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Listen To Global Bass Rap Band Alo Wala's Beastly 'Timbuktu' [Premiere]

Listen to global bass rap band Alo Wala's beastly new song, "Timbuktu," off their debut EP, 'Cityboy,' via Enchufada.


A monster of a song, "Timbuktu" by rising global bass rapper / group Alo Wala melds into all sorts of moods--calm, jumpy, even forlorn. Opening with a small percussive swirl of taps, jangles, and pings, the song suddenly stops: "Here we go/See me flow/'Round and 'round I go," the project's Chicago-born, Copenhagen-based vocalist Shivani Ahlowalia (aka Alo Wala) starts in her candied voice, hand claps and drum bangs circling under her. Strings and a cascade of muffled electronics then crash hard as she continues, "I rolled through Timbuktu a long long time ago, I got my people and fresh heat no matter where I go."

As it turns out, Ahlowalia spent time in a different part of West Africa: Guinea-Bissau. It was there that she co-founded the country's first quality recording studio. Prior to the professional Cobiana studio being built, Bissau-Guinean artists would need to travel to Lisbon or Paris for quality recording sessions, Ahlowalia says. "I worked very hard in particular on a project called Hip Hop Harmony," a program that brought her to Senegal, The Gambia, Mali, Mauritania and Morocco, to work with regional unification through hip-hop. After joining with tropical bass group Copia Doble Systema and VJ Mad Es to become a full band, Ahlowalia / Alo Wala toured India earlier this year, and went on to play shows in Morocco (at L'Boulevard Festival– more on this to come on Okayafrica) and Russia. This Monday, the group is set to release their debut EP, Cityboy, which closes with "Timbuktu." Speaking on her connection to the Malian city the song takes its name from, Ahlowalia explained:

"It’s a common expression to say 'from here to Timbuktu,' Timbuktu referring to a place far away, almost intangible or impossible to arrive to. So what happens when you’ve been there to the impossible place so very far away? Where do you go from there? That’s what the tune is about. For me Timbuktu represents the turning point, where the journey becomes less about a destination, and more about knowing one’s self; the journey within."

Listen to "Timbuktu" below. Alo Wala's Cityboy is out November 10th via Enchufada.

Music
Photo by Don Paulsen/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Hugh Masekela's New York City Legacy

A look back at the South African legend's time in New York City and his enduring presence in the Big Apple.

In Questlove's magnificent documentary, Summer of Soul, he captures a forgotten part of Black American music history. But in telling the tale of the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, the longtime musician and first-time filmmaker also captures a part of lost South African music history too.

Among the line-up of blossoming all-stars who played the Harlem festival, from a 19-year-old Stevie Wonder to a transcendent Mavis Staples, was a young Hugh Masekela. 30 years old at the time, he was riding the wave of success that came from releasing Grazing in the Grass the year before. To watch Masekela in that moment on that stage is to see him at the height of his time in New York City — a firecracker musician who entertained his audiences as much as he educated them about the political situation in his home country of South Africa.

The legacy Masekela sowed in New York City during the 1960s remains in the walls of the venues where he played, and in the dust of those that are no longer standing. It's in the records he made in studios and jazz clubs, and on the Manhattan streets where he once posed with a giant stuffed zebra for an album cover. It's a legacy that still lives on in tangible form, too, in the Hugh Masekela Heritage Scholarship at the Manhattan School of Music.

The school is the place where Masekela received his education and met some of the people that would go on to be life-long bandmates and friends, from Larry Willis (who, as the story goes, Masekela convinced to give up opera for piano) to Morris Goldberg, Herbie Hancock and Stewart Levine, "his brother and musical compadre," as Mabusha Masekela, Bra Hugh's nephew says.

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