Presented in no particular order, albums were selected, as always, based on originality, production value, consistency, and overall booty-shakingness. Check out also the 2012 and 2013 lists and head over to the WSTB mixcloud page for the Best of 2014 podcast.
Han Han (Canada / Philippines) – Han Han – Independent (Bandcamp)
Toronto-based Filipina rapper Han Han dropped this bomb in 2014 out of left field, a boom-bap manifesto in Tagalog and Cebuano mixing heavy bass and traditional sounds like kulintang gongs.
Sample track: World Gong Crazy feat. DATU
Sawtuha: Nine women from Egypt, Tunisia, Libya – Jakarta Records
An ambitious project pairing female lyricists, musicians and MCs from Egypt, Tunisia and Libya with top-flight producers, among them Oddisee, Brenk and Blundetto. Recorded in Tunis, the album aims to speak out against the repression of democratic rights and gender inequality in the region. Word.
Sample track: Youssra El Hawary – Ghareeb An El Medina (Brenk Remix)
Ibibio Sound Machine (UK / Nigeria) – Ibibio Sound Machine – Soundway Records
Fronted by London-born Nigerian singer Eno Williams, this debut album is a perfect union of Nigerian / Afro elements and refreshingly sparse and tasteful electronic production.
Sample track: Prodigal Sun (Ayen Ake Feheke)
Kafundó Vol. 1 – Digital Roots Music from Brazil – Dutty Artz
Curated by Wolfram Lange and Maga Bo, this compilation, inspired from a word meaning a faraway and isolated place in Brazilian Portuguese, is a hard-hitting selection of music from the neglected peripheries of the Brazilian music scene.
Sample track: Sombra – Chuva de Gente Estranha
Al Dobson Jr. (UK) – Sounds from the Village Vol. 1 – Izwid
London-based producer Al Dobson Jr. releases his solid debut full-length on Kutmah‘s Izwid label, a varied collection of head-nodding, hand-clapping, percussion-jangled afro-beats.
Sample track: Maiysha
Intiche (Germany / Argentina ) – Nawell – Konn Recordings (Bandcamp)
The most mature and daring effort from Berlin-based Argentinian Intiché, continuing his pioneering experimentations in the genre he dubs Electronativo or Folcore, combining electronic production with indigenous South American samples and instruments.
Sample track: Lemu
Malombo Jazz Makers (South Africa) – Next Stop Soweto presents Spirit of Malombo – Malombo, Jabula, Jazz Afrika 1966-1984 – Strut Records
The forgotten oeuvre of Afro-jazz pioneer Julian Bahula, who first introduced indigenous Malombo drums alongside jazz flute and guitar in 1960s apartheid-era South Africa, is finally given the honour it deserves.
Sample track: Hleziphi
Tradisyon Ka (Guadeloupe) – Gwo Ka – Music of Guadeloupe, French West Indies – Soul Jazz Records
Gwo-ka, like Haitain vaudou or Cuban santeria, is a musical and cultural product of African ancestry, forcibly brought to the French West indies via the slave trade. Soul Jazz has served up this newly-recorded Gwo-ka album featuring some of its best living practitioners.
Sample track: Adam é Eve (feat. Patrick Tulippe)
Francis Bebey (Cameroon) – Psychedelic Sanza 1982-1984 – Born Bad Records
A rhythm-driven and deeply spiritual collection of material from Cameroonian sonic sculptor Francis Bebey. Pygmy flutes, intoned lyrics and the titular Sanza create an atmosphere of wonder.
Sample track: Forest Nativity
Chancha via Circuito (Argentina) – Amansara – Wonderwheel Recordings
Argentinian outfit Chancha via Circuito, alias Pedro Canale, returns with his most inspired assemblage of bleeps, bangs and beats yet, propelled by the lead-off single featuring Toronto’s own Lido Pimienta.
Sample track: Coplita feat. Miriam García
Alsarah & the Nubatones (Sudan / US) – Silt & Silt Remixed –Wonderwheel Recordings
Fresh off her 2013 collaboration with Débruit, Sudanese-born vocalist Alsarah returns to her roots with her stellar Nubatones debut, Silt. Raw and ready.
Also noteworthy is the remix album, featuring contributions fromNickodemus, Boddhi Satva, Captain Planet and others.
Sample track: Habibi Taal
Karima (Liberia / Italy) – 2G – Soupu Music
Also known as one half of the indie afrohouse duo Pepesoup, Liberian-Italian vocalist Karima Gehnyei pulls no punches with her audacious brand of social and political commentary over hard beats.
Sample track: Jambo Bwana
Rocky Marsiano (Portugal) – Meu Kamba – Akwaaba Music
Lisbon-based producer D-Mars, aka Rocky Marsiano, dived deep into the collection of vinyl aficionado Rui Miguel Abreu and emerged with this sparkling roundup of tracks based on classic ditties from Cape Verde, Angola, Mozambique and Sao Tomé.
Sample track: Esse Mambo
Mestre Cupijó e Seu Ritmo (Brazil) – Siriá – Analog Africa
An invigorating compilation documenting the little-known musical legacy of Mestre Cupijó, the progenitor of the little-known genre of Siria, a fusion between the music of the quilombos, and the indigenous people of the Amazon rainforest.
Sample track: Tubarao Branco
Sacassaia (Brazil) – Boca de Terra – Independent (Website)
Two years in the making, and with Renato Matos as their newest member, Brasilia-based Sacassaia release their electric second album, one heavy on afro-brazilian influences.
Sample track: Dizeres Desertos
FAVOURITE EPs of 2014
Borchi (Mexico) – Ihcrob – Self-released
Ibeyi (Cuba/France) – Oya – XL Recordings
Okmalumkoolkat (South Africa) – Holy Oxygen I – Affine Records
Narcy (Canada / Iraq) – Nargisee – Self-released
Clap! Clap! (Italy) – Tambacounda – Black Acre
FAVOURITE CONCERTS OF 2014
Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 @ The Phoenix, July 2014, Toronto.
The groove in afrobeat music hangs on that delicious tension between all of the various rhythmic elements. Seun‘s band locked together right from the downbeat. Props to openers the Asiko Afrobeat Ensemble and to Egypt 80’s superlative shekere player.
Highlight of the show: I.M.F.
Fredy Massamba @ The Blueprint Lounge, May 2014, Montreal.
Full disclosure: I was also DJing this afro-soul themed night, which turned out to be a fine semi-acoustic showcase featuring local artists Veeby, Carineand Ekinoxx collaborating on stage with a fired-up Fredy Massamba, in town promoting his second album, Makasi.
Highlight of the night: Nkembo, and also when he did his empty whisky bottle blowing routine, giving Marie Daulne a run for her money
Malika Tirolien @ Lion d’or, September 2014, Montreal
The long-awaited solo debut from the high priestess of the Kalmunity Collective was a family affair, featuring guest spots from Emrical, Rawnia, X-Wam and a stacked band of KVC regulars. It also thrust Malika’s brilliant keyboard and compositional skills into the spotlight.
Highlight of the show: Sew
Tabou Combo @ Nuits d’Afrique, July 2014, Montreal
The excitement was palpable as I elbowed my way into the crowd at the Parterre des Spectacles for the closing concert of the Nuits d’Afrique festival. None of the 10000+ in attendance went unsatisfied, chanting most of the lyrics en masse. Timeless.
Highlight of the show: Lakay
Noura Mint Seymali @ Joe’s Pub, July 2014, New York
The daughet and musical protégé of one of my personal musical heroes, Dimi Mint Abba, did not disappoint with a tight, tour-polished set in the intimate confines of Joe’s Pub in Manhattan.
Highlight of the show: Hebebeb Zrag, and the stoic bass player
Oy @ Montreal Jazz Festival, June 2014, Montreal
Swiss-Ghanaian vocalist and producer Joy Frempong, surrounded by an array of electronic talismans, and backed by mysterious drummer Lleluja-Ha, delivered a witty, eclectic set that won over the crowd of thousands at the outdoor stage of this year’s FIJM.
Highlight of the show: Hallelujah! Hair!
BONUS: DOPE MIXES of 2014
Mo Kolours’ Drum Stalking Mix
DJ Gioumanne’s Afro Cosmic Club Volume 2
Future Sound of Mzansi mixtape series curated by Fantasma and Spoek Mathambo
DJ Lynnee Denise presents Afro-Digital Migration: House Music in Post-Apartheid South Africa Volume 2
DJ Rhythm & Hues’ Disco Duniya All-Vinyl Bollywood Mix