Thanks to specialist labels such as Soundway Records, Luaka Bop, and Analog Africa, the West has been gifted with a slew of lovingly crafted compilations this past decade. Some of the greatest artists from sub-Saharan Africa have not only been introduced to fresh ears, but in many cases, saved from obscurity and the passing of time due to a few obsessive crate diggers. May the gods of funk and rhythm bless their souls.
Analog Africa's latest offering is Edo Funk Explosion Vol. 1, a 12 track set exploring this intoxicating scene circa 1980-1985 through the talents of its three greatest mavericks, Osayomore Joseph, Akaba Man, and Sir Victor Uwaifo. A far cry from the polished disco sounds coming from the USA, or even their native Lagos, Edo Funk maintained some of the psychedelic flourishes seen in Nigeria's post-war rock scene while adding synths and effects never before available.
The finished product is a strange marriage of traditional Edo rhythms, scrappy DIY production, and enough groove to move a skyscraper. Numbers such as "Ta Gha Hunsimwen'' by Akaba Man & The Nigie Rokets sees bouncing bass lines accompanied by smile-inducing brass and vocals sang in Bini to deliver something fresh sounding even today. If you’re looking for pure toe-tapping melody then you can’t go wrong with Osayomore Joseph’s ‘My Name Is Money,’ its guitar flourishes and laid back charm being the sort of DNA Vampire Weekend built a career on.
Unlike so much music of the era, the scene's technical limitations and marriage of influences have stopped these numbers from sounding dated, or god forbid, garish. The analog charm has helped preserve the vibrancy of the music, and even when synths are involved, such as on Uwaifo's phenomenal 'Aibalegbe', they're more a garnish, a little kick to modernize the traditional aspects of the material.
At just 12 tracks, and by focusing purely on the scenes three originators, it must be said that other West African compilations offer more in breadth and variety, but it's a minimal complaint. At the end of the day, Analog Africa can only be praised for reaching back in time and grabbing some of the funkiest and most fascinating cuts for 21st-century years. If you're looking for sunshine in audio form, look no further than this Edo Explosion - we're excited to see what Volume 2 will offer.
Words: Sam Walker-Smart
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