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African psychedelic rock

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African psychedelic rock

Zambian psychedelic music pioneer Rikki Ililonga

  • Zambian psychedelic music pioneer Rikki Ililonga

Seeing a hole in your concert calendar for this week? GloryHole Records is hosting a must-see show this Friday at the Melody Inn. The night's lineup features an impressive selection of local acts, including Male Bondage, Vacation Club, Raw McCartney and my current favorite Indianapolis band Sweet Poison Victim.

I was pleased to see Sweet Poison Victim added to the rock-heavy bill. The band sometimes finds it hard to fit into Indy's rock-heavy scene because of their eccentric sound, which can jump from calypso to R&B in a flash. But the core of their music is built around the psychedelic guitar work of Ted Somerville and the African drumming of Kwesi Brown.

In Brown's West African homeland there's a long history of mixing psychedelic rock with traditional rhythms and song. So, in preparation for Friday's show, I decided to put together this primer on African psychedelic music. The following albums represent a brief overview of Africa's rich psychedelic music scene.

The Funkees - Dancing Time

An indispensable compilation by one of the best bands to emerge from the African rock movement. During the '60s and '70s Nigeria was home to the most significant rock scene in Africa, and the Lagos-based Funkees were one of the Nigerian scene's top groups. Like New Orleans' Meters, The Funkees have a sound and rhythmic sensibility that's completely their own. Tunes like "Acid Rock" and "Dancing in the Nude" mix hard-hitting percussive grooves with a heavy rock vibe, while "Akula Owu Onyeara" and "Akpankoro" ratchet up the African rhythms. The Funkees achieved minor notoriety outside Nigeria, catching the attention of legendary BBC tastemaker John Peel and pan Afro-Caribbean superstars Osibisa.

Witch - Lazy Bones

While the Nigerian rock scene may have been the biggest on the continent, Zambia's infamous "Zamrock" scene produced Africa's loudest and dirtiest rock acts. Kitwe's Witch were one of the few Zamrock acts to achieve notice outside Zambia, landing a brief tour opening for Osibisa. Witch's 1975 release Lazy Bones is widely considered their finest work. The frenzied rhythms and psychedelic guitar fuzz on tracks like "Tooth Factory" and "Black Tears" has more in common with Black Sabbath than the sweet kalindula rhythms popular in Zambia at that time.

Love's A Real Thing: The Funky Fuzzy Sounds of West Africa

There's plenty of African music outside of the rock spectrum that exhibits serious psychedelic vibes and this compilation does a tremendous job of collecting some of the best examples. An essential collection if only for the inclusion of "Allah Wakbarr" by Nigeria's Ofo and the Black Company, a wild, unrestrained blast of African rhythms and piercing fuzz guitars.

Guelewar - Acid Trip From Banjul to Dakar

Gambia's Guelewar weren't concerned with crafting bouncing dance-floor rhythms or unleashing waves of guitar noise. Instead the group focused on slow-burning stoner jams. Acid Trip From Banjul to Dakar compiles Guelewar's best sides and the LP abounds with delicate, deeply psychedelic solos.

Ngozi Family - 45,000 Volts

Zambia's Paul Ngozi defies all expectations of what African music is supposed to sound like. The best tracks on this 1977 release are pure proto-metal, right down to the horror-themed lyrics on "Night of Fear." Ngozi's overdriven guitar lines and piercing vocal style increase the LPs eerie vibe.

Rob - Funky Rob Way

Ghana's Rob is best known for the song "Make it Fast, Make it Slow," a track famously sampled by J Dilla. But I prefer his 1977 debut Funky Rob Way. The album's hypnotic, droning space-rock grooves sound more akin to Kraut rock icons Can or Amoon Duul than the highlife and afro-beat groups in vogue in Ghana at the time. Rob's vocals alternate between bizarre shouted chants and softly spoken incantations, while the band adds buzzing synths and hissing guitars creating some of the heaviest grooves ever pressed to wax.

Tinariwen - Amassakoul

Psychedelic music is alive and well in Africa and has found a new home among the Tuareg people of Niger and Mali. The members of Tinariwen came of age in Algeria listening to Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix on radio broadcasts emanating from a French military base. They combined those heavy guitar riffs with traditional Tuareg rhythms and melodies to create what some have called desert blues. All Tineriwen's LPs are worth hearing, but I prefer this 2004 title for the wild, primal rocker "Oualahila Ar Tesninam."

Also check out the following LPs:

Ofege - Try and Love

Monomono - The Dawn of Awareness

Bombino - Nomad

Rikki Ililonga & Musi O Tunya - Dark Sunrise

Tamikrest - Toumastin

Each edition of A Cultural Manifesto features a mix from Kyle Long, spotlighting music from around the globe. This week's selection features a variety of classic African psychedlic rock.

1. Ofo & The Black Company - Allah Wakbarr

2. Funkees - Point Of No Return

3. Ngozi Family - Night of Fear

4. Moussa Doumbia - Keleya

5. Witch - Tooth Factory

6. Sorry Bamba - Sare Mabo

7. Rikki Ililonga & Musi-O-Tunya - Mpondolo

8. Funkees - Akula Owu Onyeara

9. Blo - Time To Face The Sun

10. Monomono - Tire Loma Da Nigbehin

11. Rob - Just One More Time

12. Guelewar - Wollou

13. Ofege - Nobody Fails

14. Bunzu Sounds - Zinabu

15. Karantamba - Sama Yai

Kyle Long pens A Cultural Manifesto for NUVO Newsweekly and in 2014 began broadcasting a version of his column on WFYI.

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