The Vodoun Effect: Funk & Sato From Benin’s Obscure Labels 1972-1975 (Volume One)

by Jacquelyn Lewis

‘West Africa’s best kept secret’ brings the rhythm.

It’s no surprise that Orchestre Poly-Rythmo De Cotonou is touted as ‘West Africa’s best kept secret,’ since their traditional Afro-beat sound is infused with funk, soul, and even a little bit of rock ‘n’ roll. A true testament to fuji-funk (a type of funk music with Japanese elements), The Vodoun Effect creates the feeling of being native while also capturing the essence of Western influences. Despite the group’s distinctive sound, you may feel like you’re jamming to Fela Kuti when ‘Nouessename’ and ‘Akoue Tche We Gni Medjome’ greet you with blaring horns, guitar riffs, and saxophone solos. ‘Se Tche We Djo Mon’ is, from the very start, an undeniable Beach Boys moment, while ‘Koutoulie’ uses definitive drum beats, loud howls, and call-and-response vocals as an homage to coming-of-age. The Vodoun Effect is a proud tribute to Beninese tradition and culture, using native rhythms of the region that provide a sense of ethnicity and craftsmanship on each track. I think it’s safe to say these musicians have earned their acclaim.

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