Syllart productions V.A.: Afro Latin Via Cotonou -2CD-(BN,60scomp.2013)***°
The booklet resumes the origin and evolution of the Afro-Cuban influences in a way this isn't too different from what I have already explained as introduction for the Congolese rumba releases. Still I have learned a few new elements of importance that I didn't know yet. For instance, it also said that the first Cuban influence, which dates back to the 40s, came from Cuban sailors and European soldiers who played their records in local clubs among the coastline. This new interest was further widened and spread thanks to the exploitation of gramophones, radio sets and guitars (via Congo and Guinea) and the availability of brass instruments from colonial military bands. The booklet further explained the first change towards a new fusion had already been set around the time when composer Louis Moreau Gottschalk organised a tropic night in Havanna in 1860 with an orchestra and African drummers. After a while, New Orleans started to mix Western and African styles, which led to the birth of jazz. The writer says that this jazz influence still is present in the first Cuban influence too. The Cuban style was generally seen as a return of the slaves to Africa, the motherland, while at the same time it was also made more African again too. In the beginning Radio Brazaville had a huge importance in the spread of this new music. With air travel becoming available even more crisscross influences became possible. Otonou could be considered as being the major port or crosspoint for these influences. Locally the new local music styles were also influenced by voodoo rhythms. After the country's independence, also touring Ghanaian bands had their share of influence. Available styles included rumbas, guanguancos, salsas, pachangas, styles that were played in clubs like for instance the Playboy Club. In the local clubs, it were the bands Ignacio Blazio Osho & Orchestra Las Ondas and Gnonnas Pedro y sue Panchos that were amongst the pioneers of Afro-Cuban music. The many popular orchestras that came to existence after that also adapted this influence. Gnonnas Pedro, who was accompanied during the 70s by the Dadjès band, was in fact the biggest star from Benin. Another legend is Pierre Avoyou, who is also listed with several tracks.
From all the tracks that are listed, despite the fact that the influence of Latin-Cuban music is entertainment based, the album still has a listening attractiveness because of the relatively new mixture of African and Cuban combinations. it shows interesting solos on keyboards and trumpet, and occasionally on electric guitar, in all cases this can I guess be considered as the jazz-effect/an element of jazz. Some of the wahwah trumpet solos give a 30s jazz accent, which gives a beautiful extra colour of influence.
A great starter on the compilation is the inflicting classic "Yiri Yiri Boom", a track by Gnonnas Pedro, -it is a cover from a Silvester Mendez hit. The polyrhythms, whenever present, are always ineresting, with the songs themselves acting as a lighter part. But even in some tracks, like the tropical song "Hotel Tropicana" by Les As du Benin (French lyrics), cannot but give you a big smile with an empowering effect. The rhythms are mostly hypnotically steady and repetitive. I also want to point out the track from Dinharmonie (11) for its add vocal accent and fitting disharmony in the guitar, a combination which makes the track very original.
On the second CD I hear a varied amount of domination of the Latin-Cuban elements against the (local) African elements, from which the last influence I love especially the vocal harmonies or for the ability of keeping a feel with real-life rhythms more than playing readily formulas. There are of course lighter tracks too, based upon the summer feel of entertainment with a more steady rhythm based upon the Latin-American style, this still is performed in an African way of repetition and with African vocal harmonies or with some solo voices. There can be some electric guitar solos too. Less used are the kinds of repetitive guitar accents from Latin American music, this idea still can be heard in a few tracks.
It is great to hear that not the dance effect is the most important element but the expression itself seems to matter most, while the hypnotic effect of the band is still important too in combination with the direct expression. In that way there is not too much repetition in the choice of combinations: such choices are made more creatively and spontaneously, which keep its expressions fresh, and which makes them a listening experience too.