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OLD WORLD (inc Asia, Arabia)

African Discographies

Greetings, Platterbugs!

Updated 1 March 2023

New & Notable

Atlas Maior, an Arab jazz instrumental EP, groovy

Turkish pop sampler from Bongo Joe, to support earthquake victims

Ogassa Original reissue from Benin's Albarika Store: more Afrobeat

Even more funk and disco reissued, this time from Ghana

Wait, there's more: Strut has revived a Traffic-inspired rock band from 1970s Nigeria: Ofege

Palenque Records has reissued 100 Años de Sexteto Tabalá, a Palenquero roots group

King Ayisoba from Ghana has a new album Work Hard

Trumpet-led jazz from Mali by Solomane Doumbia

Post-punk Ethiopian music from Yalla Miku

New from Radio Martiko: l'orchestre National Mauritanien. They are calling it the "birth of desert blues"

New from Brasilian songstress Josyara, her new album Adeudarà


Huey "Piano" Smith died at age 89

Ismaila Touré of Senegalese supergroup Touré Kunda, age 73


There's a new Colombia part 3 page
Updates to Congo in Kenya page, thanks to Alan W
Here's a nifty Early Congo music resource

Latest Muzikifan Podcasts

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

Downfall of a Tyrant: By request, music
from Zimbabwe plus a Docteur Nico rarity,
Celestine Ukwu and more treats

Baby, it's You: African hits and their
Latin inspirations plus bhangra, jazz
and more

The Joint's Too Small features all the
music reviewed below, plus New Orleans,
Senegal and Bollywood remixed


This is a live recording, made at the Crochetan Theatre in Switzerland in 2021. I was thrilled to learn it was new from Gangbé Brass Band, who have not put out an album in a decade, but sadly they are only a third of the acts. However they come out blasting with a vivid rendering of the New Orleans favorite "Big Chief," renamed "Takin." Track two, "Gèdé," also catches fire when the gang jump in. This series, "Kala Jula," of acoustic performances was begun in 2011 and has toured the globe as showcases in Mali, Switzerland, Portugal, Cabo Verde, UK, etc. This is their third release and features band-leader Vincent Zanetti, a Swiss who plays kora and djembe. The other acts remind me of Rail Band-era Salif Keita and Mory Kante, which is interesting, in the choice of material and arrangements, but with kora instead of guitar. It could be because of the recording situation, live in a big hall, which echoes the Rail Band sound from their first albums on RCAM (Rail Culture Authentique Mali). You can watch the show on Vimeo with a paid account. Parts of it are on Youtube, including "Asro," the bluesy "Treme Cisse," & "Sanuge jimba." What make it stand out (for me) is the involvement of the horn men, with great solos and tight arrangements by trombonist Martial Ahouandjinou. The atmospherics also lend much to the guitar and kora duo on "Mali Sadio," and later tracks like "Mi dovi azomé" where they really let fly with guitar and djembe as well as trap drums and a big horn presence. The guitarist is Samba Diabaté, also a balafon player, whose father was part of the famed Instrumental Ensemble of Mali. He has toured with Sali Sidibé, and also with Rail Band's guitarist/founder Djelimady Tounkara. Aha! So my supposition was right. There are more Diabatés: Mahamadou Diabaté sings and plays djeli ngoni; he brought his 14-year-old son Fama Diabaté who also sings lead and plays balafon on here. Fama is now wearing the mantle of his late uncle, Kassé Mady (who sang with Badema National as well as solo and on collaborative albums with Toumani Diabaté). Without digging through my albums to compare titles, "An ka ke nyogen fè" also sounds like Rail Band, which is hardly surprising. Vocally, Fama is a nice throwback to that era. It's an interesting effort, mixing griot traditions with jazz-funk and afrobeat, but may not be to everyone's liking.


In this recording, the traditional kora of West Africa encounters the Chinese pipa, a similar stringed instrument, with sparking results. The two artist from different cultures had played with other performers and thought this would not present a challenge, but nothing is that easy. Gao Hong studied music in Beijing before moving to the USA where she has won many awards and written the first English-language instruction manual for learning to play the pipa. She has jammed with bluegrass, klezmer and jazz bands but was fascinated by the kora. Kadialy Kouyate grew up in a griot family and also taught kora at Dakar University. Moving to the UK he has toured with the Royal Shakespeare Company's production of "Julius Caesar," and was a cultural consultant and dialect coach for the TV series "Roots". On this session they each agreed to lead on alternate tracks. The first thing Gao noticed was that kora playing is more about the rhythmic structure than the melody. Kadialy suggested she just feel it and go with the flow. The result is beautiful: the two are in a dialogue that is fresh and spontaneous. The title means "House of Friendship," but there is still a competitive edge as the duo bring their best chops to the set and show off their skill as well as their sensitivity to the music.


The (second time around) hits keep coming from VampiSoul. The latest in their Colombian reissue series is of accordionist Alfredo Gutiérrez with singer Lucho Pérez (from Sonora Dinamita) on a jamming set called ¡Así es ... Con salsa! (That's it... with hot sauce). It's unusual to have accordéon in a salsa band but Gutiérrez (from the cumbia coast) is no slouch and he handles his part as if he were horn section as well as pianist. (Even so there is also a piano player and horns.) When he first comes in on a piercing high note, you might think it's a flute. But within seconds they go to a break with the whole 14-piece band vamping and the guiro racketing in one channel while the timbales player goes off. Oh boy, it's getting hotter. They also stop on a dime, which I learned from experience is hard to do with more than a couple of instruments. Then the horn section comes back, then piano, and the coro, full steam ahead. This opener, "Guadeloupe no va" fades at 4'36 and you just wish it had gone twice as long. There is a welcome looseness to the soloing that comes from ample practice. Gutiérrez's band Los Caporales were set up to rival Discos Fuentes' Los Corraleros de Majagual and they certainly give them a run for their money. In fact Pérez, the singer/songwriter, also sang with their rivals Los Corraleros, among others. It's a unique kind of Latin fusion with the New York line-up of trombones, electric bass, etc, but added on is the tropical vibe of the accordéon which is not out of place. This was their fourth album, and there are three bonus singles thrown in to really ice the cake. Definitely a keeper.

DUHOVI (Riverboat TUGCD1134)

Riverboat is a label with a solid track record of turning up lesser-known artists who are nevertheless great, or on the verge of a breakout. This is the second album of Faith i Branko and showcases a very accomplished set of Roma-inspired gypsy music. Faith was born in the UK. 15 years ago she met and married Serbian Branko Ristic. She plays accordion; he is a violinist. Faith also sings and plays synth and tabor pipe, which is a tiny three-hole whistle-like flute. The title "Duhovi" means ghosts, and refers to four of the musicians on the album who passed away since it was started in Emir Kusturica's studio in Serbia. There is a kind of "Spinal Tap" morbidity to their identification on the album, as "guitar (track 1) deceased," "guitar (track 2) deceased," "guitar (track 14) deceased," etc. Now Faith and Branko live in London and their music reflects a pan-cultural approach, right from the outset, with "Mari Lon," which is a gypsy number based on an (unidentified) Bollywood movie song. From there they traveled to Penrith, which is in northwest England, where they had a residency and jammed with Iranian Pouya Mahmoodi, guitar (still extant), who improvises wildly adding a John McGlaughlin-esque flourish to their rave up. The album ends with another casualty: Uncle Milo who sings (croaks, actually) and beats up his broken guitar. It's telling us something, I am not sure what, though a lot of the folk on this session seem to have caught Covid-19. Milo died during the pandemic and whatever talent he had formerly possessed is another ghost on this adventure. The title cut, "Duhovi," is a tour-de-force of violin playing and Branko also shines on Faith's star turn "I'm sorry," but together they display massive talents. They have a video of the track "Irena Kolo," on Youtube.


First I have to say this is not really a gwo-ka album, but if you approach it with an open mind, it is a dub album, with elements of African Head Charge (i.e. early Adrian Sherwood mixology) and also Herbie Hancock- or Joe Zawinul-era jazz with loads of spacey keyboards, muted trumpet, and even more echo on the vocals. Here is a good piece, with audio samples, on Gwo-ka from Bandcamp. One of my musically savvy friends (from the Caribbean) said he thought this was a DJ album using some touches of gwo-ka as an element, but that the result falls flat. The songs are in a hoarse Guadeloupean creole which you might follow, almost, fi you spik French. The mixer Doctor L has left room for Polobi's invocations to his ancestral Gods, but the drums are not that significant in the mix, in fact the traditional gwo-ka drums are the least evident thing on this album. The lead track and single "Kawmélito" is rhythmically asymmetrical and the drums are reduced to an off-kilter element behind the jazzy keyboard (which also invokes Chick Corea and Ray Manzarek— have I left anyone out?!). The Manzarek vibe persists and the drums do show up, minimally, on the third track, which has "petit oiseau" (a.k.a. yellow bird) in the lyrics. "Bouladjel" sounds like it was recorded in the bush with frog and insect noises and backing vocals looped. This makes a nice change in the program.

CANNE A SUCRE (A Night on Canopy, CANOPYLP112)

By coincidence here is another Gwo-ka-inspired album that came out in Benelux and France in 2022. (Big thanks to our Man on the Spot, Ken A!) Discogs seems to think it should be classified as hip-hop, noting the categories "Jazzy" as well as "Instrumental," though there are definitely singers on here. The "jazzy" I suppose is the tooting muted trumpet, behind the susurration of shakers, insect sounds and ambient noises. The hip-hop is credit to the producer, "As Valet," who DJs a late-night radio show in UK. This is similar in some ways to the Polobi album on RealWorld, but less obviously derivative of early Miles, so a lot subtler. The opening cut "Dominos" draws you in immediately, and not only because if you go to the Caribbean, you will get drawn into endless games, slamming bones on a formica table and buying a round if you lose. The ambience sets the stage— though, be advised, don't wander off into the bush on your own. Not even for a quick pee: you will get disoriented (as I once discovered in Haiti). The drums are frontal in the mix and lend a very transcendent feeling to the proceedings, while the atmospherics just glance off your cerebellum in the outsides of the speakers instead of dominating. The sequencing is great and it's one to put on repeat and groove in the mellow late-night mood.

FACE TO FACE (Strut Records)

Vusi Mahlasela, Norman Zulu & Jive Connection takes us right back to the era of Sly & the Family Stone, and Gil Scott Heron. Vusi was a voice of the anti-apartheid struggle and left Pretoria, South Africa for Sweden where he joined up with guitarist Stefan Bergman and drummer Erik Bodin in Jive Connection. He returned to South Africa for Live 8 (Johannesburg, 2005) and Nelson Mandela's inauguration, and he toured the US with Hugh Masekela a decade ago. This album was recorded back in 2002 and has only recently been unearthed. It has soul and jazz grooves and a dash of reggae, but mainly hearkens back to the sounds of the 70s. Norman Zulu is another singer/songwriter, who grew up in Soweto and brings a Township vibe to the studio. The two managed to teach the Swedes enough Zulu to sing back-up in a Ladysmith Black Mambazo harmony style. The sax and organ are definitely up for it, and contribute to a warm township feel. There is a bonus single "Faceless People," reminiscent of the Last Poets, added in two takes to sweeten the deal, and the set stretches out enough to get to Jamaica, with the mellow rootsy title track, "Face to Face." This has a nice Ernie Ranglin-influenced guitar lead. For more flavor of the past, "In Komo" suggests Malombo with jagged guitar over what you might call Azanian drumming. I recognize the chorus of "Intombi ye Mbali" from a South African township album I had 40 years ago and now can't remember the group's name. It's probably a famous refrain, or just accepted as part of the folk canon. "Prodigal Son" also reveals the influence of Masekela, suggesting this album is an overview of Vusi and Norman's heritage.

Recent Reviews (last 6 months)

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

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

December 2022

Balka Sound went to Congo part 4, as well as straight into the Best of 2022

November 2022

Momi Maiga went to Senegal part 4
Kottarashky & the Rain Dogs are filed in the Balkan & Gypsy section
Abdullah Ibrahim's Solotude is filed in South Africa 2
The Latin Brothers' El Picotero went to Colombia part 2
Conjunto Ingenieria are filed in the rapidly expanding Venezuela section
Alhaji Waziri Oshomah can be found in Nigeria part 3
Read about Deep in the South under the Blues tab
Pedro Lima's compilation is in Cabo, São Tomé, &c
Guts by Estrellas is filed in Senegal part 4
Oumou Sangaré in Concert is found in Mali Live

October 2022

Montparnasse Musique's Archaeology is found in Congo part 4
Baba Commandant's Sonbonbela is filed in Burkina Faso
Ernesto Djedje has gone to Ivory Coast
Okaidja Afroso's Jaku Mumor can be read about in Ghana, part 2
MAG 14 Magnificos Bailables is a compilation from Peru
Wganda Kenya are from Colombia, filed in part 2

September 2022

Celestine Ukwu can be read about in Nigeria part 3, as well as on his own page in the discography section
John Ondolo and his Hypnotic guitar went to Kenya, Tanzania part 3
Shikamoo Jazz live and John Kitime's new album with Wahenga are also filed there
Kanda Bongo Man went to Congo part 4
Alfredo Linares with El Pito is filed in Peru
Los Dementes can be read about in the Venezuela section
Rough Guide to Memphis Blues is filed in Blues




















"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

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