Show #99: March Music Madness

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Madagascar native, Razia Said (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

I’ve got a big pile of new releases that have survived the—err, my curator’s cut. As the U.S. Marine recruitment slogan goes, “Many are called, but few are chosen.” In any case, I audition all of the CDs that are sent to me, except for the ones in genres that have nothing to do with Rhythm Planet (e.g. death metal, hard rock, teen angst, etc.) and mark my favorite tracks as I go. Here are some of the recent cuts that I’ve been enjoying.

51M+xS++oFL._AA160_We begin with “All is Forgiven” by Alekesam, which—for all you wordsmiths—is ‘Masekela’ spelled backwards. A second generation collaboration between Sal and Sunny, the sons of longtime creative partners, Hugh Masekela and record producer Stewart Levine, respectively, Alekesam take their name from Jason Bergh’s 2011 biographical documentary about father and son.

Next, we have Aziz Sahmaoui, founding member of the too short-lived Orchestre National de Barbès. I still remember his Grand Performances concert last summer with his new band, University of Gnawa, as being one of the best shows I saw that year. This month, I included his latest album, Mazal, as a Rhythm Planet Angel Club exclusive for our KCRW members, so I thought I’d treat everyone to a little sampling by featuring “InchAllah” (pronounced: “In’Sha-llah”), which is a variant of the popular Arabic saying, ‘If God/Allah be willing.’

51yap7UKfwL._AA160_French DJ/producer, Jérémie Moussaid Kerouanton, goes by the moniker, iZem. After more than a decade of crisscrossing the globe as an itinerant nomad, he has amassed a plethora of cultural beats, rhythms, and influences, inspiring his lush, sonic landscapes with tracks like “Sadeo.” Jazz vocalist Lauren Meccia follows with a lovely version of Herbie Hancock’s cool classic, “Butterfly,” accompanied by Robert Frost on bass and pianist Donald Vega (Ron Carter Trio).

HK & Les Déserteurs is the brainchild of Kaddour Haddadi, who has retooled some of the most quintessentially French standards, including Edith Piaf’s “Sous le Ciel de Paris” (“Under Parisian Skies”), George Brassens, and others, to the rhythmic backdrop of his childhood roots: Algerian chaâbi music, reggae, blues, and hip hop.

5137J27FzFL._AA160_One of my favorites is “Diwuta” by Cameroonian singer, Coco Mbassi. I just love her voice, her lyrics, and heartfelt spirituality. Her new album, titled, Jóa, translates to ‘maturity’ in the Duala language, which speaks to her own musical journey during the past 11 years since her previous album, Sepia. Mbassi does a beautiful job of blending rhythms from Cameroon, Mali, and Senegal. Then, we’ll also listen to a track from Hatian-American singer, Sarah Elizabeth Charles, who has an interesting new album out titled, Inner Dialogue, from which I’ve chosen to play her rendition of a traditional Hatian song, “Choucoune.” Next up on our world tour is Razia, who describes her work as a ‘musical call to action’ against the environmental degradation of her native homeland of Madagascar.

Lucy Alves is Pernambuco’s next big thing! (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

C Duncan is a classically trained composer/visual artist from Glasgow. He’s been making waves in the UK with his new self-titled album. The track, “For,” recently caught my attention on KCRW, so I wanted to spotlight it for you guys as a track to listen for. Also in the mix is young Brazilian accordion player from Pernambuco, Lucy Alves, whose brilliant forró party music has her poised to become the next big star from that northeastern state. We’ll sample the track, “Qui Nem Jiló” from her self-titled album.

One of the most legendary Malian bands of all time, Les Ambassadeurs du Motel de Bamako, which included late guitarist Kanté Manfila, Amadou Bagayoko (Amadou & Mariam), keyboardist Idrissa Soumaro, and the great Salif Keita, now has a fantastic, new self-titled, 2-CD deluxe package of their African classics. Malian music fans, this is one album you’ll definitely want to add to your collection.

Anouar Brahem’s Souvenance. (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

I thought I’d close this week’s show with a breathtaking new album by oud virtuoso, Anouar Brahem, called Souvenance, which means Remembrance.’ It’s a deeply contemplative, moving musical reflection on the troubling aftermath of the Arab Spring, which started in his native Tunisia. The cover image is that of a man fleeing from the site of a bomb blast. His soulful “Like a Dream” feels all the more poignant, in light of the sad horrors that took place at the Bardo National Museum this week.

Anyhow, these were just some of my favorite March new releases, so now it’s my pleasure to share them with you. I hope you enjoy them.

Rhythm Planet Playlist for 03/20/15

  1. Alekesam / “All is Forgiven” / Alekesam / Shoveling Sunshine
  2. Aziz Sahmaoui & University of Gnawa / “InChallah” / Mazal / Adami
  3. iZem (feat. Feather) / “Sadeo” / iZem / iZem
  4. Lauren Meccia / “Butterfly” / Inside Your Eyes / Spirit Music
  5. HK / “Sous le Ciel de Paris” / HK Presents Les Déseurters / Blue Line
  6. Coco Mbassi / “Diwuta” / Jóa / CD Baby
  7. Sarah Elizabeth Charles / “Choucoune” / Inner Dialogue / Truth Revolution Records
  8. Razia / “Taranaka Afara”Akory / wakeupmusic
  9. C Duncan / “For” C Duncan / FatCat Records
  10. Lucy Alves / “Qui Nem Jiló” Lucy Alves / Universal Brasil
  11. Les Ambassadeurs du Motel de Bamako / “Mbouran-Mousso”Les Ambassadeurs du Motel de Bamako / Sterns Africa
  12. Anouar Brahem / “Like a Dream”Souvenance / ECM

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