OBONGJAYAR | MDOU MOCTAR | JEREMY CUNNINGHAM | KASSA OVERALL | MALENA ZAVALA
Hello again friends, freaks and fans of future-jazz.
I’ve nicknamed this episode ‘the rowdy one’ as every artist featured appears to be spoiling for a fight a little bit. Which, really, is how it should be.
First up, you’ve got London’s world music / spoken word artist Obongjayar, whose gravelly tones give anything he sings a slightly ominous undertone.
Then come Niger’s Mdou Moctar and New York’s Kassa Overall – two old favourites of this blog who’ve returned with new music that’s keener than ever to push the boundaries of desert blues and hip-hop respectively.
Rounding things off is ‘the viper’ Malena Zavala (pictured), whose mix of cumbia, reggaeton, Afro-Cuban, Afro-funk, Andean folk, Argentine folk and bolero-son stylings have transfixed the best of us while Ms Zavala’s hypnotic voice has taken its hold.
And nestled in between them all, Chicago’s Jeremy Cunningham unveils a track that rails against America’s gun laws while also lamenting the loss of his own brother. It’s stirring stuff.
So, without further ado, hear more here…
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THE CHARM OFFENSIVE
OBONGJAYAR: GOD’S OWN CHILDREN
London singer and Richard Russell protégé, Obongjayar (known to his Mum as Steven Umoh) returned this month with his second EP; Which Way is Forward? This track is the second single from it.
God’s Own Children contains all the usual hallmarks of an Obongjayar track; there’s voodoo here. There’s afrobeat. There’s some preacher-like words and some spiritual hymn-like sounds. But what makes this track really stand-out is the celebratory nature of it. In the chorus the track’s horns lift it into a raucous, exultant ode to self-empowerment and finding one’s inner strength.
Further reading: this excellent Pitchfork interview with Obongjayar.
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THE MILITARY COUP
MDOU MOCTAR: IBITLAN
Tuareg blues/rock phenomenon Mdou Moctar returns with two tracks, recorded during the sessions for last year’s Ilana: the Creator.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is what an off-cut sounds like when it comes from the ‘Jimi Hendrix of the Desert’.
A powerful, pulsating beast of a record, Ibitlan is actually a love song according to the artist himself. “Her skin is like a yellow flower, and her smile is like lightning” says Moctar of the lucky lady for whom the track was written.
And, well, it sounds like there’s some rolling of thunder to go with that lightning if you ask me.
Further reading: for a completely different side of Moctar (and an excellent Purple Rain joke) read my review of his track Tumastin here.
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THE PEACEFUL PROTEST
JEREMY CUNNINGHAM: ELEGY
Chicago drummer Jeremy Cunningham releases debut solo record The Weather Up There – a haunting and bittersweet exploration of love and grief, created in honour of his brother Andrew, who was killed in a home invasion. Elegy is the LP’s penultimate track.
This one hit me in the gut. The voices you hear are those of Cunningham’s family and friends as they struggle to make sense of the events of that fateful day in 2008. The sonic backdrop is dominated by a ‘drum choir’ consisting of Cunningham, Makaya McCraven, Mike Reed and Mikel Avery.
The whole piece reaches its climax as Cunningham’s Aunt Cynthia expresses her frustration on gun laws in the US, thunderously underscored by Cunningham thrashing of his kit in empathy.
Further listening: hear Cunningham in more happy circumstances playing on Resavoir’s Escalator (Demo Version) here.
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KASSA OVERALL: GOT ME A PLAN
New York drummer, rapper and mastermind behind the official best ‘weird’ track of last year, Kassa Overall is on the cusp of following up his awesome 2019 record Go Get Ice Cream and Listen to Jazz with a new album, I Think I’m Good.
Got Me a Plan is already the fourth track to have been released from the new album and all of them have revealed a completely different aesthetic to this album from Go Get Ice Cream…
Gone are the laid-back vibes and cheeky Roy Hargrove references. This album is going to be more experimental, more broken and more intense than anything Overall has done before. However, Got Me A Plan is the first new tune to rival some of the previous LP’s melodic touches. Particular highlights include the crying baby bit (weird, I know) and the psych-out drum’n’bass bit that kicks in half-way through.
Further reading: this excellent introduction to the new album’s themes on Bandcamp.
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THE QUIET RIOT
MALENA ZAVALA: EN LA NOCHE
Malena Zavala returns in April with a second album entitled La Yarará, so named after a particularly dangerous species of viper that lives in northern Argentina (where she was born).
En La Noche is the album’s first single and, while the rest of the LP promises to be as sassy and sultry as our serpentine friend, this piece is one of the more mellow cuts – combining Zavala’s mellifluous tones with the hazy, psychedelic rhythms of Latin America.
Further watching: this live version of the track at last year’s Green Man Festival is well worth a view.
You can find all of the tracks reviewed above in the Future Jazz Playlist on Spotify.
If you like what you hear (or even if you don’t), please engage in dialogue with me @45rpm_Reviews on Twitter. And, if you’d like to receive updates weekly, please subscribe to the email list to get these recommendations sent to your inbox weekly.
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