'African Scream Contest 2' Is a Solidly Fun Collection of Beninois Funk
Analog Africa brings a new crop of old Beninois funk to light in another installment of the African Scream Contest series.
African Scream Contest 2
18 May 2018
It's been an entire decade since Analog Africa released African Scream Contest, arguably one of the label's most mind-blowing compilations and certainly one of its most raucous, traveling to the tiny nation of Benin for some truly gigantic sounds. On new release African Scream Contest 2, label founder Samy Ben Redjeb takes us right back to Benin for more Vodoun-inspired African funk. The trip isn't quite as groundbreaking the second time around, but the music is still intense, turning mainstream world music preconceptions of Afrofunk on their heads.
The album opens perfectly, with Les Sympathics de Porto Novo ripping into a psychedelic guitar opening that would give Hendrix chills before a blast of horns paves the way for peak disco dance beats and ecstatic shouts. The transcendently raw "A Min We Vo Nou We" lasts six minutes before coming to a sharp stop. If the titular "scream contest" were an actual event, this track would win it, hands down, but there isn't much competition on the screaming front.
Instead, the rest of African Scream Contest 2 is populated by cool, lower-key grooves that zigzag from one tone to another. The Melody Aces' "Asaw Fofor" brings with it an old-school vibe, with simple guitar riffs and prominent saxophone notes behind Ignace de Souza's nightclub crooning. Stanislas Tohon's "Dja Dja Dja" goes in a very different direction, with a quick, tropical melody and colorful horn solos that are all about getting the crowd - and the band - moving.
Elias Akidiri and Sunny Black's Band take the album back to hypnotic with midtempo "L'enfance", where we do get a couple of those promised screams at unpredictable moments. Picoby Band D'Abomey's "Mé Adomina", too, adds in some spirited howls and impassioned wolf whistles between a slinky bassline and come-hither guitar lines that wind outside the imagined box.
With Antoine Dougbé's "Nounignon Ma Klon Midji" comes funkier percussion; the track's call-and-response vocals and straightforward beats make it one of the more accessible pop tracks on the album, for better or for worse. It leads into Beninois superstar group Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou's "Moulon Devia", a wholly electrified funk track glittering with synths and organs. There are no screams to be heard here, but the Orchestre's undeniable knack for rich and catchy crowd-pleasers still turns it into an album highlight.
There are a couple of standout tracks on the second half of the album. Super Borgou de Parakou's "Baba L'Oke Ba'Wagbe" is assuredly one of them, with heavy opening sounds and joyful yells punctuating lines sung by the whole group. The band is one Analog Africa has dedicated a full album to before; the song featured here is one that shows why. Super Borgou's energy is infectious, and its ability to swing between whimsical and weighty makes for a dynamic experience. Lokonon André et Les Volcans weave one of the album's most exciting polyrhythmic tapestries on "Glenon Ho Akue", a sometimes dissonant and always fascinating number.
Analog Africa releases never really go wrong; there isn't a truly boring track on African Scream Contest 2. There are, though, some that don't quite measure up to the rest, and this inconsistency is what makes the sequel unable to measure up to its predecessor fully. Perhaps that's unfair; African Scream Contest set a high bar as one of the label's freshest collections at the time and still holds up today. This new installment is solid, fun, and deserving of a listen on its own merits.