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OLD WORLD (inc Asia, Arabia)

African Discographies

Greetings, Platterbugs!

Updated 1 June 2024

New & Notable

From Yoshiki F: Nigerian Guitar Roots 1936-67 will be out at the end of the month; Europe & USA sales will be handled by

Azerbaijani Gitara volume 2 by Rehman Memmedli

New from producer Vincent Kenis: Dizzy Mandjeku and Odemba OK Allstars. As the name suggests, it's a medley of OK Jazz hits

From Tony Pitt: Nancy Viera's mellow music from Cabo Verde


Matthew of Jazz Crazy just acquired another load of rare African 78s!

"Uptown funk" by Tachibana High School marching band from Kyoto; also "Celebration" (6 mins), "Summer time" (11'12) & "Christopher Columbus" at 24'15 mins

From Ken A: bi-coastal roots music from Colombia

Latest Muzikifan Podcasts

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

Reflections: With new releases from Kiki
Valera Alarcon, Derek Gripper; oldies from
Monk, Eddie Palmieri, OK Jazz, reggae &c

Way Out: featuring rare music from Kenya,
Guinée, Mali, Congo, Nueva York

New Tunes for June with
all the new releases reviewed below

IFUNANYA (Palenque Records)

When sons step into their father's shoes to manage a band the results are not always successful, but there is a great continuity with Okwy Osadebe's stewardship of the Highlife Sound Makers who backed his father Stephen Osita Osadebe. The father's output was prolific and now junior seems poised to carry an equally impressive legacy into the future with the same mellow sound. He even sings like his father! This is his second album with Palenque Records and is a stone groove from the front to the back. It's timeless, and instantly recalls the glory days of Nigerian music. The chief's career peaked in the 1970-80s with scores of records on Philips and Polydor. This flavor of eastern Nigerian Igbo highlife is laid-back and delivered with almost spoken vocals over a lot of percussion (traps, congas, talking drums), and intertwining guitars. The horns (sax and trumpet) are restrained, as is the sweet chorus, everything arriving in its own good time as the mood builds on seven and eight-minute tracks. The length of the songs is the main difference with his father's tunes which tended to fill the entire side of a record. The mood on this disc is love and understanding. There's a warbly chirpy guitar dancing around as the horn harmonies offer deep relaxation, so it's a gentle push and pull. Occasionally they build the tempo and resolve with a muted trumpet, or sax solo underpinning the spoken vocal and sung chorus, as on "Anwuli." I checked if these tunes are all originals as many sound familiar and some, like "Egbunam" and "Ezi Ogoli," are indeed remakes of songs by his father from 1972, but I am not complaining.


We have become used to hearing kora mixed with other instruments, such as cello or rock guitar, but here the juxtaposition is with classical guitar which seems more appropriate as, in a sense, the kora is the classical guitar of the Manding culture. Ballaké Sissoko has had a long career, starting out in the National Instrumental Ensemble of Mali. He has also recorded with Italian pianist Ludovico Einaudi and French cellist Vincent Segal. In 2012 Derek Gripper recorded One Night on Earth where he boldly adapted the music of the 21-string kora to his 6-string guitar. For that set he included a composition by Ballaké Sissoko, so it was inevitable the two would meet and find common ground for musical dialogue. Their encounter took place in London with a series of concerts where they each brought tunes but also jammed and bounced off one another's improvisations. Then they took it into the studio while the heat was on and the traditional music of the jalis was pushed in new directions by the duo. "Koortjie" (a Gripper composition) even has a hint of machine music at the start: I am talking about a built-up drone you might hear in Philip Glass or Frederic Rzewski. So it veers towards modern classical music, sidestepping neat categories like "World beat," or "Jazz fusion." Their jam, "Daraka," is the first single off the album and it is haunting and atmospheric, not to say aethereal. Sissoko vamps while Gripper attacks the spaces in the chords with tattoo needle-like intensity, then they switch roles and set up a tidal wash that moves back and forth before fading out, too soon. The shorter tracks are highly polished. The album closes with Gripper's composition, "Basle," and, as I associate the Swiss with clocks, it has a chiming precision, it seems to me, with once again a metronomic and mesmerizing sway between the assembled 27 strings.


I had the great pleasure to see this couple and their children performing a concert, only a short walk from my home, earlier this year (at the geriatric ward known as the Freight). It was a sublime musical evening. Both are veterans of the Malian music scene. Amy is a renowned praise singer. Bassekou plays the ngoni and his son Mamadou plays bass ngoni; a cousin Mohammed Kossebe was percussionist, pounding on the slapped gourd in concert, while the dum-dum, a variety of talking drum, was squeezed and beaten by another son. With his now-famed group Ngoni Ba, Bassekou has recorded five stellar albums, from 2006's Segu Blue, which had guests including Kassemady Diabaté, Zoumana Tereta and Lobi Traore, to Miri in 2019, which included some European rockers in the line-up. With Toumani Diabaté he formed the Symmetric Trio and he has played with Taj Majhal, Youssou Ndour, Eliades Ochoa, and Ali Farka Toure, among many likely others. Even though the ngoni is a traditional instrument, Bassekou plays it like a rockstar with runs and flourishes that would leave most Western guitarists gaping. He also has great stage-presence. In concert they cranked it up, and although they were in a small club they had the "stadium sound" button firmly pressed so the bass ngoni and percussion were stingingly loud, which was great. When they introduced the band members and each took a solo, the son on the talking drum was astonishing and the bass-playing son showed his true colors by going into an Aston Barrett riff. Nevertheless I am sure the show-biz family are proud of their sons' achievements, and there is no fear of them imploding like the Cowsills (whose every advance in show biz was derailed by their drunken controlling father; in the end the TV series written for them became the Partridge Family, which you will recall had no father!). Not that the Kouyatés need a Mondrian-painted school bus and go-go boots to get their music across. The album alternates instrumental with vocal tracks which works out very well. Garaná is the village they come from and though I don't know the legend of the bird, there is a lyrical track about it, with what sounds like slide guitar ornamenting the trance-like groove. Maybe it's possible to play the unfretted ngoni with a slide, I suppose for a musician of Bassekou's brilliance, it's easily accomplished.

VACILÓN SANTIAGUERO (Circle 9 Records C90007LP)

Kiki Valera is the current director of La Familia Valera Miranda from Santiago de Cuba. Founded a century ago, they are the inheritors and torch-bearers of the Cuban Son tradition. In 1996 they were chosen to portray that heritage on an OCORA recording when Radio France combed the island, looking for prime exponents of native styles. Now based in Seattle, Kiki still runs the family outfit but has issued a second solo album with a lot of guests, including many Cuban trumpet players (among them Alexis Baró), a singer from Spanish Harlem Orchestra and a childhood friend, Coco Freeman of NG La Banda, both of whom were on his previous solo album. In Cuba the guitar is usually secondary for musicians who opt for the unique tuning of the tres [3], but Kiki plays the cuatro [4], which has four pairs of sympathetically tuned strings. Though he studied classical music his real passion growing up was jazz. The album is a mix of covers and originals. It's upbeat and joyous, like a party, and is crisply recorded so the horns don't drown out the varied percussion. The covers are outstanding, and if you know "Funfuñano" (by Arsenio Rodriguez), "Dos Gardenias" or "El Cuarto de Tula" (popularized by Buena Vista socialites), you will be bopping in the aisles to these versions. There's also an outstanding version of "Sobre una tumba, una rumba (over a grave, we dance a rumba)" popularized almost a century ago by María Teresa Vera. Kiki does his star turn with brilliant solos on "La Guajira," "El Cuarto de Tula" and "El Empanadillero," while managing to keep it straightforward enough to echo the era of Ñico Saquito and other soneros of the golden age.

LA MADRUGA (Seasick Records)

La Republica Dominicana is well-known for its own brand of traditional merengue music — which is often accordéon-led — and bachata, a speedy guitar-driven rock which everyone on the island listens to, whether they are kids or the elderly. But there are other strains at work. Yasser Tejada is a graduate of Berklee College of Music where he mastered his guitar playing and delved into the rich culture of his country. For centuries the Dominicans in the provinces have been keeping their African heritage alive and Tejeda features Congolese musical references on guitar, but also in rhythms driven by the congas as well. His small combo is versatile: Mario Castro on keyboards also plays tenor, and conguero Jblak Troncoso also sings. On "Todo va a marchar (Everything's gonna be okay)" we get the skittering Dominican rush of bright guitar, but also a nice taste of soukous (showing their affinity), then a quick dive into warbly Haitian kompa when Tejeda hits the flanger effects pedals. A Sarandunga (from Baní in the province of Peravia) delivers homage to Saint John the Baptist with a 200-year-old dance, updated. Tejeda recently brought his sound to NPR's Tiny Desk concert and delivered a solid set of four songs from his new album. "Tu ere' bonita" starts off as a ballad and amps up into a racy bachata worthy of Juan Luis Guerra. La Madruga is his debut, and furthermore is bargain-priced on turquoise vinyl!


This album is a very mellow outing of mainly acoustic guitar from northern Senegal, called "It's Time." Occasional looped percussion or an electric guitar joins in (Samba Ba, on two tracks), but also ambient noises, such as night sounds, insects, and birdsong. I read in the Guardian that we just passed the centenary of the first remote live broadcast. Apparently there was a lady musician in England who liked to play her cello in the garden of an evening, and to her surprise, a nightingale in the neighboring woods joined in. The BBC heard about this and sent a sound truck with engineers to her place and they set up mikes and a transmitter and it was broadcast live over the air: an event which many people who heard it remembered for a long time. Today it may seem unsurprising to have a live recording from a remote village in West Africa, but nevertheless the ambient noise still reminds us of the tranquility of an evening as musicians relax and jam. There is a video shot to accompany the song "Yeewende," linked on bandcamp. The track "Yangue" surprised me because it is a well-known set of chords (E D A E; A G D E), in the english folk tradition, which has been recorded as "If I were a Carpenter," "Morning Dew" and other popular songs. The notes tell us the album was recorded in a studio, where perhaps the ambient sounds were added, indicating the massive changes in recording technology since the mobile truck strung wires to the English lady's garden. However, it's a night passed with pleasure in the global village.

WAANDE KADDE (Songs from Home)

As I was on Tidiane Thiam's bandcamp page, I saw another album that looked intriguing, a duet with Amadou Binta Konté featuring the latter on hoddu (a relative of the ngoni). I let it play, which is still one of the great delights on bandcamp, as there are no ads and they only bug you to buy after you have given something a couple of auditions. Anyway, it lifted off into orbit and by the last track, the 18'33 magnum opus "Guilly," I was sold. A group of bystanders starts to clap to keep a rhythm as the two musicians go into a trance; at times it reminded me of Coltrane's "A Love Supreme." Yes it is intense! Furthermore, it was listed as "pay what you like," so I figured it was ten bucks well spent to encourage their musical efforts. Thiam is billed as a guitarist, folklorist, photographer and visual artist, so he is a thoroughly rounded talent. He comes from Podor, a small riverside fishing village in the far north of Senegal. The tracks are dreamy and open-ended, beginning and ending without resolution; the album, recorded in 2014, was selected to launch a new venture from Mississippi Records and Sahel Sounds called Songs from Home. It's been around a while, but don't miss it.

JOYAS DEL GUAJIRO (Sony/Lusafrica)

Polo Montañez, the founder of this group, died in a car accident in 2002 but his band, based in Havana, reformed in 2014 with a new singer Yosleny Chirino, whom they felt could match Polo's vocal skill. The sound is traditional guajira (Cuban cowboy music): it's simple music with acoustic guitar, bongo, conga and minor percussion like maracas and clave. So it all rests on the vocals and harmony, which is very sweet. The first single "La Suegra (the Mother-in-Law)" bodes well for this project. It's a a slick telenovela-like story to reinforce the well-produced music that accompanies it. On the second track, "Amor del bueno," they are joined by a string section and there's an electric lead guitar (uncredited, but I don't think it's Ry Cooder). Most of the tunes, which were composed by Montañez, are ballads and delivered with stately grace. A couple are remakes from the singer's three albums. Things heat up on "Que sabes tu," and they rock out on congas and bongo on a final rumba.


A decade ago there was a big vogue for the Chicha music of Peru, which took Colombian cumbias and adapted them to a particularly Andean pentatonic scale which was originally played on harp, but adapted to keyboards, synths, or multiple guitars playing in unison. Also in the 60s, Peruvians with transistor radios dug American rock and roll, so surf music and psychedelic rock also featured in their home-grown sounds. But another generation of Peruvians was fond of Cuban salsa: for them the indispensable resource was the Discos MAG label which recorded touring artists (Mon Rivera, Alfredito Valdez, Jr) as well as locals who could deliver a full dance floor with popular covers and originals. Vampisoul has been unearthing the lost gems of this label's catalogue, and have given us singer/bassist Melcochita, percussionist Coco Lagos and pianist Alfredo Linares who emerged from total obscurity to become one of my (& possibly your) favorite Latin pianists! This outing is focused on guarachas which often were repurposed as cumbias, to feed the fad. Nelson Ferreyra's band began with a couple of covers from Cuba's Gloria Manancera but soon were touring central America as ambassador's of tropical music. They also sold well in Venezuela. They are big and brash with singer Kiko Hernández riding atop the ten-piece band. No other personnel are listed but I think Nelson was percussionist: I hear coro, a lady singer, piano, bajo, two trumpets, timbales and congas.

Year to date

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

May 2024

Les Belgicains is filed under Congo Classics part 2
Kolonel Djafaar's Getaway is filed in Olde Worlde misc
Brooklyn Sounds' eponymous disc is filed in Latin/Salsa, New World
Cumbia Sabroso vol 2 is filed in Colombia part 3

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



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.



all of the writing on this site is copyright © 2004-2024 by alastair m. johnston

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