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Monday, Jun 08 2009 | 12:59 Buy this now at GoodToGo (B2B)

5063“Legends of Benin” is a collection of super-rare and highly danceable masterpieces recorded between 1969 and 1981 by four legendary composers from Benin: Gnonnas Pedro et Ses Dadjes, Antoine Dougbé, El Rego et Ses Commandos, and Honoré Avolonto.

Each one of them has his own distinctive sound – a thick brew of agbadja, soul, cavacha, funk, afro-beat, and afro-latin sounds, all mixed with heavy traditional rhythms – a distinctive Beninese sound!

Gnonnas Pedro has always excelled in many styles of music, but if one had to associate him with a particular genre it would be agbadja. Agbadja is a rhythm hugely popular in Togo, Benin and Ghana. It is based on three percussions, each one of them with a different tone. The epicenter of that rhythm is a region called Le Mono, located in the center of Benin, and birthplace of Gnonnas Pedro. It’s a rhythm used mainly during burial ceremonies. Gnonnas adopted and modernised it in the mid-60s calling it ‘agbadja modern’. It became his trademark sound and he was soon dubbed ‘le roi du rhythme agbadja’. The track “Dadje Von O Von Non” was originally recorded in 1966 and is Gnonnas’ first modern rendition of agbadja. Also featured here is the crazy kick-ass funk track “Okpo Videa Bassouo” recorded in 1973, as well as the sublimely contagious track “La Musica en Verité”.

Honoré Avolonto started his career 40 years ago as a percussionist. The young tumba player went on to become one of Benin’s most prolific composers: “I was composing so many tunes that some producers would run out of cash and pay me with goods instead; I remember receiving a torch for a song once”. Avolonto composed Benin’s most successful LP (No Title-SAT 143) which was recorded for the Satel music label in the late 70s. That album was recorded with Black Santiago, a band fronted by amazing trumpetist Ignace De Souza, another legend, with whom he recorded the afro-beat track “Dou Dagbe We” a few years earlier (included here). Avolonto has fronted some of Benin’s most powerful bands and some of the partnerships with Orchestre Poly-Rythmo and Les Commandos are presented here. Beware! Killer afro-beat meets frenetic funk!

In recent years El Rego et Ses Commandos’ vinyl records have taken the funk DJ scene by storm, with some incredible stuff released on Albarika Store and Aux Ecoutes from the early 70s. For at least a year Analog Africa was operating solely on money generated from El Rego records sold to DJs and collectors, so when I decided to release music from Benin, it was natural that El Rego would be the first artist from that country I would seek to get the licensing rights for. This compilation includes Benin’s first afro-soul-funk track (call it what you like) recorded by El Rego with the support of Ghanean singer Eddy Black Power. The jerk scene in Benin was triggered by the success generated by the phenomenal song “Feeling You Got” which had an infectious accordion riff that did not seem to surprise anyone in Benin, as musically anything was possible at the time. As a consequence bands started composing tunes on the model of that song – Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou being one of them, and that’s how the crazy funk scene started. “E Nan Mian Nuku” is an afro-latin tune combined with a kind of bossa nova. We have included “Vimado Wingnan”, Benin’s most sought-after funk track – and understandably so.

Orchestre Poly-Rythmo not only composed and recorded hundreds of songs, but they still found time to arrange and record for other artists, one of them being ‘le ministre du diable’ Antoine Dougbé. From all the artists here, Dougbé is the least-known even in Benin, but the quality and the power of his composition makes him my personal legend. One thing is for sure, he created his own style which he dubbed afro cavacha. It’s a fantastic mixture of Congolese rumba, latin sounds and traditonal vodoun rhythms – a crazy melting pot if you prefere. And last but not least … never leave an Antoine Dougbé vinyl record behind, especially not the ones released on his own label, Editions Dougbé Antoine. They are incredible and have become some of Africa’s most sought-after collector’s items.

This Analog Africa compilation comes with a 40 page full colour booklet including ultra rare pictures and biographies.

Fasten your seat belt and enjoy the mind-blowing sound of Benin!


01. Gnonnas Pedro & His Dadjes Band – Dadje Von O Von Non
02. El Rego et Ses Command – Feeling You Got
03. Antoine Dougbé – Honton Soukpo Gnon
04. El Rego et Ses Command – E Nan Mian Nuku
05. Honoré Avolonto & Orchestre Poly-Rythmo – Tin Lin Non
06. Gnonnas Pedro et Ses Panchos – Okpo Videa Bassouo
07. Antoine Dougbe & Orchestre Poly-Rythmo – Ya Mi Ton Gbo
08. Antoine Dougbé – Nou Akuenon Hwlin Me Sin Koussio
09. El Rego et Ses Commandos – Djobime
10. Honoré Avolonto – Na Mi Do Gbé Hué Nu
11. El Rego et Ses Commandos – Vimado Wingnan
12. Honoré Avolonto & Black Santiago – Dou Dagbé Wé
13. Antoine Dougbé – Kovito Gbe De Towe
14. Gnonnas Pedro & His Dadjes Band – La Musica en Verité

The compilation VariousLegends Of Benin” (Analog Africa) is going to be released June 5, 2009.

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