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The early October podcast features music from Tanzania, Kenya, Congo, Cuba, Brasil, USA, Jamaica, Jerry Gonzalez, Bheki Mseleku, & John Coltrane


The late-October podcast features music from Cuba, Mali, & new releases from Shika Shika, Eddie Palmieri, Dizzy Mandjeku and Baba Commandant reviewed below

Greetings, Platterbugs!

Updated 1 November 2018

R. I. P.

Jerry Gonzalez, trumpeter and founder of the Fort Apache Band died after a fire in his Madrid apartment October 1. Gonzalez, of Puerto Rican heritage, grew up in the Bronx. Jerry was a member of Eddie Palmieri’s band early in his career, then joined Manny Oquendo’s Conjunto Libre before starting his own band with his brother, bassist Andy Gonzalez. Among their outstanding albums were Obatalá and Rumba para Monk. He was also a conguero and percussionist and in 1979 produced Ya yo me curé, an album with an all-star lineup, including Hilton Ruiz, piano, Steve Turré, trombone, Mario Rivera, tenor, Papo Vasquez, trombone, Nicky Marrero, timbales, and Milton Cardona on harmony. Jerry moved to Madrid in 2000 where he formed a new quartet, El Comando de la Clave, and also played with flamenco musicians.

Another one gone: Dodo Munoko, singer with Afrisa International. There will be a memorial concert in Seattle at Rumba Notes Sound, this Saturday.

Another obit of Daniel Kamaru who died last month, from the Kenya Daily Nation.

ORCH SHIKA SHIKA
HIT AFTER HIT (No Wahala Sound)

It's odd how music can get under your skin, become more than earworms, turn into an obsession. This, I suppose is why so many of us collect records and buy more and more albums by the same artists even when we have heard all they might have to say. Then the day comes when you realize you don't need more than a dozen albums by, say, King Sunny Ade or Thomas Mapfumo, and decide which ones to keep and which to purge, then the sentimental reasons why you liked them in the first place start to pour in and you are back where you started.
In Summer 1983 I was sitting at the bar of Thompson's Falls Lodge, a tourist spot in Kenya, drinking a White Cap. My companions were out hiking around in the heat. Idly sitting there, I saw a hand-written note pinned to the bar: "45s 10/-." This is not new math but a clear indication of a find. I asked and the barman pulled out a shoebox from under the bar, containing well-worn 45s that were rejects from the jukebox, some having obviously been played to death. "How much for the whole box?" I ventured. Ten shillings each, he replied, unperturbed. So while I nursed my beer to room temperature I explored the contents. First I pulled out all that were in Lingala, then I looked for dance styles I knew such as rumba or cavacha. Shika yeye -- what's that? Then the labels, ASL? sure. TPOK Jazz, have to have that. Sadly I couldn't afford all of them but took a dozen, regardless of condition and the fact the barman was still unwilling to negotiate. I was overlanding, so wouldn't be able to play them for months, but didn't want any more damage, so wrapped them securely and buried them in my backpack.
As you've probably gathered this was one of those watershed moments in my life. But so were many other occurrences in the next 6 months as I pretty much followed the course of the White Nile to Alexandria. After turning down an offer to go into a tropical disease clinic in England for testing of my malaria-like symptoms, I got back to America in time for Christmas and my friends -- who looked VERY melanin-deprived under artificial light -- were dancing in a crazed and extremely jerky manner to the Talking Heads. I was no longer able to hear anything interesting in that. Home alone, I put on "Shauri Yako" by Nguashi Ntimbo and suddenly found myself in tears. Something in me had changed irrevocably: I had found my soul music. I no longer needed to cling to my youth and the progress of "New Wave" music and German Industrial Noise. Now I had a new quest: to get to the bottom of this new sound that completely engrossed me.

There's a New Yorker cartoon making the rounds of social media, where an old grandpa has his kids on his knees and is saying, "So the Yardbirds begat Cream, and Spencer Davis Group begat Traffic, and thus Blind Faith was created..." I know, I know, they left out Family and John Mayall, but the point is that there are definite threads running through the bands we love that fan out in many directions.
One of the most thrashed singles in my trove was "Tika na lela" by Lovy & Orchestre Shika Shika. Behind the layers of snap, crackle and pop lay one of the purest, sweetest ballads ever recorded. (A completely restored version is on the new LP.) And who was this band? I had heard Virunga live in Nairobi and they had a similar vibe. I started searching, pretty much in vain, for information or more from this band. In 1991 I discovered Songa! magazine, put out by Phil Bunce in Billinghurst, Sussex (that's whitest England in case you are wondering). It had an article on Shika Shika and another of their songs "Amba" included on a cassette that came with the magazine. The cover featured a cropped photo of the singer with the intriguing name Monimambo Jim. Like me, Bunce had been bitten by the bug of Shika Shika. (Nick at Natari still has copies for sale.)

In a dry ethnographic journal in the university library I found an article about Monimambo -- a pan-Kongo trickster spirit! It was not until the advent of [echo voice:] ¡¡¡¡Cyber Space!!!! that my explorations made any headway. I had discovered a genre of music that I decide to call "Congo in Kenya", created, naturally enough, by expatriate Congolese bands such as Virunga who had relocated to Nairobi. Like my youthful explorations into the roots and branches of Alexis Korner's blues band (Cream, Rolling Stones, Graham Bond, John McLaughlin, Dick Heckstall-Smith -- did I lose you yet?), I started trying to plot the movement of the members of these Congolese bands and found threads running through them: this turned into a book-length opus which you can find in the above link. But remarkably, I managed to track down surviving band members. The singers of Shika Shika had all died, but the guitarists were alive and well: one was in Canada, one in Kenya, and one in... Minneapolis, Minnesota. Through this latter, Siama Matuzungidi, I managed to piece together the story of the band, and their offshoots. This led me to other bands: Moja One, Les Jaca, Bana Moja, Bana Ngenge and on and on. But behind it all was my passion for Shika Shika. I also met a collector with the same bug who somehow had better connections to good copies of the music, but I was not jealous as he was also generous to a fault.

As my webpage grew I thought it might be a good idea to share the music -- not just scratchy MP3s passed from cel phone to cel phone or flung into cyberspace for pirates to gobble up, but properly remastered songs with contextual notes. A friend who is a music copyright lawyer suggested I put together at least ten albums and launch a label. So I started on that project, even made a booklet and a cloth box for the CDs, then Stern's issued their two CDs of Moreno & Moja One, compiled by Doug Paterson, which were far above anything I could muster: he even found brilliant unreleased tracks from master tapes! Well, I thought, it's time to launch Shika Shika on the Muzikifan label. I wrote to the Kenya Musical Rights Society and asked them if they could put me in touch with the heirs of Jim Monimambo, Moreno Batamba or Lovy Longomba. Oh, that's us! they said, You pay us and we will take care of it. Right.

To make a long story even longer, No Wahala Sound has been issuing some of this Congo in Kenya material on vinyl (Nairobi Calling; Kenya-Congo Connection), and asked me for photos from my webpages. Then they asked about the Shika Shika project. I am thrilled to say this classic album, compiled from 45s on the Hit Parade label, is now out. There are five tracks on here, each is 9 minutes long. They have been restored to crystal clarity by the "Bwana Mkubwa" (big chief) Doug Paterson. "Tika na lela" will leave you weeping. The others will get you onto the dance floor. And then while you are sitting collecting your breath, you can read the breath-taking liner notes by an authority on their music (your humble servant) PLUS, in addition, thanks to my good friend Jerome Ogola, you can also sing along in Lingala and Kiswahili, as well as understand the lyrics, which are presented in English for the monoglot audience. I am thrilled to announce the publication of this album, and hope it's only the first of many more fruitful collaborations.

BOLLYWOOD BRASS BAND w JYOTSNA SRIKANTH
CARNATIC SUITE -- A DAY IN BANGALORE (Bandcamp)

The esteemed BBB added a violin to their line-up for their last outing Carnatic Connection, and apparently scored a big hit at WOMAD in UK earlier this year. Their latest disc is a 4-track EP of more fun from the same line-up. As usual they dive right in with high energy. To a driving rhythm on the drums, the bass horns set up a dubby counterpoint and this time the violin leads the melody. The sousaphone bassline has a nice menacing rumble to it. The Indian film music they play has new layers of complexity from years of live performance and BBB have made it truly their own, but on this outing, I think they have written the material themselves. They seem to have trap drums as well as tabla or dhol and even a jew's harp thwonking in the background. The violin blends well with the layered horns, and a sweetening hint of echo brings it into the filmi realm.

DIZZY MANDJEKU & ALE KUMA
DE PALENQUE A MATONGE (Zephyrus Records ZEP041)

This is a fine merging of two musical style: soukous and the Champeta Criollo sound of Colombia. A lively soprano sax animates the opening cut "Cancion de amor y muerte" and the martial drums and happy chorus set the scene for a bright solo by Dizzy on guitar. The band is the brainchild of bassist and theatrical impresario Leonardo Gómez Jattín who also wrote four of the songs. Various guest vocalists show up including Congolese Malage de Lugendo, one of the few singers to have graced both Afrisa International and TPOK Jazz, and Colombians Nidia Góngora (who appears on the Quantic albums) and Magín Díaz, legendary composer who received a Grammy (for packaging) right before he died last year. The mix of soukous guitar riffs and drumming with the melodic joys of Palenquera singing and particularly the sprightly sax (César Medina) is a winner. I gave up on soukous when the various branches of Zaiko, Choc Stars and Wenge Musica became formulaic. Dizzy started out in the 70s in a group called Kina-Rama, but by 1977 had risen to the heights of the most innovative band in Africa, Sam Mangwana's African All Stars. Through touring and exposure to music in Ivory Coast and other parts of West Africa they added an Antillean lilt (also evident in Ryco Jazz before them) and stretched out the rhythms as well as the songs creating a more relaxed format for dancers to get in the groove. Mandjeku's music has been much in demand in Colombia and like Bopol (another All Stars alumnus who was in the Colombiafrica Mystic Orchestra with Rigo Star on guitar), and other legends from that era, found an eager new audience in Cartagena. The percussion is key with congas to the fore and other shaken and rattled things, instead of drum machines, and there's nary a synth in sight. The shedding of the Paris sheen is most welcome as we return to a rootsier sound: the sax being joined by marimba. The set ends with "A pilá el arró," a folkloric number covered by Son Palenque which appeared on the AfroColombia Remix 2 album to great effect. Magín Díaz and this line-up of Dizzy with Alé Kumá did a resounding version on Díaz's album which is included here again as the closer.

EDDIE PALMIERI
FULL CIRCLE (Uprising Music)

With the recent tragic death of Jerry Gonzalez, trumpeter, conguero and bandleader of the Fort Apache Band, we have to start totting up who's still standing among the pioneers of Latin jazz. Fortunately, some of them are on this album. Jimmy Bosch on trombone, Nicky Marrero on bongos and Nelson Gonzalez on tres are still turning it up behind the pianist and renowned moaner, Eddie Palmieri. Nicky has been with the band since the early days (1969), back then Eddie's brother Charlie showed up on the Hammond organ to torch their rendering of "Vámonos Pa’l Monte" which is reprised here in two versions to open and close the set. Other tunes like "Muñeca" from 1964, "Azucar" & "Oyelo Que Te Conviene" from 1965, and "Lindo yambu" from 1969, are still key parts of the repertoire and the band knows what to do with them. Younger players like Cuban refugee Yosvany Terry on sax, and the bassist, Luques Curtis, jump in with seasoned players from the mainstream jazz world like Gary Smulyan on baritone and Conrad Herwig on trombone. Ronnie Cuber, another baritone, like Herwig from the Metropole Orkest, appears. There's no lack of energy, the whole thing blasts off, like they got on a bandstand and tried to levitate it as they are wont to do in performance. Another bongocero, Anthony Carillo, doubles the pleasure on the percussion alongside Little Johnny Rivero on congas, switching to cowbell when he wants to press home his point. After 60 years of performing Eddie Palmieri still continues to improve.

BABA COMMANDANT AND THE MANDINGO BAND
SIRI BA KELE (Sublime Frequencies SF113CD or LP)

We have had quite a few reissues from Burkina Faso over the years, from Oriki, Mr Bongo, Analog Africa, Savanahphone, Popular African Music (I still keep the Bobo Yeye box set, with its album of photographs by Sory Sanlé, close to the action), but this is the first new recording I have encountered since Amadou Balake's In Conclusion, which came out from Sterns in 2015. It's a modern take on traditional Mandingue guitar music of the 70s and is the most exciting new album I have heard in a while. "Commander Dad" (Mamadou Sana), the lead singer, plays electrified ngoni which is now familiar to us from the Malians. There is also guitar, played by Issouf Diabate with panache, while the solid energetic rhythm section of bass and drums brings a funky touch. I can hear balafon in here too as a metronomic continuo in some tracks. The band's roots are in the sound of the classic Sahelian bands Super Biton and Kanaga de Mopti but you also detect the influence of the Rail Band which towered over West African music throughout the 1970s, especially in the few delightful unwinding guitar solos. Tracks like "Keleya" also suggest the guitarist listened to Yves Wernert's work at Studio Bogolan for the atmospheric tone he imparted to classic recordings by Issa Bagayogo and Mamou Sidibe.

TO CATCH A GHOST
FIELD RECORDINGS FROM MADAGASCAR (Sublime Frequencies SF111LP)

This is apparently the second volume of fields recordings made by Charles Brooks who spends a lot of time in Madagascar. He has assembled a dozen folkloric tracks played on the valiha and other indigenous instruments. The valiha is a unique metallic zither made from recycled wrecked bicycle wheels. The other instruments heard here are equally unique: lokanga (another metallic-sounding guitar-like instrument attached to a gourd resonator), kabosy (more like a mandolin, with four to six strings made of fishing wire), and jejolave (a one-stringed musical bow, like a berimbau, again with a gourd resonator). On the acapella "Banaika" (which closes side A) the harmony singing is interesting because the chorus seems to be on a different "page" from the lead vocals, creating wonderful counterpoint and tension. Side B kicks off with dueling pennywhistle flutes and a soft susurration like a rain stick which mimics the sound of insects. Prosper Razafimamdimby comes in with a "5-stringed violin", though it has the plucked metallic twang of the valiha. He has a pleasant soft but raspy voice that matches the tone of his instrument.

DEBEN BHATTACHARYA
PARIS TO CALCUTTA: MEN AND MUSIC ON THE DESERT ROAD (Sublime Frequencies SF112CD)

This 4-CD set and hardback book chronicles a journey made in 1955 when Deben Bhattacharya drove from Europe to his home in India, stopping along the way to record local musicians. Reversing the journey of filmmaker Tony Gatlif's masterpiece Latcho Drom, it shows a kaleidoscopic picture of the Bedouin, gypsies, and other lesser-heard musicians along the route. In 1958 Bhattacharya made an LP compilation (necessarily compressed) from his recordings, but this is the first time the full tapes have been released. In an interview with Guitarist magazine in 1993 Frank Zappa cited that 13-track LP, Music on the Desert Road (Angel Records), with having a huge influence on him. Robert Millis, the man behind Indian Talking Machine, edited the release. Sublime Frequencies, along with Dust-to-Digital, are making considerate and considerable contributions to the preservation of lost treasures of ethnomusicology for future generations.
Deben was a Bengali poet who learned English, Hindi and Sanskrit. He went to England, not for a degree, but to pursue his musical education. He subsequently wrote books about the gypsies and the Bauls, wandering "madmen" singers of Bengal. He promoted Purna Das Baul and the Langa clan of Rajasthan in concert. He was an expert on Indian classical music and in London recorded local Indian performers and sold the recordings to the BBC. With a little capital advanced by EMI for future recordings, his tape recorder and an old Bedford van, he set off overland for home, planning to record Muslim and Hindu music on the way. The driver was a young architect he knew who wanted to go to Chandigarh to meet his hero Le Corbusier (Not surprisingly when they arrived the architect was in ecstasy while Deben was appalled by the Western suburban orderliness of the place and how un-Indian it is). The van was both a home on the road and furthermore the battery could power the reel-to-reel deck. The last disc of recordings in West Bengal are truly lovely.
Outstanding moments are the tar solo by Shapoore Delshadi, recorded in Tehran. Another Iranian, Eskandare Ebrahimi also rips out a stunning improvisation on his setar. Staying in the former British Consulate building in Meshed, Iran, Bhattacharya set up his equipment:
"I had no idea that we would be spending any time in Meshed. But I had got used to changing my plans according to the whims of the road. What else could I do since my mission was to seek for people who improvised music? It always happened that way. If I arrived with letters of introduction, plans, time tables and so on, nothing else would happen. No one would come, not even a braying donkey! Whereas, if I simply arrived, in would come processions of musicians with drums, cymbals, strings, flutes, songs and dances. And as I pushed my battered little microphone right inside their mouths, their songs and dances reverberated through my veins. They sang not only for me but also for the moment which became alive, charged with sound. They improvised and if you were sympathetic, a sharer of sorrow, they expected you to improvise too."
In his career, Deben released over 80 albums of folk music. This distillation gives a taste of the young man embarking on his remarkable journey.












The Year

In Review

so far ...

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

October 2018

The latest offering from Docteur Nico Dieu de la Guitare is reviewed in Congo Classics part 2
Bheki Mseleku's Celebration is reviewed in South Africa
The Hip Spanic All Stars album can be read about in the USA section
Subhasis Bhattacharya is filed in India & Pakistan
Sarazino is filed in Arabia
BKO performing live is filed in Mali Live which has some curious tales

September 2018

Lenine's latest Em transito, as well as
Elza Soares' Deus é mulher, and
Bixiga 70's Quebra-Cabeça are filed in Brasil part 3
Robi Svärd's Alquimia is discussed in Spain
Rough Guide to Barrelhouse Blues is in the Blues section
Gyedu-Blay Ambolley's The Message is filed in Ghana
Stella Chiweshe's Kasahwa: early singles can be read about in Zimbabwe

August 2018

Novalima's latest Ch'usay can be read about in Colombia part 2
Junior Byles,
Winston Jarrett
plus Ethiopian & Gladiators all went to Jamaica part 3
that leaves Ali Akbar Khan in India & Pakistan

July 2018

Ammar 808's Maghreb United went to Arabia
Magin Diaz El Orisha de la rosa can be found in Colombia part 2
Thierry Antha's Crimes of Rumba, reviewed by Alan Brain, is on the Bookshelf
Rough Guide to Zakir Hussain and
Anandi Bhattacharya's Joys Abound are filed under India
Zanzibara Vol 1 -- the vinyl reissue -- is filed in Kenya & Tanzania pt 2

June 2018

Zoumana Tereta's Soku Fola is filed in Mali part 4
as is Samba Touré's Wande
I'm not Here to Hunt Rabbits is filed in Southern Africa
Rough Guide to Ravi Shankar is filled in India & Pakistan
Rough Guide to Hokum Blues is filed in Blues
Orquesta Akokán is filed in Cuba part 4
Juaneco y su Combo can be found in Peru

May 2018

Hugh Tracey Listen all around has gone to the dedicated Hugh Tracey page in Africa
Hugh Masekela's retrospective Masekela 66-76 is filed in Southern Africa
Melissa Laveaux's Radyo Siwel can be found in Haiti
African Scream Contest 2 is filed in Benin
Los Supremos' Atiza y Ataja is filed in Colombia part 2
Qais Essar's The Ghost you love most, from Afghanistan, is filed in Arabia
Invisible System's Bamako Session can be found in Mali part 4

April 2018

Camarão's Imaginary Soundtrack is filed in Brasil part 3
The Turbans' self-titled effort is reviewed under Euro misc
The Rough Guide to Blind Willie McTell is in the Blues section
Los Rumberos de la Bahia's Mabagwe can be read about under Cuba part 4
Sonido Gallo Negro's Mambo Cosmico is reviewed in Mexico
Two Gladiators' reissues are reviewed in Jamaica part 3

March 2018

Angolan Saudade vol 1 can be found in the Angola section
Malagasy Guitar Masters are filed in African Miscellany
BKO are in Mali part 4
Tamikrest's Kidal is filed in Niger
as is Tal National's Tantabara
Les Mangelepa's Last Band Standing is found in Kenya/Tanzania part 2
Justin Hinds & the Dominoes' reissues can be read about in Jamaica part 3

February 2018

Sara Tavares' latest is in Cabo Verde
Bolon Star is filed in Mali part 4
Plena Libre can be found in Puerto Rico
Chicos Malos and Palenque Records remix vol 2 are filed under Colombia part 2
Lee Perry's Super Ape return to conquer is filed under Jamaica part 3

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

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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