Archive for July, 2018

Neo Afrobeat : The Sisters Sock it to Fela

July 26, 2018

As everybody knows, the African section of the planet shifted on its axis with the vinyl release of Black President by Fela Ransome Kuti in 1981. And if you missed that seismic event, you were probably listening to Queen (vomituous arena rock), Adam and the Ants (thnx Malcolm), Phil Collins or Barry Bloody Manilow. Throw in Oasis and we have some exemplary candidates for the Final Solution for musical rubbish.

Fela was the founder of Afrobeat, and I’ve written about him before ad nauseum. However before we begin today’s musical lesson, your task is to read the excellent wicki entry on the elements – a complex fusion of jazz, funk, Ghanaian/Nigerian highlife, psychedelic rock and traditional West African chants and rhythms – which formed this highly influential West African genre. On second thoughts, forget the homework, since all of us have an internet attention span of about seventeen seconds these days.

Afrobeat is characterized by a fairly large band with many instruments, vocals and a musical structure featuring jazzy, funky horn sections. A riff-based “endless groove” is used, in which a base rhythm of drums, shekere, muted West African-style guitar and melodic bass guitar riffs are repeated throughout the song. Commonly, interlocking melodic riffs and rhythms are introduced one by one, building the groove bit-by-bit and layer-by-layer. The horn section then becomes prominent, introducing other riffs and main melodic themes.

Fela’s band was notable for featuring two baritone saxophones, whereas most groups were using only one of this instrument. This is a common technique in African and African-influenced musical styles and can be seen in funk and hip hop. Fela’s bands at times even performed with two bassists at the same time both playing interlocking melodies and rhythms. There were always two or more guitarists. The electric West African style guitar in Afrobeat bands are paramount, but are used to give basic structure, playing a repeating chordal/melodic statement, riff or groove.

Now I hear you say, why all this analytical stuff KT, I was rather more impressed by the fact that he subjected his audiences to long marijuana blasted rants of a political nature, and was a polygamist of epic proportions. Both impressions are correct. In total he had 80 something wives, held obnoxious patriarchal views and not surprisingly died from HIV/AIDS.

Black President – Fela at his peak.

Yet, the really affirming aspect of Fela’s music lay in the massive bands he used in the studio and in live performance, usually exceeding twenty or more members. Very much based on a collective or ensemble approach with a loose groove that enabled even the second trumpet to get their bit of spotlight. A bit like musical Mexican Wave anchored by percussion and bass. The shekere player is having a hissy-fit or has family matters to attend to, no problems, other instruments can take up the slack on the day. The band coordinator holding together a collective identity.

Wanted to conclude with this track Colonial Mentality found on Black President, but had to put it here due to my technical bads. This is talent of the first order and I love the guitarist channeling some of Miles trumpet playing.


Newen Afrobeat were formed in  Chile in 2009 and you can read their publicity blast HERE

Try this track.

Here’s a full concert and you don’t have to stay glued to the screen overindulging your critical faculties.

Do that housework which you normally avoid. You’ve been having too much fun.

GRRRL Power on guitars

July 21, 2018

I’ve finally regained control of this rotten blog after expelling the agents of chaos. Why I wonder, since the political planet is such a depressing place? At this moment, I’m having the servants giving me a serious flogging for supporting Brexit. But it was done in the belief that neo-liberalism had its day, and that we needed a new and more equitable distribution of wealth.

Then the Orange Fool arrives centre stage and really stinks up the global political order. Its time to take all those Manchurian Candidate metaphors seriously, folk. And if you’ve had the time to read The Web:The War for Cyberspace by Alexander Klimburg (2017.Prentice Hall.US), you’d agree that the Russians are so ahead of the game when it comes to cyber-warfare. They leave the US and China in the dust. Not surprising since they’ve had a serious interest in cybernetics since the 1940s.

But even Fools can get some things right eg the China-US trade war, even if the headlines are 3 to 1, the 3 predicting that China shall prevail. However he can’t even get this right and has to piss off Mexico, Canada and the EU in the process.

You’ve driveling KT, so lets move to the main menu. If we are looking for a Repository of Information on the past century, it has to be Youtube. The Detroit Riots (read Insurrection) in 1967, the police murders in the Algiers Hotel, The Cream live at the Grande Ballroom and lots of other stuff which bedevil led the Motor City during that tumultuous year. The Speeches of Minister Louis Farrakhan. Detailed bios on Black Drug Gangs. A live concert by the MC5 -over rated. Interviews with John Sinclair. You can do the Time Tunnel thing.

However, you need another perspective on the Black Experience in America, and so should read The Warmth of Other Suns:The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson (2010. Random House. NY) No links as it’s all over the net, not to mention a good dose of authorial self promotion. Best read in years and written with such warmth and context.

But best of all, Youtube delivers in the music department. After all, you can’t spend your remaining years replaying The Best of Oasis. I was in that cul de sac a few days ago, and after a couple of hours made these great discoveries.

Anna Calvi. Good wicki overview. I’ll leave the link work to you. And no bloody laziness Team, plug in those Big Speakers and straight to 11.

That was kinetic by any measure and the drummer was no slouch either.

Eileen Jewell. Totally independent musician with a dotcom site to build her audience. Hot band.

And, as the long suffering reader expects, another bloody version of Shaking All Over. Talk about arrested development KT.

Valerie June. Good wicki overview. Multi-instrumentalist at home in either Appalachia or the Black Deep South. Very much a traditionalist.

What a voice.

It is worth sorting through Valerie June’s repertoire as some tracks contain absolutely brilliant brass playing.