Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Warm Heart of Africa: the alternative World Cup podcast

To write 'Recently I've been digging music from Mali' feels so pretentious and old... 'Watch out, he's exploring world music.' Dude must be getting deep into his 30s and frustrated with his diet of white-guy indie rock like Wilco, The Hold Steady and TV on the Radio.
But what with everyone else cashing in on the World Cup, why can't I? If a Colombian can make a theme for Africa then I will too. So to get Shakira's kaka cover of a Fozzy Bear tune (get it - 'waka waka') out of your head and stop the swarming hum of the Vuvuzela, listen to my Warm Heart of Africa podcast.

Warm heart of africa by colinrdelaney

Track listing
1. The jagged Sahara desert blues of Tinariwen is heady psychedelia. I caught the nomads at the Paradiso last year and it was worth skipping out of a Yo La Tengo show and crossing town for. More recently they appeared at the World Cup opening ceremony. Wikipedia has it that leader Ibrahim Ag Alhabib made his own guitar out of a tin can, a stick and a bicycle brake wire not long after seeing his father killed in the 1963 Mali uprising. This tune is 'Ahimana' from 2007's Aman Iman.

2. From Damon Albarn's 2002 Mali Music project that featured Afel Bocoum, Toumani Diabaté & their mates, 'Le Hogon' is a more chilled affair, a laissez faire jam session in the dusty sunset of numerous towns throughout Mali that Albarn and friends visited.

3. If there were a God and he had a voice it would be Ladysmith Black Mambazo belting out the South African style of a cappella, called Isicathamiya, across the clouds. They're teamed here famously with Paul Simon from his album Graceland. 'Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes', an African expression similar to 'filthy rich', opens with Ladysmith's mesmerising harmonies, followed by Simon's idiosyncratic lyricism to weave a beautiful two-worlds tale like a global version of Billy Joel's 'Uptown Girl'. And when the horns kick and the bass pops to make you move, man, it's magic.

4. Vampire Weekend seemed like an obvious choice to mix with Simon, having appropriated and modernised from him generously. 'Horchata' has only grown on me since adding this song - the heavy drums coupled with the unflappable glockenspiel (possibly xylophone?) feels like the two sides of Africa, the hard and the playful.

5. On their opening track 'Suprise Hotel' of the self-titled album, Los Angeles' Fool's Gold play a similar jangly indie mixed with twangy guitar and Afrobeat but couple it with gutteral Hebrew lyrics over top - a delicious melting pot of rock. (Followed on their album by 'Nadine' which brings elements of Tinawiren's staccato desert groove - the whole album is great value. They're touring Europe this summer).

6. 'Tonight's Today' hand claps, chants and choir feels like Jack Penate has matured since rambunctious 'Torn on the Platform'. I'm surprised I haven't heard the vibrant live-in-the-moment, party song in the BBC's wrap-up package from Match of the Day, but then maybe they're waiting for England to actually win. ZING!

7. On The Clash's 1980 record Sandanista they tried pretty much every genre, for the most part succeeding. 'Let's Go Crazy' keeps Penate's London party thriving with the Afro-cuban rhythms, kettle drums, the whistles and Joe's dare - 'So you wanna go crazy'. The guy at the beginning I imagine is at the Notting Hill Carnival but could well be speaking about the World Cup Carnival. He gets his chance at the end of the podcast too.

8. Possibly the hardest band name to search for online, The Very Best from London/Sweden/Africa, lend their song to the podcast name 'Warm Heart of Africa'. Ezra of Vampire Weekend collabs here on vocals for what could be the coach's song of the World Cup - 'When the boys move fast, you should take it slow, We all need someone to tell us when to go.' The choir harmonies and infectious rhythm definitely sum up the warm heart of African music, feel good hit of the summer.

9. I first saw Mali's Amaduo and Mariam supporting Blur in Hyde Park last year. They are an amazing married blind couple (in music and life) who blew the crowd away with up tempo Afrobeat syncopation, funk rhythms and shredding surf/garage guitar, shredding since the 80s too. As 'the original east coast/west coast collaboration' they're joined by Senegalese rapper K'naan on 'Africa', a simple love song to the continent.

10. From the Australian radio station, Triple J's Unearthed initiative is Jinja Safari out of Sydney. 'Peter Pan', with an Indian zitar up front and a Afro-back-beat is an ethereal trip, like Ravi Shankar and the Beta Band on an African savannah safari. I look forward to hearing more from them.

11. Underneath Jinja Safari, and playing out the podcast is again, Ladysmith Black Mambazo again with the a cappella 'Music Knows No Boundaries'. Haunting and emotive, their collective voice is so affecting.

12. I let our preacher man-come-record & clothes salesman from The Clash's 'Let's Go Crazy' say a few words at the end: 'We don't want no war at the carnival today - all we want is peace, love and happiness.'

It's a shame there are still so many boundaries today. I'm not sure if the World Cup accentuates boundaries and borders or helps to bring them down. Nevertheless it was a thrill to see an unexpected North Korea give Brazil a real run for the football poster-boys' money (let's ignore Portugal and that amazing Ronaldo goal).

Anyway, some analogy about music, sport and the 'level playing field of life'. Enjoy the podcast.

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