Les Amazones d’Afrique, a Supergroup For Female Empowerment

The all-female supergroup Les Amazones d'Afrique's new album, 'République Amazon,' is a message of charity, power and unbridled femininity.

One of year’s most moving and socially-charged records comes from the all-female supergroup Les Amazones d’Afrique.

Hailing predominantly from Mali and other West African countries like Nigeria and Benin, the band’s thoroughly excellent debut album uses the power and verve of progressive pop to tackle issues relating to female inequality.

Les Amazones d’Afrique’s roster is positively stacked: Beninese pop icon Angelique Kidjo, national Malian treasure, Kandia Kouyaté, vocal legend Mamani Keita, and blind multi-instrumentalist Mariam Doumbia (of Amadou & Mariam) all make definitive appearances on République Amazone.

The group display power in numbers, channeling the Dahomey Amazons militia from the Kingdom of Dahomey (located in present-day Benin), the first and only documented frontline female fighters in modern warfare history.

République Amazone is a reference to those female warriors who were enlisted by the king and fought to maintain their empire for two hundred years. The last warrior died at 100 in 1979, but the impact of these women directly influenced how women in Africa were viewed. Often sworn in as virgins, Dahomey Amazons commanded respect with their incredible reputation as fighters. By law, men weren’t allowed to touch or talk to them. They lived without men and provided for themselves, sometimes as an alternative to a life of sex work.

Les Amazones d’Afrique recognize the amount of work that still needs to be done for women to attain the same rights as men. They sing about it on the record’s lead single “I Play The Kora,” a massive collaborative effort that features six of the supergroup’s members. The title itself is a statement of empowerment, demonstrating how African women can occupy roles traditionally reserved for men. All proceeds from the single were donated to a Congolese foundation and hospital that aids survivors of sexual violence.

L'Amazones d'Afrique. Photo Credit: Valerie Malot.

There’s a lot of star power on this album, but some of its most interesting moments arise from collaborations with lesser known acts—or, rather, lesser known in terms of this star-packed group. As the only non-Malian member of Les Amazones d’Afrique, excluding Angélique Kidjo, Nigerian reggae-soul artist Nneka is an outlier. Her graceful style and charismatic vocal presence tap into a youthful, more audacious kind of pop, as showcased by her contribution to République, “La Dame et Ses Valises.”

Despite its French title, this groovy and freewheeling trip-hop jam is sung in English, its verses exploring the strength necessary for a woman to remove herself from a violent or emotionally abusive situation. “When things go wrong, you must walk out...You can’t go on in this, you can’t go on,” Nneka pleads on a soulful hook over a deceptively carefree beat.

The achievements made on République wouldn’t have been possible without Malian drummer Mouneïssa Tandina, perhaps the most famous female drummer of the West African coast. Working in concert with executive producer Liam Farrell–an Irish multi-instrumentalist who previously crafted the left-leaning industrial feel of Mbongwana Star’s critically acclaimed 2015 LP–Mouneïssa lends her three decades of experience as a seasoned drummer to bolster to overall mood of this deeply versatile record.

The idea of a white man making executive decisions about how a contemporary afropop album should sound is potentially problematic, and certainly ludicrous, but Liam Farrell (aka Doctor L) is exceedingly reverent toward these female artists and their musical roots.

L'Amazones d'Afrique. Photo Credit: Valerie Malot.

On each of République’s twelve tracks, he cultivates a new evocative soundscape, playing to the individual strengths on each featured artist. “I’d say [my role is] more like a moviemaker– you meet artists and you work with them,” Liam explained in an interview with The Fader, “To me, music means bridges. I produced it in the direction of the people that I met, so it’s been created from my point of view but for them.”

Producers like Doctor L are vital to the growth of contemporary afropop innovations. His ethically sound methods for cross-cultural collaboration are executed respectfully and thoughtfully. Pushing the music forward without ever compromising its integrity, Liam shapes République as a message of charity, power and unbridled femininity.

Watch our premiere of Les Amazones D'Afrique's "Dombolo" music video, directed by Amandine Le Roy, above and stream the album below.

Image: Nabsolute Media

Reekado Banks Recalls The Carnage of The #EndSARS Protests In Single 'Ozumba Mbadiwe'

The Nigerian singer pays his respects to those lost during last year's #EndSARS protests.

Nigerian singer and songwriter Reekado Banks is back with a track that is as socially important as it is a banger. It seems fitting for the singer's first solo release of the year to be a tribute to his fellow countrypeople fighting for a country that they all wish to live in. The 27-year-old Afrobeats crooner has returned with endearing track 'Ozumba Mbadiwe', honoring the one-year anniversary of the #EndSARS protests that saw the Nigerian government authorize an onslaught of attacks on Nigerian citizens for their anti-government demonstrations.

The protests took the world by storm, additionally because the Nigerian government insists that none of the police brutality happened. In an attempt to gaslight the globe, Nigerian officials have come out to hoards to deny any and all accusations of unlawfully killing peaceful protesters. Banks mentions the absurd denials in the track, singing "October 20, 2020 something happened with the government, they think say we forget," in the second verse. Reekado's reflective lyrics blend smoothly and are supported by the upbeat, effortless Afrobeat rhythm.

In another reflective shoutout to his home, 'Ozumba Mbadiwe' is named after a popular expressway on Lagos Island that leads to the infamous Lekki Toll Gate where protesters were shot at, traumatized, and murdered. Although packed with conscious references, the P.Priime produced track is a perfect amalgamation of the talents that Reekado Banks has to offer; a wispy opening verse, a hook to kill, and an ethereal aura to mark this as a song as a hit. On "Ozumba Mbadiwe," all the elements align for Reekado's signature unsinkable sound to take flight.

Check out Reekado Bank's lyric video for his single 'Ozumba Mbadiwe'

Reekado Banks - Ozumba Mbadiwe (Lyric Video)

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