It's been an amazing year for reissues of hitherto-lost '70s music from Africa. I can't remember a time in this decade when I’ve been so excited by the quality of music being reissued. The last time I recall such an intoxicating year was 1998, and that was based largely on one album: Buda Musique's Ethiopiques Vol. 4: Ethio Jazz & Musique Instrumentale, the landmark anthology of vibraphonist, composer and arranger Mulatu Astatke's two LPs. (He'd issued them on Addis Ababa's Amha Records in the late '60s and early '70s.)
This year, we’ve received not only an Astatke anthology that fills in the small cracks left by Buda's watertight album, but also other trawls through well-known West African musical hotbeds (Soundway Records' thorough Ghana Special) and tiny nations such as Benin, whose musical heroes might never have been heard by Western ears were it not for labels like Soundway and newcomer Analog Africa, which issued not one but two anthologies of Benin's best this year.
For all the lip service paid to the resurgence of vinyl, it's still an arcane format for most people, so those interested in the most faithful reproductions of African albums will likely have to invest in a turntable. Germany's Shadoks and New York's Academy LPs reissue their African albums on vinyl only, at least until the demand is high enough to warrant a move from the fringe to the middle. Best Buy will never stock these records, and that's kind of the reissuer's point. These records shouldn't be farther from your grasp than a quick Google search.