A couple of years ago in late December, I was reading through one of those “best of” year-end lists, this one highlighting some of the best world music recordings that had come out in 2007.
One recording in particular caught my eye, with its retro-feel bright blue and yellow angular cover art — “COLOMBIA!”, it exclaimed.
Within a week or so it was in my hands, and I featured Colombia! that year on World of Music ‘s annual New Year’s eve show. (Could have had it sooner, downloads, yeah yeah yeah. I do know this. But I like actually touching and holding my tunes, and lingering over the liners. So there it is once and for all.) Great stuff, anyway, with enough groovy surf guitar cumbias and chicha to keep us dancing well into the new year.
That recording was also my introduction to Soundway, a recently formed recording label devoted to “unveiling forgotten chapters from some of the world’s richest musical cultures”. They live up to every bit of that mission statement. Nigerian funk, disco, and soul from the dance floors of ’60s and ’70s Lagos? Got it. Ghana, Panama, and Benin…they’ve all been the focus of Soundway recordings, which generally pick a stated timeframe (of the past) from which to draw the collection.
I’m mentioning all of this today because yesterday I got a preview of the next Soundway release, and it just might be my favorite one so far. Tumbélé! moves away from Africa (but only geographically – musically, this is still very much African music) to showcase “Biguine, afro & latin sounds from the French Caribbean, 1963-74”.
It’s exciting, it’s unusual, and the selections are solid, track for track. The production is also clean. (ie: this is no hack job ‘best of’ survey with song fragments and poorly edited fadeouts.)
And how else would you ever have a chance to relive the ’60s, via music from the islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique? So many different influences are at play in this music: West Africa, Haiti, Latin rhythms and percussion from neighboring Cuba and Puerto Rico…the recording’s title – tumbélé – we learn, is the name of a dialect from Cameroon. It comes about as close as anything could in describing the unifying rhythmic undercurrent that connects every moment on this diverse and vibrant recording.
I’ll be featuring this one soon on World of Music – ’til then, don’t stop dancing.