The crash course: Malasimbo a-go-go

Omar, Jose Gonzalez and the Robert Glasper Experiment are among the acts appearing at this year's Malasimbo Music & Arts Festival.

Now, Malasimbo isn’t exactly my thing, but as an occasional listener (meaning when I’m still awake at night) to Gilles Peterson’s show on 6 Music, I have to say I enjoy the more chilled, improvisational, wild, I don’t quite know how to describe it side to music. I mean, I could easily call it “soul” or “jazz” or “reggae” but these things, they merge together, and that’s the best part of it, for me. And I think that’s also why I find myself, surprisingly, knowing some of the names who have performed. The same goes for this year, although I will need a bit of a refresher myself, so, yes, another crash course to one of the more interesting niche festivals around. Or at least some of the acts, because there is a lot of ground to cover across those five days. Malasimbo, by the way, starts today and runs until Monday, in Puerto Galera. The full line-up is here. [NB]

   

“The Man” by Omar | You likely know Omar from this song. Yep, you know that song, right? “There’s Nothing Like This” is his debut single, and his biggest hit, hitting number 14 in the British charts in 1991. The classically trained Brit soul singer continued to work throughout the 90s and 00s, but he hasn’t quite hit it big in the charts since. Just last year, he released his latest album, The Man – the title track of which I’m posting here – and he still has that recognizable voice that you’ve heard a lot when your parents tune in to Crossover and you don’t find yourself with a choice. Omar performs with the Malasimbo Ensemble on the Main Stage this Saturday; his set starts at 21.00.

   

“Calls” by the Robert Glasper Experiment featuring Jill Scott | Robert Glasper’s a pretty new name to me, although he’s been a prolific jazz pianist in the last decade. Honing his sound at church in Houston, he released his debut album, Mood, in 2004; he has since worked with the likes of Mos Def, Meshell Ndegeocello, Erykah Badu, Q-Tip and Kanye West. (Robert has two bands: the Trio, with a more acoustic sound, and the Experiment, which dabbles more with electronics.) His biggest breakthrough came when he released Black Radio – an attempt, he says, to give jazz a “big-ass slap” by adding in more hip-hop influences than in his previous records; it won a Grammy the following year. Robert and his gang also perform on the Main Stage on Saturday, but their set starts at 23.00.

   

“Prayer” by Mishka Adams | It’s been a while since we heard from Mishka Adams. After the (relative, but whatever) success of her 2004 debut God Bless the Child (which features this track) and two more albums under her belt, she flew to the United Kingdom to study. She just returned to Manila, and early this week released her fourth album, Songs from the Deep, which still feature her heartfelt singing and her literary yet accessible lyrics. Mishka takes the Main Stage on Sunday; her set starts at 18.30.

   

“Stay Alive” by José González | For a guy I’ve heard in so many places, it’s a surprise that José González has only released two albums (plus an additional two released as part of Junip). Granted, his songs have taken a sort of ubiquity – you’ve heard his first hit, “Crosses”, on TV a bunch of times, or you’ve probably heard him cover the likes of the Knife, Kylie Minogue and Massive Attack, or you’ve heard him collaborate with Ane Brun or Zero 7. (That Zero 7 song, by the way, is one of my absolute favorites.) The Swedish folkie’s distinctive sound has, indeed, gotten him everywhere. José performs on the Main Stage on Sunday, following Mishka at 20.00.

   

“Dub Power” by Mad Professor | And finally, Mad Professor, one of the biggest names in the second wave of dub that enveloped the UK in the 80s and 90s. Born in Guyana, he emigrated with his family to London when he was 13, and began working in the music industry, later founding his own studio in 1979. After producing for several lovers rock bands, he began releasing albums of his own, the best known of which are his Dub Me Crazy albums, the first of which was released in 1982. (Also, his oddly awesome dub remix of Massive Attack’s Protection.) Mad Professor closes the festival, performing on Monday at 21.30.

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