Minyo Crusaders’ new LP ‘Echoes of Japan’ is a fantastic fusion of Oriental folk and flavours from the Caribbean and Africa

Minyo Crusaders rework historic Japanese folk songs (min’yō) with Latin, African, Caribbean and Asian rhythms on their debut album Echoes Of Japan, and it is out now on Mais Um. The band’s distinctive min’yō vocals glide over grooves that join the dots between cumbia, Ethiopian jazz, Thai pop, Afro funk and reggae.

The songs on the album have different histories – originally sung by fishermen (Kushimoto Bushi; Mamurogawa Ondo), coal miners (Tanko Bushi) and sumo wrestlers (Sumo Jinku) – they deal with topics such as the returning spirits of ancestors (Hohai Bushi), Japan’s smallest bird (Toichin Bushi) and a bride’s undying love for her husband’s pockmarked face (Otemoyan). They evoke nostalgia for a forgotten Japan. “As a traditional performing art, min’yō is considered highbrow,” explains band-leader Katsumi Tanaka. “Yet these are mainly songs for working, dancing or drinking – we want to return them to their literal meaning as ‘songs of the people’.”

“For Japanese people, min’yō is both the closest, and most distant, folk music,” adds Tanaka. “We may not feel it in our daily, urban lives, yet the melodies, the style of singing and the rhythm of the taiko drums are engrained in our DNA.”

In the late 90s Tanaka moved to Fussa, a city in western Tokyo steeped in counter-culture folklore. It is the home of Eiichi Ohtaki of Japanese rock band Happy End. Tanaka met Freddie Tsukamoto playing in a session band where the latter was singing soul. Aware that Tsukamoto’s true passion was min’yō, Tanaka asked him to form a band to revive this style. They invited other musicians such as local drumming legend Sono and for the first few years played low-key shows. Soon after, bassist DADDY U, a veteran of the Tokyo roots music scene and the respected Ska Flames, joined the band. Through him they met keyboard player Moe, the leader of spiritual Caribbean jazz band Kidlat; sax player Koichiro Osawa, a member of Japanese-reggae/ska groups Matt Sounds, J.J. Session and a regular pick-up for reggae musicians visiting Japan; trumpeter Yamauchi Stephan, also a member of J.J. Session; percussionist Mutsumi Kobayashi of Tokyo’s cumbia Banda de la Mumbia; Irochi, conga player with Afro Cuban band Cubatumb and vocalist Meg, a member of respected tropical DJ collective Tokyo Sabroso. Since then they have become a fixture on the Tokyo music scene and went national in 2018 through festivals such as Fuji Rock.

Initially indifferent to min’yō, a tragic event in recent Japanese history set Tanaka on his current path: “Following the Tohoku earthquake of 2011, I reflected on my life, work and identity. A fan of world music, I began searching for Japanese roots music I could identify with. Discovering mid-late 20th century acts Hibari Misora, Chiemi Eri and the Tokyo Cuban Boys, I was captivated by their eccentric arrangements and how they mixed min’yō with Latin and jazz.”

With songs encouraging dancing and drinking, Tanaka says that the Crusaders are on a mission to bring “highbrow” min’yō back to it’s “lowlife” roots. “The point is to avoid making it too complicated, since min’yō is for everyday people.”

Ekiti Sound is a pioneer and his new album for Crammed Discs is ‘Abeg No Vex’ – it’s creativity and vision are exceptional

Ekiti Sound is at the fore of a new wave of electronic music originating from Nigeria by way of London – his new album Abeg No Vex for Crammed Discs is a hugely impressive marker. Having featured on World Treasures Music before, it is a joy to hear and see more of this artistry in both  film and music. As you can hear, Ekiti Sound is startling, modern, essential and captivating, being an expertly curated blend of Afrobeat and electronics – citing hip hop, grime, 4×4, bass and more.

The main musician/producer/vocalist is Leke, aka CHiF. He is forever honing his skills with a variety of artists and has had previous successful productions and projects as a sound designer in the Nollywood industry. This immensely eclectic and cutting edge album speaks to today’s  Afropunkers and the global diaspora worldwide.

Abeg No Vex is out on April 26th. Some copies were seen on Record Store Day in the UK. Hear more of the artist and support via Soundcloud and Bandcamp.

Greek electronics and free jazz duo – Kolida Babo and their self titled album for MIC is an important uniting soundscape for a cross section of artists

This one is causing a stir – with Kolida Babo’s blend of modular electronics gaining plaudits from everyone from sonic master The Bug, through to jazz and world critics on 6Music – such is the technical wizardry and auditory wonder of this album.

Kolida Babo is the collaboration between two Greek woodwind musicians from separate regions – Socratis Votskos is from Pella, and Harris P is from Athens. This, their debut album, was recorded in improvised live-take sessions beginning on the night of the “Kolida Babo” folk rituals of music and dance in northern Greece in winter 2013.

The sessions proceeded over three years, exploring the ancient music of Armenia and the folk traditions of northern Greece’s Epirus and Thrace regions alongside abstract electronics and free jazz. The MIC labal states: “As musicians of modern Greece, the sonic palette is developed in part as a means of processing the country’s immediate actualities: its relation to its regional traditions, its urban centres and its humanitarian and economic crises. In this, the music is at once clearly located in traditional sounds and disjointed from them, at times contrasting or harmonious in both concept and sound”.

If you don’t know the label MIC, get to know. Their varied output is throwing up some of the most important records of modern times.

Coladera are exploring new directions of music from Cape Verde with new album ‘La Dôtu Lado’ on Agogo Records

Coldera’s La Dôtu Lado maps new musical routes of Cape Verde. The country’s island sounds of batuque and funaná mix with deep candomblé inspired rhythms and the sway of fado. 

Coladera are three musicians from Brazil, Cape Verde and Portugal and for their first official international release have added new layers to rich traditions. Singer-guitarist Vitor Santana is from Bela Horizonte, Brazil, joined by Portuguese singer-guitarist Joao Pires and percussionist Miroca Paris from Cape Verde. 

Sung mainly in the Portuguese language but with a couple of songs in Cape Verdean creole, La Dôtu Lado features guest percussionist Marcos Suzano, a Brazilian pandeira master. The group’s lyrics are about the spirits of the Orishas, deities worshipped by slaves who were shipped across the Atlantic to Brazil from West Africa often via Cape Verde. The country was an empty island until the Portuguese empire found it in 1456 .

Check out a range of styles of this World Treasures Music mix:

“In Brazil there is a lot of DNA from Cape Verde,” Vitor explains. “You can find this DNA in many rhythms. One of them is coladeira. It’s a little bit samba, a little bit Bahia. Cape Verde is in the middle.”

The album La Dôtu Lado is out on March 29th on Agogo Records.

The Queen Of New Cumbia – La Yegros – returns with her third LP ‘Suelta’

Praised as the ‘The Queen Of New Cumbia’, La Yegros’ returns with Suelta. It is the Argentine singer’s third album where her lyrics ride cumbia, trap-versed electronica, dancehall and pop – all influenced by folkloric and traditional sounds of Argentina and rural South America.

Suelta is produced by duo King Coya and Eduardo Cabra. King Coya are helping to pioneer the ever-developing and renowned ‘folk-tronica sound’ and scene emanating from Latin America. Eduardo Cabra is from multiple Grammy-Award winning Puerto Rican group Calle 13. A featured guest is UK rapper Soom T. Here is the official video to the track Linda La Cumbia.

La Yegros (real name Mariana Yegros) is a native of Buenos Aires and has roots in Misiones, a province in the North East of the country and where her parents still live. This rural and tropical region borders Paraguay and Brazil and is somewhat of a musical hotspot for international rhythms. It means that La Yegros grew up in the suburbs of a cosmopolitan city and has always been influenced by the traditions of the countryside and is a blueprint for her music.

As King Coya, Argentine producer Gaby Kerpel

The recipe of traditional sounds being digitised and transformed were ever-present on her previous album, Magnetismo (2016), released on the UK’s Soundway label. And on this latest album we hear further frenetic rhythms of huayno and chamarrer, folk melodies rekindled and the continued evolution of the Afro-digital sound.

Suelta is out now on the X-Ray label. 

Fémina – who channel blissed-out soul with a message, on new LP ‘Perlas & Conchas’ and new single ‘Plumas’ – are recorded and produced by Quantic

Fémina need to be checked out live if you can, but their forthcoming material is essential listening. They are an Argentinian female trio whose soul music is fused with hip hop and Latin folk influences. Their Perlas & Conchas LP is out next month and has been recorded and produced by British DJ and musician Quantic. It’s a beautiful work. Check out this enthralling live show by Fémina:

Originating from the beautiful mountain town of San Martín de los Andes, in the southern region of Patagonia, the group sings in Spanish about gender equality and race, challenging the divisive rhetoric in the mainstream media in Argentina and beyond.

After their debut in 2011 with Deshice De Mi, their sophomore album Traspasa (2014) notched up nearly six million plays on Spotify, featuring the song Buen Viaje. Since then Fémina have been critically acclaimed by everyone from Rolling Stone, Billboard and KEXP, to Iggy Pop. He repeatedly featured Fémina on his BBC 6Music radio show and they were invited to his home in Miami while on tour in the US. It laid the vital groundwork for their collaboration on the new album with the rock legend.

The title Perlas & Conchas translates as ‘Pearls and Shells’ and is a reference to the process through which a pearl is created: “from a speck of dirt, encased in a shell, which turns into an object of wonder,” the trio explain. The word ‘concha’ is also often used in Argentina to refer to the female anatomy.

Made up of Clara Miglioli and the two Trucco sisters, Sofia and Clara, the trio grew up together sharing a love of 1990s hip-hop imported from the US – as well as the occasional Spanish-speaking rapper from Mexico or Spain. When they started the seeds of Fémina, they were one of the few all-female groups on the BA scene.

Sofia and Clara Miglioli moved to Buenos Aires in 2004, intending to pursue careers in theatre and dance, where they first started the group. They made music with Koxmoz – a group in the city’s then small but close knit hip-hop scene. Sofia’s younger sister, Clara ‘Wewi’ Trucco, joined in 2008 and this is when they took a sidestep in their musical style. Instead of raps over hip-hop instrumentals, they began drawing on vocal harmonies and playing live instruments such as the ronroco from Bolivia – a process that led them toward their unique style: a combination of soul, hip-hop and traditional Latin American folk music.

The UK’s Quantic and his deep musical knowledge helped bring to life the many and varied ideas which came out of their sessions together, realising their vision for an “obra completa” – a complete work, an expansive, cohesive collection of their different influences.

“The idea from the beginning was to get together and experiment, the four of us,” Sofia says. Quantic’s previous credits include the Quantic Soul Orchestra (Tru Thoughts) and inter-generational Colombian supergroup Ondatrópica (Soundway). 

The artists say their influences range from surrealist poetry, to the writings of 19th Century essayist Henry David Thoreau.

The diversity of the music they’ve produced can be heard in tracks such as Brillando, with its meditative, harmonised vocals, to Resist, where a rumbling, trap-tilted beat is given extra emotional heft by Iggy Pop’s vocal. On Arriba, traditional influences are fed through a funk-influenced groove, and on Plumas, they wear their electronic influences on their sleeve with the drive of a drum machine.

The single Plumas is out on March 22nd.The album Perlas & Conchas is out on April 5th. Both are released through Fémina Music.

‘Too Slow To Disco’ series turns to Paris to compile new tracks that fit the nouveau-disco and AOR sound

 

From Marc Cerrone, Daniel Vangarde to Space and Patrick Juvet – and in more recent times, Air, Daft Punk, Saint Germain, Phoenix and Sébastien Tellier – the French sound and style is world renowned. Now a new Too Slow To Disco compilation presents 17 current French artists who are producing lazy disco, Balearic vibes and that AOR sound (such as L’Impératrice, pictured above).

The scene is found at late night DJ sessions and gigs at Paris hotspots – like Baron and Le Pop-In. The labels (Partyfine, Tricatel, Cracki, Profil De Face) feature the various collaborations and productions. Prime players L’Impératrice are led by the “empress of French Disco”, Flore Benguigui.

Their debut album – and a tribute to the night Matahari – is getting a UK release in late April and their live show at Heaven, in London, is on May 2nd.

The Too Slow To Disco series has previously been compiled by the likes of Ed Motta. The next instalment is out in May.