A slice of genius from a true Afro disco innovator.
Disco went all around the world during the 1970s, but some of its greatest results didn’t see fruit until the 1980s. A time when musicians grabbed the vibes, the grooves and the feels of the feel good genre, and turned it on its head. Gone were the cheesiness of the mainstream, the commercialism of it all, and a new era entered in. The world got given disco, and gave an awful lot back. Different scenes all over the world sprouted up, and produced some of the most mesmerising and gorgeous tunes imaginable. From the J-Funk scene in Japan, Brit Funk, Italio disco, to Brazil and back, it happened all over. But Africa produced some of the most mesmerising and delicate, a real blend of the traditional joy associated with African music, with an intense and intricate groove thrown in, the genre of Afro Disco was born. A scene that has no end to the wonderful artists who graced it, full of innovators who drove forward the sounds of US disco arguably as much as the Brit Funkers, who both embraced the sounds and conceived something truly magical and unique.
Here, we look at the sounds of Nkono Teles, as his timeless take on electronic disco music, as it should rightly be called. This writer first came across him from the Soundway 2016 ‘Doing It in Lagos’ compilation, one of the best compilations of recent times, that shone a light on the fierce and musically brilliant disco scene of Lagos, Nigeria. His tune on the compilation, ‘Be My Lady’, was an absolute highlight, a tune displaying all the qualities of Chicago house (but coming out a few years before), with an electronic soul to it that just made it stand out above an already impressive cast of tunes, and that is saying something. Delicate in its simplicity, but powerful in its musical message, it remains very much in the minds of Endless Grooves. So, upon further exploring his back catalogue, this record stood out as a album that will delight and intrigue in equal measure.
To start off, we have the title track. Stripped back, with an almost calypso vibe, its playfulness shines through the vocals, and the thudding bass liens and sparse synths. All adding to each other to create an unstoppable groover, an electric Afro disco gem. As is such with his tunes, the vocals almost take a back seat to the high level of musicality on display, with the bass hitting even harder, as everything strips away to reveal a complicated groovy spine. ‘Feel so Fine’ comes along next, and it continues this happy tone throughout. More depth, and more of a focus on the dancefloor, this one just bleeds disco euphoria, transitioning so beautifully between the soft verses and the towering choruses. Again, the blend of instruments and layers here is something special, and just says so much about Teles and his abundance of talent. The fact that he wrote and recorded every instrument tells you something about that, just so off the chain. This is damn good feel good, you just smile and smile when this tune is racked up to 11. Woaah! Up next we have ‘Hometown Weather’, that sounds so much like all the vibes that the Perodica camp are doing now. Slow and steady, the groove here is aliiveeeeeeeee. That bass, the keys, the beat, Jesus, such a sizzlier. The tune just locks you in within its soundscape, where you reside within what could only be described as utter bliss. Here we again just see Teles doing what he does best; instrumental slow downed boogie at its absolute finest, words can’t do it justice, just crack it open and listen to something unique and full of flavours.
‘Be My Lady’ (the instrumental and the vocal version) follow next. These two tracks provide the backbone of this record, as mentioned before, this tune was so many qualities its hard to list them all off. The drumming pattern is so impressive, its not like anything heard before, its like an electronic version of Afro beat, akin to William Onyeabor in many ways. The vocals quickly press in, with a delightful and uplifting key line that could go on and on and on. The instrumental takes its time, but boy is it worth waiting for. In this one, the keys come out of no where, as the drums have spent a fair amount of time locking you right in there. The keys, when they arrive, release a bolt of energy that just flows through you. The synth breaks down, and it all just makes sense. This fucking song, its just so beautiful, its like all the traditional elements of a love song have been stretched out, spread over a damn fine electronic beat, and just had a heart injected into it. How so much can be done with a sparse feeling song, yet you feel all of his being and his personality flowing through it. This is something very special. ‘Martin Street Special (New Version)’ comes next, and might be the most complete and wonderful tune on this record, and that’s saying something. A straight up boogie beat comes in, with all that Moog feels, creating a groove of the most epic proportions. Sheeeeet, that high key line, the solo just borrows into your soul, and just remains there for as long as you wish. But, it won’t leave, that is promised. This is pure energy, pure dance, pure joy. This song lasts for 6 minutes, but it sure could last forever and ever, and ever. And ever.
I unfortunately couldn’t find the other two tracks (‘Your Body’ and ‘Don’t hold back Your Love (on me)’), but hey, this album has already put us in this warm, cosy boogie feeling. Teles crafted something unreal with this record, and this would continue with his other albums and credits. A blissed out trip through the spectrum of Afro, boogie, funk, and 80s disco, the blend here is on point, unique and heartfelt, with elements thrown in of true innovation and forward thinking. A record that holds its own as one of the most tantalising and mesmerising of its time, and surely of all time. Nkono, the fire from this album will never, ever stop burning.