The music of the Atlantic world is inseparably intertwined with its history. They tell the same story. After the traumatic chaos of 400 years of the trans-atlantic slave trade, leaving some 11 million Africans scattered across the Americas, a family of inter-related cultures remains, spanning the ocean. A vast web of diverse musical styles is united by an echoing resonance of Africa. From Ragtime to Rumba, Merengue to Mambo, Forró to Funk and many others, a sonic kaleidoscope is audible, linked together by a shared ancestry. Many of these styles also arrived back to African shores to have massive impact and feed the emergence of a new generation of African music, in an on-going conversation across the Atlantic.
Today the movement of peoples continues to inspire the development of new music. Rebounding currents carry a flow of migrants toward Europe in the wake of the vast tide of profits generated by the colonial era. Escaping the disastrous consequences of colonialism, they are drawn to the metropolises of the former empires. All too often they are met with hysteria and hostility in the media and politics. Rarely is their arrival placed in any historical context. The diverse culture and traditions that they bring settle on the margins, feeding into the underground life of the city...
Family Atlantica was born amongst jam sessions of drums, songs and traditional dances in the poly-cultural mescolanza of Hackney, east London. It grew organically from the friendship of Kwame, Luzmira and myself, a trans-atlantic trio of musicians from Africa, South America and Europe. Sharing and exploring our combined roots and influences revealed the strands of the ancestral connections woven into the music, and opened a wide spectrum of possibilities for mixing and experimentation.
As we began to create this album, Luzmira and I were living in a community of artists from many different nations who had converged to occupy a large, abandoned vicarage. With an atmosphere resembling something like an urban palenque, it gave space for a very creative period of cross-pollination to unfold. Kwame was a regular visitor and underground currents carried through a stream of other fantastic musicians and characters of the extended Atlantic family, many of whom appear in these recordings.
Our son Jaia was born into this microcosm of Europe, Africa and South America, spending his first few years immersed in a sea of intermingled languages and cultures. He makes a special appearance on GAITA PSYCHEDELICA.
Nuru Kane is the Senegalese leader of Baye Fall Gnawa, a band that mixes the spiritual music of the Sufi Baye Fall brotherhood with Gnawa, the ancient, healing trance music carried from Senegal to Morocco by slaves 500 years ago. The lyrics of JAIA are a dedication that Nuru improvised in a single take after finding him in a pram in the recording studio. His soulful singing is a mixture of Wolof and French, delivered at the same time as playing the raw, pounding bass line on the guimbri.
Ethiopian jazz maestro Mulatu Astatke and I became friends while working closely together over several years during his collaboration with The Heliocentrics. On ESCAPE TO THE PALENQUE he adds a classic solo in his unmistakeable, flowing Ethiopian style. He laid it down grinning from ear to ear, lost in the music as usual. It is an honour to have him guest on this composition.
Yoruba Andabo is a mythical Afro-Cuban ensemble that has been at the pinnacle of Havana's rumba scene for nearly three decades. I first encountered them in 2004 while living in Cuba, studying music at The Institute of Superior Arts. Seeking out their performances amid sweltering crushes in crumbling backstreets and decayed colonial boulevards became an essential part of my education. They are masters of the lyrical language of Rumba, as can be felt in Adonis Panter Calderon's burning conga solo on LA FAMILIA.
In 2008, while five months pregnant, Luzmira traveled to the burning depths of the Sahara desert in south-western Algeria to participate in the FiSahara festival promoting the cause of the people of Western Sahara, evicted from their land in the meltdown of Africa's last colony. As well as giving a solo concert, she also performed with Manu Chao and his band. In PESCADOR SAHARAWI Luzmira sings of the longing to return to the sea of this coastal people, trapped for almost four decades deep in the desert behind a 2,700km wall.
We traveled regularly to Venezuela during the making of this album and spent months studying musical traditions and recording with family and friends. Its rich diversity of music and rhythms lend a special influence to this project. We traveled along the coast to the lush green cocoa lands of Barlovento, once an area of palenques of escaped slaves and still famed for its deep drumming traditions. In Tacarigua de Mamporal we enriched a number of tracks with the backing vocals of Maria Dolores, her daughters and Pandilla of Danzas Mandela, an excellent Afro-Venezuelan folklore ensemble.
We took winding roads up into the foothills of the Andes to Sanare, the village where Luzmira was born, to record with the legendary Grupo Curigua on TAMUNANGUE BLUES. The Tamunangue tradition (Son de negros) is an Afro-Venezuelan ritual of music, dance, drumming and stick fighting performed in worship to San Antonio that can last all night. Luzmira's father, Beice Zerpa (a fine stick fighter and Tamunanguero), also features, passionately extolling in his trademark style in the background of this track, which is also laced with exquisite slide blues guitar by Adrian Owusu.
On EL NEGRERO Luzmira's song is of the route of a slave ship and its cargo, departing from England to West Africa and across the Atlantic to Venezuela. At the peak of the slave trade one in four ships leaving the port of Liverpool was a slave ship. Carlos Talez and Williams Cumberbache lay the foundations of this powerful Afro-Venezuelan San Millan rhythm, driven by the deep heart-beat of the giant tree trunk cumaco drum.
This album contains no samples. What you hear has been entirely created by musicians with instruments and the occasional effects pedal. As far as possible, we have pursued an analogue recording, mixing and mastering process. We draw from the past sounds of vintage tropical music and its raw folkloric roots, digging and exploring, mixing and experimenting to offer our own distinct expression of the present.
This is our contribution to the musical conversation that continues between the Atlantic family.

Jack Yglesias
Hackney, London - november 2012

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