It was only until recently that El Rego was released, a self-titled compilation from an artist long forgotten (though to many of us, simply unknown). El Rego, a Beninese musician who played in the ‘60s and ‘70s, is introduced to us through this collection of songs handpicked by Daptone Records. Combining Afro-funk, Afro-latin and traditional West African rhythms – with just a bit of Blues for good measure – this album is a great first impression to anyone unfamiliar to El Rego, or even to West African music itself.
This compilation is heavy on the groove, regardless of the style he’s channelling. You can hear the James Brown influence (listen for the “Ow!” screams amidst the funky hooks) and you can recognize a little Fela Kuti, but there is so much more to discover. You can start on a high note with “Cholera,” an ironically fun tune with rapid rhythms made to get you dancing. You can inch your way in with “Ke Amon-Gbetchea,” a bluesy, down-tempo song that is refreshingly simple compared to other tracks saturated with intricacies and nuances. But it doesn’t really matter where you begin, because you’re going to need a few listens to take it all in.
El Rego is raw, soulful, typically explosive, but with moments of serenity – the kind of diverse soundscape an album needs to win its audience. It is a highly recommended listen for any music fan, especially for those yearning to branch out and enjoy West African sounds.
– RJ Vandrish
Album Review: El Rego – El Rego