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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Africa Scream Contest Wins First Place for Most Funk

During the winter break I took a winter session course called “Death and Dying in the 21st Century”. It was super depressing. One day after class I was taking the T home in the 4:30pm darkness. I got off the T and started to walk home, stepping in puddles and soaking wet. It was half-raining and half-snowing. My cell phone rang and I picked it up. It was my mom. She informed me that my grandmother had fallen down her stairs and slipped into a coma. Oh man!

Rather than slip into a coma of depression myself, I did the one thing that would lift my spirits. I put on African Scream Contest: Raw and Psychedelic Afro Sounds from Benin and Togo 70’s (Analog Africa, released March 2008) and the darkness lifted, the sun shined, flowers bloomed, my grandmother woke from her coma and started dancing.

This compilation was made by the owner of the Analog Africa label who went to Benin to do some LP hunting, and found this incredible music. Recorded in the 1970’s in Benin and Togo, Africa Screams mixes influences from Benin and Togo, Ghana, Cuba, Republic of Congo, France, and the US. As Benin is the birthplace of Voodoo, there are elements of Voodoo ritual music in these songs too. The album includes a 44 page booklet and exciting photographs from the period.

This album is funky. Really…really….funky. It sounds like Fela Kuti, James Brown, and King Sunny Ade ate a bunch of Ben and Jerry’s “Funky Monkey” and then had a party. The recording quality is that of 60’s garage. It gives the album a nice raw feel. Most of the songs just have one or two grooves that are repeated again and again with vocals and instrumental solos coming in and out. While most songs are around 4 minutes long, there are a few extended grooves that are as long as 13 plus minutes. This isn’t just a novelty album – it warrants repeated listenings.

This album gets a high 4 ½ out of 5 stars from me. It’s funky, raw, and offers a unique fusion of cultures.