“Free markets, free elections, free media, free thought, free speech, free will – the language of freedom pervades our lives, framing the most urgent issues of our time and the deepest questions about who we are and who we want to be. It is a foundational concept at the heart of our civilization, but it has long been distorted to justify its opposite: soaring inequality, the erosion of democracy, an irrational criminal justice system, and a dehumanizing foreign policy” – Raoul Martinez
As we enter the month of May, the threat of a looming UK general election called by a non-elected prime minister in response to impending corruption charges levelled by the CPS shadow the lungs of the nation like the chest x-ray no self-perpetuating ex-smoker ever wants to see. The harsh realities of capitalist surrealism bite hard on a global stage seemingly preparing for thermo-global nuclear war. Only the plucky little guy from North Korea stands in the way of the inevitable capitulation of the underdog. Even the once-proud China is in talks with the comedy dictator with the satirical hair. Fascists are at the gates in France, and in every bedroom, on every estate across Western Europe, small bands of individuals with no actual friends are unfolding their swastika flags, polishing their replica iron crosses, and downloading survival technique handbooks.
Living in a country where what’s left of the working class buy The Sun on a daily basis so they can take their kids to Thorpe Park at a heavily discounted rate, whilst their neighbours are being shot for having vaguely anti-authotiarian stances, merely adds another layer of surrealism to an already heavily over-stitched tapestry. One can imagine folk wandering the corridors of Le Musée de la Tapisserie de Bayeux, yearning for simpler times, where narratives were linear, and epochs of stability were rife. Meanwhile, the political sensibilities of the both the metropolitan and rural liberal elite shudder under a bombardment of memes, as social network platforms groan under the weight of anti-capitalist observational politic.
The BBC’s campaign to destabilise Jeremy Corbyn at its zenith, the despicable May launches her somewhat risky gambit. Surely, with Labour so convincingly buried beneath an avalanche of right-wing commissioned, right wing-skewed, right-wing-press-delivered poll condemnations, there’s no way out of this cul-de-sac for our hero/saving grace? Surely we’re all fucked now? The only questions left are: how hard? For how long?
Obviously, that’s a matter of conjecture. One reasonably based on how much money you earn; how deeply your vein of collusion runs; what school you went to; and how little you actually care about anything other than your car, your holiday(s), your kid’s private schooling, or whether Chelsea win the premier league (NB: other elitist sporting ensembles are available, more on that next month, you have been warned!). As long as Sky TV keeps pumping disinformation into the cathode ray nipples of the gullible classes, and David Dimbleby holds sway over any faux-debate on moral turpitude, there will always be an England, and it will always stink vaguely of piss.
Any soundtrack to these confounding times, therefore, demands to be heavily infused with righteousness. So, pull up a pine scatter-cushion, bespoke-made by a retired NHS worker in her custom studio in St Ives, chuck another climate-change denier on the fire, and settle down for a rough guide to the consciousness-mingling ceremony the nation demands as it considers the choice between a future of equality, social justice, inclusivity and prosperity for all, or fucking itself in the arse with a spiked baseball bat, without the use of a lubricant.
Back in early 1978, at the height of the punk wars, here in the UK, whilst the revolutionary politics of The Clash, the Situationst International (SI) rhetoric of the Sex Pistols, and the anarcho-syndicalism of Crass ensured that future generations would never have to live under a facist regime, ever again, Vincent Ahehehinnou left the Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou without explanation. For nearly forty years, the reasons behind Vincent’s sudden departure have remained a mystery. Until now. In an interview included with Analog Africa‘s glorious reissue of ‘Best Woman’, Vincent’s first post-Poly-Rythmo album, rarer than a Labour voter in any given affluent suburb of the UK, arguably West Africa’s greatest singer comes clean about the circumstances surrounding his exit from the Benin troupe. ‘Best Woman’ ably collates four strident samples of furiously funky Afrobeat intensity. Treble-heavy guitar tones wrap themselves around spritely horns, underpinned by syncopated beats, focussed horns cut up the call-and-response male/female vocal intricacies in a hive of activity guaranteed to inspire rug cutting on an industrial level in the homes of both the rural and the metropolitan liberal elite. Bustling hi-hats, wah-wah workouts, complexed grooves and hypnotic, meditative vibes ensure that every cut is deeper than the last. Originally released on Nigeria’s Hasbunalau Records in 1978, Analog Africa’s Dance Edition imprint pressing has be remastered by Nick Robbins, cut by to vinyl by Frank Merritt at the Carvery, and personally approved by Vincent himself.
Remaining narratively with the mother continent, ‘The Original Sound of Mali’ (Mr Bongo) compiles sixteen Malian masterpieces for your edification and conciseness-expanding facilitation. Collated by David ‘Mr Bongo’ Buttle, Vik Sohonie (Ostinato Records) and Florent Mazzoleni, this gargantuan collection checks in at one hour thirty seven minutes of immensity, amply illustrating and amplifying the depth and breadth of the Malian aural tradition. Spread over four sumptuous sides, this breathtaking selection demands its place in any tired and flagging record collection. Blow those neoliberal cobwebs away with a truly eclectic journey through the eighth-largest country in Africa. With almost half the country living beneath the poverty line, and a Muslim representation of around 90% of the population, Mali bears more than a passing resemblance to a UK whose Tory dictators are using fear tactics to incite Islamaphobia on the one hand, whilst condemning an ever-growing section of it’s own citizens to the virtual workhouse of conceptual poor law politic. It’s time to take a leaf out of the book of Taureg rebels, who in 2012 declared the secession of a new Malian state, Azawad:
A1. Idrissa Soumaoro et L’Eclipse de L’Ija — Nissodia (Joie de l’optimisme) / A2. Rail Band — Mouodilo / A3. Les Ambassadeurs du Motel de Bamako — M’Bouram-Mousso.
B1. Super Tentemba Jazz — Mangan / B2. Sorry Bamba — Yayoroba / B3. Super Djata Band — Worodara.
C1. Zani Diabaté et Le Super Djata Band — Fadingna Kouma / C2. Salif Keita — Mandjou / C3. Alou Fané & Daouda Sangaré — Komagni Bèla.
D1. Super Djata Band de Bamako — Mali Ni Woula / D2. Idrissa Soumaoro et L’Eclipse de L’Ija — Fama Allah
The double LP includes a 24-page booklet on Malian Music written by Florent Mazzoleni.
Further back in time still, in 1976, Marijata – a Ghanaian trio featuring Kofi ‘Electric’ Addison on drums, Bob Fischlan on organ and Nat Osmanu on guitar – dropped their debut sides for Gapophone Records. Recorded At Ghana Film Industry Corporation Studios, ‘This Is Marijata’ (Mr Bongo) has been a highly sought-after title by collector’s of African music for decades. Featuring four cuts of raw pulsating, insistent funk-based Africana, this RSD related release is one of the few reasons not to despise RSD with all your anti-capitalist heart. The title is available exclusively from the link below from 06/05/17, so don’t sleep on it:
Tracing the inherent spirit of Mali & Ghana across the mighty Atlantic to Jamaica, Prince Far I‘s Lloydie Slim produced debut long player, ‘Psalms For I’ (Deeper Knowledge), was originally recorded at King Tubby’s, again, in 1976. The cry of a people longing for a return to the ways of righteousness, ‘Psalms For I’ resonates in these times of capitalist surrealism. The album ranks amongst the greatest chant albums ever issued, the lyrics derived almost en masse from the Book of Psalms. This is revolutionary, meditative, cultural music, that established Prince Fari I from the offset as the prophet with the voice of thunder, soon be lauded, held aloft in a celebration of awe, by the UK punk generation, and the bands who blended their punk rock with conscious riddems with flows of radical prose. Comprising ten chants predominantly exploring Aggrovators-backed rhythms, Deeper Knowledge’s reissue marks a watershed in Jamaican remastering, pressed from new stampers made from the pristine-condition original mother plates. This masterful album is arguably Prince Far I’s finest moment, one that demands a place in every radical home, of both the rural and the metropolitan cultural elite.
Weaving back and forth in time, developing a narrative supported by unequivocal DNA evidence, any ‘Out Of Africa’-themed column worth its salt would not be complete without reference to Barney Wilen’s legendary double album, ‘Moshi’ (Souffle Continu) . Bernard Jean Wilen was a French tenor/soprano saxophonist and jazz composer, born in Nice in 1937. His father was an American dentist, turned inventor, and his mother was French. He began performing in clubs in Nice after being encouraged by Blaise Cendrars, who was a friend of his mother. His career was boosted in 1957 when he worked with Miles Davis on the soundtrack ‘Ascenseur pour l’Échafaud’ (Fontana):
“In 1970, Wilen assembled a team of filmmakers, technicians and musicians to travel to Africa to record the indigenous music of native pygmy tribes. Upon returning to Paris two years later, he created ‘Moshi’, a dark, eccentric effort, fusing avantjazz sensibilities with African rhythms, ambient sound effects and melodies rooted in American blues traditions. Cut with French and African players, including guitarist Pierre Chaze, pianist Michel Graillier, and percussionist Didier Leon, this is music with few precedents or followers, spanning from extraterrestrial dissonance to earthbound, streetlegal funk. Wilen pays little heed to conventional structure, assembling tracks like ‘Afrika Freak Out’ and ‘Zombizar’ from spare parts of indeterminate origins” – Jason Ankeny, AMG
I have mentioned this once before, but it bears repeating, Souffle Continu Records’ deluxe reissue features exemplary additional artwork along with high-definition remastered audio. This indispensable artefact also includes a twenty-page booklet on 200gsm art matt paper, including rare pictures, sheet music and original liner notes, plus a bonus dvd of Caroline de Bendern’s movie ‘L’intention de Mlle Issoufou à Bilma’, documenting Wilen’s incredible African journey.
Finally this month, no consciousness-mingling ceremony would be complete without exposure to Dadawah‘s majestic ‘Peace And Love’ (Dug Out): “Dark, hypnotic, tripping nyabinghi from 1974. Led by Ras Michael over four extended excursions, the music is organic, sublime and expansive: grounation-drums and bass heavy (with no rhythm guitar, rather Willie Lindo brilliantly improvising a kind of dazed, harmolodic blues). Lloyd Charmers and Federal engineer George Raymond stayed up all night after the session, to mix the recording, opening out the enraptured mood into echoing space, adding sparse, startling effects to the keyboards. At no cost to its deep spirituality, this is the closest reggae comes to psychedelia” – Dug Out Press
By the time we reconvene for June’s column, the die will have been cast, and we will either be celebrating a significant shift in the consciousness of the nation, or holding our bleeding arses and screaming. The decision facing our nation on 8 June 2017 is the most significant we have ever faced. This is no longer a choice, it is the duty of every human being residing within the confines of the UK to vote with their conscience, not their wallet. The time for collusion has come to an end, and the prospect of insurrection, public disorder and eventual civil war beckons, should a halt not be called to capitalist surrealism. In Jeremy Corbyn we have a Moses to lead us out of the wilderness of neoliberal selfishness, waiting in the wings are a phalanx of radical and angry younger politicians of a united left, who will build on the foundation laid by Corbyn as we reclaim our freedom in the name of a future, for all our children.
In the words of Slavoj Žižek: “the dream of an alternative is a sign of theoretical cowardice, true courage is to admit that the light at the end of the tunnel is probably the headlight of another train approaching”. It’s time to tackle that oncoming train; time to block the track; time to send it back in the other direction. It’s a tough reality to consider, but right now those of us with children will be roundly hated and despised by our offspring should we not seize the day and overthrow the corruption that has blighted most everything in this post-Fordian age. No longer will Fordist solutions suffice, the manipulation has been so seamless that only the implicit rejection of the values of greed and selfishness espoused by the Consevatives, New Labourites, Liberal Democrats that have shaped the last forty years can save us now! Avante!