Tuesday, March 22, 2011

African Pop (part 2)

John Storm Roberts
15.25" x 9.75"
oil on wood, 2011
John Storm Roberts was an American ethno-musicologist born in England. He studied among other things, cross-pollination between African and American music and was through his record label Original, instrumental in the popularization of African music in the West. He spoke several African languages. I have an original Original record called Africa Dance, an album filled with great tunes from across the continent but with very little background information. For most tracks the performers aren't even named, let alone photographed. For the track I illustrated here with Roberts' image, all that is mentioned is name Leribe, a region in South Africa. It's a jazz tune. 

Malijo and Party appear on the record Sprigs of Time. The double album is a collection of world music from the EMI archives. They're actually from old 78s from the His Master's Voice archive, a label from The Gramophone Company that evolved into EMI to be more precise. The painting presented here to illustrate the song Muliranwawo by Malijo and Party is in all honesty poorly chosen. The image for the painting is taken from the cover of Living is Hard: West African Music in Britain, 1927–1929. In the notes to Sprigs of Time I had read of West African musicians cutting sides in England but this in fact applied to the musician Ben Simmons. Malijo recorded in his home country of Uganda in the 1950s, much later than Ben Simmons did.

Cover of Living is Hard
7.75" x 8.25"
oil on wood, 2011
The error of mine came to light because of my recent habit to check all the facts before publishing anything about a song but too late to make a new painting for the Top 100 2010 exhibition. So this little painting of a West African (musician) in Britain goes into my archive as the illustration for Malijo and Party.
The great habit of checking facts usually comes with finding so much more interesting anecdotes about the music I'm writing about. So when I researched the history of African musicians recording in Britain in the 1920s I learned that the first one to do so was a Nigerian called J.J. Ransome-Kuti in 1922, indeed Fela's grandfather! One of my quests for the already started Top 100 2011 is to find that recording.

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