News

Niger Electro Synth Composer Hama's Mellow 'Torodi' LP

Niger Electro Synth composer Hama releases his 6-track 'Torodi' LP via Sahel Sounds.


With his Torodi LP, Niger electro synth composer Hama creates a whole factory of sounds with just one instrument: a keyboard. On songs such as the standout "Tagout" and the title track, the Niamey-based musician, who played the melodica before moving onto a synthesizer and Yamaha PSR-64 keyboard, melds drum clasps, electronic scrapes, and wandering keys into mellow swirlsThe album opener "Ataraghine" and closer "Khoumessia," with their ability to turn seemingly contrasting noises (hard percussion, soft keys) into near hypnosis, further show Hama to be a highly deft artist. Such technical virtuosity is all the more impressive since Hama isn't a professional performer, he works as a driver for an expatriate businessman and plays his synthesizer at night. The practice shows, however, as Torodi is a short yet deeply involving and simply pleasant record. Torodi is available for purchase as both a digital download and limited-edition vinyl via Sahel Sounds. For more information on Hama, read this interesting article by Sahel Sounds founder Christopher Kirkley

Music

6 Samples From 'Éthiopiques' in Hip-Hop

A brief history of Ethio-jazz cultural exchange featuring songs by Nas & Damian Marley, K'naan, Madlib and more.

This article was originally published on OkayAfrica in March, 2017. We're republishing it here for our Crossroads series.

It's 2000 something. I'm holed up in my bedroom searching for samples to chop up on Fruity Loops. While deep into the free-market jungle of Amazon's suggested music section, I stumble across a compilation of Ethiopian music with faded pictures of nine guys jamming in white suit jackets. I press play on the 30 second sample.

My mind races with the opportunities these breakbeats offered a budding beat maker. Catchy organs, swinging horns, funky guitar riffs, soulful melodies and grainy and pained vocalists swoon over love lost and gained. Sung in my mother tongue—Amharic—this was a far cry from the corny synthesizer music of the 1990s that my parents played on Saturday mornings. I could actually sample this shit.

The next day, I burn a CD and pop it into my dad's car. His eyes light up when the first notes ooze out of the speakers. “Where did you get this?" He asks puzzlingly. “The internet," I respond smiling.

In the 1970s my dad was one of thousands of high school students in Addis Ababa protesting the monarchy. The protests eventually created instability which lead to a coup d'état. The monarchy was overthrown and a Marxist styled military junta composed of low ranking officers called the Derg came to power. The new regime subsequently banned music they deemed to be counter revolutionary. When the Derg came into power, Amha Eshete, a pioneering record producer and founder of Ahma Records, fled to the US and the master recordings of his label's tracks somehow ended up in a warehouse in Greece.

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