Review: Another weighty slab of Ethiopian music history from Mr Bongo... First up is the hugely influential fusionist Mulatu Astatke with the Latin-meets-Afro jam "Assiyo Bellema". Loaded with frenetic guitars and mesmerising drum work from Frank Holder, this was actually recorded during Mulatu's time in London. Flip for an equally influential force in Ethiopian music: Soul Ekos Band affiliate Teshome Meteku with a more traditional local sound, Teshome's yearning insistent vocals wrap around the horns and tight drums like fog around a mountain. Captivating.
Review: Baba Commandant and the Mandingo Band first came through on Sublime Frequencies, back in 2015, with a sublime LP that carried the ethereal sounds of contemporary Afro jazz. The outfit are back, this time on France's Mawimbi imprint, with a corker by the name of "Wasso". Taking inspiration from the school of Fela and Tony Allen, this is deep-minded funkiness with a political edge - a contemporary afrobeat killer! The remixes are no less intriguing, starting off with the electronic nuttiness of Loya's version, followed by the 'broken', beat-driven remix from Mr Boom, and even an Afro version. A done deal, in our opinion...
Review: Those with a deep knowledge of Berlin's Ghanaian ex-pat "burger-highlife" scene may already be familiar with Lee Dodou, a singer who recorded a number of classic singles and albums during the 1980s as part of bands Georg Darko and Kantata. He retired from music in 1991, but has been persuaded to return to action by the Philophon team. This comeback single is pretty impressive all told, with A-side "Basa Basa" - a triumphantly celebratory chunk of 1960s "concert party" highlife rich in punchy horn lines and Dodou's full-throated vocals - being joined on the flipside by the slower, synth-laden "Sahara Akwantou". Brilliantly, the label describes this as "kraut-life" due to its unique (and rather good) fusion of highlife and German kosmiche.
Review: The love of all things Soviet and disco has been established by French/German duo Fulgeance and Scientist for several years now, having reached a peak last year with their album The Soviet Tape on First Word. Now they return with their own edit series on brand new label Excursions. With eyes squared fully on the floor, each obscurity is given some serious groove muscle for the floor... Charaunitsy's soulful croons and yearning horns are given an additional kick/snare swing, Latvia's Mirdza gets a deliciously camp turbo charge while Ukraine's Tatyana Kochergina gets a full-on Philly treatment with lavish strings and a bassline that won't say nyet.
Review: Following their surprise reunion and Strut-release album We Be All Africans last year, Idris and The Pyramids return... This time on Max Weissenfeldt's Philophon imprint. Laying down a spiritual arrangement so frenetic and full of its own life it takes up two parts, Idris's sax plays duet with Philophon's own vocalist Guy One. Gutsy, raw and full of surprises, it's another out-of-body experience from the longstanding jazz troupe.
Review: Time for some Brazilian psychedelic boogie straight from 78. Erstwhile lead singer in Os Mutantes, with a personality thrice as big as the soaking wet bassline on "Agora E Moda", Rita Lee is no stranger to her motherland - even now. Flip for a huge soul injection courtesy of Pete Dunaway. Sounding English in every direction (from his name to his lyrics to the stunning, string-coated arrangement) he's actually Sao Paulo born and is a renowned multi-instrumentalist. Check this and you can tell in an instant. Stunning.
Review: In recent times Rush Hour has excelled at reissuing obscure African music of the late 1980s, often pairing the original with a previously unheard cover version or remake. They're at it again here, offering up Les Choc Stars Du Zaire and Ben Nyamabo's 1989 cut "Nakombe Nga" with an obscure Belgian new beat cover by one album wonders Teknokrat's [sic]. Les Choc Stars Du Zaire's version is wonderfully positive, joining the dots between electronic soukous, ear-catching synth-pop and sunset-friendly Balearic vibes. The Teknokrat's version is, if anything, even more loved-up, with classic late '80s house instrumentation (Frankie Knuckles style synth-strings, jaunty pianos), ghostly electronic lead lines, delay-laden vocal passages and a superb synth bassline
Review: A special summer-tuned dedication to two of Africa's most creative contributors who both passed away at the birth of the New Year. First up, South Africa's Shaluza Max's 2002 classic gets the revisitation it deserves; big accordions, honeyed Zulu vocals and a chugging groove that could plough into any dancefloor under the sun, it struts with a timeless sense of universal groove science. Flip for a rewind to the mid 80s as Soundway pays tribute to the hugely prolific Tabu Lay Rochereau. Complete with smooth, soothing synths, show-stopping harmonies and slinky bassline that won't quit, it's as heart-rending now as it was 30 years ago.
Review: George and Glen Miller are undoubtedly best known for their West End Records released 1982 boogie-soul classic "Touch Your Life". They released plenty of other records that flitted between soca, reggae, disco, and - in the latter stages of their career - electrofunk. "Easing", which appeared at some point at the turn of the '80s on London label Third World, remains one of their most potent releases - and, in its original form at least, formidably hard to find. This Soundway reissue wisely replicates the track list of the original release, beginning with the title track - a deliciously percussive, musically intricate chunk of peak-time disco smothered in sharp, Afro-funk style horns and George and Glen Miller's lilting reggae-soul style vocals. The flipside "Version" strips out the vocals, allowing listeners to hear in greater detail the pair's impeccable arrangements and instrumentations (particularly the fine orchestration and rich groove).
Review: Mukatsuku's long running "Afro Funk & Disco Gems" series has always been a reliable source of obscure, high-quality dancefloor material from the African continent. This tenth edition is another must-have - on the A-side you'll find the synth-laden, boogie-era sunshine of "Everybody Dance", one of the undisputed highlights of Peter Yamson's in-demand (and notably hard to find) "Son Of Africa" LP. With wonderful vocals, glistening guitars, lolloping drum machine beats and some stellar synth work, the track ticks all the right boxes. Over on the flip there's a chance to own Cameroon legend Tala Andre Marie's 1981 classic "Get Up Tchamassi", whose snaking sax lines, elastic slap bass and dreamy chords are nothing less than sensational.As played by The Allergies, DJ Koco, Joe Claussell,Smoov,Kalita, Faze Action,DJ Moar etc
Tecumsay Roberts - "It Makes Me Dance & Sing" (5:44)
Commy Bassey - "We Want Togetherness" (4:37)
Review: Triassic Tusk's "Screamers, Bangers & Cosmic Synths" series of crate digging comps has seen the Scottish crew showcase some seriously hot, little-known music. Mukatsuku have joined forces with the imprint to give a 12" release to two potent Afro-disco smashers that recently featured on volume two of the ongoing compilation series ,now remastered and sounding better than ever. On side A you'll find Liberian artist Tecumsay Roberts' bouncy 1979 Afro-soul/Afro-boogie number "It Makes Me Dance & Sing", where spacey Moog solos rice above a funk-influenced dancefloor groove. On the flip, the fun continues via Commy Bassey's Clav-happy, Nigerian sounding Afro-boogie roller "We Want Togetherness", a positive plea for unity that's as relevant now as it was way back in 1980.Juno copies come in an exclusive branded card sleeve with an additional obi strip not available at other retailers .As played/charted by Red Greg,Joe Claussell,Marcel Vogel, Craig Charles,Faze Action,Kalita,Cedric Woo,JKriv,Prins Thomas,Floating Points and Dom Servini so far.
Review: Johannesburg's Maboneng Precinct is the home of Afrosynth Records and for the last two years it has been an absolute hotbed of reissued African music. This latest missive is originally from 1984 by Obed Ngobeni and his backing singers the Kurhula Sisters, who helped pioneer the Shangaan Disco style that heavily influenced South Africa's bubblegum sound of the 80s. Now a go-to genre for cult favs like Antal and Hunee, they're sure to lap up the hurried funk and proto-house of "Ta Duma", which comes in three slightly different versions. "Xikhobva" closes things in loose percussive fashion with a guitar-driven groove.
Review: Last May, Tal released On Mande, the second album from traditional Kenyan combo Ogoya Nengo & The Dodo Women's Group. As the title suggestions, On Mande Versions sees their percussive workouts being remixed by a quartet of electronic music talents. Lena Willikens turns "Orutu Run" into a mid-tempo, tribal techno chugger, while Tolouse Low Trax re-imagines as "Mix Zwei" as a spaced-out Afro-dub masterpiece. Orson's more floor-friendly version of "Bunde Dub" continues on a similarly steppy, bass-heavy tip, leaving Berceuse Heroique regular Don't DJ to steal the show with a thrillingly weird and out-there rework of "Sorbe Pekingese".
Review: The fourth volume in Selva Discos superb "Brasingles" series of overlooked Brazilian obscurities is another must-check treat. "Tudo Faz Santido" was originally tucked away on former Gang 90 member Taciana Barros' sole solo album, 1995's "Janela Dos Sonhos". It's a wonderfully chunky slab of rolling, mid-90s breakbeat-pop rich in beefy bass, new wave style guitars and twinkling electronic flourishes. The track's inherent heaviness is even more evident on the flip, where there's what appears to be a never-before-released extended mix by original producer Mitar Subotic (better known in electronic music circles as Suba and Rex Illusivii). The sadly departed Serbian's DJ-friendly take wisely prioritizes the groove, adding even more acid-style sounds for enhanced dancefloor pleasure.
Review: Mr Bongo's Brazil 45s series continues its consistently rich vein of form with two more beautifully contrasting - and previously difficult to track down - Brazilian soul jazz fusions from the 70s. Side A is inhabited by one of the era's most interesting individuals. Infamously censored and eventually exiled, Taiguara's chaotic flute, guitar and piano arrangement is a tight weave of melodies, counter melodies and start dynamics. Flip for the classically soul-oriented "Deixa Eu Te Amar" will bright horns, brash drums and a bold vocal from Marisa Rossi. Pow.
Review: After cutting his teeth in Atlantic-signed jazz-fusion band Kabasa in the early 1980s, vocalist and bassist Tata Sibeko briefly pursued a solo career. He only ever released two 12" singles as Tata, but one - the 1985 double A-side treat "It's A Mess/Afro Breakdance" - has gone on to become something of an in-demand item amongst collectors of South African dance music. Here Sharp Flat has given it the reissue treatment. A-side "It's A Mess" is a fine chunk of breezy, lo-fi electrofunk in which Sibeko sings cheerily - despite the downbeat lyrical content - over colourful synths, bubbling machine drums and a thickset synth bassline. Arguably even better is "Afro Breakdance", which sounds like a superior, slightly deeper South African take on teapot-dance innovators Break Machine.
Review: Happy birthday to party-starting, funk-fuelled record label Resense, which put out its first 7" single 10 years ago. To kick off a new decade, they've enlisted the services of regular contributor Andy Taylor. He begins with the percussion-rich bounce of "Kitschy Jungle", where original Afro-funk vocals and instrumentation ride a jaunty tropical rhythm track. It's tastefully done, with Taylor's tasty new beats working well with the dusty, sampled elements. Over on the flipside, he opts for a more straightforward Afro-funk feel, lacing punchy horns and reverb-laden flute lines atop a killer funk break and heavily compressed bassline. File under: "dancefloor fire".
Review: When a 12" turns up with a Ron Trent rework on the A-side, we tend to take notice. In this instance, we were particularly curious to hear what the deep house legend had done to "Krumandey", one of the standout cuts from Highlife legend Ebo Taylor's recent album, Yen Ara. Predictably, his version is superb, brilliantly joining the dots between Taylor's soaring Afro-beat, rolling Afro-house and Trent's own sumptuous deep house electronics. Turn to the flipside for two fresh revisions of "Mumduey Mumduey": a jaunty, sunshine-friendly tweak by Japanese producer Natureboy Flako and a heavy Afro-disco version by Nick The Record rich in bowel-bothering sub-bass and spacey deep house chords.
Pat Thomas - "Enye Woa" (LeonxLeon Keyed Up mix) (7:20)
Ebo Taylor - "Atwer Abroba" (8:14)
Ebo Taylor - "Atwer Abroba" (Leo Nanjo remix) (5:03)
Review: Comet's "Disco Highlife" re-edit series continues with an EP that draws together original tracks and reworks from two of the Highlife scene's biggest stars: Ebo Taylor and Pat Thomas. The latter can be found on side A, with the tipsy, synth-driven highlife-boogie fusion of "Enye Woa". This is in turn re-edited by LeonxLeon, who has not only extended the original track but also added some superb new spacey synth solos. Turn to the flip for Ebo Taylor's richly percussive, Hammond-laden disco-highlife bubbler "Atwer Abroba" and Leo Nanjo's brilliant remix, which re-imagines the track as a rubbery chunk of Highlife-house drenched in dub delays.
Ebo Taylor - "Peace On Earth" (Monsieur Scott remix) (4:55)
Pat Thomas - "We Are Coming Home" (5:51)
Pat Thomas - "We Are Coming Home" (2 Paris Septembre re-edit) (4:51)
Review: Comet's ongoing "Highlife Re-Edit" series is perfect for those who want a little contemporary pizzazz alongside their Afro-disco grooves and dancefloor-ready highlife classics. Like its predecessor, the series' latest volume boasts cuts from highlife legends Ebo Taylor and Pat Thomas. The former's punchy, breezy and trumpet-laden highlife-jazz cut "Peace On Earth" can be found on side A, alongside a dreamy Monsieur Scott version that drags the track further towards leisurely jazz-house territory. The Pat Thomas track showcased on side B is "We Are Coming Home", a righteous highlife/funk fusion effort rich in dense percussion and eyes-closed rock guitar solos. The accompanying 2 Paris Septembre Re-Edit brilliantly re-invents it as a bustling broken beat affair laden in shimmering synths and squelchy electronic bass.
Review: Over the course of his lengthy career, Jimi Tenor has proved to be something of a musical chameleon, variously portraying himself as a lo-fi lounge music lothario, flute-sporting jazzman, Moog-loving electronic adventurer, dub-wise explorer and, most recently, Afrobeat eccentric. On "Vocalize My Luv", he fuses a number of his musical obsessions, by serving up a jaunty and righteous chunk of Ghanaian highlife futurism rich in dancehall-influenced drum machine beats, jammed-out Korg riffs and amiable female vocals. It's ace, and comes with a similarly sterling B-side, "Ki'igba". This shuffling affair sees Tenor reach for his trusty flute and get all jazzy over a dusty and laidback Afrobeat groove.
Review: Marie and Necalli's new Thee Lakesiders project has been snapped up by the Big Crown imprint and slapped up onto tasty 7" format! We just love new soul and jazz, with too many reissues filling up our charts these days, and especially if it sounds anywhere near as fresh as this. "Si Me Faltaras Tu" is a straight-up soul groover, made with LA's sun-kissed charm and South American sensibilities, while "Parachute" is the stand-out piece, all lo-fi and stripped-back, but filled with enough mystique and garage sensibility to render it comparable to the very best psych acts of the 70s. TIP!
Review: Rich gutsy soul from a man who's regularly described as Brazil's James Brown, "O Journalerio" is a blueprint funk jam. Released in 1971 (on his hyper-rare album BR-3) it's all about the orchestrated swing, bluesy groove and Hammond licks so lavish you need to towel on every listen. Flip for Som Tres... An off-shoot of the Sambalanco Trio, it's the sound of Cesar Camargo Mariano controlling a restrained rolling slice of filmic instrumental funk where horns, keys and drums gather momentum with big band drama. Neither have been released on 45" before, making this all the more special.
Review: Original copies of T.Z Junior's bubblegum-boogie cut "Sugar My Love" are hard to come by outside of the artist's home country of South Africa. It's been that way since the single was first released on Roy B Records in 1985, hence this tidy reissue from the on-point Jamwax label. The title track remains a breezy, melodious, cheery and soul-flecked treat, with T.Z Junior delivering a brilliantly evocative lead vocal over bustling bubblegum synths, delay-laden machine drums and an inspired electrofunk bassline. "Are You Ready For Love", meanwhile, may not be quite as celebrated but is equally as impressive. It's the kind of sun-kissed "bubblegum" treat that would sound perfect blasting out of a soundsystem on a hot summer's day.
Review: Two premium Latin funk documents on one limited 45, Mr Bongo deliver once again: Marcos Valle needs no introduction to Brazilian music enthusiasts. "Mentira" is a self-cover as Valle takes his 69 classic "Mentira Carioca" and develops the dynamic with a vocal style that's highly reminiscent of Donovan. Flip for Toni Tornado's Black Rio anthem "Me Libertei". Fusing sleazy rock n roll with jazzy Latin soul, madly this is the first time it's ever graced a 45!
Review: These days, Hanad Kalkaba is a retired Army colonel and track and field athletics administrator in his native Cameroon. Yet back in the mid 1970s, he was a musician with dreams of potential super-stardom, trying to update traditional Cameroonian "Gandjal" music for the funk generation. To that end, he recorded a small number of singles and EPs alongside his backing band, the Golden Sounds. It's those thoroughly obscure and overlooked releases that make up Hanad Kalkaba & The Golden Sounds, a retrospective of his pioneering work. Sitting somewhere between Afro-beat, Afro-funk and Afro-jazz, with a distinctively Cameroonian rhythmic swing, the music showcased on the album is undeniably special.