OLD WORLD (inc Asia, Arabia)
all the new music reviewed below
Updated 1 December 2017
EventsDec 20 - Jan 10 SF Punk Film Series at SF Public Library
Ten short years after the ultimately disenchanting Summer of Love, San Francisco harbored a new counterculture united around unrepressed outrage and the rejection of hypocrisy. Punk erupted from the city's dark cellars and dingy underage clubs but was snubbed by local press and radio. Self-made zines, handbills, Super-8 film, vinyl and video became the instruments for recording and disseminating this explosive movement. FREE (four events)
with "Louder, Faster, Shorter" (feat. Avengers, Mutants, Sleepers); DEAF PUNK (The Offs);
Dec 30 TARGET VIDEO Night with Dead Kennedys, Avengers, Tuxedomoon, Mutants, Screamers / more events on library website
Dieuf-Dieul de Thiès are back together after 35 years and touring. Watch them live at Africa Festival Hertme last july
R I PPapi Oviedo, son of Isaac Oviedo, "Papi" was a tresero who played with Chocolate and Chappotin; he died on Hallowe'en. 20 years ago he issued a CD on the Candela label, but was best known for his collaboration with Papa Noel, Bana Congo, from 2001.
Fats Domino died last month. His contribution to music extends beyond New Orleans to Kingston, Jamaica. Can you hear the roots of ska in this? -- If you want the whole story of Jamaican Bluebeat, which clearly evolved from New Orleans, listen to this
OtherwiseI've updated the Congo in Tanzania page, thanks to input from Thomas Gesthuizen. (It is linked on the discographies page)
Post from Matthew Lavoie on the kologo rhythms of Northern Ghana:
add this to your Watch List, trailer for "Music of the Heart," about West African culture
new post in muzikifan Youtube channel: Donat Mobeti & Cavacha "Bakota"
ORIGINAL SOUND OF BURKINA FASO (Mr Bongo MRBCD152)Hot on the heels of their fabulous Mali compilation, Mr Bongo drops another sonic bomb: this time from Burkina Faso, a landlocked country surrounded by Ivory Coast, Mali, Ghana, Niger, Benin and Togo. So now you know where it is: there will be a test. As Upper Volta the country was part of French West Africa so predictably is a gathering of people from different ethnic groups which span the country's borders. In addition musicians had to go abroad to record so were influenced by what they heard on these trips. Musically the compilation provides a wide variety of treats. It's not all sunshine and lollipops, there's the inevitable disco number, and you surely have the Amadou Balaké tracks already, such as the definitive Latin version of "Whisky et Coca-Cola" and "Super bar konon Moussa," that churns the funk. You may also have sprung for Bobo Yeyé, the 3-disc set that came out last year from the Numero Group, which was distinguished by a lovely hardback book of the B&W photos of Sory Sanlé (It has the photo of the guy on a moped on the cover). "Sie Koumgolo," as well as "Super bar konon Moussa," were on Analog's Bambara Mystic Soul; "A son magni" and "Yamb ney Capitale" -- Pierre Sandwidi's rocking closer -- were on Ouaga Affair (another fine comp); while others were in the Bobo Yeyé box. However there are plenty of rarities here, including the kicking lead-off cut "Jeunesse Wilila" by Abdou Cissé which you really don't want to fade out when it does. "Djanfa Magni," a famous Manding ballad which was popularized in Mali, is covered in a great version by Youssouf Diarra. Mangue Kondé's guitar playing here, with both 5 Consuls and Super Mande, is outstanding, pushing him up to the level of Sekou "Bembeya" Diabaté. The important thing is Burkina Faso's musical heritage is finally getting its due. Soon Volta Jazz, Super Volta, Dafra Star and Les 5 Consuls will be as well known as the big bands from neighboring countries thanks to the excellent detailed histories of the bands by compiler Florent Mazzoleni, and CDs such as this. We want music to suggest an alternative past for us, and this Voltaic outpouring speaks to our soul, singly or collectively: we find something familiar in it right from the start. It may have been around as long as we have and while we were listening to Paul Jones of Manfred Mann singing "Do wah diddy diddy," some kid in Ouagadougou was digging Amadou Balaké singing "Aminata" -- it's almost as if we swapped memories or recognized each other in a parallel mirrored universe. This music, so familiar after hearing it once (after all it has guitars with wahwah pedals and fuzztone, Hammond organs, saxophones), now speaks to us of our whole life, our loves and disappointments (to paraphrase Oscar Wilde in "The Critic as Artist"). What more could you want.
HAMAD KALKABA & THE GOLDEN SOUNDS
Analog Africa is one of the most prolific, diverse and provocative labels going. It focusses on reissues and has created a fabulous back catalogue of music we never even knew existed, from all over Africa. And Analog Africa strides ahead with yet another fantastic reissue, the second or third this year (depending whether you count disco). We are still digesting Los Camaroes' stellar album, which reappeared this summer, and here comes another previously unknown gem. This short album presents the complete works (3 singles or 6 sides) of Hamad Kalkaba backed by a band who I am pretty sure are not the same Golden Sounds of "Zangalewa" fame. The "continuing adventures of Samy" fill us in on the story of how label boss Ben Redjeb found a single by this artist and then went on a quest for more works by this one-time master of a particular Northern Camerounian rhythm known as the Gandjal. Finding the music was tough, but it was not hard to track down the artist, for, once identified, he was known to everyone as a retired colonel who had gone on to the nation's Olympic committee and thence to head the Confederation of African Athletes. As a soldier Kalkaba joined the band of the Republican guard and rose to be leader, learning the various instruments along the way. But at the time, 1970, they played European music and he wished their own rhythms could be showcased the way Makossa and Bikutsi were being performed in other parts of the former French colony. (Originally a German territory, Cameroun was divided between Britain and France after WW1, but when Independence loomed in 1960, the Northern British part opted to join Nigeria.) Like other African artists of the 70s the aim of young Camerounian musicians was to take traditional rhythms and modernize them with electric guitars, keyboards and drum kits. "Lamido," one of the harsher cuts on here, has an attack reminiscent of Fela, a grindingly funky groove, yelled vocals and an ominous organ hovering in the back with even more threatening horns punching through as the vocalist grunts "Bismillah!" I have no doubt these were massive hits in their day and shocked the people with their bold thrust away from the traditional thumb piano and rattles into electric big band sounds. They even turned some of these traditional songs into military marches. They did include a balafon and talking drum in the lineup but these recordings were made in a Protestant mission and consequently the mikes are not balanced, which is why there is a distant rumble from some of the less-audible instruments. "Gandjal kessoum" kicks right in with wild drums and wildly flailing sax in a hot take. The lyrics (which are included) are socially conscious and show how Kalakaba could have been a transformative force as a singer had he chosen to continue that career. But after his band appeared at Festac '77 as representatives of Cameroun he decided to devote himself to the more secure career of the military. This is short, sweet and mighty fine.
Nighthawk Records started in the 1970s as a Blues reissue label, specializing in postwar Delta and Chicago blues. They also published some fine New Orleans albums. In 1981 they discovered reggae and issued the classic Wiser Dread compilation (An LP with two back covers and no front). Now Nighthawk has been taken over by the ominously named Omnivore Records, and the new owners are exploring their back catalogue, starting with a reissue of one of their classic releases, Albert Griffiths & the Gladiators' 1992 Full Time. It seems to me an accident of circumstance that Chris Blackwell picked Bob Marley and promoted him to superstardom as the voice of reggae, when you consider the other talents available then, including Albert Griffiths here, or Winston Jarrett or the other Winston known as Burning Spear -- it's a shame only Marley got the limelight. This occurs to me because of the similarity between Griffith's and Marley's voices and even the general sound of their backing bands. In a random audition many listeners would say this IS the Wailers. Griffiths issued a few singles early in his career such as "The Train is coming back," "Live wire" and "Hello Carol," sometimes alongside the Ethiopian. In the 70s his band, The Gladiators, worked with Prince Tony and then in the 80s produced four albums for Nighthawk. In true reggae style this album, recorded at Harry J Studios, includes a couple of version sides run back to back with the hits, "Bongo red," "Fussing and fighting" (written by Marley), and "Rocking vibration." The band which featured Clinton Fearon on bass and vocals, was supplemented by Scully & Bongo Herman on percussion, along with some particularly effective horn men: Bobby Ellis (trumpet), Dean Frazier, Deadly Headley (saxes) & Nambo on trombone. Legends, all.
I honestly thought Jack Sparrow was invented for the Johnny Depp character in the Pirate movies, but that was also the pseudonym under which Coxsone Dodd released the first four songs by Leonard Dillon, who later became known as the Ethiopian. I don't know if I am projecting but Leonard Dillon always strikes me as having a sad voice. He was part of a great harmony duo the Ethiopians who had scores of hits in Jamaica, and England, in the 70s (such as "Train to Ska-ville" and "Everything Crash"), but his partner Steven Taylor was hit and killed by a car in 1975. It was a long time before Dillon was ready to return to recording, and though he had sung with Justin Hinds and Albert Griffiths and the Gladiators previously, he decided to go solo. And from then on (like Carlton Manning) he sang his own harmony parts in the studio. In 1987 Dillon toured the United States with the Gladiators. Bob Schoenfeld, the owner of Nighthawk, was hanging out with the band when Winston Grennan, the drummer, started regaling him with tales of the Beverley's All Stars who had backed such 60s acts as the Maytals, Derrick Morgan and Desmond Dekker. Schoenfeld conceived the idea of a super-session in New York, reuniting the Beverley's All Stars with a great vocalist, and asked Dillon to sing his classics plus some new songs. He flew in the band from Toronto, Miami and Kingston and gathered Lyn Taitt & Hux Brown on guitars and Winston Wright on keyboards, with the other Bevvies. Schoenfeld then took the tapes to Jamaica to have horns overdubbed by Sylvan Morris at Dynamic Sound, but financial problems meant he couldn't release the album and so it languished in the Nighthawk archives. Interest in the Ethiopian's music has continued since his 2011 death and this 1992 album, now issued for the first time, is a great addition to his deep catalogue of music.
¡ESSO! AFROJAM FUNKBEAT
¡Esso! Afrojam Funkbeat (I think that unwieldy soubriquet is their full name) is a pan-Latin band based in Chicago. On first listening I liked this album but couldn't figure out an angle for reviewing it. My problem stems from the fact that it doesn't have a focus, but covers many styles of music, changing from track to track, from Colombian dub to Puerto Rican hiphop, to general funk. So it comes across more like a program than a single coherent album. The cumbias appeal to me most, but they are separated by a couple of tracks I don't like: "Mi gente," the irritating spoken word "Stone Eagle," and "Meet me out" which sounds like 80s disco with African guitar. Inevitably I get frustrated and take it off about halfway through. There might be a hit single in here (perhaps "Baila" which is a credible Sidestepper knock-off), I am not sure, but the various elements in the band, self-described as Mexican, Puerto Rican, Irish, Italian, Jewish, Colombian, African American, male and female musicians, pulls it in too many directions at once.
the year so far:
(click on maps at the top of the page to get to continent of choice)
Okay Temiz & Johnny Dyani went to Southern Africa
Nairobi Calling! is filed in Kenya part 2
Septeto Santiaguero in concert is filed under Cuba Live
African Gems went to the African Miscellany section
Zaire 74: The African artists is filed in Congo part 4
Mamadou Kelly's Politiki is filed in Mali part 4
Bargou 08's Targ is back in Arabia
Jaako Laitinen and Väärä Raha are filed under Old World misc
Palenque Records AfroColombia mix is filed under Colombia part 2
The Top 16 of 2016 is HERETop 15 of 2015 is HERE
My Top Ten of 2014 can be found HERE.
My Top 12 of 2013, with best reissues, etc, is online HERE.
My Top Twelve of 2012 is HERE.
My Top Ten of 2011 can be found HERE.
My Top 9 of 2010 is online HERE
Click HERE for my top 10 of 2009
Click HERE for my top 9 of 2008
Click HERE for my top 10 of 2007
Click HERE for my top 11 of 2006
MY BEST-SELLING BOOK!"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)
A DISCOGRAPHY OF DOCTEUR NICO
Poltroon Press, 2012, expanded to 88 pages; list price $19.95.
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