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Farhot: Kabul Fire Volume 2 review – gut-shaking hip-hop collage | Electronic music

For producer Farhot, the cut-and-paste method of sampling in hip-hop serves as an apt symbol for the assembly of his immigrant identity – he sought asylum in Germany from his native Afghanistan in the 1980s and has not returned since. He first made his name with productions for the likes of Talib Kweli, Isaiah Rashad and Nneka that echoed the melodically driven US rap of the early 2000s and particularly the work of DJ Premier and Pete Rock. His first solo release, Kabul Fire Vol 1 (2013), was a scattershot mixtape homage to his childhood home, weaving in dub influences, rattling drum machine loops, Afghani folk samples and features from Kano, Ms Dynamite and Talbi Kweli.

The cover of Kabul Fire Vol 2.
The cover of Kabul Fire Vol 2. Photograph: Publicity image

This second volume is more self-assured. Farhot steps out from the shadow of his influences to further explore the nuances of his own heritage. The 13-track album most obviously showcases his Afghani roots on the strings-laden Yak Sher, where Farhot splices in audio from 1980s resistance fighter Ahmad Shah Massoud, as well as on Sampling Watan, where he builds a gut-shaking beat around a shrill folk vocal sample, laying out his collaging thesis through the words of the artist Moshtari Hilal, who posits that sampling is a way of celebrating difference by bringing sonic elements of the diaspora together.

There are subtler references too. On Kishmish, Farhot channels Madlib’s seminal Shades of Blue in his chopped jazz piano sample, while Arusi shakes with the unquantised swagger of a J Dilla beat under its piping flute melody and undulating tabla rhythms. Only the soulful ballad Feel Ugly seems shoehorned in among these raw-edged productions, betraying an otherwise engaging patchwork of his inspirations. In a genre traditionally predicated on repurposing sonic artefacts, Farhot pieces together the sounds of his migration to create a gloriously unruly musical collage.

Also out this month

South Africa is fast becoming one of the most fertile spaces for enlivening new music, following standout releases from groups Spaza, Dumama & Kechou and the Keleketla collective in 2020 alone. Brownswood do their part in uplifting the country’s improvised music with the compilation Indaba Is, curated by songwriter Thandi Ntuli and vocalist Siyabonga Mthembu, and featuring everything from free jazz to spoken-word storytelling. Staying within the country, Soweto-based band Urban Village release their debut record, Udondolo, an electronic-tinged take on maskandi folk music. Venezuelan jazz luminary Gerry Weil also reissues his 1971 fusion odyssey The Message – a big band take on the era’s maximalism, inspired by the likes of Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew.

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