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OLD WORLD (inc Asia, Arabia)

African Discographies

Latest Muzikifan Podcasts

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Is it Rolling, Bob? mixes recently reviewed tracks with Latin & Cuban gems

Tanzania trip presents rare Tanzanian oldies on vinyl, from 1978 to 1986

Greetings, Platterbugs!

Updated 8 December 2019

Best of 2019 can be found Here

& podcast Here

Sound & Vision

Kokoko! NPR Tiny Desk concert
this is fantastic; sadly their EPs and LP dont live up to the excitement here

BBC4 documentary on Toots & the Maytals

Profile of Los Luzeros de Rio Verde, a Norteño band from Houston, comprised of three talented siblings

Blogger buddies

John Beadle at Likembe has been busy lately. I really enjoyed this one by Ebigbo International Band of Agoloma

Matthew Lavoie at Wealth of the Wise just posted a great collection of African brass bands!

NYE: Local gigs, SF Bay Area

The Fillmore in SF just announced a Lakou Mizik and Preservation Hall Jazz Band double bill this New Year's Eve
SF Jazz will be hosting a party with Maceo Parker
Freight&Salvage, Berkeley, will match both of those with Jane Bunnett & Maqueque backed by Louie Romero and Mazacote; Afro-Cuban All Stars will be at the Freight in January


Richard M. Shain reports:
"Camou Yandé, one of the mainstays of Senegalese Afro-Cuban music, has died in Dakar. Yandé was a wonderful sonero and a superb conguero. He was perhaps best known for his work in Nicolas Menheim's ensemble, one of the very best Senegalese Afro-Cuban orchestres. Yandé had great humor and warmth and enlivened any room he entered. Born in Casamance (Southern Senegal), he was one of many Casamance individuals who contributed to the artistic excellence of Senegalese Afro-Cuban music."


Recorded live in Bamako and New York, Mamadou Kelly's fourth album continues his thrilling exploration of the bridge between traditional Malian desert blues and the fusion possible with sensitive well-attuned guest artists. He and other members of his band played with Ali Farka Toure since the mid-80s, but the music has evolved and the presence of Jake Silver on bass and Cindy Cashdollar on pedal steel add a sweet country and blues touch to the arid tones of ngoni and calabash. The one-string Malian violin is played by Madou Diabate and there are touches of balafon added by Adama Sidibe and a wonderful lyrical clarinet from David Rothenberg. The mix puts Kelly's voice on top but all the instruments work in harmony with echo on the electric guitar (Aly Magassa) and a big room sound reminiscent of the great pioneering Studio Bogolan recordings by Yves Wernert 20 years ago. The atmospherics are wonderful, and the incursions of slide guitar and bass clarinet are perfect. There's also a remix or two from his last album, thrown in for good measure.


Here's a welcome reissue of what can truly be regarded as a seminal album of folkloric music which crossed over into the mainstream and created a slowly building titanic wave, beautifully realized as the Congotronics series produced by Vincent Kenis. In November 1978 Bernard Treton & Guy Level of OCORA (French national radio), made some field recordings of thumb piano music in Kinshasa. Four different groups were involved (one with accordéon instead of likembes), each representing a different ethnic group, but all of them had come from their homes in the bush to the capital city and decided they needed electricity to make their likembes audible over all the traffic and urban din. They took car batteries and rigged up buzzing contact mikes and added percussion out of found metal in the same auto wrecking yards (a "gonguist" and what remains of a cymbal, said the original notes). A double cassette (those were the days) came out with 4 half-hour tracks in 1987. Then two years later a CD with abridged versions of two of the tracks appeared. Now Crammed has gone back to the source tapes and taken different slices of music (some of it overlaps the issued parts). Konono No 1, who came from Angola, now move to prime place with a 28-minute opener (it was a minute shorter on the CD and a minute longer on the cassette). This wild epic jam was apparently played in the morning to allow the vocalists to sleep, according to the original notes. Yes, sleep, while the stacked 175-watt amps filled a massive stadium with a wall of sound. The vocalists, presumably unable to rest, yell through loud-hailers, so their voices are as distorted as the likembes.
Bana Luya is a bit more restrained, with actual pauses or breaks in the music. Here we get 15 minutes of them as opposed to 23 minutes that were on the OCORA CD. They are Baluba from Eastern Kasai province. In addition to a bass and two treble likembes playing cyclical patterns they have two-tone whistles. Beer bottle percussion and metallic maracas augment the performance. Sankai, also from Eastern Kasai, is the mellowest of the four acts. Bottle and tam-tam accompany the two likembes, the players of which sing into their instruments so the pick-up mikes catch their voices too. They traded grass for better quality Beyer microphones, brought in by a Peace Corps worker from the US. In contrast the Bambala are serious folk who do not play in bars: they only play for family ceremonies, baptisms, weddings and funerals. They feature a jaunty accordéon and various home-made percussion instruments.

But wait, in addition to the new CD, there's a bonus album of four disco remixes by Martin Meissonnier, who has worked with Fela, King Sunny, Manu Dibango and others. We already heard Konono guesting on "Earth Intruders" from the Volta album by Björk in 2007 and to me this sounds very much in that mode (although there were half a dozen alternate mixes of Björk's song). He starts by choosing a sample to loop and running it through a phaser while adding extra oomph to the percussion with a drum machine. But then the likembe patterns are already loops. The Sankayi track is called "Il ne faut pas intervenir" (Do not intervene) which is ironic, no?


Perfect for your next party, a budget sampler from the vast Discos Fuentes catalogue of cumbia, salsa and descarga. Discos Fuentes is celebrating its 85th anniversary and has had many scorching successes, so this sampler is a great introduction to the Colombian label that is now the longest-running independent record label in the world. From boogaloo to bomba to wiry guitar and accordeon-driven cumbia, they have packed dancefloors and the reissue series by Vampisoul, focusing on the hardest to find titles, has also started to become collector's items. The set kicks off with three relatively well-known tracks: Lito Barrientos' "Cumbia en Do Menor," "Arrebata" from Lisandro Meza and the Afro-Cuban classic "Coco May May," here performed by Combo los Yogas. I say well-known because you may recall the earlier cumbia craze of the late 80s when World Circuit licensed a couple of CDs from the Fuentes catalog. But then we plunge into some steamy numbers that are just as vital but less familiar, from Peregoya, Adolfo Echeverría, Michi Sarmiento (saxophonist, who had a great disc of reissues on Soundway in 2011) and the master, Fruko (known variously as "el Barbaro," and "el Bueno"-- he is a bassist and the label's A&R man). It's non-stop action, heavily percussive and with clarinet and saxes taking the lead. It does run out of steam in the last two tracks, but it you have danced through the preceding 35 minutes it's a chance to cool down.


It's well-known that gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt reinvented the technique of playing after losing the use of two fingers on his left hand in a fire in his caravan. It's also well-established that he elevated guitar playing to the loftiest heights of jazz with his Hot Club de France. He's probably the only non-American to have had a big impact on jazz. I have two different multi-disc box sets of his work so I am familiar with his vast repertoire. When American jazz giants like Coleman Hawkins, Benny Carter and Rex Stewart came to Europe they queued up to jam with him. Other guitarists from Chet Atkins to Andrès Segovia acknowledged their debt to him. Django became to the guitar what Bach is to the keyboard, or Louis Armstrong to the trumpet: if you play, you cannot ignore him. Yet there is more to Django than the swinging gypsy jazz we know and love. Stephane Wrembel learned from gypsy guitarists and exploring Django's vast discography found an overlooked aspect of his creativity. Django had written many classical pieces in the Impressionist style developed by other French musicians such as Maurice Ravel, Erik Satie and Claude Debussy. Wrembel collected these lesser-known solos for this recording, which is a true masterpiece. There are a couple of well-known covers here: Everyone knows the swinging "Tea for Two," and there are two studies "Belleville" and "Nuages" which were written for a film soundtrack. But the others were scattered about in radio broadcasts and live shows and were ignored as studio warm-ups since they did not resemble the pulsating quintet recordings of the Hot Club. Though they have pedestrian titles like "Improvisation no 4" they are self-contained miniatures and hold together as an overall work. Wrembel also noticed that "Improvisation" was not an accurate title as Django played No 4 on a couple of different occasions-- live shows which were recorded-- and it is the same arrangement, so may have developed from an improvisation but was a fixed composition. Wrembel was born in Paris and his playing was featured by Woody Allen in the Grammy-winning soundtrack to his wretched mess of a film, Midnight in Paris, but don't hold that against him. This is an enchanting solo album and I love the mood and understated brilliance of it.


For another take on the ladies who sang the Blues, Rough Guide has come up with 25 cuts. Often salacious and light-hearted these blues songs were among the most popular and certainly the first "race" records recorded and marketed to an eager public. They are also folk art in the finest sense coming out of vaudeville and bar rooms where the singers were backed by jazz musicians, rather than the more familiar country blues performances with one or two guitars (like Geeshie Wiley & L.V. who are not present). The early divas, Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith, were so influential their impact could still be heard in Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, Mahalia Jackson and Janis Joplin. The Depression killed off the market for a lot of recorded music, so almost all of these sides were waxed in the mid to late 1920s. It's a glorious era, and Rough Guide has attempted to restore the sound though a couple, like the early "St Louis Blues" of Ester Bigeou could have been omitted for quality control. Maggie Jones' "Anybody here want to try my cabbage?" is pretty silly, even if it points the way to "Don't touch me tomato," and similar metonymic grocery ditties. There are no notes (not even the 5 photos are identified) so you will have to dig on your own if you want to know who the accompanists are. Lizzie Miles' "Electrician blues," for example, has fine piano which took a little sleuthing to find was Harry Brooks who also wrote "Ain't misbehavin." There's great trombone and a fine clarinet backing Sippie Wallace's "I'm a mighty tight woman." Turns out to be Johnny Dodds on clarinet and Honore Dutray on the 'bone, both of whom were with King Oliver and Louis Armstrong's bands. The great band backing Lena Wilson, I also learn from discogs, is the Nubian Five (who seem to be Italian-Americans, adding a layer of intrigue: I've heard of "passer blanc" but "passer noir"?). Edith Wilson's "My man is good for nothing but love" but he is "like a dove" and "fits me like a glove," whereas other ladies are pursued by everyone from King Solomon to the Prince of Wales.

The Year in Review, so far

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

November 2019

Congo Revolution is filed under Congo Classics 2
Yaseen & Party can be found in Kenya & Tanzania part 2
Pour me a grog can be read about in the Cabo Verde section
Guillermo Portabales can be seen in Cuba part 4
Send I a Lion, from Nighthawk, is filed in Jamaica part 5
Radio Tarifa have gone back to Spain
Pat Thomas is in Ghana

October 2019

Cuban Golden Club went to Cuba pt 4
Monty Alexander is filed in Jamaica part 5
Dytomite Starlight Band of Ghana can be found there
Lakou Miziki's latest can be read about in Haiti

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