V/A - Living Is Hard: West African Music in Britain, 1927-1929 (2xLP)
2018 repress. Honest Jon's Records has prepared a series drawing on some of the earliest recordings in the EMI Hayes Archive -- recovered from more than 150,000 78s -- staggering music from Iraq, Turkey, Caucasia, Lebanon, Iran (including sides made in Old Street, London, in 1909), Egypt, and the Belgian Congo. This series opener presents the music of the West African underground of 1920s Britain, recorded at Hayes and released on the Zonophone label (which exported nearly all the records to West Africa). You can hear Caribbean influences here, the promise of highlife there, but Living Is Hard mostly disavows fusion and assimilation. And by contrast with antecedents in the history of black music in Britain -- minstrelsy and spirituals, for example, ragtime and jazz -- these recordings are unhitched from the protocols of a white listenership. These are startling, trenchant, elemental roots -- carrying troubled news home, along with signs of the new African nationalism -- and an enthralling glimpse of other lives, another time. Artists include: Oni Johnson, Isaac Jackson, Ben Simmons, Harry E. Quashie, Douglas Papafio, Prince Zulamkah, The West African Instrumental Quintet, The Ga Quartet, Domingo Justus, James Tucker, John Mugat, Kumasi Trio, James Thomas, Nicholas De Heer, George Williams Aingo and James Brown. Deluxe gatefold sleeve with large insert including Mark Ainley's liner notes plus photos, etc.