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Review – Volume 3: The Skeletal Essences of Afro Funk

This latest Analog Africa compilation features more vintage tracks from Benin’s Orchestre Poly-Rythmo De Cotonou.
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When record label Analog Africa dedicates a whole CD to a particular group or artist, somebody with unsurpassable subject knowledge is advising you to listen in. Samy Ben Radjeb’s label has now honoured the Beninese Orchestre Poly-Rythmo with three compilations and an album re-release. In an age of downloads, it’s refreshing to think of Redjeb hand picking these choices from his vast record collection, acquired on monthly trips over many years thanks to his previous job with a German airline. The 14 tracks of Volume 3: The Skeletal Essences of Afro Funk have been selected from Orchestre Poly-Rythmo’s repertoire of over 500 tracks, covering a key period from 1969 to 1983.

As its name suggests, Volume 3 is funk heavy. It’s not much of a departure from the sweat-drenched local rhythms, psychedelic vodoun guitars and reverb vocals heard on previous Poly-Rythmo compilations. Afrobeat again surfaces as a major influence. But, as proven by the extent of Analog Africa’s dedication, Orchestre Poly-Rythmo encompasses many genres. The sleeve notes display each track categorized by a “rythme”, with the Cavacha Fon and Sato rhythms possessing a Latin rumba style exotica that wouldn’t be found in an afrobeat group of a purer form.

The Jerk Fon rhythms are where Orchestre Poly-Rythmo is at its funkiest. Like all good funk bands, they are blessed with a seemingly telepathic relationship between an equally brilliant bassist (Gustave Bentho) and drummer (Leopold Yehouessi). Guitars clunk along with deliciously simple, The Meters-esque danceability, offset against Yehouessi’s tight drumming patterns that further nod to New Orleans’s greatest funk instrumentalists. For a rare portrait of Jerk Fon, watch Orchestre Poly-Rythmo perform ‘Houzou Houzou Wa’ live in Cotonou, courtesy of Office de Radiodiffusion et Télévision du Bénin.

Volume 3: The Skeletal Essences of Afro Funk is released by Analog Africa.

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