For a decade now, Samy Ben Redjeb’s seminal Analog Africa label has been unearthing the best in both explosive foot-shufflers and hypnotic sauntering treasures from Africa. It’s achieved more than most in celebrating the rich and diverse heritage of a much misunderstood and overlooked continent. Samy has spared nothing in his pursuit of choosing authentic and eye-opening choice records. His lifestyle and string of various jobs—from a Life Aquatic sojourn as a diving instructor in Senegal to a stint as a Lufthansa flight attendant crisscrossing the Lagos-Addis Ababa-Accra arc and beyond—have all been centered on a passion for crate digging.
Samy’s inaugural kickstart happened in Dakar, where he first set up a makeshift club night at a hotel. He played an abundance of previously forgotten polyrhythm hotsteppers and dancefloor-beckoning Afro R&B howlers before embarking on the countless misadventures that would define and bear fruit as the Analog Africa record label. Starting with the sun-ripened lilt and cantering Green Arrows of Zimbabwe in 2006, and honing in on the key era of the late 1960s to early 1980s, Samy reintroduced his audience to the raw psychedelic sounds of Benin and Togo: from the now iconic African Scream Contest to the self-coined “Islamic funk belt” and heaventilting horn sections of Ghana on Afro-Beat Airways to the ethereal mystery of landlocked Burkina Faso with Bambara Mystic Soul, and the salacious accordion and Ferro-scrapped dynamism of Cape Verde’s infectious and previously banned Funaná, appearing on the reissue of the legendary archipelagos export Bitori Nha Bibinha. The story of African music, with its long-forgotten footnotes and often ignored links, has also enjoyed enlightening reappraisals—such as the Congolese maestro of electric guitar, Georges Mateta Kiamuangana, otherwise known as Verckys (anointed as “Mister Dynamite” by an astonished James Brown after watching him perform) and the mightiest funk ensemble in all of Africa, the Orchestra Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou.
Following the trail across the Atlantic, the “Colombian melting pot” purview Diablos Del Ritmo stands out, even in this catalogue of essential albums, as a collection of Afrobeat, Puyu, Cumbiamba and Caribbean funk-imbued cuts having passed through the voracious Colombian port of Barranquilla. First arriving through the South American slave trade and later through the mutual recording exchange trade route between the two continents, the multifaceted styles and vibrancy of Africa penetrated and spread throughout. This African influence reached as far as Quilombos, the settlement founded in the Amazon by escaped African slaves, with the rambunctious cross-pollinated carnival sound of Siriá.
Matching—if not surpassing—the tight and explosive, more celebrated and highenergy units of musicians from the “West”, Africa’s overlooked pool of pioneers and phenomenal session players run rings around The JB’s and The Meters just for starters, and are put back where they belong: in the spotlight. The chief instigators of so many music genres typically taken for granted—though they could borrow them back anytime—these consummate legends are given a just and appreciative platform by Analog Africa. By dusting off rare finds, locating those responsible, and in many cases interviewing the principle team or artist behind these iconic recordings, the allencompassing journey from transforming the source material into a sumptuous (and on occasion award-winning) objet d’art is documented for posterity.
If you thought African music started and finished with Fela Kuti and Afrobeat, you’re in for a mind-blowing experience of discovery. And if you’re already familiar with this cornucopia of delights stretching from Angola to Niger, but are just missing the odd album, you’ll be happy to learn that on the auspicious occasion of the label’s tenth anniversary, Analog Africa has repressed its entire back catalogue (excluding limited editions) for you to enjoy. And take my word for it—you’ll want to listen to every one!