The Soundway label is an up and coming, promising and up 'till now never failing, new record label based in Brighton, UK, with a mission to "release underground tropical dance music with a funky flavour. With a philosophy of quality not quantity."
To be honest, I never considered myself being a huge fan of "tropical dance music" or whatever that might be, because, to me, the term reflects a "Look at me, I'm on holiday in a third world country, feeling very 'back to nature' and enjoying the 'local' music on a freaking hotel stage" kinda thing, which is often sadly displayed in any tourist scene in either Zimbabwe, Gambia, Senegal, Kenya or even in Amsterdam for that matter. But as it turned out, and I'm happy to admit it: I'm all wrong! "Tropical dance music" in a Soundway style seems to be nothing less then ultra-funky, heavily afrobeat based, maximum-swinging, top of the bill music from all over the world! And that, dear reader, we like!
At first they started treating us with compilations like:
Ghana Sounds volume 1, Ghana Sounds volume 2, and the Fela Kuti adepts fave Afro Baby:the Evolution of the Afro sound in Nigeria, 1970-1979. All fans of afro music we're drooling over these compilations because they consisted of very hard to get by, unreleased or just plain f*cking good songs. Also they unleashed two "best of" compilations for TP Orchestra Poly Rythmo and Orlando Julius, which are also very worthwile to pick up, indeed.
Their latest releases, however, are every record collector's wet dream. Soundway decided to treat us with impossible to find, superfunky, afrobeat gems on our favourite format: the 7" record! Check out these goodies:
Orchestre du Bawobab / The Don Isaac Ezekiel Combination
A double hitter.Both tracks show very different sides to the Afro Funk coin: the legendary Orchestre du Bawobab depart from their usual styles to deliver a pounding club mover: A chanted vocal on top of an ultra-heavy beat topped off with the sweetest of guitar lines (courtesy of Latfi Ben Geloune) makes this a crucial track unlike any other – best played loud! The Don Isaac Ezekiel Combination stretch out for a deep slice of funky Afro-Gospel. Preacher Man is very funky early Afro beat, with a steady groove and a call and response vocal. The sound of conscious Lagos in the early 70s.
Richard Stoute / Telstars
This split 7” offers two contrasting tracks from Barbados and Guyana respectively. For the A side, successful Bajan singer Richard Stoute gives us his tropical cover of the Ides of March 1970 stoner rock offering Vehicle. Foregoing the breezy platitudes of the original, here Stoute opts for the bass heavy thump of an insistent Calypso rhythm, cascading horn section and a vocal that comes off like a cross between Terry Callier and Jon Lucien at carnival time. On the B side, the mysterious Telstars of Guyana stay in the pocket for a deep funky soul excursion. Shades of N.T. era Kool and the Gang spiced up with a reggae feel in the horns give this offering an introspective yet unerringly funky edge, topped off with a plaintive vocal.
Victor Olaiya St Augustine
Two heavy funk tracks from Nigeria, both more obviously influenced by US funk and Rn’B, yet played by highlife musicians at the top of their game, giving a rootsy spin to the well known JB-esque formula. Known as ‘the evil genius of highlife’, Victor Olaiya was one of the biggest names in Highlife with a career spanning the 60s and 70s. This medley of Let Yourself Go and There Was a Time is taken from a 10” lp that mimicked the style of the legendary Live at the Apollo Volume 2 with a non stop onslaught of rough funk, incongruously interspersed with highlife numbers. To our ears one of the better cover versions of these tracks, the band lay down a bass heavy belter with ethereal horns and a great vocal, underpinned by drumming that would give Clyde Stubblefield a run for his money.
The Blue Rhythm Combo
More heavy grooves from the West Indies – this time with two tracks from the mighty Blue Rhythm Combo. Hailing from Barbados, the Blue Rhythm Combo were a successful and prolific group, playing a broad mixture of soul, calypso and funk throughout the 70s, all with a distinctive Island flavour. Although better known for their beefed up cover version of the classic rare groove Black Water Gold, Get Down is perhaps the group’s funkiest recording, incorporating frenetic drumming, a killer bassline, calypso horns and an authentic carnival whistle. Originally released on the cult Merrydisc label, it is now available to burn up dancefloors across the world. On the B side is BRC’s Groove - a deep instrumental workout from their ‘Megumba’ album, sounding like a tropical meeting of the Meters and Funk Inc, replete with heavy drums and blazing horns – definitely not for the faint hearted.
Check out the Soundway website regularly for updates.
More info on afrobeat can be found on this excellent website:
Funky Funky Africa