Totem – Descarga (1972)

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Unlike Argentina, Uruguay has a share of over 13% of the non-white population, composed of blacks, mulattos and mestizos. Since before its independence in 1830, the coming of Africans for slave labor was present along with the presence of European settlers. Together with them, a specific rhythm survived and spread in different ways throughout Latin America. In Brazil it is called Candomblé, has strong religious ties and is present today in different parts of the country as we have seen in previous posts. In Uruguay the Candombe’s origins lie in the Kings of Congo ceremonial processions and have a main festive mark; it is also related to other musical forms of African origin found in the Americas such as Cuban Son and Brazilian Maracatu and Congadas.

The form had evolved by the beginning of the 19th century and was immediately seen as a threat to the elites, who sought to ban the music and its dance in 1808. Candombe is what survives of the ancestral heritage of Bantu roots, brought by the blacks arriving at the Rio de la Plata, this rhythm traveled to Uruguay from Africa and is still going strong in the streets, halls, and carnivals of this enchanting country. Nowadays was recognized by UNESCO as a World Cultural Heritage of Humanity!

Candombe Festivity
Candombe Festivity

Let’s go to our history:

Long known as the Switzerland of South America, it had a stable, two-party political system with a large middle class. This underrated country has one of the highest indices in quality of life, administrative transparency, income distribution and security in the whole South and Central America. It is constantly at the forefront of controversial issues such as the legalization of marijuana, abortion and media’s regulation, making him an example to be followed by Brazil and Argentina. Uruguay has historically served as a geopolitical buffer zone, a nation whose own political and cultural identity has been overshadowed by its neighbors. Yet during the 1960s, this tiny state generated some of the most original rock found anywhere in the hemisphere.

Foreign influences abounded, from the Anglo-rock invasion by the U.K. and the U.S. to the commercialized pop of Argentina and the cultural remixing of the Brazilian Tropicalistas, Uruguayan rockers chewed on these influences and spat them back, mockingly at first and more somberly as the night of political repression fell in the late 60s and early 70s. Discódromo, a legendary radio program (and, later, TV show) started by Rubén Castillo in 1960, had already exposed the youth of Montevideo, Uruguay’s capital, to the teen culture emerging abroad by the Beatlemania.

Los Shakers
Los Shakers

By the mid-1960s, scores of so-called beat bands were performing across Uruguay: Los Shakers, Los Iracundos, Los Mockers and such. Except for Los Shakers, whose subsequent recordings were mostly originals, these bands essentially performed covers of foreign hits. By 1968, the cultural climate for making music was undergoing a radical shift, Los Tupamaros, an urban guerrilla group, captured the headlines with a spate of kidnappings in the name of revolutionary justice.

Che Guevara was dead, but his spirit was more alive than ever, in June 1968, the president declared a state of emergency, suspending numerous constitutional protections. Uruguay was now on a slippery slope that leads to direct military rule in 1973 led by Juan María Bordaberry (sic). Inside this theme, Costa Gavras directed an excellent film in 1972, State of Siegedeserves your full attention, check!

June, 1973 Coup
June 1973 Coup

But let’s back up a bit and understand the contexts of this turbulent time! By 1955 an economic crisis which also affected political institutions began, during the 1960s there was a continuous process of social and economic decline with a significant increase in the agitation of union sectors left. Simultaneously, the activity of ten revolutionary groups (!), among them the Tupamaros, that leaned toward an urban guerrilla.

The action of these groups on the radical left was met by right-wing organizations, such as the Juventud Uruguaya de Pie (JUP) and the Comando Caza Tupamaros (CCT), known as Death Squad. The Armed Forces, used to favor the deterioration that plagued the country, gradually assuming prominence. These facts led, ten years later, a civilian-military coup d’etat. During this process a lot of political tension, several clashes occurred between the Tupamaros and the armed forces, highlighting facts like Toma de Pando or the criminal escape of Punta Carretas.

Tupamaros Propaganda
Tupamaros Propaganda

Let’s go to our album:

The Uruguayan rock was not their entrenched roots when society entered a spiral of violence motivated by a fairer system, the middle stage of change throughout the world, so that the rock was set aside, and then would come the civil-dictatorship Uruguayan military from 1973 to 1985. Youth movements and the intelligentsia couldn’t found a way to express their disagreement and have evolved into popular folk song or traditional musical events, such as Murga and Candombe.

Within this context that Totem forms itself, coming from the ashes of El Kinto, one of the first bands to leave the beat/garage to start the Candombe Rock era, alongside Eduardo Mateo. Other famous acts from that time would be Días de Blues, Psiglo and world-famous Opa, respectively blues, prog, and fusion proposals.

1971 Promo
1971 Promo

Inside its formation is one that is considered one of the greatest artists of his country: musician, composer, and performer, Ruben ‘Negro’ Rada as part of the three biggest bands in Uruguay’s history, El Kinto, Totem and Opa (Fattoruso brothers), apart from his extensive solo career. His rough voice, serious songwriting, and shiny mood are the main focus of this great rock act that lasted only 3 albums. Rada’s career are still active and in the last decades, he released more than 30 records!

The ‘IM’ highlights are Pacifico, a hippie ballad with spiritual feeling, fine guitar work, hard bridge, and open coral final, simply fantastic! And Negro, a soul-bomb with lots of fuzz, heavy percussion and a stand out performance by Rada. Prepare yourself for another Latin rock act, with superb melodies and well-tuned band, by the end of the record you’ll understand the Candombe spirit.

Opa, 1981
Opa, 1981

Lastly, the song Heloisa that I thought might be from Pot Zenda actually opens this Lp, less a question for us. хороша поїздка!

Tracks Include:

A1 Heloisa (Rada)

A2 Orejas (M. Cabral)

A3 Manos (Rada – Lagarde)

A4 Pacifico (Lagarde – Useta)

A4 Todo Mal (Rada – Lagarde)

B1 Negro (Rada)

B2 Mi Alcoba (E. Useta)

B3 Un Sueño Para Gonzalo

B4 Descarga

Discos de la Planta– KL-8321

Credits

  • Bass Guitar: Daniel ‘Lobito’ Lagarde
  • Drums: Santiago Ameijenda
  • Guitar: Eduardo Useta, Modesto Rey
  • Percussion: Mario ‘Chicito’ Cabral
  • Voice, Percussion: Ruben Rada

Artwork by: Juan Alberto Arrubarrena

Mastered by: Luis Quinteros

Recording Technician: Carlos Píriz

Recorded: Estudios ION, Buenos Aires, June 1972

Montivideo
Montevideo Breeze

Ofege – Try and Love (1973)

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Nigeria. The British colonized the country in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, setting up administrative structures and law while recognizing traditional chiefs. Nigeria became independent in 1960. Several years later, it had civil war as Biafra tried to establish independenceMilitary governments in times of crisis have alternated with democratically elected governments (two military juntas through the 70s and 80s). Known as ‘the Giant of Africa’, is the most populous country in Africa and the seventh most populous nation in the world!

Nigeria is roughly divided in half between Christians, who mostly live in the south and central parts of the country, and Muslims, concentrated mostly in the north. A minority of the population practice traditional and local religions, including the Igbo and Yoruba religions. Its oil reserves have brought great revenues to the country, being the 12th largest producer of petroleum in the world and the 8th largest exporter.

Lagos Market
Lagos Market

It was there that a complex combination of traditional styles (Yoruba, Jazz, Highlife, Funk, and Chants) was created: the Afrobeat.

Both Nigeria and Ghana has its share on the creation, but is certainly through Fela Anikulapo Kuti that the rhythm became known, famous and multiplied; hand in hand with political activism and big band formations, the social criticism of his lyrics always was a tool for social changes!

His message can be described as confrontational and controversial, which can be related to the political climate of most of the African countries in the 1960s, many of which were dealing with political injustice and military corruption while recovering from the transition from colonial governments to self-determination.

We will turn to the subject soon with a dedicated post to the genre, its characters and   (of course) the black president. Curiously today’s album got no Afrobeat influences, it can be described as an Afro Rock with tons of psychedelia, instead of horn sections or heavy percussion we got a usual rock combo. Shall we?!

Revolutionary Gesture
Fela Kuti’s Revolutionary Gesture

Let’s go to our history:

Our friends from Afrobeat, Afrofunk, Afrojazzz, Afrorock, African Boogie had already made a dossier about our juvenile stars, but we’ll try to filter all these info. Credited as The Ofege Phenomenon, they were formed in a 70s school from St. Gregory’s College, Obalende, Lagos. His music was largely influenced by the guitar solos of Carlos Santana, Jeff Beck and the criss-cross rhythms of Osibisa (Ghanaian band formed in London). At home they were influenced by the music of BLO, Monomono, and Ofo the Black Company, the greatest rock acts from the period.

Recorded while the band members were still in high school (average age of 16), Ofege’s debut album Try And Love was originally recorded and released in 1973. Due to their vibrant combo of sweet harmonies, hooks & fuzz, they would become one of the most legendary Nigerian groups of all time, with expressive sales and national stardom.

However, with only four albums released until 1978 and no recognition outside Nigeria, Ofege’s short career would only be rediscovered with the turn of the century.

Monomono
Monomono

The renewed interest and world compilations about psychedelic music brought them to international acknowledgment, releases like Love, Peace and Poetry and Nigeria Rock Special has in its tracks different moments from the band (early psych, late funk/disco) and should be properly enjoyed.

Let’s go to our album:

Always when it comes to Africa, we immediately think of Afrobeat or traditional music, not always based on electrical resources. This is a very common ethnocentric view that minimizes or excludes the great musical accomplishments of this continent.

The Afro Rock pioneered in the late 60s (Osibisa, Assagai) subverted this condition leading the western pop into a new tinge of elements, the boys from Ofege were aware of all this when they decided to make a band.

Lagos Slums
Lagos Slums

The ‘IM’ highlights are for: Gbe Mi Lo, a wild and uncompromising instrumental tune with bits of funky elements that are dissolved into a psychedelic effect, the overall guitar work here are insanely great, with heavy fuzz and swinging rhythm.

And Lead Me On a closing track with naive lyrics and straight rock pace, delivering some raw solos and the usual beat that accompanies the whole album. The ingenuity allied with the inexperience of its members makes this album a real treasure.

Buon Viaggio!

Tracks Include:

A1 Nobody Fails

A2 Whizzy Ilabo

A3 Gbe Mi Lo

A4 Try And Love

B1 It’s Not Easy

B2 Ofege

B3 You Say No

B4 Lead Me On

EMI Nigeria – NEMI (LP) 0032

Credits

  • Bass: Paul Alade
  • Drums: M-Ike Meme
  • Rhythm Guitar: Felix Inneh
  • Lead Guitar: Berkley Jones
  • Lead Vocals: Melvin Ukachi
  • Vocals: Felix Inneh, M-Ike Meme, Paul Alade
  • Lyrics by: Melvin Ukachi
  • Written by: M-Ike Meme
  • Producer: Odion Iruoje
  • Engineer (Recording): Emmanuel Odenusi, Kayode Salami