This anthology proves yet again that the early ’70s were a crazed but feritle period for African music. Borrowing heavily from American funk and mixing it with local percussion traditions into a deadly mix, West Africa in particular was a breeding ground for some amazing music. The Analog Africa label has been a label at the forefront of this excavation, and African Scream Contest is one of the best in a fast-growing collection of anthologies centered on this theme.
As he was in the States, the specter of James Brown hovers huge over this set. From the way-out sax solo on “It’s a Vanity” by Gabo Brown & Orchestra Poly-Rythmo that would have made Maceo Parker proud, to the outright Brown vocal style of El Rego et Ses Commandos, whose “Se Na Min” is as juicy a slab of ultra hot funk as you are likely to hear, the music of the Godfather of Soul apparently traveled very well.
All is not derivative. The tunes on this set build off of sounds and celebrate them, rather than just cop in tribute. The hot mix of funk and African call-and-response on “Mi Kple Dogbekpo” by Lokon Andre & Les Volcans attests to a keen understanding of the similarities of various styles. Those styles are further stewed by adding in garage-rock organ (“Leki Santchi” by Napo De Mi Amor ed Ses Black Devils), heavy psych reverb and choppy guitar (Orchestre Poly-Rythmo’s “Gbeti Madjro”) or a silky combination of African folk percussion and frantic soul horns (Tidjani Kone & Orchestre Poly-Rythmo, on “Djanfa Magni”). Roger Damawuzan also stands out, with his slow jam “Wait for Me.”
The CD also includes a 44-page booklet filled with info and images. For the historical value alone, this is essential. That this collection of thirty-year-old songs blows away most of what you will hear or dance to this month is the real story. Kudos, once again, to Analog Africa’s owner and music detective, Samy Ben Redjeb.