Naturally, one of the best ways to check out a new musical style (or styles) is the good, old-fashioned compilation album... if you can find the right ones, you'll get a lot of band for the buck! Here are a few recommendations for African pop compilations that may stir and excite you... I hope to add to this list as time permits and welcome your suggestions for records to review or include.
Various Artists "AFRICA AND THE BLUES: CONNECTIONS AND RECONNECTIONS" (Neatwork, 2001)
An interesting, and not overly academic, look at the links between traditional African music and American blues. This CD is a companion disc to a book by the same title (which I haven't read), and pairs up various ethnomusicological field recordings from Western and Southern Africa with their counterparts within the ranks of lesser-known country blues artists. The similarities and shared motifs are readily apparent, and the album also works on a musical level as well... If you are into the less polished aspects of both styles of music, then this disc has plenty of nice stuff to listen to.
Various Artists "AFRICA BOOGALOO: THE LATINIZATION OF WEST AFRICA" (Honest Jon's, 2009)
A totally sweet set of Latin-influenced African pop that includes examples of the chiming, hypnotic guitar styles of the '70s as well as a bit of hyperactive "boogaloo" material as well. A well-selected songlist with rare but absolutely prime material. Highly recommended!
Various Artists "AFRICAN CAVALCADE: THE GLORY DAYS OF AFRICAN MUSIC" (RetroAfric, 1996)
An outstanding collection of songs by artists profiled in the fab archival series on the RetroAfric label... Fourteen prime cuts featuring artists such as Henri Bowane, Franco, Fundi Konde, E.T. Mensah, Shikamoo Jazz and Zaiko Langa Langa... I strongly recommend tracking down the original collections of work from each artist, but this sampler will certainly let you know if this label is right for you.
Various Artists "AFRICAN PEARLS, v.1: CONGO - RUMBA ON THE RIVER" (Syllart/Discograph, 2006)
Various Artists "AFRICAN PEARLS, v.2: GUINEE - CULTURAL REVOLUTION" (Syllart/Discograph, 2006)
Various Artists "AFRICAN PEARLS, v.3: MALI - ONE DAY ON RADIO MALI" (Syllart/Discograph, 2006)
Various Artists "AFRICAN PEARLS, v.4: SENEGAL - THE TERANGA SPIRIT" (Syllart/Discograph, 2006)
Various Artists "AFRICAN PEARLS, v.5: COTE D'IVOIRE - WEST AFRICAN CROSSROADS" (Syllart/Discograph, 2009)
Various Artists "AFRICAN SCREAM CONTEST: RAW & PSYCHEDELIC AFRO SOUNDS FROM BENIN AND TOGO" (Analog Africa, 2008)
Various Artists "AFRICAN TRAVELS" (Six Degrees, 2000)
This companion disc is perhaps less rich than FRIKYIWA, but has its clubbish charms... The spirit of Fela Kuti looms large over several tracks, and the incorporation of indigenous acoustic instruments into high-tech sound beds is skillfully managed throughout. I didn't find this as engaging as some of the other Six degrees releases, but it's still worth checking out.
Various Artists "AFRO BABY -- THE EVOLUTION OF THE AFRO-SOUND IN NIGERIA: 1970-79" (Sound Way, 2004)
A first-rate set of vintage Nigerian Afro-Beat, which touches lightly on Orlando Julius and the famed Fela Ransome Kuti, but goes on to include numerous less well-known artists, such as The Sahara All-Stars, Bola Johnson, The Mebusas, Tunji Oyelana & The Benders, Thony Shorby Nyenwi, Victor Olaiya, et al. These bands may not have had the same overwhelming firepower as Kuti's juggernaut Africa 70 orchestra, but often made up for it with the rhythmic and melodic grace that Kuti often distained. I have to confess, I'm not a huge fan of this particular style of African pop, but I found this disc to be quite listenable and quite pleasant -- a cut above many similar collections. Strongly recommended -- an ideal introduction to the genre!
Various Artists "AFRO-BEAT AIRWAYS" (Analog Africa, 2010)
Various Artists "AFROLATIN VIA CONAKRY" (Syllart, 2011)
Various Artists "AFROLATIN VIA COTONOU" (Syllart, 2011)
Various Artists "AFROLATIN VIA DAKAR" (Syllart, 2011)
Various Artists "AFROLATIN VIA KINSASHA" (Syllart, 2011)
Various Artists "AMANDLA! A REVOLUTION IN FOUR-PART HARMONY" (Soundtrack) (ATO, 2003)
An excellent album. Although I have a fondness for 1950s-era South African "jive" music, I've never been that keen on the other, more modern pop styles. This, however, is a great collection which bridges these styles, including representative tunes from a wide variety of artists and eras. The album accompanies a highly-recommended documentary film, which explores the role of music in South Africa's anti-apartheid political movement... Folk tunes, the vast vocal choruses, the funky pop, and the old-fashioned, jazzy jive... It's all there, and the song selection and album pacing are both superior. A highly recommended sampler. (PS - when I get a chance to see the film, I'll also let you know about it as well... Meanwhile, here's a link to the film's website, www.amandla.com.)
Various Artists "ANCIENT CIVILISATIONS OF SOUTHERN AFRICA" (Arc Music, 2005)
A beautiful, wonderfully varied collection drawing from several albums previously out on the Arc Music label... From older traditional chants and story-songs to complex percussive numbers and softer, more modern and melodic mbira (finger piano) numbers, this generously packed album gathers music from the tribal cultures of the Bushman, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa and Zulu traditions... It's a well-programmed set, with a fluid feel from track to track, with each transition as intriguing as the last... The liner notes are concise yet informative, with an easy but authorative presentation... After hearing this collection, you may be tempted to track down some of the individual albums that this draws from, and while those are also quite rich, this is a very listenable disc in itself... Well worth checking out!
Various Artists "ANGOLA 60s: 1956-1970" (Buda Musique, 1999)
Various Artists "ANGOLA 70s: 1972-1973" (Buda Musique, 2000)
Various Artists "ANGOLA 70s: 1974-1978" (Buda Musique, 2000)
Various Artists "ANGOLA 80s: 1978-1990" (Buda Musique, 1999)
Various Artists "ANGOLA 90s: 1993-1998" (Buda Musique, 1998)
An outstanding series which spans the length of Angolan popular music, from its traditionalist and Congolese-style rumba origins, through the peak years of the early '70s, and on into glossier material recorded in the '80s and '90s. The music is great, as are the liner notes, which among other things describe how many of the best bands were torn apart, politically co-opted -- and in some cases murderously liquidated -- by various military factions following the 1974-75 independence from Portugal. Many of the songs from the late '70s mask political material in pop coating... The music is no less seductive, though, and this is another magnificent series on this French reissue label. Highly recommended! (NOTE: for more of this kind of music, check out my Angolan Music page, and related Lusophone music info...)
Various Artists "ARCHIVE AFRICA: JAZZ, JIVE AND JIBE" (Afribeat, 2002)
As with many vintage South African sets, it's hard to judge a book by its cover. This is particularly true as the terms "jazz" and "jive" are often used interchangeably (although usually just to mean straight-ahead jazz, which seems to be more popular, at least with the folks who put these kind of collections together. Like many other discs, this collection concentrates mainly on jazz -- instrumental ballads, perky, poppy Young-Holt imitators, some stuff in the cool school, a couple of more difficult tracks -- but precious little "jive," per se. I picked up a copy, listened to it, then set it free, back into the used bins, as it wasn't really the kind of stuff I was looking for. Still, it's more engaging and adventurous than similar sets I've heard, and is definitely worth checking out. The songs -- dating from the 1950s and '60s and culled from the archives of the South African SABC radio network -- are well-chosen and show a real variety of styles, some of it quite fun.
Various Artists "ASAP: THE AFROBEAT SUDAN AID PROJECT" (Mobida, 2005)
A plea for help and a call to action come forth from this driving, impassioned set of modern-day Afro-Beat, a benefit album for the thousands of people dying in the Darfur region of the Sudan. Darfur is caught in what is politely called a "humanitarian crisis," although brutal genocide is more like it -- the light-skinned elite that controls the Sudanese government has countless people penned up in the country's remote Darfur region, starving to death those they don't kill outright, through the use of paramilitary proxy militias. The spirit of Afro-Beat apostle Fela Kuti runs strongly through this set, where his loping, unceasing beat sets the stage for squonking, muscular horn sections and political lyrics up the wazoo. There's one actual Fela track on here, but the work of his spiritual grandchildren -- bands such as Kokolo, Antibalas and the Akoya Afrobeat Ensemble -- adopts the style almost whole cloth, and shows that the music Fela made is alive and well, nearly a decade after his passing away. If you're an Afro-Beat fan, this disc might really wow you, plus the money goes to a good cause. To order the album, check out Mobida's website at: www.mobida.net; for more information about Darfur, go to http://savedarfur.org. )
Various Artists "AUTHENTICITE: THE SYLIPHONE YEARS - GUINEA'S ORCHESTRES NATIONAUX AND FEDERAUX 1965-1980" (Stern's/Syllart, 2007)
An awesome 2-CD set of shimmering, scintillating, utterly hypnotic African guitar music from Guinea, featuring classic bands such as Bembeya Jazz National, Camayenne Sofa, Horoya Band, Keletigui and Pivi Et Ses Balaldins who recorded for the Syliphone label during the golden years of Guinean pop... Even though I had a lot of this stuff already, I just had to pick up this collection -- it looked so tasty! And it is: even though there are occasional passages that get on my nerves, the guitar playing is so awesome and so alluring, it's still some of the most addictive music ever made. These two discs are divided chronologically, with the first disc covering 1965-1972, and the second covering 1972-80, all of it well within the glory years of West African (and Guinean) pop... This is a perfect introduction to the style, including prime tracks by bands who have full albums out on Syliphone, as well as a slew of lesser-known groups that were no less musically exciting. All in all, this is a wonderful collection... Highly recommended!
Various Artists "BAMBARA MYSTIC SOUL - THE RAW SOUND OF BURKINA FASO: 1974-79" (Analog Africa, 2011)
Various Artists "BEGINNER'S GUIDE TO AFRICA" (Nascente, 2005)
A generously programmed, budget-priced 3-CD overview of modern African pop, covering several decades of key musicians. A lot of territory is covered, and though this is just a cursory glance, it's a pretty strong set. Worth checking out!
Various Artists "BEGINNER'S GUIDE TO AFRICAN FUNK" (Nascente, 2009)
A groovy 3-CD set, digging into the groove-laden African funk scene, with special attention paid to the 1970s... A great starting point for deeper explorations, or maybe just the right amount of this vintage material for those of us with less shelf space to fill. Pretty tasty, either way.
Various Artists "CAZUMBI: AFRICAN SIXTIES GARAGE, v.1" (No Smoke Records, 2008)
I looked for this one for a long time -- one afternoon I heard a track played on my old radio station and I thought, "Woah! gotta get that!!" For folks delving into classic African garage rock and American-style vintage acid-rock, this colleciton is a goldmine... There are a lot of great compilations that touch on similar material, but this one has some of the rawest, grittiest, really rock'n'roll flavored material, with only a few tracks that drift into the multi-textured, super-groovy African pop styles that were more typical in the '60s and '70s... This is less local and more "foreign"-sounding, although along with the three-chord workouts there are many tracks sung in local dialects, which is the ideal combination for me: imitative, but still stamped with the regional culture. Some of the tracks are a little sketchy or poorly recorded -- pretty demo-y or of dubious merit to begin with, but the stuff that's cool is really, really cool. If you're looking into vintage African rock music, you should definitely try and track this one down.
Various Artists "CAZUMBI: AFRICAN SIXTIES GARAGE, v.2" (Nosmokerrecords, 2010)
Various Artists "COMPILATION ORCHESTRES ZAIRO CONGOLAIS: 1968/1976" (Sonodisc, 1993)
Classic, beautiful guitar pop from Zaire, featuring three bands that nobody has ever heard of anywhere else: Orchestre Cercul Jazz, Orchestre Vox Africa and Orchestre G. O. Malebo. It's all great stuff, taken from the heyday of the style, gorgeous music by second-string bands that had the same magic touch as the better-known biggies such as Grand Kalle, Tabu Ley Rocherau, et al. If you can still track this one down, it's definitely worth picking up.
Various Artists "DADA KIDAWA: CLASSIC DANCE HITS FROM TANZANIA" (Original Music, 1995)
A great collection spanning the decade of the 1960s, a golden era of Tanzanian dance music... Featured here are the Cuban Marimba Band, NUTA Jazz Band and Kiko Kids Jazz, each adept in their own way with making the most of limited technical resources (many of these tracks having been recorded, remarkably, with the whole band sharing a single microphone...) Some amazing guitar tones and rhythmic textures arise, as well as some super-catchy melodies. There's also a rough-hewn edge still in the mix; these weren't quite the days of the super-perfect studio sound that came to engulf African pop. The influence of Cuban-flavored Congolese "rumba" music is strongly felt, and the recurrence of the archetypal "La Bamba" riff propels several songs, adding to their irresistibility. This is music that's both rare and delightful... a strong collection, well worth tracking down!
Various Artists "DELTA DANDIES: DANCE BANDS IN NIGERIA: 1936-1941" (Honest Jon's, 2008)
Various Artists "DISCOTHEQUE '70" (Syllart, 1999)
Various Artists "DISCOTHEQUE '71" (Syllart, 1999)
Various Artists "DISCOTHEQUE '72" (Syllart, 1999)
Various Artists "DISCOTHEQUE '73" (Syllart, 1999)
Various Artists "DISCOTHEQUE '74" (Syllart, 1999)
Various Artists "DISCOTHEQUE '75" (Syllart, 1999)
Various Artists "DISCOTHEQUE '76" (Syllart, 1999)
A stunning collection of hypnotic, beautiful music from the heyday of Guinea's pop scene. Lots of lovely guitar work, horn sections and harps, along with plenty of surprises, such as the occasional psychedelic guitar solo or funky drummer backbeat. These are old recordings from the legendary Syliphone label, grouped together according to the years the songs came out. You might expect there to be an ebb and flow in the quality of the music, but all of these albums are consistently strong. Great stuff -- highly recommended!
Bernard Woma "Live At The Pita Bar" (Avant, 1997)
Various Artists "DRUMS OF DEATH" (Avant, 1997)
Uber-hip "difficult music" wunderkind John Zorn oversaw the creation of these two fabulous albums of Ghanaian drumming. Both are quite captivating, with multilayered rhythms and surprisingly clean production. The DRUMS OF DEATH recordings are taken from funeral rituals of the Ashante and Ewe tribes, and are more ecstatic and evocative than foreboding. Similarly, the recordings by balafon player Woma (a member of the Dagara tribe) are uplifting and melodic. Both albums are quite nice and quite powerful... not at all what you'd expect from a label that has brought us some of the most irritating and indulgent albums by Zorn and his crowd. Highly recommended, particularly for percussion and drumming fans.
Various Artists "DRUMS OF DEATH" (Avant, 1997)
Uber-hip "difficult music" wunderkind John Zorn oversaw the creation of this fabulou, eerie album of Ghanaian drumming. A captivating set, with multilayered rhythms and surprisingly clean production, the DRUMS OF DEATH recordings are taken from funeral rituals of the Ashante and Ewe tribes, and are more ecstatic and evocative than morbid or foreboding. Powerful traditional music... not at all what you'd expect from a label that has brought us some of the most irritating and indulgent albums by Zorn and his crowd. Highly recommended, particularly for percussion and drumming fans.
Various Artists "DRUM -- SOUTH AFRICAN JAZZ & JIVE: 1954-1960" (Line Records, 1991)
Another first-rate set of classic jive, this disc takes its name from Drum magazine, one of the lifelines of the townships during the post-WWII era... This collection hits many of the same notes as other colelctions that are listed here, including songs such as the Solven Whistlers' irresistible pennywhistle tune, "Something New From Africa" and tunes from the Manhattan Brothers, the Skylarks and Spokes Mashiyane. There are also several jazz tunes that are more clearly derived from the "jump" style popular in the US at the time, notably tracks from the Philharmonic Stars and the Jazz Maniacs... One notable highlight is Dolly Rathebe's R&B vocal on "Kitty's Blues" (which I haven't heard anywhere else but here) and a similary themed scat number featuring Miriam Makeba with the Jimmy Pratt band... A little more rooted in mainstream jazz and R&B than the other sets, this album is certainly worth tracking down!
Various Artists "EARLY GUITAR MUSIC OF WEST AFRICA: 1927-1929" (Heritage, 2003)
These are some of the earliest examples of guitar-based pop music recordings from Western Africa, rare old 78s recorded for the British-based Zonophone label, which specialized in such material at the dawn of the record industry. Artists include George Williams Alngo, J. Kwesi Blney, Acousla Bonso, Nicholas De Heer and Edmund Tagoe... I'd have to say this set is mostly of interest to archivists and historians; it didn't spark my imagination the same way other releases in this same series did, notably the Jacob Sam & Kumasi Trio albums that came out earlier but hail from the same era as these tracks. This is okay, but for some reason it just didn't grab me.
Various Artists "EAST OF AFRICA: PIONEERS OF AFRICAN POPULAR MUSIC" (Dakar Sound, 1999)
A gorgeous collection of early Congolese and Gambian pop, recorded around 1960. This features some of the biggest names in the business, early in their careers, artists such as Manu Dibangu, Docteur Nico and Grand Kalle, performing in a number of record label "house bands," with various nondescript names, such as African Team, African Jazz, Negro Succes, etc.... One thing that's cool about this record is that it's actually not a set that was assembled after the fact: this is actually a reissue of a compilation album that came out in the early '60s. Features plenty of unbelievably cool, hypnotic guitar work, some relatively mellow horn charts, and several tunes that are real doozies, in particular, "Tika Kutupende Kolo," which seems to take it's main riff from the song "La Bamba..." This is thoughtfully followed by a fine example of African-style Cuban rumba, also by the band, African Jazz. An outstanding album -- highly recommended!
Various Artists "ECHOES OF AFRICA -- EARLY RECORDINGS: 1930s-1950s" (Wergo, 2002)
A fascinating, if relatively inaccessible, collection of two dozen oldies from the dawn of the African music industry. These tracks come from geographically disparate locales, but the real distance is between these anarchic, archaic styles and the sleek African pop of today. This is a challenging set for modern ears, but well worth checking out if you like hearing truly different sounds, and are also into historical material. Nice liner notes and cool graphics, too.
Various Artists "ELECTRIC HIGHLIFE: SESSIONS FROM THE BOKOOR STUDIOS" (Naxos, 2002)
A really splendid set of classic, mellow Ghanaian highlife music. Although these tracks were recorded in the early 1980s, they have the warm, relaxed feel of classic material from the '60s... Maybe at the time the folks at the independent Bokoor label were a little out of step with the move towards glossy Afro-pop that emanated out from Paris, but hey... more power to them! I enjoy this stuff a lot more!
Various Artists "THE ETHIOPIAN MILLENNIUM COLLECTION" (Box Set) (AIT, 2007)
Various Artists "THE ETHIOPIAN MILLENNIUM COLLECTION: DANCE" (AIT, 2007)
Various Artists "THE ETHIOPIAN MILLENNIUM COLLECTION: BALLADS" (AIT, 2007)
Various Artists "THE ETHIOPIAN MILLENNIUM COLLECTION: CHIC-CHIC-KA" (AIT, 2007)
Various Artists "THE ETHIOPIAN MILLENNIUM COLLECTION: TRADITIONAL" (AIT, 2007)
Various Artists "THE ETHIOPIAN MILLENNIUM COLLECTION: CONTEMPORARY INSTRUMENTAL" (AIT, 2007)
Various Artists "THE ETHIOPIAN MILLENNIUM COLLECTION: MEMORIES OF ETHIOPIA - INSTRUMENTALS" (AIT, 2007)
The golden age of Ethiopian popular music (as heard on the fabled ETHIOPIQUES series) is famous in part for the sparsity of material that it yielded: The state-owned recording industry was largely a ramshackle government vanity, and while music of the music it captured was strikingly haunting, only a few dozen tracks were recorded in the 1960s and '70s... Since then, the floodgates have opened as Ethiopia has more or less entered the modern world -- more artists are making and recording more music than was dreamed possible back in the politically repressive "good old days," and the fruits of this renaissance are heard on this 6-CD set. Each of these discs is also sold separately, and each centers on a general theme -- one for ballads, one of traditional music (which is quite nice), a disc's worth of contemporary dance music and one of "chic-chic-ka" rhythm, a popular modern style. There are also two discs worth of instrumental music -- one featuring recent recordings of more traditional themes is quite nice, while the other has a contemporary feel and is closer to modern "smooth jazz." The tracks are from the late 1990s and early '00s -- the artists are generally younger, more modern musicians, although a few old-timers like Mahmoud Ahmed are still alive and kicking, and sound as cool as ever. Although this collection doesn't have the same eerie power as the '70s-era recordings, anyone who got into the ETHIOPIQUES discs below will want to check this out as well, to see where the music has gone since then.
ETHIOPIQUES v. 1: Various Artists
"GOLDEN YEARS OF MODERN ETHIOPIAN MUSIC 1969-1975" (Buda Music/France, 1999)
The ETHIOPIQUES series on Buda Musique is one of the most remarkable reissues series in recent history... Over twenty volumes of rare Ethiopian pop from the late '60s to the present day.This first volume is a perfect sampler of all that's best of the series, paying special mind to the slinky soul-and-pop blends that run through the best Ethiopian tracks of the time. One of the best discs in the series -- HIGHLY recommended.
ETHIOPIQUES v. 2: Various Artists
"TETCHAWET! URBAN AMARIS OF THE '90s" (Buda Music/France, 1999)
The series veers sharply away from the mysterious worldliness of the soul-flavored pop into a different urban party style. Although the "azmaribets" - or cabarets - of modern Ethiopia feature contemporary bands, the style sounds (to outside ears) distinctly rustic and old-fashioned. This may be one of the least accessible albums to listeners who are approaching the series from a "pop" orientation, but it's still cool stuff, particularly if you are a fan of African tuareg music, which is somewhat similar.
ETHIOPIQUES v. 3: Various Artists
"GOLDEN YEARS OF MODERN ETHIOPIAN MUSIC 1969-1975" (Buda Music/France, 1999)
This disc picks up where Volume 1 leaves off, with an exotic blend of Ethiopia's five-note scale and Euro-American pop. Another lively, heady set of tunes, with a more pronounced soul flavor on many of the tunes... also highly recommended!
ETHIOPIQUES v. 4: Mulatu Astatqe
"ETHIO JAZZ & MUSIQUE INSTRUMENTALE - 1969-1974" (Buda Music/France, 1999)
This disc documents one man's limited success trying to build a jazz scene in Ethiopia's habitually insular culture. Mulatu Astatqe was classically trained, and while studying abroad, performed in several European and American jazz and latin dance bands. Be brought new musical ideas back with him, and formed several ensembles in Ethiopia that aimed at creating a new musical tradition, almost out of whole cloth. Astatqe's records share a lot of the adventurous mix-and-match quality of the other ETHIOPIQUES artists (he also played in a lot of the other bands featured in this series...) but the jazz thread is pretty distinct. It's not uniformly compelling, though -- improv soloists were presumably in short supply and many tracks simply sound like somewhat marginal easy listening. But if the rest of the series has caught your attention, this is worth checking out, to round off your appreciation of the big picture.
ETHIOPIQUES v. 5: Various Artists
"TIRIGNA MUSIC - 1970-1975" (Buda Music/France, 1999)
Certainly some of the most distinctive music in this series, "Tirigna" music comes from the northern part of the Ethiopia, near Eritrea. The style features squeeky vocals and instrumentation... all of which is made even more appealling with the introduction of modern instruments such as electronic keyboards -- into the mix. Unfamiliar to Eurocentric ears, but hardly less accessible, Tirigna music is also built on a five-note scale, but has a radically different sound than other Ethiopian styles. Definitely worth checking out.
ETHIOPIQUES v. 6: Mahmoud Ahmed
"Almaz: 1973" (Buda Music/France, 1999)
Mahmoud Ahmed is probably the single best-known Ethiopian musician in the world today. His 1975 album, Ere Mela Mela, (reviewed below) was a watershed record for African pop, following its reissue by a European label in the mid-1980s. Ahmed's uniquely hypnotic style is a mix of what can most efficiently be described as Middle Eastern bellydancing music with African pop, American soul and jazz. It's got a distinctly mystical bent to it, elusive and enthralling, and is one of the clearest demonstrations of just how distinct Ethiopian music is from the rest of the African styles. These earlier recordings are less sleek than the reknowned Ere Mela Mela, but all the elements are in place. Fans of Ahmed's music will find this disc a must-have as well.
ETHIOPIQUES v. 7: Mahmoud Ahmed
"Ere Mela Mela: 1975" (Buda Music/France, 1999)
Probably the single most accomplished -- and magical -- album to come out of Ethiopian groove's golden years. This disc contains the entire original Ere Mela Mela LP, as well as several "new" tracks from the archives of the Kaifa label. Ere Mela Mela is the flagship release of the rejuvenation of interest in Ethiopian music; in 1986 it was reissued on the Crammed Disc and Hannibal labels, and blew the minds of world music fans worldwide. Ahmed had, quite simply, one of the fattest and most sensuous grooves of anybody, anywhere, projecting the vibe of master musicians who transcend their own styles and connect with the hearts of listeners across many divides. It's a great record. Almaz (Volume 6) shows the earlier incarnation of this style, but this is its perfection. Highly recommended.
ETHIOPIQUES v. 8: Various Artists
"SWINGING ADDIS - 1970-1974" (Buda Music/France, 1999)
This may be the funkiest volume yet in this supreme series, concentrating exclusively on funk and R&B oriented artists who took their cues straight from James Brown and the early '70s soul scene. More surprisingly, there are several tracks with a heavy New Orleans stroll influence... stuff that would have made Ernie K-Doe and Dave Bartolemew proud. Even without the exoticism of hearing this great lost pop, these tracks are pretty catchy on their own... some of these grooves are really heavy! Wild stuff and highly recommended.
ETHIOPIQUES v. 9: Alemayehu Eshete
"1969-1974" (Buda Music/France, 2000)
When folks talk about Ethiopian pop in terms of "groove" or "world beat", the singer Alemayehu Eshete should be at the top of the list. Eshete's music derives straight lineage from American rock'n'roll, with hints of New Orleans R&B and outright teenybopper pop throughout; he's one of the most "Western" of the great Ethiopian pop stars. There's also more than a smidge of James Brown-styled funkiness here, filtered, naturally, through the peculiar stylings of the Abyssinian folk sounds. This CD is truly an amazing set, collecting about half the material Eshete released in the days of "Swinging Addis". It's unfortunate but understandable that several of his best songs are not included on this album -- they are instead heard on Volumes 2 and 8 of the ETHIOPIQUES series. There inclusion elsewhere is noteworthy because they are some of the best songs in the entire series, but unfortunate for Eshete's legacy since this current volume then lacks some of his hardest rocking, grooviest recordings. Nonetheless, what's on here is pretty incredible -- this disc will not disappoint!
More African Music Compilations
African Music Index
World Music Index