Various Artists New African Composers Limitless Sky It's always great to hear African music recorded in Africa, rather than Paris, London or North America. This is the result of three years worth of work at a studio in Dar Es Salaam set up by an American couple, Michel & Rose Tyabji, with the help of the Tanzanian Ministry of Culture. And this is a community-oriented studio, recording established musicians and up and comers of the Dar Es Salaam scene made possible by the cooperation of the government. There is a balance between clear, subtly effected production and booty shaking rhythms that only a few African artists have been able to achieve since the onslaught of synths in the ’80s. There has been a conscious decision to go with a natural sound and feel throughout these recordings, but also to create modern music using the full capabilities of multi-tracked recording. While individual parts of songs may sound a little hesitant, the grooves are never in doubt. Bands like Yekete Beat and Achigo are time-tested, rumba-spiked crowd pleasers and each of their outstanding tracks feature funky, insistent drumming. Other songs feature instrumental virtuosi — acoustic guitar ace Ndala Kasheba (who has a full-length CD of his own out on the same label) and mbira master Garikayi Tirikoti both showcase considerable talents. Tirikoti's eight-mbira orchestra is a wonder to listen to — nothing but the characteristic metallic rods producing a wide range of frequencies, harmonies and kick-ass rhythms. This is a fine sampler of artists that undoubtedly will each release solid discs of their own. Watch out for this label in the months to come!
Entertainment & the Arts: Sunday, June 15, 2003 CD Reviews Afro-pop's rolling rhythms hard to resist for summer By Paul de Barros Seattle Times jazz critic "Yellow Card" Ndala Kasheba (Limitless Sky) Michel and Rosa Tyabji started recording East and South African pop musicians in 1998, at Makuti Studio, in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Last year, they moved to Seattle and started releasing the fruits of their labors on their Limitless Sky label. Ndala Kasheba's wonderful "Yellow Card" is their first effort. Kasheba is a Congolese musician who moved to Dar es Salaam in 1972, where he had a hit with "Monica." Kasheba plays in the soukous style, complete with rolling electric-guitar lines and call-and-answer vocals, but adds his rich, rubber-bandy 12-string guitar to the mix. Electric bass also gets turned up a little, and is a trifle harder-edged than in most soukous. Kasheba's infectious, husky voice is hard to resist as he praises the lovely "Marinella" or shouts "Kokolay" (cheers!) in words you may not understand, but with emotions that you will. "New African ComposersVol. 1" Various Artists (Limitless Sky) This compilation features a dozen selections by five Limitless Sky artists, including four of the best tracks from Kasheba's "Yellow Card"; three by the Yekete Beat Band; two by Garikayi Tirikoti; two by the Achigo Band; and one from Delphin Mununga. Yekete is dark and driving, with an Afro-beat horn section; Tirikoti leads a joyous, eight-piece mbira (thumb piano) orchestra, whose rolling rhythms and huge, marimba-like sound will be familiar to fans of local Zimbabwean marimba orchestras. The Achigo Band, with lyrical lead singer Nguza Viking, Kasheba's main rival in Dar es Salaam for years, creates a rivery sound with guitars and synthesizers on "WaTanzania Watu wa Amani" and that hot little jazz band feel only Africans can conjure with horns, on "Tebo." Vocalist Mununga contributes a churchy a cappella piece. Paul de Barros: 206-464-3247 or pdebarros@seattletimes.com Copyright © 2003 The Seattle Times Company
Various Artists New African Composers: Vol.1 Limitless Sky Records, 2002 This is a CD with a story behind it; in short, it's the first compilation from a new label focusing mostly on contemporary music in Tanzania. Before they started releasing albums as Limitless Sky in 2002, Michel and Rosa Tyabji spent three years in Tanzania, researching, traveling, and recording, mostly in their own studio in Dar Es Salaam. Now based in Seattle, they are unpacking their treasures, and the first results are very promising. The four Tanzanian acts (and one Zimbabwean) gloriously sampled here are not exactly "new." Guitarist and singer Ndala Kasheba first came to Tanzania with a band from Congo in 1964, and he's been active on the scene ever since. Achigo Band used to be Orchestra Marquis, champions of Swahili dance music during the days when Radio Tanzania was the only recording company in town. The lively, percussion-driven pop act Yekete Beat Band formed in the Arusha region of Tanzania in 1989, and singer Delphin Mununga was brought to Dar from Lubumbashi, Congo, by Ndala Kasheba in the 1980s. As for the one Zimbabwean here, mbira maestro Garikayi Tirikoti has been developing his unique take on the ancient Shona musical art, and his unusual 8-piece group, for over thirty years. But if these acts are not strictly new, they have never been released internationally, and when you hear these 12 tracks, you'll likely agree that it's high time. Yekete Beat Band offers a boisterous blast of bass, hand percussion, growly, cycling guitars, horns and vocals. The group favors forest rhythms--mostly variants on 12/8 time--poignant vocals and short, eloquent guitar breaks. Of the three fine tracks here, the taut, concise "Ngoma" (sampled for this review) is especially good. Achigo Band features a big, lush vocal sound, strongly reminiscent of the more choral Congolese pop music. They do play rumba, as on "Tebo," but their tour de force here is a rolling, nine-minute, 12/8 extravaganza called "Watanzania Watu Wa Amani." Ndala Kasheba's music also bears the stamp of his Congolese roots. With his booming tenor voice and big band ambiance, one inevitably thinks of Franco in his prime. But Kasheba has a number of distinguishing qualities in his Swahili rumba sound, most notably his use of an electrified, 12-string acoustic guitar, which he overdubs to create a gorgeous, chiming ambiance. "Kokolay" is especially winning with a bass-driven riff that won't quit, a killer call-and-response vocal hook, and Kasheba's deep, commanding voice at the center of a tuneful sax section eruptions, and the pulsing jangle of those 12-string guitars. We get just a taste of Delphin Mununga with a pretty acapella piece called "Kilimanjaro," but this compilation will leave any fan of classic African dance pop panting for more from the Limitless Sky vault. (So far, just one other title, Ndala Kasheba's Yellow Card has been released.) Garikayi Tirikoti's three mbira pieces round this set out with satisfying variety. Among the things that set Tirikoti apart from other mbira artists is the way he combines mbiras using different tunings to create a rich, almost orchestral sound. His use of many voices to create thick vocal textures is also distinctive. "Kugara Hunzwara," a sublime, 11-minute variant on the mbira traditional song "Nhema Musasa" will satisfy even the fussiest mbira music connoisseur. All this music is well recorded and mixed, with no drum machines or synthesizers to spoil the mood. If Limitless Sky proves as good at marketing music as they are at finding and producing it, we can look forward to lots more from one of the bravest and most promising new labels focusing on Afropop to appear in years.
Music > Media > Thought Music > Reviews February 2003 Music Reviews New African Composers Volume 1 Limitless Sky Africa is a continent of over fifty independent nations, with thousands of languages and immeasurable cultural traditions, thus precluding any systematic or comprehensive codification of its people's cultural expressions. New African Composers, however, proffers an exceptional overview of some the continent's variegated musical traditions, without trying to be all-inclusive or overly ambitious, as it draws only from the sounds of Zimbabwe and Tanzania. The styles on this album are diverse, ranging from the pulsating drum patterns of Yekete Beat Band's "Madoya" to the calypso feel of Achigo Band's "WaTanzania Watu wa Amani" to the mesmerizing a cappella of Delphin Mununga's "Kilimanjaro." Like Delphin Mununga, Garikayi Tirikoti proves that the voice is as powerful as the reverberation of the bass drum. While it is not likely that the listener will understand the lyrics that flow from the speakers, the language of polyrhythm and syncopation transcend the impositions of any systematized lexicon. It is music that exudes a profound spirituality, a resistance to colonialism's lasting grip and a remembrance of one's ancestors, all set to a contagious and intricate rhythmic beat. New African Composers is an essential listen for anyone interested in the origins of so much of this world's music, from ska and jazz to salsa and merengue. It is simultaneously a history lesson and a glance into the future evolution of what has become generically known as "world" music. It is certainly a must for those who appreciate the syncopated beats of hip-hop, or the free-verse improvisation of jazz.
Various Artists - New African Composers, Vol. 1 Limitless Sky Compilation of mostly Tanzanian-based acts, with one from Zimbabwe (Garikayi Tirikoti), mostly unknown names who deserve wider recognition. Ndala Kasheba is the old master, but plenty of the younger ones have stunning talent. One of the few African countries not to have received much exposure, it's obvious Zimbabwe has a lot to offer the world.