Music

Les Amazones d'Afrique: République Amazone

When a dozen of West Africa's most talented women hit the studio for a good cause, the result is a potent brew of musical skill and fighting spirit.


Les Amazones d'Afrique

République Amazone

Label: Real World
US Release Date: 2017-04-28
UK Release Date: 2017-04-28
Amazon
iTunes

Hailing from countries throughout West Africa, the women of supergroup Les Amazones d’Afrique rock the boat and the mic for a good cause with debut studio album République Amazone. The group came together for the first time in Mali a couple of years back, releasing the track "I Play the Kora" as a powerful anthem for sexual equality. That the kora is an instrument reserved for men for centuries adds an extra layer of resolve to the frank lyrics claiming women’s rights to respect and peace. Profits from the track directly benefit the Panzi Foundation, dedicated to treating the tens of thousands of women who have been the targets of sexualized violence in the eastern parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo over the last decades.

Epidemics of sexual and domestic violence (rape within the bounds of marriage is not considered an offense in the Democratic Republic of the Congo) are exactly what Les Amazones d’Afrique’s songs are here to fight, and listening to République Amazone, it’s hard to imagine anyone with both the stupidity and the nerve to stop them.

The lineup reads like a who’s who of West African women in music, including international stars like worldbeat darlings Amadou & Mariam’s Mariam Doumbia, ever-animated singer Angélique Kidjo, and fearless singer/songwriter and frequent Tricky collaborator Nneka, among other incredible musicians from across the continent. From the first notes of opening track "Dombolo", it’s clear that this is not a supergroup born of egomania; the collaboration between the musicians starts hot and stays hot. Powerful drums drive most tracks, joined by a host of other instruments: kora strummed to perfection, ferocious electric guitars, and, of course, each and every voice.

Every member gets ample opportunity to shine. Nneka, smoky and soulful, takes the lead on low-key chillout track "La Dame et Ses Valises", a song about perseverance with an electronic reggae vibe. On moving closer "Desert Storm", Rokia Koné and Kandia Kouyate make up a perfect whole, with Koné’s sharp voice striking like lightning and Kouyate singing from her core, like low gusts of wind. Mamani Keita sings coolly against the modern Afrofunk grooves of "Doona", and the list goes on of each member’s contributions.

Thematically and musically, "I Play the Kora" stands out, highlighting each amazone in turn on the verses and bringing them together for a unified chorus: "We women, all women / We want respect." Summing up all of the struggles these women have experienced, and those of their sisters in spirit, the song makes for the perfect climax to the album.

Age, youth, experience, style: Les Amazones d’Afrique takes all the differences between the members of their group and look at them not as disparity, but as strength, a depth of collective knowledge and skill that, when all brewed together, is nothing less than explosive. The fact that the group has a good cause makes the final product all the more awe-inspiring, the splendor all the more satisfying. République Amazone comes from a dozen of the finest singers, writers, and musicians working now, and the fact that they are all women only makes them stronger for the battles they’ve fought.

9

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
9
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image