In the 1980s, Abidjan's Jess Sah Bi and Peter One became one of the most popular musical acts in not just the Ivory Coast (Côte d'Ivoire), but broader West Africa, eventually performing with a full band to stadium-sized audiences at home and throughout Benin, Burkina Faso and Togo. Although they'd been popular radio and television performers for several years prior, the catalyst for Jess and Peter achieving this new level of stardom was their debut album, Our Garden Needs Its Flowers, recorded and released in 1985.
In contrast with the heaving funk, disco and reggae sounds of the day, Our Garden Needs Its Flowers was a lush fusion of traditional Ivorian village songs and American and English country and folk-rock music. Jess and Peter sang in French and English, delivering beautifully harmonized meditations on social injustice and inequality, calls for unity across the African continent, an end to apartheid in South Africa and the odd song for the ladies, all set against lush guitar riffs, rustic harmonica and rollicking feel-good rhythms.
Wrapped up in the sort of pop sensibilities that see YouTube rips of their music littered with nostalgic French-language comments reflecting on a time now some thirty-plus years distant, Awesome Tapes From Africa's reissue of Our Garden Needs Its Flowers memorializes the best intentions of the golden years before the Ivory Coast's social, cultural and political landscapes transformed radically. Surprisingly, it's the first time the album has been re-released in a high-fidelity, legally licensed form.