Once upon a time I couldn’t be bothered with compilations. Why not go straight to the source, I thought. Well, that shortsightedness eventually gave way as I found myself listening to large dosages of Ethiopian Jazz around 2003. With no plans to go record digging in East Africa and being too poor (and uninterested) in shelling out $100 plus for a single piece of vinyl on Ebay, the Ethiopiques series was my next best option!
Since then my eyes have opened to the ever-increasing number of compilations that are released each year, documenting even the smallest of musical niches, say like…cinematic Pakistani Psych-Pop or Peruvian Psych-Rock. Who knew such genres even existed?!
While finding original vinyl pressings remains hard to trump, over the years my appreciation for carefully crafted compilations has continued to grow. Just within the wild resurgence of West African music in recent years, labels like Sound Way, Strut, and Analog Africa have dedicated countless time to researching, locating, remastering, and releasing lost and forgotten music from a large part of the African continent. My favorite of these comps are chalked full of incredible artwork, photos, history and interviews with the original recording artists!
While earlier compilations of African music that came out during the 1980’s “World Music” awakening may not compare to the sleek packaging and dense liner notes of today’s comps, the musical content is often just as deep. Check out for example, The Sound of Kinshasa, an early 80’s compilation highlighting the influence of acoustic “Spanish” guitar and Latin rhythms on traditional Congolese music. Compiled and released by the British-born ethnomusicologist John Storm Roberts on his own mail-order label Original Music, The Sound of Kinshasa does an excellent job exemplifying the connections between Latin dance music such as rumba, chachacha, and salsa with Congolese rhythms like kirikiri, soukous, and boucher.
Featured here are 4 of my favorite selections from The Sound Of Kinshasa. Enjoy!