Orchestre Poly-Rythmo - Cotonou Club
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One of Africa’s least-known big-bands outside of their home country, they were brought to world attention on the back of featuring on a host of compilation releases like 2005’s The Kings Of Benin Urban Groove 1972-80, 2008’s The Vodoun Effect 1973-1975, 2009’s Echos Hypnotiques which all lead to them headlining African Soul Rebels Tour last year.
That was their first tour of Britain after 45 years of being together and this “latest” album is their first recording for 25 years! But you can’t deny that Benin’s Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou are still the undisputed heavyweights of voodoo Afro-rock.
This is a big album (in a year of big albums, even just on Strut like Ebo Taylor’s Life Stories) as there’s not a dull track here. There’s no sign of any less energetic performance than when they started out in the late 60s/early 70s as they still have a vibrancy and great upbeat feel (and authentic original synth by the sound of it).
With a contagious swing, it’s one of those CDs that you can’t help but join in the singing even if you can’t speak French (although it’s apparently a mix of mina French dialect, Fon and Yoruba); the two opening tracks being particularly cool, ‘Ne Te Fâche Pas’and ‘Pardon’.
Not sure why Gilles Peterson was so keen on the track that features a couple of members of Franz Ferdinand (made his first All Winners show of the year last week) as you can’t beat top of the voodoo, ‘Von Vo Nono’, Cuban rhythm’s with ‘Koumi Dédé’, Charlie Gillett old skool West Africa ‘Ma Vie’ and the meeting of the spirit of Fela/James Brown on ‘Holonou’ (this is the one with the crazy synth and Ethio horns - wow!).
It’s good to hear Angélique Kidjo again as she guests on the new double quick time version of ‘Gbeti Madro’ and Fatoumata Diawara (on ‘C’est Lui Ou C’est Moi’) is a real find (and new signing on World Circuit).
Elodie Maillot is the French radio producer who put the band back together and he produced the the album that was recorded in Paris. So it’s a proper mixture of hard Afro-Funk, driving Afrobeat, deep Afro-Latin and Cuban grooves that are as hot today as any dance floor of 70’s urban Benin; I bet they’re brilliant live.
Reviewed: Orchestre Poly-Rythmo - Cotonou Club (Strut) Cat. No: STRUT077CD Release date: 25th March 2011
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