Nina Simone Commemorated with BBC Proms Performance
The iconic vocalist, pianist and songwriter Nina Simone, whose social justice anthems, uncompromising nature and sublime musical traits have endeared the late artist to millions, was the subject of a celebratory BBC Prom last Friday.
Vocalist Ledisi, who played a sold out show at Band on the Wall earlier this year, was joined by Grammy award-winning artist Lisa Fischer and three tremendous supporting singers to deliver some of Simone’s finest pieces. Jules Buckley and The Metropole Orkest delivered rich and inventive orchestral arrangements of the work, giving a grandeur to each composition. Back in 2015, Laura Mvula spoke to founding member of The Last Poets, Abiodun Oyewole, about Simone’s influential performance at the Harlem Cultural Festival in 1969, which took place in the very park where the poetry group formed.
The Repeat Listen: Tinariwen – Amadjar
Few bands have experienced exclusion like that known to the itinerant North African six-piece, Tinariwen. Political turmoil in the desert region they roam has seen them targeted and ostracized by multiple groups, while recent online abuse ahead of their return to the U.S. has indicated that even there — a country where they for some time resided — they don’t have an entirely safe haven. Yet, the band persevere with admirable courage, presenting us this month with their ninth studio album.
Entitled Amadjar, which translates as ‘the foreign traveller’, it finds the group reflecting upon their status as human beings and place in the land to which they are indigenous, but ostensibly unwelcome. It was recorded on the move, as the band travelled through Mauritania and the Western Sahara, West of Mali and Algeria. While a few studio overdubs were made, the band feel that recording in a camp of their own construction, looking out upon the landscape they love, playing together, without headphones or acoustic separation, is the essence of their practice.
Given their recording preferences, the sonic quality of the album is staggering. The rich, boomy hand percussion and delicate slide guitar lines on opening cutTenere Maloulat are beautifully captured, as is the introductory acoustic guitar on the following track, Zawal, with vocals throughout the album — from emotive leads to the beautiful backing of griotte Noura Mint Seymali— shine brightly.
As is often the case, the band have worked with several collaborators on the new record: allowing Noura’s husband Jeiche Ould Chighaly to contribute guitar to Zawal, engaging in a wondrous call and response pattern with Warren Ellis’ violin. Elsewhere, we hear Noura sing lead vocals and play her ardîn (a smaller variation on the kora) on the track Amalouna, her voice blending beautifully into a unified chorus. Taqkal Tarha sees the appearance of Willie Nelson’s son, Micah, playing South American charango and bluegrass staple instrument, the mandolin, to add chimy, lyrical string lines to the propulsive rhythm of the track — one of the album’s densest and most uplifting arrangements.
While the band may not be able to directly converse with some of their Western collaborators, each and every musician is on the same page, wholly invested in the band’s meditative and moving, bluesy and groovy-heavy songwriting. Other highlights include Kel Tinawen, a track upon which solo artist Cass McCombs contributes vocals and acoustic guitar. With minimal hand percussion, a chorus of voice and a simple assortment of guitar lines, they weave an immersive, hypnotic track, full of detail and nuance thanks to McCombs brief solo lines and the high, hollering voices marking transitions between sections. The off-kilter rhythm of Mhadjar Yassouf Idjan is challenging yet engaging, laying the groundworks for clever guitar lines and vocal cadences that immediately embed themselves in ones mind.
Tinariwen are simply incapable of making music that lacks depth, emotion and beautiful texture. While their lyrics are indecipherable to many British listeners, they convey a universal emotional energy through their playing, which when combined with further reading upon their story and subject matter, only strengthens the bond one can develop with their work.
New Sounds and Visuals
London-based musician and brokenbeat pioneer IG Culture recently dropped Earthbound, a cut from his soundtrack to a theatre dance show of the same name. With an afrobeat drum groove, rhythmic sax riff and array of textural electronics, it’s a fusion jazz/electroniccut with purpose and flavour. The track comes from EP1, which he has released as Likwid Continual Space Motion. Check it out here and below.
TVAM returned with a new single this week: a sludgy, beautifully lo-fi take on The Hooterville Trolley’s No Silver Bird. With droning keyboards, distorted tremolo guitar, and reverb-drenched vocals, the shoegaze flip of this sixties classic ticks all the right boxes. It also comes accompanied by a signature compressed, colourful and narrow aspect visual, most likely produced with Joe Oxley’s vintage gear.
DJ and producer DMX Krew has announced a 12” single on Peggy Gou’s recently-founded Gudu label. Don’t You Wanna Play? drops on 4thOctober and its opening cut, CJ Vibe, is a synth-laden, 130BPM electronic workout with plenty of melodic variety. Check out the EP here.
Tom Jenkinson of Squarepusher renown has collaborated with organist James McVinnie on a collection of compositions for his instrument, entitled All Night Chroma. The material was recorded at London’s Royal Festival Hall, where a 1954 Harrison & Harrison organ is installed, and the same space was used for the captivating new video accompanying Voix Célestes. In addition to stunning shots of the organ’s frontage, bars and pedals are used to create intricate patterns, which are animated and overlaid onto footage of James playing, as video the progresses.
The celebrated jazz vocalist Alice Zawadzki this week released Within You is a World of Spring, the title track from her forthcoming album on Whirlwind recordings. Replete with dramatic strings, warm piano trio accompaniment and Rob Luft’s inventive guitar work, the seven-minute track feels like a journey through several musical environments, demonstrating just some of Zawadzki’s many musical areas of interest.