31 May 2009

African Journey - Part 2: West Africa

Arriving in West Africa, we hear the sound of French, English, Wolof, Fula, Mandinka, Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa, and so many more languages. Such a mix creates a heady brew of music. We first start in the Casamance region of Senegal, directly south of The Gambia. We spent this Christmas in the Gambia, and the talk there was of how the Casamance would prefer to join their country rather than remain part of Senegal, cut off from Dakar and the north... The first track is from Touré Kunda, a group that had many French as well as African releases, and saw some exposure in America in the early '80s on Celluloid. When my mom took a trip to Paris, I had her pick me up a cassette and was hooked from there on in. I picked Casa Di Mansa because it gives a good example of their sound. They have a lot of great stuff in this vein, as well as an album of drum and voice only (well, very close to it...) stuff. 5-Casa Di Mansa by Touré Kunda, from Amadou-Tilo (Celluloid, 1984)
Next we round the corner and head down to an underexposed spot on the African musical scene... the tiny countries of Togo and Benin. The African Scream Contest comp is one of the first things to surface from this area, and if is any indication of what can be found there, I hope there is a lot more to come. Although it starts out in a James Brown style, Vinon So Minsou heads straight into an Afrobeat groove... except Afrobeat was yet to be born when this was recorded! Obviously some of the sounds of the scene bled into Nigeria...
6-Vinon So Minsou by Ouinsou Corneille & Black Santiago from African Scream Contest: Raw & Psychedelic Afro Sounds (Analog, 2008) The structure of Ghanaian Ambolley´s song Simigwado is built on the "dance" songs of the ´60s, in a warped funky way. Repeated listens will have you shouting out "Kwayadoof, Kwayadoof... Hebdeff. Hebdeff" in no time... and how many songs can you say THAT about?! 7-Simigwado by Gyedu Blay Ambolley & the Steneboofs from Ghana Soundz (Soundway, 2004) Holy shit, check out the killer breakbeat that kick-starts this track! Then in come the horns and guitar line... this is just so smooth it's sick. A 2007 reissue of an original 1966 release. Julius was part of the proto-Afrobeat scene in Nigeria, as was his countryman Fela. Long hard to find, the music of this earlier period is finally starting to surface. 8-Bojubari by Orlando Julius & His Modern Aces, from Super Afro Soul (Vampi Soul, 2007) Continuing on in Nigeria would be impossible without acknowledging Fela. The king and all-time champion of Afrobeat, Fela specializes in long (and I mean LONG) songs teeming with groove. He Miss Road is a typically smoking percussive funk work out, and the vocals don't even start until the 5.22 of the 10.45 minute track.
9-He Miss Road by Fela, from He Miss Road (Sterns Africa Classics, 1975) Next Destination: Central Africa...

No comments: