CK & The Beat Merchants - Nii me ba
The only album by CK Ladzekpo and the Beat Merchants, released in 1986 in California, was among the first batch of African records being marketed as ‘world music’ or ‘world music’ as the liner notes call it. Most songs are 80s American pop soul with a heavy influence of Ghanaian music, with ‘Nii me ba’ being the standout track. Nigerian Joni Haastrup, who recently got due credit as his Monomono albums were reissued, is heard on backing vocals.
Tchoum - African Woman Cry
This forgotten gem resurfaced recently in the attic of a French-African music label, where a box of sealed copies found its way into the hands of a new generation of young European vinyl collectors - possibly the same guys that fought over last year's 300 copies only reissue of William Onyeabor’s holy grail Afro synth album ‘Good name’ (two months later, the 'limited' edition was released again in a run of several thousand copies for half the price, such is the tragedy of record collecting)
Wally Badarou - One day won't give it away
The Benin-born world citizen is a legend for his work with Level 42, Grace Jones, Mick Jagger and many more, but his mid 80s solo output was huge in Nigeria and other African countries, especially the song 'Hi-life’ which was recently sampled by Nigerian Afrobeats star J Martins. His first album ‘Back to scales to-night’ from 1981 is little known, though it has at least two big tunes that reveal his trademark keyboard sound which he introduced to Level 42 the next year.
Kassiry - Kou Douw
Ivorian artist Keke Kassiry was one of a handful of artists produced by Spanish fashion designer Paco Rabanne, well known for the fragrances that carry his name. Other artists on the Paco Rabanne Design label included disco group M’bamina but Kassiry was most prolifient. Upon his return to Ivory Coast it was rumoured that Kassiry would have had a relationship with Rabanne, though the artist denied it.
Contact - Don't be a fool
Kassav’, the French-Antilles origin band based in Paris that brought the zouk sound to an international audience, released their first album in 1979. A small label in USA released the album on that side of the ocean, but with two remixed songs in which the lead vocal was in English instead of French. Those songs were also released in France but under a different name on this obscure single.
Alan Cosmos and his Bam-baara Soundz - Yebi/Fontonfrom
Obscure German release from the mid 80s that may have spent the last 30 years waiting in the discount section of the record store it was found in, despite its outrageous cover with Alan carrying a key tar (keyboard guitar) and the long list of vintage electronics used on the album, including the Linn drum (5000$ at the time), Yamaha DX7, Roland Juno and the Korg Polysix. Alan Cosmos is a Ghanaian artist who moved to Germany in 1978 and has been releasing albums under different names since 1983. Also present on this album: Steve Toteberg, the German producer who later went and started Maison Yes, a recording studio in Dakar which produced some of the classic Senegalese hip hop albums from 1999 on.
Kalao - Klortey Lagoon
Kalao was a French recording project engineered by JP Massiera and a multicultural band, several songs have a Ivory Coast influence. The sound is quite unusual, sounds a bit like a 80s predecessor of The Very Best.
AM Tala - Sugar Lump
Andre-Marie Tala (Cameroon) released a couple of albums with heavy funk influences in the mid 70s, of which ‘Hot Koki’ is still remembered today because it became one of the first examples of African tracks being re-recorded (without any reference or reimbursement) by an international star - in this case James Brown who released the carbon copy ‘Hustle!!! Dead on It’. By 1978 AM had caught the disco fever and released ‘Arabica’, an album with several string dance cuts.
Groupe Minzoto ya Zaire - Vany
Minzoto was a band that supposedly grew out of a Congolese subculture in which youth dressed like cowboys; a Belgian missionary organised events for these youth and this was one of the results. Their albums were released in small presses in Belgium, and their repertoire ranged from classic rumba to songs that carry a heavy influence from seventies funk and soul. ‘Rhythme Takinga’, the album this song was taken from, is a brilliant melting pot of Congolese rumba with its sweet harmonizing, funky bass and horns and intricate percussion.
Saidou Richard - Taaba
Guehi Jean - Dessahi
Sal Davis - Sultan Qaboos
Tanzanian singer Sal Davis has had a fascinating career and is still musically active; his ‘Makini’, released in Belgium in 1969, is a sought-after funky mod classic that was reissued on a collectors label in UK in 2008. He also recorded ‘Back in Dubai’ in 1984 which became a classic to the expat community there in the 1980s, participated in the UK Eurovision song festival in 1979, and further back he recorded a tribute to Qaboos, the sultan of Oman who is said to have turned his country from a poor, rural society to an oil producing wealthy state in the 1970s (and he’s still in power today, ever since 1970). This ode to the sultan was released on Sal’s own label, the b-side is a lounge love song with funky drums but the a-side is what it’s all about.
Per Cussion - Lucumi Suite
‘Don’t Stop’, the 1983 album and single of the same name by Swedish group Per Cussion is counted as the first Swedish hip hop release (even though its vocalist Grandmaster Funk was American), it even was a favourite in the sets of Afrika Bambaataa. This song is based on Santeria music, originating in Cuba; Lucumi is the liturgical language used in the Santeria religion and it’s a dialect of Yoruba (Nigeria/Benin/Togo). Vocals by Wilfredo Stephenson from the Swedish latin group Hot Salsa.
The Starlights - Jingle Jungle
This is French artist JP Massiera recording under a different name, both sides of the single had an interesting mash-up approach to traditional recordings - a sort of sampling avant la lettre.
Pasteur Lappé - Bana Ashiko
Cameroon singer Lappé released three albums and a couple of singles, and his output balances between corny love songs featuring his French girlfriend crying on record about waving goodbye at the airport, to brilliant synth driven wave like this one produced by Jacob Desvarieux (Kassav’) who also used the exact same instrumental version of a song from the Bana Ashiko LP on a Kassav’ record from the same year.
Zulu Gang - I got a magic feeling making love
The same crew that recorded Pasteur Lappé’s 1981 album was also behind Zulu Gang who recorded one album from which this single was taken.
Paap Niang - Sama waye
Blind singer/drummer Paap Niang sharpened his teeth with big names on the scene like Orchestre Baobab and Xalam before he released a solo album with this tune which sounds very different from what most Senegalese artists were trying to do in the mid 80s.
Miatta - Jungle Music
Sir Victor Uwaifo and his Titibitis - Egwu Ozo
Uwaifo’s most interesting may be the ones he did with the Titibitis, combining a funky 70s sound with 80s electronics and a very eclectic musical palette. Egwu Ozo is one of his forgotten works, with its title track that starts out in 4/4 mode and builds up into a orgy of synths and horns.
Nana Tuffour - Ye Wo Asaase
Cabo Verde Show - Terra Longe
Eko - Fly me back to Kribi
Baba Djan Kaba - Folila
Ali Baba - Hadiza
This album is easy to pass on as it is usually stuck in the euro bin and its cover looks too outrageous to be taken seriously, yet there’s the hidden gem of ‘Hadiza’ which sounds like afrobeat translated into a electronic setting with sublime synth licks.
KKE - Money
Song from a mysterious boogie funk / soul record by a Congolese singer with an apparently Dutch backing band, released on a tiny label in the Netherlands, not sure for which market but copies hardly ever show up.
Remi Kabaka - Aqueba-Masaaba
Nigerian drummer Aderemi Kabaka performed and recorded with some of the biggest names in the music industry including the Stones, Paul McCartney, Steve Winwood and Hugh Masekela (his son, who bears the same name, is one of the voices behind the Gorillaz). The recordings that were to be released as his second album by Island Records never made it past the promo stage, and consequently ‘Son of Africa’ is very hard to come by; too bad because it’s a record loaded with heavy afro funk tunes. This is the only track that got a (limited) release on a Island Records compilation in 1977.
Miriam Makeba - Toyota Fantaisie
At the time this Japanese promo single for Toyota was released in 1980, Miriam Makeba was living in Guinee-Conakry, so it’s no surprise to hear her sing fluently in French, and in English on the flip side of this effort to sell cars on the African continent. The fact that it was pressed on vinyl in Japan is more puzzling, perhaps this was handed out as a promo back there.
So Kalmery - Ujamaa
This song is from another album that doesn’t deserve to be in the euro bin, but that’s where my copy was found. So Kalmery is another great voice from eastern Congo who deserves more recognition for his oeuvre which spans four decades. He arrived in Europe while touring with Congo’s grand maestro Franco, and ‘So’, featuring his band Ujamaa, was released in 1986.
Francis Bebey - Le Grand Soleil De Dieu
From Bebey’s often overlooked 1986 effort ‘Si Les Gaulois Avaient Su’ which you have to Google just to marvel at the cover art.
Sonny Okosuns - Steady N Slow
Incredibly hard to find single-only release by the great Okosuns, the b-side is equally great. Both sides were later re-recorded and released on his albums, but the original remains superior.
Abumba - Mibali ya Kinshasa
Being the brother of one of the greatest voices in African pop throughout the 1970s and 80s, Abumba Masikini never reached the star status of his sister Abeti but he got to perform at the Zaire 74 concert held on the occasion of the Muhammad Ali vs George Foreman boxing match in Kinshasa. His performance of this single was captured on camera and finally released along with the Soul Power documentary in 2009.