Stadiums & Shrines
Mikael Seifu Eyes

 

By Michael Barron

The word for bard in Amharic, the language of Ethiopia, is “azmari.” In the country’s folk music, the azmari performed solo, singing of everything from romantic love to political justice, often accompanied only by a single one-stringed bowed instrument called a masenqo. Even in the 20th century, as Western music made its way to the African nation, the spirit of the azmaris was never forsaken, and many continue to perform in large numbers. Think of them like the singer with an acoustic guitar, artists who tell stories through song.

Mikael Seifu isn’t a traditional azmari. You won’t hear him singing or bowing a string. But Seifu is a storyteller, and on the first track of his new EP Zelalem (released this month by RVNG Intl.), he uses a musical platform to weave together a tapestry of heritage and promise. Seifu is arguably the most promising electronic music producer to emerge from Ethiopia (with earlier origins in Washington D.C.), but it is in Zelalem, that Seifu turns his background into his foreground, in other words using his roots as steps toward self-investigation. On the opening track “The Protectors” he uses a recording of the Civil Rights leader Stokely Carmichael to give us the premise: “The unconscious are those who react on instinct. The conscious are those who react on reason. The job of the conscious is to make the unconscious conscious. Let us make a simple example.”

For Zelalem, Seifu has assembled a pastiche of influences that pull from disparate sources. Under the washed out production of Solipsist, a term for someone who believes all one can ever know is one’s self — one can discern the finger plucking of a Begena, a ten-string harp-like instrument, and possibly sampled from the recordings the Addis Ababa native and Begena player Kassa Tessema. On the following track, the familiar and soulful sound of a fretless bass and hi-end beat are charted by verses from the rapper L.A. The influences coalesce in the paired tracks “How to Save a Life (Vector of Eternity),” and “ዘላለም (Vector of Light),” where an orchestra of Ethiopian instruments led by the masenqo dance with head-nodding beats and lines from a very un-traditional instrument, the synthesizer.

S&S reached out to Seifu about shedding light on the sounds that went into the making of Zelalem. The producer, who recently posted a 50-min mixtape of Ethiopian folk music to his Soundcloud (embedded above), shared with us five YouTube videos—showcasing everything from traditional Ethiopian tunes to lyrically lush French rap—and provided commentary for each. Here’s what he had to say:

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Teaming with yvynyl—someone we’ve looked up to for years—and our Hype Machine family for this daydream showcase in Austin, March 16th, featuring: Lower Dens, Alex G, Mitski, Whitney, Car Seat Headrest, with DJ sets by Your Friend, Gilligan Moss, and Japanese Breakfast.








Immense thanks to Mazda + Hype Machine’s Hype Hotel for having us. Be sure to RSVP here, and there’s an FB event here. This is the Fair Market building on E. 5th; doors open at noon.

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S&S-NewtownRadio-E42

 

One of the more potent listening modes as of late here in the mothership is Holodeck Scenario, a hybrid of free electronics and jazz arranged by M. Sage, optimized for playback in Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s beloved virtual reality facility. Last week, the sequence received a proper sequel, transmitted over the airwaves of Newtown Radio and hopefully well beyond, to the cocktail lounges of another dimension. Holodeck Upgrade, which opens Episode 42, is a gift we’ll accept on behalf of Quark’s Bar, Grill, Gaming House and Holosuite Arcade, a popular hangout in Deep Space 9‘s Promenade. The tracklist must not have made it through the Transporter, but the set runs as follows:

Hour One – Holodeck Upgrade
Hour Two – Holodeck Scenario

S&S Radio broadcasts every other Tuesday night on Newtown Radio.

S&S-NewtownRadio-E41

 

Excluding one Russian dance cut from 1986, Episode 41 fixes forward, on this our 2016th year in the Common Era. Much of the selection previews albums nearing release: modular synth sculptor Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, harpist Mary Lattimore, Philly’s Japanese Breakfast, and the highly anticipated return of Jessy Lanza, to name a few. Plus, three sounds we had the honor of introducing over the air: a new Salt Cathedral single, and a very Patient pair from M. Sage and Ian William Craig.

Blithe Field – Outside the Den
Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith – Anthropoda
Salt Cathedral – No Ordinary Man
Anna Homler and Steve Moshier – Ee Chê
Porches – Shaver
Your Friend – Come Back from It
Port St. Willow – An Ocean We Both Know
Japanese Breakfast – Heaven
Betonkust & Palmbomen II – 24×33
Владимир Осинский – Аэротон (Серия Спорт и музыка)
Jessy Lanza – It Means I Love You
Mikael Seifu – How To Save a Life (Vector of Eternity)

Blithe Field – Zen Den
Sun Araw – SONNE
M. Sage – Stroller Circuit
beaunoise – Piano VII
Sound of Ceres – Hand of Winter
Mary Lattimore – Jimmy V
Novelty Daughter – Shellbody
Quarterly – When I Die, Bury Me in the Woods so My Husband Will Hunt for Me
Slowspin – Side
Ian William Craig – Lost on Time, Part 1
Florist – Thank You

S&S Radio broadcasts every other Tuesday night on Newtown Radio.

Belgium

 

A wall enters, pillowing the horizon, flanking the foothills, inching towards the city. A ruffle of sea. The frequency is heard at first, a distant chug. Felt second as a misting, wooly, the marble marketplace coated and vibrating. Alarm catches the exterior, vendors awaken in succession… the auctioneer carries on inside, bidders still locked in squabble…

…(indiscernible chatter and horns)…

“Sold! to the…”

A gavel raised: the serene swell—so attentive—slides beneath, just as it wraps around each column and body through the ruby corridors, to the ballroom… every cordial, snifter and champagne flute freezes in the inhale of the ascending squall…

…(something about the sea curling from its bed)… and hovers, drawn back at full amplitude.

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Longshoreman is Brooklyn-based musician Aaron Hodges (formerly of Holy Spirits). His self-titled 2015 album—a beautiful, devotional folk-drone exploration of darkness and hope (in a more song/vocal-oriented sphere)—is available on 12″ LP at bandcamp.

Dreams is an ongoing project where we ask our favorite artists to create a piece of music inspired by a handmade collage.