Tuesday, June 28, 2011

O.J. Ekemode - Sisi Shade (1987)

Friends have noted my perfectionist tendencies, and they certainly extend into my music passion. Nothing beats seeing music performed live, where the only separation between musician and listener is air. With recorded music, I try to keep the separation as minimal as possible. That is why I am fastidious with record care. Now I find that when I am digitizing my record library, for me and for you, I tend to take more care removing as much surface noise as practical. I want to listen to the cleanest recording possible in order not to be distracted from the music.

This great record was one of a handful in my Nigerian collection that suffered moisture damage. Through successive vacuum cleanings I was able to reclaim the vinyl, and that made it possible to hear how worn the record was from heavy rotation in the years just after I purchased it. I therefore used the tool ClickRepair to remove some pops and cracks, and the result sounds pretty decent, but not perfect. The record sleeve was trashed, too, and I delayed posting this recording as I contacted a few friends to see if anyone had another, better copy. Nobody did, so I did some work on mine and was able to clean it up quite a bit. If anyone wants to send me good artwork for this album, I would appreciate it and repost it here.

That is a long preamble to consideration of this rare album. O.J. put together a dynamite band of 17 to record a very strong afro-beat set in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The two songs sung in English, "Selma to Soweto" and "Be Counted," are both overtly political and directed at his audience during his long stay in the U.S. Both are excellent. The talking drum provided by Sikiru Adepoju is simply awesome throughout the album, and he is given plenty of room to strut. The rhythms rock. Yet O.J. is in top form on sax, too, and his singing is emblematic. This is an album you should not miss.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Amayenge - Amayenge (1989)

This is the second of a trio of Zambian recordings published by Mondeca Records that I have been able to post, and like the other Zambian records offered here, this is a gem. Quite different from either of the previous bands, Amayenge is high-energy dance music fueled by furious percussion and singing. There are the great guitars typical of Copperbelt pop, but band leader Kris Chali's voice dominates, as well as his percussion solos.

Recorded in Zimbabwe, where the band was popular, this album even has a chimurenga song in praise of the revolutionary Zimbabwe of the day. There also are several songs praising Zambia's first and persistent President Kenneth Kaunda, who at the time was charting an independent, one-party path, and who was to lose power a short two years after this album was recorded. There is ample information about the band and songs on the album sleeve.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Sooliman E. Rogie - African Lady (1975)

S. E. Rogie was a palm-wine and highlife guitarist from Sierra Leone who also could sing very well indeed. This album was the first he recorded during his sixteen-year tenure in the United States. Rogie's music is light and easy, and this record reminds me of cotton candy: fluffy and overly sweet. Not to say I don't like it; just that I have to be in the mood, one that comes infrequently.

Yet Rogie's voice is hard to forget, and some of his songs, like the title track, stick forever. A couple of his early hits that swept West Africa over forty years ago are collected on another record, which I might be able to offer you in the future. This one is worth a listen for the singing and guitar and the gently swinging songs. Maybe the sweetness that gets to me emanates from the back-up singers, and not from Rogie at all?
You may read a biography of S.E. Rogie here.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Les Bantous de la Capitale (1976)

A challenging return home and a subsequent software update issue have delayed my posting a few days, so to celebrate my cyber-return I offer a superb album from this influential and pioneering Congolese band. Les Bantous de la Capitale, led by Jean Serge Essous and Nino Malapet, played a pivotal role in transforming Cuban rumba into rumba Lingala. This record has two Cuban songs on it, proving that the transformation was not yet complete in 1976.

This album was posted previously on the inimitable Global Groove site, but I think I was lucky in finding a much cleaner pressing of the disc, and so offer it with respect.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Mbilia Bel - Phenomene (1989)

In late 1989 my partner Jess and I prepared to go see Mbilia Bel at a Bay Area club. We gently filled our infant first son's ears with cotton, and then swaddled his head in bright African cloth. He fit perfectly into a large New Guinean string bag in a miniature sleeping bag. At the dynamic gig we took turns holding him, dancing as well as we could. Many of the songs we danced to are on this album, which was new at the time, published in the U.S. It brings me bittersweet memories, as life's changes can transform memory.

I bought this record at the gig, and came to love the song Manzil-Manzil. In fact the whole album is deeply imbedded in my core.

It finally made it to CD in Europe, ten or so years ago, and perhaps it still is available there. I urge you you search for it. Meanwhile I offer this gem to the rest of the world because it should not be missed: Neither the music, nor the great cover picture that did not make the digital release.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Ekambi Brillant - Reason (1987)

Ekambi Brillant is a makossa star who trends towards a truly funky edge, but this album of his suffers from an overly programmed production and terribly mediocre singing. The best thing about it might be the welcoming album art, but judge for yourself.

I hesitate to post this non-brillant record, but I am thousands of miles from home and it is the best I can do today. Try to. . .

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Jonah Moyo & Devera Nqwena - Ndabvezera (1990)

Jonah Moyo & Dvera Ngwena have to be one of the most dynamic bands from Zimbabwe. Their fusion of Congolese rumba with traditional mbira rhythms proved to be a potent mix that became known as rhumbira. It kept the band at the peak of popularity for decades, in Zimbabwe, through a plethora of albums. Unfortunately, as is all too common, this stellar band had limited success internationally, and music did not translate into wealth for the band members.

For a decent biography of the band, and a link to possible recordings still available to purchase, you can go to the Music of Zimbabwe site. Explore it while you listen to this uplifting record.

P.S. Although on the road, I've figured out how to post a trickle over the next week or so. Enjoy. . .

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Masasu Band - Masasu (1989)

Another foray into the relatively rare Zambian pop music library, with this nice slice of guitar-driven kalindula dance music from the Copperbelt. We already sampled this addictive style here.

Masasu Band leader John Mulemena sings well and achieves a splendidly twangy guitar sound that propels the mantyantya, the particular dance flavor played by this band. Released in England, this album quickly went out of print. The band had a CD published a decade after this record, but little trace of it can be found. I suggest listening to this second Zambian offering on this site, and while it plays, search the ether sphere for somewhere to buy the band's CD .

P.S. This may be my last post for a short while. I have a family responsibility that takes me away from home and technology.