Voodoo Funk

Posted by othiym23 Tue, 05 Feb 2008 23:11:39 GMT

Voodoo Funk is a blog run by the single-named Frank, a Berlin-based DJ who’s spent much of the last few years traveling around west Africa in the quest for interesting local music. He’s a serious crate digger, and has a talent for finding records that sound very African, but still have broad appeal. He seems to bring something like a hundred records back from each of his shopping expeditions, along with a clutch of sometimes funny, sometimes sad, and often nerve-wracking stories. Western Africa is a very complicated place right now, neither the cartoonish post-apocalyptic Thunderdome painted by Western media nor a particularly easy place to live, and Frank has gotten himself into (and out of) some pretty hairy and / or affecting situations.

He’s also made available a ton of sets of the music he’s so painstakingly obtained. He takes a radio / soundsystem selector’s approach, so the results are neither continuously mixed nor left entirely alone; tracks are smooshed into one another but only abut for a second or two. Given the wide variety of styles and sounds he’s working with, this seems like a deft stylistic choice, and is – for all I know – probably the local tradition anyway. He’s got more sets up than I’ve had time to hear, but my particular favorite right now is Lagos Disco Inferno. I’m not particularly a fan of disco, after too many years spent in a West Coast rave scene that prized it much more highly than the astringent, reverb-soaked European techno I preferred, and even Frank describes a lot of these tracks as “shameless, sleazy boogie cheese grenades that only a few years ago would have had me running for shelter,” but I don’t really agree that’s what he’s got here. In fact, there’s a really weird, cosmic vibe on display that reminds me of nothing so much as early Steve Miller Band circa “Time Keeps On Slippin’”, probably due to the synthesized strings that work their way through a number of the tracks. It is both funky and groovy, and a lot of other things besides.

The rest of the sets tend towards a slightly more conventional mixture of Afrobeat, blues, funk, and African jazz, and he tends to stick to west African artists (with some exceptions made for Ethiopian and Eritrean jazz), but that makes what he’s doing sound more boring than it is. There is a lot of extremely high-quality music made in Africa, the vast majority of which people outside the continent will never know exists; Frank’s not exactly providing a service, but he is being very generous with his time and attention and exposing a lot of great music to a wider audience. He’s got a great ear and writes a good story. Check him out.