29 December 2012

2012 in songs


Much like last year, I have decided against an end of the year list - I think there are enough of them as it is - and prepared a small musical mixdown instead. I am not promoting myself as a slick DJ who only speaks with his hands. I mainly speak with my mouth, but I do hope you enjoy. These songs have certainly meant a lot to me during this calendar year.

Playlist:
1.     The Evil Empire Of bPublic Enemy (USA)
2.     Irreversible bYoussoupha (France / DRC)
3.     Bars bGracias (Finland)
4.     Heroes b4DLS (Ben Sharpa & Pure Solid) (SA)
5.     Redescends Sur Terre bPitcho (Belgium / DRC)
6.     Psalms bGenesis Elijah (UK)
7.     Power Cut bSynik Ft. Metaphysics, Jnr Brown, M.C. Chita (Zimbabwe)
8.     All Black Everything bBig Frizzle (UK)
9.     Makaa Maka bM.Anifest (Ghana)
10.  Do It Like bKlashnekoff (UK)
11.  Intergalactic Crew bHipe Ft. Various Artists (SA)
12.  Children Of VLA by The Megaphone State (Finland)
13.  Message bAkala (UK)
14.  Tystas Ner (Rmh Remix) by Stress Ft. Sebbe Staxx, Malcolm B, Nimo, Promoe, Moms, Adam Tensta & Aleks (Sweden)

27 October 2012

Long walk to success


From the Cape Town township of Gugulethu comes Driemanskap. The name suggests three, but the group has grown to four emcees since Redondo, one of the original three came back from the Pollsmoore prison, and his replacement Dla Da Last Born remained in the line-up. Redondo’s case has now been completely dismissed and he’s a free man, but before the justice system came to this conclusion he had spent a few years in tough prison conditions and altogether the case was hanging over him for a about a decade. That alone would be another story; a book or feature length film on how being in a wrong place at the wrong time can be life changing and how easily innocent young people are thrown into the depths of the gaol if they come from the township environment.

But as important as that story is, it is for someone else to write.  

Early in the new millennium Cape Town Hip-Hop activist and fine artist Mustafa Maluka had sponsored The Battle of Gugulethu mixtape which featured local guys Driemanskap and Ill-literate-skill (now known as Ill Skillz). Soon after, the Cape Town Hip-Hop aficionados learned about songs such as Itsho Into and Pitsa Zamadoda and of course the energetic – and that is an understatement – performances in many park jams, clubs and other events. Before being signed to the local indie label Pioneer Unit there was still volume two of the Battle of Gugs series and the inclusion of the song Intwe’nje on South African Hype magazine’s mixtape. Making the Pioneer Unit deal official was also preceded by testing the chemistries on Planetary Assault compilation, but things really started to happen in early 2009 when – and pardon me for using big words – the scene changing Igqabhukil’ Inyongo was released.

I remember this time well. I was in Cape Town and following these events very carefully. The excitement around the album had, like it so often in music does, two distinct aspects: it was liked a lot – really, a lot – but by limited group of people. In order for the masses to find this album, some visibility in local and national media were urgently needed and that is a lot easier to say than to do. Such are the idiosyncrasies of both the local and the national media ecosystems.

Besides being a fan of Hip-Hop I have always been interested in radio to such extent that I have basically spent all my time in academia studying and teaching it. Around the time of this album, I remember teaching music programming for radio students in the local university. In radio language that means how the music is selected and how often and in what order it is being played and I was feeling upbeat since I felt that the first single/video from this album – Camagu – was just the kind of track that had all the aesthetics covered for it to cross over yet remain credible in South Africa. I thought it was inevitable especially after the success of artists such as Prokid and Zuluboy; never even mind about Zola who under a banner of a different genre – Kwaito – celebrated similar styles with huge success. This seemingly inevitable breakthrough was however only too evitable. Metro FM, which is the youth-orientated station of the public broadcaster SABC responded to the Pioneer Unit / Driemanskap radio promo submission with a sort of kind, but confusing no thank you.


“The general feedback from the committee was that the music is satisfactory, however not unavoidably with the METRO FM music format”. The station starts its letter. “We however regret to inform you that after intense listening and careful consideration the songs submitted could not be placed on our playlist. We thank you for your interest in the station and look forward to more submissions from yourselves in the future.”

In Hip-Hop they say Nuff Said.

That was enough to lower the expectations even to the optimists, but what surprised me more than the fact that songs such as aforementioned Camagu was completely overlooked, was that the raw sounding street anthem – one of my definite favourites, but a song I didn’t see to have a lot of air-play potential S’phum’eGugs wasn’t. That video was actually included in one of the South Africa’s most viewed programmes Live! and from there, the tide turned.

Now the new album is on its way and yesterday the first video was premiered on national TV. The song Izulu Lelam can be freely downloaded as MP3 and the video is now also online. The main obstacle of being completely ignored has been crushed and we will see how the rest of the album is received by the media and by the people. And that is the question – as a fan I am biased, but making great music has never been a challenge for these four.   


8 August 2012

Akala at it again

Akala stays relevant in every way artist only can. Here's a new video - it's the second one from his Knowledge is Power vol. 1 release which came out earlier this year and after that there's an interview where he - once again - proves that he's in the know. 



4 August 2012

#HumbleBrag


31 July 2012

Summer

Flowers

My holiday is ending tomorrow, but it's been a great summer. Different one - I give you that - with a young baby in the house, and today I have been trying to explain to myself that just because my holiday is over doesn't mean that the whole summer is done. I certainly hope it isn't. 

Flowers

I Shall Not Be Moved


There's a new Public Enemy record out. It's been a while already, but I haven't had the presence of mind to post the video. I recommend the whole album Most Of My Heroes Still Appear In No Stamp.

25 June 2012

Some music

This year has been quiet blog wise. That’s alright; no need to always update as the focus in life sometimes changes - it can easily change back anytime. I even missed my blog anniversary – seven long years of this my friend. It has indeed been a while. But summer is on here and I wanted to link a few videos for you to enjoy.

The Megaphone State album is great – I have said this many times already – but here actually is the first music video by the group. My city looks nice, doesn’t it.


This is a remix that was specifically made for sixth of June i.e. the Swedish National day. Well, not everyone agrees on the meaning of Swedishness and a group of top Hip-Hop emcees are giving their views on this video. We also featured this song recently on our Planet Earth Planet Rap radio segment.


Here’s another song we played on our radio show. It’s a June 16 celebratory song from South Africa. Various artists – some stronger than others - made this track but unfortunately not all of them are featured on these visuals. Notably, none of the Cape Town artists make appearance. What can you do - it's a huge country. Still, have a look.


You can also listen to another South African Youth Day commemoration project by Motif records – this is a 18 minute mini-mixtape with many other and some of the same artists.


Lastly – and this is so exciting – a brand new single, with no actual video out yet, by the mighty Public Enemy. The new album is out soon. 

23 May 2012

#KnowledgeIsPower part 4.



One of my definite favourite artists Akala is about to release his new mixtape Knowledge is Power vol. 1. next week. I have pre-ordered it and eagerly also wait for the bonus download that has been promised to accompany it. It’s all very exciting and now there’s the first video and full song available to be heard (snippets have been online already). This mellow track – quite emo actually – features Selah who was also featured on Akala’s classic first, and also MOBO award winning, album It’s Not a Rumour. I genuinely enjoy this song and its message is very important, but then again these are the two things I have come to expect from Akala.

*****

Bonus | Akala did another Fire in the Booth for BBC's Charlie Sloth recently and I didn’t post it here, partly because half of my posts seem to be about him already, but have a look and listen here. The first part was posted in this blog earlier.

22 May 2012

Music of struggle and beyond


Sunset on the road

Here’s a nice audio documentary on the music of South African struggle and beyond.


Graffiti

8 May 2012

A few links

Recently I have mainly been posting videos and music here, but I wanted to share a few links: one for a piece that I wrote for Africa is a Country blog and another one for which I was interviewed... well, I say interviewed, but perhaps it would more accurate to say that my opinion was asked and I gave it and so did many others. In the end though Ts'eliso Monaheng (aka Core Wreckah) did a nice article on using fake American accent in rap music. You know, for non-American rappers in general, but South African ones in specific.

The geo-branding war
Geo-branding is a serious thing. It is particularly serious when people from other geographic areas decide to brand your geographical area and the people in it, the way they see fit and the way that fits their purposes. No other country, region or continent, I’d argue, suffers from other peoples’ nonsense as much as the continent of Africa. Read more...
This piece was also reposted on the Migrant Tales blog, which is - I'd say - the most important progressive Finnish blog about immigration and many issues around it.

Fake American accents
“In defence of artists who ‘sound American’, when I first started rapping, I had a fake East Coast accent,” said Slug of the group Atmosphere at an Urban Music Workshop leading up to the Cape Town International Jazz Festival. Read more...

7 May 2012

Music for a new week

New video by Helsinki's finest Gracias from his forthcoming collaboration album with producer JTT. The track is called Bars and I am starting to think my home town has a new sound... for some reason I always felt that the signature sound should be a bit more rugged, but I accept this one with great joy as well 


More Finnish Hip-Hop, and I can't recommend this enough: Megaphone State has a new album out. It's called VLA Kings and it's really great. I have made mention of it before when only some tracks were available to be heard, but this album is on point. Get it. 




8 April 2012

On music and the industries around it



Here’s some history and context for the UK African Caribbean music scene by one of my most favaourite artists, thinkers and commenters Akala. No need to say much more about it – he does a lot of speaking.

5 April 2012

4th Density Light Show



For the past couple of days I have been lucky enough to listen to The Transition EP by South African superemcee Ben Sharpa. The EP isn’t officially out yet – so this is me bragging about my special privileges of being someone who plays this kind of music in radio – but boy, oh boy, this is a good one. Somehow from Ben Sharpa one expects electronic sounds and huge beats, which match his delivery - Robot Army Music (RAM) as he calls it -  but what’s surprising, to me at least, is how nicely he sits on more organic sounds as well. This EP has a nice mix of influences and producers to keep things interesting; even unexpected at times.

Besides this EP which like said is still to be released and Damian from Pioneer Unit mentioned that they aren’t quite sure how they will make it available and when, Ben has got another release definitely on its way. 4DLS album will be out shortly and that project combines Ben’s lyrics with Dplanet’s (who incidentally is also the aforementioned Damian) beats and Spo0ky’s visuals. Dplanet and Spo0ky, by the way, are also a band even without Ben. They are called Pure Solid and their recent album is definitely worth your while if this style of music is something you enjoy. But like said, now the collaboration is titled 4DLS or 4th Density Light Show. Video for the song Heroes is out for us all to enjoy and some selected European residents get to witness all this live. Not me though, but make sure to check these guys out if only you can

2 April 2012

Planet Stockholm



This is not a video with computer generated explosions and other apocalyptic visuals; meteorites and floods. It’s just one of those snowy days in Stockholm. I am a big fan of Stockholm of course – I used to stay there even if only for some months, but I, as so many other Finns, have visited this city quite a few times anyway.

But more than the video – which I watched only once – I can’t turn the song off. A beautiful song by Ken Ring who does this kind of thing really well. He does the occasional aggie track really well also, but with these mellow, melancholic even, tracks he’s just brilliant.

And it’s good that he is because he’s about to release an album called AkustiKen which we can only assume to be fully acoustic record. Another taster from the album is this short video of a song dedicated to his Kenyan grandmother… or Mormor as they would say in Swedish.

Download the song Jag Skriver För Er here

25 March 2012

Hugh Masekela on restoring the African heritage



Just the other day I was watching the TEDxObserver lecture by UK actor, rapper, singer and now also a director Plan B, and I thought it was both interesting and important even if a bit self-congratulatory; arguably he's more than deserved a right for that. 

Somehow, however, in this process I missed that legendary South African jazz super star Hugh Masekela had also given a speech and a performance in the same event. Have a look at Bra Hugh talking about restoring the African heritage. 

On the same note, I must recommend Masekela's autobiography Still Grazing which he co-authored with D. Michael Cheers. In this book Masekela who has lived polically active life and for a large part having been an exile in the United States talks about the past without the diplomacy of actual politicians, offering the reader a great insight into the feelings and events of the apartheid era even if from outside of South Africa. If you don't mind a few x-rated anecdotes of Jazz version of the Rock'n Roll lifestyle, then definitily this book is worth your time.

14 March 2012

Children of VLA

The Megaphone State is a Finnish Hip-Hop duo where Ekow (remember him from that Gracias song) raps and Simonsound produces. They have thus far released one album  Home of the Knockout Artist which I have enjoyed a lot and then there was a song called Lights and now this – Children of VLA.

The lyrics are available in Soundcloud and I must admit that I can relate to them although I personally would never make the mistake of trying to fraternise on my old corners. That’s lived life and in the past, but nonetheless the song sounds good to me. Have a listen and if you’re one of the Finnish speaking readers (hei vaan) have a look at this video where Ekow explains who he is and where he is from. I believe that the video provides an answer to the question of what on earth is VLA. I assume it is Viljakkala* which is a small place where Ekow relocated to from his original home country Liberia after also having spent some time in Ghana in his early childhood. It must have been tad shocking culturally speaking, but life isn’t always straight forward. That much, I believe, we can safely state. This is music to explain some of it. 

*Edit (25.3.2012): In radio interview earlier this week it was clarified that VLA is not just Viljakkala, but also Viiala, which is eqaully small place in Finland and the home town of the other half of group Simonsound. 

12 March 2012

Linkage

Today I wanted to post a few download links that I can recommend. The spring is in the air and I feel like sharing is caring, so let’s have it.

Genesis Elijah has been busy uploading all sorts of quality material online in the past and now there’s a new free EP (where he raps on the Alchemist beats) called An Emcees Worst Enemy. Download it here and have a look at the mini video for Chemistry Wars that accompany it.

From Cape Town, South Africa we have a new song by Ma-B from Driemanskap. I am impatiently waiting for the new album, Hlala Nam, by the crew, but here’s something to tide us over: Don’t Doubt Me.




Lastly, and this is also from the southern region of the African continent (SA and Lesotho), free download of the song Lifelines by KONFAB Ft. aNon and Matlhodi Matsei. You can also get the whole KONFAB album The Lost Tapes where this track is from. It’s pretty great.

La Bala


By now you should know that Ana Tijoux is cool. Ana became known as a member of the seminal Chilean Hip-Hop crew Makiza and her first solo album 1977 was great. Then there was also the Elefant Mixtape which was one of the most played on my headphones in 2011 and now, La Bala. Check out the powerful video above and check out the album (the title track is my favourite) and be sure to support quality music. 

8 March 2012

Art arrives

 Chuck D artwork

Recently I had bought a bit of art, which is not something I do terribly often. It’s not so much that I wouldn’t like to, it’s just that there are other places where the funds go as a part of average month’s survival. But this is nice – I’m very proud. The video tells the story and images say the rest. 

Chuck D artwork
Chuck D artwork

29 February 2012

Shoko! Hip-Hop Festival in Zimbabwe


Not a brand new video, but an interesting short documentary from Shoko! Hip-Hop Festival from Harare. Artists featured were Akala and Tumi amongst many other. Many many others. More videos with full speeches, lectures and performances from here.

30 January 2012

New Music | Genesis Elijah



One of my favourite releases last year was I Ain’t Even Charging, Bruv by UK emcee Genesis Elijah. He’s got a new one out now and it’s called Painkillers and Pilkington. Yes, Pilkington as in Karl Pilkington who isn’t featured in any way although his friend Ricky Gervais is. He’s sampled in the mix, but according to Genesis Elijah he is the only rapper Ricky Gervais follows in Twitter. Who knows, I take his word for it. Have a look at the video and do download this because a few rappers show as much passion as this one.