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State of Independence

The anniversary of Ghana's Independence in March 1957 marked 40 years of African autonomy. To acknowledge that auspicious occasion RetroAfric release a nostalgic collection by the dance band supremos King Bruce and The Black Beats, titled Golden Highlife Classics [RETRO13CD]. The album features 15 memorable tracks from the 1950s and 1960s.

During those decades, highlife music ruled West Africa, and King Bruce and his 'BBs' held court in the clubs and dancehalls of Ghana. 'We were interested in playing good dance band music, but keen on giving everything a recognisable African beat,' says Bruce. The venerated musicologist JH Kwabena Nketia commented: 'You can enjoy his music even if you do not understand the language...sounds and rhythms also make their own impact on the listener.' With a large, horn-heavy dance band Bruce gradually took over the development of highlife from the original master, the late E.T. Mensah, whose anthem to Independence, Ghana Freedom, is still available on the RetroAfric CD Day By Day [RETRO3CD].



New wave hits Kinshasa

They came out of school with fire in their voices, a healthy rattle on the snare drum and an orgy of guitar licks.

They broke the mould of the big-band Congo music, stretching and bending the parameters, and clearing a path for the new wave which swept over Kinshasa's music scene in the late 1960s and early 1970s, before flooding the whole of Africa with the style of guitar music now known as soukous.

Thu-Zahina was the pivotal group whose influence is legendary, yet whose pioneering work has hardly ever been available outside Zaire. Coup de Chapeau [RETRO14CD] features 11 outstanding hits which provide the missing link between the classic 'Congo music' and the new rumba. This is rumba on the cusp, as the stately orchestration of the big band style is infiltrated by the raw groove of roots and funk before being overwhelmed by those guitars.



to the cognoscenti for all the praise and poll-pickings for Rumba'round Africa by Ry-Co Jazz [RETRO10CD]-Andy Kershaw, Charlie Gillett, Neil Spencer, Ian Anderson, Gery Lyseight, Jan Fairley, Lucy Duran, Chris Stapleton, CC Smith, etc-and that was just in the Folk Roots poll. Kwaku, Dave Hucker, Jo Shinner, Nick Lowe and Ian Dury also dug it.


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