December 6 2011
Sound Travels is getting better everyday as we explore some of the best releases of 2011 from now until the end of the year. This week, before we actually get to the best brand new releases of world music from the year, we'll explore some of the best compilations from the year. Though a couple on my Best In Seven: Compilation Edition are in fact releases of new material, the picks this week are mostly vintage re-issues of diverse material from various parts of the world. And we start in Africa...
...with yet another killer comp from the cats at Analog Africa. These guys have not had a bad release as far as I know and that fact continued throughout 2011 with both Funky Rob Way and Bambara Mystic Soul: The Raw Sound Of Burkina Faso 1975-1979. Coming in at the number seven spot was The Rob. 'The Rob' was actually Rob "Roy" Raindorf, a musician from Accra, Ghana who appeared from seemingly nowhere to produce some of the most uniquely funky music in Ghana at that time. Maybe it was his work in neighboring Benin with other funk marvels like Orchestre Poly-Rhythmo, or perhaps it was something about his spirit itself that set him apart from many of his peers of the day, but he could definitely tear it up. A sound that is clearly influenced by American musicians like Otis Redding, James Brown and Wilson Pickett, yet also conscious of the highlife sound popular in Africa at the time, that made it distinct in its kinship.
Analog Africa's re-issue of this crucial material is both appreciated by me personally, but also rights the types of wrongs that a fad-driven music industry often inflicts on musicians with a worldly flavor. Namely that, the industry, and perhaps the fans themselves, had lost interest in afrobeat in the early 80's and the jump The Rob had been poised to make into American markets, was suddenly too big to surmount. Thankfully, everybody is again interested in these little-known masters for their funk gems; especially Analog Africa. It gives me a chance to put a "Best Of 2011" crown on their collective heads for this funky triumph.
The Rob "Funky Rob Way" Funky Rob Way
The Rob "More" Funky Rob Way
Coming in sixth place, another Analog Africa release (no they didn't win every award!), Bambara Mystic Soul: The Raw Sound Of Burkina Faso 1975-1979 which actually only came out a few weeks ago. Burkina Faso, a tiny nation North of The Ivory Coast and South of Mali, had a lively scene in the seventies born from the euphoric freedom (and prosperity), born from their erstwhile French colonial status.
The raw sound of Burkina Faso combined Afro-Funk, traditional Islamic rhythms and subtle Afro-Latin sounds brought over by visiting Cuban ensembles. Mandingue melodies and guitar techniques from Mali and Guinea, however, were by far the most defining traits of a potent African mix that distinguished the Voltaic style between 1974 and 1979. There is something about this music that gets at the good parts of African music from this region while making it in indelibly different ways; that gets me right to the core. I dig it very deeply, and that's why it's one of my bests for the year. Enjoy.
Compaore Issouf "Dambakale" Bambara Mystic Soul: The Raw Sound Of Burkina Faso 1975-1979
Amadou Ballake & Orchestre Super Volta "Oye Ka Bara Kignan"