Describing Lonnie Holley’s path to international recognition as an artist and musician as crooked and full of hardship is to make an understatement. He was born the seventh of 27 siblings in Alabama during an era characterized by segregation laws and racism, where he was adopted by a woman who according to Holley’s words eventually traded him for a pint of whisky. He worked with everything from cleaning to digging tombs and picking cotton, was hit by a car and declared dead. He had a child at the age of 15, and he served time in a juvenile detention center. In the 70’s, he took his first steps in what would prove to be an extensive artist career, consisting of drawings, paintings and, in particular, sculptures made of plastic flowers, oil drums, a xerox machine and old shoes – discarded items telling stories from the backyard of the American Dream. The same theme makes up a red thread through his career as a musician, which started in 2012, when Lonnie Holley was 62 years old. “I Woke Up in a Fucked-Up America,” he sings in a trombone-saturated nightmare blues song on his latest album MITH. Lonnie Holley’s improvised singing and spoken word practice has kinship with Gil Scott Heron as well as Tom Waits, while his music evolves in layers from continuous experimentation: industrial blues meet dream pianos à la Harold Budd or Miles Davis In a Silent Way. The songs are constantly changing, every concert or recording is unique.
Reba Fay, även känd som Swan Meat, är en poet, producent och kompositör från Washington, DC. Elektroniskt noise och hittade ljud som exempelvis rytmen från hjärtmonitorer kombineras med berättelser om självupplevd kronisk sjukdom i henne verk. Recensenter har beskrivit några av Swan Meats EP:s som gränslösa hybrider mellan konceptuell konst, musik och spoken word. Eller som att ta syra på ett swingersparty.
Under uppväxten låste Reba Fay in sig och övade gitarrspel, seriekopplade effektpedaler och byggde om sin förstärkare i jakten på allt extremare ljud att tonsätta sina dikter med. Hon kämpade med sjukdomen bulimia nervosa och i samband med läkarundersökningar började hon spela in egendomliga ljud i sjukhusmiljön och inkorporera i ljudkollage. Som kvinna i vad hon då upplevde som en manlig konstform tvivlade Fay på sin förmåga att ta steget till att verkligen bli sin egen producent, men det ändrades snart när hon kom till insikten att många av de intressantaste nydanarna – från Hildegard von Bingen till Pauline Oliveros – faktiskt var kvinnor. Hon studerade programmering och började tillverka egna plug ins för musikproduktion och så öppnade sig en ocean av möjligheter för hennes skapande.
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.
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.
Nadah el Shazly is an experimental composer, singer, and musician from Cairo’s lively underground scene. She started out studying classical piano, moved on to play Misfits covers in a punk band, but soon changed her path to make electronic music until she settled for an original hybrid of all the aforementioned styles plus avant-garde jazz and Arabic pop and folk music. The debut album Ahwar was created during sessions in Egypt, Montreal and at Electronmusikstudion, EMS, in Stockholm. Here, slide guitars, saz solos and hordes of free-form saxophones meet Nadah El Shazly’s expressive voice in a sparkling universe of sounds and colors.