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Osibisa Osibisa album cover
3.75 | 74 ratings | 17 reviews | 22% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1971

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Dawn (7:03)
2. Music for Gong Gong (5:29)
3. Ayiko Bia (7:53)
4. Akwaaba (4:20)
5. Oranges (4:40)
6. Phallus C (7:14)
7. Think About the People (4:21)

Total Time: 41:36

Line-up / Musicians

- Wendel Richardson / lead guitar, vocals (7)
- Robert Bailey / organ, piano, timbales
- Teddy Osei / flute, tenor sax, African drums, vocals (1-3)
- Mac Tontoh / trumpet, flugelhorn, cabasa
- Loughty Amao / tenor & baritone saxes, congas
- Roy Bedeau "Spartacus R" / bass, percussion
- Sol Amarfio / drums

Releases information

Artwork: Roger Dean

LP MCA Records ‎- MAPS 4740 (1971, UK)

CD Lineca Records ‎- LCCD 9.01266 (1993, Germany)
CD Repertoire Records ‎- REPUK 1118 (2008, UK) Remastered (?)

Thanks to ivan_2068 for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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OSIBISA Osibisa ratings distribution

(74 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(22%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(45%)
Good, but non-essential (31%)
Collectors/fans only (1%)
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)

OSIBISA Osibisa reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Ivan_Melgar_M
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Symphonic Prog Specialist
4 stars A short time before I bought my first drum kit, a friend and future teacher told me that if I really wanted to learn how to play percussion I needed to buy the self titled debut by OSIBISA because if I could ever be able to follow such complex rhythms I would be able of anything, so I went to the store and got it, I was really impressed, my friend's words were short to describe what OSIBISA (band and album) was.

While he gave extreme value to the rhythm section (which is unbelievable), I focused more in the music as an integrity, this group of African and Caribbean musicians were doing one of the most exquisite forms of Proto Prog blended with Psychedelia, Reggae and a touch of Jazz, simply I was amazed and delighted.

The album starts with the excellent "Dawn", a song that begins with a narration in English with a very hard Afro Caribbean accent describing the band and announcing that this track is somehow the introduction to the band, album and to a new day, in other words this album and OSIBISA's career starts "early one morning in the heart of Africa."

After a short intro of with tribal percussion instruments plus sounds of birds and animals, the strong and accurate double bass by Spartacus R. and Roy Bedeau joins, being soon followed by a very psychedelic organ, all mixed with shouts in some African dialect and when you believe things can't get better, Wendel Richardson's guitar a la Santana adds the perfect touch, but if this is not enough there's still a wonderful flute semi solo with clear Ian Anderson's influence mixed again with words in that strange dialect. Perfect track, it can't get any better, it got so many changes and flow so easily that it can't get closer to Prog.

"Music for Gong Gong" was released one year before as a single and captured the attention of the world, less complex than the previous track but certainly much more rhythmic. In this case the song sounds as Afro Jazz because of the versatile Sax played by Mark Tontoh, but without getting to far from the psychedelic atmosphere created by the organ. The song ends in a chaotic percussion and whistle "madness". Again very solid.

Now it's time for my favorite track "Ayko Bia", even when seems to be the less Progressive/Psychedelic track (Despite the typical organ playing in a more subtle way in the back) presents a very interesting structure and perfect work of the Rhythm section. The song starts as a tribal ceremony more exactly a contest between two vocalists, the second trying to follow the first one word by word and supported by a male chorus, and after this sort of challenge ends starts the same contrapuntist structure but now between the instruments, again the guitar does a complex solo and turn by turn the bass and trumpet repeat it, only that now instead of a chorus the organ is the one that backups the band, and at the end the drums and African percussion have their turn to enter to the contest.

"Akwaaba" is the most melodic track from this album, but all the weight of the song is carried by the winds who do a spectacular work, I'm sure that if Phil Collins would have listened them would never called the Phoenix Horns to help him in ABACAB (Thanks God he apparently ignored the existence of OSIBISA). Then in the most perfect Santana style the guitar and bass create the same melody and only stop to let the organ do it's part..

"Oranges" is again amazing, because this was the first song I would have listened, probably have swear that we're before a Jazz - Fusion band that incorporates African elements, the change is radical, the winds and piano a la Chick Corea replace the Farfisa organ, only a short guitar semi solo heavily supported by a complex percussion work returns us to the musical reality of the early 70's, but after this we must accept this guys were not only excellent musicians but absolutely versatile.

Until this point of the album I was ready to rate it with 5 stars, but it's the turn of "Phallus C", lets remember that almost 50% of the members of OSIBISA were Caribbean from Grenada, Trinidad & Tobago and Antigua, so they had to include some of their local music, which of course is Reggae, which is not bad at all, but it's so simple and close to mainstream that pales in comparison with the unique and incredibly original material of the rest of the album. Again not bad, with another good guitar solo (maybe too long), sand perfect rhythm section but sincerely sounds out of place.

The album is closed with a totally different song named "Think About the People" with lyrics in English but with strong accent, very revolutionary against the pollution and the reality of Central Africa (something very common in the late 60's and early 70's). The structure is always changing, from violent explosions to incredible organ solos and some softer sections, again if this is not at least Proto Prog, I don't know how to describe it, excellent song.

Now and only because of a good song that breaks the atmosphere I don't feel able to rate OSIBISA with 5 stars so I will stay with one less, this is one of the days I wish Prog Archives had half stars because they don't deserve less than 4.5, but there will be time to give a higher rating when reviewing the better (Yes it's possible) Woyaya.

Anyway, it's an absolutely essential album for those who love early Prog and the fusion of different musical cultures.

Review by Sean Trane
4 stars Never thought you'd find an African group on the ProgArchives, uh? Although based in London, this group's members are all Western Africans (from Ghana, Nigeria and such), and Osibisa's first few records are much worth the inclusion here. A few hints of the progressiveness (outside of the Roger Dean superb artwork sleeve that struck imaginations with those flying predator elephants) are the line-up, the length of the tracks and the production job of Tony Visconti. Leader Teddy Osei on flute, sax, percussions and lead vocals was a formidable showman (and a groundbreaking songwriter), while second man Tonton provides the strong brassy sound of Osibisa and is also writing .

With the real impressive opening track, The Dawn, Osibisa strikes real strong with lengthy intro (warning up about the trip you are about to experience over a farmhouse at dawn), delicious flutes imaginative African rhythms and some psychedelic jazz rock influences and a wee bit of Ian Anderson on flute impersonation around the end of the track. This track will become one of their signature tracks in concert and was played in concert throughout their whole career. Gong Gong is an incredibly infectious groove , developing plenty of brassy answer providing plenty of drama and a superb percussive break, before picking up the groove. Ayiko Bia is probably their most African track, but they managed to hold our attention with a searing Santana-sounding guitar solo (further enhanced by the congas).

Side 2 starting out with Akwaaba (not their best track, and it is a bit overloaded musically speaking) is a bit less impressive, but remains of an excellent caliber. Oranges does regain the superb musicality of the first side, but the enthusiasm remains a bit tamer even if there are some brilliant moments, most notably the jazzy guitar solo. Phallus C is certainly the highlight of this side of the vinyl and making strong groovy statement, and its title leaves little hidden about their intentions regarding the other half of the Human race. The last track does show that they do have something else in mind, though ;-) with its soul-ish vocals, and great Hammond organs.

A stunning debut for Osibisa, certainly a product of its time (the early 70's were THE period, right? ;-), a fascinating run through one of the best example of complete fusion of African, Latino, psychedelic and jazz-rock sounds. Much worth the investigation for just about anyone, especially those having a slight xenophobia also exerting pressure in their musical tastes.

Review by Tom Ozric
4 stars I absolutely love this gem from the West African/Caribbean ensemble Osibisa. This, their debut album, features an exciting range of styles, fusing traditional 'World' elements with funk, psychedelic, rock and jazz and really makes for one heck of a listen. Anyone who enjoys dense, complex percussion rhythms is in for a treat. Opening track, 'The Dawn', is one of the best Osibisa tracks I've heard, the crystalline organ tones, flute, a great groove, the jungle noises - everything is in the right place here and it really offers something special. 'Music For Gong-Gong' is a brass heavy arrangement with an excellent progression and groove and some great organ playing. There is also a fine percussive segment toward the end. 'Ayiko Bia' starts out with tribal chanting and is a lengthy, jammy track, showing us a tasteful guitar solo from Wendell Richardson, giving it a psychey edge, a trumpet solo from Mac Tontoh and an even more complex percussion section. With the amazing assortment of percussive 'nik-naks' at hand, the band members 'feel' for the rhythm and their 'timing' is precision.

Second side starts with the funky song 'Akwaaba', some nice electric-piano included in this one, along with more great organ playing, another guitar solo, and various rhythmic patterns through-out. 'Oranges' is almost a 'pop' song, very danceable and up-lifting with brass solos (sax and flugel-horn) and guitar - possibly the simplest track on the album. 'Phallus C' is a psych jam alternating between a great riff in 9/8 and a 4/4 brassy affair - some almost avant-garde sax playing and more of Dell's magical guitaring. A really great track. 'Think About The People' is an excellent song, almost a classic, featuring a nice jazzy interlude followed by another great organ solo. All that, along with a superb Roger Dean gatefold cover really makes this album an excellent addition to your prog collection. I'd give it a 5, but the somewhat formulaic nature of the songs drops it back to a 4.

Review by ClemofNazareth
4 stars Osibisa were arguably the first rock band to be called ‘world music’, and the label is certainly appropriate. The band had a brief spot in the limelight with a couple of minor hits in the mid-seventies, but several of the musicians had careers dating back to Ghana in the 1950s. This album was their debut, and from the first track the band made it clear their sound was something completely new on the progressive landscape.

“Dawn” is full of the Caribbean percussion and rhythms that so distinguished the band, but combined with the Roger Dean cover, psychedelic guitars and complex keyboards their overall sound set them apart from pretty much anyone else at the time. Some have claimed that Osibisa were key in paving the way for the emergence of reggae and calypso music in popular culture in the seventies, and there may be some truth to that – the Wailers had been recording in Jamaica since the mid-sixties, and Neil Diamond put out ‘Tap Root Manuscript’ in 1970, but Bob Marley and Bunny Wailer never really hit the international spotlight until shortly after Osibisa paved the way with this album. So who knows really.

“Music for Gong Gong” is in much the same vein as “Dawn”, but here the horn section is even more prominent, and would become even more so after the band stepped away from the more psychedelic sounds in their music later in the decade. But that wouldn’t happen until after “Ayiko Bia”, which features some of the spaciest guitar in the band’s repertoire. “Akwaaba” is more subdued and jazzy, and with “Oranges” the band’s jazz influences shine through even more.

The last couple of tracks seem to lean a bit closer to filler, although “Phallus C” still includes quite a bit of tasty percussion, and “Think About the People” formed the basis for a number of anathematic social-commentaries the band would indulge in over the decade.

I would rate ‘Woyaya’ as the band’s most consistently excellent album, but this debut is certainly strong in its own right, and well worth adding to your collection if you have an ear for ethnic instrumentation, complex percussion, and upbeat progressive music. This is a solid four star effort, and highly recommended.


Review by Easy Money
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars I recently ran into this Osibisa release in a big pile of neglected records and decided to give it a spin. What a pleasant suprise, apparently I used to listen to this record a lot because so much of it sounded familiar, but what was really nice was that it sounded better than ever. This is some 70s progressive music that has aged very well.

If you are not familiar with early 70s Osibisa then the best way I could describe it would be to imagine a mixture of the progressive horn charts of early Chicago, with the fiery guitar/organ interplay of Santana, all driven by an African percussion section. Osibisa has a lot in common with other early 70s African based progressive groups such as Mandrill, King Sunny Ade, early Earth Wind and Fire and of course Santana. Most of the core members of the original Osibisa came up through the highlife music scene in 60s and 70s Ghana. Highlife is a style somewhat similar to RnB in the states, and its open structure allows for mixing in other influeces such as jazz or rock.

Although many original members were from Ghana, Osibisa came up through the London scene where they took their highlife music and added complex horn charts and multi-sectioned compositional structures which endeared them to much of the jazz leaning progressive rock crowd. Although some of their songs do have complex arrangements, others are fun two chord workouts in the classic Santana tradition.

Although there are other progressive rock bands with an African base, Osibisa has been the band to get the most attention from the traditional progressive rock fan-base. I guess having Roger Dean artwork on your first album cover doesn't hurt.

Review by stefro
4 stars Fusing the sounds of Africa with western rock and prog influences, Osibisa can lay claim to being one of the most original-sounding groups of the early 1970's, a time filled with a rich and diverse pallette of musical sounds and styles. Made up of four Africans and three Carribean members, Osibisa were formed by the one constant throughout their long career, the versatile and ambitious Ghanian saxophone player Teddy Osei. Osei immigrated to England in the late 1960's, and was forced to spend a few years washing dishes in an upmarket west end hotel before being able to piece together a group of musicians who could bring to life his sonic vision. Remember, this was a time before the term 'world music' had be coined, so Osibisa were genuinely breaking new ground by blending traditional African-and-Carribean rhythms within a rock context, giving them instant 'pioneer' status. They were soon picked up after a series of impressive gigs in-and-around London, and, in 1971, their impressive, self-titled debut - complete with Roger Dean-designed cover - was released to critical acclaim throughout Europe. Featuring a joyous and exotic mixture of flutes, saxophones, guitars, bongo's, trumpets and African drums, 'Osibisa' is that rare beast: a prog-and-jazz-tinged album that you can actually dance to. Each musician is given time and space to showcase his individual talents, with, in particular, guitarist Wendel Richardson(who would go on to replace Paul Kossoff in Free several years later) unleasing some scintillating solo's whilst Osei's sax adds tone and colour to the mainly upbeat selection of songs. A genuine party album, 'Osibisa' kick-started a long and memorable career for this most uplifting of groups, with their early-seventies albums such as 'Wowoya' and 'Heads' adding thick layers of jazz-fusion to their primary-coloured African-prog sound. Like many groups around the world, the 1980's saw Teddy Osei and co revert to a more commercial style as the popularity of more complex forms of music diminished, but the recent upturn in progressive rock's fortunes have seen the group revert to their original style with their 21st century albums, most notably their recent 2009 release 'Osee Yee'. Despite a career spanning thirty-odd years, Osibisa still enjoy a firm following throughout both Europe and Africa, and long may their invigorating brand of music continue long into our new, digital age. STEFAN TURNER, LONDON, 2010
Review by Sinusoid
4 stars If the ominous Roger Dean cover is making you think prog rock as you know it, get ready for a major curveball. Osibisa is the merger of African rhythms with a Santana style of jazz fusion and a horn section that makes you think Chicago without the trombone. The triad of Osei, Amao and Tontoh create sinister flares of brass that either add an ominous tone or make the music as joyous as they boast on the opening track.

Most of the music is instrumental, and a fair amount of percussion solos will appear. The percussive solos aren't really solos but breaks in the music, designed more to keep the beat rather than showcase Sol Amarfio's ability. Sol's a fine drummer and can create a fine beat that is simple and danceable, yet very enjoyable.

The more standout instrumentalists are that of Rob Bailey, Wendell Richardson and Spartacus R. Wendell and Rob are more inclined to give a solo that makes you think Santana, but with African rhythms underneath. Spartacus more or less plays the melody of the song, yet still finds a way to meld it with the rhythm (''Phallus C'' is a great example of this). But, it is Loughty Amao that really gives the band something unique by bringing out the baritone sax on the occasion to provide a deep, low sound to the brass.

The tracks are sometimes as happy, bouncy and explosive. Even if prog rock and dancing don't always go hand-in-hand, ''Oranges'' (my pick for the weakest track) and ''Music for Gong Gong'' will make you get up and start moving. I can't help but sing along to the jammier ''Ayiko Bia'' (best track) and ''Phallus C'' in the beginning and get into the groove during percussion breaks.

There actually is an ominous tone to a few songs. ''Think About the People'' and ''The Dawn'' sound like rather dark songs, almost scary in their delivery. ''Akwaaba'' is somewhere in the middle with the highlight being the band members chanting the spelling of the band's name.

For an introduction into world music crossed with jazz fusion, OSIBISA would be a great start for the fusion lovers that need something to dance to. Progsters might avoid the album for some time, but the music is too dazzling to really ignore. It is minimal on the technicalities making for a long-term enjoyable experience.

Review by Warthur
3 stars The debut Osibisa album is a well-presented blueprint for their unique world fusion sound, combining musical influences from across the world in a unique mixture. Don't let the Roger Dean artwork on the cover fool you into imagining that this is a symphonic album - this is Afro-funk jazz rock crossover music, with the musical traditions of three continents blending as equals. Santana is the primary influence from the rock and jazz end of things, with the addition of a horn section and incredibly complex African rhythms transforming the music into something altogether different. Personally, I find that the band's second album is a bit better than this one - the production values are a bit meater and shinier, and there's a bit more funk influence - but this one is still well worth a listen.
Review by Mellotron Storm
3 stars OSIBISA may have been a band out of the UK but it's seven members were from Ghana (3), Grenada, Antigua, Nigeria and Trinidad.The band's name apparently means "Criss-cross rhythms that explode with happiness". An apt description. You feel like your listening in on a celebration as they woop it up vocally as percussions, horns, flute, organ and guitar standout. Interesting that this has a Roger Dean cover before even YES had one. So yeah this is a lot of fun.

"The Dawn" is my favourite track once the vocal expressions die down and the music becomes the focus. Flute leads then horns before the organ comes in around 2 1/2 minutes. Guitar before 4 minutes as the organ floats in the background.Big finish to this one. "Music For Gong Gong" is catchy with horns and percussion. Organ before 3 minutes. Someone is blowing a whistle at one point.

"Ayiko Bia" has some weird vocals before the music comes in. More of those vocals again. Not a fan of this one although the guitar is good before 4 minutes. Again a big finish. "Akwaaba" opens with percussion and vocal expressions along with horns. Guitar before 2 minutes then the organ leads a minute later.

"Oranges" is great until the vocals arrive after 2 minutes. Catchy stuff though. "Phallus C" is interesting because the vocals remind me of Joe Jackson (haha). I keep thinking eighties. Love the percussion late. "Think About The People" reminds me of SANTANA, at least the percussion does.

A good album no doubt but I must admit I was hoping more for something like EAST OF EDEN.

Review by kenethlevine
3 stars As someone who passed through a significant world music phase and still enjoys ethnic fusion, I was long overdue to check out the primordial blend offered up by OSIBISA before the genre even had a name. Hailing from 1971, their debut not surprisingly incorporates the progressive music of its day into an appealing mix of R&B, African, and Latin sounds. SANTANA certainly provides a solid point of reference but OSIBISA is more ensemble oriented and casts a wider net.

The intention from the get go was to produce joyous music that gets you or at least your chromosomes dancing, and the objective seems to have been met. While the group sound is clearly much happier than its analog in America, its general heaviness and incessant emphasis on rhythm do not produce the same effect on this listener, especially when compared to the more melodically oriented practitioners of the 80s and beyond - JULUKA, TOURE KUNDA, and HABIB KOITE to name a few. In the meantime, drum solos are the aural equivalent of traffic snarls for me in 2011, so, while I can appreciate that times were different, it doesn't mean I want to go back to something I never experienced in its proper context in the first place.

Still and all, OSIBISA offers enough striking material assessed on its own merits, as well as blueprints for the world music artists who followed, to merit their groundbreaking status. The best examples here of each respective aspect would be "Music for Gong Gong" and "Ayiko Bia". One of the group's strong suits is their expressive use of wind instruments, mostly brass, and "Oranges" provides the juiciest example herein. I am intrigued by the lyrical concept of "Phallus C", but the words are hard to make out and nowhere could I find them online. It almost sounds like an indictment of stereotypes around penis length and girth based on race, but musically leaves me cold. "Thing about the people" would seem out of place in lesser hands but actually works well as a closing number, solidifying the group's versatility in the realm of political protest. Lyrics aside, this one is worth it for the organ work even relative to the keyboard standards set earlier in the disk.

I don't imagine I will be crisscrossing these rhythms with high frequency, but I can certainly understand the buzz and the role this band could play as a portal to the world music scene for progressive aficionados.

Review by siLLy puPPy
COLLABORATOR PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
4 stars Although OSIBISA is primarily a band from the African nation of Ghana, it didn't form there. Four members from Ghana met three others from Caribbean nations in London in 1969 and so began their unique and catchy brand of Afro-funk jazz fusion. Their music is an eclectic fusion of various types of African and Caribbean music with particular emphasis on the local African form of Highlife but they also include a healthy dose of jazz, rock, Latin and R&B. I share the overwhelming opinion that OSIBISA is indeed the African version of Santana. There are a few tracks that could easily be slipped onto an early Santana album and no one would notice. The result of all this fusion is a vibrant, energetic and melodic percussion dominated big sound that I find quite uplifting.

The band put out the rumors that their name means "criss cross rhythms that explode with happiness." What a great advertising method it was however the name is actually derived from "osibisaba" which means nothing more than "highlife" in Fante which is an indigenous language of Ghana. OSIBISA actually enjoyed mild success in the US with both their first two albums scoring mild success on the Billboard Top 200 possibly helped by the fact that a prolific Roger Dean contributed his artistic talents to the album covers. OSIBISA also was one of the first bands to popularize the term "world music" and influenced a gazillion others to follow their multi-cultural cross pollination. A very pleasant debut album where you can expect a big full sound delivering happy and upbeat harmonies and rhythms very much in the style of early Santana.

Review by Prog Leviathan
4 stars First let me say that if you're not familiar with Osibisa's "criss cross rhythms that explode with happiness," then you're missing out. This band's blend of world beats, jazz fusion, unapologetically open-ended songs, instrumental improvisation, and thick grooves makes Osibisa immediately appealing. The "prog" in Osibisa comes from their blending of musical roots, making an end result a unique and charming musical experience.

I highly recommend everyone reading to the warm sound and dynamic rhythms of this little heard of band. It may not blow your mind as a prog-rock master piece, or have the razzle-dazzle as a Chic Corea or Mahavishnu Orchestra fusion album... but I guarantee that Osibisa will groove its way into your soul and, enhance any party as background music, and catch your attention with its dense rhythms and musicianship. It's a ton of fun while also being artistic, flamboyant, and genuine. Moreover, it could give your Anglo or Scandanavian-centric prog-rock music collection a juicy bit of soul from the equator!

Songwriting: 3 - Instrumental Performances: 4 - Lyrics/Vocals: 3 - Style/Emotion/Replay: 4

Latest members reviews

3 stars Some fantastic artwork, this album has. I would love to have that on my wall. The music too is very colourful. This may be the most unusualalbum I have ever reviewed or even come across. The music is so far away from my standard fare as possible. But it is brilliant to be challenged and to ... (read more)

Report this review (#241873) | Posted by toroddfuglesteg | Monday, September 28, 2009 | Review Permanlink

4 stars A delightful debut from Osibisa that was a breath of fresh air when I first heard it. Previously I didn't know much about ethnic fusion. I loved Santana, and in retrospect even though I discovered them by accident Osibisa's first two albums are a logical step forward from there. Osibisa's self ... (read more)

Report this review (#211022) | Posted by Speesh | Saturday, April 11, 2009 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Nowadays Osibisa would probably be lumped into the world music category, but back in 1971 there was nothing quite like it. With a mix of African, Caribbean, jazz and rock sounds, the band presented a fresh spirited sound that was exciting, adventuresome, mysterious and well played. We were treated t ... (read more)

Report this review (#120289) | Posted by DocB | Monday, April 30, 2007 | Review Permanlink

4 stars I've heard about Osibisa about 13 years ago when my guitar teacher told me that i should listen to that band, i might like it. Two years after that i was in a used record store and found that album, it was cheap so i brought it. I heard it only one time because my turntable died on me the next ... (read more)

Report this review (#84715) | Posted by Fido73 | Monday, July 24, 2006 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Jazz blended with african rhytms, that's what Osibisas self titled debut is. And it sounds great. The first side is flawless. The first track "Dawn" is good, the second "Music for Gong Gong" is better andthe third "Ayiko Bia" even better. Sometimes it's fusion music and sometimes the rhytms ta ... (read more)

Report this review (#84708) | Posted by Frasse | Monday, July 24, 2006 | Review Permanlink

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