Album Review: Cotonou Club by Orchestre Poly-Rythmo
Very Good, Based on 7 Critics
PopMatters - 80 Based on rating 8/10
Orchestre Poly-Rythmo, or, to give the group its full title, the T.P. (Tout Puissant) Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou—Cotonou being the largest city in the band’s native Benin, housing somewhere near a million people at the brisk sea-mouth of the Ouémé River—played its first shows in the mid-1960s as part of a group called Sunny Black’s Band under the leadership of one Professor William Creppy. A few years later in 1968 or ‘69, the Orchestre’s founder, Clément Mélomé, decided on an independent name.
It's been over 20 years since the Tout Puissant Orchestre Poly-Rythmo last made a studio LP. More than two decades away from anything is a long time, but in popular music, 20 years is practically a geologic epoch-- everything changes, from the sounds on the records to the social conditions under which they're made. Back in their 1970s heyday, Poly-Rythmo were a nearly unmatched force, playing easily in any style on the stage and developing a sound all their own in the studio.
Benin’s Orchestre Poly-Rythmo was formed in the late 1960s and was responsible for several hundred vodon-inspired funk, rumba, and Afrobeat sides during its 1970s heyday. The group has become known to audiences outside of West Africa in recent years thanks largely to compilations put out by Miles Cleret’s Soundway label and Analog Africa. While those albums have been whetting the appetites of funk and African music fans, the band has re-emerged and undertaken its first tour of Europe and North America under the leadership of founding member Mélomé Clément.
After a delay of more than 20 years, there's a new album from one of West Africa's great dance bands. Formerly known as TP Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou – TP standing for "tout puissant" or "all powerful", and Cotonou being the largest city in Benin – they started in the late 60s, recorded dozens of albums, but took decades to achieve international recognition. A series of compilation albums led to their eventual discovery by Western audiences, and the reformed band gave their first UK concert in 2009.
Orchestre Poly-Rythmo practiced what it preached: vodoun. Formed in the late 1960s from the cradle of black magic – Cotonou, Benin – the West African ensemble fused hypnotic rhythms of traditional spirit possession ceremonies with the needlepoint efficacy of James Brown soul, Nigerian high life, and trans-Atlantic grooves. Despite recording more than 50 albums and twice as many singles, geographic limitations and financial difficulties under the country's Marxist dictatorship stunted Orchestre's rightful legacy.
BRITNEY SPEARS “Femme Fatale” (Jive). There’s something irretrievably last-decade about Britney Spears, once the bionic princess of the pure pop revival and now a relic of quainter times. For today’s female stars, pop is the medium, but the modes of delivery are convoluted, even ….
An inconsistent but frequently captivating return from the Benin legends. Jon Lusk 2011 Based in Benin’s seaside city of Cotonou, Orchestre Poly-Rythmo are the most recent great West African band to make a post-millennial comeback. Following a path similar to that trodden by Senegal’s Orchestra Baobab and Mali’s Orchestre Super Rail Band, Poly-Rythmo have emerged from prolonged hibernation as a result of several re-issues and interest from abroad.