Sep 29, 2014

Francis Bebey - Psychedelic Sanza 1982-1984

Born Bad Records present 'Psychedelic Sanza 1982-1984', a thrilling collection of material from Cameroonian artist Francis Bebey. A follow-up to 'African Electronic Music 1975 - 1982', this release focuses on music built around the sansa, a traditional African 'thump piano'. Combining his own global interests and electronic pursuits with the traditional sound of the sansa, he fashions an irresistible body of work for full immersion. 'Sanza Tristesse', with its lilting tempo and creaking vocals, could fit in any 80s disco set, while 'Forest Nativity' is an earthy nature walk. This collection is not to be missed. 

The first time I saw a sansa (a type of African “thumb piano”), it was just sitting there on a piece of furniture in my family’s living room/dining room – a space that our father also transformed into a recording studio every day. It seemed more like a box than a musical instrument: a mysterious instrument, which arrived at our house, like many things, in a somewhat miraculous way. We knew our father loved to collect anything that could produce a sound. I don’t know where he got this sansa. It was rather crude, clearly handmade, with only a few “keys” or “tines”. I don’t think he really played this one. The sounds it produced seemed particularly bizarre; to my young musician’s ears, trained in Western classical music, it sounded out of tune. That’s because, like my brothers and sisters, I had been trained on the piano. I had trouble understanding how anyone could endure these tones and, honestly, our father’s passion for “unusual sounds” did not interest me.

I was in secondary school at the time (the very late 1970s) and was not at all oriented toward musical projects. I planned to graduate, and then become a chef. In the early 1980s, my interest in music picked up. I was still undecided about my career. I was content to pursue my “serious” English studies while hanging out at jazz clubs at les Halles in Paris, where I sometimes joined jam sessions. Next, I put together my first band with professional musicians; I had hidden my age and lack of experience from them. France was just beginning to accept “world music.” Musicians of every nationality were performing in Paris. It was a wonderful period. My father asked my brother Toups and me to accompany him for a few concerts. In particular, we toured Tunisia together at the time of the 1983 Carthage International Festival. Back then, my father was renowned across the French-speaking world. Everyone looked forward to hearing his humorous songs, like “Agatha” and “La condition masculine.” But, behind the scenes, he continued his research concerning electronic music, the sansa, pygmy polyphony, etc.

One day he put a sansa in my hands, without saying a word. He was sending me a message: “Let’s see what you can do with it!” That’s when I really discovered something. Exploring the instrument and playing, I transcended the “imperfect” aspect of its sound and began to discover its fascinating potential. Playing the sansa, you enter a world that enraptures you in a very serene and mesmerizing way. I think its sounds evoke a rainbow, with rain falling while the sun shines. A very peaceful feeling. It allows you to make music that truly sounds like life. The sansa is also the instrument that my father and I shared the most because I am a pianist and he was a guitarist. I also share this eminently African instrument with my musician brother, Toups. Our father loved to tell us one of the legends of the sansa: how it even managed to dispel the boredom felt by… the Creator himself! This instrument gives life to the world, to beings and things.

I did not participate in the production of the various records that my father devoted to the sansa. He did it himself, you might say, in his “laboratory.” Yet today, I cannot imagine playing a concert without using a sansa. The piano remains present so that listeners don’t become disoriented and wonder about the weird sounds invading their ears! However, I find the eccentric and disturbing side of sansa interesting. And the sansa always affects the audience: in reality, it excites them. The secrets of this instrument are surely its beneficial powers and… its magic!

Patrick Bebey, bornbadrecords


1. Sanza Nocturne
2. Bissau
3. Sanza Tristesse
4. Africa Sanza
5. Forest Nativity
6. Sunny Crypt
7. Binta Madiallo
8. Tumu Pakara
9. Di Saegri
10. Ngoma Likembe
11. Guinée

Sep 24, 2014

Vaudou Game

Sep 23, 2014

Online Afrobeat Radio! 

Information on their FB page:

We just launched a cool new station featuring all the best Afrobeat. If you dig Funk, Jazz, Highlife, and knotty rhythms, check it out today!

Check it out

Sep 22, 2014

Jones Coker - Action Boy

Ultra rare and highly in demand killer nigeria afro boogie lp on zanidisco!!!


A1 Walk About
A2 In My Mind
A3 I Love My Darling
B1 Action Boy
B2 I'm Coming Home
B3 Be What You Gonna Be
B4 Black Magic Woman

Sep 19, 2014

Mr Voodoofunk presents ... First Planet - Top Of The World

First Planet - Top Of The World 
Afro-space-disco contagion — shuffling and wiggling, synthy and bubbling — from this re-incarnation of Willy Nfor’s Mighty Flames, recruited mostly from the wave of Cameroonian musicians drawn to Nigeria in the late-1970s by its heavy new funk sound. After a stint at the Right Time studio in Onitsha, the FP cadets ended up at Phonodisk in Lagos, quickly in high demand as session-players, running First Planet on the side with other Nigerian session players from the Onitsha/Awka axis. Its name was intended to evoke the cool obliqueness of US handles like Brass Construction and Lakeside, and the mothership connection of chocolate-city P-Funk. Soon Vincent Omoko and the other Planeteers would travel to Port Harcourt, working in Geraldo Pino’s band for several years. 
Check out here!!!!


A1 Top Of The World
A2 I Believe In Someone
A3 The Colour Of Black
B1 I Wanna Thank You Baby
B2 Work Hard (Every Day)
B3 Beatrice

Sep 16, 2014

Tony Allen: The Beat of Afrobeat


The pulsating Yoruban derived rhythms that are so seductive and foundational in Afrobeat can be reduced to the work of one man, Tony Allen. Allen was self-taught, practicing his chops while working as an engineer at a local Lagos radio station when he was only 18. He caught his first break playing claves for the highlife band “The Cool Cats” headed by ‘Sir’ Victor Olaiya, the catalyst that brought him into the nucleus of the Nigerian music circuit where he later met his partner and bandleader from 1964-1979, Fela Kuti.

Allen, like Kuti, was a product of Yoruban culture, a student of a Western Colonial influence, and a child conceived in the tension between European colonialism and African independence, a crack in the earth that spawned the moment of creativity that conceived Afrobeat and allowed it to flourish during the most politically tense environs.

Another great similarity between Allen and Kuti, was their affection for American jazz. Allen studied the works of Max Roach, Ghanaian highlife drummer Kofi Ghanaba, and Art Blakey, particularly drawn to Max Roach’s use of the hi-hat—a necessary ingredient in jazz that had never been truly utilized in African music—and began incorporating it into his own signature sound. The result was a hybrid of a highly polyrhythmic understanding of drumming from African folk rhythms and popular West African genres like highlife and juju, married with a very authentically American jazz vernacular, and the growingly popular funk aesthetic by pioneers like James Brown.

When Kuti and Allen met again through their intermingling within the same Nigerian music circle, Kuti remarked “How come you are the only guy in Nigeria who plays like this—jazz and highlife?” A serendipitous pairing took place, as Kuti’s (highlife and jazz) band, the “Koola Lobitos” sought Allen as an original band member.

Kuti’s formidable trip to the United States set fuel to his political fire. Kuti was captivated by various fragments of Black Nationalism resulting from his relationship to Sandra Smith, a Black Panther, who first introduced him to the Black Power ideology through the works of Malcolm X, Stokely Carmichael, and others. He came back to Lagos applying his learnings into the African context. With a newfound affinity towards Pan Africanism and an urgent need to infuse it into his music, Kuti changed his band name to The African ’70 as a declaration of his alignment with a continental Liberation movement, and dissent against European imperialism. With a new political consciousness, he needed a sound that would speak it justice, and there arose Kuti as the voice, and Allen as the heartbeat. What Kuti said in words, Allen said through the majestic agility of his four limbs, bearing the ability to play all separate time signatures at once, often giving the illusion of multiple drummers playing simultaneously, a feat that only someone with a profound fluency in the spiritual language of rhythms can achieve.

Allen’s tenure with Kuti was a crucial one for the evolution of contemporary African music, and for drawing the bridge between two very disparate worlds musically, culturally, and politically. Allen served as Kuti’s musical director and was the only member of the Africa ’70 who had real creative autonomy. Despite a musical love affair at first, Allen eventually left Kuti and Africa ’70 in 1979 to further pursue his own music (he had recorded 3 solo albums while still Africa ’70 that Kuti supported). Allen was discontent with the unrelenting nature of Kuti towards his band members and was further disillusioned with Kuti’s rather undemocratic handlings of the band as he claimed the majority royalties and credit sought from their recordings. Nonetheless the 30 of Kuti’s albums that Allen recorded on are still remembered as the best from Kuti’s career, surely no coincidence to anyone who understands the impact of Allen to the Afrobeat genre at large. Despite his departure, Kuti would still attribute the joint creation of Afrobeat to both himself and to Allen.

Today—Allen, now in his 70s—is still known as one of the best drummers of all time. The title is attributed to not only his stellar musicianship, but also to his imaginative and forward thinking mind as an inventor of music, and as a successful bandleader.

Soon after his departure from the Africa ’70, Allen recorded a few albums in Nigeria before relocating first to London, and soon after to Paris, where he has lived for the past 20+ years. Allen’s exposure to a new environment allowed his work to rapidly flourish and evolve, expanding genres even further to include the influences of dub reggae, hip-hop, indie-rock, and electronica into a new genre that he coined as “Afrofunk”. His music is as politically relevant as ever, and his ear has matured to adapt to the nuances of a new world music landscape decades after his work with Kuti.

Allen’s musical anthology is unbelievably vast. After his work with Kuti, he assembled his own group called the Afro Messengers, ventured into his own creation of Afrofunk thereafter, he recorded in Lagos an album compiling the sounds and influences of intergenerational Lagos bred musicians in 2006 entitled Lagos No Shaking, and recently released a richly experimental album Inspiration Information with the Finnish musician Jimi Tenor in 2009. Perhaps one of his most provocative recordings since his tenure with Fela Kuti was with Damon Albarn (of the band Blur) in The Good, The Bad & the Queen, the debut album was critically acclaimed as one of the best rock recordings of 2007.

Allen’s musical tenacity has outlived many genres of music. He has had a career spanning over close to 5 decades, beyond various geographical borders, and many cultural movements. Allen continues to push the envelop while upholding what he believes to be the only real ingredient to Afrobeat—the rhythm. No matter what the project, the collaborators, the influences—so long as Allen holds down the rhythm—the end product will be celebrated as a continuation of the Afrobeat genre that he helped create almost 50 years ago.

Words by Boyuan Gao, published

Sep 15, 2014

A Guide To The Work Of Fela Kuti

Originally published by David Katz here!

One of the most important musical and political figures to emerge in post-independence Nigeria, Fela Kuti was the legendary rebel and agent provocateur that pioneered afrobeat, an invigorating hybrid of dirty funk and traditional African rhythms. A complex man that was equal parts shaman, showman and trickster, whose perpetual criticism of Nigeria’s governmental and religious figures made him a constant target, Fela was one of a handful of exceptional individuals that forever changed our musical landscape. What follows is a guide to his voluminous recorded output, related as chronologically as possible.

Some of Fela’s earliest recordings, with the Koola Lobitos band, are featured on Lagos Baby: 1963-1969, but this is mostly fairly tame highlife, with early number “Onifere No 2” and later soul-influenced tracks like “Abiora” holding only the barest hint of what would follow. The bonus disc presents the band “Live At The Afro-Spot” playing primarily jazzy highlife and blues. Unfortunately, the sound quality is seriously lacking in places. For completists only.

The ’69 Los Angeles Sessions stem from Fela’s sojourn in the City of Angels, and kicks off with the shape of things to come in the near wordless “My Lady Frustration”, a gritty, funky number that anticipates afrobeat, but the spectre of James Brown still hangs a little heavy here. “Obe!” (“Soup!”) and “Ako” (“Braggart”) are more in the mode of the standard afrobeat that would follow, and both accordingly deal with social issues, while “Viva Nigeria” is a surprisingly patriotic proto-rap inspired by the Biafran civil war. In this transitional phase, you can hear that Fela is still finding his way. Six songs recorded between 1964-68 are included as CD bonus tracks, mastered from a far better source than on Lagos Baby.

Fela’s London Scene was cut in London at Abbey Road, when Fela and his re-named Africa 70 band were on their way back to Nigeria from the USA. Again, songs like “Who’re You” and “Buy Africa” are edging closer to afrobeat, but are still rooted in big-band jazz and less overtly political than future work.

By the time we reach the three-song Open And Close, we’re getting closer to full-blown afrobeat. The keyboard-led title track gives instruction for a provocative dance step, “Swegbe And Pako” is a slow groove that decries incompetence in broken English, while “Gbagada Gbagada Gbogodo Gbogodo” adapts a folk song that recounts a war of liberation waged against the British. Fela’s keyboard playing is distinctive here, but the afrobeat groove is not yet razor-sharp.

From the same era is the controversial Na Poi, a languorous track that was banned on release in Nigeria because it alluded too strongly to sex acts; B-side “You No Go Die… Unless”, is a brass-laden, slowly swinging number in which Fela tells his listeners in Yoruba that they will not face death unless they want to die, despite Lagos’s many deadly perils.
The four-song concert album With Ginger Baker-Live! features the equally volatile Cream drummer, who lived in Nigeria from 1970-76. Baker gets right into the groove, while Fela pokes at the keyboards. “Black Man’s Cry” is James Brown-styled funk rock, with Fela crooning, “I am black and proud” in Yoruba. “Ye Ye De Smell”, meaning “Bullshit Stinks”, was written with Baker’s drumming style in mind, but is surprisingly melodic. Edging further into afrobeat, but the overall sound is still largely derivative of the JBs.

The real authentic sound of afrobeat as we know it truly begins with Shakara, a groundbreaking two-song LP that first surfaced circa 1972. On “Lady”, Fela explains that African females see the term ‘woman’ as a potential insult; rejecting the Western notions of feminism, the song is a typical Fela reversal. Its flipside, “Shakara”, is also a total killer: its bright horn blasts frame Fela’s exploration of the false bluffing that hallmarks Lagos’s domestic squabbles.

Roforofo Fight refers to senseless violence, describing two fools who batter themselves into the mud as a crowd gathers to watch them. The music sounds explosive, with trumpet and saxophone paralleling the battle musically, as afrobeat begins finding its way. Then, after a nine-minute instrumental build-up, “Go Slow” describes the deadly crawl of Lagos’s perpetual traffic jams. “Question Jam Answer” notes that hastily-asked questions will inevitably draw an equally hasty response, while “Trouble Sleep Yanga Wake Am” is an emotive creeper that warns of troubling the troubled, since disturbing the disturbed can have dire consequences. The musical arrangement is superb, with a melodious sax hinting at hidden worries, an eerie vocal chorus heightening the unease.

Some say Afrodisiac was recorded during the London Scene sessions, though it sounds like it was cut considerably later. “Alu Jon Jonki Jon” is a driving number in which Fela hoarsely relates a traditional Yoruba folk tale about a famine and a crafty dog. “Chop’n Quench” (aka “Jeun Ko Ku”), a spirited instrumental, was Fela’s first big hit, reportedly selling 200,000 copies. “Eko Ile” is another huskily shouted number, singing the praises of Lagos in its original Yoruba name, while “Je’Nwi Temi” (“Don’t Gag Me”) was one of the earliest songs aimed directly at the authorities: against a disjointed guitar and trumpet motif, Fela informs his governmental adversaries that he is not going to shut his mouth, even if they jail him.

1973’s Gentleman is one of Fela’s first statements decrying his countrymen’s colonial mindset. Following eight minutes of distracted horn solos, Fela says in Pidgin that he is “Africa Man Original”, rather than a ‘gentleman’ that seeks to ape the British – powerful stuff. Less inspired, but still holding attention, “Fefe Maa Efe” uses an Ashanti proverb about women’s beauty as the launching pad for a tight number in which Fela symbolically relates various topics in different languages. “Igbe (Na Shit)” addresses the volatile nature of human relationships.

As befitting its title, 1974’s Confusion starts with a troublingly empty electric piano, interspersed with echoing drums that don’t go anywhere. It takes five minutes for the bass to start, but once the groove gets going, Tony Allen’s drumming percolates superbly, and as more instruments join, everything becomes hypnotic. Eventually, Fela discusses specific types of confusion that beset Africa in the era of the post-colonial hangover. Later, he makes a complex metaphor in which he compares Lagos to a corpse.

Alagbon Close refers to the centre of police investigations in Lagos, where Fela was often interrogated. Here, he reports what took place inside its walls, backed by a chillingly sweet female chorus. The flipside, “I No Get Eye For Back”, sung in Yoruba and Pidgin, reminds that we need eyes in the back of our head, since so many always want to attack us.

1975’s He Miss Road also has a deceptively pleasant feeling, but its playful lyrics mask a serious message – particularly when Fela sings of a gorilla jumping onto a bus and the inevitable pandemonium that follows. Then, the languorous “Monday Morning In Lagos” feels much more tense, as Fela describes the inevitable comedown of a broke Monday, following the squandering of cash on drinks during the weekend. Similarly, the faster “It’s Not Possible” notes the disingenuous false promises made by people who ultimately let us down.

Expensive Shit is another true landmark, an excellent record of great political and musical importance. The title track refers to a notorious incident, in which Fela swallowed his marijuana stash during a search of his home, only to have his shit searched for evidence, but not even a seed was found there. This is 13 minutes of sheer musical power, with the first six being particularly tense and tight. “Water No Get Enemy” is equally enthralling, but is driven by beautiful brass blasts, a lilting rhythm and full vocal chorus, all of which salutes water’s great necessity.

Noise For Vendor Mouth is another long, tense song, in which Fela defends the good people of his alternative commune, known as the Kalakuta Republic, who were branded thieves and weed addicts by the corrupt authorities. Its despicable flipside, “Mattress”, compares women to a bed made specifically for men to lie on. Fela’s defense? That men are essentially polygamous by nature.

Everything Scatter is a wonderfully chaotic track that attempts to portray the public’s contradictory views of Kalakuta. The quick-action musical build-up launches directly into hectic jams, punctuated by a wordless female chorus and compelling keyboard chops, then moving on to fine sax soloing and expressive trumpet work. Then, Fela describes the commotion on a public bus as it passes Kalakuta: establishment types say the Republic has rabble, prostitutes and thieves, but others say Kalakuta folk are honourable, their alternative lifestyle commendable in a corrupt society. Fela then broadens the metaphor to point out how conflict has kept Nigeria in a mess, particularly under military rule. The flipside, “Who No Know Go Know”, is even heavier: after a protracted build-up with keyboard noodling and fearsome sax blasts, Fela bemoans Africa’s lack of unity, warning of dire consequences.

Kalakuta Show was Fela’s dramatic response to two notorious police raids that took place in 1974. The first saw Fela charged with “possession of dangerous drugs” and “abduction of minors.” With the case collapsing, the authorities raided the compound again, breaking Fela’s arm and cracking his skull. But the tactics backfired: the judge deemed Fela’s wounds unacceptable, and after his acquittal, 50,000 youths carried Fela back to Kalakuta. The song is 14 minutes of defiance: Fela sounds completely enraged, yet full of wisdom. Flipside “Don’t Make Garan Garan” is another slow creeper, this time with Fela railing in Yoruba against self-centred egomaniacs that make life difficult for the poor.

Unnecessary Begging begins with impressive sax work from Lekan Animashaun, before Fela delivers another complex metaphor, explaining in Pidgin that begging is not needed in the ghetto, because when someone lives by their word, they can gain their necessary rewards. Then he widens the net to explain that in Nigeria, some make the mistake of trusting the government to provide adequate facilities, but the government says their mismanagement is a problem of fledgling democracies – an idea as unnecessary as begging in the ghetto.

The mocking Ikoyi Blindness has Fela railing against the Lagos elite, who look down on ghetto dwellers whilst blindly aping colonial masters. Flipside “Gba Mi Leti Ki N’Dolowo“, or “Slap Me Make I Get Money”, referenced recent lawsuits served by poor Nigerians against influential figures. Both tracks cruise along at a fair pace, and are engaging, if not quite essential.

Yellow Fever has a slow build-up with keyboards giving way to horns, before Fela names various fevers that affect mankind, including malaria, hay fever, influenza and jaundice, as well as “freedom fever” and “inflation fever”, before moving on to “yellow fever,” a condition of the mind that causes Africans to bleach their skins – another killer, voiced atop a wicked groove. But the flipside revises “Na Poi”, which is more filler than killer.
1975’s semi-obscure Monkey Banana advances with caution, the keyboards giving way to trumpet and sax (along with fine conga work), before a ‘la-la-la’ chorus starts up and Fela begins his diatribe against “book people,” warning the poor not to be hoodwinked into a life of servitude by the propaganda of the rich. His ultimate demand: “Give him the banana, straight…don’t make him work like a monkey!” Flipside “Sense Wiseness” continues the attack, warning that foreign degrees are meaningless if locals distance themselves from common people.
Excuse O is an up-tempo groove in which Fela speaks of things our fellow men do to annoy us, such as pilfering our beer, picking our pockets, trying to steal our girlfriends… the obvious reaction is to shout, “Excuse, O!”, as in, ‘Excuse me! Let’s not quarrel, give me back my thing!’ Unusually, this one has foreboding music but light-hearted lyrics. Flipside “Mr Grammarticalogylisationalism Is The Boss” is a slower, meditative number with surprisingly psychedelic keyboard scales, on which Fela decries the Nigerian education system, and the fact that a better command of English results in a higher salary. Delivered in strangely unbalanced Pidgin, yet still holding powerfully mocking anger.

Upside Down is a compelling one-off cut with American muse Sandra Isidore, during her 1976 Lagos visit, that contrasts the orderliness of the West with the chaos of Africa. Fela wrote the track and Sandra tackles it with verve, despite the Pidgin sounding peculiar in her mouth. On the flip, Fela revisits “Go Slow” in a more abstract form.

Zombie is one of the most outstanding works of the period. It starts off strong with a rousing horn fanfare that holds portents of the important message he will deliver: the zombie of the title, who does whatever he is told unthinkingly, is revealed to be a soldier of the Nigerian Army. The song became a huge hit, but cost Fela dearly, as it led to a thousand soldiers unleashing a brutal attack on Kalakuta in February 1977, in which Fela was nearly killed, his wives raped and his mother thrown out of a window. The record is simply superb – Fela firing on all cylinders and the band at their prime. Original flipside “Mr Follow Follow” is also thoroughly excellent: a powerful creeper in which Fela warns listeners not to follow blindly – if one needs to follow at all, it is best to follow with eyes and ears open! Some CD reissues also include outtake “Observation Is No Crime”, another slow and surprisingly playful track in which Fela proclaims in Pidgin that he will not accept censure. There is also a live Berlin Jazz Festival bonus track, “Mistake”, in which Fela differentiates between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ mistakes, calling on African leaders to acknowledge their errors.

1977’s Johnny Just Drop is billed as “Live from the Kalakuta Republic”, but credits indicate a studio recording. It begins with an extended bongo jam before the bass kicks in, a sax solo starts and the song speeds up considerably. After 13 minutes, an abstract female chorus joins, before Fela describes the folly of “JJDs,” those Nigerians freshly returned from overseas, whose way of being is anything but African. An obscure number, initially issued with an instrumental mix on the flip.

True classic Sorrow, Tears And Blood has Fela at the peak of his powers, another hard-hitting statement that directly addressed the horrendous Feb ’77 raid (although it was also inspired by the June 1976 Soweto Uprising). The song feels ominous from the get-go, with fine sax and keyboard interplay before Fela emotively describes the attack, the soldiers leaving their “regular trademark” of violence. Flipside “Colonial Mentality” has another dramatic build-up, the horns nicely counterbalanced by intricate percussion, and Fela himself on expressive tenor sax, the lyrics again addressing the colonial mindset of Africans.

Opposite People zips along quickly, with brighter than usual Fela keyboard chops, and rousing horn fanfares for ten minutes, before Fela explains that “opposite people” will reveal themselves as a disruptive presence. Flipside “Equalisation Of Trouser And Pant” sounds more foreboding, the horns holding a sense of urgent discord and the percussion hinting at unforeseen troubles; after ten minutes, Fela playfully uses trousers and pants as a metaphor for class inequality.

Stalemate is another post-raid track concerned with man’s inability to resolve conflict. The intro has some bum notes, along with a strong sax melody, and the lyrics concern stalemates forged by quarrelling women and untrusting hustlers. All very playful, considering the turbulent era in which it was cut. Flipside “Don’t Worry About My Mouth O”, aka “African Message”, has a heavier rhythm. Its symbolic message skates between playfulness and seriousness. Fela says he will use a chewing stick to clean his teeth and water to clean his ass instead of toilet paper, because this is the African way, and points the listener to The Black Man And The Nile, instead of the Bible. A most peculiar outing, but still good.

Fear Not For Man begins with a tortured scream and a cough, before Fela delivers a drum-backed sermon on Kwame Nkrumah. An addictive funk groove follows, leading to more shrieking and impressive conga lines. Flipside “Palm Wine Sound” is a pleasant instrumental referencing the guitar style, but here with added afrobeat emphasis.

 Around the same time, Fela cut a new version of Why Blackman Dey Suffer, a fearsome indictment of colonialism, again with Ginger Baker in tow (it was first cut circa 1971, but deemed too radical). It starts with a slow, portentous groove, swiftly invoking a traditional Yoruba chant. Soon some floor-toms kick in as the keyboard improvisation becomes more intense, offset by a rousing horn fanfare, in which baritone sax is particularly resonant, leading to extended tenor soloing. Fela then reminds that black folks are perpetually broke because Africa was raped and pillaged; unity is the ultimate solution. The mix makes excellent spatial placement of instruments, and stereo panning heightens the effect of disjuncture – fiercely radical and expertly arranged. The CD includes another misplaced track, “Ikoyi Mentality Versus Mushin Mentality”, with another great stereo mix. Here Fela contrasts the avarice of Lagos’s wealthy with the honest openness of ghetto folk.

After a delicious 11-minute build up, No Agreement finds Fela almost professing the opposite of what we expect: he says he will keep his mouth shut if speaking up is going to betray his fellow Nigerians. The rhythm is fearsome with vibrant conga beats, the horn section particularly tight, and there is a fine trumpet solo from Lester Bowie. Flipside “Dog Eat Dog” is a moody, helter-skelter instrumental, leading with oddball keyboards from Fela, and settling into an insistent stomp.

On 1978’s super-heavy Shuffering And Shmiling, after a long build-up, Fela launches an attack Christianity and Islam, condemned as non-African imports from Rome, London and Mecca. His intended targets were then-President Obasanjo, a Christian, and MKO Abiola, an Islamic businessman that later ran the country, but he also vents frustration with religious hypocrisy in general. Fela goes on to describe the over-crammed public busses, full of poor workers “shuffering and shmiling,” blinded by the promise of a better status in the afterlife. For its original release in France, the B-side was “Perambulator”, which starts with an odd bass solo, soon switching to a rapid rhythm led by off-key keyboards, replaced by chaotic horn blasts and percolating congas. Later, trumpet and sax solos lend a feeling of seriousness, until Fela begins an odd rant about perambulators coming and going – another symbolic look at the state of modern Africa, which Fela says is stuck in a rut. Perambulator finally surfaced in Nigeria in 1983, backed by “Frustration” – an extended re-cut of ‘My Lady Frustration’ in fuller stereophonic form.

1978 was a very tumultuous year for Fela. After marrying 27 women, he travelled to Ghana, but was expelled when a performance of “Zombie” instigated a riot. That November, after Fela was heckled at the Berlin Jazz Festival, much of his band ditched him, fearing he would pour the profits into his campaign for the Nigerian presidency, following his formation of a (disqualified) political party. But the following year, another landmark recording surfaced: Unknown Soldier, one of Fela’s most direct statements about the Kalakuta raid, which a government report attributed to “unknown soldiers.” The 15-minute introduction is heavily laden with ominous fear before Fela starts up his sermon, recounting the horrible brutality that saw so many raped, a student’s eye knocked out, and Fela’s 78-year-old mother sustain injuries which ultimately killed her. Stevie Wonder gets a namecheck as well. Over 30 minutes of ultra-powerful magic.

VIP (Vagabonds In Power) was the opening number from Fela’s controversial headlining of the 1978 Berlin Jazz Festival. The 20-minute track begins with a rambling introduction in which Fela informs the audience that 99% of what they hear about Africa is wrong. He then reveals that the VIPs who abandon the poor are really “vagabonds in power.” Later, the rhythm charges, the audience starts clapping along and an emotive sax solo leads to full horn fanfares and percussive breaks atop Tony Allen’s livid drum rolls. Fela eventually decries the greedy VIPs and their evil ways.

Surfacing in 1979, ITT is another Fela killer straight to the head of corrupt leaders and the cronies that prop them up, namely President Obasanjo and corporate business whiz Mashood Abiola – then head of the Nigerian branch of International Telephone and Telegraph, here re-cast as “International Thief-Thief.” The song has urgency right from the start, its wailing sax demanding notice as a cute chorus shrieks out the “thief-thief” motif. Fela links the evil deeds of ITT to the legacy of colonialism – strong words with a forceful rhythm behind them.

1980’s Authority Stealing continues the theme of thievery in power, this time with a parallel drawn to the rough justice meted out to petty thieves in the street markets, their crimes linked to the reduced price of Nigerian oil. The band is totally tight here, with super-fine soloing from the saxophonists (particularly Lekan Animashaun), as well as trumpet blasts, wicked lead guitar and oddball keyboards from Fela. A fine work, worthy of wider acknowledgement.

Half of Music Of Many Colours is Fela at his most funky, helped by the looming presence of Roy Ayers, who toured Nigeria with Fela in 1979. The original B-side, “2000 Blacks Got To Be Free”, sees Ayers in fine form, banging out a fast-paced vibraphone line as he implores Africans to unite. Ayers dominates this super-funky track, but gets some three-dimensional embellishments with African percussion and the chorus of Fela’s wives. The original A-side, “Africa Centre Of The World”, feels much more afrobeat, yet has extra atmospheric brilliance though Ayers’s chilling vibraphone. The horn parts are particularly complex and resonant, and the chorus that chants the title sounds magnificent, as Fela rejects the notion of Africa as the ‘Third World.’ Another absolute winner.

1981’s Coffin For Head Of State again returned to the 1977 Kalakuta raid, which resulted in the death of Fela’s mother in September 1979. Specifically, the track references the parading of a symbolic coffin to the seat of government immediately after, delivered as a gesture of defiant anger to then-president Obasanjo. The song holds anxiety and tension in the off-kilter keyboards and vacillating horn blasts, before Fela begins a lament about religious hypocrisy aimed at corrupt leaders such as Obasanjo and his northern Muslim ally, Yar Adua (who would become President in 2007), who both witnessed the coffin’s delivery. Fela delivers his message in jester mode, but the seriousness is not lost on the listener in this hefty track – serious and deep.

The understated Original Sufferhead, the first album to name Fela’s band as Egypt 80, was released soon after yet another brutal attack on Fela’s compound, in which he nearly met his death. The title track starts off with an urgent pace and frightful keyboard sprints, then forceful horns work up the tension and an odd ‘la-la’ chorus presents a discordant diversion. After emotive soloing, Fela sings in Pidgin about the non-availability of water, food, lighting and housing – post-colonial problems that have turned Africans into “sufferheads,” despite the continent’s many resources. B-side “Power Show” has a complex, full-force arrangement that makes spectacular use of the horns, Fela’s own tenor sax work sounding particularly strong. Then Fela attacks obstructive immigration officers, money-grubbing postal workers and egoistic generals that abuse their poor labourers just to exercise power over another.

From here on, as Fela became more reclusive, his recorded studio output seriously slowed. Music Is The Weapon is a live album, recorded in Amsterdam in November 1983 and given a final mix-down by Fela and Dennis Bovell. The chaotic concert featured Fela’s son Femi on alto sax and Dele Soshimi on electric piano, along with four faithful wives and some rising unknowns. “MOP” or “Movement Of The People” referenced the political party Fela formed to contest the 1979 general elections. On “You Give Me Shit I Give You Shit”, Fela ultimately calls for tit-for-tat action; the slow groove has a long-winded tale about a corrupt businessman, and future president Abiola is again targeted. The final track, “Custom Check Point”, begins with frantic and discordant keyboard work, leading to abstract female choruses. Fela’s subject this time is the “scramble for Africa” that resulted in the continent’s terrible division. A complicated work of several distinctive sections, with some fine soprano sax soloing from Fela.

1985’s Army Arrangement is another complex creation that looks at Nigeria’s neo-colonial situation. After searing horns and distracted choruses, Fela starts his complex Pidgin sermon on injustice, which is incongruously disrupted by ribald commentary. There follows thoughts on the way that Nigeria’s military governments always end up giving the reins back to the same politicians that were in power before their coups – a highly contradictory situation – and reminds that dissenting political parties such as Fela’s MOP are always obliterated; all of which is dismissed as an “army arrangement,” a corrupt and repressive double-dealing that results in death and destruction. Some CD reissues also included the previously unreleased “Government Chicken Boy”, revealed as those petty civil servants and media fools that support Nigeria’s corrupt political system. The peculiar track, which rides a pseudo-Latin rhythm, has a terribly muddy, cluttered mix – perhaps it was unfinished.

Wally Badarou produced 1986’s Teacher Don’t Teach Me Nonsense, a high point of this sparse period, making full use of the audio spectrum though a superb arrangement that emphasises the brass through expert spatial placement. This time, Fela’s message concerns the role of teachers, but he fears that after schooling, the corrupt governments of post-colonial Africa become our teacher; instead of democracy, Nigeria has “dem-all-crazy.” Therefore, he surmises, if the former colonisers of Europe and the neo-colonial US are meant to be Africa’s teachers, then please, don’t teach me no nonsense! B-side (of overseas editions) “Look And Laugh” resembles a melancholy highlife: in it, Fela attempts to explain why he had become so reclusive, due largely to the brutal attacks by soldiers.

1989’s Beasts Of No Nation has many targets, being another great Fela diatribe, despite some vocal weakness. This quietly meditative number starts with fine musical interplay and some Yoruba choruses, before Fela appears as “basket mouth” to deliver his message: he speaks of time spent in prison on trumped-up charges, and references a campaign unleashed by the military government led by General Buhari, known as the ‘war against indiscipline’, in which the Nigerian public were deemed “stupid.” Fela then speaks of the “animals in human skin,” such as Thatcher, Reagan, Botha and Mobutu – the “Beasts Of No Nation” of the title. Overseas issues also had the track “Just Like That” (issued in Nigeria as a separate album with “MOPP”), a witty, funky ditty in which Fela says that change can come swiftly in Africa – both positive and negative.

On 1989’s Overtake Don Overtake Overtake, a clavé-type cowbell leads the insistent rhythm. Fela references past classics like “Kalakuta Show” and “Zombie”, moving on to attack the military governments of Africa, which fail to liberate the people. Musically, the second bass that appears late in the song adds another layer of texture. Some US issues include the track Confusion Break Bone (a separate LP in Nigeria), a slowly creeping update of “Confusion”. After sax solos and a trippy conga break, Fela speaks of police, military and governmental wrongdoings. Then, a weary Fela ultimately says that the situation that turned Lagos into a corpse on “Confusion” has now seen the corpse run over by traffic; hence the idea that “confusion break bone.”
The final Fela studio album was 1992’s Underground System, a messy disc that evidences a chaotic frame of mind. “Underground System” starts with a ghostly bass, adds throbbing percussion and stabbing piano, then shrieking female choruses and horn fanfares. Fela begins to chant in Yoruba, then speaks in garbled Pidgin about trying to stop soldiers from ruining Africa. He praises Nkrumah and curses “great African thieves,” like Obasanjo and Abiola. He says the “underground system” that operates in Africa will always see a leader like Nkrumah, Lumumba, Sekou Toure, Thomas Sankara or Idi Amin killed off, while scoundrels will always force their way into office at the expense of the people – evidence of the underground system at work. B-side “Pansa Passa” is also chaotic: drums clash with wobbly piano, then bass and guitars are met by a woodblock, and sax solos start, but Fela says little, other than recalling the earlier defiant masterworks he cut, such as “Alagbon Close” and “Monkey Banana”. The overall feeling here is of weariness, rather than originality, which is perhaps unsurprising, considering all he had gone through, his wariness of harassment by the repressive regime of Sani Abacha, and the AIDS that was already wreaking havoc with his immune system. In just a few short years, Fela would make his final transition, leaving our physical plane on August 2, 1997, aged 58.

Of the posthumous releases, there are two must-have DVDs: Music Is The Weapon (included in the Fela Kuti Anthology), a revealing documentary made largely in Nigeria by Stephane Tchal-Gadjieff and Jean Jacques Flori in 1983, and Teacher Don’t Teach Me Nonsense, a BBC documentary from 1984 which has a sober interview, interspersed with concert footage and bolstered by contextual scenes exploring Nigeria’s recent history. Fela is also part of Konkombe: The Nigerian Pop Music Scene, from Jeremey Marre’s excellent Beats Of The Heart documentary series. Concert DVDs include Live at Glastonbury from 1984 and Live In Paris from 1981.
The first Fela book was the revealing This Bitch Of A Life by Cuban ethnologist Carlos Moore, first printed in 1982 and recently revised. It was adapted from the pair’s personal conversations, so there is much ‘hip’ jargon, as well as firsthand testimony from wives and Sandra Isidore. The most in-depth exploration of Fela’s life and work is Fela: The Life And Times Of An African Musical Icon by Michael Veal, an academic at Yale that spent a long time in Nigeria conducting research, and even played for a time in Fela’s band. And Steve McQueen is currently working a Fela bio-pic, so watch this space. Viva Fela!

David Katz is an author, music journalist, DJ and reggae historian residing in the UK. He has previously written about the reggae scene in São Luís Do Maranhão, Brasil for the Academy web magazine.

Sep 13, 2014

Coming soon ... Next Stop Soweto - Volume 4 - Spirit Of Malombo: Malombo Jazz Makers, Jabula And Jazz Afrika 1966-1984

Malombo Jazz Makers

Essentially the broad history of Malombo can be broken up into two separate groups that often used the same name for different recordings by each group. Though starting as a single group, the two threads soon split apart, one wing with Philip Tabane, the other with Abbey Cindi and Julian Bahula. To unpack this history I have put together two discographies, one for Philip Tabane, the other for Julian Bahula. Though many others were involved, Tabane and Bahula are the two members of the original group that seemed to continue separately each thread of Malombo music. (Cindi and Lucky Ranku, of course, played major roles in what I am loosely calling the "Bahula" thread.) Today's post focuses on "Philip Tabane and Malombo". The "Julian Bahula and Malombo" discography can be viewed here.

Some of these albums as well as their re-issues have fetched amazing prices on auction at eBay and so I have put together a discography that attempts, at least in part, to identify the many different issues. If you have an album or an issue not featured in this list please let us know and we can add it to the discography.

Yvonne Huskisson in her Bantu Composers of Southern Africa has Abbey Cindi and Philip Tabane forming a group called the Lullaby-Landers in 1961 or 1963, depending on which entry you read. In 1963 the group changed their name to the Malombo Jazz Men which included Julian Bahula on a set of "African drums". He had originally come from the Vlakfontein City Council Band. As Huskisson puts it, Malombo's aim was "to produce a new sound in Jazz by introducing African drums and African drum beats and an African traditional sound into a Progressive-Jazz trio." The group was hugely successful, winning a number of competitions most notably the 1964 Castle Lager Jazz Festival at Orlando Stadium. The trio made their first recordings with "Radio Bantu" that same year and soon a debut, studio LP—Castle Lager Jazz Festival 1964—was issued by EMI. The B-side of the album also included the Early Mabuza Quartet.

This classic record featured the original line-up of the Malombo Jazz Men (sometimes Jazzmen) with Philip Tabane on guitar, Abbey Cindi on flute and Julian Bahula on the "Malombo drums". The group would soon split somewhere around 1966.

After the break-up, Tabane began working with Gabriel 'Mabi' Thobejane and continued recording under the name Malombo Jazzmen and then later simplified it to just Malombo. In 1978 Oupa Monareng took over the Malombo drums with Fish Phale on percussion. And then around the mid to late 1980s, Raymond Motau assumed percussion.


Philip Tabane: The Rolling Stone Interview

Bongani Madondo books an hour with the Ancestral-Jazz-Rock god's ultimate recluse. And two weeks later he's not left the house. They're still talking, even as you read.

Half a century after Philip Tabane and his band of fledgling wizards took South Africa by storm with their Kwela-Avant-Blues record, "Foolish Fly" – influencing every other local style from Blues to Black Consciousness Punks – Tabane finds himself the Last Pirate rowing. Bongani Madondo books an hour with the Ancestral-Jazz-Rock god's ultimate recluse. And two weeks later he's not left the house. They're still talking, even as you read...

Spring 2002: Three Blues Brothers – Arabi Mucheke, manager (and "godsent" as the artist would later put it) of Phillip Tabane, and his two protégés, Andile Dlamini, and yours truly (well, what do you know? - yours truly).

With their rucksacks, CDs, a variety of African locks – we used to say then, "call me 'dread' and I'll be dreadful to you" – and ebullient spirits, the three bohos from Jo'burg packed into a tiny, Battle- for-Iwo Jima-like mini-Jeep (a mini-Humvee, in fact), which belonged to the fastest-talking and funkiest of the three – Dlamini, a.k.a. "Magengx" – and hit the road.

We are driving almost seven hours to the University of Venda, in the former Venda homeland, where Cyril Ramaphosa is the Chancellor, and this afternoon our friend, elder and object of endless intellectual intrigue, Philip "Malombo" Tabane, will be conferred an honorary PhD in Music and Cultural Anthropology by the university, a move engineered by the hip musician , musicologist and general human encyclopaedia of the international Black Music imaginary, Sello Galane.

The Jeep roars, flies, threatens, huffs and puffs as it speeds down the notorious N1 Highway to Limpopo. Inside, we are grooving to some maskandi and reggae, a family band called either Morgan Heritage or Garnett Silk, but don't be fooled. Other than Mucheke, we are not real Rastas, and yet we skank our heads and feel irie. Still, we don't reach the place. This thing's speed is just over 100km/h.

When we eventually arrive, we are three hours late and the man we are there to support is now no longer just a mere friend, but a Doctor of The Arts in, what's it again? Yeah, that too. The function is over and we quickly head to a recreation park in Polokwane where our guy is supposed to playing, but we don't see him. He must be with the "other Doctors" we quip, and we head off to order ciders and join the general merriment around there.

We come back without seeing him. And I would not see him for another seven years. The next time I see him is at a memorial service for Mucheke, who has managed the good old "Doctor" for 10 years now and they are both not rich, at least not in the monetary sense. Mucheke has managed to take him all over the world, including the famed New Orleans Jazz Festival, where Tabane was once again honoured; this time around he was given the "Freedom of The City of New Orleans", one of the homes of zydeco, cajun, swampy jazz, mardi gras, funk music and, also, Mac Rebennack, better know as Dr John.

Today, we are here to bid bye to our brother Mucheke, and Dr Malombo is not feeling well. He would go on not feeling well, four years since the untimely departure of his manager and "brother", or, as he once told me, "The angel in my life."

At his peak, he's blessed the music-loving public – and now especially the vinyl crate-diggers – with South African classics such as Pele Pele, unh! (pronounced "ngg!"), Silent Beauty, Sangoma, The Indigenous Afro-Jazz Sounds of Philip Tabane and his Malombo Jazzman (sic), and Ke A Bereka among others, for international labels such as Elektra and Nonesuch.

A consummate composer, he has contributed to soundtracks of films including the hit television drama, Muhvango, and the iconic 1969 film by his friend, Nana Mohomo. And for all that, all he's got to show for his life is an old (seventh year) SAMA for "Ke A Bereka"(Best Single") and a SAMA Lifetime Achievement Award.

This is the man who remains an object of ceaseless fascination for hipsters, rockers and futurists, from the Blk Jks to house DJs and just about everyone who consider themselves leftfield.

Also, this is a man you are most likely to find sitting alone on his stoep in Mamelodi ... most of the time he's spending awake.

Even during Mucheke's time, the man was famously notorious for his reticence. The number of media interviews he has done since the turn of the last decade, going back to 2000, can be counted on one hand – precisely the reason why Lucas "Styles" Ledwaba, the author of the long-awaited, work-in-progress biography, With Strings Attached: The Life & Music of Philip Tabane, says: "I don't even know if it will ever happen. I am dealing with an absentee landlord, so I can't pay my rent." He mocks – half-joking, half-serious – whenever he's queried about the book.

Since Mucheke died, part of the spirit of "Dr Malombo" went with him. Gigs have dwindled to a trickle and although his son and direct heir to the ancestral Malombo music gift, Thabang Tabane, does his best to take care of his old, sometimes ailing 79-year-ol'-man's affairs, no one has ever managed to keep this guitar god's spirits as high as Mucheke was able to.

Nobody, but nobody – not even the two dangerously brilliant Zulu maestros, the late Mfaz' Omnyama and the late Sandile Shange, not even Shukela, Nothembi, Dan Patlanksy, or the closest competition to Tabane, the late Allen Kwela – can, would, could and have done with the guitar what Tabane has in the last 50 years.

Through several band line-ups he has shuffled over 20 times over the half a century (the best were the first three Malombo outfits: 1962's Malombo Jazz; 1964's Malombo Jazz Members; and 1965's Malombo Jazz Makers, with his fellow township band members Julian Bahula on percussions, Abbey Cindi on flute and harmonica, and later his nephew, the inimitable Mabi Thobejane on congas and toys), Tabane has left an indelible mark on almost all sorts of genres.

Although he is still alive, alternative types – from skate-rockers, world, Afro-rock to contemporary punks – speak of him in celestial tones, as though they are talking about The Doors' Jim Morrison, or that other "Jim" with a penchant for burning-guitar rituals.

He does to guitar and with the guitar what only Jimi Hendrix, Ali Farka Touré, Jimmy Page and Dakar's legendary Orchestra Baobab's Barthélemy Attisso have ever done with the axe, or anyone has ever done to or with the instrument in public, with their clothes on!

And yet, nobody seems to know his whereabouts, or what to do with him once they track him down. Generally, he has become the true, French existentialist obscure and non-participator recluse.

But when I track him down to No 3814 Mokone Street, D1, Mamelodi West, Malombo was uncharacteristically open, frank and ready to talk. We were scheduled for only one hour. Two weeks later, we are still talking. About almost everything.

This is an excerpt from the July 2013 issue of Rolling Stone South Africa, to read the full cover-story you can subscribe to the magazine here. 


Disk 1

01 Malombo Jazz Makers Plus 2 - Bahula Dithabeng
02 Malombo Jazz Men - Abie's Mood
03 Malombo Jazz Makers - Hleziphi
04 Malombo - Malombo Workshop
05 Malombo Jazz Makers - Matshenyogo
06 Malombo Jazz Makers - Bababelo
07 Malombo - Bird Meets Elephant
08 Malombo Jazz Makers - Abbey's Body
09 Malombo Jazz Makers Plus 2 - Away From Malombo's
10 Malombo Jazz Makers - Jikeleza
11 Malombo Jazz Makers - Sefuralong
12 Malombo Jazz Makers - Sibathathu

Disk 2

01 Jabula - Sorrows (extract)
02 Jabula - Let Us Be Free
03 Jabula - Thunder Into Our Hearts
04 Jabula - Journey To Africa
05 Jabula - Mathome
06 Jabula - All For One
07 Julian Bahula's Jazz Afrika - Woza Cindi
08 Jabula - Siakala
09 Julian Bahula's Jazz Afrika - Tlhompho
10 Jabula Happiness
11 Ithumeleng Ba Mamelodi
12 Botlokwa
13 Julian Bahula - Heita Cindi

Sep 12, 2014

From Denmark: The KutiMangoes - Afro​-​Fire

This may sound like an Afro-Orchestra, but for sure not like a sextet, which The KutiMangoes actually are! Compact arrangements with extremely blazing horns, especially from the baritone sax and the trombone. Nonetheless it is still not overwhelming, because everything is accompanied by a carefully counterbalanced easiness, beautifully recorded for the album Afro-Fire.

The KutiMangoes don't focus on being highly authentic, which might present it's difficulties, seeing as the are a union of Northern Europeans and West Africans. The sax player and band leader Michael Blicher regularly plays in a trio with the New Yorker god of groove Steve Gadd and composes for string quartets, movies and for this Band. A wonderful eclectical blend of Afro beat, Jazz, Soul and a little Blues.

This blend combines and contains the soul of Fela Kuti, the delusional arrangements from Charles Mingus (title "Moanin") and the uncompromising drive from Ornette Coleman's "Body Meta" - supported by Patrick Kabre from Burkina Faso, who adds the final dose of feeling to the beats with his voice. Three brass players, two drummers and a man at the keys skillfully switch between the instruments.

The oddly named Kuti Mangoes are a mixed race sextet operating out of Germany. Their music – led by Michael Blicher's baritone sax – is a swinging mix of jazz and afro beat, typified by the album's big opener, 'Fire'. It's totally infectious and enhanced by shouts, scat and chants from Burkina Faso vocalist Patrick Kabre. There's also a crazy trombone that has the magical timbre of the late Wayne Henderson. I defy you to keep your feet still. The tune is offered again at the end in a remix version which if anything is even more of a foot tapper. There's more heat for thee feet on 'Something Yellow' and the flute-led 'Song For Fela'.

'Feeling Good' is a great jazz groove too – but a whole lot cooler while 'Pass It On' is the set's catchiest moment, featuring an insidious little brass fill. Another highlight is a funky cover of Charles Mingus' 'Moanin' and if you're looking for a 60's style jazz ballad try 'Slowly'... totally captivating.
Throughout, it's hard to accept that the Kuti Mangoes are a six piece. Their music is so big, bold and bright you'd be forgiven for thinking that there was full afro-orchestra in the studio. If afro-centric jazz does it for you, the Mangoes deserve checking out.




Feeling good 04:51

Something yellow 04:45

Pass it on 05:01

Song for Fela 03:21

Moanin' 03:40

Walking man 04:37

Slowly 05:42

Desert moon 05:57

Song for Fela (Remix) 04:11

Fire (Rmx)

Sep 11, 2014

Orlando Julius with The Heliocentrics - Jaiyede Afro (Pt. II)

A Great Album From a Master

Orlando Julius has been making a joyful noise for a long time now, and his latest full-length, Jaiyede Afro, brings the gladdest of tidings: the man is still Afro-rocking with as much intensity and verve as ever. A contemporary of the great Fela Kuti, Orlando plows a similar furrow, with a good deal less emphasis on horns but plenty of guitars, organ, and uptempo percussion to keep things moving. Especially notable are the band’s fluid and irresistible basslines, which propels the whole band effortlessly and provides a sinewy backbone for the rest of the band to build upon. The result is a meaty, high-energy gumbo that is compulsively danceable, but also complex to immerse oneself in and simply listen to. Great for road trips too.

In case it’s not clear: Jaiyede Afro is a tremendous album.

The good times start right away, with joyous album opener “Buje Buje”. Over layers of skronking horns, sweet guitar trills and thrumming bass ‘n’ drums, Julius’s voice exhorts the listener with vocals that are passionate but never strident. The hypnotic groove rolls on, engulfing the listener, and encompassing enough shifts in dynamic and rhythm to ensure that things never grow stale despite the lengthy running time. Follow-up tune “Love Thy Neighbor” is shorter, peppier, and instrumental, but every bit as engaging. The band is masterful at establishing an irresistible groove within just a few beats, and uses a wide array of sounds both organic and electronic to snare the listener’s attention.

Julius is smart enough to allow these grooves, once established, to stretch out and breathe. The result is that many of these songs top the five-minute mark, with opener “Buje Buje” stretching past eight and epic “Be Counted” stretching well past 11. Another band might lose the plot with such extended workouts, but that is never the case here: With the rhythm section as reliable as it is, providing a rock-solid backbone that is never rigid or constricting, the rest of the instrumentalists and vocalists can soar. “Be Counted” features some freak-out sax howling and times calls to mind the more frenzied moments of the Stooges Fun House, but it never goes off the rails entirely due to the solidity of the rhythm section.

With such a consistently compelling set it’s tough to pick a standout track, but “Sangodele” might be a contender, with its reverb-heavy wah-wah guitar line and propulsive bass. Another instrumental tune, it suffers not one bit from the lack of vocals. It’s unfair to single out just one song, though, as there are so many here that are so effortless (that word again) in their elastic, booty-shaking groove. “Love Thy Neighbor” in particular benefits from some nice organ flourishes, which add a crispness and sparkle to the sonic palette, while “In the Middle” utilizes many of the same elements, with a good amount of brass introduced into the mix, allowing Julius’s always-expressive saxophone to enjoy some company.

Listeners seeking a rock-solid album of Afro-funk – or maybe a solidly rocking album of Afro-funk – need look no further than here. Orlando Julius has put decades of experience into this record, and it shows., by David Maine


Orlando Julius is one of the heroes of Nigerian music. A saxophonist, singer and songwriter, he began fusing African influences with American R&B and soul in the 60s, and was a major influence on Fela Kuti and Afrobeat. He's still in rousing form on this new set, recorded with London's the Heliocentrics, whose previous African excursions have included work with Mulatu Astatke. Julius is a master of the simple, stomping riff, as he proves with the opening Buje Buje, in which he hammers home a hypnotic R&B theme for more than five minutes against a wash of keyboard effects, before breaking away for a solo. Elsewhere, he moves from the funky Love Thy Neighbour to the breezy title track and to Be Counted, a rumbling, chanting Afrobeat work-out, written in the US in the 70s. I look forward to the live shows next year.


As Nigerian musicians go, Orlando Julius might not be as recognizable a name as Fela Kuti, but that has less to do with the quality of his output than the scarcity of it. He had an important hand in shaping the emerging fusion of Nigerian highlife and American R&B in the mid ’60s, followed by an unofficial status as an ambassador of that sound — now called Afrobeat — during an extended American tenure in ’70s. But the sax maestro and bandleader put out only a handful of albums that made it to international collectors’ circles, and left many of his rousing live-show standards unrecorded.

Thankfully Jaiyede Afro, Julius’s teamup with Malcolm Catto’s super-session psych-soul-funk-jazz group the Heliocentrics, does more than its share to make up for that. It stirs up long-brewing sounds from its deep-grooved yet soothing title cut — developed out of childhood memories of music his mother would play — to the resoundingly funky 11-minute vamp “Be Counted,” an Africa-to-America black pride anthem that still inspires long after its writing in 1976. Following their gigs backing up Ethio-jazz forefather Mulatu Astatke and scholar of Middle Eastern music Lloyd Miller, the Heliocentrics’ analog-studio sound stays faithful to Julius’s vintage Afrobeat precedent. They keep their wigged-out psychedelic tendencies in the margins, opting to stay smoothly in a pocket of James Brown/Africa 70 steadiness — though closer “Alafia” gives Julius’s exclamatory sax a welcome shot at careening through space. It’s not just a good (re)introduction to an underrated pioneer, but a fine recreation of everything that made his earlier, scarcer recordings so worth seeking out.