Album of the Day: Orchestre Abass, “De Bassari Togo”

In 2008, Samy Ben Redjeb—the founder of German label Analog Africa—went to a warehouse in Accra, Ghana that was once used by Polydor Records. There, Redjeb uncovered lost recordings made by the 1970s Togolese band Orchestre Abass. Led by the great Malam Issa Abass, Orchestre Abass are from a geographical area that Redjeb has dubbed “The Islamic Funk Belt.” Stretching from Northern Ghana to Northern Cameroon, the territory was studded with funk groups comprised of musicians from an Islamic background that forged a distinct ripple of West African rock.

The tapes Redjeb discovered have been polished and lumped into a new compilation, De Bassari Togo. At only six songs and 22 minutes, it’s a short but punchy shot. The arrangements are gloriously unprocessed, like they were recorded on a dancehall stage through cheap amps. The rattling percussion section, wacka-wacka guitar rhythms, and heavy-as-hell organs, on songs such as “Haka Dunia,” forms a scintillating funk-rock workout. Elsewhere, “Honam” is a highlight, the simple arrangement—strummed electric guitar, organ chords, and rattling percussion—underpins a catchy rhythm and tuneful lead vocal line. It adds up to another vital document of fiery afro-rock for historians to add to the dossier.

-Dean Van Nguyen

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