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Sones-de-Mexico
Dies, on far right (photo courtesy of the band’s site)

©Youri Lenquette.Burkina-Faso. Bobo-Dioulasso. 03/2010. T.P Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou. TournŽe d'Afrique de l'Ouest.

©Youri Lenquette.Burkina-Faso. Bobo-Dioulasso. 03/2010. T.P Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou. TournŽe d’Afrique de l’Ouest.

Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou’s current lineup (Ahehehinnou front row, center)

Earlier in the summer, I had the opportunity to speak on the phone with Vincent Ahehehinnou, long-time lead singer of Benin’s legendary Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou. Poly-Rythmo’s sound is a distinct mix of voodoo funk, afrobeat, highlife, and latin jazz, among other musical traditions.

Over the course of our conversation, Vincent recounted various stories from the band’s 40-year history, including encounters with other West African musical giants of the time; artists such as Fela Kuti and Bembeya Jazz. He spoke about the importance of Vodun to the group’s musical and national identity, shared his own views on Pan-Africanism, and more.

Additional thanks to Christiane Rey for help with transcription and Matt Rarey for providing voiceover. In the interview, afrobeat band Africa 70 was mistakenly referred to as Egypt 70.

Last month, Denise spoke with Ian Williams, guitarist/keyboardist of math rock group Battles, for WNUR’s Airplay. They discussed some of the artistic collaborations that fed into the group’s latest album, Gloss Drop; the state of the local scene in Chicago; and about the altogether fuzzy definition of “math rock.” Battles will be playing at the Bottom Lounge tonight (June 14) with opener An Aesthetic Anaesthetic.

I know it’s a very different sound on stage as opposed to your studio albums, but there’s a lot of similarities for live shows; I’m wondering how much of it is planned versus improvised?

It’s planned, you know, but sometimes you kind of plan little pockets where things aren’t really that scripted. It’s more like you kind of know some of the events that are going to happen, like eventually the drummer is going to hit his cymbal or eventually somebody’s going to start a new riff or something. So you’re kind of waiting for things to happen, so it’s not like blind improvisation or anything like that.

Before the band flew into town for their March 10 show at Metro Chicago, Balkan Beat Box’s Ori Kaplan sat down with me on the phone to talk about the band’s new sound; what they’ve been listening to recently; the future of global “roots” music; and their fourth and latest release, Give.