At the end of year, in preface to our Annual Awards, the YabYum Editors like to take a moment and play their favorite tracks from all the Arizona bands and artists that left an impression on them. This is that show, the 2016 Awards preview. No guests. No witty banter. Just kick-ass jams. Enjoy!
PS. Thanks to everyone who came out to our 2016 Awards show at the Trunk Space, it meant a lot!
PSS. That sound is Scott taking pics in the background…
Alrighty gang, this wraps up our 2016 Awards portion of the year. A big thanks to everyone who came out to the Awards Show at the Trunk Space last night. We will now continue to cover all the new shit. More local, national, and international music coverage is on the way. Stay tuned…
The Arizona supergroup known as Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra has been packing venues on the regular for several years now, but it was only this past November that the band released their debut album, PAO! So, after years of waiting, fans can now take home a piece of the Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra experience.
The album was recorded by the good folks of Five Thirteen Recording in Tempe. I don’t even want to imagine how they packed all sixteen PAO artists into the studio. Although, I guess, at the time of the recording, there were only fifteen players in the band, but still…
And, of course, Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra released the album in high style at the Crescent Ballroom. Matty Steinkamp of Sundawg Media was on hand to commemorate some of the fun with a live footage montage set to the single, “Oppression Scatter”, available for your viewing pleasure below.
The album is available on vinyl or CD through the band’s website here. And Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra is, without a doubt, one of those bands you simply must see live. You can do that on January 14th when PAO will crowd the stage of The Trunk Space for our 2016 Awards show. More information on that event is available here – don’t miss out!
Holy Mother of Kuti – after a 6 year wait you can now own your very own Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra album that you can play whenever your heart desires. I mean, this is huge, like a 16-piece-band playing righteous-African-funk huge.
Sure, the album may be only 4 tracks (there’s a 5th bonus track online) but it clocks in at nearly 30 minutes of body-grooving goodness. It’s impossible not to dance to PAO! In fact, I think you might be super-villain level evil if you don’t like the music of Phoenix’s own Afrobeat Orchestra.
“Oppression Scatter” opens PAO! and sets the true tone of the album: stare down all that seeks to oppress you as you shout and dance in celebration and joy of rebellion. “Can you hear them crying?/Can you hear?/Now you hear them silence/Now you hear…”
With its rhythmic repetition of the chorus, “Come With Us” might just be my favorite song on the album. An anthem for all who seek connection through love, the song’s message is clear: “Peace and blood my family/You’re one of us/It’s the PAO way!”
Following the dynamite instrumental track of trumpeter/conductor Aldy Montufar’s “Push”, PAO ends the album with “Blossom”, an ode to all of us who work long hours, striving for that next dollar just to survive. They remind us that we all need some contentment and happiness in our life, keeping our head, “You got to…/Plant the seed and watch it blossom/Higher!”
Recorded to tape and engineered at Fivethirteen Recording in Tempe and mastered at SAE Mastering in Phoenix, PAO! is a piece of Valley Music history and hopefully just the beginning of Phoenix Afrobeat output. My only complaint is that it isn’t longer!
Ah, the blanket definition of the term “world music.”
I must start this article with some block text copy from Wikipedia that I find fascinating and hilarious so, if you’re not into that, go ahead and skip right down to the bands.
Still with me? Cool.
I’m sure your familiar with the term being “popularized in the 1980s as a marketing category for non-Western traditional music .” But I betcha’ didn’t know that “the term has been credited to ethnomusicologist Robert E. Brown, who coined it in the early 1960s at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, where he developed undergraduate through the doctoral programs in the discipline”? I didn’t anyway.
It reads on, “There are several conflicting definitions for world music. One is that it consists of ‘all the music in the world’, though such a broad definition renders the term virtually meaningless.”
Worldbeat more specifically “blends Western pop music or rock music with world music or folk music influences. It may include cutting edge pop music styles as well. Succinctly, it can be described as ‘local music from out there’ or ‘someone else’s local music’.” I like those.
I’ve covered world music before, but that was with an Arizona focus. Now that we’ve gone (inter?)national, I decided to extend the focus of this article on artists from around the country and globe.
OK, I admit it, this was my first experience with a 360⁰ video on YouTube. Sure, the technology’s been available for a little over a year now but what can I say other than that I’m thoroughly happy that my “first time” was with Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra and their beautiful tune, “Oppression Scatter.” One of the original songs the group has penned together, “Oppression Scatter” is a crowd favorite that keeps the body moving all while delivering a conscious message: “Can you see them suffer? Can you see?” And, you gotta love that bari sax. Make sure to check out the video below and go see them live for FREE when the play the Crescent Ballroom 5 Year Anniversary Party on Monday October 3rd!
Chanelle Gray is an up-and-coming singer/songwriter from South London currently residing in New York while Rayvon is the Barbadian-born-Brooklyn-raised dancehall singer known for his work with Shaggy (“Angel” anyone?), as well as his own solo career. The two have teamed up to deliver us this modern reggae classic, “Nuff Tings”. Chanelle’s vocals are both silky and sultry, completely drawing you in with their melody. Rayvon offers the perfect counter-balance with lyrics delivered like wildfire: burning quick and hot one minute, smoldering the next. Make sure to rock “Nuff Tings” below.
Damn RoseMary Fiki, where’d you come from?? This Nigerian-American singer-songwriter based out of Philadelphia has changed up her style and sound with the release of her latest single, “I Got It.” Though this song sounds more inline with someone like Azealia Banks, I actually enjoy RoseMary Fiki’s previous work as well (think more Bruce Springsteen and Erykah Badu… I know, dude), but “I Got It” is something else entirely. Clearly more pop, while at the same time embracing many Africana influences, especially in the vocal chants. “I Got It” has quickly become a favorite of mine. I certainly look forward to where RoseMary goes from here. Bump “I Got It” below.
You know how when something gets labeled and marketed as “cool” it doesn’t always get the projected outcome its creat0rs had in mind? I feel if anyone can live up to the moniker “The New School Ruler of Cool”, it’s Dreggae, the Jamaican bred, Atlanta- based dancehall/reggae songwriter. Being a descendant of the great dub master King Tubby certainly doesn’t hurt either. Although “Rum Days, Vodka Nights” appears to be a few years old, it’s the first track off Dreggae’s new Roots. Rock. Dreggae. album which for now is only available through his website (hey, collecting one’s singles and re-branding the material as an album never hurt anybody). The song is bouncy and playful, Dreggae’s smooth vocal delivery perfectly complimentary to the music. Although it contains many elements of classic reggae, it’s clearly something newly inspired by hip hop and pop, and definitely feel good. Listen to “Rum Days, Vodka Nights” below.
“Even if someone (or something) breaks your heart, that is beautiful and incredibly valuable. You will forever carry a part of them with you. And you are more alive for letting yourself having gotten hurt like that.” So states the Congratulatinos with their new single “Caroline”, the first track off their new album Don’t Fade. Based out of Cambridge, Massachusetts, you could almost never guess that hearing their spellbinding track and it’s worldly influences. Dropping out of a PhD program, splitting up with your girlfriend, and breaking up with your band led principle member Diego Ardila to startling revelations: “I learned to Salsa dance. I recorded on my own. I cried at night for no reason or sometimes because I missed her so badly but I found solace in West African rhythm and the heartbreak of Bachata music.” You can definitely hear all these influences in “Caroline”. And I’m certainly glad he teamed up again with member Marco DeLiso because, now that they’re the Congratulatinos, we’re all the better for it. Check out “Caroline” below.
Well there you have it folks, our 2015 Awards are done! Now that this month has flown by and we find ourselves eleven twelfths closer to the end of the year, it’s time to begin our regularly scheduled programming. We’re going for gold this year with new content and features so get ready for some new shit. Meanwhile, if you missed any, here is the 2015 Awards Recap!
Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra combines a global sound with a long roster of musical heavy-hitters for a big band effect that shakes the walls as it enlivens the soul. I suppose, when your band roster includes 15 names, your likelihood of “bringing the party” with you to shows goes way up. But PAO goes way beyond that. It is both experiential and philosophical; centered on the ideas of creation, community, and celebration. And, they put on one hell of a live show. Hence, Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra takes home the award Best Live Band of 2015.
If you’re reading this you’re probably a musician, someone who likes music, someone who knows a musician, someone who wants to be a musician, or someone who was looking at a blog regarding the top 10 reasons why someone would want to do anything and are completely disappointed right about now.
This is for the first four.
There are millions of bands and/or solo artists (not a real number, I just made it up to go for the dramatic) out there in the world, recording, posting, and playing their music. Music that largely gets ignored by the rest of mankind, mainly because the proliferation of said music is so prevalent that to find it would be akin to finding that proverbial record needle in a haystack. And, those who are doing said recording, posting and playing are within only a million to one of making it, mostly because the music industry is as brutal as watching an Adam Sandler movie…on cable…and you only have one channel.
But there are those, who despite all the odds against them, ridiculously Hulkulean odds, continue to record, post and play music.
Which begs the question: Why do they do it? I mean, why does any artist create anything? It’s a fool’s errand, to be quite honest. And considering that streaming services are dishing out 0.0000000000000001 per spin, it certainly can’t be for the money (that’s reserved for Taylor Swift and her lot). History is strewn with artists and musicians like Van Gogh, Cobain, et al, who have been driven bonkers because of an inner drive that they could not resist nor control, so why o why go through all that? Additionally, ask any psychologist and they’ll tell you artists, writers, and musicians are basically bordering on severe mental breakdowns, but yet, they still do it. Not to get too deep, but even the philosopher, Heir Kiekegaar, argues that, “For him (the artist), anxiety becomes a serving spirit that against his will leads him where he wishes to go.” And that’s usually straight to the “funny farm” to be fit with a straight jacket.
But, despite all of those odds, all those high hurdles stacked against them, there those who subscribe to a “damn the torpedoes” philosophy. They are the type of person who doesn’t take “no” for an answer and the word “can’t” is not in their vocabulary. In fact, they don’t know what it means, and frankly, probably have never used it in their lives.
And luckily for us, there are many in our midst.
So I spoke to (I really mean emailed) some of these people in no particular order, but ladies first: Chelsey Louise (lead singer, Fairy Bones), Melody Michelle (lead singer, Ana Log), Chuck Morris III (bassist, Jared & the Mill), Jason Kay (guitarist, PreHab), and Zach Vogt (keyboardist, Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra/Yojimbobillions). I asked them questions and they answered them for me. I found the answers, to be quite honest, genuine and sans curse words. Dammit.
Frank (FI): Go back with me for a second, that moment you knew you wanted to be a musician was:
Melody Michelle (MM): I was 8 years old and I had just sang “My Heart Will Go On” for my school’s talent show when the music teacher took my parents out into the hall and told them that I had a gift and I needed to pursue it.
Jason Kay (JK): Listening to my mom’s “Meet the Beatles” LP as a kid planted the music bug in my ear. Then in 6th grade somehow my best friend’s older brother convinced the school it would be a great idea for his metal band to play our tiny gymnasium during a school assembly. Once I saw how much fun they were having and how distressed and offended the teachers were I was hooked.
Chelsey Louise (CL): …when I realized singing – in the car, in a musical, in a band, whatever – was my only true escape from all the nonsense I can’t control in my head.
Zach Vogt (ZV): There was no specific moment when I decided to be a musician, though I did specifically quit an office job in order to spend more time making music.
Chuck Morriss III (CMIII): I can’t remember the exact moment but as a toddler, I used to dress as a Pirate Cowboy Rockstar. Once I got older, I realized that I couldn’t ride a horse very well, all the pirates left are on the Internet, and being a rock star was the path of least resistance.
FI: Did you ever say, “Um, yeah, no this is so not for me, get me to an office job…”
MM: Haha, not for one second.
CL: Never, not once. My personal hell is the definition of an office job.
ZV: See above.
CMIII: The life of a touring musician can be physically and emotionally exhausting at times and inevitably that leads to the “what am I doing with my life” moment. Usually in those times of crisis I remind myself just how lucky I am to be able to travel and sustain myself by hanging out and playing music with my friends. That being said, I am still relatively young, so I could always get an office job later in life if I become a curmudgeon and don’t want to tour anymore.
FI: Is there a difference between “needing” to play instead of “wanting” to play music?
MM: I think there is. Music saved my life, in a way. I was an easy target for bullies while I was growing up and eventually grew into quite a depressed state. When I discovered my voice, it was like I found my life’s meaning. When I sang in front of my bullies, I was finally heard and it shut them up.
JK: Yes. After playing rehearsing four days a week and playing 400 plus shows in three years during the Tempe’s zenith I was ready for a normal life.
CL: I think so. I think the difference is in what would happen if it was taken away from you. If music was taken away from me, I would fall pretty hard into trying to fill the void.
ZV: I need to feel my life has meaning so I want as many of my ideas to live on in the minds of others. I need to play music because I want to express those ideas as eloquently and beautifully as possible.
CMIII: Things that “need” to be done are generally chores, or things like breathing, while things that you “want” to do are things that bring you joy and a sense of accomplishment. If you “need” to play music, that implies to me – either it’s your sole source of income and rent is due, you have a medical condition that requires it, or you are being a tad dramatic. You should play music because it’s what you want to do, because you’d rather noodle on an instrument than watch Netflix. Although, to be fair, they did just add Bill Nye, so maybe balance the two.
FI: How many projects have you been associated with?
MM: Four projects. 1. I helped write lyrics and music for an emo/screamo band in Arlington, TX, I shall not name the band. 2. Vie La C’est was a short-lived project in Tempe. 3. Love, Palms… 4. Ana Log.
JK: I have played in bands that range from alt-country to punk to industrial.
CL: I’ve been associated with two: Born Loser and the Hangers on and Fairy Bones.
CMIII: Jared & the Mill.
FI: What was your most memorable moment with those projects?
MM: There are a lot of great memories but touring for SXSW takes the cake. It was the hardest, riskiest, most fulfilling thing I’ve done thus far.
JK: The most memorable moment from my early years was sound checking for a show at Celebrity Theater and hearing how massive the band sounded. After years of playing dives, back yard BBQ’s, backs of trucks, etc. to hear the songs through a massive PA sounded amazing.
CL: My fondest memory of BLATHO was just the beautiful, creative energy we had with one another. BLATHO was an excellent learning experience. With Fairy Bones, there are so many. Our first tour, becoming friends with amazing bands, buying a van, creating music videos – but I know my fondest memories are still to come.
ZV: Both before and since I’ve been involved in music projects — each with memorable moments — but the moments themselves are largely the same thing: flow. It can occur whether locking into a groove with other musicians, cutting together two samples on the computer, or while improvising.
CMIII: One of my favorite memories was a private gig we played at this very elite ski resort up in Montana. After the show, we ended up getting drunk with the remaining members and performing an absolutely filthy joke song we’d been putting together during our tour. Hilarity ensued, and at the end of the night I crashed in a king sized bed with a Smartwater laid out on the nightstand. Fancy.
FI: We all know that the music industry is a tough one, what is the one thing that you experienced and made you think twice about pursuing a career in music?
MM: When I was playing in Love, Palms, I ended up getting Bronchitis and tried to continue and push through all of our gigs instead of focusing on my health. I ended up losing my voice during a set and it really scared me.
JK: Maintaining relationships as a working artist is very hard. If you are going to truly give 100% to music there really is little room for anything else. As long as you know this going in and you are ready to sacrifice you will be fine.
CL: I envision the music industry a lot like a video game. I can pick up items, beat levels, fall in the lava. I’m terrible at water levels. I’ve been discouraged by a lot of obstacles I’ve faced – not getting the slot to open for that bigger band, venues falling through, a terrible show, but I’ve always liked the game. I like learning. So I can’t say I’ve ever truly considered giving up.
ZV: There is something of the same satisfaction when you play music while making your career elsewhere. You may produce a delightful series of sugary confections, but with such limited resources of time you’re unlikely to concoct a healthy manner in which to nourish a career.
CMIII: The scariest thing you encounter on the road is when you are in some dive bar in heaven knows where and start chatting with the gnarled old guy behind the mixing board. The moment of terror comes when he tells you he used to be just like you; you ask him what band he used to tour with, and it’s somebody you’ve listened to. Yikes.
FI: Music: Career or life path?
MM: Career for the rest of my life’s path.
JK: Life path. I’d like to go out like B.B. King.
ZV: The common thing now is to find a career in some other field and try to work on music as a hobby, so that it can be not so much a life path as a salve.
CMIII: Depends on the person. There are plenty career musicians who are incredible, and plenty of people playing their bedroom right now that are even better. Music is what you make it.
FI: What would you be doing if you weren’t playing music?
MM: Traveling and writing.
JK: Traveling as much as possible.
CL: Cooking or film making.
ZV: If I weren’t playing music I would be writing science fiction novels, absurdest philosophy or suicide notes.
CMIII: Selling a hell of a lot more real estate, that’s for sure.
FI: It’s all fun and games when you’re a musician until:
MM: …you’re reading contracts and thinking about “ROI’s”.
JK: …you have to pay rent.
CL: …you’re sliding on black ice in the abyss of night, in the middle of nowhere, and you’re so tired that you don’t even have the energy to panic.
ZV: …once the Information Age truly begins the Industrial Age will end and the music industry, like all others, will be a relic of the past.
CMIII: …the first time you sleep outside, the 15th consecutive night that you share a bed with a band mate, or when the person you were coming home to isn’t waiting for you any longer. Pick one, but stick around long enough and you’ll get them each a few times.
FI: The one piece of advice you’d give to someone who wants to get into your business?
MM: Learn to use both sides of your brain. It’s okay to be business savvy and artistic. Because remember, no one is going to rescue you on a white horse and make all your dreams come true, and if they say that they are, there’s something in it for them. Learn the business side so you can make your dream come true AND protect yourself.
JK: The current musical landscape is both exhilarating and frustrating at the same time. You can get you music across the word with a mouse click. Getting someone to care is another story. I think the most important piece of advice is to follow your voice and create the music you hear in your head. Trends come and go. If you play from your heart you can never go wrong.
CL: Put the music first, the business second, and always do your own thing.
ZV: My advice is to take as many choruses as you can. The power could go at any moment.
CMIII: You know when in hip-hop someone talks about “the come up” and/or “the hustle”? Those are real things and the second you lose them it’s all over for you. Never stop improving and leave no stone unturned. Keep your band mates on their toes and make sure they do the same to you. Most importantly, buy a fresh pack of socks before you leave for a tour. That way you won’t be bummed out if you decide to toss a pair.
So there you go. That’s why these wonderful performers do it. Why do you? Thanks again to all that participated and hey, go out and see them do what they do at a venue near you.