Various ‘Legends of Benin’ (Analog Africa) CD/2 LP 5/5

legends-of-beninFollowing up on the critically acclaimed compilations ‘Raw and Psychadelic Afro Sounds’ and the sensational Orchestra Poly-Rythmo de Contonou, comes this latest offering of unbelievably rare sides from the little known country of Benin. Aside from Angelique Kidjo, Benin has seldom been mentioned by even the specialist world roots press, and so a compilation of four seminal artists from the period 1969-81 is an especially welcome addition to the African music discography. This one comes from the top drawer and will be essential listening for roots and rare funk fans alike. Evenly divided between four key musicians, ‘Legends of Benin’ features some truly sublime grooves. El Rego et ses commandos are a legendary band who recorded during the early 1970s and in ‘Vimado Wignan’ and ‘The feeling you got’, two of the most sought after sounds on the planet are finally accessible to all. Gnonnas Pedro championed the modernisation of music in Benin and updated the Agbadja rhythm, earning the title of ‘King of Agbadja’. In this vein comes the 1973 song ‘La musica en vente’ as well as the funk-flavoured ‘Okpo videa bassouo’.
Antoine Dougbe created a style known as Afro Cavacha which basically fused Congolese rumba, Latin and traditional Voudoun rhythms. His own records are highly prized owing to their being released in very limited quantity on his own independent label. From this the enticingly entitled, ‘Le premier ministre du diable’ (’the prime minister’s devil’)impresses in particular. Honore Avolonto was some forty years ago a respected percussionist and arguably the most prolific and successful composer in the country. Among the selections on offer from Honore, the Afro-Beat number ‘Dou dagbe we’ takes pride of place and is a dancefloor gem. Superb cover graphics round off this indispensable slice of African groove that will surely prove to be one of the summer’s most listened to albums.

Tim Stenhouse