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- WOMEX 2009
- WOMEX 2010
- WOMEX 2011
SONS D'AILLEURS is the producer of the incredible MIGHTY ORCHESTRE POLY RYTHMO de COTONOU
and released their NEW ALBUM in 2011.
ELODIE MAILLOT has created and run SONS d'AILLEURS. She is also a radio producer for RADIO FRANCE and produces musical shows.
Tout-Puissant Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou
« Essential listening."
« If you've wondered what James Brown-inspired Seventies floor-fillers from the home of voodoo sound like, well, they're not kidding about the 'Poly-rythmo' bit. »
“At times the funk turns into hypnosis, and the rest is unstoppable dance music.”
New York Times
« We are huge fans of this Beninese band. They have such a special sound, funky, soul and so voodoo ! » Nick Mc Carthy, from Franz Ferdinand.
Some best-kept secrets are worth revealing, and the eternal youth of the legendary Orchestre Poly Rythmo de Cotonou is just one of those hidden treasures. The West African band offered 43 years of an exquisite groove, a home made voodoo funk, “Made in Bénin”, that conquered Nigeria, Togo, Niger Angola, and much of West Africa where the band played with Manu Dibango, Fela, and Gnonnas Pedro. And, despite their age, they are still on shape!
Down the years, Poly-Rythmo stunned the market of connoisseurs, deejays and aficionados with their pure African funky sound. But they never had a chance to take their music out of Africa. That oversight is about to end. In 2009 the founding members of the band performed in Europe with guests from Africa’s pantheon of international stars, starting with the opening of the great Jazz A La Villette Festival in Paris in September staring in a special African night, also featuring Seun Kuti and Amadou and Mariam. Their great first European tour passed by Paradiso Amsterdam, Barbican London, Utrecht, Andverpen, ending with great show in collaboration with Franz Ferdinand musicians in Marseille...
From the start, the Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou swept away the tiny nation of Benin, sandwiched between Ghana and Nigeria, with their music. Their voices, brass section, guitar and percussion weaved together to crystallise a golden age in this nation of 8 million souls. Under the eccentric reign of Mathieu Kérékou, their irresistible Afro-funk lit up the mornings on national radio - despite reflecting as much an unbridled admiration for the marathon funk jams of James Brown, or the singing of Dalida and Johnny Haliday, as the frenetic urban sounds of Cotonou.
Drawing from one of the richest cultural melting pots in the world, the band has recorded over 500 songs, and become Benin’s most identifiable name. Their music is also deeply anchored in voodoo music, principally the Sato rhythms, beat out by an immense vertical drum and the Sakpata, which is devoted to the voodoo divinity protecting people from smallpox.
What marks out Orchestre is its ability to modernise these vibrant traditional rhythms by integrating psychedelic guitar riffs, unreal organ harmonies, funk and soul. The result is a thrillingly hectic music that has been given new life last year thanks to the labours of the Frankfurt based label Analog Africa, which is devoted to the rediscovery of the musical repertoire of the 1970s in Africa’s major cities.
Like many others fans in England, Germany and New York, (including David Byrne and the owners of the label Soundway), Elodie Maillot, a French journalist, travelled to Benin in 2007 to track down those African legends. As a reporter who has crisscrossed the world as part of her work in the world music genre for Radio France and Vibrations magazine, she was gripped by Poly-Rythmo’s vibrant energy and their love for the radio!
After enjoying a fruitful interview of the band-members and watching an impressive live performance by Poly-Rythmo for Benin’s National Day in Abomey (former capital of Dahomey), Maillot agreed to make a dream come true for the band: embark on perhaps their most exciting musical adventure, and bring these rare and raw grooves out of West African to stages throughout Europe!
A bit of background
Unfortunately political realities in Benin had left the Tout Puissant Orchestre Poly Rythmo bereft of international recognition, while big bands like Super Rail Band or Orchestra Baobab enjoyed a rebirth… But Poly Rythmo has always been recognised as one of the best orchestras in Africa, so much that the former leader of Super Rail Band in Bamako, Tidiani Kone, left his job in Mali to join the fabulous Poly Rythmo in the seventies.
Despite the recent tragic losses of Papillon, Kone, and Lohento Eskill, the founding bandleader Mélomé Clément has brought together the pillars of this seminal band, who released more than 500 tracks. Their repertoire draws inspiration from the regional poly-rhythmic blend called Sato or Sakpata, original Voodoo beats, which are married with the funk left behind by James Brown’s African tours.
In returning frequently to Benin, Maillot has found the material and means to take the band on a similar journey to the one that brought Cuba’s Buena Vista Social Club to world attention. Crucially, she has persuaded the cult singer of the seventies, the high-wire Vincent Ahehehinnou, to rejoin the ten musicians of the Orchestre he sang for with such success 25 years ago.
From the start, the Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou captivated Benin with their music. Their voices, brass section, guitar and percussion weaved together to crystallise a golden age in this musically-fertile nation.
What marks out Poly-Rythmo is its ability to modernise these vibrant traditional rhythms by integrating psychedelic guitar riffs, unreal organ harmonies, funk and soul. The result is a thrillingly hectic music that has been given new life thanks to the labours of the Frankfurt based label Analog Africa, which is devoted to the rediscovery of the musical repertoire of the 1970s in Africa’s major cities.
Impressed by the prolific output of Poly-Rythmo and the band’s ability to sing in Fon, Yoruba, Mina and French, the label released the 2008 album The Vodoun effect 1972-1975 and the highly-appreciated compilation African Scream Contest. The latter, 14 classics from Benin’s Golden Age, includes the Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou’s big hit “Gbeti Madjro”. Nowadays, it sounds as fresh as when it was written. That single, incidentally, created something of a revolution in Benin’s music scene and brought the band to the attention of Fela Kuti.
Ironically, few of the musicians that have graced the Orchestre Poly Rythmo since it began in 1966 are professionally trained. They draw inspiration from a heritage that is rooted on Benin’s Atlantic Coast, where the Agoudas live. This ethno-linguistic group are descendants of former Brazilian slaves who returned to West Africa at the end of the 19th century, bringing back proto-samba songs and dances that impregnated the local traditions.
The Orchestre has been able to mix this heritage with a fascination for African American funk, Latin grooves and the home-grown rhythms that punctuate voodoo ceremonies. Most of their marvelous songs were recorded live with a couple of microphones and a Swiss-made Nagra reel-to-reel tape machine. The studio was a living room in the noisy neighbourhood near Cotonou’s airport.
Such careers are the stuff of legends - and these legends deserve to fly out of Africa!
The “Papys Groovy”, as they are now called in Cotonou, are back on the road and has release a brand new album (featuring Franz Ferdinand musicians and Angelique Kidjo) produced in Paris by SONS D'AILLEURS in 2011.