The Tout Puissant Orchestre Poly Rythmo
The creator of a unique and fascinating sound, the Poly-Rythmo is one of Africa’s biggest orchestras, for whom the term polyrhythm is not used in vain. The author of hundreds of recordings, this orchestra is one of the continent’s most prolific, as is the Congolese OK Jazz, the only possible rival in terms of published records. After five decades, the Poly-Rythmo is the oldest active African orchestra. Throughout the 1960’s and 70’s, the formation structured itself around influences originating from traditional Beninese music, American soul and funk, Nigerian afrobeat, Congolese rumba, Ghanaian high-life, French pop and Afro-Cuban rhythms. The conductor, Mélomé Clément, chose the term
Poly-Rythmo because of the great variety of rhythms they mastered and played. The themes of the lyrics broach subjects such as the evolution of Beninese society and its ills, as well as the complexities of love. Despite strong competition from the other formations of the fertile Beninese music scene, the Poly-Rythmo rapidly rose to the top of the modern African orchestras. From 1969 to the mid-1980’s, the orchestra published hundreds of EPs and dozens of albums. In 1982, the death of guitarist Papillon, soon followed by that of drummer Leopold, briefly interrupted the orchestra’s ambitions. The group eked out a living during the following decades, until 2008 when the Poly-Rythmo reformed properly around Mélomé Clément, Gustave Bentho and Vincent Ahehehinnou. Between 2009 and 2012, the orchestra toured the world, visiting Europe, Japan, Brazil, North America and most of Africa. In 2011, the orchestra released its first record in years, the album Cotonou Club. After the death of the historic conductor Mélomé Clément in 2012, singer Vincent Ahehehinnou, bass player Gustave Bentho and singer Loko Pierre decided to keep the Poly-Rythmo flame alive. After a few months hiatus, they resumed rehearsals and started composing new songs. After visiting their rehearsal space in 2014, Florent Mazzoleni decided to record some new tracks with them. The band went back to the Satel Studio, one of the most legendary studios of the African continent. Situated on the road to Lagos, this studio has hosted some of the great acts of African music. This is where the history of the band was written, when the Poly-Rythmo invented afrobeat at the same time as Fela Kuti who they often played with in Lagos and Cotonou. Directed by Eliezer Oubda from Burkina-Faso and produced by Florent Mazzoleni, this album was finished in June 2016 and opens a new chapter in the history of the Poly-Rythmo. These ten songs feature compositions by Vincent Ahehehinnou, and also by historic members Loko Pierre and Gustave Bentho. An instant Afrobeat classic, ‘Madjafalao’ (be careful) sets the tone of this generous record. United in the studio as on stage, the musicians of the Poly-Rythmo eloquently express the diversity of their talents. Remarkable percussion, striking brass formation and a glorious chorus underline the supple vocals of Vincent Ahehehinnou who embodies this richly passionate album.