Thank you for sharing this
Wow! Super awesome to see Benin in the news: I recently wrote a blog about my bad craziness experiences there, so it is great to see something positive coming out of Natitingou.
That was a wonderful thing!
I love African music. Especially the kind that makes me smile while simultaneously making me feel like I’m spinning around in a lush field on the most beautiful spring day of my life. This is that kind.
By bizarre coincidence, I heard them for the first time last night and was immediately captivated. Was planning on digging deeper today.
I always wonder why music from West Africa (Benin, Mali) sounds so familiar. Has it been influenced by “western” music, or are this still the original, unspoiled roots of what would much later become rock music when it was brought to the US with the slave trade?
I checked if Fatoumata Diawara had been mentioned on BB before. Yes, she was on Barack Obama’s music list for 2018!
" During the first part of the twentieth century, the division of the majority of Africa by the European powers introduced a forced modernity almost everywhere on the continent. In cities and ports, the continent hums with new turmoil as electricity begins its timid appearance. Thanks to booming maritime transport, the 78s brought back by Latin American sailors, in particular Cubans, but also by European soldiers and settlers, have a lasting influence on new musical orientations along the African coasts.
We are gradually witnessing a reinterpretation of this Cuban music, but also Caribbean, jazz or rhythm’n’blues. Originating largely from Africa, this music returned from the Americas acts as a natural truth on the continent. Certain orchestras thus decide to “re-Africanize” this Afro-Cuban and black American music listened to in ports, in the public square or broadcast on the airwaves. Bars and dance halls, as well as youth associations also play an important role in the dissemination and development of this music.
Like what is happening in most cities in Africa, many orchestras were created during the 1950s and 1960s. They embody symbols of modernity, just like electricity, cars and the movie theater. The euphoria of the years following independence is therefore set to music by these orchestras. These are partly influenced by the Ghanaian dance groups which then crisscrossed all the major cities of the Gulf of Benin, from Nigeria to Liberia. Cultural exchanges are fertile.
In the early 1960s, the rich local traditions of Benin, starting with trance and voodoo ceremonial music, began to merge with Afro-Cuban, Congolese rumba and high-life. Dozens of orchestras, artists and labels participate in this unprecedented movement. In relation to its population, Benin is the most prolific African country in terms of record production, especially during an extraordinary effervescence during the 1970s.
As was then happening in Guinea, Ivory Coast or Mali, each large city or prefecture has at least one modern orchestra, whether in Cotonou, Porto-Novo, Parakou, Ouidah, Natitingou , Abomey or Bohicon. Groups like the Black Santiagos , the National Jazz of Dahomey , the Super Star of Ouidah, the Picoby Band and the Renova Band of Abomey or the Black Dragons of Porto Novo are making a reputation at the national level. In the mid-1960s, singer Sophie Edia became the first female voice to spread Beninese music outside the country’s borders, starting with Nigeria." – https://www.bornbadrecords.net/artists/star-feminine-band
The Wikipedia entry on Highlife music will give you a good picture. Broadly speaking, it’s a return of diasporic musical forms from the “new world.” If you’re thinking in terms of “influence” (like Harold Bloom) or lineal descent, that’s not quite right. It’s much more mixed-up. I think it was here on Boing Boing a while back that there was a YouTube video about how “The Girl from Ipanema” is very complicated. I think that provides a good analogy for what’s going on.
NB: I am not an expert and not particularly good at music theory. I just like this stuff, and I have a Nigerian colleague who schools me on it from time to time.
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