May 31, 2010

Imperial Tiger Orchestra - Addis Abeba


Afrobeat junkies and audio tourists alike can immerse themselves in Ethiopia's musical world. Swiss connoisseurs Imperial Tiger Orchestra bring their stylish homage to Paris, accompanied by Ethiopiques mastermind Francis Falceto and a screening of the short documentary Abyssinie Swing.

The Imperial Tiger Orchestra's approach to Ethiopian music is that of Pépé le Moko's towards Algeria, rather than the neo-realistic The Battle of Algiers. Driven by a sincere reverence for the haunting melodies which echoed through the streets of 1960's Addis Abeba, they accentuate mystique and mood.

Their brass heavy interpretations of songs from Ethiopia's heavy-weights-- Muluqén Mélléssé, Mahmoud Ahmed, Rahel Yohannes-- are certainly not authentic, but transcend rote mimicry by imbuing each song with a cinematic atmosphere. By capturing the foreignness of another time and another place, exploiting the eastern and Arab exoticism, and visualizing discoveries as gritty noir flicks the group succeeds in creating their own music.

Ideally the Imperial Tiger Orchestra would be found in the corner of a tightly packed café, surrounded by brightly garbed girls and grim-faced hustlers. Cigarette smoke would hang in the air, pools of cheap liquor would collect in scarred table-tops, the danger of a knife-fight or police patrol would be palpable. The Centre Culturel Suisse may lack the proper ambiance, but the band should provide plenty of their own for your evening's journey.


The Orchestra’s repertoire consists of revamped remakes of songs from the golden age of Ethiopian music: a powerful horn section, deadly percussions and relentless keyboards provide a merciless and efficient instrumental reinterpretation and improvisation based on original vocal songs. Preserving the natural beauty of melodies and Ethiopian sound while exploring uncharted territory, playing with textures and dynamics, adding distortions and noise to complete beautiful pieces, the self-proclaimed counterfeiters embrace dark hypnotic rhythms, obsessive basslines and grooves from electronic music. Far from any purist notions, the musicians surprise and delight with traditional Thaï “phin” guitar mixed into traditional ethiopian “kebero” percussions. Just one example among many others. It’s groove experimentation, it’s improvisational heat.



1. Djemeregne (original track by Muluqen Mellesse)
2. Bati (Live – Traditionnel)
3. Emnete (Live – original track by Mulatu Astatqe)
4. Etu Gela (original track by Mahmoud Ahmed)
5. Bati (Studio version)
6. Harer Dire Dawa
7. Aha Gedawo
8. Selam Temagwet

May 28, 2010

Hugh Masekela - Introducing Hedzoleh Soundz


The 1973 album “Introducing Hedzoleh Soundz,” by Ghana’s Hedzoleh Soundz with South African trumpetist, Hugh Masekela is simply stunning- arguably the greatest African-Jazz fusion album of all time, and certainly Masekela’s most outstanding release. The musicianship & creativity on these precious cuts are matchless. All but 2 of 8 tunes are written by Hedzoleh (one is by Masekela in HS style, one is traditional)- and therein lies the album’s brilliance. So don’t be fooled by the title, this is Hedzoleh’s album with guest Masekela.

Hedzoleh (“freedom”) Soundz was formed in Accra, Ghana in the late 1960’s. Leader Stanley Todd assembled a monster ensemble of musicians from the Ghana Arts Council, intending to form a new Afro-Rock group that would be more traditional & African in sound, and hopefully surpass Osibisa in popularity (alas it was not to be). Their original songs were based upon traditional Akan & Ewe music, and employed dark, organic sounding African-made drums instead of modern western congas/drum-kit. One of their greatest hits was a Liberian sea shanty/Palm Wine song (Rekpete).

Hedzoleh’s rise to power was bolstered by local music mogul, Faisal Helwani, a producer, promoter, & club-owner, who brought Fela to Ghana. Helwani recognized Hedzoleh’s importance & potential, making them the house band for his famous “Napoleon” club. He also produced the LP “Introducing Hedzoleh Soundz,” recording in Lagos. Hedzoleh won the Art Council “Dance Band” award in 1974.

Interestingly, Hugh Masekela was introduced to Hedzoleh by none other than Fela Kuti. Masekela worked with a primordial version of Hedzoleh as early as 1967 as evidenced by his powerful (but more jazz-heavy) performance at the Monterey Pop festival (on both dvd versions), with Hedzoleh members: Botchway (guitar), Todd (bass), Hammond (modern congas/flute), Morton (congas), Asante (on modern drum-kit!), and “Big Black” on congas (maybe Nortey?).

Masekela described his elation working with Hedzoleh Soundz: "I found a certain vitality in Afrobeat. Playing with… [Hedzoleh Soundz] was like being on a big fat cloud. You couldn't fall off."

Amazingly, no record company has ever bought the rights to release “Introducing Hedzoleh Soundz” on CD, so your best bet is to find it on LP via a google search. Fortunately there always seems to be a couple available (many unopened). One track from “Introducing Hedzoleh Soundz”, entitled "Languta" IS available on the Masekela compilation, "Still Grazing". Check it out!


Born and raised in the hell of South African apartheid, Hugh Masekela triumphed over oppression by wielding what Fela Kuti referred to as the weapon of the future–music. The young Masekela was first introduced to the trumpet (his future weapon) by anti-apartheid activist Father Trevor Huddleston. In a few short years, Masekela had developed into a raw but powerful player. Beginning in the mid-’50s, he was one of the most sought after musicians in all of Africa, partnering up with such luminaries as pianist Abdullah Ibrahim (aka Dollar Brand) and singer Miriam Makeba. Finding solidarity and a spirit of resistance in their music, Masekela and his contemporaries took inspiration from America’s more politically outspoken black artists, particularly Miles Davis and Paul Robeson.

American jazz was looked upon as a very high African art. We were living an urban life, and our only role models were African Americans, and their experiences as we understood them from films and records.

Irrepressibly talented, Masekela knew that no amount of foreign inspiration could help him to overcome the obstacles facing a black man in his native country. As his star rose, he strained against the shackles.

Our music was always a basic political threat. We were all relegated to a third class existence, but we excelled in music, and our talent was one thing they couldn’t take away. We were blocked a lot, by the white musicians’ union, and we hardly ever got paid, but it was all done out of love…When I was 19, I had already peaked in South Africa, but there wasn’t much to ‘peak up to’.

At the urging of Makeba and the sponsorship of Harry Belafonte, Masekela left his homeland and went into exile. He enrolled at the prestigious Manhattan School of Music in 1960, with Belafonte picking up the tab and buying him a new flugelhorn. For the sensational young African musician, New York opened up to him a whole new world of possibilities.

The excellence of people like Miles Davis and Clifford Brown and Lee Morgan, that could only be achieved in the States. And by the time I got my passport, Sharpeville and the uprising were in full flow, and I knew that with my temperament, I would have soon been killed, imprisoned or forced into exile anyway.

In New York of the early and mid-’60s, Masekela was celebrated and befriended by the giants of jazz, who were drawn to the unfiltered sounds of Mother Africa flowing through his trumpet. African-American musicians such as Dizzy Gillespie and Cannonball Adderley were busy incorporating African concepts into their music, while their young African protégé was struggling to develop the technical virtuosity needed to play American be-bop and hard-bop. As he polished up on his chops, Masekela’s playing began drifting away from its African roots. But no matter how hard he tried to keep up, Hugh was no Miles Davis. In his autobiography, Miles recall some sage advice he gave Masekela:

Every time I saw him I told him to just keep on doing his own thing rather than trying to play what we were playing over here. After a while I think he started listening to me, because his playing got better.

As the ’60s wore on, Masekela began to move with the times. He updated his image by playing trumpet on the Byrds hit “So You Want To Be A Rock & Roll Star” and performing at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. The next year he hit it big on his own with “Grazing In The Grass,” which went to #1 in both the pop and R&B charts. Riding on a waning wave of popular success, he returned home to Africa in 1970, joining Makeba for a tour of Guinea. It was there that he first met Nigerian Afrobeat king Fela Kuti and the Ghanian band Hedzoleh Soundz. Kuti was setting Africa (and soon the world) on fire with his James Brown influenced brand of Nigerian jazz-funk. Kuti’s large ensemble of musicians plunked down thick chunks of interlocking rhythms over which his saxophone (and his stable of female dancers) could endlessly groove. Like the pre-New York Masekela, Kuti’s playing was incredibly soulful but technically limited.

Having overcome his own technical limitations, Masekela brought to the table a certain level of musicianship that was previously missing from Afrobeat. He felt incredibly recharged being back in Africa, ready to reconquer the continent and take the music higher. Shedding his adopted American style, he plunged deep into the Afrobeat. He hooked up with the Hedzoleh Soundz, an extremely talented band known for blending the ancient rhythmic traditions of their native Ghana with American jazz and Latin music. For Masekela it was a perfect fit, and his playing never sounded more organic, reflecting the joy of finally being able to express every bit of his musical genius through his African soul. “I found a certain vitality in Afrobeat. Playing with the band (Hedzoleh Soundz) was like being on a big fat cloud. You couldn’t fall off.”

Recorded in Lagos, Nigeria in 1973, Introducing Hedzoleh Soundz represents the culmination of Masekela’s career-long efforts to fuse the improvisational drive of jazz with the ageless rhythms of Africa. No real equivalent of this record exists anywhere. It is one of the most perfectly realized excursions by a notable jazz musician into an authentic form of African music. And no other indigenous Afrobeat or Afro-jazz-funk album surpasses the musicianship and creative energy of this one. Masekela’s trumpet rides upon a roiling sea of African rhythms, awash with ideas and emotion. The music draws you in so completely that the need to flip the record feels like a rude awakening.

The hallmark of a great album is that it kicks off with an opening track so compelling that it forces all those within earshot to shut-up and listen. “Languta” not only accomplishes that, but actually overrides all voluntary muscle control, causing the listener to spontaneously break into dance. At the same time, a dumb, blissed-out smile spreads uncontrollably across the face as one is exposed to the volatile tribal rhythms of the Hedzoleh Soundz. A rash of goose bumps rolls across the skin in reaction to Masekela’s blistering trumpet runs and belted out African vocals. The mind struggles to steady itself against the fast swirling waves of echo-effected trumpet that brings this possessed song to its Afrodelic climax. Not likely to be confused with background music, this song heralds the record’s journey into the dark heart of the funk.

But with the darkness comes the light. Deeper into the album, “Nye Tamo Ame” dances like a tropical ray of sunshine upon the soul. You’d be hard pressed to find any music that feels this good. I don’t speak a word of Zulu or Ghanian, but I know in my heart that Masekela and the Hedzoleh Soundz are singing about something sweet, spreading a musical message of love that bridges the language barrier. Smile, this is not just music for the feet.

More exceptionally powerful songs follow, thick with bass and percussion, hypnotizing minds and shredding time to ribbons. Back where he started, Masekela revelled in the joy of making African music, forgetting the past ghetto pain, the obligatory displays of technical prowess, the commercial pressures–liberated in the exuberance of the moment. “Free Your Mind And Your Ass Will Follow,” pronounced the P-Funk prophet George Clinton in 1970. That same year Hugh Masekela left Nixon’s America to embark on a spiritual homecoming, a soul expanding African journey that resulted in his Introducing Hedzoleh Soundz. Ahhhh…those were the days.



1. Languta
2. Kaa Ye Oya
3. Adade
4. Yei Baa Gbe Wolo
5. Patience
6. When
7. Nye Tamo Ame
8. Rekpete

May 18, 2010

Yaaba Funk - Nyash!...'e Go Bite You E.P.


“Yaaba Funk are a Hi-Life/Afro-Funk explosion. A product of Brixton and influenced by 1970’S Ghanaian hi-life, funky sounds of James Brown and UK sounds like Roots Manuva and The Specials. A floor-filling extravaganza combining the tightest rhythm section this side of Accra, fat analogue basslines, blazing horns, sparkling African and gritty rock guitars.”

The core members of Yaaba Funk met on the London African drum and dance scene in the 1990s where together they learned from master musicians from Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Brazil and South Africa. Many nights were spent jamming together at house parties where African drummers and dancers would mix and blend with the djs flinging tunes from anywhere and everywhere.

The band was born in Brixton in 2006 .

The name Yaaba Funk comes from an album called Yaba Funk Roots, the only album ever released outside of Africa by Captain Yaba, a musician from northern Ghana and exponent of the 2-string ‘guitar’ called the koliko. Though sadly no longer with us, Captain Yaba influenced the band’s Ghanaian lead vocalist and founder member, Richmond Kessie, with his mix of Ghanaian roots music and modern funk grooves.

They have built up a loyal fan base across London with their exuberant live shows
and count amongst their supporters industry luminaries such as the Shrine’s Rita Ray and Max Reinhardt, DJ Ritu (BBC Radio London), DJ Russ Jones (Future World Funk), Miles Cleret (Soundway), Erik Soul (Afrogroov/Wahala) and Koichi Sakai (Afrobeat Vibration/Jazz On the Road).

Since forming Yaaba Funk have appeared at the Barbican as part of African musician's
tribute to James Brown, Future World Funk, Afrogroov's Components, the main stage at Shambala Festival, Rise festival in Finsbury Park, Stokefest in Clissold Park, Bossaphonik in Oxford,Jibbering Sessions in Birmingham, underground venues in East London Passing Clouds and The Empowering Church (with Sofrito sound system), the Rest Is Noise (Brixton – with Sambalanco and Soul Jazz sound systems).

The band has performed live on Radio London's 'A world in London' (hosted by Dj Ritu)
and African Essence on Resonance FM (hosted by Debbie Golt).

Band members Chief Commander Yaaba, Mr Brett and the Outlaw Clive Wales also DJ at their own nights and as guests at other Afro inspired nights around London - pinning Afrobeat, Mbalax, Cuban rumba, Brazilian grooves, broken beat, 70s Nigerian funk, reggae and of course Hi-Life.

A multi-cultural south London band, with members from across the planet (Ghana, America, Martinique, Jamaica, Italy, Germany, and UK) long-term friends and musical allies, YAABA FUNK have created a punky Afro roots music for the 21st Century.



01. Nyash E Go Bite You Remix 8:34
02. Me Nye Me Dofu 5:07
03. Nyash! E Go Bite You 5:27
04. Gya Me Na Mendwen 8:12
05. Dman Foa 6:36

Chrissy Zebby Tembo And Ngozi Family - My Ancestors


Chrissy Zebby Tembo & Ngozi Family are yet another group of talented musicians from Zambia. As far as fuzzy rock from Africa goes this might be the daddy of em all. “My Ancestors” almost trudges the stoner rock territory. Tembo’s guitar work is incredible. He shreds over Heavy Deep Purple/Sabbath like riffs as signature funky afro-beats and melodic vocals move the music forward. This stuff is heavy!


Chrissy Zebby Tembo & Ngozi Family My Ancestors (Chris Edition) Zambia is well over a thousand miles from the west African Highlife & Afrobeat scenes, & stylistically the "Zam Rock" of the '70's was on a totally separate, post acid rock trajectory. "My Ancestors" is easily one of the best African psychedelic rock album ever recorded - raw, rough, with a gaping charm & tons of front & center fuzz guitar over basic, ultra catchy rock/pop tunes reminiscent in style to maybe the Velvet Underground (though Id have to guess the similarity is coincidental), with a couple semi heavy proto riff-rockers thrown in. Tembo is the singer/songwriter & drummer, & Paul Ngozi plays fantastic guitar all over this, & a bassist rounds out the basic arrangements. The vox are just wobbly & drugged enough to meet the feel of the music, while on enough to carry the melodies, which are central to the songs. The songs are sung in English & lyrically quite good, which is actually more of a sort of bonus attraction, since this is a feel album & you wouldnt necessarily need to even understand the lyrics to get into it, the feel is so right on. This is the type of record you listen to over & over, feeling great every time. Incidentally it includes the track Oh yeh yeh which was featured in the Love, Peace, & Poetry African comp. Originally released in Zambia in 74.

Paul Dobson Nyirongo (a.k.a. Paul Ngozi) who was know for his spectacular stage antics, that included playing the guitar with his teeth.
Paul Ngozi was adored by Zambian music lovers. His music is also best remembered for his poignant lyrics that reflected the life and times of Zambians. He won many awards and represented Zambian music in both Europe and the United States, and even went on a controversial tour of South Africa at the height of the Apartheid Era.

"To the best of my knowledge, the band was never called Chrissy Zebby Tembo & Ngozi family. The band was called the Ngozi Family Band. Ngozi ( means danger). Chrissy was the drummer, to the best of my knowledge and Paul Ngozi the Lead guitarist was the most influential and band leader and sometimes the band was called Paul Ngozi and the Ngozi Family."



1. My Ancestors
2. Trouble Maker
3. Loney Night
4. Coffin Maker
5. Oh Yeh Yeh
6. Fisherman
7. I've Been Loosing
8. Feeling Good
9. Gone Forever

May 17, 2010

Barcelona Afrobeat International Orchestra

Unfortunately, no information can be found about this band or any album ... if anyone has some information ... please feel free to contact me!!!

Anyway, the live album - recorded under the name "Live from the Sacred Fire Stage at the Boom Festival" in Idanha a nova, Portugal 2008 - is worth to listen to ...


01. Barcelona Afrobeat 01 (08:40)
02. Barcelona Afrobeat 02 (10:22)
03. Barcelona Afrobeat 03 (09:34)
04. Barcelona Afrobeat 04 (09:20)
05. Barcelona Afrobeat 05 (15:15)
06. Barcelona Afrobeat 06 (12:16)
07. Barcelona Afrobeat 07 (08:23)

The album can be downloaded for free here!

May 14, 2010

Public Opinion Afro Orchestra - An interview from March 2010

Public Opinion Afro Orchestra are a Melbourne big band Afrobeat Orchestra who blend African influenced funk with jazz and more contemporary styles like hip hop, even including turntables in their arsenal. They’ve just released their debut LP Do Anything Go Anywhere which they are launching at the Prince of Wales in Melbourne on the 13th of March, though before that they are performing at Womadelaide between the 5th and 8th of March in Adelaide. Bob Baker Fish spoke with turntablist and band director Ethan Hill.

The interview

How long have you guys been playing together for?

We’ve been playing together for 2 years now. There were just the three of us who are the band directors, myself Zvi and Tristan. I was in New York and I saw some Afrobeat bands there and I always wanted to do an Afrobeat band so I came back and talked with B and Tristan and we said okay cool we’re gonna do it and called up everyone we could think of who would be good and put the band together from there.

That sounds way too easy. Getting people together to play Afrobeat in Melbourne wasn’t too difficult?

It wasn’t too hard. Getting 20 people together to set up in the same place at the same time was a big challenge. Getting people to say they wanted to play music was easy enough.

So how many people are actually in the band?

It’s between 16 and 20. It’s a bit of a rotating cast.

Is that because of the problems getting all the people together?

Yeah and its also what the situation calls for. If we can manage to pay a few extra percussionists and get the extra vocalists and dancers down we like to do that,

Is it pretty difficult to manage a big band?

It’s hard to manage that many people to do anything really. Let alone musicians to get them to come to rehearsal you know. It’s not that bad, of course we have logistical problems but we tend to get around that. Once we’re all on the same page and we get going it’s definitely worth it then.

When you first started were you thinking that you wanted to sound a little like Fela Kuti or were you thinking that you wanted you wanted to add something different?

Well the music is 30 or 40 years old. So you can’t say I want to sound the way it was in the 70’s. It doesn’t really make sense. But we definitely took plenty of inspiration from Fela and I guess added more modern elements. I guess the obvious one is the hip hop, instead of just having singers we also have hip hop mcs like 1/6 and some guys we recorded in Africa and Kuukua does some MCing. I do some DJ scratching as well. Some of those things add extra elements and we also take quite a different approach to the music.

I was going to say that I don’t remember scratching when Fela played.

Yeah that’s right. I don’t think everyone really thought about it back then.

I was listening to your PBSFM show The Breakdown and you had an interview that you did with Femi Kuti.

Yeah that’s right. We went over there, a year ago now we were in Nigeria. We all went to South Africa and Nigeria on our little musical pilgrimage. I suppose if you’re going to play some Afrobeat you got to go to the the source. So we went to Nigeria, to the African Shrine which is the nightclub/ venue that Fela set up in the 70’s and his son Femi is still running it to this day. And he still plays there on thursdays and sundays, the rehearsal on thursdays and the show on sundays. So we went down thursday as guests of Yeni Kuti who is one of Fela’s daughters. We went and met Femi and Tristan and Zvi were lucky enough to jam on stage with him on the sunday at the actual show which was amazing. We were chatting to them afterwards and they were really hospitable, they invited us back to the house the next day for a BBQ, so we ended up going to a Kuti family BBQ. So I sat down with Femi and did that interview. Though I don’t call it an interview it was more ask him a question and he’ll just talk for 30 mins on whatever he decides to talk about. It was a pretty funny experience running around with all Fela Kuti’s grandchildren. It was great.

So you and the other guys went over to Africa part pilgrimage, part seeing if people wanted to record with you?

It was just a music journey. We wanted to go see some music check out some music, see what sort of bands you can hear today in Lagos as well as see who we could find who would record with us. We started in South Africa and recorded with the poet MC Tumi who V had met earlier, because Zvi is originally from south Africa and he’s an incredible MC when I first heard him I was blown away. I was amazed. We recorded with him in Johannesburg. And through some contacts we’d made in South Africa when we were in Nigeria we were able to hook up with Modenine and Terry Tha Rapman and a few others so we recorded them for the album as well. So we’ve got some guest vocals from some Nigerians and South Africans.

So you have similar approach to Femi, having people sit in and play with you when they’re around?

Exactly. We take inspiration from a lot of people. We’re a big band, we like to play with as many people as possible. We are a band where everyone comes from such different backgrounds and tastes in music, so it’s always great to throw in another different voice in there as well.

So how did you go about recording?

We recorded some stuff earlier before we went to Africa. Then we went over there and did some recordings there and then came back and finished it off in australia, It’s a transcontinental album.

So how do you go about writing material? Does someone just bring in an idea and show it to others?

That’s pretty much it. Generally speaking someone will come in with an idea and either bring it to the whole group or take it to a couple of others and say ‘hey I got this idea what do you reckon?’ Zvi and Tristan tend to be the main songwriters at the moment but Jules our drummer came up with part of one of the songs and Tristan wrote the horn lines, and then we take it from there, work the idea up a bit and then take it to the rest of the band and really build it up from there.

Is there much jamming or improvisation?

There’s always got to be an element of jamming in African music because a lot of the songs are 10 or 12 minutes. By the very nature of it they have to be jammy because no one can really remember 10 minutes. That’s kind of the way with Afrobeat music. It’s like ‘who wants to have a solo?’ And we throw to a trombone solo and then take it easy and see where it goes from there.

What have the responses been like to you guys playing live?

They’ve always been fantastic. Some of the first gigs we played people were like ‘what the hell is this?’ It was not something they’d seen. After a while everyone’s always got into it. Afrobeat’s just that kind of music, it just creeps up on you and after a while you find yourself dancing without even realising it.

It’s really quite interesting music, it has this amazing groove and uplifting feel, yet the content is intensely political, so it’s always had this double edge to it.

It’s always been part of it. We call it message music. It’s part of the reason we decided to use hip hop MC’s because hip hop MC’s have something similar to Fela, that anti authority, it’s sort of the arena you find those sort of messages these days. Femi Kuti was incredibly political when we were at the Shrine. He’d stop shows or have the band come down midway so he could have a talk to the crowd and have a big political rant.

Was there any trepidation of taking on this style of music because I’m guessing it’s not your cultural style.

I think music may come from a certain culture but music is an ever evolving idea. Our band we have a lot of members where that is part of their culture and some members where it isn’t and to a certain degree hadn’t really heard the music before starting to play in the band. I think music’s music, race, creed, country, culture, it sort of transcends all of that.

By Bob Baker Fish --- March 3, 2010

May 13, 2010

Gigposters II: Misc...

May 12, 2010

The Macrotones - Wayne Manor


Wayne Manor, the debut album from The Macrotones, an eleven-piece afrobeat band out of Boston, is tight display of funk and percussive aggression that shows a lot promise for the group. Certain songs attack and punch you in the face from start to finish while others slowly creep, ebb, and flow, much like some of their biggest influences, Budos Band, Fela Anikulapo Kuti and Afrika 70, and Antibalas.

Funky basslines and tight rhythm section lay down a tight groove over which the horns drive the action and melody of the song in place of a vocalist. While there are only three horns in the eleven piece band, Nate Leskovic on trombone, Andy Bergman on baritone sax, and Jason Buhl on tenor and soprano, make their presence felt with authority with a heavy, deep register.

The percussion section really takes the identity of the album's overall sound. Since The Macrotones don't have a vocalist, they have an elongated, open texture. The clave, shekere, congas, and trap drums fill in the gaps and give the album its lasting impression.

The Macrotones are part of a growing faction of afrobeat bands throughout the east coast. Inspired by Fela and his contemporary disciples, they take on the same challenge as their peers: to continue the legacy of afrobeat with their own sound.


I have been listening to this wonderful debut album by Boston, Massachusetts’ The Macrotones. Their music is all instrumental, and very funky, complete with jazzy horn section and irresistible percussion. This album often reminds me of the soundtrack to a spy movie. There is an inquisitive nature behind each of these songs that keeps the listener on their toes throughout the twists and turns of each song. “Hitchin’ to Bristol” is my favourite song on the album. The horn section just sweeps you off your feet when you would least expect it to. And listen to the insane percussion solo halfway through the song “Clave Fury”. A really interesting band that I definiately think you should check out if you are in the mood for something a little more on the jazzy side.


So when a band lists as their influences The Budos Band, Fela Kuti, Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, the Daktaris, Antibalas, Nomo, and the El Michels Affair, I don't have to scratch my head long trying to figure out if I'm going to like them. I'll take one please, super-sized. And when the band is a (semi-) local band out of Boston, I've got to throw out some kind words for them to help spread the beat.

Their name is The Macrotones, an eleven piece outfit that's got a macro-sound, as in large, thick, and especially prominant. Like many of the groups they mention as influences, they pump out an instrumental, afro-beat inspired, funk sound that will get your booty shaking. While you certainly get the sense that Fela's spirit is lingering in the air, there are also dashes of good ol' American funk thrown in for good measure. Tight horns, funky basslines, all sorts of percussion - certainly a tasty recipe.

Although I haven't had the pleasure, I'm guessing that experiencing these guys first-hand would be quite an experience. If you're in the Somerville area, check them out at Johnny D's in Davis Square and let us know about the show.



1. Book It! 5:20
2. Conversation 4:52
3. Hitchin' To Bristol 4:06
4. Clave Fury 5:49
5. Flood 4:22
6. Can You Hear Me Now? 3:20
7. Architecture 3:53
8. Emergency Room Lullaby 5:45
9. Brazil 9 7:30

Afro Funk - Body Music

Don’t know much about this rare LP, except that Afro Funk were from Ghana and Body Music was released by Kabana Records in 1973. Unfortunately, more information cannot be found, but honestly it's worth to listen to. Just enjoy it ...


01. Tei-Egwu 5:35
02. Afro Funk 4:10
03. Hot Love 3:33
04. Try And Try 3:12
05. Farewell To Ibusa 8:50
06. Obanya Special 4:49

May 11, 2010

Alan Parker / John Cameron - Afro Rock

African rhythms, jazzy instrumentation, rock inspiration, and a motherlode of funky sound library grooves from two of the best British maestros working in the business.


KPM was, and still is, a provider of library music to the media industry. Back in the 70s, many television and film drama directors and producers regularly used their libraries to put temp tracks and permanent scores on the finished product. And many of the tracks were provided by some of the best composers and arrangers in the business at the time. Names like Brian Bennett, Johnny Pearson, Alan Hawkshaw and Nick Ingman are very familiar to library music lovers and they all regularly worked for libraries like KPM, Bruton, Chappell.

Many of the KPM albums are still commanding astonishing prices in the specialist second hand market but if you are up for a bit of research then you can often find some gems on various blogs related to library and other obscure music such as Italian film soundtracks and the albums of Max Bygraves. I kid you not.

Thanks then to independent label, Tummytouch, who have just re-released some of the jewels from the KPM vaults onto CD and vinyl, all spruced up and sounding magnificent.

'Afro Rock' as a title would look to the casual browser in their local music emporium as some sort of politically incorrect throwback to the early 70s - all afro hairdos and 'jungle' drums. Do not let that impression get the merest chance of forming in your mind.

The album is 15 tracks by composers Alan Parker and John Cameron. KPM describes the album as 'hard afro-pop featuring large percussive rhythm section and front line' but that doesn't prepare you for an album of hard funk and jazz, propelled by lots and lots of drums and tom-toms, wah-wah guitars, tremor-like hard bass-lines, some serious strumming on harps and dextrous keyboard work. I never knew harps could be so hot. Bung all that in with copious amounts of woodwind and you've got music that would more than suit that retro 70s night you were thinking of planning. Much of it will conjure up cars going full throttle through walls of cardboard boxes or Gene Hunt laying some heavy action on a recently captured nonce. Picture some heaving metropolis and the feverish activity of its population.

It's not all driving bass and pounding funkiness. There are two really cracking compositions by John Cameron - 'Heat Haze' where the aforementioned harps take centre stage in a track that summons up cityscapes at sundown sinking into waves of heat rising from the pavement; and - 'Sahara Sunrise' which is obviously suggesting sand dunes and nomadic tribes but with its prevailing use of woodwind reminds me of the sterling work Cameron did for Ken Loach's film 'Kes'. Very, very evocative.


Having finally acquired the long awaited Soundtrack to cult Brit horror "Psychomania" (Number two on my ultimate wish list, right after the De Wolfe music heard in Dawn of the Dead, which was also released on Trunk Records) I was initially disappointed by the murkiness of the production but desperate to hear something, or anything, else by the amazingly funky John Cameron, I had enjoyed listening to the "Kes" soundtrack, but missed the heavy breaks and general eeriness unique to Psychomania, I was thinking it might have been a stylistic oddity in John Cameron's career. Until I found this...

Spacey flutes, heavy breaks, funky strafing basslines, syncopated percussion, all adding up to a uniquely atmospheric funk hybrid which sits right in the middle ground where Lalo Schifrin's Dirty Harry Score meets David Axelrod's Electric Prunes productions. There's even some Dorothy Ashby style harp-playing for good measure, and all produced to a crystal clarity.

Of course the six tracks by Alan Parker that comprise the first "half" of the record deserve more than a mere footnote in this review, all of them bringing more than a fair share of raw funkiness to the table.

I was expecting this release to be quite a fragmented listen but the tracks make up an enjoyably varied but stylistically cohesive whole, the vaguely "afrocentric" percussion really adding colour to the rhythms. With Alan Parker's slightly heavier approach complemented perfectly by John Cameron's more atmospheric take on funk. All in all a first rate record by two extremely talented composers.



01 alan parker - heavy water
02 alan parker - ice breaker
03 alan parker - solid latin
04 alan parker - punch bowl
05 alan parker - frozen steam
06 alan parker - black light
07 john cameron - range rover
08 john cameron - swamp fever
09 john cameron - safari so good
10 john cameron - survival
11 john cameron - afro waltz
12 john cameron - sahara sunrise
13 john cameron - rocking rhino
14 john cameron - heat haze
15 john cameron - afro metropolis

Monomono - Dawn of awareness


"Dawn of Awareness" was released on Capitol Records in 1974 to little critical acclaim. Friday Jumbo, the leader of Monomono was a member of Fela's group before he joined forces with vocalist Joni Hasstrup and bassist Kenneth Okulolo to form Monomono. The opening track entitled "Awareness Is What You Need" really nails the Fela afro-beat sound while still creating it's own sound. "Ipade Aladun" is the longest track on here at just over eight minutes and it really cooks with soulful vocals laid over a bed of funky organs and keyboards. Lots of breaks and weird sound effects for the beat junkies on this track alone. At just under five minutes, "Tire Loma Da Nigbehin" is the epitome of Clift-notes for afro-beat with complex syncopated basslines, repetitive vocal refrains and incendiary organs.

Monomono's roots trace back to Fela Kuti's band: the leader of Monomono (which means "dawn of awareness" in Yoruba), Friday Jumbo, was originally a congeuro for Fela and left the band to join forces with vocalist Joni Haastrup (who would blossom into a legend) and bassist Kenneth Okulolo. From best I can tell, they put out several albums in the early/mid-1970s.



01. Plain Fighting 5:39
02. Ipade Aladun 8:05
03. Get Yourself Together 5:05
04. Awareness Is Wot You Need 6:17
05. Make Them (You) Realise 6:40
06. Tire Loma Da Negbehin 4:45

May 5, 2010

Wali and the Afro-Caravan - Home Lost And Found


In the mid '60s, the Afro-Caravan, formed and lead by 22-year-old Wali King, brought a new kind of percussion-based jazz to Central Texas. As comfortable and accepted at Austin's downtown hippy haven, the Vulcan Gas Company, as at the predominantly Black Austin east-side nightclub, The Afro, the hip ethnic jazz group garnered a following that crossed age and racial lines. Sonobeat's relationship with the Afro-Caravan began in August 1968, after Sonobeat Records owners Bill Josey Sr. and Rim Kelley (Bill Jr.) heard the group perform at the Vulcan.

In August 1968, Sonobeat recorded the Afro-Caravan before a live audience at HemisFair in San Antonio, Texas. Recorded in just one take on a 2-track Ampex 354, Comin' Home Baby (backed with Afro-Twist) was Sonobeat's only commercial release of a live performance by any artist.

The Austin-based Afro-Caravan were Wali King (congas and bongos), Robert Moore (percussion), J. Murray (tenor and alto recorders), Ronald Nance (bass violin), and Ray Lewis (flute). The group eventually took the name Wali and the Afro-Caravan. The combination of instrumentation, rhythm, and melodies were, as producers Bill Josey Sr. and Rim Kelley wrote in their liner notes for the Afro-Caravan's 1969 album, "rhythmic -- romantic -- thrilling -- appealing -- satisfying."

Work on the first album, Home Lost and Found (The Natural Sound), began in fall '68 at Sonobeat's Western Hills Drive studio in northwest Austin. Sonobeat released a limited non-commercial vinyl advance pressing of the album early in 1969. The "white jacket" release was intended primarily to attract a sale of the masters to a national label, which finally came in fall '69, almost a year after the album had been recorded. Liberty/UA Records -- which had purchased Johnny Winter's The Progressive Blues Experiment album from Sonobeat in '68 -- bought the Afro-Caravan album master. Sonobeat retained rights to the single, since neither of the songs on the single appeared on the album. Early in '70, Liberty/UA released Home Lost and Found on its Solid State jazz label. The album featured a highly stylized double-fold jacket with photography by L'Azul and Renate Taylor. Interestingly, the Solid State album cover shows the silhouettes of 6 performers, but the Afro-Caravan was a quintet.

Home Lost and Found was recorded on Sonobeat's Scully 280 4-track recorder in the spacious den at the Josey family home. The sessions -- which spanned several evenings -- yielded seven tracks, ranging in length from 4 minutes to over 11 minutes, the longer songs giving the Afro-Caravan plenty of room to stretch musically. Five songs were Afro-Caravan originals. The album received -- and, although out of print, even today receives -- excellent reviews, and Wali's arrangement of the traditional Hail to the King is considered an Afro-jazz classic. The album remains vital and musically relevant in the 21st century, validating the adage "everything old is new again."

Bill Josey Sr. produced a second album with Wali and the Afro-Caravan in a series of sessions beginning January 29 and ending February 1, 1971. The tracks were recorded at Sonobeat's Western Hills Drive studio. The untitled album featured four songs on side 1, including an expanded remake of Afro-Twist, and a 19 minute three-song suite, Shades of Africa, on side 2. Bill Sr. offered the album to Liberty/UA Records, which passed for reasons not documented in the Sonobeat archives, and circulated demos of the album on audio cassettes, beginning his trend away from the much more expensive vinyl test pressings Sonobeat had used for its demos in the past. Also not documented is why Sonobeat didn't release the album itself, but the likely reason was purely financial: albums cost significantly more to master, press, package, and market than 45s and were very difficult to sell in sufficient numbers in regional markets to make a profit. And jazz albums were far more difficult to sell than rock or country albums. The second Afro-Caravan album is certainly as good as Home Lost and Found, and it's unfortunate that it remains unreleased.



1. Afro Blue 4:12
2. Arcane Message 7:53
3. Hail The King 5:50
4. Guaguanco Stroll 3:53
5. Mystique 6:50
6. Zulu For Hugh 4:43
7. Journey To Mecca 11:10

THANX TO LamentoNegro by whom I discovered this band!

May 4, 2010

Christofolly and the Afro Beat Cookers - Afro Beat Rolling


Mr Man ChristoFolly! Author, composer, performer comes from West Africa. He is a percussionist and singer, member of Cafe-Cream, Smith Brothers, 'ABC' Afro Beat Coockers, Kare Mandingo, Lizard Wild, percussion and Fola Batakaly Arts. Born in the 70s to Lome in Togo, it has little slap on the drums with his friends, and they enlivened birthdays and funerals in the company of ballet groups in the neighborhood and surrounding areas.

At 17 years starting in Togo for a long journey to discover Africa and its culture that will take him 13 years of Benin in Nigeria and Cameroon through Ghana, Cote d'Ivoire, Mali Burkina Fasso yet ... where professional and amateur becoming friends with African music. It is 30 years since he arrived in France to pursue his musical adventure.

Self-educated, career Folly is not an "all done", indeed, from a family of "ordinary" or musicians or griots or off, school is one of the street, practice and the listening. Fela, Manu Dibango, Salif Keita, James Brown, Youssou Ndour as many legends in which he has drawn inspiration and education and that led meetings dating to his current project "Afrobeat Cookers.



01. Afrobeat Rolling 4:56
02. Ballafolly (feat. Balla)2:28
03. Djaka 4:08
04. Djogbessé 4:24
05. Tchékorôba 4:03
06. Kpalongo 5:59
07. Please, Please, Please 7:13

Fela: From West Africa to West Broadway


The book is a compilation of essays, interviews, photographs, and cartoon illustrations that pay tribute to Fela's life. Editor Trevor Schoonmaker begins by remarking, "Mention the name Fela to someone who knew him and a passionate string of monikers and opinions will quickly follow. Prophet. Hero. Rock Star. Troublemaker. Trickster trickster, a mythic figure common among Native North Americans, South Americans, and Africans. Usually male but occasionally female or disguised in female form, he is notorious for exaggerated biological drives and well-endowed physique; partly divine, partly human, Playboy. Rebel. Martyr. Visionary. Revolutionary. Baba ('father'). Chief Priest. Abami Eda ('the strange one') ... Black President, King of Afrobeat "(p. 1). An independent curator in New York, Schoonmaker is cofounder of a monthly Fela club night and director of the Fela Project. Most other contributors to the book knew Fela personally, and all have been deeply affected by his life and music. Through their essays, they reveal how they learned to better understand Fela, and how through Fela they have come to better understand themselves.

Schoonmaker's introduction provides a brief overview of Fela's life. Following this introduction are twelve essays, several only a few pages in length. The essays might be divided into two broad categories: essays that are primarily descriptive and those that are more analytical. The former outweigh the latter. Several essays are reprints of earlier newspaper or journal articles. Knox Robinson provides a sense of what it is like to emerge into Fela's world: his commune the Kalakuta Republic Kalakuta Republic was the name musician and political activist Fela Kuti gave to the communal compound that housed his family, band members, and recording studio in Lagos, Nigeria. , modern-day Nigeria, and his music. Fela's friend and biographer Mabinuori Kayode Idowu (aka I.D.) describes his mother's confrontation with Fela about his influence on her son, Fela's clash with the Nigerian government during Festac '77, and Fela's controversial 1978 performance in Berlin. In two essays, Vivien Goldman Vivien Goldman is a British journalist, writer and musician. She was born in London, the child of two German-Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany. She studied English and American literature at the University of Warwick. She began her career as a PR officer for Island Records. tells about Ghanaian magician Professor Hindu, Fela's friend and advisor, reviving a dead man in London and explores the eroticism and meaning associated with Fela's dancers, his Queens. Ghariokwu Lemi describes his work as Fela's jacket artist, and John Collins presents the 1977 diary he kept while serving as "Inspector Reynolds" in Fela's biographical film Black President (damaged in the fire that destroyed Kalakuta and thus never released). Drawing upon his experiences growing up in Nigeria and as art editor and political cartoonist for the Lagos Daily Times, dele jegede uses his essay and cartoons to describe differing phases of Fela's musical development and influence in Nigeria. LaRay Denzer offers insight into the women who most impacted Fela's life: his mother, his first wife Remi, his African-American friend and lover Friend and Lover Sandra Izsadore, and his Queens.

Among the most engaging contributions is that of Nkiru Nzegwu, who explains how she and her schoolgirl friends were able to appreciate Fela's music while recognizing his "false conception" of African woman. Through a critical reading of songs such as "Lady," Nzegwu argues that Fela's model of the "African woman" reflects Western perspectives more than African traditions. Also more analytic are articles by Joseph Patel, Sola Olorunyomi, and Yomi Durotoye. Music critic Patel examines Fela's influence on hip hop, R&B, and Afro-house. He speaks about times when musicians have looked toward Fela and times when perhaps they should have. Olorunyomi takes readers into Fela's nightclub, the Shrine, and explores his performance as ritual. Finally, Durotoye draws upon Fela's lyrics to discuss phases in his "politics of resistance" (p. 179), from Fela's promotion of Black Pride in the early 1970s to his increasing opposition to the Nigerian government and to Christianity and Islam in the 1970s-80s.

Also included in the book are transcriptions of a 1983 interview with Fela by Barney Hoskyns and a 2002 interview with Fela's son Femi (also an internationally renowned musician) by Jerome Sandlarz. Fela responds to questions about racism, his spiritual beliefs, his musical influences, his wives, and Nigerian politics. Femi discusses his experiences as Fela's child, his perspectives on polygamy and pan-Africanism, and his efforts to carry on his father's legacy. In addition to a few photographs and cartoons included in the essays, the book features two sections of color and black-and-white photographs of Fela, his home, his performances, his family, and his funeral. The book concludes with two cartoon excerpts from the Nigerian Daily Times, a timeline of Fela's life, and a map of Nigeria.

If there is a common theme in the book, it is that Fela's life and music should be more widely recognized and that his work and messages remain as relevant today as in the past. Listeners and artists can continue to gain from his music, people around the world still struggle with political oppression, and AIDS, the disease that killed him, is affecting more people than we can fathom. Some readers will appreciate that the book is an easy read, a result of the descriptive nature of so many of the essays, the casual tone in which most of the authors write, and the intriguing nature of the subject--Fela. Other readers may be frustrated that the essays do not provide a more critical reading of his life. Nevertheless, if only for the added attention it draws to Fela's music and for the personal insights it provides into his life, the book remains a valuable contribution to the growing body of literature on Fela in particular and African music more broadly.


From Publishers Weekly

Nigerian musician Fela Anikulapo-Kuti became a global superstar in the 1970s with his "Afrobeat" fusion of funk, jazz and Yoruba motifs. A counter-cultural icon, he scandalized Nigerian society with his pot-smoking, his sexually explicit lyrics and stage act, and his marriage to 27 of his dancers and back-up singers at once. And he was a staunch opponent of the Nigerian dictatorship and Western neo-colonialism in Africa (one song denounced water and electricity shortages, the United Nations Special Program for Third World Countries and the replacement of food crops by cash crops), a stance that earned him a series of beatings and imprisonments. This collection of essays and interviews explores the larger-than-life persona of Fela and his impact on world music and Nigerian culture. Joseph Patel posits Fela's music as the "primordial mass" from which house, techno and hip-hop sprang, tracing his influence through the minutiae of never-released recording sessions. John Collins gives a disturbing glimpse of life at Fela's Lagos commune, where he regularly had his acolytes beaten, while dele jegede paints a vivid portrait of the singer's charismatic stage presence. Yomi Durotoye applies heavy-handed critical theory to Fela's political lyrics (the line "Notin special about uniform" achieves "the obliteration of the space between the binary oppositions of domination"). The most interesting essays debate Fela's oft-expressed opinion that authentic African women are subservient to men, a view vigorously contested by Nkiru Nzegwu, who notes the traditional independence of Nigerian women. While the collection leaves open the question of whether drugs, sex and Afrobeat contribute to a coherent world-view, it provides a fascinating window onto the cultural politics of the developing world.


"...the book's diversity of perspectives is part of what makes it click."-Malcolm Venable, Black Issues Book Review

"...a fascinating window onto the cultural politics of the developing world."--Publishers Weekly Annex, 7/21/03

"Fela Anikulapo Kuti was James Brown, Huey Newton, Rick James, Bob Marley Duke Ellington and ODB all rolled up in one black African fist. The protest artist as a real live, awake and hungry human being. Africa's original rock superstar. The importance vitality and power of his work can not be overestimated. A pure blend of ancestry and modern marvel . If you don't know about Fela you surely need to find out now...!" -- Mos Def

“An amazing compendium of work about the seminal 20th century African musical icon and activist.” --Meri Nana-Ama Danquah, author of Willow Weep for Me

“This is an excellent collection of articles on FELA, it gives so many angles for us to understand one of the most crucial African figures of this age.” -- Angelique Kidjo

"This book is a trippy excursion into the world of conscious hero and musical icon Fela Kuti -- a must-read for all music lovers and people who care about the history and future of Africa and Africans around the world." -- Ahmir 'uestlove Thompson, The Roots

A must-read for all music lovers who care about the history and future of Africa and Africans around the world -- Ahmir ?uestlove Thompson, The Roots

An amazing compendium of work about the seminal 20th century African musical icon and activist. -- Meri Nana-Ama Danquah, author of Willow Weep for Me.

Excellent collection… it gives many angles for us to understand one of the most crucial African figures of this age. -- Angelique Kidjo

Fela…One black African fist…The importance, vitality and power cannot be overestimated. A pure blend of ancestry and modern marvel. -- Mos Def

@Amazon I:
Afrobeat is a marriage of funk and jazz mixed with Yoruba and Highlife music. Considered the father of the Afrobeat style, Fela Anikulapo Kuti is as famous for his music as his personal life. These essays investigate his life, his art and his legacy, including the controversial issues.

Knox Robinson explores the cult of Fela as it exists today, Mabinuori Idowu recounts the key events in the life of the legend and Joseph Patel discusses Fela's influence on hip hop and dance music. In her first of two essays, Vivien Goldman looks at his spiritual life and in the second she writes about the visual aspects of his world, like fashion, dance etc.

There are also interviews with Fela's son Femi (by Jerome Sandlarz) and an interview with Fela from 1983 by Barney Hoskins. A 1977 diary of John Collins that he kept while acting in the film Black President is included. Other contributors include Delede Jegede who writes about cultural aspects of Lagos and Ghariokwu Lemi, the artist who designed Fela's album covers.

The book concludes with an index and a Fela Timeline from his birth in 1938 to the latest related events in 2003 after his death in the late 1990s. There are 11 color photographs and about 30 black and white ones. The many illustrations include cartoons and a map of Nigeria.

This is a great book that illumines the life and work of this fascinating Nigerian musician and counterculture hero. His lyrics are quoted extensively but there is no systematic rating or reviews section for his albums. The inclusion of a discography would certainly have enhanced the book, especially as a reference source.

@Amazon II:
This book is a collection of essays about Fela's history in music and politics. It also contains information about his lifestyle, which was unique, to say the least. The perspectives are so varying that one can't help but conclude that he was enigmatic, sometimes brilliant and other times misleading or delusional.

Fela's music was introduced to me 20 years ago by a roommate from Ghana. I was lucky enough to see Fela in concert. He was incredibly charismatic and his music took over the unsuspecting audience at The Greek Theater in L.A. I didn't know he'd been tortured when I saw that concert, but it makes sense to me now, after seeing the fierceness with which he carried himself. The man had a Muhammed Ali type confidence that he backed up with an incredible show.

My goal in buying this book was to learn more about the man. After reading these essays, I was delightfully puzzled and realized that nobody really understood him--I wonder if he understood himself. Regardless, his music was groundbreaking and remains unique. It's still fresh.

Product Description

Combine elements of Bob Marley, Malcolm X and Patrice Lumumba you get a sense of the power of the world's wildest rockstar. Fela created Afrobeat, an infectious mix of American funk and jazz with traditional Yoruba and highlife music, and used it to rail against the corrupt, hypocritical Nigerian government. Repeatedly targeted by police and military for his rebellious, counter-culture lifestyle, he created a political party and seceded from the Nigerian state, renaming his commune the independent "Kalakuta Republic." Cultural icon and beloved hero of the pan-African world, Fela loomed large: captivating enormous crowds with electric performances (in Speedos or superfly suits), cherished by musicians from Paul McCartney to Mos Def, mourned by millions after his death from AIDS in 1997. These essays explore his fiery life and ever-growing legacy.

Book Description

The charismatic Nigerian musician and political leader Fela Kuti is a cultural icon and beloved hero of the pan-African world. These essays explore the life and ever-growing legacy of Fela, creator of Afrobeat, a potent mix of American funk and jazz and traditional Yoruba music. Repeatedly targeted by police and military for his rebellious, counter-culture lifestyle, he created a political party and seceded from the Nigerian state, renaming his commune the independent "Kalakuta Republic." Articles from Joseph Patel, Vivien Goldman, and others explore Fela's impact on culture and politics, and chronicle personal memories of the activist-musician.

About the Author

Trevor Schoonmaker is an independent curator living in New York. He is director of the Fela Project, a multimedia project on the influence of Fela Kuti.


May 3, 2010

Interview with Marshall Greenhouse from Chicago Afrobeat Project

Afrobeat cannot stand still. As the genre’s tempting sounds continue a resurgence across the globe, Chicago Afrobeat Project (CAbP) remains true to its original vision of breathing the intensity of Chicago’s rich music scene into the infectious sounds of afrobeat. Rather than become caricatures of the genre, CAbP slips a reverent nod to the tradition while delivering an energized originality different from any other band on the afrobeat scene today. At each of its 100+ live performances a year, the group’s frenzied songs hit audiences with a big enough one-two punch to tirelessly knock them onto the dance floor time and time again.

The individual players, coming from diverse backgrounds, each hold their own as soloists that ultimately characterize the live shows. Melodic and hard-hitting horn lines create a lyrical flow to the music, delivered by a cutting, driven rhythm section dynamic. Complex call-and-response percussion songs are dispersed throughout the performances. At select shows, African dancers from Chicago’s Muntu Dance Theatre accompany the band. Added up, the music is packaged with original songwriting that explores the stylistic reaches of afrobeat and a few classic covers delivered true to form.

The interview

How did everyone in the band get together?

The band first started with Tuesday night jam sessions in a loft in the West Loop in Chicago. A few of us had the idea to start an afro-beat band and invited friends we knew to come out.

Who are some of the bands influences?

Marshall Greenhouse: Everyone in the band has their own personal influences but Id say that based on what we listen to during bus rides, we all like afrobeat among other African styles, hip-hop, jazz, electronica, rock,

Some of my personal favorites are: Fela, Femi and Seun Kuti, Miles Davis (all but the electric stuff has really influenced us most), John Coltrane, E.T. Mensah, Extra Golden, Brazilian Girls, King Sunny Ade, Radiohead, Led Zeppelin, Outkast, Tinariwen, Rage Against the Machine, Vieux Farka Toure, Ali Farka Toure, Wilco, Battles

With so many members in the band, what is the song writing process like?

We get together as a full band once a week to work on writing new tunes and fixing up old ones. Typically one person has an idea and everyone just improvises around until a groove is established. We then talk about what we can add; ie horn lines, break-downs, vocal chants. For about a year we had not settled on a bass player so the song writing really slowed down while we were trying new guys out but we are set now so the new songs are rolling in. A few times in the past we have rented cabins away from Chicago and locked ourselves up for a few days. Thats really helped get ideas down.

When were you first introduced to the afrobeat sound?

I didnt first hear afrobeat until a couple years after Felas death (97). I was first introduced to afro-pop by some college professors and first got into King Sunny Ade- who is also from Lagos and Thomas Mapfumo (Zimbabwe). I graduated college in 98 and I think it was some friends that got turned onto Felas music than then showed me.

Is the band working on any new projects?

We have an EP entitled 'off the grid' thats about to come out, we also have 9 very rough tracks down for another full length album, but who knows that will get finished. The EP is basically the single for Media Man- a tune which appears on our second album, '(A) Move to Silent Unrest'. The EP contains 5 songs: Media Man radio edit, Media Man remix an 3 new tunes. We also might have some vinyl of all remixes coming out.

What is your favorite place in Chicago to perform?

We have played this festival called Summer Dance a few times that is really great. Over the years Id say my favorite two clubs in town to play, the Note and the Hothouse, have both closed down. I guess as of now we are really looking to find that club that we can call home.

Outside of Chicago, where do you like to perform?

I'd say some summer festivals have been great like High Sierra and some fests we played out in Utah and northern California. As far as cities to play, I really love Lawrence, KS, Madison, WI and of course New York City.

How many shows do you play in a year?

Not really sure, maybe somewhere between 100-150. I know thats a big diff but I cant really judge. We play most weekends and do longer tours ever 6 weeks or so.

Are you all full time touring musicians or do you still have day jobs?

We all still have full-time jobs. traveling around with minimum 7 players, with the price of fuel and hotels, and how little clubs actually pay bands, its pretty impossible to make enough money to support yourself in Chicago. The sad news is, really no matter how much bigger we get we will all still need an income outside of this band. we all do this because we love the music and the message and want to spread it around to new audiences all over the world. So back to the question, my job...I am a teacher. I teach percussion at a middle school here in Chicago and teach private lessons at a few schools and at my house.

What was your first concert you ever went to? First album you ever bought?

First concert was Jethro Tull at the Omni in Atlanta. Can't really remember my first album but I do have good memories of listening to a Twisted Sister record, the Thriller cassette and tons of Kiss albums.


Akeikoi - Sénoufo


The band AKEÏKOI was created in 2000 as a collective first called "Akeïkoi From Connexion", a connection of two bands: Caline Georgette and Yelemba from Abidjan.
This group comes from the meeting between the Livenais brothers, who are from the "Froms", a small place between Nantes and Angers, and Lassina Coulibaly, whose headquarters are in "Akeïkoi", a working-class suburb of Abidjan.

As a lively and funk rock band, Caline Georgette have left its mark on the people who have seen them on stage because of its energy, rage and originality. Caline Georgette, it's more than 400 gigs between 1992 and 1995 in Europe or France, including a performance which attracted a lot of attention at the music festival "Printemps de Bourges" in 1993.

Sounds takers to the core, talented and determined musicians, after their first album "Des clous", the three Livenais brothers work with a lot of musicians of various influences, are interested in world music and often go to Africa.
In 1994, they meet the Togolese singer Jimi Hope and they'll have a few gigs with him in France, among others at the festival "Francofolies" of La Rochelle and a tour in Togo and Benin in 1995.
With Jimi Hope, they record "Tôt ou Tard", an essential collector record which already heralds the birth of an African rock, in which you can already feel another idea of the fusion of cultures.

It's in the district "Akeïkoi" of Abidjan that Lassina Coulibaly, a versatile artist of Senoufo extraction who's been initiated by his masters, settles in order to form the Yelemba company in 1995, with the help of the association of Nantes "Planète Tam Tam".
Between tradition and modernity, Yelemba works and revisits the large multi-ethnic repertoire from the Ivory Coast. Musicians, dancers, singers and exceptional actors, these all-round artists present their shows in Europe and on the international scene. Five of these musicians (of the Ivory Coast, Guinea, and Burkina Faso) led by Harounda Dembélé, the lead drummer of the company, explore new ways within AKEÏKOI, bringing along their rhythms and traditional singing (in Senoufo language, Dioula), the stretched hide drums and other balafons, as well as sacred instruments hardly heard around the world, like the boloyes. This sound laboratory gives a large part to performance, to dance and to the show.

After several years of mutual discovery and of music adaptation between the members of the collective, the first album by AKEÏKOI "Binkafô" is released in 2002 under the label Hors-Normes Productions, followed by a national tour in 2003 and 2004. "Binkafô" is the album of the meeting between two worlds which have to coexist, the world of pure rock and the one of ethnic African music. The recording can be done only in live conditions and the band comes out of it even more experienced.

The conflict in the Ivory Coast disturbs and weakens the work of the band during two years; but the depth of the project, the creative intensity and the musicians' determination enable AKEÏKOI to resurface with an unquestionable artistic maturity and a strong motivation to bring their project at the front of world wide stages. This turning point in 2006 is characterized by a change of the group (lighter with an eight musicians basis) and of the music identity marked by a subtle and powerful balance between rock and afro, as shown in their last EP, which was released in June 2007 and which heralds the next album scheduled for 2008.


Far from clichés of superimposing, Akeïkoi's universe appears to be the first afro-rock fusion that's totally balanced and accomplished, where each of these expressions keeps its integrity, its subtlety, its power and its madness.

Between bronzed afrobeat groove, Sahelian blues overtones or really rock incursions, the elders come back to life to talk with screaming guitars, djembes slam and get the spirits out of the sacred wood… this series of songs is actually a permanent clash between some traditional timeless sounds and a strong inspired and effective rock combo.

There's a gap of seven years between this brand new "Sénoufo" and "Binkafô", the first album by Akeïkoi (From Connexion) that made known to the people and the press the afro-rock sound of the French-Ivorian combo made up of Caline Georgette's rockers after they met the illustrious Mandinka company "Yelemba from Abidjan".

This period allowed the collective to build up an identity that's definitely more blues and rock around the Senufo musicians of the band (ethnic group from the north of the Ivory Coast), moving away from the mosaic with Mandinka sounds of their debut.



01 Soumalé 03' 47"
02 Técoubé 04' 09"
03 Pé-poro 05' 07"
04 Gopolo 05' 04"
05 Nèguésso 02' 05"
06 Tiegba 01' 13"
07 Sortie des initiés 04' 51"
08 Koloye 05' 06"
09 Yébin 04' 12"
10 Pigueléa 04' 45"

May 2, 2010

Dele Sosimi - Identity


In The Begining...

Dele Sosimi, whose career began when he joined Fela Anikulapo-Kutis Egypt 80 in 1979, stands out as one of the most active musicians currently on the Afrobeat scene worldwide ..Fela Anikulapo-Kuti was the founder of the style of music known as Afrobeat. The music is a blend of complex but highly danceable funk grooves, Nigerian traditional music (including hi-life) and African percussion underpinning the jazz horns and solos from other instruments, as well as rhythmic singing.

As the rhythm keyboard player for Fela Anikulapo Kutis Egypt 80 band, Dele worked and toured extensively with Fela around the world. During Felas incarceration in 1984, Femi Anikulapo-Kuti Felas son and Deles childhood/school friend - took over the reins temporarily and led the Egypt 80 band and Dele had a chance to develop his arranging skills as its musical director, re-orchestrating and re-arranging as well as handling the recruiting and training of new musicians for the band. Dele played keyboards on the following Fela/Egypt 80 hits (among others): Parambulator, Power Show, Original Sufferhead, Customs Check Point, MOP 1 (Movement of the People), Give Me Shit, I Give You Shit, Authority Stealing, Army Arrangement, Government Chicken Boy, ITT (International Thief Thief) and Teacher Dont Teach Me Nonsense.

In 1986, Dele and Femi left Egypt 80 to form their own band called Femi Anikulapo-Kuti and the Positive Force, for which Dele was the musical director and bandleader. He was again responsible for recruiting and training new band members, as well as performing on rhythm keyboard and featuring as the keyboard soloist. The band toured the world extensively and played in several of the major jazz festivals including Montreux, the North Sea Jazz Festival and the Montreal Jazz festival. The Positive Force was also invited to perform at the Jazz Club of Nigeria Festival alongside other renowned musicians like Dizzy Gillespie, Randy Weston, Toshiko Akiyoshi and Didier Lockwood. They produced the albums No Cause for Alarm, Mind Your Own Business and Wonder Wonder.

Dele at this time also developed other musical influences and interests, working and playing with an Afro Jazz Quartet/Quintet and through a collaboration with French Bassoon player Alex Ouzounoff, producing a CD titled Made In Nigeria, courtesy of the French Cultural Centre, Lagos, Nigeria.

Dele left Femi Anikulapo-Kuti and the Positive Force in December 1995 and moved to London where he set about forming a new group. The resulting project reflected Londons multicultural environment, with a strong influence of jazz and shades of deep funk and latin music, but all underpinned by the heavy grooves of Afrobeat's Yoruba rhythm with Dele’s vocals very strongly in the Afrobeat tradition. Dele’s first solo album “Turbulent Times” (2002) featured the cream of the resident Afrobeat community on the label Eko Star. Dele has also recently selected the tracks for a 3-CD compilation entitled “Essential Afrobeat”, with Family Recordings (Universal), released in October 2004, and he also was producer and co-writer of “Calabash Volume 1: Afrobeat Poems” by Ikwunga, the first Afrobeat Poet, also released in 2004. He is also a central member of the Wahala Project, which released the single Wahala in 2006; the track also appears on Puma’s 2006 Soccer World Cup Compilation CD Africa Plays On . His new Album IDENTITY has attracted reviews from the Limited edition preview release in Holland this Summer.

Live appearances in 2006 have included, amongst others, Mexicos Ollin Kan Festival and Novi Sad-Serbias Etno Fest and in 2007 Brent Respect Festival, City Of London Festival, Oerol Festival, Terschellings & Paradiso, Amsterdam Holland, Mayor of Londons Africa Day Festival @ Trafalgar Square.

Dele performs in one of three formats, each as compelling at funky as the others a fifteen-piece Afrobeat Orchestra (featuring a five piece horn section and Afrobeat dancers), a nine-piece band (the most frequently used format) or a trio (with bass and percussion).

Sosimi is abetted by a group of musicians, most of whom have either played with him on previous records or have gigged with him on the live circuit. They all have chops to spare and the communication between them is near telepathic. Afrobeat is lovingly given the virtuoso treatment by a combination of Femi Elias, whose Bass growls, twists, turns, pulsates & grooves, Kunle Olofinjana on drums who meshes perfectly with Elias and like a dream machine the groove never lets up. The gear changes are seamless, no accent or punctuation is missed, Phil Dawson who delivers tasty, funky rhythm guitars and some truly exquisite solos from a wide range of angles, again revealing the endless possibilities of what can be done with this music, Maurizio Ravalico on percussion adding colour and The horns - delivered with laser-like precision by Justin Thurgur on Trombone, Tom Allan on Trumpet & Eric Rohner on Tenor Saxophone.



With this album, his sophomore offering, Dele Sosimi, ex-Fela sideman and former musical director of Femi Kuti, has delivered a confident, passionate, elegant and intelligently crafted answer to Afrobeat’s real identity crisis, and he has done this without losing the swagger and the grit that is Afrobeat.

Afrobeat is an iconoclastic music. It is essentially the creation and vision of Fela Anikulapo Kuti, who took hard bop, the modal experiments of Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock, the Afrocentric black power sentiments prevalent in the free jazz movement, fused it with James Brown, took it back to its Nigerian roots and put it all on the one.

Ojoro – Ojoro is a left-jab, right-hook and total takedown of a riposte, aimed at certain elements in the music industry. In classic Afrobeat/hip-hop “battle-rap” mode, Sosimi tackles the question of authenticity and personal identity within a musical genre. Bass, drums, keyboards and guitar enter together in rumbling, measured groove; then the horns crisply swagger in and Sosimi dispatches all questions about identity with a lyrical broadside that lets you know that even though he has his roots, he also has his own style, game and ways, and though rooted in Afrobeat, this is a new music. It is a thrilling emancipation declaration.

Tho Ro Way Ya Hand – Afrobeat has always been in the paradoxical position of being art music with a popular following, worldwide yet underground. This track exemplifies that phenomenon. It kicks off with an intricate celebratory fanfare, played in unison by the horns and the rhythm section. The band then locks into a groove of seismic potency. The funk is fat and angular and, yes, so is the Afrobeat. And while I was mulling over the harmonic complexities of the track, my five-year old daughter was singing the hook: “Throw away your hand.” Afrobeat populism with the antidote frees your mind and boots your sacroiliac into gear.

B.B.E.N.Y. (Best Bet) – is a tale of a Friday evening encounter with a mad dog on the murky streets of Lagos, the dog being a metaphor for the ills and injustices of contemporary African life inflicted on the people by the very agencies charged with their protection. Delivered to a mean, moody head-butting groove of such percolating intensity, you are liable to have your hands stuck to the repeat-button. The bass and the drums imply hip-hop without losing sight of Afrobeat. Could this be the new funky drummer/rap payback for the 21st century?

E Jus’ Dey Go – Dealing with the persistent and tyrannical flow of time, it is a call to wake up and stop squandering potentials and opportunities, be they personal or national. Starts with a bass solo over chord changes (a first in Afrobeat) and is underpinned by a groove that is in no hurry to go anywhere. The bass tastefully slapped and muted bubbles unhurriedly, the music bright and sunny unfurls leisurely, revealing an aural landscape that has not been heard in Afrobeat before. There is a deliciously lyrical keyboard solo from Sosimi. Like taking a stroll along the palm-lined marinas of Lagos in the 1960s, in a nation where the future was an open book and the possibilities endless. Maybe it is a prophecy of future possibilities if we all heed the call to “wake up yourself, wake up your mind”.

I Don Waka – A bright, tuneful upbeat and evocative slice of high life-infused Afrobeat (major and bubbling over, in contrast to minor, moody and underground). The music flows majestically like a river. This is music without worries, music without cares, music to sway to. With a sweet, sweet trumpet solo by Tom Allan and some thoughtful interventions by Olofinjana.

Local Champion – A thinly disguised swipe at American world hegemony. Set to a bullyboy of a groove, capable of turning the UN security delegates into butt-shaking groove fiends, with a meditative solo from Sosimi and a fine solo from Justin Thurgur on trombone.

Omo Mo Gba Ti E – is an unabashed lovesong without the slightest trace of lyrical misogyny but the chest-thumping machismo of the music should ensure that the supplicant and the object of desire will be making babies before the track is over.

Ori Oka – is an instrumental invocation on which the musicians stretch out over a laid back groove that nevertheless manages to project heaps of attitude; with fine solos from all the musicians.

Wahala (Identity Mix)– is a fine update on classic Afrobeat grooves and themes. Dealing with the vagaries of life in modern day Nigeria, but again the harmonic palette is richer and more expansive. The horns boppishly deliver the main riff and the scintillating guitar hook is deployed for its melodic lift rather than just being a mere rhythmic foil. The horns are further used to create atmospheric and rhythmic textures beneath the soloists during the solos



1. Ojoro 9:29
2. Ya Hand 7:01
3. B.B.E.N.Y 10:09
4. Local Champion 9:14
5. I Don Waka 4:50
6. Omo Mo Gba Ti E 11:00
7. E Just Dey Go 5:31
8. Ori Oka 11:17
9. Wahala (Identity Mix) 8:15