Dur-Dur Band – Volume 5

This record is a superb listen all round, it must be said. Of course the sardonic side of me can’t help a scintilla of sharp comment slipping through at this current trend for digging up and consuming old half-forgotten sounds from other continents.

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Alright – a collection of wired, groovy sounds from Somalia: a veritable mash of Western and traditional influences, all with a soupçon of naff pop to get the trend hounds squealing in some post-post ironic manner, doubtless.  What with LPs on labels like this one (Awesome Tapes From Africa), Sublime Frequencies, Asphalt Tango and Secret Stash, (not to mention those old sweats from Crippled Disc Hotwax), this release is currently JUST THE THING for today’s sonic archaeologists who will doubtless revel in the hiss of the magnetic tape.

The sleeve notes tell us that Mogadishu’s Dur-Dur Band was in the forefront of Somalia’s music scene. That they were a band left alone by the military and civil authorities. And that they were tremendously popular and not afraid to drop such toxic elements as Phil Collins’ music into their mix, remoulding it with the purifying elements of “groove” and “good time”. Yowsah! The songs are often about the power of love and relationships. There are some classic lines quoted in the sleeve notes, put there, no doubt, to titillate us further into learning Somali. Or to show us that these dudes are just like us. The best are from the third track on here, Halelo. I quote in full. “This song discusses a love made complete. The man is saying “we have reached our destination,” we have reached what we wanted out of this love so enjoy it, you deserve it. The girl responds with, “Yes, indeed we have, and we did it together!”

Far more importantly, the track is a bloody riot of grooves, tumbling bass parts and brass stabs, the guitar lines coming on like a Jackson 5 single. This record is a superb listen all round, it must be said. Of course the sardonic side of me can’t help a scintilla of sharp comment slipping through at this current trend for digging up and consuming old half-forgotten sounds from other continents. Luckily it’s something that is on the whole an enriching fashion: the world’s a better place for knowing about Dur-Dur. Tracks like Tajir Waah Ilaah and  Amiina Awdaay are belters, bouncing along on a wave of positivity and snaky guitar lines, the former boasting a soulful, and girly vocal the latter coming on like some 70s psyched out soul review track, live from the Blackpool Winter Ballrooms. Best is saved to last, Dooyo-Dooyo a funky stew that takes kack American synth funk-pop (Debarge I’m looking at you and your sonic crimes here) and turns it into a ridiculously dancey work out. In fact dancing is what the song’s about. Amen.

I suppose we can’t be too flippant as this record highlights the sad fact that politics and religion always tries to impose its own (often temporary, and often ill-judged) strictures on that most fundamental of human  impulses: the impulse to communicate and bond by making a harmonious, pleasing, exciting noise. If this record makes us think that then that’s a good thing. Primarily, I’m going to enjoy this record for its ridiculously funky and soul-lifting sounds.