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OLD WORLD (inc Asia, Arabia)

African Discographies

Greetings, Platterbugs!

Updated 1 July 2022


Even more great highlife from Palenque Records:
Oliver Nayoka's "Oka Mmadu" is a follow-up to his hit "Aja Wele-Wele." Once again it's classic Igbo praise-singing with a needling lead guitar over a pulsing Highlife rhythm track, laid back but enough on the edge to keep you awake. "Be patient, treat everyone with magnanimity," it says. And then the horns punch in their affirmation over the sweet choral rejoinder. By track two, "Ubiam ajoka," we have a classic instance of "take it down to the the drums," where talking drums join in the riposte against the lead singer.
Palenque has also recently issued "Oku ngwo di ochi" by Oriental Brothers International Band.

New E.P. single from Radio Tutti and Barrilla Sisters

New album from Dumisane Maraire of Zimbabwe

New album from Cabruêra of Brazil

[via Tony Pitt] Ablaye Cissoko, Senegalese kora player, has a mellow new outing, Instant, joined by an accordéonist

Tony also alerts us to the latest album from Vieux Farka Touré

"Musakayike" by Madalitso Band, a duo from Malawi

[via Ken Abrams] Saltpond City Band from Ghana with "Boko a ko"

New from Pedro Lima of Sao Tomé "Recordar é viver" on "cocoa pod red" vinyl!

Ndikho Xaba and the Natives, South African jazz from 1971 reissued on Mississippi Records

Youtube Video

Siti Muharam (Zanzibar) made her European debut live at Le Guess Who

GuaGua TapTap by Azuei: pop music from Haiti and Dominican Republic

Dobet Gnahoré & Kajeen perform "Lagô"

Coumba Sidibe live in Paris [via Ardo Hanne]


[Frank Wouters reports] One of my favourite Edo highlife and afrobeat musicians, Osayomore Joseph, passed away in June. He was 69.


1973 studio recording of Bob Marley & the Wailers, from almost 50 years ago!


Mexican-American Dueto Dos Rosas explore their Ranchera roots

Latest Muzikifan Podcasts

Street Cred features music from Zimbabwe,
Brazil, Congo, Cuba, Colombia and Tanzania.

Globe trotting includes the music reviewed below,
with extra treats.


History may be written by the victors but those left by the wayside often have more interesting stories to tell. The only Peruvian music we knew in the 60s and 70s was the folky pipes of Pan stuff promoted by Paul Simon on "El Condor Pasa," and suddenly appearing in every market street corner worldwide. It was actually written in 1913 as pastiche Andean folk music. Those shrill Pan pipes quickly became tiresome, because they were ubiquitous, but then we heard the electric cumbia or "Chicha," incorporating surf and psychedelic rock, from bands like Los Destellos, as also Afro-Peruvian bands like Pepe Vasquez and Novalima took center stage. Finally major figures like Susana Baca and Alfredo Linares emerged to stake a place on the world stage. The latter was master of salsa, boogaloo and Latin Jazz, not incompatible genres, and led many sessions at MAG studios in Lima. And of course there were other currents including a vast influx of rock and roll and pop forms from other parts of the Americas. Los Kintos' 1970 album comprised a repertoire of Cuban rhythms as a response to the trends of the moment: boogaloo on one hand and electric cumbia on the other, while acknowledging them. For instance the first track, "Idioma criolla," has the tropical cumbia beat with wiry lead guitar down pat. Vocalist Kiko Fuentes leads the band through descargas, guarachas, and diverse covers from Trio Matamoros to Richie Ray. Guitarist Pancho Acosta also brings his energy from Compay Quinto into the MAG studio. The band's name reflected his roots, now modernized, and the electric guitar is not out of place on the Cuban rhythms. It is in his stepping to the fore, and playing rock guitar rather than the more subdued backing comp of traditional Cuban guitar that energizes this set. The trumpet takes the lead on "Pancho Guzmán" with bustling timbales and congas. On "Descarga Kinto" Acosta plays a jazz lead pushing the band to exert themselves. It must have seemed a novel approach to Latin music at the time but has stood the test of time.

VOL. 1 (Albarika Stores ASLS 088 1980; Acid Jazz AJXLP623 2022)

Afro-Latin groove meets Funk and Soukous, where else but in Benin? Originally put out by Albarika Store, this splendid orch Les Volcans du Benin reissue comes from the Acid Jazz label. Les Volcans have previously turned up on Analog Africa's African Scream Contest where they closed it out with the classic "Oya ka jojo," which is also the outstanding track on here. But maybe you are a completist and want to hear the other three cuts from this album. In 1970 they were dubbed the Volcans de la Capitale; changing it to "de Benin" I suppose identifies them a bit more closely and distinguishes them from Les Bantous from the capital of Brazza. Originally formed of policemen, they were anointed the national band, which meant the president might call on them at any time to perform, and their repertoire included rumba, Afrobeat, tango, but especially Afro-Cuban music which all West African leaders seem to have favored. These four cuts show them stretching out with wonderful interplay between the guitars and a solid conga and shekere rhythm holding it together until trap drums and organ return. The brass section is the icing on the cake: sweet and creamy. I got this album from a rip a decade or more ago and have enjoyed digging it out complete with lots of (but not overwhelming) surface noise — the snap, crackle and pop of authenticity; a record that was loved and played repeatedly. "Bella" coasts along over a subtly pulsing organ, then a true "seben" kicks in at 4:30 and we are in the realm of African All-Stars with a long sustained grooving for your dancing enjoyment. This album came out in 1980 which is when Sam Mangwana's popularity was at fever pitch in West Africa but Les Volcans have their own Beninois rhythms to distinguish them.


The opening track of this reissue is a boogaloo called "El Kenya," which was the name given to his subsequent band, by pianist and arranger Ray Perez. As I said in reviewing the second album by Los Calvos last month, Perez went to New York where he came under the spell of Fania's stars such as Eddie Palmieri. He returned to Venezuela where he formed Los Calvos, or the Baldies. We now have all three of his best albums coming out at the same time and more promised later this summer (so you don't have to spent $255 on discogs for a copy). This first album shows the weirdly constructed bald-wigged singer on the cover. There are a dozen two- to three-minute cuts on this album, all of them high energy salsa with the distinctive strong vocals of Carlos Yanez a.k.a. El Negrito Calaven (which i think means the little black baldie). The aim of the band was to allow space for soloists to stretch out and in addition to the regular guaguanco and pachanga of then-current salsa bands they even had a taste for surf rock, apparently, and the Twist. The drummer Frank "El Pavo" Hernandez said it was "like wearing a dinner suit with flip flops." The piano and vocals are the most notably improvising, the latter, Negrito scatting over Perez's montuno vamps. Los Calvos recorded two albums but did not perform live (relying on friends in the studio to cheer them on). However the next band, Los Kenya, was an attempt to create a pop group that could perform and they generated hits like "Bailemos Kenya (The Kenya twist)" with a view to performing. I assume there were contractual problems leading to all these convoluted arrangements. After a powerful propulsive set, they end with a ballad, "Te vieron con otro (They saw you with another)," which would do credit to Beny More. Everyone has a fine part: the piano, the swelling trumpets, even the bongocero makes a strong statement.


Los Kenya, like Wganda Kenya from neighboring Colombia, were inspired by African roots in their choice of name, but can be classed as a straightforward salsa band. "Soy el Negro Calaven," says the singer, introducing himself in the first song. Like their earlier manifestation, Los Calvos, it's top drawer stuff and the band must have torn up the dancefloor in its day, which was in 1968. The track "Record en TV" starts out like a boogaloo with a sustained vamp behind Carlin Rodriguez' vocals. I am trying to think of what it recalls: Hector Lavoe, I think. There's a piano break with bongos and the drummer Alfredo Naranjo playing an off-kilter shuffle, the the twin trumpeters return but it fades before it gets to a descarga where, one imagines, it would boil over. The trumpeters are Luis Arias and Luis Lewis (I wonder if they called him Louie Louie). It's an odd line-up with no sax or trombone, reminding me of African conjuntos of the same era, though in Africa they had many guitars instead of piano. But Venezuela is best known for harp music, or was until the excellent Color de Tropico series came out from El Palmas music. "Omelembe" has no writing credit; it was covered as "Chefo mae mae" by Kaba Mane who had a hit with it in Guinea-Bissau in 1986, but there was probably an earlier source. The last cut, "Descargan los timbales," begins with the two trumpets playing a trumpet voluntary straight out of the Baroque repertoire — quite a surprise — before they cut loose over some fiery percussion. At 5 minutes, it's the longest cut, but I would be glad to hear them stretch out for longer.

LIVE AT WOMAD 1982 (Real World Records 2CD/2LP)

This is a true blast from the past. WOMAD started as Peter Gabriel began to get into world music and put his money where his passion was. The festival brought musicians from all over the globe — 60 bands came from 20 countries — to Somerset to perform and like Eno (My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, 1981), or Paul Simon (Graceland, 1986), Gabriel helped usher a host of great music from other countries into our consciousness. At the same time many of us were still into ska, post-punk new wave, Ambient music, Kraut rock, and a bunch of other stuff which you could hear on college or community radio. My well-traveled brother had moved from the Caribbean coast of South America, to the Seychelles (in the Indian Ocean) to Kenya and we would exchange tapes so I was well up on what was shaking, but after I went to Africa in 1983 my whole outlook on music changed and I gave up on pop and new wave music. So it's odd to hear once again groups like Pigbag, which I knew from John Peel's radio show (via cassette) or Simple Minds, or Echo and the Bunnymen, as I have not given them a thought in 40 years! But this musical time-warp reminds me how deeply I was into Robert Fripp (who toured with Gabriel). In fact I would go to Gabriel's concerts because the opening act would be Youssou Ndour or Papa Wemba, and for me they were the better part of the show: Gabriel's audience manipulation reminding me of a Nuremberg rally, though I am sure that was not his intention. His passion for world music led to the wonderful soundtrack to the 1988 Scorsese film "The Last Temptation of Christ" (which I never saw) and the album with Nusrat and Baaba Maal of Passion Sources. This previously unheard set of highlights from the first ever three-day WOMAD festival was designed to demonstrate that world musicians were not simply opening acts but could be headliners in their own right. But when the royal Burundi drummers echoed out across the valley, local farmers worried it might arouse the bulls or adversely impact the milk yield. There's a token Latin group, Salsa de Hoy, who jam on a variation of "the Peanut Vendor." It's odd to hear Rip, Rig & Panic — nowhere near as good as I remember them from John Peel sessions. In fact, unlistenable today, I might say. Peter Hammill is another I skipped. Gabriel's big hit "It's my party and I'll cry if I want to" is the epic finale; hang on, no, I mean "Biko." But wait, there's more. There are two CD bonus tracks: a gamelan ensemble and the late great Prince Nico Mbarga performing "Wayo in-law," with a presumed pick-up band called The Ivory Coasters.


Monteverde is a London-based flamenco guitarist. Born in Argentina of Italian extraction, he now lives in Stoke Newington which is the part of London where the dissenters, people like Daniel DeFoe, lived. He works as a choir master but has also performed in India and Iraq as well as with classical Early Music groups. On this 2021 outing he set out to research the connections between Spanish music and that of India and North Africa, particularly as it manifest in the Renaissance. He knows his stuff and plays a variety of guitars adapted to the time period of each piece. It's well put together and shows a whole range of tonal palettes with voices and minimal percussion, building up a picture of Iberian music over the centuries. There's an Indian tanpura drone behind one piece, called "Rajasthan and Andalusia" which also has an Indian vocalist. It's not rigidly structured so you can hear flights of improvisation within each piece which makes it more organic and full of life than a performance based on a score.

LA ÑAPA (Underdog Records)

Behind this spectacular arty cover lies an artist from Lyon, France, trumpeter Etienne Sevet. He collaborates with Angolan singer Paulo Flores on the pleasant first track, "Tempo Rei," and then drops the big one and the reason to get this, the single "La Ñapa" featuring Nidia Góngora. Or you can just watch it on YouTube when the fancy takes you. La Ñapa means "a little extra," likely the equivalent of the creole French word Lagniappe. Last year Góngora collaborated with Brooklyn-based British producer Quantic (Will Holland) from Ondatrópica, who brought rock and cumbia to her more laid-back coastal Pacific folk vibe on this tipsy romp. But back to Bongo Hop: next up a Danish hip hop krewe called Dafuniks come on to entertain us, apart from me that is — I am not amused. "Better hide ya daughters, I need a lot of money," plus quotes from the Furious Five which is where these guys seem to have learned their kraft. Nidia returns for "Esta vida," which doesn't quite reach the Afro-Colombian groove it is aiming for. And next comes some ersatz Arabic music with flute; the singer is from Western Algeria, but the mood is euro-disco. The set is rounded out with three remixes from Sevet's two previous albums: "Ventana" also featuring Nidia Góngora, a warbly instrumental called "Clouds," and finally another Angolan-Cap Vertean piece "Grenn pwonmennen," filtered through Haiti. Quite a mixed bag.

Reviewed so far this Year

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

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.



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