Wali and the Afro-Caravan

Austin, Texas

Records with Sonobeat in 1968, 1969 & 1971
One commercial 45 RPM release (1968) and one non-commercial "advance pressing" album release (1969) on Sonobeat Records
One Sonobeat-produced commercial album release on Liberty/UA's Solid State Records (1970)
Listen to more below
Master tape box for The Afro-Caravan's Sonobeat single; note instructions to the lacquer mastering engineer at the record pressing plant to "use extended play on both" and "fade ending on applause – fade fast – (before a whistle)"; the reference to "extended play" is an indication that the mastering engineer should reduce the volume so that the grooves can be spaced closer in order to accommodate the longer running time of the tracks
Wali King, founder of The Afro-Caravan (circa 1969)
Liberty/UA's Solid State release of Sonobeat's Afro-Caravan album shows six musicians in silhouette on the jacket; although the group was founded as a sextet, Sonobeat's recordings of The Afro-Caravan feature only the group's five core members

It's 1967, and The Afro-Caravan, formed and lead by 21-year-old Wali Rahman (performing under the stage name Wali King), brings a new kind of percussion-based jazz, informed by African traditions, to Central Texas. As comfortable and accepted at Austin's downtown hippy haven, Vulcan Gas CompanyThe Vulcan is Austin's first successful hippie music hall, opening in 1967 in an old warehouse at 316 Congress Avenue and closing in 1970., as at Austin's predominantly Black east-side hot spot, The Afro, the hip Afro-jazz group garners a following that crosses age and racial lines. Under its original name, Afro Caravan Players, the group is the inaugural act when The Afro first opens in October 1967. By December '67, the group changes its name to The Afro-Caravan. Sonobeat's relationship with The Afro-Caravan begins almost a year later, when Sonobeat co-founders Bill Josey Sr. and Rim Kelley (Bill Josey Jr.) see the group perform at the Vulcan.

Bill Sr. arranges to record The Afro-Caravan during a variety show live performance on Tuesday, July 30, 1968, at Austin's Pan American Hillside Theater, but for reasons not documented in the Sonobeat archives, the session is delayed until Saturday, August 10th, when Sonobeat records the group before a live audience at HemisFair '68HemisFair '68 is the official World's Fair held in San Antonio, Texas, from April 6th through October 6th, 1968. The fair celebrates the 250th anniversary of San Antonio's founding in 1718. More than 30 nations and 15 corporations host pavilions at the fair, whose theme is The Confluence of Civilizations in the Americas in honor of the many different nations that settled the region., the World's Fair held in San Antonio, Texas. By the way, Wali is no World's Fair newbie: at age 17, he performs in a 16-piece percussion group at the 1964-'65 New York World's Fair. Sonobeat records The Afro-Caravan at the Night Light, an open air cabaret at Project Y, HemisFair's youth pavilion, where the group regularly performs on weekends during almost the entire run of the fair. Comin' Home Baby and Afro-Twist each are recorded in just one take through Sonobeat's custom-built portable 10-input stereo mixer feeding a quarter-inch 2-track Ampex 354. The Afro-Caravan's resulting 45 RPM stereo single is Sonobeat's only commercial release of a live performance by any artist. In 2021, we find a copy of the single offered on eBay for $120, perhaps demonstrating the timelessness of The Afro-Caravan's music.

They used to have ‘Love-Ins’ at Zilker Park [in Austin], and we got invited to play some Love-Ins and stuff like that. I had had a group up in New York that I’d worked with [before coming to Texas] that was called the Caravan. We needed a name, so I came up with the idea of The Afro-Caravan. So we started performing under that name.
Wali King interviewed in Ricky Stein's Sonobeat Records: Pioneering the Austin Sound in the '60s (2014)

Wali, who speaks Swahili and Arabic, is originally from the Bronx in New York City. He enlists in the Army, does training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, and then is assigned to Bergstrom Air Force Base in Austin. There he meets his future bandmates Robert Moore, J. Murray, Ronald Nance, and Ray Lewis, all also airmen. Adding a University of Texas freshman, all members of The Afro-Caravan have a deep interest in rhythmic instruments, particularly drums of all types, but also of other traditional African instruments, like flutes, as well as Indian tablas. It's the unique combination of The Afro-Caravan's instrumentation, rhythm, and melodies that make the combo "romantic – thrilling – appealing – satisfying", quoting from producer Bill Sr.'s liner notes for the group's Sonobeat album Home Lost and Found (The Natural Sound). When the group begins performing, each member uses his African name – Wali, Kafi, J, Be, Akbar, and Kido (the group starts as a sextet) – purposefully avoiding their "slave names", as Wali reveals in a December 10, 1967, University of Texas Daily Texan article.

A very hip record – especially for the sometimes square Solid State label! The tracks are long, and build with a slow intensity as more elements join into the mix over time. Includes a strong version of Afro Blue.
Online review by a record collector at DustyGroove.com

Sessions for Home Lost and Found begin on January 21, 1969. The sessions – which span several consecutive evenings – yield seven tracks, ranging in length from four minutes to over eleven minutes, the longer songs allowing the band to stretch musically. Five songs are Afro-Caravan originals. Sonobeat records the album on its Scully 280 half-inch 4-track recorder using the spacious den of the Josey family home in northwest Austin as the "studio". Close-miking the instruments provides good stereo separation and makes the room acoustics unobtrusive. Recording engineer Rim Kelley uses Sonobeat's custom steel plate reverb to enhance the mix-down masters.

I'm not going to get all detailed on who Wali and the Afro Caravan were – to let it be shrouded in mystery adds to the beauty of this spine-chillingly deep record. Just congas, violin bass, an assortment of percussive instruments and a recorder... Deep, deep jungle funk, probably sounding like the first time Mama Earth got down a gazillion years ago. The songs ... all flow together, they all have that earthy, soothing motherland vibe... The absolute highlight nonetheless is the super funky Hail the King; that beat and that bass line is divine...
Still another online review of Home Lost and Found

By June '69, Sonobeat issues a limited non-commercial vinyl advance pressing of the album under the artist name "Wali and the Afro-Caravan". Sonobeat's "white jacket" release is intended primarily to attract a sale of the master recordings to a national label. That desired sale occurs more than a year later, in August 1970, when Liberty Records – which has purchased rights to Johnny Winter's The Progressive Blues Experiment from Sonobeat in '68 and has now merged with United Artists Records – buys the Afro-Caravan album master. Sonobeat retains rights to The Afro-Caravan's 45 RPM single, since neither of the songs on the single appears on the album. In December 1970, Liberty/UA releases Home Lost and Found (The Natural Sound) on its Solid State jazz label. The album features a gatefold jacket with highly stylized photography by L'Azul and Renate Taylor. The album cover shows the silhouettes of six performers, which was the group's original configuration when founded, but when Sonobeat records Wali and the Afro-Caravan, the group is a quintet. The album receives – and, although long out of print, even today receives – excellent reviews, and Wali's arrangement of the traditional Hail the King is considered an Afro-jazz classic. The Afro-Caravan is still vital and musically relevant in the 21st century, validating the adage "everything old is new again".

Something called the ‘Afro-Underground Sound’ is dispensed by Wali and the Afro-Caravan... This strikes me as something like the true modern African sound that Hugh Masekela was championing in his recent appearance at San Francisco's Harding Theatre. There are lots of African drums, of course, and also flute, violin, and even, amazingly, recorders. Another amazing item is that the album was taped in, of all places, Austin, Texas. Anyway, it's good stuff, with plenty of variety – not just a drumming session.
John Sunier review in the San Rafael, California Daily Independent Journal (January 16, 1971)

Bill Josey Sr. produces a second album with Wali and the Afro-Caravan in a series of sessions from January 29th to February 1st, 1971. The tracks also are recorded at Sonobeat's Western Hills Drive studio, but this time in the recording suite the Joseys have built on the isolated ground level of their split level home. The untitled album features four songs on side 1, including an expanded remake of The Afro-Caravan's Sonobeat single Afro-Twist, and a 19 minute three-song suite going by the working title Shades of Africa on side 2. Bill returns to Liberty/UA Records with this new Afro-Caravan album, but Liberty/UA passes, likely because the first Afro-Caravan album, though critically acclaimed, has not sold well enough to invest in a follow-up album. Bill then circulates demos of the album on audio cassettes to other national labels, beginning his trend away from the much more expensive vinyl "advance" pressings Sonobeat has previously used for its demo albums. Ultimately, turned down by the national labels, Bill elects not to release the album on Sonobeat Records itself for a purely financial reason: albums cost significantly more to master, press, package, and market than 45 RPM singles and are very difficult to sell in sufficient numbers in regional markets to make a profit. And specialty jazz albums are even more difficult to sell than rock or country albums. Although the second Afro-Caravan album is as good as, if not better than, Home Lost and Found, it remains unreleased.

Today, Wali (now known as Obara Wali Rahman Ndiaye) is founder and CEO of International Afrikan-American Ballet (Brooklyn, New York), founder and artistic director of Drumsong African Ballet Theatre (New York, New York), and 2014 special honoree at the 12th Annual Drummers Summit (Brooklyn, New York).

Home Lost and Found (The Natural Sound) Liner Notes

Written by producers Bill Josey Sr. & Rim Kelley

Home lost and found – (the natural sound) – ALL AFRICAN – all black – the audience appeal? MIXED!

This album is somewhat different from those which feature conga drums because on this album the drums are AFRICAN Style, played by Wali – and he also plays bongos and does some augmented percussion, as well as performing as the lead vocalist. Wali is a very outstanding young man – 22 years old – from New York – grew up there – went into the armed services – to Texas – and created a group because there were other black men at the same military base in Texas, each having the same kind of feeling that Wali had: a feeling that being of African descent they had lost their home, but playing their music together for hours and hours had re-discovered their native land through a Natural Sound – African style music – rhythmic – romantic – thrilling – appealing – satisfying – it was an Underground sound from the heart. Wali was joined by four talented musicians – J. Murray on tenor and alto recorders and also a back-up vocalist – Robert Moore on Conga drums – Ronald Nance on bass violin – Ray Lewis on flute. Five Afro-Americans dedicated to the music of their native country in order to bring each of you a stereo album designed for your pleasure – for your peace of mind.

The Afro-Caravan, from Austin, Texas, in the heart of the Southwest, removed from their drums in Africa more than a century ago – reunited with the beat again – to create the Natural Sound.

Wali and the Afro-Caravan personnel

Wali Rahman (performing as Wali King): congas, bongos, and vocals
Ray Lewis: flute
Robert Moore: percussion and backing vocals
J. Murray: tenor and alto recorders, vocals
Ronald Nance: bass violin

Sonobeat stereo 45 RPM release R-s106 (1968)

"A" side: Comin' Home Baby (Ben Tucker & Bob Dorough) • 3:45
"B" side: Afro-Twist (Wali King- J. Murray) • 4:54

Released week of September 2, 1968* • R-s106
Produced and engineered by Rim Kelley
Recorded before a live audience at the Y Pavilion at HemisFair '68, San Antonio, Texas, on August 10, 1968
Recording equipment: ElectroVoice 665 microphones, ElectroVoice Slimair 636 microphones, Ampex 354 quarter-inch 2-track tape deck, custom 10-channel suitcase stereo mixer, 3M (Scotch) 202 tape stock
Vinyl collector information for R-s106

Between 1,000 and 1,500 copies pressed
Lacquers mastered by Austin Custom Records
Vinyl copies pressed by Sidney J. Wakefield & Company, Phoenix, Arizona
Generic sleeve
Label blanks and picture sleeves printed by Powell Offset Services, Austin, Texas
In the dead wax:
   Comin' Home Baby: WAS 33 6896 A, R-S106 A, Re1, and SJW-10784
   Afro-Twist: WAS 33 6896 B, Re1, R-S106 B, and SJW-10784
   "WAS" in the matrix number identifies Austin Custom Records as the laquer mastering service
   "SJW" in the matrix number identifies Sidney J. Wakefield & Company as the pressing plant

On February 17, 2917, a rare copy sells on eBay for $154
Sonobeat advance pressing album release R-s1003 (1969)

Home Lost and Found (The Natural Sound)
First Half (side 1):
   Afro Blue (Mongo Santamaria) • 4:12
   Arcane Message (J. Murray) • 7:53
   Hail the King (P.D.) • 5:50
   Guaguanco Stroll (Wali King) • 3:53
Second Half (side 2):
   Mystique (J. Murray & Wali King) • 6:50
   Zulu For Hugh (J. Murray & Wali King) • 4:43
   Journey to Mecca (Ray Lewis & Wali King) • 11:10

Issued May or June 1969* • R-s1003
Not commercially released; used only for promotional purposes
Produced by Bill Josey and Rim Kelley
Engineered by Rim Kelley
Basic instrumental tracks recorded at Sonobeat's Western Hills Drive studio, Austin, Texas, on January 21, 22, and 23, 1969
Vocal overdubs recorded at Sonobeat's Western Hills Drive studio on March 16, 1969
Recording equipment: ElectroVoice 665 microphones, ElectroVoice Slimair 636 microphones, Sony ECM22 electret condenser microphones, Scully 280 half-inch 4-track tape deck, Ampex AG350 quarter-inch 2-track tape deck, custom 10-channel suitcase stereo mixer, 3M (Scotch) 202 tape stock
Vinyl collector information for R-s1003

Approximately 150 copies pressed
Lacquers mastered and vinyl copies pressed by Sidney J. Wakefield & Company, Phoenix, Arizona
Plain white jacket rubber stamped (clockwise, from top left, in each corner) with Home Lost and Found (The Natural Sound), Wali and the Afro-Caravan, Advance Copy, and Sonobeat Stereo
Most copies are hand numbered below the Advance Copy legend
Label blanks printed by Powell Offset Services, Austin, Texas
In the dead wax:
   Side 1: R-1003A, Wakefield tulip logo 11550, and HEC
   Side 2: R-1003B, Wakefield tulip logo 11550, and HEC
   "HEC" in the dead wax are the initials of the mastering engineer at Sidney J. Wakefield & Company
   What's that flower-shape in the dead wax? It's the Sidney J. Wakefield logo, stamped into the lacquer masters next to the matrix number.

Entering 2021, a rare copy, in its original rubber stamped white jacket, is offered on eBay for $95.
Solid State Records album release SS-18065 (1970)

Home Lost and Found (The Natural Sound)
Side One:
   Afro Blue (Mongo Santamaria) • 4:12
   Arcane Message (J. Murray) • 7:53
   Hail the King (P.D.) • 5:50
   Guaguanco Stroll (Wali King) • 3:53
Side Two:
   Mystique (J. Murray & Wali King) • 6:50
   Zulu For Hugh (J. Murray & Wali King) • 4:43
   Journey to Mecca (Ray Lewis & Wali King) • 11:10

Released December 1970* • SS-18065
Produced by Bill Josey and Rim Kelley
A Sonobeat Production for Liberty/U.A., Inc.
Engineer: Rim Kelley
Art Direction and Design: Ron Wolin
Photography: L'Azul and Renate Taylor
Recorded at Sonobeat Studios, Austin, Texas

In the dead wax:
   Side One: SS-18065-1 B.K.
   Side Two: SS-18065-2 B.K.

Unreleased Sonobeat recordings
Shades of Africa

Side 1:
   The Dreamer
   Afro-Twist (rerecorded version)
   I Believe
Side 2: Shades of Africa Suite
   Into Darkness
   Hour of Baba
   Hour of Witch-Doctor

Produced and engineered by Bill Josey Sr.
Recorded at Sonobeat's Western Hills Drive studio, Austin, Texas, in January and February 1971
Recording equipment: ElectroVoice 665 microphones, ElectroVoice Slimair 636 microphones, Sony ECM22 electret condenser microphones, AKG D707E dynamic microphone, Scully 280 half-inch 4-track tape deck, Stemco half-inch 4-track tape deck, Ampex AG350 and 354 tape decks, custom 16-channel 4-bus mixing console, Fairchild Lumiten 663ST optical compressor, Blonder-Tongue Audio Baton 9-band stereo graphic equalizer, custom steel plate stereo reverb, 3M (Scotch) 202 and Ampex 681 tape stock

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The 1968 Sonobeat 45 RPM stereo single by The Afro-Caravan, recorded live at Hemisfair '68, San Antonio, Texas; with this, its 8th single, Sonobeat begins marking the "A" side as part of the catalog number "R-s10 A". "Re-1" etched into the dead wax and "(RE-1)" on the label indicate the lacquers were remastered. "Cotillion (BMI)" on the label refers to the publisher of the song Comin' Home Baby and the publisher's performing rights society affiliation.
Master from the first two The Afro-Caravan sessions for the Home Lost and Found album
The side 1 mix-down master of The Afro-Caravan's second, unreleased Sonobeat album, Shades of Africa
Fantasy cover art for The Afro-Caravan's second, unreleased Sonobeat album Shades of Africa