Legendary West African band 45 years in the making make their Chicago return.
Poly-Rhythmo are probably the oldest of the post-independence bands in west Africa still active – but only just. The group was founded in Benin by Mélomé in 1968 and became hugely popular in the 1970s. They performed a varied repertoire of Afrobeat, songs based on the vodoun (voodoo) rituals in Benin, Latin music and James Brown-influenced funk.
Their success wasn’t limited to Benin – the group toured and enjoyed hit records in neighbouring Nigeria, Ghana and French West Africa, while they played alongside some of the continent’s greatest stars, including Miriam Makeba, Angelique Kidjo and Fela Kuti. But in the early 1980s, under the Marxist dictatorship of Mathieu Kérékou, Benin entered a period of economic hardship and decline. The band survived, but with precious few engagements, many, even in Benin, thought Poly-Rythmo were history.