Here are five of my choices for best recordings of the year for The Vue Weekly 2016
Shanti Planti, Holobiont
Holobiont is the third full-length release from Bristol, UK Psy-Dub producer and composer Morison Bennett, the talented arranger known as Globular. Available as a free download or purchased as an eco-conscious CD in a 100 percent recycled card stock and printed with non-toxic inks.
Encompassing a truly outernational sound, Bennett creates a pulsating aural landscape shimmering with delicate nuances. Built upon a foundation of gooey electro dub, Globular masterfully infuses his music with a beautiful mixture of the ancient and the futuristic, swirling it into a liquid tapestry of psychedelic brilliance. Bamboo flutes, Indian Orchestras, Asian choirs, Arabic melodies, reggae drum shots, electrical noise, nature sounds and field recordings all merging together. Globular offers up something that could be described as futuristic shamanistic, and here with Holobiont, Bennett is definitely guiding us deep into new frontiers.
Okavango African Orchestra
Batuki Music Society // Okavango African Orchestra
Toronto’s Batuki Music Society has been doing an amazing job supporting African music and musicians in Canada for many years. With the Okavango African Orchestra the society brings together nine Toronto and Montreal based African-born musicians from seven different countries performing in ten different languages.
The project is based metaphorically on the Okavango River Delta in the Kalahari Desert, a meeting place where an incredible diversity of animals—both predator and prey—must attempt to coexist together. Here the orchestra represents an amalgamation of traditional instruments and languages spanning the continent, coexisting together for a rare moment in time.
Producers Aron Nitunga and Nadine McNulty have assembled an incredible collective of acclaimed and award winning musicians from all directions representing Senegal and Ghana; Burundi, Eritrea, and Somalia; Zimbabwe and Madagascar. Probably the first time traditional African instruments from the north, south, east and west have been brought together to create passionate and inspiring musical hybridizations blending traditional and contemporary to mind blowing effect. The Okavango African Orchestra digs up a musical well overflowing in complex rhythms, gorgeous melodies and a rich complexity of vocal harmonies. A truly a joyous celebration.
Silla + Rise
Independent // Debut
Silla + Rise are an Ottawa-based trio deeply invested in the rhythmic possibilities of Inuit throat singing. Featuring Nunavut singers Cynthia Pitsiulak (Kimmirut) and Charlotte Qamaniq (Igloolik)—a vocal duo who have been known to merge their traditional northern vocalizations with hip-hop sensibilities in the group Tumivut—now join forces with Canadian electro dub producer Rise Ashen.
Known for his numerous excursions into the land of bass and a discography filled with interesting collaborations, Rise Ashen has a finely honed intuition and his contributions here deftly serve to enhance the magic emanating from the two gifted singers. His musical arrangements travel the space between glistening ambience and throbbing subsonic pulsations that compliment the vocal rhythms perfectly.
Deriving their name from Inuktitut word “Sila”—which means “weather”—the two singers tap the main artery, the heartbeat of the universe, the pulse of the life force. Primordial and otherworldly, Debut envelops you and draws you into a trance-like state of consciousness that is sonically unique and yet, at the same time, deeply familiar.
Six Shooter Records//Retribution
I am endlessly impressed by the broad creative landscape being navigated by Inuit throat singer and composer Tanya Tagaq. Whether working with choirs, orchestras, rappers, electronic musicians or traditional drummers Tagaq has demonstrated that rare ability to gain popularity as she gets more far out.
There is no doubt that Tagaq is a vocal sorceress with the ability of taking on many forms. Retribution exists in a world of its own. Tagaq is a master improviser excavating profound emotional territory through the exorcism of breath. She brings to the table a brilliant amalgamation of jazz experimentation, punk attitude, and the sheer power of metal all channeled through ancient waters.
Joining forces with collaborators Jesse Zubot and Jean Martin and working with guest artists like Shad, Mongolian throat singer Radik Tyulyush, and the enormous Element Choir, we are delivered an awe inspiring piece of creative work that defies description and goes far beyond words. With Retribution Tagaq and her crew offer us a truly visceral experience.
Dave O Rama
Because Music//Far from Home
Calypso, also known as Kaiso, is a popular form of Caribbean music greatly associated with Trinidadian Carnival. Most people are unaware of the connection between island carnival music, slavery and music as a political weapon.
Trinidadian carnival celebrations began occurring in the 18th century when African slaves were exposed the French consume balls celebrated during Lent. A parallel event began occurring within the slave culture called Canboulay and when slavery was abolished, the newly emancipated Africans of Trinidad would take advantage of the Lenten season to mock the former slave owners and to make it clear that the history of their enslavement would not be swept from public memory.
Because of this rich historical background calypso music is celebrated for its political content and its clever and sexy innuendo. Of course, like many other forms of party music, calypso has constantly changed with the times incorporating synthesizers and drum machines in the eighties to rapid fire soca and modern electronic DJ influenced jams of today’s carnival celebrations.
Calypso Rose has been singing since the mid sixties and has held down the “Calypso Queen” title many times over. Here her majesty joins forces with French superstar Manu Chao and Toronto based Trinidadian born musician Drew Gonzales, the three of them working together as songwriters and producers.
Far from home is a steamy pot of hot island stew, rooted in early calypso traditions and backed by Gonzales’ stellar and highly acclaimed band Kobo Town. This music has deep roots and you can smell the dirt in the arrangements. The carnival monarch’s voice is caressed all over by sultry horns, sassy harmonies, breezy melodies and infectious rhythms. With Far From Home Calypso Rose, Manu Chao and Kobo Town join forces to lift the spirit, excite the party, and pay tribute to the rebellious determination of the ancestors.
Dave O Rama
Originally published in The Vue Weekly, Edmonton