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OLD WORLD (inc Asia, Arabia)

African Discographies

Greetings, Platterbugs!

Updated 1 February 2023

New & Noteworthy

Quatuor Byron play modern/classical music with a Spanish flavor

Face to Face with Vusi Mahlasela & Jive Connection

Tiny Desk meets Global Fest once again. This year's series kicked off with the great Septeto Santiaguero performing at home in Casa de la Trova, Santiago de Cuba

more Tiny Desk: Taraf de Caliu (former members of Taraf de Haiduks)

plus the great Noura Mint Seymali from Mauretania

Visualize this

Rare pygmy recordings from 1946

the story of 78 rpm music in South Africa, by Chris Albertyn of Matsuli, with a playlist too!


Stella Chiweshe, Zimbabwean shamaness, master of the mbira

Raymond Cajuste, leader/singer of Bossa Combo

Vincent Kenis reports the death of Mputu Ebondo, vocalist of Kasai Allstars

Omore Joji, bassist with Lunna Kidi band, of Kenya

Ignace Makirimbia, one of the best percussionists from Congo-Brazzaville, has passed away, according to Maika Munan. He was in Vox Africa, African Fiesta National, Festival des Maquisards, Orch. Continental, l'Afrisa, & OK Jazz. In short, he did it all!


What calendar? Move to New York: they have Orquesta Aragon, Fatoumata Diawara, Vieux Farka Toure, Bassekou Kouyaté with Ngoni Ba, Seun Kuti, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Afro-Cuban All Stars coming up in the next month. We have open mike at the Freight, & Pete Escovedo's Retirement tour at Yoshi's.

Latest Muzikifan Podcasts

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

Brujeria: A set of cavacha from Zaire,
Asha Bhosle remixed, a descarga from
Cachao, and gems from Monk and Coltrane

Rain from the Skies: blues, rocksteady,
jazz & music from Nigeria, Zanzibar, C.A.R.,
The Gambia, Benin & Harlem

The Live Show captures some great artists
in concert, from Papa Wemba, Kokoko! to
Lenine, Greg Isaacs, Bembeya Jazz, Baobab

A Strange Trip features the new music
reviewed below, plus R&B, Ska, Latin,
and some Congo classics

DINDIN (Cumbancha)

A very polished album, this is the fourth outing from Kimi Djabaté. Many generations ago, his ancestors from Mali went to Guinea-Bissau to perform at court, were invited to stay in Tabato and they turned the area into a cultural center for music, dance, arts and crafts. To me, Dindin is a childhood expression for dinner, and curiously the title track is about hungry children. Don't exploit them, educate them, but leave them time for playing games, he enjoins. He himself was forced into a musical career, against his will, and made to practice balafon rather than study schoolwork, and often went hungry. At 8 he was sent to another village to study kora. He was a child performer, but took no joy in it. At 19 he joined the national dance troupe and jumped ship in Lisbon, deciding to settle there, rather than return home. He has been in Portugal for 30 years now, broadening his musical horizons. Justice and hope are his main themes. The ballad, "Ná (Mother)," reminds me of Touré Kunda, and once I made that connection (specifically to the album Casamance au Clair de Lune), I began to feel strong parallels with those other griots. The album is generally contemplative. There are sweet touches of balafon and then we hear electric guitar and surprisingly Paolo Borges, an accordionist, joins in. Kimi was featured on Madonna's latest hit "Ciao Bella" but fortunately he did not invite her to reciprocate. "Afonhe" has Borges playing a reggae organ riff, with pumped up horns. "Alidonike" features wild Toureg-style lead guitar and more of a Malian rock groove with balafon continuo. I presume Djabaté is multi-tracked on this one. Overall, this is an accomplished and mellow album.

SINGLES & EPs (Acid Jazz, UK 2022)

As expected this album kicks off with a heavy banger from the high-energy band that ruled the dance halls in Benin back in the 70s and early 80s; I suppose the fact that the bass is out of tune adds to the immediacy – it does sound like a live recording – that is, one take, no overdubs. But they could have used a limiter on the mikes to stop the vocals frying. Their sound is a mix of Beninois Voodoo ritual music with American soul and funk, Nigerian Afrobeat, Congolese rumba, Afro-Cuban grooves – you name it, they ate it up. Poly-Rythmo had a businessman backer who helped finance instruments and promote gigs. They traveled to Lagos to record at the EMI studios and reportedly made over 100 singles, and something like 50 LPs. When in Cotonou they backed all the local artists from Angelique Kidjo to Gnonnas Pedro. The rock and roll of the opener gives way to a Cuban tune, "Gendamou na wili we gnannin," based on "Al vaiven de mi carreta," with lots of echo on the lead guitar of Papillon. This is one they clearly rehearsed a lot. It has already been gathered on Soundway's 2004 comp, Kings of Benin Urban Groove 1972-80, as was track 4 "Mi si ba to," and track 5 "Houwe towe houn." I am guessing Albarika stores did not have a deal with Soundway, though that disc was licensed from the band-leader. Albarika have now started reissuing their material via Bandcamp, and also in partnership with Acid Jazz in UK. Soundway was hot on the heels of Popular African Music who had put out a CD in their African Dancefloor Classics series the year before, so, as usual, Günter Gretz was first to bring the band to our attention in the West. Samy Ben Redjeb of Analog Africa became their champion and reissued their first album from 1973 as well as several compilations, which led to the band getting back together and touring Europe in 2008 and 2010. In 2011 they began recording again. The voodoo-based funk tracks are the most interesting here (the more Congolese ones can be heard on the PAM CD); "Zizi" is another Cuban-derived track with elements of "El Manicero." This is a well-rounded and satisfying compilation.


No Nazar is an L.A.-based collective label into diverse global sounds. On this outing they have taken four classics of Bollywood and given them "Amapiano" remixes. Amapiano is a sound associated with South African house music. The word Amapiano is Zulu for "the pianos," though the only keyboards here are synths, giving us fat bass lines and strong percussive tracks. I used to watch a lot of Bollywood movies, and still follow composer A. R. Rahman. The 1999 movie Taal, which he scored, gives us the opener "Taal se taal Mila," sung by Alka Yagnik and Udit Narayan. Alka is a lovely singer, though eerily like Asha and her late sister Lata: I guess that is the gold standard in Hindi pop singing. Rahman uses a great backbeat on tablas and stomping ankle-bells and then a solo on fiddle makes a nice rustic counterpoint to the lush strings. The great and prolific Asha is, in fact, the singer on "Rang de," another Rahman composition from the 1999 filmi Thakshak. In India it is a popular wedding song (26 million youtube viewers can't be wrong). Forget "Wednesday's dance," which seems to be everywhere suddenly, check out the moves in the video, with the great Tabu. Wisely, the Ampiano guys kept the flute solo. "Deem to dare," Also from Thakshak, is from the Kathak classical dance tradition. "Kali Nagin" departs furthest from the original, in a tasty remix by DJ Sudi x Mtooray with a song from another 1999 movie, Mann, which again features the eerily high voice of Alka Yagnik. The Ampiano texture adds a lot to these songs making them, perhaps, more palatable for Western dance floors, though Bollywood purists will doubtless decry them.

FOSSORA (One Little Independent Records)

I am really taken by the new album from Björk, Fossora, where she explores motherhood and aging (since the death of her mother), isolation, and so much more. Foremost here are the great arrangements (by herself) of tricky drum programs, layers of flutes, voices, and a fabulous section of clarinets and oboe. Then of course there's an obligatory head-slamming opening cut, "Atopos," with the boss woodwinds. You may not like her 3-octave vocal soaring, or even her odd English intonation, in which case this is not for you. Though she is from Iceland, her work is more pop than world music (however you describe it). There are two tracks in Icelandic, one, "Trölla-Gabba," sounds like the soundtrack to a horror movie, which is appropriate since it's about trolls. The orchestral parts, again arranged by Björk, are very interesting. We should not underestimate her compositional skills: she has clearly been studying Vaughn-Williams as well as Schoenberg. Listening to this I was thinking about popular music in the span of my lifetime. When I was a teen there were "girl groups," like the Supremes, for example. Their 1964 hit, "Baby Love," was written by three men, Holland, Dozier and Holland: "Woo-ah-woooooh, Baby love, my baby love, I need ya, (baby, ooh, baby love) oh, how I need ya..." etc. After a long struggle to get established, it was the first of their dozen hit singles. Meanwhile, Berry Gordy made sure the three girls had deportment lessons, elocution lessons, and were dressed by the Motown staff. Their image was manufactured for them, along with the music they performed. A generation later, Björk (who was born in 1965 when the Supremes topped the charts) is self-made, has had numerous pop hits, is a style icon (even if she does look like Dolly Parton on shrooms on this cover), and even had a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 2015, while raising two kids. She is aware that her albums are emotional landscapes. Her last couple of albums were about falling in love, and then breaking up again (& I began to think I had heard all she has to offer), but now she has really focussed on making an overall great album. "Fossora" is latin for digging, so it's an excavation into the volcanic lava and tundra of her near six decades of musical discovery. Like all good pop music you get hooked and want to play it over and over. There is a lot to hear in the four sides of the LP: familiar refrains and startling new discoveries. The last six tracks, from "Allow" onward, flow together into a stunning climax. "Fungal City," a trippy mushroom number, featuring a sextet of bass clarinets is reminiscent of her work with Oliver Lake from 1994 on her Unplugged album. The ethereal "Freefall" has pizzicato strings and ghostly vocals, leading back to the woodwinds and stop-start backing pumping along on the title track, cleverly placed towards the end. All of the components of the album come together here. It seems to peter out about three minutes in, then erupts like a volcano. "Her Mother's House" is a coda where she shares the vocals with her second line of vocalists again, and the clarinets get to add their voices. It's the most creative use of instrumental coloring I have heard in a long time.

SOUND OF THE SOUL (Abstract Logix)

Sound of the Soul is a tribute in celebration of the centenary of the birth of Ali Akhbar Khan, India's best-known exponent of the classical repertoire on the sarod. Debashish does not play a sarod, but an augmented slide guitar with three sets of strings: a chaturangui he designed and built, which indeed sounds like the older instrument in his hands. To augment the effect is the accompaniment of tabla and pakhawaj, the double-headed barrel drum of South India, also known as Mridangam. The first track, "Ever the Flame Burns," was recorded in Kolkata, then Debashish took up residency in Santa Cruz, California, where he recorded the rest of the album, including a 40-minute tribute to Ali Akhbar Khan, called "To his Lotus Feet." It's a unique and impressive sound, even Mahavishnu John McLaughlin was wowed and has been touring and recording with Debashish.

RA!.. RA!.. (Vampisoul VAMPI 277)

First issued in 1969, this was the fourth and final album of Los Kenya, blockbuster Venezuela musical pioneers. Perez was a very busy pianist, hopping between Los Dementes and Los Calvos, so it's hard to know which band he was in when. But this meant he was always looking for new ideas to try out in different configurations. This time it's 1960s California pop-rock, with calypso, soul and jazz, all added to the salsa/sauce, which he based on the solid foundation of Eddie Palmieri and Ricardo Rey, two of his musical heroes. There is salsa dura on here and son montuno, but he is primarily experimenting, and "Uvas Verdes (Green grapes)" sounds like a mix of Burt Bacharach with Samba vocals over a complex bongo beat. The components don't work together, for me. Similarly the chorus and weird rhythm of "Linda cancion (Lovely song)" don't stand the test of time, but the band is on better footing with "San Juan Guaricongo" by Estelio Cabrujas and "Pilar" which have a bomba feeling. Tito Ochoa sings lead on "Como me voy a reir (How I'm gonna laugh)" and I prefer his vocals to Larry Francia. He seems to be the salsa singer, and those cuts are preferable to my ears. The twin trumpets also work out on those, especially on the standout track "Mi sonsito." This is not the same as Eddie Palmieri's "Mi sonsito," though obviously that is one band Perez is emulating. I like the salsa tracks, otherwise the trumpets are doing Herb Alpert-like toots which overwhelm the singer.

Recent Reviews

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

January 2023

La Perla are filed under Colombia part 2
Azuka Moweta can be found in Nigeria part 3
Sona Jobarteh is from the Gambia, which has its own section
Vibro Succès are from Central African Republic, so are filed under African miscellany
Farid el Atrache is Egyptian; read about him in Arabia
Mita y su Monte Adentro are found in Peru
Ray Perez is filling up the Venezuelan section almost single-handedly
Moncho y su Banda can also be found in Venezuela
Iftin Band can be read about in the Ethiopia & Somalia section

December 2022

Balka Sound went to Congo part 4, as well as straight into the Best of 2022

November 2022

Momi Maiga went to Senegal part 4
Kottarashky & the Rain Dogs are filed in the Balkan & Gypsy section
Abdullah Ibrahim's Solotude is filed in South Africa 2
The Latin Brothers' El Picotero went to Colombia part 2
Conjunto Ingenieria are filed in the rapidly expanding Venezuela section
Alhaji Waziri Oshomah can be found in Nigeria part 3
Read about Deep in the South under the Blues tab
Pedro Lima's compilation is in Cabo, São Tomé, &c
Guts by Estrellas is filed in Senegal part 4
Oumou Sangaré in Concert is found in Mali Live

October 2022

Montparnasse Musique's Archaeology is found in Congo part 4
Baba Commandant's Sonbonbela is filed in Burkina Faso
Ernesto Djedje has gone to Ivory Coast
Okaidja Afroso's Jaku Mumor can be read about in Ghana, part 2
MAG 14 Magnificos Bailables is a compilation from Peru
Wganda Kenya are from Colombia, filed in part 2

September 2022

Celestine Ukwu can be read about in Nigeria part 3, as well as on his own page in the discography section
John Ondolo and his Hypnotic guitar went to Kenya, Tanzania part 3
Shikamoo Jazz live and John Kitime's new album with Wahenga are also filed there
Kanda Bongo Man went to Congo part 4
Alfredo Linares with El Pito is filed in Peru
Los Dementes can be read about in the Venezuela section
Rough Guide to Memphis Blues is filed in Blues

August 2022

BKO's Djine bora is filed in Mali part 5
Oriental Brothers new album Oku Ngwo can be found in Nigeria 3
Cabruera's Sol a Pino is filed under Brasil part 3
Crossroads Kenya is filed in Kenya & Tanzania part 3
The Movers hit compilation is filed in South Africa pt 2
Karamanduka and Melcochita's rare collab can be found in Peru
Ray Perez with el grupo Casabe are now in Venezuela
Los Corraleros de Majugal are in Colombia part 2
& let's not forget Folk and Great tunes from Siberia in Old World misc




















"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.



all of the writing on this site is copyright © 2004-2023 by alastair m. johnston

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