With her debut solo album Ya Nass (2013), Yasmine Hamdan introduced her personal, modern take on Arabic pop. In Al Jamilat (‘The Beautiful Ones’), she pursues her musical exploration, while taking a look at the mutations at work within the Arab world. While Yasmine’s vocals are definitely connected to traditions of Arabic music (to which she takes an unconventional and fresh approach), the structures and arrangements of the songs are very remote from its codes, and take in elements from contemporary Western electronic, pop and folk music.
Songhoy Blues are a young and exuberant Malian band who already have a remarkable history behind them. They fled from their homes in the north when radical Islamists overran the region, and on reaching the safety of Bamako, decided to form a band – at which point their fortunes dramatically changed. They came to the attention of Amadou & Mariam’s manager, Marc-Antoine Moreau, who was looking for musicians who could record with the Africa Express team when they came to town; they also collaborated with Nick Zinner of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs on the AE’s Maison Des Jeunes set. Now comes their first full album, co-produced by Moreau and Zinner, and it’s an impressively varied and rousing set, if somewhat predictable. There’s electric desert blues (Nick), slinky, acoustic ballads (Petit Metier), and reworkings of songs from the Songhoy tradition. A band to watch.