JAAKO LAITINEN & VÄÄRÄ RAHA
NÄENNÄINEN (Musilikin edistämissäätiö/Playground Music)
The fourth album from these gypsy Finns will wake you up with a jolt. For a decade now Jaako and Väärä Raha have been tearing up the dancefloors with their mix of Balkan Roma music, Russian romances and old Finnish tango and humppa. To their line-up of accordion, trumpet, bouzouki, double bass and drums, they have added a couple of guests: Macedonian Dane Bjonco Stosic on clarinet and Morgan Nikolay, a Berlin-based balalaika plucker. In addition violin and percussion as well as other guests pop up as the need arises. I am not sure where the "hippie" graphics on the cover come from though I suspect we will see a lot more of it this anniversary year (1967 was the original "Summer of Love"). While adhering to the forms of old tunes, the band infuses them with new life and new lyrics. The best way to preview this is to check out the psychedelic video of the single "Naamioleikki."
WALI (Studio Nomade SNP2014-SD-01/1)
This is a 2014 recording which I've just discovered. It's one of those breathtaking discs which hits the ground at full speed and, if you are not ready, can knock you back. Sory plies the balafon, as well as djembe and back-up singing; "Petit Adama" Diarra plays guitar on three cuts and ngoni on another; Mariam "Baty" Kante is the main singer, with Fanta Camara leading on 4 tracks and singing back-up on the others; "Dartagnan" plays drumkit. There's kora, bass, electric guitar and then in the background some Frenchmen and Slovenians on keyboard, bass, horns and the like. The songs are all traditional, 3 to 5 minutes long, and packed with the classic sounds we love from Mali: the sweet choruses, plangent strings and above all the busy balafon bustling about recklessly and occasionally hitting the one with the kick drum or bass guitar to reassure us they are on the same page. I say traditional, but we also take into account the fact that montuno-style salsa piano has been adopted into the repertoire of West African music for at least half a century now. Carefully planned, right down to the packaging, well arranged and recorded: this is a real find.
Diama Ndiaye is Senegalese but has lived in Congo and elsewhere so there's a nice pan-African feel to her music which is also varied in styles and approach. She has been an actress, singer and dancer all her life, making her debut with the National Theatre of Senegal. Then she was a singer with the great Ouza and later Bira Guèye. On tour to Portugal in 1994 she left the Ballet Mansour and spent 8 years living there before moving to France. Following this she lived in the Democratic Republic of Congo before moving to Djibouti. The title means "He is lost" in Wolof, and is a song about street children which she encounters in African cities. She pleads with parents to care for their offspring. There is a degree of the big bombastic sound we associate with the early 80s Salif Keita albums, especially in her singing, but also some speedy soukous with accordion in "RDC-Senegal," where she sings loud and breathlessly like she is dancing with flailing arms while singing! Best of all are tracks like the title "Dafarèèr," which harken back to the sound of Ouza, with nice horn punctuation, simple rock instrumentation, and not too much of the synth strings. Otherwise she tends to get preachy which, even to a non-Wolof speaker, is a bit tedious.
IBRAHIMA CISSOKHO & LE MANDINGUE FOLY
YANFU (Studio Nomade SNP2016-IC-01/2)
Another tradition-based album of Manding music, this one with some French (?) musicians jamming on it. Senegal and Gambia are referenced in the songs. Cissokho is the leader, singing (in English on "Dinala setsi") and playing kora. The engine of the band is electric bass, Western drumkit and a Peul flute. Guests include some of the musicians from the Sory Diabate Wali session: Petit Adama Diarra on djembe and acoustic guitar or three tracks and Sory Diabaté on balafon on one cut. In addition the renowned Nigerian saxophonist Orlando Julius steps up for one song, "Senegal", which aspires to funk, and Khadim Sene contributes sabar, which is a variable pitch or talking drum. Guillaume Lavergne's keyboards add sonic washes (including literally ocean sounds) which lend atmosphere without being overwhelming. The kora also uses electronic pedals for stereo and reverb which is a bit overdone on "Manduleen." The Peul flute is an acquired taste: fans of Jethro Tull will probably dig the "yelling and gasping into the mouth-hole" aspect. It's balanced between mbalax and rock but interesting to see where traditional music is headed.
A Movie by Remi Vaughan-Richards (Singing Tree Films)
This is a movie about culture, about vanishing music and the importance of trying to preserve it. Those of us who collect African music know how hard it is to find certain things that seem crucial, and it takes a lot of work, and education, to get to the point where you can identify those things that are important. Of course we see this in every culture: Africando, the african salseros; Buena Vista Social Club, the Cuban old timers, are found and paraded before us, and then what happens? They get a taste of recognition and then shuffle off the mortal coil.
--Faaji Agba are dropping.
--That's the idea, searching for them, looking for them to play, for them to teach us...
Remi Vaughan-Richards spent five years on this film, so you see the story of this group of Nigerian veterans unfold and indeed death comes into the picture also. But before then they get to enjoy another moment in the spotlight. Fatai Rolling Dollar is most famous because of his unusual name, but the others have distinguished pedigrees. The group was the brainchild of Kunle Tejuoso, owner of Lagos' famous book and record emporium, Jazzhole Records. He put in a recording studio to his shop and invited more and more of the old-timers to come and jam. Pretty soon he had a great band of elders with some younger talents joining in. Faaji is a style of Yoruba music, like Highlife, Juju or Afrobeat, that appealed to the entrepreneur. "Don't kill me with 'toy' music," sings Dollar. Tejuoso admits he was not particularly interested in the Afrobeat revival which is why he overlooked most of the musicians associated with Fela that were still around, although he does have a former Fela sax-player in the group, Eji Oyewole, who talks about the violence surrounding the military raids on Fela's compound. We meet artists like singer-songwriter Sina Abiodun Bakare, Alaba Pedro and S.F. Olowookere (undoubtedly a major influence on early Nigerian music, though I had never heard of him). But it was not just a question of getting them off the street and into the studio, but getting them to work as a group, to feel the vibe, and believe in themselves. They were no longer the young delinquents who had scandalized the town in the 40s with their songs. They still had chops, some of them, but needed to come together as a group with one leader (though each had been a bandleader in his day). This dynamic is one of the most interesting parts of the film, as well as the mix of styles it presents. The five-year journey culminates in a 2011 trip to New York to perform, but this is beset with more deaths and denied visas. This is a fascinating and well-crafted documentary that I will return to.
most recent reviews:
(click on maps at the top of the page to get to continent of choice)
Palenque Records AfroColombia mix is filed under Colombia part 2
Jinja by The Nile Project is filed in Arabic music
Djime Sissoko's Djama Djigui went to Mali part 3
The Rough Guide to Hillbilly Blues is reviewed in the Blues section
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 3, as well as the Top Ten of 2016
Elage Diouf's Melokaane is filed under Senegal part 2
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
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
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
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
MY BEST-SELLING BOOK!
"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)
A DISCOGRAPHY OF DOCTEUR NICO
Poltroon Press, 2012, expanded to 88 pages; list price $19.95.
By Alastair Johnston
Available now. Click here for details.
all of the writing on this site is copyright © 2004-2017 by alastair m. johnston
Your comments are welcome. Or join the discussion on facebook
If you are not already a subscriber, send me an e-mail to be notified of updates. Please note none of the music discussed on the site is for sale by me. You can reach me at contact[at-sign]muzikifan[dot]com
muzikifan by alastair m. johnston is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at www.muzikifan.com.