Monday, 23 June 2008
10 essential afrobeat albums
If you want an introduction to Afrobeat it is best to get any of the Afrobeat compilations available at any reputable virtual site e.g. Amazon, DustyGroove or even Ebay. One of the best is 'World Psychadelic Classics 3'. But, if you want to go further check out the following. Some are easy to get hold of, some nigh on impossible (check e-bay or any bloggers):
1. Moussa Doumbia - Keleya - Malian 70's funkster Moussa Doumbia was primarily a saxophonist. Largely ignored until 1990's in West. This release happened in 2007 and is a compliation of his hard to find tracks. There are 7 tracks in all - all funky, all original. 'Keleya' is the most funky and well known. The funky guitar and drumming creates a backing for Moussa's mad singing and then gives over to several dirty saxaphone solos by the man himself. There are hints of Fela Kuti here also, for example the female backing singers frantically echoing Moussa's hollerings in the chorus. It's funky, mad and pure African! The album is easy to find - check out Ebay or even Dusty Grooves (see links in 'enemy of wallet' sidebar).
2. Vecchio - Afrorock - Now this is a weird beast of album, not the music but the background to the music. There is no hint of an African musician here. It all seems to be the work of either Italian or Spanish keyboardist Luis Vecchio, who obviously lend his name to the band. No other band members are known of. The story goes that Luis recorded a bunch of tracks for the DeWolf Library record label, which were shelved until some tv producer saw fit to use them for a new tv series. It was somehow unearthed, and was discovered to be more Afrofunk than real African Afrofunk. He out-Fela'd Fela, so to speak! This album's 10 tracks will make you want to be a better person, it will send of shiver down your spine and make you feel priveleged to have heard such a fantastic document of music. Rumour has it theat there is a 2nd album but ican't find anything on this!
3. Afro-Funk - body music - The band are from Ghana. Body music was released in 1973 in Ghana. . Nothing much is known of the band but it is squelchy deep AfroFunk of the best kind and that's all you need to know! Hard to get hold of but try ebay.com
4. Nkengas - destruction - Released in 1973 (hard to believe that that is 35 years ago, innit!)in Nigeria. Nkengas and Ikengas are the same band, if you were wondering. They were certainly led by the same man, Okoroego. Nkengas were the initial Afro Funk combo and then became all highlife-y with the conception of the Ikengas (although not all of it because Ikenga Super Stars Of Africa's 'greedy man' album is way funky). The Nkengas released one other album, 'the Nkengas in London', which i haven't heard. Does anyone know if it's any good? Back to the album - Oh man, 'Jungle Beat' is classy club fare. It will get you out of your seat and have you shaking around like you just don't care! Not easy to get hold - ebay is your best bet. O you could check this site out: http://www.parisdjs.com/index.php/2006/03
5. Assagai - Assagai (meaning 'spearhead') - They hailed from South Africa but recorded the album in the Uk, in 1970 . They were signed to the British Vertigo label, which was essentially a white rock band staple label so a bit of a unique change for them. The album contains 8 tracks in all including 2 covers - one a nice Afrobeat/Highlife take on the Beatle's classic 'hey Jude' and the other a version of Jade Warrior's 'telephone girl'. Particularly funky is 'Cocoa', which is drips with horns and nice wahy-guitar. Assagai only released one other album (Zimbabwe) which is similarly great but they also acted as backing band for Charles Hilton Brown's 'Owed to Myself' LP (see A-Z of Soul - coming soon), which initially was just another Assagai album wwith CHB singing!
6. Mulatu Astatke (sometimes astatqe) - anything by this man is gold. It is AfroJazzweirdness with some vibes thrown in. If you have seen BROKEN FLOWERS by Jim Jarmusch you will have heard Astatke's 'Yegelle Tezeta', 'Yekermo Sew'and 'Gubelye'. These are some of Astatke's best work and a good introduction. I think Mulatu of Ethiopia is his best album. By the way that whole Broken Flower's soundtrack is amazing - i love Holly Golightly's 'There is an end' and the 'Requiem, OP.48 (Pie Jesu)'track. Anyway back to Afrobeat and, of course, Mulatu Astatke. One of his albums will enhance your collection and put the rest to shame - it is the album/cd that you hide all the others behind. The epitomy of cool and it sounds great. Easy to get hold of and cheap-ish!
7.Geraldo Pino - Heavy, Heavy, Heavy. Geraldo Pino is one of Sierra Leone's best. His music is upbeat, organ driven Afrobeat. He has a lovely RP-tinged voice. I particularly love his pronunciation on the fisrt two tracks. He was doing his thing in the mid 1960's and influenced Fela Kuti to take up the sax and create some of the best music ever. It is music to dance to, not music to stroke your chin to, trust me, it is infectious! Easy to get hold of and cheap-ish!
8.Fela Kuti - expensive shit-he miss road - Fela Ransome Anikulapo-Kuti or just Fela Kuti was the James Brown of Afrobeat - the father of Afrobeat and one of the most famous Nigerians around. He recorded many albums, most of which only have 2 songs on them but boy are they long songs. For a detailed discography go to http://biochem.chem.nagoya-u.ac.jp/~endo/EAFela.html. Expensive shit/He miss road is a package of 2 albums on one CD. Expensive shit is an autobiographical song about how the Nigerian police planted dope on Fela and how he noticed and ate it to hide the evidence. The police, however arrested him to wait for him to "shit himself" so he could be charged with possession. It is a wild album and has some of the best sax solos ever heard! - NONE OF YOUR BAKER STREET SHIT! The 'He miss Road' album was produced by Ginger Baker from Cream, who was also a big player in the Afrobeat scene. Easy to get hold of and cheap!
9. Nomo - Nomo. Nomo sounds like 1970s Nigerian Afrobeat but the band are, in fact from Michigan, USA and are whiter than white. This band are as good as Fela and Africa 70. This is music to dance to and would not be out of place at a club or as soundtrack to a dinner party. This is fairly easy to get hold of and is fairly cheap!
10. William Onyeabor - Atomic Bomb. William onyeabor is the mad professor of Afrobeat. His music is as mad as a box of frogs but brilliant to boot! He uses many weird synthesised sounds and has a nice voice. 'Better change your mind' is laid back grooves, weird and funky all at the same time. He is a very good accompaniament to any Afrobeat collection. The problem is that he is near impossible to get hold of and costs a bomb (no pun intended!) Check Ebay for a chance to own this classic!