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Turntable Tuesday: The Funky Fuzzy Sounds of West Africa 


Though we spend most of our time in the music section writing about new material, Turntable Tuesday allows us to look back, and look closely at some captivating albums in our catalog. This week’s column dives into the Luaka Bop label's Love's Real Thing: The Funky Fuzzy Sounds of West Africa.

Throughout the 1970s, the influence of Fela Kuti and James Brown dominated the minds of musicians in anglophone West Africa, merging the polyrhythms and incantational repetition of Afrobeat with the attitude and popcorn beats of funk. It's an undeniable medley, foreign to an American ear, but somehow still at home thanks to the deep roots in our pop culture.

Excluding Fela Kuti's Kelakuta Republic, two regions dominated the Afro-funk sounds of the 1970s. The first, deemed the Islamic Funk Belt by the stellar reissue label Analog Africa, consisted of Benin, Togo, Northern Ghana and Burkina Faso. The second consisted of the larger region of West Africa, with hotbeds of activity in the thin countries that slice up the geography of Gulf of Guinea.

Love's a Real Thing compiles 12 tracks from these West African funk artists on a gorgeously-packaged double LP, courtesy of David Byrne's Luaka Bop label. For the 25th anniversary of Luaka Bop, the label reissued six titles from their catalog, including Love is a Real Thing, soulful cuts from Peru and the Venezuelan funk of Los Amigos Invisibles.

Highlights on Love's a Real Thing include the mysterious sounds of electronic pioneer William Onyeabor, Benin's Orchestre Poly Rythmo de Cotonou and Cameroonian saxophonist Manu Dibango. With one track from each artist, the comp provides a great foundation in Afro-funk for interested minds looking to cruise reissue labels, Youtube or Ebay for the next round of African rug-cutters.

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January 12, 2022

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