No two ways about it, Paul Janeway is boring. That’s not my view, you understand: it’s actually his own.
“I don’t go out at all when I’m here, so I have this mysterious reputation – or so I’m told,” he teases over the phone from his home in Birmingham, Alabama. “Little do people know, there’s no mystery: I’m just really boring. I don’t drink… I might go out and get dinner or something once in a while, but that’s all. When I do occasionally get recognized people are always nice, but my wife, who is an introvert, doesn’t love that. So, no, I’m the kinda guy who stays home, watches Netflix and reads. I leave the social stuff to the other guys in the band.”
Well, for a self-proclaimed dull kinda fellah, the likeable Mr. Janeway makes for an exciting focal point of St. Paul & The Broken Bones, the Magic City octet whose 2014 indie-label debut set Half The City and an incessant bout of touring since have led them to the verge of international superstardom – as a southern soul band…
The 2011Arab Spring, which saw authoritarian regimes in North Africa challenged by popular uprisings, is a landmark in recent international history. Like every Tunisian, oud player-vocalist Dhafer Youssef has a strong opinion about the courageous historic protests that took place throughout the region, but he is also is tentative when asked exactly what the events really mean for the common man some five years down the line. He is still trying to fully gauge realities on the ground.
“Everybody knows about the changes, but finally at the beginning of… I don’t like the word ‘revolution’ because the word is easily misused… but there were some changes,” he reflects quietly. “I was really proud and happy to go back during the Arab Spring. How is it now? Well, we need time, and a very important thing happened, and that is free speech.
“Not even 10 years ago even just to think differently was almost a political blasphemy. Today it’s a good thing, but it’s really hard as well because some people don’t use it the right way. If you want to have free speech you have to be tolerant and accept others.”
Janine “Jah9” Cunningham is Jamaica’s reggae High Priestess, but she’s also a poet, philosopher, social activist and yoga teacher – activities that she approaches with the same open, imaginative and determined spirit as her music.
It was 2013’s New Name album that announced her arrival. Early reports told of a female poet with attitude, and who named Dinah Washington, Billie Holiday and Shirley Caesar among her formative influences. There’s some YouTube footage of her performing on the underground poetry circuit in Kingston from around 2009. Sultry and defiant in her Che Guevara print dress she’s telling the crowd, “I am my own designer, from conception to execution/Planning my own personal revolution.” This was during a time when she’d host various poetry and musical events, some with all-women line-ups, and was about to become a director of Manifesto Jamaica, a non-profit organisation dedicated to youth empowerment and nation building.
“A spiritual woman is the greatest threat to the status quo,” is a line from her latest album 9, but the search for truth and reluctance to settle for anything less is nothing new.
Mndsgn, aka Ringgo Ancheta, might sound like the archetypally laid back LA producer, but the cosmic demeanour is deceptive. Speaking to Echoes from the West Coast, he reveals a schedule for the day that’s busier than his slightly stoned, new age tone might suggest. He’s got a session with Sa-Ra Creative Partners’ Taz, a show he needs to record for an Australian radio station, and then a party for Stones Throw to prepare for.
The last event might be the most crucial: he’s been signed to the label since 2014, releasing Yawn Zen, a lead up to his new album, Body Wash. It’s another humorously titled set, this time connected to an arching narrative. The story?
“It’s about this homeless guy on some distant planet, a more dystopian version of earth,” begins Ancheta. “And he comes across this woman who speaks only through telepathy, and she feeds and gives him a body wash that he uses to take a bath. It ends up being hallucinogenic