Analog Africa: Label celebrates forgotten African gems

Today’s show features some of German label Analog Africa’s wonderful catalogue—one that celebrates all the great music released in the 1970’s and early 1980’s by artists far less known to the west than, say, Fela Kuti or King Sunny Adé. Most of Analog Africa’s albums focus on music from West African countries like Ghana, Senegal, Benin, Angola, and Burkina Faso. On this week's 11-track playlist, we hear music from Benin’s Poly-rythmo de Cotono and Roger Damawuzan, Angola’s Dimba Diangola, Senegal’s Amara Toure et l’Orchestre Massako, Cameroon’s Dream Stars, and more.

African music in the 1970’s was affected by urbanization (artists moving from village to city), the rise of global telecommunications (with stations like the Voice of America broadcasting American and European music throughout Africa), new electronic instruments, and other modern developments. You can't help but notice the big influence of American soul music on West African bands of the time. In particular, James Brown, whose 1968 hit song “Say it loud, I’m black and I’m proud,” served as an anthem for Africans in newly-independent countries. Then of course there was the 1974 Kinshasa music festival featuring Brown, Celia Cruz and the Fania All Stars, Bill Withers, Manu Dibango, and others. The festival accompanied the big Ali-Foreman fight—a "Rumble in the Jungle" immortalized in the film When We Were Kings—and the 2008 film Soul Power documented these Zaïre concerts. You’ll hear the James Brown influence clearly on the first cut we hear on today's show, called “Wait for Me” by Roger Damawuzan.

You’ll also hear the influence of Cuban and Puerto Rican music in many of the tracks we spin today. Africans in the newly-independent nations were inspired by Fidel Castro’s having thrown off the yoke of Batista’s government. Cuban music took African music and added elements that made it incredibly appealing to young Africans at the time. The ubiquitous 3/2 and 2/3 clavé Latin beat comes through clearly in Benin’s Poly-rythmo de Cotonou’s wonderful music.

On the other hand, you find the disco influence in the Dream Stars' “Pop Makossa.” I would assert that the first big disco hit, Donna Summer's “Love to Love You Baby,” which was first released in Europe and which I first heard in a Paris club in 1975, probably made it to West Africa. Production centers of African music at the time were typically based in Paris and Brussels, often with the music coming out in Europe as 45 rpm singles, then as LP's, before making its way back to Africa. The hits were called "les tubes."  

Analog Africa is the brainchild of Tunisian Samy Ben Redjeb. The albums are lavishly produced, with substantive booklets showing archival band photos, artist histories, and other information of interest to fans of African music. The albums are also available as audiophile-grade LP’s. It’s a treasure trove for any lover of African music, and this show offers just a taste of it all.

Finally, I would like to thank the folks at Forced Exposure for promoting Analog Africa’s releases—plus many other labels too—over the years. Without their efforts, I couldn’t have written this hymn of praise.

Rhythm Planet Playlist for 8/4/17

  1. Roger Damawuzan / "Wait For Me" /African Scream Contest/ Analog Africa
  2. Orchestre Poly-Rythmo De Cotonou / "Zizi" / Echos Hypnotiques / Analog Africa
  3. Orchestre Poly-Rythmo De Cotonou / "Vi e Lo" / Volume 3 - Skeletal Essences Of Voodoo / Analog Africa
  4. Dimba Diangola / "Tira Sapato" / Angola Soundtrack / Analog Africa
  5. Africa Show 73 / "Inspiraçáo de Nito" / Angola Soundtrack 2 / Analog Africa
  6. Amara Toure Et L'Orchestre Massako / "Cuando Liegare" / Amara Toure/ Analog Africa
  7. King N'Gom / "Viva Marvillas" / Senegal 70 / Analog Africa
  8. Uppers International / " Neriba Lanchina" / Afro-Beat Airways/West African Shock/ Analog Africa
  9. Amadou Ballake Et Les 5 Consuls / "Baden Djougou" / Bambara Mystic Soul: The Raw Sound of Burkina Faso/ Analog Africa
  10. El Rego et ses Commandos / "Feeling You Got" / Legends Of Benin / Analog Africa
  11. Dream Stars / "Pop Makossa" / Pop Makossa / Analog Africa





Tom Schnabel