Various ‘African Scream Contest 2 – Benin 1963​-​1980’ 2LP/CD/DIG (Analog Africa) 4/5

If the first volume of music from the little known Benin Republic whetted the appetite, then the second installment does not disappoint, and certainly equals the former with some outstanding individual performances as well as an excursion into Afro-funk and other related cross-boundary sub-genres. A key number that has immediately been picked up radio is Ignace de Souza & The Melody Aces’ ‘Asaw Fofor’, and it is a classic of African music and, one of the few on a major label, Decca. Moreover, it is one of the earliest examples, dating from 1963. Virtually all the labels off which the vinyl was originally released are home-grown and the very names speak volumes about the independent-minded initiatives of the local record industry that has now sadly long disappeared: Disques Tropiques; Disacafric; Disc-Orient. There was a genuine pride in the post-independent francophone Africa. Connections with other parts of the African diaspora, notably in Latin America, are evident on ‘Dja, Dja, Dja’, which is an Afro-Latin delight by Stanislas Tohon. Laying down a heavy percussive groove is the admirably titled, Picoby Band D’Abomey, who offer up ‘Mé Adomina’. Lengthy and hypnotic riffs abound on, ‘Paulina’, which is a 1975 song from Black Santiago, while if it is some authentic Afro-disco that you are in search of, then the Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou deliver big time on ‘Moulon Devia’; which dates from 1980. Accompanying the CD release is a luxurious forty-four page booklet that sheds more light on the individual names and the Beninese music industry more generally.

It is an ideal time to be investigating some of the so-called lesser names of African music with a brand new series already started on BBC4 and hosted by the excellent and ever enthusiastic Londoner-African musician and DJ/writer, Rita Ray. The music of Benin deserves to be heard beyond the physical limits of Benin and Samy Ben Redjeb is to be congratulated for unearthing such a varied selection of music that compares most favourably with anything else from that great continent during the same period. Terrific graphics on the front cover too.

Tim Stenhouse