World Music Matters - Sarah McCoy sings, and lives, the blues
Sarah McCoy is undoubtedly one of the most exuberant and talented singer-songwriters around, unafraid to bear her heart and soul in her music. "Honesty is important," says the 35-year old American. "If I were just singing about how it's sunshiny all the time, well some people can do that, but it's my job to sing about when it rains."
McCoy was picked out by a French researcher singing and playing piano in clubs and bars in New Orleans. After a few years on the road, living rough, she moved to Paris in October 2017 where producers Chilly Gonzales and Renaud Létang helped produced her debut album Blood Siren. Listen to the podcast to hear her story, along with songs from this remarkable record.
Official website here.
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World Music Matters - Olgha Nk: a strong voice lamenting the pain of Cameroon's Anglophone crisis
Olga "Olgha" Nkweti is a singer-songwriter from the English-speaking part of Cameroon. She began singing professionally aged just 17 and has made a name crafting covers of popular songs into Pigdin English, but also writes her own soulful afro-pop compositions. She talks to RFI about composing the song Cold to draw attention to the innocent victims caught up in the Anglophone conflict.
"I decided to write Cold to create an awareness about what has been going on in the English speaking zones of Cameroon," she tells RFI's Laura-Angela Bagnetto when the two women meet in Douala. "We've had a crisis for the last three years or so, and it doesn't seem to be letting up.
"I realised there was a lot of pointing of fingers and everybody was trying to blame the other party for starting it. But there was not enough information about the victims. So I wanted a song which was going to focus on the fact that we are losing on both sides: we are losing family, we're losing friends, we are losing children and old people and helpless people. So Cold is a story about that kind of loss."
Listen to the podcast to hear how Olgha used her own experience of conflict to bring the video for Cold alive, and how the crew came face to face with the trauma so many families are facing on a daily basis.
Olgha Nk is signed to Bimmac Sounds, a Cameroonian label based in the U.S. whose aim is to discover and develop young talent.
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World Music Matters - Seb el Zin: hardcore with a soft centre
Seb el Zin founded the surrealist rock band Ithak in 2005 and it somehow manages to straddle hardcore, metal, psychedelia and traditional Turkish music with equal ease. He talks to us about why metal is ethno music, his love of dystopia and science fiction, and finding lyrical inspiration in the odd mushroom.
Seb El Zin (Seb the beautiful!) has many strings to his bow: composer, singer, musician and producer, he's frontman and guitarist with ethno-psychic punk band Ithak.
Their second album, Black Nazar Corporation (2016), is not exactly easy-listening world music. But el Zin says it's just a question of opening your mind.
"We attempt to mix industrial punk rock with some other traditional musics," he says. "In the West we have many labels like metal music, reggae, hip hop, and so on, and then all the rest is world music.
"But I consider that every music is ethno actually. Even metal is ethno music from white people from the beginning of the 90s. So in the end, there is no reason why they shouldn't be mixed with any other kind of music, maybe with Indonesian gamelan, or whatever. We all live on the same earth. Be open and see what works."
From 2011 to 2016 El Zin lived in Turkey where he learned to play a flute known as the ney and the Turkish lute known as saz, so they get thrown into the musical mix.
Before that he spent some months at Ircam (French institute specialising in avant garde electro-accoustic music) as an engineer, where he broadened his musical tastes, discovering composers like György Sándor Ligeti and Iannis Xenakis... "major composers who're aren't mainstream but who have influenced my music".
Writers like J.G. Ballard meanwhile nourished his interest in dystopia.
"I'm a big fan, he inspired all the new wave generations, Joy Division, all those bands back in the days."
El Zin also heads up the hip-hop noise cult project Anarchist Republic of Bzzz (feat. Arto Lindsay, Marc Ribot, Mike Ladd and Sensational) and has toured the U.S. with his solo album Grand Bazar.
On 5 March he'll push his boundaries that bit further, joining Franco-Algerian mandolin maestro Hakim Hamadouche in concert at the Arabofolies festival at the institut du Monde Arabe. Hamadouche played with Rachid Taha for more than 25 years.
"Hakim is a super open-minded person. He plays rock, blues, jazz as well as his traditional Berber chaabi music. So it wasn't complicated to have common vocabulary, we just let it happen."
Seb El Zin's official site here
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World Music Matters - Piers Faccini: the organic farmer of the music world
Singer-songwriter Piers Faccini's latest opus is a four-track EP Hear My Voice. And what an original voice it is. He chats to us about his artisan approach to making nourishing music, doing it his way on his record label Beating Drum and how unpleasant years at Eton public school probably helped forge his unique musical identity.
Anglo-Italian singer songwriter and guitarist Piers Faccini launched the Hear My Voice project in 2018 as a way of giving a platform to talented artists with distinct and somewhat atypical voices.
His label Beating Drum has released three vinyl EPs: Neapolitan songwriter GNUT, Tui Mamaki and Trinidadian poet and singer Roger Robinson aka Horsedreamer.
"They have very distinctive voices," says Faccini. "And that's the notion of Hear My Voice, it's about using Beating Drum to put out and highlight the kind of voices that might not always be heard.
"Newt, for example, is a singer-songwriter who decides to sing in the Neapolitan language as opposed to Italian. Twi Mamaki is a New Zealander, but she fell in love with Bulgarian music and traditions. Horsedreamer, Roger Robinson, well we're super proud to have worked with him because he just won the T.S. Eliot poetry prize. So he's kind of the new big thing in poetry in the UK."
The fourth Hear My Voice release is Faccini’s own. And while previous albums "I dreamed an Island" (2016) and "Songs of time Lost" (2014) with cellist Vincent Segal, explored songwriting without borders, the Hear My Voice EP is more inspired by British and North American folk.
"I wanted to go back to my first inspirations in terms of songwriting. So the songs are very much coming from the African-American blues traditions and English folk music."
Faccini's characteristic broken falsetto voice soars on the song Hope Dreams.
"The idea of hope dreams was simply the take on the idea that when someone's desperately hanging on to love and to a broken relationship, it's just completely hopeless. There's a sort of addiction to the idea of hope.
"I love canto flamenco and that whole very dramatic, nostalgic way of singing about love that you hear in the Mediterranean and also in southern Italian music. So I'm sort of taking that kind of language but using it in English."
Vintage Faccini, the song offers comfort even as you drown your sorrows.
Faccini was an artist before he became a musician so in addition to recording and mixing his music in his home studio in the Cevennes in southern France, he also does all the artwork and packaging.
"I've identified myself as being a painter who plays music so when I started making music, I did everything that image-wise would be associated with putting out a record: from the record sleeve to a poster to making an animation video. The idea was just to go as far as I could down that line of trying to do as much myself but also just doing it in the most lovingly detailed way."
A way of not being slave to the music industry.
"You're like 'I really want to do a gatefold vinyl, and when you open it up there's an inner sleeve, and then I want to put my paintings and so on. And then the guy from the record company is like 'yeah, that sounds great, but we can't do that, we ain't got the money'. And then you have a bit of plastic with a CD or you have the cheapest vinyl."
The love Faccini puts into crafting his musical and artistic universe invites comparison with an organic farmer who's spent months tending the crop and then takes it trimphantly to market.
"When I started the label, I wrote a little Manifesto called 'Why music is food'.
"The basic idea is that art and music is a form of nourishment. And it's like when you buy oranges at the market, and they've been sort of mass produced and pumped full of pesticides and chemicals, they may not have the same nutritional value as ones that are grown without pesticides... in the sun as opposed to under artificial lights. So I was drawing on that parallel.
"And the parallel of a farmer who decides to be independent from perhaps a supermarket chain and decides to produce less, but better.
"The idea with creating the label is to be able to have a kind of platform where we can really share ideas and a kind of enthusiasm about making objects, making art and making music with the people that follow us."
Faccini has worked with a myriad of musicians over the years, including Malian ngoni player Badje Tounkara on The River.
It feels like the blend of English folk and ngoni were meant to come together. Music bred in very different soil but the graft took and it makes for great listening.
Faccini's Hear My Voice is out on Beating Drum records. The new album is due out this Autumn. In concert at Le Trianon, Paris on 16 November 2020.
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World Music Matters - The many voices, and opinions, of ALA.NI
"Some tracks have 300 different layers of vocals and most of them are me," says Ala.ni about her new album Acca. The London-born, Paris-based singer with a rare four-octave range beguiles us with her voice. The record is mainly her, a capella. With a bit of Iggy Pop.
She talks to us about how her great uncle the singer Leslie "Hutch" Hutchinson "black and bisexual in the 30's" gave her a lot of courage to be herself and "do things differently".
We chat about how Iggy Pop took a shine to her and ending up doing vocals in French on the song "Le Diplomate" inspired by a real-life encounter with ... a diplomat.
Following the success of her debut album "You and I" she's grown a lot in confidence and now feels happy speaking her mind on a whole load of subjects.
"I’m all for calling people out right now whether it’s about sex, race or whatever. I’ve not been allowed to have an opinion for many years as a black female, this is a new thing for me. I'm like 'wow, I can talk, people listen'.
"My mum didn’t have this. She doesn't want me to talk but I will talk. So here I am."
Listen to her, in the podcast.
Follow Ala.ni on facebook and twitter
Check out the album Acca