Soundway V.A. : Kenya Special -3LP+7"/2CD- (KN,1970s-80s,re.2013)****
From Kenya were released before mainly “benge”-related releases (benge is an afro-rumba variant style). This release says that it tried to pick out more creative exceptions, put next to a few classics (which are especially Kikuyu guitar related). Kenya had its own choice of shared influences.
Since the 50s their own mixture of styles started from various fingerpicking guitar styles (which means in this case guitars who play along with the rhythms and follow the song melody), with inspirations that are mostly originating from eastern Congo/Zaire. Secondly we hear a pushing rhythm inspired and originating from twist, combined with faster played rhythms by the drums, with a touch of rockabilly from electric guitar solos.
Especially CD1 showed interesting combinations of African ideas with Western influences, a certain rock influence with guitar solos, some nice harmony singings of small groups of singers working well as a unity or with one solo singer coming out better, while a bunch of guitar players create the general sound, and drums and bass are there mostly for the ground rhythm. Quickly also funky elements are added to the rhythms, or a bit of afro-beat, or some funky brass arrangements, occasionally with a jazzier solo. The group sound is always well produced and in recorded well in balance; it is in fact very electric as a foundation. The songs and responses are more often tribal-African.
The second CD dominates more with benga-foundations or afro-rumba with a touch of funk or afro-beat. This second album shows less of the creative now-moment as the first CD showed us the whole time through, even though every track on CD2 still is good as well. The contributions could be more dominated with a solo singer with accompanying group compared to the early tracks that more often showed the separate harmonies of a group of singers too. Interesting to hear is how one sometimes falls back on English lyrics now and then.
This is packed into a beautiful mini-book case with thick booklet which includes a large introduction about the music, with detailed comments and with often appropriate photographs fit to every individual track, making this a worthy collector item.