Playlist/Dominic Valvona/Brian “Bordello” Shea/Matt Oliver





For those of you that have only just joined us as new followers and readers, our former behemoth Quarterly Playlist Revue is now no more! With a massive increase in submissions month-on-month, we’ve decided to go monthly instead in 2020. The June playlist carries on from where the popular quarterly left off; picking out the choice tracks that represent the Monolith Cocktail’s eclectic output – from all the most essential new Hip-Hop cuts to the most dynamic music from across the globe. New releases and the best of reissues have been chosen by me, Dominic Valvona, Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea and Matt Oliver.

Tracklist In Full:


Thiago Nassif  ‘Soar Estranho’
Freak Heat Waves  ‘Nothing Lasts Forever’
Lithics  ‘Hands’
Ammar 808 ft. Susha  ‘Marivere Gati’
Bab L’ Bluz  ‘Gnawa Beat’
The Koreatown Oddity ft. Taz Arnold  ‘Ginkabiloba’ 
Koma Saxo  ‘Koma Mate’
Wish Master  ‘Write Pages’
Gee Bag, Illinformed  ‘I Can Be (Sam Krats Remix)’
Gorilla Twins  ‘Highs & Lows’
Jeffrey Lewis  ‘Keep It Chill In The East Village’
Armand Hammer  ‘Slew Foot’
Public Enemy  ‘State Of The Union’
Run The Jewels  ‘Yankee And The Brave (ep.4)’
Gaul Plus  ‘Church Of The Motorway’
Tamburi Neri  ‘Indio’
Ty, Durrty Goodz  ‘The Real Ones’
Fierro Ex Machina  ‘A Sail Of All Tears’
Skyzoo  ‘Turning 10’
Kahil El’Zabar ft. David Murray  ‘Necktar’
Afel Bocoum  ‘Avion’
Etienne de la Sayette  ‘Safari Kamer’
The Lancashire Hustlers  ‘Stuck In The Middle Of A Week’
Scarlet’s Well  ‘Sweetmeat’
Campbell Sibthorpe  ‘Good Lord’
Westerman  ‘Drawbridge’
The Fiery Furnaces  ‘Down At The So And So On Somewhere’
Kutiman  ‘Copasavana’
Caleb Landry Jones  ‘The Great I Am’
Bedd  ‘You Have Nice Things’
The Original Magnetic Light Parade  ‘Confusion Reigns’
Cosse  ‘Sun Forget Me’
Bananagun  ‘Modern Day Problems’
Salem Trials  ‘Head On Rong’
Lucidvox  ‘Runaway’
HighSchool  ‘Frosting’
Jon Hassell  ‘Fearless’

All our monthly playlists so far in 2020

 

 

 

 


Album Review/Dominic Valvona
Photo Credit/Benjamin Astier




Bab L’ Bluz ‘Nayda!’
(Real World Records) Digital: 5th June 2020/Physical: 24th July 2020


Injecting a “nayda” of generational energy into an electric rustle, rattle and dreamy assortment of Moroccan and North West African traditions, the French “power” quartet rev-up ancestral sounds on their debut album for Peter Gabriel’s Real World label. A reclamation in fact, the transmogrified blues act have a fresh take on the Islamic dance, music and poetry exaltations of their homeland’s famous “Gnawa”, the ululation trills and storytelling of the Mauritania “Griot” tradition, and the popular folk music of Chabbi as they blend Arabian-Africa with a contemporary view of political upheaval and drama.

The exclaimed album title takes its name and seed from the youth movement that rose up in part from the concatenate protests that followed the initial Arab Spring. Less violent, Moroccans peacefully demonstrated against the Islamic Kingdom’s stasis; asking for certain concessions and freedoms. Elections as a result of the mounting discontent only maintained the country’s regal authority, King Mohammed VI. True, certain reforms have been tabled, some of which met with anger by more conservative and fundamentalist parties. And the country’s political status is a hybrid of constitutional parliamentary and monarchy. Fast forward to last year, and an uneasy younger generation are immigrating at an alarming rate. Regime change that same year saw upheavals in neighboring Algeria and also Sudan.

Coming to grips with that turmoil, the country’s “nayda” generation has found freedom creatively, amping up that heritage and the roots of blues whilst emphasizing the contemporary political situation. It’s a fresh vision, especially when you factor in the band’s electrified “guembri” player and leading siren, Yousra Mansour. Traditionally the preserve of men, the three-stringed lute like guembri, an instrument that goes hand-in-hand with Gnawa music, is given a new lease of life by Yousra: a new angle and energy; a thoroughly modern vision of inclusivity in a thoroughly conservative culture.





For the most part using the common Arabic spoken dialect of “darija”, both protestations and romantic allusions are given an exotic lyricism and swirling poetic cadence. Opening this inaugural pitch, a battle cry and set-up for the band’s take on the ‘Gnawa Beat’. “Welcome to the truth that can be told” is the mantra on this opening account that features languid desert swoons and the clutter-clatter of the iron “karhab” castanets chattering away over a riding rhythm that leads us all the way to the Medina gateway.

It’s said that crashing waves from the fishing port of Essaouira – a town proficient in Gnawa – can be heard lapping as a percussive sample on the album’s next song, ‘Illa Mata’. Buoyant throughout, this dreamy dusky affair bobs and shimmers along in a mesmeric fashion. Bedouin song meets the blues in a drifting fusion.

In praise of the moon and “her restorative powers”, ‘El Gamra’ both rocks and lulls that “chabbi” atavistic folk sound. It reminds me in some ways of Bargou 08. Spindlier, echoing hints of the late gnawa doyen Maalem Mahmoud Gania, the next track, ‘Glibi’, is based on a love letter written in the style of Moorish women’s ‘Tebra’ poetry; traditionally sung in the Western Sahara and parts of Southern Morocco. Floating and once more dreamily romantic, the band plays this one loosely and joyfully. Two more paeans follow in that song’s swooned wake; the first, ‘Oudelali’, transcribes a true love ode to a silky-veiled desert song of warm backbeats and spiraled longing, the second, ‘Waydelel’, is a cover version of the revered Mauritanian siren Dimi Mint Abba and her husband Khalifa Ould Eide’s spiritual yearn to Mohammed. The latter features the first of he album’s guest spots, with Amazigh Berber folk enthusiast Aziz Ozouss sitting in on the “ribab”.

Angry but delivered with a fluty and electrified sass, ‘Africa Manayo’ pays tribute to the African continent and potential whilst also condemning the actions of the despots. A second tribute, ‘Yamma’, which goes hand-in-hand with the previous song, is paid to the “patience and fortitude” of mothers: a theme that seems to be a staple of most releases I’ve reviewed from the continent.

Vocalist and gnawa music star Mehdi Nassoul weighs in on the scrappy percussive, gauzy ‘El Watane’. His earthy soulful voice lingers in unison with the cradling harmonies on this dreamy swim. The band name titled and musical signature, ‘Bab L’ Bluz’, appears right at the very end of this both relaxed and electric fuzz panorama. “Bab” means “gate”; a literal reference to the group’s raison d’etre of opening up a musical, cultural gate(way), The guembri and electric guitar are wild and scuzzed on this dirtmusic blues offering that blends a vast geography of influences, depths and ideas together. Essentially it buzzes and rocks, and offers something refreshing, revitalized: as does the rest of this vigorous, mesmerizing and alluring Arabian sweep.

The changing face of Moroccan music, Bab L’ Bluz offer a voice to those previously left marginalized and left out. Initially guimbra adept Yousra was met with resistance for daring to pick the instrument up, an instrument so strongly bonded with the Islamic tradition; an instrument usually passed down the generation, from father to son. Well that’s certainly changing. Reclaiming the heritage but looking forward, the group injects the godly music and romance of Arabian-Africa with a new energy and dynamism. A 21st century blues excursion of dreamy and political vigor.





Related posts from the Archives:

Houssam Gania ‘Mosawi Swiri’  Review

Maalem Mahmoud Gani   ‘Colours Of The Night’  Review



Hi, my name is Dominic Valvona and I’m the Founder of the music/culture blog monolithcocktail.com For the last ten years I’ve featured and supported music, musicians and labels we love across genres from around the world that we think you’ll want to know about. No content on the site is paid for or sponsored and we only feature artists we have genuine respect for /love. If you enjoy our reviews (and we often write long, thoughtful ones), found a new artist you admire or if we have featured you or artists you represent and would like to buy us a coffee at https://ko-fi.com/monolithcocktail to say cheers for spreading the word, then that would be much appreciated.


Album Review: Dominic Valvona



Houssam Gania ‘Mosawi Swiri’
(Hive Mind Records) 22nd February 2019


Already established as both an accomplished student and innovator of the traditional Islamic dance, music and poetry exaltation ‘Gnawa’ and the three-stringed lute-like instrument that goes hand-in-hand with it, the ‘Guimbri’, the twenty-three year old Houssam Gania has fused his Moroccan roots with artists as diverse as James Holden, and on this latest album, a troupe of lively young musicians from the country’s fishing port town of Essaouira.

A chip-off-the-old-block, Houssam follows in the footsteps of his legendary father Maalem Mahmoud Gania. A stalwart master of Gnawa, famous the world over, a repackaged special reissue of Maalem’s sublime venerable Colours Of The Night performances kick-started the Hive Mind label in 2017 – a label I might add, with a considered taste in some of the more understated, lesser known recordings of world-class artisans. This youngest scion of the virtuoso Maalem has obviously inherited all the right attributes, performing as he does, a remarkable adroit soulful ritual of off-kilter spring trances both earthy and transcendental on this new collection.

Aping the North African street market store trade of cassette tapes – artwork wise too; influenced by the packaging of Maalam’s legendary Tichkaphone tape – Houssam’s inaugural recording for the Brighton-based imprint will be limited to only a 100 copies on cassette, though there will, as usual, be a digital version. Though only on its, official, fourth release Hive Mind makes a concession for Houssam’s Mosawi Swiri LP; the label’s original intention being to release everything on vinyl, which on previous releases they have.

Made up of six tracks, Mosawi Swiri takes its inspiration from the ceremonial Musawiyin Suite, the blue-section (we’re informed) of the trance ritual during which the participating musicians invoke Sidi Musa, the master of the sea and sky spirits. As I’ve already mentioned, connecting to the ‘sea’ part of that evocation, Houssam works with a number of aspiring – and as it proves rhythmically locked-in and elliptically elastic – musicians from the coastal Essaouira town and region of Morocco. Fusing together two different disciplines the opening ‘Moulay Lhacham’ track combines an overlapping groove of desert blues, effortless cool polyrhythmic Mali struts, offbeat drum splashes, melodic heavenly synth and deft ‘guimbri’. Cross patterns seem to connect to produce interesting nodes and riffs in a shuffling jam of masterful pan-African musicianship. It stands out as the album’s most electric and eclectic number, the rest of the ‘suite’ settling in for a trance-y meditation and prayer.

Accompanied by his brother Hamza Gania, Mohammed Benzaid, Khalid Charbadou and Amine Bassi the rest of the album springs and canters through a rattling stringy-rhythm of constantly itching lute and a scuttling, scraping tin-like percussion. Following a similar pattern throughout it is the timings and lead and chorus of excitable, soaring and in reverence vocals that offer variation to the untrained ear.

The second album of Moroccan holy music I’ve reviewed this month (look at for the electric-Sufi Moroccan treatment, Jedba, by Abdesselam Damoussi and Nour Eddine, in my upcoming roundup this month), it seems the spotlight is honing in more and more on North East African region – the emphasis in recent years thrust upon the funkier, psychedelic desert rock and Afrobeat of the Central and West African belts. Subtler in impact, the Islamic divine trance of artists such as Houssam Gania is no less dynamic and encapsulating. Mosawi Swiri is another sagacious ‘choice’ release from Hive Mind; an introduction to new voices and sounds, usually lost in the noise of the Internet hubbub.





Words: Dominic Valvona

REVIEW
WORDS: DOMINIC VALVONA

Maalem Mahmoud Gani   ‘Colours Of The Night’
Hive Mind Records,  September 8th 2017

Adding its name to an already crowded but all the same welcome market of world music reissues and contemporary undiscovered obscurities, Brighton based label Hive Mind Records announces its intentions and presence with an album of Gnawa trance recordings from the late great Maalem Mahmoud Gania.

The near-exulted star of the Moroccan honed Gnawa – a style of traditional Islamic dance, music and poetry with roots spread across the sub-Saharan crescent of Africa; considered by many to be one of the origins of the “blues” rhythm – and artisan of the genre’s key instrument, the camel-skin covered three-string lute like “guimbri”, released an extensive catalogue of recordings for labels such as Tichkaphone, La Voix El Maaraf and Sonya Disques.

Colours Of The Night however, the final studio recording by Gania, will be the first solo release by the artist outside his native homeland to be released on vinyl: six performances spread over four sides of vinyl to be exact.

For the uninitiated, Gnawa is a highly hypnotic experience based around the repetition of a musical phrase, a few succinct lines of poetic devotion or a communion with the spiritual for a duration that can last hours. Performances tend to bleed into each other, and so what can seem like one uninterrupted piece of music are, often, three or four different songs strung together. Building up an entrancing rhythm of spindly plucked vibrating guimbri and metallic scratchy percussion (courtesy of the iron castanets, the “krakebs”), call and response vocals in paean and lament break the instrumental monotony. Though there’s room for nuanced fleches and riffs to add variety, intonation and intensity. These are all the key components then; of a style that evokes both the sound of Arabia and desert blues traditions.

Equally influencing others whilst, it seems, also embracing and exploring sounds from further afield himself, during his illustrious career Gania worked with artists as diverse as Pharaoh Sanders, Bill Laswell and Carlos Santana. Enriching his own recordings perhaps, the suffused mirage-like synthesizer that hovers over the horizon on this album’s Sidi Sma Ya Boulandi track shows a late penchant for electronic keyboards and ambient waves of atmospheric soundscaping: though this is the only time the instrument is used on these specific recordings.

Stringy, wiry, occasionally a tone or two lower and played like a quasi-bass guitar, Gania’s playing style is raw, deep and always infectious: from blistering solos to slower and lighter ruminating descriptive articulations; this is equally matched by his atavistic soulful voice and the chorus of swooning, venerated female and male voices and harmonies that join him on each track.

As an introduction, Colours Of The Night would be better experienced in sections – a side at a time perhaps. After a while it can all sound a little tiring. Gania advocates will however find this a worthy addition to the legacy.

Hive Mind start as they mean to go on, with the full sanctioning of the Gania family and artists who appear on this album, releasing a most brilliant set of recordings that could so easily have disappeared off the radar. As inaugural releases go, this one is definitely a winner.

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