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OLD WORLD (inc Asia, Arabia)

African Discographies

Greetings, Platterbugs!

Updated 1 May 2024

New & Notable

Ballaké Sissoko (kora) & Derek Gripper (guitar) have a new collaboration out on Matsuli Music

Michael Baird has issued a compilation called Danceables as a double CD [Sharp Wood Prods SWP071]

Kiki Valera has issued a second solo album with lots of Cuban trumpeters guesting

New from Hive Mind, Rouicha & Fadma, a clean-sounding classic cassette from Morocco. Pay what you like.

Shakira put on a great 15-minute live show in Times Square

and speaking of Colombian pop:
here's Vero Asprilla x Li Saumet

Reader's Picks

From Dave Atkin:
Orchestra Mambo International

Tony Pitt digs
Hysterrae, traditional Italo-Iranian music
and this Congo-guitar infused singer from Malawi

Matthew Lavoie returns to blogging with Mohamed ould Hembara cassettes

From Graeme Counsel:
Kadé Diawara and all-female l'Ensemble Instrumental National de Guinee

R. I. P.

Maurice el Médioni, Algerian pianist

Latest Muzikifan Podcasts

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

Between You & Me: music from Ecuador,
Venezuela, Mali, Algeria, Egypt, Bollywood,
Jamaica, Congo, Guinee, Chicago blues

Deep Mali: From Barenreiter to BKO,
exploring the music of Mali from the 70s
to now

Ten out of Ten: Memphis, New Orleans,
Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Belgium, Ivory Coast
and Zaire

NA TANGO YA COVADIA 1964-70 (Covadia)

The compiler of this great new collection has stirred up a controversy with the title! The "Belgicains" were educated Congolese who went to Belgium to study after Independence. However, the suggestion that they wanted to be more white/European is absurd: they simply wanted a better education which had been denied them under colonial rule. This was before the wave of American-ness that caused young blacks in Kinshasa to start bleaching their skin, which occurred in the late 60s. At the same time the Black Power movement was getting started in the USA, when American blacks began growing out their afros and wearing dashikis and African fabrics to reassert their black identity. What is important, from our point of view, is the music which is fantastic and beautifully recorded. There are instruments like timbales you don't normally hear in Congolese music of the era and sophisticated sax solos (both of which appear on the opener "Mwana nsana" by Ebuka Ebuka); otherwise the melodies, guitar stylings and rhythms are recognisable rumba and pachanga. The Covadia name is oddly familiar too: we find out it was a later project of Nikiforos Cavvadias, who ran the Ngoma label in Congo. The mid-60s were a transformative time in Congo, now renamed Zaire by Mobutu, and it was a tough place for whites to succeed in business, despite Ngoma's long history of nurturing and promoting indigenous music. Moving to Belgium, Cavvadias used his old contacts with Decca and Fonior to record and start a new label and issued 30 singles, the cream of which are gathered here. Europe was catching up to Latin rhythms and the Yéyé was big in the Francophone countries, thus Jean-Pierre Nimy Nzonga founded a group called Yéyé National with a fellow student, Maxime Mongali as singer. Nimy would go on to write the definitive book about Congolese music which is a great resource to me in my own researches. It is the Dictionary of Immortals (Dictionnaire des immortels de la musique congolaise moderne, Academia-Bruylant, 2010). Yéyé signed to the label, followed by Los Nickelos, the only band here I knew (they have a CD on Sonodisc including their hits "Bolingo ya téléphone" and "Revelation bolingo ya Nzambe") and the great Charles Lembe, here called Carlos Lembe. Yéyé's first hit "Mathinda" was covered back home by Franco & OK Jazz. Afro Negro were invited to perform at the Congolese Embassy for a visit by the Belgian Queen Elisabeth in 1965. Their set was half an hour but the Queen urged them to play on and she enjoyed their music so much they played for two hours. Their "A la mode" has a definite affinity to the Rochereau sound. One of the Ngoma bands, Dynamic Jazz, were in town and Cavvadias got them to record for him under the pseudonym Ebuka Ebuka. Afro Negro's "Palado palado" is a dreamy ballad (not to be confused with Bavon Marie-Marie's song from 1968 with the same title). Carlos Lembe gives a new twist on "Pare Cochero" of Johnny Pacheco with his wiry guitar ornamentation. Some of the Belgicains had been musicians back home of course, gigging with Grand Kalle's African Jazz and Tabu Ley. When they returned home after graduation, Yéyé were invited to play with Franco and Tabu Ley. But most of the bands were students, playing for fun, so when they got back to Zaire they had careers as business leaders and executives in the developing country. This is an outstanding compilation, beautifully packaged. Every track is a gem.

GETAWAY (Batov Records)

It's been 3 years since Kolonel Djafaar released their sensational EP Cold Heat, and so I was primed for their new album Getaway. They are an evolving group of Belgians who play jazz with an Afrobeat drummer and some 70s touches, including Farfisa organ and guitar with simple effects like reverb and echo. There is also what I would call primitive synth, i.e. basic twiddling on a Moog. The new album has hints of psychedelia and Ethiopica (?), both converging on "I call her Winnie," but it also reminds me of soundtracks by the likes of Bernard Hermann and Ennio Morricone. I checked the credits for "The Getaway" with Steve McQueen and Ali MacGraw (1972): the soundtrack was by Quincy Jones, but I don't remember it. I just remember the leads in their stylish designer togs getting crushed in a trash compactor without losing their cool. Nevertheless there is a theatrical ominousness to tracks like "Convoi Exceptionnel" which soars into a funky crescendo. The brass (tenor, baritone and trumpet) have definite soul chops, and lead the line on simple ditties like "Kelmendi" which echoes Jamaican jazz, like Ernie Ranglin or Monty Alexander, both of whom would fit in seamlessly with the groove. There are many catchy hooks on here: "Siren's Glitch" has an Arabian sinuousness to the melody. Maybe Djafaar is a reference to the wily vizier in the 1001 Arabian Nights? "Phil's First Tear" kicks off like a Memphis soul jam, then the Ethio horns charge in. The drummer keeps it in the pocket. This is the core of the album, before we slide back into a more mellow downtempo groove, which is really perfect for on-the-nod listening. "Apologies in Advance" ramps up the percussion but slides into overload on the Echoplex, as if they ran out of ideas. They should have ended it sooner, much sooner. The last cut is devoted to Lodewijk Lefevre on the baritone sax which is a very good way to go out.

BROOKLYN SOUNDS! (Vampisoul 297)

Big farty blarty brass defined the Latin Soul branch of Salsa as it filtered through the sounds of New York City in the early 1970s. With roots in Puerto Rico and Santeria, the young rebels who rejected the Latin ballroom dancebands of Titos Puente and Rodriguez liked ragged vocals and heavy horn leads on twin trombones. The percussionists (bongos, timbales, guiro, etc) were not put behind baffles to mute their acid tones, but came up front to fry the microphones in the studio... And let's imagine that scene: A clandestine midnight session organized by Boogaloo pioneer Bobby Marin on a frosty night, colder than a proverbial you-know-who's you-know-what, with a bunch of freezing punk kids from the barrio eager to get their big break. You can feel the thawing as the singers collide and brawl on the first cut "Suéltame ya," but they get more serious for "Mirame, San Miguel," where they have something to prove. They are in sync: the cowbell and timbales and shekere are battling to drown out the vamping piano and the singers have to really reach deep to outmanoeuver the horns. It's gritty and fraught with tension, which comes out on the track "Rain" sung in English by Leo Rosado. The cover is a monochrome shot looking up at a snow-covered fire escape: this exemplifies New York for these expats from the Caribbean: An escape to what, to where? "Perdicion" is the stone groove on side B where the horns are following one another without any sure idea of where they are going, and the pianist Willie Rodriguez (who worked with Celia Cruz and Johnny Pacheco), takes a fine turn, before turning it over to the singer and the hard hands of the percussionists (Julio and Kelvin Fonseca, Eddie Rodriguez).

CUMBIA SABROSA VOL 2 (Rocafort Records)

Taken from the vaults of Discos Tropical, this series looks for bangers (not sausages): guaranteed club smashes, and presents them as double-sided 45s; here three gems amounting to about 16 minutes of great cumbias, with big brass, accordion, and twangly guitars, not always at once. Though Colombian in origin, these discs resonated particularly with Mexican DJs as their sound systems gobbled up the offerings. The selector is the always reliable DJ Bongohead (Pablo Yglesias). "Cumbia Gua Gua" by Cuarteto Del Mónaco has the spindly spiraling guitar with wah wah which also influenced the electro-cumbia movement in Peru, which has recently seen a big resurgence. While you are on bandcamp, checking out this album, be sure to check out Mampön, which is a contemporary band, who also have a single out on Rocafort. The A-side has a really cool surprise clarinet solo. The B-side is "Papeles rotos," a protest song in a novel style called "Afrobeat."And, looking through their site, I see I missed two volumes of rare tracks by Alfredito Linares.

Most Recent Reviews

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

April 2024

Franco & OK Jazz compilation from Les Editions Populaires is under Congo Classics 2
Maliheh Moradi and Ehsan Matoori are filed in Iran
Los Guayabo Bros went to Colombia part 3
Rough Guide to Murder Ballads went to USA, of course
ShazaLaKazoo can be found in the Balkans

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...



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"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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