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Tryin To Survive Clyde Macfarlane , January 30th, 2015 14:17

With a population of just half a million, Suriname is one of South America's overlooked countries, and is probably best known for exporting Dutch football stars. Edgar Davids, Clarence Seedorf and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink were all born in its capital city of Paramaribo, and all claimed Dutch nationality through Suriname's ex-governance under the Netherlands.

Surinamese music also has an influence on the Netherlands, although this connection has had little global impact. The complex percussion, horns and call and response vocals of kaseko had as much right to an international audience as calypso or reggae, but the language barrier proved restricting here. Instead of digging into these vaults, Dutch record label Rush Hour have chosen to focus on Suriname's popular music scene, which evolved in parallel to American funk and disco through the late 70s and 80s.

Rush Hour's first personality from this period is Sumy, a man whose 'fro/moustache combo, chest exposing outfits and lady-killing grin would surely have seen him conquer any dancefloor with a suitable mirror ball. His 1983 album Tryin To Survive embodies the disco scene brilliantly. For a movement that must cause retrospective embarrassment for those who embraced it most, Sumy pulls disco off remarkably well. See the Bee Gees' petulant walk off Clive Anderson's chat show for a perfect example of why this topic should be approached with sensitivity. At times Sumy sounds indistinguishable to a young Prince, with the entire album echoing the feel of Prince's 1979 hit 'Wanna Be Your Lover'. But while that proved the highlight of an album that went downhill, Tryin To Survive maintains its rigidity- to use a fittingly hyper-sexualised analogy- across its nine tracks.

Keyboard synths, whistles and space-age bleeps cap off this quirky and most definitely period-piece disco album. As Prince did before him, Sumy pairs dance-off worthy hits like 'Where Were You, Last Night' and 'Goodthingman' with slower ballads. Bizarrely, 'Bitch We Danced A Lot' falls into the latter category, and is surprisingly tender; perhaps the aggressive title was a case of lost in translation. Tryin To Survive is hardly distinguishable as Surinamese- or non-American, for that matter- which is testament to both Sumy's skill on a synthesiser and his dedication to everything that is disco. You can pretty much gauge what's coming from the cover, and if you're into Sumy's style, you won't be disappointed.

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