April 16, 2010

De-funked

Normally I wouldn't even bother to listen to an artist with a nickname like "Benin's Godfather Of Funk". Luckily, in the case of El Rego I was not aware of this label until after hearing his music. So I was able to enjoy it without all kinds of distracting associations and preconceptions.

Sorting through his extensive output I have come across some more noteworthy tracks, which I would like to share with you.

The first of these is "Mando Homin O", a dramatic ballad sung by El Rego himself, accompanied by a lingering accordeon (bonus points!!) and a ditto guitar. The B-side of the single, "E Nan Man Nuku", is in a similarly enjoyable non-funk style.

Albarika Store ASB 24


In the second single El Rego and his Commandos only act as a backing group to Togolese singer Germaine Jourias, who in a surprisingly dowdy voice sings the praise of her president, and late runner-up (after Gabon's Omar Bongo) in the list of African dinosaurs, Étienne (or Gnassingbé) Eyadéma. While I gather Eyadéma was not averse of a bit of flattery, I just don't get that feeling of sincere happiness and joy when hearing Germaine's eulogy. In fact, I would go as far as stating that she seems far more at ease in the song on the B-side.

Albarika Store ASB 33


The third single again sees El Rego in an accompanying role, in this case behind Charles Rodriguez. For more details about this singer I glady refer you to this post on the Analog Africa blog. In the interview he recalls working with El Rego: "Anyway I did some "chansons Francaises" and he (El Rego) backed me with his band Les Commandos." But in these songs El Rego is not with Les Commandos but with Les Astronotes. I am not sure what this means, but I assume Benin experts like Oro will be able to clear this up.

"Felicité", on the A-side of this single, is clearly meant as a cover of "Para Fifi", one of the classic hits from the 1950s by le Grand Kallé and his African Jazz. Halfway the song wanders off into another song, again probably modelled on a Congolese merveille du passé.
The B-side is called "Conseil Présidentiel", but is not in french. This song appears to be about the presential council consisting of three men, which took power in Dahomey in 1970, until they were forcefully removed by Mathieu Kérékou in 1972.
Whatever the lyrical content, the music is (again) notably devoid of any traces of funk...

Aux Ecoutes AE 010

10 comments:

icastico said...

I love El Rego.
Here is an excellent post about him...

http://radiodiffusion.wordpress.com/2008/06/24/el-rego-et-ses-commandos/

"The Jets became Los Paras, in ‘64, then Los Commandos in ‘65, and finally El Rago at Sas Commandos in ‘66. That’s when things got really serious for us, and we decided to start touring all the neighbouring countries, inciuding Ghana. It was in Ghana that I made my first appearance on TV and more importantly, where I hired Eddy Black Power, a soul singer whom I saw performing some James Brown stuff in Accra. He would later sing on a track called – “Feeling You Got” – Albarika’s first major hit."

J. Blottiere said...

Great post.

Another link here (in french) about Kerekou and the great funk of Benin:
http://mondomix.com/blogs/samarra.php/2010/01/06/plongee-dans-l-histoire-du-benin-avec-l--1

Oro said...

Thank you for this great records. I can also add that the Commandos were the first band to have a drum in Benin...

WrldServ said...

@icastico: I have linked to that post in my earlier post of some El Rego singles; so it seemed a bit superfluous to do so again.

@J. Blottiere: Very interesting and informative. Thank you (or should I say "merci beaucoup"?).

icastico said...

Sorry. Missed that link last time around.

Have had a chance to listen...these are really nice tunes.

symbolkid said...

'labels' don't mean nothing. music speak itself through a great artist. thank you a lot for these records. you can hear "E Nan Man Nuku" in pristine condition on wonderful comp from http://analogafrica.blogspot.com/2009/03/analog-africa-no5-legends-of-benin.html

Kostas from Greece said...

Thank you my friend for these excellent El Rega.
Please take care because
Albarika Store ASB 33 & Aux Ecoutes AE 010 have missing tracks...
Thank you very much.

WrldServ said...

@Kostas: Missing tracks? I am not aware that anything is missing (and I have checked it again), - except perhaps the sleeve. There should be two tracks on each of these singles, so six in total.

Kostas from Greece said...

Thank you and sorry for the trouble...
All is O.K. with winzip,but something is goin' bad with winrar...
Never mind...thank you again.

icastico said...

Kostas...

I have had much better luck since switching to this...

http://www.7-zip.org/

Free and open source.
Works like a charm.