Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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Michael de Koningh's World Music Column (January)

Michael De Koningh's World Music Column
Michael De Koningh's World Music Column Ariya Astrobeat Arkestra Pablo Moses: Revolutionary Dreams Brass Construction Gil Scott-Heron: The First Minute Of A New Day Gil Scott-Heron: South Africa To South Carolina

Welcome aboard for the first instalment of the new year.
Things have been a bit quiet over the Festive season so I don’t have too much to ramble over or be rude about in this exciting edition so let’s dive straight in.


Best new release is the interesting Ariya Afrobeat Arkestra with their self-titled debut album out on First Word Records.
Apparently they’re an eight piece band based in Leeds.

Taken at a slower pace than many afrobeat albums the Arkestra get a good groove going on traditional sounding tracks such as African Kings, Put Leg To Road and Lost In Kinshasa, (the best track on this strong album for me) then shuffle off to a bit of almost-dub complete with Pablo-esque melodica on Re-Education Mis-Education. Big Grammar is more dub-highlife which to be honest didn’t quite hit my funk-bone while the next track Body No Firewood gets back into the nice strident afrobeat with a great wibbly Hammond booping away.

Conflict Arise is the only vocal track and is a rather decent slow, mellow piece with a very good uncredited female vocal, while the Hendrix classic Crosstown Traffic is given a real wash and polish and comes out all funky and brassy – it’s the taster single and well worth grabbing.

Ariya Afrobeat Arkestra have certainly impressed an old cynical git like me with this excellent, fluid and funky album so I suggest you buy it and shake off a few of those Christmas pounds.


I struggled with reissue of the month as nearly all the lovely music that’s slipped through my letterbox has been of the regurgitated kind as opposed to brand new releases, and some mighty fine back outs have err….. come back out.

Anyway it’s my column and I can do as I like so I’ve awarded two albums reissue of the month.

Revolutionary Dream from Pablo Moses is unarguably one of the finest roots reggae albums to emerge from the 1970’s golden age of Jamaican music, and thanks to French label Socadisc in conjunction with Grounded Music and House Of Moses these wonderful sounds are available for all.

Recorded and released originally in 1976, the album instantly shot Mr Moses to the top of the roots-tree. His debut 45 recorded at Lee Perry’s Black Ark, I Man A Grasshopper is present in all its glory with stinging lead guitar solo (something unusual for a reggae record but so supplely played that it doesn’t grate), and so popular was the 45 that he wrote a whole album to please his new-found fans.

It’s all heavyweight stuff with ocean-deep bass and plenty of jazz thrown in for good measure. Check out the long, long Come Mek We Run for a mesmerising jazz-fuelled dub fadeout or the stepping Give I Fe A Name to hear a Rastaman’s view of his Babylonian name and what he would prefer to be called.

There’s a few bonuses as well. We Should Be In Angola was originally a 45 and is now ensconced on the album, likewise three nice dub versions.

Revolutionary Dream blew me away in 1976 and stands tall beside such luminary albums as Burning Spear’s groundbreaking Marcus Garvey and the astounding Flesh Of My Skin from Keith Hudson.

Talking of being blown away, my other reissue of the month also got itself glued to my turntable, this time a year earlier in the hot summer of 1975.


Brass Construction’s self-titled debut was the business with two long, era defining jazz-fuelled disco funk tracks, Movin’ and Changin’.

Now Soul Brother Records have nipped it out complete with sleeve notes from main-man Randy Muller which make a very interesting read. The boys at Soul Brother have been busy of late digging deep and reissuing classic 70’s albums (more of that later) and have really struck gold with this one.

Mr Muller, writer, arranger and composer took the funk sound and spiced it up with banked brass, chattering keyboards and sweeping strings, and in doing so formed the blueprint for the dozens and dozens of disco-dancers that would grace the new-fangled 12” single format a couple of years up the line. In some ways the album was and still is a two-tracker coz that’s what we all played back then – endlessly – but in truth the whole shebang is a pretty solid piece of pre-disco funk.

Gotta mention also that Brass Construction 2 and 5 are also out on the street courtesy of Soul Brother. Neither had the slap-bang impact of the numero uno, but that’s not surprising as no one had heard anything like Movin’ until the debut disc appeared, but both albums are no slouches in the groove department with 2 providing Ha Cha Cha as a particularly fine dancer and 5 the super-funky Music Makes You Feel Like Dancing and Shakit.

Sticking with Soul Brother Records we have two more Gil Scott-Heron albums available for your listening pleasure; The First Minute Of A New Day from 1974 and From South Africa To South Carolina which arrived the following summer.

First Minute… was the pair’s debut for the newly formed Arista Records imprint and also the first with them utilising the muscular Midnight Band.

It’s always been an album I struggle with as its jazz overtones are a bit too strong on some tracks like the wistful opener Offering or the frantic Latin-esque The Liberation Song (Red Black And Green) but you can rely on Gil to deliver and Ain’t No Such Thing As A Superman and Guerrilla pull the band, the funk and Mr Heron together in supple, head-nodding blues-tinged groovers, then of course there’s the track, Winter In America, most likely the man’s best known work apart from The Bottle.

The slow mournful Winter In America tells the tale of the once great super-power’s decline to an almost military drum pattern and a beautiful flute. It’s simply stunning and worth the price of the album alone.

From South Africa To South Carolina carried the nearest Gil ever got to a chart hit with the jaunty Johannesburg resplendent with the ‘what’s the word’ line which I’m sure most of you old soul boys will well remember shouting out in unison. It’s a great track grooving along on electric piano and shuffling drums hiding the seriousness of the lyrics and almost touched the mainstream charts.

Like the aforementioned First Minute.. there’s a lot of jazz influences in the album and tracks like the gentle A Toast To The People and The Summer Of ’42 with its upbeat jiving style and boinging bass solo made it tricky for me to get into, but of course there’s some great tracks too with the finest being South Carolina (Barnwell) where Gil discusses nuclear power to a funky backing with a super-slinky bass and great horn solo.

They’re not bad albums – far from it – it’s just that when Gil is good he’s fantastic and this pair are just not he or Brian’s best, but by any other standard they’d be mighty fine records.

Those nice chaps at BGP have a groovy collection of tracks drawn from the Mainstream label entitled The Message which is right up my funky street with the title track being a horn instrumental of the Cymade classic from Blue Mitchell.

There’s some quite nice, and quite obscure tracks such as the wah-wah infested House Of The Rising Funk from Chubokos and a super-funky Hammond and ‘bone cut to Joe Quarterman’s epic So Much Trouble In My Mind from Charles Kynard which is utterly wonderful.

A more slinky groove appears with The Delegates Funky Butt dropping some great guitar and Hammond solos in this hip-shaker of an instrumental while a exquisitely soulful Alice Clark tells us Never Did I Stop Loving You – sheer class.

Afrique and their interpretation of Manu’s afro-funk opus Soul Makossa is probably the nearest to mainstream (pun intended) dance-floor fodder from back then with Sarah Vaughan taking-on Marvin’s Inner City Blues (Makes Me Wanna Holler) and giving it a nice jazz twist in the vocal department.

The Message is a first rate comp and on reflection it should’ve been added to my reissue(s) of the month, but I’m too lazy to rewrite and cut n’ paste so just take my word for it it’s all killer no filler.


Trojan have another nice slab of 45rpm vinyl out, and this time couple an unreleased Desmond Dekker track Dancing Time with a well known and loved Roland Alphonso tune, Beverley's Special aka Nothing For Nothing.

It’s up-tempo rocksteady on the Des side, with a nice little song from him, but the killer is the moody, menacing Nothing For Nothing, that being everything I look for in a rocksteady instrumental; inspired playing, a deep dark minor-key melody and a rhythm that makes your head nod like the Churchill dog.

Incidentally Nothing For Nothing came out on the UK Pyramid label aeons ago should you feel the need to spend a fortune on an original copy.


It may surprise many of you to learn that Bristol was a hotbed of reggae back in the 70’s and early 80’s. The Bristol Reggae Explosion 1978-1983 released via Bristol Archive Records proves that rather well with some excellent tracks like Africa (It’s Our Land) from Joshua Moses and the city’s best known band, Black Roots with Bristol Rock and their standout Juvenile Delinquent.

London was always viewed as the centre for UK recorded reggae and it’s nice to see top rate artists like Talisman, Sharon Bengamin and The Radicals getting the recognition they deserve. The set’s very well put together with a nice little booklet containing some great images from the time.

Lek Sen hails from a village near Dakar in Senegal and Burn is his debut album out on Black Eye Records. Vocally he as the slight rasp of Eek-A-Mouse but in a higher register on some tracks like the opener, Life, while the music is a bluesy, jangly take on modern music emerging from Senegal. Rebel Blues is particularly satisfying as it moves along at a mid-tempo pace with nice guitar in the background and that comforting chugging rhythm which is so typical of Senegal. Pity I haven’t the slightest idea what Lek is singing about as it all Senegalese to me!

70’s JA rootsman Kiddus I turns up on track 6, Sa Nitee, which is more up-tempo while Massamba is a bit of a hip shaker with fine bluesy guitar runs. The title track is as near to Count Ossie up in the Wareka Hills as Dakar with deep Rasta style drumming and minor key chanting. A great track – in fact the track on the album and again augmented by Lek’s excellent blues guitar.

Great debut Lek – I’m already looking forward to the next album.


Souleance are a French duo who tinker with beats and in fact produce some nice sounds as evidenced by their latest, Soupape, a six-tracker out on First Word.

The best track is Automatico which chops up some nice Brazilian sounds and creates a decent groove that got me shufflin’ in my seat. A couple of the tracks are a bit too dancey for me while La Romance has a hip-hop’ish beat and a particularly fat bassline just right for late-night funk sessions.

Grounded Music have an interesting various artists set out, The Soul Side Of The Street – Hot Phoenix Soul Sides From The Vault Of Hadley Murrell. After that mouthful of a title you’re be wondering what’s on this CD, well, to my untrained ears it’s beaty 60’s style soul with some great early funk such as the fuzzy guitar lead Funky To The Bone from Freddi Henchi & The Soulsetters plus up-tempo Northern sounding tracks like The Servicemen with Are You Angry.

There’s a lot of blues in many of the tracks such as the twangy Garbage In The Kitchen courtesy of The LBJ’s and Monkee See from the Desert Souls.

It’s an interesting and varied set from an area of the US which may well get less attention than the big cities like New York or LA.

And finally...

The late Dennis Brown has a splendid retrospective out thanks to VP/17 North Parade. The Crown Prince Of Reggae – Singles 1972-1985 is a 2CD set with a third disc being a DVD of his live performance at Montreux in 1979, and rather lovely it all is too.

Quite frankly it’s a thoroughly exhaustive set with early works such as the roots-imbibed Concentration through to his greatest triumphs like Have No Fear, Revolution and the heavyweight Promised Land. The packaging’s a bit flimsy but who cares with all the wonderful music available on the set.

So there you go. Another round-up of the good and groovy that abounds at your local record store.

Michael de Koningh

Please feel free to contact Michael with any World Music news/event news that you feel would benefit others at Thank you.

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