Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1084

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Column

Michael de Koningh's World Music Column (December)

Michael De Koningh's World Music Column
Michael De Koningh's World Music Column Femi Kuti: Africa For Africa Gil Scott-Heron: Itâs Your World Gil Scott-Heron: Real Eyes Dick Khoza: Chapita Bola Johnson: Man No Die Fela!  @bluesandsoul.com Fela!  @bluesandsoul.com Fela!  @bluesandsoul.com Pink Martin: Joy To The World Inword: Purify Fabriclive 54: David Rodigan Sofrito: Tropical Discotheque Chucho Valdes: Chucho's Steps

Welcome along to the Festive Seasonâs rundown of all things good nâ groovy. Hopefully a few of these gems will end up in your plump Christmas Stocking.

FEMI KUTI

What could be better than gnawing on a turkey drumstick whilst checking this monthâs best new release which is afrobeat master Femi Kuti with his Africa For Africa album out now on Wrasse Records.

Femi and the band deliver just what you want and need in an afrobeat album; rhythm, power, blazing brass and that wonderful feeling that makes your feet jiggle in their slippers enticing you to knock the Ovaltine away and dance the night through with gay abandon.

From the off, with the opener Dem Bobo, youâre treated to politics Nigeria style backed up by some of the tightest playing Iâve had the pleasure to hear for quite some time. Big, bold and smack-bang in yer face â just how I like it.

The album thunders along from there-on with faster and slower tempo tracks such as the frantic Canât Buy Me and the mellower Bad Government, while Now You See is THE track on Africa For Africa with straining organ, shuffling percussion and stabbing brass that fair knocks your wig off with its power. A jazzy guitar runs in and then trades chops with the brass before leading into Femiâs affirmation of ânow you see the things I see and feel the things I feelâ in the so-called democracy of Nigeria. There arenât many lyrics and really itâs a showcase for his exemplary band to shine, and boy do they!

It really is a great album and quite likely one of Femiâs best so far with a more mature and cohesive feel to the songs and stunning playing throughout.

Go-on buy it â you know want an early Christmas present.

GIL SCOTT-HERON

Try a mince pie or two with the back out on the streets award which goes to two reissued LPs this column.

Itâs those lovely Soul Brother Records chaps again whoâve unleashed a couple more wonderful Gil Scott-Heron albums with Itâs Your World dating from 1976 and Real Eyes which hit us square between the eyes in 1980.

IYW was a double album mixing live and studio tracks and features Gilâs long-time collaborator Brian Jackson, while Real Eyes was his first for Arista as a solo artist.

The funk is well and truly fluid on this pair with ample rounded jazz overtones ringing through the sets despite two different bands backing Gil with The Midnight Band snapping behind IYW and his longstanding Amnesia Express on the one though Real Eyes

IYW features a stunning elongated live Home Is Where The Hatred Is complete with a long long horn solo which could scorch yer eyebrows off so hot is it, and a host of scrumptious funk-fuelled socio-political comment tracks such as Gilâs view of New York City which goes all Latin on us halfway through, Real Eyes perhaps has a bit more funk and less jazz, certainly the muscular bass of Robert Gordon and snappy brass on tracks like (You Canât Depend On) The Train From Washington made the album as much a dance-floor groove-fest as a jazzerâs foot-tapper.

The Klan, (which was originally a Richie Havens track from 1969), gets the on-the-floor treatment with walking bass, chattery rhythm guitar and sharp stabs of brass pushing home the lyrics which Gil easily makes his own, he also updates his own delightful Your Daddy Loves You (For Gina Louise) from a misty-eyed love ballad originally on the seminal Winter in America album to a funky love song which is booted along by once again the deep fluid bass of Mr Gordon.
Of the rest of the album thereâs not a duffer in sight.

Like the Femi Kuti mentioned above, you need quality music like this brace of beauties to ward off the Christmas muzak.

TROJAN RELEASES

Yummy vinyl has come my way by means of Trojan Records latest seven-inch single issue this time from little-known Candy McKenzie featuring the production genius of Lee Perry at his height in the late 1970âs.

Side A is the old Lorna Bennett Breakfast In Bed song covered inna Upsetter mix, and is OK but the gem is the flip, Ice Cream, which is a real slinky bit of lovers Perry style.
Ice Cream was only available on a very hard to find 12â, and it gets a big thumbs up from me as I never managed to grab a copy when it surfaced some three decades ago.

ROCK-A-SHAKER

Talking of thumbs up I have to say that Rock-A-Shaka operating out of Japan continue to astound with not only their impressive selection of titles but the incredible high standard of production.

The latest 45 to arrive is a reissue of a somewhat obscure 1983 roots tune recorded and pressed in Jamaica, One More River from General Plough on a facsimile of the Black Originator label.

Smug git I am, I can confirm that the quality of the pressing is superb compared against the original as I bought said 45 on its release.

Of the actual music, itâs a minor-key plaintive call for the sufferers to cross one more river to get to Zion. Itâs all rootsy and wonderful â and as the original sells for a good few quid now itâs worth grabbing this reissue as itâs a very limited edition.

On the CD front Rock-A-Shakaâs latest is a collection called Youâll Never Know â 18 Caribou Ska Selection from which you may gather it is a selection from the highly sought after Jamaican Caribou label. Heavyweight super-ska tracks like the impossibly expensive Bellevue Special from Don Drummond, Lord Tanamoâs I Love You Truly and the great Ska 65 courtesy of The Mighty Vikings are just a taster of this sumptuous CD. Again, not a duff track in sight and the sound quality is A1 as is the presentation.

FELA!/BOLA JOHNSON

Speaking of afrobeat â well I was earlier â Wrasse Records have released the soundtrack to FelaâThe Musical â on at the National Theatre, which I hope you all have tickets for â and why not!

This is the Broadway version of the play which tells the life of the great Fela Kuti through his music, and features members of the very able Antibalas on musical duties and Sahr Ngaujah as Fela. Thereâs plenty of the manâs best known works featured and itâs all pretty rousing stuff.

Whilst still warming ourselves on the African continent, Vampi Soul have issued a tasty retrospective 2CD set of Nigerian band leader, vocalist and trumpeter Bola Johnson entitled Man No Die.

The set basically covers the 70âs with the first CD being a lovely festival of mainly highlife music with Bola on lead vocal singing in English and Nigerian.Oh My Baby Josephine is a delight of rumba rhythms, snappy brass and a sweet love vocal while Asewo Ajegunle Yakare has a great juju feel to it with superb drumming. Track 8, Oro Aiye is almost Caribbean jump up with a shuffling beat, clattering percussion and again a lovely sweet vocal before Bolaâs trumpet takes centre stage, but then the closer slips in, Kilode, which is great slab of Afro-funk just right for the trendy dance-floors and the standout track for me.
The super-funk continues onto CD2 with the infectious Ezuku Buzo and a wonderful afro-centric groove laden Hot Pants which aside from a nod to the riff goes in a completely different direction to Mr JBâs track of the same title.

Lagos Sisi is a nice mid-tempo afrobeat number with sharp horns and the obligatory half-shouted lyrics egging on the rhythm section, likewise Lagos Special which blends the US funk with afrobeat just so well and is the groove.

I must admit I enjoyed CD2 most as itâs got more of the funk but all-in-all as I have little Bola in my collection Iâm mighty pleased to slip this on the shelf particularly as Man No Die is put together with the usual Vampi Soul care and attention.

DICK KHOZA

If youâre looking for some deep deep funky jazz than look no further than South African Dick Khoza and his stunning Chapita album. Originally recorded in 1976 just after the Soweto uprisings, the album reflects the mood at the time and was incredibly hard to find being a very limited pressing. Happily itâs now available thanks to the tiny-but-wonderful label Matsuli Music.

The title track runs on a laidback funky groove with horns a-plenty and bumbling bass while the title is chanted in the best funky-seventies tradition. Itâs engrossing and mesmerising â once in your brain itâs there for good.

Track two, Zumbwe (Baby Tiger) is more up-tempo with banked brass, much loved by Fela over in Nigeria, and just grooves along, likewise African Jive (Moto) which speeds things up with again those wonderful banked horns and almost highlife guitar chattering along. Lilongwe slows things down and wouldnât be out of place on any self respecting 70âs soul-funk album with some great brass playing, while WD 46 Mendi Road is a lovely almost-two-step song with a sweet finger-snapping backbeat.

I gotta admit Iâd never heard of Dick Khoza, but thanks to Matsuli Music I have now, and boy am I glad I have as itâs a really great album irrespective where or when it was recorded.

CHUCO VALDES

Cuban born Chuco Valdes is one of the Islandâs best known bandleaders and composers although heâs probably most famous for founding the funky Latin-jazz bank Irakere in 1972.

The guyâs been prolific with over eighty albums to his name and played with just about everybody worth mentioning from Herbie H to Chick Corea, and now comes his latest backed by The Afro-Cuban Messengers, Chuchoâs Steps, via World Village.

The album kicks along nicely with up-tempo minor-key tracks such as Zawinulâs Mambo and the more laidback Begin To Be Good before showing the Cuban roots on the percussive New Orleans and a bit of freeform with the piano-lead Yansa.

Chucoâs Steps is a nice varied album with lots of shades of tempo and structure, so never boring or making the old finger twitch for the skip button.

SOFRITO/DAVID RODIGAN

Sofrito are apparently a tropical music collective who run the Tropical Warehouse events playing a heady brand of dance-friendly world music. They seem to have completely slipped me by, but happily with thanks to Strutt Records and their release Sofrito: Tropical Discotheque the matter is put straight.

The CD contains 15 nice (and very obscure) tracks ranging from Congolese soukous to calypso and highlife. Itâs great stuff, most of which Iâve never heard before such as the jiving Arrete Mal Parle from Fair Nick Stars and the wonderful Latin track Adolfo Echeverria courtesy of Sabroso Bacalao. Victor Uwaifo pops up with Ohue which is a remix that quite frankly I could do without as the original has enough groove of its own, while Mighty Shadow pulls in some sunshine soca with a very bass heavy Dat Soca Boat.
Sofrito is a very entertaining and interesting set especially for people like me who need a good dose of rhythm in their music.

Talking of rhythm, ace reggae Dj David Rodigan has compiled a nice selection of tracks ranging from the mid 1970âs to the present day on Fabriclive out on Fabric Records. Aside from Mr Râs astounding depth of knowledge and excellent taste the set also benefits from some chirpy jingles interspersed through the album.

Who could complain of the bass-busting King Tubby Meets The Rockers Up Town from Augustus Pablo or the sweet voiced Etana with August Town, maybe taken from over thirty years later but still a sweet slice of reggae.

Modern singers Chezeidek and Romain Virgo pop up with Borderline and Live Mi Life respectively showing that new music is still alive and well.

While step back twenty-odd years for the superb Ring The Alarm from Tennor Saw, and later on in the time frame comes a jaunty Beres Hammond with Can You Play Some More.

Thereâs a bid of modern dancehall from the likes of Cham, Shaggy and Collie Buddz but the least said about that the better, whilst my pet hate Dubstep, is represented by Cadenza with a clickerty-clack reworking of the classic Keith & Tex Stop That Train.

Itâs a good set and depending on your taste, you may only need the skip facility a couple of times or maybe not at all.

INWORD

Inword are a reggae band from Canada whose latest CD Purify, is rather nice.

The opener, Forgiveness, has a funky lilt to the rhythm with overtones of Steel Pulse in the song structure (which I mean as a great compliment), where-as the sprightly A Gain has a Beres Hammond sound-a-like on vocals and is a pretty good skanker. The 70âs sounding Neva Knew rocks along nicely as does the rest of the album which has a nice UK sound to it despite being recorded the other side of the Atlantic.

Paul Lamb & The King Snakes have been on the international blues circuit for many a year and their latest outing, Mind Games is out on Secret Records, and carries on the R&B path theyâve been treading. Band leader Paul plays a fine harmonica and fronts the group with some fearsome vocals.
Lee Dorseyâs Ya Ya Blues runs so like a 60âs Stones track youâd be forgiven in thinking it was some undiscovered tape, where-as The Pillow is all 50âs finger-snapping r nâ r.

My fave is Change My Way Of Living, written incidentally by Mr Lamb, which rolls along like a John Lee H cut complete with wailing harmonica.

Itâs a great set, and I must admit as Iâm not too familiar with Paul Lamb this has made me want to check him out some more.

As itâs snowing and Christmas is on the way to round off I have to bring up a particularly strange but delightful CD, Pink Martini with Joy To The World â 14 Festive Songs From Around The World, sent to me by Wrasse Records.

And lastly...

PINK MARTINI ANYONE?

Pink Martini are a 12 piece band based in Portland Oregon and provide a jolly romp through well known traditional Christmas songs like Santa Baby and Do You Hear What I Hear to the less known like the lovely Congratulations â A Happy New Year Song and bizarrely an afrobeat cut of We Three Kings which believe it or not works very well indeed.

Silent Night is sung in German, English and Arabic while to finish Old Lang Syne is done to a calypso rhythm.

I donât know what to say about the album except I kept finding it in my CD player and strangely it became one of the most listened to albums on my i-Phone - but I wonât admit it!

So thatâs it for another year with thanks to all the labels and promo people who keep me supplied with yummy music and of course thanks to you dear readers whoâve puzzled your way through my meanderings.

And hereâs hoping for a peaceful and love filled 2011 â boy do we need it!

Michael de Koningh

From Jazz Funk & Fusion To Acid Jazz

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