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Taxi Sampler 01: Rhythms & Vibes From the Spirit of Young Africa

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When visiting Rome, the youthful visual collective known as Crudo Volta envisions distant cities like Lagos, Cotonou, and Maputo. Crudo Volta, a name derived from Italian meaning “a time for rawness,” represents something edgy and authentic. While their primary focus lies in creating vibrant and polished documentary films that connect Africa with the African diaspora, their true essence lies in sound.

In 2016, the collective produced “Woza Taxi,” a short film that delved into gqom, a nocturnal house genre originating from Durban, South Africa. Following that success, they released “Yenkyi Taxi,” which accompanied the journey of Brendan “Hagan” Opoku-Ware, a London-based producer with Ghanaian roots, through Accra, Ghana. Earlier this year, Crudo Volta introduced “Taxi Waves,” a streaming series highlighting youth music scenes in Ethiopia, Mozambique, and Nigeria. With their strong focus on sound, Crudo Volta has now ventured into the realm of record labels, drawing from their sonic archive and transnational connections.

This record label, Python Syndicate, is a collaboration between two individuals: Mike Calandra Achode, a Beninese-Italian graphic designer and founding member of Crudo Volta, and Nan Kolè, a DJ and an evangelist of gqom. Their debut release, “Taxi Sampler 01: Rhythms & Vibes from the Spirit of Young Africa,” is a two-LP collection that captures the “sonic and cultural landscape” of Africa’s contemporary underground music scene, complete with a 26-page photo booklet.

The album offers a musical immersion into a captivating and inviting soundscape. Previous exposure to African club music is not required to appreciate its offerings. Achode and Kolè have curated a blend of unreleased tracks and familiar tunes cherished by cosmopolitan DJs with a passion for Africa, featuring artists such as Young John, Hagan, Gafacci, Sess the Problem, Ellputo, and TLC FAM. Many of the songs are lively and danceable, while others find a mesmerizing groove that can become repetitive and lose its allure.

Intermittently on the LP version, short “skits” are included, featuring interviews with music creators. These skits bring to mind ethnographic field recordings and serve as palate cleansers, similar to the interludes found on rap and R&B albums. In one skit, Ghanaian producer Gafacci recalls his father advising him to incorporate African elements into his songs (as heard in “Yenkyi Taxi”). Another skit is conducted in an unidentified language, evoking an unfiltered sense of foreignness. Though these snippets may sometimes seem heavy-handed in their pursuit of authenticity, they add a pleasant touch by associating a melodious voice and laughter with a name.

The standout tracks on “Taxi Sampler 01” come from two well-known artists, Rvdical the Kid and Ethiopian Records. Ethiopian Records, born in Addis Ababa, starts “Tigist” with a captivating interplay of synthesizer swirls and a deep resonating drone, gradually introducing organic elements such as hand-played drums and a soulful flute. Rvdical the Kid, a DJ and producer who divides his time between the United States and West Africa, blends soul and funk vocals, call-and-response chants, and a compelling bassline reminiscent of trap music in tracks like “Yama Kegule” and “Free Spirit.” Both artists skillfully weave intricate layers into their compositions, as if carefully wrapping and unwrapping the underlying beat, creating delightful surprises for the listener. These additions and subtractions drive the music forward, building tension and suspense during transitions.

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