Episode 01

Episode 01 was originally published on June 11, 2018 

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01) "Calling Paul the Suffering" by Amen Dunes.

From the 2018 album Freedom.

New York, NY, USA.

"Amen Dunes" is the NY songwriting project of Damon McMahon and this is his fifth album. Pitchfork describes the album as: "Everything feels silvery and romantic, like a hallucination of the classic-rock songbook." NME calls the album "a grand, pop-rock masterpiece" while Paste says the album is "both charmingly raw and uncommonly lovely." We highly recommend this album. 

  • Visit the official Amen Dunes website.

  • Visit the Amen Dunes Facebook page.

  • Follow Amen Dunes on Twitter.

  • Purchase Amen Dunes music from Bandcamp.

  • Purchase Amen Dunes music from Amazon.

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2) "Lagos City" by Asiko Rock Group.

From the group's 1976 self-titled album

Lagos, Nigeria.

Originally a 1976 Nigerian album, this one was re-issued in 2012 on the Superfly label. There seems to be little available about this group other than the lineup (Z. Joseph Bolandi - Lead vocal, organ, piano, Moog strings Ndovmbe Jylvand - Trumpet Paul Monnu - Drums Njoubi Basile - Bass guitar Ntaillou Idrissou - Rhythm guitar Evgene Ndema - Lead guitar Essombe Antoine Madie - Vocal, congas, percussion). 

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03) "African Soul Power" by Basa Basa.

From the 1976 album Homowo.

Accra, Ghana

Originally a 1976 Nigerian album, this one was re-issued in 2012 on the Superfly label. From the official Bandcamp page

Ghanaian band Basa Basa Soundz started out as one of the house bands in Accra's legendary club the Napoleon in the early '70s. With the assistance of Fela Kuti they recorded two albums in Nigeria before reinventing themselves as Basa Basa Experience, teaming up with South African producer and multi-instrumentalist Themba 'T-fire' Matembese to record their final album, Together We Win aka Homowo.

Aquarium Drunkard says: 

"In some parts of West Africa, the appearance of twins is considered a harbinger of blessings to come. And when Fela Kuti, who had already installed statues of twins on the altar at the Shrine, met the brothers Joe and John Nyaku, he may have sensed the glow of their own future pulsing backwards through time. Or maybe he was simply being a good host when he bowed and declared, “Dear twins! We are honored to welcome you.”

"The Nyukus had already made a name for themselves in their hometown of Accra, Ghana, playing at the legendary Napoleon Club, and under Fela’s tutelage, they’d record a pair of records under the name Basa Basa Soundz in Lagos (the first of which, confusingly, only received wide release in the US). Following a split with their manager, the twins regrouped, dropped the “Soundz,” and began working with Themba Matabese, a musical polymath who was splitting time between London and Lagos and had the facility with sound to prove it."

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04) "Staga Dub" by King Tubby.

From the 1976 album Concrete Jungle Dub.

Sometimes credited to "King Tubby & Riley All Stars." Reggae Vibes provides a bit of history to the album, noting: 

"This 1976 dub set, put out just before the release of dub albums had become a flood, comprises mostly riddims from the late ’60s/early ’70s. The album is often credited as a Winston Riley production, but the Concrete Jungle label actually credits the production to his brother ‘Buster’ Riley. The latter, together with Winston Riley, who had been in the business since founding the vocal group The Techniques, started the Techniques record label in 1968 after they had borrowed money from their mother.

And Boomkat provides some further insight:

"Originally issued on Dennis Harris’ Concrete Jungle, the label also behind Ijahman Levi’s I Am A Levi, the strictly dub album Concrete Dub has become one of the most sought-after of its ilk, in no small part due to the fact that only 300 copies were originally made."

  • Browse FACT Magazine's "Beginner’s guide to King Tubby, the producer who turned dub into an art form."

  • Purchase the album at Amazon.

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05) "Emampondweni" by Batsumi.

From the 1974 self-titled album.

The Guardian explains: "Batsumi were an Afro-jazz outfit led by a blind guitarist, Johnny Mothopeng, along with his keyboard-playing brother Lancelot and bassist Zulu Bidi." 

We first heard about this one through Bandcamp who declares: "Batsumi” Is A South African Gem Made In The Face of Oppression." Bandcamp provides some context for the album:

"During the brutal era in South African history known as Apartheid, the minority-white ruling party forcibly moved millions of black South Africans from their homes to segregated areas, stripping them of their citizenship and reassigning them to tribal Bantu status. But even in the face of this outrageous oppression, South African music thrived." Sometimes, the sheer act of creating art is revolutionary. 

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06) "Aga Who" by Shishani & The Namibian Tales.

From the 2017 album Kalahari Encounters.

An international group founded out of Amsterdam, the group incorporates styles from around the globe, including lyrics in English and Oshiwambo, Shishani's Mother native tongue. "Shishani" means ‘crown’ in Oshiwambo. Namibian.com says: "There is no doubt that Shishani is making her mark worldwide and is eager to prove that Namibians can succeed in music just as well as other countries can.

For this album, the musicians decided to pay special tribute to the San-Bushmen, a South-African people group who spread across whose territories span Botswana, Namibia, Angola, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho and South Africa. The group traveled to the Kalahari desert and recorded with four grandmothers from the region. Namibian Tale's most recent album "Kalahari Encounters is the outcome of this unique collaboration, recorded at a live performance that took place at the Warehouse Theatre in Namibia’s capital city in June 2017."

  • Visit the group's official website.

  • Read our profile of the Kalahari Encounters project

  • Visit the group's Facebook page.

  • Purchase the group's music at Amazon.

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07) Passing Clouds by Hiss Golden Messenger Meets Spacebomb.

A special collaboration between Durham NC's Hiss Golden Messenger and Richmond's Spacebomb Studios. Hiss Golden Messenger singer/songwriter describes the inspiration for this special project:

I have two children. My son is eight—almost nine—and my daughter is four and a half. They attend public schools in Durham, North Carolina. My wife—the person that I've traveled through life with for nearly 20 years—is a public school teacher in Durham. My mom and dad were public educators in California for the entirety of their careers. My sister is a public high school counselor. So gun attacks on schools is something that—though I would prefer not to—I spend a lot of time thinking about. 

My daughter is small and slight, with her long blonde hair usually tied up in a messy braid. My wife and I joke that she has bird bones. Her eyes are huge and expressive; slate blue, like her mom's. She wears tiny purple glasses and scuffed pink cowboy boots and ladybug print tutus. She loves her older brother fiercely and unconditionally, and knows how to push his every single button. She's moody and magnetic, deep and unknowable to adults. As the smallest member of the family, she is the dancing emotional center around which our house revolves. 

Many late nights, long after the family has all gone to sleep, she'll stand silhouetted in our doorway long enough for me to sense her presence. I'll lift my head from the pillow and in a small voice she'll say, “I'm scared.” I'll pull her into bed, putting my arms around her and pulling her close into our sleeping warmth, her breath coming slow and peaceful and regular again. And I'll stay awake for just a moment longer, long enough to be thankful for how easy it was to calm her fears, thankful that I can protect her. 

If a gunman were to enter the grounds of my daughter's school with an assault rifle, where would she hide? She's small, so maybe she could hide in her cubby, or maybe in the bathroom, the one without the window. Maybe she could hide under the play structure, or in the box of dress-up clothes. Would she cry out? Would she stay still and silent, her big eyes tracking the shooter's movement? How would she metabolize her terror, this tiny four and a half year old in a ladybug tutu, without me to protect her, to pull her close? Would she wonder why we let this happen to her? Would she get that far? 

Say it simple. 
I'm gonna give it to you simple now. 
If you're worried
It's OK, I've been worried too
Now I ask you: 
If love's bigger, what's it matter what's after? 
And I know that. 
You gotta put a little skin in to get a little skin back

Red-tail hawk told me well, with the black sun going down, 
“Signs and wonders—hear me now—for those who stop to understand them.” 
Hang on a passing cloud. 
Signs and wonders—hear me now—for those who stop to understand them. 

Now you know me. 
I love you and I'm faithful. 
I'm a river. 
And I bend like a rainbow. 
Signs and wonders. Just a little bit of thunder now. 
Feel all the colors. 
Love's bigger than what's under. 

I believe gun laws need to change. So I am now committed to performing whatever actions are within my power push that stone forward. We've been told for so long that a change in gun laws is next to impossible. It is not. We've been told that the NRA, and the politicians whom they buy, are too powerful. They are not. The young people in Parkland, Florida, have proven that. I am on their side. I am on the side of peace, hope and love, on the side of grieving parents and spouses and co-workers in Parkland and Newtown, in Aurora and Las Vegas. As Sly Stone says, “My only weapon is my pen.” But it's a mighty weapon indeed that works to bring light to dark places. Signs and wonders. Just a little bit of thunder now. 

This song was recorded with the Spacebomb family—a collection of musicians with deep kinship and connection to Hiss Golden Messenger—in Richmond, Virginia, on February 7th, 2018. They love their families and friends in the same ways that I do mine. I was proud and honored to work with them on this song. 

All proceeds from “Passing Clouds” and “Passing Clouds Dub” will benefit Everytown, a movement of Americans working together to end gun violence and build safer communities. I urge you to perform your own small actions of peace whenever and wherever you can. We can make the world we want to live in. 

No spiritual surrender. 

—M.C. Taylor, Durham, NC

released March 21, 2018 

  • Visit Hiss Golden Messenger's official website.

  • Visit Spacebomb's official website.

  • Purchase the single at the project's official Bandcamp page.

  • Purchase the mp3 at Amazon.

See a map of this week's featured artists, represented by the blue map-points.