Review : Various Artists - Afro-Rock
PopmattersFor anyone caught up in the resurgence of interest in African popular music of the 1970s, there will be a lot that is familiar in this collection: an emphasis on heavy funk; echoes of Fela Kuti, James Brown, and late highlife; the references to “quarrying” rare music that signal this is a vinyl archeology project. But Afro-Rock should be granted an originary position, being a reissue of a collection that first came out in 2001. Back then, when vinyl collector and sound engineer Duncan Brooker put together a compilation based on a small sample of the thousands of records he had collected while traveling around Africa in the 1990s, it was far from the norm to release this kind of music.
Brooker’s project laid the groundwork for later releases by Strut, Soundway, and Analog Africa, among others. Such releases, with their constant references to digging, quarrying, and unearthing, find parallels with Elektra’s Nuggets comp of 1972. Like Nuggets, the work of these labels creates its own underground retrospectively; the African projects, however, are more likely to draw criticisms of cultural colonialism and have needed to explain themselves and their motivations to a far greater extent. The main motivations and justifications tend to circle around the obscurity of the material, the opportunity to bring it to a new audience, the need to preserve a set of cultural practices, the possibility of reviving the careers of otherwise forgotten musicians (occasionally realized, often not), and the desire to give the music the value and attention it deserves.
Brooker doesn’t appear to have taken the music or musicians for granted, and in fact made numerous trips to Africa (particularly East Africa) in an attempt to find records in decent condition and to track down the musicians involved in making them. It seems that the preservation of the records he collected was of more importance to him than it had been to many of their former owners. As for the musicians themselves, many had moved on from the styles of playing that had been preserved on vinyl, or perhaps had only performed that material for the purposes of marketing records to particular audiences. As many reformed bands have found, their recorded past is often of more interest to audiences than their present situation. But if Afro-Rock and the numerous compilations that have followed in its wake have set a decade and its fashions in the artificial amber of retro-chic, they have also made available brilliant, adventurous music that forces us to reconsider our ideas of the evolution and revolutions of popular music. The reaffirmation of the enormous and still under-acknowledged role of Africans in the history of music will ultimately be the raison d’être of the new vinyl archeology....full text
ClashmusicA timely reissue of Duncan Brooker’s labour of love compilation, ‘Afro Rock Volume One’, that was, on its initial 2001 release, responsible for the rediscovery of Africa’s funkier side outside of World Music circles.
Kicking off with ‘Fever’ by Jingo, which appeared in the Last King Of Scotland film, it moves through classic after classic, including the twelve-minute ‘Yuda’ by Dackin Dackina and the harmonica driven ‘Onukpa Shawarpo’ by The Bokoor Band.
For those who already possess a copy, the inclusion of a bonus track from Jingo adds to the appeal as does the additional linear noes from Brooker himself....full text
UrbAfro Rock Vol. 1 is one of the most important compilations of heavy original ‘70s Afro-funk and soul to be released in recent years. Originally released on record-collecting obsessive Duncan Brooker’s Kona label in 2001, the album was among the first to kick-start the thirst among jazz, funk, soul fans and “diggers” to rediscover lost music from Africa made during the ‘60s and ‘70s during a time when many countries were gaining independence and celebrating a Pan-African identity within their music. The album was one of the first to reach a far different audience to the traditional world music market and spawned many further projects and labels in its wake. Out of print since 2002, the album is being reissued on Strut in its original form with a bonus track: an unreleased psychedelic cut by Kenya’s Ishmael Jingo. It’s in poor quality though, and not necessarily a “bonus.” The album has remained influential since its release with tracks appearing on other Afro compilations and on TV and film.
The compilation opens up with Jingo’s “Fever,” a great hypnotizing groover featured in Kevin McDonald’s 2006 hit film, “Last King Of Scotland.” “Heavy Heavy Heavy” by Geraldo Pino (the “Nigerian James Brown”) is another highlight with a deep funk beat a la The Meters. “Mabala” by The Yahoos is a funky sax track with psychedelic space sound effects and a mysterious female voice echoing in the background. The title of this compilation should be Afro Funk Vol.1, since there isn’t much rock to spot between all that funk and R&B. It’s a heavy and flawless collection of songs, and now you have a chance to get you hands on it of you missed it the first time around. Let’s do the fever!...full text
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