Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Bambara Mystic Soul

I have a very good friend. His musical taste is impeccable. In fact on many occasions he has introduced me to some blistering rock music that has never crossed my radar. Often we make compilation CDs for each other, laughing at our nerdom and flaunting legality. So last time I thought “here’s a man with taste, he’s going to love this African music”. Weirdly when he thanked me for the compilations he loved the reggae, the disco, the soul but he added “I couldn’t really get my head around the African tracks”. I was stunned. Mind you even my partner murmurs similar thoughts sometimes.

I cannot understand this. Not at all.

For me music, like the human race, originates in Africa. Well the music I like does anyway.

These days I look at a label like Analog Africa in the same way I look at Stax or early Motown, or Young Turks and 4AD. You can trust them. What you hear is always good, and if it doesn’t stroke your palate in the way that thrills it still resonates as interesting music; it makes sense.

Now AA have brought out a new compilation. As usual the boss man Sami Ben Redjeb has scrambled through piles of dusty tapes and archives to find more gems from the 70s, that’s the way he rolls. Then he polishes them up and brings out to all of us. The one thing, though, that continues to perplex me is this; why was the music in this area of the world during the 70s so vital and exhilarating? Was it to do with the early days of independence, before cynicism and sadness kicked in with the corruption that took hold with many of those early political elites?

Whatever it was I wish some of the British bands today could drink deeply from its cup of knowledge.

If you’re wondering where Burkina Faso is, it’s here in a pretty dry part of the world. Yet this corner of the world has brought forth some rich interdependent music where Afro-funk, Afrobeat, Islamic tradition and European sound has been mixed up and represented to us. Wherever you look the music speaks and with the appearance of those crazy Cubans during the Cold War a whole other musical flavour got added to the mix. Mmmmmmmm.

The compilation features Amadou Ballak√© heavily, which is understandable given his ubiquitous talents. He appears with l’Orchestre Super Volta and Les 5 Consuls on tracks like Johnny and Baden Djougou, these tracks possess a sense of place to them, the spidery, mesmeric twisting figures with a vocal style that conjours up images of a dry, hot horizon. One of my personal favourites is Mamo Lagbema’s Love, Music and Dance. It has this urgency to it, echoes of the kind of music Kool and the Gang were doing around Spirit of the Boogie or The Chambers Brothers.

Compaore Issouf is another favourite. A scorching groove, almost Farfisa figures and this semi-falsetto voice. This wouldn’t have been out of place in some club playing rare groove.

Overall this album nails it. Makes it. I love it but then I’m biased.

Maybe I’ll try running this past my mate one last time.

This track isn't on the album but shit it's good.

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