What Casa Records has achieved with the issue of Ivory Coast Soul: Afrofunk in Abidjan from 1972 to 1982, is to release a formally licensed, wide-ranging collection of obscure music by numerous artists that most of the world has never heard of, let alone encountered. These 13 tracks were collected over three years by Djamel Hammadi (aka Afro Brazilero) in a dangerous crate-digging trip through Benin, Ghana, Togo, Mali, and Senegal. He and DJ Julian LeBrun made the final selection. The music included here was painstaking transferred from vinyl. What one hears on these sides is the influence of Western funk and soul, woven through with traditional rhythms, polyrhythmns, chants, and harmonics. Singing styles on most of these tracks reflect the then-new influence of post-colonial Pan-Africansim, an era when tradition made a strong comeback and created a new musical hybrid. Among the highlights on this killer set are Jimmy Hyacinthe's "Yatchiminou," with its snaky, atmospheric synth, disco bassline, and stuttering horns. While this is funky disco at the outset, when the vocals enter, the phrasing doesn't fit the rhythm; in fact, with the layered multiple voice chant atop the mix, it creates a counter rhythmic attack. "Wazi Doble," by Gougoumangou, has so much going on with its skittering guitars, labyrinthine melody, half-sung, half-chanted vocals, and three different rhythm pulses from organ, drums, and a counterpoint bassline, it's dizzying. The meld of highlife and soul on "Adoue Pla Moussoue" by K'Assale makes it the most joyous track here, while "Ogningwe," by Prince Dgibs, rivals James Brown's compositions in the complexity of its funky breakdowns and vamps, while offering wah-wah guitar solos and psychedelic-sounding organs that take it out of the sphere altogether. Ivory Coast Soul: Afrofunk in Abidjan from 1972 to 1982 contains authoritative liner notes by the compilation's producers (though the translation from French is a bit rough), as well as original cover art from singles and albums, and individual track info, making this a solid buy for anyone interested in the popular music of Africa during an era when freedom from colonialism was celebrated with abandon.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek