Monday, August 27, 2007

Dakar Divas Pt. 1: Kiné Lam

One thing that's always irritated me about the whole "World Music™" thing is the tendency to reduce whole genres of music to one or two artists who are supposed to represent whole countries or styles. Thus, Femi Kuti and Sunny Ade represent Nigeria, Tarika stands in for Madagascar, Angelique Kidjo Benin, etc. The artists in this "chosen few" get coveted spots in the chain music stores, tour the U.S. and Europe a lot, and often collaborate in the studio with well-known Western pop stars. After a while the sounds they make, at least for the World Music™ market, bear little resemblance to the music that brought them notice in the first place.

There's a bit of dilettantism behind the desire by the latte-sipping masses for the latest "thing" in World Music™, a touch of condescension, as exemplified by the phrase "Bonnie Raitt thinks that Oliver Mtukudzi is the Otis Redding of Zimbabwe!" Now, just what the hell is that supposed to mean?

I suppose I'm just cynical, or maybe I'm a bit of a snob myself.
I certainly can't fault the above-mentioned "Western pop stars" who've done so much to promote World Music™, nor can I blame the African musicians who've benefited from the interest in it. It's just that there's only room in the Best Buy bins for so many World Music™ artists. The real culprit here, if there is one, is "the invisible hand of The Market," and not anybody's malice or greed.

For a number of years Youssou N'Dour, and to a lesser extent Baaba Maal, have been the "officially approved ambassadors" of Senegalese music to the rest of the world. The many other musicians from that country who have toiled away in the local market for years have been pretty much shut out. One of these musicians is the extraordinary female vocalist Kiné Lam. Ms. Lam comes from a great griot family in the Cayor region of Senegal and in 1979 was selected as a featured singer at the Sorano National Theatre in Dakar. Her debut solo recording, Cheickh Anta Mbacke (Syllart 38764-1), was released in 1989 and since then she has issued numerous cassettes in Senegal, all but one unheard outside of the African market.

The one exception was 1996's Praise (Shanachie 64062), which was released in the U.S. to a fair amount of critical acclaim. It coincided with a North American tour that was meant to introduce her to the World Music
audience. When I heard that she'd be appearing in Chicago with her backup band Le Kaggu, I was of course beside myself, as I'd been following Kiné Lam's career for years and pretty much worshiped the ground she walked on. When I caught her performance at the late Equator Club I wasn't disappointed. The problem was the audience: apart from a very small number of American cognoscenti and Equator Club regulars, it was composed entirely of members of the (small) Chicago Senegalese community. So Kiné Lam has remained, outside of the Senegal diaspora anyway, an obscure quantity in the American music scene. In a way, I'm almost glad that Kiné Lam hasn't been accepted into the World Music™ pantheon; if she'd done a duet with Phil Collins, I would have gone into cardiac arrest!

I would like more people to be aware of the work of this consummate artist, and that is the purpose of this post. Think of it as "Kiné Lam's Greatest Hits." In the future I will be posting work by other great female Senegalese singers.

If I had to make a list of the ten greatest African albums of all time, Kiné Lam's Galass (KSF Productions KSF 03, ca. 1990) would be on it, although technically it's not an "album," having only been released on cassette. Transcendent vocals, knife-sharp guitar work, insane percussion - Galass has it all. The credits list Yahya Fall on rhythm guitar and no-one on lead, but that can't be right - the guitar plays more than a supporting role here: just check out the George Benson-ish licks on "SIDA." Itou Dieng plays bass; Massaër Diagne, El Hadji I. Ndiaye and Ousseynou Mboup are on percussion; Iba Ndiaye on keyboards and Ndiaye Fatou Ndiaye and Chuck Berry Mboup [!] on supporting vocals round things out. The musicians are working here like a well-oiled machine.

Kiné Lam & le Kaggu - Sey

Kiné Lam & le Kaggu - Takko Wade

Kiné Lam & le Kaggu - Darmanko

Kiné Lam & le Kaggu - SIDA

Kiné's next two releases, while perhaps not scaling the same heights as Galass, still have some great moments. "Tabasky Thiam," from Balla Aïssa Boury (KSF 004), and "Dogo," from Leer-Gui (KSF 06), feature the same musical lineup as Galass. The synthesisizer work on "Dogo" reminds me of an R&B hit from some years ago (can't quite place which one).

Kiné Lam & le Kaggu - Tabasky Thiam

Kiné Lam & le Kaggu - Dogo

In the middle of the Nineties, Kiné put out a couple of releases with a more "suave" sound, supplementing the regular members of Le Kaggu with the Paris session musicians Philippe Slominsky, Alain Hatot and J. Bolognesi on horns, and Manu Lima on synthesizer, who have figured in so many Paris-based African recordings. Under no circumstances did this mean she was going "soft" on us, as these two tracks from Noreyni (KSF 15) amply demonstrate:

Kiné Lam - Nimay Doxee

Kiné Lam - Asc Jaraaf

In the last few years, Kiné Lam has made a number of fine recordings with a "neo-traditional" ensemble including the outstanding xalam player Abou Guissé (center, picture below). "Mamé Thierno" and "Sourang M'beri" are from Sunu Thiossane 2, while "Le Retour" and "Térale" are taken from Le Retour (Jololi). The latter features Souriba Kouyaté on kora and "Saraba" on flute, while Youssou N'dour shares vocals on "Le Retour."

Kiné Lam - Mame Thierno

Kiné Lam - Sourang M'beri

Kiné Lam w. Youssou N'Dour - Le Retour

Kiné Lam - Térale

Discography of Kiné Lam

Saturday, August 25, 2007

More Angola: Puto Prata Megamix

Researching that last post has got me worked up, and I've been listening to Angolan music pretty much non-stop for the last few days. So, if you'll indulge my temporary obsession, I'd like to return to that formerly-war-torn but optimistic young country. Previously I mentioned a new musical style out of Angola called Kuduro. I don't have a lot of personal knowledge of it, but here's an excerpt from the Wikipedia entry:

Kuduro (or Kuduru) is a type of music born in Angola and immediately exported to Lisbon suburbs in Portugal, hence its two varieties Luandense and Lisboeta. It is characterized as uptempo, energetic, and danceable. . .

The Kuduru movement was created in the suburbs of Malange in Angola in the early 90's and now has become very popular music among young people.

The name itself is a word with a specific meaning to location in the Kimbundu language, which is native to the northern portion of Angola. It has a double meaning in that it also translates to "hard ass" or "stiff bottom" in Portuguese, which is the official language of Angola. Kuduro is also a type of dance where, typically (like Ragga, some forms of hiphop, and other afro-based musics) the female dancer protrudes her bottom and swings it sensuously to the rhythm of the hard-hitting Kuduro beat. It is mostly influenced by Zouk, Soca, and Rara (Haitian music genre) music genres. . .

One thing that's notable about Kuduro is its association with Angolan nationalism. In videos you'll often see Angolan flags flown, etc. This is an interesting contrast with other African countries, where the old nationalist and pan-African ideals have pretty much run their course, to be replaced by regional, ethnic and religious concerns. As to what sets Angola apart in this regard, I suspect that the end of the long-running civil war has given rise to a new sense of national purpose, and I suppose that the increase in the price of petroleum (Angola's main export) hasn't hurt either. But that's really just speculation on my part.

Information about Kuduro is all over the Internet, especially if you know Portuguese, which I unfortunately don't. You certainly won't be able to find this stuff at your local Best Buy, and Sterns has nothing, but a search of Kizomba turned up quite a bit, including some of the more popular artists like Dog Murras, Heider Rei do Kudoro, and numerous compilations (unfortunately short on recording information, much less sound clips). One release that is in fairly wide circulation is Federico Galliano's Kuduro Sound System, which I can recommend based on what I've heard.

There are a couple of CDs out there by my favorite Kuduro artist, Puto Prata, but I've been unable to get hold of them. Through diligent searches of the blogosphere (notably Masala, which has tons of info on all kinds of other great dance music as well,) and various file-sharing services, I have turned up seven tracks, which I present to you in non-stop "megamix" style as follows:

1. Poperom Beat Fat Remix
2. So Tchilar
3. Zuata Zuata
4. Sao Voces
5. Aviao
6. Crianca Futuro Bate (with Fofando, Puto Saborosa & Noite e Dia)
7. Sai la Daqui
Puto Prata Megamix

There is also a wealth of Kuduro videos out there, of which this is a prime example:

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Angola '80s Plus

Buda Musique is justly famed for its amazing Ethiopiques series of music, and it has recently launched Zanzibara, a new collection devoted to classic tracks from East Africa. On a recent visit to the Buda website, I was surprised to note that there is no mention of its five-volume Angola series. Does this mean that it is out of print and abandoned? That would certainly be a shame. This groundbreaking effort documented the development of the Angolan music scene through four decades of turbulent history - from the struggle against Portuguese colonialism in the sixties, the civil war that wracked Angola following independence in 1975, and the "false dawn" following the Bicesse accords of 1991, which soon gave way to renewed conflict.

It was only in 2002 that a measure of stability came to Angola, following the death in combat of Jonas Savimbi, whose UNITA faction terrorized the country for decades with the support of the CIA and the South African apartheid regime. The last few years have seen a renaissance of Angolan music and the rise of new styles, notably Kuduro. But that's beyond the scope of this post.

Every volume of the Buda Angola series is dynamite, but one of the more interesting is Angola 80s (Buda 829942), which actually defines the decade as beginning in 1978. This CD documents the rise of a mature post-independence Angolan style, or rather styles, from the folk-tinged melodies of Felipe Mukenga and the Kafala Brothers to the new kizomba style of Os Jovenes do Prenda and "Sanguito," a track by Robertinho that sounds an awful lot like Ghanaian highlife (or maybe it's just that Portuguese melancholy). It also dovetails rather nicely with my own small collection of Angolan LPs. I strongly encourage you to get the entire Angola series, if it is available. If you already have it, think of the tunes in this post as sort of a supplement or second disc to Angola 80s. Here's the music:

Let's start off with a tune that was actually recorded shortly after Angolan Independence in 1975, so technically it's not within the purview of this discussion, but who cares? "Ministro Gatuno" apparently describes the disgrace of a government minister who was caught with his hand in the cookie jar: "Agostinho Neto [1st President of Angola], you should know, Samuel Abrigada stole some money. We saw you, we saw you, we saw you. We saw you when you robbed the money. Abrigada can't deny it, because we've seen for ourselves, and what he stole belongs to Angola." This track was included in a collection of what might be called "propaganda" songs for the ruling MPLA party, Angola: Forward, People's Power! (Paredon P-1041, 1978). Information on the artists was not available.

Artists unknown - Ministro Gatuno

Orchestra Semba Tropical was founded by the Angolan government following independence and was a showcase for many popular artists like Carlos Burity and Bonga. This track, "Ku Tambi ya Veya Kaombo ," was recorded in 1984 and is included on the compilation 2-LP set BANTU (CICIBA 8401-8402):

Orquestra Semba Tropical - Ku Tambi ya Veya Kaombo

N'Simba Simon, aka "Diana," was one of many Angolan musicians who made their way to the Congo during the dark days before the fall of Portuguese colonialism. In 1968 his career began alongside Tabu Ley Rochereau in l'Orchestre African Fiesta National, and from 1969 to 1973 he sang in Les Grands Maquisards led by Ntesa Dalienst. From 1973 to 1976 he rejoined Tabu Ley in Orchestre Afrisa. "Sim Senhora," from 1983's Marguerida (Editions Man-Im MAN 001), was recorded with the Congolese group Bobongo Stars, who are quite interesting in their own right. About a month ago I passed on a rip of their LP Makasi to the With Comb and Razor blog, and you can download it here.

Diana & les Bobongo Stars - Sim Senhora

About Orquestra Caravela I know absolutely nothing, but this is a mighty fine tune. It's from their LP Amour Sans Frontières (Coco-Deal CCD 115):

Orchestra Caravela - Mbongo

The "AKA" in Trio AKA stands for the members Abanga, Kandundanga and Abunda, and about these fine artists I also know nothing. "Sauidi" is from the album Mama Cristina (Anti-Apartheid Enterprises AAER 002, 1989):

Trio AKA - Sauidi

Finally let's hear a comparison of two versions of a traditional song, "Nguitabule." The first is by Rodolfo Kituxi, from the LP O Canto Livre de Angola (RCA Brazil 103.0585, 1983) and the second, from Angola 80s, is by Os Merengues, a very influential group founded in 1974.

Rodolfo Kituxi - N'Gi Tabule

Os Merengues - Nguitabule

You might notice that I am no longer using DivShare for my downloads. So far it's working out great. Let me know how you like it.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Some Seldom-Heard Tracks by Remmy Ongala

Swahili music was terra incognita to me until one day in the summer of 1984. I was visiting Edmund Ogutu, a Kenyan friend of mine. He'd brought out a stack of East African 45's and was playing them for me. I certainly enjoyed the sounds of the Kilimambogo Brothers and DO7 Shirati Jazz, similar in some ways to other African music I was familiar with, yet refreshing in their rustic straightforwardness. Then Edmund brought out a red-label Polydor 45. The song was "Mariamu" and it was by a Tanzanian group called Super Matimila. From the first bars I was completely transported. Here was something that clearly shared the DNA of Congo music but had mutated in various subtle ways. Obviously the fact that it was in Swahili rather than Lingala was one point of difference, but what really struck me was the singer, who had a jazzy, improvisational vocal style that was cool and warm, friendly and reserved at the same time. Looking at the record label I discovered that this person was named Remmy Ongala. Edmund couldn't tell me anything about him.

That's where things stood for a couple of years, until I read an article by Ron Sakolsky in Sound Choice, a long-forgotten music magazine. Ron had lived in Tanzania and, having been similarly transformed by the music of Remmy Ongala, wanted to tell the great man's story. It turned out that Remmy was originally from Kindu, in the Congo. He began his musical career in that country (soon renamed Zaïre), and migrated to Uganda, ending up in Dar-Es-Salaam, Tanzania in 1978, where he joined Orchestra Makassy, a band led by his uncle. Three years later he departed to join Super Matimila and soon became its leader.

I got in touch with Ron and he sent me dubs of more records by Remmy Ongala, wonderful songs like "Ndumila Kuwili" and "Mnyonge Hana Haki." Finally in 1988, WOMAD Records in Britain released a full-length anthology of Remmy Ongala's East African recordings, Nalilia Mwana (
Womad WOMAD 010).
Remmy and Orchestra Super Matimila performed at the WOMAD Festival that year and in 1989 recorded their first "professional" album, Songs for the Poor Man (
Realworld CDRW6), followed in 1992 by Mambo (Realworld CDRW22). Both of these albums are fine, but to my mind the intimacy and immediacy, the soul of the Tanzanian recordings has been lost in the transition to a "professional," "modern" recording studio. Nalilia Mwana, which was never issued on CD, has long been out of print, and as far as I know there are no plans to reissue it, although an edited version of the title track appeared on 1995's Sema (Womad Select WSCD002).

It pains me that the general public is unfamiliar with the true, authentic sounds of Remmy Ongala and Orchestra Super Matimila, the music that is known and loved by millions of people in East Africa. To rectify this injustice I present several tracks from Nalilia Mwana and from another album that was issued only in East Africa, 1988's On Stage With Remmy Ongala (Ahadi AHDLP 6007). The song descriptions are from the liner notes:

"Nalilia Mwana" (I Cry for a Child) is the lament of a woman who cannot give birth: "Mola, I cry to you, Mola, I beseetch you, what did I do to deserve this misfortune. A child isn't something that you can buy... To the mother a child never grows up. Even if it were lame, or ugly like Remmy, it would still be a child."

Remmy Ongala & Orchestra Super Matimila - Nalilia Mwana

Our next selection is also from Nalilia Mwana. "Sika Ya Kufa" (The Day I Die) tells the sad tale of a man who is dying: "Beauty is finished, youth is finished, intelligence has left. But the house I built remains and my children are crying. A corpse has no companions - all my friends run away from me. Whereas we used to eat and drink together. Now they are frightened of me. Now I am like the devil."
Remmy Ongala & Orchestra Super Matimila - Sika Ya Kufa

"Ndumila Kuwili," (Don't Speak With Two Mouths), our last from Nalilia Mwana, deals with that age-old problem, jealousy: "We used to be friends. We lived together like brothers. But I am surprised, brother - don't speak with two mouths. Playing off one person against another. Jealousy and discord are not the right way.""

Remmy Ongala & Orchestra Super Matimila - Ndumila Kuwili

"Kifo" (Death) was my favorite song on Songs for the Poor Man, so when I received a copy of On Stage with Remmy Ongala, which includes the original, I was curious to hear how the two versions compared. This is a case where, in my opinion, the "remake" is an improvement on the original, which is a mighty fine tune already. The lyrics: "Death, you took my wife. My child cries every day. 'Father, where is my mother?' But I can't find the words. The tears just fall down my face. Because of you, Death."

Remmy Ongala & Orchestra Super Matimila - Kifo

A remake of "Narudi Nyumbabi," from On Stage with Remmy Ongala, was featured on Mambo under the title "I Want to Go Home," and here the original is clearly superior. There's just something about the "low-tech" nature of the recording, and the Swahili lyrics, that just expresses the poignancy of the lyrics so much better: "I want to go home. I need to go back home. The place that is our home. Good or bad still home."

Remmy Ongala & Orchestra Super Matimila - Narudi Nyumbani

A couple of years ago I convinced Doug Paterson of the East African Music Page to compile a discography of Remmy Ongala's many recordings for the East African market. If you'd like more information on these, you are encouraged to consult it here.

Update: Thanks to reader Daan42, who passes on a link to an article about Remmy Ongala's current activities here.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Le Demón de la Musique Africain

Once upon a time many thought that Ali Baba would be the next big thing in African music. With his flashy stage show and eclectic, cosmopolitan style it was thought that he could give King Sunny Ade and Fela Anikulapo-Kuti a run for their money. His premier disc Ali Baba '85 drew a lot of attention, and an appearance in London later that year seemed to herald bigger and better things.

In the end, though, not much came of it. King Sunny Ade lost his contract with Island Records and Fela stayed more of a cult figure, at least until his death in 1997.
The "African music boom" of the mid '80s turned out to be more of a "boomlet." And Ali Baba returned to his native Cameroun, where he continued to make music that was appreciated by many until his death on May 15, 2004.

Amadou Baba Ali was a a Hausa, a nationality of 30-35 million that is centered on Northern Nigeria and the Republic of Niger, but has members throughout West Africa. He was born in 1956 in Garoua, northern Cameroun. From 1980 to 1984 he achieved great fame and skill as a dancer with the National Ballet of Cameroun and in 1985 recorded Ali Baba '85 in Paris.

Frank Bessem's Musiques d'Afrique states that Ali Baba suffered a crippling stroke in 1993 that made it very difficult for him to get about, yet achieved a miraculous come-back later in the '90s. He founded a production company, Soul Gandjal, with the aim of promoting artists from northern Cameroun.

What I find interesting about Ali Baba is that for many years he was one of the few Hausa musicians performing in a modern, contemporary mode. In the recent period hip-hop and other styles have made their influence felt in Hausaland, but for many years Hausa music was performed almost totally in traditional styles utilizing instruments like the talking drum, goje, kontigi, and kakakai.
There were only a couple of Hausa highlife musicians and no Hausa equivalent of syncretic, modern Nigerian styles like juju or fuji.

Here's the music:

Around 1984 or so, Ali Baba contributed this tune to the deluxe 3-LP set produced by the Société Camerounaise du Droit d'Auteur (SOCADRA), Fleurs Musicales du Cameroun (Afrovision FMC 001/002/003). Here he's backed up by the National Orchestra of Cameroun.
Fleurs Musicales, by the way, is an anthology that is just crying out for reissue. I'm planning to post more tracks from it in the future:

Ali Baba & l'Orchestre Nationale du Cameroun - Aourgo

From Ali Baba '85 (Kappa SAS 056), two tracks that perfectly exemplify Ali Baba's wondrously inventive style:

Ali Baba - Waioh

Ali Baba - Hadiza

Finally, from 1989's Condition Femenine (Editions Haïssam MH 14), Ali Baba's tribute to the great Nigerian Hausa praise singer Alhaji Mamman Shata. In the future I will post music by Mamman Shata and other Hausa musicians from Nigeria and Niger:

Ali Baba - Alhaji Mamman Shata

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Viva Voodoo Funk!

If you've been around the African music blogosphere for a while you've probably chanced across an incredible site entitled Voodoo Funk. Here an intrepid German named Frank, or "DJ Soulpusher" (right), recounts his adventures digging up old vinyl recordings across West Africa, with a special emphasis on Benin, which, for a small country, has produced an inordinate amount of wild, funky and just plain out there music. The really great thing is, every month or so Frank posts a mix of his latest discoveries. Sure, they're usually scratchy as all get-out, but that only adds to the overall ambiance. Close your eyes and you can imagine yourself sitting in a dusty, stifling record shack in Cotonou, drinking an ice-cold (or not-so-cold) Star or Gulder or whatever they drink in Benin, just rockin' out.

Now Frank's back from another expedition, and he's promising us not one but three new collections of his discoveries. Moreover, he's gone back and reworked some of his earlier postings, adding more material and more "local color." Here's a passage that particularly impressed me:

"....One day, I decided to visit Bohicon, a town about 70 miles to the North of Cotonou. My guide Didier and I travelled in a bush taxi and upon arrival chartered two motorcycle taxis with local drivers who said they'd know some places where we would find records. The first spot was at a store that sold cassette tapes, records as well as radios and all other sorts of electronic equipment. The records were in two large wooden boxes that also contained swarms of large cockroaches and silverfish. Most paper sleeves had been eaten away partially by insects. The closer we got to the bottom, the lesser intact the sleeves and the thicker the bug droppings inbetween records. The air was thick with dust and and a dark layer of dirt and bug excrement started to cake onto my hands and lower arms. When I was finally through with everything, we jumped on our bikes and zoomed across a labyrinth network of dirt roads finally reaching a big one story building with clay walls.

"The owner of the records store who had accompanied us on a third bike introduced us to a very old man who had some white medicine smeared all over his body and was only covered around the waist with a piece of cloth. The record store owner went into the next room and returned, one after the other, with three very large wicker baskets that were stuffed with stacks of LPs and 45s. At one point, thankfully long before our visit, the baskets had also given a home to some sort of hornet who had chewed away almost all cover sleeves right up to the records, leaving round layer cakes of vinyl, paper and cardboard. I found a few records where even small amounts of vinyl had been gnawed off by those eager little critters. Things got really rough when I hit the bottom of the last basket that contained mostly 45s: The hornets had built chambers and tunnels inbetween the records, using a red, claylike substance that I guessed consisted of chewed up record sleeves, earth and hornet spittle. To make things even more bizarre, large pieces of insect shells were baked into the thick, red crust. Otherwise, the records that I could see the surface of seemed unplayed and the fact that most of them were present in multiple copies supported the idea that this was dead stock. I decided to also buy the claycaked ones, including the embedded insect parts. . ."
Frank indicates, by the way, that two record companies have expressed an interest in producing compilations of this music. Serious reissues of vintage Beninois Afro-funk, remastered from the original recordings. . . it's a dream come true!

'Til Frank gets those new mixes posted, here's a little something to get us all in the mood: Poly-Rythmo de Cotounou, from their LP Zero+Zero = Zero (Star Musique SMP 6019):

Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou - Adin Gbanzon

Update: There is another very interesting anecdote about Benin, and some ultra-rare, unreleased tracks by Poly-Rythmo de Cotouou here.

Update 2: Those three new mixes are online here.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Let's Start!

First of all, let me introduce myself: My name is John Beadle, and I live in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA. From January 1985 to June 2001 I produced and hosted a one-hour program, "African Beat," on WYMS 88.9 FM in Milwaukee.

For a number of years I have posted my discographies of African musicians on Dr. Toshiya Endo's African Music Home Page. I've also compiled a couple of "African Serenades" for Matsuli Music and contributed music to Comb and Razor. More than one person has suggested that I set up my own audioblog and after some resistance to the idea (I've got a lot of other irons in the fire) I couldn't think of one good reason why I shouldn't.

The thing that's so wonderful about the Internet is its democratic nature. We all contribute what we know - there are no "stars." I've learned so much from some of the other blogs that are out there and I hope to pass on some of the knowledge that I've gained over the years. Likewise I've heard some wonderful new sounds and hope to return the favor with selections from my collection.

The name "Likembe" refers to the Congolese version of the thumb-piano, an instrument that can be found across Africa, that in various versions is called the mbira, sanza, kalimba, ubo, etc. While the name is Congolese, that country probably won't be the main focus here; for one thing, there are quite a few places on the Web that deal with Congolese music already. I expect to spend a lot of time on Nigeria, as that's my main area of interest, especially Igbo music, but my interests run the gamut: Kenyan and Tanzanian music, Ethiopian funk and Senegalese mbalax, you name it. Maybe I can shed some light on some of the more obscure, little-known corners of African music, but I expect I'll learn a lot from you, too. And I reserve the right to write about things other than African music!

Like many, I was intrigued by the sounds of the Afro-Rock group Osibisa when I first heard them in the early 1970s. What really got me going, though, was, purely by chance, listening to Fela Ransome-Kuti's Live with Ginger Baker in 1973. Maybe you know the feeling: from that point there was no going back, as I spent every dollar I could spare on these strange and wonderful sounds from the African continent - Afrobeat, Soukous, Highlife, Benga, Makossa, Kwaito. . . and so on and on.

When I started "African Beat" in 1985 it seemed only proper that I should open my first show with the opening track from that 1972 Fela LP, which appropriately enough is entitled "Let's Start!" Likewise it seems a perfect tune to initiate this blog. Let's start!

Fela Ransome-Kuti & Africa '70 - Let's Start!