2016 in tropical music

Keeping up with Siete Catorce

Yeah, good luck with that. Siete Catorce really likes uploading tracks out of nowhere on his soundcloud account and he’s honestly one of the most prolific producers out there. If I had to choose one song of him that I liked the most in 2016 it would suprisingly be Tarde but let’s not forget about experimental EP3 and a handful of outstanding remixes – including edits done for Nicola Cruz, Branko and Sotomayor.


Disco Halal Brazil

Sooner or later we’ll get to Moscoman but let’s focus now on his Berlin-based label. You would rather associate Disco Halal with oriental sounds of Eastern countries but for the fourth installment of their world-influenced series of EPs they turned to Brazil. The rhythms of this South American countries were brought by Carrot Green and Selvagem, a pair of local producers who created three true Brazilian gems.


Adesse’s African inspirations

British producer Kevin Gorman let his African inspirations speak out in 2013 when he published a killer tune called Baayi which included sampled voice of Youssou N’Dour. I was more than excited to find out that this year he came back to this ideas – this time in the track In The Sticks where he used African drums and tribal vocal snippets.


Morena Leraba x Kashaka

That moment at the beginning of Lithebera when Leraba’s powerful voice enters the song is giving me goosebumps everytime I return to this track. His collaboration with Brooklyn’s Kashaka, a producer with history of releasing for Enchufada, is one of those which starts online and is then taken to the real life. However, Lithebera – which is their first single – had been created before the pair actually met in person but none of this can be heard in the song whose beats lay down a perfect background for the vocals sung in Sesotho.


beGun has begun

If you were supposed to choose any continet (excluding Europe) that a Spanish artist would focus on for his debut album, you would probably quite safely go for Latin America. It’s a different story with beGun, though, as he decided to explore Africa instead. His fascination with African music and instruments (like kalimba) reaches its climax on the first part of the wonderfully composed track called Mobasi.


Across generations

Tropical music – especially when understanding it in a way explained by me at the very top – is particularly susceptible to fruitful collaborations across different generations of musicians. In 2016, one of the most important projects bringing together very experienced artists with younger producers definitely occurred under the name Konono N°1 meets Batida which pretty much says it all.


Lascivio Bohemia

Eduardo Zambrano from Ecuador used his Lascivio Bohemia alias to release a very decent EP called Afro Andes in which he mixed African music from the region of his country called Esmeraldas with typical Andean elements like local flutes known as pingullos. Along with traditional female vocals the whole thing leaves a captivating impression.


O’Flynn

Last year, this young British producer debuted for Leeds-based Blip Discs with a release whose both sides were related in one way or the other to tropics – and that included a dope song called Desmond’s Empire. In 2016 he offered a new double single but this time only side A showcased heavy African influences.


RSS B0YS in Brazil

Polish duo RSS B0YS has a long history of using tropical elements in their music but this year they took it to the next level – their album M0NKYY BL00D was created based on the field recordings artists were able to record during their visit to Brazil, focusing on the sounds of Tijuca (one of the biggest urban forests in the world) and Rocinha (Brazil’s largest favela that needs no introduction). I would like you to pay attention to the closing track – absolutely splendid YMPYYCHMYNT YYNNDD is one of the best pieces of music made this year, regerdless of genre.


Okzharp

The appetite for new music from Okzharp (formerly of LV) was enormous after last year’s intriguing Dumela 113 EP and he started taking care of that in April by publishing Gated EP which was produced with Samrai, the founder of the Swing Ting collective. This release contained three versions of the very same song, each one featuring vocals provided by different artists. The real bomb exploded when Okzharp dropped Tell Your Vision, a new EP recorded once again with multitalented Mathe Ribane.


Teenager power

So DJ Doraemon is 18 year old now but started producing music when he was 10 and some of the tracks that made it to his Apocalypse EP were created when he was just 15. That’s impressive and so is the rawness of his aggressive sound that spans through six songs – first half is dedicated to the genre called tarraxo and the second one is all about kuduro.


Dany F

Daniel Florez is one of those artists you should always keep an eye on. This year we saw him producing some remixes (e.g. for Empresarios and TKUZ), being a guest on techno-latino release from Roman & Castro and finally publishing his new album Tropical State of Mind. He’ll kick off 2017 with the Fiebre EP and I’m sure a lot more will follow.


 El Rey del Bajo remixed

For the Calentura: Barengue project Mark de Clive-Lowe – producer, composer, pianist and DJ of Japanese and New Zealander parentage – created a fantastic  rework of Barengue Merengue, a track originally performed in 1966 by Puerto Rican Bobby Valentin who is often referred to as El Rey del Bajo which means nothing less than ‘King of the Bass’.


Thor’s weapon

I’m not very much into this topic but I believe that Thor used a mighty hammer of some sort to fight. I’m sure, however, that in 2016 another Thor – and I mean Thor Partridge known as Thornato here – exploited the sound of kuisi (a traditional Colombian flute) to absolutely nail it with the opening track of his debut EP.


Mbira meets TR 808

Atuka Mhondoro 808 was an awesome release that saw Zimbabwean mbira maestro Jacob Mafuleni collaborating with French producer Gary Gritness to create compositions of a unique style that some started calling afro-techno. Not to miss are also beautiful vocals from Mafuleni’s wife Marta Thom. Let’s hope this double-sided single was not an one-off thing.


The end of Hy Brazil compilations

In April we received 10th – and last – compilation from the series called Hy Brazil in which Chico Dub was trying to present the new sounds of the country. It’s a real pity that this project has come to an end, especially bearing in mind that thanks to these releases one had a chance to get to know over one hundred of Brazilian artists. It can be perfectly seen how valuable Chico Dub’s selection was when you listen to the opening track of this year’s compilation which was produced by São Paulo’s Rico.


Huntleys + Palmers’ Clyde Built

To celebrate a Boiler Room party that they were involved in, Glasgow-based label Huntley + Palmers decided to showcase the underground scene of this Scottish city by releasing a compilation Clyde Built which included over 20 of local talents. Auntie Flo’s Highlife is featured in the tracklist to celebrate the 5th anniversary of the song but there are also other tropical goodies – a bit psychedelic Batucada from MR TC and Basarwa by Slouch.


Esa’s trip to Brazil

Last year Esa Williams did a trip to Brazil where he completely lost himself in the Sel-Com record store which is full of Brazilian finest musicians old records. It was there that he discovered the legacy of Tim Maia and Sandra Sa whose tracks – Que Beleza and Trem Do Central respectively – later on served as a basis for producing the Brazilian Remakes release.


DJ Spoko

So 2016 was the year of Spoko’s comeback and you may not even realize this as we’ve seen him releasing music without any particular silence periods throughout the past several years. But at the end of last year this South African producer was diagnosed with life-threatening tuberculosis during his UK tour with Fantasma and to see him returning to producing music so fast was an uplifting experience. Marvin Ramalepe – that’s his real name – not only released a full length Bacardi XVI but also produced an EP called Intelligent Mental Institution with DJ Mujava (for whom actually this was a real comeback after many years of silence). The duo also appeared on the famous Spoek Mathambo’s remix of Pegasus Warning’s magnificent The Mountain which dates back to 2013 but this year was eventually officially released on Mathambo’s EP Badimo.


Sorie Kondi & Chief Boima

This is another collaboration across generations but this time it’s all about the sound from Sierra Leone. The cooperation between Sorie Kondi – once named ‘Sierra Leone’s Stevie Wonder’ by BBC – and DJ Chief Boima may have actually started in a very initial form almost ten years ago but it was in 2016 that we got a first proper release, an EP built around a track called Belle Wahallah. A debut album was supposed to be published this year as well but this unfortunately didn’t happen which probably means we’ll get the LP in 2017.


Cosmosamba

I have a feeling this song could go on and on for hours… This hypnotizing and equally cosmic track has been produced by Thomash, German exile in Brazil, and Projeto Mujique who provided vocals and guitars.


RAMZi’ For Haku

It’s really hard to say where do RAMZi’s ideas for the tribal music come from but the fact is she produced very experimental album full of tropical elements that actually make sense.


Spaniol’s Benzaiten

Felipe Torquato is the creator of the Sonido Tropico label and he’s also one of the most productive Brazilian artists. The song of himself that I liked the most this year is Benzaiten released by Mexicans from Akumandra. Surprisingly, the track features Japanese vocals praising the Buddhist goddess.


Fernando Toth remixing Jardín Láser

Jardín Láser is an alias used by Colombian artist Gabriela Supelano for her solo project in which she produces experimental music enriched by her own vocals. In 2016 Gabriela released a quite short EP which is finished by the dark rework carried out by Fernando Toth who backed La Mancha with ominous drums and whirling melodies.


Kilchhofer’s sounds of nature

Dersu, the first release published under the name Kilchhofer by the artist previously known as Timoka, is a mysterious album that brings you closer to the nature from different parts of the world. It’s actually pretty risky to state that this seven-tracker is a tropical piece of music but the fact is that some of the compositions include tribal drums and when you’ll listen to some of the others you’ll find yourself nowhere else than deep inside the exotic jungle.


Rio Citrus

Is there a better way of calling a very colourful and joyous track than using a name of a beverage that’s particularly good at quenching thirst? I don’t think so and British producer Majora apparently thought the very same thing when he was producing this entertaining tropical beauty prepared for his debut EP.


Moscoman

I promised we’ll get to Moscoman and here you have him. The Disco Halal label boss will probably most remember 2016 for releasing a debut full-length album but for the past twelve months I will always praise him for two amazing tracks – Se Acabo which was featured by Multi Culti in one of their compilations and majestic Dikembe Manutu produced along fellow Israeli artists from the duo Red Axes.


Auntie Flo’s jump on Tumbala

Tumbala from Boston’s Bosq and Puerto Rican legend Hector Alomar appeared originally last year but in 2016 we could see it on two other releases – Wonderwheel Recordings’ Turntables on the Carribean in its original version and it was also remixed for the Tumbala Remixes coloured vinyl. One of the reworks was produced by the mighty Auntie Flo.


Celebrating Oggun

And speaking of the Nikodemus’ compilation Turntables on the Carribean – one of the highlights featured on this LP was A Celebration of Oggun from Italian producer Sunlightsquare. Later during the year this single was released separately containing additional three versions of the song.


Cuba’s DJ Jigüe

A release showcasing the sound of Carribean regions wouldn’t be complete without the rhythms from Cuba and they were represented on the aforementioned compilation by marvelous DJ Jigüe bringing the genre created by Haitian slaves and called tumba francesa. Luckily, this year we also received his new EP in which he further explores the Afro-Cuban inspirations.


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