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Orchestre Poly-Rythmo De Cotonou - The Skeletal Essences of Afro Funk 1969-1980 (2013) review

Orchestre Poly-Rythmo De Cotonou “Volume Three – The Skeletal Essences of Afro Funk 1969-1980” (Analog Africa, 2013)

The third volume of this prolific band’s output captures 14 more of their 500+ recordings from master tapes and vinyl records collected by label chief Samy Ben Redjeb during numerous trips to their homeland in Dahomey/Benin. Incantatory vocal chanting, minimalist, staccato guitar lines, and a bottom-heavy groove courtesy “Africa’s funkiest rhythm section” are the order of the day. Toss in a few scorching brass pronouncements and a bouncy Farfisa backing and you have a dance party to rival James Brown and his Famous Flames.

               Fans of Paul Simon’s “Graceland” period or the funky dance stylings of Remain In Light”-era Talking Heads and David Byrne’s subsequent travels with Brian Eno in the “Bush of Ghosts” will find a lot to celebrate here, but the Poly Rhythmic Orchestre offer the real deal – the local rhythms delivered in the native patois. Compiler Redjeb provides an astonishingly well-informed historical backdrop in his 44-page booklet along with helpful descriptions of the various rhythms employed in each track, from the West African Dahomean Vodoun of opener “Ne Rien Voir, Dire, Entendre” to the rap-friendly “Jerk fon” and “Sato” of tracks like “N’Goua” and “Houton Kan Do Gome” (featuring some astonishing guitar soloing), and the hypnotic, trance-inducing percussives and snappy guitar lines of the “Jerk Sakpata” rhythm of “Pourquoi Pas?” and the organ-driven, happy foot dance party, “Akue We Non Houme.”

               The “Pop Fon” of “A O O Ida” is a dance floor magnet, while the festive Caribbean grooves of “Vi E Lo” demonstrate a “Pachanga” strain in their music that’ll have you packing your bags for sunnier climes! And I challenge anyone to sit still during the Afro Bossa Nova funk of “Ecoutes Ma Melodie.” So if World Music is your bag, or you just want to get up and shake your groove thang, pick up the gloriously catchy rhythms of one of Africa’s most exciting musical exports and start a party!

Review made by Jeff Penczak/2013
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