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Waiting For SMOD


In 2005 the music world was awakened to the blues imbued afropop emanating out of Mali courtesy of Amadou & Mariam. Six years later their son Sam is poised to take his parents’ signature sound a step further with his hip-hop group's debut album, the eponymous SMOD. Due to be released May 24th, the album features production by the world-renowned French singer/producer Manu Chao -  the man who helped launch Amadou & Mariam into international prominence. SMOD combines folk, blues, traditional Malian styles, and hip-hop into an airy musical base that melds perfectly with the fluid complexion of French rapping. But the sunny guitar and jaunty singing on SMOD’s songs often belie lyrics dripping with social criticism. “Les Africains Dirigeants” is unrepentant in its critique of African dictators and rampant corruption across the continent. While folksy Malian hip-hop is SMOD’s bread and butter%

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Photo by Don Paulsen/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Hugh Masekela's New York City Legacy

A look back at the South African legend's time in New York City and his enduring presence in the Big Apple.

In Questlove's magnificent documentary, Summer of Soul, he captures a forgotten part of Black American music history. But in telling the tale of the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, the longtime musician and first-time filmmaker also captures a part of lost South African music history too.

Among the line-up of blossoming all-stars who played the Harlem festival, from a 19-year-old Stevie Wonder to a transcendent Mavis Staples, was a young Hugh Masekela. 30 years old at the time, he was riding the wave of success that came from releasing Grazing in the Grass the year before. To watch Masekela in that moment on that stage is to see him at the height of his time in New York City — a firecracker musician who entertained his audiences as much as he educated them about the political situation in his home country of South Africa.

The legacy Masekela sowed in New York City during the 1960s remains in the walls of the venues where he played, and in the dust of those that are no longer standing. It's in the records he made in studios and jazz clubs, and on the Manhattan streets where he once posed with a giant stuffed zebra for an album cover. It's a legacy that still lives on in tangible form, too, in the Hugh Masekela Heritage Scholarship at the Manhattan School of Music.

The school is the place where Masekela received his education and met some of the people that would go on to be life-long bandmates and friends, from Larry Willis (who, as the story goes, Masekela convinced to give up opera for piano) to Morris Goldberg, Herbie Hancock and Stewart Levine, "his brother and musical compadre," as Mabusha Masekela, Bra Hugh's nephew says.

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