Orchestre Poly-Rhythmo is the most known band from Benin, but it was still a surprise to hear how the compiler/collector (Samy Ben Redjeb) got around 500 recorded songs together by the band. The band had an exclusive contract with the label Albarika Store, but secretly also recorded some singles on small labels around Cotonou, Benin’s largest city, and the capital city of Porto Novo. Volume one concentrates on these recordings (vol 2 will be the official label material). Despite having been recorded with just a reel-to-reel recorder with only one or two mikes the sound quality and good balanced out sound often is amazing. Some of the complexity of the rhythmic accompaniment is incredible (divided in fast ticking and slower hand driven drums/bass/guitar rhythms), the music is also most often arranged with inspired compositional breaks before leaving the most important parts to certain (melodic) rhythms to lead the song/instrumentals. On top are great solos of trumpets, sax, whirly organ, or easily psych or “rock” associated electric guitars, sometimes with a bit funky touch. Some of the range of the song arrangements again redefines the range of Afro-music (Afrorock,..). A part of the rhythmic complexity is typical for Benin, which is said to be the birthplace of vodoun (voodoo), with its own system of rhythms, which formed a bridge to later transatlantic genres and rhythm use. One track even recalls very much a Cuban rhythm. The result is African, but has elements of something of complex rock. Therefore this release could easily please different sorts of collectors of music.
Analog Africa Orchestre Poly Rhythmo de Cotonou :
Echos Hypnotique (BN,1969-1979,re.2009)****°
Four years went in the making for this volume 2 of one of the most swinging and original and also most popular bands from Benin, the sound quality for these rarities still is amazing (with courtesy of EMI Nigeria), tracks all originally recorded in the legendary Albarika store by producer Adissa Seidou, the musical quality is worth checking out as well. These are more than hypnotic dance floor shakers, where the complexity in rhythms can be amazing and some guest appearances rewarding, like the rock’n roll guitar on the fourth track, certain organ themes, some wah-wah effects and organ on the sixth track, or a few funky elements or in general the multi-layered group-sound complexity with true poly-rhythms (what’s in their name) or some vocal dialogues (like in the eight track). This is more than Afro-pop/rock, is outstanding with its energy and at times truly hypnotic effect.
The band was on tour in Belgium and Holland just before the release of this new volume.
Analog Africa Orchestre Poly Rhythmo de Cotonou-Dalhomey :
The 1st album (BN,1973,re.2011)****'
The band had started in 1968 with just four members as Orchestre Poly-Disco. They included the Daho Jazz singer after having searched for a soul singer, changing into Orchestre El Ritmo before finally establishing themselves as Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou in 1969. With one more member, Vincent, who was influenced by the Afro-Beat and funk elements of Fela Kuti they released a 7inch followed closely by this album.
The label introduced us to the band already with a great compilation. This is the reissue of the band’s first release from 1973. The band had to record the album twice due to technical imperfection. The reissue was done with two remastered tracks of that first version, and the two remaining tracks from the second version.
In all 4 tracks can be noticed this Afrobeat foundation with a small funky touch, while the band sounds even more African by arrangements of hypnotic repetition and musical hints to calls and responses in a different instrumental way of interpretation, with a steady bottle-like beat of percussion, creating an almost Latin-Afro poly-rhythmic effect, bass theme repetitions and some solos on sax or organ. The singing is of minor importance. On the first track the voice is recorded as if recorded in a music hall with echoes from the walls returning. The third track has most variations within one track. There seems to be some electronic keyboard used in the space where solos could be. On the last track the vocals sound almost narrative in the performance.
Analogue Africa Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou:
Volume 3 The Skeletal Essences Of Voodoo Funk (BN,1969-1980,re.2013)***°
The third volume of the talented is a bit different. The reason for this is that it is a compilation of various spontaneously recorded tracks, compiled from reel-to-reel recordings with just two microphones done in private houses or open air gardens, mostly at night. The quality of the sound strangely enough is perfect in the mix. The songs can be a bit slower in the improvisation, but the band never takes too long before coming to some kind of unique live energy and original moment of surprise in combining the right elements of rhythms and solos together. Besides, the band has a powerful groove man on bass, providing a gazing hypnotism in its style which is beyond the technical, and also, an incredible drum section, fast and complex even in its brushed rhythms, and what really takes me in this time, are the attractive and at time rather psychedelic improvisations on organ. And even though the band and tracks take a bit the time before they show themselves better, -the mood is a bit more relaxed here-, it is always worth the waiting for everything that happens.
The first track combines funky rhythms with African rhythms that is very original. The second track, starting with a funky brass intro, is such a slower groovy and repetitive track with a very good electric organ solo. The third track shows the full band taking care of interesting improvisations while the song remains carrying the track. Track 5 shows more funk groove, with Afro styled responses in singing. Also track 6, which is as well slower in the groove, succeeds to show this unique live ability to improvise together with its brought in foundations well. Track 7 shows faster rhythms again and some organ solos, but my favourite moment of organ was heard on track 10, which really gave a wow effect in my experience of it. Track 13 is a song with lyrics in French, different and more song-oriented being moody in in its expression of it.