Crate Digger: AFRIC SIMONE Piranha 1976
Afric Simone Piranha (1976 Disco Vox Turkey)
Now I’m a sucker for a novelty record. Christmas Songs, songs about drinking, songs by anthropomorphic rodents, many have places in my collection. Alongside them is this mid-seventies horror from Mozambican royalty Afric Simone.
Simone is a great musician, he was popular all over the world in the mid-seventies, the a side to this ‘Ramaya’ was his first European hit but he crossed over into the eastern bloc countries also. It’s hard to know what the communist populations of Russia, Poland, and Czechoslovakia heard his music before he arrived. I’m sure the audiences were very enthusiastic after all those military marches.
I will hold my hands up and admit I know very little about African Music. It’s a particular genre I am yet to immerse myself fully into, ergo I am unaware of any subtleties of style or form that you pick up with a deep dive into an art form. I have been around the block enough times however to recognize there is very little subtlety to this disco-rock anthem to a South American killer fish.
Ok, everyone is searching for a hit at some point in their career and Simone found it with the A-side but the flip is a heavy hand stab at disco-exploitation (discplotitation doesn’t work as a compound term) trying to capitalize on Hollywood’s contemporaneous penchant for disaster monster movies featuring the natural world (Jaws, Anaconda and the truly awful Piranha itself) in order to squeeze a floor filler into the set without too much clever wordsmithing or complicated composition.
It’s forever fascinating when current musical trends pass through the filter of another country’s culture. As you would expect nothing comes out quite the same, and sometimes something truly unique is born (for reference see Fela Kati). Afric Simone’s Piranha, however, falls away short of that particular slab of musical genius but you can hear his own musical influence just the same.
Hidden in the stomping four-to-the-floor disco beat and the nonsense chanting lyrics is a polyrhythm so subtle that it’s easy to miss it. The interplay between the gut air and the percussion is pure Afro beat, I’m sure as I can be it’s not a deliberate or conscious inclusion, but an organic development of an idea, the inclusion of musical influences that musicians soak up through their careers that always find their way to the surface no matter what. And that’s where the interest for me lies in this record.
It’s not great, it’s quite weird in fact. Sitting somewhere between disco and rock, fake African chants about a South American fish and all. It is however worth a listen because in the background you might just hear a bit of something else poking through, in the cracks between the intention, where no one thinks to look.
AFRIC SIMONE Piranha
Written by A. Simone & St. Royal
Produced by Jörg Schmeier
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