Ten years ago the fantastic Analog Africa released an absolute gem of a compilation entitled “Afro-Beat Airways – West African Shock Waves – Ghana & Togo 1972-1978″.
Consisting of 15 organ-driven, cosmic Afro-funk and Afro-beat tracks, the record took an immense amount of planning and was nothing short of a complete labour of love for Analog Africa’s founder Samy Ben Redjeb.
Unearthing 15 tracks that had been hidden for 30 years, Samy crisscrossed the lengths of Ghana and Togo in search of the producers and artists – or their relatives. In the process he recorded a dozen interviews, scanned 90 pictures and transferred 120 master tapes. All the evidence can be seen in the 44-page full colour booklet accompanying these 75 minutes of heavy West African sounds. Afro-Beat Airways showcases an amazing diversity of local rhythms spiced with Afro-American funk, soul and jazz.
This compilation (as with so many of Analog Africa’s collections) documents a taste of long lost recordings, but covers extensive background details too – well as much as could be traced! What puzzled me is that the footnotes boasts 15 tracks but if you look at the track listing there are only 14 songs..but I have solved the mystery!! According to the CD/LP listing there is a hidden bonus track!!
Today’s song firmly fixed itself in my head after I heard it for the first time the other day! Ever since then that tune just pops up and I can’t get that catchy vocal line and jolly melody out of my bonce!! It’s got groove in those smooth keys and about 1:18 minutes it goes into a nice funk break, with a lush organ solo about 2:11 minutes in…..tell me this tune/song doesn’t get stuck in your head! Entitled Ne Noya, this track was performed by Cos-Ber-Zam, an afro-beat group from Togo who got together in the 1970’s. Their one-hit-wonder Né Noya was a monster hit in Togo, but it is to date the only release by this obscure band!…and what a shame that is!
Check it out above and read below Samy Ben Redjeb’s details and background of this fantastic compilation (which you can listen to/purchase from here):
‘Somehow this project started at Frankfurt airport when I accidently checked in the bag which contained my passport. 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 selected another destination. The choices? Kinshasa, Yaoundé, 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 digitised 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.’