Jun 28, 2009

Tony Allen - Afro Disco Beat

The complete '70s anthology of Tony Allen- drummer and music director for African superstar Fela Kuti's band Africa 70, from 1968 until 1979, the pioneers of "Afrobeat" one of the (if not THE) hippest rhythmic music styles of the 70s. This massive collection includes Tony´s first four solo albums: Jealousy (´75), Progress (´76), No Accomodation for Lagos (´78), and No Discrimination (´79). The first three produced by Fela Kuti himself and with Africa 70, the last one with Tony´s band The Afro Messengers.

Mild-mannered, but iron-willed, Tony Allen is the co-creator of Afrobeat, and one of the most distinctive and in-demand drummers on the planet. No one swings like this Nigerian rhythm man – with that amazing, loose-limbed, poly-rhythmic technique that has powered some of the funkiest and most challenging dance music ever created.

Best known for his involvement with the late, great Fela Kuti, Tony Allen is much more than Fela’s – or anyone else’s – drummer. Bandleader, composer and husky rapping vocalist, Tony Allen has recorded a string of groundbreaking solo albums since parting company with Fela in 1978 – sides that draw together African rhythm, funk, jazz, soul and hip hop. His inimitably propulsive skinwork has enhanced the work of an amazing range of artists, from afro-giants Manu Dibango, Ray Lema and Sunny Ade to British-Indian songstress Susheela Raman and Californian rock-rappers Spearhead.

The recent upsurge of interest in afrobeat has seen this music drawn into every conceivable kind of crossover encounter, from endless dance remixes to hip hop and reggae collaborations. Tony Allen's work is a testament to the fact that afrobeat is best served straight – hot, hard and percussion-heavy.

Tony Allen grew up surrounded by rhythm: the local palm-wine and juju sounds loved by his motor mechanic father, and the pan-African, big-band highlife then sweeping the clubs of Africa – exemplified by the great Ghanaian bandleader E. T. Mensah. The young Tony developed an obsession with drums. But opportunities to get near a kit were few and far between in 1950s Lagos. He made his professional debut at the age of 18, while working as a radio technician, playing claves with Sir Victor Olaiya – self-styled Evil Genius of Highlife – and his Cool Cats. When the regular drummer left, Tony was handed the sticks. He went on honing his technique with Negu Morris & the Heatwaves, the Nigerian Messengers and the Western Toppers Highlife Band; his role models Art Blakey and the brilliant Ghanaian drummer Guy Warren aka Koffi Ghanaba.

In 1964 Tony was invited to audition for a band called Koola Lobitos, led by a young Nigerian just returned from music studies in London, named Fela Kuti. Fela’s influence on the young drummer was incalculable. But then so was Tony’s on Fela. Here was exactly the musician Fela had been looking for: capable of fusing jazz and highlife sensibilities and sounding, as Kuti put it, ‘like five drummers at once’. If Fela was afrobeat’s mind and mouth, Tony Allen was its arms and legs, his webs of cascading off-beats endlessly powering the music forward.

Allen split with Fela in 1978 – citing the bandleader’s lack of care for his musicians. He relocated to Paris in 1980, involving himself in an amazing diversity of collaborative projects over the succeeding decades.

1. Jealousy
2. Hustler
3. Progress
4. Afro-Disco-Beat
5. No Accomodation For Lagos
6. African Message
7. No Discrimination
8. Road Safety
9. Ariya
10. Love Is A Natural Thing

Hugh Masekela - The Chisa Years 1965-1975

In the midst of the recording industry reinvention—which includes the rebirthing of a new paradigm of music presentation and creation—independent artists find themselves in positions of both power and dismay. While the platform for launching a successful career is, quite literally, at their fingertips, the sheer number of bands promoting themselves is exhausting. So the challenge remains: how does an artist differentiate their sound and reach a broad population? This question is lodged at the tips of many tongues. Independent artistry is not new, and when a collection like this emerges from dusty vaults, we are reminded of one direly important aspect of songcrafting: making music for the love of it. Listening to the 14 tracks on The Chisa Years, we are certain trumpet/flugelhorn player Hugh Masekela didn’t have gold records on his mind (even if some ultimately manifested over the years).

For 11 years, Masekela and musician/roommate Stewart Levine produced a number of jazz-based records influenced deeply by African styles like mbaqanga and Afrobeat. While Masekela’s 1968 hit “Grazing in the Grass” proved his crossover potential, labels like Motown couldn’t figure out how to market him in all his artistic complexity. Hence, Chisa Records remained an indie effort. Listening to this incredible collection, it seems an anomaly these songs went unreleased for three decades. Then again, innovation takes time for people to catch onto; surprise shouldn’t cut so deeply. With the recent explosion of African music by way of artists like Fela Kuti, Orchestra Baobab, and Konono No 1, Masekela’s closet was in prime shape to be opened.

Whether performing or sitting behind the controls, his masterful hand created genius works throughout this compilation. The opening cut, with its evident debt to Fela, sounds familiar, much like an outtake you could find on the Gilles Peterson Africa disc or Shadow Records’ Afro-Rock comp. That is, simply, Fela-inspired funk, led by Ojah, Masekela’s backing band. “Afro Beat Blues” is deep in the bass, fueled by guitar-driven hypnosis and a solid drumbeat. Funk remains the constant: Letta Mbulu’s passionate vocal delivery on “Mahlalela,” the conga-driven groove-riding “Amo Sakesa,” with a sensual Miatta Fahinbulleh leading the lyrical charge, and “U Se Mcani,” another killer cut by Mbulu. While tracks range in tempo and tone, a few constants are felt: excellent horns and percussion, repetitive trance-inducing guitars and drumbeats, and a rare occasion in which every vocal part is phenomenal.

Masekela’s penchant for finding mainstream avenues of expression in America, while retaining African sensibilities, has reached highs and lows over his four-decade career. While much of the music he created for larger audiences ended up unfortunately sterile, The Chisa Years marks a man in his youthful prime, unconcerned about marketing or charts. That it took so long to surface is too bad, but the fact that it has at all is cause for celebration.


1. Afro Beat Blues
2. Mahlalela
3. Amo Sakesa
4. Joala
5. U Se Mcani
6. Tepo
7. Za Labalaba
8. Witch Doctor
9. Melodi (Sounds of Home)
10. Ahvuomo
11. Aredze
12. A Cheeka Laka Laka
13. Awe Mfana
14. Macongo

Jun 27, 2009

The Budos Band: New EP

From the vaults of Daptone Records comes a collection of unreleased tracks from the infamous Budos Band. Recorded after The Budos Band I sessions, but before those for the second full-length, The Budos Band EP is a fascinating glimpse into the group's evolution as musicians and recording artists.

Listeners may be familiar with two songs previously released and universally recognized as “Budos classics." “The Proposition," a hit single released on 7-inch by Daptone Records, incorporates the style, now known worldwide as Budos swing, responsible for drawing so many a listener onto the sweaty dancefloor. “Mas O Menos," included on the band's smash album, The Budos Band II, exemplifies the group's feel for soul with its infectious bass, tightly intertwined guitar and organ, and soaring horns.

“Smoke Gets In," created on the anniversary of the six hundred sixty-sixth rotation of the Budonian lunar calendar, finds the band returning to its dusty roots, and it is both sonically and literally otherworldly. The psycho-tropic venom found on The Budos Band II may have originated in this very session.

The Budos Band EP is a must-have for Budos and Daptone fans alike. It stands as a vital account of the band's movement between musical styles and records a singular moment in the group's existence. It will indeed stand the test of time and remain a bedrock of Budos lore.


Generally speaking, if you like The Budos Band I and II, you surely gonna like this stuff as well, therefore, I just can recommend it to everyone outside there interested in some powerful tones ...


1. Hidden Hand
2. Mas O Menos
3. The Proposition
4. Ephra
5. Nobody's Bulletproof
6. Smoke Gets In
7. Bonus Track

Jun 25, 2009

Great soundtrack from Manu Dibango

A fantastic and ultra-unknown Manu Dibango soundtrack to the equally obscure independent mid-70s movie «Countdown at Kusini.

«Manu Dibango is one of the original fathers of the Afro-funk scene. His huge worldwide hit 'Soul Makossa' paved the way for artists such as Fela Kuti and Hugh Masekela. This rare soundtrack was produced in tiny quantities for the premiere of the obscure Ossie Davis movie in Seattle in August 1975. Each album is individually numbered, and signed by the cast. It's a superb blend of African rhythms, jazz, and a heavy dose of space jazz and funk. There are too many good tracks to mention, from uptempo dancefloor cuts to slower mellow numbers, all featuring Manu's superb sax playing.»



Cameroon , 1975

01. Go Slow Streets
02. Motapo
03. Promenade (Kusini)
04. Bokolo's Boogie
05. Jam Session
06. Marnie
07. Bush
08. Lea's Love Theme
09. Blowin' Western Mind
10. Liberation's Song
11. Red Salter

Jun 22, 2009

Femi Kuti - Live At The Africa Shrine (DVD+CD)

Femi Kuti: Live at the Shrine shows the Nigerian Afrobeat star in his element: preparing and performing his songs at the New Afrika Shrine, the dance hall and community center built by Femi to honor his father, Fela. Femi’s late father, Fela Kuti, famous for inventing Afrobeat, was also renowned for his political stance against corruption and capitalism — and for his womanizing. In Dutch director Raphaël Frydman’s collection of songs and interviews with Fela’s son, a man takes his role as a musician and famous person to heart. Fela is central to his community of family and musicians, friends and fans, always at work to better himself or the situation for people around him.

With a stage full of musicians and dancers, Kuti’s energetic Sunday night “jumps,” as the shows are called, attract locals and people from all over Africa and beyond. Live at the Shrine intersperses these concert sequences with interviews with Femi, members of his band, his sisters, fans, and scenes of street life. When he is not performing, we find Femi focused on practicing, playing endless scales on his trumpet, dancing, smoking, singing constantly.

I know descriptors like “desperate poverty” and “war-torn nation” have become journalist boilerplate, but they fit Nigeria all too well. The idealistic and committed younger Kuti declares that Nigerians can’t really call themselves independent if they can’t get electricity and water consistently and continually have to beg other countries for aid. In fact, a running theme in the interviews with him and his sisters and fans is that there are no lights. Instead of accepting this imposition, Femi takes responsibility for the obligations he feels his fame has placed on him. He works at his gift, music, to send out the word about conditions in Africa. He sets about every task without assuming for one minute that anything should come easily.

To me, Femi Kuti’s songs sound preachy and overly political. Kuti’s lyrics only transport me from the worries of my own day-to-day existence right into someone else’s fears. In the context of Femi’s life in Lagos, however, what else could these songs be? He could sing about romantic troubles, but instead he voices his take on Africans and their oppression, by their circumstances and by their choices as well.

Fans of Femi Kuti will appreciate the series of bonus interviews in which he discusses his political beliefs, history, and explains the origins and lyrics of some of his songs. Kuti’s songs are more compelling than his interviews, however; he often seems impatient to get back to his music. (I found it useful to turn on the English subtitles and fast-forward to read the text of the interviews.) For those who want more context, a booklet included with the DVD provides song lyrics and some historical background.


An unprecedented collection by Afrobeat legend Femi Kuti, Live At The Shrine includes both a concert film/DVD documentary and a live concert CD, singularly conveying the beauty and joy of Afrobeat music – a combustible cocktail fusing jazz, funk, and traditional African music – while also communicating it’s fascinating roots and politics which began with Femi’s father Fela Kuti, the creator and godfather of Afrobeat.

Live At The Shrine takes place in the Kuti family’s hometown of Lagos at the Africa Shrine, where every Sunday Femi plays to a packed house of revelers. With music as his weapon of choice and the Africa Shrine a temple of protest song, Femi continues his father’s fight, railing against the corrupt Nigerian government and staunchly defending PanAfricanism. Capturing this experience through interviews, street scenes, and the music itself, Live At The Shrine captures the spirit, passion, and hope, of a man and a people who are fighting.


Another old hero of Afrobeat!


One of the most innovative and pioneering musicians of his time, Orlando Julius made an amazing contribution to the Nigerian music between the sixties and the seventies. This collection includes "Super Afro Soul" with Orlando Julius & his Modern Aces, and "Orlando's Afro Ideas 1969-72" by Orlando Julius & his Afro Sounders. A mind-blowing mix of Nigerian Highlife style with Jazz, Soul, and Funk.

On "Super Afro Soul" you can hear the early musical tremors. It was Orlando’s first album, released in 1966, a head on collision between Highlife - the soundtrack of Independence first in Ghana and then in neighbouring Nigeria (the music of West African political/social aspiration at that time ,‘the successful africanisation of a western structure’ as Prof. John Collins says ) - and ‘60’s Soul from the USA , the soundtrack of Afro-America’s struggle for civil rights and equality . While Fela Kuti’s Koola Lobitos was experimenting with highlife and jazz with little response from Lagos youth, still 4 years and a spell in Los Angeles from creating Afrobeat, Orlando Julius unleashed this pioneering Highlife Soul gem and Lagos clubs resounded to the new sound.

Orlando (some say he borrowed that name from Nigerian film actor, Orlando Martins) Julius Aremu Olusanya Ekemode started life in 1943 in Ijebu-Ijesha in the Osun state of Nigeria. His first instruments were drums and later flute at school, and then he discovered his favourite instrument, the alto-sax, which he studied for two years before he joined local highlife heroes, the Flamingo Dandies of Akure. Highlife was the breaking wave and he surfed it, an unstoppable talent. At 19 he even briefly became leader of Juju music star I.K. Dairo’s Dance Band, for a short time, but then he returned to Highlife heaven with Eddy Okunta’s Top Ace band in Lagos, and immersed himself in highlife and the jazz of Parker and Coltrane. He also traced his musical journey through the ‘Kokoma’ beats. ‘I used to follow the priests and worshippers to where they performed their traditional worship; from there I picked up ‘Kokoma’ music.’ In 1964 he formed his Modern Aces and on their first massive hit single, Jagua Nana, released in October 1965, you can hear that he had married conga, bongos and the Agigdigbo of Kokoma with the sax into his beats. It took the country by storm and spawned a host of evolving sensual wriggles and def dance steps in the clubs. Three more singles followed, Topless (for a while he was ‘The Topless Man’), Ololufe and E Se Re Re.
Around this time, his two musical obsessions, jazz and highlife, were joined by a third, as the airwaves filled with the sounds of ‘60’s soul from the USA: Smokey Robinson, The Temptations, Otis Redding, Motown, Stax, Atlantic…and his Modern Aces became one of the very first in Nigeria to forge new directions with traditional highlife, alongside Fela’s Koola Lobitos, with whom he shared band members. On this first album, Super Afro Soul, released by PolyGram in 1966 in the triumphant wake of his hit singles , its clear that he’d caught the soul bug but he was going to play it his way. Lagos transforms the Memphis Soul Stew! Check his unique cover of Smokey’s My Girl, the James Brown ‘echoes’ in Ijo Soul. the Stax like brass riffs and dominant bass throughout the album…but the highlife and kokoma is never far away.

Orlando recorded three albums for PolyGram in Lagos. Orlando’s Idea and Ishe followed Super Afro Soul , each evolving its own sound, along with the changes that were happening on the Lagos music scene. ORLANDO’S AFRO IDEAS 1969-72 is a compilation of some of these tracks.

The outrageously successful arrival of Geraldo Pino and the Heartbeats from Sierra Leone with their soul covers, tight choreography, slick costumes and expensive new sound system upped the ante for every band. The Lagos scene countered. Fela Kuti announced the creation of a new sound Afrobeat and then left for a tour of the USA which would keep him away from Lagos.

Source: www.anthologyrecordings.com


Orlando Julius - Super Afro Soul

Orlando Julius - Orlando´s Afro Ideas 1969-1972

Orlando Julius - Afro Soul

Jun 20, 2009

A long lost hero of Afrobeat music!

Geraldo Pino (aka Gerald Pine) is one of the hidden heroes of African popular music. A singer, guitarist and bandleader from Sierra Leone, Geraldo had a major influence on the burgeoning soul/funk/Afrobeat scene in West Africa during the 1960s and 70s. He made a huge impression on the young Fela Kuti who praised him effusively but his music has remained largely unheard for the past 30 years.

Pino’s proto-Afrobeat echoed the cultural preoccupations of the time – Black Power, African Unity, Heavy Vibes.

Gerald Pine formed the Heartbeats in Freetown in 1960/61 as a pop band playing cover versions of British and American hit songs, although they soon adapted to the influence of pachanga, tcha tcha tcha and rumba music from the Congo, notably that international blend supplied by Ryco Jazz (see RETRO10CD) who were touring the West Africa region. As the latin influences grew, so Gerald Pine evolved into the more exotic sounding Geraldo Pino, although it was as a champion of American style funk that he made his mark. Pino made a deep and lasting impression on that iconoclastic figure Fela Anikulapo Kuti (then still known by his family name of Ransome Kuti). As Fela told the author Carlos Moore in his 1982 biography:

"I was playing highlife jazz when Geraldo Pino came to town in '66 or a bit earlier with soul. That's what upset everything, man. He came to town with James Brown's music, singing, "Hey, hey, I feel all right, ta, ta, ta, ta. . . " And with such equipment you've never seen, man. This man was tearing Lagos to pieces. Wooooooooh, man. He had all Nigeria in his pocket. Made me fall right on my ass, man. Ahhhhhh, this Sierra Leonean guy was too much. Geraldo Pino from Sierra Leone. I'll never forget him. I never heard this kind of music before-o, I'm telling you. Only when I went to Ghana shortly after that did I hear music like that again, soul music. Shit! If you could have seen him, man. And his equipment . . . something else!

Pino’s party grooves and the Funk Imperative which underlines his musical philosophy make these dance tracks sound just as vital today as they did back then.


Geraldo Pino & The Heartbeats - Afro Coco Soul Live

Geraldo Pino & The Heartbeats - Let´s have a party

Geraldo Pino & The Heartbeats - Heavy Heavy Heavy

Say NO to the shutdown of the NEW AFRIKA SHRINE by the Nigerians Authorities !

The statement on the myspace homepage of Femi Kuti.



To: the Governor of Lagos and the Nigeria’s Minister of Justice


Throughout Africa today there are many western-style theatres, mainly built by the Chinese, Africa’s latest colonizers-in-waiting. But only rarely are they administered and operated as cultural centres, open and accessible to anyone other than the bourgeois minority in their SUV’s and Mercedes limos.

A notable exception to this rule existed in Lagos Nigeria until last week, that is, when it was forcibly closed by the authorities giving less than 24 hours notice and claiming “noise nuisance, illegal street trading, indiscriminate parking, blocking of access roads and obstruction of traffic” as their justification.

The New Afrika Shrine was built and operated by Femi and Yeni Anikulapo Kuti, the eldest son and daughter of cultural icon, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, who built the original Shrine in the seventies, which endured until shortly after his death in 1997 when it, too, was forcibly closed by the Nigerian authorities.

Both the old and new Shrines were much more than just music venues. They were a refuge for the homeless and dispossessed, acted as a focal point for dissent and were consequently a thorn in the flesh of the ruling elite. Fela used the stage to launch eloquently savage diatribes against the corruption and mismanagement that was rife in Nigeria, one of the world’s leading oil producing countries, and was a hero to millions for the biting, non-compromising social commentary contained within his lyrics. In the seventies and eighties people flocked to the Shrine to hear Fela’s latest harangue of the country’s leaders and marvel at the powerful music and spectacle produced by his singers, dancers and musicians. Millions, not just in Nigeria but across the African continent, bought his albums and his tours in Europe and America attracted huge audiences.

Fela paid the price for his brutally frank and widely publicized condemnations of the government and his fierce defense of human rights by being constantly harassed, arrested (more than 200 times) and often savagely beaten, none of which ever diminished the continuing force of his attacks.

Following his death and the forced closure of his beloved Shrine, Femi and Yeni resolved to re-build an even bigger venue on a nearby site and used their share of income from the global sale of Fela’s albums with which to do so. They were determined to maintain their Father’s legacy and considered the heritage of shelter, support and advocacy as being the most valuable contributions they could make towards the development and creation of a united and democratic African republic.

Against all the odds, and despite constant harassment from the authorities, they have successfully continued to the Shrine open for almost a decade and have developed a large and faithful following, as well as providing an effective refuge for disaffected youth and the dissemination of preventive information in defense against the Aids pandemic. Femi and his band, The Positive Force, have graced the stage and kept alive the spirit of dissent and social commentary as the backbone of his work. He and Yeni have acted as host to the ever-increasing number of world-renowned artists who have made the pilgrimage to the Shrine and participated in the Felabrations which take place each year on the anniversary of Fela’s birthday. Despite the global recognition of the Kuti family (a musical about Fela is about open on Broadway and a Hollywood film is being made of Fela’s life and work) and their work as three generations of social reformers, the authorities have maintained their opposition and have taken every opportunity to obstruct the continued operation of The Shrine. This has included countless raids, often in the middle of the night, including beatings and harassment of the many homeless youth who seek shelter there, now once again exposed to the elements.

Now, of course, The Shrine is closed, according to the authorities, permanently. However, after making this pronouncement in writing just a few days ago, they have this morning stated that it may re-open tomorrow. This can, alas, not be viewed as any kind of victory. On the contrary, that a ‘permanent’ closure can be turned around in less than a week only shows that their decision-making process is completely arbitrary. This cat and mouse game, which has been going on for almost four decades must come to an end. When Fela died, the upper echelons of Nigerian government sent letters to the family that were not simply expressions of condolence but were eloquent testimonials to a great man. The present authorities must finally admit that Fela Anikulapo Kuti is Nigeria’s best loved son and accept the earnest request made by the Executors of Fela’s Estate, Yeni, Femi and Kunle Anikulapo Kuti, to:

1. Once and for all end hostilities and harassment.
2. Permanently re-open the Shrine
3. Create the necessary decree to establish and maintain The New Afrika Shrine as a National Heritage Site in recognition of the invaluable contribution made by the Kuti family to the cultural life of the nation.

To assist this process and make clear to the Nigerian authorities that the Kutis, for almost a century have enjoyed the respect and admiration of not just Nigerians or even Africans, but people of conscience around the world, please add your signature to this petition in support of this proposal, to be forwarded to the Governor of Lagos and to Nigeria’s Minister of Justice.

2nd June 2009