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Photo: Hugo Glendinning & Gavin Rodgers.

Listen to Tony Allen & Hugh Masekela's New Song 'Slow Bones'

Premiere: The Nigerian and South African legend come together in this new single from their upcoming album Rejoice, the first post-humous release from Masekela.

Nigerian afrobeat pioneer Tony Allen and South African jazz legend Hugh Masekela began recording together in 2010.

Though they'd known each other since the 1970s, through their friendship & work with Fela, it took forty years—and a coinciding tour schedule that saw them both in the UK at the same time—for Allen and Masekela to make it to a London studio together.

It was there that, along with producer Nick Gold, they recorded the "kind of South African-Nigerian swing-jazz stew" that will make up their upcoming album, Rejoice, as Allen describes it.

Those recording sessions remained largely untouched until after Masekela's passing in 2018, which drove Allen and Gold to revisit the tapes of those original compositions with the aim of finishing their now ten-year-old project.

Today we're premiering the latest single from the album, "Slow Bones," a head-nodding blend of Allen's afrobeat percussion and Masekela's trumpet melodies. "I don't know why this track is called 'Slow Bones.' Hugh came up with all the song titles while we were recording in 2010, and we've left them exactly as he wrote them down," Tony Allen tells OkayAfrica.


"The track was recorded in the same way as the rest of the album. First I would lay down a drum beat. Then the bass was added, and then Hugh created a melody over the top. It's amazing to think that it was 10 years ago. But everything eventually appears at the right time, for a reason."

Allen and Masekela will be accompanied on Rejoice by a new generation jazz musicians including Tom Herbert (Acoustic Ladyland/The Invisible), Joe Armon-Jones (Ezra Collective), Mutale Chashi (Kokoroko) and Steve Williamson.

Listen to our premiere of "Slow Bones" below. Rejoice is due March 20 via World Circuit Records.

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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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