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GNONNAS PEDRO "La Musica en Verité"
Gnonnas Pedro has finally been rescued from obscurity with the death of Pap' Seck and drafted into the ranks of Africando for their fourth album, though it was Pedro we all assumed was dead as nothing has been heard from him in years. Hailing from Benin in West Africa, his sessions with Dexter Johnson have long circulated on bootleg Nth generation cassette tapes.
Their conjunction was at the birth of African Salsa: the reintegration of Cuban hits by groups like Arcaño and his Maravillas, Sonora Matancera or Johnny Pacheco into West African pop music. His medleys of "Pare Cochero, " Mayeya, " "El Manicero" and other chestnuts (or peanuts), from the salsa repertoire are fabulous. There's a seductively squeaky sax (I guess Dexter Johnson had a hard time getting reeds) played in tandem with a trumpet, and a rolling rhythm track that won't quit. The guitar plays a relentless riff that seems to be the piano montuno part; it's most noticeable because it's high in the mix. Slight reverb sweetens the vocals which are often in pidgin Spanish. Much as I love the Zairean rumba of Grand Kalle, Docteur Nico et al, this decidedly West African style stretches out more in eight and ten-minute jams. "La Musica en Verité" also features a Farfisa to give it an unusual pulse.
Incidentally, you can hear Pap' Seck, Pap' Fall and the hot tracks from Super Cayor de Dakar's great album SOPENTÉ on AFRICAN SALSA, the Senegalese compilation on the Stern's label from 1998.