(Franck Biyong on the meaning of the name Massak)
"I love it...The vocals ,the music - it's beautiful. They have a heavy Fela influence but very good. You need to get me an early advance copy !" (Common on "T&C / Junglectric Medley")
When I was conducting an interview with one of my favourite hip-hop artists last week I couldn't resist playing him a CD-R of the new Massak record. Ever since Femi Kuti opened Common's "Water For Chocolate" album (followed by an uncleared Tony Allen sample on the second track ) Common's love for Afrobeat was obvious. With this in mind I expected a positive feedback and even if I take in account that Common acted very humble and polite during the interview his enthusiasm for Massak seemed to be heartfelt.
With such brilliant recommendation I don't have brag and boast about how good the new record on Melting Pot Music is. Instead I can head straight to the facts:
Massak is the creation of one man: bandleader, singer, composer, guitarist and producer Franck Biyong. Born in France to Cameroonese parents, he spent his childhood in Abidjan (Ivory Coast) before he returned to France 12 years ago. Massak started playing local clubs in 1997 and quickly became one of the best kept secrets within the international Afrobeat diaspora. Since then they have toured France, England and the USA but it was a little 45 single on Lenar/Soul Fire that finally caught the attention of fans of gritty funk and afrobeat alike. "B.L.A." became my favourite new Afrobeat tune of 2002 and was the initial reason why I wanted to work with Franck Biyong & Massak.
To stay in tune with the special nature of Massak's music we decided to release a live recording as their first release on MPM. And the music on this 12" is exactly this: live and direct from the source with no overdubs or edits but heavy vibin\\\' and full of energy.
"T&C / Junglectric" is a medley of two songs that are an integral part of Massak's live show. Played only with a rukus of drums, bass, guitar and keyboards (Massak have performed with more than 20 musicians and singers on stage) this special version was recorded in October 2002 in Dijon where Massak opened for Tony Allen. Franck dedicates this song to the legendary Afrobeat drummer by citing his classic "No Accomodation For Lagos" from 1979.
"Tony Allen is one of the most amazing and innovative drummers ever." says Franck. "He' s like Tony Williams (the legendary Miles Davis drummer).No one will ever do it like he does it. I've had the honour to be his opening act last year and was honoured. I questioned him a bit about his music and he told me "When I play,there are six people playing in fact".There's nothing more to say."
The recording of "A.S.U." dates back to the summer of 2000. "A.S.U." stands for "African Spiritual Unity" and was recorded live in the studio during the same session as "B.L.A. (Brain Liberation Army). The original version is over 16 minutes long. We had to cut it down to 10 minutes in order to fit in with the 12" maxi single format.
"I wanted to keep the vibe alive even though it's a studio recording" remembers Franck. "I wanted to get a more funky and repetitive approach of Afrobeat than structured songs. Here you got the George Clinton influence on me: long and repetitive grooves in a funky spirit."
"For me Afrobeat is a major source of inspiration but the music I play is different: I call it 'Afrolectric' because it suits better the person I am: an African who was taught and lives in a Western culture. It represents myself as who I am and not as an Afrobeat inheritor"
Olski , Cologne, May 2003
"A.S.U. is a bombtrack! Hypnotic afro hardfunk that never stops to get up!" - Seb The Player, (Radio Nova/Paris)
"A.S.U. is fantastic. I'm glad to see it on vinyl at last. Phillipe Lehman sent it to me a long, long time ago.It's a shame the beginning was edited out, I love the" Pardon moniseur .... "-business. Anyway, thanks a lot. I'm so glad to own it. I've played it load's already." - Snowboy, (Essex)
"A.S.U. is great - obviously very influenced by the great Fela (which is not a bad thing of course) but easly good enough to stand on its own. The vocal interplay with the backing singers is exellent, and the whole thing cooks. I'd like to hear the full 16 minute version!" - John Stapleton, (Bristol)
"Yeah...I like it more and more...its not a peaktime floor filler though but an early or late tune and I like the politicising and the laid back afrobeatish rhythm. The drums and bass are mixed too gentle for a dancefloor killer... Good radio stuff too tho" - Max Reinhardt (The Shrine & Straight No Chaser/London)
"A bad one for sure! I actually dropped it last Saturday down at the club and it sounded really good." - Mad Mats, (Raw Fusion/Stockholm)
"Massak has been all over the pages of Straight No Chaser and Big Daddy as the next Afrobeat band to be reckoned with. Both sides are side-long afro-beat epics, as funky and heavy as Tony Allen and Fela!" - Groove Distribution, (Chicago)