After his acclaimed debut EP, “Cotonou” on Alma Negra’s record label, James Stewart is back with a new EP, “Atlantic River Drive” for Mawimbi Records. This collection features two collaborations with Ghanaian kologo musician Ayuune Sule as well as two remixes from Simbad (aka SMBD).
James Stewart met Ayuune Sule after booking several shows for kologo music star King Ayisoba in Lyon. Stewart was struck by the bluesy tone of Ayuune’s voice and his kindness, despite his impressive stature. Quite logically, Stewart invited Sule to record vocals on two of his ongoing demos at Bruno Patchworks’ recording studio (Voilaaa, Mr. President, Da Break), with the idea of making a rather unheard crossover between traditional kologo music and contemporary styles. Stewart had a number of his arrangement ideas re-recorded by a talented cast of musicians, resulting in a brilliant mix of acoustic and electronic textures, sounding both vintage and modern.
Nodding to Eddie Palmieri’s landmark record “Harlem River Drive”, “Atlantic River Drive” is a stomping dancefloor track, drawing from the 6/8 feel of kologo music and the energy of contemporary club music. The track can be read as both a tribute to the musical cross-pollination between the African continent and its many diasporas—which Stewart has dedicated a long part of his life to—but also as a more intimate story about his life and family. All words were written by Stewart and then translated by Sule in his native Fra fra language from Northern Ghana.
“Where Are We Going?” is a two-part journey that reminds us that we should care about each other and our communities in the face of an uncertain future. An important, welcome message to help us navigate these troubled times. Referencing Congolese N’dombolo tracks, the track has two parts, with the first going deep with syncopated clarinet hooks and playful percussion, and the second moving to a four-on-the-floor pattern and entrancing baritone saxophone solo.
The EP also features Worldwide FM and Brownswood maestro Simbad, who delivers two dancefloor-ready reworks of the track “Where Are We Going?” under his SMBD moniker, turning it into a spiritual, dubby, emotional house track.