It goes without saying that this has been one of the most tumultuous years in our collective human history, with the COVID-19 pandemic permanently shifting the way the world works. In a bid to reconcile, through music, the volatile journey that many of us have been through in 2020, Kyla-Rose Smith sifted through 10 albums created during OneBeat residencies and curated a musical journey that follows the topsy-turvy ride of the last 10 months of the pandemic, from the weird and strange feelings to the hope that an end is soon in sight.
- Aguenta Aí (OneBeat 2018)
The track starts with a single chord strummed by Indonesian guitarist Nursalim Yadi Anugerah, subsequently followed by Bruna Luccesi’s (Brazil) haunting vocals. The piece’s title means ‘Hold On’ in Portuguese, and cleverly oscillates between time signatures before concluding in a comforting 7/4 groove. Earlier in the year, both Anugerah and Luccesi were involved in a quarantine video series put together by alumnus Pepe Gavilondo, featuring rearrangements of popular Beatles songs.
- The Edge with Boombayé (OneBeat 2018)
Future-folk musician Dumama (South Africa) gifts her powerful vocals to ‘The Edge with Boombayé’, a song which she co-wrote with multi-disciplinary artist Ali Santana, a.k.a Boombayé during a brief studio residency at figure8 in Brooklyn. The anthem-like track further features Dylan Greene (USA) on drums and Pepe Gavilondo on winds.
- Love (OneBeat 2013)
‘Love’ is a record that uniquely melts together multiple cultural voices from the OneBeat 2013 Fellows: Chinese guitarist Yang Fan, South Korea’s Jiha Park plays piri, and Ahmed Rock (Egypt), Malabika Brahma (India), and Bronx-based YC Kemba (formerly known as YC the Cynic) lend their voices in rap and in song. “OneBeat has definitely opened my mind and ears to other types of music, instruments, tempos, beat counts, and everything.” Kemba said. “On a more professional level, I’ve learned how to create music with others, which I had never done before. All of the give and take, dialogue, and compromise was very new to me.” The track was produced by FSN collaborating artist Devin Greenwood, who is co-founder of the Brooklyn recording studio The Honey Jar, and has collaborated with artists such as Steve Reich, Sufjan Stevens and Priit Pärn.
- Zora (Taal Piece) – OneBeat 2016
Zora was written Russian pianist and composer Marina Sobyanina. Inspired by the Indian rhythm system Tal and led by Mukta Raste (India) on the tabla it was created during OneBeat 2016, with vocals from Marina Sobyanina (Russia), Gideon Crevoshay (USA) and Rosie Tucker (USA), as well as Amy Garapic (USA) on the vibraphone and Jennifer Ellis on harp. The piece begins grounded in exploration of Indian rhythmic cycles, and then shifts into free improvisation using a wide range of timbres between the participating Fellows.
- Grandfather Mountain (OneBeat 2012)
Grandfather Mountain was recorded in the first ever OneBeat, in 2012. “You’ve seen it all, the passing of times”, Danish Fellow Sidse Holte begins to sing, accompanied by somber guitar chords played by West Virginian folk musician Chance McCoy, who also adds his fiddle to the song’s many layers. The two Fellows continue to be active in their respective music communities, with McCoy releasing numerous singles this year including ‘What If’, and Holte singing backup vocals for Danish singer-songwriter Maria Køhnke’s 2020 EP, ‘Don’t Look’.
- Todos Los Dias X Half Waif (Remix) (OneBeat 2014)
‘Todos Los Dias’ is based on a recording from the final OneBeat 2014 performance at the Albuquerque Rail Yards, led by Colombia multi-instrumentalist Esteban Copete, and remixed by former OneBeat staff member Nandi Plunkett, of the acclaimed band Half Waif. This hypnotic synth-led tune features talents of Alex Asher (USA) on trombone, Sanaya Ardeshir (India) on keys and electronics, Daniela Serna (Colombia) and Lara Klaus (Brazil) on percussion, Camilo Rodriguez (Colombia/USA) of Combo Chimbita on electric guitar and Roman Garkavenko (Ukraine) on bass.
- Bells Burp (OneBeat 2015)
‘Bells Burp’ was recorded at Found Sound Nation’s OneBeat 2015 program. The track, produced by Kate Shilonosova (Russia), begins with a percussive beat established by Kate, Pat Swoboda (USA), Fabian Sanchez (Colombia), Ng Chor Guan (Malaysia). Then, the piece grows to include a myriad of colorful textures from a hammer dulcimer (Christie Burns, USA); the kora (Vieux Cissokho, Senegal), a balalaika (Denis Peniugin, Russia), the liuqin (Tsai Hui Ya, Taiwan), and a double bass, played by Daniel de Mendoza. The track’s producer Kate Shilonosova, popularly known as Kate NV, released her solo album ‘Room for the Moon’ this year that has received positive reviews from global tastemakers including Pitchfork and Resident Adviser.
- Manyakory (OneBeat 2018)
‘Manyakory’ is an upbeat tune written by Malagasy multi-instrumentalist Tsanta Randriamihajasoa, with words penned and performed by Nigerian-American rapper Akinyemi. Randriamihajasoa not only lends his talents to the lead guitar, but also the valiha, cajon and chorus vocals. Lebanese Fellow Samah Boulmona steps in with his gifted accordion-playing to decorate the warming track. The three Fellows continue to be active in the world of music, with Akinyemi releasing a new single premiered by Flaunt Magazine; Randriamihajasoa working on a visual album for Brazilian artist Luedji Luna, and Boulmona performing an engaging set at the OneBeat Marathon earlier in November.
- Too Much to Digest (OneBeat 2019)
‘Too Much to Digest’ was recorded on the last day of OneBeat 2019, when the group was staying in the mountains of western North Carolina. Ivy Alexander (Kenya) laid down chord patterns on guitar, and Lwandile (South Africa) pulled out a very personal verse that he had recently penned about his ambivalence of the role of formal education in South Africa. He reflected: “I had just completed my graphic design studies, but I felt like I hadn’t done enough despite the 3 years I’d spent. Was I even ready to enter the working world? The year was almost over so I was reflecting on it and introspecting. I tend to overthink easily, so those thoughts just led to many others, I was turning stones that weren’t even within my radius at that time.” Building off this beat and rapped verse, OneBeat lead producer Jeremy Thal added drums, a bassline, and samples of the voice of Shibani Sur (India), and Christopher Botta contributed to the mixing and mastering of the track.
- Yeah Yeah (OneBeat 2017)
Deep desert roots meet dub-heavy dancehall style in this ecstatic mash-up of sounds from the African continent — written by Moroccan stalwart Mehdi Nassouli who performs vocals, talotart, guembri and riq; Zimbabwe’s Munyaradzi Nyamarebvu on mbira; award-winning South African jazz trumpeter Mandla Mlangeni, and infectious raga vocals by American-Ethiopian Haile Supreme (a member of Congo Sanchez – the side project of Thievery Corporation). Recorded in one of the many late-night sessions that are a feature of the annual global music fellowship OneBeat, and inspired by the meditative tradition of Gnawa music, Haile Supreme says of the making and performance of this track, “I believe this song is OneBeat personified because of its message, cosmopolitan ingredients and the extremely high energy participation it summoned from every crowd when we performed this piece on the One Beat tour.” Other contributions to the song include Kyla-Rose Smith singing backing vocals, Jeremy Thal on horns, Jan Kruzliak on violin, Paulo Sartori on electric guitar, Devin Greenwood playing synths + bass, and Sergey Balashov on drums.