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A Cratedigger's Dream: '60s-'80s Tapes Unearthed by Analog Africa
Label Feature

A Cratedigger's Dream: '60s-'80s Tapes Unearthed by Analog Africa

This is crate-digging at its best. Samy Ben Redjeb has spent over fifteen years chasing long-forgotten footnotes to unearth master tapes and cassettes from Africa. His label Analog Africa boasts an unheard-of selection of raw, authentic music from all over the continent. A rich and insanely diverse heritage of funk, afrobeat, psychedelic rock, mystic soul, and so much more from the '60s to '80s. Or, in Analog Africa's own words: "the best in both explosive foot-shufflers and hypnotic sauntering treasures from Africa."

By DannyVeekens
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“We were fed stuff that wasn’t reflecting the reality on the ground, the sophistication of the music, the advanced way of playing, the futuristic sounds, the dexterity of the musicians,” Analog Africa founder Samy Ben Redjeb told Red Bull Music Academy in 2017. Raised in Germany but born in Tunisia himself, it was Redjeb’s sole mission to unearth compelling histories and present local folklore from his home continent of Africa. Going far above and beyond Western music industry cliches about “African music”—the fact there’s even such a widely-used generic term to describe all the diverse music from 54 countries deep, speaks volumes.

Analog Africa pays respect to each and every one of those rich cultures in music. From kwaito to Afrobeat, and from soukous out of Congo to garage funk from Cameroon. Redjeb: “All my thoughts were aiming towards one task – to make sure I repay a city that has welcomed me with open arms and shed a different light on a country that deserves much more than its reputation, by releasing music that will blow your mind.”

Below we highlight selected artists, records, and stories from the vaults of Analog Africa, as available on Tracklib:

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Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou

Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou
Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou

The Free Download on top of this feature is a song by Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou, an all-star band from the West-African country of Benin. “An incredible groove machine and the mightiest funk ensemble in all of Africa,” in the words of the label. Their reinvention of Beninese Afrobeat earned them legendary status in Western Africa. Also because of their impressively vast catalog of over 500 recordings in a little over a decade since 1972.

There’s also a song available on Tracklib by Poly-Rythmo vocalist Vincent Ahehehinnou, who was eventually forced out of the band by their then-manager. His first solo EP Best Woman continued to push his singular take on Afrobeat. That record was forgotten for over forty years until Analog Africa reissued the EP.

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The Cosmic Sound of Cabo Verde

Paulino Vieira making use of the "lost" gear (archive photo courtest of Analog Africa)
Paulino Vieira making use of the "lost" gear (archive photo courtest of Analog Africa)

Another intriguing treasure is Analog Africa’s compilation Space Echo: The Mystery Behind the Cosmic Sound of Cabo Verde Finally Revealed! The backstory is insane: In 1968, a cargo ship packed with synthesizers was on its way from Baltimore to the EMSE Exhibition, the first-ever electronic music exhibition to take place in the Southern hemisphere. But the day of departure, the ship with synths, keyboards, and other electronic music goods of leading brands including Moog, Korg, Rhodes, Farfisa, and Hammond mysteriously disappeared from the radar—until villagers of Cachaço, Cape Verde found one of the containers washed ashore.

According to the compilation's liner notes, anti-colonial leader Amílcar Cabral made sure the instruments were equally distributed to local places with electricity. The gear found its way into the hands of curious children and young adults, which contributed to the modernization of local rhythms like Mornas, Coladeras, and the dance-centric style of Funaná, banned until 1975 by Portuguese colonial rules for its sensuality.

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5:53