Video

Holy Forest's Dreamlike Gambian Visuals For 'Nyokonole - We Are Together'

Jon Fine speaks about the making of the 'Holy Forest' LP featuring Gambian griot Tata Din Din Jobarteh, ST Da Gambian Dream & many more.


Holy Forest is the brainchild of songwriter & documentary filmmaker Jon Fine (Bill Withers' Still Bill, Herbie Hancock’s Possibilities). The project's self-titled debut album, which took over four years to complete, was recorded across the Gambia and the U.S. and features collaborations with griot Tata Din Din Jobarteh (aka the Jimi Hendrix of the kora), rapper ST Da Gambian Dream, Harlem-based Ed “Preachermann” Holley, members of Antibalas, and many others.

The Holy Forest LP has been gaining traction after the album's lead single  "Africa Calling"  was picked up for BBC 6 rotation by Gilles Peterson. Today we're premiering the music video for "Nyokonole - We Are Together," the album's second single, which was shot in the Gambia and Senegal. Read our interview with Jon Fine about the kora influences behind the album and the making of the video below. The 11-track Holy Forest LP is out today in vinyl and digital formats through Bandcamp & iTunes.

Okayafrica: How did you connect with ST Da Gambian Dream & Tata Din Din Jobarteh to record this track?

Jon Fine: My wife’s from the Gambia and this album began on a trip to visit her family with our two young kids. I brought along my laptop and some mics with hopes of making music while we were staying in the town of Sukuta. I was told by a friend to “go to Birkama and ask around for Tata Din Din Jobarteh.” I’d heard of Tata while in NY and had hopes of reaching out to him and learning more about the kora while in the Gambia. One afternoon, as luck would have it, on a ride home from the Makasutu Forest, our taxi driver, who coincidentally knew Tata, pulled us up to his gate. Serendipitously, Tata was home, invited us in for tea and welcomed us like family. We talked about kids, travels and I mentioned I’d brought a hard drive with some sketches of music I'd begun recording in NYC.

The next week, he invited me back to record in his studio. The first sessions with Tata planted the seed for the record and became the song “Africa Calling.” The next song we recorded together was “Nyokonole - We Are Together.” S.T. Da Gambian Dream, an incredibly talented young artist also from Birkama, was introduced to me by our friend Gass. S.T. had just finished his own album and we made a video together for his song “Njunku.” When he heard one of the instrumentals I had, he came up with “Nyokonole.” It translates from Mandinka as “We Are Together” and is a song about friendship, about making music and making friends. Jamal who also sings on the song is a friend for nearly 20 years.

Tell us about the video.

The video was filmed while spending a month in Gambia and, in part, on a short family trip to Senegal with my wife's family. Like the record, the video is a bit of a collage, layered and re-imagined. The album took me four years to complete and gets into memory and travel so this video felt like a reflection of that feeling.

What sparked the idea to record an album in Gambia?

Loving the kora… and wanting to find a way to make new music with such a beautiful and traditional instrument. And it was my wife’s first trip home in many years. After coming home with the recordings with Tata and S.T. I was on a mission to complete an album in the spirit of the recordings we’d done. I reached out to friends Martin Perna, Jordan Mclean from Antibalas, Preachermann, Sparlha, Morley, all friends who know me through filmmaking as well as music, and I kept recording. When I was introduced to Youssoupha Sidibe, he added kora to a number of rough songs and the record came together. The song with Morley is the last one I recorded for the album.

What would you say are the main musical influences on "Nyokonole" and the rest of the Holy Forest LP?

In “Nyokonole” I like the repetition, I love the melodic feeling of soukous guitar, the repeating lines. The album was recorded in parts and in lots of different places. In a way my background as a film editor played a role in the way I approached the music production. I recorded layers and layers and then reduced and thickened. A lot of the writing happened in the studio after recording, kind of like a documentary film: finding the story in hours of material.

The whole album is a blend of a lot of places and inspirations. It’s definitely influenced by my travels in Brazil, Ethiopia and Jamaica where I’ve made films. Sonically it’s reggae, soul music, afrobeat, blues... maybe call it cross-continental roots music…diasporic funk? There are a lot of influences in this record for me — it's full of a nostalgic feeling — in Brazil they call it saudade. Thematically, it’s pretty much a collection of love songs, about longing for love or remembering a deep connection. I hope it expresses the feeling of a journey.

Music

Listen to Samthing Soweto’s Album ‘Isiphithiphithi’

Samthing Soweto's highly anticipated album is finally here.

One of the most anticipated albums of the year, Isiphithiphithi by Samthing Soweto is finally here.

The South African artist's project consists of 12 songs and features Makhafula Vilakazi, Shasha, Kabza De Small, DJ Maphorisa and Mlindo The Vocalist.

Keep reading... Show less
popular
Gallo Images/Getty Images

South African Telenovela 'The River' has Been Nominated for an International Emmy

This is the popular telenovela's first International Emmy nomination.

One of South Africa's beloved telenovelas, The River, has received its first ever International Emmy nomination in the category of "Best Telenovela", according to IOL. The River will go up against other telenovelas from Columbia, Argentina as well as Portugal. The 47th installment of the International Emmy Awards will take place on November 25th of this year and will be held at the Hilton in New York.

Keep reading... Show less
Culture
Photo (c) John Liebenberg

'Stolen Moments' Uncovers the Namibian Music That Apartheid Tried to Erase

The photo exhibition, showing at the Brunei Gallery in London, highlights artists from Namibia's underground scene between 1950-1980, a time of immense musical suppression prior to its independence.

Before its independence in 1990, a whole generation of Namibians were made to believe that their county had no real musical legacy. Popular productions by Namibian artists from previous eras were systematically concealed from the masses for nearly 30 years, under the apartheid regime—which extended to the country from South Africa following German colonization—depriving many Namibians of the opportunity to connect with their own musical heritage.

"Stolen Moments: Namibian Music Untold," a new exhibit currently showing at London's Brunei Museum at SOAS University of London, seeks to revive the musical Namibian musical traditions that the apartheid regime attempted to erase.

"Imagine you had never known about the musical riches of your country," said the exhibit's curator Aino Moongo in a statement of purpose on SOAS' site. "Your ears had been used to nothing but the dull sounds of country's former occupants and the blaring church and propaganda songs that were sold to you as your country's musical legacy. Until all at once, a magnitude of unknown sounds, melodies and songs appear. This sound, that roots your culture to the musical influences of jazz, blues and pop from around the world, is unique, yet familiar. It revives memories of bygone days, recites the history of your homeland and enables you for the first time to experience the emotions, joys and pains of your ancestors."

Photo (c) Dieter Hinrichs

The 'Stolen Moments" project began in 2010 in an effort to champion Namibia's unsung musical innovators. For the collection, Moongo and Assistant Curator, Siegrun Salmanian—along with a group of international scholars, artists, photographers and filmmakers—curated a large-scale photo exhibit that also features a 120-minute video projection, focusing on the dance styles of the era, along with listening stations, a sound installation that features "100-hours of interviews with musicians and contemporary witnesses," and displays of record covers and memorabilia from the period between 1950-1980.

The musicians highlighted, produced work that spanned a number of genres—a marker of the country's vast and eclectic underground scene. Artists like the saxophonist Leyden Naftali who led a band inspired by the sounds of ragtime, and the psychedelic rock and funk of the Ugly Creatures are explored through the exhibition, which also centers bands and artists such as The Dead Wood, The Rocking Kwela Boys, Children of Pluto and more.

"There are many reasons why you've never heard this music before," Moongo continues. "It was censored, suppressed, prohibited and made almost impossible to listen to. Its creators are either long gone or have given up on music making, by reasons of adversity, death and despair. And yet this beautiful music exists with a liveliness, as if it had never stopped playing. It is still in the minds of the few who can remember, with the ones who played it, and on those rare recordings that have survived in archives and record collections scattered around the globe. Allow me to share these stolen moments with you."

Photo (c) Dieter Hinrichs


Photo (c) John Liebenberg

***

"Stolen Moments" is now showing at the Brunei Gallery in London and runs through Sept 21.

popular

Foul Language and Depictions of Rape Spur a Book Recall Campaign in Kenya

Kenya's Top Book seller pulls a South African book for youth due to foul language.

A main book supplier in Kenya, Text Book Centre, has announced that they would not stock a book due to its "vulgar and foul language." The book, Blood Ties, was written by South African author Zimkhitha Mlanzeli. The banning comes just after a video went viral in Kenya of a school child having a verbal outburst peppered with strong language. As reported by BBC, the removal was sparked by parents showing outrage after excerpts from the book were shared on twitter. These excerpts contained use of the f-word as well as a description of a rape scene.

As per their statement, the Text Book Centre claims they believe in "upholding high moral standards and raising generations of responsible citizens who are not only educated but ethical." The Kenyan publisher, StoryMoja, has defended the book in a statement of their own. They argue that the book is part of a new series showcasing books that deal with "contemporary societal issues" and that this particular book is a fictional story that grapples with the negative repercussions of peer pressure. "In actual fact, the book guides readers on the steps to take should they find themselves in a similar situation and underscores the sensitivity with which victims of sexual abuse should be treated." The statement also highlights the fact that the publishers had listed Blood Ties for readers in high school or above.


The discrepancy is that some schools have recommended the book as a reader – meaning for younger children aged 12 or 13 – though it has not been approved by the Kenyan Institute of Curricular Development (KICD), the entity in charge of managing texts used in schools. In a tweet, the KICD claimed that the book was not approved and that some teachers may be recommending texts without ensuring they were endorsed by the KICD. The dispute is sparking debate as to what should be taught in Kenyan schools.

As of late this morning, StoryMoja is in the process of recalling all copies of the book from stores and schools across Kenya. In a tweet they claim that it is because they have determined the language used in the book is the issue and not the subject matter.

Censorship is always a contested topic, just last month we reported on Nigerian authorities censoring a music video for "threatening security." Also, Kenya's censorship tactics have been in the global eye since a refusal to screen the film Rafiki for its homosexual heroines despite being lauded at international film festivals.

Here are some reactions from Kenyans on Twitter:





get okayafrica in your inbox

news.

popular.