Friday, April 23, 2010

Abstract Index Playlist - April 21/10

It's not the greatest band name, but it's accurate.

I was trying to describe this record to someone and talked about the hooky, melodic, heavily filtered synth workouts, the sometimes robotic, sometimes swinging beats and terse vocals. She responded "So they could be from anywhere, right?" Which was exactly the point. They could be just a band from Toronto, or London, or even Kenya.

Just A Band is worldly, but coming from a different place in the world, and theirs is a well-curated survey of many contemporary trends and sounds in hipster dance music. There are several obvious questions: do I like this particular collage because it's African, whereas I might not give it a second thought if it were some buzz band from Brooklyn? By the same token, do I, or other listeners, expect something more African or specifically Kenyan out of this music? To what extent is a band like this a new phenomenon?

Though there are plenty of historical examples of transglobal African sounds produced by Africans and non-Africans alike, there are surely more examples than ever these days. The local origins of this band aren't downplayed or watered down, they're updated and placed on equal footing with all the other international musical and technological influences; there's no subordination or fetishization of geographically based stereotypes. Probably the clincher for me in this case are the vocals, which sound like a seriously spliffed-out Tone Loc wrung out through an autotuned vocoder. The declamatory singing and spoken word style combined with the melodic sweetness is quite appealing.

This album represents yet another round in the continuing debate over "what do North Americans expect from African music?" We should know by now that contemporary African sounds are not just furious drums, chanting and nine-minute dance til you drop workouts; but manifestations of a continuous flow of music from and back to Africa as channeled by myriad individual, local and national circumstances. Even so, Just A Band anticipates and leads such conversations rather than simply follow them. These guys may be Just A Band, but they're far more talented than Just An Example.


kamiki - orchestre kiam (syllart)
carruseles - afrosound (vampisoul)
latin roots - larry harlow (fania)
tingiza kichna - just a band (akwaaba)
thermodynamic orchestra - pierre bastien (western vinyl)
chocolate - l'ordi (zonda)
maze - actress (honest jons)
hela mmaneyu - kabasa (atlantic)
pecoussa - francois lougah (syllart)
united nation/saidi style - mahmoud fadl (piranha)
immigrant visa - poirier feat mc zulu rmx by maga bo (ninja tune)
cancion para colombia - huelepega sound system (inyrdisk)
alergia - very be careful (barbes)
n'ouhoumba - bako dagnon (discograph)
think twice - gilles peterson's havana cultural band rmx by 4 hero (brownswood)
end titles - jamshied sharifi rmx by solar lion (kiahkeya productions)
brigadier sabari - alpha blondy (syllart)
time tough - romain virgo (vp)
tribute - jah cutta (stomp)
don't fool the young girls version - the gladiators (studio one)
flash gordon meets luke skywalker - roots radics rmx by bill laswell (trojan)
log on dub - horsepower productions (tempa)

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