Listen: Kamulang (Single Edit) / Ray Lema
In the late 80′s, just starting a five year run at Island, I became pretty obsessed with World Music. We never called it that there or then, but the industry termed the genre as such around the time. It was easily a normal expansion of Island’s musical reach, well, normal to those of us in-house at least.
Chris had noticed my love of the genre, and at one point, suggested I leave the pop side of the company to concentrate exclusively on Mango, Island’s World and Reggae imprint. In some ways, I wish I had, but hey, you can’t do everything. At least, I can’t.
During the process though, I made a few trips to the UK and France, where several of the African acts either resided or performed regularly. One such being Ray Lema. His Mango debut, NANGADEEF, was produced by Paul ‘Graucho’ Smykle, infamous in my world for an identical feat on Black Uhuru’s ANTHEM.
Graucho may as well have lived at Island’s 22 St. Peter’s Square office in London, where we became fast friends. And I loved NANGADEEF. Was I ever pleased to see ‘Kamulang’ on the UK’s single release schedule, which in those days meant a 7 as well as a 12.
It was in Paris, during November ’89, that Ray Lema played to a jammed house inside the Virgin Mega Store. The whole freaking day reeked of romantic. Never one to have a soft spot about Paris nor France, I must admit, hanging around, as excited to meet Ray Lema as I had been about The Rolling Stones a decade and more earlier, with the Eiffel Tower in clear view, was pretty memorable. Musicianship, not volume, being the ultimate asset here, and Ray Lema had both. If you know his work, or simply listen to this track, I can verify, the music was flawlessly reproduced live with an added spiritual euphoria.
Despite the period’s sonic trappings, now all rather dated, there was always a streak of The Soft Machine in there instrumentally. What’s not to like about that?
Nowadays, ‘Kamulang’ holds up just fine for me. Regardless of if I can stretch my World 7″ collection to 50 plus or not, this will always be Top 5.