Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou

In the small country of Bénin, many bands were formed, and a raw and psychedelic style of afrobeat developed. The most prolific band was the Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou, producing tens of albums and even more 7-inch singles. Their music took traditional rhythms from Benin with its Voodoo (vodun) culture as a starting point and was very much influenced by soul music. James Brown was hot at the time. But Poly-Rythmo also played salsa, soukous and other West African tunes. The band started in 1968, and was at some point called Orchestre Poly-Disco, as they were the house band of a label of the same name. A new manager who had a nightclub changed their name in El Ritmo. From the moment Adissa Seidou of Albarika Store, who would release a large amount of their work, started working with them, they decided to keep the name of Orchestre Poly-Rythmo. This was in the second half of 1969.

Poly-Rythmo started with five members, being Melome Clement, Bentho Gustave, Amenoudji Vicky Joseph and Bernard "Papillon" Zoundegnon, but at their peak, the band counted 16 members. Still in 1969, the need for a soul singer was felt, and Vincent Ahehehinnou was recruited from Daho Jazz. He would contribute significantly to the success and the distinctive sound of Poly-Rythmo. He left the band in 1978 for undisclosed reasons.

After first successes, the international contacts of their producer of Albarika Store enabled them to record in the EMI studios in Lagos, Nigeria. What followed was a range of singles, albums and various artists recorded with Poly-Rythmo, such as Danialou Sagbohan, Betti Betti and many others. Also, recordings were made by band members or even the whole band with other small Beninese labels with a distribution hardly wider than the city boundaries. But overall, they never had the exposure towards international audiences. "Benin's best kept secret" became only known outside Africa two or three decades later, after the release of a few influential compilations on labels Popular African Music, Soundway and Analog Africa. Although the band had lost a few of its members and seemed forgotten, Poly-Rythmo never ceased to exist. With the success of the compilations and a general growing interest in afro-beat and afro-funk, Poly-Rythmo started touring again in 2009, in Europe. The new 10-piece band contains five members from the old days, Gustave Bentho, Melome, Vincent (back after all those years!) and Pierre Loko.

In 2011, a new studio album « Cotonou Club » came out, recorded in the old Lagos studio with analogue recording equipment, in order to keep the old seventies sound.

Album cover 'Vol. 8
 Album cover 'Volume 8 - N'goua' 
Musicians on "Trop Parler, C'est Maladie " (ALS 058):
Bentho Gustave bass;
Melome Clement († 17 December 2012) vocals, chef d'orchstre;
Yehouessi Leopold drums;
Adjadohoun Maximus guitar;
Zoundegnon Bernard Papillon († 27 October 1982) guitar solo, organ;
Loko Pierre saxophone (tenor);
Cakpo Cosme, Koutouan Ossey Theodore trumpet;
Tidjani Koné trumpet, saxophone (alto);
Agbemadon Paul Gabo, Amenoudji Joseph Vicky, Lohento Eskill († 2006) vocals

Created: 1968, in Cotonou
Style: Afro-funk, Afro-beat, Afro-latin, Soukous, Sato, Sakpata

Title Year Label Remarks
Madjafalao 2016 News A - F / Because BEC5156647
The Skeletal Essences Of Afro Funk 1969-1980 2013 Analog Africa AACD 073 Compilation
The First Album (1973) 2011 Analog Africa (Limited Dance Edition) AACDDE1 Re-issue of the very first album
Cotonou Club 2011 Strut Records STRUT077CD / Sons d'ailleurs New Recordings
Vol. 2 "Echos Hypnotiques" 2009 Analog Africa AACD 066 Compilation
Vol. 1 "The Vodoun Effect" 1972-1975 2008 Analog Africa AACD 064 Compilation / Funk & Sato from Beninīs Obscure Labels
The Kings of Benin, Urban Groove 1972-80 2004 Soundway Records SNDWCD/LP004 Compilation
Reminiscin' in Tempo 2003 Popular African Music PAM ADC 306
Nouvelle Formule... 200? IACP Production IACP/CG 055734.2
LP discography (incomplete/under construction)
The Albarika releases:
Hommage au Président Bongo 198? Albarika Store ALS 0146
Volume 10 198? Albarika Store ALS 0132
Volume 9 : reconciliation 1983 Albarika Store ALS 0129
Volume 8 1979 Albarika Store ALS 070 Amenoudji Joseph Vicky - vocaliste
Volume 7 1979 Albarika Store ALS 068 Zoundegnon Bernard "Papillon"
Trop parler c'est maladie 1978 Albarika Store ALS 058 Zoundegnon Bernard "Papillon"
Volume 5 1978 Albarika Store ALS 049 Chanteur principal Lohento Eskill
[also: Disco des lyriques-DDL 01]
Volume 4 1978 Albarika Store ALS 048 Yehouessi Léopold
T.P. Orchestre Poly Rythmo et Loko Pierre 1978 Albarika Store ALS 047 Loko Pierre
Spécial 30 novembre 1978 Albarika Store ALS 044 Melome Clement (green album)
Melome Clement 1977 Albarika Store ALS 037 Melome Clement (yellow album)
Ahehehinnou Vincent & Poly-Rythmo 1973 Albarika Store ALS 005 LP, Ahehehinnou Vincent
Other labels / compilations / ventures:
Volume 10 1983 Albarika Store ALS 0111 Compilation
Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou Dahomey 1971 EMI Nigeria HNLX 5060 Compilation of singles

Page added June 2011