Apr 30, 2012

Underground Horns - Funk Monk

“We are cooking audio gumbo…our special recipe includes some funk, jazz, hip hop mixed with brass band traditions spiced up with African and other world rhythms…

Underground Horns is a Brooklyn based brass band playing Afro Funk Bhangra New Orleans grooves and beyond. In the big city they made people dance in subway stations, parks and at their numerous club dates at nublu, barbes and BAM Cafe, among others. They also have been playing as a marching band, namely at the spectacular NYC Village Halloween Parade.

Underground Horns is led by alto saxophonist Welf Dorr, who, originally from Munich (Germany), moved 1995 to New York where he played/recorded with Sonny Simmons, Frank Lacy, Sabir Mateen, Butch Morris, Kenny Wollesen, Jojo Kuo and Vernon Reid a.o. He performed in the US, Europe, Mexico and Egypt including festivals such as Willisau (Switzerland) or Celebrate Brooklyn as well as places as City Hall of New York.

Underground Horns


Alto saxophonist Welf Dorr has spent the last several years putting his own unique spin on the brass band, an instrumental lineup that is usually found in NYC crossing jazz with Balkan music. Although Dorr does look to Serbia for part of his musical muse he also draws heavily on a host of things including Afro-Cuban rhythms, funk and Thelonious Monk; thus the title of this release from his Underground Horns.

Tubaist Joe Keady, who must have listened to a lot of bassist Bootsy Collins during his musically formative years, more than makes up for the latter instrument's absence on this session with up-in-the-mix lines. Dorr draws on the power of a lineup that, along with his alto, includes drums, conga, tuba, trumpet and trombone to produce kick-ass dance music but doesn't devolve into parody. This is really wonderful new brassy jazz fusion music that even brushes up against psychedelia with the superb epic jam "Sympaticus" that features Keady, conguero Enrique Arrosa and drummer Kevin Raczka laying down a complex percussive background.

Alternate funky takes on Charles Mingus' homage to saxophonist Lester Young, "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat," appropriately begin and close this program while the title cut achieves its stated aim as Monk's stylistic quirkiness is given a funky presentation. John Coltrane's "Miles Mode" and Monk's own "Evidence" are given similar shots of funky brass juice while the remainder of the program is stylistically diverse. "Ethio" is the most overtly Balkan sounding of the bunch and as such is an infectious charmer while Don Redman's nugget "Gee Baby (Ain't I Good 2 U)" is a slow blues burner. "Cherry" uses an infectious tuba hook to allow the musicians plenty of room to improvise and this version of bassist Tony Scherr's beautifully subtle Mid-Eastern infused "Almost Believe in Everything" amazingly maintains the tune's delicate intent.



01. Goodbye Pork Pie Hat
02. Funk Monk
03. Ethio
04. Gee Baby (Ain't I Good 2 U)
05. Cherry
06. Almost Believe in Everything
07. Miles Mode
08. Evidence
09. Sympaticus
10. Goodbye Pork Pie Hat (alt take)

Apr 27, 2012

Still playing with fire

Sipho "Hotstix" Mabuse has been at the forefront of so many musical movements since the formation of his first band, The Beaters, in the late Sixties that he is ill at ease with the term "jazz" as a descriptor for his musical expression.

"I don't even think we are booked as jazz musicians," says Mabuse, as he readies for yet another appearance in what is increasingly becoming a generically curated Joy of Jazz Festival. "It's not that I can't play jazz; I can," he says from a plush couch at his Kippies Jazz Club International in Newtown.

"Even when I started playing my earliest influences were people like Early Mabuza, Elvin Jones, John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Charles Mingus, Miles Davis and Stompie Manana. Unfortunately there wasn't that much jazz in this country then, but those were a great influence to us. I guess because of the dilution that has pervaded the South African music industry, people are finding it difficult to define what jazz is, so we are all getting lumped up as performing in a 'jazz' festival."

But one would be misled in assuming that Mabuse uses the word "dilution" derogatorily. The Beaters, which were formed in Orlando High School in 1968, became the eventual torchbearers of a localised soul-rock-funk sound dubbed Soweto soul. In their case it was a sound influenced as much by the Memphis-based Stax Records (whose popularity peaked in the Sixties and Seventies) as by their own brand of elitist smugness.

"Our leader Selby Ntuli came from quite an affluent family and the fact that we were high school students, that put us in a different class of musical appreciation," proffers Mabuse. "We were listening to essentially white music, or Western music, and then, of course, you had jazz, which we embraced very strongly because we felt that for us to be able to perform better, we needed to underpin our performances with an understanding of jazz."

The upstart Beaters, who musically, at least, considered themselves credits to their race, kept indigenous music pretty much at arm's length until a fateful tour of erstwhile Rhodesia in 1973 added another dimension to their musical palate.

"We had intended to go to Zim for three weeks," recounts Mabuse. "The struggle there was intensifying but most of the musicians were still influenced by Western rock. But then there was a [Congolese rhumba] group called OK Success, which was made up of exiled musicians from Zaire, playing in hotels. When we heard this music from them, we started thinking of people back at home. You know, there was this groundswell of black consciousness that was saying: 'Black man, this is who you are, find your own identity, make your own music …'"

In honour of what became a three-month epiphany, the band composed a song called Harari, which became the title track of their fourth album and eventually their moniker.

As funk gave in to disco, Harari's sound mutated accordingly, with flamboyant space-cadet outfits to match. "The earlier music was too deep, people were not dancing to it," recalls Mabuse. "When Selby [Ntuli, the group's founder] died in 1978, I took over leadership and I was more of a relaxed type dance person."

After the success of the 1980 album, Heatwave, with its runaway single Party, which eventually sold in excess of 250 000 copies, the group inked a two-album deal with the United States-based A&M Records.

But as Mabuse tells it, the band was already on its last legs. His overzealous leadership style, which he says was borne of trying to circumvent the dangers of unanticipated success, hampered ties in the band. When the time came to record in the States, two members of the seven-piece outfit opted out. The band eventually disbanded in 1982, but Mabuse was far from done.

Burn Out (1983), which Chimurenga magazine editor Ntone Edjabe described as the perfect synthesis of mbaqanga, pop and soul, was a logical progression for an artist adept at appropriating and localising international aesthetics. The title track became the signature tune of what became known as bubblegum. "I wouldn't call it that," says Mabuse, balking at that catch-all tag that came to describe township dance music in the Eighties. "People call music all sorts of things. It's of no significance to me. If it comes in at that time and creates influence, for me that's important. That I have made a contribution to how people define South African music."

In July last year a commercial showing a throwback Chicken Licken brand, using the song as a soundtrack, was voted the best-liked ad among its target market and netted the founder and CEO of Chicken Licken, George Sombonos, the Creative Circle's Marketer of the Year award at this year's Financial Mail Adfocus Awards. You can be sure that Hotstix is still jiving all the way to the bank.

Since then Mabuse has released four studio albums, the last, Township Child, in 1996. None of them equaled the commercial and critical impact of Burn Out, which went on to sell in excess of 500 000 albums. Perhaps the queasy euphoria of the post-apartheid dispensation didn't provide enough static to stimulate his creativity.

As he puts it, though, he has committed himself to too many NGOs, many -- such as the Johannesburg Aids Council, the Soweto Cancer Association and the Soweto Home for the Aged -- that have nothing to do with music. He does, however, sit on the board of trustees for the Southern African Music Rights Organisation (Samro) endowment for the national arts, which administers Samro's sponsorship policies and grants and funds bursaries and a number of music education projects.

While he does not harbour any grudges against the local music industry, he feels that the city of Johannesburg has not committed itself to developing the arts. Part of his reasoning is because, since Kippies was forced to relocate the club has suffered commercially. This, in the face of a rapidly gentrifying cultural precinct. "My view is that it was the intention of the city to move Kippies away from that area," he argues. "They're moving Chivava and Horror Café. All the music venues are being moved for the mining conglomerates and the science [companies].

"I'm not at that level where I can continuously fund the club's activities from my back pocket, but unfortunately a lot of sponsors are putting money into sports and not into music. Is culture not going to be a part of 2010? Are people going to be watching soccer 24 hours?"

South Africa’s Mail & Guardian

Written by Kwanele Sosibo, published August 2007

Apr 26, 2012

Afrobeat for Freedom

An article from theatlantic.com

A generation after Fela Kuti invented a genre and challenged his oil-rich government, his youngest son Seun is carrying on the tradition.

t was 1969 when Sandra Izsadore first heard Fela Kuti. The Nigerian musical icon, more commonly known as just Fela, was performing at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. He sang in his native tongue, Yoruba.

"I asked him what he had been singing about, and he told me, 'I was singing about soup,' so I started laughing," Izsadore said.

Not long after their first encounter, Izsadore helped Kuti politicize his music, which gradually became a voice for Nigeria's anger over corruption and inequality. "I told Fela that his music should have words that encouraged the people or at least taught people to raise their awareness," she remembered.

Today, as Nigeria confronts more issues of government accountability, Fela's son Seun has taken up the tradition of musician-as-activist.

That tradition began when Izsadore fell in love with Fela and returned with him to his home in Nigeria. With her help, he became the father of Afrobeat, half-musical genre, half-political movement, the latter a response to government corruption and negligence across Africa.

Fela was soon writing songs about the Nigerian government, which used the country's vast oil reserves to line the pockets of its moneyed political elite. At one point, Fela declared his commune -- replete with armed soldiers to guard his legendary Africa Shrine nightclub -- a separate national entity, The Kalakuta Republic. Government thugs infiltrated the republic and burned down the nightclub, but it was rebuilt in another part of Lagos shortly after.

Izsadore eventually severed her romantic ties to Fela, who at one point had 27 wives, most of whom sang and dance with him in revealing outfits at the Shrine. In 1997, he died of complications related to AIDS.

Since her time with Fela, not much has changed for the Nigerian people, Izsadore said, citing her most recent journey to the West African nation, in 2006.

"When I looked around and I saw the infrastructure of the country, it was like it hadn't changed. And it hasn't still. If anything, it's gotten worse," she recalled, on the phone from Los Angeles, where she is now a social worker.

Izsadore said her outlook on Nigeria is becoming even grimmer as she watches news coverage of the ongoing Occupy Nigeria movement, demonstrations to reinstate the oil subsidies that Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan scrapped last month.
In her song, "Nigeria," Izsadore tells Nigerian authorities, "You failed to listen to Fela."

The removal of the subsidy, one of few ways Nigerians benefit from their country's national resources, meant drastic price increases in gas and public transportation for a country with some 76 percent of the population living below the poverty line, according to the most recent figures.

In her blog post, "Why Are Nigerians So Angry About the Removal of the Fuel Subsidy," Lagos-based British-Nigerian journalist Enô Alfred writes, "My 60-Nigerian naira (US$.40) journey from home to the bank increased to 100 naira in the space of 24-hours when the petroleum subsidy was removed."

Izsadore says her only hope for Nigeria lies with Seun Kuti, Fela's youngest son, born to one of his most famous co-performer-cum-wives, Fehintola Kuti. Seun is now 30 and living in Lagos.

A musician in his own right, Seun is also an activist helping to lead the pro-subsidy demonstrations and, in the longer term, pushing for more effective oversight for the next elections, scheduled for 2015. A presidential vote last year was considered an improvement on past elections, but is still marred by reports of fraud. Many of Nigeria's Muslims were also angered that the presidency went to the second Christian in a row, though the country has an informal tradition of rotating the office between Christian and Muslim.

"I came out in favor of the Occupy movement because the government needs to listen to people and not just take decisions and think Nigerians are fools who will accept what they say," Seun told me over the phone from Lagos, just before rushing off to a performance.

"When people saw him, large numbers started coming out to support the cause," said Ade Oloye Tondu, who manages Seun's musical career. Tens of thousands are reported to have started pouring into Nigerian streets around the same time that Seun and other national celebrities joined in.

Although he is only dating one woman, and she is neither a dancer nor a singer in his band, Seun is following in the footsteps of his father's musical activism. He plays in the same band his father once led, Egypt 80, at a nightclub also called The Shrine.

"When I listen to my music and my father's music, it's a continuation of something original," said Seun.

In his lyrics and his speeches at rallies, his father's characteristic fervor shine through -- a kind of battle call against the self-serving, disconnected leaders that have perpetually plagued much of Sub-Saharan Africa since many nations achieved independence from colonial rule in the 1960s.

In the song "Rise," Seun implores Africans to rise up against foreign exploitation, from oil companies in Nigeria to diamond traders in The Democratic Republic of the Congo.

In a recent rally, Seun went after the Jonathan administration, referencing Nigerian laws that forbid same-sex sexual activity.

"When two men fuck each other, it is better than one man fucking the nation as a whole," he told the crowd.

Asked about that quote, Seun laughed, clearly a little self-satisfied.

"I'm not an activist for gay rights, but gay people can be as gay as they want to be. What I don't like is when our politicians play on people's minds by saying homosexuality isn't in our culture and that our people can't be gay," he explained.

Izsadore worries that Seun's audacious acts of dissent could put him in danger.

"I do have concerns for Seun. He's right there at the helm," she said.

"What the Nigerian authorities should understand is that when you knock one person down, someone else will take up the torch."

Under previous, harsher administrations, the Kuti family has paid a toll for its dissent. Fela's original Shrine was burned down and his band members attacked. Seun's own grandmother died when, in 1978, she was thrown from her balcony for speaking out against the government by a large group of armed men sent by the ruling military junta to crack down on Fela's renegade Kalakuta Republic.

Seun has been using Twitter and Facebook less recently, after facing some pressure from authorities.

"We have had to be quiet on Twitter and Facebook lately, but only so that we can continue to rework our strategy and come back stronger without demands," said Seun's manager, Tondu.

Seun insisted that he isn't frightened of government retribution.

"I try not to think too much about the dangers," he said.

Seun believes the Occupy movement is proof that, though the socioeconomic injustice that inspired Izsadore's song "Nigeria," persists, the people involved in contemporary demonstrations did not "fail to listen to Fela."

"Fela is not a failure. His generation failed, not him," Seun said, "Now, the people are going to be more powerful than ever. That goes to show he wasn't a failure."

theatlantic.com, written by Massoud Hayoun, published February 2012

Apr 25, 2012

"Between Revolution and the Spirit"

The Orchestre Poly-Rythmo can best be described as musical godfathers of the West African nation of Benin, where successive generations of musicians have been inspired by the sounds of funk and vodoun (voodoo) music which first emerged from the homes of young men living in 1960s Cotonou, the economic capital of the country. West Africa during the sixties and seventies was a hotbed of music culture spurred on by newfound political independence and economic investment. Music from the West streamed into the homes of young Beninese like Vincent Ahehehinnou and Clémént Mélomé, two founding members of Poly-Rythmo who assembled their sound from disparate genres and local cultures. Vodoun rituals, funk breaks and Latin rhythms established the sound of a group which today attracts fans from outside of West Africa, regions like Europe and North America which are more recently discovering Benin’s musical history.

During the seventies, Poly-Rythmo became star musicians of a region learning to define itself culturally on its own terms. Working with small labels, the group recorded frequently on the cheap, pressing less than 500 records for each release. Most of the time, band members performed in bedrooms or living rooms packed with instruments, a Nagra reel-to-reel tape machine and just one or two microphones. They recorded in between the sounds of passing jetliners from nearby Cotonou Airport and played live shows which filled up venues to capacity. Their success reached several peaks during the seventies until a military coup by dictator Mathieu Kérékou ushered in over a decade of economic decline and political fallout. By the eighties, Benin was experiencing its worst growing pains as a young nation-state, and the prolific musical output so particular to the previous two decades had severely waned.

The all-powerful music of Poly-Rythmo pressed on through years of Benin’s recovery during the nineties and aughts until Elodie Maillot, a French journalist working in Benin, tracked down the band in 2007 and helped them arrange for their very first European tour. Reissues by British label Soundway Records and German label Analog Africa had already been kindling interest in the group among Western audiences, and the group’s newfound popularity culminated with a North American debut in 2010 when they performed at the Lincoln Center Festival in New York City. Forty years after its founding, the Orchestre Poly-Rythmo will return this year with an album of newly recorded songs, Cotonou Club. In this interview, lead vocalist/co-founder Vincent Ahehehinnou and Elodie Maillot, now the group’s manager, talk about Poly-Rythmo’s past and present.

EM: The full name of the band is “Le Tout Puissant Orchestre Poly-Rythmo.” How did this honorific title, the “all-powerful,” form around the group?

Vincent: At the time, we used to play a venue where all the people who loved music would come and dance until their shirts became wet with sweat. The people called us “le tout puissant” because there was a popular band called “Tout Puissant Orchestre Kinshasa” from Congo. They started calling us that, and then the journalists at the time started saying the same on the radio.

EM: Why were the sixties and seventies such a fertile period for the band and for music in Benin? How did that change under the new political regime?

Vincent: First of all, piracy was not a problem at that time. There were a lot of producers, and some people became producers just so they could record our tracks. Also, it wasn’t so expensive to cut a 7-inch record. We accepted a lot of work with producers without worrying where they were coming from. When Mathieu Kérékou came in with Marxism and Leninism, all the foreigners ran away and it was very bad for business. People didn’t have much money to buy records. In 1977, we went to Lagos and met an Italian guy who had left Benin because of the regime. He told us to be careful and that everything was going to collapse. The only thing left in Benin were the endless pictures of the president on T.V. and the radio. The president was the only thing to listen to.

EM: Did the band ever participate in political resistance against the regime?

Vincent: We were not politically involved in resistance. We even backed up the regime for awhile. Even though they never really rewarded us, some of the most memorable revolutionary songs came from Poly-Rythmo. That’s why we came to be called the “national orchestra” of the time.

EM: Besides preparing for the new record, what has the band been up to over the past year or so?

Vincent: In 2009, we did nine concerts in Europe. We’ve been performing for the European public as there’s good demand for us to play. The last year or so, we’ve also done a few shows in the United States and a few in Brazil.

EM: How was your first visit to the U.S.?

Vincent: For me, to be in the United States was a great surprise. Me being in the States even two or three years ago, I would have never thought of it. It was a great joy.

EM: How have things changed, if at all, since the band’s hiatus?

Vincent: It’s been 25 years since we last recorded an album. Over time, I’ve been a solo artist working on my own material. Since we’ve started recording again, nothing has changed and the spirit of the group remains the same. It was great to return to recording since we encountered so many peaks and lows during the sixties and seventies. The last big setback, we performed at a youth festival in Libya in 1982 where we had all of our equipment destroyed. We weren’t able to recover from that for a long time.

EM: Tell us a little about the decision to create the record with more traditional production methods.

Elodie: The idea was to remember the old time, so we decided to go to a studio hosted by people who collect analog equipment. We wanted to make sure we could record most of the musicians altogether, except, of course, the voice and horn sections and some of the percussion. It was kind of difficult for them to do voiceovers with the headphone on, because the “magic” of playing together wasn’t there, so we tried to keep them together as much as possible and keep the strength of the analog sound.

EM: Musician Angelique Kidjo is featured on a song, “Gbeti Madjro,” from the new record. How did these two generations of Beninese musicians come together to record a song?

Elodie: Angelique Kidjo started playing music in the backyards of some of the musicians of Poly-Rythmo, as close friends. She started learning from their music, and they were a source of inspiration for her. You’ll see, in the booklet of the record, old pictures of her wearing bell-bottom pants from the seventies. She was playing with Poly-Rythmo at that time. When I approached her about recording a track, I quickly asked her about “Gbeti Madjro.” She was already doing the lyrics, and it was the song which surrounded her childhood and teenage years, so the collaboration came very easily.

evilmonito.com, written by Abe Ahn

Le Tout Puissant Orchestre Poly-Rythmo from Heads Up on Vimeo.

Apr 23, 2012

The Witch: “Up From The Underground“

Last year, American journalist Chris Smith journeyed to Zambia to interview WITCH’s Emmanuel “Jagari” Chanda, Amanaz’s Keith Kabwe and the select few remaining Zamrock musicians he could find. He recently published his story in South Africa’s Mail & Guardian. An excerpt is below; follow the link to the full story. Fill yourself in as we ready our 4CD/6LP WITCH anthology – scheduled for release in May of 2012.

” Although sub-Saharan Africa isn’t much known for rock ‘n roll, for a brief period in the late 1960s and 1970s, young guys from Nigeria to South Africa picked up guitars and started playing like Deep Purple. The lion’s share of these groups hailed from Zambia. The biggest band was the Witch, and Jagari, an Africanisation of Mick Jagger’s name, was the lead singer. Fusing the pop sensibility of the Stones, the fuzzed-out guitars of Cream and homegrown kalindula rhythms, the Witch toured all over Southern Africa, from Botswana to Kenya, playing to thousands at stadium shows. ‘The Witch were the band,” says Errol Hickey, the Zambian entertainment impresario and former chairperson of Lusaka’s Radio Phoenix. “They blew people’s minds, eh?’ ”



It is a Saturday night in Kitwe, a rough mining town in Zambia's Copperbelt, and the bar is growing louder by the minute. The DJ plays American hip-hop, the beer flows and crowds of young miners, grizzled expatriates and working girls shout over the din.

Once upon a time, every head would have turned when Emmanuel "Jagari" Chanda walked through the door. Tonight, nobody realises that the barrel-chested sexagenarian in the leather jacket was once Zambia's biggest rock star.

"Very few people here know me now," says Jagari, his cherubic face barely showing the years. "Kitwe is no place for artists. Here most of the people are miners."

He is out of the music business now, but not by choice. Splitting his time between Lusaka and his open-pit mine near the Congo border, Jagari scrapes out a living, hoping for a second act in music. He has travelled to Kitwe, where he grew up, to show me the birthplace of Zamrock, the music scene he helped to create in the 1970s.

Although sub-Saharan Africa isn't much known for rock 'n roll, for a brief period in the late 1960s and 1970s, young guys from Nigeria to South Africa picked up guitars and started playing like Deep Purple. The lion's share of these groups hailed from Zambia.

The biggest band was the Witch, and Jagari, an Africanisation of Mick Jagger's name, was the lead singer. Fusing the pop sensibility of the Stones, the fuzzed-out guitars of Cream and homegrown kalindula rhythms, the Witch toured all over Southern Africa, from Botswana to Kenya, playing to thousands at stadium shows.

"The Witch were the band," says Errol Hickey, the Zambian entertainment impresario and former chairperson of Lusaka's Radio Phoenix. "They blew people's minds, eh?"

Faded glory

The next morning we tour Kitwe, a place of elaborately potholed roads and peeling paint. Jagari points out the music shop, long shuttered, where he listened to the latest records from the West. He shows me nightclubs the Witch played in. One is still operating, though the music has changed. "Disco stuff," he says, almost spitting the words.

Today, Zambia is one of the world's poorest countries but at independence in 1964 it boasted the continent's second-highest gross domestic product, buoyed by its copper-mining industry. Jagari came of age during this optimistic time. Rock music, the sound of modernity, provided the soundtrack.

Jagari joined the Witch, an acronym for "We Intend to Cause Havoc", in 1971, and the ­following year the band released the first of five classic albums. Driven by Chris Mbewe's acidic guitar leads and Jagari's reedy, passionate vocals, the band's LPs flew off the shelves. There were party songs and odes to lost love, but the Witch also had a social conscience. A song called Motherless Child lamented family break-ups wrought by poverty.

The band wore Afros, platform boots and cavernous bellbottoms, and delighted in defying conservative mores, sometimes taking to the stage with women's underwear over their jeans. Groupies mobbed them. Drinks and weed were always available. Jagari insists he rarely indulged but others certainly did. Keith Kabwe, who sang for Amanaz, another Copperbelt group, sums it up: "We smoked a lot!"

Through it all, Jagari was the undisputed star. He'd jump into the crowd from a balcony, swing his microphone like a lasso, fall to his knees, and roll like a man in flames. "You'd think he was possessed," says Felix Nyambe, a music journalist in Lusaka.

The beginning of the end

By the late 1970s, the glow had faded. Inflation and unemployment spiked as the price of copper fell. Music bootlegging was on the rise, and money to record and tour dried up. "If the choice is between buying music and a bag of mealie meal, ­people will go for the meal," Jagari says.

Tastes were changing, too, as disco spread like a plague across the land. Jagari, who had been attending college since 1977, left the band in 1980 to become a full-time music teacher in Lusaka. He married his wife, Grace, in 1983 and struggled to ­support a growing family on a teacher's salary.

In 1993, he was arrested for signing for a shipment of Mandrax at the Lusaka airport. He denies guilt, insisting that he was merely in the wrong place at the wrong time, but he did a few years in prison for it. The conviction cost him his job and his home.

Looking back, Jagari sees the experience as a "turning point". He became a born-again Christian, forswearing alcohol and experimenting with gospel music. In some ways, he got lucky: most Zamrockers, and all of his original bandmates, are dead, primarily from Aids.

Then he became a miner. Thousands of Zambians lease digging concessions from the government, modern-day forty-niners hoping for the big strike. Jagari spends much of his time now in the bush. The idea, he says, is to mine his way back into music. He'd like to score soundtracks, open a recording studio or music school, and complete the journey he began as a Kitwe teenager.

He might get another shot. African music is hot these days in the West: Fela Kuti's life is memorialised in a Broadway show and music bloggers have picked up on Zamrock. Now-Again, a California record label that specialises in funk, soul and psychedelic music from all over the world, has reissued two of the Witch's five LPs, along with a few by other artists. More releases are in the works.

Eothen Alapatt, the label's owner, discovered Zamrock through what you might call the crate-digging underground, a globe-spanning network of DJs, musicians and record geeks. Alapatt loved the music; at its best, he says, it is "immediate, innocent, raw, frenzied". He also wanted to document the little-known scene while survivors like Jagari were still around. "I felt it was time for a resurgence," he says.

Jagari is confident his time will come again. "Look at Satchmo," he says. "At 80 he was still blowing his horn."

South Africa’s Mail & Guardian, written by Chris Smith, published November 2011

Apr 20, 2012

South African Funk&Soul: The Movers - Greatest Hits Vol. 2 (get it) ... Thanx to "electricjive.blogspot.com" for the amazing post!

The liner notes of their Dutch single She Loves You maintains that the The Movers were formed in June of 1969 by keyboardist Sankie Chounyane and producer David Thekwane. Though Rob Allingham points out that they were discovered and first recorded by producer Hamilton Nzimande. Furthermore the liner notes of their second LP, Greatest Hits Volume 2 actually state that Kenneth Siphayi formed the group in Alexandra. Siphayi's image is featured predominantly on the back cover of their third LP Greatest Hits Volume 3.

According to Max Mojapelo, the original group included Sankie Chounyane, Oupa Hlongwane, Norman Hlongwane and Sam Thabo, though the lineup would shift throughout the seventies. Others that performed with the group at various times included Lulu Masilela, Lucky Mbatha, Blondie Makhene, Philip Malela, Jabu Khanyile, Vusi Shange, Rammy McKenzie, Jabu Sibumbe, Lloyd Lelosa, Archie Mohlala, Peter Moteolhe, Thomas Phale, David Thekwane, Dakkie Tau, Robert Mbele, Maxwell Kubheka and Peter Morake.

Below I have complied a provisional discography for The Movers LPs, with EPs and 45s to follow in the near future. The earliest single in the flatinternational archive, Danny's Corner (City Special, CYB 67) dates from 1969 and is also featured on what appears to be an early compilation LP, titled just The Movers. This album was issued on Teal's budget series "Music for Leisure" in 1970. Most of The Movers early albums were pressed on Teal's City Special label and then roughly around 1976 they shifted to Teal's RCA labels.



About last June, The Soul Group now know as "The Movers" was formed in Alexandra by Kenneth Siphayi (know to this friends as Kenny). This is how it happened - a youngester called Oupa Hlongwane and his brother Norman (both guitarists) approached Kenny. They got together with drummer, Sam Thabo, and Kenny's friend Sankie Chonuyane the organist ... and now we have the successful sound of "The Movers". Shortly after launching of the spaceship "Apollo 11" the group recorded the hit single "Apollo 14", and so great became the demand for their records that top hits were collected into a great LP - "Movers Greatest Hits". Since then there has been a clamour for more "Movers" - and now - "Movers Greatest Hits Volume 2".- from the original liner notes.


01. Back From the Moon
02. Love Me Not
03. The Best of Away
04. Toasted Chops
05. Mountain Breeze
06. Slow Down
07. Soul Crazy
08. Norman's Road
09. Lets Have It
10. Move for More
11. Crying Guitar
12. Beat Corner

Apr 13, 2012

From New Zealand: Shogun Orchestra

This album was released in New-Zealand in december 2010. We've been trying to buy it ever since, after hearing a few afro/ethio/highlife/salsa/carribean tracks on the internet. When we learned that German label Jakarta records was properly releasing it this spring, we instantly sent an e-mail asking for a promo copy… and a few days later we were excited like teenagers when our door bell rang for the delivery of a nice vinyl pressing! Shogun Orchestra come from Wellington, New-Zealand, they're a kind of supergroup led by saxophonist Lucien Johnson with members of Fat Freddy's Drop, The Black Seeds, Lord Echo, The Yoots, jazz trio Twinset, and Venezuelan vocalist Jennifer Zea.

Carribean grooves, Afrobeat rhythms, Highlife guitars, Ethio-Jazz twists, Salsa spices… all in one. This is a real slugfest, frantic, steaming and explosive as hell! Favorite tracks include the Ethio Sato San, the irresistible Afro-Salsa of Maman, the deep and entrancing Cigars of the Pharoah, the Spiritual-Cosmic-Ethio Jacmel and the Afrofunk of Bamako. Cherry on the cake, you can download 'Jacmel' and 'Bamako' for free through the Soundcloud links below…


Shogun Orchestra is the latest project from talented composer and multi-instrumentalist Lucien Johnson: that formidable musical force who has spent the last decade living between Wellington and Paris, establishing in the process, a towering reputation as the quintessential "musician's musician".

In this album Lucien Johnson draws upon his impressions of Port Au Prince, Haiti, where - in later 2009 - he spent some months working in a theatre production, and where he had the misfortune to contract malarial fever.

Recuperating in Wellington, Johnson commandeered Wellington's ska extroverts The Yoots and - adding a few supplementary virtuoso soloists - transformed the group into his dynamic ensemble of eclectic world-fusion.

Shogun Orchestra is a vehicle for Johnson's own compositions as well as for the melodies and rhythms he has absorbed in travelling to far-flung lands of East Africa, The Caribbean and the Indian Subcontinent.

Far from being some weighty academic musical synthesis, Shogun Orchestra is an explosive celebration of an album. From the opening salvo of shimmering high-life guitars, the listener is propelled on a wild ride into the steaming equatorial night. The band is entranced, possessed, playing on frantically aboard a carnival caboose festooned with ribbons and lanterns.


There are occasions when something positive comes about as a direct consequence of an event which is generally deemed to be wholly negative, and Shogun Orchestra is a fine example of this. This New Zealand supergroup was assembled by multi-instrumentalist Lucien Johnson to play a charity concert raising money for the victims of the Haiti earthquake.

Gathering musicians from top New Zealand acts such as Fat Freddy's Drop and The Black Seeds, Johnson has composed a set of tunes that take inspiration from his travels in the Caribbean and Africa. You have elements of high life, afro-funk, Ethio-jazz and the calypso sounds of the Caribbean, but Shogun Orchestra is more than a simple world music pastiche.

The journey begins with the summery sounds of Lovana, the lead guitar soaring over the gentle shuffling rhythm section, with the horn section providing some backing. Sheer heaven. Elsewhere the sound of Mulatu Astatke and Ethiopian jazz is prevalent on tunes such as Sato San and Cigars Of The Pharoah, the former an uptempo dance tune while the latter has more of slow, sultry feel to it. Afrobeat rhythms and the psychedelic Afro-funk sound that came out of countries such as Benin and Guinea get a look in on Bamako, Maman and Leogane.

In spite of all the varied influences, the album hangs together very well as a unified set of tunes with the band creating their own distinctive sound and is well worth investigating.



01. Lovana
02. Sato San
03. Bamako
04. Maman M’Voye Peze Café
05. Legba Nan Baye-A
06. Cigars of the Pharoah
07. Jacmel
08. Falko
09. Leogane
10. Minis Azaka (digital exclusive)

Apr 12, 2012

The Funkees - Dancing Time: The Best of Eastern Nigeria's Afro Rock Exponents 1973 - 77

Short notice: After one month in Venezuela I am back and will post again ...

‘Dancing Time: The Best of Eastern Nigeria’s Afro Rock Exponents 1973′ by The Funkees is the latest title on Soundway to mine the rich musical output of 60s and 70s Nigeria. For the five-year period this compilation spans The Funkees output crackled with dance floor fire.

Having featured on three of Soundway’s most popular titles, across the definitive Nigeria Special compilation series, we felt The Funkees output deserved closer inspection. Presented here (on CD, download & double gatefold LP) are 18 slices of funky Afro-rock grooves hand picked by Soundway’s Miles Cleret from a selection of the bands 45s and two long players.

In the early 1970s The Funkees were the number-one east Nigerian band and the only outfit to seriously challenge the popular Lagos based rock combos MonoMono and BLO. Stoking the dancefloor was the young band’s first priority and The Funkees were often playing through the night, seven days a week.

Formed at the tail end of the Nigerian civil war by Harry Mosco Agada (then a guitarist in Celestine Ukwu’s Music Royals) the band played for the army’s 12th Brigade in Aba and went through a rapid series of membership changes in search of the perfect line-up of players.

It wasn’t long before promoters in the UK came calling and The Funkees packed up their instruments and moved to London where they quickly established a fierce reputation on the live circuit.

Here they recorded two seminal albums before finally breaking up in 1977 amidst some controversy. This collection features for the first time all of their Nigerian 45s alongside the best of their UK album material and is accompanied by a full interview with original member Sonny Akpan, who still lives in the capital.

Soundway Records


Nigeria's premier funk music group, The Funkees, were purveyors of contemporary music and a formidable force for hey-day, Lagos-based bands, MonoMono and BLO. Eighteen happy grooves sweating with killer tunes selected by Miles Cleret from their two full-length albums and several 45s. The Funkees were also featured on Soundway's Nigeria Special and Nigeria Rock Special recordings within the last few years. The writhing and raw melodies are produced by some of the finest guitar work and percussion examples to come out of Nigeria in years. The extended instrumental pieces are especially evocative. The pulsating grooves and Nigerian styles are funk-driven, rock-driven, and percussion-laden. Fans of Joni Haastrup, Femi Kuti, Lijadu Sisters, Prince Nico Mbarga, MonoMono, Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe, Sir Warrior and His Oriental Brothers, and Tirogo will probably already know about The Funkees.

Matthew Forss


Dancing Time: The Best of Eastern Nigeria’s Afro Rock Exponents 1973-77 by Nigeria’s The Funkees, is the latest compilation from the prestigious Soundway Records and comes in the name of resurfacing some very vital dance floor thunder in Nigeria’s musical legacy. Lyrically the album touches on many topics and always leaves the audience ready to move in the name of music. James Brown to Fela Kuti and Funkadelic to MonoMono, The Funkee’s recorded the heaviest, dustiest, analog driven afro funk ever. The arrival of a compilation giving a perspective never before on their rich legacy in the 70′s has been long in the making with the groups works finding release on other various artist comps Soundway has put out. The region of Nigeria had been morphing sound into a very special path during the 60′s and 70′s, giving the spiritual language of the land and ancestry full display inside of the heavy rhythms, cosmic funk organ and sweltering bass anthems that make Dancing Time as much of a psychedelic rock compilation as it is a perspective into the afro beat movement. Slick and very tight guitar that is drenched in effects that would fit perfectly on any Funkadelic album, it’s hard to believe this group was able to pull off their own compositions with the same spirit and intensity as the best funk artist from the west. The bands positive aura shines on every song as every musician brings the highest sense of musicality into the collection of singles, album song selections and more. The simplicity in groove is laid out in each piece, but the polyrhythms, tight transitional sections and vast amount of layers make it a highly complex album that pushes into all of the areas of music we really love about this time of music. Inventive would be an understatement when you hear how raw and robust the songs are on Dancing Time: The Best of Eastern Nigeria’s Afro Rock Exponents 1973-77.

The Funkees presented the most authentic blend of the raw western funk and a touch of psychedelic flare, something that gives the music a timeless feel that anyone from this generation can really enjoy. By the time you get to the compilations closer, ‘Dance With Me’, you are fully submerged into the late 70′s deep funk that would pave the way for artists like Prince. The heavy James Brown influence comes when you hear certain vocal chants sung in English that push against the massive funk rhythms drive. There is a sizzling dance floor groove that embodies every song and it’s unreal the way it moves me on every listen. Soundway Records gives this band the ultimate treatment with the gatefold high grade vinyl and CD compilation Dancing Time: The Best of Eastern Nigeria’s Afro Rock Exponents 1973-77, giving a new historical reference that has been needed for decades. With a mixture of lyrical styles that even the balance out from their native language and English, each song flows with a sense of integrity. The western influence isn’t felt on every piece with some tracks going very deep into the ancestral sound of their heritage and stripping any type of western influence.

The Funkees story is explained in full detail with this release in the span of the five years the compilation Dancing Time: The Best of Eastern Nigeria’s Afro Rock Exponents 1973-77 covers. Wild funk guitar solo’s to chants from their ancestry, you get everything that was occurring in Nigeria between 1973-77 from the one of the most popular bands of the time. This is one of the most important Nigerian reissues to exist in the legacy of their acceptance of the western black artists who were touring in their countries and on the raido stations. It’s a reflection of how music changed the world and created bonds nobody could point an exact finger on but everyone knew were causing a shift in public consciousness. Bob Marley, Carlos Santana, Stevie Wonder, James Brown, Funkadelic, Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, Jimi Hendrix, these are just a few of the artists who took hold on the world and became a part of the pathways artists in Nigeria and other vital musical hot spots of the world started to walk. The Funkee’s had the musicianship, communal power, style, lyric writing, composition awareness and some of the best instrumentation to pull off the most electrifying afro funk work I have ever heard. Essential listening and something the staff of Sound Colour Vibration can’t put down.

Erik Otis


01. Ole
02. Akpankoro
03. Onye Mmanya
04. Abraka
05. Point Of No Return
06. Akula Owu Onyeara
07. Acid Rock
08. Ogbu Achara
09. Slipping Into Darkness
10. Dancing Time
11. Baby I Need You
12. Break Through New Dub
13. Life
14. Mimbo
15. 303
16. Dancing In The Nude
17. Salem
18. Dance With Me