The 1960’s and 1970’s were a time of political and social turmoil in the U.S. and also a time of transition and change. The era saw the rise of Malcolm X and MLK, afros and dashikis, blackploitation films, and newfound black pride. And American soul and funk music celebrated it all. The music and politics weren’t lost on post-colonial African countries. Cameroonian Manu Dibango garnered the first American top 40 hit by an African artist in 1972 with “Soul Makossa,” to give just one example. Nigerian afrobeat superstar Fela Kuti visited Los Angeles in 1969, where Sandra Iszidore turned him onto the Black Panthers and Black pride as well.
We start the show with James Brown’s 1968 #1 hit, “Say it Loud—I’m Black and I’m Proud.” A look at Malick Sidibe’s classic photos of Bamako parties show celebrants in front of their record players holding 45 rpm singles and LP’s by James Brown, The Fania All Stars, and other big stars. Brown headlined the Kinshasha Festival in 1974 during the Ali-Foreman fight. (If you get a chance, watch Soul Power, a documentary film about the festival). African fashion reflected America’s too, with bell-bottoms wide enough to sweep floors, voluminous afros, and other expressions of sartorial pride. In West Africa’s Guinea, it was called “authenticité.”
We move on to Ghana with the African Brothers‘ “Saktumbe” (could this be a variant of “sock it to me,” a popular saying back then?). Nigeria’s The Funkees are next with “It’s Dancing Time.” The funk groove continues with Kenya’s Matata, a 10-piece funk machine from Nairobi.
We next hear De Franks Band from Ghana, followed by the powerful Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou, a band named after the city of Cotonou, Benin. After that, another Ghanaian group, Uppers International, then Burkina Faso’s Mamo Lagbema. We wrap it up with Nigerian afrobeat band Saxon Lee and the Shadows International.
We should be grateful for record labels like Strut, Analog Africa, and Soundway for reissuing so much great 70’s African music, which otherwise would be lost in the dust of history. It’s a labor of love for all involved, and we thank them for it.
RHYTHM PLANET PLAYLIST FOR 4/7/17
- James Brown / “Say it Loud – I’m Black & I’m Proud” / Number One’s / Universal
- The African Brothers / “Saktumbe” / Ghana Soundz: Afro-Beat, Funk and Fusion in 70’s Ghana / Soundway Records
- The Funkees / “Dancing Time” / Nigeria 70: The Definitive Story of 1970’s Funky Lagos / Strut Records
- Matata / “I Feel Funky” / Africafunk: Return to the Original Sound of 1970s Funky Africa / Harmless
- De Frank’s Band / “Do Your Own Thing” / Afrobeat Airways Vol. 2 / Analog Africa
- Orchestre Poly-Rythmo De Cotonou / “Houzou Houzou Wa” / The Skeletal Essences of Afro Funk, Vol. 3 / Analog Africa
- Uppers International / “Neriba Lanchina” / Afrobeat Airways: West African Shock Waves / Analog Africa
- Mamo Lagbema / “Love, Music and Dance” / Bambara Mystic Soul: The Raw Sound of Burkina Faso / Analog Africa
- Saxon Lee & The Shadows International / “Mind Your Business” / Nigeria Afrobeat Special: The New Explosive Sound in 1970’s Nigeria / Soundway Records