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Radio LBB: Roots Vol. 27



Adelphoi Music's Jonathan Watts returns, taking us on another eclectic journey of old, new, overlooked and lesser known tracks that have musical roots in Africa

Radio LBB: Roots Vol. 27

Now into its sixth year and the 27th edition. For the uninitiated the Roots playlist showcases an eclectic range of music from across the globe of unfamiliar, forgotten, or recently discovered, to the most upfront sounds of now, all with the common theme of being rooted in Africa.

Some of the highlights this time round include:

Little Dippers - Forever

The Little Dippers were a side project of The Anita Kerr Quartet, recording three 7” singles in 1960 on the independent University Records based in Little Rock, Arkansas. The band was based across state lines in Nashville and signed to the major label Decca, for whom they’d previously contributed backing vocals, on the legendary Patsy Cline’s debut album. Anita Kerr went on to a spectacular career winning five Grammys among other awards across the 60s and 70s. Forever is a stunning track, with a 6/8 backbeat sloping languidly behind twinkling piano and a lazily rhythmic guitar riff. The vocal harmonies are the highlight here though, gorgeous, dreamlike, and romantic.

Lord Kitchener - ‘67

Lord Kitchener was the stage name of Trinidadian singer Aldwyn Roberts, one of the island’s most famous exponents of calypso music. To give a sense of his momentous importance to Caribbean and (in turn) British music, Lord Kitchener was shipped to London on board the Empire Windrush in 1948, to celebrate the arrival of the passenger liner by performing his hit song ‘London Is The Place For Me’. His 1950 single, ‘Cricket, Lovely Cricket’, celebrating the West Indies cricket team's first victory over England in England, in the 2nd Test at Lord's in June 1950, was one of the first songs to popularise calypso in the UK. ‘67 is a relentlessly funky upbeat number from his fourth album, Kitsch 67, released in 1966 in time for the following year’s carnival.

Mark Mitchell - How Can I?

This is a pretty special track! Mark Mitchell grew up in Detroit, a close friend of the originator of techno, Juan Atkins. When Cybotron, Atkins’ duo with Richard Davis, which set the blue print for a new sound of electro and paved the way for Detroit techno, by combining the cold, rigid electronics and futuristic vocoder sound of Kraftwerk and European new wave bands, with the lineage of the iconic Detroit label, Motown, and the dance-oriented funk futurism of George Clinton, was signed in the early 80s, Atkins invited Mitchell to use record on the group’s studio time. Surfacing on Balladeer Productions in 1983, How Can I? Is an incredibly idiosyncratic record, combined the hard and cold synthetic sound propagated by Cybotron, with saw wave bassline and operatic synth arpeggios, with Mitchell’s warm and romantic croon. Sounds like it shouldn’t work, but it really, really does.

Ragga Twins - Hooligan 69

This is an essential bit of UK dance music history! Following the ‘88 / ‘89 ‘second summer of love’, during which the import of acid house and techno from midwest America sparked off the rave phenomenon, the US house sound started to blend with established local scenes, leading to particular blends of breakbeat driven soundsystem music which became Britain’s unique contribution to electronic dance culture. In 1991 the sound was not yet set, the influences still heavily on show. Ragga Twins, and the label Shut Up and Dance, came from the 80s breakdance scene which predated the rave craze, drawing influences from East Coast hip hop and Jamaican dub reggae and dancehall, combined with the sci-fi aesthetics of bleep & bass and the ecstatic dreamscapes of acid house. It’s a potent blend that provided the blueprint for hardcore, jungle, drum & bass, and so much incredible music to follow.

Chêne Noir - La Musique D’Orphée

The Théâtre du Chêne Noir is a crucial touchpoint in the history of European avant-gardism. As a theatre collective it was set up in Avignon by Gérard Gelas in 1968, before moving into a 12th century chapel, which has been run as a theatre and performance venue, with Gelas as the director, ever since. A truly multi-disciplinary project, from its inception the group combined experimental theatre performance art with the bleeding edge of avant-garde music composition, creating improvised sound works that fell between the free jazz of later Coltrane and the Art Ensemble of Chicago, and the found sound and tape manipulation of musique concréte composers like Pierre Schaeffer and Bernard Parmegiani. Their boundary pushing records earned them a spot in the notoriously obscure Nurse With Wound list. This later piece from their third and final album, released in 1976, recalls the celestial harps and angelic voices of seminal spiritual jazz works by Alice Coltrane and Pharaoh Sanders.

These are just some of the highlights in what I hope is an enjoyable musical journey that spans across continents, generations and genres…

A huge thanks goes out to labels such as Now Again, Light In The Attic, Numero Uno and Luv N’ Haight, Analog Africa, Music From Memory, Africa Seven, Far Out Recordings, Strut, Mr Bongo and Soundway, who continue to unearth some of the most unique and amazing music that may have otherwise never seen the light of day.

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Adelphoi Music, Thu, 15 Dec 2022 15:45:12 GMT