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Can World Music Bridge The Gap To Prog Rock? Part 2: New Music From The Alostmen

Mark Smotroff makes a musical journey from Cuba to Africa…

Yesterday I explored some fine and fascinating new music from Cuba by a group named Okuté. In my listening report I made a connection between this music which is usually categorized (at least here in the United States) under “world music” and acknowledge that it really has more in common with what many of us call “progressive” — and even “progressive rock” — music than many might consider. If you missed Part I on Okuté, please click here to catch on that story. 

Many of you know by now that I don’t usually write reviews based on low resolution digital files (ie. MP3s) as I feel it presents a skewed image of what the music might (or might not) be like. Unfortunately, that is all I had been sent many months ago about a group from Africa called The Alostmen. However, as I was working on the review about Okuté I was happy to find that The Alostmen now have their album streaming on Qobuz (click here) and Tidal (click here) in CD-quality. So the time felt ripe to finally share this music with you, Dear Readers. 

A paragraph from the official press release offers some insight to the music of Ghana’s The Alostmen, co founded by a musician named Stevo:

“Alostmen’s music is based around the Frafra traditions of the kologo, a stringed lute and uses purely traditional instrumentation in entirely new ways. The kologo is traditionally played a certain way but Stevo will play it at the shortest end of bridge and accentuate, almost Hendrix-style! He plays with a pedal sometimes and can keep it an octave down with a bass sound. He has evolved the instrument in his own way.”

Like Okuté, this music revolves around circular repeating patterns played on the Kologo and periodic call-and-response group chants. The rhythms are different of course than those from Cuba but still connected in some ways. 

The messaging on The Alostmen’s album is often quite very powerful. “Teach Me” was the first track which really caught my ear with its series of poignant parallels.  On their official video on YouTube, explains: “Lead singer Stevo Atambire tells how it is more rewarding in life to be a creator rather than just a consumer while Villy sings about acting too hastily and lacking focus in building a better world for ourselves. “

“Minus Me” could easily be transformed into a King Crimson tune (ala “Sleepless” and “Elephant Talk” ) with a bass line that reminds me of early Bohannon plus cool horn textures punctuating the pulse. 

The music here is wonderful in a stripped down way using this fascinating two string instrument. It has a very specific sound quite unlike anything I’ve heard on record, at least presented in the context of a full band setting with bass and percussion. Combined with distinct song structures, this music becomes quite a compelling listen.

You can hear The Alostmen on Tidal (click here) and Qobuz (click here) streaming in 16-bit, 44.1 kHz CD quality, both of which sound very good and quite rich.  The group also has a Bandcamp page so if you like this music be sure to support them any way you can. The album is available on CD and vinyl! If I can get my hands on the latter I’ll certainly do an update on this review for those of you who might be interested

I’ve posted some of The Alostmen’s videos below which are fun and at times powerful. I hope this group gets a chance to reach broader audiences and tour the world with their music. 

So there you have it… Coming full circle, there is some fine and fascinating new music to check out from around the world which may well fuel your polyrhythmic passions beyond the scope of progressive rock.  

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