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OLD WORLD (Asia, Arabia, Europe)

Updated 1 July 2016

The muzikifan podcast has been updated with a midsummer mix, featuring Money Chicha, Viceroys, John Holt, Bana Ngenge, Bembeya Jazz National, Bo Diddley & others

Video distraction

When life gets you down, try this loving tribute to Guanajuato by Yaxeni and Ricardo a.k.a.
Los Luzeros de Rioverde (she's only 9 and plays accordion, he is only 6 and plays bajo
); and the first single "The Descendant" from their forthcoming album, about immigration.
Watch out Trump (aka Cheeto Jesus), they are here to stay.
If you speak Spanish, here they explain why they felt those facing deportation needed a voice.

Greetings, Platterbugs!


Les Mangelepa are on a European tour :
1 July Brussel Recyclart - Brussels, Belgium
2 July Amsterdam Roots - Amsterdam, Netherlands
3 July Hertme Afrika Festival - Hertme, Netherlands
6 July Berlin Urban Spree - Berlin, Germany
7 July Pardon - Warsaw, Poland
10 July Lausanne Festival de La Cité - Lausanne, Switzerland
11 July Geneve Ecoutes Au Vert - Geneva, Switzerland

King Sunny Ade North American tour: skipping the Bay Area, the curse of Bill Graham Productions lives on?
3 July free concert in New York City
18 July Millennium Park, Chicago, IL
20 July Cedar Cultural Center - Global Roots, Minneapolis, MN
5 Aug Pendarvis Farm, Happy Valley, OR
9 Aug Star Theater, Portland, OR
14 Aug The Regent Theater, Los Angeles, CA
15 Aug Music Theater, Musical Instrument Museum, Phoenix, AZ

From Haiti, Lakou Mizik are still on the road:
Jul 08 Future Routes, Toronto, Canada
Jul 13 Ohio City Stages Summer Series, Cleveland, OH
Jul 14 Nectar Lounge, Seattle, WA
Jul 15 Vancouver Folk Festival, Vancouver, Canada
Jul 21 WOW Hall, Eugene, OR
Jul 22 Alberta Rose Theatre, Portland, OR
Jul 30 Festival of Fools, Burlington, VT
Jul 31 Festival Haiti en Folie, Montreal, Canada

Brasil festival at the Horniman Museum London, with Dona Onete (reviewed below) and others performing free on July 3


Excellent interview (with samples) with Samy Ben Redjeb of Analog Africa records talking music and projects

Free event in LA: "Turntables and Traditional Music: Exploring Multiculturalism through Vinyl Records." Join us for some light refreshments, a lively discussion and an "all-vinyl" sharing event. Bring your favorite record to share! with Glenn Red (AfroFunké/Ecléctica/La Junta), Rani D (Soul in the Park/Radio Afrique), Arshia Haq (Discostan), Reyes (Ecléctica/Trópico de Nopal) on July 14, 7 pm at Trópico de Nopal Gallery Art-Space, 1665 Beverly Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90026

End of days

We don't want to have a permanent Obit column on here, but it's getting inevitable. In June Amjad, one of the Sabri Brothers was murdered by Wahabi-backed talib gunmen in Pakistan. (In case you need a reminder the Taliban are backed by our good friends the Saudis, to whom we keep giving armaments.)
Still, we will celebrate the birthdays of Dr Nico (July 5) and Franco (July 6) in the first week of July, as always.

CONGOTRONICS 6 (Crammed Disc CRAM261P)

After the disastrous Mbongwana Star album I approached this new release from Konono Numero Un with trepidation, after all it has that subtitle "Meets Batida," and who is this Batida whose name means to beat, rap, knock or slam? -- A deejay and producer on the Lisbon scene, so I feared another clash of cultures and a clutter of drum programs and samples over some pure likembe riffs. But I am relieved and happy to report the result is a delight. Batida is the stage name of an Angolan, Pedro Coquenão, who adds tasteful touches of electronica and brings in a couple of his Lisboan pals to toast and sing, but is fully connected to the Angolan-Congolese bridge evident in the Bazombo music they share. Angola borders the Namibian deserts and swamps to the South, Congo to the East and Brazil to the West. The borders of course were erected in Colonial times regardless of the peoples who might be divided by them. The Bakongo lived on both sides but during the Angolan war of independence and subsequent civil war many fled to Congo and then after peace many fled back when the Congo started falling apart. Then of course there's a tradition of migrant workers so we have famous Congolese musicians like Sam Mangwana and Ricardo Lemvo who are of Angolan extraction. But Konono have upset conventional notions of what Congolese music sounds like: critics can't decide whether to compare them to German bands like Can, Einstürzende Neubauten or Kraftwerk, to acid house or to Lee Perry. Whatever it is they have, they have it aplenty, even if critics may call it "sophisticated brutality." They have also recorded with Björk ("Earth Intruders"), Juana Molina and Herbie Hancock. Vincent Kenis the guiding force behind the essential Congotronics series is a Belgian musician who heard them on the famous double cassette put out by OCORA in 1986, Musiques urbains à Kinshasa (It was too long for an LP so appeared on two cassettes; even when OCORA put it on CD they had to edit it, unfortunately). When he arrived in Kinshasa in 1989, Kenis was invited to play keyboards in Koffi Olomide's Quartier Latin, which was the most in-demand band of the day. He has also performed on Papa Wemba and even Franco & OK Jazz albums. Kenis spent his spare time trying to track down the electrified folk music, or musique tradi-moderne that he loved. It took him two years but he found them, and then presented Staff Benda Bilili, Kasai All Stars and the Karindula Sessions to our music collections, much to our collective delight. After a European tour, Batida invited the band to his garage-turned-studio in Lisbon. He started playing dikanza, a big Angolan guiro, and after half an hour of repetition keeled over on the floor, as the band cracked up. After a few rehearsals they did a couple of live shows then returned to the garage studio to record this loose and lively session. It is not over-produced, but captures the direct trancelike mood of great likembe music.

20 (Asphalt-Tango LP-ATR 5316)

Fanfare Ciocarlia, the Balkan gypsy brass monsters, present a smashing compilation from their many albums to celebrate their two decades in the spotlight. You may have missed their earliest releases Radio Pascani, and Baro Biao, which were on the Piranha label. They are sampled here, and this set also draws from their live album and Balkan Brass Battle as well as including one previously unreleased track as a closer. The only thing missing is their goofy cover of "Born to be Wild," which was on the Borat soundtrack. I wish they'd used it instead of "I put a spell on you," from their last release Onward to Mars! Their career was launched in the mid-90s at the height of the CD era and so they have not appeared on vinyl before. This two LP set throws down 90 minutes of intense churning grooves, with those fine moments when they stop on a zloty and the silence pulsates for a split second before they launch back in with all horns blaring. Drawing from their repertoire the group has selected tunes around four themes, one for each side, that are "Roots" (their beginnings as a village brass band), "Orient" (their Eastern-leaning recordings), "Jams" (their funkiest club tracks) and "Amigos" (showcasing their collaborations with Esma Redzepova, Boban Markovic, Dan Armeanca, and others). It's a fantastic collection: from the first notes of "Besh o drom" you know Nino Rota is listening to them from Heaven with Bartok, Kodály and Dvorak adjusting their collars nervously. My favorite side is "Orient" which draws 6 cuts from 5 albums and is a fine sequence. Highlights of this side include "Foxtrot" with their late clarinetist Ioan Ivancea (who died in 2006 and has not been replaced). "Jams" has the tunes you recognize, from the James Bond theme to Ellington's "Caravan," Gershwin's "Summertime" (from their Live album, sounding very N'orlins) and "Moliendo Cafe" By Eddie Palmieri. There is one inexplicable number in this set: "I'm your gummy bear," which I found on YouTube and I strongly advise you against going looking for it. "Amigos" which is mostly drawn from Kings & Queens has all the guest acts, including Saban Bajramovic singing "Ma Maren Ma" with one of the four trumpeters adding a poignant mute, and the closer with Socalled (no relation, I don't think, to Socalled Islamic State, but he should change his name pronto) and Kottarashky & the Rain Dogs, which I would have left off. As I said in my review of Kings & Queens they cast a wide net to embrace all the gypsies of the diaspora so there's flamenco guitar and Bollywood-sounding breakbeats ("Duj Duj"). Back to the start and their classic tracks like "Lume Lume," with its oceanic brass tides swelling, and the urgent telegram of "Hora De La Bucuresti" and their signature tune "Ciocarlia," which you may not know, demand repeat play.

NIGHT EXPRESS (Matsuli Music)

Matt Temple has a dream and that is to share his love of the classic albums of his youth in South Africa with the rest of the world. Through Matsuli Music he has published some incredible rare and near-forgotten treasures of Cape Town jazz and this latest is a real gem. Black Disco, despite their name, were a jazz group inspired by the Philly soul sounds of artists like Teddy Pendergrass and Timmy Thomas (not to mention the O'Jays ... OK, I won't mention the O'Jays). They are an instrumental group, primarily, with Yamaha organ to the fore. Because of censorship in those dark days of apartheid most groups didn't bother with vocalists and even then, song titles could get them in trouble. Black Disco had to abandon the original title of this 1976 album, "Black Discovery," and Sipho would joke, "Does this bass line feel colored enough?" Along with Abdullah Ibrahim, Chris MacGregor and others, Pops Mohamed was a key figure in the bridge between jive music and the American jazz popular in South Africa during the apartheid era. Even with my limited knowledge of South African music I can tell this is a stellar line-up: Basil "Mannenberg" Coetzee on tenor sax and flute and Sipho Gumede on bass. I don't know Peter Morake the drummer but he is solid, while the spotlight shines on Pops Mohamed on organ. This disc comes from the era of Soweto Soul and Bump Jive, as well as the progressive jazz espoused by Malombo, Batsumi (reissued on Matsuli) and Abdullah Ibrahim, but is much more akin to the sweet sounds of Marvin Gaye and a late-night laid-back groove. Side Two kicks off with a soulful cover of Edwin Hawkins' "Oh happy day," and circles around "Why can't we live together?" on the outstanding (beautiful, moving, etc) "Echo on the Delay." Considering the political upheavals going on outside Gallo studios, it's a very mellow album! There's also a joyous buoyant groove to "Supernatural love," and nary a slack track on the front or the back. Pressed in a small original release, and issued with little fanfare right before the Soweto uprising of 1976, this is a great find.

BANZEIRO (MaisUmDiscos)

How thrilling to have a new album from the great Brasilian songstress Dona Onete. I asked my Brasilian music expert what the name of her indigenous rhythm is, You know it, he replied, it's called Ska! It does indeed have that Specials quotient going on. Amazingly the 78 year old Dona (Ionete da Silveira Gama) does keep up with the band. Onete wrote ten of the dozen songs here which were recorded in Bethlehem (Pennsylvania). The title cut is in the Bhang rhythm (sic) apparently brought from Africa to the new world, but most of the other tunes are in bolero and carimbó rhythms according to one source. "Banzeiro" means wake, not in the funeral sense, but in the way boats send out ripples as they move in the tide; it's also the name of the barque in the lovely cover image. "Proposta indecente" -- I don't need to translate that for you -- has a wonderful tropical drum machine aesthetic (guiro, bongo and clave) with Farfisa which is nostalgic (for anyone who remembers rhythm settings on organs) but still seems a fresh approach to bolero -- or maybe this is the carimbó track! This must be great live. The same rhythm, reminiscent of morna music from Cabo Verde (especially with her raspy voice which echoes Cesária Evora) is employed for "Coração Brechó". Her careworn voice, in fact, also reminds me of the Jolly Boys' singer Albert Minott so it puts me in a good mood. (From July 5 the disc will be available for free listen or download from the Musical Natura website.)


Soundway, very considerately, reissued this rare album for record store day May 2016 on heavyweight vinyl. It is now out of print, but you can still get MP3 files of it to enjoy the crystal clear sounds of a classic Nigerian highlife album, originally put out by the Decca label in Lagos around 1975. There's little info about Joe on the net, other than he was a renowned highlife musician in the 50s and 60s and was first president of the Ghana Musicians Union. He performed with the Super Sweet Talks as well as Stargazers, Uhuru and Broadway Dance Bands. Also he studied at Juilliard in New York and broadcast a radio show from Columbia University. "Cry laughter" is clearly a case of close your eyes and imagine Miles in Africa, especially once the title track gets into its groove. Joe is on keyboard but his arrangements give a lot of room for the afrogroove to spread on guitar and percussion (I believe the backing band here is indeed the Super Sweet Talks which at that time would have included Solo Mensah on guitar, J. Y. Thorty on drums, Lord Sekyi on percussion, Ekow Tuyee on percussion, Prince Kelly on trumpet and Tex Kortley on saxes). Like many highlife albums of that era there's a long superb jam on the A-side, spanning 18 minutes, then two lesser tracks that are 8 or 9 minutes each on the B-side.


I know this genre has many fans. The Ethiopiques series on Buda has been growing for two decades now. In a recent interview Samy Ben Redjeb, the force behind the pathfinding Africa Analog label, said he was working on something Ethiopian, after meeting Alèmayèhu Eshèté, but the tracks he wanted ended up on Ethiopiques #28. Historians of the music say Armenians were sent there to train army musicians 40 years ago. Military and police bands were the source of the Ethiopian jazz movement. The pioneers include Mulatu Astatke who went to Wales to study engineering in the late 1950s but ended up getting involved in music instead, going on to Boston to study at Berklee College, where Quincy Jones, Jan Hammer, Juan Luis Guerra, Roy Hargrove and Donald Fagan also studied. Although most Ethiopian music is based on a pentatonic scale, Astatke found a diminished 12-tone scale among the Derashe people of Southern Ethiopia and wanted to foreground this in his music. By the late sixties Astatke was transforming the music scene in Addis with input from Gétatchèw Mekuria on saxophone. In 1973 Duke Ellington came to town with his orchestra and jammed with the locals. However only a year later a Soviet-backed military coup took over and imposed a curfew. It was not until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the failure of the Derg dictatorship in Addis that music re-emerged. In 1997 the Ethiopiques series was launched by Buda. I bought the first few then decided I didn't need 30 albums of exotic jazz, though no doubt some will say I have missed out on a great experience. (Liner notes include sentences like: "Mercifully we have not identified the alleged trumpet player," so you can guess what's in store in some of these tracks.) "Out jazz" I don't mind, but Out singing makes me edgy as manifest here on "Aykedashem Lebe" by Tlahoun Gessesse. Gabriella Ghermandi, on the other hand, sings like she listens to a lotta Lata Mangeshkar. (She has also published a novel in Italian.) Overall this is a fine introduction to the music, with some intriguing arrangements and the occasional shining talent on piano (Samuel Yirga), fiddle or sax. While Ethiopiques has put out a couple of samplers, this one takes three cuts from them and the other six are drawn from Daptone, Real World, Jazz Village and elsewhere.

most recent reviews:

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

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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