12 August 2009

African Side Trip to Benin

Well, it's official... we won't get all our stuff shipped over from Spain for a loooong time. That means I'll be without my main resource of music files. But the search for great music never stops, and I've managed to get my hands on some quite tasty morsels lately.
My Journey to Africa series has sent me on an extreme African music kick that I have yet to shake. Oh well, it hurts so good! As I previously mentioned, the trickle of musical gems out of Africa is turning into a flood. Even small countries like Benin are being revealed to the outside world as musical hotbeds, simmering fusion stews that need to be sampled (in all senses of the term).
The first two tracks both hail from the incredible new comp Legends of Benin, released by Analog Africa. Samy Ben Redjeb is the driving force behind the comp, and is my candidate for the guy that has the best possible job on Earth... traveling throughout Africa and going through the vaults of the many small record labels there to discover what treasures lurk there. I HIGHLY recommend that you both pick up this comp and visit his blog for incredible African goodness.
The first selection is a slab of vintage African reggae from the '60s. Long before the world had heard of the likes of Alpha Blondy, Lucky Dube or Tiken Jah Fakoly, the Jamaican sound was reaching the shores of West Africa. This track is a burner that stands up to the best music coming out of the Caribbean at the time. It's also a bit of a curiosity, as the sounds of funk and Cuban music were much more likely to be run through the African filter than reggae riddims. And while it retains a healthy dose of African influence, that added flavor is not simply a distinctive keyboard sound, but a much more organic co-mingling that to my ear works even better.
Nou Akuenon Hwlin Me Sin Koussio by Antoine Dougbe, from Legends of Benin (Analog Africa, 2009)
And speaking of the funk, here's a nice take on the Godfather of Soul's sound, with the unique twist of having an accordian supply the main riff.
Feeling You Got by El Rego et Ses Commandos, from Legends of Benin (Analog Africa, 2009)
And finally some super, ultra-rare stuff from Benin... this is a long hypnotic track with a bubbling keyboard sound released only in-country, and to my knowledge it's never seen the light of day since... but thanks to the blogosphere those days are over. I can't even recall which blog I pulled this one from, but odds are it's either of the two utterly excellent African music blogs, Likembe or Worldservice. Both are chock-full to bursting with rare tracks that demand to be heard, and are backed up by solid scholarship far beyond my humble offerings.
Adin Gbanzon by Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou, album & label unknown
Special thanks to Edwin Rosell for helping me out with some file conversion issues for this post.

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