‘Indestructible Beat’…now where did we first hear that? Why, stutter back weak signals from the DJs’ memory banks, it’s off those oh-so-legendary ‘Indestructible Beat of Soweto’ 80s & 90s compilations of Trevor ‘Il Miglior Fabbro’ Herman (still available and totally compelling on Earthworks/Sterns). They set a standard for compilations to which the rest of us can only aspire in terms of their musical quality and their mission: an earth shaking celebration of a then little known music, culture and struggle – a message from the heart of the African war against the Apartheid state.
Here in the middle of the first decade of the 21st Century the African struggle continues. A struggle for survival, peace, justice and recognition; a struggle against exploitation, neo-colonialism and the related blights of disease, corruption and war. The 14 tracks of ‘Indestructible African Beats’ celebrate the victories, reflect on the pain, sing of progress and joy, war and peace, love, sex, religion and getting on down …the beating heart of a continent whose time is coming, whose time is here.
1. Arthur - Haai Bo
Hugely influential, Arthur Mafokate is one of the first black producer/artists to own his own label and a pioneer of Kwaito music – the dance music that came out of the townships, linking house music with bubblegum (urban South African pop). Kwaito is the sound of post-apartheid South African youth and embraces more than music – like hip hop it is a street style, a whole way of life. "It's all about ghetto music. For me, it's ghetto dance music."
2. Ikwunga - Di Bombs
One of the many Afrobeat artists from around the globe who have come together in response to the suffering of the 1.8 million refugees of Darfur, Ikwunga is a beat-poet disciple of Fela Kuti and was once the regular opening act at the Afrika Shrine. With the help of Femi Kuti and Dele Sosimi, Ikwunga introduced Afrobeat to his poems and Di Bombs is the Afrobeat poet at his rhythmic, articulate, conscious best. Support the cause and buy ASAP
3. Tinariwen - Qualahila Ar Tesninam
Wotta story! Touareg band whose music school was the refugee camps in Libya during the war with Mali and who legendarily rode through the desert with a Kalashnikov and a Fender strapped to their backs. Now BBC Radio 3 Awards For World Music Africa winners 2005 and taking the world by storm with their addictive Saharan blues.
4. Alif – Dakamerap
The first all woman rap band in Senegal - that’s 1 out of 2000 remember. Combining traditional sounds and sabar-rhythms with the urban soundscape of Dakar and a red hot hip hop / r’n’b sensibility, their cinematic lyrics tell it like it is on the streets of the city: con-artist marabouts, out of control minibuses, corrupt businessmen, hard working women. Feel the fire!
5. Issa Bagayogo - Kalan Nege
Techno Issa’s bluesy Malian boogie beats have become a constant in our African Premiership. The hypnotic rolling bass, the looping, interweaving lines from Issa’s Kamêlé N’goni and Mama Sissoko’s guitar, the understated haunting vocals of Issa and his ‘I-Threes’; Ba, Sally and Kankou, it all conspires to take the body and soul to a better place.
6. Daara J – Boomerang
Currently the biggest band to emerge from the huge Dakar Hip Hop massive, catch how they hiphopperize the spiky Senegalese mbalax rhythm engine on this tune and, with Mali’s nu-skool diva Rokia Traore, create a hook that refuses to leave you alone.
7. Ba Cissoko – Kounkouré
A band adored by their whole country; by young Guineans for the way they blow open the musical tradition and the sound of the Kora, by the old because they can still hear the roots and enjoy the progression. Now we can all revel in a radical new setting for this classical ancient instrument in the hands of new virtuosos.
8. Daddy Saj – Corruption
Daddy Saj is one of the fiery, fresh school of Sierra Leonean musicians waging a new war against an old enemy, corruption. “Corruption e do so”, Krio for “Corruption - enough is enough”. This hip-hop meets gumbay anthem launches a searing attack on the country’s leaders striking a chord in Sierra Leone and right across the African continent.
9. Mapaputsi - 26/26
It’s no accident that a quarter of this compilation is from South Africa, 11 years after democracy, Mzansi music – Mzansi being urban youth speak for South Africa - has come of age, from hip hop to Kwaito, it is the voice of the ghetto and we can’t get enough of it. Mapaputsi comes from Zola, the toughest area of Soweto and he uses his rasping lyrics and edgy dance rhythms to take Kwaito to new horizons
10. Konono No.1 – Masikulu
The full-on, mighty, raucous, wall-of -sound chaos of Kinshasa Boogie. Congolese street music, brewed from ingredients including Bazombo Trance music, mikes and percussion built from salvaged car parts, overdriven megaphones and electric likembés. Blew us away on first hearing and we ain’t coming back.
11. Adama Yalombo - M’bora
Another young artist exploring new directions inspired by his long traditional musical training. A virtuoso, like his late father, on the mystical n’dan, as well as n’goni and guitar, Adama creates a sound rooted in traditional instruments but stretching way into the future for Mali and the rest of the planet.
12. Manou Gallo – Iniyi
Once bassist with Zap Mama, but now on vocals, percussion and song writing duties as well. Once the girl who started out playing talking drums at funerals back in her village in Cote D’Ivoire, but now the woman who has made one of the current funkiest West African records. Feel that added Brazilian bounce that can’t be denied!
13. Salif Keita - Madan (remix by Gekko)
Many (according to some reports, including Salif himself) think ‘Moffou’ his best album so far. Revelling in its consummate use of traditional Malian instruments and idioms, it created a new tradition for a new century. So why remix perfection? Dutch DJ/Producer Gekko provides the answer: because he can. And the result is this sweeping trip-hop / symphonic version of Salif in full cry.
14. H20 - It’s Wonderful
With their roots in Kwaito, H20 (Siphiwe Norten and Menzi Dludla from Soweto), use hip-hop as the platform to launch their intelligent Zulu rap. Their mega hit single It’s Wonderful, with its creative use of an Ella Fitzgerald sample, gives props to the young South Africans who made it against the odds.
Compilation and notes by DJ’s Rita Ray and Max Reinhardt .
Their club night, THE SHRINE, inspired by Fela Kuti's Lagos club and the rebirth of Afrobeat brought about by his untimely death in 1997, has become the biggest Afrocentric club night in London, helping to break acts like Orishas, Daara J and Tinariwen along the way.