12 O'Clock Track: Karantamba, "Sama Yai" | Bleader

12 O'Clock Track: Karantamba, "Sama Yai"

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In recent years lots of Westerners have been scouring Africa for obscure records to reissue in Europe and the U.S., so I'm happy to see that a label from Dakar, Senegal, dug up the best rarity I've heard all year: Ndigal (Teranga Beat), a stunning album of hard-hitting mbalax from Karantamba, a group led by Gambian guitarist and composer Bai Janha, of Guelewar fame. This album isn't merely obscure; it's previously unissued, which is mind-boggling once you hear the thing. It was cut in 1984, while Janha was working with this group of young musicians—all of whose identities have been lost to time—in a nightclub in Thiés, outside Dakar.

All the trademarks of Senegalese mbalax are here—huge, looping grooves, explosive punctuation from sabar drums, stinging lead guitar, and infectiously soulful Islamic-tinged vocals. The recording is appealingly raw and loose, and the band is on fire. Today's 12 O'Clock Track is a cut called "Sama Yai."

Karantamba, "Sama Yai"

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