Paris is a hub for musicians from all over the world. Our weekly show is a forum for sharing that music, and exploring its emotional impact. World Music Matters is hosted by RFI's Alison Hird.
Electric Vocuhila: the French quartet with taste, and talent, for African rhythms
Electric Vocuhila combine the spirit of free-jazz legend Ornette Coleman with driving urban guitar rhythms like tsapiky from Madagascar or Congolese sebene. They masterfully sew them together on their pulse-raising third album, Palaces.
"I had a long time love for African music and the repetitive motifs used in bebop and free jazz," the band's saxophonist and composer Maxime Bobo told RFI just ahead of the Palaces release party in Paris.
The album is an electrifying patchwork of rhythms like tsapiky, sebene, sungura and benga.
They got into tsapiky after meeting France-based Damily, the king of this fast, electric-guitar led genre which he developed in Tuléar in the 1970s.
"We started to use its grooves and forms," Bobo said. "But doing it our own way, trying to get closer to this kind of 'dancey' feeling and fluidity, but using the saxophone and with the way we interact and compose together."
The saxophonist as a voice
The band went to Madagascar, saw how the professionals did i
18/09/2020 • 12 minutes 26 seconds
Cult 1984 album 'Sons of Ethiopia' enchants new audiences in 2020
Admas, a quartet of young Ethiopian musicians living in exile in Washington DC, had a ball recording an album of synth-heavy, funked up versions of Ethiopian classics. 'Sons of Ethiopia ' was soon forgotten but became cult among fans of ethiojazz. Now reissued by Frederiksberg Records, it reflects happier times from a generation that "just escaped" the worst of the Derg.
Some records are far more than the sum of their parts, and Sons of Ethiopia is one such.
The seven tracks were recorded in 1984 by the band Admas: Henock Temesgen, Abegasu Shiota, Tewodros “Teddy” Aklilu and Yousef Tesfaye.
Like so many Ethiopian expats in the U.S. at the time, the four young men had fled the Derg: the military junta that deposed Emperor Haile Selassie in 1974. As the White Terror gave way to the Red Terror, over a million people died in the violence.
Aklilu, the band’s keyboard player, left Addis in 1977, aged 15, just before the worst of the Red Terror began.
“It was so sad, kids killed each o
08/09/2020 • 16 minutes 9 seconds
Ennio Morricone: a tribute to the late maestro
Italian composer Ennio Morricone was famed for his film scores but his work straddled jazz, pop, psychedelia as well as the avant-garde, influencing bands as diverse as Air and Metallica.
Ennio Morricone left behind some 500 scores for both film and television.
The theme tune to Sergio Leone’s spaghetti western The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly is undoubtedly one of the most renowned.
“Just 10 seconds into one of Morricone’s soundtracks, you know it’s him, you know which film it’s from, you can see the pictures,” said French composer Jean-Michel Jarre in the wake of the Italian composer’s death on 6 July.
To recreate this feeling of the American far west, Morricone added on drums, some flute, and of course the "cry" of a coyote.
The trademark whistling came courtesy of Spanish guitarist and whistler Curro Savoye, who now lives in the south of France.
The two men never met, but Savoye was "the" whistler on the vast majority of Morricone’s work.
The film soundtrack also includes “
11/07/2020 • 10 minutes 12 seconds
Hachalu Hundessa: the Oromo singer who helped transform politics in Ethiopia
"Everyday I walk in this city, I know I walk alongside death," singer Hachalu Hundessa said just days before he was shot dead in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa on 28 June. We hear how the 34-year old protest singer became the voice of the Oromo ethnic group. "He was the soundtrack of the 2018 revolution that brought change to Ethiopia" Awol Allo told RFI.
The murder of Hachalu Hundessa last Monday sent thousands of Oromo out onto the streets in protest. More than one hundred have died in the unrest.
There have been protests and mourning not just in the capital Addis and elsewhere in Ethiopia, but also in Minnesota, US, where a large Oromo diaspora settled after fleeing political repression and discrimination back home.
Like many Oromo artists, Hachalu could have fled, but chose to stay. Prophetically, just a week before his death, he told journalists he was well aware of the risks he was taking.
"He said: ‘What I am afraid of is a meaningless death, a death that has no purpo
03/07/2020 • 15 minutes 42 seconds
'Black Lives Matter', and songs are showing it's a fact
Inspiring speeches are great, but a song can travel and connect people like nothing else. After the tragic death of George Floyd, musicians are helping to bring issues of police violence and social justice to the fore. Beyoncé, queen of R 'n' B, and the young gospel singer Keedron Bryant have just released songs with a strong 'Black Lives Matter' message.
26/06/2020 • 11 minutes 31 seconds
Ariana Vafadari breathes life into Anahita, Persian goddess of water
After exploring Zoroastrian chants on her 2016 album “Gathas, songs my father taught me”, mezzo soprano Ariana Vafadari puts femininity to the fore with the heart-wrenching “Anahita”, inspired by the Persian prophet Zarathustra and the goddess of water. Ten deeply spiritual songs set to Oriental maqam scales, tracing a path from despair to resolution.
French-Iranian Vafadari has a successful career as an international opera singer, but remains deeply attached to her Zoroastrian roots.
“I’m from two cultures,” she said. “I love opera more than anything but a part of me needed to express the origins, the music of Iran, the Oriental music.”
She learned Gathas - Zoroastrian prayers dating back some 3,700 years - from her father.
“Gatha means song but we have no idea how it was sung at that time,” she said. “Just the prayers were kept and now the priest chants them. I wanted to compose music on it and make it more alive.”
She did just that for her 2016 album "Gathas, songs my fathe
19/06/2020 • 17 minutes 41 seconds
The Eddy: a love letter to jazz in modern, multicultural Paris
There are big names in The Eddy, a Netflix series about a struggling jazz club in Paris. But the real star is jazz. And since coronavirus is depriving us of the thrill of live music, the jazz sessions recorded with its own six-piece band provide music lovers a much needed fix. Composer Glen Ballard and saxophonist Jowee Omicil talk about the joy of putting music first.
All the songs in The Eddy were written by award-winning American composers Glen Ballard and Randy Kerber.
The series began with a song and an idea back in 2007.
“Ive lived in Paris off and on all my adult life," Ballard told RFI. "And I’ve always loved the fact that Paris still had jazz clubs, still had young people going to the clubs, listening to music being played live.
"So I had this concept of a club that I called The Eddy: a perfect jazz club where you could go and have the greatest band in the world and a great singer, and you could find some kind of connection with that music and work out some of your own
12/06/2020 • 19 minutes 42 seconds
Mugogo!: electronic music from the coast of Kenya
When Swiss beatmaker FlexFab was doing a set in the coastal town of Kilifi, Kenya, a young Kenyan rapper Ziller Bas grabbed the mike and delivered his "Swengflow". The chemistry was immediate and six months later the two artists are set to release their debut EP Mugogo! A dancefloor must.
Pablo Fernandez, who's been working under the moniker FlexFab for a decade or so, likes to work outside his comfort zone. He's lent his beatmaking skills to Kenya's Muthoni Drummer Queen, Batuk from South Africa, rapper Rozzma from Egypt, Malaysian singer The Venopian Solitude...
In August 2019, a Swiss music non-profit, Flee, invited him to East Africa for a series of exchanges with local musicians. During a gig in Kilifi, some 70kms north of Mombasa, Baraka Shujaa, an MC going under the name Ziller Bas couldn't resist joining in.
"The beats were so good, I was so excited I had to jump in," the 25-year old rapper said on the line from Kilifi.
"This freestyle session with Ziller Bas was magic,
06/06/2020 • 12 minutes 52 seconds
Touki: how West Africa's kora found kindred spirit in the banjo
When musicians Amadou Diagne and Cory Seznec had a chance encounter in a bar in Bath in 2007, they knew one day they would record together. Thirteen years later, after many "touki" (journeys), they've embarked on a new musical adventure with a debut album Right of Passage. They talk to RFI about making new roots music with kora, banjo and guitar.
“It was a fortuitous meeting of like-minded kindred spirits,” said Seznec, a French-American singer-songwriter, guitarist and clawhammer banjoist who’s honed his sound through travels on the African continent.
He was playing in a bar with his band Groanbox when Diagne showed up with his djembe after a day of busking and the two men began improvising together.
“The energy was fantastic ... some really simple connection happened back in 2007," said Seznec.
They played gigs from time to time, Seznec bringing Diagne on board “for his percussive and harmony prowess” but it took more than a decade for them to form the duo Touki and get into th
31/05/2020 • 17 minutes 28 seconds
Chadian band Pulo NDJ creates sounds out of its Lomé lockdown
When N'Djamena-based electro band Pulo NDJ found themselves stranded in Abuja with no chance of returning to Chad because of the coronavirus, they made their way to Lomé, set up a home studio and recorded a song about living in lockdown. Their story is one of friendship and remaining creative through the crisis.
Since the release of their acclaimed debut album Desert to Douala in March 2019, Pulo NDJ has spread its inventive blend of traditional Chadian rhythms with an electro beat around West Africa.
In March they were invited by the Institut Français in Abuja to head up DJ-ing workshops and give concerts in Nigeria.
But the coronavirus stopped them in their tracks. With borders shut, they found themselves stranded in Abuja, unable to return to N’Djamena.
“The concert was cancelled and we had to return to Chad but Chad closed its border," said guitarist Stingo. "We got help from friends."
The band headed to his home country of Togo and found shelter at Luc’s (aka Lord Kossi
22/05/2020 • 11 minutes 36 seconds
Djibouti's Groupe RTD make international 'Dancing Devils' album debut
Djibouti is better known as a strategic outpost than a hotbed of music but Groupe RTD, the country's national radio band, are one of its best kept secrets. By day they play at official ceremonies, off duty they let rip their love of American jazz, Indian Bollywood, Jamaican reggae and Somali funk. For the first time ever an independent label, Ostinato Records, was allowed to capture that sound and release it to the outside world on the upcoming Dancing Devils of Djibouti album.
Since Djibouti gained independence from France in 1977, its music industry has been controlled by the state, its bands run like national enterprises.
And none more so than Groupe RTD, the official band of national radio Radiodiffusion-Télévision Djibouti (RTD), whose job it is to perform at official ceremonies.
Its music has always been recorded in RTD’s studios, conserved in its extensive archives, but has never had international release.
Vik Sohoni, producer and curator with Ostinato Records, met the ba
18/05/2020 • 14 minutes 56 seconds
Sarah McCoy sings, and lives, the blues
Sarah McCoy is undoubtedly one of the most exuberant and talented singer-songwriters around, unafraid to bear her heart and soul in her music. "Honesty is important," says the 35-year old American. "If I were just singing about how it's sunshiny all the time, well some people can do that, but it's my job to sing about when it rains."
McCoy was picked out by a French researcher singing and playing piano in clubs and bars in New Orleans. After a few years on the road, living rough, she moved to Paris in October 2017 where producers Chilly Gonzales and Renaud Létang helped produced her debut album Blood Siren. Listen to the podcast to hear her story, along with songs from this remarkable record.
Official website here.
Follow McCoy on facebook and instagram
17/03/2020 • 14 minutes 16 seconds
Olgha Nk: a strong voice lamenting the pain of Cameroon's Anglophone crisis
Olga "Olgha" Nkweti is a singer-songwriter from the English-speaking part of Cameroon. She began singing professionally aged just 17 and has made a name crafting covers of popular songs into Pigdin English, but also writes her own soulful afro-pop compositions. She talks to RFI about composing the song Cold to draw attention to the innocent victims caught up in the Anglophone conflict.
"I decided to write Cold to create an awareness about what has been going on in the English speaking zones of Cameroon," she tells RFI's Laura-Angela Bagnetto when the two women meet in Douala. "We've had a crisis for the last three years or so, and it doesn't seem to be letting up.
"I realised there was a lot of pointing of fingers and everybody was trying to blame the other party for starting it. But there was not enough information about the victims. So I wanted a song which was going to focus on the fact that we are losing on both sides: we are losing family, we're losing friends, we are losing c
05/03/2020 • 12 minutes 42 seconds
Seb el Zin: hardcore with a soft centre
Seb el Zin founded the surrealist rock band Ithak in 2005 and it somehow manages to straddle hardcore, metal, psychedelia and traditional Turkish music with equal ease. He talks to us about why metal is ethno music, his love of dystopia and science fiction, and finding lyrical inspiration in the odd mushroom.
Seb El Zin (Seb the beautiful!) has many strings to his bow: composer, singer, musician and producer, he's frontman and guitarist with ethno-psychic punk band Ithak.
Their second album, Black Nazar Corporation (2016), is not exactly easy-listening world music. But el Zin says it's just a question of opening your mind.
"We attempt to mix industrial punk rock with some other traditional musics," he says. "In the West we have many labels like metal music, reggae, hip hop, and so on, and then all the rest is world music.
"But I consider that every music is ethno actually. Even metal is ethno music from white people from the beginning of the 90s. So in the end, there is no reason
29/02/2020 • 15 minutes 41 seconds
Piers Faccini: the organic farmer of the music world
Singer-songwriter Piers Faccini's latest opus is a four-track EP Hear My Voice. And what an original voice it is. He chats to us about his artisan approach to making nourishing music, doing it his way on his record label Beating Drum and how unpleasant years at Eton public school probably helped forge his unique musical identity.
Anglo-Italian singer songwriter and guitarist Piers Faccini launched the Hear My Voice project in 2018 as a way of giving a platform to talented artists with distinct and somewhat atypical voices.
His label Beating Drum has released three vinyl EPs: Neapolitan songwriter GNUT, Tui Mamaki and Trinidadian poet and singer Roger Robinson aka Horsedreamer.
"They have very distinctive voices," says Faccini. "And that's the notion of Hear My Voice, it's about using Beating Drum to put out and highlight the kind of voices that might not always be heard.
"Newt, for example, is a singer-songwriter who decides to sing in the Neapolitan language as opposed to It
07/02/2020 • 16 minutes 54 seconds
The many voices, and opinions, of ALA.NI
"Some tracks have 300 different layers of vocals and most of them are me," says Ala.ni about her new album Acca. The London-born, Paris-based singer with a rare four-octave range beguiles us with her voice. The record is mainly her, a capella. With a bit of Iggy Pop.
She talks to us about how her great uncle the singer Leslie "Hutch" Hutchinson "black and bisexual in the 30's" gave her a lot of courage to be herself and "do things differently".
We chat about how Iggy Pop took a shine to her and ending up doing vocals in French on the song "Le Diplomate" inspired by a real-life encounter with ... a diplomat.
Following the success of her debut album "You and I" she's grown a lot in confidence and now feels happy speaking her mind on a whole load of subjects.
"I’m all for calling people out right now whether it’s about sex, race or whatever. I’ve not been allowed to have an opinion for many years as a black female, this is a new thing for me. I'm like 'wow, I can talk, people li
24/01/2020 • 17 minutes 17 seconds
Asa unpicks many faces of love on new album Lucid
On her latest album Lucid, Nigerian singer-songwriter Asa explores the many colours of love: warm, dark, brilliant, somber, the joy, the longing, the wanting. But also the violence that can seep into a relationship and destroy lives.
As the world wakes up to the reality of sexual violence against women, Asa's song Murder in the USA, the opening track on the album, couldn't be more pertinent. She was fully aware that femicide was getting a lot of media attention, but personal experience also pushed her to write the song.
"I grew up in Lagos seeing my parents having this problem, especially my mum, and wondering why she would have to allow herself go through that.
"I think murder in the USA is really about being aware of the signs and leaving. I feel like my mum saw the signs but she thought society expects you to be married, to be with your husband, with the children, to stay.
"Now I’m like 'no I don’t have to go through that', to buckle under the weight of society...things are ch
17/01/2020 • 14 minutes 38 seconds
La Mòssa: five women, one voice
La Mòssa are a five-piece band of female vocalists who excel at polyphonic chant. They've just released their debut album A Mòssa and talk to us about reinterpreting folksongs they love in a free and playful way in the spirit of Nina Tirabouchon, a 1920s Italian cabaret artist with hip swing to die for.
La Mòssa means movement in Italian. Listen in to find out why that suits the women so well.
La Mòssa: Lilia Ruocco, Emmanuelle Ader, Sara Giommetti, Gabrielle Gonin, Aude Marchand
Upcoming concerts: Le petit Duc in Aix-en-Provence, 5 March 2019; Jardin de Verre in Cholet, 26 March 2019; Peniche Spectacle in Rennes 27 March 2019.
Follow the band on facebook
10/01/2020 • 14 minutes 44 seconds
Sona Jobarteh: Changing the tradition of kora playing to ensure its survival
Sona Jobarteh comes from a long West African tradition of Griots and kora players from Mali and The Gambia. She's become one of the rare women in the world to master the 21-string instrument which is traditionally reserved to men. She talks to RFI about working within the tradition to be better able to expand it.
Sona Jobarteh's grandfather was Amadu Bansang Jobarteh, an oral historian and hereditary praise singer from the Mandinka people of The Gambia. Her cousin is Mali's Toumani Diabaté. Her brother began teaching her to play the kora when she was just three, but when she decided she wanted to make a career out of it, she turned to her father Sanjally Jobarteh.
"I always had a very natural connection with the older repertoire," Jobarteh explains as we sit at her hotel before a concert in Paris's New Morning early November. "That's why I really wanted to study with my father because he is very much an expert in that style of playing."
Her father was a demanding task-master.
07/12/2019 • 16 minutes 41 seconds
Emmanuel π Djob: a soul man from Cameroon
Emmanuel π Djob started out singing gospel in his native Cameroon and is building a successful blues-soul career in France. He heads up the six-piece AfroSoul Gang, but it’s performing alone with guitar that his gravel-rough baritone voice, raw emotion and soul really shines through. We caught him performing live on RFI's Musiques du Monde.
Emmanuel π Djob started out with Bayembi’s International, a pan African gospel formation popular in Cameroon in the 1990s.
After settling in France, he helped to revive and renew the gospel tradition, performing with the Black & White Gospel Singers and Gospelize it!
He released his debut album, Seven Minutes, in 2008, drawing on the blues, pop and rock to explore the theme of the death penalty.
He went on to record a series of albums called Terrassa’s Conversessions in 2010.
In 2013 he created a storm on the TV music talent show The Voice singing Ray Charles’ Georgia on My Mind.
“Ray Charles, Bob Marley, Fela Kuti, Hugh Masekela, they were
29/11/2019 • 13 minutes 7 seconds
Klezmer, funk and hip hop unite against racism and intolerance in Trump’s America
A decade after their acclaimed album Tweet Tweet, Abraham Inc. return with Together We Stand, using their eclectic mix of klezmer, funk and hip hop to show that different religions, ages, sexes and races get along. David Krakauer, Fred Wesley and Socalled talk to RFI about how the U.S. president’s “Muslim” ban got them back in the studio making great music.
“The band is kind of crazy mix of just about anybody you can imagine,” says Socalled, a Canadian beatmaker who’s been working with Krakauer on reinventing klezmer for over a decade.
“Men, women, black, white, brown, Latino, Africans … we have basically Jewish culture and Yiddish culture meeting African American culture. And on the song Together We Stand we invited an Arabic percussionist Mohammed Raky, so there’s Arabic percussion.”
The title track was written by Fred Wesley, master funk trombonist and James Brown's former musical director.
"Together WE stand is also the peoples of the world," Wesley says, “all races and a
22/11/2019 • 16 minutes 45 seconds
Nick Gold: "I feel privileged and lucky to produce music with these people"
Nick Gold has been at the helm of World Circuit Records for close to three decades. The label has produced some of the best world music around: Buena Vista Social Club, Ali Farka Touré, Oumou Sangaré, Toumani Diabaté, Cheikh Lô ... and most recently Trio Da Kali and Fatoumata Diawara. The London-based producer has a nose for talent but maintains being allowed to work with such artists makes him the lucky one.
In 2018, World Circuit merged with BMG and together they recently released remastered versions of four of their cornerstone albums: Ali Farka Touré's Savane, Omara Portuondo's Buena Vista Social Club Presents, Radio Tarifa's Rumba Argelina and Guillermo Portabales' El Carretero.
Gold reflects on three decades of helping to get great music from West Africa and Cuba to western audiences even, as he says, the musicians in question didn't need reminding it could travel!
"Musicians from Cuba and Mali value their own music, they know it's incredibly important. It's not like they
01/11/2019 • 22 minutes 58 seconds
Raashan Ahmad: bringing light into the darkness
Raashan Ahmad is an American DJ, MC and hip hop artist with a big heart and a sharp mind. A thought-provoking rapper whose latest album The Sun explores joy and pain, hope and despair: the loss of his mum, the birth of his son. "Balance is something I've strived for... I can never get out of my mind how beautiful things are at the exact same time that they’re horrible."
"Do you know what it feels like to be a black person?" asks American comedian and civil rights activist Dick Gregory on the opening track No.
Ahmad does and it hasn't always felt good.
"The song's inspired by the police killing of black Americans in the United States," says Ahmad, "that’s pretty much it and my experience with it. I speak about being pulled over with my father when I was about seven and that was my first experience with the police."
He raps over a bed of free-jazz inspired saxophones.
"I love the Sun Ra Arkestra, Sony Rollins, Yusef Lateef ... these American jazz musicians who were playing t
18/10/2019 • 15 minutes 45 seconds
Ghana's Pat Thomas still living the highlife
Dubbed "the golden voice of West Africa" Pat Thomas embodied the glory days of Ghanaian highlife in the 60s and 70s alongside the great Ebo Taylor. The music fell out of fashion in the 80s but Thomas never stopped singing. He made a much-praised comeback in 2015 with the Kwashibu Area Band thanks to Ghanian musician and producer Kwame Yeboah and together they've now released another gem: Obiaa! (Everyone).
Listen to Thomas and Yeboah, two generations of highlife, discussing their love of the music, where the "high" in highlife came from and how the younger generation is discovering the importance of this music, the precursor to Nigeria's afrobeat.
"They themselves realise you have to go back to the roots," says Thomas. "We're doing lots of collaborations and it's working out good."
Obiaa! is out on Strut Records.
Pat Thomas and the Kwashibu Area Band are on a European tour. You'd be a fool to miss them live. Check out their facebook page for details.