Analog Africa V.A. : African Scream Contest (BN/TO,1972-1981,re.2008)****
Benin, lying pressed between Ghana and Nigeria, knew lots of record plants during the 70s especially, but most groups were left unnoticed by collectors up until now, except for the biggest act, Orchestra Poly-Rhythmo, here also included. Compiler Samy Ben Rejeb obviously did some decent research (the CD includes a 44 pages booklet with info and photographs), where he was lucky to trace as one of the first researchers in this area after this period, rather intact collections, and also managed to trace many of the musicians of picked out recordings.
Especially Benin but also Togo were some kind of centres of influences, in the same way that these countries lie in the middle of inspirations, which included Cuban, Congolese, some French chanson (Aznavour, Johnny Halliday) influences and interests at first, and then also highlife music, soul, 60s funk and Afrobeat, with a particular interest for James Brown (a first reason for the “screaming” association), and with respect for the local African ritualistic poly-rhythmic percussion.
From the liner notes we learn how Poly-Rhythmo became especially popular through interest from Nigeria because of their here included song, “Gbeti Madjro”, a “screamed” song about “it’s not human nature who wants you to make bad things, it’s just YOU!”. It had a sentence “ogbo kparis” meaning in Fon language “the same nature that passes through Paris”, while in Yoruba it means “war is over”, having made it highly wanted because it was released just after the ending of the Nigerian Biafra War.
The music itself sounds like an amalgam compromise of styles as an Afro / Cuban / ethnic / funk / jazzy / soul / highlife hybrid with attention to complex rhythms, and a minor psych touch through the interpretation and use of the organ especially. This makes the songs partly rhythmically song driven, but also like rather danceable Afro-music.