Listening to the phonograph recordings from the Congo region circa 1906, one is all at once transfixed, transported, and mad mad overwhelmed. Herein lies the fathomless foundation of Hip Hop, Jazz, Mambo, Dub, Blues, Black Punk, Samba, and R&B. But let me warn you that without previous knowledge and the application of a whole lot of imagination you might be somewhat disappointed with the lack of warmth in the actual reproduction. Yes, dear Blogites, even after the digital equalising and enhancing process, mid and low frequencies simply do not exist; there’re a lot of highs on those wax cylinders. Sadly you cannot enhance what was not captured in the original recording due to technological limitations; but I know, from personally playing antique instruments used by musicians in that era, the vast range of frequencies they are capable of producing is awesome.
All this to stand witness to the fact that technology has advanced in leaps and bounds: after all, it was 1877 when Thomas Edison invented the Phonograph recording machine, and in that epoch sub-bass was an alien phenomenon to western ears. Edison was not Dre; the Phonograph was not Pro Tools. But, irrelevant of all the above, let me emphasise that I’m so very very grateful to have been granted entry into those two sonic havens – the Berlin Phonogramm Archiv and the British Library – where the earliest recordings of African music exist. I’ve made a selection and I’m taking them back to present to the cultures from which they were taken. There they will be decoded, translated and, with a select group of traditional and contemporary musicians, I will be going into the recording studio equipped with Sanzas, synthesisers, beat boxes and drums to create some new sonic cartographic collages. First stop Luanda, Angola on this my Afro-Sonic Mapping maiden voyage.