Super Yamba Band’s Top 5 Afrobeat Anthems – By The Insider

Chart complied at the request of The Insider

Super Yamba Band continue their musical love affair with Ubiquity Records, releasing a new five-tracker entitled Last Leap. The E.P. revives songs from the group’s first inception, back in 2014. The titular piece in particular has become a sought-after modern afrobeat classic – the vinyl commanding an eye-watering sum. Diligent diggers themselves, of rare dusty gems, and in-demand obscurities, Super Yamba, here, take us through what they deem to be 5 of the most important afrobeat tracks.

“Gentlemen” by Fela Kuti – from the album, Gentlemen (1973)

Gentlemen Fela Kuti

This was the first Fela track that I ever heard, and it immediately changed my life. I was totally blown away by the sound of Fela’s Afrika 70 band. The opening riff he plays on the electric piano had me hooked right away. Then the keys and percussion drop out for Fela’s sax intro, before he brings the full band in. The horns eventually erupt into the head of the tune. I remember noticing the subtle free jazz moment that happens briefly as Fela passes the solo to the great trumpeter Tunde Williams. The horn backgrounds behind Tunde’s solo hit me in the soul. By this point I was saying to myself “What in the world am I listening to?!” I didn’t know this kind of funky music existed. As if all of this wasn’t enough, Fela’s vocal  – accompanied by his background singers – floored me to the point that I knew I had to explore this music as much as possible.

“Atwer Abroba” by Ebo Taylor – from the album, Twer Nyame (1978)

Atwer Abroba Ebo Taylor

This was another Afrobeat /Afro-Funk track that struck me early in my journey into this genre of music. Ebo Taylor is definitely one of the most accomplished guitarists from Ghana, known for his blending of High Life and Afrobeat with funk and jazz. I love the call and response between the vocal and the horns in the breakdown that keeps reoccurring throughout the track.

“Ou C’est Lui Ou C’est Moi” by Orchestre Poly Rythmo – from the album, The First Album (1973)

Orchestre Poly Rythmo

Hailing from Benin where Super Yamba’s frontman Kaleta was born, Orchestre Poly Rythmo might be the biggest influence on our band’s sound. While they were definitely influenced by Fela’s Afrobeat, Poly Rythmo’s sound is more psychedelic and they drew from America funk and soul music as well as salsa. The band is led by the guitars and drums more so than the horns. The horns are still prominent at times but not in every song like they are in Fela’s music. This track is a great example of their supremely funky / psychedelic sound, with the crunchy keyboard and heavy delay / echo effects on the lead vocal.

“Break Through” by The Funkees – re-released on the Soundway compilation, The World’s Ends: Afro Rock & Psychedelia in Nigeria (2010)

Break Through The Funkees

The Funkees are another really cool band from Nigeria who fall into the category of Afro-Rock, but obviously their sound is also very funky – hence the name. You can tell that they were checking out American rock from the `60s and early `70s as many of their songs are structured like a “made for radio” rock hit.

“Water No Get Enemy” by Fela Kuti – from the album, Expensive Shit (1975)

Water No Get Enemy Fela Kuti

Since you asked for important Afrobeat tracks I figured it makes sense to go back to Fela. Water No Get Enemy is definitely one of his most famous songs and I think for whatever reason it’s one that many listeners can relate to, or digest, even if they aren’t familiar with Afrobeat. I hear DJs play this track all the time and I’ve found myself putting it on in my DJ set when it gets late in the night and it’s time to wind things down. If Fela had a ballad or a lullaby it would probably be Water No Get Enemy. It’s better described as an anthem I suppose, but there’s something beautifully soothing about this track. Of course you can still dance to it but it’s less aggressive than just about all of his other songs. It’s a truly gorgeous tune.

Super Yamba Band’s Last Leap E.P. will be released on March 23rd, care of Ubiquity Records.

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