A Celebration of African Boogie

Image: Letta Mbulu. (Credits: The Vinyl Factory)

Ahead of his set at Primal Sound this week, Douglas McConachie gives us a whistle stop tour of African boogie. Listen to each track on the Youtube playlist below.

Thomas Mapfumo – Mhondoro (Zimbabwe)

Our first stop arrives in Zimbabwe, where we meet Thomas Mapfumo (born 1945) known as “The Lion of Zimbabwe.” Mapfumo has an immensely strong political presence and popularity worldwide, in particular with his opposition to President Robert Mugabe and his government. Chimurenga music is native to Zimbabwe, and Mapfumo was the founder of this. In his music, he celebrates his people (the Shona- which means ‘struggle’) and describes their social and economic struggles. His distinctive style means for essential listening, and so starts us on our tour.

Mixed Grill – A brand new wayo

There cannot be a comprehensive list of African boogie without stopping in Nigeria. With its vast population and the artistically thriving city Lagos, it’s no surprise during the 70s and 80s so many afrobeat and afrofunk anthems originated here. Amongst anthems such as Oby Onyioha’s “Enjoy your life” and Joni Haastrup’s “Greetings”, I have selected this classic from Mixed Grill. Featured on the album Funk, Fast Times & Nigerian Boogie Badness 1979-1983, this disco-roller sums up perfectly the sound and enthusiasm from an important era of music.

Alogte Oho Jonas And His Sounds Of Joy – Mam Yinne Wa

Algote Oho is arguably the most popular Frafa gospel artist from the booming music scene in Bolgatanga in northen Ghana. He first gained worldwide recognition in 2014 with the single Zota Yinne (PH45002). In this single ‘Mam Yinne Wa’ he is, as always, accompanied by his amazing three-piece female gospel choir ‘Sounds of Joy,’ who are all incredible gospel performers in their own rights. Mam Yinne Wa is truly an incredible piece of music, and is sure to bring joy and happiness to all who listen.

Letta Mbulu – Normalizo

Next up we have South African icon Letta Mbulu, with one of the holy grails of African music. Along with her husband Caiphus Semenya and talented companion Hugh Masekela, they escaped the brutal apartheid regime during the late 60s, until their return in the early 1990’s. These three important figureheads have each championed the sound of the underground in South Africa, encompassing traditional African sounds with jazz, soul, latin and funk. There is hardly an introduction needed for ‘Normalizo’; Mbulu’s soaring vocals over a beautifully deep, thumping bassline induce a warmth and happiness to listeners from the onset and throughout.

The African Brothers- Sakatumbe

The African Brothers band was a Ghanaian collective formed in 1963, led by Nana Kwame Ampadu. Ampadu is one of the most celebrated Highlife musicians along with Ebo Taylor and Joe Mensah. Highlife involves classical African instruments combining with European melodies, and was considered music for ‘living the highlife’ by Ashanti people in the early 20th century, during a failed uprising against the British. The African Brothers continued this sound, and Sakatumbe is a beautifully melodic deep funk groover which rounds off our whistle stop tour in style.

Douglas McConachie