Review: Jane, Roberto, and Sidey Morais - Brazil's Os Tres Morais - are placed alongside the wonderful Claudia for the latest all Brazilian showdown courtesy of the always point-side Brazil45 series from the Mr. Bongo label. The latter gives us the mythical "Garra", a tune that sits very nicely next to the likes of Marcos Valle and co, and the singing trio get a reissue of 2006's "Freio Aerodinamico", a gorgeous blend of samba, disco, and something perfectly exotic and vintage. Heart-warmers.
Review: Cuba's Manana Records launches via a fine EP from Obbatuke, a eight-piece rumba outfit fronted by renowned quinto player Carlos Guerra. The band are apparently regulars at the legendary Casa del Caribe in Santiago de Cuba, a venue widely considered to be the beating heart of the Eastern rumba scene. Musically, the five tracks here mix typically high tempo, densely percussive rumba rhythms with chanted vocals. The lack of other musical instruments is startling, but takes nothing away from the tracks. In fact, it only enhances their back-to-basics charms. It proves beyond any doubt that it's the drums that make great dance music.
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: Make way for Orquesta Akokan, an exciting new Havanan big band cross-generational troupe led by Jose Gomez. Digging deep into their island's rich Latin soul with an ageless fusion of instrumentation and physical rhythms, "Mambo Rapido" is a tribal piece of work where Gomez's spitfire commands go toe-to-toe with firing jazz pianos and wily flutes. "Un Tabaco Para Elegua" deconstructs a classic cha-cha and rebuilds it with subtly theatrical layers. A full album is due imminently...
Review: Samba flavours do not come more authentic than this. The sixth in Mr Bongo's Brazil 45 series, here they unearth two foundation pieces from Rio collective Os Origianais Do Samba. Forming in 60s Rio, they're still highly active today and have a discography peppered with Brazilian gold. This 45 does well to showcase their breadth... "La Vem Salgueiro" is quintessential samba. Heavy rhythm, punctuated vocals and a dynamic that leaps from bold and delicate in a flash, it charms you instantly. "Tenha Fe" has a softer soul as it strums and sways and more of a folky sensation, tight harmonies and alluring naked instrumentation.
Fabio Fonseca - "Ladroes De Bagda" (feat Marina Lima) (3:51)
Fernanda Abreu - "Hello Baby" (4:56)
Luna E DJ Cri - "Acabou Como Comecou" (4:28)
Junior - "Vim Te Buscar" (4:59)
Thaide & DJ Hum - "Coisas Do Amor" (Trepanado edit) (4:34)
As Damas Do Rap - "Um Sonho Real" (4:55)
MC D'Eddy - "Jeito De Ser Menina" (instrumental) (5:12)
Sharylaine - "Saudade" (5:26)
Review: Did you know that Britain was not the only country where street soul was a musical force to be reckoned with during the late '80s and early '90s? As this fine compilation from record collector Augusto Olivani shows, the sound also thrived in Brazil, where inner-city musicians embraced its post-boogie fusion of head-nodding grooves, smooth instrumentation and even smoother vocals. There's much to enjoy throughout "Street Soul Brasil", from the dreamy chords and sparkling melodies of Afrodite Se Quiser's breezy "Fora De Mim", to the Soul II Soul style shuffle of Luna E DJ Cri's "Acabou Como Comecou", via the rushing cheeriness of Junior's "Vim Te Buscar" and the sugary bliss of MC D'Eddy's "Jeito De Menina (Instrumental)".
Review: Back in 2012, Will "Quantic" Holland joined forces with Colombian musician Mario Galeano to form Ondatropica. The eponymous debut album that followed was quietly impressive, fusing traditional South American styles - cumbia, champeta etc. - with elements of hip-hop and funk, with the assistance of musicians from the vibrant Colombian scene. For this belated follow-up, the duo has tweaked the formula slightly, incorporating more from the Caribbean and African influences that have seeped into the music made around Bogota and Old Providence Island. While the palette of influences made be broader, the resultant music is every bit as enjoyable and entertaining as that found on its predecessor.
Review: Now a high chief and Kenyan diplomat, Onyeabor was once one of Africa's most forward-thinking popular music contributors. Released in 1983, toward the end of his eight album discography, the two extended cuts on Good Name reflect the emergence of electronic music and how it influenced African pop culture. With conscious lyrics about value and soul, both tracks capture one of the most exciting times in recent musical history. Truly unique.
Review: Mysterious to the point of genuine legend, ever since Luaka Bop rekindled William's legacy flame in 2013 growing interest has developed in his work... To the point he's granted an interview and, rather amazingly, hinted at new material in the future. For this particular rerelease we head back to one of his finest albums; his second LP that would spawn the name of his live band who are still active to this day. Shining with strong Caribbean influences on "Beautiful Baby" and "Shame", stomping with strident Afrofunk twists and heavy studio techniques on "Atomic Bomb", slinking and skanking with the feel good "I Need You All Life", Atomic Bomb really is a work of beauty.
Review: A lesson in how to follow up an incredible album: Tomorrow followed Onyeabor's incendiary Atomic Bomb immaculately. The title track instantly set the scene with more emphasis on electronic elements and studio techniques as William sermonises without pomp. "Why Go To War" is as insistent as its message thanks to a dense lolloping groove of highlife guitars and spiralling keys. "Fantastic Man", meanwhile, takes a leaf out of Parliament's playbook, rolls it up and smokes its own and "Try & Try" closes the show with country subtlety thanks to its slide guitars and blushing keys.
Review: Following 2012's fourth volume that celebrated the existential work of Tim Maia, here we find Luaka Bop exploring the legacy of William Onyeabor. A high chief and Kenyan diplomat who allegedly refuses to discuss his music, he self-released eight albums in the 70s and 80s and these are some of the many highlights. Stretching from the New York-influenced post-punk synth funk of "Good Name" to the most authentic Afro fusion of "Why Go To War", Onyeabor's range not only reflects his clear creative skill, but also the ever-developing international language of music during the fruitful period he was active. Who is William Onyeabor? Press play and find out yourselves...
Review: After the success of their Who Is William Onyeabor compilation last year, Luaka Bop have curated two ultimate collections that explore every nook and cranny of the near-mythical Nigerian dynamo who self-released eight albums between 78-85 before quitting music never to discuss his work publically again. Cherry picking the best elements of every genre (even ones of the future) Onyeabor's songwriting, coupled with some deliciously creative production techniques, still sound timeless now... The cosmic harmonies of "Heaven & Hell", the twitchy ESG-style punk-funk fusion of "Good Name", the calypso croons of "Crashes In Love", the list goes on. A true celebration of a unique man in African music, both this and Box Set 1 are fascinating documents.
Review: Even by the consistently high standards of Analog Africa, this release is something special. It consists entirely of previously unheard music by Orchestre Abass, an obscure outfit from Togo who released a handful of singles on Polydor Ghana in the early 1970s. Remarkably, all bar one of the tracks on "De Bassari Togo" were found on a long forgotten reel of tape that had sat on a shelf in a Ghanaian warehouse for the best part of 35 years. That was ten years ago; it's taken that long to track down the remaining members of the band and license the material. In truth, the tracks have aged exceptionally well, with the band's infectious, organ-led sound adding distinct Arabic influences (a result of the band members' time spent studying in Islamic schools) to their heavy funk rhythms and riotous Afro-funk vibes.
Review: Northampton, Massachusetts based Peace & Rhythm presents glorious independent music on limited edition vinyl. Funk, world music and jazz are the focal points. Run by DJs, they've also served up some great stuff recently by Big Mean Sound Machine, SPAM Allstars and MAKU Soundsystem. But right here we've got a reissue of Puerto Rico's own Orquesta el Macabeo and their El Entierro LP from 2011 originally on Discos de Hoy. A unique combination of traditional salsa dura elements with a garage/punk/pop spirit featured here that's a truly wonderful listen. This album followed up Lluvia Con Sol in 2013 and last year's La Maldicion Del Timbal.
Review: Puerto Rican seven-piece Orquestra El Macabeo is one of the most intriguing outfits to emerge from the salsa scene in recent years. Since dropping their debut album Salsa Macabre in 2010, they've been a must-check for those who like their salsa percussive, jaunty and left-of-centre. While the style's traditional instrumentation and structure is present throughout 2016 full-length La Maldicion Del Timbal - here reissued after in initial copies quickly sold out - there's evidence of a wider range of influences than your average salsa set (think quirky western pop, the DIY ethos of punk and of course Afro-Cuban rhythms). It's a bit of a cliche to say that this kind of material is "life affirming", but in this case, it's 100% true.
Review: The second salvo from "forgotten music" specialists Dig This Way Records takes us back to 1988 and the synthesizer and drum machine-driven Highlife antics of obscure outfit Ode-Omore Osarenren & Ewaen Osetin Stars. Even by the standards of Nigerian music, it's an obscurity, but also pretty special. Check, for example, the clicking machine drums, group vocals and exotic synthesizer lines of opener "Ukhiokhio", the gorgeous guitars, whistling synth melodies and percussive breeziness of "Omoto" and the trumpet-laden tropical brilliance that is closing cut "Enothiomwani". The set's most endearing quality is undoubtedly its inherent positivity, something that's only enhanced by the band's use of sparkling synthesizer sounds.
Review: It would be fair to say that Sir Waziri Oshoma is not one of Nigeria's better-known musicians, despite having a high reputation amongst collectors. Throughout the 1970s and early '80s, he recorded and released a number of albums - each packed with his distinctive interpretations of the then dominant Afrobeat and Highlife sounds - with the backing of his Africa 70 style house band, the Traditional Sound Makers. Volume 3 initially appeared on the band leader's own label back in 1980, and here gets the reissue treatment thanks to the folks behind Paris record store turned label Superfly. Its' four lengthy workouts are naturally superb, making it one of those hard-to-find gems that should be in any Afrobeat enthusiast's collection.