The Rough Guide To African Rare Groove

The concept of ‘Rare Groove’ has come a long way since its origins in the 1980s London club scene, where DJs would try to out-do each other with soul and funk obscurities. These days the blogosphere is full of enthusiasts sharing their latest vintage vinyl finds, with African music providing rich pickings. But there is a largely untapped resource of independent labels in Africa, America and Europe releasing fabulous sounds that deserve a much wider audience. This collection pulls together a variety of African grooves music from Mozambican marrabenta to Nigerian highlife.

Gentleman Mike Ejeagha and his protégé Celestine Ukwu are both known for morally instructive songs in the Igbo language of south-eastern Nigeria. ‘Ikpechakwa A-Akem Kpee’ starts with a clarion call of horns and quickly settles into an old-school highlife groove. Osayomore Joseph is known as ‘Ambassador’ for popularising the Edo language through music. ‘Oyeye’, with its ringing guitar and rasping brass was one of his first hits in the early 1970s.

Orchestra Marrabenta Star De Moçambique takes its name from an urban music style from Maputo, speeding up the rural majika rhythm and adding pulsing horns. Ayalèw Mèsfin started singing with Ethiopian Police Orchestra before developing his own rock’n’roll-influenced sound full of moody fuzz-guitar riffs, keyboard stabs and horn punches. Analogue synths meet old school East African Rumba in ‘Kai Kai’ by Yam Yam, a previously unreleased track featuring the talents of Congolese émigrés Les Mangalepa, now based in Nairobi, and British producer Guy Morley.

West Nkosi’s sax jive style provides a stepping-stone between penny-whistle kwela and mbaqanga, the township music unforgettably dubbed ‘The Indestructible Beat’.

Super Cayor De Dakar described their brand of Afro-Latin music salsa-mbalax. The 1996 version of ‘Dégoo’ included here is more immediate than later recordings, with a sublime combination of keyboards and horns. Saleta Phiri was one of the first two musicians to receive ‘The Malawi Honours Of The Achievers Award’. His songs speak of the hardships of life in the volatile township of Ndirande.