This month's release on Bowers & Wilkins Society of Sound is the debut album by Les Amazones d'Afrique. Originally released on Real World Records last year, the album République Amazone, features Angélique Kidjo, Kandia Kouyaté, Mamani Keita, Mariam Doumbia, Mariam Koné, Massan Coulibaly, Mouneissa Tandina, Nneka, Pamela Badjogo and Rokia Koné - an all-female collective of west African musicians, campaigning for gender equality.
Barack Obama chose a track from the album La Dame et Ses Valises as one of his favourite songs of 2017.
Running on funk and blues with dabs of dub; ancient rhythms blending seamlessly with their western appropriated cousins, Les Amazones d'Afrique sound like an aural actuation of the new melting pot cities of the African continent.
Real World Records is saddened to hear of the death of Zena Bacar, singer with the Mozambican band Eyuphuro whose album 'Mama Mosambiki' we released in 1990 and who we were first introduced to at WOMAD Harbourfront in Toronto in the late 1980s.
Often referred to as the 'golden voice of Mozambique', Zena Bacar's philosophical view of the world fed Eyuphuro's contemporary songs of love and social criticism, providing a sharply observed commentary on life in Mozambique and particularly the inequalities faced by women in that society. After a period away from music a comeback album 'Yellela' was released in 2001 and a third album '25 Anos' followed in 2006, the same year as Eyuphuro's final international show in Portugal.
Our thoughts and condolences go to Zena's family and friends.
Zena Bacar - 1949 - 2017
From our inception the aim of Real World Records was always to release albums by artists that we loved and deserved a larger audience, wherever they came from. We've been driven by our emotional connection to the music and not by any intellectual or ethnomusicological desire to be completist or all encompassing in our output.
That said, as we enter our 29th year, the consequence of having such a long history means that fascinating connections musically, stylistically or geographically can be drawn between artists or albums that we've been lucky enough to release. Over the course of the coming year, we thought it might be fun and interesting to investigate some of those connections a little further by revisiting some well known, and some not so well known, albums from the catalogue.
To kick things off, we'll be focussing first on albums by Spiro (Repeater), Martyn Bennett (Grit), 9Bach (Anian) and The Gloaming (2) which we have gathered together under the title Folk Roots of Britain and Ireland. Four very different musical experiences by four artists bound together by the way they embrace and utilise their traditional folk roots only to reinvent or subvert them to create something totally new.
We'll be sharing some stories over the next few weeks on this theme, but why not start with this piece on the background to the 9Bach album Anian...
You also can receive a 25% discount when you buy any of the related titles in the Real World Store. Just use the discount code >> realworld25 << in the RW Store before 29 January 2018.
9Bach Anian CD / LP
The Gloaming The Gloaming CD / LP
The Gloaming 2 CD / LP
Martyn Bennett Grit CD / LP
Spiro Repeater LP
Over the next few weeks we're revisiting four artists and albums on Real World Records that embrace and utilise their traditional folk roots only to re-shape them to create something totally new.
9Bach make music that is an emotional hybrid of the Welsh folk tradition and of contemporary influences and working practices. They are helping redefine what Welsh music is; lyrically mixing age-old stories with the acute concerns of the modern world and musically unafraid.
Here, the group's lead songwriter Lisa Jen Brown gives an insight into the inspiration behind and meaning of the songs on the album Anian:
Anian: nature, the natural order, natural morality; nature, the (natural) world, creation.
"I found this album came from a desperate and slightly anarchic place and I found myself looking to the present with this album. It marks where I'm at, whether it's my age, being a mother, or simply being much more exposed to social media where I'm faced with and forced to see pictures and videos, images and words that I simply can't cope with right now in my life."
1. Llyn Du
Imagine Cwm Idwal lake or Ogwen lake on a moonlit night. You might come across this deranged and damaged queen under the black shimmering ice cold water:
'I am the queen of the black lake,
take me, lead me'
It's song is based on the book 'One Moonlit Night' by Caradog Prichard, a novel that had a great affect on me when I was young and still remains my favourite ever Welsh novel.
It's a song about a connection to a place: A connection to someone. A laugh or a quality or characteristic that strikes you and leaves you breathless. We need to start looking, start feeling things. Feel it in your belly, feel it in your genitals… just feel for God's sake!
3. Yr Olaf
A song inspired by a photo of Sudan, the last male white rhino. It is from the perspective of a poacher:
'Bring me your soul,
I'll destroy it'
It's like the poacher talking to the animal just before he/she destroys it. Prick! Then the bridge of the song where it goes acapela is in the third person and says: 'How does it feel to look at the last, the last, ultimate and final of its kind?'
I'm questioning what kind of person are you that wants to destroy such an amazing thing? Who has pleasure in planting their dagger in leathery skin and enjoys the last glimmer in their eye. I love singing this song. It makes me angry!
This is a true story. Ivan is a boy, he leaves his flat, as his step-dad shouts and his mum cries, and walks out into the snow carrying nothing but a ripped magazine picture of Svetlana. After weeks of living on the street along with other children, who aren't very nice, he slowly builds a relationship with the wild dogs.
He can reach into the bins, and share the rubbish food, and he gets their protection in return. Ivan is happy. Ivan trusts the dogs because they don't lie like humans do. Ivan is ok, he feels love… loved… by them. He is in a routine and he feels warmth amidst the freezing cold nights.
In the end the authorities capture him, after a few failed attempts because the dogs attacked the officers each time they tried, and place him in an orphanage. He is the saddest he has ever been, he didn't want rescuing.
This song is the moment when Ivan and the dogs are separated, the She dog, the head of the pack, the beautiful one… and him, are ripped apart and never to see each other again.
5. Si Hwi Hwi
This is an old Welsh folk song. It's amazing as it is from the perspective of a black woman, who is singing to her child on their last night together before the baby will be killed and her bound in chains.
It's an anti-slavery song. A man from Blaenau Ffestiniog emigrated to the States in 1850s and as a response to the injustices of slavery, he wrote this poem.
The verse was only short, and I wrote a second verse to it. The mother compares a grave to a feast and festival, as anything would be better that THIS… separating her from her child. In the end she makes a decision to kill herself and her child than give her self up to the white man.
Documented by Dr Meredydd Evans, his mother used to sing it to him as a child in Tanygrisiau where they lived (near Bleanau) it has a special meaning, as it is literally an undocumented song and simply passed from mother to boy. Luckily he sang it and that's how I know it.
This is heavily influenced by Greek Rembetika songs from the Greek Underworld… The opium smoking dark underground, dirty dangerous bars, where the musicians would sing. Songs are mainly about poverty, love, social injustice, the fights of the labouring class and the freedom of Greeks from fascists of all kinds.
It's about admitting that sometimes you are wrong. We all do wrong… It's about questioning what ARE you doing to help this dying world and all its people suffering… And how long can you go on looking away, ignoring and burying things and issues.
Admit that you aren't doing anything substantial to help… anything.
Inspired by this story. It's from a perspective of a crow, not that you know it even if you can speak Welsh, it's cryptic and not one mention of black feathers and mean eyes! It's from a desperate and passionate point of view. It's about the act of giving, of WANTING to give and to please. It's about human relations with nature and creatures we share this world with, how beautiful they are, and how we couldn't give a flying fuck. How removed are we by now from having a relationship with other species?
This is a positive song though, celebrating a partnership and relation and love that you can share.
These are words by Gerallt Lloyd Owen - my favourite poet who died recently. He has an amazing gift of making you feel guilty as a Welsh person… for fucking it up, for not giving a shit about your language and his famous poem was about Llewelyn, our last prince who died in 1282. Heno is written more recently and is a lament for the dying of the Welsh nation.
We have deconstructed the dreaded Cerdd Dant. Cerdd Dant is a unique tradition of singing lyrics over a harp accompaniment. There are strict rules about rhythm and cadences. As much as it remains an important part of Welsh culture, and a major element in The National eisteddfod… It is really not cool. I have a very complicated relationship with Cerdd Dant where I absolutely hate it and yet… I'm fascinated by it. It scares me and moves me at the same time! It is such a marmite thing in Wales that Esyllt (9Bach harpist) refused to be involved in the development of the song!
Our take on it was to actually sing the harp part and harmonise the melody so that it actually has soul - I hope. I can't listen to Cerdd Dant a lot, but I am proud of what Mirain (9Bach piano/vocals) and I have done with this. We've fucked it right up! Playing with rules and coming away from the tradition!
The dying human, is left in an apocalyptic world. She asks an imaginary bird to go to The World and say sorry. When do we realise it's too late? When IT IS too late I suppose.
10. Ambell Hiraeth (Trad)
A combination of three Welsh folk songs. I've mashed them into one. It's melancholic and talks about being ready for the grave… there is hiraeth for a person and hiraeth for a place.
Although there is appreciation for music and song, that is a balm to the soul; a little hope. Then there is heartache and a gesture of 'please save me' my heart will break… I can't live… I won't be alive for much longer. Very sad.
11. Breuddwyd Y Bardd (Trad)
A poets dream; his eyes are slowly closing, and as he sighs and dreams he sees himself as something he never was. In his dreams he hopes, he visualises life as beautiful and joyful. It is all a fantasy, like life, how real is all of this?
The dreamer dreams the dreams of his heart.
Barack Obama has chosen La Dame et Ses Valises by Les Amazones d'Afrique as one of his favourite songs of 2017.
The former President's list of his favourite books and music from the year were posted on the Barack Obama Facebook page on 31 December 2017 with the words:
"During my presidency, I started a tradition of sharing my reading lists and playlists. It was a nice way to reflect on the works that resonated with me and lift up authors and artists from around the world. With some extra time on my hands this year to catch up, I wanted to share the books and music that I enjoyed most. From songs that got me moving to stories that inspired me, here's my 2017 list"
My favorite songs of 2017:
Mi Gente by J Balvin & Willy William
Havana by Camila Cabello (feat. Young Thug)
Blessed by Daniel Caesar
The Joke by Brandi Carlile
First World Problems by Chance The Rapper (feat. Daniel Caesar)
Rise Up by Andra Day
Wild Thoughts by DJ Khaled (feat. Rihanna and Bryson Tiller)
Family Feud by Jay-Z (feat. Beyoncé)
Humble by Kendrick Lamar
La Dame et Ses Valises by Les Amazones d'Afrique (feat. Nneka)
Unforgettable by French Montana (feat. Swae Lee)
The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness by The National
Chanel by Frank Ocean
Feel It Still by Portugal. The Man
Butterfly Effect by Travis Scott
Matter of Time by Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings
Little Bit by Mavis Staples
Millionaire by Chris Stapleton
Sign of the Times by Harry Styles
Broken Clocks by SZA
Ordinary Love (Extraordinary Mix) by U2
*Bonus: Born in the U.S.A. by Bruce Springsteen (not out yet, but the blues version in his Broadway show is the best!)
The December release on Bowers and Wilkins Society of Sound revisits a special moment in time; the final ever gig by Oxford band Stornoway.
After more than ten years playing together the band were ready for new horizons and their Spring 2017 tour proved to be the perfect send off. The Farewell Show: Live at the New Theatre, Oxford captures the last night of the tour and was recorded by the Real World Studios team.
"We have achieved far more as a band than we ever dared to dream back as students in a drafty east Oxford garage and we are immensely proud of the music we have created together."
Savour a little of the atmosphere of this final show in this short video clip:
The Farewell Show: Live at the New Theatre, Oxford is available to download now on Society of Sound.
Everyone at Real World Records is delighted that Loney dear's new self-titled album is nominated for two Swedish Grammis:
Best Alternative Pop Album
The album was released in September of this year which Andy Gill in The Independent called "an elegant, understated pop masterpiece."
The awards take place on 8 February 2018 in Stockholm.
Loney dear is also nominated for "Album of the year" by GAFFA Sverige in Sweden. The award will be decided by public vote. Click here to vote.
Loney dear will be on tour in Europe throughout February 2018.
The Eccentric Orbits Tour sees the fabulous Spiro team up with the equally unique Leveret for a very special run of live dates in February and March 2018.
The tour starts on 28 February 2018 at the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall.
We've just launched a diverse set of playlists on our Apple Music Curator profile. Whether you want a fresh mix of Real World catalogue favourites, brand new music, or something a bit more specific, there will be something here for you.
Each of the playlists feature music from the Real World catalogue alongside music we love from other labels as well.
We'll be refreshing these playlists pretty often, and from time to time we'll be serving up guest-curated mixes from artists and friends with great musical tastes, so keep coming back.
A new video from Sidestepper has just dropped.
Check out this fantastic live performance of the track Lover, recorded live in the studio in Bogotá. No overdubs, no edits, just vocals, bass and tambores!
The original version of Lover can be found on the Sidestepper album Supernatural Love.