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OLD WORLD (inc Asia, Arabia)

African Discographies

Updated 2 January 2017 ... Happy New Year!

The muzikifan podcast is updated twice a month. The previous episode [below] was a round-up of 2016's best issues. The last half-dozen or so episodes are still on podomatic. (They are pressing me to accept advertising but I intend to keep it commercial free.)

Seasons Greetings, Platterbugs!


coming up at the Kanbar Center for the Performing Arts, 200 N San Pedro Rd. San Rafael, CA
Three Saturday Nights of Food / Live Music / Dancing
1/28 African Music with Baba Ken Okulolo & the West African Highlife Band
2/4 Colors of India
2/11 Mardi Gras Party
The great Poncho Sanchez makes a two-night stand at Yoshi's, Jack London Square, Oakland, Friday and Saturday, January 27 and 28
Also on the 28th John Santos Sextet appears at SF Jazz Miner Auditorium


Moriba Koita, virtuoso n'goni player from Mali, has reportedly passed away. His album on Cobalt, Sorotoumou, captured live in 1996, is well worth hearing

Prolific poet and novelist of the 50s and 60s, David Meltzer was a staunch supporter of my efforts here at Muzikifan. He grew up in New York, surrounded by Jewish comics (his dad was a writer on the Sgt Bilko show with Phil Silvers) and eccentric relatives. Moving to Los Angeles in the mid-fifties he met Wallace Berman (who published his first book of poetry The Clown) before moving to SF where he got involved in the tail-end of the Beat scene. He didn't appreciate Rexroth, Ferlinghetti and others' "poetry and jazz," he told me, because they simply read their poems to a jazz backing. His efforts, he said, included improvising poetry alongside the other instruments. With his wife Tina on vocals and poet Clark Coolidge on drums they started Serpent Power, a folk rock band in the Country Joe/Jefferson Airplane mode and recorded two albums for Vanguard, picked as among the 40 essential albums of 1967 by Rolling Stone. His real passion was jazz and he compiled two anthologies of writing on jazz as well as penning a poetic memoir of Lester Young, published by Black Sparrow Press. He so liked a little piece I wrote about Monk in Harlem he included it in anthology called Shuffle Boil. He always responded to my posts here and I will miss his generous and loving spirit. (AJ)


Perfect to get your juices flowing for your cardio workout; in fact you'd be hard pressed to listen to this sitting down. The Colombians have long cherished African music and it has become a mainstay of their sound systems, or picós. Like their Jamaican counterparts they are keen to get the rarest sides (blacking out the labels so rivals cannot find out what they have) and sample and loop and repeat the seben, stretching out the groove, overlaying it with drum patterns or other riffs for maximum dance floor impact. Much as I love my LPs I have moved into the CD then digital worlds, reluctantly. One bonus of the CD is the hour length so you are not constantly jumping up to turn over the album. This is only half an hour long, as it's an LP, which left me wanting more. Palenque has been a prime mover of the AfroColombia scene since the mid-1990s, having brought us Batata, Luis Towers, Mystic Orchestra and a bunch of other great stuff. Their motto is "We are the Real Motherfuckers of AfroColombian Music!" Champeta music grew out of the hybrid of African music with Colombian instruments such as marimba, and legendary Congolese musicians Diblo Dibala and Bopol Mansiamania have had residencies in Cartagena to add their licks to the tracks. To celebrate twenty years, Palenque invited "global bass" DJs from Europe and the Americas to remix tracks. It's very varied but also engaging. Soukous fans will love the lead-off track "Kumina" with Bopol and Son Palenque, remixed by the Dutchman Solo Moderna, with a lovely sax part. Son Palenque also provide the stunning "A Pila el Arroz" in the Ghetto Kumbé Afro Rework by a Colombian DJ. "Mini Kusuto" by Viviano Torres is the most trancelike track with echoey jungle sounds and even marimbas sounding spacey. There's a woman's voice whispering something that sounds to me like "Itsy bitsy spider" but I know that can't be right. A revelation I had listening to this is that there is a connection between pygmy flutes and Andean pan pipes, once the pan pipes looped on reverb come in, you hear that pygmy polyphony that is so mesmerizing. As Heraclitus said, "The hidden harmony is better than the obvious one."

JINJA (Self-published)

One of the unique things I have done in my life which few others will now get to experience is travel the length of the White Nile. I have to save the Blue Nile for another trip, though I did stand at the confluence of the two mighty rivers in Khartoum. This album is named for Jinja, the Ugandan city where the Nile leaves Lake Victoria and wends its way north through Lake Albert into the Sudd of Southern Sudan. The idea for the album came about with a summit of musicians from Nilotic countries -- Burundi, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan and Uganda (Burundi and Rwanda got in there because their rivers feed into Lake Victoria) -- in 2013, which led to a live album called Aswan. The group holds an annual two-week summit and out of the most recent produced this album of ten original compositions showcasing the different styles of the region, leaning heavily on the Ethio-jazz sound. In addition the 35-member strong collective is now engaged in water activism and using their music to inform their communities about facing challenges collectively. To this end they also invite diplomats from the African Union and UN to their events. "Omwiga" starts with a traditional Ugandan instrument but then a big band reminiscent of Oum Kalthoum's orchestra comes in, then it turns into a riotous jam. The dark "Tenseo" also evolves gradually and unwinds majestically, rather like the river. A strong set that rewards repeat listening.

DJAMA DJIGUI (Ben BD Production Interntional)

He's called King of the Djely Ngoni and with a name like Jimi you can expect some instrumental pyrotechnics on here. There' a guest artist (presumably the singer) named Fea. Other than that I have no info on this release except a 2016 date. There's typical Malian instrumentation: sokou (horsehair fiddle) played, I assume, by the great Zoumana Tereta, slapped calabash and Sissoko ripping out the riffs on his small ax. The lead cut, "Nama" winds up and up and in the last minute an electric guitar on fuzztone setting starts blazing to push it that bit further into the eaves. There are two talking drums dueling on the second cut (I believe Djimé is on one of them) and the fuzztone guitar returns on "Massani Cissé" but it's clear the Ngoni is the lead instrument. On "Badjourou" he brings in kora, could it be Ballaké Sissoko? I didn't get any info with this but a web search reveals Djimé is the younger brother of Baba Sissoko, a famous tamani drummer. The drum solos make a nice counterpoint to the instrumental work as well as the variations between the traditional instruments showcased here.


"Race" music was an African-American form aimed at the "black market" in the 1920s, but also garnering fans among white listeners, and just as with rap and hip hop later the inevitable happened: white imitators cottoned on. But white hillbilly musicians, sharecroppers and coal miners, already identified with the struggle in black music and there was an exchange of songs and musical ideas (everyone is black down a coal pit, after all). Listening to this disc it's clear white men can sing the blues: Larry Hensley rips into Blind Lemon Jefferson's "Match Box Blues"; Bayless Blues (race unknown), who was on RG2Bottleneck Blues, renders a jamming "Black Dog Blues." Country duo Darby & Tarleton return from that great compilation also. This is another excellent set from Rough Guide and they keep expanding our knowledge of the regional and stylistic varieties of this form. There are a couple of familiar titles on here ("Stackalee"; "If the river was whiskey"; "Buck dancer's choice") but in versions I didn't know. Dick Justice's uplifting "Cocaine" was anthologized decades ago on various dope madness compilations. Tom Ashley's "Haunted Road Blues" ("I'm worried now but I wont be worried long") even prefigures Hank Williams Jr in an oblique way. You don't need to hear Chris Bouchillon's "Born in Hard luck" more than once -- he plays well but his jive patter is tiresome. Nevertheless there are plenty of gems on here: "Blue Grass Twist" by the South Georgia Highballers has virtuoso guitar. And let's not forget the effect of Jimmie Rodger's yodelling on some Kipsigi girls in Kenya in 1952. When Hugh Tracey played it to them they declared he must be a faun: half-man and half antelope. Such is the mythical power of music. Another dense and rich slice of blues compiled by Neil Record.

most recent reviews:

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

December 2016

Trio Mandili are filed in Old World miscellany
Bollywood Brass Band's Carnatic Connection is filed in Music of Bollywood part 2
Oro Negro are from Colombia
Bonga is filed in Angola, Cabo Verde etc
TP Orch Poly-Rythmo's Madjafalao can be discovered in Benin
Alikibar Junior is in Mali part 2, as well as the Top Ten of 2016
Elage Diouf's Melokaane is filed under Senegal part 2

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

The Top 16 of 2016 is HERE

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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muzikifan by alastair m. johnston is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
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