Fatima Speaks About Her Upcoming Release ‘Yellow Memories’

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Words by Korby Benoit

Fatima is a Swedish born vocalist based in London. In recent years she’s earned praise for her work that has spread through the UK’s music scene. Her lush and soulful collaborations with Eglo Records co-founder Floating Points have kept her name abuzz and on May 14th her new album Yellow Memories will be available on Eglo Records.

Along with Floating Points producers Flako, Oh No, Shafiq Husayn, Knxledge, Scoop Deville and Computer Jay are responsible for the album’s sound. I recently spoke with Fatima as she was in London preparing for the album release.

“You make your music and you never know how people are going to feel about it.  It’s always good to hear when people are enjoying it. It makes me happy” explains Fatima.

“The album is called Yellow Memories because I was struggling to find a title. It’s pretty hard. I guess it’s like naming a child. I was thinking about my grandma’s house.  And I was thinking about the past.  The word yellow is because my grandma’s house is actually yellow. That house to me represents my childhood and me growing up in Sweden.” She continues, “I was looking at family photos and it just popped up in my head. It’s me reminiscing of a time that’s been before and that house is kind of a like a symbol of the past. I think the album represents family, love, sunshine and the past.”

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Alsarah Talks ‘Silt’ & Embracing the Concept of a Living Tradition

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Former Giant Step staff member and singer Alsarah has gone on do some amazing things; Constantly on the go internationally and within Brooklyn, she’s enamored dozens of audiences with her vibrant music and dynamic stage presence. While her influences clearly draw from her Sudanese heritage, the frequent experimenter’s sound knows no bounds. Last month she released Silt, the debut album for her group, Alsarah & The Nubatones. Get a look into the rising star’s mind and what lies ahead in this exclusive interview!

Giant Step: What was the driving force behind you creating Silt? Where would you want it to reside in the greater musical dialogue?

Alsarah: I wanted to make an album that spoke to my experience as a musician. Something that both spoke to my roots as well as my present. I see it as being a part of the greater East African musical dialogue. A dialogue that I think needs to be heard internationally and not just in the region.

GS: Since many of your listeners may not speak Arabic, could you give us a rundown of some of the focal topics on Silt?

A: The over-arching common theme in this album is migration/immigration, and while that is never overtly addressed in a didactic sense, it is the common denominator. It is addressed directly sometimes in songs like “Bilad Aldahb” (The Land of Gold), which is part of the Nubian Songs of Return genre written by Ahmed Mounib. This song speaks of a nubian person’s longing for their home by the banks of the nile and their deep sense of loss with a repeating chorus that states “I am a human, and my address is the land of gold”. We also touch on it indirectly sometimes with songs like “Soukura (It’s Late)”, an original composition by myself arranged by The Nubatones that speaks of ‘secrets untold that must melt and pour out someday’. But we also flirt with the idea of this topic thru traditional girls music like the opening track “Habibi Taal” (my love come here) where a woman sings to her lover to come and be with her across all distances and different lands. Also, I’m working on a PDF of translations for all the lyrics of the songs that I plan on putting up on my website soon!

GS: How does being an ethnomusicologist inform your music making?

A: Well, I think the biggest thing is it put all my music in a larger historical context and allowed me to see myself as part of a larger story of music culture. It also helps me understand how the western world views the idea of ‘ethnic’ music and all the trappings that come with that gaze i.e. preserving traditional music in its purest format; what is authentic enough and why, etc. Once you see yourself as part of a living tradition but not its sole keeper, you are free to create new work within that tradition as opposed to just being a slave to the idea of preserving it.

GS: We had the pleasure of having you at Giant Step for a few years. How do your experiences working on the business side of music influence your approach to the music industry?

A: Honestly, it was one of the most valuable experiences I could ever have as a musician. Nothing can make you understand how the business works quite like being on the industry side of things. What’s really important and what’s not, the types of traps to avoid, who to trust or not and how to make that judgement call. All of that is nothing anyone teaches you as a musician; you are supposed to just learn it by trial and error, but working at GS for a few years has helped me avoid some serious mistakes so far.

GS: In your opinion, what qualities make certain music timeless?

A: I think music that communicates a past present and future is timeless music. And the most beautiful part of those qualities is the diverse array of ways to communicate them.

GS: As someone that seems to deeply enjoy experimentation and exploration, you’ve worked on an array of projects over time, including your recent release with Debruit. What’s next on the horizon for you?

A: There is lots brewing right now, so its an exciting time. I’m finishing up projects that were already started and starting new ones. Debruit and I are going on our first tour together in June around Europe and trying to plan an August tour in North America already. I’m working as the music producer on a documentary about war, music and identity in the Blue Nile and Nuba Mountain regions of Sudan where I traveled last year. We should have ready for release by the end of the summer. I’m also working with a few other producers and musicians making songs here and there that will be trickling out over the next few months. Another exciting project for me is working with folk musician Toshi Reagon on a new body of songs I’ve been writing but that’s still a long way from done, so we won’t talk about it now :)

Exclusive Interview: Jeff McIlwain (Lusine), Co-Composer of ‘Joe’ Film Score

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Words by Sara Jayne Crow

“Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.”

 


As a music journalist of nearly 15 years, this quote oddly resonates with me: it’s absurd to want to use one creative form to interpret another. Prose is a nebulous conjecture as it relates to describing rhythm; nonfiction is spare fact, and poetry feebly swaps dressed-up, impotent rhyme for melody. The statement is especially appropriate when writing about the music of Jeff McIlwain (Lusine), a prolific Seattle-based musician whose output bears such depth and breadth that words can’t near approximation. Music theory can’t approximate. Smoke signals or cuneiform might serve better.

At club King King in Hollywood last March, Jeff effortlessly orchestrated a live set, laboring intently behind the subdued glow of his laptop screen. He made subtle adjustments, fingers deftly flitting among the buttons and knobs of his spare setup: a laptop running Ableton, a DSI Tetra, Evolution UC-33, and Novation MIDI controller. The speaker stacks radiated the warmth of his layered, painstaking sonic engineering. Jeff didn’t have an affect of ego or showmanship despite the worshipful crowd jostling for front-row stance. His unassuming nature, effortless control and modesty made live performance look easy.

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Amanda Seales and Kris Bowers Discuss Upcoming ‘Mo’ Betta Wu’ @ LPR, NYC – April 10

Words by Korby Benoit

In 1994, the Wu-Tang Clan emerged as a collective of nine gifted emcees from Staten Island, NY. Their musical contribution has been unparalleled and this year marks the 20th anniversary of their seminal release, Enter The 36 Chambers. Undoubtedly the Wu-Tang style, slang and sound has left a permanent impression on hip-hop fans across the globe.

Amanda Seales is an artist known for her various work as a television host, visual artist, DJ and vocalist.  She is also someone with an appreciation for Wu-Tang’s cultural impact. This week, Seales will perform a show entitled Mo’ Betta Wu at (Le) Poisson Rouge in New York City. Together with pianist Kris Bowers and additional band members, she’ll be performing an assortment of jazz standards over reworked and reinterpreted Wu-Tang classics.

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Interview: Introducing Gabriel Garzon-Montano

 

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Earlier this month, we introduced you to Gabriel Garzon-Montano, an upcoming NYC based vocalist and musician who recently released his debut EP, Bishoune: Alma del Huila. We caught up with Gabriel for a little Q&A to help y’all get better acquainted. Get to knowin’ and enjoy!

Giant Step: Your music touches on a lot of different sounds; What/whom would you cite as your influences?

Gabriel Garzon-Montano: Alexandra Montano, Alfredo Garzón, Arthur Rimbaud, The Beatles, Claude Debussy, D’Angelo, J Dilla, Lil Wayne, Milton Nascimento, Prince, Saul Steinberg, Sly Stone, Stevie Wonder, and Toto La Momposina.

GS: How does being a multi-instrumentalist play into your relationship with music?

GGM: It has deepened my understanding of the track and the role that each ingredient plays.

GS: What’s some of your favorite music right now? Who are you listening to?

GGM: Madlib and Freddie Gibbs, Willie Colón y Hector Lavoe, Dilla, Stevie… among others. I’m starting to get into that old school Chicago house as well.

GS: Is there a certain way in which you wish for people to receive your music? Do you aim for a desired effect?

GGM: Heartbreak and assurance tied up into a delicious piece of music.

GS: Having now released your first project, there are so many roads that could lie ahead for you. Imagining there are no limitations, where would you like to take your music and career?

GGM: I want to create every day for the rest of my life. I also want to travel the world and get paid to spread this love.