Madalitso Band

A look at music on the rise and causing waves around the globe.

Akusmi – Cogito

Pascal Bideau is a French composer based in London who has written and arranged music for dozens of films and documentaries. He has studied Indonesian gamelan, and in his alter ego of Akusmi he explores some of the tropes of this stately, percussive ceremonial music, mixing it with minimalism, jazz and rave.

Fleeting Future is rather lovely. Each piece is based around the hypnotic riffs used in gamelan, all using the pentatonic slendro scales, but Bideau orchestrates them by multitracking saxophonist Ruth Velten, trombonist Florian Juncker and drummer Daniel Brandt. Cogito starts with a simple riff and assembles so many layers of woodwind over it that it begins to sound like Steve Reich played by a trad jazz ensemble. – John Lewis, The Guardian

Max Richter: The New Four Seasons – Vivaldi Recomposed – Summer 1

When Max Richter’s Recomposed first exploded into our collective ears almost a decade ago, a 59-minutes-28-seconds sonic starburst, the effect for so many people was total. We hadn’t heard anything like that, ever. Experiencing it felt as though we were being catapulted onto another plane, reverberated through the cosmos by this epiphanic soundworld. In this “alternative rendering”, Chineke!, the groundbreaking British ensemble consisting of majority Black, Asian and ethnically diverse musicians, and the brilliant soloist, Elena Urioste, are playing on gut strings and period instruments: the sort that Vivaldi would have heard, and played, in his own time.

Richter is enthusiastic about this blend. “I love the slight grittiness and earthy feeling that gut strings have,” he says. “I wanted to match that flinty, haptic, tactile texture with the electronic elements.” The new record is produced on an analogue mixing desk, with the composer himself playing an early Moog, dating from the seventies. “Those are the first-generation synths, and I’ve heard them described as the Stradivarius of the synthesiser,” he laughs. “They have a certain presence and authority about them. I mean, they are crude in a way, but they are also like someone inventing the wheel. They have gravitas.” –

Madalitso Band – Musakayike

The duo known as Madalitso Band once busked the streets of Mtandire, a slum in the country’s capital Lilongwe, between holding down regular jobs as gardener and watchman and were discovered, by chance, by a local producer.

The eight tracks on this new album, the title of which translates as “do not doubt us”, are high-energy and infectious in the extreme, although, somewhat paradoxically, the subject matter is often commenting upon the harshness of daily life in what is one of the world’s poorest countries, alongside thoughts on love, romance and success. The duo comprises Yosefe Kalekeni, on four-string guitar (acting as a Malawi banjo), and a cowskin foot-drum which is thumped with the heel, and Yobu Malingwa, who plays babatone, a home-made one-string slide bass. Both artists provide vocals.

With the guitar holding tight to the rhythm, lead singer Yobu’s long-necked babatone serves as both bottom end and lead. This “Malawi banjo music” is derived from South-African rhythms and exemplified by other artists such as the imperious Kachamba Brothers in the late 1960/1970s, and more recently Mouse Boys, Tonga Boys and Gasper Mali, certainly owes a nod of debt to South African Kwela and jive music.

Having toured extensively in Europe, the Roskilde Festival, Womex and Womad, for example, and having featured on BBC’s Global Beats, this release sees their extended live renditions fine-tuned and trimmed back but still retaining the zestful zip and spontaneity which is their hallmark.

Considered the true musical prophets in Malawi, Madalitso Band’s Musakayike makes for compulsive listening, guaranteed to brighten up the dullest of times. Surely only those with a happiness-bypass could fail to enjoy such intoxicatingly accomplished and compelling music? With sounds as joyous as these, there is certainly no reason to doubt them. —

London Odense Ensemble – Sojourner

London Odense Ensemble

In recent years London has become an epicenter for experimental, visionary jazz. On this unique session, two of the finest exponents of the London jazz scene, Tamar Osborn and Al MacSween, join forces with members of the celebrated Danish psychedelic underground – Jonas Munk, Jakob Skøtt and Martin Rude – to create a heady sonic brew.

On this first volume of material there’s everything one could hope for in such a collaboration: sonically it summons the free flowing euphoria of Alice Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders’ work in the late 1960s and early ’70s. But there’s also a focus on rhythmic energy and vitality that calls to mind the grooviest krautrock or electric period Miles Davis, as well as a healthy dose of electronic experiments.

Throughout these five tracks the quintet paints with a colourful palette. Tamar Osborn shifts between baritone sax and flutes. Keyboardist Al MacSween doesn’t just stick with the tried and true electric piano – an instrument which he masters – but showers these tracks in analog synths and effects as well. Add to that the fact that Jonas Munk took a somewhat creative approach when editing and mixing these pieces – with effects boxes wired in, occasionally giving the mix a dubby, ambient atmosphere. Similar to Munk and Skøtt’s main project, Causa Sui, digging into the past becomes a vehicle to open up the future. What the quintet has created in these sessions is something quite unique. —