19/06/2019: “Piani” by Jo Tongo

This track isn’t an invitation to move. It’s a command to boogie!

Jo Tongo was born in Cameroon, but moved to France to study Pharmaceuticals. Luckily, he eventually decided to take up music, and has been making music ever since the 60s!

“Piani” is a funk track of rare quality. The drums in particular are phenomenally groovy, pounding ahead of the rest of the track with flair. The bassline is a simple up and down affair, happy to take a back seat to the guitar wizardry and catchy vocals dominating the tune.

The guitar is in two forms: there’s a classic afrobeats/funk riff for most of the song, but also a couple of solo sections.

The vocals are great, with his own vocals augmented ably by a sweet and sultry backing chorus.

The song was released in 1976 on the album Jo Tongo, in France and Germany.

08/06/2019: “Lagos Sisi” by Bola Johnson

Bola Johnson is associated with the Nigerian highlife and afrobeats scenes. He was a bandleader, but his true skill was with the trumpet. At this stage, the band was called “Bola Johnson and His Easy Life Top Beats”.

“Lagos Sisi” is a wonderfully funky song, with a catchy trumpet hook sparring with Johnson’s pidgin vocals.

The track has a sense of boundless energy, but there’s still a strong sense of class. The nuances on the horns are a pleasure to hear.

The song also features a delectable selection of guitar licks, as a good section of the tune is taken up by a carefree guitar solo.

Johnson’s voice was powerful and deep. There’s a sense of impact with his singing.

The song was released in 1973 on Philips records, and appears on the 2010 compilation “Man Don’t Die”.

19/04/2019: “Mama Matotoya” by The Mombasa Vikings

The Mombasa Vikings were the house band of the Mombasa Reef Hotel in the 70s, so called because of the location and due to a recognition of the hotel’s heavily Nordic clientele.

The song was released in a limited run of 45s and often sold to guests of the hotel, but was re-issued in 2018 by Afro7 in Finland.

The song is unbelievably vibrant, positively fizzing with energy and colour. The percussion section is a brilliant jumble of Chakacha-inspired clattering drums and other little shakers, rolling forward in a supremely funky fashion.

The bassline tangos up and down in time with those drums, keeping the song groovy, in tandem with the distinctive two part guitar chords which crop up so often in African music.

On top of that, there’s a powerful organ, played very adeptly throughout much of the song. Adept as the playing is, it isn’t quite as impressive as the soaring flute solo, a prime example of the impact jazz flute can have.

There’s also punchy vocals at the start, in Swahili, with a very cool “Ya” shout punctuating the otherwise free flowing words.

The song was first released in 1975, and was also featured on Soundway’s 2013 compilation Kenya Special: Selected East African Recordings from the 1970s & ‘80s.

So much talent!

16/03/2019: “Asa-Sa” by Fred Fisher

Sometimes it seems like Nigeria has produced an extraordinarily high proportion of excellent musicians and groovy sounds.

This is more 70s brilliance, this time from Fred Fisher Atalobhor, or just Fred Fisher.

“Asa-Sa” is an 8 minute long constant groove. There’s no peaks, no troughs, just a majestic plain, rolling on forever and ever…

The sound is distinctly afrobeat, but there’s clear influences from funk and reggae. The bassline plays a short 2 bar loop, the drums shimmy and shake, the guitar lick rises and falls like a breath. There’s a certain easy going rhythmical mastery to the whole thing, which means that the song is almost ritualistic.

The vocals are of the typical call and response pattern of much African popular music at this time.

The song was originally released in 1979 on the album Say The Truth, but was re-released on a Soundway compilation in 2004, called Afrobaby: The Evolution of the Afro​-​Sound in Nigeria 1970​-​79.

10/02/2019: “Afe Ato Yen Bio” by De Frank Professionals

Ghana has a deep affinity for funky sounds, and if “Afe Ato Yen Bio” is anything, it’s funky!

There’s an almost tropical feel to the song. The guitar plucking and strumming is relaxed but still relatively fast, and is buoyed along by the slap of the breakbeat. That rhythm section is a hard groove, to the point where you could probably put anything on top and it would sound great…

The organ is a key part of the song’s energetic appeal as well, and the vocals are full of rhythmic zest.

De Frank is the bandleader, and the Professionals are his band. They were active in the 70s Ghanaian Highlife and Afro-Beats scenes, playing a soulful blend of funky styles.

There was also more of a disco influence on many of the tracks the band made.

“Afe Ato Yen Bio” was released in 1978 on the album De Frank Professionals, which was the band’s second LP and one of just two albums that they released.

Such a danceable song…