Kali Uchis turns Isolation into community at the TLA

Kali Uchis | photo by Koof Ibi Umoren |

Kali Uchis blessed the TLA this week on the last leg of her tour. The 24 year old Colombian-American singer is coming off of a great few years of releases and collaborations. Her 2017 included features with Gorillaz, Tyler the Creator, Miguel, Bootsy Collins, and Daniel Caesar, with a Grammy nomination for her performance and co-writing of “Get You.” This year saw the release of her debut studio album Isolation and the In Your Dreams Tour with Gabriel Garzon-Montano, which came to the TLA on Monday night. Continue reading →


Tinariwen explores open spaces for a captivated TLA crowd

Tinariwen | photo by Koof Ibi Umoren |

Tinariwen needs no opening act; the group had the audience captivated all on their own for over an hour and a half this weekend at The Theater of Living Arts. They’ve been described as a electric guitar orchestra or desert blues, and likened to the music of Malian folk/blues musician Ali Farka Toure. None of these comparisons do the band justice.

Tinariwen, which means either “open spaces,” “empty places,” or just “deserts,” depending on who translates your Tamasheq, mixes the traditional sounds of the Tuareg culture with blues/rock electric guitars, hypnotic percussion, and poetic vocals that are usually sung in a call and response form that emphasizes their meaning. Continue reading →


tUnE-yArDs brings new album and new questions about privilege and power to Union Transfer

tUnE-yArDs | photo by Koof Ibi Umoren for WXPN

tUnE-yArDs’ core, Merrill Garbus and Nate Brenner, has stayed consistent since the band’s 2009 debut. For their current tour, which came to Union Transfer last Thursday, they’ve forgone the spectacle of the saxophone section, background vocalis and percussionists of previous tours. Adding Hamir Atwal on drums and keeping the band a trio-piece is no hinderance to the music, as Tune-Yards has perfected the ability to bring their full album sound to a live stage. “Make sure you watch her feet,” went a reminder from an audience member during the set break, calling attention to the fact the Garbus’ instruments of choice this tour were mainly a small drum pad, minimal ukulele, and a slew of effect and loop pedals that she seemed to have a virtuosic mastery of. Continue reading →


Big Thief’s Adrianne Lenker and Nick Hakim bring Johnny Brenda’s to a hush with two sold out solo sets

Adrianne Lenker | photo by Koof Ibi Umoren for WXPN

Two seated shows on a snowy night at Johnny Brenda’s last Wednesday night had the audience holding their breath in fear of interrupting these intimate solo performers. If you closed your eyes you, couldn’t tell that anyone was in the room beside the person onstage. Performing for sold out crowds at 6 p.m. and 9 p.m., Adrianne Lenker (co-frontperson of acclaimed indie folk act Big Thief) and Nick Hakim had the room’s complete attention. Continue reading →


Tyler The Creator and Vince Staples go big, introspectively, at the Liacouras Center

Tyler The Creator | photo by Koof Ibi Umoren for WXPN

Vince Staples and Tyler, The Creator are showing serious growth from the now-disbanded Odd Future crew. With more attention spent on interactive stage settings at the Liacouras Center last week, each artist was able to deliver a more introspective set then we’ve seen from them in the past. Continue reading →


Kimbra gives Philly fans a sneak preview of Primal Heart at Union Transfer

Kimbra | photo by Koof Ibi Umoren for WXPN

New Zealand singer/songwriter Kimbra took the stage at Union Transfer last Wednesday night, standing in front of two cube projector screens that slightly hid her bandmates. It made it clear: she was the main focus of the set, as was the music of her forthcoming record Primal Heart. With the right projector flash, Spencer Zahn, bass, and Timon Martin, guitar, could be seen rocking out and adding music textures with the multitude of tiny electronic music boards that seem to be able to do anything. A similar synth / vocal processing station was positioned center stage for Kimbra, allowing her to manipulate her already wildly flexible voice. Continue reading →


The Key’s Year-End Mania: Koof Ibi Umoren’s favorite non-traditional venues of 2017

Under the Greys Ferry Bridge | photo by Koof Ibi Umoren

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2017 incredible. Today, Key photographer Koof Ibi Umoren (who plays trumpet with West Philadelphia Orchestra, Little Strike and a host of others) shares Philly’s best non-traditional venues to perform at in 2017.

Traditional music venues need musicians and beer in order to successful. This year has proven that musicians need beer, but not necessarily the traditional music venues. A musician can spend a lot of time performing in Philadelphia without setting foot on a traditional stage. If you’re smart and you chose an acoustic instrument in elementary school, and didn’t give it up for a cooler electronic instrument in college, then the world is literally your stage This year I’ve had the pleasure of playing and attending shows at some very interesting Philadelphia “venues,” and here’s a recap of some of my favorites. Continue reading →


PHOTOS: Kamasi Washington and Sun Ra Arkestra at Union Transfer

Kamasi Washington | photo by Koof Ibi Umoren for WXPN

Union Transfer was packed to the rafters Saturday night when West Coast jazz visionary Kamasi Washington headlined with his octet. Touring in support of this year’s EP Harmony of Difference, Washington got to share the stage with the Sun Ra Arkestra, the storied Philly ensemble carrying the legacy of an artist pivotal to Washington’s own musical development. Check out a gallery of photo from the show below, and read more about Washington in this interview with The Key’s Alex Smith.   Continue reading →