Reviews September 27, 2019
Disco Soccer

Rich strings, solid horns, and of course, detailed instructions for a novelty dance craze that never took off—BBE's reissue of Sidiku Buari's 1979 album Disco Soccer is just about as effusive, enthusiastic and charismatic as any album you can find.

The Ghanaian-born Alhaji Sidiku Buari's musical career grew out of his background as an athlete. Winning gold and silver medals at the Senegal All Africa Games and West African Games in 1963, and a bronze in the All African in Congo-Brazzaville in 1965, Buari got a scholarship to the York Institute in the United States, to study music. He ended up training with the baseball team, occasionally getting to play, and apparently often making up chants in Ga, the Kwa language spoken in and around Accra. The chants became the kernel of the songs, which he began recording in 1975.

It would be fascinating to know what Buari was listening to in the '70s, because Disco Soccer was obviously created with vision. It's faster and poppier than what you'd hear at Larry Levan's dub-influenced Paradise Garage sets, but the Bee Gees it ain't.

Despite some lines being sung in Ga, Disco Soccer doesn't leap out as “Ghanaian” unless you really know what you're listening for—congas pounding along under the disco four-to-the-floor, the bass sliding around with a sort of talking drum affectation, the vocal lines on “Kinyi Ai Kawali” delivered with a Fela-esque cadence. It's a tribute to disco's pronounced African-American roots that chanted vocal refrains from backup singers or the wide-open major key build of “Born With Music” come across as gospel. It's also a tribute to Ghanaian musicians being fairly adventurous listeners and fusion makers that gospel music was already in their repertoire.

Credit to Buari for pulling these threads together, then. Sure the seven-step instructions for his “Spirit of Sports Dance”—laid out in great detail in the vinyl gatefold—seem silly now (An excerpt: “The practice of the seventh dance step is advisable at a spacious place where you do not have to inconvenience other dancers”). But as a musical invitation to move, Disco Soccer has aged beautifully.

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