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Afro Cosmic Club 3 mixtape by Dj Gioumanne, hosted by Okayafrica

Afro Cosmic Club Volume 3

Our mixtape series focusing on forgotten and undiscovered 80s Afro grooves is now three volumes deep. Afro Cosmic Club brings uptempo grooves from early- to mid-1980s urban Africa and the Afro-European diaspora, with a few Caribbean rarities thrown in.

After a volume 2 which was played over 15,000 times since Fader Magazine published it, dj Gioumanne’s latest instalment is hosted by Okayafrica in their Africa in your Earbuds series.

Highlights in this one-hour mix include Kenyan disco legend Kelly Brown’s first single, Tabu Ley’s experimental mid 80s boogie-rumba crossover, an understated mbira jam by Kwaku Dadey, a lost Zamrock recording by Tanzanian band Sunburst, the Grace Jones of Ivory Coast and a Azymuth style Italian soundtrack. Read the liner notes below, full of little facts about an era in Africa’s recent musical past that has gone ignored for long.

Tracklist
Mac Gregor – Nan ye li kan
Wally Badarou – He was a rasta in London town
Tumblack – Chunga Funk
M’bamina – Kilowi-Kilowi
Ujamaa – Pokea
Unique – Business
Seigneur Tabu Ley Rochereau – Haffi deo
Errol de la Fuente – Happines
Jobby Valente – Coup de main
Henri Guedon – 22 Mai Delivrance
Lucky Zebila – Eh la moto!
Kyeremateng Stars – Beema se hmm
Kwaku Dadey – Twin cities
F Micalizzi – Hear it tonight
Dama Damawuzan – Misiqui
Uncle Joe’s Afri-beat – Onua
Kantata – Monsom
Kelly Brown Family – We need each other
Ray Lema – Dansometer
Bobongo Stars – Simba moto
Sunburst – Ukuti Ukuti
Alex Sambat – Black
Group NSI – Gadé sa ki ka passé dote kote
Julien Babinga – Mbongui Percussions
Ali & Tam’s avec l’Orchestre Malo – Malo
Abyssia – Risin’
Percussions and Company – Infernal round
Fuzz – Disco-tunga

Liner Notes

Mac Gregor – Nan ye li kan
The obscure mid 80s lp Abidjan by Mac Gregor is probably the closest we’ll come to hearing an African Grace Jones. The female singer from Ivory Coast released an album which may have presented the avant garde of the Abidjan scene at the time, merging slap bass disco, sophisticated synth riffs and the uber-cool vocals courtesy of Mac. Ivory Coast seems to have been the only country that picked up a bit of the post-punk or disco-not-disco sound; the first release of Codek – Tam Tam (a.k.a. Tim Toum), a cosmic disco classic, was on West African Music, a small label from Ivory Coast.

Wally Badarou – He was a rasta in London town
The producer and keyboard player from Benin via France, UK and the Bahamas will forever be a part of recent African pop history for his Echoes album which was a big hit in West Africa in the mid 80s. Its predecessor, Wally’s debut lp Back To Scales To-Night, never reached that status, but it’s still worth seeking out for several big tunes (also see Afro Cosmic Club volume 2).

Tumblack – Chunga Funk
In the 1970s and 80s there were a number of European groups that created a sound based on African and Caribbean percussion mixed with disco and funk influences. The ‘Burundi black’ single from 1971 is a good example; the artist Burundi Steiphenson Black was really a pseudonym for French producer Michel Bernholc, and he actually sampled a live recording of Burundi drumming from 1967. Tumblack played their own music though and the album was created by a ‘who’s who’ of the French electronic scene, including Slim Pezin who was behind a couple of essential African-French disco-funk albums such as Congolese singer Abeti Masikini’s 1977 LPs.

M’bamina – Kilowi-Kilowi
A group formed in Italy in the early 70s by artists from Benin, Zaire, Italy and Cameroon, M’bamina grew an international following in the nearly 15 years they existed. The lp ‘Reflexion’ from 1982 was released on Paco Rabanne’s label, where they were joined by a diverse bunch of forward thinking artists from all over Africa and the Caribbean.

Ujamaa – Pokea
Congolese artist So Kalmery released his first music in Europe with his band Ujamaa. The lp Africa man was a blueprint for his later work. The lp would probably be filed under reggae but as you can hear, Ujamaa was also among the first non-Nigerian bands to try their hand at Afrobeat.

Unique – Business
Multicultural band from Germany based around Ghanaian singer Alan Cosmos (or Kosmos). Their only album Sankofa is a tough find. The sound is a bit more towards funk and soul than Alan Kosmos’ later work which steered towards highlife. With German musician ‘Graf’ Toeteberg who later became a pillar in the Senegalese hip hop scene.

Seigneur Tabu Ley Rochereau – Haffi deo
Tabu Ley, who sadly passed away in November last year, is often remembered for his massive legacy in Congolese rumba. Scattered among his discography which spans over 100 albums (or 250, according to other sources) is a handful of tunes that sounds quite different from the usual rumba. The title track of his 1985 album “Haffi deo” is a daring crossover to a smoother boogie funk sound. UK based label Soundway is reissuing this track in August on a 12 inch (misspelled “Hafi deo,” if you want to Google it).

Errol de la Fuente – Happines
While working on a compilation of music from the South American country (and former Dutch colony) of Surinam for Dutch-based record label Rush Hour / Kindred Spirits, I came across many small label releases, 7 inches that were often distributed via small stores or by the artists themselves. Errol de la Fuente recorded two singles with composer Ruben Sno. This song was most likely passed on at the time, as the audience was demanding slow soul ballads rather than uptempo disco-boogie.

Jobby Valente – Coup de main
Jobby is known to Prince fans around the world as the champagne lady in the movie Under the cherry moon (1986). But she’s also an accomplished singer and activist from the French Antilles island of Martinique whose record Tema (1981) features this big disco-biguine crossover tune.

Henri Guedon – 22 Mai Delivrance
Artist from the French Antilles with many classics to his name, including the big latin jazz record Cosmozouk percussion, released an innovative percussion based record ‘Retour’ in 1981. With sparse vocals and unusual musical instruments mixed in, Guedon created a sound that can compete with modern studio productions.

Lucky Zebila – Eh la moto!
Artist from Congo-Brazza who built a career as a choreographer of African dance in France and who released a record with his ensemble Ses Rythmes De Base. They decided to use a Fender Rhodes on some of the songs which works well for us. Lucky can also be heard on Interpretation Of The Original Rhythm, a afrojazz album by Ray Stephen Oche which was reissued in 2011.

Kyeremateng Stars – Beema se hmm
The band behind Kyeremateng Atwede had some serious highlife classics to their name, recorded mostly in the 70s and early 80s. In 1986 they released an LP on a small Dutch label which contained a rework of their “Maye Obi Den” (the original version can be heard on the Sofrito Tropical Discotheque compilation) and this tune with its infectious disco bass.

Kwaku Dadey – Twin cities
I bumped into the Heritage II LP while looking for a totally different record, and since the artwork looked interesting I decided to give it a listen. Like many albums recorded by Ghanaian musicians abroad during the 80s, this one has several interesting fusions of highlife, pop and funk. For some reason it’s gone under the radar and OG copies at the time of writing can still be found in mint condition for under 10$ – while many worthwhile OG African records from the 1970s and 80s have become unaffordable.

Franco Micalizzi – Hear it tonight
‘Vier Fäuste Gegen Rio’ or ‘Non C’E’ Due Senza Quattro’ was a 1984 Italian film starring Terence Hill and Bud Spencer, in English known as ‘Double Trouble’. The soundtrack was released in Switzerland under the German name, and features Brazilian-inspired music by Italian soundtrack legend Franco Micalizzi who somehow managed to bridge between Italian soundtrack lounge, Brazil bossa and the Azymuth 80s sound, and US boogie-funk groove.

Dama Damawuzan – Misiqui
Artist from Togo, heavily inspired by James Brown-era funk and soul but with a strong local sound. Most of his records are sought after. This late 80s 12 inch – still under the radar – was apparently a promo for Banque internationale pour l’Afrique occidentale (BIAO) and the b-side develops in interesting ways.

Uncle Joe’s Afri-beat – Onua
In the 1980s, Uncle Joe lived in Amsterdam Zuid-Oost (the Bijlmer area), which until today is home to a large Ghanaian community. His album Owo Odo was recorded in Ghana and in the Netherlands and features the legendary Kiki Gyan (here spelled ‘Djan’) on bass.

Kantata – Monsom
Together with fellow Ghanaian George Darko, the Germany based group Kantata have been at the start of burger highlife, the music played by Ghanaian immigrants in Europe – its name based on the city of Hamburg, not the snack – which often borrowed from other genres than highlife, including funk, soul and pop. ‘Monsom’ is from what appears to be their debut lp, the rare It’s High Time Now. Some of the songs on the album were repackaged and sold in the US and France, and their next album was for French-American record abel Celluloid.

Kelly Brown Family – We need each other
Kelly Brown (real name: Abdulkadir Mohammed Ali Bux) was a Kenyan musician born on the coast who from the early 70s spent time between Germany and Kenya, recording and releasing music in both countries. This is possibly his first release, a private-press 7 inch (I have only ever seen promo copies with a hand-written label) with a song apparently inspired by the latin funk song “Woman” by Barrabas (1972). Later output by Kelly Brown is mostly disco and pop. He was found dead in Germany in 1989, and though the circumstances surrounding his death have never been cleared it was suggested that he was murdered.

Ray Lema – Dansometer
Ray Lema should be counted among the giants of Congolese music, yet he’s not as widely know as the rumba and soukous artists from his generation. His respectable discography includes releases on Mango (a sublabel of Island records) and on Celluloid, where he released the electronic/wave fuelled “Medecine” featuring Tony Allen and M’bamina, from which the single “Dansometer” was taken.

Bobongo Stars – Simba moto
Bobongo Stars second album Makasi (1984) was released on Celluloid and like most African artists on the label at the time, their music crossed over from African pop into electronic wave. “Simba moto” is one of those songs that made a name on the 1980s Italian Afro scene and it’s featured on many a deejay’s favourite list.

Sunburst – Ukuti Ukuti
Tanzanian band Sunburst were among the most innovative of their time (1970s), and at some point they won a contest for best band of the country, were invited to Mozambique for the independence celebrations, toured Swaziland and temporarily relocated to Zambia where they had their own weekly live tv show on national television (at a time there was no television at all in their home country, except on the islands of Zanzibar). Their brand of music was a unique fusion of many styles, including Tanzanian coastal music, soul, funk, jazz and Zamrock. As I am working with the band to re-release their music, I finally got hold of their rarer-than-hens-teeth full album, recorded in Zambia in the mid-seventies. The anecdotes the band members told me are genuinely mind-blowing – for example, one of their compositions was covered – uncredited – and released by Japanese jazz legend Sadao Watanabe and played by a allstar cast of American jazz greats including George Benson, Eric Gale and Dave Grusin (it’s the song Bagamoyo-Zanzibar from his 1981 album Orange Express)!

Alex Sambat – Black
Politics in Gabon seems interwoven with musicianship – the First Lady of Gabon between 1967 and 1988 was Patience Dabany who was one of the biggest female singers out of Francophone Africa; her son with president Omar Bongo recorded a solo album in the late 70s with James Brown’s backing band, and when the son – Alain Bongo – ran for president in 2009 he used music as one of the shortcuts to the hearts of Gabonese youth.
Another member of the Bongo government, Alexandre Sambat, also tried his hands at music in the 1980s. His lp Bel Gwadloup from the mid 1980s has a serious line-up of musicians from the African and Caribbean French scene including Jocelyne Beroard (Kassav) and Pierre Akendengue on vocals, and fellow Gabonese Jean-Yves Messan on percussion.

Group NSI – Gadé sa ki ka passé dote kote
Jacob Desvarieux from Kassav’ has many claims to fame and NSI was one of those ventures that show that he had a more funky side than the digital pop-souk that he got known for later in the decade. New sounds from the islands is a collage of proto-zouk and this track which leans towards the disco side of things.

Julien Babinga – Mbongui Percussions
The albums released by Congolese dance teacher Julien Babinga in 1980s France look like they are full-on traditional percussion, but if you were to dismiss them you’d pass up on a couple of polyrhythmic electronic grooves which sound as if they were made for today’s dance floors.

Ali & Tam’s avec l’Orchestre Malo – Malo
Swiss record label Plainisphare released a number of African albums in the mid 80s by unknown Congolese groups. The self-titled lp by Ali & Tam’s and Orchestre Malo has a unique sound; it’s like a soul/funk/jazz album with a crossover to Congolese rumba, played in ‘unplugged’ style and I have never heard anything similar coming from Congo, though the 1978 album by Les Ya Toupas Du Zaire comes close. Ali & Tam’s were Aly Sow Baidy and Tamisimbi Mpungu, both teaching at the Institut National Des Arts du Zaire (INA).

Abyssia – Risin’
From a obscure LP called Gwekana by a group of musicians from various origins, based in France. With Vicky Edimo who by now is known to be among the most funky bass players from the African continent – he was also the producer behind the Afro cosmic grail ‘Look up in the sky’ by Cameroon-born child prodigy Francis ‘the Great’ Mbarga.

Percussions and Company – Infernal round
An instrumental from the French library records series Tele Music, with Pierre Alain Dahan, Marc Chanterau and Slim Pezin (Arpadys) who were the guys behind Tumblack.

Fuzz – Disco-tunga
Ashok Records was a small record label in Amsterdam that released music from artists in the Surinamese and African community in the Netherlands. Their biggest achievement is probably “Soul on fire,” a single recorded in Holland by Del Richardson, a member of 70s Ghanaian/British afro-pop band Osibisa. Fuzz is a somewhat enigmatic band but they released two singles on Ashok; one that is a cross-over of Surinam kaseko music and dirty synth funk, and this one which has a soul track on one side, and ‘Disco tunga’ which seems to borrow from Brazilian music.

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Juma4

Founder & gatekeeper of Africanhiphop.com. Also known as J4 or dj Gioumanne.

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