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Radio LBB: Roots Volume XVII

Music & Sound
London, UK
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

Now into its fifth year and the 17th 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.

Some of the highlights this time round include:

J.M. Tim & Foty - Douala By Night
This stomping, high energy disco number closes the Cameroonian duo’s eponymous debut album from 1977. While the track is firmly grounded by its earth-shaking bassline and exquisitely tight groove, each element of the instrumentation slotting neatly into the rhythmic picture, its most distinctive feature is the ethereal vocals, which soar above in an echoing falsetto. If someone sampled this they are likely to have a huge hit!

African Soul Band - Nande
This is a rare jewel indeed! A private press originally released in France 1978 that has recently been reissued thanks to the label Africa Seven. An obscure afro disco soul track that fuses western orchestral string arrangements with Senegalese vocals and marimbas.

Common - Say Peace
The Chicago hip hop legend needs no introduction. Featuring PJ and The Roots’ Black thought, ‘Say Peace’ comes from his new album A Beautiful Revolution Pt. 1. Common has never shied away from the social justice focus of ‘conscious rap’, but this album speaks directly to the current political moment in the US. He says, ‘A Beautiful Revolution Pt. 1 is affirmation. It’s recognition. It’s elevation. It’s music to go with a movement. Because the truth is, there is still so much work to do.’

Witch - Erotic Delight
Witch made a name for themselves in the mid-70s as the first Zambian band to record and release a commercial album. For the next decade they pushed their psychedelic garage rock sound into ever expanding territories, fusing elements picked up from avid listening to American FM radio and incorporating boogie, low slung rock ballads, and pushing Patrick Mwondela’s synth work and electronic production to the fore. The swinging chug of ‘Erotic Delight’ introduces Kuomboka, released in 1984, which showcased their Zambian roots more than any before and would prove to be their final record as the pressures of the music industry and growing instability in the region became too much for the band.

Sonny Boy Williamson I - Mellow Chick Swing
John Lee Curtis Williamson was a Tennessee-born Chicago blues player referred to as ‘the father of modern blues harp.’ Recording from 1937 until his death by mugging in South Side, Chicago, in 1948, his catalogue has at times been confused with another Sonny Boy Williamson, by the real name of Aleck Miller, who had begun playing and recording in Mississippi before Williamson’s death, but who’s own period of activity stretched from 1951-1965. Mellow chick swing, released on a 10” shellac by RCA Victor in 1947, is a swinging uptempo blues track, featuring alternately soloing guitar, harmonica, and voice, underpinned by a driving rhythmic piano. 

Eliana Pittman - Quem Vai Querer
By the time Eliana Pittman’s Quem Vai Querer album was released in 1977, the Brazilian singer had already released twelve solo albums, including her 1963 debut, a collaboration with her father, the American jazz alto saxophonist, who had previously recorded in the bands of Bennie Moten and Count Basie. It’s title track is an uplifting, high energy samba-MPB track with rolling, funky drums building to a climax of intensity with the addition of chorus vocals and staccato rhythm guitar.

Omar Khorshed - Rakset El Fadaa
The great Egyptian guitarist, Omar Khorshed, taught himself violin, guitar, and piano as a child and in his early twenties formed the band Les Petits Chats, influenced by Western popular music. After being forced to leave Egypt due to political unrest, he spent the years 1973-77 in Beirut, recording solo albums for Lebanese labels, Voice of the Orient and Voice of Lebanon. ‘Rakset El Fadaa’, the opener to his 1974 album, Rhythms from the Orient, is a psychedelic, electrified guitar piece dueling with polyrhythmic percussion and electronic organ.

David Axelrod - Songs of Innocence
Despite being sampled by DJ Shadow, De La Soul, Lauryn Hill to Dr Dre, David Axlerod still remains relatively unknown to the general populous. He combined heavily microphoned drums and baroque orchestration, and avant garde themes fused with elements of jazz, rock, and R&B.

A huge thanks goes out to labels such as 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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