Espoir / Live in Ouagadougou
It seems one of the major exports from West Africa is a stream of dedicated musicians who record unique styles using minimal facilities. While not as important as Cotton or Crude Animal Material, these guys do a better job of conveying the spirit and soul of this mysterious and poverty-stricken land. None of these will ever make as much money as a decent cover band in the States, but if you’re looking for an “authentic” sound, this is the ticket. Hermas Zopoula recorded Live in Ouagadougou in his backyard. On the opening cut “Companion De Route” it sounds like there’s a downpour in the background. No Pro-Tools for this guy, he suffers from microphone pops, missed notes and a weird rubbing sound. Still, it’s all good, and part of the World Beat experience.
Espoir, recorded in a government studio (how weird is that?) feels more polished and the minor fluffs of the live album are missing. With his steel drum back up and medium up-tempo compositions, here Zopoula sounds more like the sort of reggae band that greets cruise ships in the Caribbean. Backing him are elegant female vocals, and “Wend Nana Dounias” recalls Buster Poindexter’s “Hot Hot Hot”. There’s a religious undertone here as well, and an occasional Country and Western vibe (“Gnina Baba Souana”). Between the French Colonial Catholicism, pervasive Western musical influence, and the native languages and beliefs, this two-record set is a surprising and intriguing collection. Add the dedication one needs to do a quality audio capture in Burkina Faso and you have a wonderful slice of musical life from a land you might not even see on the Discovery Channel.
Asthmatic Kitty Records: www.asthmatickitty.com