Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part of our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased tracks, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Each and every Friday we offer songs by local artists. Today’s selection, featured on the Midday Show with Cheryl Waters is “Pardon” by Orchestre Poly-Rhythmo from the 2011 album Cotonou Club on Strut Records.
It’s been over 20 years since Orchestre Poly-Rhythmo released a studio album and over 40 since the band first formed in the West African Republic of Benin. Once a musical powerhouse of West Africa, so much that they are still often referred to as Le Tout-Puissant Orchestre Poly-Rythmo (or “The Almighty” Orchestre Poly-Rythmo), the band recorded over 50 albums and maintained for years throughout regime changes, restrictive club policies, and the influx of dance music, until finally many thought the group long gone. However, renewed European interest and the discovery of some old recordings led French radio journalist Elodie Maillot to seek them out and help the band reform and eventually tour outside of Africa, which they had never done during their entire career!
Rather than relying on Western discovery of more of their decades-old albums, Orchestre Poly-Rythmo flew to Paris to record the new album entirely on vintage analogue equipment. Cotonou Club, named after the largest city in Benin, is a mix of new and re-recorded older songs, which fuse funk, soul, afro-beat, vodun, and many other styles and features guests including Angelique Kidjo and members of Franz Ferdinand. Today’s featured song, “Pardon,” asserts that forgiveness is as necessary in Voodoo as in Christianity, and as guitarist Maximus Adjanohun says, “Forgive everyone, even the one who has tried to seduce your wife.”
Orchestre Poly-Rythmo performed their first U.S. shows last summer. No news yet if they’ll follow up their new release with another tour, but keep checking Strut’s website for news. For now, here’s a Cotonou Club album preview: