Exclaim!'s Best Albums of 2012: Groove:
14. Maga Bo
Quilombo do Futuro
(Post World Industries)
Tropical bass continued to thrive and mutate in 2012 and Maga Bo's Quilombo De Futuro (together with its companion remix album) was the standard in long playing efforts. It's a bit amusing to talk about the best full-length release in a field that relies almost exclusively on one-off tracks or even stems to be assembled in a live mix by DJs. But Maga Bo has delivered the whole package: a tremendous knowledge of culture, a sharp outlook on how to construct not just grooves but songs, and a record that speaks to Brazil and the world with equal fluency. To the casual fan of Brazilian music, there's a yawning disconnect between the sexy sounds of samba and bossa nova and the stiffly modern sounds of funk carioca and other Brazilian electronic music. Quilombo De Futuro explodes the very notion that there's a disconnect between the past and future. A funk track like "Piloto De Fuga" gains a great deal from sandpapery shakers, which glue the no-nonsense beats to a slinkier groove, whereas the remake of MC Zulu's "Immigrant Visa" opens the throttle full in an ecstatic samba explosion. A second reason for the album's triumph is that it successfully employs non-Brazilian vocalists like Jahdan Blakkamoore to both reflect what Brazilian producers are listening to and how they intersect with broader currents in world music 2.0.
13. Souljazz Orchestra
Ottawa's the Souljazz Orchestra celebrated ten years together with their best release yet, Solidarity. Where 2010's Rising Sun was a somewhat reserved, all-instrumental, all-acoustic affair, Solidarity is a raucous, electric, conscious party of an album, with vocal-oriented compositions showcasing a diverse selection of Canadian-based singers including Senegalese griot El Hadji "Elage" M'baye, Brazilian Rommel Teixeira Ribeiro and Slim Moore (of the Mar-Kays), pushing the sextet's trademark fusion of Afrobeat, tropical, Caribbean, Latin and Brazilian sounds with North American funk, jazz and soul to a new level. The collaborations are more inspired than predictable: while one may expect James Brown-ian funk from Moore's "Kingpin," it's a scorcher of dread, conscious reggae that admonishes gun violence while "Bibinay" is a trance-inducing Afrobeat funk meditation with M'baye's call and response vocals adding poignancy to its theme of diasporic life. The collective's concern with social injustice is brought to the fore with the furious, righteous indignation of "Serve & Protect," a frenzied marriage of Latin and Afrobeat rhythms that would have made Fela proud. All the while, they deliver the most electrifying grooves of their career thus far, capturing the vibe of their acclaimed live show thanks to a raw, monophonic mix, allowing the musicians to blossom to full-effect. Afrobeat or world fusion bands are a dime a dozen these days, and the electrifying Solidarity shows why the Souljazz Orchestra are a cut above the rest.
12. Zaki Ibrahim
A few years ago, Vancouver, BC-born Ibrahim eschewed the significant buzz and momentum surrounding her soulful EPs and visually striking live shows and settled in her father's homeland of South Africa to plot her next creative move. On the evidence of Every Opposite, it was a shrewd decision that has paid off handsomely. Inspired by the Kwaito house music scene, Ibrahim effortlessly adds Khoisan chants and fractured post-dubstep rhythms to her already sophisticated and seamless synthesis of R&B and electronica, tapping knob-tweakers from the Johannesburg, London, Nairobi and Toronto among other locales to execute her eclectic vision. Blessed with an emotive, malleable voice and a songwriting voice that incisively explores and affirms assertive self-identity, Ibrahim has impressively delivered on her early promise.
Del F. Cowie