Album Review: Various Artists – African Scream Contest 2 [Analog Africa; May 2018]

Once again, our eyes are opened to a world of music and rhythm, hidden between two musical powerhouses. We twist and turn through the funky, ska, afrobeat, soul, jazz and psychedelic sounds of Benin and Togo. Ten years after its predecessor, African Scream Contest 2 opens more doors, as well as inviting us back through those doors we only rarely get to travel through. There are reappearances from Orchestra Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou and Picoby Band D’Abomey, as well as a psychedelic guitar-fuelled debut from Les Sympathics de Porto Novo, with a song that has never been released before.

African Scream Contest 2 is the second compilation album from Analog Africa that explores the music of Benin and Togo; two small francophone states between two powerhouses of music and African culture, Nigeria and Ghana. And although Ghanaian highlife and Nigerian afrobeat had huge influences on Benin and Togo, the sound has developed its own flavour.

This cannot be found anywhere more prevalent than in “Paulina” by Black Santiago. The song has an almost futuristic style, a spacey guitar sound, a drum breakdown, then smashing in with a trumpet solo; it’s like nothing you’ve heard before. By this point, you may feel shattered from the journey through Benin and Togo, but from a grand départ, we move into a consistent selection of grooves that keep you dancing.

However, the question is, does the compilation stand alongside its first iteration?

The answer is overwhelmingly yes. The album introduces new artists, as well as bringing us back to some of those classics. And although the style and pace of the songs change drastically throughout the compilation, the selection maintains a consistent trend; the songs all make you want to dance.

The compilation finishes with some lovely, slower songs like “Gangnidodo” and “How Much Love Naturally Costs”. You are not sure how you got there, from the sounds of psychedelic afrobeat to a funk reminiscent of William Onyearbor, but you know it was a fun journey.

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