La Danza Poetica #4 Radio Africa

Made in the creatively charged atmosphere of my artist friend's Sydney studio, surrounded by paintings of ocean from the point of view of a hot air balloon (take a moment to visit and you'll see what I mean) - La Danza Poetica #4 sails on the wind instruments of drum, string and voice, pausing to dive into the stories of griots and musicians from Ethiopia, Ghana, Botswana, the Sudan, Zimbabwe and Jamaica. Whether speaking from their homelands or through the prisms of the diaspora (USA, UK, Australia) these storytellers speak with strong hearts and fierce truths. They use their voices as drums and strings. They use their instruments as voices. 


The 13th tribe - Wanya Eko feat Gozi Adigwe+Dominic Behan
Captain Planet ft. ChigiyoMaster - Chingata
Mutombo Da Poet - Sweet Memories
M-R - MuNyepi
Afeif Ismail Abdelrazig - Book of Screams
P.P.S the writah - SUNU MEEN ft AMDY
Hands aloof - Locust Like
SISTER FA - Hip Hop Yaw La Fal
SelfEvident & Warrior Queen - No Man a Take
RuTendo DeNise & Theresa Muteta - Cheukwa
Mouth of vigilance - Don't come any closer
Mojek aka Young Africa - Pomp Up Pon
Ateif Khieri - The Girl
Cumbia Cosmonauts - Radio Africa feat. Tshila (Galambo Remix)
MC Zulu - Love Machine (Prod. By SaBBo Ronen)
Maureen Shepard - (excerpt from ’3am The Enlightened Darkness’)
Maga Bo - Ransom (Fletcher Remix)

Notes on the show

Beginning back in the 1990s, Wanya Eko is a beautiful track from The 13th Tribe, featuring Glasgow/Nigerian Gozi Joe Agiwe's gorgeous voice, with Bengali/Glaswegian Shompa Mazumder (of Shompa vs Future Pilot AKA fame) on charod, and the spoken voice of Irish Folk legend Dominic Behan. I vaguely incorrectly cite 13th Tribe as being out of the UK - make that Glasgow/Santiago de Chile, where Khevin de Leon, the man behind the moves, resides.

From the Photosentences album of 2012, one of my favourite discoveries of 2012 Mutombo Da Poet. The Ghana poet's first album is a complete and sincere piece of work drawing stories about childhood, politics, love and home. I wrote about the album back in July - check it here. Highly recommend you go pick up this album.

Into my first wonderful discovery of 2013, poet RuTendo DeNise of Harare, Zimbabwe, collaborating with Riffi as .m.&.R. Two tracks in Shona: MuNyepi - meaning liar, the liar we are to ourselves; and later in the show Cheukwa - RuTendo collaborating with Theresa Muteta for Zimbabwe Fashion week (cheukwa is to look at, in Shona).

Two great poets from Sudan, now Australia, hinge the hour: Afeif Ismail Abdelrazig, poet, playwright and activist from Elhassahisa, now living in Perth, and Ateif Khieri also from the Sudan, now living in Canberra. Both men bring accomplished poetic careers to this country, telling important and painful stories from their homelands, with the clarity of the best storytellers, within the rhythm of the Arabic language.

Afeif works with Vivienne Glance on 'transcreation' - a truly collaborative approach to the translation of poetry, where the translator works closely with the writer to achieve true meaning in the translation. They have worked together also on plays as well as Afeif's poetry. I don't use Vivienne's translation in this show, but you can hear the full recording (with her English version) on the 29th issue of Going Down Swinging (get it here). Ateif's recording is also on the CD accompanying that edition. Both were recorded at Melbourne's Overload Poetry Festival in 2009.

From there, to Senegal, to the lyrical young MC P.P.S the writah … Growing up in the working class neighborhood of Rufisque, Senegal, Paul Pissety Sagna (aka PPS) hustled his way into the spotlight as a politically conscientious rapper and banner-bearing graffiti artist ... 'His ethos of “Guimi Guindi,” to stay awake and conscientious, is his driving principle.' I wrote about PPS last month, after seeing his heartfelt beautiful video Weerul Ci Man - check it here.

A fresh track for the new year - Hands Aloof's Locust Like, and later on another track made under his Mouthofvigilance moniker, Don't come any closer. This is Angell Nthoi from Gaborone, Botswana. Son of guitarist Douglas Nthoi, Angell tells the engaging story of how he grew up within, and grew into, music and story, on his page. Recommended read! From his father reading aloud stories of Herman Melville, Roald Dahl, he then 'met hip hop and was shook...', and with a refreshing mixture of influences from Doctor Seuss to De la Soul, this poet was born. Mouthofvigilance and Ebony's Wick were part of the burgeoning hip hop movement in South Africa - Angell returned to Botswana and is working with his poetry and hip hop in arts development projects. His work is rich and varied and the storytelling, the spoken word, is the beating heart of it.

Hip hop is African rhythm, African style. The modern griots draw us in through rhythm into story.

Sista Fa, the lady we know from the visceral and beautiful film by Maria Luisa Gambale and Gloria Bremer (read more in this post from late last year) is very possibly the best female hip hop artist I've ever heard, and I continue to listen to her album Sarabah, it's a constant. Hip Hop Yaw La Fal from Sarabah - tales from the flip side of paradise. 

Two voices from Jamaica come into our mix, Warrior Queen and MC Zulu. Power animals both! First up No Man a Take - Warrior Queen (Kingston/UK) collaborates with SelfEvident, turning her voice into a drum and an instrument. Out on Cabeza net label late 2012.

MC Zulu doesn't just drop rhymes with attitude he also does the best crowdsource spiel ... ever ... Love Machine is an album in progress and if you drop money in the box, you'll get anything from personalised email insults to a 2 hour show - plus of course, the album. If this track is any indication it's going to be hell worth it.

Voices as drums! Instruments as voices! This was the point as I put together this show - the rhythms of Africa are told by the drum in the voice, the rhythm in the speaking. The way that we speak is so much a part of our identity, culture, history, as anything we say. When we dance, we feel it. And the voice in the instrument - the djembe, the masinqo, the mbira - the instruments speak and tell stories. We know this. When we hear it, we know it.

Three great tracks close the show:

New from Mojek (aka Young Africa) is Pomp Up Pon - out of Chicago, Mojek's release late in 2012, discovered via Global Ghetto, is a self-described "a minimal blend of chopped vox and tribal drum patterns."

Out of Australia, a cumbia outfit exploring African sounds, taking it to the source! The Cumbia Cosmonauts release the album Tropical Bass Station late in 2012 and it's a rich and varied work. In the show, Radio Africa - featuring Tshila on vocals, the Galambo Remix.

From back in 2011 Maga Bo collaborates with Indriss Hassan on masinqo for the Ransom EP, bringing traditional Ethiopian sounds and folklore together with organic beats. This track, inspired by the hyenas which are fed raw meat outside the gates of Harar. The music tells the story, paints the picture, animates the animal. This is the Fletcher (S.Africa) mix.

Happy new year, to all those who give of their stories, and to all those who listen!

PS, also slipped into the show is a little excerpt from a spoken word piece by Maureen Shepard, 3am - The Enlightened Darkness