If the subtitle to African Scream Contest – ‘Raw and Psychedelic Sounds from Benin and Togo 70s’ – isn’t enough to engender your curiosity, maybe the story of the label and its founder, a music-driven Tunisian-German called Samy Ben Redjeb, is. In the mid-1990s, Ben Redjeb was a diving instructor working in Senegal when an accidental exposure to a Thomas Mapfumo record triggered an epiphany. Slowly he worked his way round Africa’s record shops, but it was in Benin that he struck his gold. Financing his purchases by working as a flight attendant for an airline, African Scream Contest, the third release from Analog Africa, is the result.
There isn’t as much screaming as the title suggests – although Orchestre Poly-Rythmo’s ‘Gbeti Madjro’ comes close – but a cornucopia of Afro-trance music, taking its influences from indigenous sounds as much as American funk and psychedelia. It’s a little off-kilter in places – witness the detuned brass on Les Volcanos de la Capital’s ‘Oya Ka Jojo’ – but this is a minor gripe. This album embraces musical flux with wild vigour. Vincent Ahehehinnou’s ‘Ou C’est Lui ou C’est Moi’ is the 10-minute groove that, on the other side of the Atlantic, the mighty Temptations could only have dreamed of.
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