There's actually no versus in this solely titular bout between African musical heavyweights. Actually, I'm just putting two days of Sound Travels into focus and words. Tuesday began a week all about under-appreciated African musical genius; or to put it another way, artists you should know.
Well, it's a perfectly imperfect world and this lack of coverage is my modus operandi for Sound Travels which would be far poorer a show if everything were already a known. Who are these acts? Benin's Orchestre Poly-Rythmo and The Congo's Tabu Ley Rochereau?
Well… Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou
were er I mean are perhaps West Africa's best kept and funkiest secret. With more than a hundred albums and countless singles in their pocket it is a wonder that they never had a foothold here in the States. Their popularity in Africa is no secret however, and though Africa is deep with unheralded talent and unheard masters, these cats are absolutely crucial.
What makes these cats truly special is the unique flavor of where they are "from." Their sound is one part vodoun rhythms native to the region and another part Sato, which is a sound brought to Benin by Brazilian slaves who returned to Africa in the late 1800's. All of this simmers in the Afro-Cuban styles Africa has been semi-obsessed with since the 1930's and is amped up with some surf-ey guitar and old-school keyboards. Though it's cliche to cite the James Brown influence in African funk, there is some of that there too.
The folks over at Analog Africa have recently researched and re-released a bunch of great cuts from the band on their release The Vodoun Effect: Funk & Sato from Benin's Obscure Labels. Thankfully so I should say, because of all the great material on it and a good starting point for finding out more. That's not it however, as the band is almost set to release a brand new album here in the States that, judging from the cut I had Tuesday, is the equal of any of their past material. The forthcoming Cotonou Club shows the band still has plenty of fire having compromised none of their sound to times passage. Highly recommended!
Orchestre Poly-Rythmo "Malin Kpon O" Orchestre Poly-Rythmo – Echos Hypnotiques
Orchestre Poly-Rythmo "Akoue Tche We Gni Medjome" The Vodoun Effect
Orchestre Poly-Rythmo "Se Tche We Djo Mon" The Vodoun Effect
Orchestre Poly-Rythmo "Iya Me Dji Ki Bi Ni" The Vodoun Effect
Orchestre Poly-Rythmo "Pardon" Cotonou Club
Today, I had some superb sounds from Tabu Ley Rochereau, The Congo's king of Soukou guitar-pop. Most of what I have here is from a very nice and somewhat new re-packaging of his most important, pre-1977 material; Tabu Ley Rochereau – The Voice of Lightness Vol's 1 & 2.
From the mid-sixties to the mid-Eighties, Kinshasa-raised Tabu Ley Rochereau was the premier singer in sub-Saharan Africa. His supple, soft-textured tenor defined the Congolese rumba style known as soukous which, though it dominated Afropop into the Nineties, has been marketed sporadically since.
On this release, there are plenty of the multiguitar sebene grooves that soukous fans love, but the set's pervasive pleasure is lovely melodies filigreed with guitar that's delicate and propulsive. The excellent notes make clear that, though Rochereau had plenty of Latin-lover Lothario in him, he sang about many things: pride of race and place, his mother, his mortality, laundry soap if the soap company would pay for it… Speaking of, I'd recommend you do the same and pick up some of this superb music.
Tabu Ley Rochereau "Tabalissimo" The Voice Of Lightness
Tabu Ley Rochereau "Alici" Les Anneés 70
Tabu Ley Rochereau "Omanga" The Voice Of Lightness
Tabu Ley Rochereau "Monsieur Malonga" The Voice Of Lightness Vol. 2