In the past few years, many African music gems from the 1970’s have been dug up and reissued on the international (often: western) market. Even the most obscure recordings and unreleased tapes have enjoyed new popularity, especially if they contained a trace of funk or soul. Initially the collector’s interest was mostly in Afrobeat and funk, but in recent years through the efforts of hardcore historians and collectors such as Obafunkie, ‘Voodoofunk’ Frank and Uchenna Ikonne (Comb & Razor Sound), the sound of 1980’s West Africa has been dusted off and presented via online mixes and official reissues. The focus of these late seventies and early eighties reissues has been on the disco/funky side of things: check out ‘Brand new wayo’ or ‘Lagos disco inferno’.

In this new mix we’re going to take a look at some of the other sounds that came out in the early eighties. The year is 1984, our crates are filled with African records released or distributed in Europe, and even a few Afro-themed dance records by European musicians. Most of these tunes can’t easily be categorized as afrobeat, funk, boogie or traditional music; their sound is heavily influenced by the avant garde sound of the dancefloors and innovations in musical gear of the era (think synths and drum machines). Interestingly there were a couple of deejays and clubs in Italy in the early eighties that had a similar interest, and who mixed African and Caribbean tunes together in innovative ways, often with a psychedelic twist – 25 years down the line their style has come to be known as ‘cosmic’ or ‘afro cosmic’. Have a look at this website (in Italian, but with lots of pics and sounds) to sample a bit of the history.

The selection below was loosely inspired by the Afro cosmic era, though many of the tracks were never big on the scene. All tracks were taken from second hand vinyl rescued from garage sales and shady auctions – cos real diggers get their hands dirty. Partly ungoogleable and mostly not available on mp3, here’s a pick from the farthest corners of Juma4’s crates. And maybe the Italianized version of his name (dj Gioumanne) will stick! The artwork is based on a bootleg compilation of Afro tracks put out by Gianni Maselli, an Italian dj who played club Xenos in Ravenna (northern Italy).

Download the artwork: front and back (right-click and ‘save as…’)
Stream the mix below or from the Africanhiphop Soundcloud page.
Download update (Jan 2014): since we recently upgraded our Soundcloud account, you can now download this mix again. If the 1000 downloads run out, try to paste the Soundcloud link into this website.
Track list see towards the bottom of this page

  • Boncana Maiga – Yala m’le
    Singer/composer from Mali, famous for being one of the initiators of African salsa group Africando.
  • Chris Hinze – African rapness
    Dutch flute player who got his international career going in the seventies, he even did a reggae album with Peter Tosh and Sly & Robbie. One of his tracks got sampled by the Beatnuts. His 1984 album includes a couple of Afro inspired tracks including this one which indeed has some sort of rap on it… pioneer!
  • Manu Dibango – Dakar Streets
    From a lesser known album by the great Cameroon born jazz musician which we picked up because of the great title (Afrovision) and sleeve image.
  • African Image – Fly machine (Ibhanoyi)
    German only release by a South African band. Call it afro kitsch if you prefer, but we love this tune.
  • Zaka Percussion – Danen’s Spirit
    Rather than merely a percussion record, this French group’s 1984 release ‘Lagos’ features afrobeat and jazz fusion
  • Kassav – Wonderful
    This group hailing from the French Antilles (Guadeloupe) is mostly known for their zouk songs but their early albums contain some experiments into other territory.
  • Ozo – Spirits of Africa
    Nigerian/British group who recorded one track that became a so-called loft classic, and they did an obscure Nigeria only release of a proper disco album, while ‘Spirit of Africa’ was only released in the Netherlands.
  • Francis the Great – Look up in the sky (negro nature)
    Mysterious child prodigy, probably from Cameroon. His real name is Francis Mbarga and we heard a rumour that he’s Prince Nico Mbarga’s little brother. This album was produced by Cameroon bass player Vicky Edimo. The LP is tragically rare but pretty great (if only for one song) and we already had to hook up one well known US based Afrobeat dj with a copy…
    Francis did release another LP with a goofy disco song and a next level cover on which he poses with a cape, James Brown style.
  • Sir Victor Uwaifo – OTF (On the floor)
    Early eighties release by the ever great and prolific Nigerian guitar player, on this album he touches on different styles, creating a style of his own.
  • Sonny Oti – I dey manage
    Very obscure title from an album that also features a cover (or the original?) of ‘Nigeria go survive’ by Veno.
  • Esa – A muto
    Enigmatic album by Cameroonian artist, the Linn 9000 and Roland Tr707 drum machines are listed on the credits so you know we had to check it out.
  • Kassiry – N’ne menika
    12 inch released on the short-lived Paco Rabanne (yes, the legendary fashion designer) music label.
  • African Connection – Tiembelema
    African Connection was a band based in Brooklyn, NY with members from different countries (Liberia, Sierra Leone and Gambia). Their ‘Tiembelema’ 12 inch came out on Celluloid records, a French label relocated to New York which was connected to producer Bill Laswell and who were responsible for classic international releases by Fela, Zaiko Langa Langa, Last Poets, Touré Kunda and many more.
  • Jabula – Botlokwa
    Jabula was a band formed in London by exile South African musician Julian Bahula. Their earlier records (mid seventies) are the bomb but their eighties work is still good.
  • Steel ‘N’ Skin – Musical Mind
    Multi ethnic British band that performed all over the place but only released a 12 inch and an EP. Their ‘Reggae is here once again’ was reissued by Honest Jon’s records but this EP ‘Acid rain’ has to be dug up from the crates.
  • Shina Williams and his African percussion – Agboju Logun
    Even in the early 80’s the genius of this track was recognized as it was compiled on the ‘Fresh n Up’ album released in the UK along with some hip hop and electro tracks.
  • G. Lawani – Tayata
    How many artists do you know from Togo? Grégoire Lawani released some great funky stuff in the seventies, and this album was produced by Frenchman Slim Pezin from the space funk band Arpadys.
  • Aleke Kanonu – N’gwode
    Nigerian American artist Aleke Kanonu’s name shows up mostly on other peoples’ records (Stanley Cowell, among others) but his solo album ‘Aleke’ from 1980 is a great trippy afrobeat inspired work with a heavy cast including Wynton Marsalis and Wilbur Bascomb. The vinyl fetches hundreds of euros on Ebay. ‘N’gwode’ was also released on a bootleg style compilation by cosmic dj Gianni Maselli.
  • Bella Njoh – Ebolo
    Cameroon singer whose first album contained this excursion into disco/proto house sounding as if William Onyeabor was behind the mixing board.
  • Kindred Spirit – Inner languages
    Surprising little 7 inch by vocalist Corina Flamma Sherman, Zo Koko and Angelo, backed by the great Mike Odumusu (Blo/Osibisa) and Gasper Lawal. The music sounds like proto deep house. Not easy to dig up nowadays.
  • Zimba – Baleka
    Very obscure Dutch only Afro disco 12 inch, not much known about the musicians.
  • Bongi Makeba – Blow on wind
    Daughter of Miriam Makeba, Bongi had her own musical path carved out when she released the great album ‘Blow on wind’ in Germany in 1980. She died in 1985 from complications giving birth.
  • Ismaïl & Sixu Touré – Utammada
    Before they teamed up with Ousmane to become Toure Kunda, and score a hit with ‘Emma’, the brothers released the album ‘Mandinka Dong’ featuring the blueprint of their blend of many styles including soul, disco, reggae, funk and music from the Cassamance (Senegal).
  • Basa Basa – Black Light
    Basa Basa was a band from eastern Ghana (Ewe land) centered around the Nyaku Twins; their album from 1975 is well known as it was released on Makossa records in the USA. Eight years later they put out the follow-up album ‘Homowo’ on the tiny Peach River label from Holland. Produced by T. Matebese, who is probably the same guy as the South African guitarist in Nigeria who released the T-Fire albums, this record is a unique mix of afrobeat Ghanaian style, synth riffs, a bit of disco funk and a hippie esthetic. It’s also very hard to find, even in Holland.