The weather is mind-blowingly nice this week, so why not listen to some new music as you momentarily forget that it’s actually February right now? Morning Shift and Radio M host Tony Sarabia dips into his bag of new releases and pulls out albums from Sudan, Tunisia, Cuba, Nigeria by-way-of-London and Mali.
Mali: Tinariwen’s Elwan
Tony Sarabia: This is the band that’s credited with creating this genre called ‘desert blues.’ They’ve been around for a long time. I think this is their sixth album. They’ve been compared to the Grateful Dead — they can really lay down the jams. But because of what’s happening in northern Mali, they actually recorded part of this album, Elwan, in the Joshua Tree national monument in Southern California.
Cuba: Daymé Arocena’s Cubafonía
Sarabia: This is a young woman — she’s 24 years old — and wow, Jerome! What a voice! Her voice has been compared to Nina Simone (and) Celia Cruz. Her name is Daymé Arocena and she started out playing a lot of instruments and found that her favorite instrument is her voice — the original instrument. Her debut album, Nueva Eva, was selected by NPR as one of the 50 best albums of (2015).
(‘Cubafonía’ comes out March 10, 2017.)
Tunisia: Emel Mathlouthi’s Ensen
Sarabia: She’s living in New York (and) before that she was living in France. Very interesting backstory: She sang a song during the Arab Spring called “Kelmti Horra,” which means “my word is free,” and it became sort of like an anthem. … Even prior to the Arab Spring, her music was banned on radio.
(‘Ensen’ comes out Feb. 24, 2017.)
Nigeria: Ibibio Sound Machine’s Uyai
Sarabia: Ibibio Sound Machine (is) led by the Nigerian artist Eno Williams. She was living in London and then, I think, it was her grandmother who brought her and her sisters back to Nigeria. … She sings in the Ibibio language (and) she says the language really goes well with music. What I love about this band, Jerome — I don’t know about you — but it just reminds me of that early-’80s Gary Numan, New Order kind of stuff. … This is an eight-piece band by the way, so they can really rock out.
(‘Uyai’ comes out March 3, 2017.)
Sudan: Sinkane’s Life and Livin’ It
Sarabia: He was actually born in London but raised in Sudan. Then they left and took up refuge in Provo, Utah of all places. … I was turning on our producer Meha to this and she was saying, “He’s singing something in Arabic.” And that phrase that you heard roughly translates into, “Hey, don’t worry, everything’s going to be cool.”
(Sinkane performs at Chicago’s Lincoln Hall on Feb. 23.)
Hear more recommendations from Tony Sarabia on Radio M Fridays at 9 p.m. on WBEZ.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. Click the ‘play’ button to listen to the entire interview.