Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Living the High-Life: The Daily Growl goes all African


When Vampire Weekend released their debut album back at the start of the year, it had many critics reaching for words like High-Life. I wonder how many of the people talking about these words actually knew what they meant. I couldn’t claim to know, so for me to start talking about High-Life and whatever other African genres were being name-dropped would have been a bit fake.

But now I’ve think I’ve got a better idea, mainly through the excellent new compilation Nigeria 70: Lagos Jump, which was recently released on the rejuvenated Strut Records. It’s a great record, with some amazing songs from little-heard artists, all active in 70s Nigeria, where traditional rhythms clashed with rock, soul and jazz coming from Europe and the U.S. What we get is essentially funk, albeit a unique African take on it. Right from the loping grooves of Yabis at the top of the comp, through more exotic sounds, jazzy stylings of Peter King to the seriously ass-shaking funk from The Faces (no that that lot), there’s so much to enjoy here. I may be no nearer to really understanding high-life, but at least I’ve got some brilliant tunes to enjoy.

Download: Sir Shina Peters & His International Stars - Yabis
Download: The Faces - Tug Of War
Download: Bola Johnson & His Easy Life Top Beats - Ezuku Buzo


The second African album of the day is another story altogether. Konono No. 1 from Congo, have ignored the lure of James Brown funk and jazzy sax for something a lot more traditional and inventive. When people get all excited by whatever ‘DIY punk’ scene is the current vogue, they should have a listen instead to these guys. Septuagenarian Congolese musicians with amped-up thumb pianos and various piece of junkyard equipment, complete with pickups, used for percussion. Combine this with crazy African rhythms, spellbinding vocals and even the odd whistle, and you have the recipe for possibly the most organic techno music you’ll ever hear. The first internationally-available Konono No. 1 album was released back in 2005 by Belgian label Crammed Discs. Possibly capitalising on the success of this, there’s been a second and last year they released the live album Live at Couleur Café. That’s the one I have, and it’s great. I get the impression that live is where the action really happens.

Download: Konono No.1 – Zey Isa Langa
Download: Konono No.1 – Mama Na Bana

Buy Nigeria 70 from Amazon or download from emusic. Buy Live at Couleur Café from Amazon.


2 comments:

Marc said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Marc said...

fyi, the 2nd Congotronics album featured not only Konono, but also 6 other like-minded bands...
including Kasai Allstars, who will be releasing their own, hair-raising debut in July,entitled "In The 7th Moon, The Chief Turned Into Swimming Fish And Ate The Head Of His Enemy By Magic".

You can find some excerpts here: http://www.congotronics.be or on the Crammed Discs site (see link above)