2016 in tropical music

Havana Club Rumba Sessions by Gilles Peterson

2016 saw Gilles Peterson further exploring his Cuban inspirations which led to releasing Havana Club Rumba Sessions. The album is based on three crucial rumba rhythms (i.e. guaguancó, yambú and columbia) which were performed to Peterson by island’s renowned rumberos. The world music ambassador recorded them and invited producers of different backgrounds to remix them in their own style. This is how we got personal takes on rumba from Japan’s Daisuke Tanabe and Yosi Horikawa, Cuba’s own electronic music legend Djoyvan or Berlin’s Max Graef and Glenn Astro. The album was accompanied by two elements – a documentary called La Clave and a free sample pack.

To celebrate 8 years of his Cuban project, Gilles Peterson also put out Havana Cultura Anthology at the end of this year. The compilation brings together the tracks from different releases published since 2008 under the name of Havana Cultura.

Daniel Haaksman

The news about Daniel Haaksman’s then upcoming album came with the release of the short yet captivating single Rename The Streets. The title of the song is at the same time an appeal  to the officials to reconsider the controversial names of few streets in the Berlin’s area called Afrikanisches Viertel. This sole fact makes African Fabrics a valuable listen but then comes the music – and as always with this Man Recordings boss it is at the top level. We were also lucky enough to get a remixed version of the album in 2016. It included reworks from Mo Laudi, Dotorado Pro, DJ NK and others.

Spoek Mathambo + Aero Manyelo + Manteiga

We first heard about Batuk last year but it was in May that we could finally listen to their debut LP Música da Terra. Of course, calling members of this supergroup debutants would be a terrible mistake as the band is composed by South Africa’s finest Spoek Mathambo, Aero Manyelo and Manteiga. The album earned itself a deluxe version which was enriched by the remixes produced among others by Basy Tropikalne favourites – Mina, Daniel Haaksman, Rudeboyz and more.

Branko expanding

João Barbosa was one of the founders of the Buraka Som Sistema and Enchufada label and you may think that you simply can’t do more for the Afro-Portuguese scene. But Branko – it’s how Barbosa is known in his solo career – proves that you’re wrong. In September 2015 he released his debut album and in 2016 Atlas got two parts of the expanded version consisting of the magnificent remixes done by NAAFI’s Lao or Babylon Records’ Stas.

Tropical Hungary

And speaking of Babylon Records – they rocked this year as well. It all began in January with the release of a decent EP from tshabee which was followed by a handful of goodies from Hataah, Aluphobia, Stas and surprising appearances from Siete Catorce, MRBL and Mansa ’91. One just has to admit that they don’t make false moves in Hungary.

Mikael Seifu

What Seifu is doing is not only bringing the sound of ethio-jazz to the next level. He’s bringing the music in general there. This true visionary published Zelalem EP via RVNG Intl. in March and also appeared at numerous locations in Europe to show his capabilities. The standout from his this year’s release is a huge composition How to Save a Life (Vector of Eternity) which builds the tension similarly to the ecstatic Fuck Buttons remix od Fever Ray’s If I Had a Heart.

Otura Mun’s ÌFÉ

Otura Mun likes to take his time with his Puerto Rican group ÌFÉ. At the end of last year they emerged with a single about three women (3 Mujeres (Iború Iboya Ibosheshé)) and in 2016 we got only two new songs. We definitely need more bearing in mind how captivating a delicate House of Love (Ogbe Yekun) is. If only they have a longer release ready (and I’ve been told they have!), 2017 will belong to them.


This word – meaning drum in zulu – was a trendy one in 2015. This year we saw a further development of this craze and most importantly we also received first proper releases from the Italian label Gqom Oh! whose boss is undoubtedly one of the major ambassadors of this genre. He’s released two compilations – firstly The Sound of Durban and then a soundtrack to the Woza Taxi documentary made in cooperation with the Crudo Volta collective. Another gqom releases worth mentioning both came from the London-based imprints. One is an album called Intakatho Yama Phelimuncasi which was produced by the Phelimuncasi trio and published by TOWNSHIPTECH. The other one belongs to the self-proclaimed king of gqom – DJ Lag. In November his EP was released by Goon Club Allstars.

Nan Kolè

Ok, so I’ve mentioned his role as a boss of the Gqom Oh! but in 2016 Nan Kolè was not only extensively DJing all over Europe but also producing his own stuff. Supposedly, there’s his debut EP Tropical Tottenham coming in the near future but so far the only thing certain was a track called West Green Riddim. Let’s hope the rumours about a longer release are true.

DJ Neber’s love stories

It hurts when you’re in love. Or something. But certainly it’s a statement that Mexican DJ Neber can relate to as he called his album Amar Es Tortura. Fortunately, listening to this stuff is something completely opposite to tortures as Javier Martinez Loredo was able to produce a collection of peaceful tracks consisting of hip hop beats, Latin rhythms and romantic vocal samples (including snippets from Rey Caney’s No Vuelvas Por Mi Perdon).

Clap! Clap!’s and LV’s takes on Bognya

You know you’re someone when you get a names like Clap! Clap! and LV to remix one of your singles. Not that DJ Khalab and Baba Sissoko needed any opinion on their status but that was a nice confirmation. Bognya originally appeared on the duo’s debut album in 2015 but in February it received two refreshed versions and it would hard to choose which one’s better. Luckily – there’s no need to do that.

DJ Khalab remixes

So DJ Khalab got remixed but he remixed this year as well and it happened more than once. To start with, before the London-based band Melt Yourself Down released the long-awaited full-length follow-up to their debut album from 2013, the first single off the new LP got a new version from Khalab. It came out in the second  week of January and it was definitely a proper track to kick off a new year in tropical music. In April we got his rework of the Owiny Sigoma Band’s single from their third album and then he treated us with pure Latin happiness contained in the remix of Penya’s Acelere. I guess it turned out that no matter whether he’s producing his own stuff or trying his chances with someone else’s sound – DJ Khalab always brings top quality music.

Rocky Marsiano Vol. Dois

From his D-Mars period, Rocky Marsiano has a history of focusing on Brazilian music and nothing’s weird about that considering his mother was raised in Rio. Marsiano himself, though, grew up in Lisbon and it seems that the African vibe of this city has finally find its way to the artist’s mind. The Dark Continent was all over Rocky’s Meu Kamba album released in 2014 and this year we got a follow-up to that amazing LP. Highlights of Meu Kamba Vol. Dois? Check out Kisua Ba and Kata Para.

Ela Minus on the plus side

There’s definitely nothing negative about Colombian Ela Minus who just had a breakthrough year with her solo project. For someone having a longtime experience of being part of a screamo band, Gabriela Jimeno’s newest inspirations are suprisingly delicate but it is a direction she already pursued while serving as a drummer for a group called Balancer. Last year she caught ours attention with magnificent single Jamaica but it was in February 2016 that Volcán was published and it is probably her best song until now. It was later accompanied by the Grow EP but let’s hope we’ll get to hear Ela’s debut full-length album pretty soon.

Dee Jay Florentino

We all have that one friend (ok, plural will be more apt here but let’s stay optimistic) that just listens to HIS kind of music and there’s absolutely no chance of persuading him to try something new. Manchester-based Florentino is a perfect proof though that you can get something from every type of sound – so when the cousins on his grandad’s farm in the Colombian jungle asked him to play reggaeton instead of some weird UK staff, he did so but on his own terms. This is how the last year’s debut EP Tu y Yo was born and Flo continued to spread his style in 2016 as well. Firstly by remixing Kid Antoine’s Boydpaint and then by releasing a double-sided single in the beginning of December.

Afro Disco

Ok, so you’ve all heard about Giorgio Moroder – and that is thanks to Daft Punk – but there is another disco legend still in the business and that has one been continuously doing a great job and releasing music since the ’70s. His name is Marc Cerrone and this year he put out a record which pays tribute to his long-lasting Arican inspirations (Kongas, the name of his first band, says it all). Afro (well, this name says it all as well) EP features guest appearances from Tony Allen and Cameroonian saxophonist Manu Dibango but what got my attention the most is the Todd Edwards take on the track called Funk Makossa.

Africaine 808

It actually feels pretty weird that debut album from Africaine 808 came out only this year, especially bearing in mind how experienced these guys are and that they were introduced to each other way back in 2000 at one of the Fuckparade events. However, their current project didn’t start then and it was in 2013 that their first single together was released. One of the driving forces that eventually led to the creation of Africaine 808 was Hans Reuschl’s extraordinary tropical party Vulkandance which helped him regain the desire to produce music. Fortunately, he remembered that few years earlier Dirk Layers (previously of Closer Musik) would always bug him about going to the studio together and this time he finally said yes. It was a consent without which Basar would have never been made.

Umoja united

Umoja is a word used in Swahili to express unity but at the same time it is also a name of the Dutch duo responsible for two labels – Piri Piri and INI Movement. Obviously, they’re also producing their own music and one of the original tracks made it to the annual De Gulden Snede compilation issued by the latter of aforementioned imprints. It’s called Everything Is Rhythm and samples voices of Baro people from Guinea.

Marcello Baptiste

It turns out that Hungarian tropical scene is not only about Babylon Records – and it’s the fact that is both surprising and impressive. Anyway, there’s also Budapest-based Márton Király (known as Marcello Baptiste) who debuted this year with his first proper release via Mexican label Akumandra. Further into the year he appeared on a compilation from Berlin collective Drossel but my favourite track of him remains Streamea from Cháben. Make sure to keep an eye on this guy in 2017!

Bufi’s comeback

We  had to wait quite long for Mateo González Bufi’s second album and I don’t only mean that his debut Trilogy was published in 2012. Far worse was the fact that he teased us with the first single (Cosmoattack) in February and then kept us on hold until November when eventually Revelación was published. Patience – of course – paid off as Duro label boss once again proved that he’s a true disco master.

Princes of Lisbon

Ok, I do realize that everything’s been already written about Príncipe so let’s just sum it all up in one sentence – they rocked in 2016 as well. This year their catalogue opened with Marfox’ Chapa Quente (containing amazingly intensive 2685 single) and then included also extensive Mambos Levis D’Outro Mundo compilation and still enough momentum was left to go on and release DJ Nervoso’s self-titled EP. What’s coming next?

Coro Chelaalapi reimagined

Now that’s exactly the kind of thing we would like to see more often being funded by public money. The local Ministry of Culture in Argentina invited five artists from the renowned ZZK Records and told each of them to choose one of the Coro Chelaalapi (choir founded way back in the ’60s) songs which were then recorded again for the purposes of the remixes. Line up of the producers taking part in this project is definitely eye-catching – we’ve got reworks from Lagartijeando, King Koya, Frikstailers, Ciudad Satelite and Chancha via Circuito.

Jimena Dominguez

Jimena Dominguez, an artist hailing from the city of Rosario in Argentina, had a history of performing with trip-hop and even emocore bands but decided to go to solo few years ago. The effects can be heard on the debut EP called Las Enseñanzas del Dragón and released this year by Triple RRR. Her style is characterized by delicate vocals backed with intriguing electronic sounds, often surprisingly experimental as in the amazing opening track Guaraní Song.

Alma Negra

2016 was certainly a year of Alma Negra. The Swiss multicultural collective consisting of Figuiera brothers of Cape Verdean heritage, Italian-Portuguese Dario and Mario with Spanish roots brought two major projects this year. One of them was Tabanka EP released via the legendary Sofrito and then they came up with Digger’s Workout – a trilogy of EPs exhibiting the wide range of their inspirations. One thing remains constant in their sound though – it is the extensive use of tribal percussions which makes Alma Negra’s music really fast-paced and hence turns it into a truly danceable feast.

 From Belgium to Africa

I’m pretty sure that at the time I played Asa Moto’s killer afrobeaty track Wanowan Efem (or 101fm if you prefer) this Belgian duo was somehow considered mysterious and rumour had it those are Dewaele brothers of 2manydjs trying something new. Definitely there’s a connection as it is Dewaeles new label Deewee that released the EP containing this song but now it is known that the band consists of another two Belgians – Olivier Geerts and Gilles Noë.

Love above all

San Ignacio is definitely a special artist for Basy Tropikalne as he’s one of the very few musicians presented during the show who has actually visited the city in which it is aired. And not only that – he was so impressed with Wrocław that he even called one of his songs on the debut album with its German name (Breslau). In 2016 we saw him releasing an unusual love-praising single Lo único que hay es el amor which features old radio recordings and another full-length, this time via Casa Caos netlabel.

Legba is coming

Legba is one of the spirits in the Haitian voodoo religion and it was a Kreyol song about him that was used by the experienced British DJ and producer Streamer to create a light-hearted track mixing Carribean rhythms and vocals with Brazilian samba. Messing with different styles can be tricky but Gary Shepherd knows how to handle this more than well.

Alleged Witches’ remix of Meta

Ok, that’s the first release from Discos Pegaos I’m mentioning here but this name will appear few times more so get used to it (although to be honest you should have been familiar with this Chilean label by now). Anyway, one of the first things to appear in their catalogue this year was focused on Vaskular’s Meta from 2015’s third part of Pegamentos compilation. Remixes came from Cómeme’s Sano and Chilean VNZO but – and that’s surprising – the most tropical one was produced by Alleged Witches from Slovenia. It’s a bit dark and moody and includes wonderfully fitted tribal drums.

 Who’s an African?

What defines an African? That’s probably a very hard question to ask yet it was approached by Greece-based AkizzBeatzz in his single I’m an African. And if you’re thinking about Greece in tropical categories, Shango Records should be one of the very first things to pop up in your mind – it was exactly this label that published the song along with its two remixes. One of them – namely the rework produced by two Thessalonians: Mr. Lookman and Pale Penguin – remains my favourite track of this release.

Girls of South America

Peruvian label called Surrounding and founded in 2015 by a local artist Dreams on Board came up with an amazing project this year – namely a compilation aiming to showcase the huge potential of female South American electronic music producers. The album, aptly named South-American Women in Electronic Music, contains songs by Valesuchi, Sobrenadar, Baridi Baridi and more. The absolute highlight of this compilation is an outstandingly beautiful Blue Dress by Magdalena.

Jimmy Roman

Jimmy Roman, apart from being certainly a name of someone somewehere in the world, is also the name of an intensive track produced by Argentinian duo Camanchaca (Juan de Borbón and Alejandro Duro). With its native percussions and flute sounds, it’s the most straightforwardly tropical song from their this year’s album Aurora.

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