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Boomkat Product Review:
Closing an immense year for Honest Jon's, 35 precious selections from East Africa spanning the mid-1930s till the mid-1950s. Taking full advantage of unprecedented access to EMI's treasured archives in Hayes, Middlesex, HJ's drew from more than 400 sides in the HMV MA series: 10" 78rpm 'Native Records', a set of recordings made in Africa, pressed in the UK and sent back to Africa, aimed at native Africans rather than the white colonialists or increasing Indian communities, all with the intention of raising record and gramophone sales. The tracks can be broadly split into three substyles, minstrelsy, percussion-based ensembles and taarab. Most fall into the former category, relating tales of punch-ups at rumba parties and covering subjects as diverse as sex, death and cut-off trousers, best exemplified in Ssekiomou's strikingly urgent 'Wireless', a song about the arrival of wireless radio to Kampala and the flurry of excitement reflected in the rapidly bowed ostinato of his Ndingidi. Taarab was more popular with Swahili-speaking communities and those familiar with imported Indian and Arab Egyptian records, mostly defined by lilting melodies played on Oud, violins or Indian Harmonium with Arab-styled poetry. Influenced by an influx of Congolese musicians, the percussion-based ensembles account for a small but exhilarating section of the comp, including a spectacular big band Kenyan Calypso. As expected, the attention to detail and luxurious hard-cover book presentation is second to none, and the mind boggles at the amount of work gone into translating and compiling the extensive sleevenotes and accompanying photographs. All music lovingly restored at Abbey Road. Highly recommended!