(October 26, 2010)
Not much in the music world can be qualified as timeless, but Mochilla hit the nail on the head with Timeless, a three-DVD set with each one documenting a unique live concert that, from the looks and sounds of them, will at least outlive anyone reading this review…and your children. The series pays “homage to the composer/arrangers who have influenced hip-hop in the most literal and profound ways.”
Cue to February 1st, 2009 Mochilla has brought the king of Ethiopian and Latin rhythms to the stage in Los Angeles, Mulatu Astatke. Performing for a sold-out crowd, Astatke wowed with his rhythmically masterful compositions, attacking the piano, vibes, and percussion with true African vigor as he intertwined rhythms that give you no choice but to shake it up. His accompanying band is a solid group of musicians that include veterans of the LA jazz scene such as Bennie Maupin, Phil Ranelin, and Azar Lawrence. The rhythms are spellbinding, the melodies are traditionally simple, the solos are representative of another continent altogether. The result is timeless. In recent years, hip-hop artists have found their way to the roots of the music they have come to represent and take for their own. Thus, Astatke has been sampled on tracks by artists such as Nas, Damian Marley, K’naan, and others.
Moreover, on February 10th, 2006 the hip-hop community lost one of our shining icons on the mic, a master of the studio and our ears, J Dilla. On February 22nd, 2009 Mochilla brought him back to us for one night, immortalized on DVD, with the support of the Dilla Estate and his loving mother Ma Dukes. Mochilla brought in composer Miguel Atwood-Ferguson to adapt Dilla’s tracks into a form never before heard. His task: take some of the most well-respected hip-hop beats from an artist considered to be the best, and translate them into arrangements for a 60-piece orchestra. That’s not to say Atwood-Ferguson didn’t get any help from the hip-hop community. Quite the contrary as Thundercat and Karriem Riggins laid down a thick foundation for the orchestra to dance around with special guests ranging from Bilal to Talib, Posdnuos, Illa J, Shafiq Husayn, and more. Atwood-Ferguson’s arrangements stay true to Dilla’s form and are as recognizable as the originals; a rare feat when dealing with bassoons, cellos, and a violin section. While the majority of the show features guests one by one, the finale hits an emotional tone with a choir of hip-hop greats take to the stage to honor Dilla’s life and music. Ma Dukes said it the best: “It’s outstanding, it’s incredible, it’s love.”
The last concert took place on March 15th, 2009 and featured Brazilian composer Arthur Verocai performing a very special concert. He is joined by a 30-piece orchestra performing his self-titled album for the first time ever live. The album did not receive it’s due attention at its time of release. Brazil was under a strict dictatorship, thus keeping it out of the hands of the international audience. If you aren’t familiar with his contributions to the hip-hop world, check out “Do the Right Thing” by Ludacris and Common, “Passion Flower” by MF Doom (under the name Metal Fingers), as well as tracks by 9th Wonder and Little Brother to start with.
Astatke, Dilla, and Verocai have created compositions that will outlast them in the long run. Mochilla’s Timeless has matched their compositions with the documentation to make sure these are never forgotten.
For more information on the Timeless series: http://music.vtechphones.com/2009/01/timeless/
Mochilla recently released the Mulatu Astatke portion of this series. Take a peek inside the DVD with this trailer video:
Words by Eric Sandler