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OLD WORLD (inc Asia, Arabia)

African Discographies

Greetings, Platterbugs!

Updated 1 April 2024

A Winning Hand

It's been a busy Spring with a lot of new things to hear and evaluate. Here is the usual mix of hot links.
I did a radio appearance on local college station, KUSF, to promote the Ngoma compilation. You can listen to that here, if you want. I come on at 3:36 with Mbilia Bel

Jacknife Lee disco remixes of music from Zimbabwe by Mokoomba: "Tamvela Mama," and another, "Balimukondo"

New sounds from Durban, recorded in Kampala, Uganda by Phelimuncasi & Metal Preyers

Classic cumbia from Mexico by Kumbia Boruka: "Llegando de Lejos"

Genre-defying, maybe Bollywood, maybe Arabic, but actually Australian — I like it: "Mahal" EP by Glass Beams

updated Rai music from Lausanne by Sami Galbi: "Dakchi Hani / Rruina"

new from Bahia's Baianasystem: "Micanga"

those Georgian hotties, the Trio Mandili rediscover an old song

El Brujo remix from Palenque records and a video of El Brujo

"Likambo te," the new album from Occidental Brothers, featuring Samba Mapangala on vocals!

"Phil's First Tear" from Getaway by Kolonel Djafaar

tasty Turkish music: "Hediye" by Schnieke

Heavy metal from Niger's Mdou Moctar: "Funeral for Justice"

Readers Respond

from Craig Hyman:
Sia Tolno will be touring North America this summer; here is her new video, "Mama Ye," filmed at home in Nongoa, Guinea

from Caracas, Venezuela, via Ken Abrams:
Salsa Suprema "En la Conquista del mundo Latino"

from John Beadle:
Evangelical music from Madagascar: Christians get funky!

Via Laura Yanow:
a deep look at La Conga, the street music of Santiago de Cuba

Tony Pitt found an overlooked Afrobeat fusion album from a year ago, "Senegal" by Yamaya

R. I. P.

George Darko (Borga highlife musician), who had a massive hit with "Money Palava," B. B. Seaton (The Gaylads), Godwin Kabaka Opara (Oriental Brothers, later the International Guitar Band), his last album appeared from Palenque Records in Colombia

Latest Muzikifan Podcasts

(Note: The muzikifan podcasts are hosted
on Soundcloud; please subscribe on their site)

Lusophone Connection: a tour of
Portuguese music from the New World
to Africa, including Sam Mangwana,
plus reggae & Latin

Tune in and Rock out: Gaylads & Oriental
Bros, music from Angola, Brasil, Congo funk,
Franco & Eddy Gustave

When the Wine is in... features all the
new releases reviewed below, plus Heptones,
Coltrane, Pape Seck and Les Wanyika

LES EDITIONS POPULAIRES (1968-70) (Planet Ilunga)

By 1968 Franco had been in charge of OK jazz for more than a decade. He had a stable set of musicians backing him and had already experienced the conditions under which African musicians were recorded by European labels. In Paris, Pathé would pay a flat fee for a group to record twenty or more songs in non-stop sessions, sometimes lasting 48 hours. They literally played until they dropped. There were never royalties, only meagre handouts. Having issued some tracks through Grand Kalle's Surboum African Jazz label, Franco saw the potential to start his own label, once he figured out recording, manufacture and distribution, though each step was a major undertaking requiring initiative and capital. Editions Populaires, later EdiPop, was the first of Franco's own labels to gain traction. Although EdiPop did not release its first LP until 1981, they were already putting out singles in the late 60s. Based on catalog numbers they appear to have issued over 200 singes, but only the first 14 of these and a few others were tracked down by the Japanese compilers of the online Franco discography.
The first release, "Ku Kisantu Kikuenda Ku" opens the album, and the flip side is presented as a digital bonus. As an avid collector of Congolese music from this era, I have only a few of these tracks on very obscure albums. "Congo mibale" was on an Ngoma single; Sonodisc added two to their 68-71 CD compilation and Polygram (Kenya) found a few for two albums 15 Years Ago volume 1 which had 3 tracks ("Minoko," "Mokili Macaramba" and "Sukola Motema Olinga") and In Memoriam volume 4, which included "Lola." One funk track "Lolo soufire" appeared on the recent Congo Funk! album from Analog Africa. A copy of the other funk tune, "Edo Aboya ngai" is on discogs for 400 euros. With help from Dutch blogger Stefan Werdekker and Hama-Dinga Ya Makilo, Bart of Planet Ilunga has reassembled a clutch of 17 cuts by this seminal group in the development of Congolese popular music. By track two, "Lolango," we are treated to Franco's talon-plucked two-fingered guitar and the chugging rhythm on maracas, punctuated with sweet sax by (I am guessing) Rondot Kassongo. Equally it could be Dele Pedro. Mose Fan Fan also joined the group at this point after the mass defection of Kwamy, Mujos and Verckys. The superbly recorded "Congo mibale (The two Congos)" is a killer with the sax and guitar stalking one another over a powerful acoustic bass riff. Then Franco's singing takes charge. Though he is a rather non-musical singer, the unmistakable voice of Franco is a highlight of the album; on tracks like "Mosaka ya kilo (A Weighty Burden)," where he seems to be complaining, I think he is saying "Have mercy on the poor." The sweet sax again comes in to give a melodic lilt to the bridge. Another candidate for sax is Isaac Musekiwa and since he was Zimbabwean and there is a song in broken English, "Minoko," he is a strong contender. This turns into a James Brown raver halfway through, with Franco singing in incomprehensible English. "You just look at 'em, and dey luckachem," he sings. After we get past the novelty American-style covers we get to the heart of the album: some classic Franco guitar leads and wonderful arrangements on "Kamalandua" and "Mobali na ngai azali etudiant na mpoto (My husband is a student in Europe)." Unlike the compilation albums on Sonodisc, which were scraped together from disparate sources, this one is well structured and builds to a great climax with wicked guitar on "Sukola motema olingi (Cleanse your heart)."


This is a remarkable album. Since 1979 and the Iranian revolution that imposed Islamofascism on their previously enlightened and progressive country, Iranian women have been forbidden from singing in public. Moradi sings out loud and clear here with plaintive vocals, her sorrow and melancholy echoed back in the expressive orchestrations by Matoori. Of course they had to leave home and live in the USA to do this, but she hopes to return and sing for the women of Iran. There are atmospheric sounds: from the woody gasba, the Algerian reed flute, to a big string orchestra with electric bass. The superb "For the Rain" is a cinematic immersion with strong classical hints. I hear santoor on "The Crier," which sounds more Bollywood than gypsy in the context of the big swooping orchestral arrangement. There is also a reed flute on here in counterpoint to her singing. Moradi's tone balances well with the bombast of the music. There's a cello, oud and ceramic tombak, or goblet drum on "Since I became your prey," — I think she is also playing that: it's a small instrument she learned as a child. Something sounding like a sitar joins in, and there's even a rainstick. It veers from a black & white film soundtrack to full-blown opera. Two cartoon videos on Youtube stress the cinematic elements of the songs, "Be My Moon" (with jazz piano) and "Six doors" (which has the operatic sensibility) — and these are not even the best tracks on the album. It builds to a climax with "A Tale of Sorrow" and leaves you breathless. A majestic achievement.


The opening riffs of this disc reminded me of the Lambada which took me back to the last century, but I think their intent is to go further back to Pink Floyd. They are Colombian and have elements of the folklore of Totó la Momposina as well as the edginess of Ondatrópica with brass and synth augmenting the guitars and percussion. They are a tight outfit: the two percussionists play congas and other hand drums such as gaitas, the two horn players are trumpet and trombone who nicely ornament the delicate guitarwork on acoustic and electric guitar. It's a perfect meeting of traditional rhythms in the drum and vocal with psychedelic overtones in the guitars (though sometimes just hard rock as in the Eagles) and odd synth. They say they are merging their European and African roots with indigenous strains, as the fruit of a millenary legacy. There are hints of cumbia and when they combine son montuno and guaracha in "El Francer," the guitarist rips out a rock lead. The song, in French, tells us there are positive and negative aspects of being in France, so I guess they are expatriates. "I'm happy to be French," the singer says, "All men are equal — if they are white!" "La cumbia liberataria" opens with the unmistakable sound (to me) of an old hand-fed printing press, so I guess it's about freedom of the press. But the guitarist is stuck on "Hotel California." For the finale they jam with a folkloric troupe, Los Gaiteros de San Jacinto who bring drums and flute to the mix, while the sounds of the tropical rainforest are balanced with the muted trumpet bringing a bit of New York sophistication (ca 1950s Miles Davis) and then whanging guitars and sirens circle back to a cumbia outtro. Overall the synth is nicely balanced and doesn't detract from the folky aspects of the drumming and the well-poised horns.


We leave the Blues to enter the world of folk music with this new Rough Guide. With an emphasis on the lyrics we have accompaniment from banjos, guitars, mandolins and violins. The singing brakeman Jimmie Rodgers who wowed audiences in Africa with his yodeling, delivers the classic "Frankie and Johnny." We know Frankie was cheating with Nellie Bly, but is it the same woman who followed Jules Verne's itinerary around the world in 80 days and wrote an exposé of the condition of women in mental institutions? "This story has no moral," Jimmie assures us. "There ain't no good in men." You also know Stack O'Lee, but probably have not heard Furry Lewis' version. In fact a lot of these lyrics are very familiar as they passed from folklore to everyday currency: "Hang down your head Tom Dooley, hang your head and cry, hang your head Tom Dooley, you know you're going to die." There are the sordid details, that he hid Laura Foster's clothes before raping and murdering her on a hill. Somehow it's a very cheery rendition. There are no liner notes, but I can tell you, as a student of print culture, that dying men's confessions and ballads about high crimes were popular back in the 17th century when street hawkers, know as chapmen, would sing them in the streets to generate sales. Some sold thousands of copies. Though they had no music, they were forerunners of sheet music, as most had metrical scansion that would fit many tunes. The galloping urgency of the banjo adds momentum to epics like the ballad of Old John Hardy, who got away with murder, performed by Clarence Ashley. The great Mississippi John Hurt delivers a sweet ballad about Louis Collins who lost a gunfight: "Angels laid him away / They laid him six feet under the clay." The epic "Railroad Bill" may be about a black train robber who threw goods off moving trains then went back to recover it, before being shot. It includes the famous verse, "If the river was whisky and I was a diving duck, I'd swim to the bottom and never come up." I remember the Savoy Brown version: "I'd swim to the bottom, and drink myself back up!" In "Murder in the first degree," Victoria Spivey, one of the first black female stars, admits to killing her man, but "the world's rid of one triflin' man"! If the tables were turned, she tells the judge, I'd let you go free. The album ends with "White House Blues" about the assassination of President William McKinley and arrival of Roosevelt as president. Recorded in 1926, it's a heavy reflection on political violence which is always boiling under the surface and the fragility of those in power, still relevant a century later.

CHORBA (Asphalt Tango Records ATR-DIG8124)

This digital-only release comes from the distinguished German label Asphalt Tango who have brought the best of Balkan music to us for nigh on 30 years: from modern bands like Fanfare Ciocarlia, Jony Iliev, Mahala Rai Banda, Kottarashky and Motion Trio to classics of the bygone age such as Ion Petre Stoican, Toni Jordache and Gabi Lunca — it is a deep catalogue full of musical wonder and excellence. Now they present the fifth album from a horn & synth duo who blend Balkan sounds with gypsy melodies and electronica: ShazaLaKazoo. In addition there are other Middle Eastern elements: their new lead singer/rapper is Aimilia Varanaki, a Greek woman who also plays violin. It's uptempo and disco-ish with the trumpet on stereo chorus and martial drum tracks to have you dancing in a circle waving your hanky. The Serbian trumpeter also plays valve trombones; in addition we hear "wind synth" and of course "programming." "Chorba" is a soup or stew widely consumed in the Middle East and North Africa. I wish I hadn't mentioned that because now I am hungry. So back to the beat where there is break tempo and half-rapped lyrics, reminiscent of Shakira, on "Moriria," sung in Spanish, but it's more disco than cumbia. "Desafino (out of tune)" seems to be in Greco-Spanish. It's a dense disc but doesn't make a deep impact. Now where is that lamb stew?

Most Recent Reviews

(click on maps at the top of the page to get to continent of choice)

March 2024

Ngwaka Son Système with Iboto ngenge is filed in Congo part 4
Meanwhile Congo Funk! has gone to Congo Classics part 2
Tarek Abdallah & Adel Shams El Din with Ousoul is filed in Arabia
Adama Yalomba is filed in Mali 6
Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba in concert can be read about in Mali Live

February 2024

Afrika Muye Muye! Tanzanian Rumba 1968-70 is filed in Kenya/Tanzania part 3
Wagadu Grooves from all over West Africa is filed in Mali part 6
Mohammad Syfkhan can be found in Arabia (though he lives in Ireland)
Gao Hong with Ignacio Lusardi Monteverde are in Old world miscellany
Aguidavi do Jeje are found under Brasil 3

January 2024

Mama Sissoko Live is filed in Mali part 6
The return of Dieuf-Dieul can be read about in Senegal part 4
Principe y su Sexteto are found in Venezuela
Said Chalaban is filed in Morocco

November 2023

Idrissa Soumaoro's Diré is filed in Mali part 6
The Afro Senegal compilation African Music is filed in Senegal part 4
El Clan Antillano can be found in Colombia part 3
Bixiga 70's latest is found in Brasil part 3

October 2023

I put Noor Bakhsh into India & Pakistan part 2, though he is somewhere between
Fruko's El Violento is in Colombia part 3
Hailu Mergia's live album can be read about in the Ethiopia section
Catrin Finch and Aoife ni Bhriain are filed in the sprawling Old World Misc section
remind me to sort it out as there's everything from Tuvan throat singers to Bjork in there....
Allen Kwela is in South Africa part 2

September 2023

Ngoma: the Soul of Congo can be
read about in Congo Classics part 2
and also in the Top Ten of 2023, see below...



Essentially the best of this website in condensed form:




















"Essential reference guide to the Congo guitar king" — SONGLINES 64 **** (four stars)
"I do not know anybody who has such immense knowledge of African music. Congratulations." — Gerhard G (a purchaser)

BACK IN PRINT (Second edition, November 2012)

By Alastair Johnston

Poltroon Press, 2012, expanded to 88 pages; list price $19.95.
Available now. Click HERE for details.



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