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African music never sleeps, and neither does Leonel.
Mouhamed Niang – “Mou Serigne Saliou”
From Senegal: With only voices and percussion, Senegalese singer Mouhamed Niang brings us a masterpiece in devotional mbalax. The Sabar drumming sounds superb, and the way it marks the structure of the track with changes in speed and time signatures drives the proceedings forward for an ecstatic experience. The call and response singing from Niang and choir is especially noteworthy for the clear historical portrait it paints; this is perhaps the ancient predecessor to all the worship/gospel traditions of afro-diasporic cultures in the Americas; and it’s always great to come back to the Sahel regions to find ground zero for a lot of the things we know and love about Black music.
Tiken Jah Fakoly – “Religion”
From Ivory Coast: Tiken Jah Fakoly is maybe the biggest name in African reggae, and every new release receives a warm welcome around here. The Ivorian legend has that strange ability at being profound, honest and effective without the need for complex turns of phrase or any lyrical acrobatics. “Religion” revolves around a super simple premise; that faith should be cool, a positive force for love and understanding. He also delivers an underhanded punch, aimed at so many belligerent fanatics in Africa: if you make war and violence in the name of your God, you failed at understanding their message.
Ninita – “Zonga”
From DR Congo: A very riveting combination of ndombolo, azonto, r&b and pop, Ninita’s sound can take several directions and still come out as a thing of its own. “Zonga” proves this point; anchored in a Soukous rhythm, the dual guitars move in and out of prominence while building a platform for her unique melodic flourishes. Plus, the mixing is tremendous.
Kaayi – “Pali”
From Rwanda: Now that we’re speaking about production and mixing, I need to repeat myself in saying that no one is beating the Rwandans in that area right now. “Pali” is an atmospheric, slightly melodramatic tune, where Kaayi breathes some of his best melodies to date, his trademark auto tuned working wonders with the beds of synths.
Marioo – “Dear Ex”
From Tanzania: Descriptions are hardly necessary when it comes to Marioo tunes. Here you get all the good stuff — a skeletal Afro house beat, a melodic guitar riff that resembles that ‘Prayer’ motif, and Marioo’s unbeatable phrasings. He remains at the top of the class, and the production knows it — they just let him go at it.
Batida x Poté – “Ah!”
From Angola: Electronic producer Pedro Coquenao is definitely up to something. On his new collaboration with St. Lucia producer Pote “Ah!”, You can easily hear the scope of his ambitions. That atmospheric, evocative sound expands on his trademark sound, incorporating Caribbean sensibilities to his afro-fusion stylings. Plus, that video is vibes for days.