Blick Bassy: Cameroon-raised, France-based musician further explores “Folk Afro Blues”
During his recent Bruxelles Ma Belle session, Cameroon-raised, France-based musician Blick Bassy sounds like the wind. He performs “Ndjé Yém” live with only a string man and a trombone player, both only coming in when absolutely needed. Bassy fills the air with his whistle and voice, at times gentle, humming, and even furious. He is a wondrous singer.
Bassy’s latest album is 2015’s Akö, and more info can be found on his website.
“Blick describes the music on Akö as “FAB” or “Folk Afro Blues” music. It’s a title which perfectly explains the roots of the music, though does not hint at the inventiveness within. This is no attempt to simply emulate blues music. On Akö, Blick is proposing a completely new variant of the style. There are hints of gypsy swing on “Wap Do Wap”, beautiful atmospheric harmonies on “Aké” and the Malian folk music of Ali Farka Toure on tracks like “Tell Me” and “Mama”. Then there’s the final track, “Ndjel”, a sparse guitar motif overwhelmed at times by cello for a mesmerizing, menacing and truly original finale.”
The latest Africa Seven release is a collection of old and new tracks from Parisian funk great Jo Tongo. Active for many decades, Tongo is apparently working on new music to come out soon. Give this new collection a spin to hold you over and get your daily fill of high-quality afro-funk.
“Our hero, Jo Tongo (born Joseph Ekambi Tongo Mpondo) was born and raised in Douala Cameroon. In 1964 he headed off to Paris to begin Pharmaceutical studies. Somewhere along the way the music in his soul eventually won out and he embarked on a life of music. In the latest of our series of “Funk Experimentals” LPs we dig for the funk. Not necessarily the artists greatest hits but most definitely the funkiest ear benders. We proudly compile together tracks from 1968 to 3 new brand new exclusive tracks from present day 2017. And yes, they all have the funk. In spades.
The album opens up with stunningly catchy Jangolo. Jo’s awesomely funky bass and percussive “jangly” guitar. The track is underpinned by African drums, funky stabs and 70s nascent synthesiser string machines. Next up we take a trip to 1979 and “Funky Feeling” from Jo’s “Those Flowers” album. Here the beats are big, the strings are sweet and the clavi is into overdrive. We then jump back to 1976 for the evergreen, horn-puncher, funk stomper “Piani”. Before the sweet smooth funk of “Those Flowers”.
Next up is “American Lady” with the bright strings, jangly guitars and driving keys. All locked on to maximize the groove. We then take a trip back to 1968 for Jo’s second single the ever so funky and ever so ahead of its time, “Dig It Babe”. Soul, horns, groove and punch all in two perfect packages. Part 1 and Part 2. Next up it is the funk boogie afro swingers “Ewande”.
Bringing things up date we jump forward to 2017, present day. Jo has been making music more or less non-stop and here we are lucky to premier three brand new tracks. The drums are punchy, the guitars ooze the funk and the locked on keys tie the tracks together in one tight-as package. Jo is on the production and at the controls for the mix. “Lion Roar” is first with its driving clavinet and all-out-assault funky drums. The brass is big and this song is Bold with a capital “B”. “It’s The D Day” is next with swinging soul style groove before “Mystic Power” features a ballsy brass-laden beat and jazz funk overtones.
Many thanks Jo for choosing the music. Nearly 50 years at the top of the game.”
Los Camaroes: Analog Africa Rediscovers Cameroon’s Lost Great Band
The next release from Analog Africa is the 1979 final album by Los Camaroes, the legendary Cameroon band with a legendary backstory worthy of some Wes Anderson movie (I can see Anderson entering his tropical Afrobeat phase for his next movie). The full album will be available digitally on September 29th.
“Los Camaroes emerged at the end of the 1960s from the town of Maroua in the northern, predominantly Islamic area of Cameroon. After changes in name, in lineup and in management, they worked their way south to the capital to make a name for themselves; in the span of only a few years they changed Cameroon’s music scene forever, leaving a trail of sold-out nightclubs and monster radio hits in their wake. Then, at the height of their popularity, they broke up.”
Moken’s debut, Chapters of My Life (Bantu Records), owes much to Nina Simone and Van Morrison. Originally from Victoria, Cameroon, and now based in Atlanta, GA, he has lived throughout Africa and the United States as a working musician and fashionista. During his travels, he gathered various global inspirations for his own personal blend of Pan-African Pop.
“Astral Weeks is one of my favorite albums of all time,” says Moken. “My voice came from Van Morrison, from Nina Simone, and from Manu Dibango. If you put it all together, it’s me, it’s all me.”
Simone and Dibango make sense, considering the melding of storytelling and groove. Morrison, while harder to grasp on first listen, is the most telling of Moken’s vocal ability. What strikes me with “Wild Wild Ways” is the same thing that strikes me with Morrison’s best work – the vocal range. In seconds, Moken moves from lax whispers to bold trills that make him sound as old and wise as the earth itself. His supporting band, mostly acoustic, gives his voice more movement. Like Morrison, this performer uses the voice not as a communicator but as an instrument; you won’t understand every word, but you’ll get lost in its beautiful sounds.
Moken came to America to study fashion, and he insists that fashion can make as big of a statement as music. If Chapters of My Life was a piece of clothing, it would be a colorful patch quilt depicting his journey from struggling troubadour to one of Cameroon’s most versatile songwriters.