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A Grammy For Zomba

Malawi-based Prison Project Receives Unexpected Nomination

A few months back, as our very first story actually, we reported on an ambitious Malawi-based prison project initiated by US Grammy-winning record producer Ian Brennan (who now has a total of four Grammy-nominated [...]

A few months back, as our very first story actually, we reported on an ambitious Malawi-based prison project initiated by US Grammy-winning record producer Ian Brennan (who now has a total of four Grammy-nominated albums under his wing) along with his Italian wife Marilena Delli, a documentary photographer herself, who travelled to southeast Africa in the summer of 2013 for an incredible, musical human rights project at a local maximum-security facility.

Upon gaining access to the precarious grounds, they proceeded to realize, record and produce over six hours of music for their Zomba Prison Project in a multi-generational venture with male and female inmates between the ages of 20 and 60, virtual 'nobodies' on a global scale. This music was subsequently released via San Francisco-based Six Degrees Records, on an album entitled "I Have No Everything", ultimately creating awareness for a part of the world less covered by mainstream media.

About two weeks ago, "I Have No Everything" was suddenly nominated for a Grammy among World Music staples the likes of Gilberto Gil, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Anoushka Shankar and Angelique Kidjo! To help you put things into perspective, our friends over at fairplanet.org got a chance to receive some firsthand-statements from Ian Brennan himself that we would like to share with you: 

a) This is the first Grammy nomination ever for the country of Malawi in the 58 year history of the awards. 

b) Malawi was named the #1 poorest country in the world in February by the World Bank.

c) Only 12% of sub-Saharan African countries have ever received a nomination, with the bulk of the nominations being in the physically larger and “richer” countries (e.g., South Africa, Mali, et al.).

Ian Brennan admitted that he was genuinely astounded at the actual amount of attention the Zomba Prison Project gathered on a global scale, further relating it to "a real David & Goliath story (complete unknowns against titans of World Music)", but also adding that the nomination was "such a nice and unexpected gift for the season".

We agree, we think this is great news and very well deserved indeed! If you haven't yet, watch the Zomba mini documentary below:

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Disko Monkeys

The Jewish Monkeys To Support Shantel At Four Shows In Austria & Germany
Greedy

Frankfurt's one and only 'disko partizani Shantel is currently touring Europe with his famed Bucovina Club Orkestar to celebrate "Shantology - 30 Years of Club Guerilla". 

Supporting him at the last four upcoming [...]

Frankfurt's one and only 'disko partizani Shantel is currently touring Europe with his famed Bucovina Club Orkestar to celebrate "Shantology - 30 Years of Club Guerilla". 

Supporting him at the last four upcoming shows in Austria and Germany are non other than our very own Jewish Monkeys:

December 14, (AT) Vienna, WUK
December 15, (AT) Innsbruck, Treibhaus
December 16, (D) Munich, Muffathalle
December 17, (D) Frankfurt, Batschkapp

It's a family affair!

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Arad Sdom

Tel Aviv's Alek Lee Readies Beautiful Two-Track Sophomore EP
 

Tel Aviv is on the rise, especially when it comes to its formidable electronic music scene with acts the likes of Red Axes (Garzen Records) or re-issue labels such as Fortuna Records paving the way. Earlier this [...]

Tel Aviv is on the rise, especially when it comes to its formidable electronic music scene with acts the likes of Red Axes (Garzen Records) or re-issue labels such as Fortuna Records paving the way. Earlier this year, the previously unheralded Tel Aviv-based producer Alek Lee (aka Ori Kenneth), who coincidentally also directed Malox's "Walk Like an Egyptian" video, rightfully gathered sudden worldwide recognition for his highly infectious "Sfarot" EP. 

Set to release his follow-up EP "Gever Amiti" (Real Man) on December 22nd, Alek Lee just premiered the music video to his new track "Arad Sdom", which beckons with a driving groove and reverberating psychedelic cues, i.e. the guitar licks of Gilbert Broid (The White Screens): “Arad Sdom is a name of a road in the south of Israel, on the way to the Dead Sea. This road is known for its very intense mountainy-circly road and turns, which lead to many accidents. I named the tune after this road before I even started working on it, with it in my mind as a reference and inspiration.”

Watch the video below and if you haven't yet, check out Alek Lee's "Sfarot" EP in the SoundCloud player above. Have a nice weekend everyone!

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Hello Africa!

Gili Yalo Releases Self-Entitled Solo Debut Album On Tel Aviv's Dead Sea Recordings
 

Black Friday will be our downfall, that is unless we take this and every other day to celebrate and support new, upcoming and already existing releases by artists, who, let's be honest, would for the most part not [...]

Black Friday will be our downfall, that is unless we take this and every other day to celebrate and support new, upcoming and already existing releases by artists, who, let's be honest, would for the most part not be able to do what they do, without some financial backing. That being said, today marks the much-awaited release of Tel Aviv-based and Ethiopia-born artist Gili Yalo's debut solo LP on the equally promising new imprint Dead Sea Recordings.

We warned you back in September, when Gili previewed his groove-ridden first single "Selam" along with an equally appealing companion video. With a unique background, which led him from Ethiopia, across Sudan and finally to Israel, his distinctive musical approach combines Ethiopian roots music with modern touches of jazz and soul and an instantly recognisable voice. His self-entitled debut album then is "a rich patchwork of colour and rhythm, like Africa itself", while you may detect influences from acclaimed artists the likes of James Brown or Mulatu Astatke. 

Headlining today's album release is his latest single "Africa", a collaboration with Tel Aviv vocalist and multi-instrumentalist KerenDun, whom you may already be familiar with from projects such as Buttering Trio. "Africa" also comes decked out with fresh visuals. Check out the video below, or listen to the track in the SoundCloud player above. "Gili Yalo", a collaborative effort with top music producers Beno Hendler (Balkan Beat Box) and Uri Brauner Kinrot (Boom Pam) as well as a string of rising talent from the burgeoning Tel Aviv scene, is sure to leave a lasting impression.

This just in: Gili Yalo is confirmed to perform at this year's Trans Musicales festival in Rennes, France on December 8th and 9th. Big up!

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Time Bomb

Stream The Full Documentary On Enigmatic Ghanaian Artist Ata Kak
 

In case you didn't know, this amazing find was the first cassette tape that got Brian Shimkovitz's infamous Awesome Tapes From Africa imprint rolling as well as the blog's inaugural post back in 2011. Originally [...]

In case you didn't know, this amazing find was the first cassette tape that got Brian Shimkovitz's infamous Awesome Tapes From Africa imprint rolling as well as the blog's inaugural post back in 2011. Originally released in Ghana in 1994, Ata Kak's "Obaa Sima" and its unique Afrodisco aesthetic went more or less unheard of for a rough 21 years. Of the 50 tapes produced at the time, only three actually sold, which in no way does this infectious, funkified and lo-fi acoustic adventure justice. 

Now, in order to rightfully honour the incredible story and portrait the artist behind behind this amazing recording, the Red Bull Music Academy produced a 25-minute documentary directed by Nathan Corbin and Tony Lowe. "Time Bomb" traces the footsteps of the enigmatic Ata Kak back to rural Ghana, where he is indeed live and well. 

So without futher ado, watch "Time Bomb" below and feel free to stream "Obaa Sima" in full via the SoundCloud player above.

 

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Mali Foli Coura

Bamako's BKO Quintet Returns With Feverish Sophomore Album
 

Please excuse a short excourse, but this seems to be just the right place and time: We recently stumbled upon a stunning trailer, shared by the Instruments for Africa organisation for "cultural preservation, [...]

Please excuse a short excourse, but this seems to be just the right place and time: We recently stumbled upon a stunning trailer, shared by the Instruments for Africa organisation for "cultural preservation, education and reconciliation in Mali". The clip features several glimpses of different Malian cultural rites and festivities, all accompanied by bold colours, chants and rhythms and is introduced with a quote by Malian kora player Toumani Diabaté, who points out that "The West knows maybe five percent of African culture". More importantly, the beautiful images are paired with poignant narration and a written statement in the description, which we would like to share with you. While it would be too long to paste in its entirety, let us zoom in on a key segment, before we progress: 

"Here, we have only known brotherhood and solidarity. So how did jihadists and terrorists come to Mali? These last years, there is no peace. Outsiders brought us things we have not known before. They have brought us a sadness that we did not know before. When the religious extremists came, they did not like our music. They broke all of our instruments, even the n’gonis. [...] If these instruments no longer exist, we have lost everything. I do not know how we will pass on our history. Because the music itself permits us to know our past, to help us live, even today."

And thus, we make the transition to Mali's ascendant and increasingly acclaimed BKO Quintet, who are set to release their second album November 24th on Buda Musique and share their feverish, contemporary, yet inherently traditional Malian sounds with an even wider audience. Fittingly entitled "Mali Foli Coura", which stands for 'new music from Mali', their sophomore effort delivers just that. This album then is more visceral, more instinctive, more energetic than its 2014 predecessor "Bamako Today" and goes beyond commonplace conceptions of so-called 'world music'. 

BKO's new music invites the listener to explore the heart of today's Mali, as they combine the traditional music of the griots with the ancient, mystical rituals of animist hunters: "Associating the guitar of the griots with the lute of Bambara hunters has never before been undertaken in the Malian music universe. These are indeed two opposite worlds that BKO have decided to bring up together, in order to develop a resolutely urban music style rooted in secular tradition." Just watch the companion video to "Tangwanana" below, directed by Cris Ubermann

And while the connection we decided to make between the statements on Malian music and culture above with BKO's new longplayer may at first seem far-fetched, their immediate common ground being the topic of Malian cultural production as a whole, the underlying message would seem to be that as persisting political and religiously fueled turmoil threaten to destroy culture and tradition, music as a means of communication and oration must prevail.

The BKO Quintet will be performing live at Berlin's Kantine am Berghain this Sunday, November 19th. Listen to four tracks off their forthcoming album "Mali Foli Coura" in the SoundCloud player above.

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The Remixes (2008-2017)

Man Recordings Founder Daniel Haaksman Releases Global Remix Anthology
 

Berlin-based Man Recordings founder Daniel Haaksman is truly a man of many hats: The prolific DJ, producer, radio show host and aforementioned label founder has spent the last decade exploring the diverse [...]

Berlin-based Man Recordings founder Daniel Haaksman is truly a man of many hats: The prolific DJ, producer, radio show host and aforementioned label founder has spent the last decade exploring the diverse soundscapes of the Southern hemisphere and is rightly considered a pioneer of global or tropical bass, ever since his now iconic "Rio Baile Funk Favela Booty Beats" compilation for Essay Recordings dropped in 2004. Skilfully blending Brazilian and Afro styles with club-friendly, dancefloor-oriented beats and genres, he also championed many a remix along the way. 

Releasing today, is a smashing 11-track anthology of his finest remixes from 2008-2017, featuring a seriously fresh selection of multicoloured bangers and rump-shakers to twist, shake and stomp to. Included are high-energy reworks of a wide array of international artists the likes of Felipe Cordeiro (Brazil), Schlachthofbronx (Germany), Makina Del Karibe (Colombia), Weird Together (New Zealand), Madera Limpia (Cuba), Omulu + King Doudou (Brazil/France), Samito (Mozambique/Canada),  Populous (Italy) or Batuk (South Africa), leaving no doubt in mind, that Daniel Haaksman was the right man for the job.

Click the SoundCloud player above or visit Spotify to stream "Remixes 2008-2017" in full. The compilation is available on Man Recordings as of today and available via the usual outlets. Chapeau! 

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The Swiss Conspiracy

A True "Délire Nostalgique" By One Of Switzerland's Best Kept Secrets (Vol. 1 & 2)
 

A mountain is a mountain is a mountain, one would think. And so a few years ago, acclaimed musicians / emigrant music producers Christoph H. Müller (Gotan Project) and Moses Iten (Cumbia Cosmonauts) came together [...]

A mountain is a mountain is a mountain, one would think. And so a few years ago, acclaimed musicians / emigrant music producers Christoph H. Müller (Gotan Project) and Moses Iten (Cumbia Cosmonauts) came together to translate their shared Swiss origin and mutual passion for Latin American rhythms, from tango to cumbia, into a musical project dubbed The Swiss Conspiracy. The result being a unique brand of "Alpine Cumbiero" or as Müller describes: "A kind of cultural boomerang … and a geographical proximity: the Alps meet the jungle / the Andes. All with the tools of electronic music."

In 2013 the duo released volume number one of its "Délire Nostalgique" series, succeeded by volume number two in 2015.  Each EP holds seven hybrid tracks and remixes thereof by the likes of Iten's Cumbia Cosmonauts, Lewis Can Cut, Galambo, Chancha Via Circuito and Acapulco Zombie. In a 2015 interview with French online publication Couvre X Chefs, Müller offers some valuable insights on the project as well as a track by track rundown of EP #2 and even shares a free Chico Sonido remix of their track "Alarm Alarm", which you can hear in the SoundCloud player above. 

We will now let you delve deep into the sounds of one of Switzerland's best kept secrets and enjoy their sonic exploration of "questions of identity, globalization of music and culture, memory" and so much more. Watch the brilliant video to "Cumbia Alpina" below as well as the teaser video to the premier "Délire Nostalgique" EP right here. This just doesn't get old. Will there be a third volume anytime soon? We definitely hope so.

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Hermeto Pascoal

The Lost '76 Vice-Versa Studio Sessions Out Now On Far Out Recordings
 

Specialising in Brazilian music, renowned UK-based imprint Far Out Recordings is making its 200th release (November 3, 2017) a big one, as it readies a previously unreleased album by the one and only Hermeto [...]

Specialising in Brazilian music, renowned UK-based imprint Far Out Recordings is making its 200th release (November 3, 2017) a big one, as it readies a previously unreleased album by the one and only Hermeto Pascoal and his Grupo Vice Versa. "Once described by Miles Davis as 'the most impressive musician in the world', there is good reason (beyond his Gandalf-like appearance) why he is known as 'O Bruxo' (the wizard)." As a matter of fact, "few musicians have ever reached his stature. A true maestro and a cultural icon, he represents the highest level of musical evolution; as a multi-instrumentalist, as a composer, and as an arranger".

According to the album bio, the recording in question dates back to 1976 and was recorded at Rogério Duprat's Vice Versa Studios in São Paulo in just two days. Participating in the sessions was a rhythm section composed of Zé Eduardo Nazario (drums), Zeca Assumpção (bass) and Lelo Nazario (electric piano), as well as saxophonists Mauro Senise, Raul Mascarenhas and Nivaldo Ornerlas, guitarist Toninho Horta and vocalist Aleuda Chaves. Apparently, that same group had played a show together shortly before and, after performing for hours on end, had achieved "an almost spiritual musical connection [...] as the music organically moved from structured compositions to ‘freer’ improvisational works".

Recognising the potential for his compositions to reach 'higher ground', Hermeto Pascoal and his group took to the studio. "Almost everything recorded on the first take ended up staying in the final mix. After the mixdown, Lelo Nazario would ask sound engineer Renato Viola to make him a copy of all the material, from machine to machine. As far as we know, the master tape eventually got lost over time, but Lelo kept his copy in his studio’s archives, where it stayed for over forty years." 

What we have here then, is no short of a musical miracle, "a forgotten moment in Brazilian history" and an indispensable document from what many consider "the golden age of Brazilian music"

Fueled by Hermeto Pascoal's revolutionary vision, "Hermeto Pascoal & Grupo Vice Versa: Viajando Com O Som (the lost ’76 Vice Versa Studio Sessions)" contains four tracks, one of which (Casinha Pequenina) lasts a whopping 26 minutes and 34 seconds. So if you enjoy the free spirit of jazz paired with Brazilian grooves and breathtaking musicality, you may want to hear this. Feel free to listen to "Dança do Paje" and "Casinha Pequenina" in the SoundCloud player above, or head over to Bandcamp for the full monty.

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Digital Zandoli Vol. 1 + 2

Heavenly Sweetness Drops Part 2 Of 1980s/90s West Indies Zouk & Synth Funk Series
 

"That's Zouk," my friend exclaimed, when I played the first track off of "Digital Zandoli Vol. 1", a stunning, dancefloor-oriented compilation of 13 disco, boogie and [yes] Zouk tracks recorded in the French West [...]

"That's Zouk," my friend exclaimed, when I played the first track off of "Digital Zandoli Vol. 1", a stunning, dancefloor-oriented compilation of 13 disco, boogie and [yes] Zouk tracks recorded in the French West Indies of the 1980s and released by Parisian imprint Heavenly Sweetness in 2016.

Curated by Julien Achard of Digger's Digest and Nico Skliris (formerly Superfly Records), the release "reveals a broader spectrum to the otherwise poorly defined genre" (Vinyl Factory) with sun-filled, laid-back and body-moving grooves by artists the likes of O.R.E.A., Pierre-Edouard Décimus, Acayouman, Meliza and many more, merging "traditional and other rhythmic genres (funk, disco, afro-beat, Latin, Brazilian ...) with new instruments such as synthesizers and drum machines in the creative process"

Volume 2 of the acclaimed compilation, aka "Digital Zandoli 2: Funky Zouk Spectrum 1984 – 1993" just dropped in October and is an absolute blast from the past. Listen to Nico Skliris' Volume 1 mixtape in the SoundCloud player above or "Pina Colada Coco Loco" by Joyeux de Cocotier below. Big tunes!

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Den Sorte Who?

Denmark's Sample Champs Prepare Magical Mixtape For Upcoming Le Guess Who? Festival
 

A little more than a week to go before Le Guess Who? festival raises the curtain on an awe-inspiring line up of top tier international acts in Utrecht (NL). That being said, school is already in session as Danish [...]

A little more than a week to go before Le Guess Who? festival raises the curtain on an awe-inspiring line up of top tier international acts in Utrecht (NL). That being said, school is already in session as Danish Grammy award winners, Roskilde Orange Stage legends and flat-our sample wizards Den Sorte Skole serve up a mind-melting one-hour mixtape just ahead of their very own festival appearance. And here's what they had to say: 

"Le Guess Who is like this endless sea of different music, sounds and inspirational expressions. We could only capture a glimpse of this on a mixtape, but tried to bring together everything from the beauty to the weird and the ugly. After listening though material from almost everyone playing at this years festival, we are looking crazy much forward to coming over for both our own and all the other concerts."

As you may have come to expect of this duo extraordinaire, the result is absolutely amazing. So do yourself a favour and listen to the entire mixtape in the SoundCloud player above. And if you find yourself in dire need of a tracklist, well, that too has duly been taken care of...

Tracklist (in order of appearance):
Dedekind Cut - Maxine
Black Lips - Interlude: Got Me All Alone
Pharmakon - Primitive Struggle
Prurient - Cocaine Daughter
Rabit & Dedekind Cut - R&D-i
Den Sorte Skole - Beacon
Perfume Genius - Die 4 You
The Bug Vs Earth - Agoraphobia
XAM Duo - Ashtanga
Jane Weaver - The Architect
James Holden - Self-Playing Schmaltz
Shabaka Hutchings - The Observed
Alice Coltrane (w.Pharoah Sanders) - Something About John Coltrane
Gonjasufi - Maniac Depressant (Perera Elsewhere Remix)
Aldous Harding - Blend
Sun Ra - The Lady With The Golden Stockings (a.k.a. The Golden Lady)
Grouper - Vanishing point
Ben Frost - A Single Hellfire Missile Costs $100,000
The Mystery Of Bulgarian Voices Choir - Second song on the road
Shabazz Palaces - Effeminence
Alice Coltrane - Er Ra 
Sevdaliza - Hero
Sudan Archives - Come Meh Way
Jane Weaver - Argent
Ben Frost - All That You Love Will Be Eviscerated
Nobody - Tori Oshi (feat. Prefuse 73)
Jenny Hval - Ritual Awakening
tUnE-yArDs - Wooly Wolly Gong
Jerusalem in My Heart - Lau Ridyou Bil Hijaz
Yves Tumor - Serpent II
Muddersten - Stjerneskjerm
Moor Mother - By The Light
Pharmakon - Bang Bang
Suuns - 2020
Metz - Caterpillar
Patrick Higgins - I Wish You Were A Girl
Mario Batkovic - Sommium
XAM Duo - Pine Barrens
Sarah Davachi - For Strings
Liu Fang - Chanting Of The Tiema
Kevin Morby - City Music
Avey Tare - Boat Race

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Last Band Standing

Congolese/Kenyan Orchestre Les Mangelepa Release New Album On Strut / Tour Poland, Germany & the Czech Republic

Blame it on the picture perfect weather, but in our honest opinion, pretty much everything about the long-standing Orchestre Les Mangelepa's live appearance at this year's Wassermusik X festival was on point, from [...]

Blame it on the picture perfect weather, but in our honest opinion, pretty much everything about the long-standing Orchestre Les Mangelepa's live appearance at this year's Wassermusik X festival was on point, from the glorious open air location on the spacious terrace of Berlin's iconic Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW, or 'pregnant oyster' as the locals call the structure) to the leisurely performance by one of the oldest, all-time great East African big bands. Aka the "Last Band Standing", which just happens to be the fitting title of their recently released new studio album on Strut Records, this group of Congolese musicians who settled in Kenya, kept the crowd dancing well into the night. Their music is a festive blend of African rumba, rooted in Congolese Lingala music and paired with bittersweet Swahili lyrics, while their live energy remains unparalleled. 

Before coming together as Les Mangelepa at the end of the 1960s, the band members were part of Baba Gaston's L'Orchestre Baba Nationale in Lubumbashi, East Congo. By the '70s, African rumba had become one of the main musical movements in Africa and Kenya's capital Nairobi a magnet with studios and vinyl pressing plants by international corporations the likes of PolyGram and EMI. After resituating to Kenya, unhappy with the circumstances playing under Baba Gaston, band leaders Evany (Kabila Kabanze) and Bwamy Malumona as well as several other band members started a side project dubbed Les Mangelepa, which eventually led to a complete split and a new beginning. Les Mangelepa held a regular residency at Nairobi's Uhuru Park and began to draw huge crowds. And so, under George Opiyo’s management, things took off from there... In 2016  the band played their first shows outside of Africa and toured Europe. 

Their latest album "recorded by No Nation’s Guy Morley, encapsulates some of their best-loved material, re-recorded and brought up to date using the current personnel of their Nairobi Vibro residency", including hit songs like "Maindusa". Here are eight spirited Les Mangelepa tracks to move you. Catch them performing live in Poland (WOMEX), Germany and the Czech Republic next: 

27.10. PL, Katowice, WOMEX
28.10. DE Hildesheim - Folk'N' Fusion
29.10. DE Berlin - YAAM
30.10. DE Düsseldorf KIT-Café
31.10.  DE Weikersheim - Club W 71
01.11.  CZ, Praha, Palac Akropolis

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Zulfiqar

OMFO Returns With A New EP Of Ex-Otic Sonic Artifacts

Broadcasting "from a lonely rusted tower in the forest" the enigmatic OMFO (Our Man From Odessa), aka German Popov, is on a self-proclaimed mission to introduce Western audiences to what he calls "the intrinsic [...]

Broadcasting "from a lonely rusted tower in the forest" the enigmatic OMFO (Our Man From Odessa), aka German Popov, is on a self-proclaimed mission to introduce Western audiences to what he calls "the intrinsic modernism of the Orient". A sound artist, musician, electronic music producer and researcher, he transcends musical boundaries, delivering a siren's call to new listening horizons.

Named after German Titov, the second human being to travel space after Juri Gagarin, German Popov is all about discovering new galaxies of sound. It comes as no surprise then, that OMFO's latest four-track effort yet again confronts listeners with a sonic mystery in the making: "This EP is made of tracks, written for never-finished movie about Zulfiqar Zulfiqarov. Who is this character?....... Listen and find out"

So here we are, listening to ex-otic soundbits and sonic artifacts, cut and pasted together to form an enchanting whole as beautiful as it is intriguing. And maybe the less we know, the more open our approach to these intricate soundscapes can be. Stream/buy the full "Zulfiqar" EP here

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