Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou - The 1st Album (1973) and ROB - Funky Rob Way (1977)
Analog Africa are pleased to announce the launch of a new series called "Analog Africa - Limited Dance Edition". The objective of the series is to release African and tropical records (in strictly limited editions) which concentrate on single artists that have had an impact on the label in a way or another.
The first two releases in the series, released simultaneously on 7th June, are the first LP of Orchestre Poly-Rythmo, one of the best Beninese Afrobeat recordings from 1973, and The first LP of the cosmic Ghanaian funk legend, ROB.
Artist: Orchestre Poly-Rythmo
Title: The 1st Album (1973)
Catalogue number: AACD - DE01/AALP - DE01
1. Ou C´est Lui Ou C´est Moi 8:45
2. Yeye We Nou Mi 6:18
3. La La La La 12:06
4. Egni Miton? Nin Mi Na Wa Gbin 6:13
Nestled in between Nigeria and Ghana, the traditional heavyweights of the golden West African musical axis, Benin, formerly known as Dahomey, has birthed some of the most raw and psychedelic Afro sounds to emerge from a continent blessed with artistic talent. From Lome to Luanda, Africa's coastal cities have constantly served as creative hubs and Benin's economic capital, Cotonou, is no exception. The former French trading post has spawned several bands and performers, the most indefatigable and prolific of which undoubtedly remains Orchestre Poly-Rhythmo. Extensively featured on Analog Africa's previous releases, Poly-Rythmo and its legendary members constitute arguably Africa's most innovative band. By building upon and modernizing the traditional rhythms of Vodoun, conforming to the Afrobeat sound of the time, incorporating Western styles and injecting a healthy Latin dose, Orchestre Poly-Rhythmo fostered a diverse groove that remained unique to Benin and resonated with the region's urban centres. Despite consisting of 16 members at its peak, the band was originally founded as Orchestre Poly-Disco in 1968 with original members Melome Clement, Bentho Gustave, Amenoudji Vicky Joseph and Bernard "Papillon" Zoundegnon. Seeking to expand and in search of a soul singer, Bentho and Papillon persuasively lured a certain Vincent Ahehehinnou from Daho Jazz, a band with little prospect of major success that often performed in seedy venues. Due to changes in producers and financiers, Orchestre Poly-Disco switched its name to Orchestre El Ritmo before finally establishing themselves as Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou after signing with Adissa Seidou, the owner of the Albarika Store label, in 1969. Influenced heavily by Fela Kuti, Vincent, who by this time had transformed himself into an Afrobeat and funk specialist, perhaps Benin's best, soon became a supremely influential member of Poly-Rhythmo and was approached by Albarika to record a 7-inch single. Realizing the band's preeminence on the African music stage, Vincent believed the time was ripe to follow in the footsteps of African music greats and record a full album instead. A deal was subsequently struck with the label for a production fee of 320.000 CFA - about 500 Euros given today's exchange rates.
The band took advantage of their producer's cross-border contacts and traveled from Cotonou to Lagos, which possessed better-equipped studio facilities, to record their first LP consisting of four heavy Afrobeat tracks, wholly composed by Vincent Ahehehinnou himself, in 1973. In fact, the four track-LP was recorded twice. Albarika rejected the first recording because of far too much background noise - the possible culprit being an obnoxious organ amplifier - forcing another recording to be done. The second recorded session met expectations and made it as the official vinyl release. That recording remains not only one of Benin's rarest LPs but one of its best works of music, setting the standard for all future Poly-Rythmo releases and firmly cementing the band and Vincent's reputation.
The test-pressing of the rejected first recording was found and Analog Africa founder, Samy Ben Redjeb, chose two tracks from each recording. The two remastered tracks from the rejected recording are being exclusively released for the very first time on the recording you are holding.
Vincent has acknowledged that his entire life, including that of his family's, revolved around and is owed to Orchestre Poly-Rythmo. The Afrobeat mastermind left his beloved band on May 28, 1978. He chose not to reveal the reasons for his departure.
Title: Funky Rob Way (1977)
Catalogue number: AACD-DE02/AALP-DE02
1. Funky Rob Way 6:15
2. Forgive Us All
3. Boogie On 4:13
4. Just One More Time 7:45
5. Your Kiss Stole Me Away 5:24
6. More 5:15
Rob "Roy" Raindorf is one of the most enigmatic artists to come out of Ghana. Born in Accra in 1949, he appeared from nowhere with a unique and twisted sound. An admirer of American artists Otis Reading, James Brown, Wilson Pickett and Ray Charles, Rob began his trade by learning the piano at a music school in Cotonou, Benin. When his education ended, he ventured out to make what money he could by getting gigs with the movers and shakers of the Beninese music scene, namely Orchestre Poly-Rythmo as well as the Black Santiagos. Absorbing and learning the intricacies of music composition, Rob returned to Ghana where he began to write his own songs and eventually sought the backing of a band, specifically one which possessed horns. In 1977, a young Rob travelled to the city of Takoradi in western Ghana to approach an army band named Mag-2 whom he had seen perform in Accra. Mag-2 had an entire section of its ensemble dedicated to horns and some of the most sophisticated music equipment available in Ghana at the time - Hofner guitars, Yamaha keyboards and the like. Belonging to the "magnificient" second battalion of the Takoradi-based army unit, original founder Amponsah Rockson decided to aptly name the band "Mag-2." Joining the army during the 1970s was often an easy decision, particularly for musicians, since the army provided not only good music equipment but basic services such as food and medical care.
Mag-2 was essentially filled with the best elements of "The Parrots," a highlife band in which Amponsah was the lead guitarist. Their primary task was to entertain soldiers and with the army tour bus, perform from town to town as well as in reputable venues in the captial. Enticed by the style of music Rob had proposed, Mag-2 backed the Ghanaian sensation on two of his most astonishing records - his first and second albums - "Funky Rob Way" and "Make it Fast, Make it Slow," both of which were recorded at Essiebons studios in Accra.
Despite Rob's training and musical education, Amponsah was responsible for the vast majority of the compositions, such as building the chord progression and arranging the horns that Rob craved. Rob would even wait for the Mag-2 maestro's cue to begin singing.
There were early successes but a once-unflinching interest in Afrobeat began to wane by the early 1980s and Disco Boogie rapidly became the vogue style around which label owners and music producers sought to capitalize upon. The style Rob had shaped his career around was in decline and an adequate income consequently became a major concern, forcing him to travel to Hamburg, Germany in search of a financial backer.