CLICK on a map to get to the archived reviews; SCROLL DOWN for latest reviews; Click HERE for Links



OLD WORLD (inc Asia, Arabia)

African Discographies

Greetings, Platterbugs!

Updated 1 June 2023


Tony Pitt recommends: Namian Sidibé from Mali. It's lovely

Tropical pop funk from Colombia by two sisters, Elia y Elizabeth Fieta

Exploring Mediterranean folk music with oud, violin and frame drum

New Toumani Diabate recording with Iranian/Persian kamancheh player Kayhan Kalhor

Loboko plays old school soukous, featuring the great Ngouma Lokito on bass. "Kanyunyi" is a mutuashi that sounds like "Kamulanga" by African Fiesta

Craig Hyman suggests the new Sia Tolno EP

On Tour

Baba Commandant, in your living room


Tokyo Groove Jyoshi jamming on the jazz/funk standard "Pick up the pieces"


Excellent, long read about a paranoid American blues researcher, Mack McCormick.
(You may remember the in-depth piece in the New York Times about the rediscovery of Geechie Wiley — that was stolen from his research...)


João Sería, singer of the group Africa Negra from São Tomé, age 74

Tina Turner, R&B singer, age 83; see her perform "Proud Mary" on Italian TV

Chris Strachwitz, innovative founder of the American blues and folk label Arhoolie Records. See the trailer for a fine documentary about him. Later this year Chronicle Books will publish a book of his photos.

Juan Formell, Jr, bassist and bandleader of Los Van Van, at 59

Latest Muzikifan Podcasts

(Note: The muzikifan podcasts are hosted
on Soundcloud; please subscribe on their site)

Dance like no one is watching: music
of Congo, São Tomé, Senegal, Tanzania,
Upper Volta, & Latin America

Down Home Blues: pays tribute to the
Arhoolie Records label, with Mississippi
Fred McDowell, Elmore James, Son House.
Then there's Haiti and Cuba too

June's Tunes features all the new music
reviewed below, plus Tina Turner, Los
Van Van, João Sería and Allen Toussaint

DOWN LUCKY'S WAY (Tapestry Works TWLP02)

"It never rains but it pours" is true also of music discoveries. When Vampisoul started reissuing salsa albums from Venezuela, El Palmas Music jumped in and poured a torrent of Venezuelan albums on the market, and they are all worth checking out. Just last month Strut announced they were reissuing the first two albums of South African group Malombo Jazz Makers from 1966. And now we have another, from Tapestry Works. Down Lucky's Way was their third album, from 1969. I have a great appreciation for Malombo thanks to Man Phily (1986), the compilation put out by Günter Gretz of Popular African Music, which was one of many gems he issued on vinyl from his base in Germany. That original Malombo featured Philip Tabane on guitar with a mellow jazz-influenced set of dreamy and hypnotic music. Tabane left and the group reformed as the Malombo Jazz Makers, now with Lucas "Lucky" Madumetja Ranku on guitar, still keeping Julian Bahula on percussion and Abbey Cindi on flute and soprano sax. Their name comes from the traditional malompo drums you hear on here, that are used in healing ceremonies. While the music is instrumental it was felt to be deeply political: using indigenous instruments to express themselves in apartheid South Africa. Gallo recorded the album but very few copies made it to market, either it was suppressed or deleted, because Malombo were known as trouble-stirrers. Music as a weapon! The titles are in Sotho, including "Matshenyogo," which means "The Struggle." As Bahula said, "the Boers were too stupid to learn our language so we could get away with titles like that." They toured clandestinely with Steve Biko, the student activist, and appeared on stage with white musicians, either wearing masks or painted with UV paint. Their concerts often ended with Special Branch officers tossing smoke bombs into the crowd. Then the police started looking for Bahula, showing up at his home demanding to know where he was. One thing they knew for sure was his drumming was getting to them. Finally Julian and Lucky were forced to flee to England in 1974 where they joined with Dudu Pukwana and even appeared on the Specials' hit "Free Nelson Mandela," singing chorus. But here, in their prime, we can appreciate their talents, stretching out in wonderful long jams. There is a continuity with the mellow, jazzy Tabane vibe which is what Cindi and Bahula wanted when they realized Tabane was too unreliable to tour and stick with them. For this disc they added bass and some discreet organ, which fills out the sound nicely. How mellow is it? "Tribute to A. Motjuoadi" is based on "Silent Night" which is about as laid back as you can get!


I often put on piano music as background when I am working. It's relaxing and creates a good atmosphere, while blotting out other noises like traffic or neighbors' dogs. Since musical ideas are only held in your brain for a few seconds they kind of rinse your thoughts as they pass. However their progress keeps resolving so you find you are enjoying such a musical thread, or not. There are of course other factors, endorphins that are released when certain feelings are triggered, which is why people cling to their old records and keep hoping to relive something: the rush of excitement when they heard a certain artist for the first time, say, or had a drug experience or a sexual one and associate it with some songs. But Tanya Ekanayaka provides a new and good soundtrack to calm moments. I have played this one a few times, and occasionally think I hear a quote from Rachmaninov or Beethoven. There are in fact a lot of familiar classical echoes in here, but Miss Ekanayaka is not improvising. She writes, "every piece was precisely composed (or evolved, as I prefer to say), often over several days, and where there is an inspirational source of the motifs, it is the specific folk music of the languages referred to, not the classical repertoire. Any echoes you hear are (hopefully happy), coincidences." The languages of the titles are, many of them, in danger of becoming extinct, and Ekanayaka has used their names as triggers to musical ideas. The music has emotion, but does not take over, as for example when you are listening to a favorite album and there are key moments or touchstones where you become so emotionally involved your brain becomes focussed on it, so it moves from the unconscious to the foreground. Here I can be aware of what she doing while still reading or thinking about something else, with no disrespect to her performance. It's comforting in its familiarity without become a compulsive game of trying to recall which riffs I think I recognize. There are moments in Jazz improvisation where the performer goes to a comfortable spot but then has to extricate themself without falling into a trap. I am always interested to hear how jazz musicians get out of a maze when they accidentally fall into a familiar groove, say "El Manicero" or "A-tisket a-tasket" and wish they hadn't gone there, so in a split second have to find a quick exit. The doors they open in their subconscious can be exhilarating. So it is with Ekanayaka. For example "Kandaani" has a riff in New Orleans' style which you can hear in Professor Longhair but she quickly moves on to other pastures while you are still puzzling it out. I think I hear Ernest Gold's theme from "Exodus" in the left hand... but she assures me, "it is inspired by a Vedda song hundreds of years older than the Exodus theme you're hearing – the Veddas are the indigenous people of my homeland, Sri Lanka. 'Kandaani' means 'bees' in the Vedda language and is a celebration of the Vedda people, their way of life, and their language." So it is best to "go with the flow" and not try to overanalyze it. This work is conceived as two parts: a CD of piano sutras (the sanskrit word for threads or prayers) and another of "pianisms" combining multiple threads in parallel. This is connected to her background as a Sri Lankan, growing up with the piano and then discovering its heritage as an instrument of the colonizers, successively Portuguese, Dutch then British. Formerly we would think of this as individual pieces, maybe 6 sides of a three LP set, but instead in this new digital world it all flows together as one long mellow mood.

¡SAOCO! vol 1 (Vampisoul VAMPI 283)

I thought I had reviewed this the first time around, in 2012, but looking at my Puerto Rico page I see it was volume two I wrote up. This is a reissue of the groundbreaking 3xLP set of Puerto Rican Bomba and Plena from 1954 to 1966. This style became popular in the USA as the Cuban embargo began to bite and bands from Havana were unable to tour. Cortijo y su Combo is the big name on here, with vocalist Ismael Rivera (who kick the set off with the now-classic "El Bombón de Elena"), but there are other stars like Canario, Chivirico and Mon Rivera (I always read it as "Moon River"). It's uptempo Latin music in the salsa ballpark which is kept alive today by the energies of groups like Son Mujeres Orquesta and Plena Libre, a wonderful contemporary band who still tour North America. For this remake, Vampisoul have remastered the sound and compressed the album to two LPs without losing any tracks (keeping the overhead down). "Carbón de Palito" by Moncho Leña, like "¡Aló! ¿Quién ñama?" has a very droll delivery including really fast singing which becomes undecipherable in a humorous way. I guess you have to hear it to get what I am saying. It must have gone over well at the time and I wonder if people still mimic it to this day. The speedy tongue-twister delivery is also a facet of "Karakatis Ki" by Mon Rivera. Some salsa favorites like "Cúcula" are given a fresh airing. There is also "Y Pedro Flores" by Cortijo, credited to Arsenio Rodríguez, but I don't know the original; I suspect it is a typo and they forgot to list the song title! Cortijo's "Calypso, Bomba y Plena" is very anthemic; in fact so many of the tunes on here are instantly memorable. Though they may be unfamiliar, there is a comforting feel to "Sacude Zapato Viejo" (or shake your old shoes) by Odilio Gonzalez. The tres in "El Gallo Espuelérico" by Monse Garcia sounds Cuban, but the accordion brings it back to Puerto Rico. Accordion and clarinet duet on "Te Están Vacilando" by Ramito, who is another well-known performer from the island. This is a solid collection and definitely worth investigating.

1975-85 (El Palmas Music)

Once again El Dragón Criollo has been crate-digging in Caracas and come up with the latest collection of danceable hits from yesteryear. A child of the streets, hustling and shining shoes, Tabaco (so-called because he was long and thin like a cigarette) would listen to bands rehearsing and ended up joining Sexteto Juventud. He tried out playing every part until he ended up as vocalist. The other band-members liked his charisma and the fact he sounded a bit like Ismael Rivera, top Puerto Rican vocalist then active in New York, with hits on Tico. At 20 Tabaco created his own sextet which morphed into Tabaco y su Metales, with the metals being his own percussion playing on cowbell, as evidenced in the rip-it-up "Arrollando." There's also great bongo playing on this track. It's clear his hero was Beny More, from his writing and delivery. He also performed in prisons to show those unfortunates they weren't forgotten. But due to his harsh upbringing he was in poor health and died young, leaving a gap in the world of his many fans. "El Tren de Porky" has the immediacy of a live jam, with percussion high in the mix, hot horns and a scorching tres. In "La Libertad" he pays tribute to Beny and Celia Cruz and others who had defined the music. This compilation draws from his two bands' output, mixing his lyrics dealing with social injustice and the strong African rhythms he brought to salsa Venezolano.

CARRUSELES (Vampisoul VAMPI 282)

Another project of Fruko, bassist, producer and arranger at Discos Fuentes. Despite the band name this is not in the least Afrobeat, though that was a factor in some of his other bands; this seems to be a catch-all for anything bizarre to hand: cheap early synths blarting away, odd instruments like glockenspiel and percussion that sounds like drum programming. There are real drums on here too or I would have trashed it from the get-go. The weird opener "Chinito's rhapsody" is followed by something more salsa-ish, however the lead is a fuzz-tone guitar pursued by a synth keyboard. The purpose was to recapture the attention from the Chicha bands of Peru who had taken cumbia and added surf guitar and hippie keyboards, so Fruko was attempting the same. Experiment is great but this is very dated now. "Salsa con Tabaco" and the title track "Carruseles" already appeared on the AfroSound of Colombia 2-volume set. "Zaire Pop" should never have been released: more fuzz-tone and busy percussion with mumbled vocals, I guess supposed to evoke the jungle? Swirly organ adds to the tropical miasma. This is what is meant by "Exotica," right up there with Morton Gould's Jungle Drums. A crappy cumbia, "Me voy de la vida," is up next. The lead guitar has turned off the fuzz tone pedal, the electronic keyboard tries to encourage him. Finally we get to "Salsa con Tabaco" to close side A — phew — the best track on this side by far. It's actually decent salsa. Side two starts out better: no malarkey, just a straight ahead cumbia, "La negra Saramuya," with the guitar and keyboard now just part of the sound with the bass and percussion higher in the mix. The irritation factor returns though on "Ponchito do colores" with some silly effects that sound like your neighbors' cell phone ring tone. — Someone answer that, fer pete's sake!! Overall this is a curiosity, mainly of interest to Fruko or Disco Fuentes collectors, but not for the unwary. Vampi previously reissued another Discos Fuentes album by Afrosound La Danza de los Mirlos (1973), which is far more engaging, though it still has goofball sound effects over the cumbia underpinnings.

The Year in Review, so far

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

May 2023

East African Highway can be read about in Kenya, Tanzania part 3
Mahlathini and Mahotella Queens Live is filed in South Africa part 2
Praed's Kaf Afrit is filed in Arabia
Inna Baba Coulibaly can be found in Mali part 5
so can Solomane Doumbia's musical journey across sub-Sahara

April 2023

Okwy Osadebe can be read about in Nigeria part 3
Dogo's Dogo du Togo is filed under African miscellany
Fruko Power is filed in Colombia part 3
Andres y sus Estrellas is the latest entry in the Venezuela section
My review of Alain Gomis's film Rewind & Play is filed under Monksville (New World)

March 2023

Asro from Gangbé Brass Band, with Kala Jua and Fama Diabaté is filed in African miscellany
Gao Hong & Kadialy Kouyaté is filed in world miscellany (for want of a better spot)
Alfredo Guiterrez y los Caporales' ¡Así es ... Con salsa! went to Colombia, part 3
Faith i Branko's Duhovi is filed under Gypsy
As Valet's Canne à sucre is filed in Music of the Caribbean
as is Polobi and the Gwo-ka Masters
Vusi Mahlasela, Norman Zulu & Jive Connection can be read about in South Africa, part 2

February 2023

Kimi Djabaté is filed in Guinée
T.P. Orch. Poly-Rythmo are found in Benin
No Nazar's Piano Bazaar is hard to classify, let's try Bollywood 2
Björk's Fossora went to Old World miscellany
Sound of the Soul by Debashish Bhatracharya is filed in India & Pakistan part 2
Ray Perez y sus Kenyas are from Venezuela

January 2023

La Perla are filed under Colombia part 2
Azuka Moweta can be found in Nigeria part 3
Sona Jobarteh is from the Gambia, which has its own section
Vibro Succès are from Central African Republic, so are filed under African miscellany
Farid el Atrache is Egyptian; read about him in Arabia
Mita y su Monte Adentro are found in Peru
Ray Perez is filling up the Venezuelan section almost single-handedly
Moncho y su Banda can also be found in Venezuela
Iftin Band can be read about in the Ethiopia & Somalia section




















"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 © 2004-2023 by alastair m. johnston

Your comments are welcome. Or join the discussion on facebook

If you are not already a subscriber, send me an e-mail to be notified of updates, or fill in the box above. Please note none of the music discussed on the site is for sale by me. Also we will not use or share your mailing address for purposes other than the monthly notification of updates. You can reach me at contact[at-sign]muzikifan[dot]com

Creative Commons License
muzikifan by alastair m. johnston is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at