In Nakibembe, a small village in Uganda’s Busoga kingdom (one of the country’s four remaining constitutional monarchies), locals have long reserved a communal area for musical performances and social events. In the middle of this space lies a deep pit that serves a single purpose: to amplify the embaire, an immense xylophone made up of between 15 and 25 wooden keys that stretches across the trench. Log xylophones are common throughout East Africa, but the way the music is played by the Basoga – an Eastern Bantu ethnic group – is specific and unique, with its own tuning, dances and supplemental instrumentation. Up to eight players can surround the embaire and play simultaneously, overlaying hypnotic polyrhythms while additional members of the ensemble add vocals or play shakers and drums. Nakibembe Xylophone Group are one of the last remaining groups that perform with the embaire, and as anyone who’s caught their live performances will know, they create a complex and layered wall of sound that’s completely transfixing wherever it’s presented. The band are a regular fixture at Nyege Nyege festival, and in 2020 appeared in Berlin at the legendary Berghain nightclub alongside Jakarta-based vanguards Gabber Modus Operandi and Harsya Wahono. On the group’s debut album, they present five tracks as an ensemble and three tracks in collaboration with Indonesian trio. Heard together the music demonstrates not only the remarkable sound of Nakibembe’s own kinetic interaction, but sonic ripples that correlate with more distant forms, from Indonesia’s metallophone-led gamelan music to the heady digital processes of the sound art sphere.
Arp Frique – Analog People Digital World [CW005]
Arp Frique returns with a new album after a string of releases, leaving the cratediggers and dancefloor tastemakers with underground classics like Nos Magia, Voyage and Nyame Ye. On ”Analog People Digital World’ he embraces the digital coldness of Yamaha’s classic DX7 synthesizer to create a refreshing listening experience using only the FM synthesis-based sounds from this machine to find new heat for an analog world, reflecting on the digital revolution we are living through. The album features Ghanaian songstress Mariseya (Omampam, Jah Kingdom, Digital World, Roi Salomon), Cape Verdean OG Americo Brito (Go Now Wetiko) and Surinam funkstar Sumy, who joins the record on the opening track “Spiritual Masseuse”. Arp Frique closes the album with “Duncan Truffle”, a very intense and wobbling instrumental echoing Bootsy and Bernie Worrell on a solo exercise. Expect an analog-digital exploration of lofi funk, highlife, zouk and reggae.
Ahl Nana – L’Orchestre National Mauritanien [RMLP011]
Lost recordings that defined the modern sound of the Sahara. This album contains the first recordings of modern music from the Sahara and mark the birth of the genre that is known in the West as ‘Desert Blues’ or ‘Desert Rock’. Ahl Nana changed the folk music of the Sahara to modern, cosmopolitan music by using Western instruments like the electric guitar. They paved the way for artists like Ali Farka Touré, Tinariwen, Mdou Moctar or Bombino. Although the group is still active today, they only recorded 2 LPs and a handful of singles. All these recordings took place in 1971 at the Boussiphone studios in Casablanca. The records were never distributed and therefore remained unknown for almost 50 years, until Radio Martiko discovered a batch of unsold factory stock a few years ago. On this album, you will find a selection of these revolutionary recordings.
Balka Sound – Balka Sound LP [STRUTLP322]
Strut present the first ever compilation of Balka Sound, bringing together their influential 1980s recordings. Hailing from Congo-Brazzaville and led by revered vocalist and ngonfi player, Nkibi “Lusialala” Albert, Balka Sound created their own unique musical world, re imagining traditional Congolese Balka rhythms with electric guitars, electric bass and drums, alongside the traditional 5-string ngonfi.
Gordon Koang – Community LP [MIE020]
South Sudan’s undisputed ‘King of Music’, the Juba-via-Melbourne eccentric outsider Gordon Koang, returns with his second full-length of original material since emigrating to Australia, the masterly titled follow-up, Community. Eight tracks recorded in Melbourne with a cast of the city’s finest musical minds, including Zak Olsen, Jesse Williams, David “Daff” Gravolin and Jack Kong, the record draws upon Gordon’s pitch-perfect pop sensibility and compulsion for composing irresistibly catchy melodies. Add to this brew the extensive creditienals of his collaborators, who are known for their work with Trafik Island, ORB, Leah Senior and more, and you have yourself a perfect blend of East African pop and vintage psychedelia that is surely one of the most interesting records of the year, outstripping it’s Australian counterparts both in songwriting, production value and downright good energy.
Ayanda Sikade – Umakhulu [AFS052]
Born in 1981 in Mdantsane in the Eastern Cape, Ayanda Sikade is one of South African jazz’s most in-demand and respected drummers, a familiar face on the scene for years and a driving force behind its growing prominence on the world stage. Dedicated to his grandmother who raised him, Sikade’s long-awaited sophomore album as a bandleader, Umakhulu, follows his 2018 debut Movements. Recorded in Johannesburg in early 2021, it features the talents of frequent collaborator Nduduzo Makhathini on piano, young Simon Manana on alto sax and Nhlanhla Radebe on bass. The album’s nine tracks, composed and produced by Sikade, pay homage to the artist’s heritage — most noticeably on ‘Mdantsane’ and ‘Nxarhuni River’ — while forging onwards to a brave new world on others, like ‘Imithandazo Yeengelosi’ (Prayer of Angels) and ‘Space Ship’.
Novidade – Voaria [ISLE015]
Originally released in 1990 ‘Voaria’ was written by Benjamin Nhassavele and produced & arranged by the late Tata Sibeko, the revered South African producer and member of Kabasa. Taken from the LP of the same name ‘Voaria’ was released at a time when early house music was emerging as a key influence in the South African musical landscape, an evolvement of the Bubblegum pop sound that had fused disco and boogie with township funk. Characterised by Roland kick drums, Yamaha DX7s and Juno Synthesisers the Kwaito sound is the musical heartbeat of ‘Voaria’. Featuring Benjamin on lead vocals ‘Voaria’ comes in 2 versions, a main House mix on the A side and the Clubhouse mix on the flip which switches up the arrangement placing more emphasis on the groove.
VA – Music from Saharan WhatsApp LP [SS069LP]
In 2020, Sahel Sounds hosted a project called Music from Saharan WhatsApp. This series consisted of ephemeral digital EPs, documenting live performances by some of the most exciting acts in the Sahel playing music, including Nigerién techno, wedding rock, Woodabe guitar, WZN, traditional music, Mandingue music, and more. Responding to an open call from our network of artists, musicians recorded a handful of tracks on their cellphone and sent them over the popular mobile app WhatsApp. Each session was hosted for a month on Bandcamp and sold on a sliding scale, with all profits wired directly to the musicians. After a month, the EP would disappear, replaced by another one. Now, some of the label’s favorite tracks from this series are collected for the first time outside of Bandcamp as the Music from Saharan WhatsApp compilation LP. This LP features tracks by established Sahel Sounds artists such as Etran de L’Aïr, Hama, Alkibar Jr, Amaria Hamadaler (of Les Filles de Illighadad), and artists new to the label like Bounaly and Andal Sukabe.
E&S Brothers – Taduma [AFS053]
E&S Brothers’ 1985 album Taduma holds a unique yet overlooked place in the history of South African dance music. When Shadrack Ndlovu and Ernest Segeel teamed up with Dane Stevenson, owner of Blue Tree Studio in downtown Johannesburg, and journeyman producer Taso Stephanou, South Africa’s bubblegum era had just begun, spurred on by the success of Shangaan disco. The relative success of their debut 12” ‘Don’t Bang The Taxi Door’, marketed aggressively at taxi ranks throughout the country, helped put the Blue Tree label on the map and E&S were invited back to record a full album: Taduma, featuring on keyboards Dr Buke, an in-demand session player from Soweto. Rooted in Africa, yet purely electronic, Taduma was a moderate hit, spurred by tracks like ‘Taxi Door’ and ‘Mhane’, its hypnotic refrain ‘Mhane, famba na wena’ meaning ‘Mother, I am going to you’. Other tracks like ‘Mapantsula’ and ‘Be Careful’ place Taduma within the street-savvy ‘pantsula’ style and dance synonymous with consecutive waves of music from disco to kwaito, house and beyond, while ‘Sikele Masike’ repurposes a traditional Shangaan work song. Vocally E & S are closer to rapping than singing, in a combination of English and vernacular – predating other credited pioneers of kwaito in SA like Senyaka and Spokes H. Driving the music instead of vocals are waves of searing synths over rudimentary but explosive drum machine sounds – the word ‘Taduma’ meaning the sound of the drum.
Vumani – Isiqedakoma [CASALP02]
Not much is known about the mysterious pop sensation Vumani or his short musical career. Originally from KwaZulu Natal he made his way to Johannesburg in the mid 80’s to follow his dream of becoming a recording artist. He was able to make that dream come true when talent scouts from Decibel Music came across the charismatic youngster. At the time Decibel was still a small fish trying to make waves and the label believed in Vumani they had found the star they were looking for. Being a label with mostly groups signed to the catalog they needed a Front Man to push into the growing demand for Solo Artists that were dominating the airwaves and catching the hearts of youngsters. In 1896, they released two singles by Vumani, Black Mampatile and Guy Fawkes. Both singles were received well and a few more tracks were later recorded to create the full album Isiqedakoma.
Jivaro – Saturday Fever [KALITALP007]
Kalita unveil the first ever album reissue of one of – if not the – strongest South African kwaito/bubblegum albums in existence, Jivaro’s 1989 masterpiece ‘Saturday Fever’. A super strong South African bubblegum album with that characteristic infectious bassline sound all over. Also includes two synth-heavy reggae numbers. Produced, arranged and composed by Victor Ndlovu, with backing vocals by Beleoi Khamsule and Magengenene sisters Lizy and Ntsaleni.
VA – Essiebons Special 1973-1984: Ghana Music Power House [AALP093]
Dick Essilfie-Bondzie was all ready for his 90th birthday party when the Covid pandemic hit. The legendary producer, businessman and founder of Ghana’s mighty Essiebons label had invited all his family and friends to the event and it was the disappointment at having to postpone. That prompted Analog Africa founder Samy Ben Redjeb to propose a new compilation celebrating his contributions to the world of West African music. Essiebons Special features a selection of obscure workouts from some of the label’s heaviest hitters, including a 12-page booklet. But in the course of digitizing his vast archive of master tapes, Essilfie-Bondzie found a number of Afrobeat and Instrumental masterpieces tracks from the label’s mid-70s golden age that, for one reason or another, had never been released. Those songs are included here for the first time. Sadly Essilfie-Bondzie passed away before the compilation was finished. But his legacy lives on in the extraordinary music that he gave to the world in his lifetime.
Arp Frique – The Seed: Dedicated To Jesamy [CW004]
Arp Frique’s second album on Colorful World, exploring the globe via a concoction of sounds that takes in disco, synth boogie, funk and the sounds of the Caribbean, West and East Africa. The result is an album that feels potently alive, sonically exploring the globe via a concoction of sounds that takes in disco, synth boogie, funk and the sounds of the Caribbean, West and East Africa. The album radiates the feeling of a lost gem, the kind that a crate digging aficionado may find in some far flung place that ends up with a re-release. Whilst Arp Frique expresses a real fondness for such classic sounds – “honestly I wouldn’t even know how to make modern stuff, I am stuck in the 70-80-90s and I love it there” – a tired exercise in retro nostalgia this isn’t. Instead, the album feels more like a fresh take on sounds that once ignited dance floors across the world.
Les Filles de Illighadad – At Pioneer Works [SS063LP]
The first new album from Les Filles de Illighadad in four years At Pioneer Works is the highly anticipated new album by the Tuareg Avant-rock group. Les Filles de Illighadad recorded the album in Brooklyn at the tail end of a two-year-long world tour. At Pioneer Works finds Les Filles at the height of their powers, creating a sound that transcends all known genres. This is a heavy and meditative set of music from one of the world’s most exciting bands.
VA – Cameroon Garage Funk [AALP092]
Analog Africa presents their 32nd compilation, “Cameroon Garage Funk”, highlighting Yaounde’s 1970’s underground music scene. The quest to assemble the puzzle-pieces of what seemed to be a long lost underground scene took us to Camroon, Benin and further on to Togo and it was in the cities of Cotonou, Lome and Sotouboua that we managed to lay our hands on most of the songs presented in this compilation. Since there were no local labels, no producers, and almost nothing in way of infrastructure in Cameroon at that time, the artists had to be everything: musician, producer, executive producer, arranger, financier, promoter and sometimes even distributor. The sixteen tracks on Cameroon Garage Funk pulse with raw inspiration and sweat DYI mood uniting the featured diverse musicians around their willingness to do everything themselves in order to take a chance in the music scene.
Getatchew Mekurya – Ethiopian Urban Modern Dance Music Vol. 5 [HS098VL]
Getatchew Mekurya is probably the most revered veteran of Ethiopian saxophone. A real giant, both physically and musically. Not only is he at the very top level of Ethiopian saxophonists, but he is the ‘inventor’ of an extremely distinctive musical ‘style.’
Alemeyehu Eshete – Ethiopian Urban Modern Dance Music Vol. 2 [HS095VL]
Alèmayèhu Eshèté is no less than one of the great voices of the heyday of modern Ethiopian music, the swinging sixties which, in this country, went on until the fall of the Emperor Haile Sellassie 1 in 1974. On a par with Tlahoun Gèssèssè, Bzunèsh Bèqèlè or Mahmoud Ahmed, Alèmayèhu is a star at the top level of the constellation that once lit up the wild nights in the capital.
Morgan – Vakonwana [LCT006]
A banging South African bubblegum tune, with house club mix on the flip! The start of the 90’s brought the final wave of House music that would cement it as the future of South Africa’s music scene. In the years leading up to the new decade, Disco had already naturally evolved into the very early stages of what would become South Africa’s signature House sound, with Instrumentals and Dub Mixes earning themselves spots on the Pantsula records leading the charts of the late 80s, it would be an influx of remixes appearing on import singles that would make the “House mix” the premier b side sound for those bubblegum artists trying to stay relevant in the 90’s.
Kumasi – Live at Marigny Studio [ZONE002]
Kumasi, New Orleans’ own 14-piece Afrobeat orchestra, is back with their third LP and first live record. After two private-press releases, Kumasi is presenting Live at Marigny Studios to an international audience for the first time via Hiatt dB’s New Orleans-based Mystery Zone Records. Live at Marigny Studios, features 4 original compositions: jazz-centric interpretations of Fela’s classic form that incorporate rhythms and sentiments from New Orleans and the surrounding Afro-diaspora, namely Cuba, Haiti, and Brazil. It’s a bold effort that perfectly captures the infectious mix of heavy rhythms, spontaneous, improvisatory musicianship, and inclusive, participatory style that characterize Kumasi as a group, as well as Afrobeat as a whole.
Teaspoon & The Waves – Teaspoon & The Waves [MRBLP225]
Official replica re-issue of a South African jazz-funk rarity from Teaspoon & The Waves. Released in 1977 on Soul Jazz Pop, a subsidiary label of Mavuthela Music Company / Gallo, Teaspoon & The Waves’ self-titled album is an absolute masterpiece. Best known for the song ‘Oh Yeh Soweto’, which is an astonishing adaptation of Lamont Dozier’s anthem ‘Going Back to My Roots’, this track has become a contemporary underground club classic in recent times and has been featured in sets from a cross-section of DJs. ‘Saturday Express’ is a jazz-funk/disco stomper which will soon be lighting up dancefloors again. ‘Wind and Fire’ is true afro-jazz-funk excellence, with great spacey synths and reggae-inspired guitar grooves riding throughout. The opener, ‘Friday Night’, also has a slightly reggae-tinged tropical groove, whilst ‘Got Me Tight’ finishes off the session with a feel-good jazz-funk workout that features cool, quirky, Patrick Adams-esque synths.