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Thursday, 26 June 2014 13:50

Charting the Music: Muyei Power, 'Sierra Leone in 1970s USA'

Charting the Music: Muyei Power, 'Sierra Leone in 1970s USA' soundwayrecords.com
Written by Julian Loida
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Though West Africa's melodic drumming and drive gave birth to rhythm and blues, jazz and funk, Muyei Power's Afrobeat album "Sierra Leone in 1970s USA" proves that James Brown and his funky drummer's music did not groove down a one-way street. Can you dig it?

Muyei Power's talent does not just lie in the tightness of their eight-piece band, but also in their innovation. These guys take traditional songs from Sierra Leone and turn them into funky beach-bar crowd pleasers.

88.1 KDHX chart position: #1 World for the week of June 17, 2014.

Record label, release date and producer: Soundway Records released "Sierra Leone in 1970s USA" on May 2, 2014. No producer to be found.

Can be heard on: Rocket 88 with Darren Snow, Folks of the World with Harriet Shanas, and The Record Sto' with Doug Morgan.

RIYL: Fela Kuti, Nana Kwame Ampadu and King Sunny Ade.

Hometown: Freetown, the capital city of Sierra Leone and formerly a safe haven for slaves.

Standout tracks: "Wali Bena" opens the album with a syncopated bass line that disorients the listener until an explosion of cowbells, congas, guitar melodies and chanting strap listeners down to their chairs, letting them know they are in for a wild ride. The layering of drums and melodies finally settles in creating a constant flow of driving energy that supports the chanting of lyrics, guitar features and sax solos that never cease to keep bodies from moving and grooving. "Wali Bena" is a rhythmic trance.

About the band: In the '70s, Muyei Power was the most popular dance band in Sierra Leone. They also frequently performed in neighboring countries such as Liberia, Cote d'Ivoire and the Canary Islands. Eventually the band travelled to California where the recordings on this album were cut as singles. The musicians continued to tour until their dispersion in 1979, still not having released an album of their own. (Miles Cleret, from the liner notes to "Sierra Leone in 1970s USA")

What the critics say: Dustin van Wyk from Culturecrit Online Magazine reviewed the album, writing that "the celebratory tone of the record makes for an inviting listen, and not only allows outsiders to understand and appreciate the universal sounds of Muyei Power but also the feeling and atmosphere of Sierra Leone during this era which, from this listening, was filled with rich vibrant spirits."

Did you know?: Muyei is translated as "our country."

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