Herbie Hancock Plots Expansive Summer Tour

Herbie Hancock announced an expansive, full-band summer tour launching June 26th at the Alfa Jazz Festival in Lviv, Ukraine and concluding July 29th at the Marciac Jazz Festival in Marciac, France. The U.S. trek commences August 6th in Red Bank, New Jersey and wraps with two dates – September 15th and 17th – at the Monterey Jazz Festival in Monterey, California. (The second show is a dual performance with Chick Corea, Hancock’s former bandmate in Miles Davis’ pioneering fusion band.)

Hancock’s live line-up will include drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, bassist James Genus, guitarist Lionel Loueke (through the Monterey dates) and multi-instrumentalist Terrace Martin. Additional shows will be announced soon. 

Hancock’s most recent studio album is 2010’s The Imagine Project, featuring multi-cultural renditions of classic songs by John Lennon, Bob Dylan and Peter Gabriel, among others.

The Headhunters virtuoso announced the American dates with a promo video featuring an extended keytar solo alongside bassist James Genus.

Herbie Hancock 2017 Tour Dates

June 26 – Lviv, Ukraine @ Alfa Jazz Festival
June 29 – Paris, France @ La Seine Musicale
July 1 – Glyndebourne, UK @ Love Supreme Festival
July 2 – Montreux, Switzerland @ Montreux Jazz Festival – Stravinsky Hall
July 4 Vienna, Austria @ Vienna Jazz Festival
July 6 – Wadowice, Poland @ Mlyn Jazz Festival Wadowice
July 7 – Gent, Belgium @ Gent Jazz Festival
July 8 – Rotterdam, The Netherlands @ North Sea Jazz Festival
July 9 – Segré, France @ Saveurs Jazz Festival
July 10 – Stuttgart, Germany @ Jazzopen
July 12 – Vienne, France @ Jazz a Vienne
July 13 – Copenhagen, Denmark @ Copenhagen Jazz Festival
July 14 – Pori, Finland @ Pori Jazz Festival
July 17 – Nice, France @ Nice Jazz Festival
July 19 – Molde, Norway @ Molde Jazz Festival
July 20 – Reykjavik, Iceland @ Harpa Hall
July 22 – Amarante, Portugal @ Mimo Festival
July 23 – Freiburg, Germany @ Zelt Music Festival
July 24 – San Sebastian, Spain @ Auditorio Kursaal (TBD)
July 28 – Marseille, France @ Jazz des Five Continents
July 29 – Marciac, France @ Marciac Jazz Festival
August 6 – Red Bank, NJ @ Count Basie Theatre
August 7 – New York, NY @ Beacon Theatre
August 8 – Washington, DC @ Kennedy Center for Performing Arts
August 10 – St. Louis, MO @ Powell Symphony Hall
August 11 – Kansas City, MO @ Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts
August 14 – Denver, CO @ Denver Botanic Gardens
August 16 – Albuquerque, NM @ Kiva Auditorium
August 17 – Mesa, AZ @ Ikeda Theatre at Mesa Arts Center
August 19 – Stateline, NV @ Montbleu Resort Casino
August 20 – Salt Lake City, UT @ Red Butte Gardens
August 23 – Hollywood, CA @ Hollywood Bowl (w/ Kamasi Washington Supporting)
September 15 – Monterey, CA @ Monterey Jazz Festival
September 17 – Monterey, CA @ Monterey Jazz Festival (Duo w/ Chick Corea) 

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Watch Tim Robbins’ EDM Mockumentary ‘Ultimate Ultimate’

Tim Robbins teamed up with his filmmaker son, Jack Henry Robbins, for a mockumentary series that skewers EDM culture and the genre’s DJs.

Ultimate Ultimate, executive produced by the actor, premiered as a five-part series on Funny or Die, with each chapter making fun of another facet of EDM. One episode revolves around DJ Sparkle, a preteen girl who somehow draws a huge following in the EDM scene.

The mockumentary follows three up-and-comers, including a pair of frat bros and a middle-aged high school history teacher, as they attempt to become the “World DJ Champion.”

In an interview with Thump, the Robbins explained the inspiration behind the project. “I have no objection to people using electronic sounds in music at all. But I’m with Jack. I think people who are just button-pushers are ripe for satire,” Tim Robbins explained. “Because it is just pushing a button! And it’s ok if that makes people dance, but when you take yourself incredibly seriously as an artist when that is all you do, then I think you need to be satirized.”

The older Robbins is no stranger to mockumentaries as he wrote, directed and starred in the 1992 political satire Bob Roberts.

Watch all five episodes of Ultimate Ultimate at Funny or Die.

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Journey’s Neal Schon on ‘Emotional’ Steve Perry Reunion, Rock Hall Induction

It was a vision that Journey fans have been fantasizing about for years: Steve Perry and Neal Schon standing side-by-side on an arena stage holding their hands up high in the air together and hugging like old friends. It took the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to make this happen, but even that wasn’t enough to get Perry to actually sing with Journey again. Still, Schon says the important thing was getting the friendship back on track. We spoke to the guitarist about the big night, what happened with Steve Perry backstage and where this could all go in the future. 

It’s been four days. Are you still buzzing?
Yeah, man. It’s really kind of surreal. The whole event was amazing. I really loved seeing Steve Perry, who I haven’t seen in a long time, since we did the Hollywood Walk of Fame [in 2005]. I went in his room backstage. I think it was one of the reasons I was so highly emotional. I hadn’t seen him in a long time and I realized how tight we always were. Looking at the old pictures and listening to the music we made together, I got emotional. Probably had I not been in his room before so I wouldn’t have been as emotional, but who knows? Steve and I were very, very tight for so many years.

At the end of Journey, around Trial By Fire [in 1996] or even Raised on Radio [in 1986] we were having a falling out as far as the direction of the band. It was more or less like that. There were a lot of other issues going on that were kind of stupid looking back. I’d hoped we’d put everything aside and get back to our great friendship that we always had, the admiration and respect we had for one another. I felt like that was definitely there. Some of his friends were in the room with my wife and I, and they snapped some photos. People can genuinely see that he was very happy and so was I. Every picture tells a story.

Did you have contact with him in the days leading up to the ceremony?
No, I had no contact at all. I had no idea what was going on. TMZ was waiting for me outside of the London Hotel in New York and I was like, “I have a big zero for you guys. I have nothing.” I knew he was supposed to show up. That was the bottom line for me.

How did you feel at the start of the ceremony?
At first I was told that we were going on the first thing of the evening, so I was kind of looking forward to that. There was a lot of nerves seeing everybody together onstage for the first time in many, many years. A little tension. But it turned out that we were in the middle, so as the evening progressed and I listened to all the great bands I started to feel more nervous. By the time I went on, I was supposed to be the first one to speak. I had a whole speech written out. It wasn’t on the long side, but definitely from the heart. When I walked up to the mic and Steve met me and he gave me this big hug I just couldn’t get it together to read, so I didn’t read. Whenever I do anything like this I just kind of speak from my heart and sometimes I go, “Oh, shit. I forgot to say this and that.” But I think I hit on some of the vital points I wanted to make.

What did you and Steve talk about when you were in his room?
I looked at him and said, “Hey man, I really miss you.” There was very good eye contact. It was real. It wasn’t just things being said because of the ceremony and to keep things cool. He said, “Coffee is way overdue for us.” I went, “Let’s do it. Please.”

I saw photos of him meeting Arnel [Pineda], who just looked euphoric to meet the guy after all these years.
He was meeting one of his all-time idols. I told Steve that when I met him in the room. I thought that was very gracious of Steve to do, and him giving him props too for keeping the band going, someone that I found. Arnel is very grateful and I was happy to see that.

Did they meet prior to the speeches and performances or after?
I believe it was before.

TMZ reported that morning you were going to perform with Steve, which obviously didn’t happen. Were you aware of all the reports flying around that day?
I couldn’t help it. My phone was blowing up. I was on the phone with management. I was talking to them and they were kind of puzzled too since they hadn’t heard anything from his manager, and his manager didn’t know anything about it. After that they just made a statement saying he was just showing up to accept the award. Knowing everything else and how he was feeling – he was very emotional too – it’s understandable to me that he wouldn’t want to sing. It was just highly emotional.

Were you hoping he’d change his mind?
I wasn’t even thinking like that. To me, the main thing with Steve is that we were always great friends and music was kind of always there, but right now we haven’t seen each other in so long. I’m just looking forward to getting reacquainted with the guy and be his friend. That’s where I’m at.

I thought Arnel sounded amazing, especially with the pressure of knowing Steve was in the house.
Especially with the induction happening in front. Had it been the other way around I think he wouldn’t have been as nervous, but I could tell after doing many, many years with Arnel now – this is his 10th year – that he was very nervous. I know with the monitors it was very difficult to hear. It was very difficult for me to hear. He said he couldn’t hear anything. Who knows what we got there? I thought we played well. The band is always top notch, I think. He is always as good as he can hear.

How was it to have Gregg Rolie and Aynsley Dunbar back for one song?
I loved it. It was something I’ve been trying to make happen for some time. Without Gregg finding me at a little club in Palo Alto and coming in to see me play with a local Bay Area band, since he heard about me with Michael Shrieve, I never would have been introduced to Santana, and who knows where I’d be right now? I owe it all to those guys for taking me under their wing when I was so young. Without Santana, there would be no Journey.

How did the all-star jam on “Rockin’ in the Free World” come together?
It was really funny. That was my first time meeting those guys, definitely my first time meeting Eddie [Vedder]. They couldn’t have been nicer, all of them. All very, very cool, super-great guys. I had to go two days in a row for soundcheck before the event. The first day was for Journey and the second day was for the jam. We head over there from downtown New York. I get there just in time for soundcheck and there’s a zillion people on the stage, as you saw, all the Rush guys and everybody else, Trevor [Rabin]. I was putting some settings on a new amp company I’m working with called Revv, we’re working on a Schon model. The amp sounded very good and I was cranking it up because they play really loud.

We went through Neil Young’s song “Rockin’ in the Free World” one time, and that was it. Eddie comes over to me and goes, “You play the first solo and we’ll hand it off to the other side of the stage and then Alex [Lifeson] can play and Trevor and everyone else.” It was like that fast. I’d never played the song before, but obviously I’d heard it on the radio. Once I found it was in E minor I was like, “Oh, this is pretty easy.” I managed to play some cool parts that night playing it for the second time.

It was a lot of fun to watch. Nowhere else would you see you guys playing with Pearl Jam, Yes and Rush.
Yeah. I loved that. I hope in the future … I’m very adaptable as a guitar player; I’m kind of like a chameleon, so I’d love to be involved with any other jams from here out. There’s so many artists that I appreciate and enjoy and would love to play with, but never had an opportunity to. I’m hopeful this will open up some opportunities.

Tell me some other highlights of the night for you.
Honestly, I thought everyone was so good. I thought that Yes was very good. They had a great performance. They sounded very tight, Steve Howe, Trevor. Everything sounded great. Alicia Keys kicked my ass. If I had a choice of playing with one other person besides Pearl Jam it would have been her since I have huge blues and R&B roots that some people know, but not a lot. I could have definitely ripped that stuff up in a different way.

Did you watch most of the show from your table?
I did. I watched everything until we played, but then we went back to do interviews. I was bummed i didn’t get to see Lenny [Kravitz] since I was busy in the back doing interviews. I missed pretty much the rest of the show, but I managed to go out onstage about 10 minutes before I went on. I saw Pearl Jam from the back. I could hear it. They sounded amazing, by the way. I love the feel of the band and I’ve always liked them from when they first came out. I remember I was in the studio and this A&R guy came in with their first record. I was like, “Wow, this sounds really fresh.” I liked the drumming on the record and the writing. Their drummer is very strong and I enjoyed playing with him too.

For so many fans, the moment of you and Steve holding your hands up in the air was something they’d wanted to see for years.
Like I said, every picture tells a story. I saw him for the first time in many, many years. We hung out in his room for 10, 15 minutes. None of that stuff was planned, the hug, none of it. It was all real. When I looked at it and said, “Look at how unified we are still, to this day” … Everything is very genuine between us. I feel great gratitude and respect when I look at it.

He said backstage he’s finished a solo album.
I’m excited to hear it.

How would you feel if he toured by himself and played Journey songs?
Well, you know what, I’d feel great. We’ve been doing it forever, and he actually did it before we did it with his own solo tour. He owns the songs as much as we do. He helped build them, wrote them, sang them, cemented them in cement in everyone’s hearts and minds and souls. He’s very overdue to be able to do that. I have nothing but respect for him. I can also tell you after we get together some more and get our friendship even more solidified, I almost feel like we’re back where we started. We have some talking to do, but I’d love to work with him on something on the side, not necessarily Journey, something more bluesy more R&B-ish, soul.

The fantasy of so many fans is to see some sort of reunion.
He was telling me about his record, and I was telling him about my new record I’m working on with Narada Michael Walden and his eyes got big because he knows who Narada is. I approached Narada to do a solo record with me and he wrote everything, produced everything and he’s playing on it, playing his ass off. If I get together with Steve in the Bay Area before we go on tour again in the next week or so, I’d love to go get coffee with him and bring him over there and have him listen to this record since I think he’d enjoy it.

I think a lot of people were presuming he didn’t sing at the Hall of Fame since his voice isn’t what it used to be and he didn’t want to live up to what it sounded like 30 years ago.
Seriously, we can play in any key he wanted to play. I was aware, like everyone else was, that he went out a couple of years ago and played with the Eels. I noticed that the keys were lower, but there’s nothing wrong with that. It still sounded like him, very soulful. He’s got a very recognizable voice. Even when he was talking I was like, “That’s the voice.”

Why do you think he didn’t sing then? He was just overwhelmed by emotion?
I think so. He was tearing up. I was definitely tearing up. I had tears running down my eyes. I was trying to keep my composure on the stage for that event, but it was something that was too strong.

A couple days after the ceremony I was reading that Myles Garrett, this 21-year-old college football recruit, is a huge Journey fan. He was saying his favorite album is Escape. It just seems like this music gets more and more popular as the years go by.
I’ve noticed that too. I would have never imagined that, but I do understand why. It’s really soulful. With Steve singing on top of it, it’s not only rocking like a motherfucker, but it’s really soulful since his roots are soul and R&B and blues: Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, all those guys. When you mix that on top of the music that we all wrote it’s a unique experience to listen to. Back in the day when we would get lumped in with every band that was successful at that time from the 1980s I would think to myself, “You know what, I disagree. We have something really unique.” When you look at a lot of our early records like Infinity, it was so brand new and fresh and organic.

A 21-year-old fan has no sense of the critical reaction at the time. They just know the songs.
Right. Also, all they have to compare it to is what’s been on the radio and what people are pushing since they’ve been born, so there’s not a whole lot out there unless you know exactly where to look and find it.

One of the coolest things about all this is you’re known forever known as Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Neal Schon.
I guess so! It does feel really great. I know I’ve said in the past that I didn’t really care about it since we were never up for induction, 17 years later than we were, but at least we won, we got it. I really feel like we owe a lot of it to the fans. Without our fans voting the way they did, relentlessly, fighting the way they did, this wouldn’t have happened. 

You didn’t used to care, but I’m sure you do now.
I do now that we’re in! I probably lied before when I said we didn’t. 

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Brilliant, Genre-Blurred African Pop Artists Thrive in Age of Xenophobia

African music is at the core of practically every melody and rhythm from the Americas: gospel, blues, jazz, rock & roll, R&B, samba, son, soul, salsa, disco, calypso, reggae, hip-hop, house, techno. Back in the motherland, meanwhile, feedback loops involving these hybrids shaped others in turn – one reason African pop is such a rich, hall-of-mirrors listening experience. Though, more simply, its irresistible groove poetry speaks for itself. With new immigration paranoia stifling cultural exchange, a burst of 2017 releases GPS-ing some epic African journeys is both encouraging and frustrating – evidence of what a nation misses when it’s busy building walls.

Foremost of the current bumper crop is Senegal’s Orchestra Baobab, one of the most sublime dance bands in Africa, who have released their first LP in nearly ten years, Tribute To Ndiouga Dieng. Baobab evolved from the Star Band in late Sixties/early Seventies Dakar – a musically-rich port city, not unlike New Orleans – and made melting-pot sounds: deep-rooted African styles stewed with colonial flavors. There was the French influence, naturally, and via the southern Casamance region, the Portuguese. There was American jazz, soul, rock and Caribbean tinges – foremost the Cuban sound that began shaping West African musical DNA deeply in the 1940s, when 78s by Conjunto Matamoros and others washed ashore with sailors and started blowing minds.

All their records are seductive, but the defining Baobab document remains the album issued in Senegal as Ken Dou Werente in 1983, in England as Pirate’s Choice in 1989 and expanded for U.S. audiences in 2002, when the band rebooted for their first proper international tour after 15 years of retirement. Why did they quit? Audience tastes change, and their elegant polyglot sound was overshadowed by the more agitated, indigenous style of mbalax, which Baobab nodded to but which younger acts (most famously Youssou N’Dour and Etoile De Dakar) fully owned. Like the Buena Vista Social Club project, also spurred by the British World Circuit label, Baobab was a throwback whose pre-independence echoes became popular in the West, maybe tellingly. But decades of cultural self-determination in Senegal also provided new perspective on the music’s thoroughly African beauty.

Dieng, one of the group’s trio of lead singers, died last year. He was the griot, the group’s key Wolof voice, the one behind the galloping “Werente Serigne” on Pirate’s Choice, the guy who sang about the slave-trade history of Goree Island while playing tour guide to Trey Anastasio and Dave Matthews for a VH1 documentary-cum-concert back in 2004. (He also taught Matthews how to passably sing backing vocals on “Utras Horas.”) Co-founding frontmen Balla Sidibé and Rudy Gomis carry the torch, with vocal assists from ex-bandmate Thione Seck and countryman Cheikh Lô.

More pronounced than Dieng’s absence is that of Barthelemy Attisso, whose signature quicksilver guitar leads branded the band from the get-go. Why one of the planet’s greatest electric guitarists would retire from Baobab to resume his law practice in Togo, and not the other way around, is puzzling, but c’est la vie. Beninese guitarist René Sowatche pinch hits respectably here and there, but it’s Abdoulaye Cissoko’s kora which takes center stage. A new element in their mix, the kora makes Baobab’s sound more ancient and, in an Afrocentric-fusion sense, more modern. It also makes it less distinctive and a little less intense. See “Foula,” which smoothes out the group’s antsy mid-Seventies recording of “Kanoute.” “Sey” also dates back to the Seventies, when the band recorded a galloping version with dissonant Attiso riffing. The remake here is more supple, Sowatche stoking a fire and Seck – who sang the original before leaving Baobab to become a solo star – showcasing a remarkably preserved voice. “Woulinewa” is another oldie, a stately reading of Kebendo Jazz’s “Woulignewa,” the magnificent, dizzying late-Sixties Afro-Cuban jam that turned up on Afro Latin Via Conakry, an outstanding Guinean compilation that parallels Baobab’s early sound. Here, Cissoko’s kora again stands in for the original guitar, conjuring steel pan tones, while Issa Cissokho’s sax supplants the original’s breathtaking, note-stretching trumpet solo.

At a recent Dakar show, some Dieng songs were sung by his son Alpha, who was born the night of a Baobab gig in 1972; Sidibe recalled celebrating after the show. Senegal is a predominantly Muslim country; it isn’t on any immigration-ban lists yet, so hopefully Americans will get another chance to see the band stateside. The nation has maintained good U.S. relations over the years. Yet it stands to lose tens of millions of dollars of U.S. aid money flagged for health care, thanks to Trump’s anti-abortion global gag rule. This will have the biggest impact on women’s health care services in the region, which need all the help they can get.

That’s one issue inspiring Les Amazones d’Afrique, a West African supergroup whose République Amazone is deep ancient-to-the-future pop. Mariam Doumbia (of Amadou & Mariam) and Mamani Keita helped conceive the project in Bamako, recruiting countrywomen Kandia Kouyaté, Mariam Koné, Massan Coulibaly and Mouneissa Tandina along with Gabon’s Pamela Badjogo, Benin-to-Brooklyn émigré Angelique Kidjo, and Lagos–to–Hamburg émigré Nneka. Intent on advancing gender equality in Africa and supporting the Panzi Foundation, which works with victims of sexual violence, the 10-woman crew hired Liam “Doctor L” Farrell, who imprinted Mbongwana Star’s fantastic 2015 debut with dub-distortion flavor à la Congolese beat pioneers (and Björk tourmates) Konono No. 1. He brings similar Congotronic sonics here: electro-kalimba, flanged talking-drum tones galloping around rapid-fire handclaps and hand-drum beats, plus layers of vocal processing and some ripping electric guitar. The styles swing wildly, from the Labelle-meets-Lee Perry haze of Nneka’s “La Dame and Ses Valises” through the Wassalou free-jazz space funk of “I Play the Kora.” It’s not your mom’s Afropop, though some of the singers may be old enough to be her mom.

Oumou Sangaré, one of the great queens of Malian music, was part of the project’s concept, though she didn’t wind up on the LP; maybe because she had her hands full with her own record, along with side hustles including a hotel, an automobile line (the “Oum Sang”) and a rice brand, not to mention work with the United Nations. Since her last LP eight years ago, Sangaré left World Circuit to record with the Parisian indie No Format label, and her sound, still rooted in her Wassalou traditionalism, has become more beat-forward. “Yere Faga,” a song about suicide, pairs her with Africa’s ultimate drum machine, Fela Kuti’s Afrobeat co-creator Tony Allen, who motors a psychedelic mix, with backing vocal bursts and Hendrixian guitar noise flashing by like comets. The video finds her in a smoky warehouse full of tires, rocking electric blue lipstick and a regal blonde weave, making a pitch for staying alive while a badass young dancer stalks the streets of Bamako, ultimately rallying her comrades from a shebeen table-top. On other tracks where the production touch is lighter, Mogoya is rooted in the sound of the traditional kamele n’goni harp, while the title track is a gorgeous blues unspooled over flickering synths and what sounds like a cello in an ice cave.

Of course, electronics are as “traditional” for African musicians by now as they are for the rest of the world. Nigeria’s William Onyeabor, who died in January, pioneered an Afrobeat offshoot in the Seventies and Eighties driven by synthesizers and drum machines. It had a fantastic revival over the past few years thanks to reissues on the David Byrne-founded Luaka Bop label, which is now working with Janka Nabay, a Muslim expat living in the States and continuing the electro-funk tradition, reimagining the “bubu music” of his native Sierra Leone.

Nabay’s career got jumpstarted in the Nineties when, in the midst of a bloody, protracted civil war, he won a Freetown talent contest by electrifying what had been regional Ramadan processional music played on bamboo flutes and percussion. Nabay flipped its rhythms and drones and, in time, began addressing the war in his lyrics. As factions began using his used his music to rally people, he was caught in the middle, and eventually fled to Senegal, where he got a U.S. visa. He ended up in New York City, connected with some young Brooklyn musicians, put out an EP on the indie True Panther label, and began a new stage.

Build Music, his second Luaka Bop set, is a head rush of oddball melodies, guitar loops, and beats that sync up ass-backwards, magically. See the title track, with its mosaic of handclaps, agogo bell, and day-glo synth smears; and “Angbolieh,” which weaves sampled bubu flutes into a dreamy, drone-glazed mix. The lyrics mash-up English, Sierra Leone Krio and bits of Arabic – Nabay is trying to connect across multiple platforms in his adopted home. It ain’t easy: “Santa Monica” is part memoir about being hassled by cops before performing at the Getty Museum, the words “investigation interrogation” looping vertiginously over chattering guitars and dance-party beats.

Johannesburg’s Spoek Mathambo is another beat scientist averse to the obvious: his debut featured a head-turning cover of Joy Division’s “She’s Lost Control” (with a sly nod to Grace Jones’s version, and his second LP, Father Creeper, was issued in the U.S. by the diversifying Seattle indie-rock hosts Sub Pop. Like Prince, to whom Mathambo been compared, this is a creative mind intent on leading, not following. Mzansi Beat Code, his best set yet and one of the year’s most thrilling pop rides by any measure, is less an avant-pop LP with club-music fixations than a killer DJ mix with a muscular song sense. In some ways, it’s the object-lesson counterpart to Mathambo’s Future Sounds of Mzansi, an essential 2015 documentary on South African electronic music which he produced. “Want Ur Love” has Mathambo’s band stutter-strutting digital funk under the sister-duo Kajama, who deliver the year’s most resonant chant so far: “For fuck’s sake, love!” Some grooves lock into established styles like kwaito, South Africa’s recalibration of Chicago house (“Black Rose,” “The Mountain”), and the starker, darker gqom – check “Sifin’imali Yethu,” abetted by moniker-prize-winner DJ Jumping Back Slash and a weirdly menacing reprise of Shaggy’s ’95 dancehall crossover smash “Boombastic.” Other beat equations are playfully tough to pin down: see “Volcan,” with Tijuana indie-rock comer Ceci Bastida. Mzansi Beat Code ends with “Pula,” which winkingly shuffles a barrage of modern styles with the Eighties “township jive” sound Paul Simon tapped on Graceland – still probably the most high-profile African pop fusion LP in history. But maybe not forever. 

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14 Best Instagram Apps For Taking Your Content To The Next Level

2Although it hasn’t been around as long as some social media platforms, Instagram has nonetheless become a crowded place to try and get your brand (or your band) notice. Fortunately, there are a variety of Instagram apps which allow you to diversify your content offerings and stand out from the crowd.


Guest post by Dara Fontein of Hootsuite

Over 5 million businesses around the world use Instagram to tell their story. With this much competition, it’s clear your brand needs to find new ways to stand out. Thankfully, there are Instagram apps that can help.

To save you time, we’ve rounded up 14 of the best apps out there. Check out the video below for five of our favorites and read on for the full list.

The 14 best Instagram apps you need to download now

1. Layout

Layout lets you create collages by remixing your own photos. The app gives users creative control so you instantly see your photos laid out in various combinations—and edit them to make them unique.

You can combine up to nine photos at a time to make one image, which you can preview before posting to Instagram.

This is a great app for those looking to:

  • Show before and after content (such as for interior design firms, cleaning products, hairdressers, big hotel renovations, etc.)
  • Showcase their best user generated content
  • Highlight behind-the-scenes shots of employees and offices
  • Show off a sequence of new product releases

Free for iOS

Free for Android

2. Hootsuite Enhance

Editing your Instagram photos can increase the number of views by 21 percent and raise engagement by more than 45 percent. Hootsuite Enhance offers an all-in-one photo editing solution to help you find better content, get more comments and likes, and build brand awareness.

Hootsuite Enhance makes it easy to:

  • Crop and size photos for each social network
  • Edit with filters, borders, stickers, and overlays
  • Source images from the stock photo database
  • Share straight to the social network of your choice (or schedule through Hootsuite to share later)

Free for iOS

3. Have2Have.It

Soldsie’s Have2Have.it  bridges the gap between buyers and sellers on Instagram.

The mobile app allows businesses on Instagram to create, schedule, and post photos and video with links to the products or services online. Have2Have.it:

  • Drives followers directly to your e-commerce website
  • Guides customers to complete their purchase
  • Lets audience members discover more products

You can try Have2Have.It free for 30 days through their site.

Their mobile app is free on iOS

4. Boomerang

Boomerang lets you create engaging content with just one button. The tool shoots a burst of 10 photos and turns them into a short mini-video that loops back and forth, GIF-style.

You can share your Boomerang right from the app, or save it to your camera roll to share another time. Boomerang gives marketers the opportunity to delight their audiences with a fun visual that deviates from a regular Instagram photo.

You can either use the standalone Boomerang app, or take a Boomerang from within the Instagram app.

Free for iOS

Free for Android

5. Hootsuite Campaigns App

Seventy percent of Instagram users have already taken part in a contest on Instagram—or would be willing to do so if given the opportunity. The Hootsuite Campaigns app helps enterprise clients manage contests and sweepstakes from within the Hootsuite dashboard.

Users can curate content in Instagram and Twitter galleries, ban and approve photos and videos for contests, moderate comments from each campaign, and track participant data and analytics.

With an Instagram Gallery contest run through Hootsuite Campaigns, you can collect user-generated content that showcases your business through the eyes of customers. Hootsuite Campaigns also allows you to:

  • Accept entries via hashtag or @mention
  • Enable voting and commenting on submissions to boost engagement
  • Track and analyze participant and campaign data

For more information, check out our post How to Run a Successful Instagram Contest.

Free to use through the Hootsuite App Directory.

6. Hyperlapse

Hyperlapse from Instagram lets you shoot time-lapsed video to share with your followers.

Thanks to the in-app stabilization technology, you can capture non-shaky video that was previously impossible without a tripod. And you can playback your videos up to 40 times faster than their original speed.

Use Hyperlapse to:

  • Go behind the scenes: Show the human side of your business with impromptu videos of what the gang is up to.
  • Show your product in action: Share the use case for the products or services you’re selling in relatable, everyday ways.
  • Share another perspective: Surprise your customers with unexpected ways they can use your products or services.

7. Microsoft Selfie

Microsoft Selfie is a photo-editing app available through iOS, web, and WeChat. What sets the app apart from other similar offerings is that Microsoft Selfie uses AI to enhance your photos. The app’s key features include:

  • Intelligent photo enhancement, where the app “intelligently considers age, gender, skin tone, lighting, and many other variables—all with one click”
  • Noise reduction, where the app “automatically enables “Denoise” mode, and effectively reduces noise by using burst shots”
  • Auto Exposure, where Microsoft Selfie “applies automatic exposure correction and photo clarifying, especially for backlit photos”

Instead of having to manually edit each aspect of a photo—such as brightness, contrast, structure, or clarity—you can save time with Microsoft Selfie’s intelligent photo boosting features.

Free for iOS

Free for Android

8. Pic Stitch

Pic Stitch is the number one photo and video collage app available, and called one of the top seven photography apps of all time by Mashable.

With Pic Stitch, users can:

  • Choose from over 245 collage layouts and 15 different aspect ratios (1×1, 4×6, etc.)
  • Add music to a collage
  • Order images directly through Shutterfly
  • Customize photo borders
  • Rotate, flip, mirror, and zoom

Once you’ve created your masterpiece, you can upload it straight to Instagram, Facebook, Dropbox, Twitter, or Evernote.

Free for iOS

$2.29 for Windows

9. Hootsuite (dashboard or mobile app)

User-generated content makes it easy for a brand to highlight their own product or service without a lot of work. And praise for your business is often more trustworthy when it comes from a third-party.

Hootsuite makes it super easy to “regram”—that is, repost—content from other users on Instagram.

Users can view their Instagram feed from within Hootsuite and simply tap the image they’d like to regram, and then click on the reshare icon.

The original photo owner’s Instagram username will automatically appear in the caption.

Free for iOS

Free for Android

Bonus: Download a free checklist that reveals the exact steps an adventure photographer used to grow from 0 to 110,000 followers on Instagram with no budget and no expensive gear. Plus we’ll show you how you can use Hootsuite to grow your own following on Instagram and other platforms.

10. WhenToPost

It’s important to post Instagram content at a time when your audience is likely to be online. The WhenToPost app is an Instagram specific app that helps take some of the guesswork out of this process.


  • Generates a heat map which tells you the best times to post your Instagram content
  • Provides a countdown to your next top time to share content
  • Shows a graph with the best times of the week to post to Instagram

For more on when to share content, check out our guide to The Best Time to Post on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Free for iOS

Free for Android

11. Clips

Available for free in April 2017, Apple’s Clips app lets users make and share short-form videos complete with special effects, text, graphics, and more.

One of the more interesting features of Clips is Live Titles, which let you create animated captions simply by talking as you record using Siri. Clips also uses a specialized facial recognition technology thanks to Apple’s Machine Learning technology. It compares faces of those in your video to those in your device’s picture library. Not only that, but Clips will find these individuals in your address book and let you share the video with them in one click.

Coming soon

12. Swipeable

Panoramic shots can be a fun change from your regular photos, but getting them right can be a challenge. Swipeable is designed specifically with Instagram users in mind. It lets you easily take and share panoramic and 360-degree photos on the platform.

Swipeable uses the carousel function to automatically divide your panoramas into square pieces so they can be viewed in sequence. This can come in handy when:

  • You’re trying to fit lots of people in a photo
  • Capturing a bigger product image
  • Showing a tour of your company’s new offices

Free for iOS

13. Captiona

Your audience is 70 percent more likely to convert if they experience an emotional reaction to your content—and the right Instagram caption can make this happen. The Captiona app helps Instagram users come up with clever and funny captions that engage their audience.

To use Captiona, simply enter a keyword related to your content (such as “shoes” or “computer”) and the app will give you a list of results including sayings, quotations, catchphrases, and “on-trend” lines.

You can then tap to copy the caption of your choice, and paste it into your Instagram content description.

If you’d like to learn more about creating Instagram captions, take a look at our post How to Write Great Instagram Captions That Drive Engagement.

$0.99 on iOS

14. Prime for Instagram

Timing is everything—especially when it comes to your Instagram posts. Prime, like WhenToPost mentioned above, suggests optimal times for users to post to Instagram.

Prime uses a “powerful algorithm to process hundreds of thousands of data points to determine when your followers are online, their activity, their relation to you, and, ultimately, when you should be posting to Instagram.”

Prime helps make sure the most audience members possible see your post, which is important when:

  • You have a high-quality post you want to make sure gets seen
  • You have a new product announcement
  • You have a post announcing a store closure or new hours
  • There is any time-sensitive or high-level announcement you want to share with an Instagram post

Consider testing out both WhenToPost and Prime to see which app’s recommendations work best for your brand and business goals.

Free for iOS

The right tool can make all the difference for busy social media marketers. These apps can help boost the quality of your Instagram content—while saving you time.

Easily schedule Instagram content and manage all of your social media accounts with Hootsuite.

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