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World Music Matters

Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou, purveyors of Vôdun-afrobeat

Audio 10:41
Orchestre Poly-Rythmo
Orchestre Poly-Rythmo Youri Lenquette

Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou are one of West Africa’s oldest and most successful bands, masters of Vôdun-inspired afrobeat. Singer and co-founder Vincent Ahehehinnou talks to RFI about their new album Madjafalao and why their music has not changed with the times.


The Orchestre Poly-Rythmo were formed in 1968. It was a hugely popular band across the whole of West Africa throughout the 1970s. Their exciting blend of afrobeat and funk, laced with traditional Vôdon rhythms, set dance halls alight from Côte d’Ivoire to Mali as well in their native Benin. They recorded hundreds of tracks and over 50 albums, many in the same Lagos studio as Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti.

The deaths of two of the band's members and political instability in their native Benin led to a long a long hiatus in the 80s and 90s. But they reformed in 2008 and, thanks to a French journalist, got their first gigs outside Africa in 2009.

Their main audiences are now here in Europe. They showed they could still groove and fire up the audience at a recent performance in Aubervilliers' Embarcadère venue, where they performed as part of the as part of the Villes des Musiques du monde festival.

But Ahehehinnou says they can win back fans in Benin, show they're not "has-beens" and unite the country's 60 ethnic groups through Vôdun.

Follow the band on facebook.

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