I don’t think there’s a better record label dealing in vintage African music these days than Analog Africa, which has uncovered, annotated, and beautifully packaged a load of excellent, usually funky sounds from the 70s created in Ghana, Benin, Angola, and Togo, among other locales (to say nothing of the label’s more recent excursions into Colombia and Brazil). I interviewed label owner Samy Ben Redjeb for a piece I wrote for the Reader six years ago and at the time he lamented that the market kind of forced him to focus on the funky side of his expert crate digging—in general, record buyers weren’t as enthusiastic about subtler, more traditional sounds. “People just want the funky stuff,” he told me. “I love funk, but I want people to understand the other stuff, too.”
On December 9 the label is releasing a superb compilation of tracks produced in the Congolese city of Kinshasa by Georges Mateta Kiamuangana, better known as Verckys: an important and sublimely talented saxophonist in Franco Luambo’s mighty OK Jazz and the leader of his own juggernaut L’Orchestre Vévé. As the title Congolese Funk, Afrobeat, and Psychedelic Rumba 1969-1978 suggests, the 11-track selection covers a wide stylistic range for an artist known primarily for the last of the three genres mentioned in the title. But Congolese rumba isn’t one of the styles that seems to appeal to funk-loving collectors, which is why the collection includes bits of funk and Afrobeat, both essentially outliers in the work of Verckys (even if they were utterly irresistible). Today’s 12 O’Clock Track is one such example of that funky stuff: “Cheka Sana” is a heady dose of raw funk with killer bass and snazzy horn charts. But the best bits on the album serve up extended heaps of Congolese rumba: the liquid, kinetic music that reclaimed African rhythms that had been transformed in Cuba by slaves, and also replaced rumba’s distinctively Caribbean piano montunos with guitars.