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
World Music Matters - Asa unpicks many faces of love on new album Lucid
On her latest album Lucid, Nigerian singer-songwriter Asa explores the many colours of love: warm, dark, brilliant, somber, the joy, the longing, the wanting. But also the violence that can seep into a relationship and destroy lives.
As the world wakes up to the reality of sexual violence against women, Asa's song Murder in the USA, the opening track on the album, couldn't be more pertinent. She was fully aware that femicide was getting a lot of media attention, but personal experience also pushed her to write the song.
"I grew up in Lagos seeing my parents having this problem, especially my mum, and wondering why she would have to allow herself go through that.
"I think murder in the USA is really about being aware of the signs and leaving. I feel like my mum saw the signs but she thought society expects you to be married, to be with your husband, with the children, to stay.
"Now I’m like 'no I don’t have to go through that', to buckle under the weight of society...things are changing now."
Lucid is Asa's fourth album and comes five years after Bed of Stone; five years during which she began and ended a toxic relationship. "It was a big deal in my life," she says. But she's come out stronger.
"I've come to a stage of lucidity that I don't have to stay in a relationship if I don't want to. I think I love myself more and need to invest more in that idea. I have to go against what everyone expects of me."
Asa is on tour in Germany and France. Check out dates here
Follow Asa on facebook
World Music Matters - La Mòssa: five women, one voice
La Mòssa are a five-piece band of female vocalists who excel at polyphonic chant. They've just released their debut album A Mòssa and talk to us about reinterpreting folksongs they love in a free and playful way in the spirit of Nina Tirabouchon, a 1920s Italian cabaret artist with hip swing to die for.
La Mòssa means movement in Italian. Listen in to find out why that suits the women so well.
La Mòssa: Lilia Ruocco, Emmanuelle Ader, Sara Giommetti, Gabrielle Gonin, Aude Marchand
Upcoming concerts: Le petit Duc in Aix-en-Provence, 5 March 2019; Jardin de Verre in Cholet, 26 March 2019; Peniche Spectacle in Rennes 27 March 2019.
Follow the band on facebook
World Music Matters - Sona Jobarteh: Changing the tradition of kora playing to ensure its survival
Sona Jobarteh comes from a long West African tradition of Griots and kora players from Mali and The Gambia. She's become one of the rare women in the world to master the 21-string instrument which is traditionally reserved to men. She talks to RFI about working within the tradition to be better able to expand it.
Sona Jobarteh's grandfather was Amadu Bansang Jobarteh, an oral historian and hereditary praise singer from the Mandinka people of The Gambia. Her cousin is Mali's Toumani Diabaté. Her brother began teaching her to play the kora when she was just three, but when she decided she wanted to make a career out of it, she turned to her father Sanjally Jobarteh.
"I always had a very natural connection with the older repertoire," Jobarteh explains as we sit at her hotel before a concert in Paris's New Morning early November. "That's why I really wanted to study with my father because he is very much an expert in that style of playing."
Her father was a demanding task-master.
"He told me that he will teach me as his child, not as his daughter, not as his son but as his child which is no gender. And also he told me that the one thing he wanted in return for teaching me is that I aim to be just a good kora player not a good female kora player."
"He said if someone listens to you they shouldn’t be able to say it’s a girl or it’s a boy it’s just a good kora player."
Jobarteh has gone on to become a very successful and respected kora player, vocalist and instrumentalist, demonstrating to her own and future generations that "you don't have to conform to outside influence to be successful in the music industry."
"You can actually represent your tradition, you can even sing in your own language without having to bend to pressure not to do so."
She did just that in 2011, singing in Mandekan on her album Fasiya.
"Fasiya was all about my heritage and I saw it as a risk or a challenge because I’m no longer singing in English, I’m no longer playing any European instruments, and it’s traditional.
"I was not sure if I would get any audience, but I made the conscious decision to prefer to do what means something to me and have very few people follow than try to conform to something that is not true to me and be popular."
Her gamble paid off. But she hasn't released another album since, putting all her energies, and finances, into the Gambia Academy of Music and Culture she returned to The Gambia to open in 2015.
The school educates children in their cultural traditions and heritage alongside the mainstream curriculum.
She says it's important to "demonstrate the worth of what they have rather than what they don't have," so that they remain in the country rather than believing that "hope, the future and everything lies outside their country".
"The academy is actually everything I do," she continues, "and in many ways the music increasingly is now just a means for me to be able to support and to spread awareness about what I’m trying to do in The Gambia."
Music in this week's programme is from Jobarteh's 2011 album Fasiya. Her upcoming album will focus on the future: social activism, education, women and raising awareness of the challenges her country is facing.
Follow Sona Jobarteh on facebook
World Music Matters - Emmanuel π Djob: a soul man from Cameroon
Emmanuel π Djob started out singing gospel in his native Cameroon and is building a successful blues-soul career in France. He heads up the six-piece AfroSoul Gang, but it’s performing alone with guitar that his gravel-rough baritone voice, raw emotion and soul really shines through. We caught him performing live on RFI's Musiques du Monde.
Emmanuel π Djob started out with Bayembi’s International, a pan African gospel formation popular in Cameroon in the 1990s.
After settling in France, he helped to revive and renew the gospel tradition, performing with the Black & White Gospel Singers and Gospelize it!
He released his debut album, Seven Minutes, in 2008, drawing on the blues, pop and rock to explore the theme of the death penalty.
He went on to record a series of albums called Terrassa’s Conversessions in 2010.
In 2013 he created a storm on the TV music talent show The Voice singing Ray Charles’ Georgia on My Mind.
“Ray Charles, Bob Marley, Fela Kuti, Hugh Masekela, they were my musical foundations,” he says. “It was normal that I sing one of Ray Charles’ songs.”
“That song meant a lot to me because I’m in exile here and it’s a song about love and exile."
In January 2016 he packed the huge Zenith concert hall in Montpellier with his band AfroSoull Gang, accompanied by the 500-strong Afro Soul Mass Choir.
He’s taking this ensemble to Cameroon in December “to Yaoundé and to Douala, just to show to people that Cameroonians can sing together, even if we have problems".
π Djob’s latest album Get on Board ! is resolutely afro-soul. The stand out track is Sons of Lilith, Daughter of Kham on which he weaves the legend of a demonised woman and cursed man into an allegory of how he sees the world.
His live rendition of the song on Musiques du Monde is a treasure: the sound of a singer-songwriter possessed by the need to sing and communicate about his dispossesed African ancestors.
Emmanuel π Djob in concert in Pessac 7/8 December 2019, with AfroSoull Gang in Montpellier 29 February 2020.
Follow him on Facebook