It was supposed to be a noise jam between two friends, just for fun. But immediately after Tommi Tokyo and Sayaka Botanic formed Group A in Tokyo 2012, rumors began to spread in Japanese avant-garde circles about the strange duo on the border between performance art and synth music. Using drum machines, synthesizers, violins and cassette tapes, they created a kind of rusty, futuristic boogie, with rice hats made of aluminum and nude body painting as part of the stage show. Post punk, dub and industrial music are clear sources of inspiration, but the singer and multi-instrumentalist Tommi Tokyo also declares that rituals from Shinto and Buddhism are fundamental influences.
With the album [70 + A =], their hypnotic obscure, cutting noise and minimal wave sounds reached Europe’s underground scenes, and Group A left Tokyo to make Berlin their current headquarters.
In the seventies, Hailu Mergia played with Walias Band, along with Ethio-jazz father Mulatu Astatke. The political climate soon got more difficult to deal with in Ethiopia and when Walias Band toured the US in the early eighties, part of the group decided to stay and seek their fortune as musicians in Washington DC. Hailu Mergia started working as a taxi driver while he continued to write and play music on his own. Amhara, Tigrinya and Oromo melodies floated lightly over his futuristic rhythmic landscapes. A drum machine, an electric piano and a Yamaha DX7 were his tools, along with the accordion – an instrument which constituted a kind of emotional direct connection with the ancient Ethiopian music for him.
“Hailu Mergia and his Classical Instrument” became the name of one of many cassettes recorded in his home. A jazzy collection of instrumental songs and at the same time a musical report from the other side of the Atlantic, but it could just as well be from a desolate star far away in outer space. Hailu Mergia’s music spread among the Ethiopian minority in the US, while its composer continued to drive taxis in the capital. Not until 2013 did “Hailu Mergia and his Classical Instrument reach a wider audience when the label Awesome Tapes From Africa re-released the album. He started touring again and played at the Clandestino Festival in Göteborg (2013) and Bottna (2014). In February, the album Lala Belu is released – the first new album from Hailu Mergia in over fifteen years! For this show at Club Clandestino, he is in stellar company by Ethiopian bassist Alemseged Kebede and Trinidadian drummer Kenneth “Ken” Joseph from the legendary roots rockers Culture.
Clattering congas, electronic darkness and a trumpet howling through the tropical night. As the rhythms grow denser, we float like in a weightless state induced by the mind altering substance called Ariwo. This quartet not only succeeds with the art of combining Cuban rumba with Iranian mysticism, at the same time they also combine ancient traditions with electronic experiments and beats. The band consists of Iranian electronica musician Pouya Ehsaei and three heavyweighters from London’s Cuban music community: The Percussion Virtuoso and Grammy winner Hammadi Valdes, Oreste Noda – also percussionist and something like a godfather to the aforementioned London scene – and the trumpeter Yelfris Valdes. The name Ariwo is Yoruba, meaning sound or noise, it gives us an idea of how the acoustic instruments are processed electronically by Pouya Ehsaei, becoming hypnotic sound waves and irresistible rhythms.
Producer / DJ / dancers Hitmakerchinx and DJ Aaron are two of the most prominent figures in flexing, a branch of the dancehall and reggae styles developed in Brooklyn’s Caribbean neighborhoods. The tradition of flexing combines elastic contortions and ballet-like fluidity with disjointed, “broken” movements and facial animations. The music associated with it has grown into its own genre with club beats and obscure samples – today known as FDM. In the FDM world it is not uncommon for artists to be both dancers and producers – or as Hitmakerchinx puts it “you can’t learn this style unless life is embedded in it”.
Brooklyn-based DJ Aaron has been active on the FDM scene for 14 years. He danced on Madonna’s Workshop tour, in Skrillex’s “Red Lips” video, and has been featured in various commercials for major companies. His dance troupe, The Next Level Squad, is known for improvised, gas mask-clad performances on New York City’s trains and subway stations. 26-year-old Hitmakerchinx is from Brooklyn but is based in Los Angeles. As one of the brightest stars on the flexing scene, he danced on Rihanna’s Anti World Tour and recently released the EP Sound of 7ife.
During her youth in Zimbabwe, Stella Chiweshe stirred up a tempest of emotions when she learned to play the thumb piano mbira. This sacred instrument was considered a musical no-go for women, and was featured in popular ceremonies that British colonial masters attempted to eradicate from the nation’s native culture. However, Chiweshe fell in love with the instrument and persuaded a relative to teach her to play, practicing in secrecy and performing at forbidden parties. Soon, the artist gained further acclaim by combining singing and mbira with Western drumkit, funky electric bass and a marimba which blended magically with the thumb piano. Her band Earthquake blew up in Zimbabwe after releasing her album Ambuya?, a comprehensive introduction to the euphoric side of Chiweshe’s extensive repertoire. On her latest offering, Chakandiwana, we hear the work of a mature musician with meditative calmness and melodic sensitivity.
Sudan Archives is a 24-year-old self-taught violinist, singer and producer. The Ohio native grew up to a soundtrack of gospel in a strict Christian environment. Unhappy with her overly anglo name – Brittney Denise Parks – her mother nicknamed her Sudan. After leaving home, Sudan moved to Los Angeles and enrolled at a music college. As if preordained, it was in her exploration of Sudanese music that Sudan Archives finally found a way to play violin that felt natural to her, a pentatonic sound full of attitude which, in her ears, had very little in common with Western musical ideals. Armed with only a violin, loop station and microphone, Sudan Archives recorded a sensational debut EP informed by a rich array of influences including Sudanese violin music, West African rhythms, electronic music and R&B. In addition to her own songs, she has remixed Kanye West and brings us a clever interpretation of Kendrick Lamar’s “King Kunta,” entitled “Queen Kunta”.
These seven innovative improvisational geniuses from Beirut, Cairo, Istanbul and Chicago first met in 2014 when they performed at an event celebrating the Egyptian surf guitarist Omar Khorshid’s music. The members had previously been members of bands like Dwarfs of East Agouza, Konstrukt, A-Trio, Johnny Kafta Anti-Vegetarian Orchestra, and brought together the energies from the experimental music scenes of their different home towns, exploding into the ever-changing mix which is their latest album For Seun Matta. Surfy guitars, oud, psychedelic flutes and free jazz trips with elements of shaabi, tarab, sufi and lots more. A mix that can only be described as post-everything and beyond genre descriptions.
Through their mega-sexy performance art and music, this Johannesburg duo is fighting to change the lives of black LGBT people in South Africa – and across the world! Fela Gucci and Desire Marea pull any audience into the vibrant dance performance that is their live show. With wigs and lofi video projections, they make a gesamtkunstwerk-ish experience out of their electronic dance music, gqom, a kind of bare bones house music that is created in South Africa’s townships and distributed via authentically DIY methods, like taxi drivers who play the latest productions for customers on their way out for a night on the town. FAKA themselves call their extraordinary creation gqom-gospel “laments for cock.” When not performing their own music, FAKA are resident dj’s at Cunty Power, a club that wants to be a safe and fun party zone for queer, trans and non-binary night owls in Johannesburg. The world outside of Africa became aware of FAKA when Mykki Blanco interviewed them in his South African documentary Out Of This World. At the end of 2017, FAKA released their second ep, Amaqhawe, and it has since been clear that they are determined to make sure plenty of ass – not to mention worldviews – will be shaken to its foundations.
The golden age of Turkish rock music reincarnated – in the Netherlands! Those of us who have developed a slight addiction to the recent wave of compilations with rediscovered Turkish 60s and 70s recordings (Istanbul ’70, Psych Funk A La Turkish, etc) won’t be able to resist the whip-cracky rhythms, trance inducing microtonal synthesizers and electric saz solos of Altın Gün. Two of the group’s six members have their background in Turkey, but were not even born yet during the heyday of stars like Selda, Barış Manço and Erkin Koray. It was these figureheads who created the soundtrack for a new urban Turkish identity with equal parts of Anatolian folk music and western psychedelic rock, funk and disco. With only one seven-inch single to date, Altin Gün have already created an international reputation as a phenomenal live act – and queues wind around the neighborhood when they play in their home country. Their debut album “On” will be released this spring.