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OLD WORLD (inc Asia, Arabia)

African Discographies

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Surface Rumble features music from congo, colombia, spain, guinea-bissau, usa, zambia, malawi, antilles

Latest podcast Downfall
celebrates the music of Zimbabwe

Greetings, Platterbugs!

Updated 1 October 2019


New on WealthoftheWise a tribute to Mauretanian singer Sidaty Ould Abba, father of Dimi Mint Abba, who has died. Also check out his previous post of 8 hours worth of unreleased Malian guitar band recordings

Robert posted Les Quatres Etoiles/Four Stars at Hertme Festival 2010 and there's more gold in there

Lucy Ilado sent news of the death of Kenyan Juma Toto. His biggest hit was "F.C. Gor Mahia" with the Hodi Boys

World Circuit is reissuing Guillermo Portabales "El Carretero" on vinyl and SoulJazz has announced a double vinyl 21 track compilation of early Congo hits (including OK Jazz rarities)

Afrodisc has updated with a listing of 78s on the OPIKA label

Occasionally important discoveries in mainstream music, like a new disc, "Blue World", from John Coltrane's classic quartet, recorded in 1964, demand our notice. Coltrane was asked to provide music for a Canadian film called Le Chat dans le Sac (The Cat in the Bag), and laid down eight tracks including two versions of "Naima" and three of "Village Blues." In the end, ten minutes of music appeared in the film so fans of this great quartet finally get to hear the original tapes, but I expect to be disappointed. From the online samples it seems like there is one great cut ("Blue world") plus false starts and filler. The Trane tunes were all previously recorded for Atlantic apart from the title cut. On top of which there are already five live version of e.g. "Naima" on the European Tour discs (which came out on Pablo Live/Fantasy & Charly records).


If you thought Cuban old-timey music had lived and died with the Buena Vista Socialists, think again. Since about 1909, trios, quartets, sextets, septets and conjuntos were creating a new kind of folk music called "el son" which became one of the most popular musical forms in and from Cuba. Many memorable tunes were created with a line-up of tres and guitar with bass, congas and bongos, singers with percussion and trumpets. Not surprisingly the best compilation of the music -- hits like "Chan chan," "Cómo está Miguel," "Suavecito," "Lágrimas negras," "Echale salsita," "Como baila Marieta," and "La loma de Belén"-- is called El Son es lo más Sublime. Sometimes guiro and timbales were introduced, and latterly a piano as the music inevitably evolved. The result is a steamy mix, more flexible and denser than salsa, but with more fire than guajira and other folk forms. I don't recognize the names of any of the band members of this latest group of Soneros, apart from singer Felix Baloy, but their guests are legends: Pancho Amat plies the tres on two tracks, Maraca plays flute on one, Changuito and Pancho Terry check in for extra percussive duties. Some of the eight singers featured have performed with Los Van Van, Son 14, BVSC, and Ibrahim Ferrer. In addition, members of the national symphony show up to add cello, violin, viola and flute. For once the tunes are all originals (with a few familiar refrains), although there is a deep repertoire, coming from Miguel Matamoros and Septeto Nacional de Ignacio Pineiro, and Sexteto Habanero (who traveled to Camden, New Jersey, in the 20s to record), whose memories float over the proceedings like weightless beings in a Chagall painting. Real rumba, boleros and danzón all were hybridized into the evolving sound. This album is energetic and has a great warm feel, like it was caught live in the solar, however the mix could be better, as the soloists tend to get lost in the enthusiasm. "La luz del Son" starts out like a familiar ballad then kicks into a montuno, which we could also term a "seben," 2/3rds in where they jam an extended outtro, with trumpets, chekere, cowbell and chorus. This double album follows another single album, again with all original material, released earlier this year.


When I was about 15 I didn't own a lot of records. Those I had I played a lot: Vivaldi's Four Seasons, Scarlatti Sonatas by Wanda Landowska, Rameau's Pièces de Clavecin, Bach's Brandenburg Concertos, Temperance Seven, Joe Harriott Indo-Jazz Suite and Jack Loussier Trio plays Bach: a blend of Baroque chamber music and quasi-experimental jazz. Loussier took popular Bach pieces as the basis for jazz improvisation. Seemed like a great idea to me and I copied him, swinging the beat and adding fills on "Aria (Air on a G string)." But a friend of my parents called it "ballroom Bach." His point was don't mess with perfection. I didn't buy pop music because I listened to it every night on Radio Luxembourg. In my later teens I got into Frank Zappa, Coltrane and Monk. The Monk songbook is like the Himalayas among jazz standards. Everyone wants to scale it but before reaching the summit many fall off or have to turn back. Monk is so unique and such a brilliant improviser that it's hard to build on him and imitating him only gets you so far. The Latin jazz versions of Monk I have (Nueva Manteca, Fort Apache Band) have the right groove, and are mostly enlivened by the other soloists while pianists have to be as good as Danilo Perez to add anything new. The danger of a whole reggae album of Monk tunes is that it will seem like a caricature, with nyabinghi drums, Melodica, Leroy Sibbles-style spare bass, &c, overwhelming the melodies. Monty Alexander has taken some tough Monk tunes (there are no easy ones) and dug into them with both hands. The result is impressive. "Misterioso" is a bold foray into the deep end. Monk often played solo because that allowed for a looser tempo than playing with a rhythm section, but with the bass, drums and a Melodica working in counterpoint, Monty manages some bubbling on "Brilliant Corners," there's also ominous brass and an organ on this superb rendition.


It's encouraging that more and more classic African albums from the past are being reissued. This one is a good find, and promises to be first of a whole series of reissues from Onitsha's small Tabansi label coming from BBE Records. This album was recorded in Nigeria in the early 80s and was a one-off from this particular group. Other acts on the Tabansi label included Ebo Taylor who is still going strong, and an unreleased set by him is next up along with promised treasures from Victor Chukwu, trumpeter King Zeal Onyia as well as juju and funk discs. A curiosity for fans of African Fiesta is a disc by the group's bassist Lumingu Puati (a.k.a.Zorro) "Thina Dekula." Overall Tabansi was a pretty small and obscure label, so it's an odd seam to mine. The recent Stephen Osita Osadebe reissue from Hive Mind leads one to hope more of his albums will be coming out again, not to mention other classic Nigerian acts like Oriental Brothers (on Afrodisia), Celestine Ukwu (Philips), Victor Uwaifo (Polydor), Rex Lawson (Akpola) & Victor Olaiya (Polydor/Philips). From Ghana we can also wish for more Sweet Talks (Philips), African Brothers (Aduana, etc), and Ramblers (Decca) albums. I listed their primary labels to show that they were not all controlled by big companies, and there is reason to hope for more reissues, though Philips (which also controls Polygram and Decca) is probably not interested in something that is only going to sell 500 copies. While obscure, the Dytomite Starlite Band are a class act: they have the right highlife propulsion, trumpets and keyboards over traps and congas, with a heavy bass and sweet vocals in pidgin. There is a dab of electronic keyboard, but none of the awful synth that ruined the recordings of Alex Konadu & other late 70s artists. The liner notes suggest the singers used the Tabansi studio band as backing, which makes sense given the sheen and the fact it is as much Nigerian highlife as Accran.

HAITIANOLA (Cumbancha)

Lakou Mizik have called in a boatload of friends to help them celebrate the journey from Haiti to New Orleans on their second album. Both were French territories in the 18th century, and so the Crescent City saw an influx of Haitians after the revolution of 1791 left Haiti in turmoil. The band felt the connection when they were invited to play Jazz Fest in 2017 and were right at home. And there they met many acts, from Cyril Neville to Arcade Fire, who became their fans and were invited to participate in this project. To their simple line-up of acoustic guitar, congas and accordion they have added the mighty Preservation Hall Jazz Band plus another brass band the Soul Rebels. John Cleary's piano doesn't quite fit the voodoo-style percussion groove but the energy is good. Overall the inclusion of guests on nearly every track seems a bit desperate like they wanted to shore up their sound. However the silly Tank (of Tank and the Bangas) is so irritating that particular number has got to go! Nevertheless the tracks are short and mostly sweet. The highlight is "Iko Kreyol" another remake of "Iko Iko" which came out on an advance EP of four remixes.

The Year in Review, so far

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

September 2019

Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe's reissue Osondi Owendi is filled in Nigeria part II
Nusrat F.A. Khan's Live at WOMAD 85 can be found in the harmonious India & Pakistan part II
Juffureh Band's Abaraka Bake is filed in Senegal & Gambia part III
Johnny Clarke's Creation Rebel can be read about in Jamaica part V

August 2019

Early Congo Music 1946-62 is filed in Congo Classics part 2
as is the latest compilation of Jean-Bosco Mwenda
Wuta Mayi La Face cachée goes to Congo part 4
Peru Negro is filed in Peru
and Hama Sankare's Ballebe can be found under Mali part 5

July 2019

Rough Guide to Country Blues is filed under Blues (USA)
Hope Masike can be found in Zimbabwe
Ouma's I love you Inna is in Mali 5
Dona Onete's latest is filed in Brasil pt 3
Marcia Griffith's Sweet & Nice is filed in Jamaica part 5
Kongo dia Ntotila is filed in Congo part 4

June 2019

Salum Abdallah & Cuban Marimba Band are in Kenya/Tanzania 2
Jambú e os Miticos Sons da Amazonia can be read about in Brasil part 3
Chano Pozo's Rumbero Mayor is reviewed in Cuba part 4
Massa Dembele's Alumaye and
Las Maravillas de Mali went to Mali part 5
Youssou Ndour's History can be read about in Senegal part 3

May 2019

Africa Negra's latest Alia cu omali from Sao Tome is filed for convenience in Cabo Verde
You can read about Canalon de Timbiqui's De mar y rio in Colombia part 2
Robert y su Banda is also filed under Colombia part 2
Adama Barry's latest is reviewed in Mali part 5
Nigeria 70: No Wahala is reviewed in Nigeria 2
Angelique Kidjo is from Benin, which is where you can read about her Celia tribute

April 2019

Hama Sankare's Niafunke is filed in Mali part 5
Culture on Nighthawk is filed in Jamaica 5
Los Jubilades' Llave del Son
& El Comite's So What? are both filed in Cuba pt 4
as is Complete Cuban Jam Sessions
Yapunto latest can be found in Colombia part 2
Mdou Moctar's Ilana the Creator is filed in Niger

March 2019

I've added two book reviews to the bookshelf
Houssam Gania's Mosawi Swiri and Moulay El Hassani's Atlas Electric made their way to the Arab section
(Remind me to create a page for Morocco)
Ry-Co Jazz's Dansons avec le Ry-Co Jazz is filed in Congo Classics part 2
Cumbia Beat volume 3 went to Peru, of all places
Orchestre Abass de Bassari Togo should be found under African Miscellany

February 2019

Kwi Bamba are filed in Guinée
Star Band de Dakar reissue is filed in Senegal part 3
Nostalgique Kongo is filed under Congo Classics 2
Yelsy Heredia can be read about in Cuba part 4
Coumba Gawlo is filed in Senegal part 3
Etienne Charles' latest is reviewed in Trinidad

January 2019

Bassekou Kouyate's Miri &
Livio's Melodies Mandé are both filed under Mali part 5
Delgres' Mo Jodi can be found in the Caribbean section
Tita Duval & Bobby Rey's Cumbias Internacionales went to Colombia part 2
Les Bantous de la Capitale's Hommage to Grand Kalle &
Nganga Edo's Le Patriarche are filed under Congo part 4
Tartit's latest can be read about in the Niger section

The Top Ten New releases and Top 8 Reissues of 2018 are here

The Top Tens of 2017 are HERE

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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