DJ Rita Ray looks at the best recent African music releases – and recommends futurist soundscapes from Senegal, soulful Mauritian blues, a haunting East African classic and an RnB debauchery warning from Rwanda.
- Album: Alien Cartoon (Akwaaba Music); Track: Djula Dance
Since the 1990s Ibaaku has been an influential figure in Senegal’s hip-hop scene and has worked with most of the country’s leading artists.
He is a musical nomad, a multi-instrumentalist, producer, artist and radio presenter who consistently breaks down musical boundaries.
His latest release, Alien Cartoon, evolved out of his soundtrack for a show for avant-garde Senegalese fashion designer Selly Raby Kane.
It is a space where Senegalese rhythms and instruments are digitally warped and distressed into an evocative Afro-futurist soundscape. Djula Dance exemplifies this adventurous electronic exploration.
- Album: Soul Sok Sega Sounds from Mauritius 1973-1979 (Strut Records); Track: Coco Mamzelle
Sega is the traditional blues of Mauritius, created by the slaves brought to the Indian Ocean island from Zanzibar, Madagascar, Mozambique and West Africa.
The percussive sounds of sega are driven by the ravanne, a round wooden frame drum with a goatskin cover – a building block of a music that brought the captives together and helped to forge their Creole identity in their enforced homeland.
Sega transcended harsh reality, it was underground music to reminisce to, dance and drink to. Music which gave voice to and fuelled protest and it was not looked upon favourably by the authorities.
In the 1960s the raw sounds of the music became emblematic of national pride and the next decade brought sega into the mainstream and acceptance with the addition of soul, reggae and even Sufi spiritual qawwali music.
Soul Sok Sega is a compilation of the best and biggest sega sounds from 1973 to 1979 and includes Yoyo’s Coco Mamzelle, a soulful slice of psychedelic Mauritian sega.
Artist: Jim Chuchu
- Track: Shauri Yako
At the forefront of Kenya’s alternative music scene is Jim Chuchu.
He is an award-winning film-maker, visual artist and singer-songwriter who came to prominence as one of the founding members of Kenya’s acclaimed boundary crossing group, Just a Band.
Shauri Yako, which can be translated from Swahili as “It’s Your Problem”, was a massive East African hit covered by legends from the region including rumba stars from the Democratic Republic of Congo M’bilia Bel and the late Tabu Ley Rochereau and the bands Les Wanyika and Orchestra Super Mazembe.
However, Chuchu goes back to the 1981 original by another Congolese musician, Nguashi N’timbo, playing with Orchestre Festival Du Zaire.
He lovingly strips away the big beats and horns to unearth the haunting bitter-sweet essence of this beloved Swahili song.
Artist: Mike Kayihura
- Track: Ndugu Kalisa
A self-taught musician, Mike Kayihura is a 22-year-old with a lot to say for himself and to his fellow Rwandans.
He is not only making waves in Kigali’s soul and RnB scene, unusually he is making ends meet in the fickle and unstable world of music.
He is a storyteller whose songs, aimed at the young, are cautionary tales about the temptations of life.
Ndugu Kalisa is an ode to all the inspirational musicians who transport us to a better place with their music but whose tragic personal lives end in chaos and ignominy.
Featuring Angel Mutoni, one of the rare Rwandan female rappers, and with lyrics in English, Swahili and Kinyarwanda, it tells the tale of the imaginary Ndugu Kalisa, a charming gifted artiste who had it all then lost it all through the misuse of drugs and women.