The Africans – Kong Pow, The Professionals – Maroon rock (1979)

“This 7 inch is special to me. One of the first people that got in touch with me through this blog, is a man called Nick Farris. It wasn’t long after the first few posts, that he hit up me on my e-mail with corrections, extra’s and suggestions. He has also been highly instrumental in telling the world about this blog on various pages on the internet, for which I am still grateful today. As if that wasn’t nice enough he sent me this single the other day as a ‘thank you for your work on the Pressure Beat website and mixes.’ I was baffled, flabbergasted and speechless upon experiencing such kindness, I can tell you that much. The 7 inch did come with an assignment, though. Maybe I could find some information about the track? Now that was quite a hard nut to crack. I’m not sure if I cracked anything at all, to be honest, but anyway: here you go, Nick. I hope it’s sufficient.. The Africans were a duo consisting of Keith Simms and W. Palmer who released their songs in the late seventies and early eighties on various labels such as High Note, Treasure Isle, WildFlower, Nura and their own African imprint. Some of these were produced by Willie Lindo, who had a tight connection with the Joe Gibbs studio as a producer, arranger and musician. Perhaps it was through him the Africans were given the opportunity to release ‘Kong Pow’ on the Belmont label? Or perhaps Joe Gibbs was simply taken in with the group’s least mento-influenced track ever (to my knowledge) and decided to release it.

Although the times were dreader than dread in 1979, the year of its release, the times were changing. As was the music. Rapidly. Perhaps ‘Kong Pow’ came too late to make an impact, or perhaps it was simply too much to handle. Because if one thing is clear: this is as deep as deep roots goes. The Africans sang about repatriation and brotherly love on other sides as well, but never on such a heavy riddim like the one the Professionals laid down for them. I can imagine the minor chorded and percussion heavy backing (probably Uziah ‘Sticky’ Thompson on the bongo’s) tempted the Africans to take it a step further than usual. Gone is the jumpy mento styled singing and in comes a one-off and sincere sounding tribute to the Jamaican heritage and a call for uprising. Kong Pow tells the story of Paul Bogle, one of the seven national heroes of Jamaica, who led the Morant Bay Rebellion in 1865 for which he was sentenced to death. Other national heroes like the Kung Pow Nanny (better known as Granny Nanny, the female Maroon rebel who set up Nanny Town and freed many slaves), George William Gordon (a critic of the colonial government and founder Native Baptist church, of which Paul Bogle was a deacon) and Marcus Garvey also get a namecheck, after which the Africans proclaim they won’t surrender as easily (!). The aptly named b-side is sparse and focusses on the percussion, which is treated to just a tad of reverb in the breaks. Kong Pow is not the best known Africans track, nor did it, as mentioned above, break big in the charts, but it is tunes like this that make my collectors heart jump and skip. The thrill of finding an obscurity is always nice, but to discover it’s quality music as well… That just doesn’t happen too often. In this case, I can’t decide between the dub or the vocal, which basically means I keep flipping it over and over. Quite a gift…”
Pressure Beat (Video)


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