Mariama | :: Radio


fri 21 feb 2020 20:00 

In today’s episode of Mariama you can listen to music from the People’s Republic of Benin, formerly known as the Republic of Dahomey. Kees Schuil compiled today’s music from his selection of African albums, which includes the T.P. Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou.

The Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou was formed back in 1968 and still performs today. Their first tour outside Africa, under the name of Le Tout Puissant Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou, was in 2009. In that same year, they visited the Netherlands and also performed in music venue Rasa in Utrecht, where they played again in 2016.

Although band members have changed along the way, five of the original band members still played in the orchestra very recently. They play various styles, ranging from afrofunk to afrolatin, soukous and  songs that are based on traditional rhythms. The songs are sung in either French or in one of the native languages of Benin, the Fon tongue. However, sometimes they also sing in another native tongue called Mina. That’s the Ewe language, spoken in the south of Togo and the western part of Benin. It is also the lingua franca of Togo.

Honoré Avolonto was one of the singers of Poly-Rythmo. In 1982, he released the album “Agbénon hévi”, which means “a living bird”. On the Internet, people disagree whether Avolonto is accompanied by Poly-Rhythmo or his own band on this album. Honoré Avolonto and several other band members of Poly-Rythmo also played in Black Santiago. This band released a single in the Twi language, featuring the unknown Ghanaian singer Sicko Appiah. The title of that single was “Akpakpa police”.

Bands from Benin often play music that is based on traditional rhythms like the “agbadja”. This rhythm is also the basis of a very popular dance of both the Fon people and of the Ewe that live near the coast in the south parts of Benin, Togo and East Ghana.

The song “Azanlokpé” of Orchestre Poly-Rythmo, also based on the
agbadja rhythm, was composed by Mélomé Clément, bandleader of
Poly-Rythmo since its formation. He died of a heart attack on 17
December 2012.


The Poly-Rhytmo orchestra originates from Benin’s capital, Cotonou. But several bands come from Porto-Novo, the economic capital in the south east of Benin. In this entire south eastern region along the border of Nigera, the Yorouba tongue is spoken by the Anago people. One of the orchestras from Porto-Novo is Les Volcans du Bénin and is led by Janvier Lemed. Originally, this orchestra was called the Orchestre National de la Gendarmerie (The National Police Orchestra).

Another famous band from Porto-Novo is Gnonnas Pedro et ses Dadjes. The bandleader Gnonnan Sossou Pierre Kouassivi was born in Lokossa in the southwest region of Benin where the Adja people lives. Gnonnas Pedro et ses Dadjes also mastered many music styles: mainly afrolatin, but also soukous, afrofunk, French “blues”, traditional rhythms like agbadja and even highlife and jùjú. Gnonnas Pedro also sang in many languages: Spanish, French and in the Fon, Yorouba, Mina and Adja tongue. They also performed in Rasa in Utrecht. From 1995 up to his death in 2004 at the age of 61, Gnonnas Pedro was the leadsinger of the band Africando.

The Anago people from the eastern part of Benin play typical Yorouba music. Akambi Eletu-Etu and his Irede-Band Juju from Porto-Novo play music in the jùjú style.





  1. Poly-Rythmo: Semassa, 8:07, Composer: Léopold Yehouessi, LP (0+0=0), 1983, Star   Musique, SMP 6019
  2. Poly-Rythmo: Nou lagnon namè, 4:04, Composer: Bernard Zoumagnon, Disques Tropiques SAT 008
  3. Honoré Avolonto de Cotonou: Je donnerai mon coeur, 8:06, LP Agbénon hévi, 1982. Aux Écoutes, AH.005.AE
  4. Sicko Appiah et l’Orchestre Black Santiago: Ô bra, 3:04, 45T Mono, Disques Tropiques SAT 060
  5. Poly-Rythmo: Azanlokpé, 4:58, Composer: Mélomé Clémen, 45T Mono. Disques Tropiques SAT 046
  6. Les Volcans du Bénin: Les faux conseillers, 7:29, Composer: Janvier Lemed, LP Occupez-vous de vos oignons. 1984. MY. MY 005 K
  7. Gnonnas Pedro et ses Dadjes: Feso jaiye, 5:13, Composer: Gnonnas Pedro, LP The Band Of Africa Vol 1, 1975, African Songs Ltd, AS 42-L
  8. Irede-Band Juju de Porto-Novo: Ise Logun ise, 5:15, Composer: Akambi Eletu-Etu, 45T Mono. IB 001
  9. Poly-Rythmo: Débrouiller n‘est pas voler, 16:38, Composer: Bernard Zoundegnon ‘Papillon’, LP Trop parler c’est maladie, 1978. Albarika Store, ALS 05

We thank Barbera Schuil for lending us her African albums.


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