Sterns once again delights with Urgent Jumping: East African Musiki Wa Dansi Classics, a two-disc collection of East African infectiousness that defies words.
Urgent Jumping: East African Musiki Wa Dansi Classics
Review by Bruce Miller
Super Mambo Jazz Band "69"
Sterns once again delights with a two-disc collection of East African infectiousness that defies words. Tracks spanning the decade between 1972-82 fill these discs, and since curator, liner-note writer, and London DJ John Armstrong has already been spinning stuff like this for decades, his choices are, well, choice. The story apparently goes that Sterns scored a valuable and extensive collection of master tapes, housing tremendous amounts of music that hasn't seen the light of day since its original release. Armstrong went through it, landed on some 1,000 tracks, shortlisted 60, whittled that down to the current 27, and voila. Kenyan Benga and Zilipendwa are the thrust here, as they were also the most popular styles at the time, and Swahili tends to be the language in which much of this stuff is sung, though that is certainly not always the case. While tracks from Uganda, as well as Taraab from coast don't factor in here, the sheer amount of grooves percolating in Tanzanian and Kenyan cities were so vast that it doesn't matter.
Kauma Boys Band
Kenyan hotels, clubs, and recording studios exploded with music during this time as well, attracting lots of Congolese musicians, which means rhumba, as well soukous, then in its infancy, have no small influence on some of the sounds here too. All of it, from Afro 70, to Orchestre Special Liwanza, Juwata Jazz to the Sunburst Band, create guitar-driven dance tracks that reach ecstatic heights through length and relentlessness.
The Sunburst Band
"Enzi Za Utumwani"
There are, however, a few deviations from some of the more typical East African sounds to be found. The Sunburst Band's “Enzi Za Utumwani” is raw and heavy, with distorted keyboard and some truly nasty guitar and sax solo tradeoffs. This feels like Afro-Funk in every way, and hints at some of the experiments coming from this part of the continent. The Vijana Jazz Band delivers some echo-laden rhumba that simply drips with bass thump guaranteed to rattle car speakers. The Super Mambo Jazz Band attack their guitar-heavy stomp on “Jeanne Mulongo” with sections for the bass to drop right out, allowing club goers to revel in snare drum, cowbell and some delightfully pugnacious duel guitar drive.
L'Orch. Dar International
"Rufaa Ya Kiko"
For two and a half hours, this collection never once lets up, and now that it's out, Armstrong is going to no doubt have some competition as other DJs add this stuff to their set lists. - Bruce Miller