Bumpy Roads

Today marks a first for this blog. Rather than posting a record, I have decided to raid my Ethiopian cassette collection, so excuse the sound, that is often poor due the low quality ferrics and poor dubbing that are typical on these African cassettes.

I am aware that I am not the first to post music from cassettes on a blog; there is one very well known and high quality one – Awesome Tapes from Africa, that makes it the only source of the music. The blog has gone from strength to strength and now is even reissuing quality material on LP, CD and cassette. My intention is not to get in on the action but simply to post great music that I want people to hear. Enough of my speel.

Whilst travelling in Ethiopia you quickly realise that travel is very different to what we have come to expect in the West. The long distance bus is a challenging ordeal. The vehicles are ancient, the suspension gave up years ago, and the bus quickly fills with a thick dust that gets into every crevice of your being. For this reason CDs do not fair well in motor transport, the place were most people listen to music, as they would skip, get scratched and very quickly become unplayable. The humble tape is therefore the solution. This is my theory why tapes are still so popular and most new music still gets a cassette release. Whilst hunting for music I could pick up countless tapes whereas records were far harder to find.

Today’s selection is from an Ethiopian artist. Ephrem Tamru, who first came to my attention here, has recorded several albums from the early 1970s onwards. The album I am posting from has a great cover showing Tamru perched in front a bank of sythns that explain how he builds up this incredible hypnotic wall of sound that runs through the whole tape.The song is the first track on the album and I can’t stop playing it!

Track 1

Cassette Details:
Ephrem Tamru – ????(1985) – Electric Music

c1 c2 c3

New Horizons

I recall, when I was travelling, one of the most dramatic and exicting events was entering a new country. Initially, there is all the bureaucracy of completing forms, locating the correct person/stamp/window to go with the form, changing currency, getting exit stamps, extrance stamps and  navigating customs. Then you are greeted with the sights and sounds of a new destination, have to get used to the language, public transport, food and the people. It takes several days before the new becomes familar. It is an invigorating, overwealming experience and, for me, is one of the joys of travelling.

Figuratively, we enter a new country on this musical quest through Africa. Guinea-Conakry, not Guinea-Bissau, is nestled on the West African coast between Sierra Leone and Liberia, in the South, Mali and Senegal in the North, and Ivory Coast in the West. It was part of French West Africa until it gained independence in 1958, it was not until 1984 that Lansana Conté became the first President and Diarra Traoré Prime Minister following a peaceful coup that ended nearly 30 years of autocratic rulers.

Today’s post is on Syli Authentic, a band comprising of students of aged between 14 and 16, which considering the beauty and complexity of the music is a real shock. It sound like experienced and highly competent musicians have recorded this LP. The release is on the well known and highly influencial Syliphone record label.

This has really opened my eyes to the sounds that were coming out of Guinea, that warrant further exploration. It feels like I have just set foot into a new and wonderful place.


Record Details:
Syli Authentic – Dans L’Arène (1976) – Editions Syliphone Conakry (SLP 57)

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