Various Artists | Marvellous Boy: Calypso From West Africa

Honest Jon's (2009)
By GUSTAVO TURNER  |  March 17, 2009
4.0 4.0 Stars

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Long regarded as the uncoolest of the Caribbean dance rhythms (standard associations: Beetlejuice's perversion of Harry Belafonte's "Day-O," fat tourists bending under a broomstick during sea-cruise ice breakers), calypso is undergoing a wave of reappraisal following the release of the London Is the Place for Me compilations, Those wonderful volumes revealed a trove of 1950s recordings made by West African musicians in the English metropolis that circulated among the vibrant immigrant scene at the time.

Marvellous Boy follows the same island rhythms back to the ancestral motherland, where African musicians were providing a dancing soundtrack to the waning days of the British Empire. This is part of the pre-history of highlife music and Afrobeat, with many of the later famous names (Stephen Osita Osadebe, Victor Olaiya) cutting their teeth on the endlessly satisfying calypso beat.

Highlights include the mysterious Rolling Stone and His Traditional Aces doing "Igha Suo Gamwen" (a version of the familiar tune popularized by Chubby Checker as "Limbo Rock"), the laid-back female vocalist for E. T. Mensah and His Tempos Band weaving a jungle fable about "The Tree and the Monkey," and Steven Amechi and His Empire Rhythm Skies schooling his male listeners about the sexiest of the brave new fabrics: "If you want to make your lady happy/Nylon is good for her."
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