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NEW WORLD

AFRICA

OLD WORLD (inc Asia, Arabia)

African Discographies

Latest Muzikifan Podcasts

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Road Trip Playlist turns over the controls
to the Duchess while I drive, so lots of surprises, and some old favorites too

Rough Rumbas Verse 5 features more scratchy Congolese 45s, with guest comments by
Jerome Ogola "the hoof eater," live from Kenya

Greetings, Platterbugs!

Updated 1 June 2021

New releases

Early Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou from Albarika Stores being reissued by Acid Jazz Records from UK & this is another recent 12" from them, also on Acid Jazz

Pay what you will for this set of traditional Gujarati devotional music from HiveMind

Coming up next from Analog Africa will be another unearthed gem from Peru

Reading

from Ken A, a great al Jazeera feature on Cabo Verdean music

R.I.P.

Roger Hawkins, legendary drummer of the Swampers, the Muscle Shoals, Alabama studio band who created great backing tracks for Aretha Franklin, Etta James, Percy Sledge, Wilson Pickett

Ahma Eshete, Ethiopian producer, has also died

More listening

i took a week off to drive through the desert southwest (you can listen to a podcast of my trip at left); when I came home I turned on Zilipendwa radio Tanzania on the Radio Garden app website, to hear Remmy Ongala... plus many more old favorites

It's a platitude to refer to "great yet obscure Blues artists," but there are so many of them, and another I'd never heard of, with a familiar tragic story, just popped up: Stick-Horse Hammond

Movies

Adamantios Kafetzis of Teranga Beat did an in-depth interview with "Rumba Kings" film maker Alan Brain, complete with choice musical selections

I watched "I'm No Longer Here" on netflix and was very impressed by it. It's the odyssey of Ulisses, a teenager from Monterrey Mexico who is into style and music like other kids his age but who is forced to flee to the USA. He is a phenomenal dancer but has no other skills and looks like an Amazonian head-hunter on a bad hair day. A 16-year-old ABC (American-Born Chinese) named Lin tries to help, since she sees him as an exotic and fragile pet, but he is isolated and retreats into his music (which is the highlight of the film: he and his homies are into "Kolombia," which is slowed-down cumbia). These kids even play credible Afro-Colombian drumming on plastic buckets. There's no happy Hollywood ending but a grim portrayal of things are they are (it reminded me in places of Hombres Armados by John Sayles), and the awful fact that Mexico borders a country which imports massive amounts of drugs and exports massive amounts of guns.

KOLONEL DJAFFAR
COLD HEAT (Batov Records BTR050)

Kolonel Djaffar showed up on Bandcamp and, as usual, there is no info to go on. A quick search turns up their facebook page. So they appear to be nine young Belgian guys who are jazz musicians with a funky Afrobeat drummer, and a keyboardist (Farfisa) with a taste for Ethiopian chords. I trust Bandcamp recommendations, for the most part, and felt this stood out. There is a good balance of brass, reminiscent at times of Bollywood Brass Band (!) from London, but with the added bass, guitar and drums. Also trombone and baritone sax are deeply resonant, giving oomph to the bottom end of their mysterious and intriguing melodies. Oddly -- though they have nothing in common -- they also evoke Dengue Fever: I guess it's the mix of keyboard and 70s-rock electric guitar. What we are seeing/hearing is infinite hybridization of "world music" sounds as different groups in different countries approach elements of it, and incorporate instruments and rhythms that work well for them. Back in my punk and new wave days I followed a band called Tuxedomoon who played the clubs in San Francisco; they moved to Belgium after they got a recording contract with Crammed Disc, and never returned. I wonder if their influence lingered, because I get a sense of their moody theatrical approach to the music here. Cold Heat starts with an ominous horn build-up over serious kicking drums, then after a snaky echoey guitar phrase the eerie mysterious organ floats in and a trombone solo persuades us that "Bactrian camel" is indeed the subject. The guitar phrase starts to repeat, the organ too, and then brass layers up the dust storm to a big climax. "Lamentation" is equally tight, suggesting lots of live gigs before they laid it down: this time the Ethiopic organ starts out, followed by a staggered drum pattern before confident charging horns state their intent. "The Heist" even introduces a keyboard pattern that reminds me of gamelan music, adding another musical layer. This is a 16-minute EP, I can't wait to hear more.

HAILU MERGIA & THE WALIAS BAND
TEZETA (Awesome Tapes from Africa ATFA 041)

Bandcamp thought since I liked Kolonel Djaffar I would also like Hailu Mergia, but I can't say I do. I know real Ethiopian jazz has a huge following, maybe because of the "exotic" timbre of the pentatonic scale and key changes where they flatten the 2nd and 5th, but to me it all gets stuck in a rut. There's no modulation or differentiation between songs. If I were on the nod I would probably appreciate it as a subliminal background noise, but the musicianship doesn't inspire me. As you may be one of the people who disagrees with me and finds it intriguing I will mention this album. In the 1970s the Walias were a pioneering band in Ethiopia, introducing Western instruments and playing what I would call Lounge music at the Hilton Addis. No songs, just background music, which was soon adopted by the TV station -- as background music. Many famous musicians passed through their ranks. In 1981 they were reluctantly granted permission to tour the USA and four members decided to jump off and not come home. Hailu plays the noodly organ which ebbs and flows. This album came out on cassette in 1975 and Addis Ababans bought it from the band as it contained many popular songs redone in "classical" i.e., instrumental style. A couple of the tracks are slightly more lively, but once the Codeine took over it was all a blur.

HASSAN WARGUI
TIDDUKLA (Hive Mind Records HMRLP013)

Berber banjo is to the fore on this five track album, which features Hassan Wargui backed by a traditional line-up of guembri, tamtam, bendir and krakch (which must be krakrebs?). Personally I find the combination of guembri and krakrebs irresistible; the added banjo really takes it to another level. Hassan grew up in an isolated community in the Anti-Atlas mountains of Southern Morocco, steeped in the art and culture of the Amazigh people (in a time when it was forbidden to speak their Tachelhit language). In his teens Wargui moved to Casablanca looking for work and was able to trade in his home-made instrument for a real banjo. He has collaborated with many other artists, including more modern techno-sounding outfits, but for this project went back to his roots sound. I've heard Moroccan banjo before (on the Arabic Groove CD), but out of context you might think the opening few bars of "Azmz" was Chinese until the singing comes in. Over the course of the 40 minutes, however, it's got the undeniable Atlas mountain groove redolent of sweet mint tea and the incense of kif.

JIVAGO
NGUEZA N'DINDI (Sons d'Africa)

I knew nothing of this singer until my friend Ken A alerted me to him. (Ken is brilliant at sleuthing out obscure yet great new releases that go under the radar of most media, and Portugal is the worst country for getting its product out into the larger world.) Jivago was a veteran of the Angolan semba scene, but there is no info on line except a review on El Sur Records in Tokyo which gives me google translation snippets like "and the other happy?" or "New, two songs of all 8 songs seemed old record has been recorded as a bonus," suggesting that Jivago has rerecorded some of his old hits from the 80s, and they are the ones with accordion instead of keyboard, or vice versa. Born Adan Gonzalves in Luanda in 1954, Jivago had a hit with "Avo Teté" fronting the band Fenomenal in 1984 and he hit again in 1989 with "Ramiro." In 2002, when the civil war ended, he began working on this solo album. It includes those earlier hits added as a bonus as the last two cuts. "Mendonça" was originally recorded in 1992 by Os Kiezos, so I guess he was part of that celebrated outfit, though I don't see him listed in the personnel on Angola 70. Sadly Jivago died, age 66, in September 2020 just before this album was finally released. There are hints of morna and soukous as well as zouk and other Afro-Caribbean sounds. There is also a strong sentimental bond between Brasilian bossa nova and semba, as they are both sung in Portuguese creole. Other similarities are in the use of cavaquinho, acoustic guitar, accordeon and shaken percussion. The African side introduces echo on the guitar, female backing chorus, congas, tapped bottles, and the big room sound of Africa Negra, Sangazuza and their ilk. This is a sweet disc and I am grateful once again to Ken for finding it.

DOBET GNAHORE
COULEUR (Cumbancha)

This is the sixth album from the Grammy winner who broke out a decade ago with electrifying videos and music. It was recorded during the lockdown and has a pan-African sound though not much evidence of the Ivory Coast where Gnahoré grew up. In 1999 she moved to France and soon after began touring the world, explaining that she is restless when she is not on the road. With Contrejour, a Belgian label, she issued four albums. This is her second release with Cumbancha. She was the hit of WOMAD 2010 and won a Grammy for her collaboration with India.Arie. She toured the world with a show called Acoustic Africa so rubbed shoulders with Habib Koité and Vusi Mahlasela on the bus and backstage. She has a great range with her own voice, modeling her singing on Miriam Makeba and Angelique Kidjo, who are also known as dynamic performers. The production here is more rock and roll than folk with stinging guitar riffs from Louis Stephen Djirabou and loads of studio effects on the synth and vocals, but the mechanical drum tracks are kicking. The songs celebrate women's rights and positivity in challenging times; the CD includes the lyrics in English and French. One song in English, called "Woman," is disco and I find it irritating, but it is followed by a soukous track "Vis ta vie," which perks up and even adds a South African vibe to the outtro (In one of the sleek Vogue-like liner photos she is wearing South African beads). Stand-out tracks include "Lève-toi" and the last number which is, as you can imagine, an "everybody get up and dance" groove which actually says, in Kulango, "enough touring: I want to go home to my daughters."

SEMBLANZAS DEL RIO GUAPI
VOY PA ALLA (Llorona Records)

This could be called Limpid Marimbas in the Bush. It's traditional Afro-Colombian xylophones with bass drums, guasás (wooden stick with drilled holes) and cununo (conical skin-covered drum). There's call and response vocals and a gentle susurration of percussion like wind in palm trees. But I first heard them with a blasting single off this album "Los Guasangú," which has an insistent marimba two-note base, but then after the vocals come in, torrents of percussion (wooden shakers, aka rainsticks), contrapunctal voices, and more marimbas pile on. The percussion and second layer of marimbas are in a different tempo to the original beat, which continues determinedly throughout. At three and a half minutes this is far too short and you can imagine it going on for hours, maybe there's even dancing! Some of the songs (like "Cuando yo me muera") are folk stories told in song (which I gather with my limited "restaurant" Spanish), some are more religious and consequently more formulaic sounding. There's a short 3-minute documentary about them here and a nice video of the title cut here. The rhythms are varied and the marimba players are virtuosic, so it keeps you engaged.







2021 in Review, so far

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

May 2021

Jose Carlos Schwarz & le Cobiana Djazz's Lua ki di nos is filed in Cabo Verde
Kasai Allstars' Black Ants fly... can be read about in Congo part 4
Dagar Gyil Ensemble are filed in Ghana
Pao Barreto's Spiralis is in Colombia part 2
Samba Touré is Malian, and his latest is archived in Mali part 5
Kharia Arby Live is also found there
Ben Aylon is an honorary Senegalese, so he is in Senegal part 3
Radio Tutti and Barilla Sisters' Xogo is in the catch-all Euro misc section

April 2021

The Boys from Nairobi is filed in Kenya/Tanzania part 2
Excavated Shellac: an alternate history of the world's music is filed in world misc
Delgres' 4 ed matin can be read about in Caribbean section, which is also misc
Bejuco are from Colombia
Afrosound too,
and also Tomate y Alandette, and all can be read about in Colombia part 2
Edo Funk Explosion is in Nigeria part 2
Baluji Shrivastav is filed in India part 2

March 2021

Stella Chiweshe's reissued Ambuya! can be found in Zimbabwe
Vis-à-Vis's Odo gu Ahoroo is filed in Ghana
Bomba Estereo's Agua can be found in Colombia part 2
so can Alfredo Linares's Mi nuevo ritmo
Electric Jalaba went to Morocco (which is in the Old World section)

February 2021

Anansy Cisse's second album and the latest from Nahawa Doumbia are filed in Mali part 5
Sam Mangwana's Lubamba is in Congo part 4
Atrium Musicae de Madrid can be read about in the Spain section
Nkumba System is filed in Colombia part 2
Yamile Cruz Montero is in Cuba part 4

January 2021

Alostmen's Kologo is filed in Ghana
Raed Yassin's Archaeophony has gone to Arabia
Makgona Tsohle Band's debut album is filed in South Africa
Ibrahim Khalil Shihab Quintet's Spring can be found there also
Alfredito Valdez Jr's Gozando!! and Cha-cha-cha from Coleccion Gladys Palmera are filed under Salsa
Rough Guide to Avant-garde Japan went to Asia
Faraon Bantu y Champetman is filed in Colombia part 2
Juffureh Band of Sukutu in the Gambia can be read about in The Gambia section
Ricardo Lemvo's latest is filed in Congo part 4
Sidi Touré's Afrik toun me and Songhoy Blues' latest are filed in Mali part 5
George Mukabi's Furaha wenye gita can be found in Kenya part 2

Top Releases of 2020 are covered here

Best releases of 2019 can be found HERE

The Top releases 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 HERE

My Top Twelve of 2012 is HERE

My Top Ten of 2011 can be found HERE

My Top 9 of 2010 is 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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