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Ethiopian artist Sosena Gebre Eyesus sings accompanied by her playing of the Begena, or King David’s Harp, one of the world’s oldest and most beguiling instruments. Since ancient times the Harp of David has been used as an aural balm, a soother of evil and disturbed spirits —it’s low, buzzing tones widely noted for their ability to sweetly refresh one’s soul. Said to have been brought to Ethiopia in biblical times by Menelik I, it has long been the central instrument used to accompany Ethiopian Orthodox hymns, which Eyesus plays here in an absolutely entrancing manner while softly singing songs of devotional reflection. Featuring six beautiful hymns that gently unspool at the measured pace of a lullaby, Sosena Gebre Eyesus magically creates a rarefied atmosphere that feels absolutely necessary and vital for these most turbulent of days.
Originally released on cassette, this is a limited edition lp of 500 copies.
Also available as a digital download: https://littleaxerecords.bandcamp.com/album/sosena-gebre-eyesus
NEw Sahel SoundS
Nigerién composer Hama presents a groundbreaking album of traditional electronic desert folk songs, hovering somewhere between early 90s techno and synthwave. Nomadic herding ballads, ancient caravan songs, and ceremonial wedding chants are all re-imagined into pieces seemingly lifted from a Saharan 1980s sci-fi soundtrack or score to a Tuareg video game. With a deep love and respect, Hama effortlessly takes back and re-appropriates fourth-world ethnoambient music.
One of only a handful of electronic musicians in West Africa, Hama a.k.a. Hama Techno follows in the footsteps of avant-garde electronic pioneers like Mamman Sani Abdoulaye, Francis Bebey, and Luka Productions. His debut release was a huge success on the underground mp3 networks of West Africa and was featured in The Wire, Pitchfork, and Rolling Stone. Hama continues with his signature digital folk with an expansion into computer-based compositions. Painstaking crafted on the spotty electric grid in Niamey with earbuds and a hacked copy of FruityLoops, Houmeissa is the result of remarkable passion. Inspired by diverse sounds spanning Tuareg guitar to second wave Detroit Techno, Saharan folk songs are transformed into atemporal works that defy categorization.
Hama builds patterns of varied time signatures and distinct polyrhythms, deconstructing and rebuilding ancient traditions on drag and drop virtual keyboards. Airy sweeping pads evoke the open desert while rumbling dark undertones warn of a coming dust storm. Instrumentals layer looping pentatonic melodies into a blissed-out trance, while soft synths and fake electric guitars cry out a call and response. The effect is charmingly unexpected, as the plastic sounds of early PC music are imbued with a new life. A singularly unique production, Hama's Houmeissa stands to be a future classic and an embodiment of the digital Sahara to come.
In exile from his city in Northern Mali, singer/songwriter Ahmed Ag Kaedy returns to the origins of Tuareg folk with sessions of stripped down solo acoustic guitar. Mellow pentatonic notes dance over plaintive vocals, intimate and close mic'd, endearing in their simplicity. Drifting from melancholic ballads and pleas for peace, “Akaline Kidal” is a politically charged and poignant recording for a community ripped apart by division and civil war.
While the Tuareg guitar genre is popularized by rock heavyweights like Tinariwen and Bombino, the origins of the genre are in simple acoustic arrangements. Created in the 1980s as political folk music, the first recordings were made on contraband cassette tapes. Distributed on underground networks, the music spread throughout the diaspora, planting the seeds of revolution and establishing Tuareg guitar sound.
Recorded onto 8-track cassette tape in a basement studio in Portland, Oregon, “Akaline Kidal” is a call back to these early recordings. Captured in continuous single takes, the effect is unfiltered and raw. Like his predecessors, Ahmed Ag Kaedy imbues his songs with a pointed focus as he transmits a message home.
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Esther Suarez, also known as La Ocrasina De Oro, is a popular Peruvian Huayno singer. La Bolognesina is one of her earlier albums, featuring reverbed vocals over Andean harps supplemented with light percussion and handclaps. The album was recorded in 1981, with the title referring to her roots near the snow-capped Andean mountains of the Bolognesi province in the Ancash region of Peru. Peru experienced waves of mass rural-to-urban migration in the latter half of the twentieth century due to poverty and political instability, but with it also came an explosion in the popularity of the folkloric Huayno tradition. An urban and modernized studio version of ancient indigenous Quechua folk traditions, Huayno became the soundtrack to the migrant’s experience of both hardship and homesickness. Esther Suarez’s clear and yearning vocals soar over galloping huayno rhythms, evoking the highlands of her youth with heartbreak, regret and melancholy, while simultaneously looking to a place where there is always a will to live and an invitation to dance. Truly some of the most beautiful music ever.
Digital copies can be purchased here:littleaxerecords.bandcamp.com/album/esther-suarez-la-bolognesina