For its 3rd releases, Nubiphone is proud to present you a compilation
of the best early 7inch releases of the mythical Cameroonian band Los
10 raw tracks taken from various singles from 1968 to 1975, that present the musical diversity played by those seven young people: Bikutsi, Afro-Funk, Jerk, , Soukous, Rumba & Blues music. The band led by the charismatic lead vocal Messi Martin that managed to modernized Cameroonian music. Deluxe edition that includes an 8-pages booklet, with exclusive pictures, biography in both English and French languages.
Sep 14, 2021
For its 3rd releases, Nubiphone is proud to present you a compilation
of the best early 7inch releases of the mythical Cameroonian band Los
Sep 3, 2021
The globe-trotting team over at Analog Africa are at it again, delivering another beautifully crafted package that shines a light and some of the lost scenes of yesteryear. After 15 years in the game, you’d think the label might be running out of rare gems to find, but here we are clutching 16 tracks of Cameroon garage funk which range from fuzzed-out freakouts to hip-shaking Latin groove.
An esoteric endeavor even by this label’s standards, main man Samy Ben Redjeb chanced upon this scene after time spent with the phenomenal Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou. Discussing their heyday and past sounds led Ben Redjeb to their old producer, and in turn, the premises of Niger's national radio station for a little crate digging. Drawn to one shelf in particular, he discovered a bunch of Cameroon 45s, nearly all bearing the mark of French music label Sonafric.
Thus began label head’s ‘Sonafric Safari, a trip which saw him travel from Douala to Yaoundé via Bamenda like some kind of vinyl obsessed Dr. Jones. Finds were scarce, as was any information, and it’s only now after hours interviewing various music figureheads that we get a snapshot of this underground scene that set 70s Yaoundé alright. With venues of the day hosting everything from soul nights to French yé-yé it’s no surprise that this compilation seems a bit more scrappy and scattershot than other releases but still filled with plenty of welcome surprises.
With the country at the time lacking any real recording industry or facilities, getting your song out there to the masses was a real hustle in itself, one often requiring the use of an Adventist church and an open-minded engineer. What’s left for history is a set of DIY tracks which willed themselves into existence through pure determination and a level of energy that still reverberates today.
The likes of Joseph Kamga’s ‘Sie Tcheu’ fit the comp's title admirably, boasting raw funk guitar, organ solos, and a bassline that refuses to quit. ‘Yondja’ on the other hand proves a more Afrocentric treat, the western funk groundwork mixed with spidery piano work, horns, and percussion that’s tighter than a diving bell. The Damas Swing Orchestra proves another winner, the group using its short track runtime to deliver a nocturnal groove while sprinkling samples of crowd cheers over the top. It’s smooth, a little jazzy, and about 15 years ahead of its time.
More than anything, the 16 numbers on show reveal what a melting pot the city’s club scene was at the time. French language numbers are belted out - at times off-key - while artists with names like Johnny Black do their best James Brown impersonation in recording rooms with just one mic. Once again this boutique label has moved mountains to give lovers of African music, as well as musicologists, a real treat. It may just be a glimpse, but damn does Cameroon circa 1975 sound like a lot of fun.
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The title of Analog Africa’s latest compilation manages to give you a spot-on idea of what you’re going to get, while simultaneously leading you astray. It’s that attributive noun in the middle, really. People have talked mistily about ‘garage’ bands as a broad concept for maybe half a century now – and it was by definition a thing of the past when the Nuggets collection, from 1972, threw the idea out there – and in that time, like basically every musical genre or grouping that ever took hold, it’s been appropriated, misattributed and diluted until it’s scarcely identifiable.
As I say, that’s the price of recognition, not much point complaining about it: 20 years ago, when the very well-heeled Strokes’ very professionally recorded debut album was held up as an avatar of ‘garage rock’ in the wider imagination, it was kind of irksome for heads, but no-one died or anything. The term has always been a dually-functioning one as regards social signifiers, in any event: the idealised American garage bands of the 1960s played in the garage because they were kids who couldn’t afford actual studios, and because they came from middle-class families with sufficiently equipped houses.
Cameroon Garage Funk’s sleevenotes, though illuminating, don’t go into enough detail about the featured groups for us to make many conclusive statements about their backgrounds, let alone whether their family homes had garages. They do however describe a church in Cameroon’s capital, Yaoundé, which had some basic studio gear and an employee willing to record bands on the downlow when the priests were elsewhere. For a few years in the 1970s (all but one of these songs were recorded in that decade), this was the most viable way for the country’s musicians to commit themselves to tape, and accounts for the bulk of what Analog Africa’s Samy Ben Redjeb has selected here. All done live into a single mic, too, and when I say you can often tell it’s said with high admiration: this music, from before I was born on a continent I’ve never visited, buzzes raw enough to have me feeling like I was in the room shuffling clodhoppingly. That’s the nub of the garage mindset, no?
This album, like everything Analog Africa (among many other archive labels) releases, is closely tied to the collector scene – you can’t very well not be if you want to do this properly. Redjeb, a Tunisian living in Germany, prefaces the various band profiles by recalling how he got into Cameroonian digging, actually finding the 45s comped here in Niger, Benin and Togo before entering the country in question. Most of them were released by a label called Sonafric, based in Paris but specialising in pressing contemporary African sounds. For a country that barely had a functioning music industry, a decent amount of sides were cut in 70s Cameroon – Manu Dibango accrued a global profile at the time while being the proverbial iceberg’s tip – but they’ve not been given retrospective attention like the output of other western African nations, Nigeria and Ghana especially. Analog Africa, to their credit, have bucked this trend before, issuing the brief mid-70s discography of Hamad Kalkaba and a compilation of disco-influenced makossa from the late 70s and early 80s.
Makossa and the older bikutsi, both rhythm-forward native styles, are germane to Cameroon Garage Funk without featuring on it per se. Los Camaroes are represented here by both sides of a 1973 single, and had already built a rep as a versatile nightclub house band by then; Messi Martin, their guitarist, has over time become synonymous with ‘modern bikutsi’. Here, ‘Ma Wde Wa’ is a mild outlier, more like soukous than the rockist abandon of many other acts featured here, but with its sprightly melodies dusted in amp fuzz and afforded some bizarrely ‘off’ drum fills, you can see what Redjeb heard, so to speak. B-side ‘Esele Mulema Moam’ showcases their harder side, though: vocal yawping a la James Brown, who we’ll return to, meets with a rolling-stock bassline and chicken-scratch guitar.
A surf-style guitar gives way to a wild perversion of Latin jazz, before being brought back again, on Charles Lembe Et Son Orchestra’s ‘Quiero Wapatcha’, a song actually dating from 1964 (Lembe died in 2019 aged 81, likely making him the most venerable musician featured here). Given that this compilation is otherwise laser-focused on the following decade, I’m choosing to believe that Redjeb included it for no other reason than it rips. It’s also available on another Afro-specialist compilation, by Honest Jon’s; I daresay licensing this stuff properly is an arseache, but also think it would have been preferable to give prospective buyers stuff they almost certainly didn’t already own. Being more charitable, there are some true obscurities featured here, not only to latterday collectors but, it seems, Cameroon scenesters of the era, with Redjeb’s biographical hunting turning up squat.
Damas Swing Orchestra’s ‘Odylife’ has also been comped before, on an Africa Airways set from a few years ago, but the Cameroon Garage Funk liner notes simply state “no information” with an implied shrug. While not giving the impression of being intentionally mysterious, they cultivate an eldritch atmos in their 140 seconds here. A sample of a large, cheering crowd is intermittently inserted into a tambourine-shaking jazz shuffle whose title is uttered in haunted tones. Then there’s this collection’s other “no info, soz” act Jean-Pierre Djeukam, whose ‘Africa Iyo’ opens with seven seconds of untethered, perhaps malfunctioning electr(on)ics before the actual tune starts. Good gravy, it’s quick! In fact, if you can find a higher tempo Afrofunk tune I’ll… be grateful for your valuable service, is what. A regrettably anonymous band chops riffs like the Meters and honks JBs horns, but with the foamy fervour of certain UK bands who were, at the time of this 7-inch’s release in 1978, just starting to make a meal out of punk and funk (Gang Of Four, most prominently). I link up these names in a spirit of celebration: of how cool it is that people, or groups of people, can have highly similar flashes of inspiration while being unaware of each other’s existence.
As with a lot of music that left a scant paper trail, there’s lots of fun to had trying to figure out who exactly inspired these performers, with the bonus of it being almost as satisfying not to know. Andre Destin Ndenga was a saxophonist with the ability to pick up any other instrument, and who incorporated a Cuban influence into his music from the 1950s onwards. That’s evident on ‘Yondja’, recorded in the late 70s with Les Golden Sounds – the official ensemble of the Cameroon presidency; the story goes that Ndenga was forcibly enlisted as bandleader – although by this time he was looking to Fela Kuti for inspiration. The rich array of percussion accounts for the first of those influences; the fat sax riffs the second. ‘Ngamba’, originally the B-side of ‘Yondja’, incorporates a head-turning synth break at 0:27, guitar melodies almost resembling Chinese folk, call-and-response vocals and sax playing as wildly jazzy as anything on this compilation.
Another rocker working for the man was Mballa Bony, who joined the army’s orchestra in 1975 and released the ‘Mezik Me Mema’ 45 the following year. Later he would cross over to Pop Makossa-ish electronic sounds, but for now his wistful, kindly-sounding vocal is backed by almost highlife guitar and a sax break for the ages. The booklet features Bony’s thoughts on the influence of James Brown in the Cameroon capital at the time; there’s no obvious attempt at a bite here, unlike Johnny Black’s ‘Mayi Bo Ya?’. Total Godfather of Soul worship for its first two minutes, it then fires off in myriad Afropsych directions, a demonstration of this music’s innate individuality even when the players are unabashedly trying to crib a style. Louis Wasson Et L’Orchestre Kandem Irenée’s ‘Song Of Love’, too, kicks off with deeply Brownian motion, Wasson himself drilling a killer riff into the frame, but a more chaotic arrangement thereafter than the old tyrant would have stood for. “I love you!” gasps the vocalist, stirringly.
‘Les Souffrances’, a song written by Johnny Black about the tougher side of life in 70s Cameroon and recorded by his friend Tsanga Dieudonne, is close as we come here to straight Afrobeat, if there is such a thing, though marking itself out by virtue of scorching proggy organ by Dieudonne himself (who also passed away in 2019). So high-tempo danceable it would have Prince Andrew sweating like Tony Blair, it apparently captured the national public imagination, as did ‘Monde Moderne’ by Pierre Didy Tchakounte Et Les Tulipes Noires. A paean to being a boy in a rock&roll band, late bedtimes and all, its French lyrics lend it the rock-gone-wrong marvellousness of that nation’s more offbeat vintage pop icons, like Jacques Dutronc.
A second Tchakounte cut, ‘Ma Fou Fou’, is bone-hard funk with a jazzworthy drum freakout: the only thing stopping this being a smash in waiting among those “ORIGINAL 45S ONLY” mod nights is the ruff fidelity. Meanwhile, if your idea of what funk sounds like was mostly gleaned from watching vintage pornography, the agile wah pedal wigging of Willie Song Et Les Showmen’s ‘Moni Ngan’ is for you. Why did Cameroon, indeed much of Africa, adopt and reshape funk so enthusiastically?
Redjeb, in an interview last year, suggested, “James Brown had a really strong message which really impacted Africa”; moreover, “when you talk to the musicians they tell me funk is very easy to them – Afrobeat is a bit more complicated because it’s a whole orchestra, you need brass, and not every band has that.”
I don’t think there’s anything more quintessentially Cameroon Garage Funk – that fulfils each word of its title most completely – than ‘Sie Tcheu’, by Joseph Kamga. A minute-long instrumental intro builds anticipation, and though there’s not actually a lot of vocal thereafter, the lead guitarist (presumably Kamga himself) dazzles with some hard blues riffs worthy of the most basement-dwelling teen pimplies, which again I naturally mean in a good way. The organ solo, when it hits, is pure wavy gravy Nuggets psych idealism.
The 1970s Cameroon bandscape had its own specifics, quirks and idiosyncrasies, just like that of any country from any era, and Analog Africa have ably captured this without going overboard. There’s no obvious reason, short of national affiliation, for someone to focus on its music – which of course crosspollinated with that of its neighbours, plus France later on with the 1980s makossa boom, this perhaps being a colonialist hangover – to the exclusion of others. It’s just full of slinky rhythm, stone funk and some really cool origin stories, the sort of stuff that justifies the continuing existence of the archive reissue market.
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For some 10 years now, releases from the seminal German Analog Africa label, under the leadership of its founder and crate-digger-in-chief, Samy Ben Redjeb, has brought to the world authentic and eye-opening records, largely previously unheard outside of their native boundaries. Often misunderstood and overlooked, the rich and diverse heritage of this continent has been celebrated through a catalogue of “explosive foot-shufflers and hypnotic sauntering treasures”.
Redjeb’s modus operandi focuses upon tracking down and dusting-off rare finds and locating sources, frequently interviewing those responsible for the original recordings, be they the artists, engineers or record company owners, and then lovingly transforming the source material into the vinyl gold that is issued under the label’s name, (CD and digital versions notwithstanding).
After a brief excursion to South America with their last offering in July of this year, Manzanita Y Su Conjunto; Trujillo, Peru 1971-974, reviewed in Folk Radio UK here, Analog Africa make a continental return to Africa, specifically the west-central region, with a Various Artists collection of underground music entitled Cameroon Garage Funk, the 32nd compilation from the Analog Africa Regular Series.
The lack of availability of 70s music from Cameroon remained a mystery to me until I received this CD for review when all was revealed. Whilst the nation’s capital, Yaoundé, was at the time a hive of musical activity, with every neighbourhood filled with music spots, the country lacked the infrastructure of proper recording facilities for these myriad artists, the vast majority of whom obviously could not afford to use the national broadcasting company and employ a sound engineer. Since there were no local labels or producers, the process of committing your song to tape could become a whole adventure in itself, with the artists themselves often fulfilling the roles of musicians, arranger, producer, financier, promotor, executive producer and even distributor.
Fortuitously and somewhat bizarrely, an alternative option presented itself in the form of an Adventist church in the Djoungolo district, which possessed good recording equipment. The Church engineer, Monsieur Awono, knowing the schedule of the priests, would accept cash in exchange for arranging illicit, clandestine recording sessions. Using their own equipment, many artists on this compilation secretly recorded their first few songs in these premises, albeit with only a single microphone.
Following the recording session, the master reel of tape would be handed to whoever had paid for the session, usually the artist themselves, and in the absence of an alternative, this would then invariably be taken to the forward-thinking French label Sonafric, the route and platform that many Cameroonian artists used to kickstart their career.
This information was gleaned by the intrepid Redjeb following a few trips, and many hours of interviews, in his quest to piece together what at first appeared to be a long-lost underground scene, a journey that took him not only to Cameroon but also to Benin and Togo, and to cities including Cotonou, Lomé and Sotouboua, where most of the songs on this release were acquired. As with previous releases, the extensive liner notes are the result of meticulous research by Redjeb and Volkan Kaya and present not only as a work of the heart but also as an enhancement to the package as a whole.
All 16 tracks on the project are composed by veterans of the Cameroonian scene. While some are from famous names, others perhaps only recorded one or two tracks before disappearing into obscurity that even modern-day search engines will fail to locate. What the collection does reflect, however, is different moments in the musical history of the period. Following Cameroon’s independence, for instance, the local bands began to introduce the traditional sounds of Makossa and Bikutsi into their music.
The first single released from the collection, Africa Iyo, recorded in 1978 by Jean-Pierre Djeukam, an artist so obscure that he remains unknown to the vast majority of musicians even in his home country, is a searing Afrobeat opener that sets the tone for what is to come. Released in 1974, Sie Tcheu is a Jerk tune sung in Bamiléké, a language spoken by one of the largest ethnic groups in Cameroon, by guitarist extraordinaire Joseph Kamga. Two offerings from another musician hailing from a Bamiléké family appear on the album. One of the best-known artists on the collection, Ndenga André Destin, initially a saxophonist, was gifted with the ability to master virtually any instrument within a few days and quickly became an expert in South-American rhythms, in particular, Cuban Son and Merengue. Such was his reputation that he was taken, in 1962, by force and made director of the Presidential Orchestra, Les Golden Sounds. Yondja and Ngamba, both composed in 1976 and released as singles by Sonafric, were inspired by the Afrobeat sounds of Fela Kuti and feature fine brass lines, interwoven amongst the lyrics and strings.
The third musician here with a Bamiléké heritage is Pierre Didy Tchakounte, who, from the age of 15, had begun to create modern interpretations of traditional songs. His recording career began in 1973 with a slab of funky soul that is Ma Fou Fou, followed a year later with his second single, the smoky, slinky Monde Moderne, which became a huge hit. Both songs appear here, the latter being released as the third single from the album. Along with his band, Les Tulipes Noires, he later had numerous hits with ‘westernised’ music whilst never turning his back on his heritage.
Possibly the most recognisable name on the album is the near-mythical Los Camaroes (de Marou). A powerhouse Soukhous band who could play anything from Congolese rhumba, merengue and highlife, through to soul and funk, they released some 20 odd singles on the Sonafric label between 1973 and 1977. Their music was played constantly on Cameroon’s national radio station, elevating them to superstar status within the country. The two songs presented here, the reggae-tinged Ma Wde Wa and James Brown-like funk of Esele Mulema Moam, feature the lead vocal and guitar of the charismatic leader Messi Martin, who was instrumental in modernising the music of Cameroon.
Regarded as one of Cameron’s greatest musical arrangers, Louis Wasson played with L´Orchestre Kandem Irenée, who became the backing band that supported an entire generation of Cameroon musicians over the two decades of the 1960s and 70s. Their contribution here, Song Of Love, was the second single released from the album. The fourth and final single to be released on the same day as the album will be Mayi Bo Ya?, the first composition by Johnny Black et Les Jokers. Sung in Ewondo, a Béti dialect, by the man born Nga Martin, a huge fan of Otis Redding and James Brown, the song was recorded in a single take in 1974 and fairly zips along with percussive cross-rhythms and chunky organ figures providing a fascinating counterpoint to the vocal lines.
Johnny also features, as the writer and composer of Les Souffrances, a song originally released in 1975 as the first recording for Tsanga Dieudonné. Featuring Tsanga’s wonderful Farfisa playing, tasteful brass and humorous lyrics relating to mundane daily situations faced by ordinary Cameroonians, it became an instant hit there.
Notwithstanding the ‘funk’ umbrella under which all of the songs on the album sit, variety is the watchword for the other four tracks on the release. Odylife from the Damas Swing Orchestra is a jazzy, piano-led piece, whilst Quiero Wapatcha has a Mexican, almost mariachi, vibe. The quality of the music here, from Charles Lembe et Son Orchestra, reflecting the posthumous award of the Medal for Knight of the National Order of Valor he received for services to Cameroonian music. Moni Ngan from Willie Songue et Les Showmen features splendid sax playing, whilst Woman Be Fire, the only 45 rpm released by Lucas Tala, is heavy on the percussion with absorbing keys. The vocals, however, on these latter two might be an acquired taste.
Rounding off the CD (there is a different running order on the vinyl release) is Mballa Bony with Mezik Me Mema, the gently, lilting brass, funky voice and guitar solo all melding together perfectly. The song and artist have a fascinating back-story involving military service, travel to Nigeria to record and using a military attachment in France to secure a record deal with Sonafric.
As a project, this Sonafric safari is a triumph in unearthing and presenting the music and musicians of Yaoundé’s underground music scene of some 50 years ago. The legacy offered here illustrates the timelessness of the music and is highly recommended.
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Germany's Analog Africa have been on something of a roll lately. Between the much-loved archival label's ongoing reissue campaign of their own scarcer back-catalogues titles and a string of reliably fantastic new titles, the Berlin-based outfit have managed to confidently assert themselves as one of the most vital reissue labels of the current moment.
Though eclectic in both their cultural backgrounds and stylistic approaches, the artists favoured by the label tend to—as its name would suggest—tail from Africa, though founder Samy Ben Redjeb also possesses an evident penchant for South America's sonic heritage, as his label's frequent sojourns to that particular continent demonstrate. For their latest release, though, they've headed back to Africa in service of anthologising the frenetic auditory salvos collated on Cameroon Garage Funk 1964 - 1979. A series of sixteen livewire explosions in sound, the songs here are immediate, vital and instantaneously engaging—all qualities which lend this set a magnetism that's difficult to resist.
Though by no means strangers to high-quality vinyl releases, Analog Africa have really outdone themselves this time. Long-term followers of their output will be well aware of the label's scrupulous attention to detail, a trait borne out in the meticulously-researched booklets which are included with the bulk of their releases, as well as the reliably striking visual aesthetic which adorns every release.
The cover itself is highly impressive:an arresting, broad-spined gatefold wrought from weighty textured card, the sleeve is one which presents the prospective buyer with a definite air of luxury before the records themselves have even hit the deck. The booklet is likewise a treat, visually impressive and of stout quality; the reading material is informative and astute, lending a welcome context to Cameroon Garage Funk's sixteen compositions that proves particularly enlightening for those previously unfamiliar with the artists highlighted here.
At over an hour in length, the compilation's capacious runtime is enough to necessitate its presentation over two separate LPs. With each side therefore clocking in at just a little over a quarter of an hour, there's certainly no risk of the inner groove distortion or other sonic maladies which can all-too-often plague records where too great an amount of music has been pressed onto any given side. Indeed, the audio quality is impressive throughout; remastering has been carried out on each of these sixteen compositions, lending them a crispness impressive for any recordings of their vintage.
The auditory quality of the pressings is likewise excellent; though neither of the two mid-weight black vinyl LPs sat perfectly flat upon the platter in the case of our example, both records offer very clean playback, bearing not a single notable imperfection at any point across the compilation's hour-plus runtime. Both records were also visually commendable, boasting handsome lustres free of the surface blemishes which can—rather frustratingly—appear on brand-new records manufactured at certain pressing plants.
Another captivating compilation from one of Europe's most important archival labels, Cameroon Garage Funk is a joy from start-to-finish, both in regards to its electrifying musical content and its top-notch vinyl release. Classy in its presentation, thorough in its background research and impressive in its sound quality, this is an easy release to recommend to any with an interest in infectious, funky grooves and high-energy auditory workouts.
Aug 6, 2021
The meeting of western rock stars and non-western musicians is so fraught with potential pitfalls, it's a wonder any decent records ever come of it at all. Cross-pollination is hampered by gaps in language, by preconceptions (on both sides), by label demands for a marketable product, by the suspicion that someone might be using someone, or that the wider audience being sought might be put off by music too far off their wavelengths. The opposite fear is true too: that the cognoscenti will be alienated by watered-down fusions.
Fortunately, these are not issues that besmirch Nomad, the third album by Omara "Bombino" Moctar – a member of the Tuareg Ifoghas clan, usually based in Agadez, Niger – overmuch. It was recorded respectfully, and predominantly live, by Dan Auerbach, leader of the hugely successful Black Keys, in his Nashville studio. He could have made an ugly hash of it, but, as with his previous work with Dr John, Auerbach has proved once again to be a very sympathetic arranger, adding crunch and a little local southern sweetness to Bombino's music.
One of the most easily exportable world sounds of recent times has been the desert blues of the Tuareg people of north and north-west Africa. This rolling, 1,000-yard-stare music is not hard on the western ear; its incandescent licks and fluid grooves would set most rock types to weeping. Nomad's opener, Amidinine, has everything – perpetual motion, a chanted chorus, rocked-up drums and flashes of bluesy brilliance. Azamane Tiliade powers up irresistibly, with whooping throughout, and little solos where you can virtually hear Bombino grinning.
Rock also loves a rebel. The blue-robed Tuareg have been frequently engaged in armed struggles over land rights; struggles complicated by the regional and religious politics of hotspots such as Mali and Libya. Trailblazers such as Tinariwen were the musical wing of the Tuareg rebellion. This record comes in the wake of recent hostilities in Mali, and partly serves as another reaffirmation of Tuareg culture in the face of mass deracination.
Moctar himself grew up in a series of refugee camps, crucibles where traditional Tuareg music somehow became alloyed with the penetrating guitar lines of Mark Knopfler. Although he was something of a child prodigy, Moctar is no greenhorn now, having served an apprenticeship under Tuareg guitar master Haja Bebe where he earned his nickname ("the kid"). Bombino has two previous albums under his belt and was the subject of a 2011 documentary that spread word of his prodigious, faintly Hendrix-like, playing. This western album pushes the Bombino story along persuasively.
Keyboards figure, where desert rock traditionally has none. They are really not that startling. The plangent wooze of lap steel isn't wrong either, adding a note of ghostly succour to the lovely closing track, Tamiditine. A vibes solo on Imuhar really sticks out, but to a western ear it sounds great. A Tuareg might feel differently.
You don't need a strong grasp of Tamasheq to notice Bombino has a song called Imidiwan (Friends), also the title of a track by Tinariwen. (Here, it is not too far off country music.) This reiteration underlines the commonality of heritage and purpose between the kid and his better-known elders; you wonder idly whether Group Bombino (what his band used to be called) has become Bombino to diversify a star from the other Tuareg collectives. Ultimately, though, you can get too cynical about these things. This is fine internationalist guitar music. Niamey Jam finds everyone in the studio – Group Bombino, plus Auerbach and four session musicians – chuntering along quite famously.
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Tuareg guitarist and songwriter Omara “Bombino” Moctar is undeniably a man of many talents, but he seems to have his work cut out with the Saharan desert blues genre having been so convincingly sewn up by the titanic presence of Tinariwen. Finding an international audience in the shadow of one of the most acclaimed acts on the world music scene is a Herculean task. It’s lucky then that musical King Midas and one half of The Black Keys, Dan Auerbach, is on hand to produce and provide studio space at his own Easy Eye Sound studio in Nashville – a far cry from Bombino’s native Niger.
Last year Auerbach produced a blistering set for Dr John in the form of the brilliant Locked Down, and the sprinkling of fairy dust he applies is just as evident here. Although the music is still very much part of the African continent, the fuzzy blues licks could easily find a home on the resurgent American blues roster.
Bombino’s musical education has its genesis in turmoil, with the Tuareg tribe being forced to flee Niger on several occasions. During one exile a rebel left a guitar behind with Moctar’s family and Bombino (meaning “little child”) began to teach himself the basics, including spending hours watching videos of Jimi Hendrix and Mark Knopfler. There followed roles in local bands and small-scale cassette releases before greater recognition began in 2009. Given the western influence on his development it’s no surprise that Auerbach’s production fits Bombino like a glove.
Opening track Amidinine set the tone with a dirty blues lick forming the sonic equivalent of finding a case of Jack Daniels at a desert oasis. While many would be distracted by Auerbach’s presence, it’s Bombino’s guitar that’s the real star of the show. His deft playing, off-kilter and juxtaposed riffs never let up over the course of the album’s 11 tracks. Other highlights include Azamane Tiliade, in which a wall of guitar overdubs produces an alighty slab of noise, and Niamey Jam’s near-psychedelic tendencies. Elsewhere, the pace varies with more subtle tracks including the atmospheric Imuhar and Imidiwan.
Overall, this is a highly enjoyable work packed with infectious licks and proves to be an easy album to get along with from the get-go. The album’s title suggests that Bombino won’t let the grass grow under his feet for long, and it would be interesting to see his next move after the forthcoming European tour. Auerbach has delivered another crisply produced effort; given the variety of work he has produced since El Camino, the next steps for The Black Keys will be equally intriguing. In the meantime, sit back and enjoy.
Aug 4, 2021
Yaoundé, in the 1970´s, was a
buzzing place. Every neighbourhood of Cameroon´s capital, no matter how
dodgy, was filled with music spots but surprisingly there were no
infrastructure to immortalise those musical riches. The country suffered
from a serious lack of proper recording facilities, and the process of
committing your song to tape could become a whole adventure unto itself.
Of course, you could always book the national broadcasting company
together with a sound engineer, but this was hardly an option for
underground artists with no cash. But luckily an alternative option
emerged in form of an adventist church with some good recording
equipment and many of the artists on this compilation recorded their
first few songs, secretly, in these premises thanks to Monsieur Awono,
the church engineer. He knew the schedule of the priests and, in
exchange for some cash, he would arrange recording sessions. The artists
still had to bring their own equipment, and since there was only one
microphone, the amps and instruments had to be positioned perfectly. It
was a risky business for everyone involved but since they knew they were
making history, it was all worth it.
At the end of the recording, the master reel would be handed to whoever had paid for the session, usually the artist himself..and what happened next? With no distribution nor recording companies around this was a legitimate question. More often then not it was the french label Sonafric that would offer their manufacturing and distribution structure and many Cameroonian artist used that platform to kickstart their career. What is particularly surprising in the case of Sonafric was their willingness to take chances and judge music solely on their merit rather than their commercial viability. The sheer amount of seriously crazy music released also spoke volumes about the openness of the people behind the label.
But who exactly are these artists that recorded one or two songs before disappearing, never to be heard from again? Some of the names were so obscure that even the most seasoned veterans of the Cameroonian music scene had never heard of them. A few trips to the land of Makossa and many more hours of interviews were necessary to get enough insight to assemble the puzzle-pieces of Yaoundé’s buzzing 1970s music scene. We learned that despite the myriad difficulties involved in the simple process of making and releasing a record, the musicians of Yaoundé’s underground music scene left behind an extraordinary legacy of raw grooves and magnificent tunes.
The songs may have been recorded in a church, with a single microphone in the span of only an hour or two, but the fact that we still pay attention to these great creations some 50 years later, only illustrates the timelessness of their music.
Aug 3, 2021
It’s impossible to separate Songhoy Blues and politics. Formed in 2012 as a direct result of being forced from their homes, after rebel jihadists took control of northern Mali and outlawed all music, the band were refugees in their own land when they attempted to start new lives in the capital city of Bamako, down in the south. They took their name from the centuries-old ethnic group they belonged to, just as their music was conceived as a desert blues celebration of a displaced culture.
A guest slot on Maison Des Jeunes, from Damon Albarn’s Africa Express, led to their aptly titled 2015 debut, Music In Exile, which coincided with an appearance in They Will Have To Kill Us First, an award-winning documentary about Malian musicians’ struggle to be heard during the crisis. Amid fluctuating levels of civil war, Résistance followed two years later. The arrival of Optimisme comes in the wake of an insurgent summer, when a military coup seized power from President Keita.
As the title implies, Optimisme finds Songhoy Blues tackling adversity and national unrest with a generous dollop of positivity. The anger may be palpable, but they don’t go in for bitter polemic. Instead the quartet – frontman Aliou Touré, guitarist Garba Touré, bass player Oumar Touré (none of whom are related, incidentally) and new drummer Drissa Koné – choose to spread the message via impossibly infectious grooves and an exhilarating sense of forward motion.
This is partly down to producer Matt Sweeney, leader of math-rockers Chavez and sometime Bonnie “Prince” Billy collaborator. Reprising his role from last year’s “Meet Me In The City” EP, Sweeney urged the band to replicate the dynamic intensity of their live shows, recording the album over the course of a week in Brooklyn, at the back end of a US tour.
Stylistically, Optimisme is a bubbling conflux of West African polyrhythms and elastic guitar rock. A more concentrated vision than Résistance, which found space for R&B and fanfares of brass, at times it hits harder and heavier than anything they’ve attempted before. “Badala” (rough translation: ‘We Don’t Give A Shit’) certainly fulfils its intention, hurtling along like something from late-’70s Thin Lizzy. “Korfo” (‘Chains’) comes at it from a different angle, all blended vocals and an ear-bending melody, before transforming itself into an unstoppable rock beast. As the son of Ali Farka Touré’s old percussionist Oumar Touré, Garba Touré lives up to his musical pedigree with some vigour, either locking into a trebly vamp or, as on “Worry” or “Dournia” (‘Life’), a seriously shreddy solo.
Other songs feel more distinctly Malian in form. “Assadja” and “Fey Fey”, for instance, are each carried by liquid grooves that beg you to shake a hip, further animated by surging beats and Aliou Touré’s agile vocals. Most of these tunes are delivered in Songhai, though there’s the odd excursion into colonial French and, for the first time, English, in the shape of “Worry”. The song is aimed at the younger generation in Mali, in particular the need to keep self-possessed and hopeful amid so much civil turbulence. “There is a long way to go/There is a long journey,” sings Aliou Touré, more in encouragement than despair. “Keep fighting today.”
The more ingrained aspects of cultural tradition are addressed on several songs about women’s rights. “Gabi” (‘Strength’) calls for an end to arranged marriages, told from the viewpoint of a reluctant bride-to-be trying to reason with her parents: “Let me tell you that our generation is different from yours… Let me choose the one I want.” Similarly, the thunderous noise of “Badala” reflects its protagonist’s decision to break free from the patriarchy and shape her own future.
These themes feed into wider questions of national identity. The warrior meaning behind “Assadja” relates to a person’s willingness to contribute to society. “Fey Fey” (‘Division’) recognises the various factions looking to separate Mali, but urges ethnic communities to stick together, just as they have done for centuries: “Even at the cost of our blood or our soul/We are not going to give in to the division of Mali.” By the same token, “Barre” (‘Change’) finds Songhoy Blues concluding that the key to their country’s future lies with its youth. Corruption and injustice may have become the norm, but “change is essential for development”. Over loose funk licks and percussive harmonies, the band’s mission is unequivocal: “Youth! Let’s rise for this change!” As protest music goes, Songhoy Blues are intent on mobilising hearts and minds in their own inimitable way, through force of will and sheer exuberance.
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An exciting blend of Malian rhythms and rock‘n’roll, Optimisme is a reminder of music’s power to transcend both national and linguistic boundaries. It boasts searing guitar licks, powerhouse percussion and multiple languages, But Songhoy Blues are political to the marrow.
The record opens with a bang, thanks to the ferocious ‘Badala’, a healthy dose of hard rock that screams of a desire to break free from the constraints of oppression. The theme of striving for freedom is ingrained within the group, comprised of refugees from a country divided by war and ideology. It sets the stage for a record that embraces the high energy of live rock. The blues-inspired chord progressions are combined with infectious guitar solos, modernising the sounds of classic rock with a unique global influence. Every layer is tightly controlled, yet feels carefree in its enthralling exploration of a kind of modern punk.
Optimisme offers some moments of mild solace between its hardest-hitters, bringing together elements of psychedelic funk and desert blues. ‘Worry’, the only English track on the record, offers a message of hope – an important note, in a world that’s been consumed by existential anxiety. The vocals – showcasing a distinctly African style of singing, involving an astounding level of voice control – are entrancing no matter what language the lyrics are being sung in. The voice becomes yet another instrument within the band’s marvellously layered collection of eclectic sounds. Above all else, Optimisme feels urgent. Songhoy Blues’ unique desert blues herald a new future beyond the sonic constraints of the classics.
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If you come to the third Songhoy Blues record thinking this is going to be more of that instantly recognisable granola/Birkenstocks/family friendly ‘World Music’ you think you know from Paul Simon or the WOMAD festival, you might want to take a seat and strap in, because things are about to get really unstable really quickly: Optimisme is more Garageland than Graceland in its approach.
The aggressive drums that herald opening track Badala allude to Dave Grohl’s killer intro on Nirvana’s Stay Away, while the guitar riffs, steeped in the Western blues tradition of Led Zeppelin’s back catalogue, lash out with a malevolence reticent of teenage favourites like Rage Against The Machine and Papa Roach.
It’s not until the vocals come in, sung and screamed as they are in the group’s native Songhai, that you remember this quartet of young rock warriors hail from the scorched landscape of war stricken Mali, not the dank factories and garages of Detroit or Chicago. That exposure to conflict, impoverishment and discontent means the optimism the Timbuktu outfit infer in the title doesn’t appear to be present initially, especially in the song’s chorus, which roughly translates, as “We don’t give a shit”.
Their flammable classic debut five years ago was produced by Nick Zinner; he of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and to keep that indie rock light alive, they’ve recruited the dexterous hand of Chavez’s Matt Sweeney for this effort. It is the sound of turmoil and transitional surroundings. On tracks like Assadja, Sweeney has wrapped their signature urgent but elusively filigree guitar work around the foregrounded drums, letting them take root, rather than have them bouncing off one another.
Both the funk stomper Bon Bon and the highlife inspired Fey Fey feature jumpy guitar signatures that John Frusciante would be proud of, and the tracks Bare and Korfo foam and twist like dust storms carried across the breeze. Worry, the albums sole track sung in the English language, begins with the near saccharine positivity of early Beatles quickly giving way to a coda reminiscent of late ’70s John Lennon, a man at his most politically defiant, with the lyric morphing from “don’t worry, you’re going to be happy” to a pleading chorus of “Keep fighting today”.
It can be draining having to fight all the time and on Pour Toi and the album closer Kouma, the closest you’ll probably ever get to an acoustic number from Songhoy Blues, you start to see signs of them pursuing a little calm into their world, and all that frustration and exuberance that’s become their trademark, live and on record, is replaced with tiny sparks of hopefulness.
Jun 22, 2021
Second LP from Newen Afrobeat that resume the research of the chilean orchestra with the masters of afrobeat and their visits to afrobeat´s homeland in Lagos, Nigeria. A extremely energetic album that talks about inequality, migration, female rol, indegenous cultures and more.
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Album opener ‘Vuela Junto a Mi’ (‘Fly with me’) is a successful fusion of afrobeat and Andean music, with crisp brass and a clever rhythmic conversation between the chattering kit beats associated with Tony Allen and Andean drumming.
Spanish replaces afrobeat’s lingua franca pidgin on Curiche, adding a different feel to tunes like ‘Come y Calla’ (‘Eat and shut up’), which channels Fela Kuti’s directness in a searing critique on power.
Like the modern afrobeat of the Kuti dynasty (Seun and Femi), Newen’s tunes also begin with an instrumental break, but come to the matter (the vocal) earlier than Fela would on his songs, which often took up one side of vinyl!
‘Voraz’ (‘Ravenous’) is one such standout track about the frenetic pace of daily life, with a tempo to match, elastic guitar lines and the driving Igbo woodblock that keeps time called okpokolo.
‘Open Your Eyes’, the single track on the album to feature a Nigerian musician in Oghene Kologbo, is perversely a less memorable composition.
Kologbo played guitar in Fela’s Africa 70 and contributes the lead vocal here, which, to be fair, is not playing to his strengths.
Afrobeat, like reggae, has been globalised, and it would be interesting to hear what the genre’s elder would have to say about it.
Curiche, then, is a decent addition to this movement, with Newen at their best when bringing their own musical vocabulary to the music rather than imitating.
Jun 14, 2021
Recorded and issued in 1974, Le Sato is one of the earliest releases on the Albarika label and it is also one of the deepest.
Sato is the term for the traditional rhythms that soundtrack Vodun (Voodoo) rituals and ceremonies in Benin. Performance of Sato is reserved for these sacred rites, which evoke the spirits of the dead and can last for several days and attract hundreds of people. Sato rhythms cannot be played outside of Vodun.
A large ceremonial Sato drum is used, which measured over 1.5m in height. This drum is played using wooden stick beaters, the drummer dancing while playing. The Sato drummers are supported by percussionists and other drummers playing smaller drums. Together, they create unique, layered, trance-inducing poly-rhythms.
Jun 10, 2021
It was in Benin City, in the heart of Nigeria, that a new hybrid of
intoxicating highlife music known as Edo Funk was born.
It first emerged in the late 1970s when a group of musicians began
to experiment with different ways of integrating elements from their
native Edo culture and fusing them with new sound effects coming
from West Africa ́s night-clubs. Unlike the rather polished 1980 ́s
Nigerian disco productions coming out of the international
metropolis of Lagos Edo Funk was raw and reduced to its bare
Someone was needed to channel this energy into a distinctive sound
and Sir Victor Uwaifo appeared like a mad professor with his Joromi
studio. Uwaifo took the skeletal structure of Edo music and
relentless began fusing them with synthesizers, electric guitars and
80 ́s effect racks which resulted in some of the most outstanding Edo
recordings ever made. An explosive spiced up brew with an odd
psychedelic note dubbed "Edo Funk".
That's the sound you'll be discovering in the first volume of the
Edo Funk Explosion series which focusses on the genre’s greatest
originators; Osayomore Joseph, Akaba Man, and Sir Victor Uwaifo:
Osayomore Joseph was one of the first musicians to bring the sound
of the flute into the horn-dominated world of highlife, and his
skills as a performer made him a fixture on the Lagos scene. When he
returned to settle in Benin City in the mid 1970s – at the
invitation of the royal family – he devoted himself to the
modernisation and electrification of Edo music, using funk and Afro-
beat as the building blocks for songs that weren’t afraid to call
out government corruption or confront the dark legacy of Nigeria’s
Akaba Man was the philosopher king of Edo funk. Less overtly
political than Osayomore Joseph and less psychedelic than Victor
Uwaifo, he found the perfect medium for his message in the trance-
like grooves of Edo funk. With pulsating rhythms awash in cosmic
synth-fields and lyrics that express a deep personal vision, he
found great success at the dawn of the 1980s as one of Benin City’s
most persuasive ambassadors of funky highlife.
Victor Uwaifo was already a star in Nigeria when he built the
legendary Joromi studios in his hometown of Benin City in 1978.
Using his unique guitar style as the mediating force between West-
African highlife and the traditional rhythms and melodies of Edo
music, he had scored several hits in the early seventies, but once
he had his own sixteen-track facility he was able to pursue his
obsession with the synesthetic possibilities of pure sound, adding
squelchy synths, swirling organs and studio effects to hypnotic
basslines and raw grooves. Between his own records and his
production for other musicians, he quickly established himself as
the godfather of Edo funk.
What unites these diverse musicians is their ability to strip funk
down to its primal essence and use it as the foundation for their
own excursions inward to the heart of Edo culture and outward to the
furthest limits of sonic alchemy. The twelve tracks on Edo Funk
Explosion Volume 1 pulse with raw inspiration, mixing highlife
horns, driving rhythms, day-glo keyboards and tripped-out guitars
into a funk experience unlike any other.
Double LP pressed on 140g virgin vinyl comes with a full color 20-pages booklet.
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Sometimes you just want to kick your shoes off and relax and cut some rug. And with the first volume of Edo Funk Explosion you can, gloriously. Packed full of infectious, committed funk music from the Benin City of the late 1970s, there is a part of me that hopes the record will become the soundtrack to an increasingly carefree, virus-banished future. It’s an intoxicating prospect: sounds dug up from an often turbulent Nigerian past that can now, after 40 years, apply a healing balm to a fretful and lonely present. But for now we should note that Edo Funk Explosion is the latest chapter in the story of a remarkable label, Analog Africa.
Samy Ben Redjeb’s obsessive diggings into forgotten or marginal musical histories from the African and South American continents have (sometimes literally) unearthed sounds that have quietly set cultural agendas this past decade. That should come as no surprise as Analog Africa releases brilliantly reveal the age-old process of people listening to other things from elsewhere and then making something concrete and special from their imaginings. Something we can continue to celebrate. Previous label series, such as Diablos Del Ritmo, for example, have highlighted the crossing of music styles established on the seas routes between Colombia and the west coast of Africa. Edo Funk Explosion is yet another example of music’s essential, pollinating properties.
Edo Funk Explosion also documents the story of the 16-track Joromi studios, set up in Benin City by Sir Victor Uwaifo in 1978. Concentrating on three of the style’s big hitters (Osayomore Joseph, Akaba Man, and Sir Victor Uwaifo) the record goes for the jugular, aiming to get us up on our feet with half a dozen slabs of tough, enervating Edo Funk.
The backstory is one we’ve heard before in different places; a sound-obsessed Head – in this case Sir Victor Uwaifo – making crazed electronic sounds in a home-built studio in the late 1970s. Like Martin Hannett, King Tubby or Lee Perry, or Romania’s maestro of weird sounds, Rodion GA. Like these others, Uwaifo took local traditions and contemporary socio-cultural and political concerns and threw them all together like herbs in a pot of stew. There is a real sense of Uwaifo, Osayomore Joseph and Akaba Man and their respective bands really going for it here and probably why tracks like ‘Iranm Iran’ and ‘Aibalegbe’ feel utterly intoxicating.
None of the tracks sound like they were made to meet the requirements of a particular audience, they feel like the artists want to go to places fast, even if some sonic elements fall by the wayside or get battered by the ride. Sometimes this all-or-nothing attitude gives the music on this compilation a raw, punkish feel, though they are primarily built to make people dance. The aforementioned ‘Iranm Iran’ is about as funky a funk track as you can wish for. Slippery as an eel, the track wriggles through its allotted 5 minutes with a distinct feeling of elan. The low organ coming in sideways – and the funny chirpy squeaks and squawks that pop up on a lot of Sir Victor Uwaifo recordings – really grease the beat. ‘Aibalegbe’ gently moulds South American traditions into a spacy groove, mainly courtesy of a splurging synth. and ‘Orono No de Fade’ by Osayomore Joseph and the Ulele Power Sound also assembles itself loosely around a lovely, life-giving groove. The softer, maybe more reflective side of Edo Funk can be heard with Akaba Man’s bubbling ‘Ta Ghi Rare’, a pleasant seven minute brew full of mild psychedelics such as a weird squeaky synth, an ever ascending bubbling bass and an aqueous guitar lick that turns up to throw things off course five minutes in. Plus a beat that seems intent on playing footsie with the rest of the track. All in all a fantastically disorientating experience.
There is plenty of politics bubbling away under the surface. The opener ‘Africa Is My Root’, from Osayomore Joseph is a no nonsense funky stomp that is very much a pan-African rallying call. Joseph’s ‘Who Know Man’ and ‘My Name Is Money’ have the structural feel and direction of Fela tracks but the way both tracks are balanced on gentle guitar licks make them calls to shake hips to, than raise fists.
It’s a superb release.
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Nigerian Edo Funk, as presented in this impeccable compilation from Analog Africa, is a mixture of afrobeat, disco, and funk, tinged with overtones of reggae, and incorporating traditional Edo languages and instruments. In contrast to the slicker Lagos highlife sounds a couple of states west of Edo state’s capital, Benin City, the music is characterised by sparse, repetitive arrangments which call to mind minimalism and dub. The Benin City of the 70s and 80s was oil-rich and enjoying a period of stability following the end of the civil war in 1970 – audiences there were cosmopolitan and adventurous and wanted highlife grooves with a twist that combined local styles with an international vibe.
Eschewing the scattershot approach of your average compilation, Edo Funk Explosion Vol. 1 shines a light on three of the era’s biggest stars, presenting a portmanteau of the work of Sir Victor Uwaifo, Osayomore Joseph and Akaba Man. In many ways it’s a journey into a vanished, vanishing world – the informative liner notes compare the elegance of the 70s architecture with the pretentious villas favoured by today’s affluent classes and reflect on the contradictions of a country coming out of civil war and suddenly awash with foreign cash. A newfound self-confidence was tempered by inevitable political corruption and anxiety over how to express a modern, distinctly African sensibility.
You can hear this in the first track, ‘Africa is My Root’ by Osayomore Joseph and the Creative Seven, with its mocking chorus, ‘You are dancing like a white man / you are dancing like a fool’. And with such a timeless opening sentiment it hardly matters what the rest of the LP is like. Genius. In context, the song is making a serious point about the social mores of post-colonial Africa and about encouraging an authentically African sense of self-confidence in throwing off the trappings of a foreign, exploitative culture. Out of context, I’m like totally guilty as charged here.
Joseph is cast as the political conscience of the album. A flute player, his future career was seemingly decided by an early formative encounter with Fela Kuti. Although no recordings of the two playing together survive, Fela was an admirer of Joseph’s playing and seems to have inspired the younger artist’s forthright political stance. Returning to Benin City on a mission to funkify his hometown, Joseph’s lyrics lay into government corruption and constantly return to the racist legacies of colonialism. His skewering of the dictatorship in the 1990s saw him vanish into Nigeria’s prisons for weeks at a time.
Osayomore Joseph is not a subtle man, and so much the better. ‘I am the minister of peace / the minister of criminals / the father of the devil’ he sings on ‘My Name is Money’, over a languorous rocksteady beat. It’s hard not to like the guy.
The dub influence is heard most clearly on the outstanding ‘Sakpaide No. 2’ by Sir Victor Uwaifo and his Titibitis. A titibiti, fact-fans, is the Edo name for the bee hummingbird (why, what did you think it meant?) It’s the smallest bird in the world and its cleverness has earned it a place in Edo mythology as the king of the birds. Anyway, ‘Sakpaide No. 2’ is utterly gripping stuff, full of the offbeats and tension and the expansive echo you associate with dub. There’s more though – Edo Funk is never just one thing – the rhythms and textures are so layered with whacky, improvised touches within these minimal parameters that you could easily mistake this for Can if it wasn’t for the edgy, staccato energy behind those horns.
Uwaifo, regarded as the most innovative musician of the era, is a synesthesiac who sees music as shapes and colours and was influenced by the rhythmic patterns of brightly coloured Akwete textiles. Edo Funk focusses on his work from 1978 onwards when he was fully ensconced at Benin Cities Joromi studios and able to play with all the latest synthesisers and effects. Dip into the instrumental bits of ‘Iranm Iran’ for a sense of the guy’s studio chops. Electronic effects warp the horns, rhythm guitars and organs into something unique – a cheeky liminality between cold studio trickery and the thrill of performance.
This sense of playfulness can also be found in the songs of Akaba Man, chock-full of exuberant and unexpected noises. Akaba Man’s work is preoccupied with finding a spiritual dimension to a disco beat – the cover of his most famous album, Obo, shows him carried down from on high upon an enormous supernatural hand. He’s got a more soulful thing going on as a vocalist compared to Joseph and Uwaifo, and a smoother command of melody which more than makes up for the relative lack of drama in the arrangements and production. Arguably, his music is the most direct and the most in tune with its Edo roots. In ‘Ogbov Onwan’, every detail is at the service of the song. While I couldn’t pretend to have much of an idea what he’s talking about, there’s no doubting how it comes over at gut level – from the opening guitar riff to the opening up of the melody into the jams that propel us from one verse to the next – this is killer stuff.
Picking out a trio of artists like this works well, enabling a deep dive into their scene and drawing out all kinds of interesting points of continuity and difference that a wider selection of voices might obscure. And as you’d expect from Analog Africa, this is a ridiculously good stack of tunes. An essential compilation and hopefully the first of many.
Jun 8, 2021
Long JORO are a 10-piece afrobeat band from London, England. The band formed in early 2016 and released their selfrecorded EP in July 2016. This release featured a mix of original music and new arrangements of some of their favourite afrobeat tracks. The band consists of musicians from a range of musical backgrounds who have come together due to their shared love of afrobeat and groove music. The band’s past musical experiences in jazz, hip hop and rock come through in their music and create a unique take on the traditional afrobeat sound. In August 2016 their version of the Fela Kuti classic Zombie was featured on US radio show, The Afrobeat Show with DJ Meredith.
Jun 4, 2021
May 5, 2021
Apr 26, 2021
Born in 1947 in Boulsa, a small village in central Upper Volta, Pierre Sandwidi studied at the Zinda Kaboré high school in Ouaga in the early 60s.
Popular music that sprung up from Burkina Faso owed much to the music from neighboring countries like Mali, Ghana, Ivory Coast or Benin, and to the longing for “cultural authenticity” conveyed through Guinean music. In capital city Ouagadougou, as well as in Bobo-Dioulasso (Burkina’s cultural capital until the 1980s), the first two decades of independence saw the upcoming of such orchestras and artists as Amadou Balaké, Georges Ouedraogo, Volta Jazz, l’Harmonie Voltaïque, Les Imbattables Léopards, Abdoulaye Cissé, Tidiane Coulibaly or Pierre Sandwidi.
Nicknamed “the troubadour from the bush”, Pierre Sandwidi stands as one of the finest Voltaic artists from the 1970s. He belonged to an unsung elite of Francophone artists such as Francis Bebey, G.G. Vickey, Amédée Pierre, André-Marie Tala, Pierre Tchana or Mamo Lagbema. His entire released output consists of less than ten 7 inches, two LPs and a bunch of cassettes. A man from the provinces, he always favored social engagement and carefully crafted lyrics over instant fame. His words and music challenged General Lamizana’s dreary presidency, which ruled the country from 1966 to 1980.
Along with his friends Jean-Bernard Samboué, Abdoulaye Cissé, Oger Kaboré, Joseph Salambéré or Richard Seydou Traoré, he was part of the “vedettes en herbe” movement. Their songs were played on the national radio before even getting the chance to be released on a single, recorded live in the studio – a straightforward technique favored by most Voltaic musicians over the decade.
In 1970, Pierre Sandwidi traveled across the country, working for the state and learning much from the Upper Volta’s many cultures and history. Involved in trade unions, he followed his own musical path. He observed changes at stake in his native country. In 1971, he won the first prize in the ‘modern singers’ category of a national competition. He also joined as a guitar player the National Ballet of Upper Volta, modeled after Guinea’s “African Ballets”. With them, he traveled to Niger, Ivory Coast and Benin, before visiting Canada in 1973.
Back home, he met Bobo-Dioulasso cultural entrepreneur and Volta Jazz boss Idrissa Koné, who offered him to record a few songs for his own imprint, Disques Paysans Noirs. Sandwidi then delivered Lucie, a romantic song in the classic mandingo vein (‘diarabi’ or ‘love song’), while combining Afro-Cuban influences (by way of Congo) with French songs. He only had his bicycle and a guitar to conquer his young love, while others drove cars or rode motorbikes. Penniless but full of love, he walked in the steps of both Abdoulaye Cissé’s L’homme à la guitare and Amadou Balaké’s Bar Konon Mousso.
As a trade unionist and a member of the African Independence Party, he opposed General Lamizana’s politics, denouncing the lack of morality and the corrupted new administration in Ouagadougou, while praising the virtues of the working class and the wisdom of farmers. In 1975, Pierre Sandwidi recorded two more singles at the Maison du Peuple for CVD (Compagnie Voltaïque du Disque). Using an Akai recorder as a soundboard, he was backed by Super Volta’s mighty guitar player Désiré Traoré. In spite of such a raw recording environment, his mature voice revealed new harmonic possibilities.
In 1976, he recorded 3 more 45s with L’Harmonie Voltaïque as a backing band. Tond yabramba (“Our ancestors”) was the peak of this fruitful collaboration. A sinuous organ allowed Sandwidi to reach new heights, with a stunning melody that became instantly familiar. Recounting his country’s chaotic history, it stood as one of the continent’s best political songs. A true lesson of history, this song has been played enough on the radio to gain cult status.
In 1977, he delivered the amazing Yamb ney capitale (“You and your capital”), one of his best songs, with masterful guitar by Super Volta’s Désiré Traoré. Once again, he fought against ailing morality and rising individualism in the country’s capital. Sandwidi praised the virtues of country dwellers, enhanced by Ghanaian lo-fi keyboards wiz Father Ben. The b-side Mam ti fou is another instant classic, dealing with the loss of identity and an ever-increasing race for profit. This single sold over 3,000 copies, a true achievement in one of the world’s most destitute countries.
In 1979, while in Abidjan, Pierre Sandwidi recorded his first full length LP with the help of Voltaic Prince Edouard Ouedraogo. It confronted once again his country’s true state of affairs. He launched his own ‘callao’ dance, as a homage to this Sahelian bird that bounces instead of walking.
During the Sankara years (1983-1987), Sandwidi took part in the cultural animation of his neighborhood as a militant of the mighty CDR (Comité de Défense de la Révolution). After Sankara’s fall in 1987, Sandwidi distanced himself from politics, focusing on writing new songs and plays. In 1995, he delivered his last piece of music: Cousin Halidou, released through Moussa Kaboré’s Bazaar Music. Being of fragile health, Pierre Sandwidi passed away in 1998, leaving a beloved and dedicated family behind.
His funeral had a national echo, while new generations are slowly rediscovering a great body of work. Sandwidi used to tell his family that one day, some interest would come from abroad regarding his artistic legacy. Twenty years after he died, this compilation stands as a vibrant tribute to one of West Africa’s most outstanding and adamant artist.
Mar 26, 2021
Shortly after arriving in Lisbon, Portugal, in 2017, guitarist Zé Victor Gottardi joined eight more Brazilian and Portuguese musicians to form Carapaus Afrobeat. Before landing on the old continent, Zé had already played in the Abayomy Afrobeat Orchestra, of which he was one of the founders, and had also played with Jards Macalé and Céu. His goal with Carapaus is to revere African music, faithfully following the concept of the word afrobeat: “beat of afro origin”.
“I realized that the afrobeat scene was very vague [in Lisbon], there was only one band, They Must Be Crazy, [who are] very good by the way. I booked a Fela Day, which is an event to celebrate Fela Kuti’s birthday, and I set up Carapaus for the occasion. The members were very well chosen, they’re all monsters”, says Zé.”On the guitar with me there is Gabriel Muzak, who played with Frequency Selectors and Funk Fuckers, as well as Adriana Calcanhotto. On the drums there’s Del, who has played with Roberta Miranda. On keyboard there’s Cláudio Andrade who has accompanied Gilberto Gil, Jorge Ben Jor and Seu Jorge for 10 years. On the bass Ricardo Dias Gomes, who played with Caetano for 10 years. On the trumpet, Cláudio Gomes, one of the band’s two Portuguese [members]. He’s very active in the Lisbon music scene. On the trombone André Pimenta, also Portuguese, on the sax Alexandre Pinheiro, a saxophonist from Belém do Pará, who is fundamental to give a more Amazonian smell to the band. In percussion we have Duvale, a master who has ruled the timbal wing at the samba school of Mangueira (Rio de Janeiro), in addition to playing with Gabriel o Pensador and Sandra de Sá”.
This musical quality, added to the lack of afrobeat bands in Portugal, helped Carapaus quickly gain prominence. His commitment to maintaining all the original cadence of the African rhythm is clear on all eight tracks of the group’s second album, Dois. The influences of Fela Kuti and Tony Allen (who played on the single “Do Allen / Diabo na Terra”, along with with Boss AC and Oghene Kologbo, which preceded the album’s release) are evident. But it is not only the Nigerian source of afrobeat that supplies components. The bases also have funk, jazz, ska, elements of Portuguese musicality and spicy Afro-Brazilian seasoning, taking references from Naná Vasconcelos, Tim Maia, Elza Soares and from the batuques of African religions.
“We like to be broader with the issue of influences. We have Afrobeat in the name, but we take it more literally. Everything we like came from Africa: jazz, blues, funk, hip hop… everything had a direct influence from the African continent or its immigrants, so we think it makes more sense for us not to just be stuck with the Nigerian style of playing”.
This whole merger generates good results. The texture created also reveals the Latin DNA that Carapaus music has in its genetics. The different experiences used lead to a groove with Latin American rhythmic patterns, despite being recorded in Europe across two sessions. It has a swing. Some videos of live performances show the energy that the group led by Zé transmits. However, their upcoming performances had to be cancelled, as with everyone else, due to the Coronavirus pandemic, just at the moment when they had found their space, ascending in the Portuguese music scene with their new album freshly released.
“There was no time to do practically anything.
At first we were very weak, and little by little we resumed our
activities the way we did. We recorded a series of songs at home,
literally each one at home, and it was super cool. [The videos are on YouTube.]
But we are resuming contacts with festivals, sending material and doing
what we can”, says Zé with optimism. “We have content already recorded
for about 2 more records, but we still have to relaunch Dois,
since we were unable to play as we had planned. We hope that in 2021 we
will be able to circulate in Europe, because the band has extreme
Mar 23, 2021
Hailing from South Africa, the seven-piece band BCUC (Bantu Continua Uhuru Consciousness) has released their newest album Emakhosini, an EP featuring three tracks that capture the sound of ancestral, indigenous musical traditions while also including contemporary and controversial commentary on modern Africa.
Each of the three songs, though all very different, contain the essence of ‘Africangungungu,’ the name BCUC has given to their ‘afropsychedelic’ music. The tracks are best described as vibrant—each is buzzing with the distinct energy that BCUC brings to all of their music and performances. A mix of traditional indigenous South African music with funk, hip-hop, and punk-rock influences, BCUC’s music is nothing short of unique. As vocalist Kgomotso Mokone declared, “We bring fun and emo-indigenous Afro psychedelic fire from the hood.”
The album also tackles the issues of modern Africa head-on, including commentary on the harsh realities of uneducated workers. One song from a previous self-produced EP expressed views about a national idol and was so controversial that it was ultimately removed from the album. Despite this and other criticism regarding the group’s refusal to identify with a single social or political movement, BCUC sticks to their philosophy of creating “music for the people by the people with the people.” This philosophy is expressed in the video for the final track, “Nobody Knows (the Trouble I’ve Seen), filmed in Soweto.
Although Bantu Continua Uhuru Consciousness faces criticism for their stances, their commitment to representing the voiceless, speaking on important social and political issues, and exposing audiences to indigenous music is admirable. Emakhosini perfectly represents and lives up to the rebellious, lively spirit of the group.
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There may be stirring harmony vocals, but these dynamic, ‘afropsychedelic’ artists are anything but bland.
BCUC, AKA Bantu Continua
Uhuru Consciousness, are a young seven-piece band from Soweto who are
shaking up South African music. Vocals and sturdy harmony work have
always played a dominant role in township styles, but here the tradition
is updated and reworked with the powerful but subtle use of drums and
They play lengthy songs (the opener lasts nearly 20 minutes) that mix ancient and modern influences in a style that is distinctively South African, and includes soulful, elegant playing with passages that are as dramatic and frantically menacing as the best Congotronics bands in Kinshasa. BCUC have an impressive sense of dynamics, allowing songs to develop, fade away, change direction and then build to an often furious climax. Insistent, inventive bass guitar work holds it all together, as in Moya, which begins with a brooding riff and distant chanting, before the voices and percussion take over. Then there’s another switch, as echoes of what sound like ancient African war chants give way to cool, soulful vocals from Kgomotso Mokone, the one female member of the band, before the drums and chanting vocals return.
Elsewhere, what they call their “africangungungu” and “afropsychedelic”
music includes passages of sturdy township styles. There are stirring
harmony vocals on Insimbi that would provide a reminder of Ladysmith
Black Mambazo if it weren’t for the drums and bass riff. The final
track, Nobody Knows, brings further surprises. It starts off with a
reworking of Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen, the gospel classic that
has been recorded by everyone from Louis Armstrong to Sam Cooke, but is
then transformed as chanting, rap and percussion take over. Those who
fear that South African music is becoming too bland, or dominated by US
influences, should take heart.
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After a year of intensive touring in Europe in 2017, the group from Soweto is back with a second album. Emakhosini is as stunning as their first album, Our Truth, released in 2016 to accolades in the French media. As on their first disc, the band offers two long pieces of funky tribal trance, Moya and Insimbi, that by their intensity evoke the Afro-beat of Fela even though they were not inspired by it. Because the music of Bantu Continua Uhuru Consciousness (which can be translated as “Man on the move towards his freedom of conscience”) draws on the South African cultural roots of the group’s members — Zulu, Sotho, Shangaan — to invent a contemporary electric version of their musical traditions. On these ancestral rhythms and spiritual songs, BCUC builds a music tinged with soul, rap, and a driving by a punk energy.