Introducing Songlines issue #136 (April 2018)

Introducing Songlines issue #136 (April 2018)

28th February 2018  |  News  |  Comments Off on Introducing Songlines issue #136 (April 2018)

The April 2018 (#136) issue of Songlines is now on sale!

Our cover feature artist this issue is the Afrobeat musician Femi Kuti who talks about continuing his father Fela’s musical legacy. Other features include interviews with the Haitian singer Mélissa Laveaux; Trinidadian calypsonian Drew Gonsalves and his band Kobo Town; African instrumental trio 3MA who are combining Malian, Moroccan and Malagasy traditions; GRRRL – a new all-female collective tackling gender inequality; a Beginner’s Guide to the Cuban former Buena Vista Social Club star Eliades Ochoa, plus the latest CD, book, world cinema and live reviews.  


The Top of the World CD includes tracks from Afrika Mamas, I’m With Her, Ross Ainslie and Daniel Kahn & The Painted Bird, as well as a guest playlist from the journalist and broadcaster, Samira Ahmed, featuring music from Lata and Usha Mangeshkar, Natacha Atlas and others..


Issue #136 also includes our free International World Music Festival Guide 2018-19

Screen Shot 2018-02-28 at 15.02.58

To buy the new issue or to find out more about subscribing to Songlines, please visit:

Top of the World albums: Songlines #136 (April 2018)

28th February 2018  |  News  |  Comments Off on Top of the World albums: Songlines #136 (April 2018)

Here is our selection of the top ten new releases reviewed in the April 2018 issue of Songlines. Tracks from each of these albums are included on the free cover-CD with issue #136.

To buy the new issue or to find out more about subscribing to Songlines, please visit:

Afrika Mamas 
Iphupho: A Cappella from South Africa
ARC Music
The joyful title-track from the South African six-piece’s fourth album is by Ntombi Lushaba. It translates as ‘The Dream Song’ and reflects her wish to take their music to the world.
Amazon | iTunes | Spotify



Sam Reider
Too Hot to Sleep
Sam Reider
An accomplished debut album from accordionist and pianist Sam Reider, supported by a group of young firebrands, the Human Hands. This track has a Gypsy jazz vibe about it.
Amazon | iTunes | Spotify



I’m With Her
See You Around
After much anticipation, super trio Sarah Jarosz, Aoife O’Donovan and Sara Watkins finally release their debut of hair-raising harmonies, stunning songwriting and instrumental skill.
Amazon | iTunes | Spotify



This Toronto-based vocal quartet present music from across the Middle East and Balkans. Guest instrumentalists improvise flawlessly over haunting vocals.
Amazon | iTunes | Spotify



Chris Stout & Catriona McKay
Bare Knuckle
Bare Knuckle Records
Opening an entirely instrumental album, this striking track showcases the warmth of the musical interplay between Stout’s fiddle and McKay’s Scots harp.



Mad Minute Music
Ballaké’s virtuosic kora, the resonant oud of Driss El Maloumi and Rajery’s laid-back valiha (Malagasy zither) unite to create an enchanting, masterful album.
Amazon | iTunes



The Transports
A Tale of Exile and Migration
Hudson Records
Sean Cooney sings this haunting ballad of love and separation, joined by some of the finest names in folk for the revival of Peter Bellamy’s 1977 work.
Amazon | iTunes | Spotify



Erlend Apneseth Trio
The traditional meets the synthetic on this abstract album from Norwegian Hardanger fiddler Apneseth. ‘Undergrunn’ begins with an old-time feel, quickening at the entrance of a ritual drum.
Amazon | iTunes | Spotify



Ross Ainslie
Great White Records
Indian and Eastern European influences underpin this album from the Scottish multi-instrumentalist, which celebrates the sanctuary offered by music.
Amazon | iTunes | Spotify



Daniel Kahn & The Painted Bird
The Butcher’s Share
Oriente Musik
This track is one of many thought-provoking songs reflecting on Jewish history. It’s klezmer with boundless energy and respect for tradition.
Amazon | iTunes | Spotify

Pick up the April 2018 issue of Songlines to enjoy our Top of the World cover-CD, which contains tracks from each of the albums above. To find out more about subscribing to Songlines, visit:

Top of the World albums: Songlines #135 (March 2018)

25th January 2018  |  News  |  Comments Off on Top of the World albums: Songlines #135 (March 2018)

Here is our selection of the top ten new releases reviewed in the March 2018 issue of Songlines. Tracks from each of these albums are included on the free cover-CD with issue #135.

To buy the new issue or to find out more about subscribing to Songlines, please visit:



Espiral de Ilusão
Moving from his signature rap style, Criolo devotes a whole album to Brazil’s national rhythm, samba. Led by percussion and cavaquinho, these songs give voice to Brazil’s marginalised people.
Amazon | iTunes | Spotify



Balfron Promise
Cooking Vinyl
47SOUL call their unique hip-hop/roots fusion of Arabic tradition and Western electronica shamstep. Swirling synth keyboards, rock guitar and powerful vocals drive this bold album.
Amazon | iTunes | Spotify



Ghost of Paul Revere
Ghost of Paul Revere
Virile vocals, tasteful harmonies, whirling guitar riffs and punchy harmonica shouts shine on the spirited ‘Little Bird’. The energy of this Americana trio from Portland, Maine is infectious.
Amazon | iTunes | Spotify



Hama Sankare
Ballébé: Calling All Africans
Clermont Music
Deep vocals and rock-solid calabash meet slide guitar, throbbing bass and hypnotic synths, played by an impressive array of musicians. Sankare’s first outing as bandleader does not disappoint.



Da Cruz
Eco do Futuro
Boom Jah Records
The fervour of Afrobeat is harnessed in this track as frontwoman Mariana Da Cruz laments on the state of her birthplace, Brazil. A highly danceable, inescapably thought-provoking third album.
Amazon | iTunes | Spotify



Mahsa Vahdat & Coşkun Karademir
Endless Path
Kirkelig Kulturverksted
Recorded in a 20th-century mausoleum in Oslo, the baglama explores its full acoustics, entwined with Vahdat’s rich vocals.
Amazon | iTunes | Spotify



Stick in the Wheel
Follow Them True
From Here Records
This album is trademark Stick in the Wheel; there’s spindly guitar, acerbic vocals from Nicola Kearey and Fran Foote and tub thumping percussion. Five stars for these East London folksters.
Amazon | iTunes | Spotify



Xylouris White
Bella Union
Cretan laouto player George Xylouris takes the reins with his nimble string work and no-nonsense vocals, all the while propelled forward by the urgent drums of Jim White.
Amazon | iTunes | Spotify



Gili Yalo
Gili Yalo
Dead Sea Recordings
Five stars for this debut album combining funk, soul, dub and a large helping of Ethiopian groove. Yalo sings in both Amharic and English, while his band cook up a range of retro sounds.
Amazon | iTunes | Spotify



Nils Økland Band
Økland’s impressive Hardanger fiddle playing and outstanding musicianship underpin this album, and earned him respect in many musical circles. This album is a spectacle to behold.
Amazon | iTunes

Pick up the March 2018 issue of Songlines to enjoy our Top of the World cover-CD, which contains tracks from each of the albums above. To find out more about subscribing to Songlines, visit:

Introducing Songlines issue #135 (March 2018)

Introducing Songlines issue #135 (March 2018)

25th January 2018  |  News  |  Comments Off on Introducing Songlines issue #135 (March 2018)

The March 2018 (#135) issue of Songlines is now on sale!

Our cover feature artists this issue are 47SOUL, the Middle Eastern band who have been wowing audiences around the world with their electrifying live shows. Other features include interviews with Haitian roots band Chouk Bwa, Scottish folk singer, Alasdair Roberts and sitarist Niladri Kumar; a report from Mozambique and its inaugural Music Meeting; a Beginner’s Guide to the French multi-instrumentalist Thierry ‘Titi’ Robin; Introducing Ariwo and Ghost of Paul Revere, plus the latest CD, book, world cinema and live reviews. 


The Top of the World CD includes tracks from 47SOUL, Criolo, Xylouris White and Stick in the Wheel, as well as a guest playlist from the Guardian columnist and author, Tim Dowling, featuring music from Ola Belle Reed, The Felice Brothers and others.


To buy the new issue or to find out more about subscribing to Songlines, please visit:

Obituary: Hugh Masekela 1939-2018

Obituary: Hugh Masekela 1939-2018

23rd January 2018  |  News  |  Comments Off on Obituary: Hugh Masekela 1939-2018

Photography © Brett Rubin

Nigel Williamson on the life of the colossus of South African music who died today

There’s an extraordinary photo of a 16-year-old Hugh Masekela taken in the township of Sophiatown on the day in 1955 when he received a new trumpet, sent from the US by Louis Armstrong.

The image of him leaping for joy with the instrument waved triumphantly above his head seems to personify much about both his music and the spirit of the man.


His songs spoke movingly of the struggles and sorrows of his people – for example  ‘Stimela’, on which he recounted the hardship of black migrant workers in South Africa’s coal mines, or ‘Soweto Blues’, which he wrote for his ex-wife Miriam Makeba to sing after the 1976 township massacre. Yet at the same time Masekela’s music was imbued with a resilient joy-to-be-alive sentiment and a defiant hope that one day his country would be free.

Fast forward to Masekela in exile in the 60s, where he is emerging as a talented but conventional trumpeter on the New York jazz scene. Miles Davis takes him on one side and gives him some advice that will shape his musical vision for the rest of his life. “You’re just going to be a statistic if you play jazz,” Davis tells him. “But if you put in some of the stuff you remember from Africa, you’ll be different from everybody.”

The result was a glorious fusion of American jazz and African township rhythms which made him anti-apartheid’s premier musical ambassador and in 1968 took him to number one in the American pop charts with ‘Grazin’ in the Grass’.

Over the next 50 years there were many ups and downs but the spirit of his music continued to shine true and its message of hope triumphing over adversity never wavered. Masekela eventually returned to South Africa in 1990 following the release from prison of Nelson Mandela.

His ferocity mellowed and he became a benign and avuncular elder statesman of the post-apartheid era. He continued to record and tour but spent much of his time and energy mentoring younger South African artists, even while battling cancer.

“I’ve had a very rich life,” he said.  “The best thing I can do now is to encourage a new generation of talented people to come through.”

RIP, Bra Hugh.

Hugh Masekela, a beginner’s guide

Hugh Masekela, a beginner’s guide

23rd January 2018  |  News  |  Comments Off on Hugh Masekela, a beginner’s guide

Hugh Masekela has died at the age of 78. We publish this guide to his life and music as a tribute… (photo: Brett Rubin)

Diane Coetzer traces the impressive career of the hugely influential South African horn player

When Hugh Masekela’s recording of ‘Grazing in the Grass’ streaked to number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1968, it brought the trumpeter international fame on a scale unprecedented for a South African. The cut, which appeared on the album The Promise of a Future, had been issued by Chisa (Zulu slang for ‘Hot’), a label Masekela had started with producer Stewart Levine in the mid-60s. Opening with the sound of Masekela playing on a cowbell with two drumsticks, ‘Grazing in the Grass’ featured Bruce Langhorne’s easy-going guitar work but it was Masekela’s buoyant horn, joyfully carrying with it a distinctive African styling, that cast a spell over American listeners.

Still, Masekela’s stunning success with the Philemon Hou-composed instrumental was bittersweet for the 29-year-old exile. Spooked by a close call with the apartheid regime’s special branch police and shocked at the massacre of peaceful demonstrators in Sharpeville in March, Masekela had finally been able to get a passport in May 1960 and boarded a plane for London, and, a few months later, the US. Encouraged and championed by Miriam Makeba, who was living in New York, Masekela left behind a loving family who had watched their son and brother’s early interest in music develop into a full-blown obsession to be a trumpet player.

In 1953, while a teenager at Johannesburg’s St Peter’s boarding school, he’d seen Kirk Douglas in Young Man with a Horn and had wasted no time in persuading Father Trevor Huddleston, his school superintendent and a leading anti-apartheid activist, to help him get his first trumpet. Over the next seven years Masekela honed his playing skills with the school band and the Huddlestone Jazz Band, and was soon gigging with the Merry Makers’ Orchestra where he learned how to hold long notes and play confidently between mbaqanga grooves. He took up with the African Jazz and Variety Revue, which was taking township jazz across the country, and played trumpet in King Kong, the first ‘all-African jazz opera’ featuring Makeba in the female lead. In the months before Masekela’s flight into exile, he had also formed The Jazz Epistles with Abdullah Ibrahim (then known as Dollar Brand), Kippie Moeketsi, Jonas Gwangwa and Johnny Gertze – in the process creating what is still the most thrilling line-up of jazz musicians in South Africa’s history. The band’s sole record, Jazz Epistle Verse 1, remains a dazzlingly original showcase of modern jazz.

On the day of Masekela’s arrival in New York he went to the Jazz Gallery on East Eighth Street to see Dizzy Gillespie and Thelonious Monk. With the ever-generous Makeba as the link, Masekela had been corresponding with Gillespie while still in South Africa, and the American trumpeter later took him to another club to meet Charles Mingus and Max Roach. On the way back uptown at the end of the night, he stopped at the Half Note where John Coltrane was performing with a new group.

This intoxicating introduction to the American jazz scene set the tone for Masekela’s years in exile, that saw him blot out the aching for his family and country by unabashedly embracing the musical possibilities offered by his new home. He met Levine during his second year at the Manhattan School of Music and soon began getting session and club work. With Harry Belafonte’s encouragement, he began recording Trumpet Africaine: The New Beat from South Africa – the first of what is now a catalogue of 44 solo recordings. Masekela hated his debut, dubbing the record a “disaster.” He quickly realised that future recordings should be based on repertoire drawn from the music he’d been raised on and that he’d played back home. He also reignited his songwriting, composing the mbaqanga bebop track ‘U, Dwi’ for his second album, Grrr, which additionally saw Masekela branching out into singing on tracks like ‘Umaningi Bona’.

From his teenage days as an emerging musician in South Africa, Masekela had never shied away from collaboration and he ramped this up in the US. It’s Masekela’s trumpet solo you can hear on The Byrds’ hit single ‘So You Want to be a Rock’n’Roll Star’ – the last in their original line-up. He worked with Louis Armstrong, Belafonte, Gillespie, Fela Kuti, Marvin Gaye and Herb Alpert (on the 1978 album Herb Alpert & Hugh Masekela), among others. Together with Levine, Masekela organised Zaire 74 – a music festival companion to George Foreman and Muhammad Ali’s ‘Rumble in the Jungle.’ The trumpeter later joined Paul Simon when he toured Graceland in 1987, playing his political anthem ‘Mandela (Bring Him Back Home)’ to audiences across the world.

Musically, Masekela matched his jazz rigour with a magpie’s eye for musical forms that were an easy fit for his playing style and taste. The 1971 album Hugh Masekela & The Union of South Africa was flavoured with Nigerian highlife and soul, and his work with Ghanaian band Hedzoleh Soundz on the 1973 album, Masekela Introducing Hedzoleh Soundz, spliced Afrobeat with Masekela’s free-floating trumpet. This wide-ranging curiosity and appetite for different music was formed in Masekela’s youth. “I’ve had a very rich life, because Johannesburg was a melting pot of especially migrant labourers from all over southern and central Africa,” Masekela told me a few years ago. “So I was luckier than most human beings to grow up in an environment where, on weekends, you would have a choice of seeing Mozambican or Tsonga people while in another part of town, on an open veld, you could see Zulus, Sothos, Twanas, Namibians, Malawians, Zimbabweans and Botswana folk.”

By his own admission Masekela was not equipped to handle the success that ‘Grazing in the Grass’ brought. ‘I became obsessed with the pleasures of the flesh, which only led to sleepless nights, mind-boggling immorality, dishonesty, broken hearts, and hung-over mornings,’ he writes in Still Grazing: The Musical Journey of Hugh Masekela, the hugely readable autobiography he co-authored with D Michael Cheers. His return to South Africa in September 1990, after 30 years in exile, did little to end Masekela’s addictions and in 1997 he entered rehab in the UK.

These days Masekela is the recipient of multiple awards, including South Africa’s highest order, The Order of Ikhamanga, as well as a number of honorary degrees and doctorates. Although now in his late 70s, he’s still recording – his most recent record, No Borders, earned him a South African Music Award for Best Adult Contemporary Album.

His 60-year-plus live performing career has, however, been put on hold with news that Masekela – who has been in treatment for prostate cancer since 2008 – recently had an emergency operation to remove a tumour. ‘I have cancelled my commitments for the immediate future as I will need all my energy to continue this fight against prostate cancer,’ he said in a statement issued on October 6. This includes his upcoming UK date at the EFG London Jazz Festival where he was due to perform with Abdullah Ibrahim.

Even as he battles “this stealthy disease,” Masekela’s driving passion remains “making heritage visible,” as witnessed by the annual Hugh Masekela Heritage Festival, which takes place in Soweto in early November. For the first time in its four-year run, the festival’s namesake didn’t collaborate with the line-up of talent, which this year included BCUC, Johnny Cradle and Oliver Mtukudzi. But his commitment to the event, and other heritage-based initiatives, continues. He says, “I advise every kid to check out their past because without a past you are in limbo.”




(MGM, 1966)

After the disappointment he felt in Trumpet Africaine, Masekela settled into his own musical style for his second album, confidently giving mbaqanga an emotional complexity on tracks like ‘Sharpeville’.



The Promise of a Future

(Chisa, 1968)

The No 1 hit ‘Grazing in the Grass’ featured in this gorgeous set, which also included ‘Vuca (Wake Up)’, a self-penned, rootsy track that convincingly combined Masekela’s vocal and trumpet-playing.



I Am Not Afraid

(Chisa/Blue Thumb, 1974)

Recorded in LA with Hedzoleh Soundz, the seven-track record opens with a heady version of the Dizzy Gillespie’s ‘Night in Tunisia’ but the album’s emotional heart is ‘Stimela’, Masekela’s epic lament for southern Africa’s migrant labour force.



Hugh Masekela Presents the CHISA Years: 1965-1975 (Rare & Unreleased)

(BBE Records, 2006)

Fourteen lost tracks of sheer musical joy are gathered together on this release featuring Masekela playing with Letta Mbulu, Johannesburg Street Band, Ojah and others. A Top of the World review in #36.



No Borders

(Semopa, 2016)

Poignant and powerful, Masekela summons his very best on his latest record: a raging vocal track against slavery (‘Shuffle & Bow’), superb horn playing (‘Shango’), and a set of terrific collaborations – ‘Tapera’ with Oliver Mtukudzi especially shines. A Top of the World this issue, see p44.

Jude Kelly announces resignation from Southbank Centre to lead Women of the World

Jude Kelly announces resignation from Southbank Centre to lead Women of the World

18th January 2018  |  News  |  Comments Off on Jude Kelly announces resignation from Southbank Centre to lead Women of the World

Jude Kelly, CBE and artistic director at London’s Southbank Centre, has announced she will leave her current role in order to lead the global development of Women of the World Festival

Since joining the Southbank Centre in 2006, Jude Kelly has maintained the belief that art should be available to all, not just a privileged few. Through her bold programming and artistic vision, she has ensured the venue remains welcoming to all; over 26 million people visit the centre each year.

During her time as artistic director, Kelly has overseen a diverse array of projects, including Africa Utopia, Alchemy (celebrating the arts and culture of South Asia), Nordic Matters, classical and contemporary music festival The Rest is Noise, BAM: Being a Man, Imagine Children’s Festival and more. In 2015 she was awarded a CBE for services to the arts.

Perhaps her most notable achievement to date, however, has been founding WOW: Women of the World Festival in 2010. Now a global movement, the festival has been held 43 times, spreading to over 23 countries and across six continents. Comprised of theatre, talks, activism and more, the festival celebrates the talent, history and potential of females in all fields, while also underlining the barriers which continue to hinder the achievement of gender equality. Kelly plans to lead the further global development of WOW.

Read Jo Frost’s interview with Jude Kelly, and hear her exclusive Songlines playlist in the August/September 2017 issue (#130).



Latest What’s On of African-Caribbean events in the North East

16th January 2018  |  News  |  Comments Off on Latest What’s On of African-Caribbean events in the North East

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Babel Med 2018 Cancelled

Babel Med 2018 Cancelled

21st December 2017  |  News  |  Comments Off on Babel Med 2018 Cancelled

The annual world music and jazz expo in Marseille, Babel Med, has been forced to cancel its next and 14th edition, due to a 80% cut in funding from the Provence-Alps-Cote d’Azur region.

The shock announcement was made following the withdrawal of support from its principal partner – just three months before the event was due to take place (March 15-17 2018). Over the last 13 years Babel Med has seen over 180,000 spectators and 26,000 music industry professionals who gather at the event every year to discover new bands, network and do business.

This is huge blow not just to the cultural sector of the region – 30% of the artists programmed at Babel Med are local – but to the wider world music community. Besides the immediate loss of jobs, the cancellation will also have a big economic and cultural impact on the city and the global world music industry.

Zone Franche, France’s world music professional network organisation has launched a petition, please sign and show your support:

Win flights to Morocco and tickets to the Essaouira Gnawa and World Music Festival!

Win flights to Morocco and tickets to the Essaouira Gnawa and World Music Festival!

8th December 2017  |  News  |  Comments Off on Win flights to Morocco and tickets to the Essaouira Gnawa and World Music Festival!

Courtesy of the Moroccan Tourist Board, we have a pair of return flights and full festival passes to the Essaouira Gnawa and World Music Festival in 2018 to give away!

The colourful world of the Gnawa is awash with rumours of spirits and mystery, and recent years have seen it grow out of the hidden courtyards and onto the world stage. In the January/February (#134) edition of Songlines, Andy Morgan travels to Morocco to meet the masters and tap into its brotherhood.

In June this year, Essaouira’s now world-famous Gnawa and World Music Festival celebrated its 20th anniversary. Tens of thousands of Moroccans crowded into Place Moulay Hassan to see some of the greatest Gnawa maalem (masters) fusing their art with the music of Carlinhos Brown, Ismaël Lô, Lucky Peterson and others.

We’re delighted to offer one lucky winner a pair of return flights and full festival passes to the 2018 edition of the festival.

Click here to enter the competition.

The Essaouira Gnawa and World Music Festival takes place June 21-24, 2018. For more information, visit

Terms & conditions: The tickets are for two people travelling together and must be used specifically for travel to the 2018 Essaouira Gnawa and World Music Festival (June 21-24). Flights are for London-Essaouira-London in economy class and always subject to availability. The tickets are non-transferable and have no cash value. Travel must originate in the UK. This prize is non-negotiable, non-refundable and does not include insurance, accommodation, transport to and from the airport and any sustenance during the stay. Reservations for the flights must be made at least 60 days before departure. See p19 for our standard competition rules and deadline.