Benin’s Godfather Of Funk – El Rego

Listen: “El Rego – Dis Moi Oui

Link to Egon’s NPR piece here.

Though Benin’s 60s and 70s recording scene certainly rivaled that of neighboring Ghana and Nigeria, the European compilers that helped make Nigeria’s Fela Kuti and Ghana’s K.Frimpong (relative) household names have only recently rediscovered the country’s musical heroes.

The earliest benefactors of this resurgence were the inspiring Orchestre Poly Rythmo de Cotonou, whose numerous LPs and 45s offer a funky oeuvre hard to match in West Africa. But the man that Samy Ben Redjeb, producer of the top-notch compilation African Scream Contest Raw & Psychedelic Afro Sounds From Benin & Togo 70s and Legends of Benin credits with kick starting Benin’s funk, or jerk, movement, and whom Poly Rythmo bandleader Melome Clement cites as a direct influence on his ensemble’s sound, has remained a footnote.

Perhaps this is because Theophile Do Rego, better known as El Rego, et Ses Commandos released their groundbreaking tunes on the easily disposed 7” format. With a series of songs now compiled on Analog Africa’s trawls through the Beninois 60s and 70s scenes, and a rumored Voodoofunk/Daptone compilation forthcoming, we can only hope that El Rego’s other killers soon see the light of day.

Above: El Rego et Ses Commandos greeting Miriam Makeba at the Cotonou Airport, circa 1973