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OLD WORLD (inc Asia, Arabia)

African Discographies

Updated 1 April 2017

The muzikifan podcast is updated twice a month. The lastest episode features the artist reviewed below, as well as surprises.

The mid-March mix (click below) included Baiana System, Youlou & OK Jazz, Misha Mengelberg, Alegre All Stars, Sonora Matancera, Amara Touré, Rock-a-Mambo, Baaba Maal, Wailing Souls and others. Subscribe on podomatic for updates as there will be two special shows before I post a new Muzikifan update.

Greetings, Platterbugs!


2 April Anoushka Shankar / SF Jazz at Miner Auditorium
7 April Hermeto Pascoal / SF Jazz at Miner Auditorium
8 April N.B. King Sunny Ade show at Miner Auditorium is canceled; Antibalas will appear instead
13-16 April Afro-Cuban All Stars at Miner Auditorium
Next month -- Yerba Buena Gardens Festival, San Francisco:
7 May Arturo O'Farrill & the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra
18 May Changui Majadero
20 May Brass Convergence
25-8 May Chucho Valdés and Gonzalo Rubalcaba at Miner Auditorium

Dear Departed

Misha Mengelberg, jazz pianist passed away last month. Here's a special musical tribute.
Steve Dickison writes: Misha, from a Ukrainian family, got started in Dutch jazz early 1960s, in his 20s, paired up soon w drummer Han Bennink, a lifelong match made in jazz heaven. their early claim to renown was Eric Dolphy's "Last Date" LP. shortly thereafter, late 60s, Misha and Han founded Instant Composers Pool, a rotating orchestra focused on improv + (soon down the road) swing, though the band's settled for over 20 yrs now w steady crew of 9, a couple Americans, German or two, all Dutch masters. Nederlands govt helped them tour so we've been fortunate, multiple local dates over the past 20-odd years. Han and the band still at it, a younger Dutch piano guy in Misha's chair since he started having memory problems a couple years back. genius. one of those.

also departed, Cheikh Tidiane Tall of Senegal, who was part of Xalam, Le Sahel band, and performed with Idrissa Diop. Essential listening: album on Teranga Beat, Diamonoye Tiopité.

& R.I.P. Chuck Berry: he could play the guitar like ringing a bell (& dance at the same time)

In other news

A new Monk album?! Incroyable!

Listen to the new album from Baobab, reviewed below, streaming on NPR has updated again; bookmark his site why don't you

I've updated the Rock-a-Mambo page & probably some of the other discography pages. There's a new double vinyl LP from Arsenio Rodriguez Como se goza en el barrio, but there's nothing new on it so I don't think i will add it to the discography

POLITIKI (Clermont Music CLE016)

Mamadou Kelly's third album Politiki shows him maturing into one of the great exponents of Malian blues. Backed by BanKaiNa, accomplished veterans of the Malian music scene (they've backed Ali Farka Toure and Alkibar), years of touring have sharpened their delivery to a fine edge. Without clutter you can hear Kelly's voice, a keening steel guitar and a djourkel, which is a mandolin-like instrument, atop bass, calabash and other percussion. It's a strongly assured sound, reminiscent of Ali Farka or Afel Bocoum but still very contemporary. The steel guitar is played by Cindy Cashdollar, a mistress of the dobro; the first woman inducted into the Texas Steel Guitar Hall of Fame, she has brightened up scores of albums, for Rod Stewart, Albert Lee, Van Morrison, Bob Dylan and many others. The djourkel is a "monochord" instrument, which I presume means it has open tuning. Percussionist Susie Ibarra has been performing in jazz, experimental avant-garde and world music ensembles in her less high-profile career. But John Zorn and Derek Bailey collaborations vouch for her credentials. Another guitar is added by Dan Littleton (ex-punk rocker) & his sidekick, bassist Jake Silver, so the line-up is four Malians and four Americans. Adding American blues, rock and folk musicians to Malian ensembles has been done before but this outing is a brilliant success.


Live Volume I from these Afro-Cubists was captured in Japan in 2001 (& got a scathing review from yours truly on the bottom of the "Cuba part 4" page). Just as the body replaces all its cells every 7 years this seems to be a new generation of the band. This new recording, from an evening in the magnificence of Guanajuato, Mexico, is strong, especially on the classics, "El cuarto de tula," and "Tumba y bongo" of Arsenio Rodriguez. It's a good show, lots of familiar oldies and no grandstanding this time out. It's a bit vain calling them All-Stars since they are really a bunch of unknowns, but they needed the grandiose title when they backed the famed Buena Vista Socialites. (The reverse is true of the West African Highlife Band which truly is a line-up of All Stars performing under an unassuming name.) The leader is Juan de Marcos Gonzalez who was plucked from the ranks of one of the greatest Cuban bands, orquesta Sierra Maestra (who preserve traditional music, and who also gave birth to Cubanismo), to assemble a band in the old Egrem Studios in Havana when Nick Gold of World Circuit had the idea of bringing African soneros to Havana to record with the old-time Cubans. That time the Africans didn't make it and they settled for Ry Cooder. Later they did come, and you can hear Mar Seck, Laba Sosseh and Pape Fall on the Popular African Music CD Los Afro-Salseros de Senegal en la Habana. The other problem -- also endemic with Africando -- is, if you induct some retired musicians into a band they burn out and die at an alarming rate. So the early stars of this band: Pio Leiva, Ruben Gonzalez and Ibrahim Ferrer all died over a decade ago and have been replaced by 14 suitably youthful performers of distinguished pedigree. Clarinetist Laura Gonzalez is grand-daughter of Marcos Gonzalez and great-niece of the brilliant pianist Ruben Gonzalez, and it turns out daughter of Juan de Marcos, so we learn indirectly he is the son of one of Arsenio's singers. Juan de Marcos stirs up the crowd by yelling "Viva Zapata," etc, but they are already predisposed to party and dance with abandon to the songs their parents also loved.

DUAS CIDADES (free on line)

My pal Zeca told me to check out this group, Baiana System: I gave it a cursory listen and said, nah, too techno for me, thanks. Then I stumbled across their video for carnaval 2017, "Invisivel," which got under my skin and I decided to give them another listen. Like many other bands they give away their music since they know people will steal it if they can, so you can check it out for free. One hopes this promotes them to the point where they get more gigs and that pays for their time and effort. This album is firmly rooted in their home turf: Cidade Alta and Cidade Baixa of Salvador da Bahia. The Duas Cidades (two cities) sit on the Bay of All Saints from which they get their name, and are separated by an old lift: the Lacerda elevator which takes you up from the bay to the precincts of the beautifully preserved 17th-century town on the cliffs above (a UNESCO world heritage site). When I first went there 20 years ago the Lonely Planet guide said, Avoid the ruined old city at night because it's full of thieves and prostitutes, so I figured that was the place to go. And I was right, I loved it on sight. Baiana System have a nice touch on the one-drop reggae, with post-Adrian Sherwood effects. In fact the album starts in the middle of a dubby piece with tasty piano and squeaky jazz clarinet riffs bouncing off a prowling bass line and very busy drums. You feel like you opened the right door late at night to a welcoming little bar off a cobbled side street in Pelourinho. The band are cooking and you are not yet too intoxicated to appreciate it. "Playsom" is a reggae/axé hybrid and the drummers really merge well, even adding in some Style Scott drum fills before a crashing dub comes in. In addition to the samba-reggae there are some more -- what's the word? traditional -- hip hop type tracks, including a tribute to Fela Kuti.


I am very greedy when it comes to classic Malian, Senegalese and Guinean music of their golden era, which spans post-Independence in 1960 through the 80s. As much as I discover, there's always more, and I am grateful to people like Graeme Counsel, Florent Mazzoleni, Adamantios Kafetzis of Teranga Beat, not to mention Stern's, Kanaga System, Dakar Sound and all the independent labels who find this music and restore it for us. This latest reissue from Mr Bongo is simply stunning. Looking at the tracklist you might see "Mandjou" by Les Ambassadeurs, and tracks from Rail Band and Super Djata and think to yourself, I probably have these. But chances are you don't have more than two or three of these tracks, not because they are obscurities, but because they are super-rare gems. I know, you are saying, But I have the 6-disc Rail Band set from Sterns (STCD3033-34, 39-40, 43-44), but you still don't have "Mouodilo" (a solid funk track, it came out on 45 from HMV in Nigeria!), and you might have "Fatema" by Ambassadeurs or Sory Bamba's "Yayoroba," but that still leaves a stack of stuff you need, like the two impossibly scarce and fabulous Idrissa Soumaroro tracks with his band L'Eclipse de l'I.J.A., the overlooked but far from slack Tentemba Jazz, and the Super Djata tracks which have never been reissued to my knowledge (They don't even show up on Idrissa Soumaroro is less well-known than other alumni of Les Ambassadeurs du Motel, and there are two cuts from his solo venture (Ampsa, 1978) presented here, bracketing the whole package: they are in a steaming R&B vein with great organ, congas, funk & rock guitar: a nice change from Afrobeat. "Fama Allah" made me think of "You keep me hanging on" as covered by Vanilla Fudge. His band L'Eclipse consisted of some of his blind students from L'Institut des Jeunes Aveugles in Bamako, including Amadou (on guitar) and Mariam (on vocals) who later had a successful breakout career in Europe and America. Back then, the European and American influences were grafted onto traditional melodies and lyrics, though occasionally some broke from tradition, like Sory Bamba whose hit "Ya Yoroba" celebrated women with large breasts. With his swirling electric organ, his group, Kanaga de Mopti, were compared to Pink Floyd. Super Djata had a wider repertoire, stylistically, than the other bands and also came to their peak powers during the 80s when the other big name bands -- Les Ambassadeurs and Rail Band -- were dropping off in popularity. In addition to Rail Band's Djelimady Tounkara and Super Biton's Mama Sissoko, Super Djata's Zani Diabaté is one of the great African guitarists. Compared to Magic Sam, Freddie King and even Hendrix, he was also a renowned percussionist and dancer. The booklet shows the covers of five Super Djata LPs that I have never seen, nor heard of before. The three tracks here stand up to the best of Ambassadeurs and the other class acts present. The whole album shows many facets of some musicians as they appeared in different configurations. The producers refer to one of "the heaviest Afro Funk cuts, 'Moko Jolo' of Rail Band" (which is on their 1973 "blue" album, Serie Folk-Rail 1, but not included here). I guess they are leaving some stuff on the side for a further smorgasbord. It's a great jam, but currently only available on a 2011 Japanese import replica CD of the original album which has three other cuts which are not in print. But there's enough here to satisfy you and broaden your collection of fabulous classic Malian music.


There are many guests on the new Baobab, their first new album in a decade, but one notable absence: Barthélémy Attisso, the brilliant guitarist whose fine filigree adorned all of their recordings until now. Maybe to compensate they've added a kora, which seems very incongruous given their Latin-tinged music; their regular rhythm guitarist Latfi Benjeloun is also missing from the line-up. The rest of the surviving band members are here: the twin saxes of Issa Cissoko & Thierno Koite, the voices of Balla Sidibé & Rudy Gomis. Plus the rhythm section. Adding to the line-up we find veteran guitarist Yahya Fall who was with the Star Band throughout the 1970s; by the 90s he was backing Mar Seck. There's a trombone, jauntily played by Wilfried Zinzou; two powerhouse Senegalese singers also show up for a moment: Chiekh Lo sings on one song and Thione Seck on another. Seck was originally in the band, but quit in 1979 to pursue his own career with Le Raam Daan, a more mbalax-oriented group. Here he reprises "Sey," his hit with Baobab which can be found on the Guy Gu Rey Gi album (Buur BRLP002 1965). If you don't have that don't despair, you can also hear it on the Night at Club Baobab compilation CD (Oriki Music, 2006). The new version cooks along, thanks to high fidelity and the fact the new guitarists only have to mimic the original to sound good. Oumar Sow, another legendary Senegalese guitarist, also appears, but I think only as a rhymist. There's another remake, of "Kanouté," which returns as the strong opening cut, "Foulo," sung by Balla, who also interpolates bits of "Djanfa Magni" into the chorus. There's no question this new release is a great album and you need to hear it, but on first listen I was a little disappointed by the kora instead of the sparkling leads of Barthélémy (who decided to stay home in Togo after 16 years of endless world tours, since their comeback). Guitar solos are notable by their absence and without Attisso it's really not Baobab. Abdouleye Cissoko, on the kora, steps up for a remake of "Mariama," a Manding folk song covered by Onivogui Balla et ses Balladins, Orch Paillote and other groups. But the saxes, congas and timbales combine to make the familiar melting ambience just fine.

most recent reviews:

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

March 2017

Bargou 08's Targ is back in Arabia
Shem Tupe is filed under Kenya part 2
Les Amazones d'Afrique's Republique Amazone can be found in Mali part 3
Aurelio Martinez' Garifuna opus Darandi is filed under Caribbean miscellany
OK Jazz's The Loningisa Years 1956-61 is in Congo Classics part 2
Synthesize the Soul: Astro-Atlantic Hypnotica can be read about in the Cabo Verde section
Fruko's A la Memoria del Muerto &
Combo los Yogas' Canabrava are filed in Colombia part 2

February 2017

Jaako Laitinen and Väärä Raha are filed under Old World misc
Sory Diabaté's latest is filed in Mali part 3
Diama Ndiaye's Dafarèèr is filed under Senegal part 3
so is Ibrahima Cissokho & Le Mandingue Foly's Yanfu
a review of the movie Faaji Agba is filed under Nigeria part 2

January 2017

Palenque Records AfroColombia mix is filed under Colombia part 2
Jinja by The Nile Project is filed in Arabic music
Djime Sissoko's Djama Djigui went to Mali part 3
The Rough Guide to Hillbilly Blues is reviewed in the Blues section

December 2016

Trio Mandili are filed in Old World miscellany
Bollywood Brass Band's Carnatic Connection is filed in Music of Bollywood part 2
Oro Negro are from Colombia
Bonga is filed in Angola, Cabo Verde etc
TP Orch Poly-Rythmo's Madjafalao can be discovered in Benin
Alikibar Junior is in Mali part 3, as well as the Top Ten of 2016
Elage Diouf's Melokaane is filed under Senegal part 2

November 2016

Kenya-Congo Connection is filed in Congo part 3
Locos por Juana Caribe is filed under Colombia
Pat Thomas Coming Home is found in Ghana
Kimi Djabaté from Guinea-Bissau may be found in the Angola & Cabo section
while Dawda Jobarteh from Gambia has gone to Misc Africa
Memorias de Africa comp is in the Angola & Cabo section
Elza Soares in in Brasil part 2
Rough Guide to Delta Blues is in the Blues section
Studio One Radio Show is filed in Jamaica part 3

October 2016

Alsarah & the Nubatones' Manara and
Noura Mint Seymali's Arbina are filed under Arabia because I am too lazy to create sub-categories for Nubia, Mauretania, etc
Kenya Special vol 2 and Urgent Jumping are both filed in Kenya part 2
Ravi Shankar live in Hollywood is filed in India
Family Atlantica can be found under Old World Miscellany
Kottarashky & Rain Dogs' latest can be read about in the Balkan section

The Top 16 of 2016 is HERE

Top 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


"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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