Friday, 11 May 2018

Birigwa "Birigwa" 1972 Uganda Folk Afro Jazz


Birigwa  "Birigwa" 1972 Uganda  Folk Afro Jazz
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https://open.spotify.com/album/3YGG8YJ7MLUlKHovrMgH2K


Pianist and arranger Mait Edey originally issued Birigwa as a private pressing on his own tiny Boston-based Seeds label in 1972. Luke Mosling and his Porter label have reissued it as part of the initial offering of titles with help from Edey (who wrote the liner notes and produced the original sessions). Birigwa is the name of the Ugandan singer and songwriter who fronted this group and whose musical traditions inform its every utterance. While this is not pure African music in any sense of the word, it is African folk music as it meets “new thing jazz” in the early ‘70s. The band was made up of Birigwa who sang and played guitar, bassist Phil Morrison, percussionist Yusef Crowder, drummer Vinnie Johnson, conguero Mpelezi, and saxophonist and flutist Stan Strickland. Edey played piano on a cut and helped out on percussion, and Arthur Brooks played flugelhorn on the album’s final cut. Three of the tunes here, “Lule Lule,” “Njabala,” and “Kanemu-Kanabili” are all folk songs, performed by Birigwa in the way he learned them with the other players all partaking in various ways, making this a “fusion” music of a very different sense of the word. These musics as they come together inform one another and therefore become something bigger, something new. The opener, “Okusosola Mukuleke,” is an original written by Birigwa whose guitar opens and closes the track, but on the way there is a short but hot flute solo by Strickland that opens the tune up to soul-jazz, skittering snare work by Johnson, and killer hand drums, all of which move to the center to pick up the sense of drama before Birigwa starts stretching his vocal range and yelping and improvising, ending the track as beautifully lyrical as it began. “Uganda,” another original, is played in the trance-like, gently flowing repetitive way that much Kenyan music is; it is the sound of a griot, offering a story, edifying the listener, and it doesn’t matter if you cannot understand the language – the gently rapturous tones and the shifting grain in Birigwa’s voice offer you everything you need to know. The way the percussion gently moves toward and undulates away from the center, the shimmering bassline and Strickland’s flute trills and fills make this a stunner, albeit a quiet one. The intricate guitar work on the folk song “Lule Lule,” is as sweet as a nursery rhyme, and as lonely as the expanse of the Uganda. The deep soul shouting at the heart of the lyric is where Birigwa showcases his strengths not only as a vocalist but as a part of a lineage, a chain across space and time where emotions may be complex but they can be shared simply by the utterance of an individual who feels them too. The improvising in his voice brings the true root of the sound of a singer like Leon Thomas or Joe Lee Wilson to bear. There isn’t a weak moment on this set, and the final cut, “Yelewa,” is devastating in its power. Strickland, who composed it, kicks it off with his tenor, joined by an electric bass and some odd reverb sounds. Soon the percussion – from congas, djembes, bongos, and all manner of beating noises – come soulfully entering in with a repetitive rhythmic loop that is so utterly organic and grooved that it is intoxicating. The words sung by Birigwa are based on his poem “Mosquito Song,” and everything at the musician’s disposal is used here: the multi-phonic tonalities in Birigwa’s voice, chanting, multi-tracked voices, a droning bassline, dynamic changes, and subtle shifts in the percussive line. This is the kind of spiritual soul-jazz that was made by labels like Strata back in the day. That this set is available again after all this time is a tiny miracle. It should be enjoyed, savored and learned from – and hopefully somebody will be sampling the hell out of some of these drum, vocal, and guitar patterns….by… by Thom Jurek….allmusic….~


African prog rock albums (and musicians) aren’t common at all, unfortunately, but here you are one of those rare pearls. “Okusosola Mukuleke” is a song by Ugandan artist Birigwa, released during his stay in USA, where he attended the New England Conservatory lessons. It is frankly impossible to enumerate all the different genres that Birigwa combined in his record and especially in this ballad: jazz, rock, ethno, and, of course, a pastoral kind of prog you wouldn’t imagine from an African artist.Actually, the sweet and spicy atmosphere of “Okusosola Mukuleke” perfectly describes the wide savannas and the flute - not so different from Italian prog standards - combined with the ethnic percussions draws an idyllic sketch reminding me a sub-saharian sunset (well, at least the idea I have of it). I also like Birigwa’s voice, moving from melody to jazzy variations….~
Birigwa was a 23 old African acoustic guitarist and vocalist who cut this record in the early 70’s with the help of jazz players such as Vinnie Johnson - drums, Phil Morrison - bass and Stan Strickland - flute & saxophone. Soaring vocals and strong rhythmic grooves dominate this unique mixture of Afro-Jazz, heavily leaning towards African music, originally released in 1972 on the Seeds label…….~


Jaw-dropping Afro-Jazz with wild, soaring vocals and strong rhythms. Amazingly tight drumming from Vinnie Johnson and fluid bass lines from Phil Morrison of Stark Reality fame and Stan Strickland and Arthur Brooks from Brute Force! Included are some wonderful and touching African folk songs originating from Uganda. Released in small quantities in 1972 on the privately owned Seeds label……~


Credits 
Bass – Phil Morrison 
Congas – Mpelelezi 
Drums [Jazz Drums] – Vinnie Johnson 
Drums [Shiko], Percussion [Misc.] – Yusef Crowder 
Flute, Tenor Saxophone – Stan Strickland* 
Percussion [Misc.], Liner Notes – Mait Edey 
Voice, Guitar – Birigwa 




1 Okusosola Mukuleke 5:46 
2 Uganda 4:58 
3 Kanemu-Kanabili 1:58 
4 Lule Lule 4:11 
5 Njabala 2:57 
6 Obugumba 4:45 
7 Yelewa 5:54 

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