Tuesday, 26 September 2023

Ernie's African Odyssey Pt 14 - Democratic Republic of Congo

After a month's IT enforced break, our African Odyssey is back on the road and our latest destination is a big one in every sense. 

It's the second largest country in Africa after Algeria. With a population of 112 million it is the most populous Francophone country in the world. And with an average of 4.3 sparkling guitars per head (according to 2019 data) that creates an enormous musical legacy.

I am of course talking about the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC for short), birthplace of the rumba sound that has enchanted the region and later the world since the 1950s. 

There is so much good DRC music to choose from that I have decided to break my self-imposed rule and include seven not five audio tracks. Even doing that I have had to leave out many excellent acts - Pepe Kalle, Koffi Olomide and Kanda Bongo Man to name just three. In the Barbara Kanam video at the end she runs through many more.

The two undisputed giants of Congolese music are Franco and Tabu Ley (aka Rochereau) and their bands, OK Jazz and Afrisa International. OK Jazz were founded in 1956 and and are generally considered the first rumba or soukous band, so it is only right that we kick things off with a tune from their pioneer days. 

The Tabu Ley track actually features lead vocals from Mbilia M'Bel with the great man on harmonies. It is taken from their 1985 album "Boya Ye". As possibly the finest female singer ever from the DRC I could not leave Ms M'Bel out.

Her main rival for that title is Tshala Muana, who pops up next (it is almost as if this was planned). I had originally selected "Amina" from 1981 but there is some fault with the file so I have replaced it with something equally splendid but a lot more recent. The stand-in dates from 2009 and can be found on the album "Sikila".

One of the DRC's biggest bands of the last 50 years are Zaiko Langa Langa. Founded in 1971 by Jossart N'Yoka Longo and still going strong, this track is from their 1995 album "Avis De Recherche".

Papa Wemba was part of the original Zaiko Langa Langa line-up but left in the mid 1970s to set up Viva le Musica. Among its many members were the aforementioned Koffi Olomide and King Kester Emeneya, who went solo in the early 1980s and is a personal favourite of mine. This slightly atypical track comes from his 1997 album with Safro Manzangi.

Moving into this century, as I suppose we must, we have a band I was lucky enough to see play live ten years ago when they were promoting the excellent "Hotel Univers" album from which today's selection comes. Ladies and gents, we present Jupiter & Okwess International.

Which finally brings us to the Mandatory African Reggae and one of the highlights of this post, if not the entire series. Back in the late 1970s, the Congolese singers Seskain Molenga and Kalo Kawongolo rocked up at the Black Ark Studios in Jamaica to work with one Lee 'Scratch' Perry (who he?). 

The resulting album, "Roots From The Congo", came out briefly in 1979 and then promptly disappeared until 2020 when it was reissued by the bright sparks at the Planet Ilunga label in Brussels. It is an amazing record and I could happily have chosen any of the tracks. You really need to buy it - just click on the title and it will take you to Bandcamp.

Enough of me. Here's the music.

"Radio Trottoir (Parts 1 & 2)" - Franco & l'OK Jazz

"Shawuri Yako" - M'Bilia Bel with Tabu Ley & Afrisa International

 "Fimbo Ya Bakandja" - Tshala Muana with Meje 30

"Zekira" - Zaiko Langa Langa

"Wiseman" - King Kester Emeneya & Safro Manzangi

"Mwana Yokatoli" - Jupiter & Okwess International

"Moto Ya Motema" - Seskain Molenga & Kalo Kawongolo 

That's it from me for this week. See you next week, hopefully with a bagful of Croatian psychedelic tamburica albums to share.

Monday, 25 September 2023

Kids Of Today

Just a quick one for you today. I am off on a work trip to Zagreb at the crack of dawn on Wednesday and have much to do before then.

"Hey People!" was the only album by The Beautiful New Born Children, a side project of German musician Michael Beckett, best known (if known at all) for the records released as kpt.michi.gan and his occasional work with Schneider TM.

Released in 2005, it didn't change the world but made a splendid racket.

In other news, the African Odyssey will return tomorrow.

"Left, Right, Forward" - The Beautiful New Born Children

"OK, Alright, Fine" - The Beautiful New Born Children

Friday, 22 September 2023

Yemenite Dynamite

Welcome to the second and final part of our catchily titled new series "Compilation Albums Of Middle Eastern Music Beginning With The Letter D Friday". 

Last week we brought you 'Dabke - Sounds Of The Syrian Houran'. This week it is the turn of 'Da'asa - the Haunting Sounds of Yemenite-Israeli Funk 1973-1984'. As the title hints at, 'Da'asa' features the music of Tel Aviv's Yemenite Jewish community - music which mashes up traditional Yemeni rhythm with the funky modern sounds of the 1970s. Very groovy it is too.  

Released in 2017 on Fortuna Records, the full album is only available on vinyl these days but you can download a sampler on Bandcamp. Neither of these tracks are on the sampler, but I sneakily have the whole album in mp3 format. I can't remember how I acquired it, but they say if you can remember 2017 you weren't really there.

"Shedemati" - The Amranim

"Eshmera Shabat" - Duo Tsafri

Further enquiries revealed that there is modern successor to the acts featured on the album. Bint El Funk are an eight piece from Jerusalem. This splendid video features a track from their 2020 album "The Great & Glorious Yemenite Funky Thing".

Wednesday, 20 September 2023

Roger Whittaker RIP

I have always had a soft spot for Roger Whittaker, who left us last week at the tender age of 87. He was one of my Dad's favourite singers so we heard him a lot growing up, and Dad used to sing a few of Roger's songs on the rare occasions he could be persuaded to dig out his guitar. 

It was pretty inevitable that Roger would feature at my Dad's funeral, the only unexpected element being that it wasn't "The Last Farewell". Instead we went for "You Are My Miracle", which he used to sing to my Mum much to her public embarrassment (but private delight).

While a lot of Roger's stuff was pretty bland he had many fine songs over the years. And as for the whistling - incredible. RIP Mr Whittaker.

"Steel Men" - Roger Whittaker

"The Book" - Roger Whittaker

"Swaggy (Australian Whistler)" - Roger Whittaker 

Monday, 18 September 2023

Mr Gil From Brazil

Apologies if any of you are tuning in hoping for a new installment in the much delayed African Odyssey series. I am still dealing with the fall-out from my desktop exploding, taking everything on iTunes with it, and my storage drive getting corrupted. I'm hoping to be able to resume normal service next week. 

In the meantime, here are a couple of tracks from the fabulous Gilberto Gil. Mr Gil is still recording and touting at 81, and not just surviving but positively thriving. The first number is from most recent album "Em Casa Com Os Gil", which came out last year. The second is from "Um Banda Um", released exactly 40 years earlier.

"Realce" - Gilberto Gil

"Banda Um" - Gilberto Gil

I was lucky enough to see Mr Gil live back in 2019. It was a real treat. I can't find any clips from that show, but here he is a few weeks after that in Switzerland sounding decidedly groovy.

Friday, 15 September 2023

Dabke Dancing

You lot are a hip and happening crowd so you will no doubt be familiar with the frenzied, flailing sound of the famed Syrian singer Omar Souleyman. It turns out that when it comes to crazed Syrian wedding music Omar is just the tip of the iceberg (or whatever the Syrian equivalent of that metaphor is - the tip of the sand dune perhaps?). 

Back in 2012 the Sham Palace label released a compilation starring singers from southern Syria titled "Dabke: Sounds of the Syrian Houran" - Houran being the region and Dabke a sort of Levantine line dance for which this music provides the accompaniment.  

I am not remotely capable of describing the sound they make, so let's just crack on with it. Get ready to leap around with abandon.

"Ma Dal Anouh" - Ahmad Al Kosem

"Mili Alay" - Mohamed Al Ali

If you are planning a wedding reception but are looking for something that is a bit more understated on the dancing front, you could do worse than turn to Bollywood for ideas.

Wednesday, 13 September 2023

NYC/CT Sounds

I'm back from my break in New York (city and state). I very much doubt you are interested in my holiday snaps but if you are you can find them on Flickr.

I managed to get to a couple of gigs while I was over there. First up was the pop-country sounds of Ms Lola Kirke. I did not know much about her, but of the gigs I researched on the nights I was in the city she looked to be the pick of the bunch. It also gave me a chance to visit the far-famed Bowery Ballroom.

It turned out to be a good decision on all counts. The Ballroom is a great little venue, and Lola's live show was a treat. The set was mostly a mix of tracks from last year's "Lady For Sale" album and others that might feature on her forthcoming record, "Country Curious". I was particularly impressed by the new stuff, which tilts the balance of pop and country more towards the latter.

The second gig was at the other end of the country spectrum, and several counties away. From my cousin's place upstate we hopped over the border to the town of Ridgefield in Connecticut, home of the Nod Hill Brewery. 

The evening's entertainment was provided by local bluegrass combo Hitch & The Giddyup, who were much better than we had a right to expect of a free gig in a small town pub. Their 2020 album "Another Gig In The Bag" does not really do them justice but as a 'name your own price' offer on Bandcamp it is worth a listen. And you should definitely go to see them in the perhaps unlikely event they are playing round your way.

Here is a track from each of the albums I've mentioned, plus Lola's video for the lead single from the new record. At the gig she described it as her George Strait tribute, but I don't think George would ever get up to this sort of shenanigans.

"Stay Drunk" - Lola Kirke

"Heartbreak County Line" - Hitch & The Giddyup

Friday, 1 September 2023

The Massed Ranks

Here are six slices of reggae to ease you into the weekend. All the acts have something else in common. I did think about setting a quiz but the connection is so cryptic even Rol would reject it as being too unfair. I'll give you a clue - it is something to do with their names.

This will be my last post for a couple of weeks as I am off to New York on Sunday. I have a few days in the city followed by a few more with my cousin who lives Upstate, where we will no doubt be getting up to a bit of Upstate Top Ranking.

"Liberated Woman" - Ranking Ann

"Wah-Go-A-Africa" - Ranking Dread

"Step It Down Shepherds Bush" - Ranking Joe

"Why Can't You Leave The Dread Locks Alone" - Ranking Tiger

"Rub A Dub Style" - Ranking Trevor

"Lemonade" - Ranking Youth

For the second part of today's non-quiz, see if you can spot the odd one out.

Wednesday, 30 August 2023

Of Gigs And Gigabytes

The communication breakdown continues. I now have a new PC but they forgot to deliver the new monitor, which is needed as the old one is not compatible. In addition, my external storage drive appears to have been corrupted somehow and is denying me access to some of my music and most of my photos. All very irritating.

To soothe my soul I have been enjoying some live music, with three gigs in the last five days. Life at the moment is a mixture of gigs-a-go-go and gigabytes-a-gone-gone.

First up last Friday was a solo set by Bruce Cockburn at a barely half-full Shepherds Bush Empire. The low turnout was a shame but the fact the cheap seats were over £40 probably had a lot to do with it - I was only there because I had wangled a discount ticket. Bruce himself was very good and the set was a nice mix of old favourites and tracks from his recent album "O Sun O Moon".

Sunday afternoon was spent in trendy Clerkenwell at a free festival in a little local park. There were several acts on the bill but we were only there for the headliner, the great Wreckless Eric. Another solo set, he was excellent as always, mixing tracks mostly taken from his new album "Leisureland" and its predecessor "Transience" (2019) with a selection of expletive-laden anecdotes that I am sure were appreciated by the small children and dog show contestants in the audience.

It wasn't just small children and dogs though. Among the celebrities in the crowd were Spizz Energi, Gaye Advert, Helen McCookeryBook and Old Bob from Tenpole Tudor. It truly was a night of a thousand stars,

By last night we had made our way from trendy Clerkenwell to drizzly Dalston for another open air gig, this time by the Madalitso Band from Malawi. Undoubtedly the finest table-based band I have ever seen, they score highly on most other criteria as well. I would recommend catching them if you can, you are sure to leave with a smile on your face.

I will save the audio clip of the Madalitso Band until our delayed African Odyssey reaches Malawi, but here are one each from Bruce and Eric. Both were highlights of their respective sets. Bruce's track comes from "Big Circumstance" (1989), Eric's from "Transcience". 

Readers of a delicate disposition should note that Eric's track includes blasphemy and obscenity, in one case in the same image.

"If A Tree Falls" - Bruce Cockburn

Friday, 25 August 2023

Dead Or Dusty

An update on the IT situation reported in my previous post. Despite installing a new hard drive and numerous attempted restores, resets and reboots, doctors have declared the old desktop PC officially dead.

A new one is on order and should be up and running early next week, but until it is I won't know how much of my music on iTunes (which is where I construct the posts) has made it through. If it hasn't then posts that require planning like the African Odyssey series may be further delayed.

In happier news, I'm off on holiday at the end of next week (New York - a mixture of NYC and the rural idyll upstate where my fab cousin lives). So one way or the other what passes for normal service here is not likely to resume until mid-September.

In the meantime we will continue with the hopefully short-lived series of forgotten sounds found on my storage drive. The two criteria are: the 'date accessed' must be at least ten years old, and if you were to ask me if I had ever heard of these acts I would say "no".

Today we have delved into the S folder, and to very good effect I think. Some of these will definitely be moving up to the A List when everything is working again. In order, we have vintage sounds from Peru and Haiti, something from the 1971 solo album by the former lead singer of Black Cat Bones, and Mick Jones from Foreigner before he was Mick Jones from Foreigner (and even before he was Mick Jones from Spooky Tooth).

"Guayaba" - La Sonora de Lucho Macedo

"Controleur" - Webert Sicot

"Always Another Train" - Brian Short

"I Know" - The State Of Micky & Tommy

Also found in the S folder, Southeast Engine. They don't meet the "who they?" test but they are here because I have a ticket to see their former member William Matheny while I'm in NYC. More on that in due course no doubt.

Wednesday, 23 August 2023

Rare And Retrievable

The hard drive on my desktop died over the weekend. A replacement is on its way but until repairs have been completed much of my digital music collection is inaccessible, and all the downloaded stuff on my external storage drive can only be played one track at a time on my laptop's media player.

Being a gurning fool I have decided to see this as an opportunity rather than the enormous pain in the arse that it really is. For my own listening pleasure I have been grooving to some old CDs I have not listened to in years, using the primitive technology of a portable radio/CD player. And I'm going to try a similar approach here.

For today's post I have been digging around in the gloomier corners of the storage drive finding things to bring blinking into the light. The two criteria I have applied are that the 'date accessed' must be at least ten years old, and that if you had asked me whether I had heard of these acts I would have said "no". 

There is an obvious risk, which is that if they made no impression on me at the time I downloaded them it may be because they aren't especially memorable. But let's give it a go. Here are three acts I dredged out of the G (for Goggins) folder. See what you think.

"Hey Katy Hey! " - Alex Gruenberg

"I've Been Losing" - The Ghost Hotel

"Wheatfields" - Jon Gant

If you like Jon Gant or The Ghost Hotel they have Bandcamp pages (just click on their names). In Mr Gant's case some things are available on a 'name your price' basis. Jon is still going strong, and is quite prodigious, with his latest album released last December. 

There have been no releases from The Ghost Hotel for ten years but judging by their Facebook page they are still sort of together and doing the occasional gig. Look out for them if you're in Perth (Australia).

A search for Alex Gruenberg reveals that he became lead singer of Best Behavior - also on Bandcamp - but they haven't released anything since 2017. After that the trail goes cold.

Let's finish off with another, better known, G from the folder.

Monday, 21 August 2023

Ernie's African Odyssey Pt 13 - Côte d'Ivoire

On with our African Odyssey, and after a couple of weeks where it was a struggle to find five artists to represent their countries Côte d'Ivoire presents a different challenge. If all the music I have from there was laid end to end it would nearly cover the floor of the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace in Yamoussoukro, the largest church in the world, built to glorify Félix Houphouët-Boigny (and, to a lesser extent, God). 

I could easily have filled the post with nothing but Mandatory African Reggae without any drop off in quality. Indeed, MAR's own Alpha Blondy is probably the best known Ivorian artist globally. But I have left him out on the grounds that a sophisticated bunch like you will have his stuff already. Instead we are treating you all to Ismaël Isaac for the audio and Tiken Jah Fakoly for the video. "Joe Bleck" comes from Ismaël's 1996 album "Treich Feeling". Both are top notch dudes in their own right and both are still going strong.

Between 2015 and 2020 Mr Isaac was married to our next artist, the great Aicha Koné, making them briefly the power couple of the Ivorian music scene. Ms Koné has a familiar origin story. Her parents forbade her from pursuing a musical career so she ran away from home and enrolled at the National Institute of the Arts in Abidjan. She released her first album in 1981 and like her ex-husband is still active. Today's track is from her 2006 album "Farafina Miria". 

Not long after Ms Koné got started the Ivorian music scene lost one of its greats, Ernesto Djédjé. He died in 1983 aged only 35, officially from an untreated ulcer although there are claims of suspicious circumstances. Mr Djédjé pioneered a musical style he called ziglibithy, and as you will hear it is a decidedly funky thing.

"Zadie Bobo" can be found on an excellent compilation album called "Ivory Coast Soul" released by the Hot Casa label. For some reason it is not available on their Bandcamp page but you can pick up Volume 2 (which is almost as good). If you then skip over to Analog Africa's page you can find an EP of other recordings by Ernesto.

There are a number of styles of pop music that have developed in Côte d'Ivoire over the last thirty years that bear the influence of Ernesto and his fellow pioneers. Ziglibithy begat zouglou in the 1990s, then zouglou had its head turned by flashy DJs and begat coupé-décalé. 

The best known act from that scene are Magic System, who have had numerous top ten hits in France, but for the audio I have opted for "Souzana", the 2004 smash by Erickson Le Zoulou. Like Magic System, Mr Le Zoulou was one of the first wave of coupé-décalé stars; sadly, like Ernesto Djédjé, he left us way too soon, passing away in 2020 at just 41.

We round off the audio selection with someone I was lucky enough to see live back in 2011, Dobet Gnahoré. On that tour Ms Gnahoré was mainly promoting her 2009 album "Djekpa La You", from which this track comes, and also her 2010 collaboration with India.Arie which won her a Grammy - the first, and I think only, Ivorian artist to do so. Somewhere there is a photo of the two of us after the gig - I'll spare you that, but here is one I took on the night.

"Joe Bleck" - Ismaël Isaac

"Bembalisso" - Aïcha Koné

"Zadie Bobo" - Ernesto Djédjé 

"Souzana" - Erickson Le Zoulou

"Côte d'Ivoire" - Dobet Gnahoré

Friday, 18 August 2023

O Vanessa Where Art Thou?

I dug out my copy of Vanessa & The O's "La Ballade d'O" for the first time in a while the other day. It seems like only yesterday they were being pushed as the next big thing, but it is actually getting on for nearly 20 years. What happened?

Future big thingness seems unlikely at this point, at least for the O's. Vanessa has been keeping herself busy with Allez Pop! and the like but there has only been one further album from the O's, and that was ten years ago ("Stories For Watering Skies"). Never mind, we'll always have "La Ballade d'O".

"Bagatelle" - Vanessa & The O's 

"NY Hotel" - Vanessa & The O's 

PS After writing the meagre paragraphs above I discovered that Khayem did an Imaginary Compilation Album on Vanessa a few years back, so I suggest you direct any follow-up questions to him as he is more likely to know the answer. For example, he would know whether it is true that the O's were so called because Vanessa is an avid supporter of Leyton Orient FC.

Wednesday, 16 August 2023

Reggae Cymraeg Gorfodol

It is time for some Reggae Cymraeg Gorfodol (Mandatory Welsh Reggae).

Who better to provide it than that stalwart of the Welsh music scene, Geraint Jarman - a man who has had some reggae in his repertoire since the 1970s. In all that time he has never succumbed to the temptation to change his surname to Jahman, for which we should all be grateful.

The first track comes from his 1998 album "Eilydd Na Ddefnyddiwyd", the second is from a single that he released last year. You can find the single on the Ankst Musik site on Bandcamp, which I would encourage you to explore further while you are there. There are lots of interesting Welsh language new releases and reissues.

"Rheda Dy Ruthr Nefol Ras" - Geraint Jarman

"Gweld y Miwsig" - Geraint Jarman

This still might be my all time favourite slice of RCG/ MWR though. 

Monday, 14 August 2023

Ernie's African Odyssey Pt 12 - Congo

From Comoros to Congo, or the Republic of the Congo as it is officially called. The country is also sometimes referred to as Congo-Brazzaville to distinguish it from its burly neighbour to the east, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC for short). 

Musically there is a lot of cross-pollination between the two countries - perhaps not surprising when the two capitals (Brazzaville and Kinshasa) are five miles apart, separated only by the Congo river. The soukous sound that originated in Kinshasa is also very popular over the water, and the musicians from the two countries often team up.

Our first act is a good example. Loketo were a Brazzaville band led by the great Aurlus Mabélé, who sadly died in 2020 of a combination of cancer and Covid-19, but the man who provided the sparkling guitar work was Diblo Dibla from Kisangani in DRC. Today's selection comes from their 1988 album "Trouble" and was requested (and very kindly provided) by The Inimitable George.

In case you found Loketo a little mellow, we will turn things up a notch with Extra Musica. The original line-up were all-conquering between 1993 and 1998 before they split due to musical differences - some of them wanted the guitars to be sparkling and the others wanted them to be very sparkling. 

For a while there were two versions of the band, Extra Musica Zangul (led by the main man Roga Roga) and Extra Music International. In time the Zangul version triumphed and reverted to the original name. It is them that provide today's tune, the title track from their 2004 album. 

Rounding off our soukous selection is Tchico, or Tchico Tchicaya to give him his full name. Perhaps I should call him Mr Tchicaya so you don't confuse him with Chico. Mr T is one of a number of artists we will meet in our travels who get referred to as the Golden Voice of Africa. Today's track comes from his 1983 album "La Voix D'Or D'Afrique" on which he asserts his claim to the title. 

If you like this track - and why wouldn't you - you might want to pop over to Global Groove where the mighty Moos has recently shared Mr Tchicaya's "Special 1990" album. For anyone who enjoys African and Latin music of a certain vintage (mostly 1970s to 1990s), Moos is the main man.  

For our last two choices we have two very different takes on the more traditional sounds of the Congo. The first is from Papa Kourand who is a master of the sanza, a traditional thumb piano which is very similar to the Zimbabwean mbira, and a fine singer as well. This track comes from his 2012 album "Tout Restera Ici-Bas" which you can find on Bandcamp.

Les Mamans du Congo are an all-female collective set up in 2018 by singer and percussionist Gladys Samba to revive the old lullabies of the Congo. Some bright spark had the idea of teaming them up with French electronic and hip-hop producer Rrobin and the result was an excellent eponymous album that came out in 2020. You can pick up a copy on Bandcamp, and while you are there you can pre-order their new album "Ya Mizolé" which comes out in October. I have.

"Pour Toujours" - Loketo

"Obligatoire" - Extra Musica

"Loango" - Tchico

"Pointe Noire" - Papa Kourand

"Meki" - Les Mamans du Congo & Rrobin

And now the videos. Special thanks to Jah Thiano for bringing the MAR. Apologies for the ropey quality of the Les Ry-Co Jazz video but I really wanted to include them as they are considered the founding fathers of modern Congolese music and this was the only one I could find. 

Friday, 11 August 2023

If You Knew Suzi

No, not that Suzi - Suzi Chunk.

What do you mean, Suzi who? The Suzi Chunk whose only album, "Girl From The Neck Down", is a rather splendid slab of 1960s style retro pop, that's who. You can get yourself a copy from the Groovy Uncle site on Bandcamp.   

Up to date information about Suzi is hard to come by. Her Last.fm page covers her story up to the release of the album in 2012. After that she was a featured vocalist on a number of Groovy Uncle albums but does not seem to have been involved with them since 2017. 

Suzi's LinkedIn page says she is or was lead singer with Knitwear Junkees (last spotted playing Merthyr Rising and other Welsh festivals in 2019), Canute Funk Collective (Facebook page last updated 2016) and Get Ready! (of whom there are many including a former Belgian boy band - posibly one for Rol's Namesakes series).

Wherever Ms Chunk is I hope she is thriving. And in the unlikely event that she reads this, thanks for a very nice little record.

"Girl From The Neck Down" - Suzi Chunk

"Big Screen" - Suzi Chunk


Of course we can't let the moment pass without a little something from Suzi Uno. After all, this is a woman I have had a crush on since before I could spell 'hormones'. It hasn't worn off yet and by this stage I suspect its not going to. So here is an oldie followed by the lead single from her brand new album with KT Tunstall. 

Thursday, 10 August 2023

Robertson And Rodriguez RIP

Yesterday we learnt that we had lost both Robbie Robertson and Sixto Rodriguez.

Robbie Robertson is obviously best known for his work with The Band and for composing the soundtracks for many Martin Scorsese films, but he also made a series of interesting solo albums. Spookily, I bought one of them in my local second-hand record shop yesterday morning before the news broke.

"Contact From The Underworld Of Redboy" was released in 1998 and saw him reconnecting with his indigenous roots (he was half Mohawk on his mother's side). The title of the opening track seems appropriate.

Most of the world only belatedly discovered Sixto Rodriguez through the 2012 documentary "Searching For Sugar Man", but those of us who grew up in South Africa in the 1970s have known him for much longer. I have worn my way through several copies of his debut album "Cold Fact" over the years. The follow up "Coming From Reality" - from which this track comes - is almost as good.

RIP Gents.

"The Sound Is Fading" - Robbie Robertson

"I'll Slip Away" - Rodriguez

"Whispering Pines" - The Band

Wednesday, 9 August 2023

Unscheduled Newness

I mentioned on Monday that while I was in Paris last month I picked up the Mwezi WaQ album in the Montparnasse branch of FNAC. From the same shop I also bought "Ago", the newly released debut album by Nana Benz Do Togo.

I had originally intended to hold that one back until we reached Togo in our African Odyssey, which at the current rate isn't going to be for the best part of a year. But I have decided it would be doing you (and them) a great disservice to wait until then. I have fallen madly in love with the record and I want you to do so as well.

The blurb on their Bandcamp site explains the band's history better than I can, but their sound draws on the band members' Voodoo heritage (the PR person who wrote the blurb describes it as 'electro-voodoo-soul'). It comprises three female singers, a Korg keyboard, a home-made drumkit and a man whacking bits of PVC tubing. And it is brilliant. 

Here are a couple of tracks to warm you up - "NBT" kicks the record off and may be the most joyous opening to an album I have heard in years, while "Tite" is just one of the many highlights that follow. Now go and buy the record. At only €7 for a digital copy you would be mad not to.

"NBT" - Nana Benz Du Togo

"Tite" - Nana Benz Du Togo

I will also take this opportunity to give a quick plug to two other new albums by female artists, both of which I picked up on Bandcamp Friday last week. I have not listened to either of them all the way through yet but I like what I've heard so far.

The first is "They Live In My Head" by New York no-wave stalwarts Bush Tetras. They are doing a very brief mini-tour this side of the pond in November and I have already grabbed my ticket for their London gig. 

The second is "Beautiful Dreams" by Acantha Lang, from Louisiana via London with a sound that could have come from Memphis or Muscle Shoals. I think this will be a grower.    

Monday, 7 August 2023

Ernie's African Odyssey Pt 11 - Comoros

Today is Stage 11 of our African odyssey, and the first of four visits to island nations in the Indian Ocean. If you want to find the Comoros go to the northern tip of Madagascar, head due west towards Mozambique and there they are.

The Union of the Comoros (to give the country its full name) and the Comoros archipelago are not the same thing. Three of the five islands declared independence from France in 1975 but the other two, which together comprise Mayotte, preferred to remain under the yoke of the oppressor. 

For the first twenty years or so after independence the poor Comorians suffered as a result of some appalling behaviour by France, apartheid era South Africa and the man who would be king, Bob Denard. If you are not familiar with the story it is worth reading up on.

Enough of that sort of stuff, on to the music. Compiling this post made last week's post on Chad seem an absolute doddle, but we got there.

When I started this series my collection of Comorian music consisted of two tracks from an album called "Hallé" by a gent called Chébli Msaïdie. When updating my spreadsheet I discovered to my great surprise that I featured the other one way back in February 2011. Despite twelve years of constant questing since I have been able to find out no more about him, but it is only right that he kicks things off.

The Comorian ball really started rolling when I went to Paris last month and I popped into the Montparnasse branch of FNAC. I came away with the their entire Comoros section - a single album, "Le Blues Des Sourds-Muets" by the band Mwezi WaQ, which came out last year.  

It is clear that Mwezi Waq are not fans of the state of the nation. The album is a mixture of songs by Comorian artists from earlier eras who were "silenced" and original material that reflects on "a country where consumerism and the law of probability lead us to believe in the fable of the tamed man". Don't believe the hype, folks.

After that, diligent digging on Bandcamp and the tax-dodging website respectively unearthed Ahamada Smis (just this track) and Ouvoimoja (an album with local guest artists called "Sings 4 Comoros Forests"). As with our old chum Chebli, no further information is available on either of them.

Our last selection may technically be cheating as M'Toro Chamou comes from Mayotte rather than the Comoros. But he sings about revolution in the Comoros islands and his 2016 album goes by the excellent name of "Punk Islands", and that is good enough for me. 

According to a brief bio, Mr Chamou is now based in Réunion which is where "Punk Islands" was recorded. Apparently the album addresses "the chaotic situation on Mayotte and the Comoros, between the influence of neo-colonialism and modernisation on the one hand and losing their cultural identity on the other". It sounds like him and the Mwezi WaQ gang would have a lot to talk about.

"Ulaya" - Chébli Msaïdie

"Ankipwa" - Mwezi WaQ

"La Route" - Ahamada Smis

"Walozi" - Ouvoimoja

"Revolution" - M'Toro Chamou

One of the silenced artists covered by Mewzi WaQ is Boul des Iles, who they described as the jewel of the 1980s folk scene in Comoros. I was pleased to discover that he is still going strong, as you can see in today's first video which was posted in June. 

Friday, 4 August 2023

Taylor's Tales

Today we feature one of the finest soul singers ever to walk the earth. No further build up is required. Ladies and gentlemen, the late great Mr Johnnie Taylor.

"Love Bones" - Johnnie Taylor

"We're Getting Careless With Our Love" - Johnnie Taylor

"Party Life" - Johnnie Taylor

Wednesday, 2 August 2023

It's Twinkle Time

Some midweek reggae for you today courtesy of our old favourites The Twinkle Brothers. 

Back in the 1980s the Twinkles released five albums in what they called the 'Dub Massacre' series. While I was in France recently I picked up a CD containing Volumes 3 and 4 -  that is to say, "Dub It Inna Roots Stylee" (1985) and "Killing Zone" (1989). Here is a track from each.

I just need to track down "Inna Murder Style" (1982), "Killer Selection" (1983) and "Lion Head" (1990) and I will have the full set. Something to add to my 'to do' list.

"Every Drop Of Blood" - The Twinkle Brothers

"Hunger & Starvation" - The Twinkle Brothers

As a special treat, here is an hours worth of the mighty Norman Grant and the lads live back in 2017.

Monday, 31 July 2023

Ernie's African Odyssey Pt 10 - Chad

After a couple of weeks resting in the Ubangi delta, we've got back on the bus and are continuing our African adventure. However, this leg of the journey is a fairly short, as we are popping over the northern border of the Central African Republic into neighbouring Chad.

Chad is the 20th largest country in the world but most of us (including me) know next to nothing about it. I have done a bit of research and let's just say that while Chad no doubt has its charms it may not be an obvious holiday destination. The capital N'Djamena is the most polluted city in Africa, and because of the distance from the sea and its largely desert climate Chad 'enjoys' the nickname 'the Dead Heart of Africa'. 

It is also the seventh poorest country in the world, but as home to over 200 ethnic and linguistic groups I imagine it is culturally rich. Having said that, it has been a real struggle to find five acts to feature in this post. The problem isn't a lack of quality - they are all rather splendid - just a lack of availability.

Browsing through the limited number of websites with information on Chadian music three band names crop up most frequently - Chari Jazz, L'International Challal and Groupe Tibesti. We have a track from each of them for you.

Chari Jazz are considered to be the first modern musical group from Chad, having formed under the patronage of then President François Tombalbaye in 1964. It appears that the President packed them off to DR Congo to learn from rumba masters like Franco and Rochereau, with clear instructions not to come back until they were good. I imagine he welcomed them back with open arms when he heard "Kag N'Dil".

L'International Challal and their main man Maître Gazonga developed a big local following in the 1980s. According to a badly translated French Wikipedia entry, when the band played in the villages they accepted payment in the form of food which they then bundled into their truck and sold at the market back in N'Djamena. Very enterprising.

Groupe Tibesti (or sometimes just Tibesti) were formed in 1994 in the region of the same name. This very short bio tells us that "their music explores the traditional Sahelian rhythms with a preference for Chadian Sai". When you look up 'Chadian Sai music' all it says is that it is a style popularised by Tibesti, so we are none the wiser really.

Moving forward in space and time we meet up with Mounira Mitchala, also known as Sweet Panther (which is what Mitchala means in Chadian Arabic). Today's selection is the title track from her 2008 debut album and her signature tune. Wikipedia tells us that her sister is Chad's first female cartoonist. Clearly a talented family.

Rounding things off, and bringing us up to date, are Pulo NDJ whose aim is to explore traditional Chadian music but add an electronic twist. This track is on their 2019 debut album "Desert to Douala" which you can pick up over at Bandcamp where you will also find an informative bio.

"Kag N'Dil" - Chari Jazz

"Les Jaloux Saboteurs" - L'International Challal

"Pa-Sei" - Groupe Tibesti

"Talou Lena" - Mounira Mitchala

"Taroum (de Moundou)" - Pulo NDJ

Before we get to the videos, a big thanks to Placide Ayreh for coming to the rescue at the last minute with some Mandatory African Reggae. It is much appreciated.

Friday, 28 July 2023

Newness Abounds

Yes, it's the latest edition of our occasional series featuring the best of the many freebies that the lovely people in Promoland have sent me in recent months. From them to me to you, here we go.

You have probably heard of the first act, an up and coming beat combo called Dexys. I'm a long-term fan and had been planning to buy "The Feminine Divine", their new album which comes out today. The money saved will no doubt be frittered away on something else instead.

"The Feminine Divine" is Dexys' first album of new original material since 2012's "One Day I'm Going To Soar". Musically parts of it sound more like they did back in the very early days. Lyrics apart the opening sequence could be off a Chairmen Of The Board album. Which is a good thing.

We had some French rock here last Friday and we're trying again today. I know a number of our readers were underwhelmed by Téléphone, but perhaps they will warm to Les Lullies. Their album "Mauvaise Foi" came out in May and is available on Bandcamp

The band describe the album as "no-frills and fast-paced punk rock with a few power-pop jabs every here and there", and who is to say they are wrong. Normally I do no more than tap a toe or two, but I was jumping up and down until the people downstairs complained.

We go from an album in French to one in Sm'algyax, the language of the Ts’msyen Nation who can be found mostly in northern British Columbia and southern Alaska. The album is called "G̱al’üünx wil lu Holtga Liimi" and it is by Ts’msyen artist Saltwater Hank

Hank has released a number of records in English but on this occasion wanted to show the power of creating in Indigenous languages. He has made a very good case for doing so. The album came out earlier this month and is also on Bandcamp.

We are sticking with roots music for today's final selection, "Imaginary People" by Viv & Riley (Vivian Leva and Riley Calcagno to give them their full names). It is a very nice record and I love Viv's voice, which reminds me a bit of Laura Cantrell. The album does not come out until 15 September but you can pre-order it on Bandcamp and pick up their earlier albums as well while you are there. 

Speaking of Laura Cantrell, she has a great new album out called "Just Like A Rose" which I have not included here as it wasn't a freebie but which I heartily recommend. The same can be said for "Careful Of Your Keepers" by This Is The Kit, so I have added videos featuring tracks from each to whet your appetite.

"The One That Loves You" - Dexys

"Mauvaise Foi" - Les Lullies

"Ba'Wis" - Saltwater Hank

"The General" - Viv & Riley

Wednesday, 26 July 2023

Flogging A Dead Hedgehog

You can blame that Rol character for this. 

In yesterday's edition of his acclaimed and entirely original Namesakes series he featured an act from the stalwart but long forgotten 1980s label Dead Hedgehog. I mentioned in the comments that back in 1984 I had discussions with the Dead Hedgehog Head Honcho about including one of my bedroom band's tracks on one of their compilation cassettes. Unfortunately the label went the same way as the hedgehog shortly afterwards so our 15 minutes of fame was snatched away from us.

The track in question was "Do The Torvill and Dean", a totally shameless attempt to cash in on their then recent success at the Winter Olympics in Sarajevo. Rol made the mistake of asking whether a demo of "Do The Torvill and Dean" still existed. It does, so here we are.

We called the band A Cuddly Pair, a name chosen from a photo of two kittens on my mate Simon's Mum's kitchen calendar. We would regularly visit the kitchen during breaks in our recording sessions for a cup of tea and some of her excellent home-made jaffa cakes. They were a very important consideration when choosing where to record and probably the only tangible benefit of being in the band.

Only one of the three of us could play an instrument properly and none of us could hold a tune in the bucket - these days of course you can get computer programmes to deal with that sort of minor detail. This made mainstream success unlikely but it meant that what critics have called the endearingly amateurish ethos at Dead Hedgehog seemed a natural fit for us.

The sound quality is very ropey - it turns out Woolworths own brand cassettes weren't designed to retain high resolution audio for forty years - but helpfully that masks the even ropier quality of the performance. The line-up on this track was AJ on vocals and boxes, Simon on guitar and me on jazz penny whistle. Enjoy! Or Endure!

One proper band that did go on to achieve more after getting their first break on a Dead Hedgehog compilation was Jesus Couldn't Drum. Their 1984 single "Even Roses Have Thorns" has long been a favourite of mine, and hopefully now it will be one of yours too.

I have also bunged in an Incredible String Band song for reasons that will become obvious. Their willingness to record themselves banging and blowing anything that makes a noise was a great inspiration to A Cuddly Pair. 

"Do The Torvill And Dean" - A Cuddly Pair

"Even Roses Have Thorns" - Jesus Couldn't Drum

"The Hedgehog's Song" - The Incredible String Band

Finally, here is some more from Jesus Couldn't Drum: 

Monday, 24 July 2023

In The Jingle Jangle Evening

On Saturday night my pal Mister F and I ventured into London's Dalston for a gig. The headliners were Jeanines, whose album "Don't Wait For A Sign" was plugged here when it came out last year, and the main support act were Mt. Misery from exotic Hartlepool. 

I thoroughly enjoyed both sets. Jeanines specialise in very short jangly pop songs of the highest calibre, although there was one that lasted nearly two minutes. Once they cut out that bloated self-indulgence they will be even better.

Mt. Misery were a new name to me but I liked them very much and I think they would appeal to members of the Teenage Fanclub fan club and admirers of 1970s moustaches. They are working on their second album but while we wait I suggest you check out their 2021 debut "Once Home, No Longer". 

The two bands are touring the UK together for the rest of the week - Oxford tonight and then Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds and Edinburgh. Jeanines are also playing in Glasgow as part of this year's Glas-Goes Pop festival. Get along if you can. 

Third on the bill in London only was Brighton's Garden Centre, or rather a solo performance by Head Gardener Max Levy. Not for me personally but he seems a nice chap and was polite (if somewhat bewildered) when I compared his vocal style to Gnidrolog. 

"Any Day Now" - Jeanines

"The Dreaming Days Are Over" - Mt. Misery

"Rotting Leaves" - Garden Centre

Friday, 21 July 2023

+33 And A Third

I got back yesterday from a short trip to Paris and Troyes. I have been to Paris many times over the years but this was my first visit to Troyes. I liked it very much - lots of old timbered buildings to admire while you amble round town and a local delicacy, andouillette de Troyes, which is a must have for all fans of pigs' innards.

While in Paris I caught up with my old friends Jeni and Christoph. I think I may have mentioned here before that Jeni's sister has two sons who she rashly named Zepheniah and Coolie. Well, Coolio is now the father of a baby girl to whom he has gifted the name Nylon. This has made me ridiculously happy. Poor Nylon may not feel the same way when she is old enough to understand what has been done to her.

I found time for a bit of CD shopping in both places. Unfortunately many of the little shops around Boulevard Barbès in Paris that sold CDs from assorted parts of Francophone Africa alongside fabric and nick-nacks are no longer there. It was the same story in the Matonge district in Brussels when I was there last year.  

Despite that setback I managed to pick up a handful of albums that are likely to feature in my African Odyssey series at some point. In the case of Nans Benz du Togo that won't be until around this time next year. If they become world-renowned before then, remember you heard it here first.

A visit to the French equivalent of Cash Converters in Troyes resulted in me acquiring "Rappels", a compilation album by Téléphone. They were widely considered to be the best French band of the early 1980s but forty years on it is hard to see what the fuss was about. You probably had to be there.

Téléphone made five albums before splitting in 1986. We have the title track of the Martin Hannett produced second album "Crache Ton Venin" (1979) and something from their final album "Un Autre Monde" (1984).

"Crache Ton Venin" - Téléphone

"New York Avec Toi" - Téléphone

Legally you can't have a post mentioning French music and telephones without including this #35 smash from 1976.

Thursday, 13 July 2023

Lanegan, Then Gone Again

This will be the last post here for ten days or so as I'm heading off for a week's break tomorrow. If you study the videos very closely there are some subtle clues as to where I'll be spending the first part of the week.

I wanted to leave you with something light and fluffy and what could be lighter and fluffier than Mark Lanegan? "Here Comes That Weird Chill" was a nine-track EP released in 2003 that served as a sort of preview for "Bubblegum", the 'proper' album that came out the year after, the songs having been recorded in the same sessions.

While "Weird Chill" might have been intended as a warm-up it is pretty good in its own right. Highlights include these two tracks, the first of which was the only one on "Weird Chill" that subsequently made it onto "Bubblegum".

"Methamphetamine Blues" - Mark Lanegan Band

"Lexington Slow Down" - Mark Lanegan Band

Tuesday, 11 July 2023

Ernie's African Odyssey Pt 9 - Central African Republic

We are at Stop 9 on our virtual travels around Africa. It will be the last stop for a few weeks. That is partly because I have a week of real life travels starting on Friday and partly because Stops 10 and 11 will need a bit more research when I return (unless I happen to stumble across a record shop specialising in music from Chad and the Comoros while I'm away).

As disappointing as I know this news will be to you all, it does mean you will have longer than usual to savour the musical delights of this week's destination - the Central African Republic.

The Central African Republic (I'm going to call it the CAR from now on or I'll get a repetitive strain injury) is one of those countries most of us would probably struggle to find on a map. If it helps, it is bordered by six other countries - both Sudans, both Congos, Chad and Cameroon. 

Two-thirds of the CAR is in the Ubangi river basin, but don't even think of asking for "Ubangi Stomp". Instead we will start with real indigenous music courtesy of the Aka pygmies, whose singing is on UNESCO's list of Intangible Cultural Heritage. This track comes from an album of field recordings called "Centrafrique: Anthologie De La Musique Des Pygmées Aka" that was originally released in 1987.

Sticking with traditional sounds, Jospin Pendere-Ye is a singer and player of the ngombi, a ten-string harp. He is of Mbaka ethnicity, which means he shares some roots with the Aka, and on his 2019 album "Tomboka! Tomboka!" he is backed by some Aka musicians. You can find the album on Bandcamp.

We'll go pop now with a couple of fellows whose sounds have clearly been influenced by the Congolese rumba creeping over their Southern border and into the nightclubs and international hotels of Bangui. 

Lea Lignanzi made a name for himself across the broader region, playing with the likes of the great Sam Mangwana, before he released his solo debut in 1982. The album was called "Dédé Priscilla" and it earned Lea a gold record - deservedly so, as I'm sure you'll agree when you hear the sparkling guitars on "Hamadi".

Sultan Zembellat started his musical career in CAR, where he was a founder member of the band African Lokombe, but like many others he emigrated to France during the 1980s due to the economic and political situation back home. In Paris he became a major promoter of other CAR musicians as well as making music himself, up until his untimely death in 2010 aged only 51. I found "Nova Africa" on a CAR compilation called "Les Fauves de Bazoubangui, Vol. 2". Imagine how good Vol. 1 must be.  

Bibi Tanga's family were also part of the CAR diaspora in Paris, moving there when Bibi was still in his teens. Today's selection comes from his album "Le Vent Qui Souffle" (2000) which he describes as "A poetic and urban work with jazzy, funky, soul, pop and blues colours" and which you can find on Bandcamp. He has made a number of albums since with his band The Selenites, most recently "The Same Tree" last year.

"Chant Pour La Retour De La Chasse (Nzombi)" - Pygmées Aka

"Vie Centrafricaine" - Jospin Pendere-Ye

"Hamadi" - Lea Lignanzi

"Africa Nova" - Sultan Zembellat

"Elle Fuse" - Bibi Tanga


Oh alright then...

Sunday, 9 July 2023

Single Song Sunday

This corner of the blogosphere is normally untouched by human hand over the weekend. So if I am posting on a Sunday it can mean only one thing - it's time for another Single Song Sunday.

To be fair, you could also have worked that out from the fact that the title of the post is "Single Song Sunday".

Not for the first time, and very probably not the last, we are featuring a Holland-Dozier-Holland song. "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)" was a hit twice on Motown, originally for Marvin Gaye in 1965 and then for Junior Walker the year after. Marvin brought the grace, Junior brought the groove.

Many years later Lamont Dozier himself had a go, on an album called "Reflections Of..." on which he reinterpreted his songbook. It's his song so obviously he can do what he likes to it, but personally I don't think slowing it right down suits the song.

Marvin had the bigger hit with the song in the US, reaching #6 on the charts compared to #18 for Junior (it was the other way round in the UK where Marvin barely scraped into the Top 50), but neither of them was the biggest. That honour goes to James Taylor, who took his version all the way to #5 in 1975. Now I'm partial to a bit of JT and it is a perfectly pleasant cover, but I would not consider it the pick of the bunch.

Probably my personal favourite version after Marvin and Junior is the one by a little-known British singer called Paul Weller. Originally the B-side to his 2010 single "Find The Torch, Burn The Plans", you can also find it on his "Will Of The People" rarities boxset which came out last year. 

Which brings us to Karen Dalton who released this sprightly rendition on her 1971 album "In My Own Time". Karen's voice is perhaps an acquired taste. I have acquired it, you may not. We then round things off with a French cover from 1967 by Herbert Léonard and the Mandatory Reggae Version courtesy of Mr Tinga Stewart.

"How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)" - Junior Walker & The All Stars

Friday, 7 July 2023

I Am The Kosmische - Or Am I?

The music we have for you today is either the product of one of the strangest tales you will ever hear or an elaborate hoax perpetuated by one Drew McFayden, formerly of Scottish band The Magnificents. We may never know.

Ten years ago the Unknown Capabilities label released the first volume of what it called "The Secret Cosmic Music of the East German Olympic Program 1972-83". Since then four further volumes of this 'rediscovered' music have been issued, with the most recent volume coming out earlier this year.

You can read the full story here, but in brief we are led to believe that the music was created by a man called Martin Zeichnete and that it was done at the insistence of the East German authorities. We are told that they believed it would help to get their Olympic athletes in the right mental state to win (presumably as a back-up just in case the copious amounts of drugs they were pumping into the poor sods didn't do it).

Quite how these secret recordings ended up in the hands of a record label in Edinburgh that had not previously released any records we may never know. Just as we may never know why there aren't any photos or videos of Herr Zeichnete, just a single interview transcript. Perhaps he is a recluse. Or perhaps he is a figment of Mr McFayden's imagination. Maybe it doesn't really matter if you like the music. 

Here is a track apiece for Volumes 1 to 3. You can find all five of them on Bandcamp along with a few 'name your price' downloads. 

"Tonband Laufspur" - Kosmischer Läufer

"Morgenröte" - Kosmischer Läufer

"In der Stadt und auf dem Land" - Kosmischer Läufer

To round things off, some more running music from the 1970s. Or if you think the Kosmischer Läufer story is a hoax, here is a video that has no relation at all to the rest of this post.

Wednesday, 5 July 2023

Mister Tom

Another week, another gig. Last Thursday my old pal Mr F and I went to see Tom Russell play the famour 100 Club in London's Oxford Street. The capacity is now much smaller than when an estimated 100,000 people all definitely saw the Sex Pistols there back in 1976.

I have lost count of the number of times I've seen Tom perform, but it must be close to double figures by now. We nearly didn't add to the tally as the Great Man had cancelled a couple of gigs earlier in the week due to ill health, but fortunately for us he was feeling sufficiently recovered by Thursday to go ahead. 

Tom was looking a little gaunt but that may just be down to his recent illness. His voice is still holding up well for a man of 76. And the songs, of course, were magnificent. We were treated to a mix of tracks from his most recent album, "October In The Railroad Earth" (2019), and some (very) old favourites. Here is one of each.

"Highway 46" - Tom Russell

"Veterans Day" - Tom Russell

Monday, 3 July 2023

Ernie's African Odyssey Pt 8 - Cameroon

It's week 8 of the tour and we are back on the mainland after our brief visit to Cabo Verde. We are in Cameroon, one of the real powerhouses of African music in my humble opinion.

The eagle-eyed among you may have spotted that we have six tracks for you today rather than the usual five. That is because we have a special request from Mr and Mrs Charity Chic. They have asked for the Les Têtes Brulées song in memory of Mrs CC's dear friend Brother John who spent many years teaching in Cameroon. You can read CC's very nice tribute to John here.

After that it was a real struggle to pick only five tracks. Obviously we had to have something by Mr Big Blow himself, the late great Manu Dibango. Equally obviously we had to include some Mandatory African Reggae. Sally Nyolo does the honours. That left only three slots to fill.

I have reluctantly left out the likes of Sam Fan Thomas, Francis Bebey, Ekambi Brillant and everything on Analog Africa's excellent "Cameroon Garage Funk" compilation, and opted for a trio of tunes that will get any party started.

First up is Lapiro de Mbanga. You might assume from "Jolies Filles" that he was just a good time guy, but he actually spent three years in prison after his song "Constitution constipée" criticised attempts by President Paul Biya to change the constitution to allow presidents to serve more than two terms. Lapiro sadly died in 2014, less than three years after his release from prison. Biya, on the other hand, is still President.

Next we have Elvis Kemayo, one of the world's top three Elvises in my view. He is happily still going strong as he approaches his 75th birthday in September. If you are keen to find out more, why not watch the 95 minute documentary that has been made about him. 

Last but by no means least we bring you Tala AM, the blind groovester who successfully sued James Brown for ripping off one of his tunes. You can read the full sordid tale while you are over at Bandcamp buying his excellent "African Funk Experimentals" collection, from which the track below comes.

"Des Hauts Et Des Bas" - Les Têtes Brûlées

"Abele Dance" - Manu Dibango

"Mamiwata" - Sally Nyolo

"Jolies Filles" - Lapiro De Mbanga

"Menzui" - Elvis Kemayo

"Gotam" - Tala AM

Friday, 30 June 2023

Inna Style N Bristol Fashion

We had reggae last Friday, we've got reggae this Friday. It was done to create the illusion that some basic planning goes on here. It doesn't.

Last week's reggae came all the way from Mandeville, Jamaica, home of Jacob Miller. This week's reggae comes from closer to home, especially for leading Bristolian blogger Khayem of Dubhed fame. So I am going to dedicate today's post to him.

About ten years ago the excellent Bristol Archive Records released three volumes of their 'Bristol Reggae Explosion' compilations, celebrating the vibrant local scene of the late 1970s and 1980s. You can find them all on their Bandcamp site along with many other goodies.

There are lots of cracking tracks to choose from, but the 12" version of Talisman's magnificent 1981 single "Dole Age" really picks itself. Talisman were probably the best known of the Bristol reggae bands of that era and I vaguely recall seeing them back in the early 1980s when they were stalwarts of the college circuit (although my mind may be playing tricks on me).

I have definitely seen Joshua (Jahshwa) Moses perform live, ten years ago at the Bristol Harbour Festival. Much to my surprise I found a clip of that show on YouTube (look down a little and there it is). "Stick It Up" was recorded in 1983 but for whatever reason was not released at the time. Mr Moses sadly left us a few years back.

I had neither seen nor even heard of Restriction prior to buying Volume 1 of the series but their 1984 EP "Action" (from which this track is taken) has become a firm favourite since. One of their members went on to be Smith in Smith & Mighty. So now you know.

"Dole Age (12" Mix)" - Talisman

"Stick It Up" - Joshua Moses

"Four Point Plan" - Restriction

I have already explained the first video. The second one is in many ways inexplicable, but there is a Bristol link.