R&B heat you need to hear: ‘Doing the Most’ by Kirby Maurier

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Kirby Maurier

Most of my music writing centers around South American artists & you can find it over at the U.K. -based Sounds and Colours. (I’ve written about lots of recent hot, new music here!) But on the rare occasion I find myself having to rave about non -Latin or global sounds, I do that here.

Meet Kirby Maurier: an Arkansas-born R&B artist from the Miami area, who happens to be the highest selling independent R&B albums in the South Atlantic Region. Her album, Doing the Most (via Valholla Entertainment), debuting at #162 on Soundscan’s Current R&B charts (US) and I can’t recommend it enough.

Screen Shot 2015-10-19 at 10.08.23 AMHere I go aging myself again (damn you, Internet!), but I went to college when hip-hop R&B / hip-hop soul was at it best. (Don’t we always remember it that way?)

I’m talking about the time of Mary J. Blige, Aaliyah, Faith Evans, TLC, SWV, Total, etc… Those were the divas we brown kids were drawn to at the time. It was their lyrics we sang to on repeat when were in love or licking our wounds over a broken heart.

Maurier reminds me of that. An EP of hers, “Class of ’96,” encapsulates that (as she sings over the beats to many of the R&B beats of that era).

You can hear a good interview about her origins, the new album, and more, over on the Red Light Special podcast. And grab that EP via Worldwide Mixtapes here.

Finally, cop her Doing the Most album over at iTunes, and follow this artist on Facebook. Let’s hope her star continues to rise and she keeps on the focus on good, old-fashioned R&B. Though her lyrics exude more stark confidence, rather than the “come back to me” romance of that 90s R&B (Times have changed; this fits in line with powerful black female being celebrated these days), Kirby Maurier is obviously one to keep you eye on.

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Cuba’s MANANA festival: where Afro-Cuban folkloric sounds will mix with electronic sounds

Photo by me!
Photo by me!

By now, you should all know about MANANA, the music festival happening in Santiago de Cuba in May 2016, right? No! Well, head to Sounds and Colours to learn more.

Basically, it’s a non-profit festival connecting Afro-Cuban Folkloric music with the pioneers of the International Electronic music community. Its organizers are crowdfunding for the three-day event (May 4, 5, 6 2016) via Kickstarter.

If you’re thinking, oh no, the embargo getting lifted means a bunch of molly-popping, daisy crown-wearing millennials overdosing and passing out, fear not. While no one can prevent from those fitting that stereotype from attending if they buy a flight and ticket, that’s not what this festival is aiming to be.

Consider this rumba track by Manenaje Al Benni, which the folks behind Manana shared via their Kickstarter page. I went to Cuba in 2013 and can tell you talented musicians are ALL over that island, playing on the streets, in cafes, and restaurants. (Watch this short clip I shot there.) I am so excited for artists like the ones I saw to perform on a big stage, reach new audiences, and make connections from the electronic dance world for future collaborations.

The following artists have already agreed to play if this Kickstarter is a success. 

  • Dubstep pioneer, Mala (Read an interview with Red Bull here)
  • Puerto Rican electronic rumba act, Grupo ÌFÉ
  • Tropical DJ’s, Sofrito
  • “Godfather” of Cuban drumming, Galis
  • Santiago rumba masters, Obba Tuke
  • The legendary Compañía Ballet Folclórico de Oriente

By the way, I asked for clarification on travel permissions for those traveling from the United States, as the embargo isn’t fully lifted yet. The good news is a tourist card allows you to travel legally from the U.S. The cost of the visa/tourist card is £20 per person and the courier charges by DHL would be around £70. More info on that here.

So, please contribute to the Kickstarter if you can. Every little bit helps. And, if you’re able, make travel plans to attend! Cuba was one of the best places I’ve ever been to so far. The people are lovely and the architecture is beautiful. And the food is delicious.

There is so much culture, dance, music, and film, not to mention the country’s world class education. Don’t miss MANANA!

Photo by me from El Bodeguito del Medio, where I drank wonderful mojitos.
Photo by me from El Bodeguito del Medio, where I drank wonderful mojitos.

Unexpected pairing: Colombian carnival & Ronzo’s street art

Ronzo & a police officer in Bogotà. Pic via his Instagram.
Ronzo & a police officer in Bogotà. Pic via his Instagram.

Colombia’s carnival, held in my parents’ hometown of Barranquilla, is upon us. For what to expect, check out these posts I wrote for Sounds and Colours.

Though I couldn’t fit a trip to “carnavales” in this year’s schedule, I keep up with the news via barranquilladecarnaval.com. This latest bit of news is worth sharing as it brings one of Europe’s most graffiti artists to Barranquilla. A mix of folkloric tradition with a specialist in guerilla urban street art? Unexpected, but very cool.

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Barranquilla, Colombia — Well-known London-based urban artist, Ronzo, will exchange knowledge with a group of artists from the port city of Barranquilla, Colombia.

Sponsored by beer-brand Club Colombia, the event will bring Ronzo together with more than 30 artisans working with the Carnival of Barranquilla — the number two most popular carnival in South America. 

The aim of the exchange is for folk artists learn more about the diverse cultural expressions of graffiti, in aspects such as creativity, colors, languages ​​and textures. Thereafter, the learning acquired by craftsmen is to serve as inspiration for the design and construction of the Club Colombia float, which will be used in the annual carnival’s biggest event — La Battala de Flores parade on March 1.

Ronzo, who refers to himself as ‘vandal extraordinaire,’ will also share his knowledge and skills with students of the Universidad del Atlántico.

Ronzo is contemplating painting a mural donated to the city of Barranquilla.

Ronzo born in Munich, Germany, and settled in London in 2000 after completing his studies in design at the School of Art in Hamburg.

It was in London where he cemented his style and became popular worldwide, leaving his creations on paper, streets, and buildings. His work is not immune to underlying social and political messages. In 2009, he installed “Crunchy, the official mascot of the global financial meltdown” in London.

Crunchy, the mascot for the global financial meltdown. (2009)
Crunchy, the mascot for the global financial meltdown. (2009)

Ronzo’s creations include illustrations, murals, outdoor installations, and sculptures. His work, in constant evolution, has been positioned in the streets, video games, galleries and cinematography.

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I’m excited to see this float! I’ll have my cousins snap a photo for me. And even though it never tastes the same here in the States, I’ll buy a six-pack of Club Colombia to celebrate.

I wonder if it’s Ronzo’s first time at Carnival. If so, he will most definitely have fun. That’s a given! Extranjeros are always received with open arms in mi bella Barranquilla. I hope he gets to visit Santa Marta, Taganga, and Cartagena, where I remember seeing cool street art.

Follow news about the carnival at the Carnival site. Learn more about Ronzo at his site or on Twitter.

For the next generation: Making Movies puts on M.U.S.I.C.A. camp

I was introduced to Kansas City rock band Making Movies during last month’s CMJ Music Marathon in NYC. They fuse Afro-Cuban rhythms with indie sensibilities to come up with bilingual songs that rock.

When they’re not working on their own music, the band is passing their knowledge onto the next generation. But it’s far more than just a guitar lesson here and there. Recently, Making Movies teamed up with the Kansas City-based nonprofit, the Mattie Rhodes Center, to put on “Musicians United by Social Influence and Cultural Awareness (M.U.S.I.C.A.)“, a camp which introduces high risk Hispanic youth from the northeast Kansas City area to the world of music.

As you’ll see in this video, they’re reaching a great group of youngsters who might not otherwise be exposed to the arts. Even better, they’re becoming young artists. The smiles on their faces as they’re playing guitar chords or belting out “La Bamba?” Priceless.

And for more information on the band, check out my Q & A with lead singer Enrique Chi in Sounds and Colours here.

M.A.K.U. SoundSystem brings music of Colombia by way of Jackson Heights

Photo via Daily News

It’s always good to read stories of your favorite bands in NYC newspapers!

By Jim Farber of the N.Y. Daily News

People can travel many miles before they find their true selves.

Camilo Rodriguez traveled roughly 2,496 of them. That’s the distance between where he grew up (Bogota, Colombia) and where he discovered his adult voice (Jackson Heights, Queens).

“When I came to New York, I needed to find out who I was in the middle of all this madness,” Rodriguez says. “I found out through the music of where I came from.”

Read more here.

To read my story about M.A.K.U. in Sounds and Colours, click here.

Musica: Mixes of the week

(Smut Lee at Que Bajo in 2011. Ignore the person in the foreground.)

It occurred to me today that although I’m one hell of a SHARER when it comes to music, they aren’t always easily found. I typically share using Twitter and Facebook and although the internet is FOREVER, my posts can get lost down below since I continue to add to my news feed and timeline. (We all know I’m addicted to social media.)

So, in an attempt to become a better curater, I’ll post a roundup periodically on this blog. Here we go:

Grab some remixes of Los Rakas by San Antonio super producer, Sonora, here.  (And check out Los Rakas while they’re on tour. Link to tour info in the Sounds and Colours piece by me.)

Watch this awesome Q&A with Thornato by my amigos up north at Dos Mundos. Then download Thornato’s mix because it’s VERY good.

What haven’t I said on Twitter about London’s Smut Lee!?!?? I first heard the smutty one at Que Bajo in the summer of 2011 and I’ve been a big fan ever since. His dancehall mixes are always the shizzzzz *and* this one samples Lonely Island character Ras Trent (by Andy Samberg.)

Finally, K. Sabroso, the Indianapolis DJ and producer shared an exclusive mixtape with Sounds and Colours. It includes Colombian electro/champeta groups Palenke Soultribe and Systema Solar alongside salsa greats Willie Colon, Hector Lavoe and Celia Cruz.