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OLD WORLD (inc Asia, Arabia)

African Discographies

Greetings, Platterbugs!

Updated 1 May 2022


Fiston Lusambo of Zong Zing All Stars (a London-based soukous band) got a grant to go to Kenya and record traditional bands, with wonderful results:
Julius Itenya And The Super Phoenix Band jamming. This is one of the bands recorded with Fiston who is sitting in here. Don't miss it. (via Gee Ogwel)

As heard on Bandcamp

Reissue of Lucho Bermudez, Colombian big band cumbia by Radio Martiko, Belgium

Jembaa Groove, Afro-Soul from Ghana, via Berlin

Tiny Desk concerts

Sublime time as Abdullah Ibrahim gets behind the tiny desk

while Fatoumata Diawara shreds said desk


Papa Bikunda, leader of the great Bakolo Music International orchestra (the band of Congolese Rumba legend Wendo Kolosoy), was one of the last representatives of the pioneers of the Congolese Rumba. Papa Bikunda was a founder member of the first band of Franco Luambo Makiadi: Group Watam (via Alan Brain)

José Luis "El Tosco" Cortés, the creator of Timba, and member of Irakere, Los Van Van, and NG La Banda (via Ken Abrams)

Orlando Julius "O.J." Ekemode, pioneer of Afrobeat, has gone to join the ancestors

Rudy Gomis, singer of Orchestre Baobab for 50 years, has also died

Latest Muzikifan Podcasts

Afro Jazz as the name implies, is an hour
of great jazz tunes from Africa, with Mali,
Congo and South Africa represented.

Remember to Breathe! includes all the
music reviewed below, as well as tributes to
Rudy Gomis, Tabby Shaw & O.J. Ekemode.


Palenque Records, the premium Colombian-based label, has now started going back to its roots, finding the African artists who influenced the early Picotero sound-systems back in the days when sailors would bring vinyl records to port for trade, and DJ collectors would try to keep them exclusive by scratching out the labels before spinning them in their sound systems, while eager fans would sneak tape decks into the shows to capture the elusive African tunes being highlighted. One such album is by the wonderful International Guitar Band of Nigeria, led by Godwin Kabaka Opara. As a young man in the 60s, Kabaka played trumpet in a brass band before taking up guitar. His family band was called the Oriental Brothers (not because their guitars were tuned to different keys and sounded Chinese, but because they came from Eastern Nigeria, the Ibo homeland). The last cut "Onye ikekwere meyeka" translates as "Do better if you can," and became the title of a reissue album by John Storm Roberts' Original Music label in 1995 (The first side of this album was included on the Original Music release). The band was formed in 1971 by three brothers, Christogonus a.k.a. Warrior (vocals), Dansatch and Godwin Opara. With proverb-laden lyrics and musical influences from both Ghanaian highlife and Congolese soukous, the music dominated the club scene in Nigeria in the 70s. Eventually the brothers split into separate bands in 1977. The Oriental Brothers were prolific and put out many wonderful albums throughout the 1980s, led either by Warrior or Dansatch. Mossiac Music of USA and Flametree of London reissued CD compilations leased from Afrodisia. After his break from the Oriental Brothers, Kabaka's first album (on Decca) was a huge hit, including the song "Mangala," a tribute to a former bandmate who had passed away. The brothers' guitar style has been called "relentless" and it is indeed a strong, driving component of the music. But they also break it down to the drums (traditional Ibo hand percussion of shekere and conga drums) with vocal declamation, almost like a sermon, while the guitars take a break. Taking advantage of the LP format they would stretch out and record songs that were 20 minutes long, filling the entire side of an album.


I had to make sure I put the right disc on, as this started out like South African mbaqanga, complete with punchy drums and peppy organ, even the chorus sounded Zulu. But back in the 80s, singer Viviano Torres, the versatile Champeta pioneer from San Basilio de Palenque in Colombia was already pushing a new musical vision for his country that countered the prevailing trends of salsa and vallenato. Lucas Silva has gone through the catalog of Torres and his group Ane Swing to select a nice array of adapted African tunes that showcase their versatility. The Soul Brothers' "La Canasta de Jordan" is anthemic and segues into a Soca crasher, "Happy Embarrassed," which sounds like an Arrow composition. But the focus is South Africa where dance music was pouring out of the Shebeens in the turbulent years leading up to the election of Mandela in 1994. If you listen to contemporaneous Malagassy music you can hear the sea shanty origins, but there on the island with squeezebox up front, it's less stomping and more jigging. One of the great tracks on here "Mini Ku Suto" was redone in 2016 with Bopol Mansiamina on the essential Voodoo Love Inna Champetaland album. Soukous guitar by Alvaro Cuellar, does crop up on the last track, "Kumbe," which still retains the Soul Bros-style organ. Champeta Criolla, pushed by the demand from the Picotero sound systems, moved increasingly towards soukous, re-adapting it for the Colombian audience and creating a strong new hybrid which is wonderful to hear, but these other approaches, from 30 years ago, show the plethora of African music styles under consideration for adventurous bands in Colombia.


We often hear about lost treasures uncovered by crate-diggers, but few of us get the chance to go digging for Venezuelan music of the 60s and 70s, so the notion of discovery is moot: it's all new to us outsiders. Here traditional Joropo music (a slow fandango-like dance) hits funk, rock and salsa head on. The digger in question is DJ El Palmas, based in Barcelona, abetted by El Dragón Criollo. So I imagine the Barcelona sound systems are as wild and active as those in say Mexico City, though I have not really experienced the nightlife in those cities, being more of a foodie and sightseer when I travel, though I always try to catch local live music. The tunes here are familiar. I have never heard Principe y su Sexteto before but his fabulous rootsy "San de Manique" is definitely a tune I know from a Cuban original. But before we get too comfy we are thrown a curve: The Pets' "El Entierro de un Hombre rico que Murio de Hambre (Burial of a rich man who died of hunger)," takes us straight to a carnivalesque Tommy James riff with a return of the Bach-like riffing we heard on the opener "Aquella Noche" by Un Dos Tres y Fuera. This time instead of a Bach fugue, the keyboard player lurches into "Dead March from Saul" before veering back to "Mony Mony," a decided Ray Manzarek or Rick Wakeman touch. Then psychedelic guitar knots up the outtro. "Shake it Baby" by Los Pájaros is bad boogaloo but we are too far into it to stop. "Toma Cinco," as the name implies, is a cover of Brubeck's "Take Five." Junior Squad give us a peppy cover of another forgettable pop ditty from the 60s, somewhere between Herman's Hermits and the Mamas & the Papas. It's hurting my brain to try to recall it. (Ah, it's The Turtles' "She'd Rather Be With Me.") We return to a more harmonious Latin groove for Johnny Sedes' lively "Guararé," a tune made famous by Los Van Van. And we go out with another unmemorable original (by Charles Aznavour) covered with extra twangy guitars and echo on vocals: "Tus 16 años" by Geminis 5. It's a weird set but might be fun at a party. For different reasons the tracks by The Pets and Principe are real gems and were worth finding.


Slide guitar, especially bottleneck on a National Steel (as seen on the cover), is the characteristic "voice of the blues." There's an introduction to "Baby please don't go" in Fred McDowell's best-selling 1970 album, I Do not Play no Rock 'n' Roll, where he explains, "I make the guitar say what I'm saying: if i say 'Our father' it'll play 'Our father'... if I play 'Amazing Grace', it'll sing that tune," as he demonstrates the slide, and it does indeed fill in the words. Fred McD & Robert Johnson did not make the cut this time around, which is the third Bottleneck Blues compilation from Rough Guide, but we hear plenty of the singing slide Fred showcased. The liner notes to the disc by compiler Neil Record explain that a wire strung between two pegs and played with a sliding tool such as a smooth bone was a West African child's instrument, known by slaves as the "Diddley bow"! That's a great name and a credible source as one-stringed instruments, such as the njarka fiddle, are still played in Mali. Hawaiian style slide arose at the same time as Mississippi blues, around the turn of the twentieth century and also had an influence in Africa as recordings began to reach there. By the time the great Barbecue Bob died in 1931, aged 29, he had evolved a unique and distinct style making a regular 12-string guitar sound like a prancing harpsichord. Here he gives us "Goin' up the Country" with its fast and stinging choral response, whining back to his dry almost hoarse vocals. Disc one in the series had John Fahey, Bob Brozman, Stefan Grossman and the Genial Hawaiians (not all together), whereas this one is straight ahead Delta blues. And this time Record sticks to the classic 30s sound, before Elmore James that is, from 1926 to 1936, from Blind Willie Johnson to Leadbelly. Gems are brought in from Curley Weaver ("Tippin Tom"), Oscar Woods ("Lone Wolf Blues"), and many others. Son House's "My Black Mama (Part one)" is driving and relentless, reminding us why he is one of the greatest. Blind Joe Reynolds' brilliant "Outside woman blues," made famous by Cream, still has not turned up in a decent version, but we take what we can get. And inevitably some of the tracks have appeared before, notably on Yazoo compilations, but Rough Guide continues to build a monumental library of American blues.


Putumayo is a region in Colombia where once upon a time, Dan Storper, the head of the Putumayo label thought he had found Paradise in a little valley. I just read an article in The New York Times, datelined Putumayo, how the only way for the farmers to survive nowadays is to join the paramilitaries that covertly rule the countryside and control the flow of coca from neighboring Ecuador and Peru. The label continues tranquilly on, however, with its unmistakable faux-naive covers picturing some idealized we-are-the-world type place that surely can no longer be thought to exist. But the music endures. This foray, called Blues Café, presents some familiar artists, like the great Lightnin' Hopkins, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGee, personal favorites Junior Wells and Otis Spann, and throws a couple of lesser-known talents into the mix. Among them are three nonagenarians who will get financial support from the Music Maker Foundation with 5% of the proceeds from this album's sales. Of course if you listen on Spotify or Pandora that 5% wont amount to a gob of spit, but the intention is good. I enjoyed Algia Mae Hinton's "Going down the Road feeling Bad" as her acoustic picking is very sprightly. Most of the tracks are familiar bar-room blues, electric guitar with harmonica, which I suppose is associated with B. B. King, though may as well be attributed to the sound of Buddy Guy or James Cotton, also present here.

LIVE IN DUBLIN (Nacional Records)

I noticed it was record store day last week and duly made my way to Amoeba in Berkeley, where I used to regularly drop $200 a month on records, CDs and DVDs. Now I hardly ever go there: their world music buyers are clueless, though the Haight Street branch in San Francisco sometimes turns up a nice item. I strolled around the packed store and my eyes lighted on this album. It was expensive, apparently because it was a) a special "record store day" release, and b) it promised to be on swirly colored vinyl. I suppose I picked it up from nostalgia since I loved their first few albums, up until they signed with Sony and began watering down their sound and becoming less and less interesting. They had a grueling tour schedule but I figured they would have chosen a good show to release (It did come out digitally at the time). I then noticed the line of buyers went all the way round the store. I browsed new arrivals while I contemplated the desirability of a $28 (with tax) LP, waiting to see how fast the line was moving: it was not, so I ditched the disk and came home to find the concert on YouTube, at full length and I pressed a few mice to preserve it. It is a good set (in a different sequence on YouTube from the LP) with "Feelin'," "Pa' Respirar" and their big hit "Fuego" twice (once abridged). There's two tracks from their first album Vol 1 (2006), half of Blow Up (2008), nothing from Elegancia Tropical (2012) and a few titles so far not on disc. I realized the tour was 2009. So there's no "Que Bonito," and no "Pure Love," but they are in good form in the Irish capital, well miked and so on. (The night I saw them in San Francisco on this tour everything was far too loud and Li Saumet was shrieking into the mic.) Back then when I was smitten with them I downloaded the Red Bull sessions which were wildly rocking, and a more moderately rocking set from KEXP radio, both of which are superb. This falls in the middle: you don't hear the subtler effects of Simon Mejía but the percussion is hot in the mix as befits a dance concert. Another reason to get the digital version is the LP is missing "Caminito," "Juana," and the great track "Pa' Respirar."

Reviewed in the past 6 months

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


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

December 2021

Kanda Bongo Man Live in concert has gone to Congo part 4
One Night in Pelican is in the South Africa part two section
as well as Top Ten reissues of the year
Youssou Ndour's latest foray into mbalax can be read about in the Senegal part 4 section
The Essiebons comp from Analog Africa made its way to Ghana part two

November 2021

Oliver Nayoka's latest Aja Wele-Wele is filed in Nigeria part 2
Sexteto Tabala's 100 years can be found in Colombia part 2


















"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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