Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou are Benin’s funk and soul sensation. They have been around since 1968 and while they have always been popular, Orchestre Poly-Rythmo has experienced a mighty resurgence in recent years. Amazingly, this ten-piece band didn’t play outside of Africa until 2009. When the French journalist and future producer Elodie Maillot traveled across the African continent to find Orchestre Poly-Rythmo, many people including Benin’s own Angélique Kidjo, didn’t believe the band was still active. Once Maillot discovered the group in a remote city, she and the band began to discuss music while she let her reel-to-reel recorder roll. Maillot didn’t stop there. After the interview, she went on to produce performances in Europe, at clubs in Benin and across Africa. She built stages and pleaded with local officials to turn on electricity for the band.
This incredible meeting led to Maillot producing Orchestre Poly-Rythmo’s first album in twenty years. Cotonou Club is available now on Strut Records. The album features Angélique Kidjo and Fatoumata Diawara along with Paul Thompson and Nick McCarthy of Franz Ferdinand. The band incorporates vodun (voodoo) rhythms as well as the sounds of Agoudas, a group on Benin’s Atlantic coast descended from Brazilian slaves who returned to Africa in the late 1800s. Mix it together with some funk, soul and Afro-Cuban big band music and you have some flavorful trans-Atlantic grooves. Watch a great live video below to get a taste for the band. Orchestre Poly-Rythmo is currently on tour and will hit Brooklyn for the BAM R&B Festival at MetroTech on July 19th as well as Central Park for Summerstage on July 22nd, where they will be joined by SMOD, Bibi Tanga & the Selenites, and Chief Boima. Both events are free admission, so make sure you get out there to see Orchestre Poly-Rythmo.