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“Love Potion” comes with an announcement of a new album, River, from the Nairobi rapper.
A frontrunner of Kenyan rap, Muthoni Drummer Queen has consistently advocated for social and spiritual emancipation in her music. On her previous album, She, the artist portrayed strong, pioneering women who fought for their rights and for greater equality. Her next album, River, which has just been announced, takes its name from the artist’s constant evolution, faith and thirst for experience. “A lot of cultures believe in the idea of going back to the roots, like water forming a natural cycle, coming down from the mountains to form rivers, oceans, and then evaporating back to where it came from,” she says. “But I believe that we never really leave our source, that it is embedded in us, that we carry it wherever we are.”
To bring this new project to life, she has enlisted the likes of Swiss production duo GR! & Hook. It is a partnership that has been going on since 2013 and lays the foundations for a mix between electronic sounds and organic African music. “We had to find a balance between our roots. It’s all part of the journey, the quest I’m on through River.”
“Love Potion” is the third single from the album, following “Give Thanks.” The track is the result of a long-awaited collaboration between Muthoni and his long-time friends, Kenyan superstars Sauti Sol. Infused with dancehall and R&B, clearly calibrated for hot nights in Nairobi, the track has an infectious edge running through it. The lush video features the rapper and band in a festive and mysterious environment, reminiscent at times of the Rio carnival aesthetic.
River by Muthoni Drummer Queen, out on November 19.
The Mexican DJ and producer Pambulo has released Kabalagalaxy, a debut EP on the Mexican-Ugandan label Makabila Umoja, which deploys a danceable electronic mix built on sounds from both worlds. Read the interview and listen to an exclusive DJ set.
Until now, Pablo Pascual was known by the name of Low End, a project created as part of the psychedelic and progressive trance movement that has been bubbling up in Mexico since the late 90s. Inspired by Eat Static and the glitchy productions of Aphex Twin and UK bass in all its forms, his life as an artist took a turn when he visited his Mexican friend Emiliano Motta in Uganda, one of the producers shaking up and animating the local club scene. He then joined Makabila Umoja, a label that has released EPs by Swordman Kitala, Willstone and Leo Palayeng. It was in the creative atmospheres of Gulu and Kampala that he encountered other likeminded artists and conceived of this new project, which reflects both his roots and the different energies he has acquired along the way.
How and when did the Pambulo project start?
I think it really began to take form when I went to Uganda in 2019. Emiliano Motta (Moganjah) had already been there, working, playing and making music for five years or so. He showed me new music each time I saw him in Mexico and it really fresh and super cool. Then, when I was there I began to really understand it – ll the amazing cultural heritage, the vibes of the people and all this talent and creativity exploding everywhere. You can feel the music all around you, the dance, the drums, it’s a very cool form of “madness.” Kampala had all these musicians from around the globe after the Nyege Nyege event. I had many experiences, like going to Kabalagala, where the local people party, and it was a very energetic thing to witness. I had the chance to record one of the best drummers I’d ever heard, Omutaba Ngoma, and I met a lot of people there. It is hard to describe, but the people in Uganda have a very special chill vibe. Then I went to Gulu with the amazing human being and musician, Leo Palayeng, and it was so amazing to see that, just a few hours from the capital, the music, the culture, the people, were all very different and unique. Otim Alpha is another genius musician with an uplifting vibe who comes from there. I recorded there and produced a funky track for Kornyellows Africa.
How did you turn this experience into music once back home?
When I returned to Mexico, I began to decipher and process the experience. At the end of the year, Leo came to Mexico, and we had the chance to start a track with Moganjah. It was a great experience, to feel his vibe and understand his amazing ideas and, of course, record his mind-blowing Adungu playing and vocals. I made a remix for Swordman Kitala, one of the top MCs around for sure, which was the first track I finished as Pambulo, even without having the project name ready. At least I had a new sound. So here I am with a new project waiting to have a chance to return to Uganda during these crazy times, but working hard to make more and more music.
You are merging Mexican and Ugandan music on this EP. What are the similarities between these two areas of music? What is your composition process?
Well, I am not trying, at least not consciously, to merge Mexican and Ugandan music. I guess it comes out naturally because I was obviously influenced by Mexican folklore – there is a lot of great music and diversity there. I just think if you try too hard, the music sounds forced. It’s not so easy to blend two styles, because what you hear is a loop of house music, with a sample of folkloric music. The musicians that really merge them properly are just amazing. There are similarities of course, especially in places like Veracruz or Guerrero, where there is a significant Afro descendent culture. There is a style called Son Jarocho, even with the occidental influence, in which you can really hear the Afro soul. Eventually I want to record some Mexican folkloric music, and in some cases to merge it in a more obvious way. Maybe I will make some cumbia acholitronix one day! I use samples of recorded stuff to begin an idea, sometimes I just begin a rhythm and play some synths. Now I’m working to make my process a little more “live” and not so much mouse and keyboard, and I’m learning to play drums.
What is your role within Makabila Umoja?
Makabila Umoja, as any of the many independent labels, is just getting started. Emiliano was the founder and, with all the great music he has made throughoutall these years he made a platform to share it. There were a lot of people around with these big egos who weren’t giving fair treatment to Ugandan musicians, who were very abusive and the opposite to Emiliano. I have been helping him since the beginning because we are great friends, but I also truly believe in the project and in the amazing music. We are working hard to share these sounds all around the globe, and giving them a workable structure with the resources we have so we can make a solid crew and work with all these musicians as our equals. I know this may sound obvious, but sadly, there are a lot of producers, not all of them, that record and just say thank you. Then they put the track out and never stay in touch. For us it is very important to show these musicians that we are making everything for the good of the whole crew. I think having that complicity with someone, in the good sense, is always one of the important parts of making a project work. If you combine it with trust, discipline and hard work, good things begin to happen. My role is as a producer/musician and being part of the management.
What can we expect from Pambulo in the near future?
More and more music. Now I’m working on a collab with Swordman Kitala, Moganjah, Sandunga and I’m gonna make another one with Leo Palayeng. I’m producing a track for two great MCs, Lebon from DRC and Blessed Man from Uganda. In this music you can use many different tempos and structures, which I love and it means the sound has all these different styles and feelings in it. I keep researching and learning about the music of the different countries in Africa. It’s so huge and diverse that I think it’s gonna be a lifetime challenge – trying to merge all that I learn with my style in a way that has some kind of impact on people. It is always very rewarding when anyone tells you that one track really got them. As soon as all this chaos has some more structure and clarity, for sure I want to go around the globe and share my music with all the top Makabila Umoja musicians. We will make it happen , we just need to be patient like everyone else and keep up the hard work.
The Kabalagalxy EP is still available here.
The East-African music label dives deeper in the Tanzanian music phenomenon, after their revolutionary Sounds of Sisso (2017) which took festivals around the world by storm.
The Sounds of Sisso compilation focused mostly on the Tanzanian capital’s Sisso Studios and its wide influence on singeli, the breakneck dance strain that’s quickly moved from Dar es Salaam throughout the world. For their second genre-focused project, Nyege Nyege Tapes highlights recordings from Duke’s Pamoja Records. And while its predecessor brought attention to the producers, Sounds of Pamoja showcases the wide variety of MC talent under the Pamoja Records umbrella, with production mostly handled by Duke. The music is fresh and unpredictable, switching beats every few bars and rattling through hyper-local dance styles with jagged, joyful ease. But it’s the MCs that push Sounds of Pamoja to the next level, capitalizing on the vitality of Dar es Salaam’s musical landscape as they trade bars, switch flows and somehow keep up with Duke’s lightning-fast productions. MC Kono’s performance on the track “Il Jini Song Wapi”, already available, is a perfect example of the hyper-dynamic and exuberant youth the project will showcase.
Tanzania is a country of young people – almost half of its population is under 15 years old – and singeli is a young genre. Duke started making music when he was 13 years old, and by the time he was 18 he had opened the Pamoja Records studio. He’s joined on the compilation by a talented group of emerging local artists: 20 year old Pirato MC, 19 year old Dogo Kibo, 20 year old MC Kuke, Dogo Lizzy, MC Dinho, MC Kidene and MCZO, the versatile rapper who accompanied Duke on a selection of global tour dates. This fresh and energized cast brings a new kind of electricity to this breath-taking dance music, characterized by rapid body movement, social combustion and tongue-twisting lyrical one-upmanship guiding the rudder. To capture and portray this unique musical world, NTS traveled down to Tanzania to meet the founders of Pamoja and Sisso Records, alongside artists and managers from the scene. The result of these encounters is a mini-documentary, which gives a preview to what Sounds of Pamoja will sound like.
Sounds of Pamoja is due out on 2xLP and digital on Nyege Nyege Tapes on September 17, 2021.