AQUARIUS RECORDS…. AFRICA

album cover ACQUAYE, SAKA & HIS AFRICAN ENSEMBLE Ghana: High-Life and Other Popular Music (Nonesuch) cd 12.98
Those expecting a Fela Kuti / Tony Allen spin off will be disappointed by this recording as, unlike Nigerian high life, there’s not a trace of James Brown or « funk » to be found here. It also is completely different than the Latin infused sounds of the Kinshasa style high life the Congo. Utilizing both traditional Ghanaian instruments and European flutes, saxophones, trumpets, vibes, kit drums, double bass and guitar, the music of Saka Acquaye and his African Ensemble takes as its kernel big band jazz. The result is something that sounds alternately like a really progressive, hot marching band and Martin Denny with teeth. Apparently quite the renaissance man, Acquaye was an educator, sculptor, and a champion hurdler as well as an accomplished musician. He spent at least ten years in the United States, receiving not only an advanced degree from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, but a Fullbright Scholarship for the study of opera from UCLA. Originally released in 1969 as « Voices of Africa: High Life and Other Popular Music », this album was recorded after Acquaye’s return to Ghana. And though this album might not appeal to those who take Afro-Strut as the final word on the gems offered by African popular music, I highly recommend that they give this one a shot until someone re-issues fabulous recordings on John Storm Robert’s Original Music label.
RealAudio clip: « Concomba »
RealAudio clip: « Congo Beat »

album cover AGA, ALEMU Ethiopiques Vol. 11 : The Harp of King David (Buda Musique) cd 15.98
We were pretty surprised to see an eleventh volume in the Ethiopiques series here, since we were all under the impression that the collection was slated to end at volume ten. Well, turns out we were wrong and we are happy to be wrong because 11 is an excellent disc in its own right. Of all the discs in the series, Ethiopiques 11 shares the closest resemblance to volumes 2 or 5, but only in that it’s a complete departure musically from the rest — 2 and 5 included. Ethiopiques 11 features Alemu Aga playing the beguena, a large lyre with ten paired tuned strings. The beguena is often called the « Harp of King David » because it is believed that David (as in David and Goliath) played a similar such instrument to accompany his psalms way back when. As would be expected, the beguena has always been closely tied with the church — Coptic Orthodox — and had a rich repertoire that was very nearly destroyed along with all the other great music and arts during the Stalinist period of Ethiopia’s history which began in 1974. Twenty years later Alemu Aga (this album was recorded in 1994) and others were finally able to continue with the instrument’s traditions and now, slowly, the beguena is being returned to its place in society.
As stated earlier, you won’t find much similarity in the music here to the rest of the series. Consisting solely of Alemu’s soft voice accompanied by the beguena songs have a mesmerising quality. The beguena’s strings buzz and rattle as Alemu Aga sings both religious and secular songs in a low, smoky voice. If you skip through the tracks on the disc you might be fooled into thinking you’re hearing the same track over and over again. Yet although the instrument’s melodies are seemingly repetitive — given its limited range and single tuning — they form an interesting counterpoint to Aga’s vocal lines.
RealAudio clip: « Tew Semagn Hagere »

album cover AHMED, MAHMOUD Ethiopiques Vol. 19: Alemye (Buda Musique) cd 15.98
Recorded in 1974, smack dab between the lps reissued as Ethiopiques 6 (1973) and Ethiopiques 7 (1975) Alemye is the third entry in this series given over to documenting Ahmed’s complete recorded output, a totally unique, gorgeously smooth funk / soul / jazz groove accompanied by Ahmed’s unmistakable crooning. There are plenty of resources to read more about Ahmed and the history of Ethiopian music, on the net, even elsewhere on our website, but this review is all about the music. This is sexy sultry stuff, lively horns and fluttering flutes sway hypnotically above a muted rhythm section of bass drum and organ, in fact the rhythm section is so subdued that it almost sounds like it’s bleeding through the wall from a room next door. But that gives it a super warm, warbly droning feel, all dreamy and mesmerizing and totally otherworldly. But it’s all about that croon. Ahmed is known as the James Brown of Ethiopia, which makes sense in that he is definitely a funk / soul superstar there, but sonically, he is way less hyper and energetic, less wild and teetering on the edge of collapse, and way more broodingly sexual and sensual, lights low, the room cloaked in smoke, tense and mysteriously intense, his voice slipping smoothly up and down impossible scales, a rich warm velvet purr, capable of soaring into passionate wails and back down again, slithering and shimmering with that perfcet vibrato. Extensive liner notes and photos as with all of the amazing Ethiopiques releases, of which this is apparently the penultimate installment, and an especially great one at that.
MPEG Stream: « Alemye »
MPEG Stream: « Wegenie »

AHMED, MAHMOUD Ethiopiques Vol. 6 : Almaz (Buda Musique) cd 15.98
Now that many of you have discovered the rich and funky sounds of Ethiopia circa mid-1970s, here’s a deeper look into the career of Mahmoud Ahmed, master crooner and national Ethiopian treasure. Almaz is his very first album (from 1973), which to our knowledge has never been released in Europe or America before today. It’s unbelievably good — full of impassioned soul-stirring vocals, funky horns, and gorgeous melodies. Trust us: you will be so happy with this cd! An excerpt from the liner notes says it better than we can: « For many years everything we knew about Mahmoud Ahmed (and Ethiopian music in general) was limited to the cult album Ere Mela Mela, recorded in 1975 but released for the first time in Europe in 1986. The first eruption of this brassy, electric urban pop, swinging and hypnotic, heart-rending and funky, so unusual, so different from anything else coming out of the African continent, this musical UFO long remained our only glimpse into Ethiopian groove. Mahmoud’s first LP Almaz, recorded two years before ‘Ere Mela Mela’ now bears new witness to the talent of one of the greatest Ethiopian artists of the past 35 years. »
MPEG Stream: « Asha Gedawo »
MPEG Stream: « Zemedie »

AHMED, MAHMOUD Ethiopiques Vol. 7 : Ere Mela Mela (Buda Musique) cd 15.98
One of the best in an amazing series!!! This reissue of Ere Mela Mela (previously on Crammed I think) is an essential purchase if you dig the grooves of the James Brown of Ethiopia, the amazing Mahmoud Ahmed.
MPEG Stream: « Ere Mela Mela »
MPEG Stream: « Metche New »

album cover ALLEN, TONY Afro Disco Beat (Vampi Soul) 2cd 33.00
Wow! This is on fire! While Tony Allen will always be best known for being the amazing drummer in Fela Kuti’s band, he is responsible for some totally great and inspired body moving music of his own. This collection collects four of his best albums onto two discs for a nonstop offering of Afro-Beat perfection! These records, which all originally came out in the 1970’s, share a very similar sound and spirit to the work that Fela Kuti was doing when Allen was in his band. So it makes a lot of sense that three of them were produced by Fela. Long, stretched out passages filled with the kind of grooves that work their way right into your body and soul. While there is certainly nothing wrong with being known as the drummer in Fela’s legendary group as well as more recently a member of the Damon Albern led supergroup The Good, The Bad & The Queen, we think this release could help make it plain to those who don’t know already, that Tony Allen is a legend in his own right! Every time we play this in the store immediately people start asking what we’re listening to moving their bodies up and down and all around. Highly recommended!
MPEG Stream: « Hustler »
MPEG Stream: « Ariya »

ALLEN, TONY Black Voices (Comet) cd 16.98

ALLEN, TONY Jealousy / Progress (Evolver) cd 16.98
Finally a domestic, single disc reissue of the first two albums Tony Allen released under his own name in 1975 and ’77. Legendary drummer for Nigerian visionary Fela Kuti’s band Afrika ’70, Allen has often been called a co-founder of Afrobeat (along with Fela). In fact Allen’s drum parts were often the only element that Fela did not pre-score. These records swing and stutter and groove and majorly kick ass, stretching themselves out often to 15 minutes or more (and you never want it to end anyway). In addition to the saxophones, trumpets, congas, bass, maracas, the extraordinary standout guitar work is very hooky to these western ears, which is mostly why I like it so much, especially on the song « Jealousy », and there are lots of drum solos, more than on the Fela records. Really great — listen to the soundclip and know there’s more where that came from. Essential to any Afrobeat collection, and also a great place to start!
RealAudio clip: « Jealousy »

album cover ALLEN, TONY Lagos No Shaking (Honest Jon’s) cd 16.98
So nice to hear a master of their craft! Even nicer when it’s new material from someone who has been releasing records since the ’70s and it still ranks close to the top of anything he’s put out. While he will always get mentioned in the same breath as Fela Kuti (he was part of Fela’s band back in the day) Tony Allen should certainly be looked upon as one of the leaders of the Afro-beat movement, not just a kick ass sideman (although he was that too!) What’s so impressive is that even after all these years he still sounds passionate and filled with fire and the music totally reflects that. When we put this on for the first time we thought for sure it had to be a reissue as the sounds were as captivating and groovy as all the great ’70s Afro-beat records he and Fela recorded together. But closer examination revealed it to be a brand new release and he again demonstrates that just because so many others burn out, fade, that doesn’t mean he’s gonna… ’cause this album is still a totally funky kick ass outing… and be sure to hang in for the closer ’cause it’s the album’s sole instrumental and it’s totally on fire!
MPEG Stream: « Awa Na Re »
MPEG Stream: « Gbedu »

album cover ALLEN, TONY No Accommodation / No Discrimination (Evolver) cd 16.98

album cover AMADOU ET MARIAM Je Pense A Toi (Universal) cd 16.98


album cover AQUARIUS BUTTONS 2 x 1″ buttons 1.00
Spread the word! Show the world your true aQ colors! COOL COOL COOL aQ buttons, in 5 different colors. TWO FOR $1!!! Colors are random, but buy enough and you’ll be guaranteed to get ’em all! All 5 feature our spiffy James Gang style logo!!

album cover ASTATKE, MULATU Ethiopian Modern Instrumental Hits (L’Arome) lp 16.98
THIS IS CURRENTLY OUT OF PRINT OR OTHERWISE UNAVAILABLE TO US AT THE MOMENT, SO PLEASE DO NOT ORDER IT. SORRY.
Vinyl Headz pay attention! About two years ago we were fortunate enough to catch a few copies of Mulatu Astatke’s Ethio Jazz on vinyl. Volume 4 of Ethiopiques (easily the single most popular release in the series) was essentially the album Ethio Jazz, but expanded to include another five Astatke tracks. This release includes those five tracks previously only available on Ethiopiques Vol. 4, plus three tracks of Astatke’s which were on Ethiopiques Vol. 1, and one track of his from Ethiopiques Vol. 8. Here’s a little background on Astatke from our Ethio Jazz review: « Astatke had the unique privilege to be sent off to school in 1960 (at the age of 17) to study music in London. From there he continued on to the United States, attending The Berklee School of Music in Boston and later moving to New York. One can imagine he picked up a wide range of influence, and that he did. He became absorbed in Latin and Caribbean musics, eventually forming his own group the Ethiopian Quartet in New York. Upon his return to Ethiopia in the late sixties he was treated like a king, being hailed as ‘the first-Ethiopian-musician-educated-abroad’ and as a arranger/bandleader he was unequalled. »
This record is an absolutely stunning collection of instrumentals. Most are composed by Astatke, while others are arrangements of traditional songs or other composers. His music is a wonderful amalgam of swinging jazz tunes, sweet soul and punchy funk and laden with fuzzy electric guitars and tremolo drenched electic pianos. What’s more is that unlike the afro-funk of Nigeria, the rest of Africa or the world even, the unique scales of Ethiopian music produce the most haunting melodies that we’ve ever heard. Now for the bad news: we only have a small handful of these puppies in stock and when they’re gone, they’re gone… No more, vamoosh! Another small pointer for those that do pick this up: the copy we cracked open had the A side and B side labels mis-printed on the vinyl. We suspect the whole pressing may have this erroneous labelling. No biggy, just something to pay attention to when identifying what you’re listening to.

ASTATKE, MULATU Ethiopiques Vol. 4 (Buda Musique) cd 15.98
Ethiopia was the site of some of the most beautiful yet sadly forgotten music in the 60’s and 70’s. This compilation takes some of the best tracks from the enterprising Amha Records. This label specialized in recording unusually catchy and groovy pop songs that are not dissimilar to late 60’s Jamaican rocksteady fused with jazz signatures and Ethiopian folk, plus plenty of James Brown funk.
This disc features the all instrumental « Ethio Jazz » by Mulatu Atatke. We don’t know of anyone who’s heard this and not fallen absolutely in love with it. Recommended without reservation!
RealAudio clip: « Netsanet »
RealAudio clip: « Sabye »
RealAudio clip: « Gubelye »

album cover ASTATKE, MULATU Mulatu Of Ethiopia (Worthy) lp 16.98
THIS IS CURRENTLY OUT OF PRINT OR OTHERWISE UNAVAILABLE TO US AT THE MOMENT, SO PLEASE DO NOT ORDER IT. SORRY.
Now is one of those rare times when the dedicated lovers of vinyl are rewarded with something exclusive to LP. By now we’re all pretty familiar with Mulatu Astatke, what with Ethiopiques #4 and the LP reissue of his « Ethio Jazz » album he’s practically a household name by now (at least around here). I’m kidding of course, but rabid fans of the inimitable funk/soul/groove sounds from Ethiopia no doubt place him pretty high on the short list of the greatest from the period. And what’s better is that « Mulatu of Ethiopia » contains entirely exclusive tracks. Yep, that’s right, none of these tracks are on any of the discs in the Ethiopiques series (though there are two reworkings of tracks — « Dewel » and « Munaye » — from Ethiopiques 4). The album itself, a reissue of a 1972 release of the same title, was recorded by Astatke in the U.S. during his tenure here and until now it fetched high prices on the collector’s market. Given Astatke’s experiences working in the U.S. with American jazz and Latin jazz musicians it should come as no surprise that it sounds nothing like anything else in the myriad Ethiopian groove reissues. For one, it’s super smooov’ (in a good way) with Mulatu picking up his mallets and playing vibes through it all and the recording — which must have been done at some swank U.S. studio — is ultra lush (what’s that? You say you can hear the bass?) The music on this album totally sounds like a soundtrack to some long lost Michael Caine political intrigue film. You can almost see the cigarette dangling out of Caine’s mouth as he drives around in an Austin Healey tailing a bad guy. On « Mulatu of Ethiopia » Astatke is accompanied by a pretty tight ensemble, much smaller than the orchestras of the Amha recording era. The backbone of his accompaniment is an uber funky organ/electric piano that sounds at times like they’ve got a wah wah pedal hooked up to it. Also included in the ensemble is electric bass, drums, percussion and plenty of soloing assistance from saxophone, flute and trumpet. Highly recommended, but act fast ’cause, as with so many things, we only have a few…
MPEG Stream: « Mascaram Setaba »
MPEG Stream: « Kasalefkut-Hulu »

ASTATKE, MULATU, FEATURING FEKADE AMDE MASKAL Ethio Jazz (L’Arome Productions) lp 16.98
THIS IS CURRENTLY OUT OF PRINT OR OTHERWISE UNAVAILABLE TO US AT THE MOMENT, SO PLEASE DO NOT ORDER IT. SORRY.
If I had a dime for everytime someone has picked up a copy of Ethiopiques #4 and asked if we had it available on vinyl I’d probably be able to afford to buy the original pressing of « Ethio Jazz » for the price it fetches on e-bay. But now for a mere 170 dimes vinyl lovers everywhere can at last have a copy of their own. Mulatu Astatke’s « Ethio Jazz » was released as Volume 4 of Ethiopiques (expanded from 9 to 14 tracks for the CD issue) and is easily the single most popular release in the series (at least here at AQ anyway.) Astatke had the unique privilege to be sent off to school in 1960 (at the age of 17) to study music in London. From there he continued on to the United States, attending The Berklee School of Music in Boston and later moving to New York. One can imagine he picked up a wide range of influence, and that he did. He became absorbed in Latin and Caribbean musics, eventually forming his own group the Ethiopian Quartet in New York. Upon his return to Ethiopia in the late sixties he was treated like a king, being hailed as « the first-Ethiopian-musician-educated-abroad » and as a arranger/bandleader he was unequalled. This record is an absolutely stunning collection of instrumentals. Most are composed by Astatke, while others are arrangements of traditional songs or other composers. A « jazz » record, yes this is, but hardly just. « Ethio Jazz » is a wonderful amalgam of swinging jazz tunes, sweet soul and punchy funk and laden with fuzzy electric guitars and tremolo drenched electic pianos. What’s more is that, unlike the afro-funk of Nigeria, the rest of Africa or the world even, the unique scales of Ethiopian music produce the most haunting melodies that we’ve ever heard. For better or worse, this record has probably the broadest appeal of any release we’ve had. Very highly recommended (and for CD buyers, if you haven’t picked up Ethiopiques #4 yet we always keep them in stock.)
RealAudio clip: « Netsanet »
RealAudio clip: « Sabye »
RealAudio clip: « Gubelye »

BANGOURA, ABDULAI Sigiri (Avant) cd 21.00
THIS IS CURRENTLY OUT OF PRINT OR OTHERWISE UNAVAILABLE TO US AT THE MOMENT, SO PLEASE DO NOT ORDER IT. SORRY.
1990 field recordings of master percussionist, balafon & kalimba player Abdulai Bangoura of Guinea. A follow-up to Avant’s earlier « Drums of Death » disc.

album cover BERAKI, TSEHAYTU Selam (Terp) 2cd 19.98
From the same label (The Ex’s Terp label) that brought us the recent Konono No.1 live record, comes this amazing double cd release from legendary Eritrean singer Tsehaytu Beraki. Initially, the folks at Terp were just trying to help locate material for the Ethiopiques series, when people kept suggesting that someone should do something for Beraki, who was forced to flee from the turmoil of Eritrea and somehow ended up in Rotterdam. After some determined digging, Terrie from the Ex managed to track her down and began to discuss ideas for releasing a cd. It ended up that after years and years of performing and recording, very litte of Beraki’s music had actually been recorded or released! So plans were made, and everything on these two discs was recorded in a modern state of the art studio with a handful of unlikely guests (free jazz drummer Han Bennink for one!) between 2000-2003. You’d be hard pressed to tell though, because the sound, the songs and Beraki’s vocals are so perfectly timeless. Mostly performed on a krar (and occasionally a bass krar), a buzzing stringed instrument like a harp / banjo / sitar hybrid, these songs are gorgeous, with Beraki’s warm, resonant vocals over a bed of buzzing strings, muted melodies, and a simple insistent and hypnotic rhythm. Every time we play this in the store someone comes up to find out what it is. Folks who dug the Ethiopiques series (especially Vol. 16) and the recent Konono No.1 will LOVE this. So beautiful.
MPEG Stream: « Atzmtom Keskisom »
MPEG Stream: « Hey Li Habelmalet »

album cover BLO Phases 1972-1982 (Afro Strut) cd 16.98
THIS IS CURRENTLY OUT OF PRINT OR OTHERWISE UNAVAILABLE TO US AT THE MOMENT, SO PLEASE DO NOT ORDER IT. SORRY.
Funky afro-rock from this ’70s Nigerian band. This compiles tracks from their four albums, and ranges from the mellow psychedelic rock (in a West Coast mode) of their early stuff to a much more dance-oriented, disco-inflected groove later on, that you could confuse with Kool & The Gang or a New Orleans combo. So, as you listen to this, you’ll first pick up the bong, then put it down and strap on your roller skates…Byram prefers the earlier stuff but Allan thinks the whole thing is pretty fab and full of sunshine. Another prize-winning obscurity rescued from the vaults, courtesy of reissue/compilation label Strut!
RealAudio clip: « Miss Sagit »
RealAudio clip: « Chant To Mother Earth »
RealAudio clip: « Scandi Boogie »
RealAudio clip: « Number One »
RealAudio clip: « Get That Groove In »

BOADI, DAN Money Is The Root Of Evil (Hefty) cd 10.98
Aestuarium, who put out the amazing Philip Cohran disc, now bring us some ultra-serious Fela-style jams. Dan Boadi had some huge hits in his native Ghana in the seventies, and came to New York in 1978 to record these two epic cuts of heavy, heavy afro-funk fused with disco danceability. Apparently, his music didn’t resonate with Americans in the same way it did with Ghanaians, and though Boadi has continued to record in Ghana and Chicago, these mighty tracks faded into obscurity. Luckily, Aestuarium has resurrected them for us. Recommended for those with a tooth for raw, dirty disco and/or seventies afrobeat.
RealAudio clip: « Money Is The Root Of All Evil »
RealAudio clip: « Play That Funky Music »

album cover BOUGOUNI YAALALI s/t (Yaala Yaala) cd 14.98
You might remember a couple months ago we freaked out over a gritty and gorgeous release out of Mali from Pekos and Yoro Diallo. It was the first release on the new Drag City imprint Yaala Yaala, a label specializing in raw music and field recordings from West Africa. After reveling in their first release for a while we thought it was time to move on to their second outing which we’re happy to report is just as mystifying, compelling and pleasing as the first. Bougouni is a small city in Mali and it’s there and in nearby Bamako where these sounds were recorded, during hot days and balmy nights. The music was recorded everywhere from house parties, at checker games, under the shade of mango trees, etc. Like the best of the Nonesuch Explorer series and the eccentric tendencies of the beloved Sublime Frequencies label, Yaalaa Yaala has managed to capture the sounds of other cultures in a way much more agreeable to our sensibilities and respectful to the music and musicians themselves then the often manipulated, polished and Western-washed versions that ends up at cafes, on slick compilations and in « world music » sections of most record stores. Often when we’ve traveled to faraway places we wish that instead of a camera we had a really good tape recorder with us as it’s often the raw and unadorned sounds of a place and people that truly captures the spirit of that location more then any photograph ever could.
Thankfully, the sounds on Bougouni Yaalali resulted from just that sort of foresight, someone who did think ahead and managed to record all of these amazing sounds during various travels through Mali, allowing us to really get close to understanding the spirit of a place that most of us have never been to (though would kill to visit!!). With simple yet compelling percussion (some of it wonderfully distorted!) and a slew of various instruments, the extremely minimal liner notes allow us to play the guessing game of trying to identify the sources of particular sounds (is that a thumb piano we hear on lots of these tracks?). And even though we can’t understand the lyrics the hypnotic and powerful delivery ring true with a passion and emotional conviction that transcends language. Yaala Yaala is two for two so far, we can’t wait to hear more!
MPEG Stream: « Untitled 8 »
MPEG Stream: « Untitled 1 »
MPEG Stream: « Untitled 4 »

album cover DAKTARIS Soul Explosion (Daptone) cd 14.98
Fela Kuti lovers take note! This is one of the best post-Fela Kuti inspired Afro beat records of the last decade for sure. Originally released in ’98 just a year after Fela passed away, this was sadly the one and only album released by The Daktaris. Melding Afro beat, soul and funk with total perfection these are songs that make you walk with better posture and with total purpose. They pay homage to their heroes with amazing renditions of James Brown’s « Give It Up Turnit Loose » as well as the aforementioned Fela Kuti’s « Upside Down. » Like Antibalas this was a group carrying the flame that Fela lit with total devotion and a commitment to his spirit. Polyrhythms that will make your body shake, your heart race, and you’ll be smiling all over. Good stuff!
MPEG Stream: « Musicawa Silt »
MPEG Stream: « Upside Down »

album cover DEMBELE, DAOUDA s/t (Yaala Yaala) cd 14.98
This upstart, outsider world music label (a sub-label of Drag City) is giving the Sun City Girls’ Sublime Frequencies label a serious run for their money. It’s only release number three, and we’re already thinking crazy thoughts like « new favorite label! ». Hard not to after getting an earful of this stuff. All smoldering and dark, moody and emotional, raw and intense, funky and bluesy and just totally gorgeous.
The first release was a recording of vocalist Yoro Diallo teamed up with a musician called Pekos, who plays a lute like instrument but wields it like a fuzzed out psychguitar, all blown out and distorted, the perfect accompaniment for Diallo’s super intense toast-like vocalizing. Release number two was a disc of field recordings of a sort called Bougouni Yaalali, sounds and songs captured in Bougouni, a small city in Mali, late night jams, backyard parties, wherever folks were gathering to hang out, talk, and most importantly, play some of the most amazing and inspired music we had ever heard.
Which brings us to the third, and most recent in the series, from a griot named Daouda Dembele. Griots are the oral repositories of an area’s history, entrusted with the tales of a people, and blessed with a gift for spreading those tales in song. Dembele plays a bamboo necked, three stringed instrument, and is accompanied by someone playing an overturned gourd, and delivers a gorgeous narrative, a tale of people and peoples, going back perhaps thousands of years. It’s of course impossible for us to tell what he is speaking of, but it almost doesn’t matter. His voice is so fluid and passionate, his delivery a sung/spoken near-croon. Dynamic and passionate, going from hypnotic and repetitive to animated and exclamatory and back again, always mirrored by the looped cyclical riff beneath, mesmerizing and simple, totally trancelike, with little flurries of extra notes here and there, but for the most part, a gorgeous and seemingly endless cycle. A completely entrancing droney, bluesy buzz that when combined with Dembele’s subtly musical storytelling, totally transports us to another place and time like all great music should.
The recording only adds to the appeal, lo-fi, but super hot and live sounding, with the vocals and instruments occasionally getting too loud and peaking, or distorting, pegging the needle into the red, like you’re right there sitting in the shade, back on the cool grass, ear up against some old beat up PA, hearing it live, buzzing and immediate… there are even some strange tape drop outs and curious ambient inconsistencies, and for those of us who dig that sort of stuff, it only makes this disc that much more amazing, for those who maybe don’t, it’s more than made up for by the power and the passion of the songs, the sounds, the lyrics and the music.
MPEG Stream: « One »

album cover DIABATE, DJIBRIL Hawa (Terp) cd 17.98
Another gorgeous release from the Ex’s Terp label, that brought us the amazing Konono No.1 live record and the Beraki double cd reviewed elsewhere on this list. Djibril Diabate is from Mali and is a master on the kora (a 21 string harp-lute) and the music he makes is unbelievably dreamy and otherworldy. Dense tangles of melodies, compex but smooth and soothing, minor key and super melodic. These are modern re-interpretations of traditional pieces, all instrumental, but based thematically on tales and stories that are centuries old. And sonically this could have been recorded 100 years ago (except for the crystal clear rcording of course). Hard to describe exactly what this sounds like, but it has a similar vibe to the recently reviewed Richard Crandell thumb piano cd. Swoonsome and twilighty, delicate but rich with harmonic overtones. It remided some of us of a little of Christmas carols, but only if you can imagine a Christmas carol stripped to its essence, a crystalline framework of melody amd delicate filligree. So so lovely. Another cd vying for the coveted position of perfect late night / going-to-sleep record!
MPEG Stream: « Masani Cisse »
MPEG Stream: « Enkonen Sava »

DRUMS OF DEATH (Avant) cd 19.98
THIS IS CURRENTLY OUT OF PRINT OR OTHERWISE UNAVAILABLE TO US AT THE MOMENT, SO PLEASE DO NOT ORDER IT. SORRY.
Part of the « world music » series on John Zorn’s Japanese Avant label, this one being field recordings from Ghanaian drumming. Milford Graves loves it!

album cover EL DIN, HAMZA Escalay (The Water Wheel): Oud Music (Nonesuch) cd 12.98
A popular lute throughout Northern Africa and the Middle East, the oud has 6 six strings, all of which but for the lowest in pitch are paired up (like in a twelve string guitar). Hamza El Din hails originally from Nubia (which is absorbed within Egypt near the Sudan) and on this album he claims to fuse elements of both Sudan and Egypt into his distinct Nubian style. A couple of interesting facts I never knew about El Din: he not only played with the Grateful Dead live occasionally, he organized their tour of Egypt (Yikes! But don’t let that dissuade you non-deadheads out there.) He also roomed at guitarist Sandy Bull’s place for a spell (hence the source of the influence on Bull’s piece « Blend ».) Escalay was originally released by Nonesuch in 1971, but unlike many other artists featured in the Explorer series, it wasn’t Hamza El Din’s first commercial release (In fact, it was his third release and was apparently recorded after he had emigrated to the United States.) But this was the album that everyone, including Mickey Hart, initially went nuts over and the album that everyone still hails as his greatest — Kronos Quartet commissioned El Din to arrange the title track for their 1992 release Pieces Of Africa. The first two tracks are mesmerizing — 21 and 12 minute respectively — pieces for oud and voice (both El Din’s) and the third is a 5 minute piece for tar (frame drum) and voice. Hamza El Din’s oud playing is so damn seductive, it seems to warp one’s perception of time. The first time I put this disc on to listen to and write, I found myself just sitting paralized through the first two tracks before the crisp snapping of the tar awoke me from my reverie. His playing is so effortless as to understate his virtuosity, it’s no wonder that it’s so easy to become completely absorbed in his compositions. Listening closely, you can hear El Din manipulating the timbre of his instrument on a macro level: coaxing out texture from the warm buzz of the strings. Buying this CD, your only disappointment will be in its brevity of just under 40 minutes.
RealAudio clip: « Escalay (the Water Wheel) »
RealAudio clip: « Song With Tar »

album cover ESHETE, ALEMAYEHU Ethiopiques Vol. 9 (Buda Musique) cd 15.98
Yay! A new volume in the always-popular, ever-wonderful « Ethiopiques » series of Ethiopian popular music, which most AQ-patrons will be aware of. Focusing mainly on the funky early seventies (when a dictator-free six years resulted in an unprecedented cultural flowering), the « Ethiopiques » discs are unanimous AQ staff faves and steady sellers. So what’s volume nine all about? It focuses on Alemayehu Eshete who, along with fellow singers Mahmoud Ahmed and Tlahoun Gessesse, is one of the biggest stars from the golden age of Ethiopian music. He has often been compared both to Elvis Presley and James Brown in stature and style. Though a popular figure in a musical movement derided as anti-traditionalist and rebellious by many, Eshete’s lyrics often preached of being a dutiful child and obeying one’s parents. As a singer, Eshete is amazingly talented, crooning with a sillky voice in one song, then growling and yelping in the next. Like most volumes in the series, highly highly recommended!!
RealAudio clip: « Qotchegn Messassate »
RealAudio clip: « Tedesteshal Wey? »
RealAudio clip: « Heywete Abatey New »
RealAudio clip: « Mekeyershin Salawq »

album cover EVORA, CESARIA Rogamar (Bluebird) cd 17.98
Another stunning album from this formidable Cape Verdean vocalist! On her tenth album Cesaria Evora’s voice, so timeless and effortless, will send wonderful shivers down your spine… at least it did ours! She’s backed up by a stellar ensemble lead by Fernando Andrade who not only played piano and sang backup vocals, but also masterfully handled the orchestral direction and arrangements. Rogamar is the aural equivalent of the most passionate embrace. So welcoming and irresistible.
MPEG Stream: « Sombras Di Distino »
MPEG Stream: « Modje Trofel »

EVORA, CESARIA Sao Vicente (Windham Hill) cd 16.98

album cover FOLK MUSIC OF THE SAHARA Among the Taureg of Libya (Sublime Frequencies) dvd 21.00
THIS IS CURRENTLY OUT OF PRINT OR OTHERWISE UNAVAILABLE TO US AT THE MOMENT, SO PLEASE DO NOT ORDER IT. SORRY.
This newest DVD release from Sublime Frequencies, shot by Hisham Mayet (the man behind the Morocco DVD on SF), focuses its lense on the Taureg people. Filmed in the oasis town of Ghadames in Western Libya (bordering both Tunesia and Algeria), Mayet’s camera follows the performances of men, women and children alike in what appears be a local music festival of sorts. Like the previous DVD releases from Sublime Frequencies, this one has no narration or commentary; you, the viewer, guided by the excellent single camera shooting, are left to figure it out for yourself. In the accompanying booklet Mayet points out that the Taureg are unique amongst their neighbors in that not only are they nominally Muslim — still incorporating their unique and ancient practices that predate the religion — but are also a matriarchical society (indeed, many of the men appear to be wearing full veils). Running 60 minutes, this DVD is region free NTSC format.

FRANCO & LE T.P. O.K. JAZZ 1972 / 1973 / 1974 (Sonodisc) cd 18.98
THIS IS CURRENTLY OUT OF PRINT OR OTHERWISE UNAVAILABLE TO US AT THE MOMENT, SO PLEASE DO NOT ORDER IT. SORRY.

FULA FLUTE s/t (Blue Monster) cd 14.98

album cover GESSESSE, TLAHOUN Ethiopiques Vol. 17 (Buda Musique) cd 15.98
Okay, I know that the general consensus from people seems to be that the Mulatu Astatke disc (Ethiopiques #4) is the best in the Ethiopiques series. And yeah, it’s a great disc. But to really experience the zenith of Ethiopian popular music from the golden era you really gotta have the vocals. The workouts these singers put their vocal chords through are as unbelievable as they are beautiful. Case in point is Tlahoun Gessesse. And we are thankfully blessed with a full CD of his passionately yodelled Ethiopian funk groove. Gesesse was the most popular Ethiopian singer of the times — bigger than Mahmoud Ahmed, Alemayehu Eshete or any other singers. So great was his vocal stature that he was dubbed « The Voice ». Pretty much says it all. And well applied the title is; his vocal control is insane, wavering vibrato all over the place and melisma stacked upon melisma. To boot he’s backed by the best in the business: the Body Guard Band, All Star Band, Exhibition Band and Army Band. The usual arrangements of guitar, bass, drums, percussion, horns, piano and incredibly strange organs play the most haunting accompaniment to Gessesse’s impassioned vocals. And for what its worth, several of the tracks here were even arranged by Mulatu Astatke. Though Gessesse’s career dates back to the fifties, the recordings included here are all from the early seventies. Included is a 30 page booklet with biographical notes, photos (including a two page spread of 45 jackets) and lyrics. This one comes highly recommended!
MPEG Stream: « Aykedashem Lebe »
MPEG Stream: « Sethed Seketelet »

album cover GROUP DOUEH Guitar Music From The Western Sahara (Sublime Frequencies) lp 25.00
THIS IS CURRENTLY OUT OF PRINT OR OTHERWISE UNAVAILABLE TO US AT THE MOMENT, SO PLEASE DO NOT ORDER IT. SORRY.
Wow! The first vinyl-only (that’s right, no plans for a cd we’re told) Sublime Frequencies release focuses on a single group rather than an anthology of regional folk and pop or collaged radio broadcasts. Struck by an ecstatically squealing lo-fi blast of electric guitar from a song heard on Moroccan radio, the Sub Freq’s main man, Alan Bishop went on a quest for the regional origins of that particular electric sound. Canvassing numerous cassette dealers, he was only able to identify the music as Sahwari and to pinpoint the region as the Western Sahara, a disputed territory nestled on the Atlantic Coast of North Africa between Morocco and Mauritania where frequent political struggles have caused the massive displacement of the region’s indigenous people. A few months later, Bishop’s colleague, Hisham Mayet, armed with Bishop’s recording travelled back to Morocco to continue the search, ending up in the last outpost of the Western Sahara, Daklha, where through the help of the Sahwari shopkeepers was finally led to the creator of the strange music himself, Baamar Salmou, or as he is known in Sahwari, Doueh. Born in 1964. Doueh learned guitar on a homemade instrument fashioned from pieces of wood and steel strings. In 1981, influenced by Mauritanian music as well as Spanish cassettes imported from Europe and America of Jimi Hendrix and James Brown, he formed Group Doueh, fast becoming one of the definitive groups in the region, playing in festivals all over Northern Africa and even in France and Portugal. His wife Halima later joined as a vocalist and percussionist and in later incarnations, Doueh’s son Jamal joined on keyboards. The tracks on this release are all taken from Doueh’s personal archive except for two recordings made by Mayet, early last year. This is definitely some of the strangest and twisted ethnic music we’ve heard in awhile with its buzzing lo-fi circular guitar hooks and exhuberant vocalising and infectious rhythms, reminding us of aspects of Konono No1’s DIY tinkering, Tartit’s desert trance-jams and a bit of the Shaggs self-taught charm (not so much in sound, but how a lot of the guitar parts follow the vocals). Limited to 1000 copies, this is so awesome and highly recommended!!

album cover GROUP INERANE Guitars From Agadez (Sublime Frequencies) lp 25.00
THIS IS CURRENTLY OUT OF PRINT OR OTHERWISE UNAVAILABLE TO US AT THE MOMENT, SO PLEASE DO NOT ORDER IT. SORRY.
Another winner from Sublime Frequencies! We’re beginning to think with all this hidden music to be discovered and lost classics to be recovered, there’s definitely no point in having so many new bands, we oughta just have some of them swap their gear in and just join the hunt for all this amazing music we miss out on…
But until then we’ve got the Sublime Frequencies fellas on the case, and this latest discovery has definitely got to bee one of the best yet. Group Inerane are spearheading the Tureg Guitar movement, inspired by the musicians who used this music as a political weapon in the Libyan refugee camps in the late eighties, early nineties. This is how the blues should sound. Groovy, intense, funky, emotional, dark, gorgeous, the guitars grinding and crunching and wailing, slithering and soaring, accompanied by chanted and sung vocals, that are perfectly woven into the lush fabric of the various guitar parts. The riffing is fluid, but also bit jagged and rough. The opening track is a killer. One of the most amazing and intense songs we’ve ever heard, worth the price of admission alone. Just guitar and vocals, chunky and propulsive, but also weirdly slippery and sinewy, the melody swaying back and forth from major key to minor key, an incredible hook and the riff, well, one of THE best riffs ever.
Most of the rest of the record is more a sort of African surf rock, fuzzy and twangy, with surfy guitar, soaring vocals, the whole thing wild and festive, jubilant and celebratory, but hold up, the final track on side one, « Nadan Al Kazawnin », is something else entirely, with its super distorted grimy guitars, a totally blown out in the red production, the riff looped and hypnotic, the vocals intense and heartfelt, the whole song howling and buzzing, sounding as gorgeously fucked up and raw as some experimental indie avant noise group, the guitar is indescribable, incendiary and white hot, all tangled up with the vocals, and bathed in distortion, wouldn’t be out of place on some super limited cd-r… Totally amazing.
Pressed on super thick vinyl. Packaged in a heavy duty, full color gatefold sleeve, with tons of photos and liner notes…
LIMITED ONE TIME PRESSING OF 1000 LPS!

album cover GUEBROU, TSEGUE-MARYAM Ethiopiques Vol. 21 (Buda Musique) cd 15.98
Okay, we can all breathe a sigh of relief. The always amazing Ethiopiques series continues on past volume 20 with no end in sight. We were wrongly led to believe that volume 20 was to be the last in this, one of our all time favorite series, and we were heartbroken. On top of that, the final installment was quite surprisingly a live recording of modern day American musicians jamming with an Ethiopian band. It was still cool, but it was a bit tough to figure out why the curaters of this series would choose to go out on that kind of admittedly anticlimactic note, when there were certainly hundreds of buried treasures from the golden age of Ethiopian music that most definitely deserved to be unearthed. This newst volume quickly sets everything right, being entirely the solo piano of a woman named Tsegue-Maryam Guebrou. Her playing is devastatingly lovely and haunting. A curious hybrid of old time jazz and classical, but still truly Ethiopian. Dark and contemplative, moody but subtly playful as well. Culled mainly from recordings from the late 40’s early 50’s, a period during which Guebrou had recently left the convent due to illness, and then continued to compose and perform as a way of raising money for charity. And THAT’s on the heels of having moved to Egypt and then returned to Ethiopia a figure of high society, her dream of playing piano dashed by the Emperor, which led her to sickness and then near death, she even received the last rites, survived and then joined the Imperial Guard, went back to school to study business finally fleeing to join a convent and become a nun. All the while continuing to play music, in fact she continues to perform to this day, in Ethiopia where she still lives, four of her most recent recordings (from 1996) are included here as well.
Her story is amazing, the liner notes go into great detail about her fantastic and adventurous life, but her music is equally as remarkable, the sound and feel is so dense with memory and imagery, musical but somehow quite visual, warm and woozy, a fuzzy, sepia toned old timey feel, due in no small part to the recording, which is quite reminiscent of old 78’s, the soundtrack to movie Crumb, that sort of thing, dark rumbling low notes underpin sweet swirls and delicate flurries of minor key melody, sweet and lowdown for sure, warm evenings, back porches, big beautifully appointed parlors, huge empty fields, grass waving in the breeze, long late night wanders, moonlight strolls, so completely dreamy and lovely. Definitely one of out favorites so far in the series. We hope it never ends!
MPEG Stream: « The Homeless Wanderer »
MPEG Stream: « The Last Tears Of A Deceased »

IMO BROTHERS Ije Love / Journey of Love (Original Music) cd 13.98
THIS IS CURRENTLY OUT OF PRINT OR OTHERWISE UNAVAILABLE, SO PLEASE DO NOT ORDER IT. SORRY.
If you’re looking for some punchy high life to dance you butt off to, then the Imo Brothers’ Eastern Nigerian recipe is for you. Though recorded in the early 80’s, the authenticity is still here and the good track lengths will attest to a healthy workout!

album cover JEMAA EL FNA Morocco’s Rendezvous Of The Dead: Night Music of Marrakech (Sublime Frequencies) dvd 21.00
THIS IS CURRENTLY OUT OF PRINT OR OTHERWISE UNAVAILABLE TO US AT THE MOMENT, SO PLEASE DO NOT ORDER IT. SORRY.
Those expecting a documentary in the traditional sense, wherein a huge film crew with lighting rigs and hired security take over a small village while an authoritative voice-over gives you a blow by blow account of what unfolds before your eyes may be disappointed. This is a one man, one camera production. Shot entirely at night, relying on the good will of the participants, and leaving the interpretation up to you, the viewer, filmmaker Hisham Mayet takes us on a tour of Marrakech, Morocco’s Jemma El Fna — « the central square of the final outpost before one ventures into the great beyond of the western Sahara desert ». All along the square people, mostly men, gather in circles around individual and groups of musicians. playing oud, banjo (!!!), various bowed instruments and percussion, the performers are accompanied by singers ranging from seasoned veterens working the crowd to youthful amateurs. In one section a young girl, maybe 7 or 8 years old sings and dances as an envious peer looks on. Perhaps one of the coolest moments though is when our cameraman stops by a gentleman set up in the square with his portable turntable and classic 7″s, sampling for us some of his favorites, crackly with age, and carefully wiping off the beautiful but worn jackets for us to see. Clocking in at 50 minutes, there’s not a dull moment on this disc. While we forwarn those living overseas that this disc is NTSC, it is also region-free for those with multi-region players.

album cover JOHNSON, GINGER AND HIS AFRICAN MESSENGERS African Party (Cyclone) cd 24.00

album cover JULIUS, ORLANDO & HIS AFRO-SOUNDERS Orlando’s Afro Ideas: 1969-72 (Ekosound) cd 21.00
Outside of Nigeria, most Nigerian artists from the golden era of Nigerian High Life live deep within the shadow of Fela Kuti. To be fair to Fela his output alone dwarfs all comers, and he was one of the founding fathers of the modern Nigerian sound. Orlando Julius, while not blessed with as large an oeuvre as Fela is as great an architect of the music. Julius cut his teeth playing in the early high life bands starting back in 1961. By the time Fela Kuti had returned from abroad with his head full of ideas, Orlando Julius had already started his band The Modern Aces and begun revolutionizing the stagnating music scene. It was his band that Fela looked to when he started his precursor to the Africa 70, Koola Lobitos. Now available for the first time outside of Nigeria are 9 tracks of soulful Nigerian high life recorded by Orlando Julius between 1969 and 1972. Includes historical sleeve notes by Miles Cleret.
MPEG Stream: « Home Sweet Home »
MPEG Stream: « Mura Sise »

JULIUS, ORLANDO & MODERN ACES Super Afro Soul (Afrostrut) cd 16.98
THIS IS CURRENTLY OUT OF PRINT OR OTHERWISE UNAVAILABLE TO US AT THE MOMENT, SO PLEASE DO NOT ORDER IT. SORRY.
Classic mid-sixties Nigerian High Life from one of the best. Orlando Julius not only worked with Hugh Masekela, Lamont Dozier, and the Crusaders but gave James Brown the inspiration for « I Feel Good » (supposedly, may not be true but it’s believable). This album has never before been released outside of Africa. A foot stomping great collection of funky high life.

album cover JULIUS, ORLANDO & MODERN ACES Super Afro Soul (Afrostrut) lp 16.98
THIS IS CURRENTLY OUT OF PRINT OR OTHERWISE UNAVAILABLE TO US AT THE MOMENT, SO PLEASE DO NOT ORDER IT. SORRY.
Classic mid-sixties Nigerian High Life from one of the best. Orlando Julius not only worked with Hugh Masekela, Lamont Dozier, and the Crusaders but gave James Brown the inspiration for « I Feel Good » (supposedly, may not be true but it’s believable). This album has never before been released outside of Africa. A foot stomping great collection of funky high life.

album cover KENGE KENGE Introducing Kenge Kenge (World Music Network) cd 12.98
We’ve been hearing lots about the great benga music coming out of Kenya but haven’t been able to get our hands on too much of it. Luckily, the group Kenge Kenge, because of their higher profile and the wider availability of the recordings, are serving as a pretty great introduction to this sound. It’s a magical combination of instruments that creates this exhilarating, totally compelling and joyous sound. Unlike a lot of other African bands who have been gaining wide notoriety of late, there are no guitars here. Instead, kenge Kenge utilize a combination of flutes, horns, fiddles, percussion, sound box, gong and vocals. Totally upbeat with steady rhythms and a lush, organic delivery and such a wildly joyful and positive disposition. It’s refreshing too, that while it’s cleanly recorded it doesn’t sound slick or overproduced at all. In fact in lots of ways it kind of reminds us of a more rootsy, less blown out and amplified version of AQ faves Konono No.1. Really good stuff!
MPEG Stream: « Kenge Kenge »
MPEG Stream: « Owang’ Winyo »

album cover KILLING JOKE s/t (2003) (Zuma) cd 14.98
It would be a considerable understatement to say this new Killing Joke album is a sobering listening experience — it’s a fierce, visceral, and bleak call to battle. It rocks and rages with echoes of their 1981 debut (and first self-titled) album’s feel and spirit. Yes, genuinely punk, and yes, genuinely metal… although those stifling labels can’t and won’t adhere to this band. Frankly, very few artists today can capture the pure seething energy that this, Killing Joke’s second self-titled album, has harnessed.
Jaz Coleman tears out of your speakers like a man posessed. His deeply inspired vocal performance delivers some of his most inhuman gutteral growls, anguished howls and demonic hisses. Birlliant. His lyrics, brutally direct, are steeped in immense disgust and despair, with hard-hitting political critiques — cross-hairs unquestionably zeroing in on Bush, September 11th and America — interestingly, a lot of the heavy duty ones are omitted from the liner notes.
Geordie Walker’s thunderstorm of guitars drill and grind, at once both tightly clenched and loosely slung — pelting your ears with metallic shards and sinewed debris. Original bassists Youth and Paul Raven consume any remaining air with glowering lines that boil and stew. With each song, the unrelenting roar of Killing Joke closes in around you.
Drummer Dave Grohl — apparently not busy enough with Foo Fighters and Queens Of The Stone Age — does an excellent job immersing himself in the Killing Joke realm, closely resembling the pummeling precision and tribal thrash of Martin Atkins. Hopefully Grohl’s presence (his name is stickered prominently on the front of the cd) will draw younger audiences to this venerable band.
Unlike other bands from the past who’ve regrouped recently for one last hurrah or to cash in on the latest retro trends, it’s clear Killing Joke have resurfaced because they truly have something vital to convey (just as they did back in 1990 with Extremities… dirt… etc). They don’t churn out albums year after year to fulfill record contract obligations — they make music with a piercing focus when they feel the need and when it is needed.
Andy Gill’s production is beautiful and huge (but not too ‘modern rock’), making for a generally accessible and current sounding album (although some of the tracks are overly long) — one that should have hard music fans clambering.
If you were ever into Killing Joke, check out this album! If you’re new, this is a pretty good place to start.
MPEG Stream: « Dark Forces »
MPEG Stream: « Total Invasion »
MPEG Stream: « Implant »

album cover KING, PETER Shango (Afrostrut) cd 16.98
THIS IS CURRENTLY OUT OF PRINT OR OTHERWISE UNAVAILABLE TO US AT THE MOMENT, SO PLEASE DO NOT ORDER IT. SORRY.
Nigeria-born, London-schooled bandleader Peter King started his career in the ’60s playing highlife and jazz before venturing into the James Brown inspired realms of afro-funk, of which « Shango » (named after the Yoruba god of thunder) is a prime example. These mostly instrumental tracks (there are some chanted vocal parts, often with a political message like « Freedom! ») are super jazzy and groovy, with King’s sax and flute joined by a bunch of other horns, percussion, and electric guitar/bass/drums. Recorded in 1974 but actually never released at the time, « Shango » was rediscovered when the Afrostrut label was putting together the excellent « Nigeria 70 » compilation — King’s wife remembered the recording, and it turned out the tapes had actually been sitting beneath the bed of Peter King’s son for who knows how many years! You’d think having something this funky under your bed would keep you up at night… Anyway, it’s cool they found this, anyone into the soulful sounds of the « Nigeria 70 » comp or all the other Afro-funk stuff that’s been getting reissued recently will be glad to hear this.
RealAudio clip: « Mystery Tour »

album cover KONONO NO.1 Congotronics (Crammed Discs) cd 16.98
Back in stock! Probably the biggest « hit » record here at AQ of the past year. We’re super excited that they’ll be coming to San Francisco to play at the Jazz Fest in November, by the way! Here’s our review of Congotronics from when we first listed it back in January:
So here it is! Hard to believe it’s finally here — some of us have been waiting forever for this record, or at least ever since we discovered a tiny, super compressed, thirty second long sound clip on the internet over a year ago. In all of half a minute, we became OBSESSED. Completely captivated by this band’s totally alien, lush, organic ‘world music’ weirdness. We eventually tracked down a (great) live record by Konono No.1, which we listed here a few weeks back, and then after tons of internet sleuthing and a bunch of emails we finally managed to get in touch with someone at the Crammed label in Belgium who was willing to sell us this brand new studio album directly, since they are without US distribution. Phew! So was it worth it? Hell yeah! Anyone who heard that infamous sound sample (which was from this album), or who got to hear the live record, knows that this band is totally amazing, and indeed this record is beautiful, wild and wonderful, chaotic and festive, totally perplexing but completely mesmerizing. For those who missed out on the live record (which we’ve also just restocked!) or are new to the wonders of Konono No.1, here’s the story: twenty five years ago, Konono formed in Kinshasa (the capital of Zaire), performing their own version of traditional Bazombo trance music, incorporating the then-unwanted distortions of their haphazard homemade sound system. They left the bush and settled in the capital where they were forced to compete with the harsh sounds of the city: cars, trains, buses, shouting, etc. So with very little to work with they fashioned pick-ups, microphones, loudspeakers and amplifiers from stuff they could find on the street — old car batteries, pots and pans, magnets, even branches. Their main instrument is the likembe, a kind of thumb piano. Konono features three of ’em (bass, medium and treble) and the sound of the electrified and amplified likembe is what defines their sound. Accompanied by dancers and percussionists, the likembes wail and drone, buzz and moan, totally overblown and distorted, sounding a little like sixties fuzz guitars, turning a glorious high life jam into something much more strange and wonderful. Super rhythmic, and thick with the buzzing melodies of the likemebe’s, Konono weave a massive sound. It’s the wildest weirdest street party you’ve ever been to. Throbbing with energy and emotion, rambuctiously rollicking and totally infectious. Seven lengthy tracks that all sort of bleed and fuse into one epic world-psych jam. The African high life Hawkwind? So so great!
Check out this video clip:
http://www.crammed.be/craworld/movies/konono_promo.mov
MPEG Stream: « Lufuala Ndonga »
MPEG Stream: « Masikulu »

album cover KONONO NO.1 Congotronics (Ache) lp 14.98
At last, the vinyl version of AQ mega-fave Congotronics is BACK IN STOCK! Here’s our review from when we first listed the cd:
Some of us have been waiting forever for this record, or at least ever since we discovered a tiny, super compressed, thirty second long sound clip on the internet over a year ago. In all of half a minute, we became OBSESSED. Completely captivated by this band’s totally alien, lush, organic ‘world music’ weirdness. We eventually tracked down a (great) live record by Konono No.1, which we listed here a few weeks back, and then after tons of internet sleuthing and a bunch of emails we finally managed to get in touch with someone at the Crammed label in Belgium who was willing to sell us this brand new studio album directly, since they are without US distribution. Phew! So was it worth it? Hell yeah! Anyone who heard that infamous sound sample (which was from this album), or who got to hear the live record, knows that this band is totally amazing, and indeed this record is beautiful, wild and wonderful, chaotic and festive, totally perplexing but completely mesmerizing. For those who missed out on the live record (which we’ve also just restocked!) or are new to the wonders of Konono No.1, here’s the story: twenty five years ago, Konono formed in Kinshasa, an area between Congo and Angola, performing their own version of traditional Bazombo trance music, incorporating the then-unwanted distortions of their haphazard homemade sound system. They left the bush and settled in the capital where they were forced to compete with the harsh sounds of the city: cars, trains, buses, shouting, etc. So with very little to work with they fashioned pick-ups, microphones, loudspeakers and amplifiers from stuff they could find on the street — old car batteries, pots and pans, magnets, even branches. Their main instrument is the likembe, a kind of thumb piano. Konono features three of ’em (bass, medium and treble) and the sound of the electrified and amplified likembe is what defines their sound. Accompanied by dancers and percussionists, the likembes wail and drone, buzz and moan, totally overblown and distorted, sounding a little like sixties fuzz guitars, turning a glorious high life jam into something much more strange and wonderful. Super rhythmic, and thick with the buzzing melodies of the likemebe’s, Konono weave a massive sound. It’s the wildest weirdest street party you’ve ever been to. Throbbing with energy and emotion, rambuctiously rollicking and totally infectious. Seven lengthy tracks that all sort of bleed and fuse into one epic world-psych jam. The African high life Hawkwind? So so great!
Check out this video clip:
http://www.crammed.be/craworld/movies/konono_promo.mov
MPEG Stream: « Lufuala Ndonga »
MPEG Stream: « Masikulu »

album cover KONONO NO.1 Live At Couleur Cafe (Crammed Discs) cd 12.98
Yay! These AQ faves — everyone’s faves — from Kinshasa are back with another exciting dose of their « Congotronics ». Chances are, especially if you’re a regular AQ customer, that you know all about ’em already, and maybe even got to see them at one of the shows that (lucky for us!) they’ve played over the past couple years in San Francisco. Live is where it’s at for them, a sweaty, joyous, unstoppable, never-ending groove heavily laced with the sound of their signature instrument: the DIY homebuilt electric amplified African thumb-piano (called a likembe). In the hands of Konono No.1, it produces a bright, burbling, somewhat distorted, almost-electronic-keyboard sort of sound that we immediately fell in love with way back when we first heard the band. But that of course is not all, there’s plenty of percolating percussion underpinning the likembe melodies, over which they do exuberant vocal toasts and call-and-response chants. When they get going full-on, you’ll want to turn it up LOUD and let the whole neighborhood enjoy the energetic density of Konono No.1.
Eight tracks, 52 minutes total, recorded live (sounding great!) in Belgium. Some songs you might recognize from versions on the previous two Konono discs (Lubuaku and Congotronics), others are previously unrecorded. All will get your body moving, guaranteed. This is dance music, nothin’ but. At home alone, unwilling to dance? It’ll still bring a mesmerized smile to your face for sure.
MPEG Stream: « A.E.I.O.U. »
MPEG Stream: « Nsimba & Nzuzi »

album cover KONONO NO.1 Lubuaku (Terp) cd 18.98
We have been totally obsessed with these guys (as have the rest of you judging from how many folks have called and emailed about them and already bought a ton of copies from us before this review even was written) for at least a year if not more and until now there hasn’t been a thing (other than a minute long mp3 sample available on Crammed Discs’ website) which has been taunting us with the promise of a full length from these guys. So until that fabled Crammed Discs release actually comes out we’ve got this little nugget to tide you over. And it’s no small shakes neither. Though we only learned of them recently Konono No.1 have been around for some 25 years. Hailing from Kinshasa, Congo, Konono No.1 are true African punk rock. They are real D.I.Y. Not putting on shows and printing zines, no, how about building their own instruments from found scraps and dismantled machinery and retrofitting and electrifying traditional instruments! For instance the lead musician Mingiedi Mawangu has taken his likembe (thumb piano), rigged it up to pickups (self-built from hammered parts purloined from car starter motors) and amplified it with a custom built amplifier driven by a car battery, using microphones built out of copper wire and branches. How cool is that! And the sounds these instruments produce is amazing. The likembe, with its muted gentle melodic thrum, is turned into an overdriven buzzing melodic powerhouse that sounds like nothing you’ve ever heard. Well, sometimes it sounds a bit like some sort of psychedelic alien fuzz guitar, but mostly it just sounds amazing and bizarre. The songs are all very melodically similar and mesh into one massive hour long jam, with wild percussion, chanted vocals, and of course the wailing Likembe. So completely amazing. Every time we play this in the store, someone buys one. Immediately.
Seven extended tracks, recorded live and released on the Ex’s label Terp.
MPEG Stream: « Ditshe Tshiekutala »
MPEG Stream: « Ku Hollande »

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