Hallelujah Chicken Run Band
Take One (1974-79)
Analog Africa No.2
2006, Alula Records (ALU 2002)
What a thing of beauty this disc is! Africa during the 1960s witnessed a host of incredible bands that came to prominence playing their music in the dim afterthoughts of colonialism, the sweat and smoke-filled corners of leisure found in places like rail stations, hotels, and bars funded by the capital of heavy industry. The latter was the case for the Hallelujah Chicken Run Band, which formed under the direct incentive of a Zimbabwe copper mine looking for a good band to keep its workers satiated and spending their money. This compilation from the Analog Africa label presents their story in words and music from inception to collapse, with an informative and entertaining essay by Samy Ben Redjeb, amazing photos and graphic layout, and a good mastering job. Redjeb details how the band had been assembled by trumpet player Daram Karanga who convinced a handful of the area’s best musicians to relocate out into the middle of nowhere for this gig. They had been peppering their sets with Afro-rock and funk of the type popular in Nigeria and Ghana at the time, and the mine workers just weren’t going for it. Noticing that people went bat-shit crazy when they played traditional music from Zimbabwe, they pretty much invented their own thing, crafting a sound that was, as they say, `way ahead of its time.` The band saw a lot of different musicians go through their ranks in a relatively short span of time. The most famous of them is singer and drummer Thomas Mapfumo, but all of the players are overflowing with talent here.
Every song on here is a gem. Jumping out at you with the propulsive kick drum beats, the uptempo cuts foreshadow much of the African music to emerge over the next twenty years. Of particular importance is the guitar work of Joshua Hlornayi, who played angular, staccato melodies broken up by clean-toned chord voicings – this is miles away from the way guitar was being used by most bands in West Africa at the time. The combination of frenetic guitar, slower and more sparse bass guitar lines, and drums heavy on the kick drum and stick work on the snare, all contribute to a sound that I can only manage to describe as “circular.” This rhythmic frenzy is accomplished without the help of the variety of percussion usually associated with African music, restricting themselves to a simple drum kit and guitars. Above the frenzy soars the brass, with wonderful work from Daram Karanga and saxophonist Robson Boore in beautiful arrangements. The infectiously melodic vocals are consistently impressive on this collection also (although it is a shame that I can’t understand a word of it). Take a song like “Murembo” — it is wickedly complicated, with gorgeous vocal harmony intro starting things off, when then changes its structure just as an instrumental arrangement crawls out from under it and begins playing a trance-inducing lope through the rest of the tune. The liner notes by Redjeb (for which he also conducted a few interviews) can be somewhat confusing when it comes to names and recording details, but a look at the detailed discography and personnel list on the last pages of the booklet show us just what kind of raw material he had to work with when trying to summarize the HCR band. This is a record that I liked immediately on first listen, and began to love soon afterward, and I never seem to get tired of the material. If you can track this down, pick up a copy and support Analog Africa for the wonderful work they do.
Hallelujah Chicken Run Band – Take One 1974-79 (2006) in 320kbs em pee twee
Hallelujah Chicken Run Band – Take One 1974-79 (2006) in FLAC LOSSLESS AUDIO
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