Published on September 4th, 2015 | by Hondo0
Way Out Of Sadness – Togo All Stars
I’ve had this 12″ from the Togo All Stars for a couple of weeks now, playing it most days. It’s got a shuffley, funky kind of groove with an organ line and brass section that gives it a heavy underpinning of melancholy. Not that there is anything wrong with that. God knows I’m a big fan of quiet moments of miserable introspection.
I would have posted about the song sooner but I’ve had real problems finding more out about the band. There is a press release from their label, Kindred Spirits, but that’s about it. I suspect it may have been written in another language and then translated. It’s full of references to ‘tentative palm trees’, ‘young lions’ and ‘voices tarnished under elusive limelight.’
It also claims that the Togo All Stars have been hailed as Togo’s first big band since the 1970s. Back then Togolese bands like The Black Devils and Les As Du Bénin were ripping up the dancefloors across West Africa. Kindred Spirits doesn’t exactly say who is doing the hailing, but they are probably right. The music scene in Togo these days is dominated by derivative and anodyne rap and hip hop.
The driving force behind the band seems to be Serge Amiano. He brought together the French Afro-beat band, Fanga, and has been living in Lomé for a few years now. He came across a few of the dudes from the old days playing to empty clubs – legends like afro funk pioneer Napo De Mi Amor and veteran highlife singer Aguey Cudjoe – and decided to team them up with the best young musicians in Togo, the aforementioned ‘young lions’, like drummer Gbetoglo Efoevi. Dama Damawuzan, the ‘James Brown of Togo’, signed up for the project too.
It has taken a while for it all to come together. The only video I could find on YouTube was the one below showing the band jamming in the legendary Otodi studios, back in 2010.
Amiano reopened the studio especially recapture the warm, analog tones of those great Togolese albums of the ’70s, and listening to ‘Way Out Of Sadness’ I think you’ll agree he has succeeded.
The press release mentions an album, so hopefully there is more to come. If it’s as good as this track, I’m sure even those notoriously tentative Togolese palm trees will be persuaded to sway along.