25.02.2022

Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou – 1hr exploration to one of Benin’s most prolific groups

Spotlight

Ioannis showcases a 1hr exploration to one of Benin’s most prolific groups, Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou.

Orchestre Poly-Rythmo is a national institutions in Benin, West Africa. Formed during the late 1960s, they soundtracked the years following Benin’s independence under Kerekou’s Marxist-Leninist regime, whipping up a groundbreaking fusion of traditional highlife, Afrobeat, soul, funk and the indigenous styles and voodoo-led traditions of their homeland.

Their songs touched on all of their national languages – the mina French dialect, Fon and Yoruba – and confidently referenced a broad range of international music from James Brown to Johnny Halliday. As well as forging their own success, they were the first port of call to back many of West Africa’s greatest artists, from Gnonnas Pedro to Manu Dibango and Bembeya Jazz.

The band’s reputation began spreading to Western audiences in 2004 through a Soundway compilation of archive classics and rarities followed by two collections on Analog Africa. Around the same time, French radio producer Elodie Maillot (Radio France, Vibrations, Mondomix) began seeking out the original band members in Benin. After a memorable radio interview, the musicians asked her to help them achieve their dream – to play once in a lifetime outside of Africa.

Since then, the band has reformed. They have played many high profile concerts, bringing the infectious Poly-Rythmo sonic melting pot to a whole new generation of fans.

Listen on SoundCloud