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.
Strut team up for the first time with acclaimed French label Heavenly Sweetness for the brand new album by the celebrated poet, novelist and musician, Anthony Joseph.
‘Caribbean Roots’ represents an uncompromising return to his roots for Joseph, who has always remained true to a powerful, deep-seated sense of his own Caribbean identity. Starting out as a joint project with the outstanding percussionist Roger Raspail (Cesaria Evora, Papa Wemba), the album swiftly grew into a major work incorporating the rhythms, sounds and vibes that rock the Caribbean from San Fernando, Kingston and Les Abymes to Port-au-Prince and Havana. Backed by a band made up of a blend of musicians with Caribbean origins or connections, the album attempts to unite the different islands into a single entity without diluting any individual strand. “The idea, heard so often,” says Joseph, “is that the Caribbean is a fragmented region, socially, politically, historically. In my view, it’s a unified space, with more relations than disparities. The album is asking Caribbean people to consider that their roots are in the Caribbean, that their generations run deep and that now, we can claim it as ancestral space.”
Joseph weaves an uncompromising direction through the album tracks, spinning his unique lyrical blend of afro-futurism and surrealism. He explores his native Trinidad and takes, in his own words, “a journey into the dark heart of the island”. He chronicles tales and parables: “songs tell of runaway slaves; badjohns or rude boys that we find much in black culture – our heroes, our soldiers”. There’s a muscular tribute to calypso great Mighty Sparrow and incisive reflections on colonialism: “As a Caribbean ex-pat living in Europe, I break out of the quotidian to realize that these grand architectures around me were built by those who colonized and enslaved me. I guess the album is about celebrating roots, but roots that lie within us.”
Heavyweight guests on the album include saxophonists Shabaka Hutchings (The Comet Is Coming) and Jason Yarde (Jazz Jamaica All Stars), trumpeter Yvon Guillard (Magma), bassist Mike Clinton (Salif Keita), trombonist Pierre Chabrèle (Creole Jazz Orchestra), Patrick Marie-Magdelene (Manu Dibango), celebrated Trinidad calypso icon David Rudder and Andy Narrell, master of the steel pans.
‘Caribbean Roots’ is released on Heavenly Sweetness / Strut on CD, LP and digital on June 24th. Pre-orders are available now. Album track “Mano A Mano” is streaming below.
On the occasion of the first-ever retrospective of Tanzanian Afro-Rock band Sunburst, longtime Strut associate and compiler of the Nigeria 70 series Duncan Brooker presents a selection of some of Sunburst’s peers and contemporaries via this incredible mix of rare East African 45s. Duncan’s incredible mix premieres today on Stereogum.
Ave Africa: The Complete Recordings 1973-1976 is released 24th June on Strut. For a limited time, orders from the Strut web store & Bandcamp have the option to include a limited edition cassette featuring unreleased Sunburst demos recorded in Lusaka in 1976. 100 copies only! Pre-orders are available now.
1. SUNBURST – SIMBA ANGURUMA
2. NDARA MOYO – THAT’S THE WAY
3. SALOMON NGOUA – SHE’S GOT A SNAKE
4. NGOZI FAMILY – SUKUMA SEMEJI
5. SUNBURST – BANCHIKICHA
6. AFRO 70 – PEMBENYI MOTO
7. VIJANA JAZZ BAND – DIBWEWZE ZOGOLO JANGU
8. TABORA JAZZ BAND – HASIRA HASARA
9. SUNBURST – VIJANA
10. THE AFRO-KIDS – SHOREZA INYANGE
11. THE SAFARI TRIPPERS – MWANA MPOTEVU
12. MAQUIS DU ZAIRE – KASONGO
13. CASSIM COMBO – CHAKACHA
14. THE MIGHTY CAVALIERS – DUNIA INA MAMBO
Kondi Band is an inspired collaboration between Sierra Leonean kondi (thumb piano) player Sorie Kondi and US producer / DJ Chief Boima, who himself has Sierra Leonean roots.
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 is extremely proud to present a definitive collection of recordings from one of Tanzania’s most revered but short-lived bands of the 1970s, Sunburst. Covering their entire output from 1973 to 1976, this first retrospective features music from their 45 RPM singles “Moto Moto” and “TFC,” as well as their sole album, Ave Africa, and an unreleased radio session recorded in Tanzania in 1973.
Sunburst was formed in 1970 by Zairean guitarist Hembi Flory Kongo who recruited resident drummer Johnny “Rocks” Fernandes, bass player Bashir Idi Farhan and organist / vocalist Kassim Magati. They were soon joined by Zambian-born lead singer James Mpungo.
Having developing their sound via covers-heavy live performances and a string of early singles, Sunburst’s sole LP came out at a time when Zambia was enjoying a stream of releases by bands that would now be considered icons of Zamrock such as Witch, Ngozi Family, Musi-O-Tunya and The Blackfoot. The sleeve text described the Sunburst sound as “a fusion of the traditional sounds of Africa with Western Rock, spiced with a piece of the Caribbean” but the intricacies of the Kitoto Sound that Sunburst had crafted for years peaked on this recording. Band members born in six different countries were tapping into a multitude of influences, styles, languages and stories. “We try to compose songs that have a bearing to the situation we live in,” James Mpungo recounted at the time. “Our songs are songs that support freedom struggles, songs that encourage peasants and workers to work harder, songs in praise of our leaders. We also sing a lot of songs criticizing our people for allowing themselves to be too westernized and throwing away their traditional values. And above all, we preach love and happiness!”
Ave Africa: The Kitoto Sound Of East Africa 1973-1976 is the result of over three years of research by compilers DJ Thomas Gesthuizen and Dave Tinning and comes out 24th June on 2xCD, 2xLP (w. CD included) & digital formats. Stream the track “Simba Anguruma” below. Pre-orders are available now.
Limited Demos Cassette With Strut Web Store Orders
A very limited quantity of pre-orders via the Strut Store and Bandcamp will include a cassette copy of of unreleased Sunburst demos recorded in Lusaka in 1976. 100 copies only! Pre-orders for this special bundle are available now.
West Coast jazz mavericks, The Pyramids, led by their inspirational bandleader, Idris Ackamoor, return with a new album on Strut. Recorded in Max Weissenfeldt’s analogue Philophon studio in Berlin, ‘We Be All Africans’ 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. Hear the album’s title track below.
“We Be All Africans” is released 27th May 2016 on Strut Records on LP, CD & digital formats. Pre-orders are available now.
The Pyramids have been hand-picked by Floating Points to open the West Coast leg of their live tour. Dates below:
April 27th – Santa Ana, CA: Constellation Room
April 28th – Santa Cruz, CA: The Catalyst Club
April 29th – San Francisco, CA: Mezzanine
May 1st – Portland, OR: Doug Fir Lounge
May 3rd – Seattle, WA: Neumos
May 4th – Vancouver, BC: Celebrities Nightclub
Thanks to some inspired detective work by Art Yard Records, an intimate trio performance by Sun Ra in Rome in 1977, ‘In Some Far Place’, is receiving its first release for this year’s Record Store Day on April 16th. Recorded from the sound desk and mastered from original reels, the album features Sun Ra on piano and Moog, drummer Luqman Ali and occasional Arkestra vocalist Thomas Thaddeus in fine form, exploring Ra staples and revisiting some of the traditional jazz pieces from his early Chicago days. Tracks include the reflective ‘Trying To Put The Blame On Me,’ ‘Spontaneous Simplicity’ and the first Sun Ra version of ‘I Cover The Waterfront’ to ever be officially released. New sleeve notes come courtesy of the Arkestra’s Knoel Scott with cover design by Lewis Heriz.
Directly following the announcement of a forthcoming new album We Be All Africans for Strut, West Coast spiritual jazz legends Idris Ackamoor & The Pyramids have been hand-picked to support Floating Points on the West Coast leg of their live tour. We can’t imagine a better pairing, and fans of mind-expanding jazz are in for a true treat.
See below for all Floating Points dates featuring Idris Ackamoor and The Pyramids. We Be All Africans will be released May 27th on CD, LP (w. CD included), digital and streaming formats. Pre-orders are available now.
Floating Points US Tour feat. Idris Ackamoor & The Pyramids
The intoxicating sounds on Roger Bong’s Aloha Got Soul collection create a vivid mental picture of Hawaii in the 1970s, conjuring images of pristine waves, big hair, and life at an unhurried pace. It’s a place we want to be so badly that we cobbled together some vintage footage of the island, set to the lovely “Kona Winds” which appears on the album. Go get your board, we’ll go out and grab a tube.
Aloha Got Soul is out now on CD, 2LP (w. CD included) and digital formats.
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 forWe 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.