To follow up on yesterday’s post, here are three more superb 2007 reissues of African music.
Alèmayèhu Eshèté: Ethiopiques 22—More Vintage! (Buda)
Yet another mother lode of killer sides from this legendary Ethiopian singer, who’s previously turned up in the Ethiopiques series on four compilations and one full CD. This disc collects his output for the Philips label between February 1972 and April 1974, when the golden age of modern Ethiopian music came to end with the ascendancy of the brutal Mengistu regime. All of the 18 selections were arranged by keyboardist Girma Bèyènè, one of the unheralded giants of the age, and Eshèté never sounds less than authoritative, whether singing tense ballads or shouting over hard-rocking funk workouts–he sings as soulfully as anyone in the country, pushing his voice into all kinds of shapes.
Moussa Doumbia: Keleya (Oriki Music)
I heard a tune by this Malian saxophonist and bandleader a few years ago on the excellent Luaka Bop comp Love’s a Real Thing: The Funky Fuzzy Sounds of West Africa, and this slamming CD delivers on the promise of that lone track. Doumbia played stripped-down, super-raw Afrobeat, and these recordings routinely push the needles into the red. The way he declaims, shouts, and screams makes James Brown sound polite, and next to his saxophone playing, Fela’s honking sounds like Pete Fountain–it ain’t exactly Ayler-esque, but Doumbia pushes rattling split tones into the instrument’s highest register. He cut most of these tracks after moving to Abidjan, the capital of the Ivory Coast, around 1974, when the city was one of the continent’s hottest recording centers. Many were released as singles by a French-owned label, but they didn’t make much of a splash, probably because of the rough sound quality and rather unpolished band. Ultimately this stuff is just a footnote in the history of African music, but it’s as hard and funky as anything I heard last year.
Various artists: Àwon Ojísé Olorun: Popular Music in Yorubaland 1931-1952 (Savannahphone)
This compilation surveys the musical activity of the Yoruba, the dominant ethnic group in the stretch of West Africa from Benin up thought Nigeria, including parts of Ghana and Togo. It isn’t really pop, at least according to the definition I laid out yesterday, but the music is a sort of bridge between ancient traditions and the early manifestations of popular styles like highlife and the juju of King Sunny Adé. Most of it is stripped down, with voice and percussion dominating, and I knew none of the artists beforehand, but the compilation packs a real wallop.
Quarteto Em Cy, Em Cy Maior (Elenco, Japan)
Jenny Hoyston, Isle Of (Southern)
Russ Lossing, Mat Maneri, and Mark Dresser, Metal Rat (Clean Feed)
Tom James Scott, Red Deer (Bo’ Weavil)
Al Cohn/Bill Perkins/Richie Kamuca, The Brothers! (Mosaic/RCA)