|AFRICAN ROOTS - SEKE MOLENGA AND KALO KAWONGOLO
CD: Trojan 06076-80552-2
This is an album with a great story behind it. In 1977, a would-be reggae promoter brought some fellows from Zaire to Jamaica in hopes of creating a new African reggae sound. Apparently she abandoned the two Africans soon after they arrived in Jamaica and left them stranded on the mean streets of Kingston. Not speaking any English, they had to beg for money and food to survive. Eventually, they found themselves at Lee Perry's house and somehow communicated their desperate story. Perry took their arrival as a sign: Jah himself had sent these men from Africa to make a connection with the Black Ark. Soon after, the pair were in the Ark recording the songs that make up African Roots. Originally eight songs were recorded and a rough mix of an album (entitled Monama) was sent to Island records. Island ultimately shelved the album, and those tapes remain in the vaults until today. In 1979, six tracks were released on the French Sonafric label as Seke Molenga And Kalo Kawongolo; the Dutch label RUNN released a collection with the same six tracks called From The Heart Of The Congo in 1991. There has never been a complete release of this material until this excellent Trojan release. It's an incredible and ground breaking collaboration, done long before anyone was attempting such a crossover, and even before reggae had become popular in Africa. The result was a thick, swirling, tribal groove that is unique in the Lee Perry catalogue. Highlights include "African Roots" and "Muto Ya Motema". The only minor complaint is the tacking on of "African Freedom" by Brother Hood - with music this unique, Trojan would have been better off simply presenting the original tunes.