I've always hated compartmentalisation in music. The idea that certain types of music should be removed from others. I grew up visiting record shops where everything was crammed into the same tiny space. If you wanted a punk album, it was in a rack right next to a whole bunch of metal stuff - if you wanted Reggae, that was a few paces to your left, next to the old R&B, which was next to the normal pop stuff, and so on. The shops I frequented then were staffed by people who would play just about anything they fancied, and that mix of sounds often opened my ears to things I wouldn't otherwise have considered buying. In 1981, this unconscious blending of sounds and styles was reflected in the other ways we were exposed to music: the music press were just as likely to put The Bhundu Boys on the front cover as Billy Bragg, Peel could play Scientist next to Orange Juice and we wouldn't bat an eyelid.
Some time in the late eighties, all this started to change. Record shops became all about the volume, not the variety. A visit to a new "Megastore" would reveal huge long racks of CD's, but close inspection showed it was just 10 copies of each album. The jumble of sleeves, cardboard cut-out artwork and stickers which adorned the walls of my old shop were replaced with cool neon signs, looking great but saying little. Everywhere was clean, chromed, carpeted, and deadly dull. Worst of all was the insidious rise of the compartmentalizing of music. Certain genres were taken away, removed from the main body of the shop. Jazz, Classical, World. If you went into a huge Virgin Megastore, you could be just looking at a wall of Rock CD's, when a few paces and a push through a smoked glass door would suddenly take you into the "Jazz" room. The music suddenly stopped, to be replaced by some David Sanborn (at reduced volume), the air conditioning seemed to be set slightly higher (so it was actually quite cold) and there was a rather bored looking assistant twiddling his thumbs by the cash desk. For me, the whole fun of Record shopping was being forced to listen to Ornette Coleman by the same hyper-enthusiastic muso who'd just made me listen to The Residents. Where had that spirit of inclusiveness gone? To this day, I tend to seek out shops like Rough Trade, where that eclectic outlook and musical melee still exists: places like Rough Trade are a joy to shop in, as a result. Of all the genres which suffered from this Stalinist policy of removal and ring-fencing, "World" music suffered most. It went from being another part of the music we listened to back then, to something which you had to find a specialist outlet in order to indulge your passion. As a result, the casual record buyer became alienated and cynical about World music, and the days of King Sunny Ade on the front of my weekly music magazine seem a long, long way off. It's been slowly changing over the past couple of years, and could that possibly be due to the gradual disappearance of the huge Chain store record emporiums from our high streets? So many people will shop via itunes now, which offers a main page that presents all of it's wares in one place: a jumble of genres, charts, adverts and images. Rather like an old record shop, though smelling slightly less of B.O. and Woodbines.
So here's a record from an era where "World" hadn't even been invented. Where a record by someone from Zaire (though he was a french resident at the time) would sit in the racks just along from Echo and The Bunnymen, would be on the radio airwaves just after something by Suicide, and would be on my cassette compilations after something by Magazine or The Flys (probably). And it's also a record which first came to my attention via a cassette, the NME's "Jive Wire" which came out in 1982. It was originally part of an album called "En Action" , recorded by the expansively-named Pablo "Lubadika" Porthos in Paris in 1981. the four tracks on that album were released by Island records as part of their newly-founded "African" imprint (the second 12", "Bo Mbamda" is equally excellent, and I'll be happy to post that up as well, If anyone is interested). "Madeleina" was also featured on the long-out-of-print CD "Sound D'Afrique Vol 2: Soukous" (if you want a copy, it's about 35 quid) However, both the NME tape and the CD compilation both feature the edited version of the song, and for this delicate slice of bittersweet, chiming sunshine to really work, it just has to be the full 12" version. I can't think of any other records in my entire collection which are guaranteed to raise as much of a smile as this song does when I play it; it's just perfect. Enjoy.