Saturday, February 2, 2008


February 2nd 2008

Sorry for the long break but I've been traveling and digging up records pretty much non-stop since mid-December.

I'm back in Guinea now, the first month of the new year has already passed and my time down here in West Africa is slowly coming to an end as I have made plans to move back to NYC in July.
I've lived there before from 1996 to 2000 and those were some of the best years of my life. Ever since I left, I've been back for a week or so each summer to visit friends and play some records. Needless to say that the city has changed a lot those past 8 years... same goes for myself and I'm curious how we'll get along on this second run.

Back to what happened those past 6 weeks:
In December I managed to hitch a ride on the UN plane to N'Zerekore, the main city in Guinea's forest region. N'Zerekore is also a border town, very close to Liberia and Ivory Coast this used to be a major trading post for all goods rolling through Guinea with Mali and Senegal on one side and Abidjan on the other. "There have got to be some records around" I thought and I did not get disappointed.

N'Zerekore nowadays serves as a base for several multinational mining corporations that are exploiting the region's rich reserves of copper and iron ore as well as uranium. Close by is the Mt. Nimba, a famous mountain, home to a unique range of plants and animals, amongst others, a toad that doesn't lay eggs but gives birth to its offspring and only can be found there. The area is protected by the UNESCO which for decades hindered the exploitation of its vast resources but recently, the rules seem to have changed and it is only a matter of time until a big portion of the mountain will be gone forever.

N'Zerekore is very dusty. Most roads are unpaved and the mining company's big SUVs constantly speeding across town leave the air saturated with thick red dust that settles on clothes, between teeth and inside the respiration tracts of the residents. A cynic might say that this is the only way the busy mining activity feeds any of the locals.

I zigzagged around town with a moped taxi which also left me caked with red dust at the end of every day. Unfortunately, the dust was so thick that I never felt like taking out my camera, that's why I can't show you any photos here. There were some very picturesque settings on the city's many back roads though. Once, after having sped through narrow paths lined by small creeks of raw sewage, I arrived at a beautiful house with a terrace overlooking a small lake with blooming water-lilies under a huge Baobab tree. Why didn't I take a picture? Because there was a big pile of records on that terrace waiting for me... I know, but I just can't help it.

Besides an unexpected lot of Cuban records that contained a surprisingly large number of Funk tracks, I found various Syliphone releases that were still missing in my collection -most notably some nice picture-sleeve 45s and a mixed bag of music from surrounding African countries.

A mix with some of this stuff will soon be posted. In fact, I've set aside records for no less than 4 mixes but there's no saying on how many if any I will get up and running before I leave for Accra in 2 weeks.
Coming up in my next post: Gin fueled, chicken sacrificing Voodoo escapades in southern Benin (yes, there will be plenty of pictures...)

Here are some of the records I found on in N'Zerekore:
Please click on image to enlarge!


Anonymous said...

Glad you're Back!


Cool lookin' stuff. I can't wait to hear some of it.

(°_°) said...

that looks very exciting Frank !!
old Irakere's and Van Van's from the early 80's are very intense.
we can't wait for the mixes !!!

beef said...

woot! hooray! daily checks to the page in anticipation of goodness!

rogb said...

Wow. Consistently amazing and visually appealing covers; graphic designers should be all over this stuff. Can't wait to hear any mixes you post!

Anonymous said...

hello frank
nice to see you back & good to hear you had a nice time with many record finds in guinea /best wishes from mats (in snowy sweden)

MrC said...

i love reading your stories 'bout your trips almost as much as i enjoy listening to your mixes! ;)

Joe said...

Cool. Lots of great African stuff, and a ton of excellent Cuban music as well.

Shame to hear about the opening of mineral rights near a UNESCO site, especially because you just know that all that money is just going to leave the country.

Julian said...

Another shout for joy that you're back!
As others said - your stories are just as gripping as the music and the sleeves are so enticing.
can't wait to hear the mixes...
...the only downer is the prospect of this treasure trove drying up when you move to NY.
Don't forsake us Frank!

Pieter said...

Hi Frank,

Nice to have news, and now 4 new mixes! Good to read you went up to Nzerekore; a dear friend spend a year or two there in the early 1990s (with lots of Liberian refugees). He has told me wonderful stories of the sacred forest. I still have some 'sacred forest' casettes with Nimba Jazz. I'll wait a while to download those mixes: nice variety (Guinean, Cuban, Vodoun, and Afrobeat). Maybe in a week or so, when I'm off to Entebbe (and hopefully have free internet at the hotel).

It looks like I'll be in Accra end of April (no fixed dates yet but very likely). Any chance there'll be some vinyl left? Any chance I'll see you there?




Frank said...

Hey Pieter,

I guess you should still be able to find some stuff in Accra... I'm heading there next week but will spend most time traveling along the coast and then up to Kumasi. It looks like I'm mosy definitely going to be there for the second half of April as well. We really need to hook up, perhaps for a couple of drinks at Mama Unice's? I'm sure there are still some cool Hi-Life 45s in her bag as I generally left doubles of those behind...

zim said...

Frank, its nice to be able to put your story with the sounds of les nimbas. Thanks

Looks like quite a nice haul - along with all those syliphone singles, you got a nice set of pathe marconis - don't tell me you are getting into rumba?-looks like you have enough to do a nice set - and that was a great series of LPs

also its cool to see a physical presence behind those stories of w.african-cuban musicla exchange you hear about.

Flengs said...

Hey Frank,

Sounds like you are giving us a valid reason to visit the US one day. As stated a couple of times above, voodoofunk is the best musical blog around. Thank you so, so much. Keep the spirit,

Frank Hitman