Hidden Gems

July 9, 2012

A meme making the rounds called “The True Size of Africa” shows a map of the continent with the U.S., China, India, Europe and more overlaid to show just how gigantic of a land mass the motherland is, with innumerable cultures.

I look at the graphic and think, “There’s a lotta bands there waiting to be discovered.” Benin’s Orchestre Poly-Rythmo, above, which formed in the late ’60s, has recently been rediscovered. Even the country’s most famous singer, Angélique Kidjo, didn’t think this seminal Afrobeat band still existed. But a French journalist traveled to Benin, found the Orchestre, organized its first-ever shows outside the country and introduced this massively funky group to the world.

Orchestre Poly-Rythmo has recorded hundreds of songs, some of which have appeared on compilations by the Soundway and Analog Africa labels, but most of its jams are still lost in the vaults. If one band from a tiny country in West Africa could be this amazing and prolific, think of the motherload of genius hidden across the continent.

The Hamilton, 600 14th St. NW; July 17, 7:30 p.m., $22.50-$38; 202-787-1000. (Metro Center)
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