With the Abass Orchestra’s De Bassari Togo, this time the Analog Africa label offers us an afrofunk dive into the golden age of the still largely unknown “Islamic Funk Belt.”
The magic of each new release of the Analog Africa label lies in its ability to exhume wonders from the most unexpected corners of the great continent of Black Atlantic Music. But also, and perhaps above all, to tell us its wonderful stories.
The Abass Orchestra’s is part of the “Islamic Funk Belt,” a most danceable area encompassing the north of Ghana-Togo-Benin and southern Burkina Faso, where groups such as Super Borgou from Parakou, Napo from Mi Amor, and Hamad Kalkaba, sons of Koranic school teachers, sang Muslim hadith in an impressive funk verve in Fon (the lingua franca used in Benin, Nigeria, and Togo) or in Mina (the Gobe language spoken in southeast Togo and in Mono province in Benin). In 1972, the band released a handful of songs that were already hits with Polygram, a pillar of the West African music industry at the time, before falling into oblivion following the grenade murder of Malam Issa Abass, the band’s leader, guitarist and organist.
Master digger Samy Ben Redjeb found their tracks in a warehouse in Accra, Ghana in 2008, in such a remarkable state of conservation that he decided to reissue them. De Bassari Togo brings together “A fair sampling of infectious, lively and pulsating rhythms [that] should excite and inspire,”* in other words, six superb tracks with elementary orchestrations but rich in influences, between highlife and Afrobeat, like the hypnotic “Haka Dunya,” which is carried away by cries worthy of James Brown, or “Honam,” an original song released in Sotobua, a small town in northern Togo.
*from the booklet