Global Beat Fusion: Reclaiming the Elephant

Following up the runaway success of, California-based yoga instructor and emcee Nicholas Giacomini, aka MC Yogi, returns with a thumping two-disc set,
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Whenever Brooklyn DJ/producer Nickodemus emails me, I'm quick to check out links, especially if it's a project he's worked on. A workhorse and insistent traveler, it was no shock to see that his latest outing ⎯ a six-track EP called Earthchild Project ⎯ is a charitable release with proceeds going to the South African organization of the same name. Dedicated to creating "meaningful and sustainable change by providing practical skills in how to live a holistic, balanced lifestyle with a focus on self-awareness, health and the environment," the Earthchild Project focuses its energies on rearing local youths in a positive manner. Nickodemus recorded many youngsters for his track "Beauty is in Your Name," a hearty midtempo groove featuring vocalist Zolani Mahola, lead singer of the hugely popular group, Freshlyground (who I checked out in Brooklyn two summer ago). Labelmate and friend Zeb helps out on the production of "Beauty," with a dub version closing out the EP. In between are efforts by the Pimps of Joytime, another by Zeb, Circuswing, and a heady floor banger by Tal M. Klein, a San Francisco-based producer that has really impressed me this year. A donation of $8.98 goes to the charity and gets you the EP.

In further charitable news, Nickodemus just remixed one of the liveliest songs of 2010, "It Ain't My Fault," a swinging track by New Orleans' The Preservation Hall Jazz Band featuring Lenny Kravitz on guitar and Mos Def on vocals. The original is a musical call to arms against BP's lack of response to the Gulf spill, which, while it may not be attracting major media attention anymore, is still going on. Considering that America's attention is fixed on the most bizarre and in many ways frustrating and disappointing midterm elections in our nation's history, this excellent song (and video, above), is an important reminder that the oil doesn't dissipate once the cameras leave the shores, or however close they were even allowed to go. Nicko's remix adds a punchy bass line and trademark drum bounce to the original. All proceeds go to benefit Gulf Aid.

The elephant is a wise and stoic creature, which makes one realize that the jackass is really the sign of the Republican party, whose members apologize to BP for "shakedowns," i.e. trying to help the local survive an environmental catastrophe. Fortunately in the yoga community, elephants represent something much more positive. Following up the runaway success of Elephant Power, Point Reyes, California-based yoga instructor and emcee Nicholas Giacomini, aka MC Yogi, returns with a thumping two-disc set, Elephant Powered Remixes and Omstrumentals. Yogi's symbol-laden debut reminds me of Indian comic books, in which readers learn about the complex mythologies of Hinduism in digestible stories that cut to the essence of the tale. Add a natural penchant to rhythm and a bass-heavy backdrop, and his witty tales are reinterpreted here by New York City producers Nickodemus and Zeb, creating a brass-boosted Balkan beat around "Rock on Hanuman," while fellow city folks EarthRise SoundSystem dub out Bollywood on the Mahatma praise song, "Be the Change." Bay area DJ Cheb i Sabbah spits out a bhangra banger on "Son of Shiva," and the Bhakti Brothers ⎯ Giacomini and Robin Livingston ⎯ re-dub five tracks, including a melodica-drenched rendition of "Om Namah Shivaya." The second disc features instrumentals of ten prime Yogi cuts, for Samadhi without the Sanskrit.

From California's coast to Toronto's exurbs, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Shannon Kingsbury recently released her first full-length, Luminocity, from her Guelph homebase. A world-minded collection of folksy tales surrounded by harp and tables, with poignant rhythms and excellent production via Andrew McPherson (Guelph producer Eccodek), these nine songs play out like a living fairy tale. The punchy electronics offered in the album's top song, "After the Rain," pepper Kingsbury's vivid imagery with a small hint of technology. Her voice remains the centerpiece, however, especially on the many layers of "Garden Path," an a cappella track (save a winsome woodwind) that reminds the astute listener of the best of Italian ensemble Faraualla. While the operatic flourishes near the album's end can overreach, the minimalist string work of "Urban Princess Tango" and Kingsbury's honest appeal work very well in her favor on this worthwhile debut.

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