Prezident Markon’s New Singles Round-up (Daymé Arocema, Bruno Berle, Balthvs, Silvana Estrada, Newen Afrobeat and many more)

By 05 December, 2023

I’ve broken the habit of my tenure here on Sounds and Colours by publishing my album round-up before the singles. What came over me? Perhaps it was the sheer volume of new singles that daunted me. Well, I’ve swallowed the pills, girded my loins, taken a few deep breaths, so here we go…

Fedzilla: “Tiempo”

Let’s get this joint jumping with a confident first, four-track EP, “Junction”, from the London-based singer and MC. I was particularly tempted by the tongue-in-cheek “Salsa Insecurities”, which bears the stamp of expat Cuban co-producer, Eliane Correa, but opted for the lead single “Tiempo”, with its brash dancehall swagger and guest vocal provided by the Puerto Rican singer, Marina y su Melao. The other two tracks are not to be sniffed at, but didn’t have quite the same immediate impact.

Daymé Arocena: “American Boy”

Another Latina singer now, one who has been championed by Gilles Peterson for some time. She records on his Brownswood label, and this single is the first from the Afro-Cuban soul singer’s forthcoming album, Al-Kemi. She actually wrote the song ten years ago, “but I thought it was too much of a pop song.” Well perhaps it is, but in a very good way. The horns are tasty and her voice is rich and strong.

Ivan Llanes: “Respira y Siente”

Here’s another fine voice from Cuba (by way of New York), once again supported by some splendid brass and the kind of percussion you come to associate with timba. This uplifting single celebrates the simple things of life and heralds Llanes’ debut album, La Vida Misma, earmarked for March next year. “I’ve always wanted to write a song that brings joy,” the singer and percussionist suggests. “Just to celebrate the fact that we are here, alive, we should be thankful, and happy. The song is a real party!” It certainly is.

Bruno Berle: “Tirolirole”

Let’s cool down the pace, as the old “cool ruler” himself, Gregory Isaacs, might have had it. And who better to do that than the São Paulo-based singer-songwriter-poet, Bruno Berle. It’s a typically gorgeous song, based on an expression that apparently “evokes my childhood, just like the light words about nature, … carrying a great hope for love.” I might have to think about that, Bruno – while I listen to this one more time. More music from Bruno Berle is scheduled for 2024. I hope it’s as lovely as this.

Fabiano do Nascimento: “De Manhã”

He plays (and multi-tracks) acoustic guitar, but he doesn’t sing! Fellow Brazilian and Far Out stable-mate Fabiano do Nascimento is based in L.A., where he recorded this single and 14 other pieces for his eighth album Mundo Solo in his home studio on a variety of guitars, along with a host of pedals and synthesisers. This minimalist and atmospheric piece is representative of the album, which was recorded mainly in one take per track. One man alone and very much at peace with his instruments.

Balthvs: “Like Coconut Water”

There’s one sure way to follow that – with coconut water. Recorded in La Mesa, Colombia, surrounded by palm trees and mango plantations, the new single from the Colombian trio is a nice frothy, effervescent affair that bobs along like a coconut shell in a tropical stream. Singer Johanna Mercuriana’s light, airy vocal lends it a dreamlike quality that inevitably recalls the Cocteau Twins.

Novalima: “Soy Palenque”

Back in July I featured “La Danza”, a single taken from this Afro-Peruvian sound system’s first eponymous EP. A new, also eponymous, EP is out now and this is the very tasty lead single. It features the potent vocals of singer/MC Karolinativa and an electrifying brass ensemble courtesy of Mexican dub jazz duo, Man After Man. The two EPs together will eventually form an album, I am led to believe. It’ll be well worth the wait.

Saramaccan Sound (Suriname): “Some Kind of New Beginning”

It’s not every month where we have music from Suriname to review. Described vividly by the publicity “as if Merle Haggard had been raised in the Amazon rather than Bakersfield”, the sound of the single is raw and heartfelt, and no doubt fairly typical of the album that’s out on Glitterbeat in late January of next year. It’s called Where The River Bends Is Only The Beginning, and the brothers who constitute Saramaccan Sound, Dwight Sampie and Robert Jabini, take their name from the language they sing in, the language with the most African elements in all the Americas. They hail from a remote riverside in the Amazon region of the former Dutch colony, and they were recorded in situ by producer Ian Brennan for Glitterbeat’s acclaimed Hidden Musics series.

Carlos Cavallini: “Sempre Mar”

This one sounds heartfelt, too. It certainly looks it, with the Brazilian singer-songwriter striding poetically towards the sea of his adoptive Portugal. Fellow Brazilian expats, Domenico Lancellotti and Ricardo Dias Gomes, have produced this singing, ringing single, which is taken from the singer’s forthcoming debut album scheduled (if my limited Portuguese is to be believed) for January ’24. Could be a good un’.

Harold Bontempo and João Donato: “Flores”

Lest we get too bogged down in any residual saudade, let’s up the ante a little with this delicious single from a young composer from Minas Gerais in Brazil. Harold Bontempo looks suitably thrilled to be working in the studio with the late-lamented João Donato. I only hope he managed more than one song with him before the Brazilian legend played his last mellifluous chords. Hats off to Harold for a little gem.

Silvana Estrada:”Qué Problema”

Here’s a single I missed last time that I shouldn’t have. Silvana Estrada is a young Mexican singer whose voice has been described by the Guardian no less as “like a soft summer morning.” It’s a track taken from Milagro y Desastre, an album that was released earlier this year. She’s been profiled by the NME, nominated for a Latin Grammy this year and awarded last year’s “Best New Artist” gong. According to the singer, the song is all about that troublesome matter of unrequited love: “When two people love each other but only one has the will to try. I think it is a difficult situation to handle, people are not clear, we come and go and we make a lot of trouble for not saying things. This was my attempt to say them.” Musically, she says them very well.

Hiru: “Camino Ninja”

And so to Chile. This young singer is already known as a member of Dúo Pajarito, but has found her own voice, so to speak, in a solo project that fuses rap, jazz and electronic music. This is rather nice, methinks, and bodes well for a debut album scheduled for sometime next year.

Newen Afrobeat and Lido Pimienta: “Grietas”

And now for something with rather more oomph. Chile’s Newen Afrobeat behemoth has hooked up with the Afro-Colombian singer, Lido Pimienta, to produce some very tasty Afrobeat with a Latin American spice. It’s taken from their next long player set for the spring of next year. If this and the previous single, “Mare Mare” (with guest vocals from Dele Sosimi), are anything to go by, it could be the best out-of-African Afrobeat this side of Antibalas.

La Logia Sarabanda: “Guayaba”

Barely a month goes by without some cracker from yesteryear from Madrid’s Munster/Vampisoul stable. November was no exception with two blistering re-makes of Tito Puente’s “Guayaba” pressed on both sides of a 7″ vinyl single. Reissued on a 45rpm for the first time, one comes courtesy of Peru’s Sonora de Lucho Macedo and the other of La Logia Sarabanda, about whom I know virtually notheeng. Since, however, there’s little to choose between the two interpretations, and since it was recorded in Uruguay and we don’t get much musical traffic from that diminutive country, here’s La Logia’s take on a great number that sounds like a cross between boogaloo and Latin rock.

Bial Hclap: “Tus Ojos Tranquilos (Babylotion Remix)”

We’ll call it a day in Mexico. Humberto López, aka Bial Hclap, is a producer, DJ and re-mixer from Guadalajara, who founded Handiclap Records in 2005. Having served up re-mixes for the likes of Sonido Gallo Negro and La Dame Blanche, it’s maybe fitting that his latest release assembles invited guests to tinker with his most recent release, Sierra Madre. Both the original and the re-mixes seem to be somewhere in the border territory between EP and LP. We’ll take the former to justify its inclusion in this round-up. It would be a shame to exclude it on a technicality.

So there we are. I’ll round-up the next singles soon after Christmas. Have a good one!

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