World Music Network is releasing two brand-new Rough Guide albums on Monday 27 January: The Rough Guide To Arabic Café& The Rough Guide To The Best African Music You've Never Heard
Both albums can be purchased as a physical or digital download and are also available with a WMN subscription.
This Rough Guide concocts a collection of laid-back music you can hear pumped out from street-side coffee-houses across North Africa and the Middle East. Sip the historic infusion with musical masters Maurice El Medioni, Akim El Sikameya, Ali Hassan Kuban, Salamat and Abdel Gadir Salim.
Nowadays in the West coffee chains are endemic on every high street. Pounding the streets anywhere from Croydon to Chicago, you can be sure to find a slick, stainless-steel-clad Starbucks or a clinical, corporate Costa crowded on to every other corner. In these capitalist climes, multi-national chains jostle for space with holistically hip independent joints where media consultants tip-tap on MacBooks whilst sipping their double-shot decaf doppios. Looking back at the richly roasted history of the potent brew reveals a fascinating story and its deep connection to the musical culture of Eastern Africa and the Middle East, where the drink originated.
There are hundreds of contesting accounts of coffee’s legendary first uses. A popular theory surmises that in the tenth century, nomads wandering through Ethiopia’s mountains ate the coffee plants red fruits and first discovered its stimulating properties. Next, members of the Shadhiliyya Sufi order are said to have spread coffee-drinking across Southern Arabia and the Islamic world from the thirteenth century onwards. Today coffee’s enveloping aroma still scents the streets of the Arab world’s beating cities and village outposts. Touchdown in Beirut, Ramallah, Cairo, Casablanca or Riyadh and you are sure to soon have your hands wrapped around a steaming strong amalgam. This Rough Guide concocts a collection of laid-back music likely to be pumped out from street-side Arabic coffee-houses where the clinking of glasses, gentle ripple of conversation and mistyshishasmoke mingles amongst the guests in percussive interplay.
We sip our first Arabian infusion in a Franco-Algerian establishment in the company of Maurice El-Medioni. Born in Oran, El Medioni first learned to play the piano by mimicking popular 1930s French songs he heard on the old family radio. During the 1940s he learned to boogie-woogie and jazz along with the US troops stationed in Oran. In 1962 escaping his country’s bitter civil war El Medioni relocated to France and set himself upon the cosmopolitan cabaret scene. Joining us in Algeria, Akim El Sikameya’s unique high-range vocal is heard on ‘Ya Waadi’. Both artists blend Arab-Andalucian tradition with swinging jazz trumpets and syncopated swagger.
Ali Hassan Kuban’s music greets us in Egypt with a steaming cup of his Nubian blend. Known for his wide gap-toothed smile and jazz-inflected wedding music, Kuban transformed the complex rural rhythms and trance-like chants of his homeland by adding Western instrumentation and danceable beats. Sudanese musician Abdel Gadir-Salim also draws on wedding repertoire as heard on his strident 6/8 tune ‘Gamearina’. The band Salamat was formed by Mahmoud Fadl, another musician with a strong rooting in the Nubian and Arabic wedding scene in Egypt. Fadl’s love of percussion is resonant in the playful patterns underpinning tracks ‘Elleya Misafir’ and ‘Wainek’.
Within the course of this travelogue album we go on to glide from Ihsan Al-Mounzer’s Lebanese light roast to Groupe Mazagan’s Moroccan rock mix, Daramad’s relaxed-pace Persian delights, and Ramzi Aburedwan’s punctuated Palestinian grooves. Uncover the history of coffee culture on this carefully-blended compilation.
All of the artists featured on this unique Rough Guide present distinctive, original sounds emanating from Africa, selected exclusively from groups entering World Music Network’s ‘Battle of the Bands’ competition. Check out Tani Diakite’s brand of Afro-funk, Simo Lagwani’s Moroccan gnawa grooves and Wayo’s South Sudanese trance percussion.
This compilation presents a grassroots approach to the music of the moment emanating from Africa and its Diasporas. Gaining recognition through World Music Network’s ‘Battle of the Bands’ competition – an exciting and revolutionary competition for up and coming world music acts – all of the artists featured on this album present new, original sounds, most of which you are unlikely to have ever heard before. This album gives you a true snap-shot of African music today, taken straight from the source, maybe even presenting some of Africa’s music stars of tomorrow! Unlike most other African compilations, which focus on the usual suspects and established royalty of African music, this fresh approach allows you to delve deeper into the musical treasure chest of African music. Several of the featured artists have gone on to release albums on World Music Network’s award winning artist label, Riverboat Records, to much critical acclaim, including Krar Collective, Monoswezi, Wayo and Annansy Cissé. In keeping with the theme of music from the source we have included an incredible bonus disc by Sotho Sounds from Lesotho, who quite literally are turning junk into funk.
Annane Sy Cisse rolls the album open with his track ‘Bala’. Here he is joined by Zoumana Tereta whose sonoroussokou (mono-chord violin) solos enter into a riffing question and answer session with Cisse’s electric guitar. Zoumana’ssokou is also heard on Djama Djigui’s track ‘Djimé Foly’.
Simo Lagwani is a Moroccan musician whose involvement in an eclectic mix of projects has seen him become a regular on the UK’s live circuit. His track ‘Baniyorkoy’ is anchored by the rich, resonant tones of the guembri(a plucked lute) decorated by vocals, handclaps and krakeb hand cymbals.
Noumoucounda Cissoko is a Sengalese griot who plays his koraviviciaously on ‘Nomou Koradioulou’. Illuminating the string vibrations of another koramaster, the track ‘Cora’ features guitarist Giuliano Modarelli alongside Sura Susso’s intimate playing.
Ethiopian minimalist rockers, Krar Collective contribute their swirling, heady mix on track ‘Ambassel’. Lead-singer Asseda’s spine-tingling voice soars atop the bluesy tones of the krar lyre, keberodrums and a one-string masenqofiddle.
ANerGy Afrobeat contribute their spacious ‘vaudoo-jazz soul-funk’. The big band line-up spotlights their brass section on this track who take freeform solos before the vocals refrain for their ‘Great King Fela’. Later we hear from another big band, Mozambican Sigauque’s live track ‘Alertos Da Vida’ is an unstoppably positive song with pan-African inspirations.
‘Yaye Boye’ was presented to World Music Network by Teranga Beat, a label working to bring back the life of the 1970s Senegalese super band Le Sahel. This laid-back track features Cheikh Tidiane Tall, Idrissa Diop and Thierno Koite. Also hailing from Senegal is the Batch Gueye Band whose Baye Fall religious beliefs inform his evocative track ‘M’beugel’.
Party tracks from Sudanese collective Wayo and kamale ngoni troubadour Tani Diakite raise the heat in the final few tracks of this Rough Guide, before Monoswezi’s mbira-led ‘Ndinwe’ gently closes the album.