Nov 19, 2009

Jujuba - Same

The Band

Jujuba delivers a funky, danceable style of Nigerian Afrobeat and Juju music.  The strength of the eleven-piece revolves around its energetic cohesion between percussion, rhythm and horn sections.  Renowned for their ability to engage a wide variety of audiences, the band draws a dance floor full of smiling faces at every event.  

Jujuba features Nojeem Lasisi from Igbo Ora, Oyo State, in Nigeria.  He ranks among the world’s elite talking drum players.  Nojeem was given his first drum at age four by his father, also a master drummer, who handed down to Nojeem its powerful language.  As a member of Nigerian superstar King Sunny Ade's group, the African Beats, Nojeem toured the world and appears on numerous recordings with King Sunny, including "Seven Degrees North" and "Odu”.

Nojeem has settled in the Northwest and assembled Jujuba from local musicians who all share a true love for Nigerian music.  Their diverse experiences in a wide range of styles propel the project into new directions based on Afrobeat, Juju and traditional Nigerian folk music.  Nojeem Lasisi and Jujuba have created a unique blend of African and Western music they hope is enjoyable to all.

Since the fall of 2002, the band has elicited a strong flow of positive feedback from audiences, concert promoters, festival organizers and the press.  As Marty Hughley of The Oregonian puts it, “the heat and flavor was all in the groove.”  The joy Jujuba shares with its audiences encourages new material, a tighter connection and a growing energy from each show to the next.



The Oregonian - article by Marty Hughley, June 26, 2006:
"Drawing A Crowd And Filling The Dance Floor"

" a few songs into Saturday's opening set by the band Jujuba, what had been a half-dozen dancers had transformed into a floor full of fans, deeply engaged in the groove.

Jujuba is a Portland group led by Nigerian immigrant Nojeem Lasisi, a master of the talking drum and a former member of King Sunny Ade's African Beats, one of West Africa's most illustrious bands. His own 10-piece band includes players from such Portland groups as the jazz band Flatland and the samba troupe the Lions of Batucada, transformed into a credible Afrobeat and juju ensemble.

Its set on Saturday featured long, churning grooves built atop burbling bass lines, with cross-thatched rhythm guitar and multiple layers of percussion. Dynamics came from Lasisi's emphatic accents on talking drum -- a pitch-adjustable drum, also called kalungu, that mimics the tonalities of speech -- and charging horns that split the difference between battlefield heraldry and James Brown-style funk. Sprinklings of jazz-inflected solos and Lasisi's occasional vocals in Yoruba completed the recipe, but the heat and flavor was all in the groove.

Out on the floor, those dancers danced best who danced with hips more so than with feet (or, as was the case with one especially enthusiastic young woman up front, with elbows)."

Jambase Review:
(Referring to a performance at the Crystal Ballroom in Portland, OR 2/18/06)

ââ¦Jujuba, a power-house Nigerian style afro-beat band featuring Nojeem Lasisi, known for his time in Nigerian superstar King Sunnyâs group, the African Beats. Nojeem and Jujuba have created a unique blend of African and Western music that has universal appeal and incredible live energy.â

Willamette Week
March 15, 2006

"Nojeem Lasisi and his 10-piece band Jujuba will steep you in the juices of the funkiest stew around. Their jazz, funk, reggae, Afro-Cuban and Samba deep beats mean the rooster-neck bop just isn't enough: your whole body must pulsate..."

Portland Mercury - Karla Starr, August 31, 2005

"...Jujuba ignites a more primal sense of movement. The funky, feel-good 11-member group's lavish use of drums creates tunes based on traditional Nigerian folk music that are sure to get you moving."



01 Funky Juju 06:46
02 Jujuba 06:39
03 Kpanlogo 08:52
04 Flash 06:59
05 Afrobeat 07:33
06 Go Slow 05:54
07 Sidewinder 06:02
08 Emphasize 05:50
09 Mo Ri Ke Ke Kahn 06:00
10 Gbeyo Gbeyo 03:09

Nov 17, 2009

The Afrobeat Diaries ... by (Pt.V)

Revival & Revolution

Source and thanx!

When Fela Kuti died in 1997, it seemed, for a while, as though Afrobeat might have died with him. So colossal was Kuti's role in the music, and so few were the young pretenders to his throne, that the vacuum left by his passing appeared unfillable. In the immediate aftermath of his death it was left, not to a young pretender, but to the drummer Tony Allen, who had helped Kuti create Afrobeat in the late 1960s and who had remained the foundation stone of his bands until 1979, to pick up the baton. Which he has done magnificently, starting with Black Voices (Comet, 1999) and continuing up to Secret Agent (World Circuit, 2009). In 2009, Allen is well into his second stride, and his follow-up World Circuit album promises to be something special.

Along the way, Allen, who has since the mid-1980s been based in Paris, France, was joined on the post-Fela Kuti stage by Kuti's Nigerian-based son Femi and his band, Positive Force. Femi had been recording under his own name since the late 1980s, with a string of workmanlike, but somehow ultimately underwhelming albums. It was Allen, open to other influences, most notably reggae-inspired dub, but retaining the original Afrobeat vibe, who made most of the running.

It wasn't until 2008 and Fela's younger son, Seun's, gloriously authentic Many Things (Tot ou Tard), that the Kuti bloodline was properly revived. Less globally eclectic than Allen, Seun's Afrobeat has been to date more revivalist than revolutionary, but—helped by his father's last band, Egypt 80, and his last musical director, saxophonist Lekan Animashaun—Many Things was a convincing chip off the old block. Seun was fortunate in having Animashaun on his team; he'd joined Fela, along with Tony Allen, in the mid-1960s, and he has the original Afrobeat blueprint 100% down. (Animashaun's solo album Low Profile: Not For The Blacks, recorded in 1979 but not released until 1995, and available since 2004 on the British Honest Jons label, is reviewed in Part 3 of these Diaries).

Betraying a gobsmacking ignorance of West African musical tradition, some European and American observers have sought to belittle Femi and Seun's involvement in Afrobeat by suggesting that they are opportunists exploiting their father's name. To say such a thing is entirely to miss the point: in West Africa, and elsewhere on the continent, the role of professional musician is routinely handed down from father to son (and it is son, almost always, rather than daughter), with the inheritors preserving their forebears' legacies while, as they mature, adding more of themselves to their music.

But that's by the by. The good news is that not only are Tony Allen and Femi and Seun Kuti keeping the flame burning, but they have been joined by a host of other artists playing Fela-inspired Afrobeat. Many of these bands are European or American-based, and many of the musicians who play in them are white. It's generally presumptuous to attribute statements like "he would have loved it" to departed musical auteurs when describing the work of their inheritors; but it's safe to say Fela would thoroughly approve of this development, even if he might not be so enthusiastic about some of the bands.

Afrobeat Revival features ten different modern Afrobeat bands, including those led by Tony Allen and Seun Kuti. Allen's "Crazy Afrobeat," from Home Cooking (Honest Jons, 2004), and Kuti's "Think Africa," from Many Things, are, of course, highlights, but they're not the only ones. Another is the New York-based Akoya Afrobeat Ensemble's 13-minute opus "Fela Dey" (meaning Fela Forever), from the group's second album, P.D.P. President Dey Pass (Afrobomb, 2008). The horn section is a monster, the rhythm guitar precisely catches the magic of those skeletal but irresistible background riffs which were key to Fela's work from the early 1970s, and in Leon Ligan-Majek the band has a lyricist with something to say and a singer with the presence to drive the message home.

Akoya's isn't the only more-than-promising ex-North American track on the album. Antibalas' "Government Magic," Chicago Afrobeat Project's "Jekajo," Mr Something Something & Ikwunga The Afrobeat Poet's "Di Bombs" and The Superpowers' "Abbey Rockers #1" also nail it. Chicago Afrobeat Project's use of the kora, assertively played by Morikeba Kouyate, is a novel development which works well. Singer and multi-instrumentalist Toli Almasi's Brooklyn-based, all-female group Femm Nameless' "Ibajekbe (What If)" is another unusual and successful track, refreshingly for Afrobeat putting a woman's perspective up front and including wife beating and breast cancer among its references.

The least convincing track on the collection, and indeed the only unconvincing one, is "Trouble Come Trouble Go" by the New York-based Kokolo, whose 2004 album More Consideration (Full Cut) is included in its entirety as a bonus disc. The group constructs some solid grooves tempered by Latin influences, but are holed below the waterline by their vocals.

But nine boss tracks out of ten is an above average score, and so successful is Afrobeat Revival that's it been joined by a second volume, Afrobeat Revolution (Rough Guide, 2009), to be reviewed in a later Diary.


01. TONY ALLEN: Crazy Afrobeat
02. ANTIBALAS: Government Magic
03. SEUN KUTI & FELA’S EGYPT 80: Think Africa
05. FEMM NAMELESS: Ibajekbe (What If)
06. KOKOLO: Trouble Come, Trouble Go
07. DELE SOSIMI: Ojoro
10. THE SUPERPOWERS: Abbey Rockers #1

Source and thanx!

Some more additional information about the sampler

What can be said about the legendary Tony Allen, the bebop-informed rhythm machine, that has not already been said? Fela Kuti once stated that, ‘without Tony Allen, there would be no Afrobeat’. Black Voices now stands as a milestone in the Afrobeat revival and Tony’s second album Home Cooking was made with the help of the Unsung Heroes production squad and featuring the likes of Ty, Damon Albarn and Eska.

The Kuti family has been making news in the world of music for some time now, but it may be Fela’s youngest son, Seun Kuti, who carries the torch for pure, unadulterated Afrobeat. Having been a member of Fela’s later band since the age of 9, the gravel-voiced Seun’s overall sound is closest to his father’s. The current unit is, in fact, Fela’s own group, Egypt 80, with alto saxophonist Lekan Animashaun as musical director. ‘Think Africa’ was recorded in Lagos in 2006 with Pidgin English lyrics concerning government corruption. Keyboardist, arranger, vocalist and educator Dele Sosimi’s ‘Afro-groove’ is quite a jazzy number, and in the musical spirit of Fela. In fact, Dele and his childhood friend Femi Kuti were leading players in Egypt 80, joining in 1979. In 1986 Sosimi and Femi left to form their own band, Femi Anikulapo-Kuti and the Positive Force, of which Dele was the musical director and bandleader.

Credited with introducing a new generation to Afrobeat is the Brooklyn-based collective, Antibalas, who has been making waves recently, delivering the soundtrack to the new musical, Fela!, showing Off Broadway. Also emerging from the contemporary Afrobeat revival scene in NYC is Kokolo. Their irresistible groove, conscious lyrics and powerful horns made such an impression that More Consideration became the stand-out bonus disc to accompany the Rough Guide compilation – allowing the listener to dig deeper into Africa’s greatest dance groove.

Brooklyn-based multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Toli Almasi founded Femm Nameless, an all-female group that is a welcome tonic to the most frustrating thing about the Afrobeat movement: a male-centric view of the world. ‘Ibajebe’ asks “What If” – what if the order were turned upside down, what if we had the courage to unite and ask the tough questions, see each other’s reflection in one another’s eye? We could challenge the status quo, question authority, fight injustice, eradicate inequality. Fela’s lyrics certainly commented on power dynamics, but Toli’s fearless questioning makes new statements about that subject in a feminine voice that carries a universal message.


This collection demonstrates that Nigerian icon Fela Kuti’s legacy is alive and well, the music he developed, an intensely political mixture of funk, hi life and African percussion with these trance inducing elongated instrumental parts, and call and response vocals still resonates in these difficult political times. Kuti’s drummer Tony Allen starts proceedings with his cheeky Crazy Afrobeat, taking a jazz funk angle that owes as much to Kuti as Herbie Hancock, given further weight due to the sleazy little instructions he murmurs occasionally as if Afrobeat is a hot new dance the kids will love. Move over Lambada, do “the Afrobreat,” instructs Allen. It’s a classic. Antibalas have been a long standing representative of the New York Afrobeat scene and their music is deep and funky with thick low horns and urgent tinkering percussion. Their 10 minute plus Government Magic whilst overtly owing much to Fela is also one of the highlights of this collection. Canadians Mr Something Something team up with Nigerian Afrobeat poet Ikwunga with one of the cleverest and overtly political songs on the album, whilst Massachusetts instrumental band The Superpowers highlight the funk aspects of early 70’s Fela, and it’s pretty food for white-boys. Almost without exception every track on this compilation is gold, though that’s what you get when you’re influenced by a musical deity. So special mention should go to the son of god, Seun Kuti who’s album Many Things is the most inspiring music I’ve heard this year, an angry slab of urgent Afrobeat that feels as raw and vital as any of his fathers work. Think Africa from said album, with Fela’s legendary backing band Egypt 80 attempts to highlight some of the social inequalities Africa is currently and possibly has always experienced. It’s intelligent aggressive and will no doubt make you go out and track down the album. Whilst the apple hasn’t fallen too far from the tree for Seun, Afrobeat has evolved and moved in new and curious directions and these artists are at the forefront and it’s an exciting time. This collection also comes with a complete bonus cd by the New York based Kokolo who integrated latin, reggae, Brazilian and dub influences into their unique take on Afrobeat.


Nov 14, 2009

Mdungu - Afro What

The Band

Mdungu is a formation of nine international musicians based in The Netherlands. Their style is unique. Intense, raw and highly danceable. A fat horn section, a thriving rhythm section, lyric guitars and a pinch of vocals are the cornerstones of the Mdungu sound. Mdungu is influenced by the Griots of Mali, the Afrobeat of Nigeria and the Mbalax of Senegal. Mixed with funk, rock, jazz and samba, played with heart and soul: African music the Mdungu way.

AFRO WHAT!? is Mdungu's debut album released in May 2009. The album was very well received in the Benelux and has been released in the rest of Europe in the fall of 2009. The recordings are mixed by producer/guitarist Justin Adams, who is well known from his award winning work with Tinariwen, his own group the Justin Adams / Juldeh Camara Trio and Robert Plants Strange Sensation. The album is released by Zimbraz, a division of Music & Words.


This album of Dutch-based musicians drawn from Holland and West Africa, will get attention because of the involvement of Justin Adams, whose work with Tinariwen, Soul Science and Robert Plant has been critically-acclaimed and popular in equal measure.

It’s a lucky break for the band and for anyone who loves jazz and African music. These ten tracks go from hard honking sax Afrobeat numbers to gentler guitar-driven pieces of quiet beauty and there is a sense that although there is fusioning going on, it is not the forced, bottom denominator stuff that quickly tires, it is the result of a band playing together for a number of years and getting each other’s musical ideas. Perhaps the quality of the album lies on the cutting room floor. It is the stuff that was tried and ultimately rejected over the years that marks out what is left as the real thing.

There are no duds on this album and I only hope that if this album gets the attention it deserves, the band will get an unreasonably long time to develop a follow up.

—Damian Rafferty, 4 October 2009 -> Source

"One of the year’s undisputed highlights so far. A joy from beginning to end. Diverse, funky, challenging and fresh." Fly, Global Music Culture (UK)

"They (Mdungu) are the most popular and most busy Afropop band based in the Netherlands" Peter Bruyn, Haarlems Dagblad

"Mdungu is rightaway the highlight of the night" review by De of Mdungu at Pure Jazz Festival, The Hague

"Such craftmanship. Simply brilliant!" RifRaf magazine

"Go buy this record and go see this band, Mdungu is in the Dutch African scene a new and very refreshing sound." Jair Tchong, VPRO radio

"Afro What!? is one of those few records that gets better every time you listen to it... one of the strongest debuts of the year"

“An amazing debut! (...) Goosebumps.” (Mixed)



01. Afro What!?
02. Boolow Gambia
03. Slow Music
04. Confusion
05. Pick Up
06. Walk To Togo
07. Kabbaya
08. Mali Express
09. Rio Nights
10. Paps Touré

Nov 6, 2009

Seun Kuti - Interview 2008


His father, the late great Fela Anikulapo Kuti, was the godfather of the politically sharp, seriously funky music genre known as Afrobeat. Seun Anikulapo Kuti is carrying the torch forward, blowing sax and singing as leader of Fela’s old band Egypt 80. An album titled simply Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 is set for release June 24. Seun was on the European leg of a world tour getting ready for a show in Paris when I caught up with him via cell phone on Tuesday to talk about his dad, the power of music, and Barack Obama.

The Egypt 80 tour hits North America this week for a series of shows in June and July starting in Los Angeles and working up the coast to Humboldt County where they play Monday, June 23, at the Mateel Community Center. (All concert dates are listed below.)

The interview

So you’re in Paris with Egypt 80?

Yes. That’s my band.

As I understand it, you were a member of Egypt 80 when you were a boy.

Yes, since I was eight. I used to open the shows for my dad. I used to sing every Friday night at the Shrine.

What do you remember about your dad?

There are so many memories. You know I was 14 when he died. I saw him every day. He was a very integral part of my life, so I don’t know. He was not the kind of dad who was like a dad, he was more like a friend, you know.

Was he also your musical teacher?

Well, in practical terms yes. He gave me the opportunity to get on stage. But he was not like a music teacher; he didn’t have time to be teaching me physically. He helped me with my musical ambitions anyway I wanted. He sent me to the best schools. When I wanted to start singing it was my decision. He told me that and supported my decision. That was the best lesson he could give me at such a young age.

And I assume he was a role model.

That definitely goes without saying.

When he died, did his band, Egypt 80 continue on immediately?

Yes, although it was not my plan to lead the band. I wasn’t thinking it was going to be me who would keep the band going. It was something all of us had in common, that we wanted to keep going. It was not easy. Nobody was supporting the band. At that moment I made up my mind and stood up to say I want to keep playing. When we continued it was tough, when we took someone like Fela out of the equation. It was a very hard thing.

I’ve been listening to this new album that’s about to come out in the U.S. It seems like you have brought the Afrobeat movement into the 21st century.

I don’t think so. Afrobeat has always been in the 21st century. Afrobeat was about to go global in a big way when Fela died. He was about to do a world tour that would have brought the music worldwide, but he died. We went on without him, but it’s a misconception when they say Afrobeat sounds like old music, that it needs to be changed, to be fused with new music. They said we had to add some funk and some soul to make it new. I don’t believe that. Afrobeat is evergreen, the albums are classics. One of the rules of Afrobeat is that every song has to have an everlasting meaning to it. I believe Afrobeat has always been in the future. The world is just now catching up to it.

Is it still the music you hear on the street in Nigeria?

Of course, it is the music of the masses too for all times. It does not always get the support given to the bubblegum music that we have everywhere now.

Like your father you are speaking out against the corrupt leadership of tour country. That’s what got your father in trouble with the government. Have you faced the same kind of resistance from the authorities?

Of course, of course. It goes without saying in Africa. It’s been the same for years. I understood from a young age that Afrobeat was more than just a genre, it was a movement, you know. So I decided to leave behind my education in Liverpool to join the movement, and that’s what I did. Now I fight with the movement. And I know the consequences.

You’ve said there’s a change: instead of get up and fight, the people must get up and think. What do you mean by that?

We are not lacking for fighting in Africa. There are wars everywhere at the moment. What we are lacking in Africa is the right ideology. The mentality behind this fighting, the revolutionaries want a bloody fight. What I want is to correct injustice. We have to fight with our minds.

We don’t here much in America about what’s really going on in Africa. What we know about Nigeria is that it’s a source for oil and there are disputes around oil over there. Is that what you are talking about in your song “Na Oil”? Is that about oil?

Not only. It’s a parable really, about the importance of human life. In my language is says, “Na oyeli ide carry,” which means, it’s oil that I’m carrying on my head. It’s red oil, palm oil. It’s also what we call crude oil, but [traditionally] it is palm oil. It’s an old traditional saying. It’s about our rulers who only wan to get rich. I call them rulers, not leaders, because they do not lead us, they rule us. There’s a big difference. For them their Swiss bank account is more important than our lives. So we speak to them in the song sarcastically, asking hem to respect our lives in Africa.

So as the price of oil goes higher and higher, it’s only the rulers who proper.

It’s always been that way in Nigeria. Ninety percent of the resources are owned by one percent of the population. Those who own the resources have actually stolen them from the people. The world ignores that fact and continues to do business with them.

You say you came back to Egypt 80 to rejoin the Afrobeat movement. Do you think a musical movement can change things like the oil problem?

Music is a very powerful weapon. It has the power to do incredible things. So yes, of course. One thing I learned from my father is that music does not stay in one place. It goes all around the world, but you have to dedicate your whole life to that. But music gives you back in turn, it gives you long life, it gives you grace. Music has the power to change people’s minds, to change the course of mankind.

It can get people to get up and think, as you say.

Yes, of course. Because people listen to music all the time. That’s why I don’t think it’s a coincidence that only bubblegum music is what is hyped everywhere in the world.

Because the rulers don’t want people thinking…

Exactly. Of course there are a lot of conscious bands out there and many musicians who are activists. In the ’60s and ’70s you had Jimi Hendrix and many others. People were listening to people like Malcolm X and they were listening to intelligent music. And you know intelligent music actually makes people intelligent. The rulers couldn’t handle that.

So instead they gave us bubblegum so we’d stop thinking for ourselves.

Exactly. Trust me, I don’t mean to insult any artists. I listen to nice music myself. But you must remember, music has power.

I have one more question for you. I heard that you had trouble with your visas and immigration on a previous trip to America, and a Senator from Illinois helped you out. Senator Obama…

He’s not Senator Obama, he’s President-to-be Obama, future President of the United States.

What does that mean from the point of view of someone who lives in Africa?

You know, this is the first real hope for Africa, the first in a long time, in terms of political leadership. We’ll have to judge history by what he does. He owes the black race and I’m sure he understands that because he’s an intelligent guy. He owes Africa, and a lot is expected. Being an African, he knows that Africa needs to be free. He knows what needs to be done. He knows the influences that need to be curbed. We hope for the best.

Same over here. I don’t want to keep you much longer, but I have to tell you, your music is great and I think what you are doing is very important.

Thank you. And we will see you soon.


Superkali - Superkali


Superkali plays Afrifunk: a distinctively organic, American take on the hypnotic poly-rythmic style of the godfather of Nigerian Afro-beat, Fela Kuti. Drawing on its members' collective backgrounds in funk, jazz, and world music, Superkali's original material burns a groove unlike any other band in the Northwest. If Fela Kuti, James Brown, and John Coltrane could of had a musical child together it would have been Superkali. Made up of professional touring veterans Tracy Ferrara on tenor saxophone (Swamp Mama Johnson) and Terrance Stearns on trombone (Spirit House), Cornish composer/guitarist Bill Patton, and the dynamic rythm section of L,.A.'s native Ross brothers (Stephan on bass and Rachman on drums), Superkali now reigns the Northwest music scene as a roaring lion of the cool groove school. Superkali's credo:


The Seattle Weekly writes, "A lot of bands who claim to fuse disparate musical infuences are big fat cheaters. Instead of actually synthesizing the different sounds into a coherent whole, they essentially just take turns slapping together cliched riffs from each....(This band) shows that it doesn't have to be this way....Superkali really do deliver a supercharged mixture of funk, Afro-beat, and jazz." (5/3/2001).



01. Daktari Walk 5:00
02. Seven 4:14
03. Fangus Fu 6:12
04. Eltsuhg Ibal Lasiti 4:15
05. Kids Eat Free 5:58
06. Angel Food 4:10
07. Downside Up 3:46
08. Lamont 2:44
09. Kudzu 5:34
10. F Train 4:16
11. Twelve Days 6:23

@ myspace

Nov 4, 2009

The Voodoo Funk Chronicles

From civil uprisings to insect nests, crate-digger Frank Gossner's love of rare West African funk took him to some strange places. This is an extended version of his article in the October issue of Dazed & Confused.

For the complete day-by-day story, read his blog Voodoo Funk.

I'm a DJ without any skills, so the only way for me to shine is to have records that nobody else has. In the summer of 2005, my wife was offered a job in Conakry, the capitol of Guinea. I was tired of Berlin and the shitty German weather, and her job paid more than enough for the both of us, so why not go somewhere where it's warm all year? "But what are you going to do with yourself all day?" my wife wanted to know.

I ended up doing what i always knew best: Buying records. You might think that that's not a job but believe me, in West Africa, it's pretty hard work.

My first source in Guinea was Mr. Mafa's record store. Mr. Mafa owned a small record store housed inside an old shipping container that someone had dumped next to the Marché Niger. I've spent countless afternoons with him, browsing through his entire stock. Mr. Mafa's store was also a great place to meet other local music lovers and we were often sat on his little wooden bench, drinking coke and chatting about West African Bands. It was interesting to hear how bands like Poly Rythmo from Benin had been real superstars in the 70s, touring the entire region from Senegal to Cameroon.

However, Mr. Mafa's store found a sad but however typical end only one year after my arrival in Conakry. For a few weeks, special police dressed all in black took to the streets after nightfall and painted red crosses on houses and stores that were build illegally and too close to the road. After a week or two, they came back with trucks, automatic weapons, clubs, whips made off power lines and car-mounted machine guns. Shacks, houses and businesses got looted, torn down and the rubble looted again by crowds of impoverished children who followed the mob in hope of perhaps finding something edible or of any other use.

Mr. Mafa's store also had received a blood red X. In his case even paying off the authorities wouldn't have been an option - he was located on one of the hotspots where new houses for "real" businesses were destined to be built and so he tore down his place himself before anybody else could. We remained friends and I continued visiting Mr. Mafa at his home. With his store gone, he spent a great deal of his time tracking down more and more records for me and even now that I'm living in NYC, he remains one of my best suppliers of Guinean and Malian vinyl.

My first digging trip outside of Guinea led me to Sierra Leone. My friend Amadou had grown up in the the country's capital Freetown until he had to flee one night in 1999 when the rebels took the city by storm. One of Amadou's friends had told us to search for "old sailors". He explained how it had always been the sailors who brought the new records to town. They were traveling up and down the West African coast, buying records in the harbors of Lagos, Cotonou and Abidjan, the cities with pressing plants, and selling them to local record stores and nightclubs once they got back to Freetown.

After a lot of asking around in town, we met a young man named Zico who told us he knew just the man we were looking for, an old sailor with a vast collection of records. Zico led us away from the chaos of downtown Freetown, down a narrow road with deep cracks in its tar that lead towards a narrow bridge with a stream below, lined with women doing their laundry. For the last few yards before the bridge, the edges of the road zigzagged towards its center, almost reaching the middle. Someone had painted the outline of the remaining tar white to minimize the danger of falling down into the water when walking after dark.

On the other side, Zico led us into a neighborhood of old wooden housesfrom colonial times, and after a while we entered a narrow gate in a sheet iron fence which gave way into a small community of shacks and one story houses. A labyrinth of pathways led us past old women preparing food in front of their houses and girls fixing each other's hair. On the other side, we exited again through another door and afterhalf a block, entered into a backyard where we found Mr. Abu Deen Kamara sitting in front of his one storey house.

Mr. Kamara was old - hard to tell what age exactly - his eyes were slightly fogged as if someone had poured a few drops of milk into them. Zico had already called him on his cellphone and the old man explained to us with pride how he had always taken good care of his records and that they would all be in excellent condition. Mr. Kamara disappeared into his house while his neighbours offered me a wooden chair. I sat down and set up the portable record player on the three feet high tile-covered wall surrounding a water well. Instantly, we were joined by several children and a group of women who sat down for their meal in front of the house next door, eyeing us with curiosity.

Kamara carried out the first box of 45s. Most of them really were in great shape, many even with intact color sleeve. I found Docteur Nico's Garage Funk Bomb "Sookie" on 45, pressed much louder than the LP version and a full minute and one insane drum/conga break longer. The fact that this beast was recorded in Kongo in 1968 still blows my mind.

Another highlight was the Ghanaian band Cobra with "Wari-Wa", one of the heaviest afrobeat tracks I've ever heard, Fela's incredible and super-rare "Beautiful Dancer" 45 and my first copy of the Rock Town Express LP.

Sierra Leone is still recovering from one of the bloodiest civil wars the world has seen in the late 1990s. Most lamp posts are riddled with bullet holes. You see a lot of evil looking scars on people and there are many amputees. Living conditions haven't improved since the end of the war. During the years that I visited, there was still no electricity and no running water in most houses. But the country is at peace and peace is the most important commodity, as we learned ourselves in 2007 when violence erupted in the streets of Conakry.

A general strike turned bloody when the president's son, a notorious drug addict as well as trafficker and high-Ranking soldier, commanded his elite unit of "special rangers" to open fire on unarmed protesters. We weren't able to leave our house for weeks. There was intense shooting all over town, the government imposed martial law and acurfew. Most foreign embassies began evacuating their personnel. We didn't want to leave our three adopted dogs behind to starve to death so we couldn't leave by plane like everybody else.

Instead we took the car and headed for the "Conakry-Freetown Highway" which in fact is nothing but a wide dirt road with potholes that could swallow a small vehicle. After 8 hours and a good dozen of military road blocks manned with soldiers in varying degrees of intoxication, and having had machine gun barrels pointed in our faces on more than one occasion, we had reached the border to Sierra Leone and were greeted by a border patrol with "Welcome to Sierra Leone, we are a peaceful country!"

I guess my favorite country in the region is Benin. During my first stay in Cotonou, I took a bush taxi about 70 miles up north to Bohicon. After asking around town for a few hours, a moto-taxi driver told me he'd know some places where I could find records. The first spot was at a store that sold cassette tapes, records as well as radios and all other sorts of electronic equipment. The records were in two large wooden boxes that also contained swarms of large cockroaches and silverfish. Most paper sleeves had been eaten away partially by insects. The closer we got to the bottom, the lesser intact the sleeves and the thicker the bug droppings in between the records. The air was thick with dust and and dark layers of dirt and bug excrement started to cake onto my hands and lower arms.

Once I had looked through everything, the owner of the records store accompanied us on his moped to the house of a very old man who had somewhite medicine smeared all over his body and was only covered aroundthe waist by a single piece of cloth. The record store owner went into the next room and returned, one after the other, with three very large wicker baskets that were stuffed with stacks of LPs and 45s. The records on top were in really nice shape but digging deeper, I realised that at one point, thankfully long before our visit, the baskets had also served as a home to some sort of larger insect. The animals had chewed away almost all cover sleeves right up to the records, leaving round layer cakes of vinyl, paper and cardboard. I found a few records where even small amounts of vinyl had been gnawed off by those eager little critters.

Things got really rough when I hit the bottom of the last basket that contained mostly 45s: the insects had built chambers and tunnels inbetween the records, using a red, clay-like substance that consisted of chewed up record sleeves, earth and hornet spittle. To make things even more bizarre, large pieces of insect shells were baked into the thick, red crust.

Back at the hotel in Cotonou and after I had cleaned up all of the records in the bathroom sink, I was relieved that almost all of them turned out to play nicely. Amongst the most mind blowing finds of that day were various Poly Rythmo 45s on the Albarika Store label, some even with intact picture sleeves and the rarest Poly Rythmo LP ALS005 with Vincent Ahehehinnou.

I returned to Benin over a dozen times. Sometimes, I literally had todig through dirt but I often found stacks of perfectly preserved records that - besides the water damage, mostly unavoidable in West Africa after dozens of monsoon seasons - were in sometimes miraculously good condition. The huge musical output of this tiny country still baffles me, and on every trip I kept finding records that I had previously not known existed. I also got to meet several of the musicians responsible for these incredible recordings, like Gustave Bentho from Poly Rythmo or the fabulous El Rego who just celebrated his 50th anniversary on stage. These encounters were at least as valuable to me as the rarest records I ever found.

The original website where the article was published you can find here.

Nov 3, 2009

Euforquestra - Soup


Soup, the new album from Eufórquestra captures a band at peak performance in terms of songwriting, musicianship and energy. The album features 11 tracks (10 songs and 1 dub remix) that showcase how the group’s songwriting/arranging skills have grown in the last three and a half years. In classic Eufórquestra fashion, Soup jumps seamlessly between genres, creating a diverse but cohesive ride for the listener. Long time fans will enjoy a well-produced batch of many of their favorite songs, while new listeners will have stumbled upon one of the most eclectic and musically competent bands on the scene today.


Recent Fort Collins via Iowa City transplants Euforquestra have done everything an ambitious yet humble band needs to do right, for the better half of this decade. Expanding their sound and fan base (and, presumably, their minds) by going west, the seven-piece has added flourishes of dub, a logical conclusion after dalliances in Afrobeat, salsa, samba, and funk. Soup, the band's third full length, is slick and smooth Saturday night party jams laden with lyrics reflective of the Midwestern dreadie zeitgeist.

The record storms in with "Cause A Reaction," everything pushed to eleven before settling into a hypnotic groove that doesn't let up until the reprise "Cause a Dub," expertly produced by the band’s alto saxophonist Ryan Jeter. The African-tinged interplay between guitarist Mike Tallman and the dual percussionists on the title track's warped middle section shows a lot of promise. "The Events of December 11" features a hook that compels the listener to Google the 2007 ice storm that left the boys powerless and scared. The lyrics obliquely evoke images of the more infamous -ember 11th, whether the intent was witty irreverence or frustration, one recalls George W. Bush using a similar phrase as the sole reason for the unprovoked invasion of a Iraq.

The band is most at home on the instrumentals, as their vocal harmonies can't possibly keep up with their hands. Fortunately, the non-Western influences shine enough to ensure repeated listens. The lyric-heavy tracks, long the bane of bands with Euforquestra's caliber chops, never weigh the band down. At nearly 63 minutes, the record is never short on ideas. With new surroundings, they should have no trouble concocting another Soup, which is good news for anyone craving a second bowl.


Similar to a 5 year old on Christmas morning, I tore through the plastic wrapping that surrounded the gem I was about to blessed with hearing. Eufoquestra's latest CD, Soup, is scheduled to be released October 6th , and will be the bands third studio creation following their last studio release, Explorations in Afrobeat in March of 2006. Having successfully toured relentlessly for the last 2 years, which has included 300 live performances, it is remarkable that the band has had time to create new music. Even more shocking, the band created an amazing album, not just a new content within those constraints.

From the first track, “Cause A Reaction”, you are immediately captured by the melodic rhythms and power message in their lyrics. As the horns blew and the drums beat, the song quick dropped into sequence that reminded me of Sublime. Not only relating to the melody of a style I enjoy, the lyrics resonated closely to my personal beliefs. The words conveyed a message about a collective awakening of the current societal issues that are present. More importantly, the song talks about unity and creating change from that bond of an awakening consciousness.

Finding it hard to sit still in my seat, “Melody Truck” provides an uplifting sound that simply brings a smile to your face. It is tracks like this that remind us why we all love the music of the Jam Community, positive energy. It was during “Soup” that Mike Tallman's soothing guitar brings you back to happy places in your mind, the kind that leave you feeling refreshed and alive. The reggae styles during “Called You” show the true diversity and talent of the band, switching from styles of Funk to Samba to Afrobeat to Afrocuban, the band's self proclaimed style “Afro-Caribbean-Barnyard-Funk” is well suited considering the bands diversity throughout the album.

Returning to the theme of deeper meaning and dynamic lyrics, “Change Me” speaks to individuality and personal responsibility. It is not only the lyrics that grab your soul, but the hard line drums of Adam Grosso and Josten Foley. Diverse lyrics and enchanting sounds, it is songs like “Feel Together” that get you off your feet and moving madly across the room in blissful state of mind. After all, as the song tells us,

...The energy of life pushing forward like it is meant to be...
...We can be the change we want our children to see...

It is the flowing rhythms and musical diversity that will bring this CD to the top of your rotation list. If you are looking to turn on CD and uplift your spirit, look no further, Soup is here. Thank you to the band for putting out music that conveys such a powerful and positive message, just what the world needs to hear.



1. Cause A Reaction
2. Melody Truck
3. Soup
4. The Events of December 11
5. Called You
6. Ochosi
7. Backbone
8. Change Me
9. Dr. Standby
10. Feel Together
11. Cause A Dub

The album can be downloaded for free here.