Download a personal and eclectic Africa In Your Earbuds mixtape from Saul Williams.

Saul Williams is at a point where he can reflect on over a decade of impassioned contributions to the many "mediums" he works in — from open-mic escapades with the Nuyorican Poets to writing/starring in Slam, to albums alongside Rick Rubin and Trent Reznor and collaborations with Nas, Erykah, and The Roots. For AIYE #23, Saul guides us through a personal and eclectic diaspora mixtape. Far better with the pen, we opted to include Saul's full explanation of the mix, which is interspersed with vivid recollections of his own introduction to African music.

My relationship with indigenous African music, in it's most direct/un-abstract sense, begins with Fela Kuti. I was 18 years old, freshman week at Morehouse College, at a club called The Masquerade to hear DJ Disciple. It was around 2AM and I was headed towards the door. The song that came on was "Hot Music" by Soho. I convinced my friends to wait while I danced wildly by the speaker nearest the door. My mother was rushed from a James Brown concert on the night of my birth and anything James Brown related, whether by sample or nature, can usually get me kicking. Of course, the main sample in that song is from a Wynton Marselis song that I discovered months later (I fell asleep listening to the vinyl and it woke me from my dream ... but this isn't about that).

Just as the song was ending, horns and then more horns. It was the beginning of Fela's "Lady." To be honest, I didn't know what the fuck I was listening to at that point but my friends were dancing wildly too, and it was clear, there was no way we could leave. After more horns and more horns and more horns and more horns, Fela started singing. My man Scott, our bear-like leader, was better cultivated than I. He read the look on my face and stated, “It's Fela.” I was in Tower Records the next day and the math from then 'til now doesn't quite add up. I think I may have put in enough hours to have earned a doctorate (or a few wives, depending on how close you're listening) ... Anywayze, since then I've descended down the mountainous top of Afro-Pop into the volcanic mist of indigenous hoo-ha and, at present, these are some of my favorites, coupled with some of my most precious discoveries.

The title comes from Dr. Martin Luther King's "I've Been To The Mountaintop" speech which I used in a composition where I sampled the Mauritanian griot in "Beyt Bieh." Dr. King is explaining why fire hoses didn't work against us during the Civil Rights struggle saying that the police didn't realize that we had [burning in us] a certain kind of fire that no water could put out. Then he quips, “We had known water,” which, to me, seemed to be an allusion to the Middle Passage of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. I've included the raw composition along with the Mauritanian source as a sort of bridge between my diasporic reality and the African continent.

In fact, I guess it's fair to say that my mix begins with a tribute to the middle passage. The first song is a song that has inspired me for years that was written by the South African Miriam Makeba and sung by Nina Simone. It's followed by "Beyt Bieh" and my tribute to both, those who withstood and those who could not stand the harsh conditions of the voyage from there to here (and now there again) before we arrive in the Congo with one of my favorite groups, The Kasai Allstars. From there we travel from field recordings to studio recordings thru an eclectic mix of songs, chants, and prayers that I'm excited to share. It's not particularly a dance mix- — a bit too moody and eclectic for that. But if you got a glass of wine, well, hold it up. And if you're interested in a volume 2, let me know in the comment section below.

-Saul Williams

Saul's upcoming book CHORUS: A Literary Mixtape will be available Sept. 4. Catch him on his CHORUS Spoken Word Tour across North America starting in August. Grab tickets and see the full dates. Download AIYE #23: We Had Known Water Vol. 1 below! Thanks to Underdog for the cover artwork.




"West Wind" Nina Simone (written by Miriam Makeba/South Africa)

"Beyt Bieh" Ensemble El Moukhadrami (Mauritania)

"We Had Known Water" Saul Williams

"Drowning Goat" Kasai Allstars (Congo)

"Mahindi Ya Kulonga" (Tanzania)

"Ishmael" Abdullah Ibrahim (South Africa)

"Forgive Us All" Rob (Ghana)

"Amahamba" Jos Gansemans (Rwanda)

"African Space Craft" Keziah Jones (Nigeria)

"Bigirimana" (Rwanda)



Listen to Saul Williams' New Album 'Encrypted & Vulnerable'

The score for his directorial musical debut, Neptune Frost, which is based on Williams' tale about hackers living in a Burundian village made up of recycled computer parts.

Saul Williams is back with his new album, Encrypted & Vulnerable.

The 13-track album, which is part of his MartyrLoserKing project, is described by Williams as his first "spoken word" album. It was entirely self-produced, mixed by by Gonjasufi and features the likes of Dave Sitek (TV On The Radio), My Brightest Diamond, Christian Scott (Atoms For Peace) and more.

Encrypted & Vulnerable is also the score for Saul Wililams' directorial musical debut, Neptune Frost, which is based on Williams' tale about hackers living in a Burundian village made up of recycled computer parts.

"Encrypted & Vulnerable is simultaneously a personal and intimately optimistic takedown on struggle, defiance, awareness, aloneness, and a takedown of heteronormative capitalistic patriarchal authoritarian politics in topics ranging from love, technology, religion, war, to migration," Williams mentions.

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The Songs You Need to Hear This Week

The best tracks of the week featuring Baloji x Saul Williams, Stromae, Wizkid, Mr Eazi, and more.

At the end of every week, we highlight the creme of the crop in music and round up the best tracks and music videos that came across our desks throughout the last few days.

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Photo by Lana Haroun

From #FeesMustFall to #BlueforSudan: OkayAfrica's Guide to a Decade of African Hashtag Activism

The 2010s saw protest movements across the continent embrace social media in their quest to make change.

The Internet and its persistent, attention-seeking child, Social Media has changed the way we live, think and interact on a daily basis. But as this decade comes to a close, we want to highlight the ways in which people have merged digital technology, social media and ingenuity to fight for change using one of the world's newest and most potent devices—the hashtag.

What used to simply be the "pound sign," the beginning of a tic-tac-toe game or what you'd have to enter when interacting with an automated telephone service, the hashtag has become a vital aspect of the digital sphere operating with both form and function. What began in 2007 as a metadata tag used to categorize and group content on social media, the term 'hashtag' has now grown to refer to memes (#GeraraHere), movements (#AmINext), events (#InsertFriendsWeddingHere) and is often used in everyday conversation ("That situation was hashtag awkward").

The power of the hashtag in the mobility of people and ideas truly came to light during the #ArabSpring, which began one year into the new decade. As Tunisia kicked off a revolution against oppressive regimes that spread throughout North Africa and the Middle East, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook played a crucial role in the development and progress of the movements. The hashtag, however, helped for activists, journalists and supporters of causes. It not only helped to source information quickly, but it also acted as a way to create a motto, a war cry, that could spread farther and faster than protestors own voices and faster than a broadcasted news cycle. As The Guardian wrote in 2016, "At times during 2011, the term Arab Spring became interchangeable with 'Twitter uprising' or 'Facebook revolution,' as global media tried to make sense of what was going on."

From there, the hashtag grew to be omnipresent in modern society. It has given us global news, as well as strong comedic relief and continues to play a crucial role in our lives. As the decade comes to a close, here are some of the most impactful hashtags from Africans and for Africans that used the medium well.

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Screenshot from the upcoming film Warriors of a Beautiful Game

In Conversation: Pelé's Daughter is Making a Documentary About Women's Soccer Around the World

In this exclusive interview, Kely Nascimento-DeLuca shares the story behind filming Warriors of a Beautiful Game in Tanzania, Brazil and other countries.

It may surprise you to know that women's soccer was illegal in Brazil until 1981. And in the UK until 1971. And in Germany until 1970. You may have read that Sudan made its first-ever women's league earlier this year. Whatever the case, women and soccer have always had a rocky relationship.

It wasn't what women wanted. It certainly wasn't what they needed. However, society had its own ideas and placed obstacle after obstacle in front of women to keep ladies from playing the game. Just this year the US national team has shown the world that women can be international champions in the sport and not get paid fairly compared to their male counterparts who lose.

Kely Nascimento-DeLuca is looking to change that. As the daughter of international soccer legend Pelé, she is no stranger to the game. Growing up surrounded by the sport, she was actually unaware of the experiences women around the world were having with it. It was only recently that she discovered the hardships around women in soccer and how much it mirrored women's rights more generally.

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