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OLD WORLD (inc Asia, Arabia)

African Discographies

Greetings, Platterbugs!

Updated 1 February 2024

Worth checking out

New compilation of Les Editions Populaires 1968-70 of Franco & OK Jazz, coming from Planet Ilunga on Feb 29/ Video teaser here

Bandcamp feature on the Black music of Colombia with many samples

via Tony Pitt: WEMA from Tanzania, led by Msafiri Zawose, have added electronic grooves to push their tradi-folk sound to the middle of the urban dancefloor. It's percussion heavy with tape loops which sometimes get in the way, but overall a very uplifting set

Tony also dug this second album of Senegalese kora from Amadou Diagne and French/American banjo and guitar from Cory Seznec

Oluko Imo: not only Fela-inspired, but Fela and his son appear on this!

Familiar out-of-tune swampy piano from Ethiopia, now with added vocals!

Easy going music from Rwanda, on Tiny Desk (via Barry Eisenberg)

A set of rare Congolese 78s on Ngoma, put together by Planet Ilunga, from a poster on youtube

I've updated the discography pages for orchestre Rock-a-mambo and Negro band


Bovick Shamar, guitar, bass and vocalist with African Fiesta Sukisa, l'Afrisa Internationale and orchestre Vévé passed away recently

Latest Muzikifan Podcasts

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

Music Inferno, a tribute to Bovic, plus
music from Bahia, South Africa, Congo,
Mali, reggae, R&B and Count Basie

Jazz from Africa: Makgona Tsohle, Dudu
Pukwana, Cheick Tidiane Seck, Randy
Weston, Abdullah Ibrahim & more

New Sounds: All the new releases
for February, plus Bollywood, Cuban and
a few surprises


The late Doug Paterson told me he thought Buda Musique had become disenchanted with their Zanzibara series which compiled Taraab and Muziki wa Dansi from the golden age of those musics in East Africa. Maybe they felt they had filled the need and perhaps sales were not as brisk as for their Ethiopiques, their excellent ongoing Musique du Monde, or other series. Nevertheless, I asked Doug to forward my suggestions for some Vijana Jazz tracks to the producer Werner Graebner for his next compilation. We wait in hope. This new compilation from the Recordiana label of South Africa arrives digitally via Bandcamp as download only, but it has been remastered (twice) and furthermore the translation and booklet are by the acknowledged expert Graebner. So it is, as you might guess, a wonderful set of great East African dance band music, with harmony singing and real horn sections accompanying the dancing guitars of the likes of Cuban Marimba Band, Tanzania Jazz Band, Morogoro Jazz and others. Morogoro Jazz, established in the 1950s, was the original band of Mbaraka Mwinshehe (known as the "Franco of East Africa"): their singles are rare and if you can find any of their Polydor albums they have usually been played to bits. In addition to Mbaraka on guitar and vocals you can hear band-leader Kulwa Salum on sax. Their classic "Nimechoka" is reprised here from Zanzibara 3, as is "Utaniangamiza" (which is a waste as you certainly have that CD and I for one have 2 CDs worth of unreissued material by them, compiled by a friend). In the early days these bands fostered friendly competition between neighboring towns, each with their champion dance band, usually playing covers of Latin hits (particularly Cuban son montuno), along with foxtrots and so on. As the influence of Congolese music spread in the 70s they incorporated stray members of Congolese bands who had come on tour and stayed and also adapted the rhythms of Congolese rumba into their own repertoires. Cuban Marimba Band (who don't play marimbas and are not particularly Cuban) were also based in Morogoro, while Atomic Jazz, also sax-led, came from Tanga, Kiko Kids were from Tabora and the majority of bands, Kilwa Jazz, Western Jazz and others were based in Dar es Salaam. After Nyerere declared a policy of Ujamaa in 1967, centred on African socialist values of community and family, bands were forced to regroup. Most successful was NUTA Jazz who were a co-operative of trade union members from the National Union of Tanganyika. The police, the army and even the bus conductors also created collective bands, paying salaries out of union funds. Recordings were done at the radio station in Dar but mostly bands traveled to Nairobi for better facilities. These records came out on ASL while others were released by Assanand's music shop in Mombasa. Both these labels were absorbed by Polygram (Kenya), a Philips subsidiary in the early 70s. The selection for this new comp was done by Rob Allingham and he has leaned heavily on three of John Storm Roberts' compilations in putting this together, so seven of the tracks are duplicated from other sources. This is too bad, though I suppose the Original Music discs are out of print and it shows the keen ear of JSR in finding such great music in the first place. "Safari ya NUTA Jazz" was on the Original Music comp The Tanzania Sound; their "Mpenzi Sofia" was on Dada Kidawa; "Amina" was on Africa Dances, so the NUTA material here is familiar. Atomic Jazz Band's two selections are also well-known: "Njoo mpenzi njoo" was also on Dada Kidawa and "Dunia ina mambo" was on The Tanzania Sound also. But then maybe you are old and forgetful, if like me you've had the Original Music albums for 40 years. While we can't expect to own all the great African recordings, slow accretion is at least useful, and this new venue bodes well for the future of muziki wa dansi, as we know there's loads more in the archives.


We have to go back to 1982 to understand the genesis of this sound. That was when Jean-Philippe Rykiel, son of fashion designer Sona Rykiel, took a trip to Ghana and fell in love with African music. Back in Paris he met Youssou N'Dour and Omar Pène, and arranged half of Salif Keita's breakthrough 1987 French album, Soro. This may explain why we hear drum patterns and synthesized flutes and horns on so many Parisian albums from that era, including on this selection. Retrospectively, this gets a bit hard to take in large doses, so I skipped Ami Traoré's "Tenedo." For better or worse, Soro inaugurated a new era in the sound of African music (It features an instrument with the ominous name of "kora synth"). The artists on this album are much less-well known that those Senegalese and Malian singers, but they built large followings among their French-based African public. These fans bought cassettes in the shops of Gaye Camara, a Muslim trader from the Kayes region of Mali, who made contacts in the expat community as well as reaching out to producers in Ivory Coast, Guinea and Mauritania. The Paris sound is melodic and techno-heavy but without the guitars, traps and horns you find in the expatriate soukous albums of the same era. This album ostensibly features artists of "Wagadu"— the ancient name for Soninke people, originally from Ghana, when they were animists, before the arrival of Islam in the 13th century. Instead of aiming at the urbane white audience, as his contemporary Ibrahim Sylla did, Camara was content to feed the expats with a rootsier griot sound, as exemplified here by Halima Kissima Touré. These tracks are all by musicians from the Soninke who spread all over Africa and as far as France. And if you listen beyond the synthi string washes and snare patterns (with a crash on the 7th beat), you will hear balafon continuo and acoustic guitars characteristic of a lot of Mande musical culture. Camara released hundreds of cassettes and of course most of the artists on here have not made it to Discogs. However he scored big with Oumou Sangaré, Mah Damba, Coumba Sidibé, Kandia Kouyaté and many other Malian songbirds. Among them, Fatoumata "Mah" Kouyaté is featured here. Also among his roster, Babani Koné has broken out to a larger audience, effectively replacing Kandia Kouyaté as the main praise singer in Bamako society. Naïny Diabaté's "Sankjoy Djeli" sounds a lot like the aforementioned Salif Keita album, in fact a lot of this album does, but she has dueling electric guitars, ngoni and balafon which create more interesting textures. I suppose the category is "Electronic griot" and it is consistently high quality, as is the production. And despite the occasionally bland Paris music production there are powerful vocals as in the selections from Hadja Soumano and the powerful opening and closing tracks by Mamadou Tangoudia (using a vocoder) with a more modern production which recalls "Techno Issa."

I AM KURDISH (Nyahh Records 013)

Call me a bleeding-heart liberal but I do not like the way the Kurds have been treated, not just historically — deprived of their homeland (alongside other peoples like Armenians and Palestinians) — but did we not promise them autonomy (that is the US government under George "Shrub" Bush) for helping oust "Sodom" Hussain from Iraq? Clearly not enough shoes were thrown at Bush 2... and why is Türkiye so keen to hold on to the worthless barren rocky wastes that form the Western part of their nation? Anything they build there falls down in earthquakes. Syria: no one can live there anymore, and Iran, well, if Ayatollah once, Ayatollah a million times, no state can prosper as a theocracy, and Iraq, that's a load of Shiites. So maybe the Kurds don't want the whole geographic spread, but it would bring some sort of stability, if their recent track record is studied, to give them back their damned country. However there is one thing we can count on from oppressed people, and I hate to say it, is great music. Music of exile and suffering has been a strength of international music as long as we can remember. Mohammad Syfkhan is a Kurdish singer and bouzouki player who had a nice life playing music in Raqqa, Syria, at parties, weddings and festivals, until ISIS showed up when war broke out in 2011 and killed his son. His family fled to Germany and he ended up with his daughter in Ireland. Now he commutes between Ireland and his sons' home in Germany where he entertains at Kurdish and Syrian events. This new musical environment means he is now jamming with Irishmen in Leitrim, and on this album he has Cathal Roche on sax and Eimaear Ready on cello. He also has some of his countrymen on percussion. It's a success: it flows well and there are some jazzy bouzouki solos to demonstrate his mastery. Plaintive strings ring out but are swept up in a joyous atmosphere telling us to party like there is no tomorrow. He could be right.


Last time we met Gao Hong, a year ago, she was jamming with a kora player, Kadialy Kouyate. That album won awards and made me notice Chinese pipa playing for the first time. Now the pipa player has teamed up with Ignacio Lusardi Monteverde, a flamenco guitarist, and turns in an equally impressive set. This is Gao's first encounter with this particular style of guitar playing. The title means "Skylark" and suggests the creative inspiration found in nature, such as bird calls. The challenge the two musicians faced, in blending very different styles of music, was met in the celebrated Abbey Road studios in London where they got to know one another in a lively musical conversation. Not all jamming is worth preserving, but here the two are cautious and respectful as they feel out the spaces in the music. Gao's response to the flamenco flourishes are poetic which leads in turn to Monteverde pulling out all his best licks. Birds are an apt image as the music does swoop and soar. In another ornithological reference they do a cover song: "La Paloma," a famous Spanish song from 1860 inspired by a trip to Cuba. It's a Habanera but has that distinctive stretched cadence familiar from Tango and the work of composers like Albéniz.


Twenty-five years ago, on my third trip to Bahia, Brasil for carnaval, I saw Gilberto Gil parading with the bloco of Filhos de Gandhy. He was already a big star and stood out from the identically dressed devotees in their blue and white robes, blue beads & white turbans. They looked like a walking ad for laundry detergent. These traditional percussion groups (afoxés) are an important part of carnaval in Bahia as they keep continuity with the Afro roots of the music, performing with mostly drums and shekeres. They also connect to the pacifist message of Gandhi-ji, having been formed in 1949, the year after he was assassinated. Since I last saw Gil he became Minister of Culture in Lula's government, but kept appearing and playing both his pop Tropicalismo as well as rootsy folk music with acoustic guitar. Now he has teamed up with Luizinho do Jêje and his group Aguidavi do Jêje for an evocative set of lyrical music. While he is only on one track, Gil's spiritual sensibility permeates the disc. There's a heavy percussive underpinning with the agogô (the two tone cowbell of the Yoruba in West Africa), hand claps, conga drums, backing a local stringed gourd, known as the violão de cabaça, or calabash guitar. There's even a rainstick which makes it uniquely Brasilian, though you can also easily identify this as African music. It is not religious or ceremonial, rather a celebration of life and joyful self-expression, however you know the Orixás are listening! Jêjes were slaves from Dahomey (present-day Benin) brought to Brasil, while Aguidavi is the name of the drumstick used to beat the three ritual drums of Candomblé music. In 1835 there was an insurrection of slaves in Bahia, this event, known as Malê, not only defined Bahia as a seat of rebellion but set it apart as almost an African enclave within the New World. Part of the lyrics use onomatopoeia, words from the old vocabulary handed down in Dahomean oral memory, used in call and response vocals. The acoustic guitar helps knit it all together into an exciting event.

Most Recent Reviews

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

January 2024

Mama Sissoko Live is filed in Mali part 5
The return of Dieuf-Dieul can be read about in Senegal part 4
Principe y su Sexteto are found in Venezuela
Said Chalaban is filed in Morocco

November 2023

Idrissa Soumaoro's Diré is filed in Mali part 5
The Afro Senegal compilation African Music is filed in Senegal part 4
El Clan Antillano can be found in Colombia part 3
Bixiga 70's latest is found in Brasil part 3

October 2023

I put Noor Bakhsh into India & Pakistan part 2, though he is somewhere between
Fruko's El Violento is in Colombia part 3
Hailu Mergia's live album can be read about in the Ethiopia section
Catrin Finch and Aoife ni Bhriain are filed in the sprawling Old World Misc section
remind me to sort it out as there's everything from Tuvan throat singers to Bjork in there....
Allen Kwela is in South Africa part 2

September 2023

Ngoma: the Soul of Congo can be
read about in Congo Classics part 2
and also in the Top Ten of 2023, see below...



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"Essential reference guide to the Congo guitar king" — SONGLINES 64 **** (four stars)
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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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