Various ‘Africa Airways One & Two: Funk Connection 1973-1980 / Funk Departures 1973-1982’ 2CD (Cherry Red/Africa Seven) 4/5

africa-airwaysPreviously released as separate compilations on vinyl only, CD fans who like their African music heavy on the funk side will be attracted by this well researched anthology of hard to find sounds that features a few recognisable names such as Manu Dibango and Myriam Makeba, but in general sheds new light on relatively unknown groups and singers. Both volumes focus attention primarily, though not exclusively, on the English-speaking part of Africa and make an ideal companion to the Afro-funk re-issues that have surfaced over the past fifteen years from a variety of independent labels. Funk-tinged Afro jazz comes from Tala A.M. in the shape of,’ Black gold’, which is not a million miles away from the jazz-funk sounds coming out of the United States at the time. Disco and funk influences are discernible on the synth plus percussive tinted, ‘Father time, mother nature’, from Jake Sollo and this features chanted male vocals. As for Manu Dibango, ‘Mimbo’ is a slight departure from his more famous numbers, with strings and soulful vocals added to the horns, before those trademark saxophone solos kick in. If funky JB guitar riffs are your cup of tea, then check out, Jo Bisso and ‘Give it up’, with some Stax like horns and this could be the soundtrack to a blaxploitation film from Africa. Elsewhere, Myriam Makeba and her distinctive vocals light up, ‘Toyota factory’, from a 45 releases that is virtually unheard of outside of the African continent and from an era when major stars were commissioned to sing for a specific purpose, in this instance a multi-national car company promotion.

Crate digging here has unearthed some gems and one can only wonder at what vinyl delights still remain to be (re)-discovered. In the meantime, marvel at these fusion sounds that indicate clearly that modern Africa was listening in to music elsewhere and fully capable of reproducing with a pronounced local flavour.

Tim Stenhouse