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Poly Rythmo
de Colonou


The Vodun Effect 3

(c) Analog Africa



Volume two

Echos Hypnotiques

From the vaults of
Albanika Stone
1969 – 1979


on Analog Africa


Release date: October 26, 2009








A review by Mary Couzens for EXTRA! EXTRA!


Whether you’re a fan of World Music in general, African Music in particular, or simply an enthusiast of inventive, soulfully expressive music, Orchestre Poly Rythmo’s Echos Hypnotiques is destined to become an energizing staple in your listening diet.  A dynamic mix of traditional rhythms akin to Vodoun (voodoo) healing rituals and musical influences featuring at the time of composing, this seminal collection of fifteen defining tracks offers compulsive blends which will become as intrinsic to the well being of well, your being, as any recording you have ever had the pleasure of dubbing a favourite.

 To say that there is no definitive track on this CD is far from doing it a disservice, as each and every number in this wide-ranging collection has something definitively its’ own to offer, which explains why this could well be one of the most enthusiastic album reviews I’ll ever write. Their first compilation, Volume One – The Vodoun Effect – Funk & Sato from Benin’s Obscure Labels 1973 – 1975, also released by Analog Africa near the end of 2008, though distinctly lo-fi in terms of quality, was met with great enthusiasm and critical acclaim and, judging by the number of audience members instantly cheering many of the tracks the band performed at the group’s Barbican concert in September of this year, (their first in the U. K.), it was more than enough to establish a small, but solid fan base for them. The fact that Volume Two – Echos Hypnotiques features recordings that have been recorded in the renowned EMI studios of Lagos, Nigeria, for the equally well regarded Albarika Store Label and its’ fortuitous producer, Adissa Seidou, should serve to broaden the group’s fan base far beyond its present horizons. Like the Ethiopiques before them, whose past, vast body of work from the‘60’s and ‘70’s was first exposed to wider audiences in 1997, triggering a career leading to countless accolades, unprecedented album sales (more than any other World Music artists apart from the phenomenal Buena Vista Social Club) subsequent recordings of newer material and hugely successful tours ever-after, Orchestre Poly Rythmo de Colonou, who are actually, one powerhouse group to reckon with, as opposed to a huge collective, are overdue similarly extensive WOMAD and other relevant exposure ASAP, in the here and now.

Analog Africa founder/compiler Samy Ben Redjeb’s enviable job of choosing fifteen tracks from the staggering 500 composed (many unrecorded) by this relatively unknown (outside of Africa), institution at home group has yielded a precedent setting opener in the timelessly rhythmic, seriously addictive 'Se Ba Ho'. After bathing my ears in its heady mix of African infectiousness and tongue in cheek modernity, I was eager for more. Track two, 'Mi Ve Wa Se' expands along it’s predecessor’s infectious line, infusing its own hypnotic sounds with a bouncier, lightly funky groove amid skipping beats and intermittent JB nodding grunts. 'Azoo De Ma Grin Kpevi', up next, found myself and fellow enthusiasts well into the dance inducing spirit of this similarly addictive track, as it offers a veritable smorgasbord of international hooks to hone in on, including sultry calypso beats, albeit, as you've never heard them before, though you may well wind up being entranced by several threads of this track’s myriad of grooves at once. 'Noude Ma Gnin Tche De Me' hitches its cart to a more street-wise, distinctively funky flavour, speeding things up via a strategic blend of electrifying rock guitar and drums against an ever-shifting backdrop of sophisticated go-go beats. 'Ahouli Vou Yelli' finds these groove-masters at their pulsating best, or so I'd assumed before hearing the rest of the tracks on this compulsive CD! Bouncy, infectious and ultimately satisfying, with rock guitar wailing above thrashing beats, this track is definitely where it's at, African style. Passionate vocals define and drive the track, imbuing it with a sense of social consciousness despite language barriers. 'Gan Tcha Kpo' is an audible pageant of sound, punctuated with forceful horns and undulating rhythms peppered with mini organ solos and intermittent space invading sound effects against a shape-shifting mosaic of multi-layered percussives.

In the midst of grooving along non-stop to this definitive collection of the band’s thoroughly intoxicating blends of African tradition and sounds indicative of the late ‘60’s, moving on up through the ‘70’s, came the wailing jazz sax and percolating ‘popcorn’ beats of track no. 8, ‘Mede Ma Gnin Messe’ further encouraging spontaneous movement of muscles in formerly unvisited places, as jaunty singing picked up the pace. As any good DJ would deem appropriate, the pace slows slightly for ‘Agnon Delpe’ without relinquishing the band’s hold on its listeners for a single moment, offering beautifully rendered vocals, both solo and group along with ritualistic bells, drawing on more modern instruments only as beat-makers, moving the soul as much or more as the previous track had the body. However, I reiterate that there is not one lesser track on this disc, a fact which inspired me to count, on one hand, the number of other albums about which I would honestly make that claim.

Be that as it may, it must be said that track 11 is still a significant stand-out among the others, as it so aptly points out the fact that not only can Orchestre Poly Rythmo de Colonou expertly borrow from various musical genres, incorporating them into their own musical traditions and influences to come up with sounds that are nonetheless, uniquely their own, but they are also masters at outdoing the very thing which they draw upon. Therefore, as Cha-Cha’s go, ‘Zizi’, with its’ sublimely smooth African-styled vocals and irresistibly buoyant percussive mix would be enough to entice any Latino music enthusiast to quickly and happily shuffle into stride.  Conversely, the following track, ‘Ma Dou Bou Nou Mio’ is joyously and rhythmically African all the way, with its’ call and response drums and vocals. But I could go on and on here, more or less non-stop, much in the way that the music on the album itself has been enlivening everyday life in my small London flat as it could soon be doing likewise, in yours.

If by now, fellow world/African music-aholic, you’ve come to the conclusion that this incredibly compelling release must be nearly as compulsive as it is essential, you’d be absolutely right. For Orchestre Poly Rythmo de Colonou is not only a pivotal group of musicians who are a long treasured institution in their own country, but one whose time for world-wide acclaim finally appears to be on its way, forty years after their inception. They’re also a group whose music is, and always will be, whether consciously or not, part of the fabric of all of our lives. If any inkling of anything they’ve done musically sounds familiar to 21st Century ears, it’s simply because countless influential musicians and composers, like Poly Rythmo themselves, have drawn on Africa’s rich and troubled history, musically and otherwise for their inspiration.

As if it wasn’t enough to have 78 minutes and 25 seconds of fabulously diverse, historically textural music to savour on Echos Hypnotiques, this seminal release also comes with a generously detailed and illustrated 44-page book about Orchestre Poly Rythmo and the journey which has brought them and, also us to this particular juncture in time. Read, listen and learn. You’ll be all the richer for it, at least fifteen times over, and, providing instinct continues to wisely win out over the blankness of intellect, over and over again...


Loko Pierre, Tidiani Kone, Koutouan Ossey Theodore, Melome Clement

(c) Analog Africa


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Exclusive music video by Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou performing ‘Se Ba Ho’:

My review of Orchestre Poly Rythmo de Colonou in concert at the Barbican on 26/09/09






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