In 2006, blind kondi (thumb piano) player Sorie Kondi was surviving by busking on the streets of Freetown, Sierra Leone, abandoned by relatives and friends who had fled the rebel takeover of the city in the late ‘90s. Demos for his debut studio album had also been lost during that time. His sound was marked by his electrified Kondi, run through a small distorted amplifier that he carried on his back whilst performing on the street.
Since then, Sorie has recorded and finished five albums in total in Freetown, using whatever means available to him, culminating in the ‘Without Money No Family’ album, which happened to catch the ear of US producer / DJ Chief Boima (also of Sierra Leonean descent) after chancing upon a YouTube link.
The two joined forces as Kondi Band, combining Sorie Kondi’s traditionalist performances with Boima’s globally-informed electronic production. The duo released an EP this year on Strut, recently performed acclaimed sets to thousands at Transmusicales and Womex, and have received accolades from tastemakers including Gilles Peterson, leading to a recent takeover of Worldwide FM by Boima. With a Kondi Band album, ‘Salone’, coming in 2017, Boima has created a free mix to showcase Kondi’s incredible history.
As well as collecting songs from across Sorie Kondi’s recorded music career, this mix also includes one original and two remixes of songs from the forthcoming debut Kondi Band album. The mix is available now for free download on the Kondi Band Bandcamp.
Keep up with Kondi band on Facebook as they tour and prepare to release their debut album.
On the eve of embarking on a European tour, the spiritual jazz ensemble The Pyramids, lead by Idris Ackamoor receive a remix from soulful house producer Chris Deepak. Deepak takes the title track of the Pyramids’ latest album on Strut, adding some low end and a propulsive afro-influenced rhythm.
Download the remix for free via Soundcloud below.
Idris Ackamoor & The Pyramids’ album We Be All Africans is out now on Strut.
Idris Ackamoor & The Pyramids Fall European Tour:
04.11. FR Paris: WorldStock Festival
05.11. CH Luzern: Südpol
06.11. CH Basel: Kaschemme
07.11. DE Augsburg: Grandhotel Cosmopolis
08:11. CZ Praha: Jazzdock
09.11. BE Brussels: Ancienne Belgique
11.11. NL Utrecht: Le Guess Who? Festival
12.11. DE Hamburg: Überjazz Festival
13.11. SE Stockholm: Fasching
18.11. DE Berlin: Prince Charles
19.11. UK London: Café OTO
20.11. UK London: Café OTO
22.11. UK London: Late Junction (recordings)
24.11. DE Frankfurt: Mousonturm
25.11. DE Frankfurt: Mousonturm
This Fall, we’re proud to present the first full career retrospective release for Ghanaian highlife master and “The Golden Voice Of Africa,” Pat Thomas, covering his late ‘60s big band highlife recordings through to the “burger highlife” movement of the early ‘80s. With Thomas currently wowing audiences on the road in support of last year’s incredible album with Kwishibu Area Band, Coming Home offers listeners a chance to get to know Thomas’ singular career.
One of Thomas’ earliest tracks, with the Ebo Taylor lead Broadway Dance Band, is streaming below. The partnership with Taylor would become one of the enduring forces in Ghanaian music during the ‘70s, creating a fresh, progressive new highlife sound. “Today, highlife has become the world’s music,” says Thomas, “and I am proud to still bring it to so many people.”
Pat Thomas – Coming Home is released 30th September on 2CD, 3LP and digital formats, and features exclusive photos and a full interview with Pat Thomas. Pre-orders are available now.
In the early 1970s, Yorkshireman Peter Bagshawe was living in Zambia, pursuing an interest in steam trains. He ended up as the de facto manager for one of the greatest Afro Rock bands of the era. How all of this came to pass is story you’ll have to hear him tell. Thankfully, he sat down via Skype recently to recount his time managing Sunburst.
Our Ave Africa compilation, which collects the Tanzanian band’s entire recorded output, is available now on CD, LP & digital formats.
The project was spawned after Boima happened upon an online video of one of Sorie’s original tracks. “Sorie Kondi is a blind musician with a will to thrive like no person I have met before,” explains Boima. “My work with him began with a YouTube link. I spotted the video for his track ‘Without Money No Family’ and was struck by his beautiful vocals and socially-conscious lyrics. These incredible melodies he was playing on his namesake thumb piano (the kondi) sealed the deal: I immediately decided to remix it.”
The resulting bootleg remix started appearing in DJ playlists and led to coverage by The Fader magazine. As a result, Sorie’s manager in Freetown reached out to Boima and, after a successful Kickstarter campaign, Sorie travelled to America for the first time for a five date tour. During the trip he and Boima worked on new recordings which form the nucleus of the debut Kondi Band album ‘Belle Wahalah.’
“This project forges a direct link between techno born in the black cities of the American Mid-West, where I grew up, and roots African music,” Boima continues. “Sorie Kondi may be playing an acoustic folk instrument from Sierra Leone, but he thinks about music as if he were a techno producer. The dance-friendly pulse of his cajon drum, the spiraling melody lines from the thumb piano and his incredible vocals hold it all together.” It’s acoustic dance music that creates a sound as full and dynamic as any club track and, through Boima’s intricate production, the album subtly and skillfully integrates contemporary electronic sounds, keeping the simplicity and space in Sorie’s music.
The first EP from the project is built around Sorie’s personal and uncompromising lyrics on ‘Belle Wahalah’, a song that uses belly pain as a metaphor for poverty, hunger and lack of financial opportunity. Mixes come from South London-based producer Hagan and the “father of Ancestral Soul”, Boddhi Satva. The release also features another simmering Kondi band original, ‘Yeanoh (Powe Handa Blingabe)’ which translates as ‘what’s up / what’s occurring’?
The ‘Belle Wahalah’ EP is out today on digital formats. A vinyl 12″ is due 27th May. A full-length album is in the works for September 2016. Hear the EP title track ‘Belle Wahalah’ below.
Strut are proud to present the brand new studio album from West Coast jazz mavericks, The Pyramids, led by their inspirational bandleader, Idris Ackamoor.
Alto saxophonist Ackamoor first met Margo Simmons (flute) and Kimathi Asante (electric bass) whilst students together at Antioch College, Yellow Springs, Ohio where one of their teachers was renowned pianist, Cecil Taylor. After founding the band in Paris in 1972, performing in Holland and embarking on a “cultural odyssey” across Africa, the group recorded three independent albums (Lalibela in 1973, King Of Kings in 1974 and Birth / Speed / Merging in 1976) and became renowned for their striking live shows, mixing percussive, spiritual and space-age jazz with performance, theatre, and dance. After migrating to San Francisco to perform on the Bay Area arts scene, they disbanded in 1977 after a
final show at the UC Berkeley Jazz Festival.
Almost 30 years later, The Pyramids reunited unexpectedly following growing demand for their music from vinyl collectors and jazz fans and embarked on the first of many European tours featuring original members, as well as a fresh line-up including renowned percussionist Kenneth Nash. In 2012 the group signed to German label Disko B who released a new album, the freeform Otherworldly and all three albums from their rare back catalogue. Idris was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award by DJ Gilles Peterson at his Worldwide Awards and The Pyramids were back, gaining a whole new legion of fans.
For their new album, We Be All Africans, the group traveled to Berlin to hunker down in Max Weissenfeldt’s analogue Philophon studio. The result is a sparkling set of Afro- jazz-funk fusions, from the infectious chants of the title track to the reflective “Epiphany” and the yearning, mournful future single, “Silent Days” featuring the brilliant vocals of Bajka. Weissenfeldt released the first fruits from the sessions, ‘Rhapsody In Berlin’ as a limited 45 during 2015 and the album features the full unedited version.
We Be All Africans will be released May 27th on CD, LP (w. CD included), digital and streaming and features superb illustrated artwork by Lewis Heriz. The album will be promoted in conjunction with Idris Ackamoor with a full touring programme via Planet Rock booking agency from Summer 2016. Pre-orders for We Be All Africans are available now.
‘We Be All Africans’ is a message of survival. A message of renewal. A message that we are all brothers and sisters. We are all one family, the human family and we need one another in order to survive on this planet that we all share.
– Idris Ackamoor
Following up on last year’s collection In The Orbit Of Ra we’re diving headfirst back into the vast universe of Sun Ra with a a newly curated set from the Ra’s immense 125 LP back catalog, compiled by Gilles Peterson. The BBC 6Music / Worldwide DJ is a long-time champion of Ra’s music and the UK’s leading tastemaker for jazz-based sounds. It serves as perhaps the best introduction yet to the music of Sun Ra for a whole new generation of converts.
For the CD version, Peterson picks personal favourites, classics and unreleased tracks and weaves them into a flowing piece across 2CDs, showcasing the incredible variety of Ra’s work. The 2LP version features full-length versions of selected tracks from the mix (and also includes the full CD mixed version), while the digital version features a full unmixed selection with Peterson’s mix available within the album bundle. Sleeve notes on physical formats come from Gilles Peterson with a full Ra career biography by author Robert L. Campbell. The album also features previously unseen photos from the archives of Val Wilmer alongside full musician line-ups and session details.
To Those Of Earth… And Other Worlds is available for pre-order now on the Strut Store and on iTunes. Also available is a limited-time bundle featuring all three Sun Ra releases on Strut (In The Orbit Of Ra, Planets Of Life Or Death, and To Those Of Earth…), on either CD or vinyl.
1. SUN RA AND HIS MYTH-SCIENCE ARKESTRA – CALLING PLANET EARTH
2. SUN RA – SUN SONG
3. THE COSMIC RAYS WITH SUN RA AND THE ARKESTRA – DREAMING
4. SUN RA AND HIS ARKESTRA – INDIA
5. SUN RA AND HIS MYTH-SCIENCE ARKESTRA – SPACE LONELINESS
6. SUN RA AND HIS INTERGALACTIC INFINITY ARKESTRA – LOVE IN OUTER SPACE (Vocal)
7. SUN RA AND HIS MYTH-SCIENCE ARKESTRA – ADVENTURE-EQUATION
8. SUN RA AND HIS MYTH-SCIENCE ARKESTRA – SPONTANEOUS SIMPLICITY (Stereo version)*
9. SUN RA AND HIS MYTH-SCIENCE ARKESTRA – BRAZILIAN SUN
10. SUN RA QUARTET FEATURING JOHN GILMORE – WHEN THERE IS NO SUN
11. SUN RA AND HIS ASTRO INFINITY ARKESTRA – MY BROTHER THE WIND
12. SUN RA AND HIS ARKESTRA – MYSTERY, MR. RA*
13. SUN RA AND HIS MYTH-SCIENCE ARKESTRA – BLACK SKY AND BLUE MOON
14. SUN RA AND HIS MYTH-SCIENCE ARKESTRA – WATUSA
15. THE SUN RA ARKESTRA – THE WORLD OF AFRICA
16. SUN RA AND HIS SOLAR ARKESTRA – CLUSTER OF GALAXIES
17. SUN RA AND HIS ARKESTRA – STRANGE WORLDS (Live In France)**
18. SUN RA AND HIS BLUE UNIVERSE ARKESTRA – BLACKMAN
1. SUN RA AND HIS MYTH-SCIENCE ARKESTRA – TWILIGHT
2. SUN RA AND HIS INTERGALACTIC MYTH SCIENCE SOLAR ARKESTRA – SLEEPING BEAUTY
3. SUN RA – MOOG SOLO (Live In France)**
4. SUN RA AND HIS ARKESTRA – THEY PLAN TO LEAVE
5. SUN RA AND HIS SOLAR ARKESTRA – REFLECTS MOTION (Part 1)
6. SUN RA AND HIS ARKESTRA – CHILDREN OF THE SUN
7. SUN RA AND HIS MYTH-SCIENCE ARKESTRA – WE TRAVEL THE SPACEWAYS
8. SUN RA AND HIS ARKESTRA – ASTRO BLACK (Live In Zurich)**
9. SUN RA AND HIS MYTHIC SCIENCE ARKESTRA – SOMEBODY ELSE’S IDEA (Live In Paris)
10. SUN RA AND HIS ARKESTRA – I ROAM THE COSMOS
11. SUN RA AND HIS SOLAR ARKESTRA – ON JUPITER
12. SUN RA – THERE ARE OTHER WORLDS (THEY HAVE NOT TOLD YOU OF)
13. SUN RA AND HIS INTERGALACTIC INFINITY ARKESTRA – THE ALL OF EVERYTHING
14. SUN RA – ENLIGHTENMENT
15. SUN RA AND HIS ARKESTRA – MAKE ANOTHER MISTAKE
16. SUN RA AND HIS ARKESTRA – SPACE IS THE PLACE (Live In France)**
* Previously unreleased on CD
** Previously unreleased
A1 SUN RA AND HIS INTERGALACTIC INFINITY ARKESTRA – LOVE IN OUTER SPACE (Vocal) 3.50
A2 SUN RA AND HIS SOLAR ARKESTRA – ON JUPITER 4.02
A3 SUN RA AND HIS MYTH-SCIENCE ARKESTRA – SPONTANEOUS SIMPLICITY (Stereo version)* 3.01
A4 THE COSMIC RAYS WITH SUN RA AND THE ARKESTRA – DREAMING 2.46
A5 SUN RA AND HIS MYTH-SCIENCE ARKESTRA – BLACK SKY AND BLUE MOON 3.02
B1 SUN RA – ENLIGHTENMENT 2.57
B2 THE SUN RA ARKESTRA – THE WORLD OF AFRICA 3.00
B3 SUN RA AND HIS ARKESTRA – THEY PLAN TO LEAVE 6.08
B4 SUN RA AND HIS ARKESTRA – CHILDREN OF THE SUN 4.28
C1 SUN RA AND HIS BLUE UNIVERSE ARKESTRA – BLACKMAN 7.44
C2 SUN RA AND HIS ARKESTRA – INDIA 4.50
C3 SUN RA AND HIS ARKESTRA – MYSTERY, MR. RA 3.07
C4 SUN RA AND HIS INTERGALACTIC INFINITY ARKESTRA – THE ALL OF EVERYTHING 4.23
D1 SUN RA QUARTET FEATURING JOHN GILMORE – WHEN THERE IS NO SUN 4.35
D2 SUN RA AND HIS INTERGALACTIC MYTH SCIENCE SOLAR ARKESTRA – SLEEPING BEAUTY 11.51
D3 SUN RA AND HIS MYTH-SCIENCE ARKESTRA – WE TRAVEL THE SPACEWAYS 3.27
Our second foray into the incredible catalog of Chicago’s Dance Mania Records focuses specifically on the hyper-sexualized “Ghetto House” strain of dance music pioneered by the label. The ‘Ghetto Madness’ collection features striking cover art from artist James Wilson, meshing perfectly with the raw quality of the music. We sat down recently with James to talk about his initial exposure to house music, his artistic influences, and the ways in which he creates such incredible artwork.
Strut: You illustrated a piece on DJ Funk for Crack Magazine earlier this year. Before that, and being approached to work on art for Dance Mania: Ghetto Madness, was Chicago House or Ghetto House music that you were already listening to? Do you have a history of listening to dance music?
James Wilson: Before the DJ Funk piece and this Dance Mania project I had no idea what Ghetto House music was. I started listening to dance music as an adolescent, stuff like the Chemical Brothers and the Prodigy. It was pretty much all down to Wipeout 2097 on the Playstation that informed me of that style of music, other stuff like Orbital and Underworld. I started playing guitar and listening to heavy music after and lost touch with dance music for a few years but I listen to house music quite regularly now.
Both the cover and insert poster for Ghetto Madness are explicitly sexual, which is consistent with the lyrics of many of the records. Were there other ways in which the musical content influenced the way in you approached the artwork?
Ghetto House to me is very raw and stripped back so I wanted the artwork to reflect that. I was happy with how my DJ Funk piece had turned out previously and wanted to keep a similar feel. The Dance Mania artwork had to look even bolder which was why I decided to keep it black and white with strong thick outlines and hand scrawled text.
What are your tools for the cover illustration and poster? Are you working primarily with pen and paper?
I sketched out the artwork in pencil and then completed the ink work with my trusty tablet. I tend to work this way for most projects now as sketching by hand gives me a little more expression and the digital element allows more room to edit.
Comic books, musicians, and action movies seem to be common themes and subject matter in your work, and all tend to feature larger than life personalities and portrayals. Do you find art most interesting when it is an exaggeration?
I see so much amazing artwork every day, mainly through Instagram and Behance and it’s all in varying styles and media. I think the work I appreciate and find most interesting is art that has been produced with passion. I like artists that have a recognisable style and that also translates something about the artist, it adds that element of intrigue.
The poster insert for Ghetto Madness features several of the artists’ faces as tattoos. Do you have tattoos, and if so, do you design / illustrate them yourself?
I don’t have any tattoos although I’d like to have a go at designing some. I follow a few tattoo artists through social media so that was probably an influence. Mainly I wanted the girl to look like a badass and thought it could be an interesting way of involving the DJ’s on the poster.
Dance Mania: Ghetto Madness is out on CD, 2LP, digital download, and streaming services.
To mark the end of the year, we thought it would be worth asking Strut’s Quinton Scott to pull out a few of the albums that have been on repeat at the label HQ during 2014. Hope you enjoy this round-up of archive African gems, soul stompers, DIY electronics and more.
Big thanks to everyone who has supported the label this year and wishing everyone a really happy and peaceful Christmas.
10 COMPILATIONS / REISSUES
V/A – Haiti Direct (Strut)
Hugo Mendez collects together stunning set of compass and twoubadou rarities.
Nana Love – Disco Documentary: Full of Funk (BBE)
Essential oddball West African disco set.
Well curated deluxe version of classic album with massive previously unreleased cover of ‘Me! I Disconnect From You.’
‘70s Malian legends celebrated in a superb Stern’s deluxe package.
Early Jam & Lewis slick soul genius from Brainstorm, SOS Band and more.
Superb previously unreleased ambient pieces from US artist Kerry Leimer.
Juan Atkins and Richard Davis with their seminal ‘human life meets technology’ opus from ‘83.
V/A – Suburban Base Records: The History Of Hardcore, Jungle, Drum & Bass 1991-1997 (New State)
Always a favourite rave label during the original days. Brilliant, raw, DIY dancefloor bombs and long overdue comp.
Fantastic collection of gems soundtracking Elaine Constantine’s film. Great for connoisseurs and newcomers alike.
Dark and strange DIY electronics from ‘80s West Germany.
10 New Albums
The master Terje flexes his production guns with a great mix of disco, exotica and soul on his full length debut.
Meridian Brothers – Salvadora Robot (Soundway)
Surreal soundscapes from Colombia. Future music genius.
Brilliantly bleak and blown out electro / drone soundscapes.
Primal and bonkers album mixing Caribbean and Brazilian rhythms with properly wigged out psychedelics.
Expertly crafted lush synth-meets-falsetto set.
Completely obsessed with Frahm’s music and ‘Spaces’ is minimal, spiritual majesty from start to finish.
Futuristic Afro sketches touching on electro, juke and hip hop.
Kept going back to this album in 2014. Quality atmospheric soundtracky house-scapes. Fantastic production.
Massive honour to work with the Afro-soul legend this year. New album found him on top form, revisiting compositions from his youth.
Forward thinking beats and hard-knock raps. Madlib still untouchable.