News

Kahli Abdu & VHS Safari Premiere 'A.R.T. Project'

Stream the premiere of afroelectro hip-hop trio Kahli Abdu & VHS Safari's debut album 'A.R.T. Project'


A.R.T. Project, the debut LP by Kahli Abdu & VHS Safari, arrives today with its unpredictable mix of genres, tones, and soundscapes. Featuring the guitar-based mellowness of both "On This Side" and "Forever and Ever," the album spans an array of eclectic songs, all engaging yet different from the next. There's the longing soul of album opener "The Holiday," the Yeezus-esque ferocious bass of "Take A Picture," and the romantic acoustic electronica of closer "Goin With You." Ultimately, A.R.T. Project, which Jos-born, Brooklyn-based rapper Abdu and D.C.-rooted production team VHS Safari (fka Trackpants), conceived during one long New York winter, intrigues with its blend of evocative pop and sonic depth. Kahli Abdu & VHS Safari will play the last show of their January residency at the Knitting Factory Brooklyn tomorrow night. The band will also perform this Thursday at Philadelphia’s Milkboy. Listen to A.R.T. Project below and check out the striking cover artwork by Lisa Jaeggi.

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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