the Forest: My Life Among the Ba-Benjelle Pygmies - some of the books were released with the music - but don't tell Louis that I recommended this. He doesn't like his book, years now after he wrote it. He asked me not to look for a copy of it. (I didn't listen.) Out of respect for Louis' feelings, I won't review his book. But I will tell you this. I think it is worth a read for what you will learn about the Ba'Aka people, especially about their music which is why Louis was drawn to Central Africa in the first place. He happened to hear a pygmie song on the radio and it affected him so much that he decided to travel to their remote rainforest home. He never left. His CD of recordings was made between 1986 and 1996. It preserves eleven Ba'Aka compositions, from the yodeling the women make on their way to the forest for a day of gathering, to the ancient boyobe ceremony which is held before a traditional net hunt. Women and children summon in song the forest spirits who appear dressed in bark and leaves to bless the hunt. Some of the pygmie music is dying out, which will make Louis' CD a wonderful thing to own. If you come on a Central African safari I will introduce you to Louis. If you want a copy of this beautiful and rare Ba'Aka music please write and I will put you in touch with Louis.
Long Way Down: this is the official soundtrack to the motorcycle adventure series of the same name which appeared on BBC TV last year. The series chronicles actor Ewan McGregor's and his action buddy Charley Boorman's travels through Africa on their bikes. There are some familiar and famous African musicians in this compilation – such as Geoffrey Oryema, Ayub Ogada, and Thomas Mapfumo – but I was also pleased to be introduced to the Afro Celt Sound System (a UK group) and Somalian singer Maryam Mursal. I loved the series. (Who can't like Ewan McGregor?) I love this soundtrack even more.
by John Nevison
Samite writes and performs original and traditional songs in his mother tongue of Luganda. He plays the kalimba (finger-piano), marimba (wooden xylophone), litungu (seven-stringed Kenyan instrument), and various flutes.
In 2002, Samite founded "Musicians for World Harmony" (www.musiciansforworldharmony.org), a non-profit organization dedicated to enabling musicians throughout the world to share their music in order to promote peace, understanding, and harmony among peoples, with a special emphasis on the displaced or distressed who can benefit most from the healing power of music.
Samite writes, “I am convinced that we are all moved by the same desires, needs and emotions, regardless of the language in which those feelings are expressed. Songs are delivered to me by forest birds, or as I photograph mountain gorillas in Bwindi impenetrable Forest in Uganda. Still other songs come to me through stories I hear when I visit orphanages and refugee camps”.
A popular Samite CD is "Kambu Angels". In the album's liner notes, Samite states that he was inspired by an Africa that is renewing itself. In songs such as Buli Muntu, Zenina, Sunrise, Kambu Angels, and Tokido, it is possible to hear this renewal - the laughter of village children; the insect buzz in the forest; the tinny sounds of rumba music on transistor radios; windswept plains and huge, endless skies; flocks of migratory birds in flight; and an elephant family crossing a river.