MILES CLERET with A MAN CALLED WARWICK and LE TONE as part of TURNING POINT at the Gladstone Hotel (1214 Queen West), Saturday (November 22). $8. Rating: NNNNN
When Miles Cleret began rooting through bins on a trip to Ghana looking for funky African beats, he had no idea this obsession would come to take over his life. What started as a casual record-buying trip has turned into a full-time occupation for the Brighton vinyl junkie. Cleret's Ghana Soundz compilation, released on his Soundway imprint, digs deep to uncover that country's underground sound, in particular the blindingly funky jazz, Afrobeat, soul and fusion that lurked in highlife's shadow in the 70s.
The sides by Oscar Sulley, Ebo Taylor, K. Frimpong and the African Brothers that Cleret collected are ridiculously rare. Most were never heard beyond Ghana's borders, and many are previously unreleased.
The sheer obscurity of most of this music has led to speculation that Cleret was inspired to dig deeper by the success of his pal Duncan Brooker's own rare-reaching Afro-rock compilation. Not so, he insists, but getting beyond the obvious was always the point.
"My girlfriend and I were travelling through Ghana three years ago, and whenever I was in a town I spent time looking for records. Bad habit, I suppose," Cleret laughs.
He spins some of his finds at the Gladstone Hotel Saturday.
"One day I was sitting in this guy's house listening to records and hanging with some of the old musicians, and I just suddenly got the idea to collect these songs. The music was just too incredible to let sit.
"Most of this music was underground even in Ghana at the time. These bands were managed and manufactured, so they were told what to play. They might only be given one or two tracks to choose on their own, and these were inevitably the funkiest and rawest.
"Highlife was so dominant that these Afro tracks weren't even deemed commercially viable."
Where many DJs would simply bootleg the hot tracks, Cleret spent a lot of time travelling to and through Ghana, tracking the musicians down, ensuring that the tracks were properly licensed and that background info was available for each tune.
"It was hard, but you quickly realize that it's a small world, and even the most obscure musicians are known. You arrive, put the word out, and then you're soon pointed in the direction of his house.
"For instance, Ebo Taylor was a musician I knew strictly from his records; I had no idea who he was. I hunted around for him for a while and eventually ended up at his house in this little village, knocking on his door. He was a bit shocked but really pleased that someone would be that interested in his music. Now, he's been getting really rejuvenated and is writing music in that style for the first time in 20 years."
The good news for Afro fans is that Ghana Soundz is just the start. A second instalment in the series will come in March, followed by new releases by Taylor, comps of Nigerian Afrobeat, Benin Afro-Latin grooves and more.
"It's totally addictive," Cleret chuckles. "The more you hear, the more you're inspired. It's brilliant." firstname.lastname@example.org