Various ‘The Rough Guide to African Disco’ (World Music Network) 2CD 4/5

african-discoThe Rough Guides series have come up with some inventive and thankfully more specialised selections in recent times and here is another fine illustration. This focuses on the dancefloor side of music from the African continent and covers a multitude of countries and styles. West Africa seems to hold pride of place here with the Afro-Beat drummer in legend Fela Kuti’s band Tony Allen and his Afro Messengers branching out with an elongated excursion into the genre with ‘Love is a natural thing’. The subtlest of drum grooves leads into some classic classic Afro-Beat with 1970s style keyboards, intricate guitar riffs all in evidence. A different feel to Fela’s sound, then, but the connections between the two former group members are obvious. Equally from Nigeria, the Lijadu Sisters were recently showcased on a Soul Jazz compilation in their own right and deservedly so. Here the song ‘Come on home’ features a talking drum intro with an instrumental melody that is akin to the early disco hit ‘Rock you baby’, though both the bassline and piano vamp are taken at a slower tempo. Staying with West Africa, highlife is popular in both Ghana and Nigeria (and many other nations in fact) and from the former, long-time exponent Pat Thomas offers the relaxed groove of ‘Yesu san bra’ which once again has some retro 1970s keyboards. Moving across the continent to Cameroun, Manu Dibango was one of the first African musicians to score an international success outside the continent of Africa with ‘Soul Makossa’ in 1973. Here the simple, yet effective repetition of ‘Yekey Tenge’ has a rippling groove with collective chanting over which Dibango himself performs lead vocals.

From South Africa, two choice selections have been made and of these fans of Paul Simon’s ‘Graceland’ album will probably be familiar with Mahlathini and the Mahotellas and the offering ‘Kazet’. Typically pared down instrumentation and dynamite vocals are the order of the day here while for fans of a poppier sound Yvonne Chaka Chaka is most definitely the first port of call. UK-based African groups started to emerge during the 1970s and of these arguably the most successful in commercial terms alone were Osbisa. They fused African and western sounds and pioneered their own Afro-rock sound. Here they offer ‘Dance the body music’, the title of which says it all and has become an instant dancefloor favourite of ajust about any era. Given the numerous choices that have to be made on such a compilation, some parts of Africa are under-represented and the lusophone world is totally absent which is a pity and, perhaps, a compilation of the various nations making up this linguistic entity is in order. As with recent issues, a second CD featuring a worthy lesser known artist is included and in this case it is Maloko. Excellent value for money as ever and a fine way to discover some dancefloor favourites of an altogether different variety.

Tim Stenhouse