Audio
Jess Sah Bi and Peter One. Photo courtesy of Awesome Tapes From Africa.

Jess Sah Bi & Peter One's West African Country-Folk Masterpiece

We talk to the Côte d'Ivoire duo about their classic 1985 album, Our Garden Needs Its Flowers, which was reissued earlier this year.

Songwriters Jess Sah Bi and Peter One met in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire as college students during the early 1980s. Bonding over a mutual love of grassroots country acts like Don Williams, Kenny Rogers and The Eagles, the musical duo wrote and recorded an album of country songs called Our Garden Needs Its Flowers.

These tracks were the first of their kind, performed in French, English and Gouro for maximum audience exposure. The fresh, yet familiar new sound appealed to young and old listeners alike, quickly sparking a nationwide craze of country, folk and Americana music. The 8-track classic album was reissued this summer on Brian Shimkovitz's popular music blog-turned-record label Awesome Tapes From Africa.

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Petite Noir Is the King of Noirwave

On his new release, La Maison Noir, Petite Noir blends bombastic rhythms, surging melodies, and the style and substance of the DRC.

Petite Noir gained global notoriety by 2015 for his brilliant, shapeshifting pop debut La Vie Est Belle / Life Is Beautiful. The album was self-described by the artist, born Yannick Ilunga, as noirwave, a genre that extends beyond the music to embrace new concepts of freedom, power and African solidarity.

Three years later, Petite Noir has returned with a six-track EP and an accompanying four-track short film that delves considerably deeper into noirwave and his Congolese roots. The music of La Maison Noir / The Black House and its introspective 18-minute film explores ideas of gender, identity as a migrant, and political resistance.

A young Yannick Illunga and his family fled the Democratic Republic of Congo and went into exile after his father faced threats as a former minister of the DRC. They emigrated to Belgium and France before settling permanently in Cape Town.

It's clear from Petite Noir's distinct, genre-blurring noirwave aesthetic that he's absorbed influences on a global scale. His discography up until now showcases a thrilling range of left-field electronics, post-punk and alternative rock, all anchored to the more traditional African sounds of his childhood. Petite Noir is a truly cosmopolitan artist. But on La Maison Noir, moving to the foreground through its bombastic rhythms and surging melodies, the style and substance of Africa takes precedence.

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Photo: AIDA MULUNEH.

Fatoumata Diawara: "People Need an Example in Africa, Because Politicians Can't Be Our Example"

We sit down with the celebrated Malian singer to talk about her new album, Fenfo, as well as her hopes and fears about Africa's future.

Seven years have passed since Fatoumata Diawara's internationally praised 2011 full-length debut, and in that time the Malian artist's solo career has absolutely flourished. She's almost always on the road, touring or writing or recording, collaborating live with legendary musicians like Herbie Hancock, Bobby Womack, and Flea. Those experiences informed her newly released second solo album, Fenfo, a brilliant step forward for Fatoumata's politically progressive, spiritually resilient Afropop.

Fenfo was pieced together from sessions in Barcelona, Burkina Faso, Bamako, Paris and Minneapolis while on tour. The exhilarating, mystical energy of her renowned live performances gave life to these new songs, which unearth alternate visions of Fatoumata's breathtaking artistry not yet shared with the world.

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