Afro Heat!

I`m still catching up after being hit by Typhoon Hagibis. What with a week without power. Fallen trees to dispose of. The temperature suddenly dropping. Children`s winter clothing to pull out of the loft and wash. A stash of thermal underwear to find. Schools closed. Kids off with colds. There’s a little more afro heat here, before I move back to the Balearics next week. 

Seance Centre reissue the recorded debut of Zambian musician, journalist and author, Smokey Haangala**. Aunka Ma Kwacha (The Money Is Gone) dates from 1976, and is one the country’s first LPs to employ a drum machine. The gentle tick-tock of a popping rhythm box acts as a signature for eleven of the album`s twelve tracks. With Happy Mulenga on bass, the set is a simple showcase for Smokey`s voice and guitar. The latter moving between intricate picking, folk strumming, funky wah-wah, and Fuzztone riffs. The former, plaintive. Recounting tales of love, and success, the pitfalls of pride and avarice. Switching between Bemba, Lozi, Tonga, and English. Sometimes sad, but, as on the closing track, Maybe Tomorrow, often optimistic. 

Also originally from 1976, Mr Bongo have Peter King`s Omo Lewa. The best known track from which is probably Ajo – since it`s appeared on numerous compilations. But as Peter shouts throughout, the whole record is packed with “funky afrofunk”. 

The Nigerian bandleader / singer / saxophonist started his career as a member of the African Messengers back in the early 1960s. Joining the group while studying in London at the Trinity College of Music. He bounced backwards and forwards between his homeland and Europe throughout the 70s. Heading outfits such as The Supersonics, and The Voice Of Africa, while pursuing his solo endeavors, and defining his “Miliki Sound”. In `77 he toured with Boney M. Settling in Nigeria in 1979, his P.K. Band became resident at the National Museum in Lagos. The success of this residency allowing King to open his own music school in 1982. His tenor playing has been compared to that of Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane. 

Omo Lewa is a place where highlife collides with Fela Kuti and Tony Allen’s afrobeat. The aforementioned Ajo is characterized by tough drum breaks, groovy organ fills, and and a carnival, calypso-esque exuberance.

More afrobeat comes from Fela`s youngest son, Seun Kuti. New London-based label, Night Dreamer, have just released an E.P. containing 4 direct-to-disc takes of tracks from Seun`s last LP – 2018`s Grammy-nominated Black Times. 

Night Dreamer lift their name from a Wayne Shorter LP, and their aims from the classic recordings of Blue Note. The imprint`s whole ethos is founded on the direct-to-disc process – capturing live performances in the highest fidelity. This being made possible by the facilities at Artone Studios in Haarlam, Holland. Featuring a vintage RCA 76D mixing desk and Westrex Capitol cutting amps. With sessions cut straight to acetate, using a Neumann VMS70 lathe, and the acetate then run downstairs to the in-house vinyl pressing plant. 

Seun stopped over at Artone, with the 12-strong Egypt 80, in the midst of a world tour. All 4 tracks were recorded in one take – including false starts – with no rehearsal, on the second day of the band`s stay. Seun honking on his sax and engaging in call & response with the chorus like a man possessed. On a mission to follow in his father’s political footsteps. Issuing bulletins  – from The Black Times – to counter the propaganda and fake news pumped out by global government. Seeking to fire freedom from materialistic thought. Where music is a weapon for the future, of the people. 

“The system says we`re different, but the struggle makes us one.”  

*You can learn more about Smokey Haangala via an in-depth article- by Matthew Stancombe – based around an interview with Smokey`s brother, Swithin, posted over at The Cosmic Tiger. 

**There are still a few dates left on Seun Kuti & Egypt 80`s World tour:

17.11 Cergy | L’Observatoire (France) 

19.11 Bilbao | Kfé Antzokia (Spain) 

20.11 Madrid | Sala Moon (SP) 

22.11 Montpellier | Zénith “Les Nuits Zébrées Radio Nova »  (FR) 

23.11 Milan I Base Linecheck (Italy) 

28.11 Bologna I Locomotiv (IT) 

29.11 Rome I Monk (IT)  

30.11 Sacile I Teatro Zancanaro (IT)  

01.12 Trieste I Teatro Miela (IT)

Selections from these releases were included in a radio broadcast recently on FM Karuizawa. 

Track-list

Elite Beat – RLC (Ambient Mix) – Research Records
Diabel Cissokho – Tell Me
Smokey Haangala – Saanguna Lyoolole – Seance Centre
Peter King – Ko Dara – Mr Bongo
Vulcans – Asibiso Jungle – Real Gone Music
Elite Beat – Powerdance Research Records
Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 – Struggle Sounds – Night Dreamer
Fela Kuti & Ginger Baker – Ye Ye De Smell – Signpost
Francois N`Gwa – N`Kene – Into The Deep Treasury
Smokey Haangala – Amafuna Kanyama – Seance Centre

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