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Blitz The Ambassador - Native Sun - out on Jakarta Records

Blitz The Ambassador Native Suns
Blitz The Ambassador - Native Sun
(CD/Digital) Jakarta Records, 2011-05-03

Even though he'll be releasing his 4th album, Native Sun, in may, two weeks ago, I had never heard of Blitz The Ambassador. Then I met with Seun Kuti who playlisted him in his selection for Paris DJs, and who told me to go and check his music asap, describing it as some "Ghanean-American Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, but more hip hop"… After a short downloading session I must admit I was absolutely stunned!! This is HEAVY HEAVY shit, this is not Afro, this is not Hip Hop, it's both, and it's more than both. "Africa Is The Future" indeed!! Blitz The Ambassador has been touring in France these days, so I decided to meet him and invite the man to be the second guest in the World People series of mixes we've just started on Paris DJs (the concept being that the next guest in the series must be someone playlisted by the previous guest). Thanks for the kind people of the iWelcome promo agency, I finally met Blitz last monday (april 18th) and we had a long talk about African music, Ghana, Ebo Taylor, Voodoofunk and Soundway Records, Brooklyn, Georgia Anne Muldrow, Shad and a few other artists from his playlist… which you'll be able to hear in the Blitz The Ambassador mix we'll put online early may!! And this new album? "Native Sun the album is a journey backwards, back through hip hop, the Caribbean soundsystem culture that preceded it, back to its African roots, with the final kora", notes Blitz...

Blitz The Ambassador Native Suns
Blitz The Ambassador - Native Sun
(CD/Digital) Jakarta Records, 2011-05-06

Blitz the Ambassador - Dear Africa ft. Les Nubians by embassymvmt

Tracklisting :
01. En Trance
02. Dear Africa feat. Les Nubians
03. Akwaaba
04. Best I Can feat. Corneille
05. Instrumentalude
06. Accra City Blues
07. Free Your Mind
08. Wahala feat. Keziah Jones, Baloji, Promoe, Bocafloja
09. The Oracle (Chuck D PSA)
10. Victory feat. Pete Philly
11. Native Sun feat. Shad
12. Ex-Itrance

Links : (Free Mixtape to download) (French promo agency)

Press Release :
A blindingly bright clarity drives Blitz the Ambassador. With a spot-on sense of flow, he name-checks Basquiat and Lumumba, evokes lovelorn sighs on Accra buses, émigré alienation, history's shadows. All set to swirls of brass, distorted guitars, and the crackle and pop of old amplifiers.

With a lightning-fast mind, the political boldness of Chuck D, and the sixth groove sense of Fela Kuti, the Ghanaian-born, New York-based MC, composer, and producer unleashes psychedelic Afrobeat colors and triple-time rhymes on Native Sun (Embassy MVMT; May 3, 2011). The album was sparked in Accra yet forged in the African diaspora.

Native Sun—as both musical journey and a striking short film—unfolds from a kaleidoscope of perspectives, with help from a Rwandan sweet soul singer (Corneille on the track "Best I Can"), from sleek Francophone sirens (Les Nubians on "Dear Africa") and from Congolese and Brazilian samba-loving MCs (Baloji and BNegão on "Wahala"). Blitz even got a boost—including an invite to play at a packed Central Park SummerStage show—from Public Enemy's Afrocentric thinker and rapper Chuck D himself (whose shout outs grace "Oracle").

Blitz grew up when the fierce promise of Afrocentric, intellectually discerning rap was at its peak. In the Accra of his youth, the golden age of hip hop lived on long after rap began to go (Dirty) South in the U.S. In barbershops and on well-loved cassettes, young people rallied around a fresh and defiant expression of their concerns and perspectives.

"When you hear young people have such a command, speaking so assertively about how they feel, it resonates with you no matter where you are", reflects Blitz. "Especially if you live in a stricter society with strong social codes where young people's voices aren't heard, hip hop can be a major outlet."

Blitz and his brothers and friends became avid fans of groups like Public Enemy, one of the few major hip hop names to tour Ghana. Blitz began memorizing raps verbatim to impress the cool kids at school, making up words where he didn't catch the lyrics, studying the flow of masters from Rakim to KRS-One.

Yet Blitz was surrounded by a profusion of other music in Accra, from the highlife swaying at a nearby soccer field to the kora and drums played for chiefs and sub-chiefs. Marvin Gaye and Michael Jackson, and local reactions to rock and funk all made their mark, spinning on the sometime unreliable family record player.

It all came together, resounding in his head after Blitz left home and began to feel his way toward his own voice and sound. He figured out how to launch a blazing rap in 6/8, a favorite Afropop time signature heard on the track "En-trance", or effortlessly blend the beauties of scratching with hardcore interlocking melodies ("Akwaaba" and "Victory"). He shifts between Twi, West African Pigeon, and English, between good old R&B and Ethiopian funk jazz ("Native Sun"), without losing a beat.

"It's easy to throw a bunch of elements together, but you have to find points where they intersect", Blitz explains. "You have to create something so that you can't tell where the hip hop begins and where the Afrobeat ends, and where highlife stops and future beats start. You have to create a world of equal parts."

Refracted by life in the diaspora, the sounds Blitz became increasingly drawn to—starting on mixtapes in college and continuing with his live instrumental hip hop outfit Stereotype—crashed up against the commercial reality of what his favorite music had become.

With the DIY skills of hip hop's old-school outer-borough instigators and decades of lo-fi innovators across West Africa, Blitz crafts his tracks from scratch, singing reference tracks for every trombone and background vocal, often laying down thirty or more lines for each song. "I don't have any music theory training. I have no idea what I'm doing", Blitz laughs. "That means I do things that a trained composer would never do. That's when it gets interesting."

This "outsider thinking" also led Blitz to make a short film with director Terence Nance as a companion expression for the album, a shorter take on the larger whole that Blitz fears might get lost in the IPod shuffle. Filmed in Ghana with a cast of 55, it maps the transformation of a boy from marginal village orphan to master of his destiny, with a poignancy and panache rarely seen in music videos.

"Native Sun the album is a journey backwards, back through hip hop, the Caribbean soundsystem culture that preceded it, back to its African roots, with the final kora", notes Blitz. "The film looks forward, to what could be. Both are about the longing for home we feel in the diaspora, and about letting go of old notions and embracing new ideas. The sound in itself speaks to that."

Native Sun Teaser 2.0 from MVMT
Directed by Terence Nance & Blitz the Ambassador, Written by Blitz the Ambassador.

Biography (English) :
Born and raised in Accra, Ghana, Blitz the Ambassador grew up to the sounds of Afro-Beat, Highlife, Jazz, and Motown. From an early age he played djembe in local drum circles and dance troups. "Live music was always a part of my life," says Blitz. "It's hard to find a Ghanaian kid who wasn't part of some band." But when his older brother introduced him to Public Enemy's classic album, It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, he was changed forever. "I had never heard young Black people express themselves in that way before", recalls Blitz.

After moving to the U.S. to attend college, Blitz continued to hone his musical skills, and developed a large following in Ohio as undergrad at Kent State University. After graduation, Blitz moved to New York City and began to record, Stereotype. This live-instrument-laden, musical exploration, is Blitz' sonic manifesto. "I set out to change the way hip-hop approaches live instrumentation, to create synergy between all of the sounds on my personal playlist."Drawing from his diverse musical background, he dove into the project with the explicit intent of pushing the boundaries of Hip Hop music. In the process of recording the album, Blitz formed the band, The Embassy Ensemble, a musical collective of classically trained artists who grew up on Hip Hop.

After three long years of recording, Blitz took the album to several. Getting the run around one too many times, Blitz decided go it alone.

"One day I just said, ‘F*ck it'", recounts Blitz. "I was tired of record labels telling me I had to be like somebody else. So I came home and wrote, Rememebering the Future", Blitz explains. This epic, track illustrates Blitz' refusal to be a Stereotypical rapper. The chorus of the song is, ‘I am who I am / and you can never change me / Reaching for the sun / remembering the future.'

Now, his label, Embassy MVMT is proving that Hip Hop fans are ready for the future. Hungry for a change, and sick-and-tired of juvenile radio hits, Blitz the Ambassador is here to revive good music.

Biography (French) :
C'est une lucidité et une sincérité éblouissantes qui conduisent Blitz The Ambassador. Avec un sens du flow implacable, il cite Basquiat ou Lumumba, évoque des soupirs languissant sur les Bus d'Accra (Capitale du Ghana), l'aliénation des immigrés et les ombres de l'histoire. Le tout sur des tourbillons de cuivres, des guitares saturées et des craquements d'amplis. Avec l'esprit politique de Chuck D et le sixième sens du groove de Fela Kuti, le MC de NYC natif du Ghana, compositeur et producteur, déchaine des sonorités afrobeat psychédéliques et des rimes aiguisées sur ce nouvel opus Native Sun. Native Sun est né d'un kaléidoscope de perspectives avec l'aide du chanteur Rwandais Corneille, du duo de sirènes francophones Les Nubians, du MC hollandais Pete Philly, de l'excellent Promoe (de Looptroop) qui a enregistré son couplet alors qu'il était au Cambodge, du virevoltant Canadien Shad et de la star Nigériane Keziah Jones pour ne citer qu'eux... Blitz a également reçu la bénédiction du rappeur Chuck D (Public Enemy) qu'on peut entendre sur l'album. Il a grandi dans la promesse afro centriste au moment où le rap "intellectuel" était à son apogée. Dans l'Accra de sa jeunesse, l'âge d'or du Hip Hop continua d'exister bien après l'arrivée du "Dirty South" aux Etats-Unis. C'est sur ses cassettes bien aimées qu'en compagnie de la jeunesse de sa ville il a rallié une expression fraiche et provocante, représentative de leurs préoccupations et de leurs perspectives.

"Lorsque vous entendez la jeunesse de votre pays s'exprimer avec autant d'affirmation sur les problèmes qui sont les siens, ça résonne dans votre tête, peu importe l'endroit ou vous vous trouvez." dit Blitz "...particulièrement lorsque vous vivez dans une société avec des codes sociaux très forts et dans un pays dans lequel la voix de la jeunesse n'a aucun poids et n'est pas entendue. Là, le Hip Hop peut se révéler être un outil majeur."

Blitz, ses frères et ses amis devinrent fans de groupes comme Public Enemy, un des rares à être venu jouer jusqu'au Ghana. Blitz commença à mémoriser tous les textes pour impressionner ses camarades de classe, fabriquant des mots dès qu'il ne comprenait plus les originaux et étudiant l'art du flow de Rakim à Questlove. De plus, Blitz a baigné dans toutes sortes de musiques qui l'entouraient, à Accra, du Highlife Ghanéen autour des terrains de football au Kora et percussions joués pour les chefs de tribus.

De Marvin Gaye à Michael Jackson en passant par de petites formations rock et funk locales, tous ont laissé des traces dans l'inspiration de Blitz. Toutes ces influences refont surface lorsque Blitz décide de quitter la maison pour faire son propre chemin musical. Il trouva le moyen d'offrir un rap tranchant avec une signature "afropop" que l'on peut entendre sur le titre En-Trance, ou de mélanger avec talent la beauté du scratch avec des mélodies hardcore (Akwaaba et Victory). Il jongle aisément avec le Twi (dialecte Ghanéen) et l'anglais et surfe sur les vagues du RNB old School et du Jazz Funk Ethiopien sans jamais rater un temps ! "Il est facile de jeter tout un tas d'éléments, le plus compliqué est de trouver le moyen de les faire se croiser." explique Blitz. "Il faut créer quelque chose qui ne permette pas de dire où s'arrête le Hip Hop, où commence l'Afrobeat et où intervient le Highlife. Il faut créer un monde à parts égales."

"Native Sun est un retour en arrière soutenu par le Hip Hop, le mouvement Soundsystem caribéen qui le précéda, un retour à ses racines africaines avec le Kora" dit Blitz. Le son parle de lui-même !


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