Well, it was inevitable, really.
ClashMusic kicked off Global Playlist some 12 months ago, the intent was to analyse emerging musical styles from around the world. So when the band Egyptian Hip Hop introduced themselves, we couldn't help but take notice.
As it turns out, the name is more than simply a cool concept. The Manchester band are enormous fans of African music, soaking up all manner of styles from across the continent. It's a broad mix, but one that only serves to enhance and give colour to their music.
New single 'Yoro Diallo' is a case in point - out on November 5th, it finds Egyptian Hip Hop encorporating the unusual, addictive rhythms of West Africa. Clash asked the band if they would be so kind of as to provide a playlist based on their influences - the results are pretty special.
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We've always been inspired by African music. I, personally, first really listened to it on a kinda shitty percussion CD I got when I was 11 but there was one track which stood out as one of the most emotional (equally happy and sad) things i'd ever heard. African music often blurs the lines like that.
We've got the a certain blog to thank, almost entirely, for any knowledge and, particularly, countless mp3s. Here's a little selection of tracks that rly rule ! CLASH asked for 10 but we couldn't make it lower than 12 … PLUS a nice hour long mix of these songs to download!
1. Saba - Ramata Diakite
This is the first West African (Mali) jam (truly it is a jam!) that we really listened to frequently. It's almost 8 minutes long, pretty slow, but it never gets boring. The groove is so good and I'm finding it hard to put into words quite how good it is. Basically I've never known anyone not like this track, and we've played it to a lot of people. Ramata's voice is beautiful, the bass is incredible and the drums are super tight. Ramata died in 2009 at 33 so pay her respects and vibe to this.
2. Untitled (Track 1) - Woubeshet Feseha
This is another heavy groover but of a different kind. Ethiopian music always seems to have this snaky feel to it and this really shows that. The whole record features pretty much the same phaser soaked drum machine but it's so good that it doesn't matter. Weirdly the sax sounds like Van Morisson a bit, but in a really good way (believe me!). All the instruments just flow together really nice and you don't always notice whether you're listening to an organ, guitar or sax. Also props to the producer for creating such a great bass sound.
3. Akazehe par deux jeunes filles - Unknown (from the album Burundi : Musiques Traditionnelles)
I assume that 'Akazehe' is a type of vocal music, and what a type it is! This one is like a real life, live Lucky Dragons track. It still blows my mind that this is just 2 girls singing. Really sounds like sampled voices chopped up and rearranged. Burundi is a country in central East Africa and this record is a compilation of the various folk musics from there. Unfortunately can't link to a download for this one but i would recommend searching for this album somehow because its all great. Also, the other 'Akazehe' track on the record was sampled by Deep Forest on 'Night Bird'. It's seriously weird and very short but captivating
4. Side 2 - Fadimoutou Wallet Inamoud
The mp3 I have of this is a whole tape side in length but it is track 3 which stands out most and which features on the mix. It is way hypnotic and very dark. Apparently this type of music is only sung by Malian girls below the age of marriage which makes the yearning in her voice even more haunting. Best place I ever listened to this was round a fire and apparently the girls and boys usually sneak off to a fire somewhere and make this stuff which is pretty intense. This seriously has one of the strangest vibes of any piece of music I know. I think most of these songs are about love in some way but it kinda sounds like she is using her singing to hypnotise the male drummers / singers. They actually almost sound zombified. It might just be me but this track invokes genuine fear. If this is scaring you off I'd say don't let it, it's way worth the creepiness.
5. Jema Yiri - Lamissa Bengali
This really is a banger. There must be about 6 dudes playing various octaves of balafon with a straight kick snare beat on some rly nice sounding drums. Its like a great party underneath a waterfall with loads of bubbles that make a noise when you pop them. Plus this tape has one of the best covers ever (http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-Uh7Yhw8eq28/T2seG3qdeTI/AAAAAAAAArk/nfmLGx8sOO4/s1600/LamissaBengali.jpg): I love it when the printing on these tapes is a bit off. Really typical of the energy a lot of West and Central African music has.
6. Side A Track 1 - Mnat Azawan
Another off a tape by some Mauritanian or Moroccan (nobody seems to know) musicians. A mental mix of traditional music, dreamy cheap synth noises, auto tuned vocals and muffled percussion. I'd say this is some of the weirdest music i've heard. Particularly the 1st and 4th track, they have such a great feeling to them, and both feature on the mix. The 1st is pretty expansive sounding in its own strange, alien away, and the 4th is a really great interpretation of European dance & traditional north african melody with some great Yamaha flute noises. The whole tape is really great but these tracks stand out as being particularly strange.
7. Mory Djo - Ami Koita
Another track from a great Malian vocal goddess. It starts with a kinda cheery but complicated (almost proggy) melody and quickly descends into a strangely sad reverby pop song. It also boasts probably one of the most confusing beats ever. The vocal chorus sound mournful but ecstatic too cus, again, it's one of those songs that blurs the line between happiness and sadness. This one really is a great great pure pop song.
8. La-Amber - Archach
These guys are so cool. They're a futurist Amazigh ensemble who play traditional North African music but lather it with modern effects and sweet drum machines. This one is soaked in reverb and just creates a really uplifting open vibe throughout its 9 minute duration. Really great melodies and sounds here. Maybe it sounds like what an oasis feels like when you're lost in the sun.. or maybe it sounds like a desert wind coming in from the sea..
9. Sele sene seqlet - Alemu Aga
Now this is from number 11 of the incredible Ethiopiques series of albums. It's a very warm little lullaby performed on a strange harp like thing. The guys voice sounds like a pillow or a great blanket. This song is just basically really comforting to me. I like how he's obviously singing very quietly and is pretty closely mic'd cus it adds to the intimacy and warmth. I reckon this guy lives a nice life. The whole series of Ethiopiques is incredible and I'd recommend getting any/all of them if yiou like this.
10. Kumadugu - Souley Kanté
Totally incredible rhythm in this one. Really confusing at times when they play the mental synth melodies but always (always!) danceable. Malians just seem to know their way round a cheap synth. They always manage to create something really sublime from a bad strings or brass patch. Also there's incredible but subtly mixed sinewy winding guitar patterns buried throughout this song. Another that has a slightly haunting atmosphere while retaining some happiness. The whole album's great so it was hard to choose one off it. It's called Bi Magni so search for it…see where it leads you
11. Bome Nnwom - Ata Kak
In the words of B. Shimkovitz, Ata Kak "sounds so home-made funky yet spooky, like a warped Prince protege from Africa by way of 1986 Chicago". This pretty much sums this one up better than I could, and if I tried I'd probably end up saying something similar anyway. It's all cheap keyboards but again, SO well used. On the rest of this album Ata spits some weirdo raps over the top of more creepy tracks, but this one is totally instrumental, which, in a way is more bearable (Ata's voice is odd to say the least). This tape is all pretty bass heavy and weirdly mixed but you should get the whole thing anyway.
12. Horma - Yoro Diallo dit Fernando Moutchatcha
Last but absolutely not least. Yes, this is obviously the Yoro that we named our song after. You'll know why when you listen. I'm not sure who's playing the guitar on this record but the dude has got it down, and the bass player is a master of space. The groove of this track is unbeatable - it's maybe even groovier than Saba. Again, i'm rendered fairly speechless by this one, so please just hear it; it's pretty much perfect. Really it is.
Thanks for taking the time to read and hopefully listen!
Alex Pierce / Egyptian Hip Hop