If someone put a gun to my head and made me choose ONE region of Africa that was my favourite above all others I would confess to it being West Africa. No other region seems to sizzle and sparkle with the same sort of drive, intensity, exuberance and passion as Nigeria, Ghana, Guinea, Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal, Niger and Mali. And so WD tonight /this morning…it is a few hours before dawn as I write—shines the light on an amazing collection from the good folks at Rough Guide.
While West African Gold is strongly in the 60s and 70’s era we should not forget that a lot of this music is not actively played and listened to by contemporary young people in West Africa. Their tastes have developed, often in direct reference to American music, especially hip-hop and rap, and are not as well known or appreciated by fans outside of West Africa. We highlighted some music recently coming out of Niger that is heavily influence by Bollywood and a few on line sites are promoting more current African sounds. Here’s an interesting article on some that music.
But for now get your ears ready for some truly golden sounds.
While there’s plenty of great African music being made today, a lot of people forget (or don’t know) that there are also many classic vintage sides. Covering several West African countries, from Mali to Ghana, Rough Guide to West African Gold is a veritable feast of beat and melody. Some of the names, like Rail Band DeBamako (better known as the Super Rail Band), with the glowing voice of Salif Keita on vocals, or Orchestra Baobab, the Senegalese group who added Latin music to their native style to great effect. Equally joyful is the elastic sound of Bembeya Jazz National, where the guitar work sparkles, or E.T. Mensah, who for many years was the king of high life music in his native Ghana. With a wealth of material to choose from, it’s no surprise that there’s not a dull track on the compilation, whether it’s Eric Agyeman‘s jazzy guitar work on “Abenaa Na Aden?” or Dexter Johnson & the International Band taking on the Latin classic “Manicero.” At times it might sound raw, but that’s part of the pleasure. There’s never a sense of anything being slick or over-produced. Instead, passion is the motivating force here, everyone playing as if their lives depend on it. These tracks, recorded between the ’50s and ’80s, capture the sense of independence and possibility that pervaded the region at the time, The sound of a Golden Age indeed. (AMG)
01 Ghana-Guinee-Mali [E.T.Mensah]
02 Let Them Talk [Geraldo Pino and the Heartbeats]
03 Whisky Soda [Bembeya Jazz National]
04 Manicero [Dexter Johnson]
05 Ife Si Na Chi [Celestine Ukwu]
06 Moi Je Suis Décourage [Balla et Ses Balladins]
07 Geej [No.1 de Dakar]
08 Were Were [Horoya Band]
09 The Lord’s Prayer [Super Sweet Talks]
10 Ekassa No. 34 / Igiodo-Giodo [Sir Victor Uwaifo]
11 Abenaa Na Ade [Eric Agyeman]
12 Mali Cèbalenw [Orchestra Rail Band da Bamako]
13 Boulmamine [Orchestre Baobab]