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OLD WORLD (inc Asia, Arabia)

African Discographies

Greetings, Platterbugs!

Updated 1 August 2022

New on Bandcamp

No Condition is Permanent, a Celestine Ukwu compilation from Mississippi Records!

Gambian kora from Sekou Keita's little brother, Suntou Susso (via Tony Pitt)

Music from Saharan WhatsApp

Chouk Bwa: Ayiti Kongo Dub Roots from Haiti


Balkan and gypsy collaboration, from the Secret Trio

Dubby Peruvian Chicha, from Los Mejillones Tigre, Spain

Georgian babes Trio Mandili, getting down with a local band, Ars Nova, on an old Sicilian song in the backstreets of Naples

Vinyl culture is thriving in Japan (from NHK television)


A.B. Crentsil, member of the Sweet Talks and leader of Ahenfo Band, died at 79. He hit big with "Adam & Eve" and "Moses" and, as if that wasn't enough, "The Lord's Prayer."

Pablo Moses, reggae artist, was 74 (via Steve Barrow)

Pupy Cesar Pedroso, Cuban pianist, member of Revé and Los Van Van, was 75 (via Ken Abrams)

Sory Bamba, Malian singer/songwriter, at 84 (via Frank Wouters). His orchestra Kanaga de Mopti, fusing Latin Jazz, R&B and traditional styles, won the Malian festival of youth bands contest in 1976, 78, and 1980. His album Le Tonnère Dogon was a big hit in 1987. He resettled in Paris in the 1990s.

Costel Vasilescu, Lautari (gypsy) trumpeter, who often recorded at Electrecord in Bucharest, or performed on radio there, was 81

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Franco & Nico birthday tribute:
Dr Rhythm & the Hoof Man meet the Gods
of Congolese Guitar (with Jerome Ogola)

Muzikifan Flashback— by request I am
trying out a new feature: uploads of classic
archival shows, this one a radio broadcast
from June 1996

Ay Caramba features the new music reviewed


A strong return from BKO the Malian quintet, who summon a djinn (the title translates as "the appearance of the genie" — I just read the Norwegian equivalent of "speak of the devil" is "Mention a goblin and he's already in your hall") so we expect a spirited invocation and they deliver. Formed in 2012 their name is the call sign of the international airport in Bamako. The year they were formed the government declared a state of emergency and if you follow the news you know things have gone from bad to worse. The military government has now expelled the UN peace keepers who were chasing the Boko Haram insurgents. They and the derelict remnants of the Libyan incursion are now at the gates of the military compounds where the Malian army is hiding. But the music endures. The members of BKO come from divergent traditions: griots and Bambara hunters (who have different instruments and approaches to song). They merge in the family of BKO with two vocalists (Fassara Sacko, Khassonké Dunun), plus Adama Coulibaly and Nfaly Diakité on donso-ngonis, as well as vocals, Mamoutou Diabaté on djeli-ngoni, Ibrahima Sarr on djembe, and Aymeric Krol on drum kit. I hear electric guitar in there also. I have seen them in concert and they are explosive. Sacko, the lead singer on half the tracks has a great throaty voice, but sadly is going blind. Here he sings about infant mortality, poverty and problems of migrants. One song that jumped out at me is titled "Bamako": from the moment it started I heard "I will follow him" by Peggy March, an American pop song from 1963 with a catchy riff. Yes, you say, there are only so many chords in pop music, but when the riff and the rhythm coincide so forcefully, I am sure there's a connection. "BKO Kagni" the next track, is another example, it has what I call the "Baby please don't go" rhythm, heard on so many Ali Farka Touré tunes. There's great variety and a driving insistence to their music that will draw you in.

OKU NGWO – DI OCHO (Palenque Records)

It's like they never went away. Technically, they didn't, but we have not really heard from the Oriental Brothers since Original Music, Flametree and Afrodisia put together some compilations of their early albums. This Igbo Highlife group came from Eastern Nigeria, hence the "Orient" in their name. Established in 1973 by brothers Dan Satch Opara (lead guitar), Godwin Kabaka Opara (rhythm guitar), and Sir Warrior (singer) they ruled the airwaves, not only in West Africa, but as far way as Cartagena, Colombia where the sound system DJs idolized their bright polytonality. It's this transatlantic connection that has brought the group back to the studio, after a 20 year hiatus, to celebrate their 50th anniversary with a new album. The original line-up had a hit album on Decca in 1974 and then broke into three factions, all claiming the name. Dr Sir Warrior had the most popular band (Oriental Brothers International) until his death in 1999. Godwin Kabaka founded his own band in 1977, his lyrics were proverb-laden, his music combined traditional sounds with other influences from Ghana and even Congolese guitar. A classic collection of Kabaka's material was reissued by Palenque Records recently, so this reunion is the logical next step. As the last man standing, guitar heavy Dan Satch now carries the mantle. There is great continuity in their sound, though only the original conga player has survived the five decades. Nevertheless we have the sweet insistent sound of 70s highlife on a thick layer of percussion, traps, congas and other percussion, wiry guitar, throbbing bass, and long discursive vocals. The ten-minute tracks expand outwards and blend together.

SOL A PINO (Polen Records)

Formed in 1999, Cabruêra come from Paraíba in Northeastern Brasil so their music is not from the Samba or Axé traditions. Their blend of traditional music, progressive rock and ska, known as mangue beat, is one of the better lesser-known styles of enjoyable Brasilian music. This is their sixth album and the band, a quartet with guests, has become very polished in delivery. There's a high level of studio sophistication in the production with clever layering of sound. The songs are short and well arranged so they flow together. By the time of "A Vida" (which was the first single off this album) we are starting to groove on the building fat horn riffs and the percussive almost disco-like guitar, set off against one-drop drumming. Cabruêra's singer Arthur Pessoa does not have a very strong voice, in fact he struggles to hit some notes, but he is a really fine songwriter and this album is full of good melodies and catchy hooks. Violin and accordéon deliver us a mournful ballad called "Pasarinho (little bird)" which is quite lovely and moving. The guitar is used percussively, as in reggae, the lead being taken on trombone, or in "No Mar (To the sea)" on a slide guitar. The instrumental title cut, "Sol a pino" (roughly High noon, or Sun high in the sky) reminds us of Northeastern Brasil with jangly percussion on a triangle, a guitar that sounds like it's being bowed (but is being played with a ball-point pen), and accordéon. But wait, what's this? berimbau joins Pessoa's accordéon on "Clareou (shed some light)." A truly fine outing from Cabruêra.

EAST AFRICAN BENGA AND RUMBA, 1980-85 (No Wahala Sounds)

This is a lively collection of 45s from the Golden age in Kenya when home-grown Benga music was spurred to greatness by the big influx of musicians from Uganda, Tanzania and Congo, looking for gigs and better recording opportunities in Nairobi. It was there that the nightclubs packed out crowds to hear these fluid bands and a time when people had enough disposable income to spend a few shillings on records or a night out. The names may be unfamiliar but the music is solid. New Gatanga Boys lead off with "Wanja ni wakwa," sounding as sharp today as it did 40 years ago. It's interesting to hear the Benga bands adopt the guitar breakdown from their neighbors just as the Cavacha bands incorporated the Benga-style drumming into their sound. After Boys from Nairobi, Nairobi Calling! and Kenya-Congo Connection, this is the fourth multi-group compilation from 1980s Kenya issued by No Wahala, with bands from near and far contributing. But it is the last release featuring the editorial hand and remastering skills of the late lamented Doug Paterson, who helped No Wahala by unearthing hidden gems from his own collection. This set, however, came entirely from Fred Lavik, of afro7. "Palipo na mameno" by Les Moto Moto, originally on the Mlima label, has the driving Cavacha sound I love and stretches out in the luxury of both sides of a 45 disc to 8 minutes and 46 seconds. They hail from Tanzanian, I think. Not surprisingly for such a successful act, there was also a Moto Moto label, based in Nairobi. Hamza Hassan appears to have been the author, according to discogs — there are no writing credits on the LP. Victoria "C" Kings are more familiar, as a prolific offshoot of the top Luo band the Victoria Kings. They close the first side with their rousing benga attack. Kikuyu group Banana Hill Band put out two albums, however I had never heard of them before, but now hear great guitar work on their single "Rakeri mama." The heart of the album features Les Volcano, the residue of Mbaraka Mwinshehe's band after his tragic death. Many bands become irrelevant after the death of a charismatic leader (Queen), but others (New Order) reinvent themselves and soldier on as did Les Volcano with Charles Ray Kasembe at the helm. The singing and sax on "Kwa Wasiojiweza (for the helpless)" are superb. Orchestre Zaituken (sounds like a Turducken) came from Zaire, Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya. Later they changed their name to Zaiken. This album is wonderfully sequenced and I cannot say enough about the packaging (though I should admit that is my photo on the front cover). I hope the series continues, even with the death of Doug which is a set back; I for one have more of such singles (& lots more photos)!

1970-76 (Analog Africa AACD035)

Africa in the 1970s was feeling the impact of American music like never before, through radio and the expansion of global travel: Africans felt they could be as sophisticated as Europeans and Americans, at least in their minds. We saw how the gospel of James Brown was brought back to Nigeria by Fela Kuti after his visits to the West, but a lesser-known influence was the Booker T sound, not to mention the whole of Memphis and Stax-Volt and it resonated in South Africa, where the Movers were a tight organ-led combo up to the task of emulating the Scallion Master. They achieve strong effects with simple chord progressions and tight playing. And they have soul. These are mostly two-and-a-half to three minute tunes with the driving organ to the fore and the tight bass and drums holding down the bottom. It's not until track 5, "Kudala Sithandana," that they show their ability to play what we came to know as Zulu Jive, or Mbaqanga, though doubtless it had many other aspects and names. But we are soon back in the "Midnight Hour" as the chords for "Oupa is Back" indicate. Oupa is guitarist Oupa Hlongwane, the organist and band leader was Sankie Chounyane, and vocalist Blondie Makhene. Instrumental music was a key to a band's success in Apartheid South Africa, so there are few vocals on here, but the music is jamming. "Six Mabone," (different from the version by Boyoyo Boys) has the same chords as the Troggs' "Love is all around," from 1967 — can there be a connection? The Movers' first album from Teal in 1969 sold half a million copies and they became the first band to cross over to the white radio stations, according to Samy Ben Redjeb's liner notes. He also tells us that they seem to have vanished from the face of the earth: not surprising given the ups and down of life as a musician. The original band members were all replaced over time, but Analog Africa presents the cream of their output here.


This label, CPL-Music of Germany, specializes in folk music — mostly familiar stuff from Europe, but stretched out to the Far East for this one. The Yeast will rise again? New Asia's "Village Dances" sounds like a hoedown, complete with accordion and jaw's harp. A jaw's harp solo on the second disc, with bird calls, sounds extra-terrestrial. It is called "Singing sky" by Uutai from Sakha. A more predictable American parallel is in traditional songs that recall Native American songs, no doubt because of common ancestry. Other than Tuva and Altai there are places I have never heard of, but then I would probably fail a geography quiz on Asia, having only been to islands off the East coast. The Tuvan throat singers sound like they are hoarse, gargling with salt, or have been channeling Laibach. But it's that odd conjunction of associations that engages me. I heard a track off this album and was intrigued enough to pursue it. That track is "Tumer khaita" by Zor from the Republic of Buryatia on Lake Baikal in Eastern Siberia. Again geography fails me. There's a blues descant to the tune but the part that grabbed me was the insistent guitar riff which made me think of Jimmy Page, and certainly by now those old Led Zep cassettes have circled the globe. But it was not copied, rather absorbed into the player's consciousness and so it's not a huge leap to imagine the singer of Gubernator has listened to Grace Slick. Their "Kakomei" is a heavy rocker from Chukotka region. That's as far from Moscow as you can get and still be in Russia. You can even see Sarah Palin from your window. But are there Asian influences in the music? Yes, the flute and vocal style of "Golymbia" veers away from Tuva to parts south, maybe Tibet. They live in the crossroads of China, Mongolia and Kazakhstan in the Altai mountains. It looks like a beautiful part of the planet and not the standard image of Siberia. A touch of a disco beat in Oleg Napevgi seems to come from Bollywood rather than the West. He is from Magadan where it's regularly 50 degrees below zero. In such a climate what do you do, but make music.


Another rarity dug out of the crates by Vampisoul in their ongoing series of great lost Latin music. This album, originally titled EXTRA Volume 2, is a boogaloo gem from 1969 and features some top Peruvian salseros in the studio (MAG studios in Lima), including pianist Otto de Rojas and percussionist Coco Lagos (whose great album Descargas was also reissued recently by Vampisoul). The title translates as "Done with Lima, I'm off to New York," as they set themselves down, mentally, in Brooklyn and the Bronx where young Puerto Ricans were reimagining Latin music, turning away from the big bands of Machito and Tito Rodriguez and thinking more Sly & the Family Stone and Isaac Hayes. Percussion is to the fore with some fierce conga playing and timbales (Ray Barretto's Hard Hands came out the year before). Melcochita is exceptional here. Someone smarter than me will have to make the connection to African masked voices from the Ivory Coast in soneros with gravelly delivery. After a solidly Latin A-side, they kick off side two with a 12-bar blues jam, called "Booga Jazz," with scat lyrics: it's a throw-away number with a serious drum solo. "Vuela mi Descarga" nods to the Alegre All-Stars' series of early 60s albums with studio chatter before they get down: in that case to the piano of Charlie Palmieri and timbales of Kako. Here they are talking about "Mary Jane" and ask Coco to kick it off. The otherwise unknown singer Karamanduka is dressed as Mexican movie character Cantinflas on the cover, but for me the main attraction is the great vocalist Peruvian sonero, Melcochita, and their gravelly voices blend well. The album ends with a fierce drum solo that would defy dancers trying to keep up, but I suppose that's for the deejay to decide in the heat of the moment.


From nowhere we have witnessed the emergence of Venezuelan bandleader Ray Perez. El Palmas continues to uncover his catalogue with this September 2022 release of a compilation of his 1970s work as a leading salsero. This is stately, confidently assured Latin music of the highest order. Perez has arranged vocals and horn charts in counterpoint, with a montuno piano to hold it all together. We now know, from recent releases, he was the force behind Los Dementes and Los Kenya and then had a brief round with two albums from Los Calvos, a reimagining of the earlier bands. This anthology was assembled by El Dragón Criollo & DJ El Palmas who were behind a fine series of Venezuelan reissues called Color de Tropico, also on the El Palmas label. Perez is a bandleader and pianist in the Palmieri mode, and of course when he went to New York in the late 60s he would have heard Eddie Palmieri's La Perfecta at their height. It's amazing that has stayed unknown as there are so many classic tracks on here; one presumes they had no international distribution. If he had stayed in NYC he would have ended up as a prominent musical figure. Casabe was his last major band, active from 1974-5. The fact he led so many successful outfits is due to label-hopping: he had to change band names for contractual reasons, so El Casabe was created when he moved to CBS. He brought along the drum kit, which was an unusual combination with traditional percussion in salsa, but now he relented and added saxes alongside the trumpets and trombones of his previous bands. And the new vocalist is the brother of El Negro Calaven from Los Calvos, Rodrigo Perdomo. But the main attraction is still his driving piano and the way the group waits, sitting back on the percussion, to pounce before slinging a load of molten brass into the mix. The album starts in medias res with a full-on driving groove, bouncing the different parts of the band, massed horns against vocal chorus, piano against guiro and tumba. The arrangements are superb: and it's not just salsa (a mix of mambo, cha cha, rumba, guaguanco, etc) because there are elements of rock (notably in the bass lines), boogaloo and son, in fact everything from a smoldering danzón ("La Reina") to surf music! Some tracks, like "Maria Antonia" are dynamite, waiting while the piano sits back on a I-IV vamp and hums along until the whole thing erupts volcanically. And it doesn't let up, but breaks into "Galeron con Maype" which might as well be called "Hell for Leather" as it tears off in a gallop. "El Bonche se formo" is another slow burner which just keeps smoldering teasingly for 4 minutes. "Adiós Bogota" send us off steaming. This is a great band and a great sequence of their best tracks, sadly the remaster was done from thrashed discs and so the sound quality leaves much to be desired. Ah well, twas ever thus!


One of the top big bands from Colombia, founded in 1962 and still going strong, Los Corraleros have made hundreds of accordéon-driven Cumbia albums, selling millions, receiving 30 gold records, etc. They even received a dedicated Rough Guide, ten years ago, which includes "Ocho dias" from this disc. This reissue from their Discos Fuentes catalog is mostly generic salsa, to my ears, until the middle of side two when they cut loose on "El Mondongo" a ten-minute jam that is quite outrageous. If you will buy an album for one track, then you may need this. I can think of Kurtis Blow's "The Breaks" as one example, I am sure there are others. If only the rest of the album were like this! Unusual in this context, of bristling timbales, congas, and blarting trumpets is the accordéon. Julio Estrada keeps the bottom solid with a thudding bass. Juancho Vargas (who also played on Fruko's classic Tesura) is on the ivories, according to a fan on Youtube. Put this one on repeat.

Reviewed so far this Year

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

July 2022

Los Kintos have gone to Peru
Los Volcans du Benin are also repatriated in their homeland
Los Calvos are filed in the new Venezuela section
so are Los Kenya with Siempre Afro Latino
The Live at WOMAD 1982 comp is in the Miscellany section
Ignacio Lusardi Monteverde plays flamenco so I set him down in Spain
You can read about The Bongo Hop in the Old World Miscellany section,
as I don't think it deserves to be in the Colombia section

June 2022

Oumou Sangare's Timbuktu is filed under Mali part 5
read about Zambian Michael Baird's Thumbs on the Outside in Euro miscellany
Congoman Remmy Ongalla's reissued Songs for the Poor Man is filed in Kenya/Tanzania part 2
Noori & His Dorpa Band are from Sudan, in the Africa section
Swede Robi Svärd is filed in Spain
Cie Tambor y Canto is New World Latin music but filed in Old World miscellany, as the leader is French
Los Calvos ...Y que Calvos can be found in Venezuela
Ebirac All-Stars are in the Salsa category
Mista Savona's Havana Meets Kingston part 2 can be found in Caribbean misc

May 2022

Godwin Kabaka's International Band's Kabaka can be read about in Nigeria part 3
Viviano Torres Ane Swing's Joyas Champetas is filed in Colombia part 2
I stuck Color de Tropico vol 3 in Venezuela
A couple of recent Blues comps from Rough Guide and Putumayo are found under the Blues tab
Bomba Estereo Live in Dublin is also in Colombia part 2 (not in Ireland)

April 2022

Africa Negra's Antologia vol 1 is filed in Sao Tome
Animamundi from the Spy from Cairo is filed under Arabia
Rough Guide to Delta Blues vol 2 can be found in the Blues section
Nuru Kan's latest is in Senegal part 4

March 2022

Saturno 2000 comes from all over Latin America, but I filed it under Colombia 2
Burkina Azza's Wari Bo is filed in Bukina Faso
Gonora Sounds are from Zimbabwe
Coco Lago is Latin/salsa, found in Peru
Ano Nobo Quartet are filed in Cabo Verde
Owino Sigoma Band are filed in Kenya/Tanzania part 2

February 2022

Okuté by Okuté is filed in Cuba part 4
as is Changui – The Sound of Guantanamo
Kadi Yombo
by Pape Nziengui is filed under African misc as there is no section yet for Gabon
Rokia Koné's Bamanan went to Mali, part 5
Zanzibara vol 10 is filed under Kenya & Tanzania, part 2
Wganda Kenya's self-titled debut is found in Colombia part 2

January 2022

BaianaSystem's latest Oxeaxeexu is filed in Brasil part 3
Imed Alibi & Khalil Epi's Frigya can be read about in Arabia
Tony Ugabi's debut album is reviewed in Nigeria part 2
Two reissued albums from Vis-a-Vis are filed in Ghana part 2
Although he is in Switzerland, I have archived Anour Cherif's album in Algeria



















"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 © 2004-2022 by alastair m. johnston

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