VARIOUS ARTISTS / “Contemporary Mix”

MP3 08 Mtume Contemporary Mixtape.mp3 (62.24 MB)

Damn. I can hardly believe this is my last BoL post. I’ll comfort myself with the thought that it’s actually not: like I said over in the Classic post, I’ll be around.

For this one, I was initially going to write about a single artist, but I changed my mind. Instead, I’m going to go back through our last three years and drop a little something from a wiiiide variety of singers and players. A few weeks ago, Kalamu asked if I was ever going to do a mix. If I don’t do it this week, I guess I never will, right?

The point of this mix is to show how varied this thing we call black music really is. There’s jazz and blues. Hip-hop and reggae. Gospel. Lots of Caribbean, South American, African, and even Australian music that we here at BoL think of as ‘black’ (and thankfully, wonderfully, most of the artists themselves agree).

And get this: every track I’ve picked is something that either Kalamu or I actually posted and not only that, this entire mix is in chronological order. So if you haven’t been with us for the past three years, consider this mix a quick BoL primer on some of the best contemporary sounds of the last decade or so (and beyond). It’s in no way comprehensive, of course. Some of my favorite songs of the last decade aren’t in here, either because we never got around to posting them or because they didn’t fit into the mix.

There’s one other thing I want to say (and I’m very proud of this aspect of BoL). Although Kalamu and I both hail from the good ol’ U.S. of A., we consistently posted tracks by artists from all over the world. If you look back through the archives, you’ll see a huge selection of music from a wide variety of cultures performed in scores of different languages. It’s a big, beautiful world out there—don’t be the limited individual who thinks his or her own little corner of the world is all there is to know or love. There’s so much out there. So, so much….

Anyway, I hope y’all dig the contemporary tunes and, as always, if you like what you hear, support the artists. Buy an MP3 or a CD or even better, go to one of their shows. And pay to get in. ;-)

Here we go….

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1. Zap Mama feat. Erykah Badu – “Bandy Bandy” - From Ancestry In Progress (V2/BMG, 2004).
    Country of Origin: Congo/Belgium & U.S.A.
    Original Post Date: June 19th, 2005.
Kalamu posted this duet between Belgium’s Marie Dualne and South Dallas’ own Erykah Badu in our first week online. Over the years, both artists continued to receive plenty of love from both of us.

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2. Fertile Ground – “You” – From Black Is… (Blackout/Counterpoint - 2004)
    Country of Origin: U.S.A.
    Original Post Date: September 4th, 2005.
We’re big fans of this Baltimore collective. If you like intelligent, progressive soul music, you can’t go wrong with any of their albums.

3. Bïa – “Araurum Kim Kim” – From Sources (Saravah, 2000)
    Country of Origin: Brazil
    Original Post Date: September 18th, 2005.
Bïa was born in Brazil but grew up in Chile and Peru. Here’s what I said about her record the first time:

If there ever was a question about the direct connection between Brazil and Africa, recordings like “Araurum Kim Kim” provide an emphatic answer. From the opening hum of the berimbau (the single-stringed instrument which makes that distinctively ‘Brazilian’ buzzing echo) through the last plucked notes of the kora (a 21-stringed instrument that looks like an oversized banjo and sounds like a harp), “Araurum Kim Kim” is infused with a deep sense of Africa-derived mysticism and spirituality.

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4. Damien ‘Jr. Gong’ Marley – “Welcome To Jamrock” – From Welcome To Jamrock (Universal, 2005)
    Country of Origin: Jamaica
    Original Post Date: October 9th, 2005
Aahh, yes – the infamous Damien Marley post. To date, there are 32 comments, the vast majority negative. I made the mistake of playing racial politics, asking the question, “Exactly how black is Damien Marley?” (Didn’t help that I wrongly thought his Mom was white when she’s actually bi-racial.) I might have well have dropped a lit match into a tanker truck of pressurized gasoline. I won’t get back into the debate, but I still love the record.

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5. Peven Everett – “Ghetto” – From Latest Craze (Studio Confessions, 2005)
    Country of Origin: U.S.A.
    Original Post Date: November 13th, 2005
If I can call one of my own write-ups a personal favorite, it’s this one. I’m not talking about the song – although I dig the song more than a little bit – I’m talking about the write-up. A lot of times, I’ll go back and read something I wrote and I think, “Damn, man. What point were you trying to make? Were you drunk? Sleepy? Bored? That’s awful.” But when I go back and read this one, I realize it’s one of the few times when I said exactly what I meant to say. You can check it out right here.

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6. Rocky Dawuni – “Wake The Town” - From Book Of Changes (Aquarian, 2005)
    Country of Origin: Ghana
    Original Post Date: November 20th, 2005
I hear that Rocky’s been kicking it in and around the L.A. underground scene lately, but back in Ghana, he’s popular enough that he sells out soccer stadiums and has his own music festival. Check him out.

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7. 50 Cent/DJ Crook Air - "21 Questions" (Zuri West Mashup) – Promo Only (Year Unknown)
    Country of Origin: U.S.A. & Germany
    Original Post Date: December 4th, 2005.
After hearing this track, one person wrote in and summarized it as “the playful banter of the kid at heart [and] simultaneously the menacing inquisition of a neurotic (possibly psychopathic) narcissist.” He concluded, “My sympathy lies with the woman.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself.


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8. Yusa – “Breathe” – From Breathe (Tumi, 2005)
    Country of Origin: Cuba
    Original Post Date: December 25th, 2005
My favorite new artist (new to me, at least) from the three years of BoL. It took me a while to really get with Yusa’s style, but once I did, once I really heard what she was getting at, I rode around San Diego listening to nothing but Yusa for at least a month. She’s got a new album just out too. Gotta get it, gotta get it!

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9. Julie Dexter – “Rain Song” – From Conscious (Ketch A Vibe, 2004)
    Country of Origin: England
    Original Post Date: January 15th, 2006
Julie is an artist who does her own thing: she writes her own music, has a hand in her own production and has her own record label. She’s also blessed with a gorgeous voice and a wonderful, uplifting spirit that never fails to come through in her music.

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10. Roy Campbell – “Amadou Diallo” – From Ethnic Stew And Brew (Delmark, 2001)
    Country of Origin: U.S.A.
    Original Post Date: February 12th, 2006
This tune is notable for the format of Roy Campbell’s trio: trumpet, bass and drums. No piano. This particular piece is a kind of aural recreation of the death of Amadou Diallo. The full-length version even includes the infamous 41 shots.

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11. Sara Tavares – “Guisa” – From Balancê (2005)
    Country of Origin: Portugal
    Original Post Date: February 26th, 2006
Sara is one of Kalamu’s favorite new singers. And actually, I just took a quick look back at one of his posts about Sara and I realize that’s an understatement. Here’s what he wrote: “Sara Tavares is one of my favorite singers and songwriters period, no qualifications.” High praise, Baba. High praise. I dig her too.

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12. The ARC Choir – “Walk With Me” – From Walk With Me (Mapleshade, 1997)
    Country of Origin: U.S.A.    
    Original Post Date: March 12th, 2006
Hands down, the most inspirational story I encountered during the last three-plus years. Check out the original post or Google the ARC Choir yourself. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself shedding a tear or two.

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13. Susana Baca – “Se Me Van Los Pies” – From Susana Baca (Luaka Bop, 1997)
    Country of Origin: Peru
    Original Post Date: June 26th, 2006
Susana Baca is the queen of Afro-Peruvian music. On her various recordings she creates a sound that is futuristic yet simultaneously ancient.

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14. John Boutté – “Sisters” – From At The Foot Of Canal Street (Valley, 1999)
    Country of Origin: U.S.A.
    Original Post Date: August 20th, 2006
It was getting close to the first anniversary of Katrina and I was feeling really homesick. New Orleans’ own John Boutté was part of my attempt to get well again.

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15. Rebirth Brass Band featuring Soulja Slim – “You Don’t Want To Go To War” – From Hot Venom (Mardi Gras, 2001)
    Country of Origin: U.S.A.
    Original Post Date: September 10th, 2006
More fire from New Orleans. Hot venom, indeed.

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16. Sidsel Endresen & Bugge Wesseltoft – “Try” – From Out Here. In There. (Jazzland, 2002)
    Country of Origin: Norway
    Original Post Date: November 5th, 2006
We’re a loooong way from New Orleans now.

Where? Norway. Norway? Yeah, Norway.

The expressive, gentle rasp of Sidsel Endresen is one of my favorite musical sounds. I don’t have a lot of her music, but I love the songs I do have.

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17. Trinity Roots – “Little Things” (Remix) – From Trinity Roots (Trinity Roots, 2000)
    Country of Origin: New Zealand
    Original Post Date: December 17th, 2007
As Kalamu put it back in ‘07: “The Trinity Roots sound is deceptive. At first listen they seem to be a folksy dance band, but there is a high degree of both musicianship and meaning in their music. They exemplify self-determination and cultural identification, social awareness and spiritual strivings.” I can’t speak on all the rest, but they just hypnotize me to death. In a good way.

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18. De La Soul – “Trying People” – From AOI: Bionix (Tommy Boy, 2001)
    Country of Origin: U.S.A.
    Original Post Date: March 11th, 2007
‘Grown-ass man’ hip-hop from the trio who did it first. And best. There’re a lot of jackasses out there doing their best to act half their age because that’s where the money is. Meanwhile, De La Soul’s music has aged right along with them, and their fans.

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19. Dee Dee Bridgewater – “Afro Blue” – From Red Earth: A Malian Journey (Emarcy, 2007)
    Country of Origin: U.S.A.
    Original Post Date: September 9th, 2007
This is the second time Dee Dee’s recorded a definitive version of “Afro Blue.” Dig this: the first time was more than thirty years ago.

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20. Concha Buika – “Mi Niña Lola” – From Mi Niña Lola (Dro Atlantic, 2007)
    Country of Origin: Spain
    Original Post Date: September 23rd, 2007
According to Kalamu, this track was a big hit in Spain. If there was any justice, we’d get to hear music like this on commercial radio stations here in the U.S. too.

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21. Heidi Martin – “Mayflower” – From Hide (Self-Produced, 2000)
    Country of Origin: U.S.A.
    Original Post Date: October 21st, 2007
Some very interesting music from a young white singer from Washington D.C. who, as Kalamu put it, is “deeply grounded in the black experience.” So much so that unlike some other artists I could name, she doesn’t try to ‘sound black’ at all. She just writes her heart out and sings her songs.

22. Toto Bona Lokua – “Lisanga” – From Toto Bona Lokua (Sunnyside, 2005)
    Country of Origin: France, Cameroon and Congo
    Original Post Date: November 19th, 2007
Flawless harmonies and partially-improvised melodies that Gerald Toto says were created outside of “the reassuring structure of language.” Richard Bona says the session was all about having fun, learning from one another and being spontaneous. The result speaks for itself.

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23. Mary J. Blige – “Work That” – From Growing Pains (Geffen, 2007)
    Country of Origin: U.S.A.
    Original Post Date: December 10th, 2007
Whether you like her, love her or couldn’t care less, Mary J. Blige is the real thing, 100%. She’s been laying down solid, unpretentious contemporary R&B for years now and I don’t think she’s going to stop anytime soon.

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24. Finley Quaye – “The Emperor” – From Vanguard (Epic/Sony, 2000)
    Country of Origin: England
    Original Post Date: January 7th, 2008
Of the two of us, I’m the bigger fan of Finley’s music, but Kalamu summed things up well, saying:

[It’s the] sound and the sentiments honestly sung that attract me. Like listening to a close cousin talk about day-to-day stuff — the cousin who has a way with words, a twinkle in his eye, a sly sense of humor and tons of charm but he’s also generally a ne’er-do-well.

Meanwhile, it’s been five years now and I’m still waiting for that fourth album.

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25. Mayra Andrade – “Regasu” - From Navega (RCA/Victor Europe, 2007)
    Country of Origin: Cuba/Cape Verde    
    Original Post Date: January 28th, 2008
In the original post, Kalamu said: “Mayra Andrade was born 1985 in Cuba of Cape Verdean parents but grew up traveling between Senegal, Angola, Germany and Cape Verde. Since 2003 she has been living in Paris.” In other words, Mayra is a true child of the world. In this lovely tune from her debut album, Navega, she sounds like she’s singing a Portuguese fado in a small club in Spain.

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26. Marta Gómez – “Chicharra” – From Solo Es Vivir (2002)
    Country of Origin: Columbia
    Original Post Date: March 3rd, 2008
Like her Peruvian counterpart Susana Baca and Brazil’s Bïa, Marta Gómez’ music matches the voice of a South American angel with rhythms descended from African slaves.

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27. Jean Grae – “Keep Livin’ ” – From True Notes, Vol. 1 (2004)
    Country of Origin: U.S.A.
    Original Post Date: March 17th, 2008
The daughter of a pair of professional musicians, Jean has lived a rough and tumble life. Those hard knocks come through in Jean’s music, but like the song title says, Jean has the will to face down hardship, stress and tribulation and just keep livin’.

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28. Nitin Sawhney – “Tides” – From Beyond Skin (Outcaste, 2000)
    Country of Origin: England    
    Original Post Date: April 21st, 2008
Beautiful contemporary sounds from the chameleon-like Nitin Sawhney. His albums are like a whirlwind tour of aural modernity – no two records of his sound alike.

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29. Souad Massi – “Raoui” – From Raoui (Wrasse, 2001)
    Country of Origin: Algeria
    Original Post Date: May 12th, 2008
A young North African singer who possesses one of the clearest, cleanest voices you’ll ever hear. Her back story is amazing too. Check for her – I think you’ll be impressed.


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30. Lil’ Rascals Brass Band – “Knock With Me – Rock With Me” – From Buck It Like A Horse (Mardi Gras, 2001)
    Country of Origin: U.S.A.
    Original Post Date: June 2nd, 2008
I can’t think of a better way to end my last BoL write-up than this: Glen David Andrews and the Lil’ Rascals Brass Band with the immortal New Orleans street anthem “Knock With Me – Rock With Me” BKA “Roll With Me.”

Last week Gustav took his shot and missed. Now it’s Ike, but it looks like he’s taking aim at Southern Texas. That means my city’s dodged yet another couple of bullets. How long can The N.O. keep going? I don’t know; nobody knows. But as long as New Orleans is around, I can guarantee you music like this will be around too: soulful and tasty like ya mama’s cooking, grittier and funkier than a pair of two day-old drawers.

* * *

So. Ladies and gentleman, boys and girls, scoundrels and villains, it’s been a real pleasure. It’s also been a lot of work but it’s been a lot of fun too. I had the time of my life posting all of this music for the last few years. I hope some of y’all discovered some new favorites or rediscovered some old ones.

It’s divine, you know. Music, I mean – it’s divine. If you ask me, it’s one of the creator’s most effective ways of connecting us to one another. So, if you play, keep playing. If you dance, keep dancing. If you just like to listen, keep on listening. But whatever you do, don’t stop the music.

Aight, that’s a wrap. I’m out! Be good, y’all….

—Mtume ya Salaam

              Peace Be With You, Mtume            

Obviously the content of BoL is going to be different without Mtume’s regular input. Hopefully the changes we have in mind will be fruitful and fulfilling.

The two major changes are:

1. More mixtapes. There will be at least one mixtape every week and some weeks we will have three mixtapes. It takes more time to prepare mixtapes but I think the results are worth the effort.

2. Without Mtume’s input there will be less rap (yeah, I know we didn’t have a whole lot as it was). There will be a lot more historical music and samples of hard to find or simply not-commercially-available music offered on BoL. I’m particularly interested in bringing more blues and more historic jazz. Also there will be more music from outside the USA.

Or at least that’s the plan if the creek don’t rise and the levees don’t break. We’ll see. To be continued…

—Kalamu ya Salaam

This entry was posted on Monday, September 15th, 2008 at 1:39 am and is filed under Contemporary. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

4 Responses to “VARIOUS ARTISTS / “Contemporary Mix””

Detrel Says:
September 15th, 2008 at 2:09 am

The hour is late and I must close my eyes, but I cannot wait to let this masterpiece pump through my speakers when I rise. I may have only sent two comments over the past few years since I stumbled upon the Breath of Life blogs. You all have enlightened me, educated me and entertained me all at once through exposure to world music. And I simply wanted to say “thank you” and be well!

Berry Says:
September 15th, 2008 at 7:30 am

WHATTTT???? Last post? Now I need to back track. This mix is fabulous! All the more reason you need to stay. Sigh!

kevin Says:
September 17th, 2008 at 1:58 pm

Sad that you won’t be around so much.The contempary section has exposed an older listener to stuff Imight have missed some of it I liked a lot and even bought.I am glad the blog will carry onand I’m sure it will continue to make a hole in my pay packet good luck kevin

sue ross Says:
September 18th, 2008 at 7:01 am

very sorry to see Mtume leave BoL. the interplay between generations on a wide variety of musical styles made for a complex, always intriguing dialogue. Musically, i was exposed to a lot of music i probably would never have picked up and enjoyed.
Kalamu, i look forward to the the new flavor of BoL. Hope that sometime you all may consider a compilation book+CD set called BoL. Also think it would be nice to occasionally bring in a guest co-host, to continue to provide the interplay that BoL is revered for.
Mtume, wishing you all the best for your new directions..

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