Akin Yai: Romantica
Released Sept. 2016
Recorded at multiple recording studios in Gainesville
Sounds like modern version of the Romantic Movement
Inspiration James Baldwin
Key tracks Skin, Dem Ghost
Where to get it Amazon, iTunes, Google Play
Violin, Drums, Vocals Akinlola “Akin” Yai
After moving at age 8 to Gainesville from Benin, a small West African country, Akinlola “Akin” Yai found himself instantly inspired by the city’s music scene. Yai developed a passion for hip-hop and new wave at a young age — and he’s been bound to it ever since.
“On my seventh birthday I thought I was going to get a drum set,” Yai said. But my dad got me a violin instead. I was like, ‘Oh no,’ because I sucked at it, but that ended up being part of my introduction to music.”
Yai began his career in music as a member of the band CYNE, an acronym that stands for Cultivating Your New Experience. He recorded professionally with the band from 2001 to 2009 before moving to Paris for seven years, where he worked on a majority of his solo albums.
The title of Yai’s newest album, “Romantica,” refers to the Romantic Movement. It plays with dark and passion-driven themes, oscillating from love to simple ardor for life.
Although most of Yai’s musical inspirations emerged from ‘80s pop musicians such as Prince, Bobby Brown and Whitney Houston, he also said Wu-Tang Clan was his biggest influence while growing as a lyricist. In 2008, Yai received an opportunity to open for Wu-Tang Clan in Élysée Montmartre, a legendary music hall in Paris, which he said was the most memorable moment of his career.
“It was awesome — they’re my heroes,” he said. “They actually hadn’t performed together in about three or four years and got together in Paris to do the first show of their reunion tour, and it was in front of about 10,000 people.”
Yai currently lives in Gainesville but has performed in several other countries, including Poland and Guiana. Yai said his music became more universal and relatable when he moved from Africa to America.
“I’m just really fascinated by life, people and identity,” he said. “The way people relate themselves to the world at large is what inspires me.”
By Paulina Praphanchith
Mariama Ndure: Fall and Rise
Released Oct. 20, 2015
Recorded at producer Tristan Whitehill’s home studio
Sounds like Hiatus Kaiyote in space; Erykah Badu goes to Norway
Inspiration West Africa, Scandinavia, Stevie Wonder, Gainesville
Key tracks Fruits of Joy, Beetle
Where to get it Bandcmap
Vocals Mariama Ndure
Producation Euglossine (Tristan Whitehill) and Ghost Fields (JP Wright)
Music, some scholars say, was used by prehistoric humans as the earliest sort of proto-social community glue. The cement has certainly stuck around, a fact that Mariama Ndure demonstrates vividly on her debut EP Fall and Rise. Both in process and outcome, the EP is centrally about bringing people together.
“I think the EP is a story of my time in Gainesville, both good and bad,” Ndure said. “‘Neighbor’ is a song about my first time experiencing racism, which was in Gainesville. The atmosphere making music was very open, and I was able to sort of let it all out.”
In the course of composing and recording, Ndure found a fitting musical friend in Tristan Whitehill, also known as Euglossine.
“It was a very collaborative effort,” Ndure said. “Tristan had been working on an early version of ‘Fruits of Joy’ and approached me and said, ‘I think your voice would be great on it.’”
From there the collaboration was a natural fit, a fact highlighted by the smooth gel of the production and vocals.
“I would go to his house, and we would just start jamming,” Ndure said. “Next thing you know, I’m adding stuff, Tristan is adding stuff, and suddenly a song evolves.”
The four-song EP blends elements of R&B, funk, soul, electronic and Euglossine-tinged space-bubble into a shimmering, celestial groove. The true standout is Ndure’s voice, which slides effortlessly from full and raspy to high and ethereal, retaining its power throughout.
The daughter of Gambian immigrants, Ndure grew up in Norway and studied music in America. She said she draws from a host of experiences and cultures when creating music.
“As I’ve gotten older I’ve become more aware and appreciative of my heritage,” she said.
Although the effects are subtle, this prismatic array of influences lends a richness to the music, and a depth to Ndure’s vocal talent. And as much as the record is about communities and friendships, it is a bold statement in self-expression. In a layered way that only music could capture, “Fall and Rise” is documentary.
Having recently returned to live in Norway, Ndure looks back fondly on her time spent in Gainesville.
“I feel like I had time to really nourish my skill, and I got to meet and work with inspiring and driven people,” she said. “A part of me was found in Gainesville.”
By Michael Holcomb
Consent: Consent // Gutless Split EP
Released April 8, 2016
Recorded at Goldentone Studio in Gainesville
Sounds like Waxahatchee, Lemuria, RVIVR
Inspiration No Doubt, their friends, the Florida music scene
Key tracks The Blame
Where to get it Bandcamp
Guitar and Vocals Bianca Joy Runkles
Drums Maxim White
With each song, self-declared musical soulmates Bianca Joy Runkles and Maxim White try to tell a story.
“We play from our hearts and experiences,” Runkles said, “and losses and good times.”
Both members grew up around Ocala and in the same social circles, Runkles said, but it wasn’t until a mutual friend brought them together that they started to collaborate. After meeting, the pair discovered an undeniable songwriting chemistry.
“We can just sit down with acoustic guitars and just play for hours and not stop,” said White, who has been playing in bands for about 10 years. “It’s really hard to collaborate with people. But with me and Bianca, it’s really organic and not forced.”
“I’ve never ever had anything like it with anyone else I’ve written music with,” Runkles said.
Consent’s debut single showcases the band’s ability to create a full, explosive sound with just two members. In “The Blame,” Runkles’ sharp howl cuts above slinky guitar riffs and a barrage of punchy drums.
Consent will be recording with Rob McGregor, who has worked with bands like Hot Water Music and Against Me, at Goldentone Studio in Gainesville. Runkles is excited to press her band’s music on vinyl, especially since it will attract a niche group of listeners.
“People that go out and get vinyl actually like music,” she said. “They really like it, and they want to have it in their hands, and I think that’s special.”
For Runkles, listening to records changed her life, especially the album Tragic Kingdom by No Doubt. She said hearing that album was the first time she soaked in the distinct parts of a piece of music, paying close attention to elements like the bass line and harmonies.
“Especially when I got the vinyl, it was just crisper and everything sounded better,” she said. “That album made me want to be a musician.”
In their own music, White and Runkles try to take a DIY approach.
“We make our own T-shirts,” White said. “We print and cut our own stickers. We don’t really try to get help from anyone with promotion.”
After releasing their song “The Blame” on Bandcamp.com, the pair decided to shoot a music video — even though they had no prior experience with film.
Armed with $100 worth of Christmas lights, the duo built a soft box (a lighting device used in photography) and shot the video after work, enlisting their friend Gerald Gibson to help edit. As in everything else they do, their joy comes through in the video.
“We genuinely just love playing together,” Runkles said, “and we are ecstatic that people are receiving it as well as we are.”
By Gabrielle Calise