Andrew Ashong's Mellow Soul On 'Special'

Andrew Ashong releases soulfully mellow 'Special' EP via Which Way Records

Since taking home Gilles Peterson's "2013 Track of the Year" Worldwide Award for his left of field club hit "Flowers," British-Ghanaian singer/songwriter Andrew Ashong has made waves slowly but surely. Two years post-starting out on DJ legend Theo Parrish's Detroit label Sound Signature, Ashong  has released his languid, jazz-infused three track EP entitled Special. On "Love The Way," Ashong layers his smooth vocals over twinkling keys and a house-tinged beat. As a whole the EP effortlessly plays with the rise and fall of subtle climaxes, bringing an almost psychedelic sensibility to music that undeniably stems from soul roots.

The six minute "Special" sees Ashong blending delicately woozy vocals with melancholy guitar riffs, in the process allowing him to carve out a soundscape entirely his own. Ashong's music is as consistent and carefully considered as his steady rise to underground stardom, which is perhaps a rise that signals new directions for UK soul. The Special EP arrived last month via Which Way Records. Listen to the title track and watch an acoustic rendition in the latest Yours Truly session below.

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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