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Global Routes Global Routes with Tony Burke: April 2, 2024

The musical progeny of the Rumble in the Jungle, and contemporary Nigerian Afrobeat

IT is not often that a boxing match changes the course of an entire music industry — but that’s what happened when Muhammad Ali fought George Foreman in 1974 in the famous Rumble In The Jungle in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo).  

The promoter for the “fight of the century” was the irrepressible Don King, who according to the booklet notes to Analog Africa’s Congo Funk! — Sound Madness From The Shores Of The Mighty Congo River (Kinshasa/Brazzaville 1969-1982) secured the $10 million needed to stage the fight from the megalomanic president of Zaire Mobutu Sese Seko,(aka Mobutu) who rose to power with the aid of the US and Belgium in exchange for giving them unlimited  access to the riches of the country.

As part of the deal Mobutu agreed to a three-day music festival, Zaire ’74, prior to the fight, featuring an array of local stars including guitarist Franco with international guests Miriam Makeba, Manu Dibango, BB King and salsa stars Celia Cruz with the Fania All Stars.

But it was James Brown backed by the J.Bs, the hottest funk band on the planet, which sparked havoc among the thousands of young people who flocked to the festival. 

The Zairian record industry, controlled by European record labels, was declining, costs of producing records had rocketed and a new direction was needed — James Brown’s appearance electrified the nation and a new generation of bands and record labels who played the new infectious funky rumbas and soukus filled the void, recording 45s on recycled vinyl which were snapped up by record buyers.

New bands and youth orchestras including Petelo Vicka Et Son Nzazi; the M.B.T.’s; Groupe Minzoto Ya Zaire and Zaiko Langa Langa recording for new short lived record labels such as  Contact No 1, Mondenge, and Super Contact which feature on this set. 

Local radio stations including Radio Brazzaville with its powerful transmitter able to reach Kenya, Angola, Cameroon and Zambia beamed out the new sounds. Legend has it that Mobutu strong-armed the national TV broadcaster to feature music shows to keep young people off the street, to keep the crime rate down.

Analog Africa’s Samy Ben Redjeb (a crate digger who has scoured the world looking for obscure records) made two visits to Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic Of The Congo and Brazzaville the capital of the Congo Republic collecting these records and has distilled them down to 14 killer tracks for this fine album available on CD, a double vinyl set and download. The release comes with a superb booklet filled with historical notes, contemporary photos and graphics and a striking sleeve. Don’t miss this!  

Staying in Africa, the name Lagos Thugs may sound like a menacing 1970s punk band but this highly acclaimed Afrobeat outfit featuring between 12 and 15 musicians play a fusion of funk, jazz and West African highlife music influenced by Fela Kuti and drummer Tony Allen.

Lead by singer, sax player and multi-instrumentalist Adetunji Adeyemi they formed in 2020 and held down club residencies in Lagos, Nigeria. 

Their new album Chaos is now widely available on download on a range of streaming platforms consisting of four extended tracks with a running time of 33 minutes.

Kalakuta President is a dedication to the Nigerian superstar and national hero Fela Kuti, while New Improved Elephant (NIE) has been taken as single from the album.

Wetin I See features the Congolese guitarist Kiala Nzavotunga who played with Fela Kuti in his Egypt ’80s band while Innocent Blood has a smoother sound and a memorable guitar riff. 

Great homegrown Nigerian Afrobeat played by young musicians who create an authentic 1970s sound.

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