Release Date: 29th October 2021
On 18th April, 1980, after decades of anti colonial struggle, the Zimbabweian flag was finally raised at midnight at the Rufaro Stadium in Harare. Not long after, the words "Ladies and Gentlemen, Bob Marley and The Wailers!" rang out, and Zimbabwe's independent future began.
In the years that followed, Africa was to produce it's own reggae superstars, as the likes of Alpha Blondy, Majek Fashek and Lucky Dube swept across the continent and beyond, and there's no doubting Bob Marley's explosive impact on this particular narrative.
Marley's unswerving commitment to liberation and unity ranged from the sweeping spiritual sentiments of iconic hits such One Love and Redemption Song to the galvanising, focused tone of 1979's 'Zimbabwe', and his status as global superstar ensured that his (self funded) part in the countries' epochal celebrations meant that the history of reggae in Africa would always be viewed through the prism of his influence ( Wiki/African Reggae : "In 1980, world-famous Jamaican reggae musician Bob Marley performed in Harare, Zimbabwe, and that concert is often credited as marking the beginning of reggae in Africa")
But in fact, the recorded history of reggae produced in Africa stretches back over a decade before Marley's arrival on the continent, and showcases broad pan - diasporic interflows between the Carribean and Africa, with the UK and the US communities playing influential supporting roles, all helping shape the evolution and development of the genre in Africa from late 60's inception to Marley's arrival in 1980, and then well beyond.
Reggae Africa : Roots and Culture, 1972 - 1981 tries to capture a sense of that evolution, starting in 1972 as Mebussa's ultra rare 'Good Bye Friends' effortlessly captures triangular, transatlantic cultural interflows, with the short lived Nigerian group's bitter sweet chords echoing classic US soul, but laid over a gritty, skanking Jimmy Cliff - esque proto reggae rhythm.
Trying to work out the precise provenance of Black Reggae's 'Darling I'm So Proud of You' (1975) isn't easy, but involves Paris based / African focused label Fiesta, some proper OG co-branding exercise with Bols Brandy ( "Bols Brandy presents Black Reggae") - and deeply infectious, lilting Rocksteady.
By 1976, glorious Nigerian sister duo Lijadu Sisters are echoing the chunky roots of a Dennis Brown or U Roy on 'Bobby', and in 1977, bespoke Nigerian drummer Georges Happi is introing 'Hello Friends' with the soon to be universal signature reggae tom roll intro, before veering leftfield with snatches of spoken Afro - English vocal in between the hooky choruses.
Nigerian giant Chrissy Essien's 'I'll Be You Man' (1979) combines floaty Lovers vibes with catchy ska shuffle, and in the same year, Cameroonian afro-funk/disco heavyweight Pasteur Lappe' drifts seamlessly into skanking, Lovers infected reggae on 'Babbette D.O. ( Rastawoman )' (before a sprawling electric guitar solo reminds us how unselfconsiously eclectic so much African music of the era was.)
And finally bookending the compilation, in chronological terms, fellow Cameroonian Tala AM also swaps his funk and soul for the rootsy and infectious 'Hop Sy Trong' (1981), again highlighting the diverse and eclectic approach to this timeless Carribean musical genre taken by African musicians in the years before that Bob Marley year zero event in Zimbabwe.
a1: The Mebusas - Good Bye Friends
a2: Georges Happi - Hello Friends
a3: Black Reggae - Darling I'm So Proud Of You
a4: Christy Essien - I'll Be Your Man
b1: The Lijadu Sisters - Bobby
b2: Tala Andre Marie - Hop Sy Trong
b3: Essama Bikoula - I'll Cry
b4: Carlos And Miki - All This Nonsense
b5: Pasteur Lappe - Babette D'O. (Rastawoman)
Release Date 15th February 2019
It's that time again. The skies are calling and its time to board our trusty jet for the 5th outing of Africa Seven's premiere class compilation Africa Airways. For volume 5 its time to brace yourselves for 10 slices of Afro boogie goodness. We up the boogie time groove with The Black Bells Group (the first band of lead singer Sidney 'Patrick Duteil' who went on to become the godfather of French hip-hop and a well know TV presenter. Here the groove is swinging... the perfect opener. Next up is German-based Cameroonian musician and cousin of Manu Dibango, Charly Kingson with this bass-synth boogie stomper. Big brass and jazzy trumpets add layers of sparkle too. Next its time for some highlife inspired boogie from Ghanian Gyedu Blay Amboley. Highlife fused with reggae, disco, boogie and jazz just as the lyrics say.
Next we pair up with Africa Seven friend Eko once more under his Dikalo guise. The Cameroonian master musician is on fine form with his heavy brass and deep percussion with a driving afro boogie groove. To round off Side A its off to Cameroon again to groove with Jean 'Mekongo President'. Think Bernard 'Chic' Edwards on the bass with some African style and you can see it's the bottom end groove and afrobeat drums that power this gem along.
We open the second side slowly and purposefully with the highly sought after 'French Girl' from Fotso. Drippy bass synth grooves and a wondrous percussion and drum shuffle pair with piano riffs to make this a unique sounding track. Our friend Tala AM is next with the foot-stomping 'Sugar Lump'. JK Mandengue is next with most definitely the catchiest chorus you will hear today. Nigerian Jide Obe gets synth and clavinet rich with his doe to sensible dating advice 'Too Young'. We close off the album with a track from label good friend Jo Bisso under his Mulamba guise. Sounding like a long lost TV theme from a late night TV show circa 1977. Let's get down and boogie with the brand new dance in town folks... the Dashiki. Until Volume Six takes flight it is time to unbuckle those seat belts folks.
01. Black Bells Group - Sweet Sidney
02. Charly Kingson - Nanga 'Boko
03. Gyedu Blay Ambolley - Highlife
04. Dikalo - Fine Biscuits
05. Mekongo President - Angona Mana
06. Fotso - French Girl
07. Tala AM - Sugar Lump
08. JK Mandengue - Chibidaba, Chibidaba
09. Jide Obe - Too Young
10. Mulamba - Dashiki (Instrumental Version)