2016 in tropical music

AyeAye

I think this was one of the most interesting debuts of 2016 although the word ‘debut’ and the name of Carlos Reinoso should never be placed in the same sentence. He’s one of the most important personas on the Chilean alternative scene, a status gained due to being part of the iconic duo Mostro. AyeAye is Reinoso’s solo project and this year he finally released new music – firstly SaYAa for Discos Pegaos and then Wila Wila via Cómeme. Well done!


Mina

Mina was already a hot name in 2015 and that was even before the arrival of her first official release which was a song Tombura produced with Lorenzo BITW. She deserves all amounts of recognition she’s getting just for her amazing work as a radio presenter and DJ but in 2016 she became also a full-time producer which resulted in two top-quality EPs appearing in her catalogue.


Mawimbi vs. Midnight Ravers

Midnight Ravers, a collective consisting of both French and Malian musicians, published in May an EP containing remixes of some of the tracks from their last year’s album. Although among the invited producers the name Spoek Mathambo probably catches your eye first, it was edit performed by Parisians from Mawimbi crew that absolutely killed it with the rework of Koroni Foli.


Sun Sun Damba

I’ve already mentioned the Canadian label Multi Culti and their compilations Moon Faze and Sun Gaze which in June eventually formed a massive compilation featuring many valuable gems – one of such treasures definitely came from Irish producer Peter Power who is living in Berlin now.


Beating Heart: Malawi

Speaking of values – a project called Beating Heart: Malawi was probably one of the most important this year in terms of its mission. The organization invited producers from all over the world (including some big names like Machinedrum, Luke Vibert or Rudimental) to create a compilation based on the field recordings registered throughout 50 years of the past century by the legendary ethnomusicologist Hugh Tracey. All the income generated by this fantastic release will be donated to the regions of Africa that need help. You can read about details here.


Polo & Pan going tropical

Oh, this was a real surprise! I’m keeping an eye on the Parisian duo Polo & Pan since their 2014’s EP Dorothy and this is a fact not connected with the tropics at all. This year, however, they decided to close their new release with an astonishing track that exploits the sounds of traditional flutes and has a really enjoyable tropical vibe.


Pierre Kwenders & Sjamsoedin

There was a strong connection between these two in 2016. Firstly Sjamsoedin remixed Kwenders’ single Popolipo and then we could hear Congolese musician singing in the Lingala dialect on the Dutch producer’s track Pasi. Both stages of this collaboration resulted in the truly decent songs.


Angola Ting

Those may be pretty straightforward party tracks included in the Angola Ting EP but sometimes you just want to have fun and dance, right? Well, for such purposes these two edits of classic Angolan songs from the previous century will serve just perfectly. After all, the remixes were produced by Uproot Andy and Geko Jones who are associated with the famous Brooklyn-based Que Bajo?! parties.


Siete Raíces

Peruvian duo Dengue Dengue Dengue may actually be one of the most popular South American bands dealing with electronic music – hence their second album, which saw the light of the day this year, was equally highly anticipated release. The LP called Siete Raíces was eventually published in June by Enchufada and it brought not only modern versions of cumbia but also genres like footwork being surrounded by tropical elements.


Mala in Peru

So if we’re mentioning releases that were talked about the most in 2016, we cannot omit Mala’s return after the already legendary Cuban LP that appeared in 2012. This time, however, Mark Lawrence decided to visit Peru and base his album on the sounds registered there.


Marimba King

Another stellar release from Enchufada’s catalogue came from the one and only Dotorado Pro who proves that he’s definitely not a one-hit wonder and African Scream hype didn’t have any negative impact on his producing skills. In fact, Rei das Marimbas shows a continuous progress in his work and brings a mature sound focused on Dotorado’s favourite instrument – marimba.


21st century baile funk

There’s no better recommendation about your music than Daniel Haaksman saying that your new EP is basically the baile funk of the 21st century. He used such words to describe this year’s EP from Sants, a 22-year-old producer from São Paulo, and you just need one minute into the opening track called Rajada to know he was right.


Bosq The Remixer

I’ve already mentioned Boston’s Bosq being greatly remixed by Auntio Flo but let’s not forget that Ben Woods did a great job editing tracks this year as well. Not only did he publishe so called Lost Reworks from the past but also contributed a rework for the Venezulean singer Toto Gonzalez.


Tahira

Brazil’s Tahira is yet another editing master featured here but he really knows how to deal with vintage records from his own country. In 2016 he jumped on Baianas de Ipioca’s Boa Noite and Banda De Pifanos De Caruaru’s Cavalinho Cavalao. The first song was famously sampled few years ago one of Karol Conka’s tracks and  the latter was included in the first release of the London-based Tiff’s Joints label which also contains Batuki, a composition produced by Tahira and Fernando TRZ.


A young veteran

You can find some of the Lisbon’s finest young guns above but it’s not that veterans of that scene remain quiet. DJ N.K – and it’s hard to call him a veteran as he was born in 1988 – stunned the world of kuduro this year with his debut full-length release which presents the best ghetto dance rhythms.


Back to the ’50s

The Cuban project, described here at the very top, wasn’t the only undertaking Gilles Peterson sacrificed his time to in 2016 (it would be actually very foolish to assume that it was). This world music ambassador released also the second installment of the Sonzeira series. This time he focused his attention on the legendary Tam Tam Tam album from 1957.


Trans Afryka

You probably think what a weird way of writing ‘Africa’ that is but that’s a Polish way and there’s nothing weird about it as there definitely was nothing weird with the EP which was given that name. The release brought together two of Polish finest DJs and producers – Universo and DJ Ryan R – who produced two slick and hypnotizing Africa-inspired tracks.


Alpha S

Until this year Baltazar Solar was known as Alpha Stronggah and Zambo1492 but now the name has been shortened to just Alpha S. The quality of his music is fortunately something that he kept constant in 2016 and it could be heard on his 2650 Club release put out by Discos Pegaos. In this release the Chilean producer is presenting the sound of Recoleta, the neighbourhood of Santiago that Solar grew up in. After all, it’s all about the roots as we can hear in the opening track.


Turista + Raquel Berríos

Turista is a Puerto Rican trio that debuted with the full-length material this year and on one of the tracks – a beauty called Natureleza Humana – they had a pleasure of featuring Raquel Berríos of Buscabulla. This is probably one of the very few such straightforwardly pop-ish songs here but when something is so cute you just can’t resist.


¿Ustedes son de la República Dominicana?

That’s the question we can hear on Nunca Paran and the answer from the authors of this enjoyable track is very much positive. Yes, MULA is a trio from Dominicana and this year the girls were supposed to release their second album. This didn’t happen but we’re still left with a bunch of singles out of which I liked the most dembow-influenced song mentioned above.


Rafael Aragón

Oh yes, Rafael Aragón is also one of these artists that you simply cannot keep up with. There are countless remixes, songs and mixtapes to his name and he has a history of releasing for the friends from Babylon Records and Caballito but the track that impressed me the most this year is a carribean cumbia presented on the compilation from Brazilian Tropical Twista label.


Magnus Mehta and his band

Magnus Mehta caught my attention with the fantastic cassette called very accurately Penya Investigations as he’s indeed exploring many different parts of the world with this release. Later on it turned out that this EP was also spotted by DJ Khalab which led to the creation of Acelere – another four-tracker, this time from Mehta’s band Penya which is fronted by Angelica Lopez from Colombia.


Elegba

Carlos Mena was born in Puerto Rico but then he moved to the USA where he’s a respected DJ and music producer. In 2016 the catalogue of Greece-based Yoruba Records was enriched with his new EP which included a comforting composition called Elegba.


 Nacho Libre

One of my longtime favourites didn’t rest this year – his tracks made it to the compilations by Shango Records, Tropical Twista and our own Basy Tropikalne #1 (Latin America) which you can find at the very end of this summary. Nacho Libre released also two EPs out of which one focuses on reinterperting the sound of legendary Latin tunes.


Zhut & Kapote

Two Berlin-based producers – Zhut and Kapote – joined their forces in 2016 initially for the So Damn Hot single but few months later we saw them contributing the banging Afro Rico track for the Toy Tonic’s second part of Mushroom House. This powerful song featured Senegalese child choir sampled into marimba rhythms and heavy bass.


Chico Mann’s version of El Lobo

Chico Mann from New York is a real remixing specialist, especially when it comes to giving that extra spin to Latin compositions. This year we could see him successfully doing that for Yanga – the US-based collective – and their first single for Chicago’s Sonorama.


Russian tropics

Russia may actually be one of the very last countries that I would explore in search of tropical music. Firstly, that’s a very prejudicial thing to say and secondly, with such attitude I would miss Moscow’s producer Bad Zu and his fabulous Tswana Dance song that appeared on the compilation from Through My Speakers.


Cassius

Yes, Cassius. The French duo released the first decent album in 10 years and there are many surprising tropical references included in different tracks across Ibifornia but let’s focus on the magnificent lead single Action which features Cat Power and Beastie Boys’ Mike D. A decent line-up as for one song, right? The track’s even better. Don’t forget to check out the EP with remixes containing 11 minutes long Lagos Dub version.


Auntie Flo with marimba

I’ve already had to use Auntie Flo’s name few times here and the same applies to marimba – therefore I think it’s high time to see how they’re doing together as it was exactly this instrument that Flo used to reimagine The Invisible’s single Love Me Again.


Kevin Reynolds

Kevin Reynolds is yet another experienced American to release new music this year via Yoruba Records. The producer, who started his career way back in the ’90s, came back after 5 years of relative silence with the EP called Fembehyahget which includes tunes inspired by both Africa (the title track) and South America (Travelled which features Bossa Nova vocals from the song by Baden Powell and Vinícius De Moraes).


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