Unspooling the Thread // Exploring African Music with Greg Nieuwsma
Unspooling the Thread // Exploring African Music with Greg Nieuwsma

Unspooling the Thread // Exploring African Music with Greg Nieuwsma

African Bolga Market Basket and Set of 6 African Music Instruments

Here at IHN we’re very much aware that music from places other than US and UK exists. Thus, its always a pleasure to see threads dedicated to the subject, like the one our associate Greg Nieuwsma (of Sawak) posted this morning in celebration of Africa Day.

14 albums, one for each African country – collected right here.

Happy listening! But this barely scratches the surface- explore deeper!


Les Filles de Illighadad – Eghass Malan (Sahel Sounds)

Les Filles de Illighadad present their first ever studio album “Eghass Malan.” The female led avant rock group hailing from the village of the same name bring their new genre of Tuareg guitar mixed with traditional rural folk. Versed in tradition, Fatou Seidi Ghali and her band have created contemporary studio versions that are unlike anything ever before recorded, transporting rural nomadic song into the 21st century.


Asnakech Worku – Asnakech (Awesome Tapes from Africa)

Ethiopian singer and krar-player Asnakech Worku’s recording with Hailu Mergia during the height of her powers, on a double LP with unpublished family photos and extensive liner notes by Hailu Mergia.

Burkina Faso

VA – Burkina Faso: Volume 1 (Sublime Frequencies)

Sublime Frequencies presents the first of three volumes of contemporary field recordings recorded by Hisham Mayet in Burkina Faso during three expeditions from 2013-2015. Volume 1 highlights the sacred and secular music of the regional balafon or xylophone revered by the Lobi people of southwestern Burkina Faso. In Lobi culture, the balafon performance is not simply music; it is a form of speech that allows master musicians to converse intimately with the living and the dead. This release showcases two tracks that are as thrilling as any Burkinabé music ever recorded. These tracks not only echo but also further some of the greatest examples of Western avant-garde music; imagine the pulsating minimalist motifs of titans like Terry Riley or La Monte Young elaborated into a dizzying maximalism.


Abu Obaida Hassan & His Tambour: The Shaigiya Sound of Sudan (Ostinato Records)

Abu Obaida Hassan and the wonders of his five-string tambour remained largely a mystery. In the early 2000s, a prominent Sudanese newspaper declared him dead. Internet forums confirmed his passing. Many in Khartoum, Sudan’s capital, said he had indeed died. But rumors that he was still alive persisted.


Maalem Mahmoud Gania – Colours of the Night (Hive Mind Records)

Maalem Mahmoud Gania was one of Morocco’s most famous Gnawa musicians. Gnawa is a musical and spiritual tradition originating in sub-Saharan Africa that has survived as a subculture within Moroccan society for centuries. The roots of the blues can be heard in its hypnotic rhythms.


Konono No. 1 – Assume Crash Position (Crammed Discs)

“Assume Crash Position” is the second album from Congolese street band Konono No.1, the fourth volume in the Congotronics series from Crammed Discs.

Once again recorded in their home domain of Kinshasa, DR Congo by Congotronics series producer Vincent Kenis, the long-anticipated follow-up to Konono’s 2005 debut sees their trademark thrilling junkyard sonics and relentlessly hypnotic percussive grooves (as created using thumb pianos and drums made from scrap metal and disused car parts) further elevated with electric guitars and bass – played by neighbourhood musicians from a young Konono covers band! – as well as a wider range of vocalists plus guest appearances from guitarist Manuaku Pepe Felly (Zaïko Langa Langa) and members of fellow Congotronics band Kasai Allstars.


Mansour Seck – Teddungal (Baaba Maal)

Mansour Seck is a Senegalese singer and musician born in Podor, in the north of the country. Best known for his collaboration with lifelong friend Baaba Maal, he has also toured and released several solo albums. He is blind.


Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey & His International Brothers — A Christmas Special By The King of Juju (Awesome Tapes from Africa)

Ho Ho Ho! Christmas, Nigerian juju style by Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey & His International Brothers: A Christmas Special By The King of Juju! Since the 50’s Ebenezer Obey had been crafting his special juju-highlife sound, which is a mix of Yoruba percussion, talking drums, electric guitars and vocals in Yoruba. Later in his life he only started playing Christian gospel music (a fate which many Nigerian musicians seems to befall from a certain age onwards) and he passed away in 2011 in Lagos university hospital at the age of 67.

This tape was recorded sometime in the 60’s with his then-band International Brothers. It was a golden find in one of the many Nigerian stalls around London’s Brixton market last spring. Both sides are filled with heavenly sweet jangling guitars, muffled percussion, talking drums and festive Yoruba singing, with some surprise Christmas melodies played as one continuous medley in lo-fi tropical spheres. As the title already said, the chief was the self-proclaimed king of juju and we can only bow down to his legacy. Listen to these funky Christmas waves and have a great one!

Sierra Leone

S.E. Rogie – Dead Men Don’t Smoke Marijuana (Realworld / CEMA)

Dead Men Don’t Smoke Marijuana is the final album by Sierra Leonean highlife and palm-wine musician S. E. Rogie, recorded at Real World Studios, Wiltshire, England, in 1993–94 and released in May 1994 by Real World Records. Production was carried out by American producer Tchad Blake, who worked in an intimate fashion. In addition to Rogie’s three-piece backing band, the album also features the English double bassist Danny Thompson and guitarist Alfred Bannerman. The album is characteristic of Rogie’s palm-wine material, with his syncopated folk songs, finger-picked acoustic guitar playing style, sulky baritone vocals, often in the Krio language, and African call-and-response vocals.


Gangbe Brass Band – Togbé (Contre-Jour)

The Gangbé Brass Band is a 10-member Beninese musical ensemble founded in 1994. The word “gangbe” means “sound of metal” in the Fon language. They blend West African jùjú and traditional Vodou music with Western jazz and big-band sounds. Their unusual instrumentation—trumpet, trombone, and sousaphone, along with West African percussion and vocals—is, to some extent, part of West Africa’s colonial legacy; French colonial officers imported brass instruments and trained local musicians to play European-style military and dance hall music.


VA – Nouakchott Wedding Songs (Sahel Sounds)

Raucous and electrified wedding songs from the desert kingdom of Mauritania. Luxurious overload of micro-tonal scales, phaser pedals, and unpredictable poly-rhythms. Documentation of a little known music scene where disparate influences meet in beautiful permutations. This is desert music as it’s performed – loud and unfiltered. Comes with 12 page full color booklet (PDF in download). Vinyl limited to 1000.


Gasper Nali – Zoona Malawi (Spare Dog Records)

Gasper Nali plays a Babatoni – a 3 meter, one-stringed, home-made bass guitar – with an empty bottle and a stick. And makes the most beautiful and catchy original afro-beats possible.

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