gothic folk cellist baeilou creates haunting worlds on ep ‘inside under’

I don’t want to spoil the best part of Baeilou’s stunning “Eleanora,” except to say it’s one of the most surprising and beautiful songs I’ve ever heard. Over lush cello accompaniment, the singer-songwriter summons stunning and haunting gothic folk, with each title helpfully pointing to its inspiration, from “a non-fiction book about citrus” to “global warming.”
It’s like an old book coyly announcing “in which the hero learns a secret” beneath each chapter heading. She circles around stories in her songs, implying much, and declaring little, creating a constant sense of enveloping curiosity. As if beneath the cello plucks and wails, there’s the truth of the matter.
“Nothing is ever as it seems,” she sings on “Oranges,” nothing, especially not Inside Under. But at least for Baeilou, that uncertainty is what makes it so enticing.

Photo by Cinque Mubarak

premiere: get on a wild ride with punk rocker anita lofton’s folk/soul song “boom boom”

Over a countrified soul stomp, The Anita Lofton Project’s latest “Boom Boom” brings the party. Singer and guitarist Lofton’s throwback vibe is an anthem for summer nights and unpaved roads. She got her start in the punk band Sistas in the Pit, and she brings that same energy to her new project’s sound. Lofton may have traded in a Marshall half stack for a fiddle player, but she hasn’t lost the feel.

The song is “a wild ride,” Anita tells us, “‘Boom Boom’ is a modern day love anthem where intimacy, truth, and love are explored. Peaks, valleys, and breakdowns make you wanna hold up a mirror and ask, “What will I do for love”? Peaks, valleys, and breakdowns make you wanna hold up a mirror and ask, ‘What will I do for love?’”

Photo by Lincoln Alder

pay tribute to sister rosetta tharpe and reclaim folk music with “americana” singers nickel&rose

“Sister Rosetta made this land for me and you”


If you knew nothing else about the United States, the fact that the whitest genre of music is called “Americana” would tell you basically everything you needed to know. Folk (ahem, Americana) duo Nickel&Rose tackle that legacy head-on in their haunting new single “Americana.” It’s a song full of cutting observations hiding behind Carl Nichols’ world-weary melody, from the line about Sister Rosetta Tharpe simultaneously pioneering rock, country, and Americana to the observation about “instruments from Africa are no longer for me.” It’s a song that seeks to reclaim a legacy torn away by decades of racist marketing, and it doesn’t hurt that it’s one of the best damn folk songs I’ve heard all year.

Nickel&Rose’s Americana EP drops September 14th. Pre-order it here.

premiere: like a ‘chariot’ for a wary soul, british soulstress mega’s stirring vocals feel like home

North London soulstress Mega’s musical journey began in a local choir but was sidelined by devastating vocal issues experienced in her youth. She never let that deter her, vowing to one-day unleash her talent on the world and that day has finally come. Mega’s debut single ‘Chariot’ is a vulnerable and evocative showcase of the songstress’ measured vocal prowess. The simple strumming of the guitar, building to a percussive peak of nostalgia, power and catharsis is an experience only heightened and deepened by the rich tones of Mega’s voice.

She tells AFROPUNK: “Chariot was inspired by thinking about what I really needed to hear and imagining those words and lyrics being spoken and sung to me.”

A student of Whitney Houston and Amy Winehouse, Mega’s own undeniable sound shines through with her ability to weave understated lyrical poetry through an equally poetic sonic landscape. Every second is honest, embracing you till the echo of the final strum bleeds away, bringing you back into world. Bringing you home.

We cannot wait to witness Mega’s inevitable rise.

Listen to ‘Chariot’ above.

video premiere: treat your senses to folk-soul singer mariama’s dreamy “raindrops”

With lush synths shading in the lines drawn by Mariama’s evocative voice, and the dense imaginative video by Nando Nkrumah, “Raindrops” is a feast for the senses. The Paris-based singer’s latest single builds from a downbeat song of heartbreak to the moment when you wipe off your face and watch the clouds begin to clear. Her rich voice traces a jazzy melody over retro synths and a spare beat. Nkrumah ties it together with a visually ambitious video which tracks a continuous zoom past the heartbreak.

It’s about “Love, sweat and tears,” Mariama tells AFROPUNK. “Raindrops belongs to the TEARS part of the album. The song describes a state of confusion, loneliness, sadness, but in the midst of these dark feelings, there is always a voice that speaks to us – pain also has its “raison d’être”. It can tell us what’s wrong with our lives and where we need change – provided we listen to it. If one manages to face unpleasant feelings without trying to stifle them or run away, a crisis can become a new beginning. It takes rain, so that the flowers can blossom again. Ultimately it all depends on our attitude. There is a quote that says: Some people feel the rain – others just get wet.”

En Français:

“Appartenant à la partie TEARS de l’album la chanson décrit un état de confusion, de solitude, de tristesse. Mais au milieu de ces sentiments sombres, il y a toujours une voix qui nous parle – la douleur aussi a sa raison d’être. Elle peut nous indiquer ce qui ne va pas dans notre vie et où on a besoin de changement – à condition qu’on l’écoute. Si on arrive à faire face aux sentiments désagréable sans essayer de les étouffer ou de fuir, une crise peut devenir un nouveau départ. Il faut la pluie, pour que les fleurs puissent s’épanouir à nouveau. Finalement tout dépend de notre attitude, il y a une citation qui dit: some people feel the rain – others just get wet (certaines personnes sentent la pluie – d’autres sont justes un peu mouillés).”

Mariama’s forthcoming full length LOVE, SWEAT and TEARS is due out in Fall 2018.

Director: Nando Nkrumah
Cinematographer: Jennifer Günther
Dancer: Kristina Kunn, Abine Leao Ka, Nnandi, Saliou Diouf, Ekaterina Thor, Jessica Trommenschläger
Styling: CHANG13°, Denise Kynd, Eva Nkrumah
Makeup: Anam Mahmood, Marcel Wiesmann
Visual Effects: Jonas Dörschel, Nando Nkrumah, Cordula Croce
Catering: Linda Jalloh
On-Set Photography: Gamajan Ganesh
Producer: Lichtblick Studio

premiere: indie rocker mélissa laveaux explores her haitian roots on the unforgettable ‘radyo siwèl’

Raised in Canada by Haitian parents, Haiti has always been an important part of Mélissa Laveaux’s identity. The singer and guitarist returned to her roots in 2016 and became immersed in the history and folk music, exploring recordings, and notebooks of old songs. Radyo Siwél was born out of that need to reconnect with her history. The album interprets traditional Haitian songs through Laveaux’s diasporic lens, inspired in part by the experiences of Haitians during the US occupation from 1915 to 1934. As Laveaux explains:

“At heart, I think I am at my best when I share stories – Haitians got jokes for days. Radyo Siwèl is my interpretation of how the US military occupation of Haiti 1915-34 might have felt like, using mostly traditional Haitian songs. Some are from my childhood, some came to me after a great deal of reading and research, and some were compositions by songwriters who really fought back against the oppressive weight of the Occupation with the mocking humour, dry wit, and infectious melodies.”

The album’s highlights are often when Laveaux and her collaborators pull out the most unlikely threads from the songs, like the surf rock strains in “Kouzen” and the early 60’s Motown nods of “Tolalito.” But the comparatively lo-fi “LaSirèn LaBalèn” and the raw “Jolibwa” stick closer to a traditional interpretation of the songs for some of Radyo Siwél‘s most striking moments. It’s an album that’s born out of occupation, displacement, and homesickness that’s almost unbearably joyful and effortlessly fun. Mélissa Laveaux has created something totally unforgettable with Radyo Siwél. Stream it below, and check out her web series exploring how it all came together on Youtube.

premiere: sunny war serves up a heartbreaking folk masterpiece on ‘with the sun’

“I’m a drunk and a dreamer / I’m a punk closet screamer.” Contradictions run deep in Sunny War’s music. The delicate fingerpicking, lush strings, and hushed singing belie an album full of pain and conflict. It’s an album where the most defiant moments tend to be the quietest, demanding you listen close.

Standout tracks like “I’m Human” and “Static” give Sunny War’s impressive guitar chops a workout beneath a heartbreaking vocal delivery. The album came from an effort to put less focus on her guitar playing and more on lyrical content, but that doesn’t mean the guitar suffers. Many of With The Sun‘s most jaw dropping moments come when Sunny War performs a deft sleight of hand on the fretboard like it’s nothing, particularly the plaintive “Finn.”

The record closes with the stunning “Come Back.” With a string part designed to rip your heart out still beating, Sunny War delivers lines like “Like in a song / you are stuck in my head / come back to me.” Like the best of With The Sun, it’s simple, painful, and true.

Sunny War explains:

“With The Sun” lyrically consists of poems from my diary.  In 2016 I decided I was focusing too much on guitar and not enough on singing or WHAT I was singing.  I made myself write more poems and tried to turn to the notebook more when I was feeling something.  One morning I woke up and saw an unarmed black man get shot by police on Facebook.  I wrote “I’m Human” that very day.  In 2017 I was sober for 6 months (I relapsed before the end of the year) and I wrote “Static” as a personal “Keep going, you can do it!” type of thing.  I didn’t really have a plan or vision for this album, I just let it happen and come to me and I think that’s the approach to music I want to stick to.

premiere: the racial past is the prologue on the captivating ‘magic boy’ by indie folk act bartees & the strange fruit

The ghosts of rural Oklahoma haunt the debut EP from indie folk group Bartees & The Strange Fruit. References to the sundown town of Yukon and the eponymous Strange Fruit fill in the spaces between the lines on this deeply personal debut record. The landscape of guys and their acoustic guitars is strewn with heartbreak, but few artists excel at connecting the personal and the societal as well as Bartees & The Strange Fruit.

A breakup becomes a meditation on the racist history of Bartees’ hometown on the stunning “Going Going” before the ballad evaporates in a wash of noise, like a tape left out in the sun. That curdled nostalgia frequently marks the best tracks on Magic Boy.

On “Little Brother,” Bartees learns to regret playing Lion King with his brother, wishing their relationship could have been different. The album’s biggest highlight comes with the driving “Eat Your Heart Out,” where Bartees and company go full folk punk before collapsing under the weight of their own angst, ceding space to Bartees’ mother, jazz singer Donna Cox. It’s a moment that’s at once haunting, ethereal, pissed off, and hopeful. I’m not really sure how that works, let alone as well as it does, but it does.

Bartees explains:

“Recording this was a lot fun and I learned a lot about myself tracking this record. I wanted to make sure that the first record I put out was a homage to the people I love from back home and I hope they’re happy to hear these songs. And for people who don’t really know me, I hope you can listen to this and find something you can connect with too. I’m really trying to open my arms up in this record and try some new things in an old way. I hope you catch it and thanks for checking me out.”

Magic Boy comes out December 8th. Look for it on bandcamp.

reggae and folk icon ayo searches for joy on her compelling self-titled album

On her 5th studio record, Joy Olasunmibo Ogunmakin–better as Ayo, meaning Joy in Yoruba–tries to live up to her name. The singer-songwriter instills every song with a sense of joy, or at least hope. Even the darkest song, the Mike Brown inspired “Boom Boom” struggles to find light in darkness. Though the song’s dark children’s rhyme and gunshot drum beats can be jarring against some of the rest of the album, it provides the emotional anchor that makes the pervading joy, not fluff, but defiant joy. Just 4 songs later, she’s singing an ode to candy (with a shoutout to the best ice cream shop in Brooklyn, Ample Hills).

That “Cupcake & Candies” and “Boom Boom” belong on the same album is a testament to Ayo‘s emotional complexity. The struggle to find joy is present in all the album’s best tracks. “Let It Rain” and “I’m A Fool” both find Ayo looking for the joy she expresses elsewhere. The album closes with a stripped down acoustic hidden track. The French language song “Everything” strips back Ayo’s multitracked vocals and rhythms and lets her heart lay bare. It’s one of the album’s most compelling moments in its simplicity. It’s the moment when joy is simplest that it’s most genuine.

new music: fall in love with ugandan acoustic singer-songwriter daudi matsiko stunning “take me old” #soundcheck

I’m a sucker for lofi troubadours. The hushed vocals, delicate guitars, every breath and finger stroke meticulously placed. Daudi Matsiko has the kind of sound whose deep intensity is hidden in intense quietness. The Ugandan singer-songwriter’s latest single “Take Me Old” is a stunning love song that calls to mind Nick Drake and Elliot Smith. Turn out the lights and let the sunlight wash in through blinds. This is the sound of a lazy morning with nothing to do but stay in bed for a little longer.

His latest EP An Introduction to Failure drops May 26th.

Follow Daudi Matsiko: Facebook | Soundcloud | Twitter