Jun 28, 2010

Alèmayèhu Eshèté - Éthiopiques Vol. 9

Alemayehu Eshete is an Ethiopian Ethio-jazz singer active since the 1960s who primarily sings in Amharic. Eshete's talent was recognized by colonel Rètta Dèmèqè who invited the young singer to perform with Addis Ababa's famous Police Orchestra. Eshete had his first hit ("Seul") in 1961 before moving on to found the orchestra Alèm-Girma Band with Girma Bèyènè. Over the course of 15 years, Eshete released some 30 singles until the arrival of the communist Derg junta, which forced Eshete and many other artists into exile.

Alemayehu Eshete has since gained fame in Europe and the Americas with the release of Buda Musique's Ethiopiques series of compilations on compact disc. Ethiopiques Volume 9 is devoted entirely to recordings of Eshete's earlier music, and Volume 22 covers his career between 1972 and 1974. Other songs have also appeared on Volumes 3, 8, 10, and 13 or the series. In 2008 Eshete toured the United States with fellow Ethiopian singer Mahmoud Ahmed, backed by Boston's 10-piece Either/Orchestra.


This disc offers 22 tracks from the man once known as the Ehtiopian James Brown. Like the others in the series, the music here is funk-tinged with Armenian overtones. Like most of the other volumes, this one is a stone blast all the way through. Eshete was a soul singer in the classic tradition. He didn't so much sing to his audience as seduce it, working himself and his fans into a sweat-soaked frenzy. Fans of the series might remember this man from Volume 8. If you liked the sound of that, give this a try. If you haven't been hipped to this series yet, there are worse places to start. This disc is a perfect example of what the rest of the series has to offer; ferocious horns, groovy guitar licks and a definite Mideast influence that reminds one of the early days of rai, back before they discovered the synthesizer. Anyone with a passion for funk or the sound of '70s Africa should pick up this set.


Volume 9 of the wonderful ETHIOPIQUES series released by the French label Buda Musique collects recordings from singer Alemayehu Eshete made during the late 1960s and '70s. An enormous force in Ethiopian pop music on par with Elvis and James Brown in the Unites States, Alemayehu broke with tradition and infused his music with soul, blues, and rock & roll. While the various backing bands here lay down some slick grooves that wouldn't sound out of place on American soul-jazz records, Alemayehu's singing will sound disarming to almost anyone not already familiar with the Ethiopian style. The contrast, however, between the familiar horn-and-organ driven Afro-funk and Alemayehu's wildly modulating vocal lines, odd harmonics, and rapid-fire phrasing makes for a truly unique listening experience.



1. Addis Abeba Bete
2. Yeweyn Haregitu
3. Qondjit
4. Yelben Betayiw
5. Yesew Bet Yesew New
6. Mekeyershin Salawq
7. Qotchegn Messassate
8. Eruq Yaleshew
9. Shegitu Mare
10. Yeweb Dar
11. Telantena Zare
12. Memar Memeramer
13. Tedesteshal Wey?
14. Denyew Deneba
15. Temhert Bete
16. Nefas Indaygeban
17. Leb Tatefaletch
18. Feqer Feqer New
19. Gizew Honeshenna
20. Heywete Abatey New
21. Ya Tara
22. Timarkyalesh

Joni Haastrup - Wake Up Your Mind

The story was published by the amazing blog Comb&Razor!

Thanx for the permission to re-publish!!!


Let's see... What to say about this record? Well, it's the one and only solo album by one of Nigeria's most respected and beloved musicians. While Joni Haastrup is mostly unknown to kids who came of age in the 1980s (my generation), among the folks who were grooving in the late 60s and the 70s, the mere mention of his name is apt to elicit responses of tremendous affection and awe. I've gotten the sense that more than any other single musician, Joni Haastrup embodied the all aspirations of Nigerian music in the post-highlife era.

Earlier in his career, he was billed as "Johnny Haastrup"; the later "Joni" spelling appears to be a tip of the hat to Jimi Hendrix, and like Hendrix, Haastrup exuded the aura of an individual who just has music spontaneously pouring out of his soul. He started performing as a teenager in the town of Ilesa, singing in school bands with his older brother, guitarist Segun Haastrup. During a trip to Lagos, the brothers tried out for immortal bandleader Bobby Benson's Jam Session Orchestra; neither of them made the cut, but Joni brought the house down with his animated Chuck Berry impression. Soon thereafter, legendary trumpeter Victor Olaiya witnessed Joni's energetic dancing and singing in a high school drama group and was sufficiently impressed to recruit the youngster to join his Cool Cats band (in which no less a personage than Fela Ransome-Kuti had apprenticed in the late 1950s). This was 1965 after all; the rhythm of Lagos nightlife was changing. "Beat music"--rock & roll and soul--was seeping into the scene and Olaiya (true to his reputation as "the evil genius of highlife") presciently realized that he would have to incorporate the new foreign sounds. The Cool Cats became The All Stars Soul International, which Joni Haastrup fronted for a year and a half.

n 1966, saxophonist Orlando Julius (a contemporary of Fela, credited in some quarters as the true originator of the term "Afro-beat music") released the album Super Afro Soul on which Joni Haastrup featured as a guest lead vocalist on a few tracks, such as "Bojubari" and a "copyright" of the Temptations' "My Girl." The album was a momentous success, helping to usher in the ascendance of soul music and cement Joni Haastrup's reputation as "Nigeria's Soul Brother Number One."

During the war, beat groups prevailed: Segun Bucknor & his Soul Assembly, The Strangers, The Clusters (whose lineup included future BLO members Laolu Akins and Mike Odumosu and, briefly, Joni Haastrup) and The Hykkers. It was with the latter band that Haastrup was sitting in when he caught the attention of Ginger Baker, on his first visit to Nigeria in 1970. Baker was so besotted by Joni's electrifying stage presence that he snatched him off to London to join Ginger Baker's Air Force. Baker envisioned him playing a multiinstrumental role, which was initially a surprise to Joni:

"There was a lot of misconception about what I could do. When I went with Ginger, he saw me singing. He never saw me play an instrument, but he had this great belief within himself that I could play any instrument. So he wanted me to play the organ because Steve Winwood was leaving. And he also wanted me to play guitar because Denny Laine was leaving. So I got into London on a, I think on a Tuesday. The first gig was on Thursday. I have never heard the music of the band. I don't know what they sound like. I don't know anybody in the band but Ginger. I've never even heard Ginger play drums face-to-face except on record. He wants me to play organ and guitar and sing in this big ten-piece band with Graham Bond and Bud Beadle and all these people. And I uh, and I said, "Well, Ginger I don't really play any of these instruments. I'm just a singer." And he goes, "Hey! You can do it. You can fuckin' do it." [laughter]"

t's a testament to Haastrup's innate musicality that, despite his initial reservations, two days later he was playing guitar and keyboards in the Air Force!

Haastrup returned to Nigeria later in the year, playing the keys for Baker again in Salt.

Joni hooked up with Kenneth Okulolo, who had played bass in Olaiya's All Stars during Haastrup's tenure with the band. He served as Haastrup's co-pilot in Monomono, one of the earliest afro-rock ensembles to capitalize on the success of Osibisa. The band's 1972 debut album, Give The Beggar a Chance, was met with massive success in Nigeria and beyond, and the 1974 followup, Dawn of Awareness was picked up for international distribution by Capitol Records.

Confident that Monomono was about to cross over into the big time, Haastrup traveled to the US to urge Capitol to back a tour for the band. Capitol balked, and Haastrup returned to Nigeria dejected. He made another attempt in 1976, but when it became clear that Capitol was not interested in promoting them, Monomono disbanded. It was at this point that he recorded his solo album, with some assistance from some of his bandmates.

Wake Up Your Mind was released in 1978, the year after FESTAC, so it's unsurprising that it finds Haastrup in a pan-Africanist mood. In the music, one can hear echoes of Stevie Wonder, Kool & the Gang, Mighty Sparrow and even KC & the Sunshine Band's Bahamian junkanoo-inspired disco, as the lyrics exhort the unity of the African disapora. The album is definitely designed for maximum crossover effect, but Haastrup has never been shy about his ambitions to transcend the conventional ideas of what an African musician should sound like:

[We need to] show the African musician as an artist first, then as an African... We can be pop, we can be rock, we can be jazz, we can be soul, we can be everything because in actual fact we have [made] an incredible contribution to all of that already. So why deny ourselves, or why deny us, the opportunity to cross over into the commercial industry.

I don't know to what degree the album was successful in penetrating the international market, but after Wake Up Your Mind, Haastrup left Nigeria pretty much for good. He worked as a session musician and producer in London and by the early 80s he was in the Bay Area, fronting Joni Haastrup & the Afrikans and doing more session work (most notably on several Chris Isaak albums from the late 80s up until the mid-90s).

Just yesterday, I was chatting with Calumbinho about Joni Haastrup and he made an interesting observation about Joni's singing. Despite his reputation as a showman, his vocals have a decidedly understated quality to them, and even when if he's singing in Yoruba and you don't understand the lyrics, you can feel the humility, honesty and intense love radiating from his delivery, much like Milton Nascimento. By all accounts, Joni is a really zen dude, and while's he's been a practicing Buddhist for many years, music is his real religion. As he says: "I just want to play my music and make people smile, keep people happy. Not limit myself to what people think I should be."

Today he still lives, plays and teaches in Oakland, California.

The story was published by the amazing blog Comb&Razor!

Thanx for the permission to re-publish!!!

All Joni Haastrup quotes above culled from Breakout: Profiles in African Rhythm, by Gary Stewart, 1992, University of Chicago Press.


A1 Free My People
A2 Greetings
A3 Wake Up Your Mind
B1 Champions And Superstars
B2 Do The Funkro
B3 Watch Out

Jun 17, 2010

Interview and article - Lekan Animashaun

Baba Ani: "Fela Still Appears To Me In My Dreams"

Lekan Animashaun, aka Baba Ani, baritone sax player and leader of Fela Kuti’s legendary Egypt 80 band, gave a revealing interview last week to Lagos’s The Daily Vanguard newspaper. Baba Ani was one of the original members of Fela’s musical universe, joining him to help form Koola Lobitos in 1965. He remained as a key force in the innovative horn section that powered Fela throughout the musical glory days the 1970s, and was also a leader of the Movement of The People, a political party founded by Fela.

In the extended interview, Baba Ani, who just turned 70, reflects on his three decades of playing music with Fela:

How did you then meet Fela?

I met him at NBC studios at Ikoyi (Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation). At that time when I was with the NBC band, we used to rehearse on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, unless we were having a show, which was the procedure. I was there on one of the rehearsals and decided to go to the canteen during break and met Fela and introduced myself to him. Before then I had heard about him trying to form a highlife band, when he got back from London he was having a small group, a combo with Tony Allen on drums. So I walked up to him and explained what I heard about him concerning his plan to form a highlife band and explained to him the instrument I could play. He asked if I had my instrument with me and my response was in the affirmative. So, he gave me an appointment for four o’clock on Monday at his then Kalakuta Republic, 14A Agege Motor Road.

That same evening, I got home, carried my baritone and headed for Fela’s house. I met him with Benson Idonije who was producer at NBC, January 1965. He gave me a piece of paper on which he had written the baritone part. So, I set up my instrument and I went and read through it with my instrument and he said to Idonije; ‘ah! He has made it.’ That was how we started together...

Baba Ani was a skilled sight reader, but he explains how Fela wrote out horn parts for the musicians in the group, who came from a variety of musical backgrounds:

Did Fela write his music, score the drums?

He did, sometimes he uses his mouth to dictate the rhythm he wants, but initially he was writing. Even he was writing on music manuscript but when it got a stage he was writing on pieces of papers because he had reduced his music writing to tonic solfa instead of writing the note.

Why did he do that?’

Because at that time we were having problems with instrumentalists that couldn’t read music. To make it simpler for those who could not read notation on music manuscript, and were able to understand tonic solfa and that was why he reduced his music reading to tonic solfa on pieces of papers.

Baba Ani also describes the mistrust that some Nigerians had for Fela and his revolutionary message:

How did your family take your association with Fela, the late nights, beating up of the band members (by the police and army)?

It was battle royale because none of my family members supported my playing with Fela, even playing music because I remember when I was playing with Chris Ajilo at the Federal Palace Hotel, when I dressed up in the evening to go to the Federal Palace to play, some of our neighbours then would call my mother to say that I was a cult member and going for a cult meeting. A good number of my family members did not support it. Even the mother of my wife today for about three months before our marriage washed her hands off, saying that her daughter wasn’t going to marry Omonilu, but later she saw that the whole thing was becoming a reality so, she had no choice but to accept me and the ceremonies were held because I stood my ground like I still do today.



An Article

Two prominent members of the Egypt 80 band, led by the late Afrobeat king- Fela Anikulapo-Kuti were honoured recently in Lagos. It was at the monthly elders’ forum jointly organised by the Committee for Relevant Art (CORA) and O’Jez Entertainment, located at Surulere, Lagos.

The two Afrobeat legends; Lekan Animashaun (a.k.a Baba Ani), and Duro Ikujenyo, were honoured at the 60th edition of the Great Highlife Party, otherwise known as Elders’ Forum. Interestingly, the duo were Fela Anikulapo Kuti’s side-men. Animashaun, now 70, was Egypt 80’s band leader while Ikujenyo, was the band’s keyboardist.

Friends and admirers honoured both men as they beamed with smiles. And perhaps more significantly, the duo’s birthday feast coincided with Nigeria’s Independence Day Anniversary in addition to marking the fifth anniversary of O’Jez Entertainment. Anchored by veteran broadcaster, Benson Idonije, the party drew a large number of elder artistes, thereby making a major statement on the flourishing highlife scene. In his remarks, CORA’s Secretary General, Toyin Akinoso recounted how Baba Ani was snatched away from Pa Chris Ajilo’s Kubanos Band by the late Abami Eda.

“He was recruited in the 60s,1964 precisely into the Egypt 80 Band and he was one of the frontline members of Movement of the People (MOP), a political party founded by Fela during the Second Republic” However, the claim that Baba Ani was ‘snatched’ from Chris Ajilo band was however faulted when Ajilo himself mounted the stage. He told the all-attentive audience that there was a particular journey, which Animashaun was supposed to go with the group but could not make it. His words “he (Baba Ani) was then working with the Lagos Town Council.

Of course, he could not go on tour with us. That was why we had to let him go. He was not snatched by the late Fela Anikulapo. He has always been a very close friend. Now, I am very proud of him because when he left Kubanos, the next band he joined in 1965 was Fela’s band.”

Duro Ikujenyo who is presently the leader of Age of Aquarius was lauded for his managerial acumen. He was said to have produced some of Fela’s songs and that of Fatai Rolling Dollars. Fela’s Unknown Soldier and Fatai’s Won Kere si Number wa particularly were two popular songs credited to the keyboardist. Akinoso noted further, “I know that there are some other people here who know so much about the two, adding, however, that their scholarly position was deliberate and it was to create a platform for collaboration with O’Jez.

Also, Seyi Solagbade, highlife singer and leader of Blackface said Ikujenyo was a legend whose efforts cannot be pushed aside. He said:“ He (Ikujenyo) has been there for so long doing things that are creative. He is a veteran of a kind. I think these are the kinds of legends Nigerians should celebrate.”

On the highlife party, Solagbade said that the initiative has come of age and should begin to attract corporate sponsorship. “CORA has been there for almost 20 years now. It has been a self sponsored programme but big companies should now show interest in things like these rather than fund programmes that will pollute the minds of the youths.”

Shortly before guests took to the floor, Elder Steve Rhodes, Fatai Rolling Dollars and Chief Femi Asekun inducted the celebrants into the Elders’ Forum. Soon after, Chris Ajilo relived the Eko o gba gbere oldies while Baba Ani performed Oni Dodo Oni Moinmoin.


Jun 15, 2010

The King Of Highlife: E.T. Mensah - Day By Day


With the passing of trumpet player, saxophonist, and vocalist Emmanuel Tettey "E.T." Mensah on July 19, 1996, at the age of 78, Ghana lost one of its most influential musicians. Respectfully known as "the father of modern highlife," Mensah played a vital role in the evolution of Ghana's music. In the early '90s, Mensah recalled his revamping of highlife, explaining, "We urgently wanted an indigenous rhythm to replace the fading foreign music of waltz, rhumba, etc. We evolved a music type relying on basic African rhythms, a crisscross African cultural sound."

A native of the small village of Ussher Town in Accra, Ghana, Mensah initially played fife in an elementary-school band. Switching to trumpet and saxophone in his teens, he quickly attracted attention with his expressive playing. At the age of 18, he formed his first band, the Accra Rhythm Orchestra, a group comprised of five saxophones, guitar, and African drums. Although he joined Scottish trumpet player Jack Leopard's band in 1940, he remained only a few months before accepting an invitation to become a charter member of a highlife band, the Tempos. He soon assumed leadership of the group. In contrast to early highlife groups, which were modeled after jazz big bands of the 1940s, the Tempos was one of the first to adapt highlife rhythms to a small-ensemble approach. An essential element of the band's sound was Mensah's singing in a variety of indigenous Ghanaian languages.

Although the original lineup of Tempo disbanded in 1942, Mensah reorganized the group six years later. Mensah and the group toured successfully throughout Great Britain in 1953. Among their many hit singles were "Donkey Calypso," "School Girl," and "Sunday Mirror."

Trained as a pharmacist, Mensah occasionally worked in the field to supplement his income as a musician. Music, however, remained his prime focus. Mensah attracted global attention when he performed with Louis Armstrong during celebrations of Ghana's independence in 1957. Two years later, he composed a song to celebrate Queen Elizabeth's visit to Ghana.

Although he maintained a low profile in the early '60s, Mensah began the first of several comebacks in 1969. Despite being confined to a wheelchair, he embarked on a world tour in 1986. In 1986, a biography of Mensah by musicologist John Collins, E.T. Mensah: King of Highlife, was published by Off the Record Press in London and Ghana State Publishing Company in Accra.


E.T. Mensah [May 31, 1919 - July 19, 1996]

E.T. Mensah, the undisputed King of Highlife, was one the founding fathers of African popular music. His career stretched from the early 1930s to the late 1980s, and his music reached beyond Ghana to all corners of Africa and Europe.

Emmanuel Tettey Mensah was a natural musician, whose talent was spotted at school by 'Teacher' Joe Lamptey. When Lamptey formed the Accra Orchestra in the early 1930s E.T. joined as a piccolo player. He soon progressed to saxophone and also learned to play organ and trumpet.

After leaving school he teamed up with his brother Yebuah and the influential jazz drummer Guy Warren [Kofi Ghanaba] in the Accra Rhythmic Orchestra. European dance music was the prevailing fashion but, during World War II, musicians picked up new developments from Black American and West Indian comrades who were stationed in the Gold Coast. There were also ex-professional European musicians with the Allied forces, and E.T. joined Sergeant Jack Leopard and his Black and White Spots.

E.T. was also studying pharmacy. In 1943 he qualified and was stationed in the Ashanti region. When he returned to Accra in 1947 he joined the original Tempos band with Joe Kelly and Guy Warren. Warren had travelled to Europe and America, playing with Afro-Cuban musicians and he returned with the latest records, including calypsos. This refreshing influence became part of post-war highlife, which was now directed to a more solidly African audience.

'We urgently wanted an indigenous rhythm to replace the fading foreign music of waltz, rumba, etc,' Mensah told the writer and highlife archivist, John Collins.* 'We evolved a music relying on basic African rhythms. A criss-cross African cultural sound, so to speak. No one can really lay claim to its creation. It had always been there, entrenched in West African culture. What I did was give highlife world acceptance.'

In 1948 Mensah broke away to re-from the Tempos under his own leadership, offering a revitalised version of highlife, with more modern instrumentation and a wide variety of local rhythms.

The Tempos' relaxed style was immediately popular. E.T. made his first visit to Nigeria in 1950 when dance bands were still playing the dated swing music. The Tempos played at the club of Bobby Benson who quickly adapted his own style to create a Nigerian version of highlife.

When Mensah recorded his first 78rpm discs for Decca West Africa in 1952 he was quickly proclaimed the 'King of Highlife'. Songs such as Nkebo Bayaa, Munsuru, Essie Nana, covering topics from love to social commentary were delivered in Ga, Fanti, Twi and Ewe. Highlifes and calypsos sung in English includedSunday Mirror, Don't Mind You Wife , Inflation Calypso and All For You - one of his catchy theme songs which became a big-selling hit.

After various personnel changes just before these recordings the band members on the first sessions included Les Brown [guitar] Tommy Gripman [trombone] Spike Anyankor [alto sax], Tom Thumb Ado [drums] Dan Acquaye [bongos] Pappoe [maraccas] Moilai [claves] and Duke Hesse [congas]. The regular singer was Dan Acquaye, but there were many instrumental numbers, featuring Mensah's sweet horn arrangements.

The band split up again shortly after and for the next recording sessions in 1953, newcomers included Glen Kofie [trombone] and two Nigerians; Baby Face Paul [tenor sax] and Zeal Onyia [trumpet]. Dan, Spike and Tom Thumb remained loyal.

The Tempos made frequent and lucrative tours of Nigeria and business was so good that Mensah could run another band in Ghana while he was away. Eventually, however, Nigerian musicians complained that E.T.'s success was spoiling their opportunities and his visits were curtailed. In 1953 Mensah made his first solo trip to London where he performed with jazz regulars in the African clubs of Soho and recorded some 78rpms for HMV's GV series..

In 1956, E.T. welcomed Louis Armstrong on his tour of Africa and they jammed together in front of enormous crowds. By now he had his own club, the Paramount, where Armstrong played, but soon after Independence economic problems forced him to shut it down. Officially acknowledged by the Nkrumah government, E.T. was expecting to be sent on tour to England, but the funding did not come through. Instead the band set out in 1958 on a tour of Cote d'Ivoire, Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, which included playing for several heads of state.

His records were well known, with songs such as Nkebo Baaya reaching as far as Congo. Even so, by the 1960s, E.T. was playing part-time, saying that he had never expected to earn a living from music. In 1969 he took a new Tempos line-up to England for a three month tour, culminating in a dance at the London Hilton Hotel. The repertoire now included elements of Congo rumba, soul and pop as well as calypso and the new reggae beat which was dominating London.

During the 1970s, the brassy, dance band highlife was overtaken by other forms and it faded from the scene. In the late 1980s, however, E.T. re-emerged from the shadows, and his revival presaged a renewed interest in classic highlife and pan-African popular music in general.

In 1986 a show was given in Mensah's honour in Lagos, where he joined old colleagues including Victor Uwaifo and Victor Olaiya on stage. That year he took the stage again in London and Holland to promote the original RetroAfric compilation LP All For You. This current CD is a completely re-mastered and extended version of the first RetroAfric release.

E.T.'s contribution to Ghanaian and African heritage was never forgotten. In 1989 he was formally honoured with the title Okunini (Very famous man) for his contribution to the country's culture. He was also awarded an honorary doctorate. More recently his music has been revived in cinema and television advertising, historical documentaries including the epic People's Century series, and CD-Rom encyclopedias. E.T. Mensah's highlife was the sound of African independence days. He will always have a place in the hearts of West Africans.



1. Day ByDay (2.42)
2. 205 (3.00)
3. Onipa (2.39)
4. Gbaa Anokwale (2.43)
5. Abeel (2.50)
6. Odo Anigyina (2.40)
7. Damfo Wo Eni Ewu (2.58)
8. Ghana Freedom (2.36)
9. Kaa No Wa (3.35)
10. Senorita (3.05)
11. Daavi Loloto (3.24)
12. 1914 (2.52)
13. Medzi Medzi (2.51)
14. Ghana-Guinea-Mali (2.42)
15. Mee Bei Obaba (3.30)

From Senegal: Orchestre Gorom - Authentic 1977


I would like to start this week with a dose of high energy from Senegal. Although I have had this album by Orchestre Gorom for years, it is only over the last ten to five years that I have come to fully appreciate the content of it. I stress the word 'content' because the splendid cover had caught my eye straight away, and perhaps was what motivated me to buy the record in the first place.

It started when I heard the cd "Gainde" in the World Network series by Youssou N'dour and (mainly) Yandé Codou Sène. I immediately recognised that incredibly fierce voice from a documentary I had once seen on French TV5. I am sure I must have this documentary somewhere; as soon as I have recovered it I will post it.

Listening to her contribution on "Gainde" was the key to the lp by Orchestre Gorom. Although her direct influence is limited to only two songs it 'opened up' the others as well. Of these two songs, by the way, one can be found on both albums, although the name is slightly different ("Siyare Na La" with Gorom and "Siare Naala Ndigal Faal" on Gainde).

It is a pity the writer of the sleeve notes got carried away a bit and attributed all the songs to Mrs. Sène. I have a nasty suspicion this exaggeration may be politically motivated. Yandé Codou is a representative of the Serer culture, a Senegalese ethnicity to which belonged President Léopold Sédar Senghor. A (more recent) documentary (of which this is an excerpt) even refers to her as "The Griot of Senghor".

Looking back on it now, I think Khar Mbaye Madiaga should get at least similar credit for her influence on this record. She also contributed two songs, and has also left a severe impression on Senegalese music and culture. Judging by this article I guess she must be considered to be a guardian of Senegalese tradition.

But don't get me wrong: the lp and Orchestre Gorom have stood the test of time, and for that reason alone deserve credit.



1. Yen Djigue-Gni
2. Siyare Na La
3. N'Gare Sen
4. Na Yaye Bim Bam
5. Mariana
6. Dounga Kagne Lay Seyi

Jun 14, 2010

Mamadou Barry - Niyo


During the sixties and seventies the Guinean orchestras, essential for Sekou Toure for the Authenticité project, were the most precious jewels on the African music scene. Keletigui Traore and his Tambourinis, Balla Onivogui and his Balladins, and – mostly - Bembeya Jazz became in the whole continent true icons of the new African culture, just when the majority of the African countries, having obtained independence, were busy reconstructing an identity proud of their roots.

In 1969 a group of young musicians who were around 20 years of age, set up in Conakry a new orchestra, the Kaloum Star. Within the group there was Mamadou Barry on the saxophone and Mamadou Camara on guitar.

Mamadou Barry was born in 1947 in Kindia, a city close to the border with Sierra Leone. He was from the Peul ethnic, he was named “maitre Barry”, because he had a diploma as teacher in school and he dedicated himself to music against his mothers' will. His father instead was also a musician and played the squeeze box and the drums in the pre-colonial orchestra: Le Pavilion Bleu from Kindia.

Running after his childish passion young Barry joined the Ballets de Conakry as percussionist. "Being a djembe player in a traditional ballet has strongly influenced my music. When I play the first thing I hear is the rhythm of percussions inside, and in my musical arrangements I always try to reserve a solo for the percussionists". Only later he learned to play the saxophone, taking lessons from the Caribbean teacher Honoré Coppet, living in Conarky, and being inspired by Momo Wandel Soumah. Barry considered Momo the most creative African musician.

While Balla, Keletigui and Bembeya had the responsibility over their shoulders to represent the identity and the cultural Guinean roots, the young musicians of the Kaloum Star were free to experiment. "We were young and we played young music, very cool, open to all sorts of influences, mainly to Cuban music. At that time Guinean music was the main light in the African music scene. All the stars today from Salif to Manu admit the predominance in this period of bands like Bembeya and Keletigui. Naturally I was influenced by them.”

Kaloum Star had a big success and they played not only in Guinea but also in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea Bissau and Mali. They played with stars like Doc Albert, Aicha Kone and Richard Egues, flutist of the Habanero sextet, from who Barry learned how to play the flute. "None the less our success remained the young band of Conakry. We would play every week at the train station buffet. When the eighties arrived the other orchestras broke up but we continued playing. Without denying our roots we opened up to jazz music, to blues, to jazz-rock convinced that we had to continue maintaining the spirits young."

Maybe for ethnic reasons - they were not Malinke, but Susu and Peul - as a matter of fact Kaloum Star recorded for Syliphone only three singles and some participation to some collections like the historical one Discotheque Series. Their first and only album was Felenko, recorded in France in 1997. Once Momo Wandel passed away and more recently Keletigue Traore, Mamadou Barry remains the living veteran on the Guinean saxophone. This year after almost 50 years of carrier, maitre Barry publishes Niyo, first album under his name.

Close to maitre Barry we find the guitar player Mamadou Camara, his eternal companion Djessu Mory Kante and Yaya Diallo on guitar, Papa Kouyate on percussions, Myriam Makeba and other aged Guinean musicians into an ensemble enriched with traditional sound of the balafon, the kora and the Peul flute.

Both the riffs and the solos of Mamadou Barry’s flute and saxophone are elegant and gentle, whether they play palm-wine melodies from the old times gone by or whether they fly into afro beat of Niyo or of Sedy or whether they accompany the ancient rhythms of the forest or whether they follow the footsteps of Momo Wandel like in the remake of Take Five of Brubeck played in four or in six. Five instrumental songs – “Musique sans parole” was the title of the great Syliphone album - and four sung, the pearls of the album. Four different voices, three great Guinean singers with an original voice; Seny Mallomou, Missia Sara and Sina Tolno, extraordinary soul singer who’s not even twenty and lastly the kora player Kelontan Cissokho, who plays and sings in the beautiful song Nené.

Niyo is open music, solar and brave but does not forget the sound of the historical orchestras. It is the ultimate confirmation that the artist during the Guinean musical golden period - like the most recent works of Momo Wandel or Sekou Bembeya - had absorbed the atmosphere of that extraordinary period; love and vitality which was difficult to find within the new generation's music, now deprived of hope. Niyo is a natural evolution of the Syliphone productions which documented music in constant movement. We suggest this as the tropical groove of Mamadou Barry is music that warms up the heart.


Mamadou Barry, the renowned Guinean saxophonist and former director of the Kaloum Star orchestra, is still going strong in his sixties. "Master" Barry recently went into a Conakry studio with the best local musicians to record his debut solo album, Niyo. This compelling mix of Afro-beat grooves and hypnotic Mandingo rhythms confirms that Guinea is still producing exceedingly good and original sounds.

Mamadou Barry belongs to a generation of musicians who grew up in a country where culture was wielded as a political instrument in post-independence days. Music played a significant role in forging national pride and the Guinean government financed the setting up of a national label, Syliphone, to record the growing band of national and federal orchestras. Interestingly enough, musicians were also financed by the state in those days, drawing regular salaries like other civil servants.

"Maître" Barry - so called because of his short career as a school teacher - began conducting Kaloum Star (a federal orchestra from Conakry) in 1969. The orchestra recorded a first LP in 1973 which was followed by a number of singles. Kaloum Star, who eventually released their official debut CD album in 1996, put themselves on the music map by modernising Mandingo folk sounds and opening traditional music up to jazz and Afro-beat.

Niyo taps into much the same vein, the sleeve notes proclaiming that Mamadou Barry's debut album is "to be filed under: Africa / cool grooves." Barry, considered by many as a worthy heir to Momo Wandel (a saxophonist whose vibrant swing style made a legendary impact on the Guinean music scene) also makes a point of bringing jazz home to Africa on his solo debut.

On the vibrant Africa Five, "Master" Barry puts his own definitive spin on Take Five (a classic jazz piece originally recorded by the American pianist Dave Brubeck and his quartet half a century ago now.) Then his sax slips into a different mode on Sumbouya, accompanying the raw, emotional vocals of the young Guinean songstress Sia Tolno. Two of Guinea's finest female voices - Sény Malomou and Missia Saran - step behind the microphone on Sodia and Bikè Magnin while the kora-player Kélontan Cissoko steps centre stage on the final track, Néné, to sing "Maître" Barry's praises griot-style. With its clever alternation of songs and instrumental tracks, Niyo strikes a thoroughly seductive balance.


A veteran of the vibrant Guinean cultural scene, Mamadou Barry shines on this self-production. He performs Afrobeat, jazz, soul and funk tinged with Latin melodies and the sounds of the African rhythmic repertoire. Trained in Cuba and then by North Koreans, he became leader of Kaloum Star, the state orchestra, and played with all the Guinean greats. His Afrobeat – hard to replicate convincingly outside of Nigeria – is driven by the nagging rhythm and bold saxophone blasts definitive of the style, and in ‘Tala’, a Soussou melody popular throughout Guinea, the saxophones swing elegantly. Finest of all is ‘Sumbouya’, sung by the young Sierra Leonean Sia Tolno whose voice drips from the swing rhythm like tropical rain, and which features a guitar solo that will quicken the heart.



1. Niyo
2. Sodia
3. Africa Five
4. Tala
5. Sumbouya
6. Sedy
7. Barry Swing
8. Bike Magnin
9. Nene

Jun 11, 2010

London Afrobeat Collective


The London Afrobeat Collective is a dirty dozen of battle-hardened musicians from all corners of the globe who’ve played everywhere from Gdansk to Zanzibar, from Lagos to Los Angeles. A Molotov cocktail of blazing horns and twisted drum beats, skanking guitars and soul-deep bass, pounding rhythms and politically charged vocals for troubled times.

In 2008, fifty years after the young Fela Kuti himself came to London to further his musical education, the L.A.C. was born with a mission to bring the heavy grooves and soaring melodies of the original Black President to a new generation of music lovers.

Since 2009 the L.A.C. has been the driving force behind the new afrobeat craze sweeping through the trendy clubs of Cool London. Proud, Camden, Charlie Wright's, Hoxton, Passing Clouds and the Empowering Church, Dalston, are just some of the venues they've blown away with their frenetic, powerhouse take on afrobeat.

And it is that unique, fresh take along with the dance floor eruption it consistently creates that has won them not only a devoted fan base and critical acclaim, but also a number of influential admirers — most notably Fela Kuti's own keyboard genius and Egypt 80 band leader, Dele Sosimi, who has shared the stage with the band on a number of occasions.

2010 sees the band taking their raw, explosive sound into the studio to record their debut album, which will involve extensive collaboration with some of Nigeria's finest singers, including resident vocalist, the celebrated Inemo Samiama.

A few songs are available at myspace!!

Jun 10, 2010

Dele Sosimi - An article

“What the hell has this got to do with Fela?”

It’s a Saturday afternoon and the distinct sound of a reggae bassline is booming across the Barbican’s reception area towards the corner where I am trying – in vain – to conduct a quiet interview of the man who played keys for Fela Kuti for six years. My subject is due onstage in a quarter of an hour and this is the fourth time in five minutes that our interview has been ground to a halt by friends, fans and family; this time by a band member annoyed at the inclusion of a reggae band – albeit a good one – on a roster of musicians and DJs gathered at London’s Barbican arts centre to celebrate the life, art and legacy of afrobeat pioneer, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti.

Dele Sosimi shrugs his shoulders and smiles at his friend with the air of a man who has seen it all before. The talented composer, singer and multi-instrumentalist was born in Hackney (just down the road), before going to Nigeria where he went to music school and taught himself how to play piano and guitar. By the time he was a teenager, he was already touring all over Europe and the United States as a key member of Fela Kuti’s band, Egypt 80 (formerly Africa 70).

For anyone living in Nigeria in the ‘70s, afrobeat was the sound; deep funk blended with traditional Nigerian/West African highlife accompanied by a heady dose of African percussion, jazz horns and vocals. Fela Kuti perfected and popularised the genre, but when I put it to Dele that another West African artist, Geraldino Pino of Sierra Leone, is said to have actually invented afrobeat, he is quick to set me straight:

"I had the privilege and pleasure of playing with Pino and he was basically a James Brown afficionado. Fela though… Fela had vision. He went through metamorphoses as an artist. When he went to the US, it was a turning point for him. He came back different. His black consciousness peaked. He was influenced by Malcolm X, by the Black panthers, by Cleaver."

Listening to Dele talk it is evident that Fela is as much an inspiration to him now as he was when Dele taught himself to play his songs on his school’s piano. The man was legendary for having been an incredible showman and bandleader, but it is also for his audacious, revolutionary lyrics and contempt for authority that Fela is revered by a fan base that includes artists as diverse as D’Angelo, Ty, Masters at Work, Taj Mahal, Osunlade, Brian Eno, Burning Spear, Kerri Chandler and Jorge Ben Jor.

By 1984, the Nigerian military government had had enough of Fela and they incarcerated him for eighteen months on trumped up currency laundering charges, leaving his son (Dele’s childhood friend) Femi Kuti to lead Egypt 80 on their American tour. Dele became the band’s musical director and for two years he recruited and trained new band members, arranged and orchestrated Afrobeat masterpieces.

In 1986 Femi left Egypt 80 and took Dele with him. Dele became the musical director and bandleader for Femi’s new group Femi Anikulapo-Kuti and the Positive Force. During these years Dele explored and developed his own musical skills, stretching himself between Positive Force, the Afro Jazz Quartet/Quintet and by working with a French Bassoon Player called Alex Ouzounoff, to produce the CD, ‘Made In Nigeria’.

By December 1995, he had decided on his own musical path and he left Positive Force, moving to London where he started playing as a resident musician in some of London’s Nigerian venues. He formed a new group, which he called ‘Gbedu Resurrection’. “Gbedu” he says, “is like hunger, a summons that you cannot ignore”. It also used to be the name of the Shrine, the legendary nightclub on the outskirts of Lagos that Fela made famous. Gbedu Ressurection featured six or so artists and went on to play several London venues including the Africa Centre and, somewhat poetically, The Shrine (London). Things really took off for Dele however at the beginning of 2002 when he successfully released his debut solo album, ‘Turbulent Times’ in which he manages to demonstrate the piano as a centrepiece afrobeat instrument to rival the drum and horns.

When I ask if he was surprised by the album’s reception, he shakes his head and says, "Afrobeat is becoming more and more accessible, more listened to. People who didn’t originate it are playing it now. Groups like Afrodizz and Kokolo Afrobeat Orchestra in New York." Dele acknowledges the role of his former bandmate, Tony Allen, in raising afrobeat’s profile. "Tony's crossed over a lot. He is more household now. That’s the thing about afrobeat: when you want to cook, he’s like water. Tony is like water - the essential ingredient. Especially to many hip hop DJs." We talk about some of the artists using Tony’s beats, including rappers Common, Ty and Breis, the last of whom will be performing on the last day of the Barbican’s Freestage performances. Dele animatedly starts playing a Tony Allen drumbeat using his arms for effect and his mouth for sounds before adding that Allen played a central role in the development of the music. Referring to the more subdued sound of Egypt 80 in comparison with Africa 70s danceable funk grooves, Dele says that “After Tony left, [Fela] did not seem to trust the drummer's role too much anymore. The drums became more subdued. When Tony played you could hear him accentuate Fela's sound. There was a rapport". I ask Dele if there has ever been a reunion of Africa 70/Egypt 80 members. He responds in the negative: "It hasn't happened yet... but I'm praying that it will. It would be nice to jam with them again."

At the moment, Dele is releasing his second album ‘Best Bet’, and he mentions an EP of six Afrobeat poetry tracks he is producing for a poet named Ikwunga. He has just finished compiling the 3-CD Essential Afrobeat compilation for Family recordings. The compilation features all of afrobeat’s central players, such as Tony Allen, Femi Kuti and of course Fela, while also highlighting modern interpretations of afrobeat by the likes of Quantic, Masters at Work, and Daft Punk, as well as featuring work from newer afrobeat outfits like Afrodizz, funk masters like James Brown, and numerous funky Africans including Manu Dibango and Salif Keita. As Sosimi puts it, "The compilation is authoritative. This is where Afrobeat has come from, where it has been, where it is going."

As was the case when he was with Positive Force, Dele splits his musical time between three outfits: the Afrobeat Acoustic Trio, the six-piece Gbedu group, as well as an Afrobeat Orchestra of with a ever-changing line up of at least ten players. In 2003 the Orchestra was fourteen men strong and they played to audiences at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, and at the X.traX showcases in Manchester.

Our 15 minutes are up and Dele proceeds to the stage to show me what he is all about, delivering a performance that his mentor would surely be proud of; engaging the audience, dancing behind the keys, singing, laughing and drawing out impressive performances from his band. By the end of their set, he has everyone on their feet. It is very difficult not to get caught up in the man’s passion and enthusiasm for his music.


Jun 9, 2010

The Budos Band - New album in August


It's official, people. On August 10, 2010, Daptone Records will release The Budos Band III, the long-awaited follow-up to 2007's The Budos Band II. Conceived during weekly, beer-fueled writing sessions in their dank Staten Island rehearsal space, sharpened to a fine point on the road – more than 150 live gigs over the last two years – and recorded during an intensely productive 48 hour period in January 2010, The Budos Band III is chock full of the type of tough sonic nuggets that have long earned The Budos Band the title, “the quintessence of Staten Island soul.”



1. Rite of the Ancients
2. Black Venom
3. River Serpentine
4. Unbroken, Unshaven
5. Nature’s Wrath
6. Golden Dunes
7. Budos Dirge
8. Raja Haje
9. Crimson Skies
10. Mark of the Unnamed
11. Reppirt Yad

The Budos will be hitting the road hard this summer in support of the new record, starting in June and running through September 2010. Covering the U. S. and Canada, the band is performing in intimate night clubs to high profile festivals including Celebrate Brooklyn! in Prospect Park, Bumbershoot, Millennium Park in Chicago, Outside Lands in San Francisco, and multiple jazz festivals in Canada.

A free download of one song is available here!!!

Australian Afrobeat (Pt.II): The Liberators

At my space

Allow us to introduce ourselves... building from the blueprints of 1970's Nigerian Afrobeat and American Funk and Soul, The Liberators have mixed the ideas from the new generation of African, Latino, European and Ashuri Australians and turned out some seriously heavy and unique grooves and melodies.

"I dig it!!" - Gilles Peterson (DJ, BBC Radio 1)

"That's some heavy shit! " - Terry Cole (Colemine Records)

"The Liberators are tight, right and out of sight!! Funky like a packed train in the summertime". " - Ray Lugo (Kokolo)

“It was great to have the Liberators play their debut gig with us at the Jazz Rooms in Sydney.I booked them on spec and must admit to being quite blown away by their sound and look so much so that I have booked them straight in for a return show. The Liberators are further proof that this music is happening in Australia, right here and now. I’m expecting great things - Russ Dewbury (DJ, Jazz Rooms)


Inspired by the greats and rhythms of 1970′s Nigerian Afrobeat and American Funk and Soul, The Liberators have mixed the ideas from the new generation of African, Latino, European and Ashuri Australians and turned out some seriously heavy and unique grooves and melodies. The Liberators are a Sydney-based 10 piece powerhouse made up of musicians from Dojo Cuts, The Strides, The Bakery and Dr Wasabi set to bring a fresh new ans straight-up Afrofunk vibe to Sydney!


Aphrodesia returns to Afrobeat roots

Aphrodesia returns to Afrobeat roots

"I'm very attached to these boots. They've been with Aphrodesia since the beginning," says singer Lara Maykovich, wrapping duct tape around a pair of high-top black leather shoes with lug soles that have seen better days.

In the Bay Area's funky, urban environs, women wearing big, heavy boots don't raise many eyebrows. But when she arrived in Lagos, Nigeria, Maykovich recalls Femi Kuti's dancers telling her, "Take off your boots. You are in Africa."

Aphrodesia - a San Francisco world-beat band, which includes 10 to 15 musicians on any given evening - has been known to tour in a vegetable-oil-fueled bus. The group has made a commitment to alternative energy, bassist-bandleader Ezra Gale says.

More recently, Aphrodesia made a commitment to deepen its sound by returning to the music's roots. While touring West Africa in a lime green and purple bus (gas powered, unfortunately) last year, the band became the first American group to play the New Afrika Shrine, Kuti's combination compound and performance space in Lagos. And with the release of its new album "Lagos by Bus," Aphrodesia has staked its claim as not only the area's most original Afrobeat outfit, but also as one of the leading proponents of the genre's resurgence.

These days, Afrobeat - an intoxicating mix of funk, jazz and traditional African music - is more popular in America and around the world than it ever was in the heyday of Fela Kuti, Femi's father and the genre's founder, who died in 1997. Yet, back in 2002, when Aphrodesia started out, "it was us and Antibalas," says Gale, referring to the popular Brooklyn Afrobeat orchestra. Recently, he's discovered that "every city we go to has an Afrobeat band." However, most of those bands end up "sounding like Fela, all taking from the same blueprint."

Not Aphrodesia. "We're not strict Afrobeat," explains Gale, who says the genre is a "living, growing style of music." What sets the band apart from similar groups is its diverse musical influences - and the fact that the group is probably the only Afrobeat outfit around with female lead singers. Before co-founding the band, Maykovich spent a year abroad studying traditional folk vocal chants in Ghana. Vocalist Maya Dorn went to Cuba to learn the finer points of Afro-Cuban music. And Gale was previously in the Miles Davis-inspired, jazz-fusion outfit Bitches Brew. "We've played jazz. We've played metal. It's not just Afrobeat," he says.

That cultural training came in handy in Ghana, where the group won over native crowds with its original songs, sung in English along with traditional Ga and Ewe folk melodies. Singing to Ghanaian audiences in their own tribal languages earned Aphrodesia a level of respect rarely granted to Westerners. Maykovich recalls being told, "it is very hard for a white girl to sing in Ga." The Ghanaian excursion, she notes, was her favorite part of the trip.

For the band members, touring Ghana and Nigeria was a dream come true. "The first time we got together - four, five years ago - we said it would be great to go to Africa," Gale says. An invitation last year by the African Showboyz (a Ghanaian band Aphrodesia met on tour) to join them in their homeland provided the opportunity. "Details were sketchy, but we decided to go for it," Gale says, with a smile. After playing Ghana, their plan was to make a pilgrimage to the Shrine - a venue dedicated to the iconic Fela - to "soak up from the source," as Gale puts it.

The band members were surprised to find gas prices were roughly the same in Nigeria as in the United States. It took them 12 excruciating hours to make it past the Nigerian border, one checkpoint at a time. Along the way, musicians witnessed soldiers apparently beating and robbing people at random, a fate Aphrodesia escaped by handing out cassettes to the border guards.

"If you want the Africa of gazelles and zebras, you don't go to Lagos," Gale says.

"It's pretty crazy," Maykovich adds.

Although they had never met before, Kuti's manager and crew helped them make the border crossing, Gale says. "These people put their lives on the line for us," he marvels.

Once in Lagos, whose estimated population ranges from 8 million to 25 million depending on whom you ask, the band encountered the extreme disparities of wealth one would expect in a developing nation, but also a certain kind of genuineness from the Nigerian people. "The warmth we encountered was incredible," Gale says. "It was awesome playing with Femi," Maykovich adds.

The band found many positives to its African journey, but "the level of poverty is shocking," Maykovich says. It didn't take long for the band to realize the role music plays in an upside-down society still plagued by the greed and corruption Fela famously railed against, yet with a deep spirituality largely unknown to the West.

"The people, they need music to survive," Maykovich says. As Gale explains, "there's a level of survival there we don't really deal with (in America). ... It gives them the strength to get by. I think that feeling carried over."

The time in Africa had a profound effect on the band. Since returning, "we're more connected," Maykovich says. "It made it more relevant for everyone."

Most, if not all, of the songs on the new album were directly inspired by Aphrodesia's African experiences. Maykovich jotted down seemingly syntax-challenged phrases from street signs in her journal, like "Holy Ghost Invasion" (a commentary on African Christianity). Several other new tunes grew out of the sights and sounds the band members encountered on their way; the drive into Lagos, for instance, resulted in "Bus Driver," one of the album's most anthemic tracks.

While not a travelogue per se, Gale says the album flows better on the whole than anything the band has done in the past. Previous efforts were somewhat of a hodgepodge of various influences and styles, yet both the songwriting and playing on "Lagos by Bus" seem more focused. "This album's a bit more thematic," he says. "It made more sense this time."

It was hard to argue that point during Aphrodesia's album-release party at San Francisco's Independent nightclub last month; all night, the band remained locked into a super-funky global groove. Originals from the new album such as "Every Day," "White Elephant" and "Ochun Mi" showcased the band's strengths: a powerful rhythm section, vibrantly brassy horns and strong call-and-response female vocals. And though excursions were made into Ghanaian and Zimbabwean sounds and melodies, the group also paid its respects to traditional Nigerian Afrobeat with covers of Fela classics "No Agreement" and "Mr. Follow Follow."

Any initial shock from seeing white women singing and dancing like natives of Africa quickly subsided. The band proved as fluid in its playing as the vocalists did in their harmonies and their dance steps. As a front woman, Maykovich seems absolutely fearless, whether telling the audience "in our hearts, we are free/ in our minds, we are free" or plucking traditional melodies on an mbira (African thumb piano). No one seemed to mind her taped-up boots, maybe because they were too busy dancing.

With its emphasis on complicated polyrhythms and seemingly ritualistic quality, African music can seem overly exotic and difficult to appreciate for Western ears. But in Aphrodesia's hands, it comes off as more universal than alienating. As Maykovich explains, "What we give people is not just an opportunity to dance, but to connect."

By Eric K. Arnold, Special to The Chronicle, January 7, 2008

Jun 5, 2010

Nkengas - Destruction

Information and reviews

Released in 1973 (hard to believe that that is 35 years ago, innit!)in Nigeria. Nkengas and Ikengas are the same band, if you were wondering. They were certainly led by the same man, Okoroego. Nkengas were the initial Afro Funk combo and then became all highlife-y with the conception of the Ikengas (although not all of it because Ikenga Super Stars Of Africa's 'greedy man' album is way funky). The Nkengas released one other album, 'the Nkengas in London', which i haven't heard. Does anyone know if it's any good? Back to the album - Oh man, 'Jungle Beat' is classy club fare. It will get you out of your seat and have you shaking around like you just don't care!



1. Anyi Bundi Igbo 3:07
2. Obuna Alu 3:35
3. Anyi Buofu 2:38
4. Jungle Beat 6:15
5. Ube Frank Special 3:18
6. Ndu Bu Isi 2:19
7. Nkenga Special 3:51
8. London Special 7:05
9. Destruction 3:22

The Mebusas - Blood Brothers

Information and reviews

Yet another Nigerian rarity, this Mebusas LP gets its first ever reissue. Best known for their cut "Son of Mr Bulldog" which was made available on the recent Afro Baby compilation. A large and multitalented group, The Mebusas' "Blood Brothers" album (1973) reflects the diversity of its members. Elements of soul, funk and psychedelic rock as well as Latin, Carribean and African music come together in a powerfully unique album recorded in Nigeria.



Best known for their cut Son of Mr Bulldog which was made available on the recent Afro Baby compilation on Soundway Records, The Mebusas lone LP Blood Brothers combines elements of American soul and funk, psychedelic rock, latin/carribean rhythms and traditional African music. Innovative arrangements, deep rhythms and top-notch playing make this 1973 album a true classic. This is the first ever reissue of this landmark album.

Beautiful grooves from the Nigerian scene of the 70s -- a set of really unique grooves, and the only-ever album from the enigmatic Mebusas! There's kind of a tripped-out feel to some of these tracks -- Afro Funk, but taken left of center from the style of Fela -- thanks to some weird keyboard bits, odd production touches, and some occasional psychedelic guitar -- which really fuzzes things up, and almost creates a cross-cultural vibe that should have gotten this album play up in London, or over in New York! Lyrics are in English, and some of the tracks have a heavy dose of American funk, too -- yet others are pure 70s African funk all the way through -- a wonderful blend of modes that really keeps things interesting. Titles include "Son Of Mr Bull Dog", "Do You Know", "Grooving Out On Life", "Kwashioko", "Blood Brothers", "Return/Pada", and "I Wonna Do It".


Reissue of the only LP ever to come from the near-legendary group The Mebusas. 'Blood Brothers' is considered a landmark album for the way in which it blends elements of American soul and funk, psychedelic rock, latin, carribean rhythms and traditional African music. A definite experience start to finish, this is an example of a group that should have changed music history but was lost to obscurity at the time. Definitely worth checking if you have any interest in any of the aformentioned genres!



1. Son Of Mr Bull Dog
2. Blood Brothers
3. I Wonna Do It
4. Return/Pada
5. Mr Bull Dog
6. Grooving Out On Life
7. Kwashioko
8. Do You Know
9. Good Bye Friends

Jun 2, 2010

Dele Sosimi - Turbulent Times


His career began when he joined Fela Anikulapo-Kuti's Egypt 80 (1979-1986). Then he created Positive Force band with Femi Kuti, with whom he performed from 1986 to 1994. In both bands he was keyboard player, also musical director taking care of re-orchestrating and arranging music as well as handling the recruiting and training of new musicians.

Based on Afrobeat, Dele's music is a blend of complex funk grooves, Nigerian traditional music (including hi-life), African percussion, underpinning the jazz horns and solos from other instruments, as well as rhythmical singing.

His keyboard work can be heard on Fela's several albums, as well as Femi's ones. Dele has also performed often with Tony Allen.

Following his first solo album Turbulent Times, he was invited to select the tracks for the 3-CD compilation "Essential Afrobeat" (Universal, 2004). He was producer and co-writer of "Calabash Volume 1: Afrobeat Poems" by Ikwunga, the Afrobeat Poet (2004). He is a central member of the Wahala Project. He has also featured on British rapper TY's album Closer and his Turbulent Times is featured on The Afrobeat Sudan Aid Project (2006). His album Identity has been described by Songlines magazine as “A sizzling set from London’s Afrobeat leader”.

His performances include The Montreux Jazz Festival, Joe Zawinul's Birdland (Vienna) the Treibhaus (Innsbruck ), Paradiso (Amsterdam), Bimhuis (Amsterdam), Oerol Festival (Terschelling, Holland), the Ollin Kan Festival (Mexico City), Canada Afrobeat Summit (Calgary, Canada), Sensommer Int Musikkfestival (Oslo, Norway), Festival Musicas Do Mar and Festival Musicas do Mundo (Portugal), Festival Art des Ville - Arts des Champs (France) & the London African Music Festival, Hot Club in Lyon and Cave à Musique in Mâcon (France.

Based in London, Dele Sosimi is an educator and instructor in Afrobeat (via his Dele Sosimi Afrobeat Foundation, and as a Visiting Lecturer in Music and Media, London Metropolitan University). Dele performs in one of three formats, each as compelling and funky as the others – a 15- piece Afrobeat Orchestra (featuring a 5-piece horn section and dancers), a 6-9 piece band (the most frequently used format) or a trio/quartet (with bass and drums/percussion).

Sosimi is abetted by a group of musicians. Afrobeat is given a virtuoso treatment by a core combination of Femi Elias (bass), Kunle Olofinjana (drums),Phil Dawson (rhythm guitar), Maurizio Ravalico (percussion), Justin Thurgur (trombone), Tom Allan (Trumpet) & Eric Rohner (Tenor Saxophone).



The shadow of Afrobeat innovator Fela Kuti still looms large, even though he died less than six years ago. Fela single-handedly championed a unique admixture of Pan-Africanism, highlife, funk and jazz (among other ingredients in the music's entrancing stew) for well over three decades, despite hostile military regimes and economic austerity in his native Nigeria.

Longtime Kuti (Egypt 80) keyboardist /vocalist Dele Sosimi is perhaps one of the best placed musicians to skipper the good ship "Afrobeat" into decidedly jazzier and more instrumental waters. This, of course, contrasts with the more strident political and Pan-Africanist tasks of Femi Kuti, Fela's musically talented son.

Sosimi's most recent CD, "Turbulent Times" (Ekostar, London) contains six fine tunes. The compositions reflect the ways in which this relatively young pianist has imbibed the jazz tradition, along with Fela's evident influences. It should always be borne in mind that the sine qua non of jazz - collective and individual improvisation - has its roots deep in Africa's musically fertile soils. This improvisatory impetus finds its most potent expression on "Turbulent Times".

Sosimi's spare, economical approach to his instrument bears some similarity to that of South African pianist, Abdullah Ibrahim. Full of catchy vamps and repeated motifs, ardent hard- and post-boppers won't find any reference points here: Afrobeat is not, strictly speaking a bebop derived art.

Aided and abetted by a rhythmic core of cannily percussive electric bassist Femi Elias and powerhouse drummer Feyi Akinwunmi (an heir-apparent to Tony Allen) Sosimi creates some of the most betwitching grooves in modern African music. Its little wonder that Afrobeat patterns are sampled by DJs from Mushin to Manhattan!

Check out the rollicking intensity of the title track (E get as E be) featuring Dele's deep voice; the percussive masterpiece "Big Cat Fat Cat" (showcasing Feyi's enthralling stickwork); and the mellower numbers like "Di Godfada" and "I No Like". These are African music gems.

Mention must be made of Sosimi's crack horn section: Byron Wallen on trumpet/flugelhorn (check out Wallen's masterly solo on "Gbedu 1", Tony Kofi on baritone sax, Linus Bewley on tenor sax, and Justin Thurgur on trombone. Guitarist Kunle Olasoju is credited as being an "Afrobeat guitarist" --- and he lives up to the description, with a wonderfully agile and rhythmic style. Richard Ajiliye provides an important percussive presence on the album.

"Turbulent Times" no doubt represents the leading edge of African jazz.



1. Turbulent Times
2. Gbedu 1
3. Phaze 2 (What Next)
4. Big Cat Fat Cat
5. Di Godfada
6. I No Like

Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou - ALS30


01. Houzou Houzou Na Yi Noukon
02. Bonne Annee
03. Ehouzou Dandan
04. Ma Won Ye O

Underground System Afrobeat


Leading a new charge in Brooklyn's burgeoning Afrobeat revival, Underground System is here to get you up onto your feet and into the groove in a serious way. Raw, uncut, 100% Afro-funk throwdown.... ain't no 'bout a doubt it. The brainchild of guitarist Peter Matson, who fell in love with the music and story of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti while playing in an ensemble directed by members of the seminal Afrobeat group Antibalas, Underground System aims to both preserve and progress the amazing sounds that were eminating from Nigeria and the rest of West Africa in the 70's (with plenty of stateside funk, jazz, and roots influences to boot). Members of Underground System also respect the social context, spirit, and performative aspect behind the origins of Afrobeat. In doing so we bring an energetic and heartfelt approach to our own performance, always with complete emphasis on the underlying groove.

There are no degrees of separation between Underground System and some of the best Afrobeat, funk, jazz, and hip-hop players in the world. Members of Underground System have consistently shared the stage, toured, and/or recorded with heavyweight players such as- Seun Kuti, Mos Def, Lauryn Hill, Amayo's Fu-Arkist-Ra, members of Antibalas, Jojo Kuo (Fela Kuti and Egypt 80), Charlie Hunter, Maceo Parker, and Billy Martin (Medeski, Martin & Wood) to name a few.

Underground System is set to record an original EP at Dunham Studios in Williamsburg, BK this summer. Engineered by Thommas Brenneck (Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings, Budos Band) it will surely capture all the gritty sound and vibe of this brand new powerhouse ensemble. Lookout for its release in the coming months!

A few songs can be heard here!

Jun 1, 2010

The Sweet Talks -The Kusum Beat


Sweet Talks were amongst the top five most popular bands in Ghana during the 1970s having recorded a string of hit albums. ‘The Kusum Beat’ was originally released in 1974 and became a household favourite with heavy emphasis on the ‘Afro’ through its traditional rhythms and motifs, blended together into a modern mix that combined highlife, funk and Afrobeat.

Like a small handful of seminal Ghanaian albums, The Kusum Beat has stood the test of time and sounds as original and unique today as it did back in 1974. Original pressings are in high demand and can be found on record exchanges for significant prices. This was the second album from the band formerly known as ‘El Dorados’, later to change their name to ‘Medican Lantcis’ before settling on ‘Sweet Talks’ – they were live residents at the legendary ‘Talk of the Town’ nightclub in the port town of Tema near Accra. It is here they established a name for themselves as one of the most exciting young bands in the country.

Due to the popularity and commercial success of their first three albums – Adam & Eve, Kusum Beat and Spiritual Ghana – the band began touring on a regular basis and made it as far as Los Angeles. They went on to record what was to be their biggest selling record, the Hollywood Highlife Party LP, as well as some straight disco recordings aimed squarely at the burgeoning American market.

The Kusum Beat is far from typical of their trademark sound but shows just how versatile an outfit they were – able to turn their hands to any one of a number of styles. It’s a great reminder of how open-minded, experimental and curious the music scene in Ghana was in the first half of the 1970s.


In his review last week of Amanaz’s Africa, Evan Conley describes how record collectors have been relentless in their pursuit of “reissues of obscure African LPs … sprouting from the shelves of in-the-know record shops around the globe.” There’s no question that the popularity of finding the most forgotten, poorest quality, least pressed records from some of the least well-known places on earth (Dahomey, Tanganyika, Ubangi-Shari, take your pick) is continually on the rise thanks to a growing network of amateur enthusiasts and ethnomusicologists alike.

It thus comes as a minor surprise that Soundway, ever the leaders in Dark Continent crate-digging, have chosen a comparatively popular Ghanaian group for their latest reissue. Sweet Talks can hardly be counted as obscure: They were one of Ghana’s biggest groups in the 1970s and made it to a point in their career where they could tour regularly behind a substantial discography and record halfway around the world in Los Angeles. There were a few essential ingredients that contributed to their quick, early success. Jonathan Abraham, the band’s founder, was also manager of the buzzing Talk of the Town hotel in Accra’s main port of Tema. Sweet Talks were in an excellent position from the moment of their creation as one of two house bands for the hotel (the Talkatives were the other). Abraham was also either smart or lucky to bring together established singer AB Crentsil, who had previously helmed the El Dorados, and guitarist Smart Nkansah, who had been in Yamoah’s Guitar Band. The playing time and personnel before they ever released a record cannot be discounted when discussing the quality of their output.

People and practice are nothing without the music, of course, and here is where Sweet Talks were particularly clever. The dozen-strong group blended Ghana’s best known musical export, highlife, with roots folk and contemporary funk sounds of the time — even the youths of Accra bored by guitar highlife’s ubiquity in the 1960s found something fresh in the “Kusum” (“native” or “from Ghana”) beat. Opening track “Akampanye” sums up this blend of the traditional and the modern, from the very basic keyboard opening to the explosion of horns and brisk percussion. “That’s what they call, the kusum beat,” Crentsil intones with a slight accent. “Now here we go with it.”

Those are nearly the only English words on this album, but songs like “Eyi Su Ngaangaa” and “Kyekye Pe Aware” mix Western guitar grooves and brass backing with Fela Kuti-like rhythmic repetition to demonstrate an awareness of what was happening on the other side of the Atlantic. The influences aren’t always obvious, partly because they are so disparate — maybe it was jazz horns they tried to invoke, or maybe it was more salsa from Latin dance bands (an early highlife influence). Ultimately, it didn’t matter: Their brand of highlife was successful enough to produce three LPs (The Kusum Beat was the second) and garner acclaim beyond their native Ghana.

The postscript to Sweet Talks is almost as fascinating as the music: Nkansah left in 1976 to form his own group, the Black Hustlers, and Crentsil later fell out with Abraham over allegations of mismanagement. The group’s dissolution was accelerated by Ghana’s growing economic trouble and an 8 p.m. curfew instituted by the unstable, mercurial military rule of Jerry Rawlings. Crentsil later found success as a solo artist, Talk of the Town still exists in Tema, and highlife has recently experienced a resurgence in the updated form of hiplife. Still, it is the collective achievement of Sweet Talks that rings the loudest for each of its protagonists. Soundway may not have scraped the bottoms of Accra’s most mysterious bins for this one, but sometimes there’s a good reason things get popular. The Kusum Beat is a sterling example.



1. Akampanye
2. Mapam Sukuruwe
3. Eyi Su Ngaangaa
4. Oburumankoma
5. Sasa Abonsam
6. Kyekye Pe Aware