Myele Manzanza: New Zealand Music Aesthetics

Except for the reformation of Trinity Roots and what a handful of other New Zealand music artists like Myele Manzanza, Fat Freddys Drop, Electric Wire Hustle and Ladi 6 are up to, these days I’m more out of touch with New Zealand’s music scene than I used to be.

Trinity Roots live concert Australia 2015

Trinity Roots: Citizen Tour 2015

The Sound

When I was on the pulse during the past decade and more, I always thought Aotearoa (New Zealand) was a musical gem undiscovered (to their loss) by most of the world beyond Australia.

For small South Pacific islands distant from so much of the world, there seemed to be a disproportionately high number of New Zealand music artists blending flavours of soul, jazz, reggae and beats to create chilled, spacious, smooth, feel-right music with an inexplicably distinctive (and unique) New Zealand sound. I couldn’t work it out except to guess that its stunningly dominant natural environment played some part.

Myele Manzanza on The Sounds

During my recent interview with “afro-elastic soul” artist Myele Manzanza, I asked him about that sound; and to share any home-grown insights into the evolution of New Zealand music throughout his lifetime – which included years of drumming and composing with Electric Wire Hustle and working on numerous solo and collaborative projects with fellow New Zealand (and international) artists.  

Check out Myele’s response with sample sounds from some of the players in that musical evolution…

Myele Manzanza & The Eclectic live at WOMADelaide 2015

Myele Manzanza: .

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“New Zealand music out to a wider world audience”

“I think as far as the era of New Zealand music you’re referring to, in order for that to happen, I guess the thing that really broke down the door was Fat Freddys Drop – as far as getting New Zealand music out to a wider world audience. I have to take my hat off to them because of what they did and the level they did it at. I don’t think anyone of that era has gotten to the level of where Fat Freddys Drop got to.

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“a new vanguard”

You could maybe throw in Lorde, who’s stupendously big. She’s of a new vanguard/league/generation. Her success is incredible. There must be some element of influence of what’s happened in New Zealand music over the past 10 years on what Lorde does, but I don’t really bring her into this era of New Zealand music that you’re referring to. Even though it’s beats and soul, its a different thing.

“that sound”

As far as to how Ladi 6, Electric Wire Hustle or Fat Freddys Drop got here and got to that sound…when I was 14 or 15, Trinity Roots and The Black Seeds were coming to prominence (Trinity Roots reached their peak and then disbanded for some time). The Black Seeds and Fat Freddys Drop were still on their scent, but were in the community so I kind of grew up around that sound.

It might also trace back to Che Fu – he had a very big impact.

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Trinity Roots- ‘Egos’ – Home, Land and Sea (2004)

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Fat Freddys Drop- ‘Roady (feat. Ladi 6 & P Digsss)’ – Based On A True Story (2005)

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Ladi 6- ‘Walk Right Up’ – Time Is Not Much (2008)

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Che Fu- ‘Fade-Away’ – Navigator (2002)

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“Once Bob Marley hit…”

There’s obviously a very big reggae thing in New Zealand.

Once Bob Marley hit, and I think he performed in New Zealand in the early 80‘s [1979], that was a big cultural turning point; a. because his influence was so big anyway, but; b. when he came and performed he really got to know the local culture. I think there was a connection for him too because Waitangi Day (the day a treaty of agreement was signed between Maoris and the colonial population) is on 6 February which also happened to be Bob Marley’s birthday.

For whatever reason, and particular Maori and Pacific Island culture in New Zealand, people were very much drawn to Bob Marley, his message and his sound.

Bob Marley & The Wailers - Natural Mystic Vinyl - Tuff Gong Studios, Jamaica

Maybe there’s an ‘island thing’ too where the geography relates to the style. There’s something that can be related there and got taken up. There’s a reggae thing that’s been happening in New Zealand music for decades now. Trinity Roots and Fat Freddys Drop came out of that but they also had their jazz, soul, electro, dub and techno influences.

“the J Dilla-thing in New Zealand music”

It might be fair to say that whilst Electric Wire Hustle had those same influences, [we] were maybe the first to champion the J Dilla-thing in New Zealand music; that rhythmic aesthetic; that sound and style of contemporary left-field hip-hop/soul instrumentals. We latched onto that, and it might have given us a point of difference. Ladi 6 was in there as well. So were a number of other artists. Isaac Aesili –  part of a group now called Sorceress (previously called Funkommunity) was very much in that scene.

It’s interesting thinking about that timeline and the history of that – and will be interesting to see what happens next.

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Electric Wire Hustle- ‘This World (Feat. Georgia Anne Muldrow)’ – Electric Wire Hustle (2009)

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“what happens next”

Obviously Lorde is the now. It’s undeniable that whatever will come after Lorde in mainstream New Zealand music will be largely influenced by her.

But for me I think my next step is maybe taking those influences but maybe going further into the jazz thing. By “jazz” I mean improvised music that’s fluid and can move and shift as performed in the moment in real time, as opposed to pre-programmed drum machine stuff.

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Myele Manzanza- ‘Elvin’s Brew’ – One (2013)

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Even though that’s very much a big part of what I do, what I think I’ll be working on over the next few years of my life will be a synthesis of that – finding my line between the programmed electronic-thing and the improvised jazz/soul, real person, real time-thing and trying to make that my sound.

As far as where the rest of New Zealand music is headed, only time will tell.”

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More of The Sound

Start here if you want to check out more sounds and images of Myele Manzanza, The Eclectic and other Aotearoa New Zealand artists:

Myele Manzanza & The Eclectic (including father Sam Manzanza and Aotearoan soul divas Rachel Fraser & Lisa Tomlins) performing live at WOMADelaide 2015 last month…

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…or click the artist’s name for more live videos, photos and sample tracks by Myele Manzanza, Trinity Roots, Fat Freddys Drop and Electric Wire Hustle.

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…and stay tuned, because there’ll always be more New Zealand music artists added to Beaver’s world.

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WOMADelaide 2015: Nourishment Forever-After

Oh WOMADelaide, how I long to be back in your nourishing arms. You came again and gave the people four days and nights of awesomely-diverse arts, culture and music from around the world under sunshine and shady trees in Adelaide’s Botanic Park. You created the space for a vibrant community of friendly, conscious, arts-loving people of all ages to come together and relax; to connect in music, dance, theatre, conversation and food; to smile, be happy and to relish the blessing of being a part of that WOMADelaide 2015 community.

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At the start of the fourth and final festival day it seemed like I’d had a wonderfully-sufficient saturation of festival goodness. On Tuesday though, with the realisation that WOMADelaide was actually over for another year; with the return to “normal” life – those four long festival days and nights suddenly seemed all-too-short.

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“Life moves so fast – the festival will come again soon enough” I tell myself. I focus on the nourishment I feel from the experience of WOMADelaide 2015 and it’s many happiness-producing moments. I remember and feel better for the fact that those enriching experiences are part of my being forever hereafter. Then I go ahead and calculate the remaining days until WOMADelaide 2016! 🙂

Flavia Coelho live at WOMADelaide 2015

Flavia Coelho at WOMADelaide 2015

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WOMADelaide 2015 Moments

I’m sure each festival-goer had their own special moments in different forms at different times throughout WOMADelaide.

Maybe yours was having a make-over by a Spanish stylist in the Osadia salon? Watching your favourite WOMADelaide artist cook up a delicious native dish in the Taste the World tent or hearing them ‘In Conversation’ at the Speakers Corner?

Osadia at WOMADelaide 2015

Osadia

Paul Miller (aka DJ Spooky) - Arctic Rhythms - WOMADelaide 2015

Paul D. Miller (DJ Spooky) presents Arctic Rhythms

 

 

 

 

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Dancing up a storm to the energetic ‘Bofenia Rock’ performance of Congo’s Jupiter & Okwess International?

Jupiter & Okwess International live at WOMADelaide 2015

Jupiter

Jupiter & Okwess International live at WOMADelaide 2015

Okwess International

 

 

 

 

 

Chilling under a tree with the sounds of live music being performed on a nearby festival stage? Climbing that tree for a view above the rest? Or when the music commanded you to get up on your feet and move?

WOMADelaide 2015

WOMADelaide 2015

Reliving the sounds of the 60’s and beyond with Native-American artist and activist Buffy Sainte-Marie? Enjoying C.W. Stoneking‘s unique contemporary take on the blues?

Buffy Sainte-Marie live at WOMADelaide 2015

Buffy Sainte-Marie

CW Stoneking live at WOMADelaide 2015

C.W. Stoneking

 

 

 

 

 

Getting to the front of the crowd for the closest possible view of your most-beloved artist?

WOMADelaide 2015

WOMADelaide 2015

 

 

 

 

Hearing the Romanian brass-frenzy of Fanfare Ciocarlia?

Fanfare Ciocarlia live at WOMADelaide 2015

Fanfare Ciocarlia

Fanfare Ciocarlia live at WOMADelaide 2015

Fanfare Ciocarlia

 

 

 

 

 

Taking the Colour of Time dance and theatre journey with ARTONIK through the festival site?

ARTONIK perform The Colour of Time at WOMADelaide 2015

ARTONIK – The Colour of Time

Going to church of the atypical kind by Sinead O’Connor? Or letting Rufus Wainwright‘s mellow tunes drift you into a feeling of sublime?

Sinead O'Connor live at WOMADelaide 2015

Sinead O’Connor

Rufus Wainwright live at WOMADelaide 2015

Rufus Wainwright

 

 

 

 

 

Browsing the colourful artisan markets or playing around them. Immersing yourself in light and colour inside the inflatable luminarium maze of EXXOPOLIS?

WOMADelaide 2015

Architects of Air - Exxopolis - WOMADelaide 2015

 

 

 

 

 

Being rallied into the party-vibes created by Israeli/New-York based group Balkan Beat Box?

Balkan Beat Box live at WOMADelaide 2015

Balkan Beat Box

WOMADelaide 2015

w/ Balkan Beat Box

 

 

 

 

 

Chilling out for a Chai break or making new friends with like-minded festival-goers?

WOMADelaide 2015WOMADelaide 2015

Experiencing the visual and musical extravaganza of Senegal’s Youssou N’Dour and his band?

Youssou N'Dour concert at WOMADelaide 2015

w/ Youssou N’Dour

Youssou N'Dour concert at WOMADelaide 2015

Youssou N’Dour

Seeing mother and artist Neneh Cherry on stage again post-hiatus? Hearing her acknowledge International Women’s Day before performing ‘Woman’ with Rocketnumbernine?

Neneh Cherry & Rocketnumbernine live at WOMADelaide 2015

Rocketnumbernine

Neneh Cherry & Rocketnumbernine live at WOMADelaide 2015

Neneh Cherry

Or maybe it was later that night when Neneh Cherry joined Youssou N’Dour on stage to sing ‘Seven Seconds’ together?

Excitedly browsing books, vinyl and cds in the Wo Shop to take home music from a newly-discovered festival artist?

Or did your final special musical moments come at the end of your WOMADelaide nights when the music mixed by DJs made you forget you were on your way home and kept you dancing until the night’s very last beat?

Check out a video snippet here of Theo Parrish’s superb set

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Maybe your happiest festival moments had the same musical sources as mine?

Abdullah Ibrahim Quartet (South Africa)

Hearing the stunning sounds of 80 years of life and music expressed on the piano through the [beautifully-freckled] hands of jazz legend Abdullah Ibrahim.

Abdullah Ibrahim live at WOMADelaide 2015

Abdullah Ibrahim

DJ Spooky (USA)

Dancing for 2+ hours to DJ Spooky’s super-diverse set that took me through much of my life’s music collection from The Police to Nirvana to James Brown to Damian Marley to the best-of-the-best old school hip hop and reggae tracks.

DJ Spooky at WOMADelaide 2015

DJ Spooky

Flavia Coelho (Brazil)

Experiencing the super-infectious colours, smile and joyful exuberance of Brazil’s multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Flavia Coelho as she and her band of two performed a fantastic fusion of dub, reggae, ragga, bossa, afrobeat and cumbia.

Flavia Coelho live at WOMADelaide 2015

Flavia Coelho

WOMADelaide 2015

w/ Flavia Coelho


 

 

Flavia Coelho live at WOMADelaide 2015

Flavia Coelho

Al

Al Chonville

Flavia Coelho live at WOMADelaide 2015

Flavia Coelho

Jambinai (South Korea)

That moment at the end of WOMADelaide 2015’s last live set when a member of Jambinai, folk/metal/electro innovators of incredible skill, told the mesmerised crowd “We just want to connect with you in this moment – in this place”. I like to believe everyone else there was thinking the same thing as me: “You have. And I feel incredible for it. Thank you”.

Mista Savona with Prince Alla & Randy Valentine (Australia+Jamaica+U.K)

Hearing the live sounds of reggae represented in genuine One-Love style by Melbourne-based musician and producer Jake Savona facilitating 2 festival performances by the Mista Savona band with old-school Jamaican roots reggae legend Prince Alla and contemporary Jamaican/U.K-based artist Randy Valentine.

Mista Savona live at WOMADelaide 2015

Jake Savona

Prince Alla with Mista Savona live at WOMADelaide 2015

Prince Alla

 

Prince Alla with Mista Savona live at WOMADelaide 2015

Prince Alla w/ Mista Savona

Randy Valentine with Mista Savona live at WOMADelaide 2015

Randy Valentine

Check out sample Mista Savona and Prince Alla tracks from Mista Savona Presents Soul to Sound (Various Artists) here plus videos below from their WOMADelaide shows…

Mista Savona - Soul To Sound by Various Artists (2010)

‘Captive Bird’ – Prince Alla – Mista Savona Presents Soul to Sound

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‘Dub From the Hills’ – Mista Savona – Mista Savona Presents Soul to Sound

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Myele Manzanza & The Eclectic (Aotearoa/New Zealand)

Moments of happiness were aplenty during both of Myele Manzanza & The Eclectic’s festival performances: from hearing the rich, soulful vocals of Aotearoan divas Rachel Fraser and Lisa Tomlins front-of-stage; to the drum-off between Myele Manzanza and father Sam Manzanza; and the solos of every talented Eclectic band member during the set as they played fluid and completely-fresh sounding versions of songs from Myele Manzanza’s debut solo album One along with new ones: all of them delightfully good. Adelaidean saxophonist Adam Page joining The Eclectic on stage was another.

Rachel Fraser with Myele Manzanza & The Eclectic live at WOMADelaide 2015

Rachel Fraser

Lisa Tomlins with Myele Manzanza & The Eclectic live at WOMADelaide 2015

Lisa Tomlins

Myele Manzanza & The Eclectic live at WOMADelaide 2015

Myele Manzanza

Sam Manzanza with Myele Manzanza & The Eclectic live at WOMADelaide 2015

Sam Manzanza

Adam Page with Myele Manzanza & The Eclectic live at WOMADelaide 2015

Adam Page

Check out a recent interview with Myele Manzanza plus sample tracks from One here.

Orquestra Buena Vista Social Club (Cuba)

Cuban lands, people and music have a very dear place in my heart. Hearing the chops of Orquestra members young and old performing Cuban music classics live on stage for the very last time as part of their ‘Adios Tour’ truly was a blessed WOMADelaide moment.

Los Originales de Buena Vista Social Club…

Orquestra Buena Vista Social Club live at WOMADelaide 2015

Orquestra Buena Vista Social Club

Los Jóvenes de Orquestra Buena Vista Social Club….

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Paul D. Miller (USA)

The sound and visual journey taken in the Speaker’s Corner with multi-media artist Paul D. Miller (aka DJ Spooky) presenting Arctic Rhythms in which he traversed a huge scope of fascinating topics ranging from science, politics and climate change through to uncredited music artists of history, digital technologies, the hip hop flow and more – with all roads leading to his multi-disciplinary project work in the Arctic/Antarctic region. The Book of Ice is one part of that project – and the sounds of music are of course another.

Paul Miller (aka DJ Spooky) - Arctic Rhythms - WOMADelaide 2015

Paul D. Miller (DJ Spooky)

At WOMADelaide those sounds were created by Paul Miller’s live sampling of Adelaidean musicians Emily Tulloch and Hilary Kleinig playing his Arctic/Antarctica compositions:

“acoustic portraits of ice” played by “ancient instruments vs an iPad”

Paul Miller (aka DJ Spooky) - Arctic Rhythms - WOMADelaide 2015

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Soil & Pimp Sessions (Japan)

Last but not least was making my absolute-favourite musical discovery of WOMADelaide 2015 in the kooky, frenzied, often-grooving jazz sounds of Japan’s Soil & Pimp Sessions playing their only festival show.

Soil & Pimp Sessions live at WOMADelaide 2015

Soil & Pimp Sessions

WOMADelaide 2015

w/ Soil & Pimp Sessions

Some way into their set realising that apart from a few hip hop vocals on one song, ‘frontman’ Shacho wasn’t going to use the mic to showcase his spectacular vocal chops after the other band members had showcased their own respective ones; he’d actually been performing his role of “Agitator/Spirit” in entertaining style and glory all the way along (and thereafter).

Soil & Pimp Sessions concert live at WOMADelaide 2015

Shacho – Soil & Pimp Sessions

Soil & Pimp Sessions concert live at WOMADelaide 2015

Soil & Pimp Sessions

Soil & Pimp Sessions concert live at WOMADelaide 2015

Soil & Pimp Sessions

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 If you missed Soil & Pimp Sessions’ WOMADelaide show, get a glimpse here on video and hear sample tracks below from Chronicle of Soil & Pimp Sessions…

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Soil & Pimp Sessions - Chronicle of Soil & Pimp Sessions (2013)

‘Sahara’ – Soil & Pimp Sessions – Chronicle of Soil & Pimp Sessions

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‘My Foolish Heart ~Crazy on Earth~’ – Soil & Pimp Sessions – Chronicle of Soil & Pimp Sessions

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Soil & Pimp Sessions concert live at WOMADelaide 2015

Soil & Pimp Sessions

Maybe your happiness-producing moments came from none of the above? From something else I missed completely amongst the many WOMADelaide happenings?

Your moments, mine, there was an abundance of them to be had. Whichever ones brought you the most bliss, all the WOMADelaide 2015 moments were good right? Nourishing for the mind, body, heart and soul, yes?

Music festivals are so, so, so good for us. WOMADelaide 2016 will be so, so, so good for us!

How many more days to go?

Prince Alla with Mista Savona live at WOMADelaide 2015

Prince Alla

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To relive or check out more of WOMADelaide 2015 in the meantime: watch Beaver’s FB page for more photos or click on the artist of your flavour to link to videos of their festival shows: Abdullah IbrahimBalkan Beat BoxFanfare CiocarliaFlavia Coelho – Neneh CherryOrquestra Buena Vista Social ClubPaul D. Miller Prince Alla Randy Valentine Theo Parrish.

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Myele Manzanza & The Goodness of Music

Music is one of the best medicines in the world. Agreed? It bring invaluable moments of euphoric goodness that at times can be hard to find in these lives of ours. True?

Like all of us New Zealand artist Myele Manzanza has a lifetime of positive musical experiences that are a part of his cellular memory. He’s been blessed with an entire life (albeit 27-years-short) surrounded by music and musicians, starting from his upbringing around his performing artist father Sam Manzanza – through to 6 years of Electric Wire Hustle gigs around the world – to his time in Red Bull Music Academy – to the production of his debut solo album One – to touring with Theo Parrish – and all the many musical collaborations and gigs in between.

Amongst the plethora of musical stories Myele Manzanza must have, I asked him in our recent interview to share one profoundly-affecting moment or experience which affirmed the fundamental goodness of music in his own life or in the lives of others.

Check out Myele Manzanza’s answer below.

Myele Manzanza

Myele Manzanza…

“There’s been loads of them – more than I can count. But the first thing that came to my head when you asked that was this:

There’s this pianist from New Zealand, a relatively nomadic character who travels a lot and does lots of interesting things. His name is Jonathan Crayford. He’s like the ‘musician’s musician’. Even though he’s never been as famous as lots of other New Zealand musicians, he was always the one everyone in the Wellington music scene knew “he’s the best”. Anyone would probably tell you that as far as pure musicianship goes, Jonathan Crayford is the best thing that came out of New Zealand, maybe ever.

Jonathan Crayford

Jonathan Crayford. Photo by Christopher Mavrič

When I was 19, I was very fortunate in being able to play with Jonathan. I was at music school at the time and we connected and started doing these duo gigs. Jonathan would play rhodes and bass synths and I would play drums, and we would just play. He would kind of improvise compositions as he went. His whole thought process is on an alien level, and his ability to create amazing compositions and improvisation is mind-blowing.

There was this one moment and we were doing a gig with no more than ten people in the room. As the piece went on, if memory serves me it might have been an A-suspended-fourth chord in the right hand and some ascending bass line in the left hand; but the way that he did it, was that the chord stayed there and every four bars or so the bass line kept ascending and ascending in relation to where the chord was. For some reason, the way Jonathan hit it and the way I happened to catch it was like this strange euphoric moment where everything made sense and I felt totally connected to what I was doing.

For maybe two minutes there was nothing that got in the way of this feeling of euphoria.

It was like the film called Limitless where Bradley Cooper’s character takes some magic pill that totally heightened his brain and sensory awareness to where he’s infinitely smarter and can more or less do anything. It kind of felt like that – this in-tune moment – which was just generated from some simple chord and bass line combination, but was something which opened me up to the mysteries of the world and the great profound effect that music can have. It was like a real, direct experience of that.

Even though it was only performing to ten people, it was one of the greatest moments of my life.”

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Catch Myele Manzanza & The Eclectic plus about 50 other global music and dance artists performing live at WOMADelaide 2015 next weekend; and at WOMAD New Zealand the week after. I’m quite sure there will be plenty of those magical, so-so-good-for-us musical moments to be had at the festival.

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Read the rest of my interview with Myele Manzanza and hear sample tracks from his debut solo album One here.

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The Musical Evolution of Myele Manzanza

Myele ManzanzaDelve into the life of New Zealand artist Myele Manzanza and you’ll find that the blend of electro, soul, hip hop, jazz and Afrobeat music on his debut solo album One, makes perfect sense as a balanced reflection of his individual life lived and the various musical influences and experiences within it.

The Life of Myele

The son of Sam Manzanza, a Congolese musician and pioneering force in bringing African music to (and keeping it alive in) Aoetearoa/New Zealand, Myele Manzanza was born into a life surrounded by music and skilled musicians. Later in his life came the drum kit. Later again formal studies in Jazz Performance. All of it in Wellington – a place where many more artists than the wider-world knows about have been creating innovative musical blends of soul, jazz, reggae and electronica for a long time.

After six years drumming and touring the world with New Zealand’s successful electro-soul outfit Electric Wire Hustle, as well as going through the Red Bull Music Academy program, Myele left the trio in 2013 to embark on his solo music career and release his debut album One through BBE.

Myele Manzanza - One (2012)

One (2013)

Get a feel here (as best you can with a compressed mp3 version) for the life and sound of Myele Manzanza with One’s introductory track…

‘Neighbours Intro’ – One (2013) – Myele Manzanza

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Post-One, Pre-WOMADelaide

Consider then all of his musical experiences since the release of One and all-in-all, Myele Manzanza & The Eclectic are a perfect fit in the line-up of WOMADelaide 2015 where a diverse range of phenomenal worldwide artists will be performing.

Amongst those experiences is drumming on tour last year with a super-talented group of musicians and dancers put together by Detroit-based producer/DJ Theo Parrish – including funk legend Amp Fiddler on keys, and ex-Public Enemy guitarist Dumminie Deporres. Then there’s also that long list of prestigious gigs performed in New Zealand and abroad with the Myele Manzanza Trio, Myele Manzanza & The Eclectic, Miguel Atwood Ferguson and a host of other artists.

With less than one month to go until WOMADelaide kicks off in Adelaide, I caught up with Myele Manzanza to chat about his musical evolution up to and post WOMADelaide.

WOMADelaide 2015

Chatting with Myele Manzanza…

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Beaver:  You’ve played before at WOMADelaide – with Electric Wire Hustle right?

Myele Manzanza:  Yeah, we did WOMADelaide maybe 3 or 4 years ago. It was cool. I enjoyed my time there. It’s a beautiful venue and setting, and the programmers at WOMAD know exactly what they’re doing as far as the line-ups that they get. It’s a really interesting and exciting festival for me so I’m happy to be able to bring my own band over and be able to play my music at a festival that’s notoriously great.

Myele Manzanza Solo

Beaver:  Does your time with Electric Wire Hustle feel like a million years ago now, given everything that’s been happening in your life and solo music career since then?

Electric Wire Hustle

Myele Manzanza (L) with Electric Wire Hustle

Myele Manzanza:  It’s the first time I’ve really reflected on that so I’m glad you asked that question. It kind of does in the scheme of things. My last concert with them was about a year and a half ago, maybe a little bit more. In that sense, it hasn’t been that long.

But a lot’s happened and a lot is musically different to how it was 2 or 3 years ago in that era of my life.

Last year I did quite a lot of touring in the U.S. and Europe, Australia as well, which was fantastic. I’ve been steadily working on lots of different musical projects and producing albums for people, and also my own stuff which I’m sure will be gradually coming out over the next couple of years. I feel like I’m a lot different as a drummer, as a musician and an artist. I’ve grown a lot since then. So in that sense yes, it does feel like a long time ago.

I don’t think it will happen, but it would be interesting if I was to play with Electric Wire Hustle again. It would probably be kind of weird having gone in so many different directions since then.

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[B: If you don’t already know and love Electric Wire Hustle’s music, check out this sample Electric Wire Hustle track from their self-titled debut album…]

Electric Wire Hustle (2010)

Electric Wire Hustle (2010)

‘Experience’ – Electric Wire Hustle (2010)

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Musical Independence

Beaver:  How’s it been going for you in becoming the independent master of your own creative path and destiny?

Myele Manzanza:  In one sense it’s been great…because you’re able to set your own terms and define what your sound is, what your music is and what it is that you want to be doing with it.

But on the other side of that coin comes a far greater sense of responsibility because ultimately the buck stops with you and if you want your career to progress then ultimately you’re the one who’s got to put in the work, do all the hustling, be responsible for the art and…for making music that you can only hope at the end of the day resonates with people.

People have gotta relate to the music and reference it from something else that they’ve heard, that’s just natural. But at the same time you gotta make art that’s distinctive and original, find your own sound. While I’ve always been kind of aware of it, in going solo I’ve felt that pressure/challenge in being your own artist.

So it comes with the pros of being able to set your own tone and all of that, but also the greater responsibility and effort in order to make things happen; and with the spotlight being on you, you’ve got to deliver, so it’s just a little bit higher pressure. But it’s cool, the payoff is great.

The Myele Manzanza Supergroup

Beaver:  So with the freedom to create or be a part of any music project, which of any living artists in the world would you choose to put in the line-up of The Myele Manzanza Supergroup?

Myele Manzanza:  Herbie Hancock on rhodes and synths (‘Head Hunters’ 70’s era synths, not that Korg Triton stuff); Pino Palladino on bass; Gretchen Parlato on vocals; Ambrose Akinmusire on trumpet; Zakir Hussain on tabla and Marcus Strickland on tenor saxophone.

Myele Manzanza

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Theo Parrish Tour

Beaver:  I’m a disciple of Amp Fiddler and Public Enemy  and an appreciator of Theo Parrish. I’m keen to hear about what the experience of playing music live on stage with those artists was like for you, and what you took away from it in terms of your own musicianship?

Myele Manzanza:  That was such a great tour. There were some really amazing shows and really great audiences. It was cool to be on a tour bus with a crew of musicians who were a few more levels above where I’m at now and have been in the game for a little bit longer; and to have been able to learn from them and their processes.

Theo Parrish Tour with Myele Manzanza

“those fundamentals of drumming”

I guess that the Myele Manzanza music that I’m doing and to some extent Electric Wire Hustle before that, drumming wise I was not exactly a jazz drummer, but more fluid. While obviously you’ve still got to hold the beat down and give people that solid thing to dance to, my mind’s eye was orientated more towards colours and textures; different rhythms and interplay; interacting and improvising; stretching, pushing and pulling with what I was doing – as opposed to being strictly the foundational rhythmic pulse that doesn’t move while everything else is built up on top of it.

In playing with Theo I had to go back to those fundamentals of drumming – being the engine room and holding it down for the band, keeping that steady pulse. So I had to go back to that and really push and develop that, figure out my place within it.

We rehearsed for 10-12 hours a day for a week prior to the tour, so it took a little while for everyone to figure out their place in the band and the band’s sound.

“the language of the dance”

There were four dancers that were part of the performance as well, and when we were rehearsing with them that’s when it kind of clicked for me: as opposed to getting too busy and trying to add all these different kinds of spices into it, needing to just be the onions and garlic, hold down the base, be the solid meat and potatoes that kept everything together – particularly for the dancers.

Because when I was watching the dancers I was recognising how they were literally dancing to what I was doing. So by keeping that repetitive thing going and giving them something consistent to work with, it gave them space to be somewhat spontaneous within that; and be able to hear my accents and to form their dances in a way which hit those accents.

For me that was a great learning lesson as well – performing with dancers and recognising how the drums relate to them specifically.

Myele Manzanza - One (2012)

Especially with Theo’s music because he’s a dance music producer and very idiosyncratic, but the way that he puts his rhythm together and his drum production is very specific. In working with the dancers I recognised the greater purpose for that specificity. As opposed to “Okay, that’s just a beat there with some flourishes there, and that’s kind of cool”, recognising that its actually a specific part of the composition and is important and integral to the meaning to that.

So in learning from that process and going into my music-making now, I guess I have a greater understanding of the language of the dance and the way that music (and rhythm in particular) relates to that. I kind of already knew it. It’s one of those truths that’s just there and obvious, but on that tour it kind of hit home for me that this weird, relatively esoteric thing called music has a solid, very real, very pertinent affect on other human beings.

“music…connects with people in some real way”

It’s interesting because music is a thing that you kind of can’t really see or feel or touch, but it connects with people in some real way. That was a first hand experience for me on the Tour and I’ll never let go of that in whatever it is that I’m doing – even if I’m not doing ‘dancing music’.

I’ll be more aware that whatever sound I’m generating or whatever sound a band is generating, relates to people on a human level; as opposed to like a music theory level or relating to musicians; as opposed to the general public and the different things in different ways that work and how different people think. Because a lot of the time musicians can get caught up in ‘musiciany things’, things that only musicians would really notice. It’s important to be able to step back from yourself and kind of try and figure out the greater affect that your music has on people, and try and think in a broader way.

Post-One Evolution

Beaver:  If One was a reflection of the life of Myele Manzanza lived up until its making, and given everything you’ve done since the release of that album, do you feel that your musical evolution has progressed further still?

Myele Manzanza:  There’s a lot of different tangents to it. I go through phases where I’m into some style of music, or really into drumming and practising a lot and working on being really proficient on the instrument: getting my speed up, or my chops up and articulation; the dynamics; the pure physicality of drumming. I’ll have phases of that. And sometimes I’ll have phases of doing a lot of beat-making and producing and composing.

Myele Manzanza

With the actual music I’m making, it’s still within those same influences, the various styles you were talking about (jazz, Afrobeat etc). I guess what I’m trying to do more and more (and it was something I was doing with One as well but think I’m getting further along the path) is finding a way to unify all of those different influences into one sound which is me –  rather than “now I’m playing Afrobeat”, “now I’m playing jazz”, “now I’m playing electronica” or “now I’m playing hip hop” etc.

As opposed to being able to play in all of the different styles authentically, I’m trying to meld all of them into a single style, which is easier said than done…At the one time I have to be highly aware of wanting and needing to do that, but at the same time I don’t know exactly what the end result would be. You can’t. No one can know. No artist could entirely know beforehand what their actual distinctive sound is. It’s a continual process of taking what’s come before, digesting it and putting it out as a new thing.

I’m more conscious of that process, even though as far as totally defining it, its perhaps impossible; and perhaps not even the point. Perhaps if I’m too concerned about whatever it is I’m doing next musically, it means I’m not concentrating on what it is that I can do musically now, in the present.

Post-WOMADelaide Evolution

Beaver:   Any insights into what’s next on your evolutionary path beyond WOMAD and WOMADelaide? Any new music projects brewing that you want to talk about?

Myele Manzanza:  I’ve got at least two albums backed up which are musically more or less finished. Definitely keep your ear out for some interesting stuff happening in 2015. As far as specifically what that will be, I’ll keep that close to my chest for now.

Myele Manzanza & The Eclectic Live at WOMADelaide 2015

Beaver:  You’re bringing your Dad [Sam Manzanza] and vocalist Rachel Fraser to perform with Myele Manzanza & The Eclectic at WOMADelaide. Which other artists will be joining you?

Sam Manzanza

Sam Manzanza

Myele Manzanza:  Another great singer called Lisa Tomlins. In New Zealand she’s one of the go-to vocalists. She’s performed with everyone like Fat Freddys Drop, Trinity Roots, Shapeshifter and loads of other bands. Lisa’s one of the ‘great’ Greats. She should put out an autobiography with all her stories cause I know she’d have billions of them.

On bass we have Marika Hodgson who plays with Rachel Fraser in a band called Sorceress. She’s a really talented musician from Auckland with a really bright future ahead of her. Daniel Hayles on keys. He’s great; very professional and very, very talented. We went to music school together. Also Daniel Ryland who was one of my teachers at music school. He’s my guitarist now and has a great sound, tone and aesthetic to what he does – very unique. Regardless of the style that he’s playing, he’s able to bring his own thing into it.

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[B: Check out 2 more sample tracks from One which feature Sam Manzanza and Rachel Fraser on vocals. You can buy the hard-copy album through BBE or better yet, get yourself to WOMADelaide 2015 and buy it from the Wo-Shop.]

Myele Manzanza - One (2012)

Myele Manzanza – One (2013)

‘On the Move’ – Myele Manzanza feat. Rachel Fraser

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‘Me I Know Him’ – Myele Manzanza feat. Sam Manzanza

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Live Elasticity

Beaver:  How much ‘elasticity’ can we expect to hear in Myele Manzanza & The Eclectic’s live show at WOMADelaide?

Myele Manzanza:  When I say ‘elastic’ [‘Afro-Elastic Soul Music from the Tradition of the Philosopher Kings’] that’s kind of referring to the improvisational element – which is like you’re in the moment and fluid – and whilst I’ve set the parameters of what the composition is, within those parameters you can take those raw materials of the composition and stretch, push, pull and play off of it – so its ‘elastic’ in that sense.

Then it’s also referring to some of the rhythmic things – that sort of J-Dilla-ish kind of feeling that’s steady but off kilter at the same time, and the rhythm is stretched in some interesting way.

That elasticity definitely comes into play a lot with Myele Manzanza & The Eclectic – even though it’s a bigger band and more of a steady sort of RnB dance thing as opposed to an abstract jazz thing. For me I find it’s a good combination of all of the aspects of music and all of the ways of playing that I’m into.

As we continue to play together we keep on getting better and better…I think the next round of WOMAD and WOMADelaide is going to be a really special time.

Beaver:  Well, different people I’ve spoken to about your live performances have all used the word ‘phenomenal’ to describe them, so I look forward to experiencing it myself.

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Catch Myele Manzanza & The Eclectic live at WOMADelaide 2015 along with the Buena Vista Social Club, Neneh Cherry, Sinead O’ConnorTheo Parrish, Jake Savona with Prince Alla and Randy Valentine – plus about 50 more diverse worldwide artists.

WOMADelaide 2015

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Myele Manzanza also shared some insights into New Zealand’s music aesthetic over recent decades – and the story of one of his life’s many euphoric musical moments…get the details here another day soon.

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E is for Electronic Music Infiltration

‘E’ in Beaver’s A to Z of Fusion goes to the sounds of electronic music for their like-it-or-not, rapid infiltration of almost every type of music in just about every part of the world since their beginnings at the end of the 19th century.

electronic music

A Shallow History of Infiltration

The history of electronic music is long and involved.  It’s not a story I’m qualified to properly tell, nor do I want to try. The over-simplified, short, sketchy version is this…

The Beatles - Moog SynthesizerFirst came the creation of electronic musical instruments like synthesizers. The Beatles weaved them into their music in the late 1960’s, as did artists before them. Pink Floyd did too, even Herbie Hancock, and countless artists since them.

The development of electronic music technologies continued, including digital audio to rapidly thereafter replace analog.

The creation of music using only electronic means became increasingly common.

Computer software advanced. Access to computers and other technologies became easier for most of the world.

electronic music

Certainly electronic music got its grips on ‘less-developed’ (ie. poorer) parts of the world sooner than the richer ones, but it eventually infiltrated just about everywhere. Seven years ago in Havana you can imagine my dismay when a young man in the technologically un-advanced, insulated Cuban bubble, proudly played me the reggaeton (an electronic-music-Evil) track he’d just finished making on his archaic equipment.

Some consequences of the world’s electronic music infiltration I’m into, some I am most definitely not.

Post-Infiltration

Nowadays it’s rare to find music made in the warm, living analog world. That’s a tragedy of epic proportions. Thankfully some artists still deliver it – most recently D’Angelo with Black Messiah, and regularly by Will Holland (aka Quantic).

Digital music consumption now dominates – another tragedy of epic proportions.

Nowadays and for a long time it’s been open to any man, woman or their dog with a computer to make music on it. It’s great that so much creativity is flowing from people around the world, but the truth is that I have little tolerance for listening to music produced wholly and solely in the electronic domain.

It’s not all doom and gloom though – the infiltration of electronic music has had its benefits too. Today some of my favorite music from around the world is by artists/groups who innovatively utilise and blend the sounds of electronic instruments into their musical mix whilst valuing and maintaining the living, human, conventional sounds.

It is the sounds of those instruments, and the people playing them, that is the living chi of music. They make the music sound and feel alive to me. They physically and emotionally connect me to the music. Without that living element, with purely electronic sounds, the music is a lost cause for my ears.

Infiltration Samples

Check out these sample tracks by a handful of contemporary artists from different countries who mix up the sounds of electronica and the living to produce killer musical results. Remember these are just super-compressed mp3 versions of the songs. Buy the music on vinyl where you can, or at least cd, to hear it in its full, living sound glory.

1. NGAIIRE (Papua New Guinea/Australia)

Lamentations (2013) - Ngaiire

NGAIIRE – Lamentations (2013)

‘Fireflies’ – NGAIIRE – Lamentations

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Check out more NGAIIRE music + footage from live shows here.

2. Flying Lotus (USA)

Flying Lotus - You're Dead! (2014)

Flying Lotus – You’re Dead! (2014)

‘Never Catch Me’ – Flying Lotus feat. Kendrick Lamar – You’re Dead! 

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Flying Lotus - Until The Quiet Comes (2012)

Flying Lotus – Until The Quiet Comes (2012)

‘See Thru To U’ – Flying Lotus  feat. Erykah Badu – Until The Quiet Comes

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Flying Lotus - Cosmogramma (2010)

Flying Lotus – Cosmogramma (2010)

‘German Haircut’ – Flying Lotus – Cosmogramma

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Check out more Flying Lotus music here and stay tuned for a rundown of his upcoming live performances in Australia.

3. Will Holland – aka Quantic (UK)

Tropidelico - The Quantic Soul Orchestra - Tropidelico

The Quantic Soul Orchestra – Tropidélico (2007)

‘I Just Fell In Love Again’ – The Quantic Soul Orchestra – Tropidélico

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Check out more Quantic tracks + footage of his DJ set at WOMADelaide 2014  here.

4. Myele Manzana (Aotearoa/New Zealand)

Myele Manzanza - One (2012)

Myele Manzanza – One (2013)

‘Elvin’s Brew’ – Myele Manzanza  – One

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5. Hiatus Kaiyote (Australia)

Hiatus Kaiyote - Tawk Tomahawk

Hiatus Kaiyote – Tawk Tomahawk (2013)

‘Sphinx Gate’ – Hiatus Kaiyote – Tawk Tomahawk

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Hear more Hiatus Kaiyote tracks + videos of live shows here.

6. Sidestepper (UK + Colombia)

(pioneers in live/electro Colombian fusion)

Sidestepper live at WOMADelaide 2011

Sidestepper live at WOMADelaide 2011

Sidestepper - 3AM: In Beats We Trust (2003)

Sidestepper – 3AM: In Beats We Trust (2003)

‘In The Beats We Trust’ – Sidestepper – 3AM: In Beats We Trust

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7. Bajofondo (Argentina + Uruguay) 

(pioneers in Latin American live/electro fusion)

Bajofondo - Mar Dulce (2007)

Bajofondo – Mar Dulce (2007)

‘Pa’ Bailar’ – Bajofondo Tango Club – Mar Dulce

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Hear more Bajofondo tracks + videos from a live show in Bogota here.

8. Roberto Fonseca (Cuba)

Roberto Fonseca - Yo (2012)

Roberto Fonseca – Yo (2013)

‘Rachel’ – Roberto Fonseca – Yo

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Hear more Roberta Fonseca tracks + videos from his live performance at WOMADelaide 2014 here.

9. Electric Wire Hustle (Aotearoa/New Zealand)

Electric Wire Hustle (2010)

Electric Wire Hustle (2010)

‘Burn’ – Electric Wire Hustle

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10. Little Dragon (Sweden)

Little Dragon - Ritual Union

Little Dragon – Ritual Union (2012)

‘Please Turn’ – Little Dragon – Ritual Union 

 

Hear more Little Dragon songs + videos from live shows here.

Little Dragon live at Oxford Art Factory, Sydney

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So musical people, what say you about the infilitration of electronic music…like it, or not?

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