A joyful collection of sounds from the Islamic Funk Belt of the 1970s.
Chris Parkin 2012
You might be familiar with Analog Africa by now. Frankfurt-based Samy Ben Redjeb founded the award-winning label to release the treasures unearthed on crate-digging trips around Africa – excavations that have already made us hip to old and hitherto unheard-of (in the UK, at least) bands such as Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou and The Green Arrows.
It’s a diverse canon, for sure, but there is a theme to grapple with: the majority of Analog Africa reissues are from West Africa, where its 60s and 70s bands were exposed to and inspired by imported funk and soul records alongside their own home-grown traditions. The Bariba Sound is the latest instalment in this on-going anthology.
The new (11th) Analog Africa album release is another report from West Africa’s 70s Islamic Funk Belt, a recently anointed area that includes Ghana, Togo, Burkina Faso and Benin, from where this disc’s stars Le Super Borgou de Parakou originate.
Extensive sleeve-notes tell us the band began as a covers outfit, performing Congolese Rumba hits. But eventually, just like musical visionaries all over the world who rediscover indigenous, home-grown musical tradition and project it into the future by drawing in other sounds, Le Super Borgou turned their attention to the musical past of their Bariba and Dendi people. And at the same time, they were listening to the imported records that bandleader Moussa Mama’s dad brought them.
The results are a collection of heavy, inner-city funk songs powered by claustrophobic breakbeats, stalking bass lines, and wiggy guitars and keyboards distorted and wah-wahed into agreeably tinny weirdness by wholly unsuitable amps. Le Super Borgou de Parakou appeared on Analog Africa’s third release, African Scream Contest: Raw & Psychedelic Afro Sounds from Benin & Togo, but here they enjoy a full-hour’s playing time. A good thing, too, because these propulsive, groovy tracks need time to percolate and allow the near-transcendental repetition favoured by West African, Saharan and Islamic bands to hypnotise fully. The traditional harmonies and melodies, meanwhile, are as flowery and psychedelic as anything by Brazil’s Tropicalia bands.
If there’s even a slim chance of discovering another old band as potently joyful as this lot then we have one instruction for Analog Africa: back to the Islamic Funk Belt!