Various Artists – Marvellous Boy (Honest Jon’s Records) [Full Album] – YouTube

West African calypso music from the 1950s! One of the things I find most fascinating about African diasporic music is that it travels so broadly in multiple directions. Calypso, funk, soul, Afro-Cuban, all exist in African popular music from the magic of the traveling LP – LPs moved about the globe on ships, traded by sailors and imported by record shops. The only unfortunate dynamic is that African popular music was not as widely recorded and distributed as music from Europe and the Americas, but I love hearing what African musicians do with the foreign music they listened to.

One of my favorite examples of this cross influence comes from James Brown’s autobiography. In it he describes going to see Fela Anikulapo-Kuti’s band perform in Nigeria. He describes hearing his influence on Fela’s band, and at the same time noting that his bassist and drummer (Bootsy Collins and Clyde Stubblefield) were being influenced by Fela’s band. So, African diasporic music in the U.S., already influenced by African heritage, influences West African popular music, which then influences the U.S. music. This is what Paul Gilroy would call the rhizomatic influence of the Black Atlantic – music travels in multiple directions, not just one way.

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I am a musician and academic living in Western, Massachusetts. I blog mostly about music, though I include the odd post about political or historical events that pique my interest.

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