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OLD WORLD (Asia, Arabia, Europe)

Updated 3 December 2016

The muzikifan podcast is updated twice a month. The latest podcast includes reggaeton, salsa,
Nigerian "Apala" music, thumb piano from the Lunda people of Zaire, South African jazz piano,
big band guitar music from Guinea, rocksteady and rastafarian roots from Jamaica, experimental
singer-songwriters from Argentina and Brasil, and a Congolese rumba track to wrap it up.
Don't forget to check out the past episodes (The last one was mid-November, part one of a special
on Sam Mangwana).

Greetings, Platterbugs!

Hot Links

What a joy to see Docteur Nico smiling and playing with African Fiesta Sukisa in 1968 in a fragmentary clip from a Spanish documentary on YouTube

Mulato Bantu from Colombia are offering a free download of their new album

You can't buy it, but you can stream TRIZ a 2013 album by Lenine on his website

More freebies? A 21-track sampler of the Sahelsounds label is here

Check out North Africa at 78 rpm here has been updated with 87 albums and 15 singles on the Fonior label from Decca. Contact him if you have one not listed on his expanding database

ERTI NAKHVIT (self-published)

Trio Mandili from Georgia, informally known here at Muzikifan World HQ as the Doogly Daggly Girls (thanks to Chris Graham, who alerted me to them) should be taking the internet by storm, so here's my plug for their song "Erti Nakhvit." They have that magical harmony singing we recognize from Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares (remember that album?), coupled with irrepressible youthful appeal whether in ripped jeans and t-shirts or traditional garb, and simple bouzouki accompaniment. They wander about singing in harmony, while the leader makes nonchalant one-take handheld cel-phone selfie videos, mugging and winking at the camera. She is so charismatic you might think she is seeing through time and space to come on to you personally. The self-confident vocals delivered so apparently effortlessly, plus iPhone technology, plus bouzouki equals magic. There's an epic post of all their songs here.

CUMBIA CURADO POR G-FLUX (cassette blog)

This is a growing trend, away from physical CDs to downloads, and now to free product. The question is, who has time to keep track of it all? because it's one thing to follow endless links to blogs with links to downloads and another to actually listen in real time to all the music that throws up. Electro cumbia has been a growing movement all century (with roots in the psychedelia of the late 1960s and the disco of the 70s) and we have seen bands from Colombia, Peru, Mexico, even the USA embracing the sound and creating a fascinating mix of accordion, pulsing bass and rackety guiro, with sonic collage from radio and overdubs from synthesizer, electronic drums and electric guitar. This is the 6th anniversary post of cassette blog, made by Gustavo Naranjo who wanted to find out where the music was headed in 2017. There's a lot to take in in these 17 tracks; previously I had only heard of one of these acts, El Hijo de La Cumbia, but all the bands on here are worth checking out. Akun Maia kicks it off with a blistering surf chicha with landing spaceships and radio voice on tannoy to give you the full cumbia-on-acid effect right at the outset. Mooglisound provide a run-down of smooth but primitive synthesizer settings: showroom dummies in ruffled shirts. The opposite effect, distorted and crude with shaky vocals permeates the next track "Lucero Espiritual" by the anonymously named El Conjunto. Gustavo calls the singing "phantasmal but sweet." I had not thought of the Kraftwerk connection before but I sense it again in the die-cut cardboard perfection of "I believe in cumbia" delivered by the pride of Tepoztlan, Asagi Seundo. It's not all great but the loping beat makes it at least consistent so there's a familiar lilt to the whole thing. "Cumbia satanica" by El Malo is one standout for me, and Hector Guerra's "Libre de Apegos (Free of addictions)" which has a reggaeton beat, another. It goes out with a "rich and cheesy" sound, according to the compiler, but overall it's good value for (0) money.


I played the new Bonga album while I was working. It was pleasant, a lot like his other work of course, since it's his zillionth (or 32nd) release. Then it ended and I left the room; when I came back I was humming "St James' Infirmary Blues." Now I often get earworms from what I have listened to, so I put the last track, "Marikota," on again and sure enough, it's that old folk chestnut, which perhaps dates back to 17th century England. This new album is called, in English, Messages from Outside , and we can imagine it refers to the long struggle of Angola for independence, to break out of its confining civil war, which has occupied half of the 74-year-old exile singer's life. There's a dose of "saudade" in the opening cut, "Agua raz," (think Cesaria Evora with more facial hair), but we also hear a classic Argentine tango in "Banza Rémy." Bonga lived in Europe for 30 years, which protected him from the conflict, but also allowed him to beam back messages of protest, admonishing the government to allow free expression and also calling for unification. Most of the songs are in the lively "Semba" style, a buckle-rubbing percolating chug, contrasting with the world-weary voice of the singer.


Bollywood Brass are back and firing on all cylinders in their latest foray into the exciting world of Indian film music. This time out they add as guest Jyotsna Srikanth, known as Europe's leading Indian classical violinist -- an exponent of the South Indian or Carnatic style from her native Bangalore. I know many of these tunes from the instantly recognizable "Jai ho" to "Kehta Hai Mehra Dil" (from Jeans), to "Kehna Hi Kya" from Mani Ratnam's blockbuster Bombay (which was made in Tamil then dubbed into Hindi, then also into Telugu). "Kehna Hi Kya" is another A.R. Rahman composition, and one of the stand-out tracks on BBB's debut album, as well as a special "Punjabi" disco mix therein. On this album, the violin makes a good counterpoint to the smooth brass of the trumpet and trombone. The addition of Srikanth's violin to "Kehna hi kya" is a fine touch. I recognize the tune "Rakkamma Kaiya Thattu" but googling doesn't jog my memory. "Rakkamma" comes from a South Indian film called Thalapathi which I don't know, but it looks like fun. A remarkable departure for BBB on this outing is that they have composed new music for a film. Some of the wonderful early Bollywood films have very thin soundtracks on them, despite utilizing full orchestras at the time. Sahra Moore and Kay Charlton of BBB have scored two climatic scenes from the 1948 Chandralekha, and uploaded it to YouTube for your approval. Since Bollywood producers have not commissioned them yet, despite my earnest suggestion, they took the obvious step of showing the world what they are capable of. Maybe the San Francisco Film Festival can bring them to perform. I've seen The Golem with Club Foot Orchestra, Man with a Movie Camera accompanied by Alloy Orchestra, Dengue Fever playing along with The Lost World, and other classics. BBB with this epic would be a great attraction. As ever the dhol drums (the opposite of the doldrums) keep things from going on the nod, and we get some rave-ups in these tunes. The violin adds gold filigree to the finely woven fabric. The album ends, in BBB tradition, with four disco remixes.

MADJAFALAO (Because Music BEC5156646[CD] 5156647 [LP])

Like Orchestre Baobab, Le Tout-Puissant Orchestre Poly-Rythmo are survivors. I know they say the good die young, but Poly-Rythmo are back in force and presumably enjoying being out of retirement. Brazzaville's Bantous de la Capitale made a brief comeback a couple of years ago, playing a gig or two in Europe, but their triumphant return was not to be. By now, all fans of African music know the story of Poly-Rythmo, who spear-headed the Afro Funk movement in the early 1970s. Based in Benin, they grew to rival Nigeria's Fela Kuti, incorporating traditional Beninois music (the roots of Voudou) with American soul and funk, Afro-Cuban sounds and the popular music of their neighbors in Congo, Ghana and Nigeria. They virtually lived on stage, backing all touring artists as well as accompanying most national singers in the studio. But in the early 8os, after the deaths of key members, and a harsh economic downturn in Benin under a military dictator they were forced into retirement. In 2003 Günter Gretz issued most of three albums by them on a CD in his now-legendary "Reminiscin' in Tempo" series (Popular African Music adc306); the following year Miles Cleret of Soundway issued his compilation, Kings of Benin Urban Groove. Determined to collect as much of their music as possible, Samy Ben Redjeb (an undercover superhero record collector masquerading as a Lufthansa flight attendant) went on the hunt, putting out three of their albums on his Analog Africa label: The First Album (1973), The Vodoun Effect and Echos Hypnotiques. Furthermore, Ben Redjeb put additional tracks on African Scream Contest (2008), and Legends of Benin (2009), so that in six short years a mass of their great music was suddenly available. Here was a band that, in their own way, were as important and almost as prolific as the other "T.P." group, OK Jazz of Franco. Samy's dream of reuniting the band and bringing them to Europe was realized but I think he got stiffed on the deal and other producers stepped in to manage them. Strut issued their first new recording, Cotonou Club (2011) with guests like Franz Ferdinand incongruously stuck on there. Their founder, Mêlomê Clément, died the following year, but Poly-Rythmo decided to stick at it, and have now recorded a new album at home in the Satel Studio in Benin where most of their albums were cut. Powerful brass arrangements over their famous poly-rhythmic percussion underpin the vocals of Vincent Ahéhéhinnou and Loko Pierre, their original singers. Despite what you might expect from some veterans, this is young and vigorous music, full of snaky guitar, pounding drums and compelling grooves. (The CD has ten tracks; the LP has 8 tracks and costs twice as much -- your choice.)

JAMAL (Studio Mali Recordings)

Alkibar Junior sounds comforting to me as a member of the drinking classes, and their music has the familiar strains of Niafunké which is the funky roots music of Timbuktu, Mali. There's that lovely dissonant horsehair fiddle on here in counterpoint to the crisp acoustic guitar, which is played by Diadié Bocoum, younger brother of Afel Bocoum. Singer Sekou Touré was a member of Ali Farka Touré's entourage. When the jihadis invaded their land in 2012 many people fled but the band members remained at home, practicing secretly in their bedrooms while outwardly looking like collaborators: growing their beards and tending their rice paddies. Like other recent traditional Malian music, post-Ali Farka, there are strong elements of rock and blues, especially when trap drums kick in. Jamal is a collection of praise songs for the various individuals who kept the community together during the past few years of hardship. To reinforce their ranks the band brought in the other members of Ali Farka Touré's band for support and a strong guest list, including Afel Bocoum (who produced), Mamadou Kelly, Hamma Sankaré, and Yoro Cissé; Leila Gobi and Ami Wassidje come in on backing vocals (names that will be familiar from the best albums issued recently by Akwaaba, Clermont, and so on), plus the great Zoumana Tereta who has played sokou (horsehair fiddle) on Bassekou Kouyaté's albums, also appears. I don't think it is hype to say this is destined to become a Malian classic.

MELOKAANE (Pump Up the World)

This album has been in my inbox for a while. I almost rejected it for trying too hard, as it is all over the map, musically speaking, but came back to it, and, after deselecting one track and ignoring some aspects of others, I am beginning to think it's pretty impressive. First though is the artist's name, Elage, which I think is a different way of spelling "El Hadj," meaning a Muslim pilgrim. Is this a sleight of tongue to disguise his spiritual affiliation, or am I over-interpreting? The title Melokáane means "reflection of a life's journey" in Wolof, so that explains why there were so many styles on here. Just as if you asked me to play a set that typified who I was, you'd get Bach, Monk, the Who, Carleton & the Shoes, Gershwin and Harry Warren, as well as the music you see me writing about on here. So it's fair to say that if he is presenting a self-portrait he is not going to present a unified concept album (Aside, do you know what the first concept album was? Give up? In the Wee Small Hours by Frank Sinatra, Capitol, 1955). So, the informing concept behind this album is a Wolof proverb: "You are everything you are not, until you finally become who you truly are." That's a fine idea and explains why he is aspiring to the Peter Gabriel and Youssou Ndour level on one hand and the rootical African who turns his back on the allurements of Western arena rock on the other. He is trying it on. Both those artists I mentioned are present in spirit: he covers Gabriel's "Secret World" in Wolof, and not only sings like Youssou when he tries, but has Youssou's great guitarist "Jimmy" Mamadou Mbaye on "Sankara," a song about the fallen African leader. There is an mbalax feel to the percussion, which gets rolling on the title cut. I had to delete the next track "Just one day" featuring Johnny Reid who is paradoxically described as a "Canadian superstar" -- yes, I have heard of Justin Bieber and Celine Dion, but really! (I googled "Canadian superstar Johnny Reid" and found he recently held an exclusive bottle signing event at the Liquor Mart in Winnipeg.) OK, better off without. I have no idea who Jordan Officer is, but he adds a Howlin Wolf skirl to the guitar on "Tay" which is the best track on here. We press on, past the Gabriel cover, and come to a reggae track "Probleme yi" which is gratuitous, followed by an effort to do something more uptempo with Black Ark dub effects, but featuring over-miked drums and an inept keyboard which starts to go into a montuno when they cut the tape. Speedy mbalax helps him climb out of the hole he has dug with the dance track "Sai sai." He goes out in grand style (the "full Gabriel" with synths and choirs on echo) on "Dekoulo Fi" about an immigrant being deported, despite his best efforts, his dream is shattered. If this album was an EP of only the first four tracks, it would be a gem.

most recent reviews:

(click on maps at the top of the page to get to continent of choice)

November 2016

Kenya-Congo Connection is filed in Congo part 3
Locos por Juana Caribe is filed under Colombia
Pat Thomas Coming Home is found in Ghana
Kimi Djabaté from Guinea-Bissau may be found in the Angola & Cabo section
while Dawda Jobarteh from Gambia has gone to Misc Africa
Memorias de Africa comp is in the Angola & Cabo section
Elza Soares in in Brasil part 2
Rough Guide to Delta Blues is in the Blues section
Studio One Radio Show is filed in Jamaica part 3

October 2016

Alsarah & the Nubatones' Manara and
Noura Mint Seymali's Arbina are filed under Arabia because I am too lazy to create sub-categories for Nubia, Mauretania, etc
Kenya Special vol 2 and Urgent Jumping are both filed in Kenya part 2
Ravi Shankar live in Hollywood is filed in India
Family Atlantica can be found under Old World Miscellany
Kottarashky & Rain Dogs' latest can be read about in the Balkan section

September 2016

Changüí Majadero's debut
& Harold López-Nussa's El Viaje can be found in Cuba part 4
Richard Bona, from Cameroun, can be read about in the African Miscellany section
Paulo Flores of Angola and
Bitori's Legend of Funana are filed in Angola and Cabo Verde
Luísa Maita and
Metá Metá both have new discs, reviewed in Brasil part 2

August 2016

Malawi Grooves and Kankobela of the Batonga are now in the Hugh Tracey section
Systema Solar's reissue is discussed in Colombia
San Lazaro moved to Salsa (which is filed in USA, though they are from Australia)
also puzzling, where to put Americans
Money Chicha, who can be found in Peru
on surer ground,
Mamadou Barry's Tankadi is filed in Guinea
& read about Vieux Kanté in Mali part 2

July 2016

Konono no 1 meets Batida is filed in Congo part 3
Fanfare Ciocarlia's 20 went to Gypsy Brass
find Black Disco in Southern Africa
Joe Mensah is in Ghana
Dona Onete can be found in Brasil part 2
the Rough Guide to Ethiopian Jazz is filed in Ethiopia & Somalia

June 2016

Tanbou Toujou Lou: Haiti 1960-81 is filed under Haiti
Antilles Cheries is filed under Caribbean misc
Fela Ransome Kuti & his Koola Lobitos' Highlife Jazz & Soul is filed in Nigeria part 2
Siama Matuzungidi's Rivers is filed in Congo part 3
Music of Morocco, recorded by Paul Bowles is filed under Arabia

May 2016

read about Djelimady Tounkara's latest in Mali part 2
Tribu Baharu's Pa'l mas exigente bailador is in Colombia
Basel Rajoub's Queen of Turquoise is filed in Arabia
my Papa Wemba obit is filed under Congo part 3

April 2016

Robi Svard is filed in Spain
Los Hacheros can be found in Salsa
Elaides Ochoa's latest is in Cuba part 4
Cortijo can be found in Salsa
Fanfare Ciocarlia are found in Gypsy Brass

March 2016

Osei Korankye is filed under Ghana
Dengue Fever's The Deepest Lake can be found in "Asia"
Gambari Band's Kokuma
and Waati Sera by Adama Yalomba are filed in Mali part 2
The Rough Guide to South African Jazz can be read about in Southern Africa
Ram, Lakou Mizik and Wesli are all Haitian artists, so read about them in that section
The Rough Guide to a World of Psychedelia can be found in old world miscellany
Sidestepper's Supernatural Love is reviewed in the Colombia tab
Not sure where to file Sol Sok Sega from Mauritius, I guess Old World misc for now

February 2016

Mbaraka Mwinshehe & Super Volcano's Masika 1972-4 is filed under Kenya/Tanzania part 2
Sahra Halgan Trio can be found in the Arabic tab
Siba's De Baile Solto and Daniela Mercury's Vinil Virtual are both found in Brasil part 2
Rough Guide to Bottleneck Blues is filed under Blues in the New World

Top 15 of 2015 is HERE.

My Top Ten of 2014 can be found HERE.

My Top 12 of 2013, with best reissues, etc, is online HERE.

My Top Twelve of 2012 is HERE.

My Top Ten of 2011 can be found HERE.

My Top 9 of 2010 is online HERE

Click HERE for my top 10 of 2009

Click HERE for my top 9 of 2008

Click HERE for my top 10 of 2007

Click HERE for my top 11 of 2006


"Essential reference guide to the Congo guitar king" -- SONGLINES 64 **** (four stars)
"I do not know anybody who has such immense knowledge of African music. Congratulations." -- Gerhard G (a purchaser)

BACK IN PRINT (Second edition, November 2012)

By Alastair Johnston

Poltroon Press, 2012, expanded to 88 pages; list price $19.95.
Available now. Click here for details.



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