RootsWorld: Home Page Link RootsWorld: Home Page Link

Dexter Johnson & Le Super Star De Dakar
Live a l'Etoile
Teranga Beat TBLP019

The Teranga Beat label has demonstrated, over a small but potent number of releases in the last half decade, the importance of cultural obsession. When Adamantios Kafetzis starting digging deeper than most into the Senegambia's golden musical era (late 60s into the early 80s), he not only restored already issued artists' recordings into smartly- distilled compilations, he also discovered heretofore unknown tapes, and in one case, recordings of a fantastic Thies-based band that shamefully never released a proper album. And with this live recording of the great Dexter Johnson taped in 1969, the label has unfurled another reel of a potent artist in a transitional phase. Saxophonist Johnson, known for influencing the relaxed lyricism of every single regional tenor player in the years to come, had played with the Star Band, perhaps the most well-known of Senegal's hardcore Cuban-influenced bands. By the time of this recording, le Super Star's vocalist, Laba Sosseh, had already split for Cote d'Ivoire, and while many might argue that his departure changed the band irrevocably, this '69 recording, supposedly Johnson's last before he too left Senegal, shows him in command of a band anyone else would kill to be involved with.

Make no mistake - this was a covers band. Cuba's influence on African musicians during the middle of the twentieth century has been well-documented, and there's no place on the continent better to hear that island nation's guidance than in the music of Senegal. Johnson's heyday came just before Senegalese Orchestras began developing a more original sound from those roots, something Idrissi Diop, l'Etoile de Dakar and others would be in charge of well into the 1970s. Yet, the Senegalese approach, thanks largely to Johnson's innovations, discarded the trumpet and piano in favor of raw, melodic guitar and sax lines, lending the music a relaxed sensuality unique to this westernmost of African nations.

Check Johnson's version of the widely covered “Angelitos Negros,” which leads off this collection. Then there's this band's absolutely orgasmic reading of the Septeto Nacional's “Mayeya.” Here the vamp is ridden for longer than a 78 rpm shellac record would allow the Nacional, and the band cranks under Johnson's solo. Similar can be said for his horn work in the jagged “Para Que Bueno.” This version of the band boasted five vocalists, so it's difficult to know just who was responsible for the nearly unhinged performance on a cover of Wilson Pickett's “Something You Got,” but needless to say, the raw exuberance is matched only by the band's just-tight-enough-to-keep-it-alive approach to everything they touch here.

Like every other live recording and forgotten studio reel this label has unearthed, the recording quality is astounding too. The bass tones are deep; a good stereo system also brings out rich amplifier hum and drummers who seem to be in the room with the listener. When Johnson takes a solo, you feel him physically in front of the band, but he in no ways drowns them out. This is simply powerful stuff, sparkling with life. Not only is it still fantastic party music, it also reveals a glimpse into a country's popular musical creations by the man who allowed for the changes that were to come after his departure. - Bruce Miller

Looking for More Information?


return to rootsworld

© 2015 RootsWorld. No reproduction of any part of this page or its associated files is permitted without express written permission.


cd cover

Share on Facebook


RootsWorld depends on your support.
Contribute in any amount
and get our weekly e-newsletter.