Thomas Gesthuizen is DJ Gioumanne and knows his stuff like no one else. The Dutch collector has an infinite passion for African hip-hop and other African music. After evolving in the hip-hop scene as a twelve year old and getting to know artists such as Public Enemy, it was the trip with his dad to Malawi that influenced him to study Swahili and African Studies and made him fall in love with the continent.
But that was just the very kick-off to loads of happenings that would follow. He started DJ-ing at African parties, managed and promoted a Tanzanian hiphop group called X Plastaz, travelled the whole world to find African pieces and eventually started his respected and eye-opening blog www.africanhiphop.com just when the internet was born. Gioumanne can be defined as one of the first to represent the African (hip-hop) music everyone is crazy of at the moment. An absolute passionate music head, collector and DJ that truly deserves to be put in the spotlights. Get ready for some jaw-dropping master pieces, mostly originating from the seventies and eighties.
Gioumanne has the habit of making mixes with many tracks, with each of them being played shortly. Patino’s electronic starter kicks in with the twittering robot-noise, followed up by the funky sounds of this 1984 beauty. Responsible for his first and only EP was Paco Rabanne, who ran his eponymous label Paco Rabanne Design. Gioumanne explains: “In the 80s, fashion designer Paco Rabanne ran a music label on which he released mostly West-African music. Apart from the afro disco of M’bamina and afro pop fusion by Ivorian Kassiry, there’s a great LP by Platino on which he worked with none other than Tito Puente (though the music doesn’t have much to do with Tito’s own work).”
Cape Verdean music prepacked in a soft jacket of pop. Funky, soulful and with a lovey touch; this is Vlú’s interpretation of his Portugese songs. Gioumanne: “Vlú was an Cape Verdean musician, whose first LP in 1984 sounded quite different from other Cape Verdean music at the time. ‘No Funana’ but more of what he described as rock, but really sounds like an episode of Miami Vice shot in Cape Verde or Lissabon. People weren’t ready for it, though, so he sold few copies and was forced into a musical existence on the margins.”
The mix quickly jumps over into heavy, jazzy, African percussion rock of Reebop ‘Anthony’ Kwaku Baah, who was born on the 13th of February in 1944 in Konongo, Ghana. The African percussionist was best known for having played with British rock band Traffic, but on the other hand, also releases multiple solo albums. Before he passed away in 1983, he finished this last album including nine songs, that eventually got released in 1989 by Day Eight Music.
More spacey percussion breaks and excellent afro disco can be heard in West-Indian artist Jean Juteau’s ‘Conga Ye’. It was in the seventies that there was a huge trend of artists who had never been to Africa before, but recorded songs with an imagined African theme for the music. Gioumanne: “It was in the footsteps of successful afro rock bands like Osibisa and Manu Dibango’s Soul Makossa; loads of artists started doing this. This song consists of heavy percussion and chants, including some made-up words here and there. The only other Jean Juteau release I could find is a gospel LP he did in Canada.”
“Basing their art and form on the world famous style, the group brings four special songs recorded in Nairobi, Kenya between the end of 1976 and the beginning of 1977”, says Discogs. The fifth track of this Liner Notes podcast is a rare one for the average listener, but Gioumanne has a special connection with the band. “Last year I discovered an unknown album by the Kenyan seventies group Makonde, who I knew from their song ‘Manzara’. Having been at the root of hip hop and b-boy culture, I heard this when Jazzy Jay included it in his record crates in 1977. I owned a first album that had been off the radar for decades. When I finally got a copy of this record, the b-side turned out to be from another group called Matokenya. Like Makonde, they played fusion that’s hard to define but includes traces of rock, rumba, disco and pop.”
Moustapha’s music is an addictive mix of boogie, weird rap and afro. The titles of his EPs and albums represent the love he has for Africa and Abidjan (‘Playing Afroc’, ‘African Vibes’, ‘I Love Abidjan’ and ‘Afroc’). Gioumanne: “Musician from Ivory Coast who in the early ‘80s was based in the US where he recorded two albums. A third one was actually recorded in Abidjan. A lot of influence comes from rock, but he mixed this with some funk, wave and boogie, and weird echo effects into a style he named ‘Afroc’, which also became the name of his label.”
Again, Gioumanne picked something from his record shelves that is hard to find on the interwebs. That doesn’t make it less fun though; this poppy reggae song by Sammy is everything you need on a sunny day. UK based label Zara Music Records, run by Roy Bedeau, operates out of Brixton and put out this track in 1979. Touching on folk and world music, Sammy’s sweet song turns into a funk rock-infected percussion break.
- Track 8Got The Feelin’S & D Majek
Back to disco yet soulful madness with Nigerian singer Sheila Majek, which happened to be an extremely talented woman. Gioumanne: “In the late 70s, international record label CBS (Columbia) opened up shop in Kenya, just as the music industry was about to collapse due to piracy. They hired a Nigerian producer called Desmond Majek, and his wife Sheila was a singer so he managed to get her to release some tracks too, and on this single he featured with her. This sounds more like a lost gem from the post punk days in NY and it seems like it wasn’t a hit in Kenya. I’ve only ever heard of one copy of this 45, which I got from Fredrik Lavik (Afro7).”
Pierre Didy Tchakounte is an actor and composer, known for the work on films as Suicides (1983), African Fever (1985) and Saint voyou (1980). But more important: he represented a sound that would be popularized by him later on, named Mamgambeu. A popular music style of the Bangangte people of Cameroon. Gioumanne: “Mangambeu (also spelled Magabe, Mangambe or Mangambeu) is a musical style associated with traditions of the Bamileke people in Cameroon. In the 1970s, Tchakounte was one of the people that modernised it and became known as the ‘King of Mangambeu’. The sound of the Sanza (also known as Kalimba or Thumb Piano) is central to many of the songs, and on this song it just sounds larger than life.”
“This LP was sold as the ‘Nouvelle Vague Du Mangabeu’ (aka new wave) and like Tchakounte, Gapitcha used a pop band setup to play traditional music”, Gioumanne explains about the next song that fits perfectly with Tchakounte’s ‘Mugabe Sophistiqué’. Bulky African vibes, representing the country and their folk and world music. “The jumpy bass is very prominent here, like in many magambeu songs, and you can imagine where Cameroon’s most well known bass player Vicky Edimo got some of his inspiration of. Or was it the other way round?”
Gioumanne continues with a Malinese legend: Sorry Bamba. Born in 1938 in Mopti, Bamba’s father was a noble and veteran of the Emperor Savory Touré’s army. In Mali, this meant that he was forbidden to play music, make art and more. It was in 1957 that Bamba formed his band Group Goumbé named after a dance craze from the Ivory Coast. Gioumanne: “During the world music era, which lasted from the mid 80s until recently, purists would dismiss such 1980s European studio recordings as not authentic, as if there was an unwritten rule that forbids musicians to make use of studio innovations. Some of these eighties music attempts to cross over to foreign audiences sounded a bit forged, dishonest or just not that good but there’s as much great stuff out there and this album would be one of them.”
Merger originally consisted of Barry Ford (guitar, vocals), winston Bennett (guitar, vocals) and Michael Dan (keyboards), and was a short-lived reggae band based in England. ‘Biko’ was released in 1980 by Emergency Records, and breathes the Jamaican pride accompanied by heavy drums, dramatic vocals and ‘ghetto’ lyrics. Gioumanne: “I only know Merger for their 1980 release in tribute to activist Steve Biko. The instrumental, unique to the 12 inch, sounds like it was recorded last year. It’s truly ahead of its time.”
Martine-Elisabeth Mercier Descloux was a French singer, musician, writer and painter who was born in Paris and died in Saint-Florent. Among twenty-two other releases, her ‘Mambo Nassau’ on ZE Records is a mixture of funk and no wave that had addictive vocals in it to top it off. Gioumanne: “Descloux got to record at the legendary Compass Point studio in the Bahamas, and her album had Wally Badarou all over on the keyboards and on backing vocals. She was very inspired by African music and took that to another level on her next release that was recorded in SA.”
From funk and no wave to African pop music at its best. Sonny Okosun was a musician from Nigeria and the leader of the Ozzidi band. Gioumanne: “In the mid-1980s, many African songs aimed at a Western market and were released as 12 inches with a dub-version on the b-side - those were and are always exciting. This song is probably as good as it gets, mixing soca and dub. Just like Wally Badarou’s ‘Hi Life’ this doesn’t sound like your typical Nigerian highlife number.”
For this special Siassia & Talk project, Albert Siassia worked together with P. Bouchinet, Ph. Benhamoux, F. Benhamoux and Bernard Jean Gilles. African funk blended with a dose of fusion. Gioumanne: “I bought this EP because I liked the cover, and even though it’s always risky to have expectations about the music based on cover art, this was pretty good. Congolese singer Albert Siassia plays with a French band on this EP, resulting in a sound that’s rooted in his previous soulful rumba songs but with a tight and clean late eighties Parisian studio feel. In the nineties, I used to play occasional African club nights where I had to play fifty percent Congolese music, but rarely back to back with some of the other styles in this mix.”
From Parisian studio feelings to Zulu music with Azumah. Gioumanne: “There’s little known of this release from 1989 by a band from Soweto, led by Mandla Smiles Makama from Swaziland. This song is translated on the cover as ‘the songs of our ancestors are beautiful’, and indeed, Makama used traditional instruments. He sometimes tried new ways, such as with the Makhoyane; a music bow heard on ‘Zamadlozi’, which was originally only played by women.”
Released in Belgium in 1986, but representing the afrobeat and fusion styles to the fullest. Record label Peccata Mundi only released one EP on their label, just like Eko Quango did himself. Gioumanne: “A record I recently picked up at a record fair without listening to it, but the DX-7 synth in the credits and the artwork were promising. Sure enough it’s a decent EP. This love song is in Swahili (Congolese); the music proves there’s much more to Congolese music than the rumba and soukous that most people know it for.”
Mister Middellijn is part of the Surinam wave that made a lot of great music over the past years. His ‘Meki Kondre Yere’ was released by Bakadjari Production in The Netherlands in 1985. This year, Antal Heitlager (Rush Hour) and Gioumanne have compiled a new LP together called ‘Surinam Funk’, which already is an instant must have and represents a sound that is comparable to Middellijn’s ‘Meki Kondre Yere’. Gioumanne: “This EP was sitting in a batch of records I wanted to use for a mixtape of 80s music from Surinam, which never happened, although some of the tracks we used on the Surinam Funk Force compilation (out in September through Rush Hour). There are still many great Surinam records that were pressed in tiny quantities and will probably never be reissued. This song reminds me of the superb jazz infused with elements of Surinam styles like Kaseko and Kawina played by Fra Fra Sound.”
Jazz funk all over with Anansi’s ‘Song Of Peace’ from 1984. ‘Anansi’ stands for the spider fairy tale hero in stories that are being told in West-Africa as well as the Caribbean (Surinam). A beautiful afrobeat with proper jazz and funk elements within this one. Gioumanne: “This LP has one of the best covers: you can see a guy playing with a spider, whilst a white lady jumps on a chair. The band was led by Ghana born flutist and sax player George Lee, whose horn is present on every track but he allows the jazz funk to breathe through here and there. He also did a great afrobeat-ish dancer 12 inch ‘Sea Shells’, which still is available.”
Born in Dakar, 1959, Youssou found a passion in singing as a child performer at the neighborhood gatherings of West Africa. After a while, he was already taking the stage many times with the Star Band, that was counted as the most successful group in Senegal during that time period. His ‘Saf Safati’ was released on Mandingo Productions with classy artwork by Magnate Diop. African percussion, fusion and ambient in a blender would give you this result. Gioumanne: “‘Diongoma’ was among Youssou N’dour’s first albums recorded in Europe that sounded like they could cross0over to a pop audience, and he didn’t feature his Super Etoile (Star Band) which accompanied him on most records. (Sabar) percussion is always in the mix on Youssou’s songs but in this song it’s at the center.”
Zouk musician Pierre-Akendengue was born in Gabon, and lived his life as a singer, composer, guitarist and composer. Gioumanne has a special connection with this track. “Gabon musician Pierre Akendegue released a brilliant album in 1983, which contained ‘Epuguzu’. That track became a minor hit on the Afro/cosmic scene of the ‘80s which was an inspiration to my mixtape series (Afro cosmic club). But I overlooked this album until recently; could have picked any of the songs on ‘Mando’ which are an attempt at fusing traditional music, jazz, funk and a smooth French studio sound.”
A track that links back to Roy Bedaeu (Feelin’ from Sammy, number seven of this tracklist), the owner of Zara Music Records, who’s behind the Spartacus R alias. The label head was a British-Grenadian bass guitarist, percussionist, vocalist, songwriter, producer and author, and put out this ‘made in France’ and rock, reggae, funk and soul influenced record in 1984. Gioumanne: “Spartacus R was one of the founding members of afro-rock band Osibisa. Born in Aruba, he moved to UK with his parents as a kid. He was a human rights activist, which is evident from every song on ‘Freedom First’ (the self-released album this song was taken from), but also from the activities he did within this community.”
The last track in Gioumanne’s Liner Notes mix is what they call cosmic afro. Released in 1971 on a seven inch, this psychedelic and hypnotic African rock track is a perfect final to an adventurous trip. Gioumanne: “Ozo was a multi-ethnic band formed in 1970. They came together when Guyana born Vernon Cummings answered to a newspaper ad by Nigerian Kenny St. George proposing to start an afro rock band. They signed with CBS (a very influential label), recorded one LP and a few singles. One of their b-sides, ‘Anambra’, was revived when Danta split up and Vernon and Kenny started a band called Ozo. In the mean time, Kenny had become a Buddhist, so that’s why he included Buddhist chants on the song. The new version became a so-called loft classic, which was played a lot by David Mancuso and Daniele Baldelli, but this track is the rare original of it.”