AFRO ROCK AND AFROBEAT ABOUND

Steele Beautttah: Africa
From VA: Afro Rock, Vol. 1 (Strut, 2010)

March 16th will see the reissue of a previously out-of-print compilation (originally issued by indie Kona) highlighting African funk and soul. Its original issue helped to spark a surge to mine music from the Motherland. One song by Jingo (“Fever”) will at least sound familiar if you’ve seen “The Last King Of Scotland.”

Steele Beautttah’s “Africa” provides an excellent example of the general feel of the album. In an ode to his home continent, Beautttah takes pride in singing praise to Africa. A funky flute loop accompanies the singer in the chorus. Three-fourths into the song a guitar solo pops up before we’re lead to the song’s exit through the chorus once again.

The album bounces around to different countries – Zaire, Kenya, and Nigeria – to provide a crash course in Africa’s brand of soul. While these countries each have their own distinct culture, they are linked together by a similar course in rhythm and tempo. Get a bonus track by the Latapaza Band that isn’t featured on the album from Strut. Act now, before it’s taken down!

Dan Satch And His Atomic 8 Dance Band: Woman Pin Down
From VA: Black Man’s Cry: The Inspiration Of Fela Kuti (Now Again, 2010)

To be clear, this CD/LP is not a collection of work by famed Nigerian Fela Kuti (as I thought it would be when I first saw that it was being issued). What it is, however, is a collection of songs of artists who were inspired by his work and message. Guess I should have taken the “inspiration of” part of the title a little more to heart.

The latter fifth of the album collects a few recent pieces that pay tribute to Fela. Two have been released within the last 18 months and feature Jay Whitefield through 2 musical projects he’s been involved with: The Whitefield Brothers and Karl Hector & The Malcouns.

Throughout the rest of the album is older material from the likes of Bola Johnson, Jerry Hansen, and Dan Satch & His Atomic 8 Dance Band. The Satch track is classic Afrobeat with its conga-laden background. The lead vocals are geared more toward message than to wow you with range. The same can be said for Johnson’s “Hot Pants,” in which he sings in both English and Yoruba. It’s almost a patois, of sorts, of African language. “Hot Pants” tempo is similar to the Satch number, which could explain their order back-to-backon the disc.

The overall design of the packaging is quite nice (I have the CD copy) with its book-like cover and binding. My only complaint is that the disc was hard to get out from the tight sleeve. I didn’t want to stretch the sleeve, but at the same time I nearly had to just to get the disc out. It’s a small misfire in an otherwise exemplary showcase for music and knowledge as afforded us by the extensive liner notes contained within.

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