Afro-Beat Airways – West African Shock Waves – Ghana & Togo 1972-1979 (Analog Africa AACD 068CD, 2010)
Analog Africa’s director, Samy Ben Redjeb, has put together yet another fascinating collection of African music from the golden years in the 1970s. On this occasion he explores Afrobeat music from Ghana and Togo. Although Nigerian artist Fela Kuti was the best known Afrobeat act, the genre was popular across various nations.
Afro-Beat Airways showcases various incarnations of Afrobeat, from rootsy organ-driven sounds to funk and psychedelic jams.
The album is available on CD and also as 2-LP set. Samy crisscrossed Ghana and Togo in search of the producers and artists – or their relatives. As as result, he recorded a dozen interviews, scanned 90 pictures and transferred 120 master tapes. This is included in the 44-page full color booklet accompanying the 75 minutes of West African sounds.
“Somehow this project started at Frankfurt airport when I accidently checked in the bag which contained my passport,” said Samy Ben Redjeb. “The flight to Angola (via Addis Ababa) was delayed and the plane’s belly emptied in an attempt to find my luggage. Unfortunately, this was never found. As a consequence, I had to cancel my trip. I was at the Ethiopian Airlines offices the next morning (where this episode had become legend) trying to rebook my flight to Luanda, but everything was fully booked for weeks. I was told that if I wished I could select another destination. The choices? Kinshasa, Yaunde, Lagos and Accra. I selected the last, because my connections in Ghana had found some serious stocks of vinyl records, and I thought it might be the occasion to check them out.
“A few days later I’m in Ghana, and as on all my previous trips to Accra the first person I paid a visit to was producer Dick Essilfie-Bonzie, who I simply call Mr Essiebons, after his legendary label, Essiebons Records. Everything happens for a reason because the disappointment of missing my flight to Angola was soon replaced by excitement. Mr Essiebons explained that after more than a decade of being out of business he had decided “to give it another shot” and thus digitized all his master tapes for future releases. He then showed me the result – a box containing approximately 80 CDs, each with a track listing,– a total of 800 songs. I was allowed to take the “surprise” box to my hotel room and started listening. I had no idea what to expect, but I was in for a treat. Previously unreleased material by Apagya Show Band and Orchestre Abass were the first few amazing tracks that I discovered and that’s when I decided to start working on this compilation.”
The whole selection of songs was completed about a year later and now that I knew which tracks were going to be included, I decided to dedicate some time to find the artists for interviews and research. December 2008 and May of 2010 were solely dedicated to that process, as I flew to West Africa to meet Rob, Ebo Taylor, Nana Ampadu (founder of the mighty African Brothers Band), Issac Yeboah (lead singer of Vis-a-Vis, one of Ghana’s most impressive bands), Gyedu-Blay Ambolley (the personification of Ghanaian Afro-funk), saxophonist Ray Allen, Chester Adams (lead singer of the Uppers International) and few others. I did extensive interviews with all of them and managed to collect amazing pictures to document the liner notes that accompany the music.”
“While some light has been cast on the Ghanaian music scene of the 1970’s, Togolese music is relatively obscure and badly documented. However, we are working on this! In fact, we’ve already made a start, with our previous Analog Africa compilation “African Scream Contest” which showcased 3 Togolese artists. Afro-Beat Airways presents two more – Orchestre Abass and Cos-Ber-Zam. While the first band developed into one of the country’s best, to such an extent that none other than Fela Kuti once offered them a contract to play at his Afro-Spot night club (which later became The Shrine), the second artist was a one-hit wonder. “Né Noya” was a monster hit in Togo but it is to date the only release by this obscure artist. The reason why I decided to include these Togolese tracks on this compilation is that they were all recorded in Ghana and thus they worked well in the mix.”
01. Dankasa – Uppers International 3:36
02. Ma Nserew Me – Apagya Show Band 4:03
03. Me Yee Owu Den – K. Frimpong & His Cubano Fiestas 8:52
04. Break Through – Marijata 5:06
05. Ngyegye No So – African Brothers Band 6:17
06. Awula Bo Fee Ene – Orchestre Abass 3:45
07. Odofo Nyi Akyiri Biara – Ebo Taylor & The Sweet Beans 9:54
08. Okpe See – Pagadeja Custom Band 4:09
09. Afe Ato Yen Bio – De Frank Professionals 4:41
10. Obiye Saa Wui – 3rd Generation Band 4:13
11. Mumunde – Apagya Show Band 3:02
12. More – Rob 5:13
13. Ne Noya – Cos-Ber-Zam 4:10
14. Neriba Lanchina – Uppers International 4:04
15. Come Along – Ebo Taylor & The Pelicans 5:59
Afro-Beat Airways – West African Shock Waves – Ghana & Togo 1972-1979 is a timeless collection of excellent afrobeat from the lands of Ghana and Togo.