04/10/2023Want Some Records Reissues Elusive Kenyan Afro-Funk Groover From 1977 By The Mighty Cavaliers

Want some records? Then you're going to have to dig, dig and dig some more and hope that luck turns your way. German imprint and online record dealer Want Some Records did just that. Label head Dennis Krailing, an avid aficionado of African music, couldn't believe his eyes or ears, when the elusive original "Mapendo" by The Mighty Cavaliers arrived at his doorstep directly from Kenya. Originally released in 1977, this particular record remains "shrouded in mystery". To this day, little to nothing is known about its backstory or its creators other than what is mentioned in the credits. It comes as no surprise then, that Krailing eventually decided to hire Uganda-based journalist and friend Michiel van Oosterhout to find out more about the album's true origins, knowing full well that he was planning on making it his label's premier release. 

"If you look at the original cover of this very rare Kenyan funk-infused album all you will find are the names of the engineer and the producer, as EMI Kenya omitted the names of the musicians and songwriters. Digging deeper, a rather sinister story of deceit develops whereby 'Mapendo' becomes symbolic for all that was wrong about the Kenyan record industry in the 1970s, and the music industry in Africa as a whole. As this maltreatment of artists proved endemic throughout the continent, although little talked about. One of the three surviving members of The Mighty Cavaliers, bass player Bonnie Wanda [...], vividly remembers participating in the recording of the two albums the band made in 1976 and 1977 – 'Fisherman' and 'Mapendo' – and how they, especially on the latter album, got short-changed by shrewd record label executives", Oosterhout writes. The rest of the story can be found in the record's liner notes. 

Listening to "Mapendo", what stands out is its warm and soulful timbre, glistening with a unique fervour and apparent joie de vivre. The joyous musicality and vicious groove is highly infectious and sure to trigger an exuberant response. Combining a wide array of influences with dazzling guitar work, funky vibes, bluesy hues and African swagger, "Mapendo" has an undeniable bounce to its step and potential to ignite dancefloors the world around. Having greatly enjoyed the psych-fueled 2018 reissue of fellow Kenyan afro-rock outfit Black Savage on Afro7, we believe The Mighty Cavaliers to be yet another prime example of 1970s Kenyan afro-funk, though the emphasis here is most definitely on funk. No doubt this longplayer can stand its own and deserves all the attention it can get. That being said, this long overdue reissue treatment should do the trick and shine a light on this remarkable group of musicians. Better late than never.

AUTHOR: Lev Nordstrom