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REVIEW: AFRICA SCREAM CONTEST

 

 By David Kerr

 

**** 

 

Monday, May 5, 2008.

 

Africa Scream Contest is the third release on the Analog Africa label following the excellent Green Arrows and Hallelujah Chicken Run Band albums. It seems that Analog Africa are specialising in albums from countries less heavily represented in the world music shelves of most record shops. The first two albums have come from Zimbabwe but all the tracks on this new compilation are from the West African countries of Togo or Benin.

 

Sandwiched between their more musically famous neighbours Ghana and Nigeria, music from Benin and Togo tended to be overlooked. African Scream Contest seeks to redress this balance by presenting 14 tracks of Togolese and Beninese funk from the 1970s. While the influence of Nigerian Afro-funk or Ghanaian Highlife can be heard on some tracks this album is a real melting pot of musical flavours.

 

From Afro-Cuban percussion to driving local rhythms and raw squealing psychedelic guitar this music has a wealth of different influences. It is however the way that these influences are mixed that gives the music of Benin and Togo its distinctive sound. More funky and afro-beat than the famous Syliphone releases from Guinea released during the same period and yet more raw and psychedelic than Fela Kuti there is a characteristic sound to this album despite the diversity of its musical influences.

 

Perhaps, the best word to describe the sound of African Scream Contest is raw. The driving percussion, screeching guitars, squealing horns, screaming vocals and funky organs all have a raw, immediate quality to them. While the influence of James Brown, soul and funk can be heard throughout the album these tracks retain an urgent quality. From the opening chants on the Lokonon Andre and Les Volcans track to the latin percussion on the final album track Africa Scream Contest is a testament to the musical productivity of Beninese and Togolese musicians during the 70s.

 

Africa Analog label boss Samy Ben Redjeb rediscovered all the music on this album on his travels to Benin between 2005 and 2007. All 14 of the tracks on Africa Scream Contest were unavailable except to the lucky few who had been able to purchase the original vinyl releases and one of tracks has never previously been released. This is a real labour of love of an album, great music, lovingly collected and put together with detailed linear notes.

 

The Analog Africa label is making a real claim to be among the best re-issue labels around at the moment alongside Art Yard, Soundway and Numero. The quality of vinyl releases and linear notes ranks alongside the Numero funk and soul label for detail and quality. This is certainly a label to look out for in the future.

 

Africa Scream Contest is now available at Amazon and at most reputable music stores.

 

© 2008

 

David Kerr is a contributor to The New Black Magazine and a researcher on contemporary African music at the University of Birmingham, England.

 

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