Review: Back Pluwatsch, or simply Bajka, is an Indian-born, South-African raised singer with diverse catalogue of music, and an equally compelling set of vocal chords. Her voice was first picked up by London's Jazzman circa 2005, and has travelled across other like like Ubiquity, Raw Tapes, and even on NYC house-techno conglomerate, Ibadan. Philophon feels like a much more natural place for her music to prosper on, a label that's been on our radar since day one, and always comes heavily recommended. "The World" is a true pearl of a song, charged and catapulted into the ether by a deep, raw percussive sway and, of course, Bajka's singular voice. "Invisible Joy" is a similarly deep and tropical, but here the tone is much more jazzy, reminding us of Sun Ra in places. All in all, this is some pretty killer material.
Review: German-Ghanaian group the Polyversal Souls have previously collaborated with a number of bands and solo artists from West Africa, so this hook-up with Northern Ghanaian outfit the Bolga All Stars - a collective made up of leading local kologo and frafra-gospel singers and musicians - should not come as much of a surprise. Separated into two parts for the seven-inch release, the track blends the Polyversal Souls' lolloping, late '60s style Afro-funk grooves - complete with fuzzy, period style production - and sharp horn section with glistening guitars, snaking solos and fine vocals from the Bolga All Stars. It's one of the Polyversal Souls' finest releases yet, and that's saying something.
Review: Those with a deep knowledge of Berlin's Ghanaian ex-pat "burger-highlife" scene may already be familiar with Lee Dodou, a singer who recorded a number of classic singles and albums during the 1980s as part of bands Georg Darko and Kantata. He retired from music in 1991, but has been persuaded to return to action by the Philophon team. This comeback single is pretty impressive all told, with A-side "Basa Basa" - a triumphantly celebratory chunk of 1960s "concert party" highlife rich in punchy horn lines and Dodou's full-throated vocals - being joined on the flipside by the slower, synth-laden "Sahara Akwantou". Brilliantly, the label describes this as "kraut-life" due to its unique (and rather good) fusion of highlife and German kosmiche.
Review: Philophon is a Berlin-based label run by Max Weissenfeldt. Part of Philophon is the Tonstudio Bluetenring in Kreuzberg, operated by Benjamin 'Stibbo' Spitzmueller. The label's essential motivation is to support any form of local culture with reason, freedom and ludic drive. North-Ghanaian singer Guy One presents his first international release here. He promises what his name is saying: he is the number one artist of Frafra music, named after his people. "Everything You Do, You Do For Yourself" is a driving Highlife rhythm and his only song having a phrase in English. "Estre" features one of the leading voices of Frafra-Gospel named Florence Adooni. She interweaves perfectly with the horn arrangements by Weissenfeldt and the drummer. Washington's Hailu Mergia, San Francisco's Idris Ackamoor and the Pyramids and the legendary Scandinavian producer Jimi Tenor have also released on the label over the last year too.
Review: Following their surprise reunion and Strut-release album We Be All Africans last year, Idris and The Pyramids return... This time on Max Weissenfeldt's Philophon imprint. Laying down a spiritual arrangement so frenetic and full of its own life it takes up two parts, Idris's sax plays duet with Philophon's own vocalist Guy One. Gutsy, raw and full of surprises, it's another out-of-body experience from the longstanding jazz troupe.
Review: The Polyversal Souls are renowned for the strength of their collaborative singles, which to date have featured all manner of legends and rising stars from the underground African music scene. This time around, the German-Ghanaian band provides high-grade backing for guest vocalist Frank Karikari, son of legendary Highlife musician Ralph Karikari. The A-side medley of "Siakwaa/Nana Agyei" is particularly good, with Karikari's confident lead vocal rising above shuffling, soft-focus drums and ear-catching juju guitars. Flipside cut "Odo Agye Gye Me" is great, too, offering a slightly more upbeat and undeniably percussive fusion of highlife/Afrobeat fusion.
Review: It's taken a while, but Philophon chief (and in-house producer) Max Weissenfeldt has finally managed to finish the album he started working on with Ghanaian Frafra-gospel singers Alogte Oho & His Sounds Of Joy. It's a set that has been promised for the best part of five years, so it's fantastic to see it finally materialize. Musically, it explores similar sonic territory to Oho's previous singles on Philophon (all of which featured music from Weissenfeldt), effortlessly joining the dots between traditional Ghanaian styles, local interpretations of funk and soul, dub-wise reggae rhythms and occasional nods towards contemporary electronic beats. The results are superb, making this a must have for those who love a bit of West African musical positivity.
Review: Over the course of his lengthy career, Jimi Tenor has proved to be something of a musical chameleon, variously portraying himself as a lo-fi lounge music lothario, flute-sporting jazzman, Moog-loving electronic adventurer, dub-wise explorer and, most recently, Afrobeat eccentric. On "Vocalize My Luv", he fuses a number of his musical obsessions, by serving up a jaunty and righteous chunk of Ghanaian highlife futurism rich in dancehall-influenced drum machine beats, jammed-out Korg riffs and amiable female vocals. It's ace, and comes with a similarly sterling B-side, "Ki'igba". This shuffling affair sees Tenor reach for his trusty flute and get all jazzy over a dusty and laidback Afrobeat groove.