Rikki Ililonga & Musi-O-Tuna: Dark Sunrise

Rikki Ililonga & Musi-O-Tuna
Dark Sunrise
(Now Again Records)

Buy it at Amazon!

One of the pioneers of African rock and funk, Zambian Rikki Ililonga, is tireless, prolific, and outspoken– and still at it.  This two-disk CD (or three-disk LP) set is the result of Ililonga & Stones Throw doyen Egon combining forces to compile his three seminal albums, Wings of Africa, Zambia and Sunshine Love. While Musi-O-Tuna took many of the same moves from the James Brown playbook that Fela did, including prominent use of saxophone and a dominant, militant funkiness, Ililonga favored short tracks that hit you, quick and light.  The slinky psych rocking of the anothology’s title track is perfect, but belies the variety of experience one gets when throwing this on.

The Musi-O-Tuna sessions included on the first half are the funkier ones, equally indebted to Hendrix and Charles Wright as they are to JB.  Ililonga, on his own, went in a more song-driven direction when he went solo, and these tunes are poppier and more concise, but no less message-driven than his earlier songs. “The Nature of Man” is a folk-pop singalong, “Zambia” is an almost norteno sounding tribute to his homeland,”  “The Queen Blues” dredges the Mississippi Delta, and “Lovely Woman” is a far-out Family Stone rave-up.

Best of all, Stones Throw, being collectors themselves, know how important the object is to us fetishists, so expect the best from the presentation.  The CD version has a fat booklet on nice, thick paper, and contains extra 7″ tracks that the LPs don’t.  However, the vinyl is a box set that gets you exact repros of each of the three albums. Too hot!

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About Alex Stimmel

Educator, musician, writer. Teach K-8 music in an East Harlem PS; guitarist/songwriter for Apothecary Hymns (Locust); have written for Mojo, NY Times Mag, Rolling Stone, Resonance & more.
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