Tumbélé! Or how a putting a retro Afro-Latin band on your record cover will make me listen

Derek Evers

I excitedly pulled aside the new Soundway Records comp, Tumbélé!, Biguine, Afro & Latin sounds from the French Caribbean, 1963-74, and upon doing so a friend says to me, “If I were designing a record cover, I would just put a picture of a retro African band no matter what the music was. It just makes you want to listen.” This statement–despite bordering on mildly racist–holds true for me. Maybe it's because I've got more soul than your average European mutt, but to be fair, I was tipped off by the Soundway stamp on it. The highly respected London label will unleash this “look at the unique and overlooked sounds from the islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique” unto the world on October fifth.

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Martinique and Guadeloupe are overseas departments of France, situated in the Eastern Caribbean island chain of the Lesser Antilles. Successive waves of immigrants and a strong French colonial presence have combined to produce a musical culture that is easily at home in Africa, Puerto Rico, Haiti and in French Cafes. The mixture of African and Latin rhythms alongside Jazz, calypso and the local biguine style makes it impossible not to smile–and for the less rhythmically challenged, dance–while listening to it.

The song “Jeunesse Vauclin” by Barel Coppet leads of the double LP. Originally the title track to his 1972 Hit Parade release, it's a great lead, but no one-song can do justice to the depth and variety of talents on this comp. You should buy it.

Born in 1920 in Vauclin, Martinique, Anatole 'Barel' Coppet is a legendary clarinet player and a giant of Antillean music. With a career spanning over fifty years, he spent much of the '50s playing in the cabarets of Paris and performed alongside Duke Ellington and Count Basie. This thumping biguine was recorded after his return to Martinique in the late '60s, and eulogises the skills of his local football team “Jeunesse Vauclin”. The session is a veritable who's who of Martinican musical talent.

Barel Coppet, “Jeunesse Vauclin”

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