From The Heart of the Congo
Download a couple of tracks from this fine Lee Perry rarity at Roots from the Yard. It's great reggae you've likely never heard - Scratch at his prime with drumming and singing by Seke Molenga and Kalo Kawongolo from Zaire. It's surprising this record isn't better known - Perry's classic Black Ark production goes so beautifully with Molenga and Kawongolo's Zairian rhythmic sensibility and fluidly melodic vocal style.
There are a couple of slightly different versions of the story, but this is my favorite one:
Not to be confused with The Congos' Heart Of The Congos, this is an album with a great story behind it... In 1977, a would-be reggae promoter brought some fellows from Zaire to Jamaica in hopes of creating a new African reggae sound. Apparently, she abandoned the two Africans soon after they arrived in Jamaica and left them stranded on the mean streets of Kingston. Not speaking any English, they had to beg for money and food to survive. Eventually, they found themselves at Lee Perry's house and somehow communicated their desperate story.
Perry took their arrival as a sign: Jah himself had sent these guys from Africa to make a connection with the Black Ark. Soon after, the three of them were in the Ark recording the six songs that make up From The Heart Of The Congo. It's an incredible and ground breaking collaboration, done long before anyone was attempting such a crossover, and even before reggae had become popular in Africa. The result was a thick, swirling, tribal groove that is unique in the Lee Perry canon. Killers include "African Roots", "Mutoya Motema", and - oddly enough - the mislabelled Robert Palmer tune is really good, too!