Shivelight – Top Global Bass & Folktronica Discoveries of 2020

January 17, 2021 - Audio



In the last few years, through our curation partnership with Samaya‘s Shivelight YouTube channel, research into the world fusion genres has become the bread and butter, and the main focus of our curative work. This means that in all the curation that we can fit into a day’s 24 hours, we dig deepest in the sounds across the world, as you can see from our Spotify playlist; one that includes one song per over 550 artist, all brilliant folk who are experimenting with innovation in their own cultural paradigms, and beyond the confines of dominant Americanised / Westernised culture. We love to honour the rich tapestry of all our ethnicities across the planet, and hope that our top finds this year are as much of a source of intrigue for you as they are for us. Enjoy the following amazing music!

– Writing contributions by Mister Mime, Nicola Ernesto RinaldiBaxtak, Molly Sisson & Fati Fatene

Alternatively you can find this playlist on YouTube.

El Speaker x Mots Linary x Makhou x Pao Barreto – Dounya

Dounya, is the latest release from the Columbian-Dutch artist and producer El Speaker, featuring Pro Barreto (Colombia), Makhou (Senegal) and Mots Linary (France). The track stems from a trip the Paris-based producer made to Colombia and Cuba, in a successful attempt to reconnect with his Latin heritage. The result is a track loaded with sound references resulting from the fusion of Senegalese and Afro-Colombian cultures. Making use of sound elements typical of electronic dance music, and combining them with traditional sounds typical of Afro-Latin popular culture, we are presented with a multicultural and timeless track, in which its powerful hypnotic and energetic percussions and vocals will turn the dance floor in an authentic sound ritual.

– Written by Fati Fatene

Gotopo – Malembe

Gotopo’s debut release, Malembe, is a futuristic re-interpretation of indigenous Latin American history, through the story of three mythical female figures. In this way, Gotopo proposes a fictional future, in which cultural and spiritual richness comes hand in hand with the embrace of ancient earth cultures. The result is a true marvel: a kaleidoscope of sound in which all its elements, although they are disparate, manage to fit together perfectly. Self-styled by the artist as “ancestral beat”, Malembe turns out to be the combination of a multi-sensory sound palette that drag us to feel different emotions, always embraced by that mystical tone, which the artist successfully managed to capture through the combination of organic and processed sounds. The final touch is the powerful vocals who will be in charge of guiding us through this sonic ritual, in which we can find references to pop, Afro music, and even rock. Malembe is one of the jewels of 2020 that you should not miss.

– Written by Fati Fatene

Ozferti – Solarius Gamma [Beets ‘n’ Roots]

Ozferti’s Solarius Gamma is one of the most impressive bodies of work we heard this year. Taking place in a fantastical futuristic Nubian Nova world, Ozferti actually travelled to Ethiopia to build on his East African fusion sound, collaborating with many local musicians. Not only that, he has also built his visual assets for the live audio-visual experience, while also developing a live performance version of the album. Ozferti is the equivalent of a one-man Oscar film, if world fusion music was Hollywood. Musically, Ozferti’s immaculately-detailed beats meet Ethiopian vocals, players of masenqo & local ensembles, leading to a mesmerising and modern take on afrobeat / afrofusion genres. Ozferti has taken all the right stops to do justice as a white male making African influenced music; from the collaborations to packaging, this is how Europeans can engage in decolonising efforts and bring attention to the world’s rich cultures in a creative and authentic way.

– Written by Baxtak

Bandish Projekt – Panduranga ft. Chandana Bala Kalyan [Bheja Fry Records]

The don of Indian bass music dropped this electro-bass Abhang masterpiece that will unfailingly throw you into a hard-hitting hypnotic trance. Atop frantic beats, crisp low-end movements and artisanally crafted ambiences and arrangements lies a scintillating vocal performance by classical singer Chandan Bala Kalyan, who invokes a state of meditative madness by chanting the name of the Hindu God Vitthal. This bold fusion boasts the cutting-edge sonic detail that BP is known for as he unapologetically blends it with his own Indian classical roots. This track lets you feel the power of the storm and the calmness that resides in the eye at the same time.

– Written by Mister Mime

V/A – A Guide to the Birdsong of Mexico, Central America & the Caribbean [Shika Shika]

Following a similar project by Rhythm and Roots label a number of years ago, Shika Shika assembled a wealth of their producers to create music using the sound of 10 endangered bird species native to Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. The album was created as a fundraiser and the authentic bird song recordings were provided by the Macaulay Library & the Xeno Canto community. In December 2020, the label announced that they were able to raise $30,000 for a number of relevant charities including Birds Caribbean, La Asociación Ornitológica de Costa Rica and Fundacion TXORI in Mexico. The music which takes the format of the downtempo folktronica sound also beautifully sonificated the warm ambiance of the Central American forests. It is interesting to mention that while not all the songs were entirely to our picky taste, knowing the fact that they serve a purpose truly changes how we hear those songs, and makes us love our favourites from the album, i.e. Jiony and Alex Hentze’s contributions, even more. You can still donate to this project, so if you dig the sounds or want to know more about the project, click this link or do so via Bandcamp below!

– Written by Baxtak

Balkan Bump – Osmanity [Bump Records]

Trumpet player, producer and ethnomusicologist, Balkan Bump gathered his army of instrumental comrades to release his debut album, ‘Osmanity’. The album which also features Shivelight favourites, CloZee & Beats Antique spans 14 songs across a variety of BPMs; from slower 808-driven tribal trap and boom-bap bass to fast tuba-driven carnival sections and cinematic interludes, the album is jampacked with fun and energetic ideas. Definitely one of the most well-rounded albums we heard this year.

– Written by Baxtak

Kaya Project – Body.Mind.Soul [Tribal Shift Records]

The legendary maestro of global fusion delivered this new album that truly embodies the collaborative spirit of co-operation in pursuit of synergistic artistry. Spearheaded by Seb Taylor, the 2020 Kaya Project album, “body.mind.soul” features 19 guest musicians, collectively painting an orchestra of percussive and melodic enchantment. There really are not many others who produce such succinct world-bridging music, bending musical influences from all over the world into a cohesive display of global comradery on our channel. Kaya Project NEVER disappoints, and Body.Mind.Soul was not an exception.

– Written by Baxtak

Kennebec – Departure (& Remixes) [Night Time Stories]

Crafted by the talented Eric Phillips, a.k.a. Kennebec, the album is a cashmere tapestry of organic instrumental music and smooth synths, transcribing into an equanimous musical experience. Kennebec’s production is a marvellous ode to influences as diverse as Studio Ghibli, Nujabes & Tycho, but it is Eric’s own creative flair that truly makes this release stand out from any comparison as an instantly-recognisable and unique project. Kennebec took care of production, and recording classical guitar, ngoni, kalimba, bass, piano & Rhodes while final violin & viola parts were laid down by his friend, Mirabai Peart. The album was conceived in 2017 and perfected for two years for a release date in 2019. Now, Night Time Stories have assembled a mighty crew to artists to remix this masterpiece, bringing their unique touches to this project. Together, this body of work was one of the best original and remixed albums of the year, with the addition of the cute animation!

– Written by Baxtak

Guedra Guedra – Son of Sun E.P [On the Corner]

Moroccan producer, Guedra Guedra, explores in his debut album, Son of Sun EP, with different genres, creating a multicultural puzzle that takes advantage of the fusion of electronic genres with the most traditional elements of Arab popular culture. From genres like house music or techno, to such different ones as trap and footwork, the Moroccan producer takes advantage of each song in Son of Sun, to make a tour through the most traditional north África music styles. In this way, Guedra Guedra dares to play, for example, with typical gnawa music chants, combined with the so mythical dancehall horns, or even the roar of a cat, creating as a result an authentic cultural cocktail with which he makes it clear that there are no limits when creating. The result is an electric piece that, while being certainly spiritual, becomes the perfect soundtrack to get lost on the dance floor among the most energetic dances. But, in the same way, it’s equally ideal for individual listening, as it will invite us to enter a space-time journey from which it will be difficult to escape while listening.

– Written by Fati Fatene

Mahto Akicita & Tiwahe – Wokiksuye [Aquatic Collective]

‘Wokiksuye’ was a unique and authentic release, paying tribute to Mahto Akicita via the two producers of Aquatic Collective, founder, Iyakuh and collaborator, Pathwey. Pathwey & Iyakuh ventured into South Dakota’s Lakota community to honour their lost friend, as well as engage in traditional practices of ‘Remembrance’ according to Lakota culture. Mahto Akicita was renowned in his community for his efforts to bring the Native American people back towards preservation of their cultural identity and this mission was the original mission of this release. However, Mahto passed away during the recording process, which led to Pathwey and Iyakuh continuing his mission through collaborations with Mahto’s Tiwahe (family). We’ve received very promising responses from Native American communities who use this music for prayer, while proceeds from the project are continuing to be raised for his family and towards his mission. Musically, the signature deep dubstep sound of producers, Pathwey and Iyakuh truly acted as a respectable modernising element, while still keeping true to the cultural boundaries, and they were rewarded with acceptance into Mahto’s family. Truly heart-touching stuff and top world fusion music.

– Written by Baxtak

Clap! Clap! – Liquid Portraits [Black Acre]

Pristine music production, solemnity of the melodies, beautiful poly-rhythmic atmospheres. This is the album by Italian Producer and composer Cristiano Crisci aka Clap! Clap! released on June 2020 by the British label Black Acre and probably to be considered one of the best releases of the year.

The album blends intriguing soundscapes with ethnic flavoured beats, sublimely glued by elements of nostalgia and lo-fi jazz, creating the unique signature textures characterising the aesthetic of the compositions by Clap! Clap!. The author, thanks to well-executed sound design and highly skilled music production, managed to capture the essence of each sonic element, depicting moments in time and space in which the listener can explore throughout each song in the album.

Liquid Portraits represents a captivating journey between the duality of meditative introspection and the high energy of a imaginary dance floor made of multicultural elements interacting with each other beautifully.

– Written by Nicola Ernesto Rinaldi

PAV4N x Sukh Night – DOOM ft Ishani [4NCY]

The world hip-hop superstar PAV4N of ‘Foreign Beggars’ fame dons his new “rap god” avatar by fusing Hindu mythology with hip hop, continues to ceremoniously announce himself in a larger-than-life fashion in the relatively new field of Indian hip hop with his single “DOOM” which is produced by Sukh Knight with vocals from Ishani. The track released on PAV4N’s brand new label 4NC¥. A dramatically intoxicating vocal hook in Hindi from Ishani catapults the track forward, with Sukh Knight’s unique and hard-hitting beat setting the arena for poetic destruction by Pav, as he lyrically meanders over the bars with his verses elevating the track to a whole new level. He spits his venom in the face of his ‘frenemies’ so artfully that it would make the co-starring snake in the music video envious of his ability. However, beneath the brash assertion of his verses, there is a deep-rooted respect and groundedness that makes the message hit even harder. I have a feeling the maverick is only getting started in what seems will be new ground in the force of hip hop and music.

– Written by Mister Mime

Onipa – We No Be Machine [Strut Records]

Beginning with the homonymous song “We No Be Machine” the album’s narrative takes you into a distinctive Afro-futuristic journey made of beautiful rhythmical atmospheres and  hypnotic vocals, seasoned with captivating arpeggios, mood lifting African chorals, entwined with anti-establishment raps. Each song is drifting in a crescendo of magnificent intensity, finding the unique tasteful blend between Tom Excell’s London hip-hop/jazz spirit and the ever-moving evocative vocals of Ghanian singer K.O.G, teaming up with activist Ghanaian pop singer-songwriter Wiyaala, and other African talented innovators, gifting us this high-energy mix of music. All coming together to philosophically question the system while releasing a shard of positivity in a world that now more that ever needs it. Onipa with the album “We No Be Machine” aims to bring people back together, inviting their listeners to find a new stronger sense of community, enhancing with their music the contemporary dehumanisation of mankind in a digitalised world, filled with “de-socialising” mediums and ethnical, political and social distances. Beware of this eclectic and enchanting album, as you may find yourself getting lost dancing while seeking the answer that determines our human condition.

– Written by Nicola Ernesto Rinaldi

Temple Step Project – Tribe [Desert Trax]

Temple Step made a grand return in 2020 for his second release since 2013’s Embrace The One EP, bringing his formidable grip on the pulse of global bass music in all its variety. Over 11 songs, the artist assembles a heavy crew of collaborators, ranging from Fanna-Fi-Allah singer, Tahir Qawwal, Kailash Kokopelli and Dysphemic amongst others. Ranging from downtempo South American folktronica to Persian-inspired dubstep and Hindustrani mid-tempo, the album has a true sense of global unity to it, while all songs are mixed, mastered and produced at a guru level of detail. We premiered this album via Shivelight in November and it was met with an almost unanimous dance of approval. The releasing label, Desert Trax rarely goes wrong, and this album was a stamp to sign, seal and deliver old world music for new world audiences.

– Written by Baxtak

Gisaza – Alibaba EP [Deepend Movement]

Gisaza pays homage to ancient cultures through the vibrations of deep meditative dubstep and 140 spinners. The Slovenian producer is a specialist for concocting his niche bangers combining 140 broken basslines with eastern melodies. The DJ has been busy this year cooking up beats seasoned with his signature eastern samples with a variety of chimes and synths. Throughout this bewitching EP he captivates his listeners by telling the classic tale of Ali Baba with a 140 spin. ‘Open sesame’ as each song opens its own unique hidden cave of secrets.

– Written by Molly

Lo.Renzo – Meditative Sessions

For the course of 7 weeks during the early days of the lockdown, Lo.Renzo put his time to very good use, creating 7 signature textural ambient songs of high calibre. We eventually uploaded the selection as a continous meditative journey on Shivelight, and honestly, it was one of the things that helped keep us sane during the hardest times of the year. Lo.Renzo’s unique knack for multi-instrumental magic, and they combine a wide range of natural, instrumental and warmly synthetic sounds to create an edenic soundscape. That’s the sound of bees and birds, instruments usch as flute, sarangi, banjo, udu, cumbus, leaves, and even flies even whom Lo.Renzo somehow manages to sound calming. This is premium atmospheric world music, the likes of which you’ll find difficult to find.

– Written by Baxtak

MORiLLO – Eastern Tale [Taiga Collective]

A mind-blowing battleground of 140 eastern patterns and weighty bass. With fluttering chimes and popping kicks and snares, encrypted with an oriental twist, this song ticks every box for its unique finish. Morillo snake charm’s his way into a sneaky yet potent drop. This globetrotter DJ has mastered the ability to forge sounds focused on destinations. With tracks transporting the listener to destinations such as ‘Brooklyn’ to ‘Brazil’ while ‘Eastern Tale’ soaks in a rich melting pot of history, culture and mysticism.

– Written by Molly

Jakare – Schizophonia [Desert Trax]

The ‘Schihzophonia’ EP by the, arguably our favourite, duo known as Jakare; the magical combination of Halfred and Lo.Renzo. After the incredible reception of their previous ‘Apu’ EP, as well as numerous singles via various labels, Jakare returned on Desert Dwellers’ Desert Trax label to deliver ‘Schizophonia’. The EP builds on Jakare’s multi-instrumental and sound-design-heavy sound, blending technicality with natural earthen melodies. This is the perfect blend of Halfred’s more engaged and psychedelic sound, and Lo.Renzo’s calming masterful of melodies, and the duo have truly cracked a unique middle ground between the folktronica and bass music worlds.

– Written by Baxtak

Captain Planet – NO VISA [Bastard Jazz Recordings]

Captain Planet has truly built up his reputation as the one DJ/producer who assembles the planeteers from around the globe and removes that pollution from the music scene. Via his 5th album, the aptly titled ‘NO VISA’, Captain Planet boldly blends influences from around the world. This album should be played at the lobby entrance of the next United Nations General Assembly, kind of like WWE entrance songs. The album isn’t as experimental as some other songs on this list and venture into a more pop-friendly direction, but the truly feel-good vibe and global appeal is something to cherish. Collaboration-game is also super strong on this, featuring reggae new breed maestro, Jesse Royal, afrobeats collab with Kongo Electro and Wonderwheel Recordings’ Thornato, an incredible Arabic boombap collaboration with KarenBe. Defintiely check this out if you’re into the more commercial & party style of global bass over the meditative hippie stuff.

– Written by Baxtak

An-Ten-Nae – Holographic Medicine, P.1 (The Source)

An-Ten-Nae’s Holographic Medicine is a unique laser-precise excise into surround sound spatialisation that was carefully crafted for the purpose of headphone listening or on multi-dimensional sound systems. The artist’s thought process behind the project was to create a primordial meditation space during the height of the pandemic isolation, one that authentically creates space for reflection and immersion in nature. The result is all in the details. This is binaural beats beyond their commonly-expressed and lesser-interesting application, and it’s a great example of technology being used to embellish a concept. If you’re stuck in concrete dwellings, get lost in these tones and be taken to your ancestral forest-dwelling tribal past.

Scott Nice x Jesse James Hendricks – Bossa Supa Nova

Scott Nice’s modern blend of Bossa Nova and 808-driven electronic music hit us hard in this tune, with the flawless production and the gorgeous flute. The sensual feel of the song was also matched an equally playful energy, both of which were highlighted in the silly and sassy music video that we discovered for it after deciding to feature it on this list. Described as a “flutist’s journey into a world of sun and bubbles”, the song is not a crazy technical track, just the pen-ultimate feel-good blend, also energising the listeners with the transition into double time housey sections. This one’s for the smile it’ll put on your face!

– Written by Baxtak

The Flying Mars – Cosmochemistry [Mindspring Music]

Switzerland-based The Flying Mars project’s Cosmochemistry was one of the most album-worthy collection of songs that came out in 2020. Meticulously crafted world fusion psychedelic dub and chill music, this was arguably the most pragmatic and thorough ambassadorship of this genre family. You got it all, the slowly evolving synths that meander throughout the albums 13-15 minute songs, vague psychonaut soundbites, formant escalator wubs, intricate drumwork and a whole palette of pan-Asian melodies. If someone ever asked you what psychill / psydub music is, you can pretty much give them this album as a summary of it’s 30 year evolution, succintly portrayed in around 2 hours.

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