Orchestre Poly-Rythmo De Contonou – ‘Vol 3 – The Skeletal Essences Of Afro Funk’ (Analog Africa)
29 April 2013
Orchestre Poly-Rythmo have been described as ‘one of the funkiest bands in the World’. Louder Than War’s Paul Scott-Bates ‘gets down’ to their sound!
As the title suggests, this is the third volume of tracks to be released by Analog Africa since 2008 when founder, Samy Ben Redjeb, stumbled across around 500 Poly-Rythmo tracks on a trip to Benin three years earlier. Benin is situated on the West African coats and is bordered by Niger, Nigeria, Togo and Burkina Faso, and has a reputation for having a lively and original musical background comprising of influences from native folk, soul and rumba mixed with American rock and French cabaret! Quite a combination and one that you would expect to be destined for obscurity, or, sound fantastic. Fortunately, it’s the later.
Recorded between 1969 and 1983, the sound quality is nothing short of remarkable bearing in mind that many were recorded on reel-to-reel or even at night-time and would be hard to replicate even with todays state-of-the-art equipment. From the opening ‘Ne Rien Voir, Dire, Entendre’, the rhythm is instant and immediately instils reaction in your body, your feet will tap and your hips may even sway. With a slightly psychedelic keyboard and a funky guitar sound, this is great stuff.
There are fourteen tracks included here, every one as good as the last. The James Brown styled ‘Houton Kan Do Go Me’ has a brilliant ‘funky drummer’ beat and accompanying guitar. It even has a few occasional JB grunts. ‘A O O Ida’ even throws in a few dubs at the beginning before breaking into a pure Voodoo Funk groove.
At almost seven and a half minutes ‘Ecoutes Ma Melodie’ has some great horn sections again over a slightly Doors sounding keyboard, and is another toe tapper. Judging by the sound of ‘Ai Gabani’ it’s probably one of the oldest tracks on here. It’s clearly a mono recording and slightly crude sounding in parts, but the essence of Poly-Rythmo is definitely there.
This is a wonderful collection of songs that have are issued here for the first time outside of Africa. Thoroughly entertaining and an exciting prospect as to what more may come from the hoards of vinyl and tapes recovered by Redjeb.
All words by Paul Scott-Bates. More of Paul’s writing on Louder Than War can be found here. Paul’s website is Heaven Is A Place On Pendle. Paul has been working hard to save Radio Lancashire’s On The Wire, easily one of the best radio shows on the BBC. Follow him on twitter as @saveonthewire for all On The Wire news or follow his personal twitter, @hiapop.