Apr 6, 2013

Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou - The Skeletal Essences Of Voodoo Funk (by analogafrica)

Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou is arguably West Africa’s best-kept secret. Their output, both in quantity and quality, was astonishing. During several trips to Benin, Samy Ben Redjeb managed to collect roughly 500 songs which Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou had recorded between 1970 and 1983.

The cultural and spiritual riches of traditional Beninese music had an immense impact on the sound of Benin’s modern music. Benin is the birthplace of Vodun (also Vodoun, or, as it is known in the West, Voodoo), a religion which involves the worship of some 250 sacred divinities. The rituals used to pay tributes to those divinities are always backed by music. The majority of the complex poly-rhythms of the vodun are still more or less secret and difficult to decipher, even for an accomplished musician. Anthropologists and ethnomusicologists agree that this religion constitutes the principal “cultural bridge” between Africa and all its Diasporas of the New World and in a reflection of the power and influence of these sounds many of the complex rhythms were to have a profound impact on the other side of the Atlantic on rhythms as popular as Blues, Jazz, Cuban and Brazilian music.

Two Vodun rhythms dominate the music of Orchestre Poly-Rythmo: Sato, an amazing, energetic rhythm performed using an immense vertical drum, and Sakpata, a rhythm dedicated to the divinity who protects people from smallpox. Both rhythms are represented here mixed in with Funk, Soul, Crazy organ sounds and Psychedelic guitar riffs. Bandleader Melome Clement explains: “Sato is a traditional rhythm derived from Vodun. It is used in Benin during annual rituals in memory of the dead; you can’t just play Sato at any given time. Sato is also the name of a drum which is used during the ceremonies. It’s huge: about 175 centimeters high. The drummers, armed with sticks, dance around it and hit it all at the same time. It’s very coordinated. The Sato drummers are backed by an orchestra of smaller drums and shakers. We also did some modern versions of a Vodun rhythm called Sakpata.  


Take funk, soul, psychedelia and rumba, mix it up with a thick dose of heavy local rhythms and throw everything in a Benin grinder. The brew is then mixed up with hypnotic Farfisa solos, gritty guitar riffs, distorted bass lines, warm horns and the result, of exorcizing proportion, will lead to frenetic body movements. Some people bang their heads, others jerk their feet or feel an urgent need to get up and start shaking their hips. One thing is common, though, to everyone who submits their ears to a spinning record by the mighty Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou: you simply can't stand still. And this new compilation is proof of that - here are 14 funky tracks by the legendary ensemble from Benin that has been deemed as "West-Africa's best kept secret," or as the "The D.N.A. of voodoo groove".  



01 Ne Rien Voir, Dire, Entendre
02 Houzou Houzou Wa
03 Adjro Mi
04 Karateka
05 Akoue We Gni Gan
06 N´Goua
07 Houton Kan Do Gome
08 A O O Ida
09 Vi E Lo
10 Pourquoi Pas?
11 Akue We Non Houme
12 Ai Gabani
13 Ecoutes Ma Melodie
14 Min We Tun So

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