Boomkat Product Review:
The second half of two captivating collections from Honest Jon's, including eighteen vintage songs from East Africa (Kenya and Uganda) recorded between 1952-7.
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, with the former making up the bulk of this compilation. This is likely due to the nature of the minstrel, who served a purpose beyond mere entertainment, sharing news and views in their songs, usually accompanied with a simple, stringed backing, commonly a bridge-less lyre played like a banjo. 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 double gatefold presentation is second to none, and the mind boggles at the amount of work gone into translating and compiling the extensive sleevenotes and accompanying track-by-track pull out. All music lovingly restored at Abbey Road. Highly recommended!