Thursday, May 31, 2012

Back to Where it All Started: West Africa

And so ladies and gentlemen, tonight we place the final piece of the great African musical puzzle into place. 

I first came to African music through West Africa and the immediately addicting sounds of Fela Kuti.  From the moment I heard Zombie I’ve been a hopeless Fela devotee. I saw him once in Minneapolis in the late 80s on a double bill with Jimmy Cliff!  Talk about overdose!

As devotees are wont to do, they become ‘one-eyed’ for their chosen hero and rarely see the glory of others around them. And so it was for me. It was years before I left the shores of Afrobeat to explore other pools like juju and highlife.  Several more years went by before I stumbled upon Ali Farka Toure and when I did I again became stuck in a rut. I sucked up everything by Mr Toure but didn’t much care about sounding out others from Mali or other parts of West Africa.

Well eventually it happened. The dams burst.  And ever since I’ve relished letting the musics, rhythms and crooning of Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Benin, Ghana, the Gambia, Senegal and Cote d’Ivoire wash over me. I never get tired of it. Just the opposite, I can’t seem to get enough. Thanks to dozens of far out blogs and other sites (check out the sidebar to your right, if you haven’t yet) the stunning music of West Africa seems a long way from being lost to our human heritage.

So enjoy this truly exquisite final series from the Sterns box on 50 Years of African Music.  But be warned: don’t put it on before bed…you’ll never get up for work tomorrow.

            Track Listing (disc one):
            01 Ghana Freedom (Ghana) [E.T. Mensah]
02 Gambia Su Nous Raew (Gambia) [Super Eagles]
03 Armée Guinéenne (Guinea)[Bembeya Jazz National]
04 Heavy Heavy Heavy (Sierra Leone) [Geraldo Pino]
05 Souaressi (Guinea) [Sory Kandia Kouyate]
06 Music For Gong Gong (Ghana) [Osibisa]
07 Shakara [Fela Kuti]
08 Bukom Mashie [Oscal Sculley]
09 Sweet Mother [Prince Nico Mbarga]
10 Hwehwe Mu Na Yi Wo Mpena [K. Frimbong]
11 Jin Ma Jin Ma {Orchestra Baobab]

            Track Listing (disc two):
            01 Mandjou (Mali) [Salif Keita]
02 La Musica En Verite (Benin) [Gnonnas Pedro]
03 Taximen (Burkina Faso) [Amadou Balake]
04 Emma (Senegal) [Toure Kunda]
05 Brigadier Sabari (Ivory Coast) [Alpha Blondy]
06 Semassa Zero + Zero (Benin) [TP Poly Ritmo]
07 Immigres (Senegal) [Youssou N'Dour]
08 Tadieu Bone (Senegal) [Ismael Lo]
09 Yeke Yeke (Guinea) [Mory Kante]
10 Yiiri Yalo (Senegal) [Baaba Maal]
11 Ah Ndiya (Mali) [Oumou Sangare]
12 Dofana (Mali) [Ali Farka Toure]

            Track Listing (disc three):
            01 Bori (Niger) [Saadou Bori]
02 Yay Boy (Senegal) [Africando]
03 Mangercratie (Ivory Coast) [Tiken Jah Fakoly]
04 Baara (Mali) [Amadou and Mariam]
05 Generation Sacrifiee (Ivory Coast) [Les Salopards]
06 1er Gaou (Ivory Coast) [Magic System]
07 M'Bifo (Mali) [Rokia Traore]
08 Taouyah (Guinea) [Ba Cissoko]
09 Fanta Bourana (Mali) [Malouma]
10 Nebine (Mauritania) [Djelimady Tounkara]
11 Inside Religion (Nigeria) [Femi Kuti]
12 DJon Maya (Bukina Faso) [Victor Deme]
13 Le Guide De La Revolution (Mali) [Bako Dagnon]
14 N'Niyo (Guinea) [Mamdou Barry]
15 Afia (Benin) [Angelique Kidjo]

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Fertile Ground: Southern Africa


It is nigh impossible to sum the tapestry of sounds from southern Africa, such is its variety and richness. From the Zulu a cappella harmonies of South Africa to the breakneck salegy of Madagascar, from Zimbabwe’s pulsating chimurenga to the trance-like manchancha performed in Zambia the region has given birth to as many musical genres as it has to languages and traditions (there are 72 distinctive ethno-linguistic communities in Zambia’s 11 million strong population alone).

There is one common trait binding them together, however: here, as elsewhere in Africa, music continues to play a deep social and political role far beyond the Western concept of ‘entertainment’.

The saying of Congolese pianist Ray Lema is all the more relevant in a region that has been prone to terrible violence in the last decade:
            Music is a social game where every member of a tribe has a place of his own, that’s the purpose of the game, to find one’s place in society.

The above blurb comes from the liner notes of the 50 Years of African Music box set which I wish I could share with you but alas technology fails.

So I guess the only option is to listen. 

It’s funny, every region of Africa does seem to have a certain ‘feel’ and sound. Probably the East is the most diverse to my ear. But from beginning to end you wouldn’t mistake this music as coming from any place except southern Africa.  A few of the selections are a bit weary (Pata Pata…yet again?!) but there is a lot of lesser known diamonds here as well.

            Track Listing (disc one):
            01 Welele (South Africa) [Letta Mbulu]
02 Pata Pata (South Africa) [Mariam Makeba]
03 Liberation Danse (South Africa) [Abdullah Ibrahim]
04 Mulunga Adzatembenuza (Malawi) [Dr Daniel Kachamba]
05 Abale Wanga (Malawi) [Jivacort Kathumba]
06 Hatisi Tose (Zimbabwe) [Bhundu Boys]
07 Makorokoto (Zimbabwe) [The Four Brothers]
08 Ziwere (Zimbabwe) [Oliver Mtukudzi]

            Track Listing (disc two):
            01 Kazet (South Africa) [Mahlathini and Mahotella Queens]
02 Slave (South Africa) [Lucky Dube]
03 Abantu (South Africa) [Soul Brothers]
04 Mai (Zimbabwe) [Chiwoniso]
05 Jive Soweto (South Africa) [Sipho Mabuse]
06 Imfa Ya Amuna Wanga (Malawi) [Saleta Phiri and AB Sounds]
07 Tudo Pa Po (Madagascar) [Suzanna Lubrano]
08 Paite Rima (Zimbabwe) [Stella Chiweche]

            Track listing (disc three):
            01 Indosiko Anao (Madagascar) [Jaojoby]
02 O Mang (Botswana) [Hi Hop Pantsula]
03 Safora (Madagascar) [Rajery]
04 Shumba (Zimbabwe )[Thomas Mapfumo]
05 Eka Lahy (Madagascar) [Regis Gizavo]
06 Mulungelo (South Africa) [Hugh Masakela]
07 Bread And Roses ( Zimbabwe) [Fatso]
08 Limpopo (South Africa) [Tumi and the Volume]
09 The Warm Heart Of Africa (Malawi) [The Very Best]

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Music of the Mineral Rich: North Africa

Because the Dark Continent had copper and gold
and the discoverers had themselves a plan.
They would discover all the places with promise.
You didn't need no titles or deeds.
You could just appoint people to make everything legal,
to sanction the trickery and greed.
And back in the jungle when the natives got restless
they would call that 'guerrilla attack'
and they would never describe that the folks finally got wise
and decided they would fight back.
And still we are victims of word games,
semantics is always a bitch:
places once referred to as under-developed
are now called 'mineral rich.'
And the game goes on eternally
unity kept just beyond reach
Egypt and Libya used to be in Africa,
                  they've been moved to the Middle East.

So sang Gil Scott Heron in Black History. And in the last two lines brings up that eternal conundrum…is Egyptian, Libyan, Moroccan and Algerian music ‘middle eastern’ or African?

As much as I love the song and Gil Scott-Heron (and I really love both), ultimately, the question doesn’t matter.  The music is simply great. Unlike the music of any other part of the Continent, the sounds of North Africa are dramatic and theatrical. And perhaps with the exception of South Africa, more overtly political than the other regions. 

There are lots of jewels in these discs: Algeria Mon Beau Pays; Yigui Youm; Aadrouni Ya Sadate and; Hagda.

Listen closely and savor.

         Track Listing (disc one):
         01 Algerie Mon Beau Pays (Algeria) [Slimane Azem]
02 Kifeche Rah (Algeria)[Dahmane El Harrachi]
03 Ghanili Chweyi (Egypt) [Oum Kalthoum]
04 Ya Mahfel Houche Khdija (Tunisia) [Raoul Journo]
05 Touche Mami Touche (Algeria) [Cheikha Rimitti]
06 Wahran El Bahyia (Algeria) [Blond Blond]
07 Yigui Youm (Egypt) [Farid El Atrache]
08 Ya Rabi (Algeria)[M'hamed El Anka]
09 Hirtou (Egypt [Mohamed Abdelwahab])
10 Jari Ya Hamouda (Tunisia) [Ahmed Hamza]
11 Y Bnet El Houma (Algeria) [Noura]
12 Sidi h'Bibi (Morocco) [Salim Halali]

         Track Listing (disc two):
         01 Hakmet Aliha Darouf [Abdelaziz Stati]
02 Azwaw [Chérifa
03 Chems Al Aâchia [Mohamed Bajdoub
04 Al Rissal [Abdelhalim Hafez]
05 Rouh Adhqimagh [Lounis Ait Menguellet]
06 Almihrab [Abdelwahab Doukkali]
07 Aàdrouni Ya Sadate [Reinette l'Oranaise]
08 Mahmouma [Nass El Ghiwane]
09 Tih El Téli [Hédi Habouba]
10 El Leila Ya Smara [Mohamed Mounir]
11 Rah El Ghali [Soulef]

         Track Listing (disc three):
         01 Shoufou [Hkim]
02 Nana Mazel [Cheb Mami]
03 Tebeg Rir [Takfarinas]
04 Hagda [Raïna Raï]
05 J'en Ai Marre[Najat Aatabou]
06 Bedeltini Bahiri [Khalas]
07 La Tchitchi [City 16]
08 Galou Hasni Mèt [Cheb Hasni]
09 Mériam Maria[Ouled Jouini]
10 La Camel [Cheb Khaled]
11 Anan Mélit [Orchestre Fayçal]
12 N'sel Fik [Fadela & Saharaoui]