Spotify Sunday: Shuffle…

Published on The Spectator website (April 16th, 2011)

Like many music fans, I could spend months pondering a playlist and coming up with dozens of variations. Since I assume I was invited to participate in Spotify Sunday as co-founder of Africa Express, I wondered whether to do an all-African list, but in the end decided to do a random shuffle of a few of my favourite things – much like the madness of an Africa Express show.

Je T’aime – Staff Benda Bilili

I first came across this band in Kinshasa, when a group of homeless paraplegics were carried on to the stage in a tiny club and left us all totally stunned. A breathtaking moment. Since then they have become global stars with their incredible rumba-driven grooves, overlaid with the virtuoso playing of Roger Landau and his homemade one-string electric lute. If you get the chance, go see this amazing and life-affirming band.

Get By – Talib Kweli

One of the most played tracks on my iPod, this song always lifts my spirits. Talib is among the most intelligent artists in the business: a great performer with whip-smart lyrics who offers such a contrast to the tedious braggadocio of so many hip-hop stars. I’m already looking forward to his show in London next month with Mos Def, De La Soul and Rakim.

Richy Pitch – Black Star featuring M.anifest

There are some excellent artists coming out of Ghana at the moment, many creating clever African-infused hip-hop. This is one of my favourite tracks, with quick-slow beats from British DJ Richy Pitch and autobiographical rhymes from the very talented rapper M.anifest. If you like De La Soul, have a listen to this – and there’s also a clever video with retro computer graphics.

Against All Odds – Chase & Status featuring Kano

Kano is one of the most underrated artists in British music: a brilliant rapper with few peers. This is one of the best tracks he has done, the skittering beats of Chase & Status perfectly showcasing his slick vocals. Fast, furious and very fantastic – and another great video.

Rock el Casbah – Rachid Taha

Possibly my favourite cover version of all time, an angry version of The Clash’s hit played with typical swagger by the bad boy of Algerian music. Few things beat seeing Taha play this to 50 000 people on a Spanish beach at our show last summer, with a grinning Mick Jones playing guitar and Led Zeppellin’s John Paul Jones on bass – plus, of course, an exuberant Damon Albarn yelling out the chorus. It feels quite pertinent to events in North Africa.

The Seed (2.0) – The Roots and Cody Chestnutt

Another awesome cover version – if you can count it as a cover, given that it features the man who originally performed it. A raw, suitably rootsy track by one of the most consistent groups around, topped here with the soulful singing of Chestnutt, another rather underrated artist.

Le Pays Va Mal – Tiken Jah Fakoly

Here is another track that seems rather timely. It is by Cote d’Ivoire’s biggest star, a singer who never shies away from political controversy and who is massive in France and across West Africa. This is a wonderful slice of rollicking African reggae, with lyrics that sum up Tikken’s views on the state of his nation.

Patience – Nas and Damien Marley

Few things are more thrilling in music than when artists from different genres come together and make something that is more than the sum of the parts – especially when the parts are as strong as in this case. This was from my favourite album from last year – and although ‘As We Enter’ was my favourite track, this allows me to sneak in an Amadou & Mariam sample.

Maacina Tooro – Baaba Maal and Mansour Seck

Baaba is another of the founders of Africa Express and such an amazing and versatile performer. I went to see him do a Q&A the other day at The Tabernacle in Notting Hill, followed by a short acoustic set, which reminded me of the strength of that extraordinary voice when it is soaring over simple cyclical guitar riffs, as on this hypnotic track.

I Think I Like It – Fake Blood

This is a really cheesy dance track that always makes me smile, sounding like a high-speed car crash in a 1980s disco. It’s proof that music doesn’t always need to take itself too seriously – and a good way to end this self-indulgent selection.

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