Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

Music And Arts Scene

African Records Review

By Kwabena Asamoah

VARIOUS ARTISTS: Africa Roots Vol. 3 (F 1014785)
'Helena 'Rebia' 'Sanza Misato' 'Kaful Mayay' 'Mele' / 'Yekeke' 'N Kanuwe' 'Hwan Na Odo Me'

Recorded live last year during the AFRICA ROOTS festival in Amsterdam (Holland) this compilation showcases some of the musical styles present in the present day African music idiom- from Les Officiers of African Music, Tabu Ley Rochereau and Somo Somo on Side 1 to Bambeya Jazz National and Kumbi Saleh on Side 2. The idea behind this annual festival is to present the rich cultural heritage of Africa to audiences abroad, especially Europe. This compilation therefore comes handy for those who could not turn up for the festival.

Tchico and his fellow Officiers kick off with 'Helena' and 'Rebia' which display strong bass lines (probably by Remi Salomon) on the lines of the beautiful tune 'Yo Ekelamu Yeles' on their latest album. Les Officiers might appear to want to flirt a bit with cha cha cha in 'Rebia' but manage to escape the poor sound of Tabu Ley's Afrisa International in 'Sanza Misato'. The sound system did not do Tabu Ley and his boys enough justice but 'Kaful Mayay' tried to redeem the situation for them.

Somo Somo managed to escape the sound system with 'Mele' even though their vocals as usual sound just above average. Of course the superb horns section and the guitars have a great impact on the music.

The B-side is shared between Guinea's legendary Bembeya Jazz and Kumbi Saleh, a Ghanaian group tasting success on the live front in Holland. Africa Centre was certainly too small for the brilliant career and performance of the group whose history is meshed into that of Guinea itself. 'Yekeke' might already be familiar to those who have heard Mory Kante's A Paris album but Sekou "Diamond Fingers" Diabate adds another dimension to the song with his hypnotic guitar solos also abundant in 'N Kanuwe'. Kumbi Saleh too show some brisk hi-life elegance with rootsy guitar touches and improvisations in 'Hwan Na Odo Me' which concludes the album.

On the whole almost all the groups sound better elsewhere than on this album.


This double LP released by 10 African countries that constitute Bantu culture (Angola, Central African Republic, Comores, Congo, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Rwanda, Sao Tome & Principe. Zaire and Zambia) is an attempt to present authentic Bantu music and culture to the outside world. Each country is represented traditional and modern by two records with detailed information and map of each country.

The instruments used on both albums are many and varied - lute, flutes, local guitars, xylophones, and drums. Though the list is inexhaustible every attempt has been made to represent all the different instruments. Of course the vocal style such as one in track 5 of the 1st album underlies the virtuosity of the traditional singers in Africa. Angolans too show a brisk duo dexterity on the xylophone in "Teka Dya Kingudi' while the fusion of Islamic musical elements into 'Kulukulu Mwanabe' makes Comoran contribution unique.

The second album marks the development of modern music in the Bantu land. With the aid of a brief note the "new music" is explained with pictorial illustrations just like the traditional. In most cases the music created by the bands might sound Latin American but most countries such as Zaire have managed to carve a national pop music. If the Angolan Semba Tropical Band sound Latin in 'Ku Tambi Ya Veya Kaombo' the Zambian Big Gold Six Band coasts Nigerian hi-life with their 'Chando'.

President Omar Bongo of Gabon initiated this idea of presenting Bantu culture to the outside world just as he introduced 'Africa Numero 1' which has become the biggest radio station in Africa. It is hoped, as the note says, that other volumes of this well-documented record will follow. I would never miss this compilation.


1. ASANTEMAN Pat Thomas (JAP) Ghana
2. MARIO Franco (CHOC) Zaire
4. ZULU JIVE VOL. 2 Various Artists (EARTHWORKS) Azania
5. BOYA YE M'Bilia Bel (STERNS) Zaire
6. DIVORCE Lubaki Geant (ASWE) Congo
7. TRES TRES FACHE Remi Salomon (ASWE) Congo
9. SERVICE LIBRE Eyango Ndedi (DICK'S) Cameroon
10. XALAT Ismael Lo (CELLULOID) Senegambia
12. 1x2=MABE Youlou Mabiala (APIA) Congo
13. KEFIMBA Ousmane Kouyate (DK) Guinea
14. MAKANSENSEMU Stephen Osei Tutu (INTER) Ghana
15. SO SO KYEN KYEN Dutch Benglos (YEB) Ghana

Chart courtesy of AFROBOOM RECORDS,
1st Floor Wren Suite, 189 Stoke Newington High Street, London N16
(Mail order and distribution only.)

Delaquis' Work Opens At The Africa Centre Gallery

Since the mid 1970s Ghanaian art has quietly undergone a renaissance which in time may achieve world-wide recognition. At the forefront of this upsurge is Ato Delaquis who is gradually being recognised as one of the most technically skilful painters in Africa today.

To appreciate his art, one should consider these two factors: he is not expressionist or interested in anything which smacks of emotionalism in execution, and although Delaquis' art is generally representational, it can also be viewed as abstractions of reality.

"Emotion has nothing to do with art," Delaquis is fond of saying. Pressed further he explains: "There is nothing extraordinary and worth recording about the inner life of most people. I do not trust my emotions, even less that of others. If somehow our feelings are screened on the TV almost everyone will cringe with embarrassment. So what is all this crap about feeling and emotions of artists and so on? Unless a person is as pure as Christ there is no point in showing one's dirty linen to the public. When shown it is merely putting ugliness on a pedestal".

Perhaps philosopher Hannah Arendt is expressing the same idea when she states: "The inherent worldliness of the artist is not changed if a non-objective art replaces the representation of things; to mistake this non-objectivity for subjectivity, where the artist feels called upon to express himself, his subjective feelings, is the mark of charlatans, not of artists, and his remification has nothing in common with the highly questionable and, at any rate, wholly inartistic practice of expressionism". Delaquis prefers taking an impersonal stance on creativity. He sees beauty in order. Although no artist can wholly eschew stylistic quirks of expression he thinks that the further one smothers emotion the better an image shows better on canvas. The mental ascetism involved in pulling it off is very demanding, he says. He explains further: "The artist must leave himself out and rather allow the object to dictate its own inherent expressiveness to him on the canvas, and not the other way round".

This may sound meaningless till the artist explains in his usual cryptic manner: "Breakers smashing on rocks at the beach have their own expressive or emotional power or impact or content just by the nature of this action of the actions. A mundane personal or emotional response to this action in the course of painting is merely obfuscating truth and replacing it with empty egotism. The end result is a life of breaker".

The explanation above does not mean swinging to the opposite extreme of photo-realism. Far from this, one of the ploys the artist used in freezing true reality is to flatten things on the canvas thus respecting the two-dimensional surface. The other ploy is to apply in personal geometric shapes as a fulcrum upon which structural shuffling is done. In all Delaquis' painting this sense of aesthetic order is apparent even in the most simplistic of his 'Lorry Parks'.

The exhibition runs from February 4, Gallery. until March 1, 1986 at the Africa Centre

Les Amazones de Guinée

The Greater London Council in association with 'Twin Trading' will be presenting four concerts at Camden's Shaw Theatre on February 26, 27, 28 and March 1 with Les Amazones de Guinée.

Les Amazones de Guinée will be per forming for the first time in Britain. Les Amazones are the first all-woman band to be formed in Africa. Originally formed in 1961 as L'Orchestre Feminin de la Gendarmerie Nationale (National Policewomen's Band), Les Amazones played traditional acoustic music on stringed and percussion instruments. In 1965 they added electric guitars and a brass section, (saxa- phones and trumpets) to create a fusion between traditional African music and modern jazz.

They rose to national prominence in the 1960s and '70s as an important part of the post-independence struggle for social and cultural liberation. Their music has consistently dealt with the emancipation of African women, both on a personal and social level.

Les Amazones are now one of Africa's most popular bands. They have toured extensively in Morocco, Algeria, Tanzania, Niger, Nigeria, Zaire, Congo, Upper Volta, Mali, Senegal and the Ivory Coast. In 1979 they played at the Horizon Festival in West Berlin and in 1983 they undertook a major tour of France.

South Hill Park Arts Centre

South Hill Park Arts Centre celebrates the culture and heritage of the British Asian Community this spring in its first-ever Asian Arts Season.

The season, which was launched on Friday, January 17 at the joint opening of two major exhibitions, featuring the nationally acclaimed photographs of Sunil Gupta, including work commissioned by Christian Aid and Action Aid U.K., and the Art of the Indian Cinema Poster in a show titled Bombay Talkies, continues to March 8, 1986.

This rich and varied culture will be presented by outstanding performers from the Asian communities of London, Cambridge, Reading and Southampton covering everything from the playing of the Sitah to the making of Onion bajhi.

Multi-media theatre group, The British Asian Theatre Company will perform their widely praised "The Man I Never Knew', which examines social issues facing British Asians.

talking drums 1986-02-10 IMF dictates to Ghana - Inflation - Devaluation - Commonwealth Games