« Jazz and hip-hop influences
coupled with big, heavy percussion. » COMPLEX
« Tumbling Afro-beats that had even the most reserved festival-goer wiggling a toe or two…. the crowd was locked in for a fun 30 minutes of dancing . » THE LINE OF BEST FIT
« We can be rest assured the producer will be climbing the ranks quickly. » XLR8R
« Keep an eye out for iZem’s African and Latin-inspired productions. » OKAYAFRICA
After working in record stores and
radios in Paris at the beginning of the 2000s, and in a hurry to
experience more in the world, he left France in 2005 to work as a
guitarist in musical projects in Spain and then in Recife, Brazil.
During his exciting South American experience, and while spending one
year in Buenos Aires, Argentina, he co-founded the online radio Groovalizacion.
He continued to document his musical adventures through podcasts
recorded in various places of residence. After spending several years
working as a DJ in Dublin, Ireland, he moved to Lisbon in 2013, a
cosmopolitan and sun-filled port city, with the idea of putting the
finishing touches on his first album "Hafa",
released on Soundway Records
in 2016. "Hafa" is a vivid analogue-digital, genre-defying soundscape
experiment drawing from the afro-centric sounds of his journey to-date
and incorporating modern, soulful songwriting and hybrid beats.
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.
ABOUT iZEM'S DEBUT ALBUM "HAFA"
2016, Lisbon, Portugal. Listening to French music producer iZem first album Hafa is like immersing yourself into the artist’s diary of a decade-long travel to Brazil’s Nordeste region, Morocco’s Atlantic plains, Ireland’s Kerry Cliffs and Spain’s Andalusian desert. There are ten years piled into Hafa, the soundtrack of a musical road-trip inspired by the writings of such unfettered and freethinking novelists as Jack Kerouac and Amin Maalouf. This blended work speaks six languages throughout eight chapters, and offers a kaleidoscope of itinerant sound textures. The story of Hafa also tells the good fortune of a self-produced work recorded in small hotel rooms among a jungle of stripped cables, whose rhythms reached the producers Bonobo and Mount Kimbie, and eventually found their home port in England at Soundway Records. A natural destination for the music of iZem, which easily identifies with the growing “post-tropical” scene the London-based label has been proudly promoting for the last 14 years.
2006, Café Hafa, Tangier, Morocco. iZem settled into this former favourite haunt of the beat generation. This café perched above the waters of the Mediterranean and the Atlantic and facing the Strait of Gibraltar was the beginning of the search for the artist’s Moroccan roots, and the symbol of the cross- breeding of cultures which was to orient his musical voyages. Located at the crossroads of Africa, Europe and America, Café Hafa gave its name to this sweet-and-sour musical palette on the edge of soul, electronic music and Brazilian sounds. A world of dreams and souvenirs, an ocean of introspection and a spirit of innovation inspired by, among others, greats such as Caetano Veloso and Miles Davis. The French explorer later found his destination on the edge of the same Atlantic Ocean, but in Lisbon, where he settled after 10 years of travelling across three continents.
"HAFA" TRACK BY TRACK
Sadeo: “This is a song that I wrote with Feather, an Irish singer born in Sierra Leone. She evokes memories of her childhood in Africa, and chose to sing in a language that blends as much Sierra Leonan Mende and English, as her own imagination.”
Water: “The importance of water for humanity, its unequal access, and even its waste are featured here by the Nigerian Segun Akano, afrobeat singer and percussionist and iZem’s partner on this song recorded in Dublin, where the musician has been based for the past 15 years.”
Quiver: “Another version of this song was featured on my first EP released in 2011. It evokes the sensuality of love and intimacy. The voice of the Malaysian singer Aminah Dastan is filled with soul music, folk and dub. She has lived in New Zealand, Kuala Lumpur and Dublin, where this song was recorded.”
L'Horloge: “Originally a beat meant to be featured in the performance of a musician living in João Pessoa (Brazil), it then reached the hands of Irish saxophonist Paul Harris and eventually ended up as a track swaying between jazz, afrobeat and house music.”
Água Viva: “The story behind this song started in 2013 when Brazilian DJ and digger Tahira visited me in Lisbon. He offered me a vinyl copy of the album Krishnanda by Pedro Santos (aka Pedro Sorongo), a long-forgotten 1960s gem that features the song “Água Viva”, an ode to the beauty and harmony of nature. From then on, I have been fascinated by this song and asked the British-Brazilian singer Nina Miranda (ex-Smoke City) to cover it. The recording took place in the attic of the singer’s home in North London.”
Kulala: “This is the other cover featured on this album. First performed by South Arican singer Dorothy Masuk, it was then made popular by her fellow countrywoman Miriam Makeba. This is one of my DJ sets classic tracks, and it’s also one of the favourite songs of Binisa Bonner, English singer and bassist originally from the Congo. I met her in London in 2010 as she performed this song live. We became friends, and the idea of our working together germinated and led to the recording of this cover in 2014.”
Seasons: “This is the result of one of the many interminable night jam sessions that we used to have at Aminah Dastan’s small house in Crumlin, Dublin. This song owes a lot to the wonderful horns arrangement executed by saxophonist Paul Harris.”
Wind, Sand and Stars: “The title refers to the novel Terre des Hommes by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. This music evokes climate and temperature changes, serenity and chaos, loneliness and crowds, the sun and the storm. Like a night flight with São Paulo-based duo of musicians Eko, this track closes the album as a forced landing in the middle of the desert or an emergency arrival on an island in the Atlantic.”