A look at the journey through and to #StarkTheAlbum
– Titilope Adesanya
When one hears the word stark, most think bare. The first two results from google search for Stark is “severe or bare in appearance or outline” And “complete; sheer”
Bemyoda however sees this slightly differently; “I’ve had to answer the same questions many times over. What does Stark represent? Why Stark? Is the music bare? Or intense? Or dark? Yes, it is. And no, it isn’t. Stark is about hope and conflict, about life’s twists and turns, renegade men rising to challenge status quo in a failed system, about man’s need for God, about war, and about growth. Yes, Stark is intense. And spiritual” he writes on an Instagram post .
Stark is not this artsy Nigerian’s first body of work. Bemyoda re-released ‘Sketch: The Reprise – EP’ in 2015 which features a couple of singles like Shima Yam and Faded Grace.
Music comes in many different shades and Bemyoda makes beautiful shades of music. Working with acts from various genres across the continent makes the cause of pushing African Music to the world even more wholesome.
On Signing with Africori –
“Nigerian singer/songwriter, Bemyoda has signed with Africori Music Group to license and distribute his forthcoming debut album, ‘Stark’, worldwide.
With offices in Johannesburg, Lagos and London, and representatives in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania, Ghana, Uganda and Rwanda, Africori is the leading digital music company for artists and labels in Africa. The company also operates the most established synch licensing platform in Africa.
‘Stark’ was recorded across 4 cities in Nigeria and USA: Abuja, Lagos, Cleveland and the world’s music capital, Nashville. It has been described as sublime, bold, and honest.”
Silvastone’s sound is one that mixes traditional African sounds with Uk street vibez and in anticipation to the release of his ‘Extended EP; LEVELS, we thought; no better time to get all up in his business than now. He has been steady releasing single tracks off the EP to get everyone nicely warmed up for the full work.
Radio producer and Journalist Titilope Adesanya had a brief back and forth with the incredible multi-skilled and talented artist.
Franck Biyong’s new single paves way for an Afrolectric invasion, ‘Liyomba Church’ opens with high-energy screeches and thumps that won’t let you go. It is a fervent and unabashed call to dance. It is also the first single off Cameroonian creative Franck Biyong’s upcoming 11th album, “Moonwatching 2”.
Franck is a child of many worlds but is anchored to none. The 42-year-old instrumentalist, singer and composer grew up in Gabon, Nigeria and Ivory Coast before heading to the UK at age 14. Franck’s musical instincts were awoken in a Baptist household and sharpened by Rock n’ Roll.
The electric guitar would later become his tool of trade.
Ahead of the release of ‘Liyomba Church’, we sat down with Franck to dig deeper into his career, recent projects and upcoming news.
Congratulations on the completing the Liyomba Church release, how did you come up with the concept for the release and does it directly relate to the your 11th studio album ‘Moonwatching 2’?
Thanks! The main idea behind the LIYOMBA CHURCH concept comes from the need to explore other musical territories that have been left unexplored by African Musicians these past decades. Back in the 1970’s and even early 1980’s, African artists and bands weren’t afraid to draw influences from wherever and were willing to incorporate new sounds into their modernized versions of their traditional music
and folklore. You could hear psychedelic, distorted or fuzz-like guitar sounds on records from Malian, Congolese, Guinean or Cameroonian orchestras (and many other African acts of the time) and it sounded and felt natural because these was a real sense of self-pride, confidence and integrity that moved and guided the Artistic production of the time. Unfortunately for us, world music came along a ruined all of that by focusing mostly on the fusion of African sounds with the technological advancement of the day (which really wasn’t the cleverest idea looking back) or the stereotypical aspects that could be promoted and pushed forward in African music, meaning: African Music = Dance…which is definitely not true.
Well, there is a subtle link between the release of the forthcoming full-length record and this single, mostly hidden in the lyrical content. Lots of ceremonies (and social activities designed to unify the community around common beliefs) are taking place at night in African rural life (therefore the importance of the Moon in Cameroonian, Basaa and most African cultures). My Ancestors
certainly weren’t playing Rock N’ Roll, but at least there is a thread that can be followed if
one is interested in knowing why we are attempting to do this!!
What else have you been up to lately and what have you got in store for the year ahead?
Well, you know that Frank Zappa album “Studio Tan”? I guess that’s what I’ve been doing!!
More seriously, we all know how f…ed up the Music industry is right now…Everyone acknowledges
it, every artist (even the biggest names) suffers from it and there isn’t much to be done about the
actual structure of the industry which is literally still living off the leftovers of the golden age of
cd sales : A bit like we knew that “pop would eat itself”, we now know that new laws have to be written and conceived by those who still have the will to work and perform as musicians in the years or decades
to come. Serious musicians now have to work twice as hard and produce twice as much material just to remain relevant or to offer an alternative to the present day status quo. I honestly do not care much about the commercial performance or critical reception of the music that I work on. I’m more concerned with renewing the musical proposition every single time to keep things exciting for myself and for the people who happen to be interested by these records. We are launching a new project with an orchestra called ORCHESTRE LIPOMBE JAZZ, and we have 2 albums in the making: One will focus of traditional percussion and chants: the other one will be a tribute to the great orchestras that were prominent
in the 1950’s and 1960’s (the AFRICAN JAZZ led by Joseph Kabasele being the ultimate reference
as the cornerstone for modern African Music). Simultaneously, we will release the 2nd part of the
MOONWATCHING album focusing on rock songs and recorded with a power trio group followed by
2 EPs (“Struggle 4 Money” and “Evening Prayer”) which are way more experimental, psychedelic
and guitar heavy. I’m hoping to have all this music out before summer 2017…
Apart from music what else are you passionate about?
I have always been passionate about contemporary history and I would certainly have embraced
the career of a lecturer or university teacher had I not been a Musician. I spend most of my spare time
with knowledgeable African elders who accepted me as their protégé since they consider that I may be
“able” to push things forward a bit in artistic terms. So, I am mostly completing my education by studying diverse topics in their company. Can’t really disclose more than what I’m revealing here, but they taught me that Music does not fulfil all spiritual or intellectual needs…With that idea in mind, I’m trying to broaden my knowledge about various topics, to remain as humble as possible and to keep on learning
If you could pick three artists to collaborate with on one single project, who would they be and why?
Strangely enough, I would choose to collaborate with legendary Artists from the older generation.
One would say that this is again going against the grain, but in other music genres (Jazz, Afro Cuban Music or even Rock), there is a strong sense of hierarchy, filiation and back and forth collaborations or exchanges between Artists belonging to younger and older generations. We kind of lost that as African Musicians, and that blind race towards the dictatorship of modernity does not necessarily benefit us:
It is almost impossible to name a young rock British act that has never heard of The Beatles, The Kinks or The Who. Most young African Artists are totally clueless about the great music that was produced in their hometown 30 or 40 years ago, and even true electronic music pioneers like Francis Bebey from Cameroon or William Onyeabor from Nigeria are virtually unknown to the hippest Djs or producers living on the African continent, which is a real pity. I would choose to collaborate with Pierre Akendengue from Gabon, Ray Lema from DRC. I would also hire a full Orchestra and then intend to write an ambitious music piece that would be challenging enough so that these Gentlemen feel comfortable enough to contribute musically and bring forth their knowledge and experience on board. My first choice would have been Francis Bebey, but he left us in 2001, unfortunately. Why would I choose to work with them? Well, these Gentlemen have been the true innovators and scientists in African Music and Musicology for the past 30 years. Their oeuvre is incredibly diverse, complex, profound and sensitive all at the same time. They are the last men standing there to give us an insight about that African Artistic Romanticism we have lost on the way and, I am, in all modesty, trying to get a bit of hold on that.
How have you found the service with Africori and how have Africori helped your music career to date?
AFRICORI is a brilliant idea and a unique platform for African Music and Artists. Such a Music label and organization did not really exist 10 years ago, and it represents a true opportunity for African Music to reclaim its throne, only if the Artists’ creativity is limitless and free, has historical roots, and relies on knowledge, perspective to develop, grow and establish true connections with the African American, Cuban, Brazilian and Asian artists. I have been working with AFRICORI for the past year and I’m looking forward to new developments and to expand to other markets and territories, even though the feedback might me modest or slow at first.
Which artists would you identify as your main influences and which current artists do you find inspiring?
Hum…That is a tough question…It depends on the style, the era…Some are composers, some are instrumentalists, others are bandleaders, orchestra conductors…You can’t really put all of them in
the same bag…But I will name the musicians I admire the most: The greatest Musician that ever lived
is (in my humble) opinion Francois Luambo Makiadi better known as Le Grand Maitre Franco from (DRC). Just don’t get me started about him! I might write a 400 pages book just to talk about his compositions, another book just to talk about his guitar playing and a third volume to now discuss his mastery as a bandleader and conductor. He is the Genius of the Geniuses…and we haven’t even started to study his oeuvre the way it should be done…My favourite band is the Bembeya Jazz National from Guinea,
quite probably the finest ensembles ever…The Demba Camara era was absolutely fantastic as they wrote epic poems and compositions narrating the history of great African leaders or the post colonial revolutionary years…Sekou Diabate is a true guitar wizard (like Kante Manfila and Ousmake Kouyate from les Ambassadeurs du Motel de Bamako who also are great influences of mine) and the second golden age of the band with singers Salifou Kaba, Moussa Traore and Mory Kouyate (dubbed the
“bazooka” trio) was truly unique…If we are to talk about Rock now, Jimi Hendrix was the most expressive musician there was…And I’m not talking about his prowess on the guitar so much…His compositions, lyricism, poetry, mastery of the blues and abilities as an improviser is what impresses me the most when
I think about him…And he was the sole Rock musician who, like a classical composer, could express emotions, feelings or paint pictures of the world he was living in with sound…All the other ones were just building their careers (and you cannot blame them for that…)…The current musician that really inspires me is Wynton Marsalis…He kept the Jazz, swing and Blues tradition alive, nurtured it and literally installed Jazz in he Symphony hall for good…He is a true master: master trumpeter, master composer, great teacher…He is a role model for me…I always keep him in mind when I think about where African music should head towards in the future…
African artists are making waves globally, why do you think African music is becoming more prominent now?
Well, things are pretty lame in the rock and pop world at the moment, that’s one reason for sure!!
I think the quality of African productions, both visually and musically has drastically changed and got better and better during the last decade. That is of course a plus and you hardly can tell the difference between a Nigerian video or hit song and its American R & B or Hip Hop counterpart nowadays. US based producers are obviously in search of new sounds, a fresher approach and they can see there’s a connection between a lot of Afrobeats producers’ work and the latest trends in hip hop (trap etc…)…
The FELA! Musical that was a Broadway show a few years ago certainly helped to put Africa on the map in authorized circles and networks of the American entertainment industry. I am less enthused with the result and artistic directions I see who tend to again focus solely on the performance aspect that exists in modern African music, but that’s a start at least…I still remember the days where I would mention Afrobeat or great African Musician’s names and no one had even heard of them in Europe or America…
And that was just 10 years ago…So, there is progress…Let’s consider this was step one and that now
we’re approaching to the second stage where things should get serious, expand and never turn back…
Which developing new artist are you most excited about and why?
Oh, there are a lot of great talents in every African country…East, West, Central or South Africa…
You name it…I was fortunate enough to collaborate with many of them these past 3 years on the first
two seasons of the Coke Studio Africa TV show and I attempted to bridge the generation gap by working alongside with them…Hip hop obviously has a tremendous influence on African youths all across the continent and it influenced urban styles that evolved to incorporate more and more electronic music elements…There are also a lot of brilliant young instrumentalists who received formal training in the numerous protestant and Baptist churches that exist in every single sub-Saharan African country…Africa is literally overflowed with talent and musical abilities…Now’s the time has probably come to structure things and to create true platforms and academies so that African Music enters its second classic age and imposes itself to the world like Jamaican Reggae or Afro-Cuban Rumba did in the 1960‘s and 1970’s…
If you could perform at any venue or destination in the world, where would it be and why?
In Africa, I would love to play a huge stadium in any major city to celebrate our unsung heroes with a
line up of Artists of the Younger generation…All the great African artists in the 1970’s played stadiums whenever they travelled on the continent…As a youngster, I was lucky enough to witness a few big stadium shows in Ivory Coast…I have only wanted to be a musician ever since… In the west, my choice
would be the Summerstage in Central Park, New York…I played the S.O.B’s years ago and I promised myself then I would perform that festival one day…In Asia, I would love to play the Niigata Fuji Rock Festival in Japan…Every video I saw of concerts there just looked and sounded amazing and audiences generally have a true and heartfelt respect for the Arts and Musical spirituality in particular…
Until then, let’s wait and see…
When Hugh Tracey (1903–1977) made 35,000 field recordings across Sub-Saharan Africa between the 1920s & 1970s, his intention was to reveal the beauty and complexity of this music to a world that saw little value in it. Today, almost 90 years later, Tracey’s bid to preserve the music of Africa for future generations lives on. Beating Heart has connected the International Library of African Music (ILAM) archive with contemporary producers, making fresh sounds for a modern audience. Building from Tracey’s vision, the income generated from the sale of this album will be used to assist people in the areas where the music was originally recorded.
Beating Heart – ‘Malawi’ is the first in a series to be released by Beating Heart, and features Rudimental, Luke Vibert, Machinedrum, Kidnap Kid, Throwing Shade, My Nu Leng, Clap! Clap! and many more. All of the artists have given their time for free to create this special album that will kick-start the roll out of a new development model that will provide nutrition and income now and in the future for the people of Malawi.
We sat down with the founders of Beating Heart, Chris Pedley and Olly Wood to dig a little deeper into this truly fascinating project and to find out more on how it all started.
How did you come up with the concept for Beating Heart?
Chris: The Beating Heart journey began when my wife told me about her great uncle Hugh Tracey who recorded African music between the 1920s and the 70s. I was keen to tell my friends (and the world) the story. In 2014, Ollie and I met at an orphanage in Malawi and soon after devised Beating Heart, where we could enroll artists to remix the archive and raise money and awareness to assist communities where the music originally came from.
How did you come to find out about Hugh Tracey and the ILAM archive?
Chris: My first encounter was a picture on my (then) girlfriends’ bedroom wall that Tracey snapped of the Mbuti people in the DRC listening back through a massive speaker to a recording that he had just made. They had a look of wonder on their faces, I was intrigued and went onto research within the family and finally visited the International Library of African Music (ILAM) in Grahamstown in 2014.
The first country you visited with the project was Malawi, what was it that drew you there first and foremost?
Olly: I was at a festival in 2013 and somebody put a pair of heart-shaped glasses on me, they incredulously turned every point of light into a heart. I sort out the source and found out that the money raised from the sale of the glasses supports the Love Support Unite foundation and their orphanage in Malawi. I became involved, helping to brand and market what are now called Love Specs. I visited Malawi a few months later and instantly fell in love with it. It’s a devastatingly beautiful place with the warmest and friendliest people you’ll ever meet. It’s also a great antidote to the nonsenses of the self-serving, consumer-based lifestyle we champion in the west. If we calmed down a bit we could see that through our privileged position of economic superiority we really can help effect positive long-lasting change in countries like Malawi and finally break the cycle of extreme poverty.
What drew you to the music of Africa in particular?
Chris: When I first heard the old recordings of Malawi I found them quite unpalatable, but in time I grew to love the many abstract sounds and rhythms. I’m intrigued by the story telling of African music and the complexities of the cross rhythms and tonalities that sound so different to homogenised Weston pop music. I feel lucky that this story dropped in my lap, it happens once in a lifetime. This music has changed my life path and throughout the many challenges of the projects 5 yearlong development, I had to believe that the Hugh Tracey story chose me.
Olly: Like Chris, when we were going through the source material I thought ‘this is going to be a hard sell.’ But listening to the resultant album and what the producers have achieved, I’m amazed at how much I like it. A lot of the dance genres have stagnated in recent years. Fusing sounds and influences from different cultures and time periods has always moved the energy forward.
How did you choose the remixers who feature on the album? How did they approach the production process?
Chris: Ollie and I approached friends and connections. We selected 35 tunes from the archive and gave them to our artists to sample the parts that excited them. Some used short vocal hooks, some used 16 bar loops, we gave them free reign to mix up the tracks, the brief was very open, mainly just be creative! When you have a captivating story and project that offers an opportunity to help people using music, most musicians get really behind what you trying to achieve. The artists involved loved contributing to be a part of a historical legacy, remixing ILAM for the first time and discovering new sounds. The charitable element is the lynch pin that gives Beating Heart a social responsibility.
Olly: I told the artists to make sure they summoned the ancestors when they got in the studio. The ancestors definitely have a vested interest in this working.
What are your ultimate ambitions for the project?
Chris: We aim to make one album for each of the 18 countries where Tracey recorded, raising money and awareness for relevant causes in each area, and pointing people to the richness of African music and culture from yesteryear and today.
Tell us more about the ‘Love Support Unite Africa’ Foundation?
Olly: Money raised from the album will help fund the Love Support Unite Foundation (LSU) in implementing ‘Garden to Mouth’ (G2M) – a sustainable food garden, at the Mkunkhu school in Lilongwe, Malawi. The school LSU helped the community to build, will have 10 hectares in total, enabling them to feed all 600 children by 2020. Attendance dropped from 600 to 300 in November due to famine and LSU began implementing a long lasting plan that could ensure that pupils, both now and in the future could remain in education.
Not only is this Garden totally eco-friendly it’s also a lifeline for the community. It will introduce nutrition to the school syllabus and with an outside classroom – become the link between garden, mouth, nutrition and education.
Further money raised from the album will be used to replicate the pilot at other schools in the country and it is our long term goal to have G2M become part of the national curriculum.
Which African artists have been striking your fancy recently?
Olly: Sonye and Drew Moyo from Malawi, who both contributed to the album are doing great work. Mbongwana Star (DRC). Black Coffee, Culoe De Song, Goldfish, Spoek Mathambo, Daev Martian all from SA. Fuse ODG (Ghanaian).
Is there any artist you would like to get involved for future projects?
Chris: We aim to work with many top artists from around the world but mainly we hope to incorporate the awesome talent that Africa has to offer. We are making strong connections with some great SA artists for the next project, we want to spread the word of the ILAM archive to Africans and once again shine a light in the spirit of HT.
What is on the horizon for Beating Heart?
Olly: We’ve just started sorting through the Hugh Tracey recordings for the next album, ‘Beating Heart – South Africa’, that will be supporting the Women’s Legal Centre over there. We’ll be out and about DJ’ing the music at UK festivals over the summer including Glastonbury, Wilderness, Larmer Tree, Port Elliott and more. Then we’ll be back in Malawi in September for the insanely beautiful Lake of Stars Festival. Join us!
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More Information: www.beating-heart.co.uk