Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

Music And Arts Scene

African Records Review

By Kwabena Asamoah

MBILIA BEL: 'Keyna' (GENIDIA GEN 114) 'Keyna' 'C'est Toi Que J'aime'/'Cadence Mudanda' 'Nakei Nairobi'

Tshala Muana, Mpongo Love, Abeti Masikini and Mbilia Bel are the four main Zairean girls who are determined to fight it out with their men on the music front. Their contribution and popularity are undisputed; besides, they are noted for their sweet voice as you would have the chance to judge from this beautiful top album by Mbilia Bel.

While the other Zairean embark on purely solo careers in singing Mbilia Bel has always formed a vocal duo with the never-old Rochereau (aka Tabu Ley) and his Afrisa International. The two remain the strongest vocal tandem on the Zairean music scene. No doubt London and other Western cities are dying to see them in action.

This album currently reigns supreme as number one on the London African chart and it is likely to remain there for some more weeks especially so long as 'Keyna' is not magically removed from the album.

Apart from 'Cadence Mudanda' which does not sound too convincing with its almost funky feel the three other tracks sparkle with Zairean ease and freshness. The feel is gentle throughout and the guitars relaxing and yet powerful. The entire music on the album has immediate appeal especially as they are no major structural changes from say rhumba to soukous. It won't take you too long to decide for this LP.

THE DUTCH BENGLOS: 'So So Kyen Kyen' (GLOVIC WK 30363) 'So So Kyen Kyen' 'El Passo Special'/'Sie Abotar' 'Shabi-Bi-Di- Do'

Apart from Nana Tuffour's 'Ye Wo Asaase' and Kantata's 'Asiko', this debut album by the Dutch Benglos of Tema was the material with which music lovers celebrated Christmas in Ghana last year. Though the group has been around for some time much has not been heard about them beyond the boundaries of Ghana until this production was released in West Germany.

Dutch Benglos is a misleading name for a Ghanaian group but it is possible that a Mr Ben Schryer from the Netherlands may be connected with this group whose material smacks of the sensational Sweet Talks. Is there a bug in Tema which bites all the musicians there?

The A-side begins with 'So So Kyen Kyen' (penned by Gloria Aba Addison), a catchy title which crawls along in the big band vein with a mixture of horns and keyboards at the background. The track fails to bite at the right moment but the lyrics would attract the ears of those who would like to advise people against indolence.

'El Passo Special' is certainly a dance floor mover with a near-Sweet Talks-inspired lyric. It ranges from the urge to work to the praise for various football clubs in Ghana - Kumasi Asante Kotoko, Accra Hearts Of Oaks, Accra Great Olympics, Sekondi Eleven Wise and Sekondi Hasaacas. The animation generated by the throbbing bass, guitars, keyboards and percussion prepare the scene for Nana Benyin Tony to relate an interesting story with his beautiful voice. After Jewel Ackah's 'Akraka-Chi' this track is certainly a fitting follow-up to a mood which would pull most people to the floor for a spirited dance.

The B-side is slightly weaker but in a better studio 'Sie Abotar' could have been different and more interesting. 'Shabi-Bi-Di-Do' sounds entirely different but fails to catch your ears. 'El Passo' however, stands on its own to defend the entire album. The Dutch Benglos' next material points to more promise and excitement. Follow them closely.

FELA ANIKULAPO KUTI: Army Arrangement' (CELL 6109) 'Army Arrangement'/'Cross Examination' 'Government Chicken Boy'

The history of this album is unique for various reasons: the final production was entrusted to an outsider (and a white man - Bill Laswell - to boot), studio electronics are also introduced into Fela's music on a larger scale, other 'foreign' musicians were added on: Bernie Worrell (keyboards), Sly Dunbar (Simmons drums) and Aiyb Dieng (talking drum). This album is released at a time Fela is serving a 5-year jail sentence for an alleged contravention of Nigeria's currency regulations.

The album is full of Fela's usual messages: attack on official corruption, army brutality and all. Apart from the strong attacks with words, opinions on the music is wide and varied. What is certain is that the album sounds stronger than the last one - Live In Amsterdam - a much useless double. There is hardly anything surprising if one comes to think of the fact that Fela has for long been concentrating more on verbal attacks than music.

I could hardly resist the temptation of delving into my archives to play 'Black Man's Cry', 'Lady', 'Wayo, 'Viva Nigeria', 'Who Are You', 'Witchcraft' and 'Egbe Mi O'. My verdict is that 'Cross Examination' and 'Government Chicken Boy' are mere trifles.

Musically 'Army Arrangement' comes closer to the good old days of Fela when he was a master trumpeter. Even his usually lack-lustre keyboards come out clean and much better on this track. Bill Laswell's additions and substractions were much better done than on the B-side which nearly got his electronic overdose. Sly Dunbar's drums excite but certainly overshadow Foster's original drumming. The music is smooth and most people will go for this track. We hope Fela will come out with more of this stuff after his prison sentence

talking drums 1985-04-29 Ghana tourism - rise and fall of Cameroon national unity party