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FOR THREE YEARS, German DJ Frank Gossner zigzagged across West Africa, obsessively scouring personal collections for rare vinyl.Traversing landscapes he describes as heartbreakingly beautiful, Gossner sweated through civil unrest in Guinea, took a skin-grating spill while on the back of a scooter with schlepped turntables and a power generator to a Conakry bar on Friday nights to spin records and shared beer and bread with local folks harboring his same unchecked enthusiasm for African pop music.

Along the journey, Gossner accumulated a shop’s worth of 45s and LPs: stacks and stacks of African funk, Afrobeat, Nigerian disco and Ghana highlife from the 1970s.


Now re-settled in New York, the DJ will spin the vintage vinyl during a weekly show entitled “Voodoo Funk” (at Santos Party House beginning Oct. 9). “I think once exposed to this music, a lot of people will really dig it, even though they would have never expected it,” says Gossner, who used to DJ the Vampyros Lesbos Party at XVI under the moniker DJ Franc O. “I had friends from 20 years back who I used to go to punk rock shows with say they were blown away.” Gossner once labeled himself a “DJ without skills,” thus the only way he shines is spinning records few others clutch. Of course, three-year archeological digs for West African vinyl don’t just have their roots in humorous self-deprecation. Gossner was introduced to African pop music via Soundway’s Ghana Soundz compilations, which neatly catalogues that country’s daring, febrile blends of highlife, American funk and traditional Ghanan drumming. In the summer of 2005, his wife was offered a job in Conakry, Guinea. Growing more restless with his situation in Berlin—and by then completely bewitched by African pop (as well as ever-frustrated with the limitations of Web record shops)—Gossner hocked his collection of rare funk 45s, along with most of his belongings, and joined his wife in West Africa, intent on accruing as much vinyl as possible.


“I wanted to be exposed to African music in an unfiltered way,” he explains. “I wanted to see and feel where this music came from and explore the cultural context—build a naturally grown, authentic collection of African dance music to DJ with, instead of buying records that other people had found and felt they can turn into a buck on eBay or on a sale list.” Concentrating mostly on Sierra Leone, Ghana and Benin, Gossner began building an extensive network of friends and agents who aided in him in the collecting efforts. He zipped around in bush taxis and on zemidjans (moped taxis), visiting recording studios (in Africa, these are places where LPs and 45s are recorded on tape for customers), scouring basements and closets of private homes, and tracking down former sailors, who in their jaunts throughout West Africa were known for snapping up vinyl in the harbor cities with pressing plants: Lagos, Cotonou and Abidjan.


Gossner initially focused on Afrobeat and African funk LPs and 45s, but became increasingly smitten with other genres, particularly Nigerian disco for its embrace of vintage studio gear and tattooing percussion.

“After digging around Africa for a while,” Gossner says, “I realized I should forget about any musical preconceptions or boundaries and explore with an open mind.” A similar aesthetic is fueling interest in African pop music. In recent years, handsomely packaged compilations have captured rock, funk and disco classics from Benin,Togo, Nigeria, Ghana and beyond.


Full-blown revivalists plow their trade (Antibalas, Chicago Afrobeat Project), while others approximate key stylistic elements (the Ruby Suns, Extra Golden).Though the DJ is reluctant to take credit for helping launch any trends or movements, he naturally understands African pop’s pull. “It’s just really good music.Very diverse, impossible not to dance to, fun, deep, exciting, comforting. It would be a big shame for any consumer to live a life without getting to know this stuff.”


“In a way, I don’t think an outsider will ever be able to fully understand African music in its complexity and diversity,” Gossner says. “Maybe that’s not even the point. Maybe we should just appreciate it, and try and figure out a way to dance to it without looking too goofy.”


> Voodoo Funk with DJ Frank Gossner


Oct. 9, Santos Party House, 100 Lafayette St. (betw. Walker & White Sts.), 212-584-5494; 10,
FOR

 
Frank Gossner stocks up on vinyl.


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