Gilles Peterson in Africa

Gilles Peterson in Brazil was a huge success so it comes as no surprise that Ether Records are repeating the formula for an African outing. Gilles is not only a world class authority on Brazilian music, he has created an entire mini industry around him devoted to diggin’ in the crates from São Paulo to Belém, so how does he fare in Africa?

This double CD takes the same formula as the last release with one CD devoted to classics (in this case called ‘Soul’) and one devoted to contemporary mixes (‘Spirit’). The Soul side kicks off with something for the jazz dancer courtesy of Oscar Sulley’s ‘Bukom Mashie’. Brassy stabs, Afro percussive grooves and jazz licks. Top tune.
If this track gives a hint as to where in Africa Gilles is, the next three tracks make it very clear. Gilles has always been a proponent of Afro Beat and introduced a lot of people to Fela Kuti and Manu Dibango. The track chosen from Fela’s catalogue is a good one and not too obvious, ‘Ye Ye De Smell’ featuring Afro beat king of the drums Tony Allen sparring with Ginger Baker. Peter King’s ‘Ajo’ is a pretty well known tune and turns up on most Afro beat compilations but it is welcome nonetheless.
But then he has a few surprises in store and goes East for some Ethiopian jazz grooves courtesy of Mulatu Astatqé and resurrects the wonderful Miriam Makeba track ‘Samba’ while he is at it. Fellow South African Abdullah Ibrahim gets a look in but not before ‘Did You Hear That Sound’ gets the Toshio Matsuura treatment. The result is a jazz monster fit for Dingwalls at its finest.
The flip side of this double CD release is dominated by remixes and has a more western club feel. Afro brit Wunmi opens the proceeding with the MAW remix of ‘Expensive Shit’ a track I once spent ages hunting down only for you people to get it without the hard work.
The Carl Craig remix of Cesaria Evora’s ‘Angola’ is about as far as you can travel from the original but it works and that’s all that counts. Likewise, IG Culture’s take on ‘Aso Kere’ is pure London club business but it wears its African roots well.
But it’s not all that way and Lufuala NDonga’s ‘Konono No. 1’ marries a persistent beat, African chanting and the sound of the kora.
Dennis Ferrer’s ‘Funu’ is one of my favourite tracks but like a couple of others on the CD has been on a number of releases recently. No bad thing normally but a rare event on a Gilles P compilation.
So does Gilles succeed in making an album of grooves for Afro fans and an album of Afro tunes for groove seekers? Of course, and even if some of the tracks are familiar to anoraks, there is no compilation quite like it.
Released on Ether Records (ETHCD005) 25 April, 2005
Interesting Note:
The artwork for this album was done by Chariokwu Lemi, who designed 25 of Fela’s sleeves over the years.
Gilles Peterson interview on Fly

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