If you thought the African Scream Contest collection of funky psych badness was a non-stop blast which would be tough to top, Analog Africa mainman Samy Ben Redjeb has returned from another exploratory trip to Togo and Ghana with a worthy follow-up. Due out August 3, Analog Africa 8's lengthy title – Afro-Beat Airways West African Shockwaves: Ghana & Togo 1972-1979 –should give you an idea of what sort of scorch the 15-track CD (or 2 LP) scene overview has in store.
But our man Samy is a much more conscientious historian than your average jet-setting digger out to make a quick buck. So unlike some reissue hobbyists who offset their vacation costs by simply ripping some scratchy vinyl they've copped for pennies from some dude who was going to use it to heat his family's mud hut, Redjeb goes the extra kilometers to track down the master tapes, sleeve art, photos along with the musicians involved, producers, engineers, etc. to tell the story behind the amazing music in the well-illustrated 44-page booklet accompanying this super-dope set.
Here's how it all came together according to Redjeb:
"Somehow this project started at Frankfurt airport when I accidently checked in the bag which contained my passport. The flight to Angola (via Addis Ababa) was delayed and the plane's belly emptied in an attempt to find my luggage. Unfortunately, this was never found. As a consequence, I had to cancel my trip. I was at the Ethiopian Airlines offices the next morning (where this episode had become legend) trying to rebook my flight to Luanda, but everything was fully booked for weeks. I was told that if I wished I could selected another destination. The choices? Kinshasa, Yaoundé, Lagos and Accra. I selected the last, because my connections in Ghana had found some serious stocks of vinyl records, and I thought it might be the occasion to check them out.
"A few days later I'm in Ghana, and as on all my previous trips to Accra the first person I paid a visit to was producer Dick Essilfie-Bonzie, who I simply call Mr Essiebons, after his legendary label, Essiebons Records. Everything happens for a reason because the disappointment of missing my flight to Angola was soon replaced by excitement. Mr Essiebons explained that after more than a decade of being out of business he had decided "to give it another shot" and thus digitised all his master tapes for future releases. He then showed me the result – a box containing approximately 80 CDs, each with a track listing,– a total of 800 songs. I was allowed to take the "surprise" box to my hotel room and started listening. I had no idea what to expect, but I was in for a treat. Previously unreleased material by Apagya Show Band and Orchestre Abass were the first few amazing tracks that I discovered and that's when I decided to start working on this compilation.
"The whole selection of songs was completed about a year later and now that I knew which tracks were going to be included, I decided to dedicate some time to find the artists for interviews and research. December 2008 and May of 2010 were solely dedicated to that process, as I flew to West Africa to meet Rob, Ebo Taylor, Nana Ampadu (founder of the mighty African Brothers Band), Issac Yeboah (lead singer of Vis-a-Vis, one of Ghana's most impressive bands), Gyedu-Blay Ambolley (the personification of Ghanaian Afro-funk), saxophonist Ray Allen, Chester Adams (lead singer of the Uppers International) and few others. I did extensive interviews with all of them and managed to collect amazing pictures to document the liner notes that accompany the music.
"While some light has been cast on the Ghanaian music scene of the 1970's, Togolese music is relatively obscure and badly documented. However, we are working on this! In fact, we've already made a start, with our previous Analog Africa compilation "African Scream Contest" which showcased 3 Togolese artists. Afro-Beat Airways presents two more – Orchestre Abass and Cos-Ber-Zam. While the first band developed into one of the country's best, to such an extent that none other than Fela Kuti once offered them a contract to play at his Afro-Spot night club (which later became The Shrine), the second artist was a one-hit wonder. "Né Noya" was a monster hit in Togo but it is to date the only release by this obscure artist. The reason why I decided to include these Togolese tracks on this compilation is that they were all recorded in Ghana and thus they worked well in the mix."
Afro-Beat Airways West African Shockwaves: Ghana & Togo 1972-1979
01. Uppers International Dankasa
02. Apagya Show Band Ma Nserew Me
03. K. Frimpong & His Cubano Fiestas Me Yee Owu Den
04. Marijata Break Through
05. African Brothers Band Ngyegye No So
06. Orchestre Abass Awula Bo Fee Ene
07. Ebo Taylor & The Sweet Beans Odofo Nyi Akyiri Biara
08. Pagadeja Custom Band Okpe See
09. De Frank Professionals Afe Ato Yen Bio
10. 3rd Generation Band Obiye Saa Wui
11. Apagya Show Band Mumunde
12. Rob More
13. Cos-Ber-Zam Ne Noya
14. Uppers International Neriba Lanchina
15. Ebo Taylor & The Pelicans Come Along
Me Yee Owu Den by K. Frimpong
Afe Ato Yen Bio by De Frank Professionals