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In rotation: El Rego's 'El Rego Et Ses Commandos'

In rotation: El Rego's 'El Rego Et Ses Commandos'
In the early 1970s, El Rego had to write a song. His country, Benin (then known as the Republic of Dahomey), had just been claimed in a military insurrection, and the army needed anthems. The coup leaders suggested (more like demanded) that the singer and bandleader write them a tribute. “Vive le Renouveau” is one of the better slights of hands in political music — ostensibly an ode to the “revolutionaries,” El Rego plays it as a worn-down blues lament that proves a bleary guitar figure speaks truth louder than any gunpoint sloganeering.

This gorgeous reissue, “El Rego Et Ses Commandos” on Daptone Records, reveals another under-explored corner of the globe’s tweaks of American popular music. The entrancing acid drone of “E Nan Mian Nuku,” “Hessa’s” moody funk and the organ-soaked breakbeat of “Achuta” are highlights, but the whole thing underscores what a country loses when a moralist coup tries to write the songs.

El Rego
“El Rego Et Ses Commandos”
2011
Daptone Records

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—August Brown

 

 
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