Following on from 2017’s hotly received Pop Makossa collection, Analog Africa label head Samy Ben Redjeb has dug even deeper into Cameroon’s dusty vinyl vaults and unearthed the lost recordings of Hamad Kalkaba.
Kalkaba was a gifted young musician who rose to become chief of the Republican Guard’s Orchestra, but later retired from music – devoting himself to a military career, achieving the rank of Colonel before becoming the President of the Confederation of African Athletics.
Intent on introducing indigenous Cameroonian rhythms to the military band’s repertoire, Kalkaba sought to incorporate the gandjal rhythm from the north of the country – an energising beat traditionally played with a combination of drums and percussion instruments that sound-tracked weddings and public events.
Together with The Golden Sounds and Le Grand Orchestre de la Garde Republicaine du Cameroun, Kalkaba cut just three 45s between 1974 and 75, and these six tracks comprise his complete discography, forming a concise but blistering compilation.
It’s a stripped back, lo-fi adventure into jazzy afrobeat and Afro-funk influenced sounds underpinned by the percussive gandjal rhythm – all recorded in basic studios in just a few takes.
‘Astadjam Dada Sare’ opens with jaunty horns, Kalkaba’s passionate vocals, psychedelic keyboards and raw guitar. ‘Touflé’ switches down a gear, bringing the thundering percussive gandjal rhythm to the fore.
Never afraid to voice his thoughts on political issues, ‘Fouh Sei Allah’ was inspired by the country’s 1974 sugar shortage and exudes jazzy afrobeat styling before ‘Lamido’ displays a touch of James Brown groove with funky-inspired guitar and low-slung bass that drive the track.
‘Gandjal Kessoum’ rattles along with a faint echo of early Jamaican RNB/Ska, before closing track ‘Tchakoulaté’ adopts a more reflective tone, with call and response vocals and bluesy organ that brings this short but fulfilling collection to a close.
As ever, an exemplary Analog Africa release evidenced by loving design, notes and packaging – one can only guess at what Hamad Kalkaba would have gone on to produce had he chosen the recording studio over the barracks.