Friday, June 19, 2015
Without wishing to evoke some liberal wish fulfilment and view the past through some rose tinted revision of history there are times when you come across music, created at moments in time, that you wish and desire that you could have been there to witness it and live it. My children often express regret that they weren’t living in London in 1976 (I assure them that apart from Punk kicking off it was pretty shitty!); having lived through those years I often think of the London out of my reach in the 60s when suddenly women had legs, men had long hair and all were peacocks, before hippies came along and stunk it all up with their lentil farts.
Another time that resonates with me are those Francophone West African states like Senegal, Mali, Côte d’Ivoire, Cameroon just as they became independent and music exploded as optimism and creativity flourished for a short time before corruption and tyranny destroyed so much. In cities like Dakar, seaports that looked outwards to the world, music developed in clubs and bars to entertain the sailors and the new liberated generation and one of the major influences was Cuban music. Senegalese music and Cuban music were made for each other; their marriage has created some of Africa’s, and the worlds, greatest and most expressive music.
The finishing school for this generation of brilliant musicians drawn to Dakar was the Miami Club’s Le Star Band de Dakar. So many greats have passed through the ranks, from Youssou N’Dour and Papa Seck to the founding members of Orchestra Baobab. Now Analog Africa have produced an album by one of the early singers, Amara Touré.
The ten tracks on this album are the only recordings Touré made, recorded between 1973 and 1980, and what an incredible testament they are. If you were told you could either have a recording career of infinite but mediocre albums or a short sharp explosion, ten songs of joy and beauty, then only the weak of imagination would choose the former.
The music comes from the Cubano influenced period that many will know from the wonderful Orchestra Baobab albums. Sexually alluring, slinky, conjuring up images of smoky bars, cold beers and good looking people in tight clothes dancing close together. You can play this on your own in an English kitchen on a rainy night and you’ll smell the rum, hear the cicadas and feel the heat. There’s beauty in music, all music, well maybe not all of it, and this album is a thing of rare beauty.
Buy it, it’s cheaper than booking a flight to Cameroon.