Drums of Fire or: Creating yr own reference point in Jazz : Mor Thiam & Yussef Kamaal

Two records are in heavy rotation since a week or so, keeping me surviving the endless Berlin january days: Mor Thiams reissue of Din Safarrar (drums of fire) and Yussef Kamaal´s Debut LP Black Focus.

So first listen to Yussef Kamaal: Behind this names is Kamaal Williams aka Henry Wu (Keys) & Yussef Dayes (Drums/ Percussion) and several great studio musicians (Sax, Trumpet).

The music on this debut LP meander between hip hop, drum & bass, free jazz, spiritual jazz and reminds me of “the epic” by Kamasi Washington without being a pure copy of it. There are no voices except for some spoken word samples. But the Bass is hypnotic and extremely danceable. Think of 90ies drum & bass by Goldie or the keys of 70ies Herbie Hancock but then if it´s about sounding too cheesy, there is a great Sax tune and you are in 2017 again – so in the great “Strings of light”.

“You create your own reference point and this is always what jazz is all about” is one of the quotes – nothing more to say than that

Buy it via Brownswood or bandcamp

“The borders between London’s musical tribes have always been porous. For Yussef Kamaal, the sound of the capital – with its hum of jungle, grime and broken beat – has shaped a self-taught, UK-tipped approach to playing jazz. In the states, the genre’s long-running to-and-fro with hip hop – from Robert Glasper to Kamasi Washington – has reimagined it within US culture. On Black Focus, Yussef Kamaal frame jazz inside the bass-saturated, pirate radio broadcasts of London.

Taking inspiration from the anything-goes spirit of ‘70s jazz-funk, on albums by Herbie Hancock or the Mahavishnu Orchestra, it’s a loose template with plenty of room to experiment. The pair, made up of Yussef Dayes and Kamaal Williams (aka Henry Wu), have had little in the way of formal training. Instead, their musical tastes – and approach to playing – are indebted to Thelonious Monk’s piano as much as the drum programming of Kaidi Tatham.

“It’s all about the drums and the keys,” Williams says. “Not to take anything from anyone else, but that’s where it all originates from: the chords, the rhythm of the chords and the drums.” Born out of a one-off live session to perform Williams’ solo material for Boiler Room, it soon became a project in its own right. Coming together as Yussef Kamaal, they played a series of live shows where little more than a chord progression would be planned before taking to the stage

Bringing that unspoken understanding to the recording sessions (engineered by Malcolm Catto of The Heliocentrics), the unplanned, telepathically spawned grooves retain the raw energy of their live shows. “It’s not so much about complete arrangement, it’s more about flow,” Dayes says. “A lot of the tracks are just made spontaneously – Henry will be playing two chords, I’ll fill in the groove and we’ll just leave the arrangement naturally.”

Both hail from South East London, crossing paths in 2007 as teenagers playing their first pub gigs around Peckham and Camberwell. Dayes drums for cosmically-inclined, afrobeat outfit United Vibrations, while Williams – on top of drumming and playing keys in different incarnations over the years – has made waves with his solo, synth-draped house 12″s for much-fêted labels like 22a and Rhythm Section.


Then there is Mor Thiam´s cacophony “Dini Safarrar” (drums of fire) – and yet another own reference point. Out via Jazzman, this reissue of Senegals percussionist has more influences in this one lp of not even 30 minutes to offer than other jazz – careers do not have in their whole life: think about north – bresilian psychedelia of the 70ies, fela´s afro beat or jamaica´s nyabinghi tunes as well as coltrane´s or ornette colemann´s free jazz cascades.


Originally released in small numbers as a custom pressing in 1973, the compelling ‘Dini Safarrar’ by Senegalese drummer Mor Thiam has gained cult status around the world amongst enthusiasts of jazz, funk, hip hop & African music, and grail status among LP collectors. Here is the first official reproduction of this album, faithful to the original and made with the blessing and cooperation of Mor Thiam himself, as well as his son Aliaume Thiam, otherwise known as hip hop and R&B superstar Akon.

Mor Dogo Thiam (pronounced ‘Chahm’) is a cultural historian, dedicated philanthropist and genius on the djembe. He began his career as a drummer while a young boy in his native Senegal, before moving to St. Louis, Missouri in the early 1970s, where his unique musical skills earned him the respect of the local jazz community. A fusion of the traditions of his Senegalese upbringing and the funk & jazz sounds of his new environs, ‘Dini Safarrar’ was entirely self-funded and was also conceived as a benefit album, with all the proceeds donated to famine relief in Africa. Indeed, proceeds generated by the sale of this reissue will go directly into a fund to assist a school in Senegal set up by Mor himself.

The subtitle and translation of Dini Safarrar is ‘Drums of Fire’, though it may be more aptly described as ‘Drums of Krakatoa’, such is the explosive intensity captured within the grooves. The multitude of pulsating percussive elements throughout each track creates an intense rhythmic dissonance, the musical equivalent of an erupting volcano. It can be no co-incidence that the energy & passion of Akon’s music was duly ignited by his father’s very same Drums of Fire. May the legacy continue.



Great reissue of way back home / oh caroline by dub store Japan of count ossies Mystic revelation of rastafari

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