Monday, July 9, 2018

Yéplé Jazz!



From the little I've been able to find out about him, Abel Yéplé of Ivory Coast has had a long career. I suspect he may have passed away recently. I don't know enough about Ivorian music to situate his sound within the panapoly of musical styles there: Ziglibithy, Polihet, Zoblazo, Zouglou and so forth. Judging by today's offering - 1992's Adji Aka (EMI NH0013) he borrows a little bit from all of them. Whatever you want to call it, it's fine, fine music!







Download Adji Aka as a zipped file here.


Sunday, July 1, 2018

The Dynamic Duo of Ghana Highlife



The two stalwarts of Ghana highlife, Pat Thomas and Ebo Taylor, have both been experiencing career revivals lately, thanks to new recordings and reissues of old material. As a team - with Taylor as guitarist and arranger, and Thomas contributing his golden voice - they've been together on and off for more than fifty years. I've written about Pat Thomas and posted his music before. Ebo Taylor has recorded with all manner of Ghanaian musicians as well as being a session musician for the very influential Essiebons label.

Today's offering, Oye Odo (Dannytone 002, 1984), recorded in Ghana and mastered in the Netherlands, showcases these two giants at their peak. Enjoy!





Download Oye Odo as a zipped file here.


Sunday, June 24, 2018

More Military Sounds from Kenya



Kenya's Maroon Commandos have been featured here on Likembe a couple of times. In March I posted their LP Mwakarabishwa na Maroon and more than ten years ago a great 45 by them, "Liloba."

The Maroons are the offficial band of the 7th Kenya Rifles of the Kenyan Army, based in Langata Barracks, Nairobi, and were led for many years by Habel Kifoto. Composing and singing lead on many of their biggest hits, including "Liloba," was bassist Laban Ochuka, who at some point hived off and formed his own band, Ulinzi Orchestra, who give us today's musical offering, 1991's Sina Uwezo (Polydor POLP 610). From the very sketchy info I've been able to dig up on the internet, Ulinzi also have some affiliation with the Kenyan military. Google Translate (not always dependable, I know) renders "ulinzi" as "protection." Maybe it could be "defense?" So if the group is army-related, that would make sense.

Ulinzi in this album go for a more forward-facing, disco-inflected sound than the Maroons. I don't know about any other recordings by them, but they seemed to be extant for a number of years after Sina Uwezo and may still exist. Ochuka left the band in 2003 to sing gospel music, but returned in 2005. Sadly, he passed away in 2006 and was laid to rest at his home in Bunyore, western Kenya.




Download Sina Uwezo as a zipped file here.


Sunday, June 17, 2018

The Ancestral Voices of Dade Krama



With their politically-charged version of traditional Ghanaian sounds, Dade Krama were a sensation in Britain back in the mid-1980s. Kofi Hagan Jr. describes a typical performance in the June 23, 1986 issue of West Africa magazine:

The sensational quintet, Dade Krama are storming Britain's major cities with their soothing, sometimes cheering or even inciting, yet elusive ancestral music of Africa. At the time I caught up with them on their travelling programme, they had already enlivened London, Leicester, Leeds and Birmingham. I decided to find out what their fans in Manchester had been missing. 
...Dade Krama were ready like the artistic warriors they are to take on the old industrial city... "Enua num na adofo (brothers, sisters and fans)...Dade Krama." The group promptly launched into an Asafo war song, "Ena ena-aa, ena ena, aboa bi seo-o djata bi seo-oo..." - an order for the thumping charge of Atumpan, Atsemevu, Prempensua and other percussive instruments all in martialled formations. The music finished in a screech... 
...Word got around that the great big-band highlife maestrro, E.T. Mensah was in the audience (he is in Britain for a medical check up). The next song had to be dedicated to him: "Wo se gye shun noni ete- noni eba-ye" - "we've come from afar, what has gone, what has come we endure." The song was so heavy-handedly nostalgic that it made one want to reach out for a steaming meal of kenkey, a giant hairy-legged land crab steamed to a red-brick colour with hot Kpakpo shitor (pepper). A bottle of real unadulterated akpetechie would have been great!
 By now the audience had unravelled into a crowd. Whistles, catcalls and general uproar drowned the handclaps. In the intermission the group was assaulted with goodwill... 
I spoke to Nana Tsiboe and Dada Lamptey: what strategy did the group have in getting across the ancestral music of Africa, considering that Western audiences may find the instruments, lyrics of music strange? "We believe, and to some extent have found out that only by the use of a creative format on the basis of a traditional platform can our music develop. For a long time African musical instruments, for instance, developed without the interruption of Western instruments. With regards to the lyrics, our songs could not be sung in English - the feelings come across with minimal translation. 
"...People hesitate to appreciate the proper context within which our music is realized. I can only comment on what we are doing in the sense that we try as much as possible to project our African culture so that it is appreciated in a proper perspective. We are now more than a music group, we are a way of life. Our music fits into our way of life - it is a lifelong thing. It demands, we are aware, a very delicate kind of exposure, care, thought and presentation." 
What is Dade Krama's position on blacks here in Britain and elsewhere in the West? "It is essential for every black to know he or she is black. We try to advance this basic consideration through the medium of our music -  that is total glorification of our own musical culture." 
In the light of existing arguments here in Britain for a sound basis for Black Arts heightened by Kwesi Owusu's book on this, The Struggle for Black Arts in Britain (Comedia; 1986, ₤14.95) what contribution is Dade Krama making? "We've worked a lot within the struggle for Black Arts here. We have participated in concerts, workshops, etc, to popularise Black Arts. But we are only making our art. It is the system that creates the struggle. We can appreciate the fact that African people must have arts in this country but nothing will be given to you without a fight...
"...There are African people fighting and infiltrating on other levels - we can help by producing .a very bigh level of our art and linking up. It is like a call to all black people to say, hey look this is what you are made up of!" 
Will the group continue to be im England? "No, presently England needs to be used to popularize our music. It is also important to make our music audible. We have to rely on the technology of this part of the world.
All members of Dade Krama have backgrounds in Western music or have used Western instruments. When was the break? "It is the instruments that broke us - we can't rely on electric current to make music for our audience. It is only efficient musicians who can play African music. In getting together, we all had the same interest and decided to share our instruments communally. " 
You make your own instruments? "We make some of the instruments like Gonje, Brekete and Gai. We attempt to repair our damaged instruments and in the long run make them ourselves." 
How is the group's debut record faring? "The'LP is three weeks old. We would say it has sold to a fair percentage of' our audience at performances. Also response in the form of write ups, and radio interviews has been great." 
Dade Krama comprises: Nii Noi Nortey - former saxophonist and flautist with Misty in Roots and African Dawn; Nana Tsiboe - formerly with Jazz Africa, High Tension and the Afro-Rock group Ojah (which he led); Dada Lamptey - a filmmaker/graphic designer (he designed the sleeve of Dade Krama's new album), who played with Watusi and Eneaben V; and Kweku Gabrah, who worked with the highlife group. Carousel 7 and has since been a sought-after session percussionist. Afari Aboagye, a professional agricultural economist, administer them.
When the lights of our ancestors dimmed, the crowd called for more. Afari routinely pleaded with them to come back. They did, but not with instruments: they formed a circle and with sleight of hand clapped a tune from our youth: Sasakroma (the hawk) out of each other's hands in the ecstatic manner of a group that had had a truly successful evening. 
Brilliant! 
Dade Krama's uncompromising approach to their music was admirable at a time when many African musicians felt the need to "cross over" - water down their art in hopes of commercial success. Probably for that reason their following was somewhat limited. Discogs lists only two releases by them - Ancestral Dance (Round Music ROCD 9601), which came out in 1996, and their debut, the one we're going to hear today, 1986's Ancestral Music of Africa (Akoben AK1). Descriptions of the songs are taken from the above-cited article by Kofi Hagan Jr.

Dade Krama - Tete Nantye

"...Using the Mbira (hand piano), Gonje, rattles, etc., Dade Krama performed 'Mutani N'Africa' - a Hausa tune and 'Magana Chiki' in a medley..."

Dade Krama - Mutani N'Africa / Magana Chiki / Aninwula Dagbon

Dade Krama - Inkululeko / Ye Azania

"...'Touba,' a mobilizing arrangement employing the use of Atenteben (flutes) and percussive instruments in an increasingly rapid rendition of a Northern Ghana tune..."

Dade Krama - Touba

"...'Brothers, sisters and fans, two years ago Reagan invaded Grenada and stifled the revolution. A few weeks ago he dropped bombs on Libya with the assistance of Thatcher. Two days ago with the knowledge of Reagan and Thatcher South Africa invaded Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe...We dedicate this song to all freedom fighters.' Wild cheers of approval from the audience. The song, 'Alkebu Lan,' - the original name of Africa, started with a bee-like droning sound from a pipe horn. Then the solitary whine of the Algaita - the instrument snakecharmers use, reared its lethal head and gave a lightning strike at the real cradle of State Terrorism. The recurrent sombre thums of the Brekete and Fomfomfron drums merely beat a warning to weakened hearts..."

Dade Krama - Alkebu-Lan

Dade Krama - Kronkohinkoo

Dade Krama - Adowa

Dade Krama - Wo See Dze Shonn

Dade Krama - Anukuo Nsele


Download Ancestral Music of Africa as a zipped file here. A few words on the inscription "Direct Metal Mastering" that appears on the sleeve. This technology appeared in the waning years of the analog era, probably in competition with digital recordings, which were then appearing on the market. I'm generally unconvinced that analog recordings are superior to digital (at least these days; a lot of the early CDs did sound awful!), but this record makes a good case! I was struck by its remarkable clarity while digitizing this disc. Something to look for if you're really into vinyl records! For more information on the process check out this Wikipedia article.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Wanyika's Back!



I promised this one a while back, and here it is! Tanzanian/Kenyan superstars Les Wanyika give us another scinitillating slice of Swahili Rumba, 1989's Nimaru (Polydor POLP 598). Nothing much to say about this one, so I'll let the music speak for itself. Enjoy!

Les Wanyika - Nimaru

Les Wanyika - Mama Watoto

Les Wanyika - Mumu Wangu Waniteza

Les Wanyika - Shemeji Agnes

Download Nimaru as a zipped file here.


Monday, June 4, 2018

One More from "One Man Thousand"



Ghanaian highlife superstar Alex Konadu, or "One Man Thousand," was the subject of a previous post here on Likembe, and the indefatigable Moos over at Global Groove has a wealth of recordings by him. Sadly, since our last visit with him Mr. Konadu passed away on January 18, 2011. A Ghanaian website had this to say about him:

....Alex Konadu was born in 1950 at Adwumakase Kese in the Kwabere No.3 District of Ashanti. Konadu started singing at an early age, and became the leader of the Kantamanto Bosco Group before moving on to the band of the well-known Kwabena Akwaboah. He honed his artistic skills there after three years moved to the Happy Brothers Band. 
After two years Kwabena went 'solo' for some time, composing and practicing until he invited Mr. A.K.Brobbey -record dealer and producer- to listen to his rehearsals and he got signed and Brobbey organised a band. With their new, very uptempo guitar Highlife they had instant succes. 
His ability to draw crowds wherever he went gave Konadu the appellation "One Man Thousand." Withstanding the vicissitudes of fame and fashion, and staying true to his vision of pure, unadulterated highlife music, he became an inspiration to Ghanaian musicians for years. While Konadu issued many wonderful recordings over the decades, Asaase Asa is still considered one of his most noteworthy achievements. 
The 1976 album Asaase Asa (Brobisco KBL 016) was a breakthrough hit for Alex Konadu, establishing him as Ghana's foremost exponent of "roots highlife." The title song was based on a true story about Mr. Asaase Asa, who lost both his wife and sister when they were killed by a falling tree. It is dedicated to all who have lost their loved ones. Alex Konadu carved a special name for himself dedicating most of his songs in praise of the dead and his music is a must-play at any Ghanaian funerary.....
Today I present an Alex Konadu record that I haven't seen on any of the other African music sites, recorded during a Canadian sojourn - 1992's Da Bi Wo Behunu (BlackSounds RTLP 003). This is classic Konadu - Ghana highlife stripped down to its propulsive, infectious essentials. Enjoy!

Alex Konadu - Da Bi Na Wo Behunu

Alex Konadu - Agya Ata Wuo Part II

Alex Konadu - Pa Pa No No

Alex Konadu - Yen Anya Aba Na Yen Ko Ye Mu

Download Da Bi Wo Behunu as a zipped file here.


Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Advance Kusugar! Zimbabwe Hits Vol. 3



We conclude our overview of DiscAfrique's Zimbabwe Hits compilations with Volume 3 of the series - Advance Kusugar! (DiscAfrique AFRI LP 006, 1988). Some of the biggest names of late '80s Zimbabwe music are here, and some lesser-known talents as well.

Jonah Moyo founded Devera Ngwena ("Follow the Crocodile") in 1979 to entertain the workers at Mashaba Asbestos Mine, which became their sponsor. Their combination of Congolese rumba and indigenous sounds immediately became a sensation, the group waxing numerous singles like "Solo na Mutsai," "Taxi Driver" and many others, including this offering, "Karekita"."What's your problem? Love can't be bought. It floats like the wind."


Explorations of the mbira, or thumb piano, by Master Chivero, about whom I've not been able to find anything. "Get on your bike and go after the sweet one. Marry her and do not lose her."


R.U.N.N. Family was made up of members of the Muparutsa family. The song is a tribute to the then-recently-departed President of Mozambique, who died in a plane crash under suspicious circumstances, probably the work of South Africa. He is compared to other African freedom fighters: "Someone keeps stirring and heating the pot. [Herbert] Chipeto, [Steve] Biko and now Samora Machel. They kill our friends. We can only pray to God and remember the inheritance of Samora Machel. Our life is the struggle."


Here are the Jairos Jiri Band, whom we remember from Take Cover!, the first volume of Zimbabwe Hits. "Chiedza is so beautiful. Her face is like a snake's egg. The sun is rising and she is my morning. I love her and will marry her."


More friends from Take Cover! "Business in town. 'Father, my business has failed. I do not want to steal. I will join the service economy. The gift of business, alas, I did not have it." 


"Nehanda, the grandmother of the ZANU people prophesied that one day they would rule themselves in a happy and free Zimbabwe."


"Ndicheni" is possibly in the Chewa language, and might be about a woman who abandons her children to go drinking in town.


"Mother, father, welcome your son. I have killed a buck and a kudu." 


"I love you more when you are happy." 


"Speak! Talk! Say what you have to say. The disadvantages of polygamy. How many women can you offer the sun and moon? How many wedding dresses will you spin from the flowers and trees? Will they believe you and how do you expect to be treated? Hell hath no fury like a woman spurned." 


"Friend, the beer hall or the church? Choose your road. Remember that to drink is a sin against God." 


Download Advance Kusugar! as a zipped file here. Researching this post I found the book Roots Rocking in Zimbabwe by Fred Zindi (Mambo Press, Harare, 1985) very helpful. Descriptions of the songs were provided by the liner notes of Advance Kusugar!.


Thursday, May 24, 2018

Goodbye Sandra: Zimbabwe Hits Vol. 2



We continue our exploration of the rockin'sounds of '80s-era Zimbabwe with Goodbye Sandra, the second volume of the Zimbabwe Hits series (DiscAfrique AFRILP 05, 1988). In contrast to the first outing in the series, this one features only four artists, but they're all great. Let's go!

We remember John Kazadi from Volume One of Zimbabwe Hits - Take Cover! John was originally from Lubumbashi, Congo, and here covers the lovely song "Le Bucheron" by the Congolese singer Franklin Boukaka. "Evoking the ancestors and those who died for liberation. It's time to enjoy the fruits of freedom and rejoice.":


Many reading this need no introduction to Oliver Mutukudzi. Apart from Thomas Mapfumo, he's probably the best-known Zimbabwean musician in the world, and no wonder - his deep, soulful voice is unparalleled. "Nzara" recounts the hunger and suffering during a drought:


During the Zimbabwe War of Liberation musician Simon Chimbetu fled into exile in Tanzania, where he joined the Zimbabwe African National Union and entertained its troops in exile. Shortly after Independence he joined with his brother Naison to form the Marxist Brothers. The brothers split in 1988, Simon forming the Dendera Kings and Naison forming the Gee 7 Commandos. In "Goodbye Sandra" the singer is bidding adieu to his foreign girlfriend and returning home to Zimbabwe:


The Sungura Boys were the band of John Chibadura (John Nyamukoko). Chibadura was born in 1957. Orphaned at an early age and forced to abandon his schooling, he worked a number of menial jobs before distinguishing himself on the guitar and founding the Holy Brothers with his friend Shepherd Chinyani. After a number of personnel and name changes the group became the Sungura Boys. At some point (either 1983 or 1985) John left to form his own band, the Tembo Brothers. Sadly, John Chibadura died in 1999. "Soweto" is "a song about suffering, pain, hardship and death in the struggle for freedom":


"Love is blind. If only it could stay that way."


"Africa" is "about the liberation of all Africa as the struggle for decolonization continues":


"A disease that has killed the singer's sister and uncle now afflicts his grandmother. Leaving the city to join her, his train breaks down":


"Tungamira" is about a young friend "who dies without a chance to say goodbye. He is asked to lead the way to heaven (or peace)." I will be posting more music by Oliver Mutukuzi on Likembe in the future: 


A sarcastic song about Abel Muzorewa's hapless "Zimbabwe/Rhodesia" regime, which held sway for only a few months before Independence in 1980. "How can a country possess two names?" I will be posting more music by John Chibadura on Likembe in the future: 


A dub version of the opening tune:


Download Goodbye Sandra as a zipped file here. Researching this post I found the book Roots Rocking in Zimbabwe by Fred Zindi (Mambo Press, Harare, 1985) very helpful. Descriptions of the songs were provided by the liner notes of Goodbye Sandra.


Friday, May 18, 2018

Take Cover! Zimbabwe Hits Vol. 1



Take Cover! Zimbabwe Hits Vol. 1 (DiscAfrique AFRI LP 01, 1986), and its sequels, Goobye Sandra: Zimbabwe Hits Vol. 2 (DiscAfrique AFRI LP 05, 1988) and Advance Kusugar! Zimbabwe Hits Vol. 3 (AFRI LP 006, 1988) capture a magic moment in African music - the optimistic years immediately after Zimbabwean independence in 1980. Thomas Mapfumo and the Bhundu Boys are familiar artists from this period, but these collections highlight musicians who aren't as well-known outside of Zimbabwe. I'm pleased to offer Take Cover! today, with the other two volumes to follow soon.

The Jairos Jiri Band has been one of the leading musical congregations of independent Zimbabwe. It is the official orchestra of the Jairos Jiri Rehabilitation Centre, which for six decades has worked to to rehabilitate and integrate into society Zimbabweans with disabilities. All of the members of the band are "disabled" in one way or another, and Paul Matavire, who led the group for a number of years, was blind. Matavire left the band in 1995 and died in 2005. Following a period of inactivity, the Jairos Jiri Band was recently revived under the leadership of Stewart Njodo."Take Cover" refers to the privations Zimbabweans suffered during the bitter struggle against white minority rule:


Ephat Mujuru (1950-2001) was well-known to African music aficionados in the US, particularly in the Pacific Northwest, where he was resident for many years at the University of Washington in Seattle, lecturing and teaching the mbira (thumb piano). Mujuru founded his first musical group, Chaminuka, in 1972, renaming it Spirit of the People after the fall of the Rhodesian regime in 1980:


The Family Singers, led by Jonathan and Shuvai Wutawunashe, were a leading Zimbabwean gospel group of the '80s. "Tarira Nguva," their first single and a smash hit, shows the clear influence of American country-western music. Shuvai Wutawanashe sings, "All Christians must work hard to uphold Christianity, as the devil is working hard to destroy us.":


The O.K. Success had their origins in Congo, but since their arrival in the former Rhodesia in 1960 they have become thoroughly Zimbabwean, both in personnel and in the subject matter of their music. The lead singer of "B.P.," James Chimombe, got his start with Thomas Mafumo's Acid Band before moving on to O.K. Success, and later recording with the Huchi Band and Ocean City Band. In 1990 he became the first prominent Zimbabwean musician to die of AIDS. The lyrics: "To err is human my friend. We all make mistakes at some stage in our lives":


Over on the Electric Jive blog Tony Hunter describes his first encounter with Africa Melody: “...I had a friend who lived in Kwe Kwe and I stayed with his family. There was a band that’s sound captivated me. Africa Melody was led by a guy called John Kazadi who I think came from Lubumbashi [Congo]. The few references to the band describe it as sungura music but to me it had less of rhumba feel and at times more of country rock sound with the guitars right upfront...." "John Waenda" is about a widow whose husband died, leaving her no money to look after her children:


Born in the late '30s, Safirio Madzikatire ("Mukadota") became well-known as a comedian with his own radio program, "Mhuri Yekwa Rwizi." He soon transitioned to making music with various musicians, including the Brave Sun Band, led by his son Elijah, the Mukadota Family and this group, the Sea Cottage Sisters. In this song a man named Dickson apologizes to his girlfriend for letting her down and begs her to take him back:


In this song, a man named George leaves his long-time girlfriend for a nurse who buys him a car:


I'm not sure if there is any relationship between this Super Sounds and another group called the Ndolwane Super Sounds. In "Chipendani" a young man inherits a fortune from his father but soon squanders it. To survive he is forced to make his living as a herder:


A tribute to the late Jairos Jiri, founder of the Jairos Jiri Rehabilitation Centre, which has worked for six decades helping disabled individuals who have been abandoned by their families:


BBC Radio host John Peel described The Four Brothers band as "the best live band in the world." From 1977 to the early 2000s they were a mainstay of the Zimbabwe music scene, finally succumbing to the death or disablement of the founding members. There have been efforts to revive the group, with limited success. "Wapenga Nayo Bonus" decries the practice of people spending their yearly bonus unwisely:


"Katarina" was one of the biggest hits in Zimbabwe during the '80s. A young man desires to leave his home because everyone is jealous of his relationship with a beautiful dancer named Katarina. Later he decides he will ignore the gossip and stay at home:


Enjoy this video of Mukadota and the original "Katarina":


"Amayo" is in Chewa, a language spoken in neighboring Malawi. A young man objects to the woman his mother has picked for him to marry:


Download Take Cover! Zimbabwe Hits Vol. 1 as a zipped file here. Researching this post I found the book Roots Rocking in Zimbabwe by Fred Zindi (Mambo Press, Harare, 1985) very helpful. The translations of the lyrics are taken from the US edition of Take Cover! (Schanachie 43045, 1987).




Saturday, May 12, 2018

Happy Mothers' Day!



Nigerians are known for songs extolling their mothers, notably Prince Nico Mbarga's famous "Sweet Mother." In honor of Mothers' Day 2018, here is Mamma (Ivory Music IVR 057), a cassette by jùjú maestro Dayo Kujore, who was featured a few months ago on this blog. Enjoy!

Dayo Kujore - Toju Yeye / Iya Lolugbowo Mi / Omo Unmoti / Iya Mi Ose / Mother

Dayo Kujore - Fi Wa Jomi / Oruko Jesu / Awa De / Darling My Lover / Fans' Rhythm Special

Download Mamma as a zipped file here.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Good-Time Gospel from Nigeria



Ọdun Nlọ Sopin, by the Good Women Choir, has been one of Likembe's most popular recent downloads, at least according to Mediafire. Now brace yourself for some more feel-good Yoruba gospel music from Nigeria, this time courtesy of Sister Dunni Olanrewaju, or as she is often known, "Opelope Anointing," after her biggest hit. 

Sister Dunni was born December 2, 1960, in Alabata, Oyo State. She was called to the gospel at an early age, as her father was a cathechist and her mother a Deaconess in Christ Apostolic Church. She began singing in the choir at age 9, and dropped out of secondary school to pursue her passion for music, much to the consternation of her mother. 

Adun-Igbeyawo was Dunni's first release, in 1988, but Opelope Anointing (see the video below) was the record that really made her a household name in 2000. In between there were five other recordings, including today's offering, the cassette Ayo Re Mbo (Premier Music LMC 010), which came out around 1996. The title track in particular combines gospel, highlife and a battery of talking drums in a way that that really gets the feat moving! Listening to it, you can understand why gospel is one of the most popular genres of music in southern Nigeria. I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I do.

Dunni Olanrewaju & Golden Voices - Ayo Re Mbo






Download Ayo Re Mbo as a zipped file here. Unfortunately the sound quality of this cassette is not the best. I hope you will agree with me that the quality of the music outweighs this technical limitation.



Monday, April 30, 2018

Let's Dance Kibushi!



Orchestre Les Hi-Fives, originators of the popular Kibushi sound, were one of many Congolese dance bands who, fleeing political turmoil, made their way east to Tanzania and Kenya. They were founded as Bana Kibushi Batano by Vicky Numbi in Lubumbashi, Congo. In 1965 they moved to Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, and two years later to Mombasa to join the burgeoning Congolese exile music scene in Kenya. Here, like much of this cohort, they became as much a "Kenyan" group as a Congolese one.

Various problems, notably with residency permits, forced the band to break up some time in the late '70s or early '80s, and the members scattered to the four winds. Many years ago my friend Kenneth Chitika loaned me this album, Wanawachezea Mfululizo wa Kibushi (Philips PKLP 105, 1972), and I dubbed it to a 10" tape reel. Ten years ago I digitally ripped this in turn, and here it is! I got the sleeve and label art from Discogs, which was also the source for some of the information in this post.



Download Wanawachezea Mfululizo wa Kibushi as a zipped file here.


Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Return of the Sweet Talking Man



Last month I gave you A.B. Crentsil's great 1985 LP Toronto by Night, with a promise of more sophisticated sounds from the king of '80s Ghana highlife. Well, here they are! Tantie Alaba (Earthworks/Rough Trade ERT 1004, 1984) was recorded at the Ghana Film Studios in Accra, and has more of an "organic" sound than Toronto.

Researching this series of posts devoted to Ghana music from the '80s, I've been digging through my archives, compiled back in the days before the internet, and came across issue #5 of Africa Beat magazine, published in London in Summer of 1986. It contains a most informative article, "Sweet Talking Man," about Mr. Crentsil, then on a European tour:

The dramatic plunge in the value of the Ghanaian currency, the cedi, has thrown up some stories. One of the most heartbreaking is the virtual death of the Ghanaian recording industry. The price of imported basics, like guitar strings or vinyl, has killed off virtually every full-time touring professional band. Some put the number of survivors as low as three. 
One man who has survived all this and a lot more is A.B. Crentsil, the 36-year-old singer whose mid-1970s band Sweet Talks was a germinating ground for some of the strongest talents to emerge out of Ghana during the last ten years - the Sunsum Band, Eric Agyemang and Thomas Frempong among them. But the figures even he throws out so casually are terrifying. He starts off talking about how his second band the Lantics were stolen away from the Atlantic Hotel by an extra 25 cedi a month - "100 cedi a month was a lot and we were happy to go!," he chuckles. Now he talks about paying his bus driver 10,000 cedi a day, a week, a month, whatever it takes to keep him. 
Even more scaring is his account of the break-up of Sweet Talks in 1979 and the court battle to get money out of the manager of the Talk of the Town Hotel who owned the band's instruments and in a lot of ways seemed to own their souls as well. "In court we heard that Phonogram had paid him 5.4 million cedis. Out of that we had seen 68,000 cedis." Needless to say there were dark doings in the background and A.B. is not a rich man - but her survives. 
And away from the numbers, back to the music. Throughout the 1970s A.B. played in the best hotel bands in Ghana - first the El Dorados, performing funk, reggae and James Brown material, the usual songs known as "copyright." The there was the Lantics, again tied to a top hotel but this time getting away to record the first album, Adam & Eve [as the Sweet Talks] in 1975. They had been spotted playing in the hotel by Phonogram MD Arthur Tay who swept them off to the 16-track EMI studio in Lagos which was quite a jump from the two-track they had used for three 45s earlier. 
The 75-venue tour of Ghana which followed built Sweet Talks into one of the biggest bands in the land. Throughout the string of LPs that followed - Kusum Beat, Spiritual Ohaia, Osode - it was all up and up, closer to dangerous temptations that lay in wait when Phonogram Holland took them to Los Angeles' Total Experience studio to record the best-selling Party Time [Hollywood Highlife Party]. It was then that they discovered that their manager was using their money to send a Thunderbird back to Ghana. It was when they got back they discovered they were broke, and broke up....
Which brings us up to 1984, and Tantie Alaba, recorded with Mr. Crentsil's reorganized Super Sweet Talks International, and the first of his albums to receive modest international distribution. Here's a nice video someone made of the title track, utilizing footage that apparently has nothing to do with the song itself, but, I'm sure you'll agree, matches up very well indeed!


A.B. Crentsil & Super Sweet Talks International - Tantie Alaba

A.B. Crentsil & Super Sweet Talks International - Akpêtêchi Seller


A.B. Crentsil & Super Sweet Talks International - Odo

A.B. Crentsil & Super Sweet Talks International - Who is Free

Download Tantie Alaba as a zipped file here.


Friday, April 20, 2018

Augustin's Messengers



Augustin Kouassi is an Ivorian musician who's apparently been around the block a few times. Discogs lists a couple of LPs by his band, Les Messagers de la Paix, apparently from the '80s. Other than that, I can't say much more about him and the group. How many times have I had to say that here?

I got today's offering by them way back when it first came out, along with a raft of other cassettes from Ivory Coast, and didn't pay much attention to it then. Man, was I missing out! Mambo Attoh Théophane (Carine Musique CAR 01, 1993) is one of the most addictive recordings I've heard in a long time. Everything about it is first-rate, from Gaiten Kouao's exquiste guitar work to the outstanding vocals (different members take turns singing lead, and the chorus is tight). Of course, Congo music is an influence, and the vocals have that sweet-and-sour quality you hear in West African music from Ghana to the Niger Delta. I'm tempted to label it "Soukous-Highlife," but that just doesn't do it justice. Let the music speak for itself!

Augustin Kouassi & Les Messagers - Mambo Attoh Théophane

Augustin Kouassi & Les Messagers - Kêgbè Piemin

Augustin Kouassi & Les Messagers -  Yié Koubê

Augustin Kouassi & Les Messagers - Boto Sopie

Augustin Kouassi & Les Messagers - Adja Ayo

Augustin Kouassi & Les Messagers - N'Douci Carrefour

Download Mambo Attoh Théophane as a zipped file here.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Wanyika Memories



The Tanzanian-turned-Kenyan orchestra Simba Wanyika gave rise to a multitude of offshoots, and offshoots of offshots, over its 25-year history - Orchestra Jobiso, Super Wanyika Stars, MAS System, the Mavalo Stars and so forth. It's all documented in a discography I compiled, along with Doug Paterson and Peter Toll, some years back.

None of these, though, have had the impact of the biggest splinter group of them all, Orchestra Les Wanyika, founded in 1978 by Simba Wanyika rhythm guitarist Omar Shabani and several other members, who were joined by John Ngereza and Issa Juma. A couple of smash hits ("Paulina" and "Sina Makossa") later and Issa Juma too had flown the coop to form his own band, variosly called Waanyika, Super Wanyika and Wanyika Stars.

Never mind. That was just a speed bump for Les Wanyika, who notched a plethora of hits over the next decade, including "Dunia Ki-Geu Geu," "Mbaya Wako Rafiki Yako" and "Naogopa," culminating with today's offering, the 1988 LP Nilipi la Ajabu (Polydor POLP 582), featuring one of their most popular tunes, "Afro."

Nilipi la Ajabu was followed shortly by Nimaru (Polydor POLP 598, 1989), which I will also be posting here soon, and several other albums including Amigo (Clifford Lugard Productions CLP 001, 1997) a collection of re-recorded versions of their hits that is Les Wanyika's only record to get widespread distribution outside of Africa.

Sadly, Omar Shabani died in 1997, and his longtime colleague John Ngereza passed in 2002, but their legacy is eteral through recordings like Nilipi la Ajabu. Enjoy!





Download Nilipi la Ajabu as a zipped file here.


Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Mind-Blowing Sounds from Mali



Since its foundation in 1970 as the official orchestra of Mali's National Railway Company, the Rail Band has occupied a prominent place in the firmament of West African music, and through its ranks have passed some of the most respected musicians in the region. The band's Affair Social (Sacodis LS-25, 1979) is such a spectacular, mind-blowing achievement that I figured one of the other African music blogs must have posted it long ago. But apparently not, so here it is!

Affair Social was recorded during a tumultuous period for the Rail Band, relocated to Abidjan, Ivory Coast from Bamako and rechristened the Super Rail Band International. Salif Keita, the group's lead singer, had decamped in 1972 to found Les Ambassadeurs du Motel and later gained world fame as part of the World Music™ craze. He was replaced by Mory Kante, an equally gifted vocalist, who by the time Affair Social was recorded had also departed for a solo career. Other members of the "classic" Rail Band lineup, among them founder Tidiani Koné, had similarly moved on.

Perservering, though, was Djelimady Tounkara, one of Africa's greatest guitarists, who reestablished the band with new personnel, none of whom, unfortunately, is credited in the liner notes of Affair Social. The Super Rail Band International have continued performing and recording to this day, still under the able leadership of Tounkara. Enjoy!





Download Affair Social as a zipped file here.


Wednesday, April 4, 2018

$850 for a Cassette? Oh, Come On!!!



Thanks to Andreas Wetter for apprising me of this offer on EBay:


Yes, that's right: Someone is asking $850 dollars for the cassette version of the 1972 LP Master Guitarist Vol. 5 (African Songs LPAS 8014) by Nigeria's Sunny Adé & his Green Spot Band!

I have long been astounded at the sort of prices some African music fans are willing to pay for scratchy old vinyl from the Continent - and in this case, not even vinyl, but a no-doubt-inferior cassette version of same! It puts one to mind of the 17th Century tulip mania.

But you don't need $850 to listen to this recording. The blog Snap, Crackle & Pop posted it a few years back and you may have grabbed it then (the link to the file is now broken). And now I'm posting it again. You can have it for free!

Strictly speaking, what I'm making available is not Master Guitarist Vol. 5 but another pressing that came out around 1984. What happened was, when King Sunny Adé caused a sensation internationally around 1982 with his African Beats band, some smaller record companies hoped to cash in on the craze by reissuing material that had been recorded years earlier in Nigeria. This fly-by-night company Imported Nigeria licensed Master Guitarist Vol. 5 from African Songs, which had been Adé's record company in the early '70s, and issued it under the title Vintage King Sunny Adé (Imported Nigeria K001).

What's doubly confusing is that the tracklist on Vintage doesn't even agree with that of Master Guitarist Vol. 5. In fact, the listings on the sleeve and record labels on Vintage don't agree either. But they are indisputably the same recording. In fact, I think Vintage is not even a "pirate" pressing - it was apparently officially licensed and legitimately issued.

If all you have heard of King Sunny Adé is his recordings from the '80s and later, Master Guitarist Vol. 5 may come as something of a revelation. The Green Spots were Adé's first band, founded in 1967 after he left Moses Olaiya's Federal Rhythm Dandies, and their sound is not as dense and "sophisticated" as that of the later African Beats. Sunny Adé's brilliant guitar work, of course, shines through loud and clear.

Here's Master Guitarist Vol. 5. I'm following the tracklisting from that pressing, and not that from the later Vintage King Sunny Adé. Enjoy!

Sunny Adé & his Green Spots Band - Late Dr. Nkrumah / Ka Ma Buni Lole / I. S. Adewale / Ololade Wilkey

Sunny Adé & his Green Spots Band - Sunny Special / Owo Ko Nife / Awon Ti Won Yo / Alhaja Bintu

Download Master Guitarist Vol. 5 as a zipped file here. I've included scans from Vintage King Sunny Adé also. The record sleeve scans of Master Guitarist Vol. 5 are from Snap, Crackle & Pop. Thanks!


Thursday, March 29, 2018

Mmmmmm . . . Sweet '80s Highlife Music!



I've been going through my record collection, pulling out and digitizing Ghanaian LPs that I got hold of back in the '80s when I was a regular customer of Sterns African Record Centre in London.  Most of these  were recorded in London, Berlin and Toronto, the economy in Ghana at the time having forced some of the biggest stars there to seek sustenace overseas. The result was a new, hybrid sound, marrying the standard themes and sounds of Ghana highlife with modern production values, synthesizers and drum machines. 

Over the next weeks and months I'll be presenting the results of my excavations, but I think it's only fitting to open with an LP that stands as a pinnacle of the '80s Ghana highlife sound - A.B. Crentsil's Toronto by Night (Wazuri WAZ101, 1985).

Alfred Benjamin Crentsil was born in 1950 and showed an early aptitude for music, forming with his friends in the mid-'60s a group called the Strollers Dance Band. A few career moves later and he founded, with Smart Nkansah, the group that would make his name, the Sweet Talks. Their fledgling effort, Adam and Eve in 1975, almost single-handedly rescued highlife music in Ghana, then under assault by assorted foreign styles. Many more hits - Kusum Beat and Hollywood Highlife Party (recorded in the US in 1978 when the band was playing backup for the Commodores) among others - and the Sweet Talks were at the top of their game.

As is often the case for African musicians, dissension set in and the classic Sweet Talks lineup was no more. Smart Nkansah left to found the Black Hustlers (later named the Sunsum Band) and Crentsil carried on with the Super Sweet Talks International. More solo recordings followed (among them the controversial Moses), and Crentsil found himself in Canada, where Toronto by Night, a certified classic, was recorded.

Crentsil has been back in Ghana for many years and is still recording. In 2016 he received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 17th Ghana Music Awards.





"I Go Pay You Tommorrow" is a rework of Crentsil's big hit from 1984, "Akpêtêchie Seller," from his LP with the Super Sweet Talks International, Tantie Alaba (I will be posting this album some time in the future). In it an alcoholic beseetches a seller of Akpêtêchie (distilled palm wine) to give him one more drink until payday:


Download Toronto by Night as a zipped file here. Ronnie Graham's article from the August 11, 1986 issue of West Africa magazine, "A.B.'s Highlife Humour," was extremely useful in researching this post.