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Welcome to Songs for Listening, a curated site for daily playlists from musicians, agents, managers, writers, scholars, and programmers.

05-30-19 | Songs for Listening | Jonathan Henderson

05-30-19 | Songs for Listening | Jonathan Henderson

Multi-instrumentalist, composer, writer, producer, and educator Jonathan Henderson picked tunes for Thursday, May 30 at Songs for Listening. Jonathan is currently perusing a PhD in ethnomusicology at Duke, while continuing his practice as an artist and performer. Most recently, Jonathan produced the album 'Routes' for his band Diali Cissokho & Kaira Ba. The album was recorded both in Senegal and North Carolina, and garnered critical acclaim from Songlines, Afropop Worldwide, The Financial Times, and Robert Christgau for Vice, among others. Jonathan’s academic research concerns how local musical traditions are transformed through recording studio practice and come to articulate new meaning through their international circulation. Jonathan has written music for film and theater, including several summers runs with The Paperhand Puppet Intervention. Jonathan has a decade’s worth of music teaching experience at the middle school, high school, and college level. He holds a BA in Sociology/ Anthropology with a concentration in Music from Guilford College.

Jonathan has provided a note and annotations to his playlist:

"I’ve picked 5 recordings from West Africa that speak to the musical intimacy of the Atlantic world. In a time when media flows at the speed of light, people are on the move and political borders are imagined and imposed by the powerful, it's nice to remember that artists have always transgressed borders, borrowing from here and there, speaking to whoever might listen.”

'Minawa' by Sory Kandia Kouyaté
”Cuban music made a deep and lasting impact on popular music in West Africa beginning in the 1930’s when Victor and Gramophone began to repackage Latin music recordings for distribution in Ghana, Nigeria, and Congo. These styles influenced a generation of musicians on the continent who heard an echo of West Africa reverberating in Cuban music. Many state-sponsored ensembles in newly independent West African nations played music that was deeply influenced by Cuban sounds. While Guinean griot Sory Kandia Kouyaté is a lesser known name in this story, his voice on this track stands at the center of just the type of ambiance that makes these mid-century recordings from the continent so irresistible.”

'Future Strings in E' by Seckou Keita
”I adore the inventiveness that Keita conjures in this solo kora piece. Keita hails from the kora heartland of Casamance, Senegal and is deeply influenced by the style unique to that region. The Casamance style has been overshadowed internationally by the Malian kora approach of the likes of Toumani Diabaté and Ballaké Sissoko, but in truth the kora only took root in Mali three generations ago. Keita’s style is steeped in a centuries-old tradition, but here his playing recasts these traditions in cosmopolitan form.”

'Sadjo' by Kassé Mady Diabaté
”One of most powerful voices of his generation in Mali, Kassé Mady Diabaté died a year ago this month. Here he is with a stripped down version of the classic 'Mali Sadio', accompanied by Lassine Kouyate on balafon. Diabaté’s legacy is being carried on these days by his daughter Hawa Kasse Mady Diabaté whose 2017 collaboration with Kronos Quartet (Trio Da Kali’s 'Ladilikan') has carried her onto the international touring circuit.”

'Cross-Eyed & Painless' by Angélique Kidjo
”Listening to Beninese diva Angelique Kidjo’s reinvention of the classic Talking Heads album 'Remain in Light' was one of the great musical highlights of my 2018. Equal parts deep artistic vision and publicity acumen, this release shines with the brilliance of a veteran artist at the top of her game. Kidjo’s remake is also a perfect conclusion to the peculiar diasporic story of 'Remain in Light'. Talking Heads recorded the basic tracks for the 1980 album in Nassau and pulled heavily on the music of Afrobeat progenitor Fela Kuti who was himself inspired by James Brown among other American funk pioneers. These artists offered a roadmap for the Talking Heads’ 'Remain in Light'. In reimagining the album in 2018, Kidjo effectively claimed American popular music as her own, appropriating it in service of a keenly self-aware Afrofuturist vision. Here, Kidjo challenges easy assumptions of Africans as unwitting participants in the global music industry, reminding us that African sounds and sensibilities, African artists, and African listeners stand at the center of the global pop music universe.”

'Mogoya' by Oumou Sangaré
”I keep returning to this Oumou Sangaré record. The Malian Wassoulou star has been recording and touring since the 1970’s and has been renown at home and in Europe for years. However, she’s made less of an impact in the States, possibly because of the Anglophone/Francophone divide in the music industry. The gorgeous ballad 'Mogoya' is the title track that caps her stunning 2017 release.”

'Minawa' by Sory Kandia Kouyaté from ‘La voix de la Revolution, Vol. 1’
'Future Strings in E' by Seckou Keita from ‘Seckou Keita: 22 Strings’
'Sadjo' by Kassé Mady Diabaté from ‘Kirike’
'Cross-Eyed & Painless' by Angélique Kidjo from ‘Remain in Light’
'Mogoya' by Oumou Sangaré


05-31-19 | Songs for Listening | Dasan Ahanu

05-31-19 | Songs for Listening | Dasan Ahanu

05-29-19 | Songs for Listening | Steve Weiss

05-29-19 | Songs for Listening | Steve Weiss