Sep 26, 2013

Post No. 650: Esbee Family ‎– Peace Of Mind (get it)



A1 Peace Of Mind
A2 Gin And Lime
A3 My Man Understands
A4 Falling In Love
B1 Come Party
B2 Cheerful Giver
B3 Chics Are Magnets
B4 All Alone (I Dont Know What To Do)

Sep 24, 2013

Voodoo Funk: An Exotic Creature in West Africa

Voodoo Funk: An Exotic Creature in West Africa 
(originally published @

Whilst most of us are slaves to the 9-5, Voodoo Funk’s Frank Gossner has been busy fulfilling his dream. Refusing to adhere to the norm, he’s dedicated his life to acting on impulse and travelling the world with an incredibly refreshing attitude that one can’t help but admire. Having previously lived in New York and Berlin, 2005 marked a landmark in Gossner’s life as he decided to give up everything and spend 3 years of his life living in West Africa with the direct intention of collecting records. 5 years later and one amazing blog later, he’s running one of the best re-issue labels around in the form of Voodoo Funk. The imprint brings you the best funk, soul and disco Africa has to offer to a Western audience, with a focus on the slew of superb and largely unknown music the area has to offer.
With a recent run of 12”s proving to be essential purchases for any aficionados of the genre, we caught up with Frank as he relaxes in his current location of Costa Rica to discuss politics, cockroaches and the pursuit of happiness…

Hey Frank, how’s it going? You’re in Costa Rica at the moment, what are you getting up to over there? Any digging?

No, I’m not doing any digging around here, I’m still 100% focused on West African music. I moved to Costa Rica with the intention to enjoy the country, do some surfing, hike the mountains and collect epyphitic orchids and bromeliads. I’m also still going to Africa at least once a year and working on various re-issue projects.

Going back to the beginning, how exactly did you get into African music?

I was friends with Phillip Lehman, the owner of Desco Records, when I lived in NYC back in the 90s and got to see some of the very first performances of Antibalas. It was then that I started listening to some Fela Kuti records. I was doing this Deep Funk night in Berlin from 2000 to 2005 and kept going over to the US to go on digging trips. Sometime in 2004 (I think) I was digging for funk 45s at this defunct old record store in Philadelphia and for some strange reason they had an few dozen mint releases from the Nigerian Tabansi label sitting in their office, amongst them the incredibly rare Pax Nicholas album that I would later re-issue on Daptone Records. At around the same time I bought the first few Soundway releases and it became clear that there must be much, much more exciting stuff out there than just Fela records.

What was the tipping point for you to go from a guy who just seeks what he can get his hands on in the Western market to going to the source? It’s a sign of dedication that few people have.

Well, if you’re anywhere outside of Africa, you are limited to reissues – which at around 2004 or 2005 wasn’t too much. Sure there was the occasional obscure looking original African record you could buy on eBay but those rarely had sound clips, often looked very intriguing but then the music wasn’t always what I was looking for. A lot of people have been going to Africa for records for years now, so there’s been a lot more African vinyl floating around on eBay. In fact, I think we’ve actually reached a threshold now as these records become increasingly harder to find in Africa itself.

I always love going places. Even when I was still collecting and DJing US deep funk 45s and bought loads of records online, it was still important to me to go get at least some of my records from the source. This way you can experience the culture out of which the music was born. You get to see the places, eat the food, maybe take in some live music. That’s a much more rewarding thing to do than staring at a computer screen.

In 2005 I had just unexpectedly run into a significant amount of money so I just decided to go for it and move to West Africa. I had originally aimed for Ghana or Benin but then my wife managed to get a job in Guinea which had, and to some extend still has, an incredible music scene. The capital Conakry is only a few hours by car away from Sierra Leone and it’s capital city of Freetown, which had just come to peace after a long and horrible civil war. Freetown was where Nigerian funk superstar Geraldo Pino had begun his career and there were several indicators that records could be found there and because of the long war it was clear that no other digger had been there in recent years. So we just went, packed our stuff and moved to Africa.

It’s admirable that you’re willing to drop everything to follow your dreams, whether it be moving to Africa to collect records or Costa Rica to collect orchids. How do you perceive the way you live your life? I think a lot of people would love to have the conviction to fulfill their ambitions like you do but maybe don’t believe it’s possible…

I’m a firm believer that anything is possible if you really want it, at least if you’re willing to put in the work and to accept the risks and possible consequences. Leading an impulsive life that focuses on enjoying myself to the fullest works for me because I don’t have a family to raise and never had any interest in pursuing a conventional career, owning a house or even having a retirement plan.

Did you get any strange reactions being a white Western guy who’s obviously really into African music? Did some of the locals have a bit of trouble getting their head around it?

Not really. Away from the bigger cities, just by being white you already stand out as an exotic creature and get lots of attention. Once you explain that you’re looking for records the first reaction is never surprise or disbelief but people immediately start thinking how they can help you and you find yourself being led though alleyways, from one house to another on a never ending string of wild goose chases. Older people often revel in remembering their youth and seeing these bands live and just love hearing their old records being played again on your portable turntable. And after all, collecting old records is probably the least alienating white man eccentricity they might have experienced or heard of.

Of course, your trips are about far more than just collecting records. What is it about Africa that you really love and makes you keep coming back?

It’s hard to explain, I’m sure everybody who’s ever been to West Africa knows what it is though. There’s the feeling that just about anything, good or bad can happen at pretty much any time. I mean taking an overland bus in Nigeria for one example is pretty much like playing Russian roulette. Traffic anywhere in West Africa can be pretty mind-blowing but Nigeria is on a whole other level. There are huge potholes everywhere that would snap an axle right in half and yet everybody’s driving at break neck speed like they are on the Autobahn. The unbelievable speed, the condition of the road and vehicles and the added constant danger of being stopped by armed highway robbers make for a pretty intense adrenaline rush. Then you have the serenity of some of the smaller towns you stay at where time just appears to stand still, the intensity of the heat, cold beer and good conversation with people you just met. Each different area of every country can be extremely different to anything you’ve seen before, it’s hard to put it in words but it’s all very addictive.

Fela Kuti is probably the most prominent artist in West African music, with a real focus on the political. How far do you think that the political message is important in African funk?

Political messages are always bogus regardless how they are packaged. I’m not a believer in any form of political system. To me, they’re all flawed and all men who are in any position of power are evil. They don’t all start out that way but that’s what they become. Some hide it better than others of course but they are all full of shit.

There is actually very little African music besides Fela that is openly political. Fela’s lyrics can be amazing descriptions of the flaws and the problems Nigeria has had at the time (unfortunately today it’s even worse) but when it comes to his own political aspirations I’m more than skeptical. Most African dictators had originally started out as freedom fighters, liberators, rebels and the like…

I have to tell you that while of course I’m a huge fan of Fela’s music and especially of his earlier lyrics, especially Shuffering and Shmiling, ITT, Yellow Fever, to name a few, I don’t at all like the way he’s being portrayed as some sort of freedom bringer or messiah by people in America or in Europe. Generally I don’t support the glorification of any person. People are always flawed. There’s always a dark side. Glorification distorts and simplifies a person and insults the complexity of human nature. Fela surrounded himself with some pretty hardcore street thugs that he had hired as security at his compound. Some of the EMI producers talked about having received death threats if they don’t do what they were told and Fela treated his musicians mostly pretty badly and I also don’t think they enjoyed being beat up by police and thrown in jail because of Fela’s antics. That’s one of the reasons why they refused to go back with him after that ’78 show in Berlin, that and the rumours he was going to use the proceeds for the European tour to fund his presidential campaign.

Politics in Africa is an incredible topic. There is a ton of material online for anybody who’s interested can read up on. I don’t think pop music is the adequate forum though.

A lot of the places you went digging in Africa didn’t have the best conditions. It seems that pretty much everywhere was crawling with cockroaches and caked in mud. Is there anything that would stop you looking through a crate?

No, I would never be stopped looking though a crate for any reason, I always found amazing stuff just towards the bottom of the most un-promising looking vessel. With time I’ve grown completely indifferent to cockroaches. In coastal West Africa they’re everywhere, you’re in their natural habitat. After moving onto our house in Conakry I dug up a small field to plant vegetables and the soil was literally crawling with roaches, there were whole nests of them.

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to follow in your footsteps?

To not expect too much. Unfortunately, countries like Ghana, Togo and Benin have been pretty much run dry by now. I still have a steady stream of records coming from Nigeria but over there you need a network of local diggers otherwise the chances of finding anything worthwhile are fairly slim.

You’ve found a lot of unique records on your travels, do you ever think there’s an issue of the rarity of a record over-shadowing the actual quality of the music? Sometimes in record collecting I get the feeling that people just want a record because no-one else owns it, rather than because they truly love the music.

I don’t know, I think that’s a matter of your own personal decision. If somebody wants to collect rare records why not? Of course there is an appeal in owning unique things. If a DJ wants to put together a box of records that nobody else has then this puts him at an advantage towards the competition and it offers other people the chance to hear music they haven’t heard before. Every consumer has the option to buy or listen to whatever music they want and I wouldn’t want to judge over their motives. At least they’re listening to music and listening to music is always good for you.

 There’s a bit of a jump from collecting records to running a label. What’s your vision behind Voodoo Funk as a label?

I’m not sure if I have a vision. I’m a very impulsive kind of person and never really have a long-term plan for anything… For now I’m in the middle of a series of 5 Nigerian Disco and Boogie 12″s and there’ll be an amazingly deep Afro Funk album by the Martin Brothers coming out in a couple of months. Once these 6 releases are on the market we’ll see what the numbers look like and if this seems like a sustainable venture there might be more or maybe I’ll decide to spend more time surfing the beaches and hiking the cloud forests of Central America.

You must have an absolutely huge collection of music, how did you manage to decide what records you wanted to reissue?

At this time most my entire collection is in a storage facility on Berlin. I decided to not move my records to Costa Rica with me because of the high risk of house robberies, earthquakes (we had a 6.5 a few months ago and a 4-5 every couple of weeks) and mould because of the tropical humidity. Right now I’m selecting my reissues from whatever new stock I have coming in from my friends in Ghana and Nigeria.

How do you process the sheer volume of music that must come into your hands. Do you have a system to make sure every record you receive is listened to, or is it a bit more relaxed than that?

I don’t have much of a system. When I have new records coming in, I always clean them up as best as possible. Then I wait for a good day to listen to them, put aside what goes into the DJ pile and decide what to keep for my own, personal collection. Everything then usually gets stored away in my record room and whenever I feel like listening to a certain record, I go in there and usually emerge an hour or so later with a stack of stuff that more often than not doesn’t include what I initially set out to find… I’m not really a librarian. Right now I actually don’t have too many records at the house because I shipped everything off into storage last year so I basically started again from scratch. It’s going to be interesting once I’m reunited with my main collection.

You seem to be a fan of the aesthetics of African records, at least judging from the time you’ve put into the presentation of the latest 12″s. Would you say that’s true?

Yes, of course. It was important to me to do something special with the packaging, I wanted to put them into company sleeves to give them that typical Disco Maxi Single look but then I also wanted to represent the look of the original record the songs were taken from. I figured the best way to do this would be to add a poster. Nobody puts out records with bonus posters anymore and I just love posters.

I’m a big admirer of the artwork on African records from all musical genres and eras. For years I’ve been planning on doing a coffee table book with my friend Uchenna Ikonne from Comb & Razor, who’s also been facilitating the licensing for most of my releases and some day I’m sure we’re going to do it. You’ll need a strong coffee table because this thing is going to be heavy…

What’s your plans for the future of Voodoo Funk? The last two 12″s came out in a pretty short period of time, can we expect to see this rate maintained?

Oh yeah, we’re going to keep knocking them out one after the other. All 5 should be out before the first snow.

Finally, what’s your most prized possession? I assume it might be a record?

I actually prize my freedom and the joy of living much higher than any object. Records are just pieces of plastic and cardboard. Don’t get me wrong, records are great things as far as things go. They provide a unique thrill when you try to hunt them down and finding a great record that you never knew existed can be quite exhilarating. It feels really good to play them for people and to get a crowd to dance to music they’ve never heard before. I also love to listen to music all by myself and I also can’t deny that it’s nice to have objects around that mean something to me but I can be just as content while sitting down with a book or drinking with a good friend.

Thanx for an interesting interview, 
Patrick Henderson!

Sep 19, 2013

New Australian afrobeat: The Afrobiotics

The Afrobiotics are a six piece Melbourne based band that breathe new life into the sound of West Africa and bring a powerful message of resistance to the next generation of afro-beat.

“Make your power a fire, so we can cook enough for all …” chants Mr Fantastic out front of The Afrobiotics as guitars weave layers of rhythm and the hypnotic bass and drums ready the dance floor for a rapid crossfire between the organ and horns. This is afro-beat medicine administered directly to your soul.

Mr Fantastic (Lamine Sonko) is a Senegalese griot musician who has recently migrated to Australia. He is a ‘Culture Keeper’ bringing traditional Sabar music and dance forms to the band’s compositions as well as a first hand afro-beat authenticity. The songs flip in and out of traditional tongue, street pidgin chants and English verse regularly punctuated by impossible percussion.

Sep 17, 2013

Ayetoro - Asoju Oba E.P.

"We make music to make you dance and think as well... to transport you to places beyond the dance floor where your soul will be your pilot." ... Funsho Ogundipe

Ajoke Music & Africa-Related is proud to present the latest album by the internationally acclaimed Afrobeat/Jazz band Ayetoro. The long awaited EP 'ASOJU OBA' was officially launched on September 8, 2012 .

Pianist, composer, arranger and music director ‘Funsho Ogundipe, who has been describedas a maverick in the Nigerian music scene defying any easy pigeonhole says, "Today’s Ayetoro is experimenting with music genres such as Rap, Poetry, Neo-Soul and Blues and what remains unchanged is the quality of our music. There are no compromises there. The brand is rooted in tradition, yet very modern." ‘Funsho Ogundipe

'ASOJU OBA', the band’s 5th studio album which translates to ‘the king’s observer’, pays homage to the deep cultural ties between Bahia in Brazil and the Yorubas in Nigeria, Benin, Togo and Ghana. It features three tracks which showcases the band expanding its musical base to cover contemporary Neo-soul and Hip Hop while retaining its jazz core.

‘Baba don go' is a tribute to Fela Kuti, featuring Lady Jay Wah from Ghana on vocals, Skillz from Nigeria on spoken word, solos by Byron Wallen and Shabakka Hutchings from the UK. 'Seeds in the Pod/Love is my Religion' is where Afrobeat meets conscious Hip Hop, and guest stars rapper Mendo, Caroline Fusi singing the hook with Ogundipe taking piano solos. It was inspired by the Sufi poet Abu Bakr Ibn al Arabi. The album was recorded at Alpha Junes (Lagos), Livingstone Studio (London) and Pidgen (Accra) and mastered by Sonny at Spare Dougal (London). The colourful and symbolic album cover was created by the Brazilian artist Prila Paiva from Sao Paulo.

Ogundipe plays a sweet melody on the piano with a rhythmic fluidity that bridges the gap between Afrobeat, Jazz and Funk with reflections on the past and present of both genres with style and grace. Ayetoro swings a hot eclectic number, sings a witty song about modern life, and then reaches deep for a soulful expression of values in a troubled world.

Oyiza Adaba of Ayetoro’s management says ‘the launch is an opportunity to address core issues surrounding harnessing authentic Nigerian music as export products, as well as give a one-of-a-kind culturally blended show to the band’s loyal fans worldwide who have supported the band for the last 16 years’.

This latest effort solidifies the band’s posterity with working with outstanding artists, great instrumentalists and Jazz musicians worldwide, and sets the stage for a well deserved local and international recognition.


With Asoju Oba, Ogundipe takes Afrobeat to a new level 

OVERLOOKING the lagoon along Awolowo Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, Ember Creek resonated with exotic Afrobeat sounds last week Saturday. The occasion was the album launch of Asoju Oba, Funso Ogundipe’s latest Afrobeat project – with Aiyetoro in actual performance. With an audience that also included Lagos State commissioner for culture, Mr. Hollaway, devotees screamed and yelled appreciatively to the dynamics of Aiyetoro’s new music even as the soaked up wine and soft drinks to fuel their unquenchable appetite for more music.

Parading a front line horn section of tenor saxophone, alto saxophone and trombone, with of course a formidable rhythm section which featured the bass guitar, an emphasized conga drum and a busy talking drum, Aiyetoro reached out with a brilliantly formidable sound. And of course, the sound of the electric piano played by Funso Ogundipe himself served as the rallying point for all the instruments as he filled in with single notes and chorded solos that were carefully selected and articulated.

The problem with album launches of this type is usually the ability to match recorded quality with live performance. The situation was quite different here as the live performance became more appealing and attractive – on account of the bands level of musicianship.

As I told the crew of ‘studio 53’ who came to cover the event, Afrobeat is by tradition a fusion of elements of African music with jazz. But what marks Aiyetoro’s new approach out as a unique dimension is the deliberate effort to introduce jazz to the music in order to internationalise it. I am not given to the song by song, bar by bar dissection of music when it come, to reviews and appreciation, but suffice it to say that the new Afrobeat is full of dynamics, surprises, unpredictability, release and suspense, criss cross rhythms and what have you.

Like Britain’s Soweto Klinch whom I saw for the first time in 2004 at the North Sea Jazz Festival in Capetown, South Africa, Aiyetoro has introduced hip ho and rap to jazz and Afrobeat. While Soweto prompts his ‘rappers’ with the dexterity of his alto saxophone, Ogundipe compels his two ‘rappers’ with piano statements and well articulated riffs created by a horn section whose overall sound reaches out brilliantly and effectively because of the clean tones that the instruments elicit.

Funso Ogundipe’s Afrobeat is devoid of vocalization, the type that has come to be associated with politics and protect (as established by the music’s icon and creator himself, but Aiyetoro makes up for this with various dynamic elements – to hold the listener spell bound. The band is so busy that the songs are interpersonal with variations – as if it is a symphony. The ‘intros’ are very well calculated, followed by melodic themes after which solos that are characterized by sweet phrases and the brilliant tonal conception are articulated. Like Duke Ellington, Count Basic or even Ahmad Jamal of the Ahmed Jamal Trio, pianist and band leader rounds up with thematic configurations – most of which are derived from single notes. The appearances of rappers whose poems are designed to suit the themes of the songs help to take the music not only to a contemporary level where it appeals to the youth, in general terms, the entire approach helps to up date Afrobeat in the process of taking it to a new level.

Yinka Davis, perhaps the most powerful female jazz singer around – is not a member of Aiyetoro but she breezed in to identify with this unique and classy album launch. In her characteristic informal manner, she sang one of the band’s popular songs employing commentaries of her own improvisational source and establishing a rappour with the audience.

One of the beautiful highlights of  Aiyetoros new music is the deliberate effort to Africanise the music – not only with melodic themes and structures but also through the rhythm section. And this is where the talking drums donates – within rhythmic patterns that are specially created for it, the conga bass guitar and the trap drums.

Asoju Oba, the title theme of the CD in Yoruba literally means the kings spokesman, but there is a significant story behind it which will be told in a subsequent review.

However, the tune, Asoju Oba is appropriately dedicated to Thelonious Monk, an esoteric pianist who deserves to be called the king of pianist. It has a sub title, Italy Fingers. The first song is dedicated to the king of Afrobeat, Fela Anikulapo Kuti and it is titled, Baba don go (Baba has gone) while the third recorded song, seeds in a pod/love is my religion is dedicated to the memory of the late great Gil Scott-Heron.

Aiyetoro was founded by Funsho Ogundipe in 1996 after twenty years of piano-playing in different contexts. A large part of that time was spent understudying Fela Anikulapo Kuti’s composing and arranging style with his Egypt ’80 band. Ogundipe also spent time listening to different Lagos-based bands including the Extended Family led by Tunde and Fran Kuboye, Jahstik featuring Majek Fashek, Femi Kuti’s Jazz Quintet and the Art Alade Ensemble.

To date Aiyetoro has released five albums names Naija Blues (1996); something Dey (1998), The Afrobeat Chronicles Vols 1 (2002) and 2 (2006). The latest work, Asoju Oba has taken Aiyetoro’s accomplishments to a new level and a high height.

In 1999, Ogundipe moved to London to seek new challenges. While there, he formed another version of Aiyetoro which featured the cream of the U.K. jazz musicians including trumpeter Byron Wallen, bassist Orefo Orakwe, percussionist Lekan Babalola and Angela Alhucema; tenor saxophone player. Shabaka Hutchings and Ayo Odia. This band would begin the Afrobeat chronicles series in 2002.
In his search for new dimensions in African music and jazz, while he was still in London, we met at Jazz Café’ where the famous avant garde saxophone player Archie Shepp performed.

In 2007, Ogundipe decided to repeat Fela Kuti’s Ghanaian experience by moving to Ghana to work with Ghanaian musicians including the drummer C.C. Franks, bassist Phillip Acquah and Poducer Panji Anoff. The result of this whole Ghanaian experience is evident in the latest album, Asoju Oba where each of his outfits based in London, Accra and Lagos contributes a track.

For Ogundipe, music is Art and Art is life. His musical heroes are Miles Davis, Sun Ra, Duke Ellington and Fela Anikulapo Kuti.

Sep 13, 2013

Nigerian boogie: Hotline - You Are Mine (get it!)

VERY RARE IN DEMAND BOOGIE DISCO FUNK LP ON BLACKSPOT RECORDS NIGERIA, EARLY 80S- BSR29  - Fantastic boogie disco LP - one of the best from Nigeria at this time.

Cult Nigerian Disco LP with a unique sound, great production, heavy on the dancefloor, very in-demand! Check 'can you do it' and 'desire' - very clean vinyl, cover with a lot of wear and taped seams

Insanely Rare Nigeria Boogie Funk record, with a heavy synth moog sound, very unique, All Tracks killer. The most incredible thing about this group is that they had a very unique sound. This Nigerian group were miles ahead of their time and as far as I know this is the only release by them.


Side A:
Side B:

Sep 11, 2013

Esbee Family – Chics and Chicken (get it!)

Holy shit. First of all, this record is called Chics and Chicken. Second of all, the cover is three women sharing a plate of chicken. This is one of those rare finds where the cover is so incredibly awesome that you’re praying for the music to be as good, and it turns out the music is BETTER than you wanted it to be. This is some seriously bumpin’ African boogie disco from Esbee Family, a Nigerian boogie funk group from the early 80s (I think?). I can’t find much information on this record but shit I love it. I can’t really find a good scan of the cover either, and don’t have a digital camera or a mac with photobooth with which to take a picture. There are some cool moog sounds and 1980 drumz, funky geetar, and generally everything you’d expect from a disco record called Chics and Chicken. The pressing I found is a bit off center so it kind of sounds warped sometimes one the first side, but to be honest, I think it makes it sound better. Especially the closer it gets to the center it just sounds more and more demented, like someone filtered it through a fucked up LFO. Pretty awesome. The B side isn’t pressed incorrectly though, so those tracks sound “better.” That being said, not every track is the best ever, but I’ll Give You Love (the opener on the A Side) is super awesome as well as the title track which opens the B Side.


Sep 9, 2013

Orchestre Super Borgou de Parakou ... interview by analogafrica!!!

Interview with Moussa Mama Djima Parakou - July 15, 2006,

check out the interview and more information  @ analogafrica

Were you born into a family of musicians?

Not exactly. I’m a descendant of a long tradition of blacksmiths originating from Okuta, in western Nigeria. My father was a blacksmith and a goldsmith. Before my birth, he had left to Accra to look for work and came back few years later with music - Highlife in particular. He is the man who brought modern music to the region. He formed Orchestre Sinpam, the very first orchestra of northern Benin. Youngsters from the region heard about it and started flocking to my dad’s house to ask for lessons. Sometimes they would stay just few days, sometimes a month, sometimes longer. Then they would go back to their villages and form their own group. So that’s how modern music spread throughout our department. My dad became an important figure here and he was dubbed Moussa “President.”

So you were literally born into music?

I came into this world in 1947. The exact day is unknown since it was a supplementary decision. Even the month might be wrong. The only sure thing is that I was born on a Friday. That’s why I am called Mama Djima - “Djima” is Friday in Arabic. I grew up in the midst of all this music and I was constantly watching people rehearsing. Before I knew it, music had entered my body. There were festivities happening constantly. At first my dad and his band were the ones performing, but with time, they started to look for other musicians. The first musician they brought was Waidi, a guitar player from Togo. The following year in 1962 they brought a musician from Ouidah (west of Cotonou) called Aaron. That was the time when electric guitars started to appear here. I was not really playing the guitar at the that time, but I had learned how to build “native” guitars using brake cables and oil tin.

When did you start playing the guitar?

Well I recall that the following year, the elders had not managed to find an artist to come for the important Ramadan festivities, while all the other neighborhoods were sorted. To avoid embarrassment, I told them that I would play. They asked me, “when did you learn to play?” I told them not to worry and I played and sang the whole night. People couldn’t believe it. I was an introverted child - I didn’t go out that much and people didn’t know what I was doing. So they were wondering if I was a genius or if the devil had taught me to play. That was in 1963 and it’s from there that I started improving bit by bit. The rumor had spread that I was playing well and youngsters from the surrounding villages came to ask me for lessons. We would agree on the price, which would also include accommodation and food. Those who did not have money would pay with bags of millet or meat. Over my whole career, I can say that I taught more then 500 people.

When exactly did you form your first band?

It was in 1964. It was named Alafia Jazz. That was when record players and 7-inch singles started appearing in Benin. The records of Franco et OK Jazz made such a strong impact that we started covering his songs. We excelled to such an extent that fans dubbed me Moussa Mama “Franco.” So, we decided to change the name of the group to OK Jazz. Two years later, we started becoming a very solid band and started questioning ourselves if it was time to find a name that reflects our origins. We thought for a while and came up with the name Super Borgou de Parakou.

Who were the musicians of Super Borgou?

The original members were Ousmane Amoussa on vocal and gon (metal percussion), Sidi Alassane on drums, Sidi “Korea” Seidou on tumba, congas and drums, Soumeila “Yoruba” Karim backing vocals and maracas, Bio “Copa” Gado on bass, Menou Rock - on rhythm guitar and vocals. I was playing lead guitar and the electric piano and I was the main composer of the band. I also sang. 
Were all these guys playing with other bands before?

No, there was no other bands in Parakou when we started. Those were all guys from my neighborhood. We all started together and we had been together since the days of Alafia Jazz.

Did you travel to other regions or other countries?

In 1969, we traveled to Niamey, the capital city of Niger, and found a job at a bar called “Congolaise". It belonged to a former military man from Guinea-Conakry who didn’t like the politics of Sékou Touré. They wanted to kill him so he fled with his wife - A Vietnamese woman, They had a daughter called Zoé. With the little money they had, they opened a bar located in an area filled with immigrants from other African countries, so they named their place “La Congolaise.” They were very good people so we dedicated a song to them called “Congolaise Benin Ye"
Did you use your own equipment when performing at the Congolaise?

Yes but it wasn’t equipment of quality at first, but then every time we got some cash we would upgrade. Sometimes it was an amplifier, another time it would be a guitar. They had a good music store in Niamey which I visited frequently. One day, I went to buy a flute and I saw someone playing an instrument I had never seen before. I ask them what it’s called and they told me it’s an electric piano. At that time, we use to play 4 times the week: Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday. The entrance fee was 200 CFA (30 euro cents) and, in 2 months, we could save up to 300,000 CFA (460 euros). So I asked them how much they wanted for that piano and I was told it’s 140,000 CFA (215 euros). So I bought it. I tried to understand how that instrument worked since I wanted to use it for our Saturday gig and it wasn’t a problem. Few days later, I performed “Dadon Gabou Yo Sa Be,” which I had composed using the piano. In those days you could give me any instrument - few hours later I tamed it. 
What were the subjects of your compositions?

Its was about life in general - day to day problems. Love, life, death and social issues. We also composed revolutionary songs based on socialist doctrines, encouraging people to work harder for the development of our country. 

Musically speaking, who were your biggest influences?

We listened to a lot of Congolese music - especially Franco - and Guinean music. We also interpreted some Highlife tunes - The Ramblers in particular and some Afro Beat. We were a band of variety, whatever was in fashion at that time, we had to adopt to satisfy the demand. Often we would adopt the beat but then we added lyrics in our local languages, Dendi or Bariba.

Did Super Borgou participate in any contests?

Yes we did a lot of national and regional contests. The first one in 1972. There were two important orchestras here in the Borgou - Anassoua Jazz and Super Borgou. We were often competing to repre- sent the Borgou department at national contests. In 1972, we won and were on our way to Cotonou for the final competition. The band Echos Du Zou represented the Zou department, Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou represented the Littoral department and so on. Poly-Rythmo were better then us but they just didn’t follow the rules of the competition. Each group was suppose to compose a tune in the local language and based on a traditional rhythm from their department. The government was planning to send the winner abroad to represent the country, so it was very important that you perform music that nobody else anywhere in the world could perform better then you. Poly-Rythmo performed very well but it was Congolese and Cuban music. As for us, we played modern renditions of our folklore. We won and left for the international music festival in Berlin. We stayed 45 days. On our way back I composed a song called “Festival Berlin 73.”

Sep 5, 2013

Embryo & Yoruba Dun Dun Orchester Feat. Muraina Oyelami

This album documents the Nigerian musicians’ first visit to Germany and simultaneously shows how EMBRYO (which probably deserves to be recognized as the creator of the “World Music” concept) was already working with the idea of “world music” in the early 1980s. Authentic Yoruba drumming and traditional texts (movingly interpreted by Chief Muraina OYELAMI) beautifully occupy the foreground, while EMBRYO provides a connection to a progressively faster paced “Here and Now” with spacey sax (Edgar Hofmann) and equally spacey guitar (Yulius Golombeck) sounds. 


01. Welt-AB-Originale 3:05
02. Aye-Aye 5:41
03. Bata Solo 11:00
04. Mix III 3:26
05. Just Landed 2:47
06. Dun Dun-Solo I 3:51
07. Dschamilija 6:32
08. Dun-Dun-Solo 3:37
09. A-Ara-E-Che-Kalo 6:43

Sep 2, 2013

Red Hot + Fela

Over the years, AIDS charity Red Hot has recruited a number of musicians worldwide for charity compilations benefiting AIDS awareness and research. These have included both Red Hot + Rio and its sequel, featuring the likes of Beck, David Byrne, and Beirut, and the Rhythms Del Mundo all-star remix album. On October 8th, Knitting Factory Records will unveil Red Hot’s long-in-the-works Fela Kuti covers compilation, Red Hot + Fela.

The 13-track effort features a number of notable collaborations: Questlove and tUnE-yArDs on last year’s cover of “Lady”; Childish Gambino and Just A Band tackling “Who No Know Go No”; My Morning Jacket teaming with Alabama Shakes’ Brittany Howard and tUnE-yArDs’ Merril Garbus on “Trouble Sleep Yanga Wake Am”; TV on the Radio’s Kyp Malone and Tunde Adebimpe’s reworking “Sorrow Tears and Blood”; and Chance the Rapper appearing on a rendition of “Gentleman”.
With a cast of such diverse musicians, organizers opted not to make this a simple Afrobeat album, focusing instead on having contributors emphasize other facets of Kuti’s music.

“Fela’s music has deeply inspired and impacted how we think about music,” said Stuart Bogie, whose band Superhuman Happiness tackled “ITT” and backed-up TV on the Radio. “From critical details like his use of guitars and bass lines in perfect rhythmic counterpoint, to his long and epic forms, his music is a treasure and deep reason for musicians all over the globe. One challenge was maintaining the lyrical integrity. Fela’s poetry is a critical component, and we aren’t satisfied with getting it close – we want our tracks to honor his work the same as you would honor the lyrics of a Beatles, Bob Dylan, or Prince track.” 


Fela Kuti lives on. Since his death in 1997, he’s been transformed from musician’s musician with a cult-like following to a worldwide musical icon. The last four years have seen the Broadway hit FELA! win Tony Awards and tour the world, Knitting Factory Records reissue the prolific Nigerian firebrand’s back catalogue, and now, Red Hot.

Red Hot is an AIDS awareness organization currently partnering with cross-genre collaborators representing rock, hip-hop, Americana, and classical for a forthcoming album release of Fela Kuti compositions, Red Hot + Fela (Knitting Factory, October 8, 2013 ). The release includes classic Fela anthems like “Lady” recorded by tUnE-yArDs, Questlove, Angelique Kidjo, and Akua Naru, “Zombie” recorded by Spoek Mathambo, Cerebral Cortex, and Frown, and “Trouble Sleep Yanga Wake Am” recorded by My Morning Jacket, Merrill Garbus (from tUnE-yArDs), and Brittany Howard (from Alabama Shakes) and “Sorrow, Tears & Blood” reworked by the Kronos Quartet along with TV On The Radios’ Kyp Malone and Tune Adembimpe.

Stuart Bogie, who contributed to the album’s “Sorrow Tears and Blood” and “ITT” as a member of Superhuman Happiness, represents a bridge between the early adopters of Afrobeat and the recent recruits of the genre: “Fela's music has deeply inspired and impacted how we think about music,” Bogie reflects. “From critical details like his use of guitars and bass lines in perfect rhythmic counterpoint, to his long and epic forms, his music is a treasure and deep reason for musicians all over the globe.”

Although Fela inspired each and every artist on the album, Afrobeat is not necessarily the musical meat-and-potatoes for most of these musicians, thus presenting challenging responsibilities in recreating Fela’s work. Bogie stated, “One challenge was maintaining the lyrical integrity. Fela's poetry is a critical component, and we aren't satisfied with getting it close - we want our tracks to honor his work the same as you would honor the lyrics of a Beatles, Bob Dylan, or Prince track.”

Each rendition on the album tackles each composition quite differently. Honoring the tradition of Afrobeat, “Lady” presents wailing brass and sax with funky electric guitar while other reinterpretations execute their track with more inventive deviance. For example, “No Buredi” is reimagined as an electro-house track by Nneka, Sinkane, Amayo, and Superhuman Happiness meanwhile dance-inducing R & B and hip-hop flavor “Yellow Fever” recorded by Spoek Mathambo and Zaki Ibrahim.

The partnership between KFR and Red Hot is particularly relevant to Fela Kuti, given that he died of an AIDS-related illness himself. To date, Red Hot has released 18 albums and produced several concert and film series to raise money and awareness to fight AIDs around the world. They have partnered with countless local, national, and international AIDS organizations, all of whom have benefited from releases like Red Hot + Fela.

Red Hot + Fela Tracklist:
01. “Buy Africa” – Baloji & L’Orchestre de la Katuba featuring Kuku
02. “Lady” – tUnE-yArDs, Questlove, Angelique Kidjo + Akua Naru
03. “Yellow Fever” – Spoek Mathambo + Zaki Ibrahim
04. “No Buredi” – Nneka, Sinkane, Amayo + Superhuman Happiness
05. “Who No Know Go No” – Just A Band + Childish Gambino
06. “Trouble Sleep Yanga Wake Am” – My Morning Jacket w/ Merrill Garbus + Brittany Howard
07. “Sorrow Tears and Blood” – TV on the Radio’s Kyp Malone and Tunde Adebimpe, Kronos Quartet + Stuart Bogie
08. “ITT” – Superhuman Happiness w/ Sahr Ngaujah, Abena Koomson + Rubblebucket
09. “Afrodisco Beat 2013″ – Tony Allen, M1 + Baloji
10. “Gentleman” – Just A Band, Bajah + Chance the Rapper
11. “Hi Life Time” – GendEr Infinity
“Zombie” – Spoek Mathambo + Cerebral Cortex + Frown
13. “Go Slow” – King