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Le Choc Des Cultures by Alpha Wess

Le Choc Des Cultures by Alpha Wess

Le Choc Des Cultures by Alpha Wess

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A scathing critique of French Colonialism by the Guinean singer signed to Makasound.


The lexicon of roots reggae may look to east Africa for salvation, but with strong recent outings from Nigeria’s Bishob, Gambia’s Rebellion The Recaller, Guinea’s Takana Zion and Mali’s (sadly still unreleased) Bafing Kul, the former French Colonies in the west are carving out their own niche.

Guinean Alpha WessLe Choc Des Cultures - loose translation: “culture clash” - typifies this distinctive subset of the roots genre, taking the haunting minor key template devised by Don Drummond (inspired by film scores and the Africa of his imagination) and feeding it back into a modern African context with politically charged anti-colonial lyrics. Despite being released some five years after it was laid down in a Conakry studio, the whole record seems fresh and resonant today.

Arrangement-wise, Le Choc Des Cultures is very like the work of Ivory Coast exile Tiken Jah Fakoly, with heavy but bouncy bass lines, chorus sodden lead guitars, synth horns eq’d and processed to sound “real” and snare shots at every opportunity. These foundations are topped off with Madamou Sow’s fluttering flutes, Djeli Moussa Kouyate’s Ngoni, and liberal sprinklings of Sekou Kouyate’s Kora, its tumbling cascading motifs taking us beyond the seventies and eighties to a less time specific, more African feel.

There are no bridges or middle eights to these driving insistent rhythms and the deep voiced Wess sings in a loose, chanting style. In keeping with the serious mood of the music (the first major key composition appears a hefty ten tracks in) the lyrics pull no punches in their depiction of “Le Choc” between Africans and their French rulers. On the title track Wess proclaims that before colonialism “we were civilised, we didn’t know money …we didn’t know alcohol”; during Prise De Conscience he criticises “emissaries who go to Africa and dictate to Africans what they want”.

Le Choc Des Cultures is a concept album in the true sense of the word, its twelve tracks only coming into their own when played end-to-end. Whether you understand the French lyrics or not, this remains a dense, one-paced, yet rewarding journey into African roots.

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Read comments (1)

Posted by Angus on 02.08.2010
It seems Guinea's association with reggae could be deeper than I thought when I wrote this. There are some convincing arguments for the Guinean Yankhadi rhythm siring the one drop.

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