CELEBRATION/PLAYLIST
Words: Dominic Valvona

Monolith Cocktail - Analog Africa 10th anniversary

 

 

Analog Africa Tenth Anniversary Special

Unearthing dormant musical treasures for a decade, Samy Ben Redjeb’s assiduous Analog Africa label has done more than most to celebrate and spread the African continent’s rich musical heritage. Over the years he’s reintroduced us to the Africa Screams raw and psychedelic 1970s sounds of Benin and Togo; the Islamic funk belt of Ghana; the hypnosis sauntering innovations of a forgotten Angola; and in more recent months revived the salacious accordion and ferro scrapped dynamism of Cape Verde’s Funaná with a reissue of the archipelago’s greatest musical export, Bitori Nha Bibinha. Previously forgotten and often ignored links in the African music story such as the Congolese maestro of electric guitar Georges Mateta Kiamuangana aka Verckys and the mighty Afro Funk ensemble Orchestre Poly-Rythmo De Cotonou have enjoyed enlightening reappraisals too. Extending beyond its moniker, the label has also taken congruous excursions to South America, releasing the essential Diablos Del Ritmo and Mambo Loco: Anibal VelasQuez Y Su Conjunto Colombian compilations. Samy’s even navigated a path downstream to the Amazon town of Cametá to find the mysterious sound of Siriá, compiling a showcase of the style’s leading exponent Mestre Cupijó.

Though the Monolith Cocktail wasn’t established until halfway through the Analog Africa decade, we’ve followed the label closely and reviewed near enough most of the albums they’ve released. Currently on their 25th release, we pick ten choice records from the back catalogue and a playlist of our favourite tracks to celebrate.

 

1. Various  ‘Legends Of Benin’  (2009)

Analog Africas 'Legends Of Benin' 2009

 

In case your knowledge of African geography is shaky, Benin is in the west and borders Togo, Nigeria, Burkina Faso and Niger. Tightly caged in by its neighbours, the influence of all these regions leaks into the music to create a unique mash-up of rhythms and beats that switches from rhumba to rocksteady in the blink of an eye.

The artists on this album include Gnonnas Pedro, a politically charged crusader; El Rego, an entrepreneur of dubious enterprises including a brothel and a boxing club; Antione Dougbe a much feared Vodun priest, and Honore Avolonto, responsible for the country’s biggest selling album of all time

Original review…

 

2.  Various  ‘Afrobeat Airways West African Shock Waves Ghana & Togo 1972 – 79’ (2010)

Monolith Cocktail - Afro-Beat Airways 2

 

Essentially a tale of two separate, but interlocked and musically linked, countries, this congruous compilation praises and extols the virtues of both the Islamic-roots Togo sound – part of Redjeb’s own turn-of-phrase “Islamic Funk Belt scene”, that stretched from northern Ghana to northern Nigeria – and the more robust and well-known Ghana sounds. Any obvious signs of demarcation like borders is lost, as the two nation’s voracious colourful musicians criss-crossed and shared the much common ground of passion for screaming organs, arching twanged gestured guitars, roaring tilt to the heavens horns, and side-stepping infectious poly-rhythms.

Original review…

 

3. Various  ‘Bambara Mystic Soul: Raw Sound Of Burkina Faso 1974-79’  (2011)

Bambara_Mystic_Soul-The_Raw_Sound_Of_Burkina_Faso_1974-1979_AA10_b

 

Our favorite purveyor of the recondite, forgotten and lost treasures of Africa, Samy Ben Redjeb unearths some ethereal soul from an untapped part of the continent.  Making our albums of the year in 2011 this compilation came up trumps with its mystical reinvented Stax revues, Afro funk, ghostly-recorded evocative laments, and blasts of disco from the tucked away, landlocked, Burkina Faso.

 

4. Various Artists   ‘Diablos Del Ritmo: The Colombian Melting Pot 1960 – 1985’  (2012)

Monolith Cocktail

On the northern tip of Colombia’s Caribbean facing coastline lies the polygenesis voracious port of Barranquilla, a magnet and “Mecca” for seafarers and traders from across the globe. Bringing their goods and barter, these various visitors also shared their music and culture. It’s uncertain when the African sound first wowed the Colombian town, but its seismic impact upon the South American Latin-dominated horizon is beyond doubt.

As ever the exhaustive compiler, researcher, musical aficionado and pioneering erudite Samy Ben Redjeb, through his critically exhorted label Analog Africa, serves-up a hearty panoramic purview; bringing to life a much forgotten epoch in the annals of musical development. No one quite sums up, or interacts like Samy, his insightful imprint doesn’t just take from its source but forms a long-standing beneficial relationship with the artists: Whether it’s setting-up a royalty and license deal with that original artist/band, or in this case exchanging his own prized and rare collection of African records for those featured on this compilation – in turn these nuggets have been used to compete in the famous local carnival’s sound system rivalries.

Original review…

 

5. Orchestre Poly-Rythmo De Cotonou ‘The Skeletal Essences Of Afro Funk’ (2013)

Monolith cocktail - Orchestre Poly-Rythmo De Cotonou ‘The Skeletal Essences Of Afro Funk’

In some respects a timely tribute to the ‘all powerful’ group’s founder Melome ‘The Boss’ Clement, who suffered a fatal heart attack in December of 2012, The Skeletal Essences Of Afro Funk features 14-tracks, never before heard outside their native land.

More variety than previous editions, this third chapter still thumps with that ‘Meters support James Brown at the Cotonou Apollo’ explosive vibe, but moves omnivorously through screaming Farfisa organ funk and Nigerian delta blues (Ai Gabani and Houzou Houzou Wa), infectious Stax r’n’b rattlers (Houton Kan Do Gome) and plaintive Spanish-twanged soul (Min We Tun So).

Original review

 

6. Various  ‘Angola Soundtrack 2 – Hypnosis, Distortions & Other Sonic Innovations 1969 – 1978’ (2013)

Angola 2

 

Building on the award-winning inaugural compilation (which won the German Record Critics prize for best ‘black music’ album in 2010), volume 2 features another cast of stripped down reedy wah-wah bluesmen and gentle horn blowing, cowbell tapping dancehall bands, serenading the shoe-shuffling congregation. Sedately enchanting, though still able to cause even the most reserved of listeners to shake it, the album shuffles along, evoking moments of samba, Cuba, Colombia and even the Shadows twang (especially in evidence on the spring-y África Ritmo instrumental, ‘Agarrem’).

Original review…

 

7. Verckys et L’Orchestre Vévé   ‘Congolese Funk, Afrobeat and Psychedelic Rumba 1969 – 1978’  (2014)

Monolith Cocktail - et L’Orchestre Vévé

 

As glowing endorsements of musical prowess and live performance go, James Brown’s seal of approval must take some beating. Catching the chief instigator of the Congolese music scene – protégé guitarist turn entrepreneur, record label owner, producer and doyen of a whole new generation of emerging talent – Georges Mateta Kiamuangana, better known by his stage persona Verckys, in Kinshasa in 1974, the Godfather of soul anointed him “Mister dynamite”. When you hear Verckys at his most robust and funk-trunk shaking best, it’s pretty obvious why. Channeling the atavistic and contemporary shifts in black music from both across the Atlantic and from his homeland, Verckys turned his inimitable, nimble fretwork onto a myriad of dance rhythms; seamlessly rephrasing the South American staples of rhumba and pachanga with Afrofunk, pop and soul.

Original review…

 

8. Mestre Cupijó e Seu Ritmo  ‘Siriá’  (2014)

Siria LP cover art for Monolith Cocktail

 

Coming up trumps with a showcase of rambunctious marches from ‘master’ Brazilian composer and conductor turned philanthropist, provisional lawyer and municipal councillor of Cametá, Mestre Cupijó e Seu Ritmo, the label rediscovers the ‘cross-pollination’ rich Siriá style of music. Incubated on the shores of the river Tocantini, in the escaped African slave founded settlement of Quilombos, the ‘scorching’ siriá sound crosses the native Amazonian sound with that of Africa to create a popular rave up, played and enjoyed to great effect throughout the extended state of Pará at the traditional festivals and street parties. After spending a sojourn living with the locals and learning their sound and culture, Mestre Cupijó modernised the original with his newly formed Jazz Orquestra os Azes do Ritmo; recording a total of six soulfully high-spirited albums. The first two records were enthusiastically knocked out with ‘rudimentary equipment’ in a Cametá dance club, the third recorded in a Belém studio.

Original review…

 

9. Various  Artists   ‘Space Echo –  The Mystery Behind The Cosmic Sound Of Cabo Verde Finally Revealed’ (2016)

Monolith Cocktail - Space echoes

 

350 miles adrift of the West African coast, Cabo Verde (probably more familiar to many of us as Cape Verde) lies almost isolated out in the Atlantic Ocean. But this former overseas ‘department’ of Portugal fatefully, so the local legend goes, happened to be stuck in the exact right place when a shipment of the latest Rhodes, Moog, Farfisa, Hammond and Korg synthesizers and keyboards bound for the Exposição Mundial Do Son Eletrônico Exhibition in Rio De Janeiro ended up marooned on one of the archipelago’s ten volcanic islands in 1968. The real story grows mysterious, as the cargo, destined to reach a promising market in South America, disappeared off the radar on a calm morning the same day it set sail from Baltimore, and ended up 8km away from the Cape Verde coastline in a field near the village of Cachaço.

And so it goes: a musical manna from the heavens or space; a cargo that literally dropped into their laps from out of the stratosphere sets into motion a new dawn in music history. Whatever the truth, Cabo Verde’s musicians were certainly transformed. The melting pot of Mornas, Coladeras, carnival and previously prohibited – deemed far too risqué and sensual by the Portuguese overseers- Funaná styles of music were given a new lease of life and modern twist by the booty of futuristic sounding synthesizers.

Original review…

 

10. Bitori  ‘Legend  of  Funaná – The  Forbidden  Music  Of  The  Cape  Verde  Islands’ (2016)

Monolith Cocktail - Legend of Funaná – The Forbidden Music Of The Cape Verde Islands

 

Though Funaná’s infectious quick-step is due to the driving percussive rhythm of the kitchen knife scrapped iron rod, christened the ‘ferro’ or ‘ferrinho’ by the islanders, it’s the bellowed dizzying sway and short concertinaed melodies and lead of the gaïta that gives the genre its signature sound. Originally brought over to their West African colony in the early 1900s by the Portuguese, the gaïta is a diatonal accordion, adopted by the Cape Verdeans and made their own. Spreading from the Santiago capital, it lent a continental swing and lilt to the traditional rhythms of Africa. But the authorities weren’t keen on this adoption, especially as Funaná became the protest music of Cape Verde’s most poor and displaced. Earnest but the most soulful and hopeful of all styles, Funaná was used as a vessel to proudly announce one’s heritage. Even when lamenting or in a more serene mood, it is always fast moving and energetic, surviving the staunch Catholic rule of Portugal with aplomb. Banned until the mid 1970s, musicians were flung into prison and tortured for playing it. One of the tragedies, but at least giving a wider international voice to the plight, was the diaspora that resulted from this hard-lined authoritarianism. Huge swathes of the native population, forced out because of oppression and poverty, moved throughout the globe, with many setting up in the colonial masters own backyard, usually Lisbon, and others moving north to Rotterdam.

Original review…

 

And here’s a selection of our ‘choice’ Analog Africa tracks…

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