Thursday, February 11, 2010

Ginger Baker in Africa (Tony Palmer, 1971)



Add this to your Netflix queue NOW.

In 1971, Ginger Baker (drummer for Cream and Blind Faith) traveled to Lagos, Nigeria with the objective of building a recording studio to record African musicians. He made the trek overland through the Sahara, and filmed local musicians along the way, including a visit with Fela Kuti in Nigeria. The film opens and closes with the monumental jam embedded above. It's no surprise that any jazz/rock drummer should be fascinated by African music, and if you've listened to comps like Nigeria Rock Special or World Psychedelic Classics, it's not really any surprise to hear Nigerian musicians playing acid rock-influenced licks like the ones in this clip, but man, this shit is just off-the-map of hotness! Sounds almost like Can at times.

The documentary is less than an hour, and I'd be lying if I tried to deny that these two YouTube clips contain most of the best shit, but it's worth watching the whole thing. The footage of the drive through the desert is beautiful. The roads through the Sahara are basically a graveyard of cars that overheated, broke down or burnt, and were abandoned on the side of the road. At one point, they come across a camel skeleton picked clean by scavengers, bringing up memories of the giant fish fossil the droids pass by in the Tatooine desert near the beginning of Star Wars. The footage is scored to the hypnotic jams they recorded (I know "hypnotic jams" is a bit of a cliche, but I'm being literal here--after an hour of this stuff, you start to feel altered states in your brain), while Baker narrates, occassionally falling into stoned hippie verse. You also get to see The Sweet Things, a girl group (I'm not sure if they sing or just dance, there's no footage of them singing) with Supremes hairdos and fringe leather mini-skirts doing moves from traditional African dances to their band's funk jams. I wish I could have seen this documentary when I was in college, but maybe it's better that I didn't. I'd have probably tried to run off to Lagos and died in the desert.

The Fela footage is amazing. His live jams sound much rawer than any of his recordings. He brings each of his female dancers to perform for the camera in turn (the dominant body language he uses toward the women is disturbing, but then he acts about the same way with his male dancer), and they each do some pop-locking moves that look like the the shit you see in Rize. Then he brings up a male dancer, and this guy starts interracting with the sax player. His moves respond to the sax licks, the horn man responds to his moves. Just unbelievable. The movie never talks about whether the studio was ever built, and nothing I can find on the internet mentions it, but it's all about the journey, right?

1 Comments:

Blogger Somak said...

Hi, the studio was finally built. A detailed description can be found in ginger baker's autobiography "hellraiser". Its an amazing read.

9/01/2011 11:55 AM  

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