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African Discographies

Updated 1 March 2017

The muzikifan podcast is updated twice a month. The current episode features the artist reviewed below, as well as Grupo Son Palenque, Eddy Gustave, Toots & the Maytals, Big Youth, and Lobi Traore.

The mid-February mix (click below) included LKJ, Hugh Mundell, Rex Lawson, OK Jazz, Celia Cruz, Lipua Lipua, Bana Ngenge, Siba, Banda de los Muertos and others.

Greetings, Platterbugs!

Gigs

The Bay Area comes together in a benefit concert for beloved DJ José Ruiz (KPFA, KPOO, Comal Thursdays, etc.), Sunday 5 March at Casa de Cultura, 1901 San Pablo Ave, Berkeley. Show at 5 pm starring Los Cenzontles, John Santos Sextet, Bobi Cespedes with Orestes Vilató, Orqesta La Moderna Tradición & others
Dengue Fever with Tinariwen, UC Theatre Berkeley, April first; also playing Belly Up, San Diego March 30, Fonda Theatre, LA March 31, then Portland and Seattle in April and on into the vast North American demi-continent
Toots & the Maytals (could just as well add "legendary" to that) will also appear at the revamped UC Theatre on April 14. Will sell out fast, if it hasn't already
Goran Bregovic will be at SF Jazz Center March 9-12
Dobet Gnahore will appear at New Parish in Oakland on 28 March
Salif Keita will appear at Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis tonight, then Portland and Seattle, also Great American Music Hall in SF, before hitting New York April 1st at the Town Hall

News

Informative picture book on African Records by Florent Mazzolini

Obit of Jean Karakos, boss of Celluloid label who published Fela, Toure Kunda, and many more. Always ahead of the game, he brought the "Lambada" to the world during his amazing life

Carnival in Brasil

MC Beijinho, from 19-year-old crack-smoking street kid to 4.5 million hits on YouTube in the space of a month
From our Special Correspondent, Zeca, Salvador da Bahia

On November 18, 2016, Ítalo Gonçalves, a guy living on the street, smoking crack, but with some dreams of a different future, robbed two people of their cellphones. He was armed with a knife, and crazy high. He was arrested a short while later, and put in the back of a police car (which are hatchbacks) and a TV-news host was called. The show, Bocão ("big mouth"), exists mostly to report crime, humiliate the accused with insulting interviews, and generate popular hate. When the host began to interview him, he said he was a singer, and started to sing "Me libera, nega," a song he had, partially realized, in his head. The song is about a guy trying to get a girl interested in him, but she stays at a distance. The videoclip of Ítalo's arrest, which shows him visibly drugged out, went viral. MC Beijinho ("little kiss") was born.
He spent 48 hours in lockup (where he apparently sang the song non-stop until the guards were desperate to see him go), and was then brought before a judge to determine whether he had to remain in jail until trial. The delegado interviewed the victims and Ítalo, and determined that he wasn't dangerous. He was released on his own recognizance.
"Me libera" means "free me," in this context, a plea for the girl to love him. ("Nega" is a term of endearment for a black woman). The chorus goes "Ô me libera nega, deixa eu te amar / Me libera nega, novinha vou te sentir / Me libera nega, vem pro Olodum / Eu vou te dar um beijo, depois vou te dar mais um." (Oh, free me, nega, let me love you, Free me, nega, I'm going to feel you, Free me, nega, come to Olodum, I'll give you a kiss, after I'll give you one more.) (Olodum is an afro-brasilian drum bloco popular in Salvador.) Ironically, "me libera" became his plea to the judge to let me go.
A month later, he made his first recording and video. His song was full realized with a samba-reggae beat and he was bought into a fold of musicians which would normally take years to get into, if ever. For Carnaval, financing behind him rented a huge sound truck ("trio elétrico") and he was signed to Sony Brasil. He'll also do his hit with Daniela Mercury during Carnaval.
His videoclip is here

BARGOU 08
TARG (Glitterbeat)

This is a brilliant album, perfectly executed. Nidhal Yahyaoui grew up in the Bargou valley, a forgotten fold of land somewhere between the mountains of northwest Tunisian and the Algerian border. The people there have their own language, part-Berber, part-Arabic, and have been passing down traditional songs and stories for hundreds of years. When the people's revolution began in Tunisia, Yahyaoui's first thought was, what is going to happen to our ancient culture? He decided it was on him to collect the songs of his folk and this became his passion for a decade: finding village elders, old men and women, who could teach him the songs and variations on them. Gradually he assembled a band including some youngsters from the village to perform the music. There's traditional reed instruments, the gasba and zokra; the big tambourine known as bendir; Nidhal himself plays an oud-like instrument called wtar and sings; there's a drummer, and musical director Ben Youssef on Moog. Yahyaoui didn't hesitate to add a Moog synthesizer to the traditional line up to appeal to youth. The band went on the road, performing in festivals from Denmark to Sarawak. This shaped their repertoire and brought the rhythms to the forefront. Instead of overwhelming things, the Moog just fattens the basslines. Back in Bargou they found a place to play, lining the walls with bales of hay, and running the cables to the soundboard in the kitchen, where Ben Youssef recorded with one hand and played synth with the other. Then they laid down their live set in one of the most engaging albums of traditional music I have ever heard. The vocals are raw the solos are not note-perfect, but passionate.

SHEM TUPE
COUNTRY MUSIC OF WESTERN KENYA (Olvido Records)

Olvido Records of Portland, Oregon, have caught up with Western Kenyan music legend Shem Tube and his pals, including Enos Okola on kitchen percussion, for some new recordings from the guys who brought their guitars and Fanta bottle to the limelight with the Abana ba Nasery LP on GlobeStyle back in 1989. Subtitled "45s from the Archive of Shem Tupe," it's a collection of nine digitally restored 45s with Enos Okola and Justo Osala, the original Nursery Boys. You can listen for free on Bandcamp at the link above, or buy the music on download for a mere $5, or get a limited edition (high-bias) cassette with a printed cover for $7. They first brought Luhya music to our attention back when ambitious labels in Europe were opening up the music of all the world to our ears. The Nursery Boys even got the full "Mustapha" treatment on a trip to the UK when their second album, Nursery Boys Go Ahead had a welter of guests artists, on violin, banjo, bagpipes, slide guitar, bouzouki, etc. (I skipped that one.) They sometimes have electric bass on here, but otherwise it's their vocal harmonies and sympathetic two guitars along with rattling metal thingies. It's by no means the left-overs from their earlier session, but pure Luhya music from the late 60s and early 70s, some of which were hit singles, found and restored by Cyrus Moussavi of Raw Music International who mentions that all proceeds go to the band. "Wesimba Omurwe" will make you prick up your ears because the first chord is pure Jean Bosco Mwenda, then it goes off into another tune, but it's a reminder of the shared heritage of a lot of African acoustic guitar, as well as its magic.

LES AMAZONES D'AFRIQUE
REPUBLIQUE AMAZONE (RealWorld Records)

This is not the famous all-policewoman band from Guinea called Les Amazones, but a supergroup spearheaded by disco diva Angelique Kidjo with some stellar other women singers in the line-up including Mariam Doumbia, of Amadou and Mariam, and one of Mali's finest singers Kandia Kouyaté (replacing Oumou Sangaré who dropped out). The backing band are in the disco-funk vein and despite the traditional instruments it's more of a European club groove. There's distorted thumb piano, hand percussion mixing with syn-drums, in fact a bit too much going on, including backward-sounding snarly guitar, jazzy vibraphone and home-made pots-n-pans behind the djembe. It makes me think of one of those all-star jams where all the bands get on stage for a big finale to sing "Get up, Stand up for your rights" or "We are the world." Not to say it's a mess, it's just a bit cluttered. Imagine Ethio Jazz and Mbongwana Star with Bootsy and Mad Professor. Now think of a bunch of people who want to be those people all playing simultaneously. They have an abundance of singers: the hard part was finding women instrumentalists, but they recruited Mouneïssa Tandina, a drummer, and Mariam Koné, a guitarist. Like the majority of the band they are Malian. Kidjo comes from Benin, and young singer Nneka is Nigerian: countries where polygamy is common. Most African countries are sexually backward -- girls are subject to genital mutilation for no reason other than evil patriarchal demands, domestic abuse is widespread and rape is a common weapon in war (& even god help us, by UN peacekeepers). The new Amazones' aim is to be a big hit at festivals and raise awareness for the burgeoning feminist movement in Africa. So it's worthy of our support.

AURELIO MARTINEZ
DARANDI (RealWorld Records)

Nice to hear from the Garifuna again. These people are descended from Africans who were enslaved and shipped to the New World but never made the auction block because their ships sank. Survivors made it to the island of Saint Vincent where they blended into the Carib population, eventually finding their way to the mainland countries of Honduras, Belize, Guatemala and Nicaragua. Their own style of music is paranda, centred around an acoustic guitar, which is quite distinct from neighbors like the Cuban son or Colombian cumbia, but is also part African and part Latin American. You can hear elements of West African guitar as well as inevitably American blues in the playing. Aurelio, the leading exponent, sings of struggle and the quest for Garifuna identity as they are increasingly marginalized in Honduras and other places where they are settled. This is Aurelio's fourth album and he revisits his most popular songs from the three previous discs in polished recordings featuring some ace sidemen.


OK JAZZ
THE LONINGISA YEARS 1956-61 (Planet Ilunga 3)

On 1 September 1950 Henri Bowane cut the first disc for the Loningisa studios, opened by the Papadimitriou cousins, who were textile merchants in Leopoldville. Over a decade later, on 3 May 1962, the artist known as Geraldo waxed another rumba titled "Yo canto para ti" as the four hundred and first disc issued on 78 from Loningisa. In a handwritten note on their catalogue, deposited with the Belgian copyright society SABAM (& reproduced on the Worldservice blog) they state: "We have given up recording because of the political situation." Later, they stated that after President Mobutu declared the Republic of Zaire on 30 November 1973 they were forbidden, as foreigners, from continuing their commercial enterprises.
The Papadimitrious were one of four foreign enterprises (the others were Olympia, Ngoma and Opika) who specialized in producing Congolese rumba records for the local market. During those 12 years they nurtured some considerable talents and, as it turns out, half of their recordings were by members of a group that became known as OK Jazz, though they were essentially Bana Loningisa -- "the kids of Loningisa studio."
Bart Cattaeart has assembled 32 pristine tracks here, none of which are on the other key albums of this group's early days: Originalité (Retro2XCD 1999), with 20 tracks, or Roots of OK Jazz (Crammed Disc CRAW7 1993), with 19 tracks. But as Bart says, 90% of Congolese music from the 78 era has not made it to the digital age.
In volume one disc one of his 4-disc collection of the career of Franco, Francophonic, Ken Braun included 3 cuts by Bana Lonigisa (from Crammed's compilations) and three from Originalité, the famous "On entre OK, on sort KO (You come in fine, you leave knocked out)" and the blistering love song not about Demi Moore: "Tcha tcha tcha de mi Amor." But other early tracks have been hard to find. After De Wayon brought young Franco to the Papadimitrious to audition, the stable of musicians came together. Bassist Roitelet and singer Vicky came from the CEFA label, followed by guitarist De La Lune, singer Rossignol and clarinetist/saxophonist Jean-Serge Essous. Vicky had wanted to be an accountant but was soon busy as vocalist with both OK Jazz and Negro Succès. The band came together with a live gig at the OK Bar in the Mulattos Home, run by Gaston Cassien, himself a Belgian kid with a Congolese mother. Essous was chef d'orchestre and the musicians above were augmented by Pandi Saturnin and Dessoin on congas. Bowane took a huff over being left out and quit to work for a new label (run by another Greek businessman): Esengo (built on the remains of Opika), where he would gradually lure Rossignol, Roitelet, Pandi and Essous to form Rock-a-Mambo. Isaac Musekiwa was brought from African Jazz to fill the big hole left by Essous' departure, so there could be interplay between the horn and Franco's dazzling guitar. Trumpeter Willy Kuntima and another guitarist, Brazzos, joined in 1957. In 1959 there was another shake-up with half the band leaving to join half of Rock-a-Mambo in creating the Bantous de la Capitale in Brazzaville. Guitarist Brazzos and singer Vicky left to go the Table Ronde summit in Brussels with members of African Jazz; Franco was invited too but his wife Pauline forbid him to go. He struggled to continue but from then on OK Jazz was his band, and he increasingly put his personal stamp on it.
Like the music of African Jazz, Rock-a-Mambo and the Bantous, the early OK Jazz repertoire was deep into the Afro-Cuban boleros, rumbas, merengues, cha-chas and the occasional calypso. Franco even adapted Bakoko folklore, but by the late 60s he was forging the rumba-odemba sound with which he is most strongly identified. The 32 tracks here are in many ways similar to those other bands' repertoires, except in the "guitare parlante" and of course the vocalists. Cattaert has put together as wide an array as possible of styles, even including Colombian porro and Brasilian samba.
In contrast to Sonodisc who put out some early Franco material from unrestored records with no information other than title (often mis-spelled) and composer, Planet Ilunga has done an exceptional job of restoration, with the needed information. There is one slightly muddy track at the end "Bana OK Jazz": one assumes it was impossible to find a copy that had not been worn out on the Victrola. I had heard 8 or 9 of these tracks before from traders who had thrashed 78s, so the clean sound is a joy and a revelation. You won't find this exquisite music elsewhere, and it is a limited-edition pressing, so grab your copy a.s.a.p.

Note: I printed up an imaginary poster for the first OK Jazz gig at Cassien's Home of Mulattos in Léopoldville, 6 June 1956 [left]. Planet Ilunga gave these away with the first 80 orders; I have a few left, which are available from my Etsy page.

SYNTHESIZE THE SOUL:
ASTRO-ATLANTIC HYPNOTICA FROM THE CAPE VERDE ISLANDS 1973-1988 (Ostinato Records)

I've got good news, and bad news. The good news is the reissue companies have finally run out of Afro-Funk to reissue; the bad news is they have moved on to African disco. The worst whiny synthesizer sounds ever created over a relentless bomp bomp are nothing to take lightly, but don't worry readers, I did the listening for you and can say that you can safely skip this. It's not all vile: "Posse Bronck" by Nho Balta might make the cut on another compilation and not be too repulsive, and even "Lameirao" by Kola has a horn-led charge that is pleasant enough, but the compilers really pulled out the organ stops to find examples of Cabo Verdean music that met the expectations of Euro-disco fans in the 70s and 80s. They didn't have electronic instruments back in the islands, but immigrants to Europe soon found them, especially once the tide of expatriates swelled following independence in 1975. The result is indistinguishable from scores of other feeble attempts to generate some saturday night fever. So, on second thoughts, let's go back to the cold sweat.

FRUKO
A LA MEMORIA DEL MUERTO (Vampisoul VAMPI 174)

When Piper "Pimienta" Díaz died (murdered in front of his home in June 1998), a tribute album was issued by his label Discos Fuentes of Colombia that included a photo of him looking like a dolled-up corpse on the cover, so my cynical musical friends called it the "dead man" album. I am sure this put off potential buyers, but it rapidly became one of my favorite albums. Díaz had been the singer for two of Colombia's biggest bands: Fruko y sus Tesos and the Latin Brothers. Now the European label Vampisoul has reissued Piper's first album with Fruko from 1972. The style, known as salsa brava, has a hard sound with percussion to the fore and big blasts of brass from three trumpets and two trombones. There are many styles represented, including the traditional bomba and plena of Puerto Rico, guaguancó, oriza, and cha cha chá from Cuba, and the New York-bred Latin soul and descarga, all of which found a fertile home in Cali in the 1970s. Piper Pimienta (born Edulfamid Molina Díaz) brought an energy and intensity to the sound that matched Fruko's arrangements and the stark engineering by Fruko's uncle Mario Rincón. This was the group's second album and is mostly cover versions of guaranteed dance hits, some from the 50s, showing the continuity of Latin music in Colombia. This album is what propelled Díaz to fame alongside Joe Arroyo, another Colombia superstar who joined him in the Latin Brothers. For an hour of pure unbounded joy you won't find better than this.

COMBO LOS YOGAS
CANABRAVA (Vampisoul VAMPI 175)

After a blast of high fructose Fruko I was ready for more of the same and was not disappointed by this second reissue from Vampisoul. It's a 1968 set of descarga, where you throw it all down, with some guaguancó, charanga and even son to stir up the salsa sauce. There's prominent bass and keyboards with again, Discos Fuentes' passion for cowbell, congas and timbales high in the mix. The keyboard player, Aníbal Angel, was leader of this short-lived group from Medellín. This is another great find and the good news is Vampisoul is planning a whole series of reissues of crucial LPs from Discos Fuentes (the major, if not only, Colombian label) in replica covers on 180g vinyl. Look for Lisandro Meza, Peregoyo and others in the near future. The singer is the Barranquilla native Johnny Moré (who claimed relation to Beny) who makes himself audible over the four-to-the-floor combo. Aníbal, or "Anan," had studied in Manhattan and started a band called Los Teen-Agers before turning his focus to salsa of the New York Latin variety. They cover Larry Harlow's hit "Coco May May" (itself copped from an older Cuban number), as well as Orquesta Harlow's "Bajándote," on which they get loose, and show what a great performing act they must have been. In fact the whole album is comprised of well-chosen covers which create a kaleidoscopic image of the types of Latin music which originally influenced Johnny Pacheco, the founder of New York's Fania label. This is the fount of the sound that would take root in Colombia in the following decades and create a new branch of Latin groove: salsa Colombiana.






most recent reviews:

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

February 2017

Jaako Laitinen and Väärä Raha are filed under Old World misc
Sory Diabaté's latest is filed in Mali part 3
Diama Ndiaye's Dafarèèr is filed under Senegal part 3
so is Ibrahima Cissokho & Le Mandingue Foly's Yanfu
a review of the movie Faaji Agba is filed under Nigeria part 2

January 2017

Palenque Records AfroColombia mix is filed under Colombia part 2
Jinja by The Nile Project is filed in Arabic music
Djime Sissoko's Djama Djigui went to Mali part 3
The Rough Guide to Hillbilly Blues is reviewed in the Blues section

December 2016

Trio Mandili are filed in Old World miscellany
Bollywood Brass Band's Carnatic Connection is filed in Music of Bollywood part 2
Oro Negro are from Colombia
Bonga is filed in Angola, Cabo Verde etc
TP Orch Poly-Rythmo's Madjafalao can be discovered in Benin
Alikibar Junior is in Mali part 3, as well as the Top Ten of 2016
Elage Diouf's Melokaane is filed under Senegal part 2

November 2016

Kenya-Congo Connection is filed in Congo part 3
Locos por Juana Caribe is filed under Colombia
Pat Thomas Coming Home is found in Ghana
Kimi Djabaté from Guinea-Bissau may be found in the Angola & Cabo section
while Dawda Jobarteh from Gambia has gone to Misc Africa
Memorias de Africa comp is in the Angola & Cabo section
Elza Soares in in Brasil part 2
Rough Guide to Delta Blues is in the Blues section
Studio One Radio Show is filed in Jamaica part 3

October 2016

Alsarah & the Nubatones' Manara and
Noura Mint Seymali's Arbina are filed under Arabia because I am too lazy to create sub-categories for Nubia, Mauretania, etc
Kenya Special vol 2 and Urgent Jumping are both filed in Kenya part 2
Ravi Shankar live in Hollywood is filed in India
Family Atlantica can be found under Old World Miscellany
Kottarashky & Rain Dogs' latest can be read about in the Balkan section

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

MY BEST-SELLING BOOK!

"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)


A DISCOGRAPHY OF DOCTEUR NICO
By Alastair Johnston

Poltroon Press, 2012, expanded to 88 pages; list price $19.95.
Available now. Click here for details.

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