Lynda Dawn and Mortimer Amongst Guardian’s 50 New Artists for 2020

— News —

Amongst the Guardian’s 50 new artists for 2020 are two names we highly recommend familiarising yourself with while the year is still young. Kingston-born vocalist Mortimer was responsible for one of last year’s finest EPs in Fight the Fight, with his rich, sensitive voice sitting beautifully atop roots reggae and RnB instrumentals alike, and we’re eagerly awaiting more from him this year. Londoner Lynda Dawn was responsible for another of those great EPs, her penchant for ‘80s boogie and RnB production shining almost as brightly as her astonishing voice on the seven-track collection, At First Light. Dawn is one of a number of exciting young artists participating in the Extra Soul Perceptionproject, which sees artists from the UK, Kenya and Uganda collaborating on new material and a series of live shows, including one here at Band on the Wall in late February. Check out the Guardian list here and be sure to stream both artists’ EPs at the nearest opportunity!

Repeat Listen: Les Amazones d’Afrique – Amazones Power

Les Amazones d’Afrique are a pan-African collective with a clear mission and an unequivocal message. From the outset, they have sought to address women’s rights and violations of those rights through their music, augmenting the social activism of their founding members: Mamani Keïta, Oumou Sangare and Mariam Doumba of Amadou & Mariam. The personnel changes that have occured since the release of their first album, 2017’s République Amazone, have seen young vocalists enter the fold, such as Guinean artist Niariu, who recently told Afropop that the group aimed to, “give a voice to women who are not being represented in the larger feminist movement”, emphasising issues that are particularly pertinent to African women. Those changes feel wholly natural, given the group’s framework, and the extensive list of contributors gives this project a strong sense of collective energy, not least making each of the album’s thirteen tracks distinctive and interesting.

With production from Liam Farrell, known for his work on the group’s first LP and the fantastic Mbongwana Staralbum From Kinshasa, Amazones Power is another sonically daring project: with ideas from dub reggae, post punk, trip-hop and contemporary EDM all appearing to inform the direction of the instrumentals. Opening with Heavy, the album’s first line states: “Together we must stand”, setting the tone for the material that follows, but also alluding to the need for men to be active in the fight for gender equality — something which is immediately reflected by the contributions of male vocalists Douranne Fall and Magueye Diouk of Nyoko Bokbae, their voices melding beautifully with Niariu’s delicate utterances.

On Love, Mamani Keïta’s hand percussion is processed with spring reverb and distortion, feeding into a rich, era-spanning beat, upon which she and a chorus of voices sing a hypnotic refrain. Closing track Power — the only tune not produced by Farrell, instead by Felipe Cabrera — hears sixteen vocalists from across Africa, Europe and Latin America contribute to the tune, which takes shape around an infectious call and response chorus, underpinned by enlivening percussion and light keyboard licks. With various languages, musical styles and production ideas melding harmoniously on the project, the overriding takeaway is that there is great enthusiasm for and momentum behind the change that Les Amazones d’Afrique want to actualise. An album as energising as this one can only galvanise people more quickly.

New Sounds and Visuals

Manchester-based contemporary jazz quintet Artephis have released a new track entitled Glow, accompanied by a new visual from artist and designer Ben Jac. Written by the group’s trumpeter, Aaron Wood, the hip-hop influenced cut blossoms from its meditative introduction into a vibrant mid-section, with lyrical horn lines and distant cymbal crashes driving the dynamic surge, before James Girling’s overdriven guitar tone guides the track, John McLaughlin-style, to its conclusion. Check out the piece below.

On Get The Devil Out, singer-songwriter Nadia Reid’s captivating voice takes centre stage, with only electric guitar and string quartet accompanying her candid tale. Fans of the dark, country-informed work of Laura Marling and Josh T. Pearson are certain to dig the simplicity and beauty of the cut, not to mention its wonderfully-shot video, courtesy of director Martin Sagadin.

Jazz saxophonist Donny McCaslin continues to explore a jazz-infused art-rock aesthetic with his fine new track, Circling, which features contributions from vocalist Rachel Eckroth.

L.A.-based saxophonist Sam Gendel is exploring an altogether different sound to McCaslin, bringing Mongo Santamaria’s Afro Blue well and truly into the 21st century, with subtle drum machines, processed sax and rich harmonic swells beneath it.

Rare are the occasions when an unaccompanied voice can captivate you, but Megan Simonton’s performance of All In My Head for Sofar Indianapolis does just that.