Sunday, April 19, 2015

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Review – Le Super Borgou: When Islam Met Funk

With Islamic melodies, ancestral rhythms and rumba percussion, Le Super Borgou de Parakou marks a shift out from city to village music.
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In Parakou, a market city known for its mosque, peanut oil, “chouk” beer and numerous villages scattered along each exiting highway, a sound evolved that – if it hadn’t been for Cotonou’s mighty Orchestre Poly Rythmo – would have made Beninese funk distinctly Islamic.

These Islamic melodies are unique to the Bariba people, and have been honoured by Analog Africa’s latest dedication in which attention is placed solely on Moussa Mama and his Super Borgue band. 

As Analog Africa pledge to “dig deeper with each compilation”, the album 'Le Super Borgou de Parakou' marks a shift out from city to village music.

With the exception of the three music essentials (microphones, electric guitars and recording equipment), Western influences have been reduced, and Lagos, home to Fela Kuti and afrobeat, is now a far flung place of little importance.

Instead, this compilation is a reinvention of village culture, combining ancestral rhythms and rumba percussion.  The group started out by playing Congolese rumba covers with Islamic praise-singing and Mama’s wry social commentary. Some tracks are swathed in high pitch soukous guitar licks, drawing further attention to the group’s Congolese origins.

Super Borgou are both traditional and brilliantly funky. If pre-colonial Islamic rhythms and funk seem like an unnatural mix, a few seconds of Wegne ‘Ndza M’ Banza gives credibility to this chance meeting of cultures.

Analog Africa goes one step further by mapping out an “Islamic funk belt”, an all-conquering musical authority connecting Benin, Togo, northern Ghana and Burkina Faso. It seems a perfect host nation for the Bariba sound; surely Super Borgou’s disappearance under Orchestre Poly Rythmo’s shadow stems from an impossible comparison.

Le Super Borgou de Parakou was released on March 26.

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Delightful album. Clyde, thanks for recommending this.