Posts Tagged ‘real world’

Papa Wemba (1949 – 2016)

Posted on April 26th, 2016 in News, Recent posts by .

Papa Wemba

© Douglas Kirkland

Words by Nigel Williamson

“Congo is the motherland of African music,” Papa Wemba always said, a proudly patriotic view rooted in his years growing up in Kinshasa in the 1950s and 60s, when the sound of Congolese rumba rocked harder and more irresistibly than any other beat on the continent.

By 1969 he was singing with Zaiko Langa Langa, one of the new wave bands taking up the baton from the pioneering groups led by the likes of Franco and Le Grand Kalle. Mixing traditional African styles with Western rock, he went on to form Viva La Musica, which by the early 80s was one of the most popular bands in what had become Zaire, as Wemba became a trend-setter not only in music but in fashion, too, leading the dandified cult known as les Sapeurs (the Society of Cool and Elegant People), fetishising Western designer brands which had been banned under president Mobutu’s policy of authenticité.

Papa Wemba

© Emanuel-Bovet

A move to Paris put him in pole position to spearhead the world music explosion of the 80s as the popularity of the hip-swivelling rhythms of soukous spread across the dance floors of Europe. He was subsequently signed to the Real World label by Peter Gabriel, with whom he toured, and became a WOMAD favourite.

Maintaining separate bands in Europe and Africa and travelling constantly between the two continents, he became caught up in an immigration racket known as ngulu, as those seeking to flee war-torn Congo were hidden among the entourages of African bands touring Europe. His part in the scam earned him a jail sentence in France in 2003, but he insisted he had acted purely for humanitarian reasons.

He will be remembered as one of Africa’s greatest voices and although he died far too young at the age of 66, he would surely have regarded it as fitting that his final moments on earth were spent on stage with his band in Abidjan.

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Album Review | Top of the World | Spiro – Welcome Joy and Welcome Sorrow

Posted on May 21st, 2015 in Recent posts, Reviews by .


By Tim Cumming

English minimalists delve into the poetry books

638The folk quartet Spiro rework English dance tunes under the aegis of minimalism and systems music; these are tunes that have been stripped down and reassembled to run on the kind of fuel that puts you into orbit. They create ecstatic, interlocking, intricate musical patterns that are as hypnotising and beguiling as the most complex Fibonacci sequences.

On their fifth album, its title taken from a John Keats poem, they reach new heights, most notably on the track ‘And All Through the Winter He Hid Himself Away’ and the one that follows it, ‘One Train May Hide Another’, its title taken from a poem by American poet Kenneth Koch. Much of the album appears to have been inspired by poetry: they turn to TS Eliot’s Four Quartets for ‘The Still Point of the Turning World’ and to Poet Laureate Ted Hughes for ‘Thought Fox’.

Though they’re from wildly different worlds, I’m reminded of Calvin Harris’ electronic hits in terms of the dynamics of build and release in their music, although Spiro are infinitely more subtle of course. Welcome Joy and Welcome Sorrow is their finest studio work so far, but the power they summon up live makes them a must-see experience.

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Album Review | Top of the World | 9Bach – Tincian

Posted on July 2nd, 2014 in Recent posts, Reviews by .


Words by Tim Cumming

Heavy tinkling from the indie-leaning Welsh folkers

9bach-1024x1024Singer Lisa Jên and guitarist Martin Hoyland delivered a superb debut album of traditional Welsh folk songs in 2009, fusing indie guitars and rock and dub influences with ancient Welsh folk tunes. This new set comprises original songs that draw inspiration from that same tradition, and from the physical and cultural landscape of their home in Gerlan, north Wales. Tincian is an old word from the ruinous world of heavy industry, and means to resonate, to ring, or to move with a tinkling sound.

All ten songs here feature atmospheric guitars and beats weaving their web behind the strong, distinct voice of Jên and only one, ‘Pa Le?’ is a traditional tune. Parts of it are reminiscent of Bristol’s trip-hop scene of the 90s, albeit peopled by stories of quarry men, lost children, and foxes feasting on a kill amidst a beautiful landscape. Esyllt Glyn Jones and Mirain Roberts provide vocal harmonies and harp, and the rhythm section of Ali Byworth and bassist Dan Swain is spare and minimal, but atmospheric and highly effective. 9Bach reflect on their folk traditions with something of a modernist’s or internationalist’s perspective, and remain unique in Welsh folk music.

Track To Try: ‘Pa Le?’

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Top of the World: The Gloaming – The Gloaming

Posted on February 11th, 2014 in Recent posts, Reviews by .


Words by Michael Quinn

TheGloamingCDTwilight’s last gleaming

Their live performances last summer positioned The Gloaming as one of the most exciting developments in Irish traditional music in a generation or more. Their eponymously titled debut album confirms that impression with an astonishing marriage of the old and the new in music as modern as it is ancient, as epic as it is intimate. It’s a powerhouse quintet of virtuoso soloists drawn from both sides of the Atlantic. The Irish contingent includes vocalist Iarla O Lionaird and fiddlers Caoimhín O Raghallaigh and Martin Hayes; the American comprises Hayes’ sometime guitarist partner Dennis Cahill and pianist Thomas ‘Doveman’ Bartlett.

Seamlessly reciprocal, The Gloaming make chamber music of operatic intensity and symphonic scale; the expansive, 17-minute ‘Opening Set’ is both a technical tour de force and hauntingly emotional. Even allowing for perfectly pitched and polish contributions throughout the album, there’s a compelling rawness to the end result, which is exquisitely caught in the hushed magic of ‘Samradh Samradh’, the noble hymnal ‘Freedom’, and the magnificently rich interplay between Hayes’ regal fiddle and Bartlett’s beautifully economic piano in ‘The Sailor’s Bonnet’. O Lionaird’s evocative vocals and O Raghallaigh’s expressive Hardanger fiddle add their own inimitable contributions to a superbly framed recording that is brilliantly innovative and executed with masterly conviction.

TRACK TO TRY: ‘The Sailor’s Bonnet’

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