Review: For their latest deep dive into forgotten and sought-after African music, Mr Bongo has secured the rights to reissue Togolese singer Akofa Akoussah's eponymous 1976 debut album. Akoussah was already something of a scene veteran when she recorded the set for Paris-based Sonafric, having made her vinyl debut in Togo 11 years earlier. The set remains something of a classic, with Akoussah variously delivering sweet vocals over local rhythms and guitars, bass, horns and Moog synth parts that showcase her Western funk and soul influences. There are some suitably heavy dancefloor workouts throughout (not least superb opener "Tango") as well as more laidback and stripped-back cuts. Curiously, the echo-laden production makes it sound like it was recorded in the mid '60s rather than the 1970s, but that's no criticism; it just adds an extra edge of intoxicating fuzziness.
Room Enough For Us (feat Ray Lugo - Terrificos mix)
Review: The Alma Afrobeat Ensemble is a ten-piece outfit from Barcelona created, in part, to pay tribute to the pioneering work of Fela Kuti and Tony Allen, amongst others. It's Time is their third full-length, and comprises both new material, and fresh remixes of previous work. In the former category, you'll find the thrilling, horn-heavy brilliance of "It's Time", and the slower, organ rich thrills of "Lost". As fine as these tracks are, it's the dancefloor-ready reworks that arguably hit home hardest. Highlights include DJ Quiet's low-slung, broken beat influenced interpretation of "DWB Breakdown", Los Kalakos killer dub rework of "Lost", and the subtle Afro-house infusions of Terrificos' remix of "Room Enough For Us
Review: Initially released in South Africa in 1982, Gyedu-Blay Ambolley's sophomore set is now regarded as a boogie-era Highlife classic. Here issued on CD for the very first time via Mr Bongo, the album features the Ghanaian star brilliantly joining the dots between driving disco-funk, jazz-funk, intoxicating slow jams, calypso, dub reggae and his beloved highlife. Highlights come thick and fast throughout, with standouts including heavy percussion jam "Simigwa", the boogie-dub skank of "Adwoa", the down-low grooves of "Walking Down The Street" and the killer disco highlife anthem "It's High Life". Simply essential.
Review: 1975's "Simigwa" album not only launched the career of Afro-funk fusionist and eventual Highlife great Gyedu Blay Ambolley, but also inspired a Ghanaian dance craze. The album was co-produced by another Highlife great, Ebo Taylor, and has long been exceptionally hard to find on vinyl. For this official vinyl reissue on Mr Bongo, Ambolley's landmark set has been fully re-mastered for the very first time. It sounds spectacular, with great clarity on the ear-catching brass solos, serious weight to the bass and superb stereo separation. Highlights include - but certainly aren't limited to - the Afro-blues brilliance of "Toffie", the jaunty dancefloor fuzziness of "This Hustling World" and the heavyweight swing of ear-catching opener "Kwaakwaa".
Review: Rotterdam is one of the many big port cities around the world that welcomed a high number of Cape Verdean immigrants. In the 1970s, Americo Brito was one of them and he soon got involved with the local music scene and found an ever larger community of likeminded talents. He took to the stage with his band and made for a buzzy little scene that found them tour with their own sound system. Here he works with Rotterdam local Arp Frique to serve up Cape Verdean music old and new with plenty of traditional Funana and Coladeira sounds next to jams influenced by wave, disco and funk, jazz, reggae and Latin pop.
Review: According to Brownswood Recordings, Dayme Arocena took a conscious decision to opt for a more "stripped back" sound on her latest album, which marks her fourth full-length excursion for Gilles Peterson's admirable imprint. That's certainly the impression given by the opening track, "Nangareo", which sees the Cuban singer layer her own spoken and sung vocals over the sounds of lapping waves and moody, elongated synthesizer chords. It offers a striking introduction to an Afro-Cuban jazz set that smartly incorporates elements of both samba and the distinctive drum rhythms associated with her home country (as well as some superb chanted vocals). As a result, "Sonocardiogram" has an ear-pleasing vibrancy that encourages repeat listens.
Review: Dutch dude Arp Frique won plenty of praise for his 2017 debut 12" on Rush Hour Store Jams, which featured contributions from Senegalese and Cape Verde musicians. On this surprise debut album, he continues the same approach, delivering a scintillating set of tracks that gleefully join the dots between Afro-disco, jazz-funk, boogie, Caribbean reggae-disco, bossa-soul and the kind of up-tempo, synth-laden madness that defies easy categorization. Throughout, the presence of live drums, vocals and instrumentation gives the album a loose and fluid feel, as if what we're listening to is not a fresh album, but rather a long lost African rarity from the turn of the '80s. As debut albums go, it's a bit of a corker.
Review: Last year, Strut reissued the earliest albums in Mulatu Astatke's catalogue - 1966's "Afro-Latin Soul Part 1 & 2". This quality collection from Buda Musique picks up the story three years later, when the man who would become known as the "Godfather of Ethiopian Jazz" was beginning to establish himself as a true pioneer. The compilation draws on work recorded between 1969 and '74 in Boston, New York and London, most of which explores Astatke's unique and distinctive fusion of turn-of-the-'70s US jazz, dancefloor-friendly jazz-funk, Afro-Cuban rhythms and traditional Ethiopian music. While some of the recordings are fiendishly fuzzy and lo-fi, there's no arguing with the quality of Astatke's composition, playing and production. In fact, it's a near perfect introduction to his now familiar "Ethio-jazz" style.
Review: These days, Mulatu Astatke is widely considered to be the "Godfather of Ethiopian jazz". Yet when he recorded the two-part "Afro-Latin Soul" album in 1966, he'd just left music college in Boston. As this fine reissue proves, Astatke was years ahead of the game. While rooted in American jazz from the period, all 19 tracks (both albums have been compiled on to a single disc for this edition) draw heavily on Cuban jazz, in particular, as well as Ethiopian musical traditions. In truth, the latter aspect doesn't come through quite as strongly as you'd perhaps expect, though some of the album's highlights - the brilliant "Soul Power" in particular - draw more heavily on the percussive polyrhythms of Africa. Regardless, this is a superb set of forward-thinking global jazz that delivers high quality entertainment from start to finish.