These are some of the highly recommended new music releases currently available to stream online from some of Africa's finest musicians, Oumou Sangare of Mali, a new collaborative project by legendary Mulatu Astatke of Ethiopia and an exciting new star from South Africa, Zoe Modiga.
Oumou Sangare ‘Acoustic’
A set of songs that allows one of Africa's most famous voices to get back to basics and shine through in its rawest form, away from all the electric instrumentation that would in other circumstances drown out this golden voice.
This is an unplugged album, the first time one of Africa's most accomplished singers has officially recorded her music in this format. The Grammy Award winning Malian singer who has popularised the music has taken songs from her 2017 album ‘Mogoya’ and rendered them in acoustic fashion.
“I suggested to Oumou that she records this album after a show in London to celebrate 15 years of No Format (record label),” says label founder Laurent Bizot in a statement.
“At that concert, for the first time, she agreed to try out this acoustic approach, which is all about letting go. The space it created for her voice was wonderful.”
Which is precisely one of the joys of listening to this wonderfully gifted singer expressing herself with very sparse instrumentation. As Oumou says in an interview in the June issue of Essence Magazine, the album is reminiscent of when she sung accompanied with just one instrument or her days singing in the streets of her hometown.
The songs were recorded over two days in live sessions at the Midi Live studio just outside Paris with longstanding band members Guimba Kouyate on guitar, Brahima Diakite on the kamele ngoni (harp) and backing singers Emma Lamadhi and Kandy Guira. The album also features Vincent Taurelle on toy organ and celeste.
Among the highlights on the album is ‘Diaraby Nene’ which received global fame when it was sampled by Beyoncé along with Jay Z and Childish Gambino for the song “Mood 4 Eva” for the “The Lion King” soundtrack in 2019.
The first video released from the album is the wonderfully upbeat 'Djoukourou' which has turned out to be one of the favourites at Sangare’s concerts since the release of the original album in 2017. The album was released on all streaming platforms on June 19 and physical formats will be available on August 28.
Zoe Modiga 'Inganekwane'
A new powerful voice out of South Africa modelling herself after illustrious female singers like Busi Mhlongo, Letta Mbulu, Nina Simon and Erykah Badu.
This is Modiga’s second album following her much-acclaimed debut 'Yellow: The Novel' which was nominated for Best Jazz Album and Best African Artist at the 24th South African Music Awards in 2018.
‘Inganekwane’ translated from Zulu as ‘Fairytale’ is a collection of 16 songs, mostly in her Zulu dialect except for the jazzy ‘Black Butterfly.’
The album sleeve has a picture of the singer standing in a cow pen which she says is a recollection from her childhood where she would visit her grandmother and 'stare into the eyes of cows and watch them chewing the cud and feel as though it was a moment of true divinity.’
From her upbringing in the townships of Johannesburg, she learnt the power of storytelling, which she has channelled to her songwriting, and studied classical piano, clarinet, and vocals from a young age. Modiga later graduated in Jazz Performance from the College of Music, University of Cape Town. She has performed with some of her country's top musicians like Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Simphiwe Dana, and the late Johnny Clegg.
Highlights on the album include ‘Abantu’ her interpretation of Miriam Makeba's 'Ilanga Lishonile' and the infectious groove of ‘Lengoma’ featuring Mpho Moloi from the village Urban Village.
Mulatu Astake & Black Jesus Experience 'To Know Without Knowing'
The legendary 76-year-old Ethiopian multi-instrumentalist returns with another exciting collaborative project, this time with the Australian-based outfit, Black Jesus Experience (BJX) for a nine-track album.
Mulatu is internationally renowned for creating Ethio-Jazz, a hybrid of traditional Amharic rhythms with Latin grooves and jazz-rick guitars.
BJX is an eight-piece multi-cultural band comprises singers, rappers and instrumentalists drawn from Morocco, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, New Zealand and Australia.
The album contains a reworked version of the classic 'Mulatu' with the veteran playing his signature instrument, the vibraphone and reaches a climax with rap by MC Monk of Black Jesus Experience.
Another highlight is a new arrangement of the Mulatu classic ‘Mascaram Setaba’ (When September Comes) a reference to the New Year in the Ethiopian calendar. The album is available on streaming platforms from today July 3, 2020.