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Radio LBB: Roots 23


Adelphoi Music's Jonathan Watts returns, taking us on another eclectic journey of old, new, overlooked and lesser known tracks that have musical roots in Africa

Radio LBB: Roots 23

Now into its sixth year and the 23rd edition. For the uninitiated the Roots playlist showcases an eclectic range of music from across the globe of unfamiliar, forgotten, or recently discovered, to the most upfront sounds of now, all with the common theme of being rooted in Africa.

This edition of Roots pays a subtle tribute to some titans of popular music history including a phenomenal lesser-known cut from the early days of Maurice White’s chart-busting funk group, Earth, Wind & Fire, and a favourite from the vast catalogue of your favourite musician’s favourite musician, Fela Kuti (with drummer’s drummer Ginger Baker!). For the hip-hop heads there’s a nod to the king of beats, J Dilla, who sampled the tracks included from Elephants Memory and René Costy, to celebrate the recent release of Dan Charnas’ essential new book, Dilla Time

Other highlights this time round include:

Nancy Priddy - You’ve Come This Way Before

Nancy Priddy’s 1968 debut album defies easy definition, melding her far-out psychedelic compositions with glossy 60s pop production, and a rhythm section plucked from the jazz world, rather than the chugging back beats of contemporary rock. Her dream-like, sultry vocals belie the mystic themes of the lyrics, not least the reincarnation-themed title track, while Phil Ramone’s sound engineering provides the record with a deceptively commercial feel. Angular, discordant guitar licks flutter around the iconic Hammond organ, all glued together by an unstoppable funk bassline and Bernard ‘Pretty’ Purdie’s rolling breakbeat.

The Boogie Man / Sipho Gumede - Jika Jika

Previously traded for hefty sums between serious crate diggers, this South African boogie rework of Grandmaster Flash’s foundational hip hop track, The Message, was recently unearthed and reissued by UK label Vive La Musique. Released in 1984, the track was recorded by the legendary Zulu jazz fusion bassist, Sipho Gumede, and prolific producer Greg Cutler at the mobile Battery Studios in Botswana, which played a pivotal role in ensuring the survival of music by black South Africans during the apartheid years. Playing off female chorus vocals against a spoken delivery in deep baritone, and Gumede’s water-tight bassline, the track drips with swagger.

Farhot - Ashiq Shodam

New music here from Afghan-German hip hop producer and Kabul Fire Records boss, Farhat, highlighting Afghan musicians worldwide, while paying tribute to the country’s psychedelic pop heyday, in defiance against the Taliban’s recent occupation and erasure of Afghanistan’s vibrant cultural heritage. Ashiq Shodam translates from Dari as ‘I fell in love’, and reworks a classic by ‘the Elvis of Afghanistan’, Ahmad Zahir, with exquisite contemporary vocals from Calid and London-based Elaha Saroor. The blending of traditional drums with on-the-grid breakbeats and melancholic synth samples gives the track a feel that’s at once dreamlike, nostalgic, and driving.

Gal Costa - Tuareg

Back to 1969 with this Brazilian wonder of psychedelic exploration. Born in 1945 in Bahia to a music-loving mother who encouraged her to listen and play from an early age, Gal Costa (aka Maria da Graça Costa Penna Burgos) met the founder of the politically subversive Tropicalia movement, Caetano Veloso, at the age of 18. Even amongst the eclecticism and experimentation of the genre though, Tuareg stands out as weird and wonderful. Named after a nomadic tribe from the Sahel region of North Africa, it melds the pitch-shifting modal sounds of the oud and Moroccan woodwinds with the sultry funk of Brazilian pop and a gorgeous smoky vocal performance from Costa herself.

Joyce - Feminina

Keeping it Brazilian, this track by MPB icon Joyce was originally recorded in New York in 1977, arranged and conducted by Claus Ogerman, a truly legendary composer with writing credits for the likes of Frank Sinatra and Billie Holiday. The 11+ minute track was intended for the Natureza album, which was pegged to be the singer’s international breakthrough, but was mysteriously never released. While a 3 minute version appeared on a 1980 album of the same name, we have to thank the industrious reissue geniuses at Far Out Recordings, who have not only released the track on 12” for this year’s Record Store Day, but will be following with the lost album this year.

Derrick Cross - Never Too Much

Referencing another disco titan, this reggae rendition of Luther Vandross’s iconic Never Too Much brings the already laid back original down to the horizontal tempos of London’s early 80s lovers rock sound, affiliated with the New Cross-based label of the same name. Recently included by Edinburgh crate-diggers, Athens of the North, on a second volume compilation of lesser spotted cuts from the genre, adds a sweet, sunkissed feel to the disco classic, perfect for the summer weather that’s tantalisingly close.

These are just some of the highlights in what I hope is an enjoyable musical journey that spans across continents, generations and genres…

A huge thanks goes out to labels such as Now Again, Light In The Attic, Numero Uno and Luv N’ Haight, Analog Africa, Music From Memory, Africa Seven, Far Out Recordings, Strut, Mr Bongo and Soundway, who continue to unearth some of the most unique and amazing music that may have otherwise never seen the light of day.

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Adelphoi Music, Thu, 14 Apr 2022 14:08:21 GMT