Jewish world fusion music from Zion 80 and the music of Haiti from Lakou Mizik in this edition of Music Under the Radar.
I first heard guitarist Jon Madof when on a hunch I bought a CD from his band, Rashanim, quite a few years ago. Their second album, titled Shalosh (“three” in Hebrew), released in 2006, was a mixture of rock, jazz, klezmer and other styles which resulted in an absorbing musical experience.
Madof’s long time association with Tzadik Records (an Indie label specializing in “avant garde and experimental music”) resulted in the 2013 debut release of his New York City-based group Zion 80.
Tzadik gives a good description of the group:
“Zion80 explores Jewish music – from [Shlomo] Carlebach to [John] Zorn and everything in between – through the lens of the Afrobeat funk master Fela Anikulapo Kuti. Led by Jon Madof (Rashanim, Matisyahu), the 13-piece band arranges Jewish melodies using the polyrhythmic intensity of Afrobeat, blended with the madness of the Downtown scene. Madof’s most ambitious project to date, Zion80 is blazing hot and tight as a drum. Spiritual, grooving and endlessly exciting, this is essential Jewish music for the 21st century.”
For Zion 80, Madof has assembled an impressive group of musicians: Frank London, trumpet, and Greg Wall, tenor sax (both formerly of Hasidic New Wave); multi-reedist Matt Darriau – alto sax; Jessica Lurie – baritone sax, flute; Zach Mayer – baritone sax; Brian Marsella – keyboards, Yoshie Fruchter and Aram Bajakian– guitar; Shanir Blumenkranz – bass; Marlon Sobol, Rich Stein, Cyro Baptista – Percussion; and Yuval Lion – drums.
Tov L’Hodot (Heb: It’s good to give thanks, from Psalm 92) is a tune from the album and performed live at the Toca Studios. From it’s Coltrane-like intro the band goes into a Latin-flavored swing. This performance also features Sarah Manning on alto sax.
The Haitian band Lakou Mizik is a multi-generational collective of exceptional musicians whose goal is to bring the music of Haiti to the world. The group also draws on African, French, Caribbean and American influences to bring a new sound to some old traditions.
The project is led by Zach Niles (who introduced Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars to the world music scene) and the album is being produced by Chris Velan, who produced two albums by the same Refugee All Stars. The recordings are taking place in Haiti at the Audio Institute, a world-class recording studio that is Haiti’s first and only Music Production and Engineering School, training Haiti’s next generation of music industry professionals. Once their album is finished it will be distributed worldwide on the Cumbancha label. The band has also been signed by a US booking agency which is arranging tours starting later this year.
From the band’s website:
“In Haitian Kreyol the word “Lakou” carries multiple meanings. It means the backyard, a gathering place where people come to sing and dance, to debate or share a meal. It also means “home” or “where you are from” – In the wake of the earthquake of 2010, the continued barrage of negative news and images, and the repeated phrase “poorest country in the Western Hemisphere,” the band, LAKOU MIZIK, or “Music from the Homeland,” is a defiant musical expression of Haitian pride and hope.”
Once again we find, in far less than ideal conditions, people who turn to music and use it as a positive expression of their identity.