Xavier Rudd / photo by Madison Dube

Xavier Rudd / photo by Madison Dube

 
 

The Power of the Didgerdoo: An Interview with Xavier Rudd
The Washington Post

Australian musician Xavier Rudd plays more than a dozen instruments across his seven studio albums, but none are more striking than the didgeridoo. The long and narrow, droning and yelping wind instrument — developed by indigenous Australians and traditionally called a yidaki — is a signature part of Rudd’s feel-good folk rock.

“I was always drawn to the didgeridoo,” Rudd says. “It’s from a small part of [Australia], but it became an instrument for the whole country eventually because it was the most prominent Aboriginal tool recognized around the world."

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 Keurgui Crew / photo by Scott Shigeoka

Keurgui Crew / photo by Scott Shigeoka

 
 

Keurgui Crew: The Hip-Hop Artists That Shaped Senegal's Politics
The Washington Post

When Thiat and Kilifeu were 17, starting their lives as hip-hop artists in Kaolack, Senegal, they were arrested and beaten for performing a song that spoke out against their mayor. That didn’t shut them up: A decade and a half later, the music of their rap group, Keurgui Crew, helped mobilize one of Senegal’s biggest youth voter turnouts in history for the 2012 presidential election.

“Our hip-hop is not for dancing or having a party,” Thiat says. “We create music that gives people hope.”

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 Karl Denson / photo by Alicia J. Rose

Karl Denson / photo by Alicia J. Rose

 
 

Expanding the Universe: An Interview with Karl Denson's Tiny Universe
The Washington Post

Never get complacent. Always keep growing. That’s the mantra saxophonist Karl Denson has embodied throughout his life — going all the way back to when he first picked up the instrument at age 12.

“I looked at it from a real simple standpoint,” Denson says. “[I told myself] in a year, I am going to be better than I am now, and in five years I am going to be even better.”

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 Phantogram

Phantogram

 

Finding Friendship with Big Boi: An Interview with Phantogram
The Washington Post

Big Boi was closing the windows on his computer screen when a song on a pop-up ad caught his attention. He opened the Shazam app on his phone and held it to the speakers. The artist: Phantogram. The track: “Mouthful of Diamonds.”

Soon after, the OutKast rapper featured the song as the jam of the week on his website. Phantogram, the indie-electronic duo made up of best friends Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter, was shocked — and ecstatic.

“It was hard for us to believe,” Barthel says. “We grew up on OutKast. We always looked to OutKast as a [model for how] we wanted to build our own career because they were so unique and their sound was so fresh.”

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 Vienna Teng

Vienna Teng

 

Grassroots Growing: Spotlight Feature on Vienna Teng
The Washington Post

Eleven years ago, Detroit-based singer Vienna Teng left her cushy job as a software engineer at Cisco Systems in California to pursue a career in music. Since then, she’s recorded five albums, including her newest, “Aims.”

Grassroots Growing: After the release of her 2002 debut, “Waking Hour,” Teng went from playing coffeehouses to appearances on NPR’s “Weekend Edition” and “Late Show with David Letterman” in less than a year. On “Aims,” Teng, usually accompanied by simple piano, ventures into new territory, using guitar and percussion loops.

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 Empire of the Sun

Empire of the Sun

 

Synth We Met: Empire of the Sun
The Washington Post

Nick Littlemore’s through-the-clouds synths perfectly complement Luke Steele’s falsetto vocals on Empire of the Sun’s second album, “Ice on a Dune,” which dropped in June. Since the release of the Australian electro-pop duo’s hit debut “Walking on a Dream” five years ago, Littlemore, left, and Steele, right, have been on a nonstop world tour.

Synth We Met: The two met in 2000 at a bar in Sydney, which led to collaborations on Littlemore’s rock project Teenager and Steele’s alt-rock band The Sleepy Jackson. The two reunited to work on songs for the dance act Pnau before forming Empire of the Sun in 2008.

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 Tom Goss

Tom Goss

 

 

From Priesthood to Gay Music Celebrity: Tom Goss
The Washington Post

D.C. musician Tom Goss was in seminary, studying to become a priest. Then, he discovered bears. The human kind. The burly kind. The gay, male kind. Goss’ EP “Bears” (his seventh disc), released in July, features an ode to the hunky species. The video for the title track went viral, with more than 225,000 views on YouTube so far.

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 Michael Kiwanuka

Michael Kiwanuka

 

All Around the World: Interview with Michael Kiwanuka
The Washington Post

Michael Kiwanuka bought a harmonica a few weeks ago. The purchase, inspired by a recent fall down a rabbit hole of old Neil Young tracks, underscores similarities between the London-born Kiwanuka’s soulful music and the Canadian classic-folkie’s work: Both have a timeless sound and spare instrumentation.

After Kiwanuka, 26, released his debut album “Home Again” last year, critics were quick to call the record a success, comparing the singer to Bill Withers, Otis Redding and other soul and R&B vocalists of the ’60s and ’70s.

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 Jenny Leigh

Jenny Leigh

 

Crowdfunding Country: Spotlight Interview on Jenny Leigh
The Washington Post

Baltimore-based country artist Jenny Leigh is a self-described tomboy who grew up in “cow town” Frederick, Md. She competed on The CW’s “The Next,” and her video for the song “Crossroads” has more than 125,000 views on YouTube. Her second EP, “Tipping Point,” arrives July 30.

Nashville Networking: Leigh wanted to work with the best in the business for her new EP, so she ran a Kickstarter campaign and raised $10,000. The money paid for recording sessions with Nashville producer Larry Beaird, who has worked with Lady Antebellum, Luke Bryan and Dolly Parton.

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 Mount Kimbie

Mount Kimbie

 

Out of Step: Interview with Mount Kimbie
The Washington Post

British electronic duo Mount Kimbie has been labeled “post-dubstep” — a genre different from its popular forebear in that it lacks dubstep’s heavy bass. The band’s sound is more ambient and creatively ambitious than booming dance tracks; Mount Kimbie creates music by stitching together vocals, instrumental passages, field recordings and vintage drum machine samples.

The duo emerged from the plaster walls of a bedroom studio and into the limelight after its positively received debut record, 2010’s “Crooks and Lovers.” Mount Kimbie’s new album, the just-released “Cold Spring Fault Less Youth,” features 11 tracks, each of which sounds completely unlike the others.

“If you choose a few songs out of the new album, you wouldn’t think they were by the same band,” says Dom Maker, who formed Mount Kimbie in 2009 with Kai Campos while the two were students at London South Bank University.

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  Black Masala / photo by John-Paul Zajackowski

Black Masala / photo by John-Paul Zajackowski

 

Fall Into Drumsets: Interview on Black Masala
The Washington Post

In a multicultural city like D.C., you might have heard of masala, a South Asian spice mixture. Vocalist and drummer Mike Ounallah has put together a similarly potent mix with Black Masala, one of the most eclectic bands making music in the District today.

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