If there was an award for sexiest reissue of the year, Sidiku Buari’s 1979 album, Disco Soccer, would surely be shortlisted. ‘Koko Si’, the first track gets us in the mood by ticking all the boxes marked disco. ‘Makin love, gettin down’ sings Buari over wah wah guitar, strings and an essential disco groove. The female vocalist, who does not seem to be credited on the record clearly deserves some for her ecstatic performance, she certainly gives Donna Summer on ‘I Feel Love’ a run for her money. It’s highly kitsch and highly camp in equal measure and all the more enjoyable for this.
Buari is a Ghanaian musician and former athlete who moved to the USA in 1966 on a York Institute music scholarship awarded thanks to his athletic achievements. One of York’s music teachers heard him singing team building chants in the Ga language to his basketball team and thought, all this guy needs is a rhythm section. Buari recorded over a dozen albums before a switch to Polydor Records in 1979 produced Disco Soccer. If like me you were puzzling over the title of the album you may like to know that Disco Soccer is a dance created by Buari involving a set of moves built around kicking an imagined football to the beat.
As well as the incredible backing singer, the album boasts contributions from some heavyweight musicians, Michael Brecker – sax, Randy Brecker – trumpet, Jon Faddis – trumpet, Barry Rogers – trombone, George Young – tenor sax, as well as a host of others on strings and percussion. On other, projects Buari has also collaborated with Bernard Purdie, Sugar Hill’s Steve Jerome and Salsoul bass player Gordon Edwards. On moving back to Ghana in 1985 he continued his recording career and became instrumental in setting up the Ghanaian Musicians Union.
There’s little slack in the album and the pace continues with ‘I’m Ready’. “Anything you want to I am, I am ready” is chanted by the vocalists as the phrase is thumped out on the bass and echoed by the strings with urgency and energy. The liquid synth squelches its way through the song in the company of some spacey keyboard texture. The motor is running smoothly now and driving everything in tune to the same destination.
The Afro heritage of the record is probably most evident on the track, ‘It’s What’s Happening’, which begins with the undulating tones of the talking drum combined with a slightly melancholic keyboard rhythm. This hiatus from the disco beat does not last and before long we are back on the dance floor. Gritty sounding wah wah guitar and strings once again recalling the soundtrack to the movie ‘Shaft’ but also making the album sound a few years earlier than it actually is. Vocals mainly chant the song’s title before a jazz-funk interlude for the electric piano.
‘Kinyi Ai Kawali’ (You’re Not Alone) blends English and Ga Vocals in soulful style with the added benefit of vibes with a Roy Ayers’ feel, adding another layer of intercontinental fusion to the album.
The record rounds off in a more reflective mood with ‘Games We Used To Play’, a reggae-influenced ode to ‘the motherland’ The gentle vocals reminisce about an earlier life and ask how “the games we used to play” might be revived in the USA.
This record definitely gets better the more I listen to it and reveals its Afrobeat subtleties, these are not so obvious on every track and on some pieces are layered deeper into the music. It’s clearly much more than a disco album and one worth seeking out.