Neglected for decades by all but the most devoted collectors of Afro music, 'Hamad Kalkaba And The Golden Sounds' at long last gathers together the complete body of work of one of Cameroon's forgotten geniuses, which consists of 6 tracks on 3 7-inches only. These are raw classics with fuzzed-out bass and pin-sharp horns, built upon the unshakable foundation of Northern Cameroon's mightiest rhythm: the Gandjal.
I remember the day clearly. I searching for treasures in a record shop in Sotouboua, a small city in the centre of Togo, when suddenly I came across a 7-inch record with a picture of a young man wearing a traditional hat and bearing the marks of several imposing vertical scars on the side of his face, carved when he was just a boy as a reminder of his heritage in the Musgum tribe of northern Cameroon. I didn’t know what I had found, although I sensed it was going to be special. The record contained two songs – ‘Gandjal Kessoum’ and ‘Touflé’ – by an artist I had never heard of before named Hamad Kalkaba. Both cuts were raw classics of fuzzed-out bass, pin-sharp horns, built upon the unshakable foundation of Northern Cameroon’s mightiest rhythm - The Gandjal. The owner of the shop, a record dealer named Yekini, saw me listening to them over and over and finally said to me ‘There is another single with a green cover of the same artist, if I am not mistaken’. Over the next six years I searched for that ‘green cover’ and finally found it in a record collection belonging to an old bar in Parakou in northern Benin. While most of the records had been beaten and worn by a life spent in the jukebox, this one had been sitting in its paper sleeve for forty years, untouched, unplayed and seemingly patiently waiting for us to pick it up and rip the two soulful gandjal tune from it - the masterpieces “Fouh Sei Allah” and “Tchakoulaté”. These two records, plus a third simply named “Nord Cameroon Rythms” lead by Hamad Kalkaba constitute the entire discography of the artist. Neglected for decades by all but the most devoted collectors of Afro music, Hamad Kalkaba and the Golden Sounds at long last gathers together the body of work of one of Cameroon’s forgotten geniuses. Unlike many musicians who emerged from nowhere, recorded a few singles and vanished again, Kalkaba hadn’t disappeared. Far from it. He was a distinguished public figure, a retired Colonel in the army of Cameroon, and a former member of Cameroon’s Olympic Selection Committee. When we tracked him down he was serving as president of the Confederation of African Athletics. Although Kalkaba’s job kept him busy, and he seemed initially dismissive of the music he’d made as a young man, he turned out to be an enthusiastic ally and an invaluable resource when it came to helping us rescue his music from its undeserved obscurity. He arranged interviews, helped fill in the blanks and, when we finally met him in Yaoundé in 2016, provided us with photographs, lyric sheets and notes. Kalkaba’s songs date from a time in the early 1970s, when musicians all around Cameroon had started to modernise the traditional rhythms of their regions – Makossa, Bikutsi, Assiko – with the help of keyboards, drum kits and electric guitars. Kalkaba, backed by his band the Golden Sounds, devoted himself to the unique sounds of his native northern Cameroon. The songs, recorded in 1974 and 75, were released as three 7” singles. The sound is raw and immediate, the arrangements are tight, and the music is infectious. On ‘Lamido’ the band show that they can do slow-burning horn-and-organ fuelled Afrofunk as well as anyone, and when they lock into the Gandjal groove, as they do on the titanic ‘Gandjal Kessoum’, they become an unstoppable force. Since starting Analog Africa over a decade ago we have tried to showcase the huge variety of genres, styles and rhythms that existed on the African continent, and we are beyond thrilled to be able to give these Gandjal tracks their first worldwide release. They deserve to be heard everywhere.
- 1.Astadjam Dada Sare03:40
- 3.Fouh Sei Allah04:48
- 2.Gandjal Kessoum05:14
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