February 7, 2011
Geraldo Pino (aka Gerald Pine) is one of the hidden heroes of African popular music. A singer, guitarist and bandleader from Sierra Leone, he had a major influence on the burgeoning Soul/Funk/Afro-beat scene in West Africa during the 1960s and 70s. He made a huge impression on the young Fela Kuti who praised him effusively, but his music has remained largely unheard for the past 30 years.
In Afro-beat circles, the real cognoscenti have long regarded both of his albums as classics of their time. These releases, Let’s Have a Party & Afro Soco Soul Live, have been out of circulation for so long that most people won’t have even heard of their creator. Pino had been fronting his band in Freetown, Sierra Leone, since the very beginning of the 1960s and he’d run the gamut of musical styles from Pop to Pachanga, Rock to Rumba with a large measure of hometown success.
He eventually hit on his most winning formula – a version of US Funk & R&B of the mid-60s, taking the sound and injecting a powerful African ingredient – namely a potent percussive base. His lyrics reflected the militant stance of African Americans of the period and immediately his music began to cross national boundaries. The move led to what many perceive as the birth of Afro-beat, influencing in no small way a young, music-mad Fela Ransome Kuti who was to go on, in the 70s, 80s and 90s, to make Afro-beat a household word in areas far removed from West Africa.
The instant appeal of Pino’s sound comes from that most funky of instruments, the Hammond B3, an organ made popular in the US by the likes of Jimmy Smith and Booker T & the MGs. Geraldo’s rasping, driven vocal style also packs a punch and the relentless, rumbling drum & bass, coupled with some sweet, sweet funky guitar, completes the picture. Here, then, are 12 ultra-danceable, floor-filling gems of an audio quality you’d not think possible from the period (hats off again to Pino, he had, after all, studied and worked as a radio engineer), from the thundering opener “Heavy Heavy Heavy”, on the debut set to the sweat-soaked closer of his sophomore effort “Afro Soco Soul Live” – be prepared to move and groove to Geraldo Pino and the Heartbeats!