sweet as the scratch

electric (west) africa

Across the major arts and media platforms that I use to track down electronic music from Africa, there is a growing skepticism towards, perhaps even a consensus that "world," "fusion," and "afrobeat" are dated terms for describing the complex array of musical forms coming from this region of the world. This is def a good thing in my eyes because it allows musicians to self-identify with certain styles and genres rather than have their sound filtered through the lexicon of an international music industry in which "world" becomes a problematic stand in for "folk," "indigenous/authentic," and "non-western."

But it is 2015. And despite the fact that you can now buy records on Bleep tagged "Shangaan electro," "Ethiopian tech-electronica," "Niger abstract/minimalism," "township tech," etc., "world" is often all we really have to track down the unbelievably expansive archive of African music releases from the late 60s through the mid 2000s.

In other words, just because these terms are clearly bullshit doesn't mean that we get to just abandon them and move forward! Masquerading behind a set of aesthetics often described as Afro-jazz-folk-wave-psychedelic pop-rock (lol), world music represents a period in African/global popular musc history that, although incredibly difficult to know, is rich with innovation, experimentation, and aesthetic possibility.

This playlist, then, is my first attempt at digging into the crates (of the world?) to try and make sense of this vast assemblage of creativity and music making--though, admittedly I introduce my own set of limits and constraints to the equation. This playlist focuses on music made in West Africa between the years of 1970 and 1990, music that concerns itself with technoculture, post-independence, and the increasingly interconnected system of communication connecting Nigeria, Senegal, Ghana, Côte d'Ivoire, etc. to the rest of the world. Whether by engaging technology through a thematic use of emerging computer sciences, the cosmos, and global popular culture, or by exploring technology through the manipulation of electronic sound and recording/processing techniques, the below artists introduce a techno-obsessed aesthetic to the history of West African music production.

As jazzy as it is industrial, as soulful/funky as it is experimental, this mix features a plethora of live instrumentation, synth, and special effects--all contained within a carefully arranged, "big-band" approach to music composition/production. Check these tracks out to to hear that sound, what the Cameroonian saxophonist and producer, Manu Dibango, calls "Electric Africa."

0:00 "The Coffee-Cola Song" - Francis Bebey - Pygmy Love Song
5:10 "Gosi" - Mamman Sani - Taaritt
10:43 "Electric Africa" - Manu Dibango - Electric Africa
21:04 "Se Ba Ho" - Le Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou - Echos Hypnotiques
26:03 "Kyenkyen Bi Adi M'awu" - K. Frimpong and his Cubano Fiestas - (1976)
32:48 "In The Jungle" - The Hygrades - (1972)
35:53 Kenimania" - Monomono - Give The Beggar A Chance, The Lightning Power Of Awareness
40:27 "La Vie Est Belle (Brazza Mix)" - Papa Wemba - (1988)
45:08 "Disco Africa" - The Ogyatanaa Show Band - Ghana Soundz Vol. 2
49:19 "Zombie" - Fela Kuti and Afrika 70 - Zombie
1:01:42 "Lagos City" - Asiko Rock Group - Nigeria Disco Funk Special: The Sound Of The Underground Lagos Dancefloor
1:05:30 "Naa Korle" - Edzayawa - Projection One
1:09:48 "Modern Technology" - The Daktaris - Soul Explosion
1:13:40 "Nga Nga" - Ebo Taylor - Love And Death
1:19:00 "Freedom Train" - Feso Trombone - (1984)
1:23:19 "Sound Way" - Wrinkar Experience - The World Ends: Afro Rock & Psychedelia in 1970s Nigeria
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