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There’s a slang word Kenyans use for what French/Kenyan artist Stephane Stalon and producer KiliHippie have achieved with their collab track “IMMM.” The word ‘tamu’ (directly translating to “sweet” in Swahili) is hummed and howled by Nairobi audiences when they hear a silky smooth, jazz-infused track, led by laid back melodies and spaced out drums with brave lyrics and vocal vulnerability delivering subtly powerful truths. Stephane Stalon is a member of young music collective called “Bahati Bookings” on a mission to transform the Kenyan scene with their heartfelt energy, fearless fusion music and skilled lyricism, bridging the space between rap and jazz culture.
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Born parallel to the 2016 US presidential election in response to xenophobic declarations and actions against Latin immigrants, Tulengua identify themselves as “a bilingual hip hop supergroup from both sides of the most crossed border in the world”. Tulengua seeks to demonstrate how Mexicans and North-Americans, Spanish and English speakers, can be combined through the universal language of music to reflect the beauty of the neighbouring countries and dissolve political, geographical, linguistic and racial boundaries.
All the profits from their latest record ‘Baja Funk’ were donated to an immigrant rights organisation. With lyrics denoting awakening and conscience, the protest tone is evident, yet they maintain a message of hope and positivity; the band’s aim is to recover the humanity that unites people instead of dividing them, using music as medicine to heal the world of hatred and excessive division.
Smokey The Ghost has been a pioneer in the Indian hip-hop scene for the past 15 years. A socially conscious artist from Bangalore, Smokey has been involved in all aspects of the culture, from participating in rap battles to rendering his voice for commercial movies and giving due importance to collaborations. His raps emerge out of his observation and tackle various social issues; ‘Her Name Is?’ is a concept mixtape to be heard in sequential order, hailing from a personal experience that led to the realisation of the dishonourable oppression faced in various subtle forms by women on a regular basis. While the tracks form a coherent theme, the production is an amalgamation of the work of different producers based on different ideas emerging from the same concept of abuse of female identity.
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Swedish sisters Jenny and Cecilia Vaz are producers and singer/songwriters with a playful attitude towards music and a fearless mindset. Over the past two years, the pair have released music as VAZ through their own label Kinship Music, which led to performances at festivals around the globe. Their 2017 two-part album ‘Necessary, Pt.I & Pt.II’ featured music inspired by their Cape Verdean background with African drum beats, electronic instrumentals and pop fusion melded together to create a distinctive, atmospheric sound.
France’s Ash is a mysterious figure. Notoriously elusive, his scarce interviews can be counted on the fingers of one hand, as he would rather express himself through his music. The Strasbourg rapper has a confident and intriguing voice and a distinctive brand of melancholy poetry. On ‘Score’, he abandons the “Kidd” he used to be as he nonchalantly delivers a smooth, detached effort.
Amongst a wave of Malaysian artists on their way to international prominence, Alex Bong is one to watch. Under the moniker Alextbh, the 22-year-old’s sound infuses R&B with a slick pop energy, especially evident in his latest single, ‘walls’; the track is a continuation of his previous single, ‘still mine’, reminiscing on love, loss, and longing. Using his platform to bring awareness to the LGBTQ community, the self-taught artist continues to capture the attention of many.
The child of a French father and a Venezuelan mother, Sophia Helena Fustec Briceño is a collage of cultures. A one-girl-band who composes, writes, sings, plays and produces everything in her home studio, her energetic creations convey common messages of faith and authenticity. Frequently known as La Chica, she affirms that her influences are widespread; when she’s not dedicated to her productions, she listens to sounds ranging from late-era Beatles and Radiohead to Caribbean artists such as Fania All Stars and Rubén Blades. Currently residing in Paris, international tours and concerts have been recurrent since the formation of her project in 2014. Her latest single “Sola” is an ethereal journey, as looped vocals and driving synthesisers build to a powerful electronic crescendo.
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Don Ngatia’s voice exudes an angelic melancholy spirit that belies his youth. Graceful melodies weave around a soulful plucked guitar, echoed by delicately layered harmonies to build a eerily beautiful atmosphere. Born in Kenya, Ngatia relocated to Boston after attending Berklee College of Music. His songs speak of mortal pain and resilient spirituality, painted by poetic lyrics revealing his deep-rooted romanticism. His 2014 breakout hit “Solitude” seamlessly ebbs and flows from sadness to joy, channeling raw acoustic energy to create a truly poignant piece of music.
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Danish trio CHINAH’s experimental R&B sound is delivered with artistic minimalism on their debut LP. Fine Glindvad, Simon Kjær and Simon Andersson originally formed in 2014 as a folk outfit before branching out and making waves with a number of dark synth-pop hits, drawing inspiration from off-kilter duo Smerz. Throughout the creative process behind “ANYONE”, lead singer Glindvad took the unorthodox approach of both writing and recording her vocals whilst fully horizontal on a sofa, capturing the natural fluidity and reflective intimacy that provides the essence of the album.
Fopchu are a three piece electronic band from New Delhi who create alternative music unlike any other band in India. Their effervescent sound evokes a loopy ride through time with synthesisers, samples, and a rhythmic guitar-driven groove, in an intoxicating brew of charismatic vocals drawn from soulful blues, jazz and gufunktry chants. The band explores the ominous world outside with their debut EP ‘Milk Bred’; an amalgamation of funk and rock, lead single ‘The Undulating Brood Swing’ sounds exactly like the title suggests, riddled with a contagious bounce that’s guaranteed to get you moving.
Today we take a look back 18 years, to recall a jewel from legendary Mexican duo Plastilina Mosh. Founded in 1996 by Jonas González and Alejandro Rosso, the band released their second album “Juan Manuel” in 2000; a 13-track masterpiece, the album features a diverse range of sounds that make it almost impossible to classify by genre, mood or language whatsoever, with lyrics in English, Spanish, German, Italian and Portuguese.
The journey begins with “Nordic Laser”, an entirely instrumental krautrock piece, perhaps the simplest piece of the album before the madness is unleashed; the grooves of “Boombox Baby” and “Bareta 87” give the album a retro dancefloor sensation, drawing on Giorgio Moroder-esque richness, while “Shampoo” and “Aropador” are subtle and seductive and the likes of “International Stereo (Bassass)” and “Let The Speaker Speak” demonstrate a raw aggressive energy.
A classic record that is powerful, unpredictable, and truly timeless.
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Five-piece indie/nu-wave band Device have been shaking up the Filipino music scene since their formation in 2015. Formed by a group of friends studying together at university, the band emerged with their debut EP “The Element of Surprise” a name originally taken from one of their first demos. True to its title, the record catches listeners off-guard with a distinctive blend of traditional instruments and electric synths to create a textured, dynamic sound.
HAON celebrated the release of his debut project last month, encapsulating the development of a talented newcomer with huge potential. The winner of Korean hip-hop TV competition “High School Rapper Season 2”, the 18-year-old demonstrated ambitious determination and a youthful spirit to impress audiences across the nation, and has transitioned from amateur to professional rapper with ease. His first EP ‘TRAVEL: NOAH’ alludes to the biblical figure of Noah (also conveniently HAON’s name spelled backwards), as he describes his journey across seven songs. On the titular opening track, HAON delivers his mischievous vocals over a Latin-infused melody, holding his own as he ably exchanges verses with elite Korean stars Jay Park and Hoody.
Esther Kirabo is a Swedish singer-songwriter and producer whose musical journey began when she joined a church choir at the age of six, learning to play drums and honing her vocal skills. Fast-forward to 2017, and her debut single ’Kill U’ was released to the world; a song about insufficient love, it showcases the power of the 23-year-old’s graceful voice, and attracted significant attention leading to a performance at the Swedish Grammy Awards. The track’s B-side ‘Blunt’ is inspired by Shakespeare’s classic tale ‘Romeo & Juliet’, with production blending an early 00’s garage sound with more contemporary upbeat R&B. As fans eagerly await new music, the excitement builds around this distinctive talent.
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Brussels trio L’Or du Commun are gathering momentum. “Sur ma vie”, the second effort from their forthcoming album ‘Sapiens’ scheduled to release this fall, sees Loxley, Primero and Swing deliver an inspirational message of manifesting ambitions and achieving success. The Belgian group is steadily developing their sound, with lively flows, sharp bars and an uninhibited sense of humour that will no doubt give them the keys to their own success.
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Ape Echoes represent the creativity of the nascent Indian independent music scene. The brainchild of Mumbai based producers and multi-instrumentalists Nirmit Shah and Sid Shirodkar, the project sees the pair combining traditional acoustic and electronic instrumentation with experimental sampling, weaving together a complex immersive musical narrative. The duo formed in early 2016, with drummer Sahil Shah joining soon after, and their debut EP ‘Ape Machines’ was released in August 2017, moving through territories influenced by crossover jazz, electronica, noise, hip-hop, prog-rock, funk, and soul to create a distinctive original sound.
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In the Aymara language, “Churupaca” is a giant adaptable, multi-talented insect that can swim, fly, jump and hunt, amongst other skills; thus, the Buenos Aires neo-orchestra found the perfect name for their project. Formed by a diverse group of musicians of various disciplines, Churupaca stand out for their acoustic sentimentality and the romanticism of their lyrics. Together, members Juana, Fefo, Ricardo, Darío, Joaquín and Pablo gave birth to their second record this year, entitled “Antes de Mañana” (“Before Tomorrow” in English). The fifteen-track masterpiece guides us on a journey through countless textures and styles from across Latin America and the world, with folk and soul influences alongside classic elements of the tango, burlesque and waltz. The album’s instrumental exuberance is defined by the dramatic qualities of the wind and string sections, the sumptuous accordion melodies and Juana’s emotive, longing vocals, creating a rich, multi-layered body of work to be savoured.
“Oh Wah” is a powerhouse collaboration between Kenyan artist Blinky Bill and Nigerian singer-songwriter Nneka. Featured on Bill’s new album “Everyone’s Just Winging It And Other Tales”, the song showcases his rich production skills, as a heart-wrenching blend of echoing guitars, tribal chanting and driving percussion interweave beneath lyrics crying out for peace. The chemistry between Blinky Bill’s thick, low voice and cryptic wordplay and Nneka’s husky voiced howls creates a distinct energy, making for an infectious anthem with an important message from an African perspective.
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French duo Terrenoire take their name from the Saint-Etienne district in which they grew up. On their debut EP, the duo bewitchingly tells the story of their odyssey to the capital, “the City” as they call it, alongside the irrepressible attraction that brings them back to their hometown. The two brothers Raphaël and Théo chase their utopian “Black Paradiso”, as they elegantly explore their childhood through surreal poesy and moving productions between electronic hip-hop and French chanson.
Murkage Dave’s long-awaited debut album has been well worth the wait. Across 14 tracks, the east Londoner fuses soulful golden era RnB with UK grime and garage sounds in allusion to his origins as a successful DJ, as bumping percussion and warm strings draw comparisons to long-time collaborator Mike Skinner and The Streets. Driven by his distinctive socially aware witty lyricism, Dave’s gentle crooning melodies are delivered in hushed tones like reflective asides muttered from the back of the night bus home from the club, as his melancholic introspections channel the loneliness of a hedonistic life on the road between events into a muted morning-after mood that is sombre yet refreshingly honest throughout, leaving a surprisingly uplifting afterglow.