Step out of the darkness with Ali Awan’s “Be A Light” video

Ali Awan | still from video

Philly indie rock singer-songwriter Ali Awan plays with imagery surrounding radiance and shadow in his new music video for the retro-rock single “Be A Light.” Directed by Awan’s bandmate Kirby Sybert, the video creates a montage of scenes that show the singer in noir-ish deep shadows, or reclining in the moody lighting of an empty beige space, intercut with kaleidoscopic flashes — Awan becoming part of a painting, Awan in the center of a mirrored celestial pattern. Continue reading →


Free At Noon Flashback: Ali Awan and his band raise the roof at World Cafe Live

Ali Awan | photo by Meghan Weale for WXPN |

“Everybody at the station is jumping up and down for this week’s guest,” said XPN’s Helen Leicht at the top of this week’s Free at Noon concert, and she’s not kidding. Ali Awan is the rare artist that practically the entire staff is rallying around, from Mike Vasilikos giving him his radio debut last March, to Kristen Kurtis naming his album one of her most anticipated of 2019, to his recent ripper of a Key Studio Session.

Awan started the show the same way he started that session: with “Magic Wheel,” a dreamy midtempo tune built around lead guitar harmonies between Awan and guitarist Kirby Sybert. From here, the set launched immediately into the roof-raising “Poison and Potion,” followed by the vibey “Citadel Blues,” Awan’s debut single that came out just over a year ago. Continue reading →


The Key Studio Sessions: Ali Awan

“I kind of get stir crazy if I’m not out playing shows,” says Ali Awan. “I always have to be in a certain project, I love writing and working on stuff.”

In recent years, the Philadelphia psych rock singer-songwriter — WXPN’s Artist to Watch for the month of January — has played lead guitar in a handful of northeast bands, including Philly’s Needle Points and New York’s Jane Church. But his own solo material was always in back-of-mind, and the four songs populating his Bandcamp page, going back to his year-old debut solo release “Citadel Blues,” were all the result of downtime within other projects.

“I was pretty much writing a lot of this stuff as I was in those bands, but I never knew how I wanted to present it,” he says. “Should I get a band together? Is it just a recording project? Playing ‘Citadel’ live was the last thing on my mind, because as much as I love being a frontperson, I also love just playing guitar.”

It’s not a new obsession, either. Awan is 26 now, but he’s been playing music around Philly for more than a decade, going back to when he was a 14-year-old kid who would take the regional rail downtown from Abington to catch punk shows in basement venues with names like Disgraceland and Halfway House.
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Watch Helen Leicht’s 10th Annual Home for the Holidays concert featuring Ali Awan, Hardwork Movement, Katie Frank, Mutlu and more

The 10th Annual XPN Home for the Holidays concert | photo by Lisa Schaffer |

XPN midday host Helen Leicht has been celebrating the holidays on air since 2009 with her annual Home For the Holidays concert, gathering some of her favorite voices in the Philadelphia region to sing festive music for the final XPN Local show of the year.

For the tenth annual edition of the concert, Helen took Home For the Holidays out of the studio and onto the stage. Recorded on Sunday, December 2nd before a sold-out crowd at World Cafe Live, this year’s Home For the Holidays included ten musicians in the round, plus two featured performances and a group singalong to close the night. Continue reading →


Swift Technique’s new single “Annawanna” will be one of your summertime jams

Swift Technique | photo via

Funkified Philly octet Swift Technique is back with a summertime jam titled “Annawanna,” It has an infectiously catchy beat that will get your feet movin’ and your hips groovin’, with a variety of instruments such as horns (saxophone, trumpet, trombone), guitars, electric bass, percussion, and keyboards to create this funk-alicious tapestry. Over it all, frontwoman Chelsea ViaCava takes center stage with commanding vocals, while Alex Ayala kills it with a wild keyboard solo. Continue reading →


Noura Mint Seymali will change everything you think about Afropop

Noura Mint Seymali | Photo courtesy of the artist
Noura Mint Seymali | Photo courtesy of the artist

American writers generally have a tough time talking about African music, and it’s easy to see why. For those listeners who lack the time and resources to learn any of the continent’s hundreds of languages, not to mention every subdivision and nuance of music under the sun, our knowledge is restricted to the handful of artists that music writers can feel confident talking about – artists with global ambitions that, in a digital age, likely make some amount of choice to spread their message to a global audience with whatever power of presentation they have.

The term “Afropop” is a catch-all for a lot of popular music styles from across the continent, but chances are high that you’re only think about very specific artists or genres. Highlife. Fela Kuti. Youssou N’Door. Antibalas. Afrobeat (Kuti’s term). These signifiers conjure up images of large bands with elaborate horn and percussion sections, a few electric instruments sitting comfortably alongside traditional African ones, syncopated rhythms and evocative lyrical refrains that blur the line between dance party and socio-political rally.

An artist like Noura Mint Seymali, who makes her Philadelphia debut at The Painted Bride this Saturday, do not fit so neatly into that narrative. Continue reading →


Strand of Oaks, Killiam Shakespeare, Great Time and more will play the #AmplifyPhilly showcase at SXSW

Strand of Oaks | photo by John Vettese for WXPN // Killiam Shakespeare | photo by Matthew Shaver for WXPN // Great Time | photo by Senia Lopez for WXPN

The annual SXSW festival is right around the corner, and once again the #AmplifyPhilly showcase is setting up shop on 6th Street in downtown Austin to show off some of the best names in Philadelphia music.

Headlining #AmplifyPhilly, which takes place on Monday, March 11th of this year, is Strand of Oaks, who is just ahead of releasing the new Eraserland LP on Dead Oceans Records. Continue reading →


Nobody’s “Standing In Place” during a Mo Lowda & the Humble show

Mo Lowda and the Humble | photo by Dylan Eddinger for WXPN |

Friday night, Philly rockers Mo Lowda & the Humble played a sold-out show at Johnny Brenda’s to continue celebrating their latest release, 2018’s Creatures LP. Known for their energetic sound paired with anthemic vocals and heavy-alt rock influences, Mo Lowda is a Philly hometown rock and roll staple, and this was their last show before embarking on a European tour at the end of the month. Continue reading →