A month ago I started a music playlist (iZem_Fm Shuffle Radio) across different streaming platforms. I promised I would feed it with new music on a regular basis. So this is my monthly selection. I wrote a few comments on these songs (see below). A bit like a radio show… Without the bla bla bla. Also I made a separate playlist for that current selection only (without the older songs) under the name iZem_Fm New Music. Enjoy! Feedback & comments always welcome! Which ones did you enjoy the most?
TCHOTA SUARI - CHANDO GRACIOSA - Nha Boi
The sound of Cape Verdean funaná music is familiar to anyone who’s been hanging around the bohemian Lisbon night life. With incredible music collectors and dj’s such as Celeste Mariposa and many others, there’s hardly any Lisbon party I’ve been to that doesn’t have its funaná sequence. There has been a number of interesting compilation covering the topic and this brand new one by Ostinatto Records is more focused on the 90’s sound. Fast-paced percussion, accordeon riffs and contagious vocals is the recipe to get the crowd moving!
MASEGO - Queen Tings (Santi Remix)
I heard Masego’s name around but I never explored his music much. I came across this one during a Soulection radio show and was instantly moved by the contagious chorus vocals and sax lines as well as the brilliant beat.
ACID ARAB - Staifia (feat. Radia Menel)
I have followed acid arab for a number of years now. First impressed by their dj sets and radio shows, I also enjoyed their effort to blend electronic and arabic / middle eastern influences as producers. I still have to listen more to their new album but this one is the first that caught my attention. Algerian vocalist Radia Menel is on point and the hypnotic beat and flute reminds of Oran music and rai heritage.
O TERNO - Eu Vou + Atrás / Além + Bielzinho / Bielzinho
O Terno is one of those from-another-planet type artist that only Brazil is capable of producing. Their last album only has incredible songs. Beautiful songwriting, mindblowing production…. It’s already their 4th album in 7 years and their progression has been really impressive. It’s almost impossible to pick a favourite song on this album as they are all so different and so well crafted. Beatles-level artistry!
LORENA BLUME - Cuchara Chueca
Lorena is a young promising singer songwriter from Peru. I don’t know much about her except she has a fantastic vocal timbre and some of her compositions are really catchy. Looking forward to hear more from her.
BURNA BOY - Anybody + Collateral Damage
I don’t know anybody in my music geek friends who isn’t obssesed with Nigerian singer Burna Boy. The first song I discovered of his was ‘Gbona'. My pastime became playing the song to those who didn’t know it and watch their head start nodding and a smile show up on their face. Burna is a huge commercial success and became a global star yet his music sounds fresh and surprising in many aspects.
JOSYARA - Engenho da Dor + Iara Correnteza
Josyara is one the most exciting Brazilian artists I have heard in recent times. She plays the guitar, sings and writes like like no one. I heard her 2018 album ‘Mansa Furia’ a lot in the recent months and I had the chance to record a track with her which I obviously included in the playlist!
CHANCHA VIA CIRCUITO - Barú
I have first heard Chancha’s music back in 2008 when I was living in the Buenos Aires suburbs and going to the ZZK night on Thursdays in Niceto. Chancha is definitely one of the most gifted producers of that ‘New Cumbia’ scene and he has been consistently delivering brilliant music since then. I particularly love the beat and the bass of this song selected.
LA LÁ - Bebés + Entera
The whole universe should be listening to La la. I have been rinsing and re-rinsing this ‘Zamba Puta’ album and I can’t get tired of it. It’s already a couple of years old and this is supposed to be a new music playlist but i have been so excited about this album that I couldn’t write this list without including her.
DUDA BEAT - Bixinho + Todo Carinho
My friends of venga venga introduced me to Duda’s beat music and her album has been on repeat since then. It looks like she is buzzing a lot in Brazil and I’m not surprised. Her whole character, the songs, the production… everything fits so well together. This one is another album that I had a really hard time picking a favourite track. So I picked two.
RAFAEL ARAGON & STAS - Ik Vari Do Vari
Rafael Aragon is a French producer and a Dj whom I shared the stage with a few times in the last few years. Apart from being a really cool guy he releases some brilliant music, often influenced by North African and Middle Eastern sounds. This one is co-written by Hungarian producer Stas, whom I had never heard of before. If you like this one, check Rafael’s brilliiant gnawa-juke track ‘Aza Djoula’ as well.
WADO - Alabama + Mistérios
Wado’s album ‘Ivete’ has been on repeat in the last few months. Somehow I was convinced it was a recent release when in fact it's a 2016 album. That didn’t keep me from inserting 2 songs in this ’new music’ playlist! Another album full of catchy and intelligent compositions, interesting hibryd indie-rock-meets-afro-brazilian sound. Now I have to catch up with his 10+ other albums…
NEGO GALLO - Downtown
I am a sucker for this rap / reggae crossover. And when it comes from northeastern Brazil (Fortaleza) and the MC is as convincing as Nego Gallo, I can’t avoid but playing it in loop! I didn’t explore as much of his album as I got stuck on this song but he is an artist well worth checking out.
MARCELO JENECI . O Seu Amor Sou Eu + Melodia da Noite
Probably my favourite songs on this list. I had heard Marcelo’s name around without ever having a chance to listen to his music. Until I dove in his new album ‘Guaia' and stopped everything I was doing when the first chords of ‘O seu amor so eu’ hit followed by ‘Melodia da Noite’. Two masterpieces!
MATIAS AGUAYO - The Fold
You won’t hear much instrumental electronic in my playlists but Matias Aguayo’s music is one of the few exceptions. His Crammed Discs release has all the rhythmic richness that most trendy electronic music lacks. Beautiful sound design, very impressive music all the way.
SOFIANE SAIDI - Yamma
Another 2017 release I can’t help but adding to this playlist. Sofian Saidi wrote the rai music album I have been wanting to hear for years. Beautiful songwriting, singing and jazz-funk influenced instrumentation. We want more!
DENGUE DENGUE DENGUE - Llae
I have been exploring this brand new Enchufada release in depth and I loved the mixed of electronic rhythm and live percussion. Another very consistent act from the afro-latin inspired electronic music scene that I have been happy to witness the perseverance and evolution.
LUCAS SANTTANA - Não Vamos nos Desgrudar Nunca Mais + Seu Pai
Lucas Santtana has also been delivering consistent brilliant music for the last 10+ years. On his new album he took a more old-school approach to production, with most songs being guitar and voice only. My ear got hooked on two of those song at first listen. I added those the this playlist, heard them dozens of times since and still don't get tired!
PAT THOMAS & KWASHIBU AREA BAND - Obi Nfreno
I had the chance to work with Ben, sax player, music director and producer of the last two Pat Thomas records on a project for Guts. Out of the all the current production of Afrobeat and Highlife records, Pat Thomas music is always one step ahead in terms of musicianship and quality of arrangements.
TECHNICOLOR FABRICS - Levitando
One of the first Mexican acts I ever playlisted! I’m not sure how I discovered them but I was seduced by their lean funky sound, nice falsettos and vocal harmonies.
NELSON FREITAS - Manhã Cedo
New album by Lisbon-based, Holland-born Cape Verdean global star, Nelson Freitas. A few bangers on the album but I had to pick this one as the title means ‘Early Morning’.
Working with Josyara was such a refreshing experience… She is one of the most talented singer, guitar player and composer I ever had the chance to work with. She is based in São Paulo but she came to Lisbon last June for a few weeks. I heard her playing an intimate gig in Valsa bar and I was totally blown away… I got in touch and offered to try and do a track together. She accepted and we locked ourselves in the studio a couple of days after (on the day of my birthday). And this song is the result!
"Hailing from Juazeiro in the State of Bahia in Brazil, Josyara is one of the most enticing voices of a new Brazilian generation. At 28 years old, she has already released two albums deeply rooted in the tradition of the greatest Brazilian musicians (Caetano Veloso, Gal Costa, Maria Bethânia and Gilberto Gil) and in the sounds of the sertão region. Constantly searching for new musical experiences, she offers us in Iara Correnteza a single with electronic accents, produced by French beatmaker iZem this summer in Lisbon.
Iara is the name of her grandmother, but it is also the name of a divine, mythological figure: a mermaid whose unmatched beauty bewitches whoever engages with her. Josyara finds herself enchanted by this voice stemming from the depths of the rivers and invites her to explore the magic powers of fresh waters. This song is both an ode to nature and to the Rio São Francisco, two elements that have marked the life and the horizon for the singer, as well as a mystical reflexion about life. The water represents an anthem to the quest for balance, an invitation to contemplation, to indulgence, an echo to our internal meandering.
“Iara Correnteza” is, at last, an encounter between the globe-trotting producer iZem, a bridge crossing between the Brazilian folklore on one hand and the electro-acoustic aesthetic on the other. This first song also launches the new French label Elis Records, based in Lisbon and co-founded by iZem himself as well as Lekin, co-founder of the Parisian and pioneer webradio Le Mellotron."
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I have so much music to share… and it’s been a good couple of years since I've done a radio show. I decided I would build my own extensive playlist on streaming platforms and add the new music i discover on a regular basis. This first batch contains 1000+ songs that are basically the soundtrack of my life. From editing analog tapes in radio stations when I was 15, to learning to make beats to playing the guitar in bands, to releasing my own music, to collaborating with some of my favourite artists... This playlist follows my path through the countries I’ve lived in and the cultures I have been exposed to. Expect some of my Groovalizacion Radio years classics, some of my DJ set go-to’s (although I focused mainly on home-listening music) and an insight into the songs I sing under the shower. This first shipment will remain the backbone of the playlist and the idea is to feed it with new music every month. So stay tuned!!! *siren sound*
A few weeks ago, I got to work on a new and exciting project. Cape Verdean singer Mayra Andrade got in touch with me to help her put together her new live show. She told me she would be releasing her 4th studio album early next year and that she was starting touring in October. She wanted to start playing the songs of the forthcoming album on stage for this new tour even though the album wasn’t out yet. Her expectations were high as she hadn’t been touring for 3 or 4 years and she wanted to showcase an updated musical identity.
I had been following her work for a long time. I programmed her music on the radios I worked for, I played her songs in my Dj sets and I even gave a shot at remixing her recording of ‘Tunuka’ a few years ago (which didn’t go very far). I also tried many times to sing and play some of her songs on the guitar. Only a few weeks before she got in touch, I had seen her on stage as a part of Gilberto Gil’s live show here in Lisbon and she simply blew my mind. She stole the show all the way through. She had such a unique and powerful way of interpreting Gilberto Gil’s songs. Gil himself is an incredible stage performer in his own right, so having those two together interacting on the same level was a revelation for many people who didn’t know Mayra’s stage personality. Her name was on everyone’s mouth after that epic concert.
The job she hired me for was the following: she wanted me to help her adapt her forthcoming album - which was produced by Romain Bilharz from both electronically programmed beats and acoustic instruments - into a consistent and engaging live show played by a 4-piece band. This meant capturing and sampling the many electronic elements of her album, finding the appropriate way to get those triggered or reproduced by instruments on stage, adapting some of her older songs to the new electronic make-up and suggesting arrangements for the new songs to make them exciting in a live context.
My job was also to be present during the 3 weeks of rehearsals to give feedback to the band, which turned out to be quite an intense experience. Rehearsals often were over 10 hours long and the timeframe was short to get 15 songs - including 10 or so which Mayra had never played on stage - arranged and rehearsed. On a technical level, we ended up getting all the sequences triggered by drummer Tiss Rodriguez on 2 Roland SPD’s and a sensory percussion kit from Sunhouse. Most of the synth textures were reproduced by keyboardist Nicholas Vella on a Prophet 5 and a Kronos workstation. Bass player Swaeli Mbappe used a Moog Sub Phatty to play the electronic basslines. Also, Mayra wanted to experiment with electronic textures on her voice. We ended up adding an effect rig made of auto-tune, pitch-shifters, filters and a reverb to her live setup.
I was around for the 3 or 4 first concerts of the tour and all I can say is they smashed it. Mayra’s stage presence and ability to shake the audience’s emotions are legendary. Feedback from the crowd was more than encouraging as people were hearing some of their favourite Mayra Andrade songs (like Tunuka, Lua or Ilha de Santiago) being totally revisited by the hybrid modern band. This project was by far the highlight of my musical year and one of the most exciting yet challenging projects I have ever been a part of.
The story started in an estate in Chelas, a neighbourhood in Lisbon. My friend Léon Brichard (Ill Considered, Wildflower, Ex-Ibibio Sound Machine) had brought his analogue studio from London to Lisbon and was based in an apartment in this area. I went there a few times to write some music with him. During one of these sessions, Léon came up with that catchy riff on the double bass. It clicked for me straight away so I got him to record the same phrase on other instruments, including on the Wurlitzer keyboard he had in his studio. I used this riff sample for the live show I put together when I released my “Hafa” album, back in 2016. We were playing it as the intro theme of the set.
One day I was opening for Afriquoi in London and I heard K.O.G’s voice during the soundcheck. He was doing a guest appearance and his vocal talent struck me straight away. We had a chat after the gig and I could sense he as well had been impressed by the beats I had been playing in my live show. I sent him a few of those via his manager, Andre Marmot, and he recorded some vocals from his hometown of Sheffield. When I heard the chorus he had recorded on this beat I had made out of Léon’s riff, I jumped to the roof. It was catchy as hell.
After going back and forth between Lisbon and Sheffield to get the right vocal take, I was almost there. Benoit Crauste, a Parisian sax player who hangs out often in Lisbon, added the last touch of magic. He had been part of my live band so he knew the underlying beat very well. He improvised on it for a while and I kept the sax phrase I needed for the bridge. I sent this tune to the French producer Guts - who was starting a sub-label of Heavenly Sweetness. He fell in love with the song, flew me to Paris to get the track mixed by Mr Gib at One Two Pass It studios, mastered the song in the same week and put it out on vinyl via his imprint. The song has been playlisted on Radio Nova almost since its release. It is a big deal to me because Nova is one of the radios that helped me build my music culture when I was a teenager.
It’s out now! I And here’s what the press release said:
"Often writing music whilst crossing continents, French producer, musician and DJ iZem found a new home in Lisbon, Portugal. After moving to the Portuguese capital five years ago, a period during which he released his 2016 album ‘Hafa’ on Soundway, the nomadic artist dove headfirst into the city’s exciting global club scene and started working on bringing his signature soulful and vocal vibe to the club dance floor, and the result is his Enchufada debut release ‘Beni Lane EP’.
Expertly introducing afro-house and heavier percussive elements to his jazzy and hip-hop inflected approach to global sounds, ‘Beni Lane EP’ opens up a new chapter in iZem’s prolific music output with its upbeat and dance floor-focused vibe, while still maintaining his organic and melodic approach to music firmly intact. This is the direct by-product of iZem’s deep dive into the Lisbon music scene, as the syncopated beats that blast loudly from the city’s clubs and streets further contribute to shaping his unique musical personality. From Major Stef’s collage of jazz drum solos to vocal-lead Frikii (feat. Fehdah), where he reworks a vocal from his debut album to fit big room dance floors at 3am, Shebeen Chic’s bass music and dub influenced breaks, to the titular Beni Lane’s colourful celebration of Lisbon’s pulsating and syncopated beats, iZem has established himself as a unique and vital voice in the global club music scene.
‘Beni Lane EP’ follows the release of a single to become his first proper release on Enchufada, as iZem continues his ongoing exploration of the global club sounds of his new home."
Artwork by Aimée