Filed under: Dahomey
Dahomey was under French rule until the country gained it’s independence in 1960. For the next 12 years, ethnic strife contributed to a period of turbulence. There were several coups and regime changes, with three main figures dominating – Sourou Apithy, Hubert Maga, and Justin Ahomadegbé – each of them representing a different area of the country. These three agreed to form a presidential council after violence had marred the 1970 elections. In 1972, a military coup led by Mathieu Kérékou overthrew the council. He established a Marxist government under the control of Military Council of the Revolution (CNR), and the country was renamed to the People’s Republic of Benin in 1975.
As for Orchestre Picoby-Band… This single was the first of three that they released in sequence on L.A. Aux Ecoutes. And I have read that they also released two other singles on the Albarika Store label. All of the songs on the L.A. Aux Ecoutes singles are credited to Avolonto Honore, who also wrote songs for fellow countymen El Rego and Orchestre Poly-Rhytmo, as well as recording under his own name.
The band formed in 1953. They were looking for a lead guitarist so I joined them in 1955. The first few years we really struggled, mostly because we had really crappy equipment! That changed radically in 1980. We had written to the cultural centre in Abomey asking for financial help; so did Renova Band, another great group from this town. The cultural centre didn’t have enough cash to support both groups so they decided to organize a competition, with the winner receiving 500.000 CPA. We won and with the cash we bought all kinds of instruments! We then participated in first national music festival, in 1965. The government would invite one band from each, (there were six states at the time). We represented Le Zou. At the end we came in third. La Sondas took first, followed by Annassoua Jazz.
In 1976 we participated in, the Festival des Arts et des Cultures. For that festival we changed our name to Echos du Zou. Super Borgou de Parakou won. We took second place with a traditional track containing revolutionary lyrics called Mi So Gbe. Although Orchestre PoIy-Rythmo was the better band, they made a few mistakes during that contest. The whole band arrived on their brand new motorbikes. Remember it was in 1976, we had the revolution going on here, and Benin was a socialist country at that time. I guess the jury didn’t like those bikes too much. Also. Poly-Rythmo were supposed to compose a song based on the traditional rhythms from their region, but they just played those crazy Jerks.
The two winners of that ‘76 contest, Super Borgou and us, were both going to represent Benin at Festac 77 in Lagos. Unfortunately our equipment was far too weak for such an important show, so we decided to team up with Poly-Rythmo – they had all those fancy Marshall and Orange amps. So we combined the three bands and became L’Orchesrte National du Benin. Mêlomê Clément was President de l’orchesrtre and Moussa Mama Djima was Chef d’orchesrtre. We came in second.
Catalog number LA 27 on L.A. Aux Ecoutes of Dahomey, pressed in Nigeria. No release date listed.