It's not easy nowadays to find an offline music store that sells vinyl records, but if you come across one, there's a good chance that they have a growing selection of African LPs. The amount of reissues of classic 70s and 80s African grooves in the past few years has been quite impressive, and there are more than a handful of tiny labels that specialize in digging up forgotten grooves - often run by one music enthusiast who does his own digging for old records straight at the source in (often west) Africa. Prices of the original records on auction sites like Ebay have gone through the roof - 500$ and up for a sought after vinyl album from Nigeria or Ghana is not unheard of.
Then, in the shadow of these reissues we have seen western producers sample these tunes, and the brilliant African Sample Mix by Parisian collective We Are Blind shows that the distinct sounds of 70's Nigerian and Ghanaian afrobeat have mixed well with modern productions.
Another offshoot of the reissue culture is the Afro edit or re-edit. Often released on vinyl with bogus artist names and titles, edits are well crafted reinterpretations of the original grooves, released by young producers who bridge the gap between the vintage music lover's archive and the dancefloor. Their limited marketability often means that there won't be any sample clearance or copyright payment, and thus these edits tend to end up in a legal grey zone where the original artist doesn't see a financial benefit. But more often than not, the edits turn up forgotten gems that would otherwise never be heard again, and their new status as edits may eventually lead to a properly licensed reissue.
While the concept of remixing a song has been familiar to music audiences around the world since the 1970's, the edit has remained much more of an insider's term, even though it is closely related to the remix. Remixes are often made by producers who have access to the original recordings of a song, preferably individual tracks so that instruments can be replaced or remixed. Edits have their origin in the analog technique of splicing and pasting tape, which was first done in the mid 1970s by American disco editors like Walter Gibbons and John Morales. They would take bits and pieces of dance songs and use editing to extend the percussion breakdown - an important innovation which would change dance music forever.
Nearly 40 years later, cutting and re-editing a song can be done with much less effort using a digital audio software like Logic, Soundforge or Audigy. Deejays can cut out the less dance worthy part of a song, then play their own edit from a cd-r or through Serato software on their laptop.
In recent years, disco, funk and jazz grooves have been massively re-edited and released to the market as limited edition white label 12 inches, and sometimes in other formats too. In the same vein there's been a handful of producers and labels specializing in edits of African grooves. Most prolific has been the Guynamukat imprint run by an English producers duo. Their Afro Disco Boogie edits series is now six volumes deep and boasts an impressive catalogue of original disco boogie songs, loosely edited into floor fillers. Artist and title are obfuscated, which leads one to think that the original artists may not be aware of what are essentially reissues of their work. Meanwhile, one of the Guynamukat guys worked with Nigerian/US label Comb & Razor in reissuing fully licensed edits on the Mukatsuku record label.
Another long standing series of Afro edits is Sofrito, the label of dj Hugo Mendez and dubplate editor Frankie Francis. Apart from their Super Singles edit series, they released a couple of compilations and some proper remixes, all with the full artist credits listed.
Popular American hip hop producer and dj Madlib even did a full album of Afro edits as part of his Madlib Medicine Show series of albums, released throughout 2010. Beat Konducta in Africa was a trippy excursion across the sounds of 1970s Nigeria and Ghana, partly based on tracks and albums that had already been reissued. Given the Madlib treatment, the tunes resulted in an album that was somewhere in between a mixtape and a compilation of edits.
A recent Afro edit project is Umoja, a collective of Dutch producers PCM, Manik and Sjef Rolet. Available as a free download from their Bandcamp site, their self-titled first EP builds upon the elusive mystery that is the edit, with vocals flying in and out, and a strong focus on funky percussive loops taken from what seem to be mid-seventies afrobeat and psych funk albums from west Africa. However, the producers do not just loop and shorten existing tracks, these are more like compositions in their own right, so the re-edit description doesn't always do justice to what is presented here. Also, there are a few sonic surprises, like a fragile kora and balafon loop that builds into a heavy percussion driven groove.