Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A Dutiful Wife, An Inconsiderate Husband

Despite his great popularity back in the day, information about the late, great Igbo bard Show Promoter (Nelson Ejinduaka) is as scarce as hens' teeth. All I've been able to unearth is that he was from the city of Orlu in Imo State, spent most of his career in Ikwerreland (near Port Harcourt) and apparently passed on some time in the late '80s. His album Azu Alala (Onyeoma CY Records CYLP 043, 1987) is such an outstanding example of traditional Igbo music that I had to share it!

The title track, "Azu Alala" ("Fish is Scarce & Highly Costly"), concerns an obedient wife and the husband who is oblivious to his family's hardship. A husband gave his wife ten naira to go to the market to buy food for the family. She asked him, "Will ten naira be enough?" but he told her, "Make do with what you have."

She went to the market and spent N5 on gari (cassava meal) and N5 on yam. The money was gone. There  was no money for fish, no money to buy oha leaf (greens) or meat.

The wife came home and didn't know what to do. Her children were crying in hunger, "Please give us food." She went to the kitchen to prepare the food. The children ate, and so did she.

In the meantime her husband was down at the restaurant, drinking and living the life of an onye oriri (man about town). He told his friends, "Come home with me. I gave my wife money to prepare food for us." When they arrived home he called out to her to bring out the food she had cooked. The wife began to cry and presented the pitiful repast she had prepared.The man opened the pot to see that there was no fish, no vegetables and no meat. He jumped up and slapped his wife. She cried, "Ego i nyerem ezughi. The money you gave me was not enough to make soup. I managed with what I had to feed our children. Please don't hit me."

The chorus, "Ogiri k'am, jiri shi ofe, azu alala," means "I made the soup with stock.There is no fish."

Show Promoter & his Group - Azu Alala

In "Onye Ma Ihe Echi Gabu (Tomorrow is Pregnant. Who Knows What it will Be?)" Show Promoter sings, "My brother, who knows what tomorrow will bring? My sister, who knows what tomorrow will bring? Everybody pray to God so it will be good for us." He then proceeds to call out various local notables:

Show Promoter & his Group - Onye Ma Ihe Echi Gabu

"Onwu Ashio (The Death of Ashio)" recounts the tragic fate of a man who died in a traffic accident: "Ka mpkuru obi ya nodi nma (May his heart rest in peace). Anyi sikwa ama nnachi, mu na gi bu kwu nwa nne - a go. (We came from one place, you and I, brothers or relatives).Onwu gburu Ashio (The death that killed Ashio). Ashio a hupu la m laa (Ashio left me behind)."

Show Promoter & his Group - Onwu Ashio

Many thanks to my wife Priscilla for translating the lyrics of Azu Alala. You may download it as a zipped file here.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Four Famous Singers

Many many thanks to Andreas Wetter for translating the liner notes of 4 ዝናኞች ሲያዳምጡ በልብዎ ላይ ሰላምና ፍቅር ያገኛሉ - When You Listen to the 4 Famous Singers You Will Find Peace and Love in Your Heart, a really nice cassette issued by Ambassel Music Shop in Ethiopia in 1992.

With the exception of Martha Ashagari, who was featured in a previous post, I've been unable to find out much about these artists, although judging by the number of Youtube videos available online, they're very popular indeed!

የሩቅ ሰው ትዝታ - "Nostalgia for a far person":

Martha Ashagari - Yä-Ruq Säw Təzəta

ነካካኝ - "He Touched Me Somehow" (i.e. We were together and then he left me):

Martha Ashagari - Näkakkaññ

ዳርልን (ባሌ) - "Let Your Child Marry Our Child" - (literally: give your child in marriage for someone of our family, presumably a boy because usually the family of the boy takes the initiative and asks for the girl's hand):

Martha Ashagari & Teshome Asged - Darəllənn (Bale) 

እማዋዬው የለኝ - "I Have No One to Share My Thoughts":

Teshome Asged - Emmawayyew Yälläññ

አትለይኝ - "Don't Leave Me":

Teshome Asged - Attəläyyəññ

ሸጋው ተወልዷል - "A Handsome Has Been Born":

Elias Tababbal - Shäggaw Täwäldwall

ከከዳህው በል ተወው - "If He Betrayed You Leave Him Alone":

Bezawork Asfaw - Kä-Käddahəw Bäl Täwəw

ልብህን ታዘብኩት - "I Found Out What Kind of Man You Are":

Bezawork Asfaw - Ləbbəhən Tazzäbkut

ወሬዋን አምጡልኝ - "Bring Me News About Her":

Elias Tababbal - Wärewan Amṭulləññ

የኔ አለም - "My World":

Elias Tababbal - Y'ne Aläm

ትክክለኛ ኦርጅናሉን ብቻ ያዳምጡ (Listen only to a real original recording)

ዜማ (Music, melody): ዘላለም መኩሪያ (Zelealem Mekuriya), ማርታ አሻጋሪ (Martha Ashagari), ኤልያስ ተባበል (Elias Tababbal), ያየህይራድ አላምረው (Yayerad Alamrew)

ግጥም (Lyrics): ይልማ ገ/አብ (Yilma Gebre-Ab), ያየህይራድ አላምረው (Yayerad Alamrew), ዘላለም መኩሪያ (Zelealem Merkuria), ማርታ አሻጋሪ (Martha Ashagari), ኤልያስ ተባበል (Elias Tababbal)

አሳታሚና አከፋፋይ (Produceer and Distributor): አምባሰል ሙዚቃና ቪዲዮ መደብር (Ambassel Music and Video Shop)

Download Four Famous Singers as a zipped file here.

Note: I have included the Ge'ez font provided by Andreas for the benefit of anyone using an Ethiopic-language search engine. However, depending on your browser and its settings, this may be visible to you as gibberish, or may cause your computer/smart phone to run slowly or even crash. If you have the latter problem, please let me know in the comments and I will rectify the situation immediately!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

A Double Dose of Dembo

Some years ago Sterns/Earthworks released a CD entitled Roots Rock Guitar Party. I remember thinking at the time: how can you assemble a collection of Zimbabwe's greatest guitarists and not include Leonard Dembo?

I would presume that the only reason Dembo was omitted from this otherwise excellent compilation was a matter of licencing. In the early '90s, he had risen to the pinnacle of the Zimbabwean music scene, only to die prematurely of AIDS in April 1996.

Dembo was born as Kwangwari Gwaindepi in 1959 and gained notice in 1982 as a member of a band called The Outsiders. Disagreements with his band-mates followed, and in 1985 he established Barura Express, which quickly notched a series of hits, notably the 1991 smash "Chitekete," about a young man who wishes to marry a beautiful lady. It is one of the biggest-selling Zimbabwean records of all time and is played at weddings to this day.

The Barura Express cassette The Singles Collection Vol. 2 (Gramma ZC 108) is a singular example of modern African guitar music, notably the opening tune "Zii-Zii," a song about a lover who is far away, whose repetitive motifs evoke a feeling of restrained euphoria:

Leonard Dembo & Barura Express - Zii-Zii

Leonard Dembo & Barura Express - Dudzai

Leonard Dembo & Barura Express - Kodzero

Leonard Dembo & Barura Express - Kukura Hakutane

Leonard Dembo & Barura Express - Gire

Leonard Dembo & Barura Express - Sheri Unodada

Leonard Dembo & Barura Express - Ndipeiwo Pokupotera

The Very Best of Leonard Dembo (Gramma ZC 113), covers some of the same ground, and includes "Chitekete":

Leonard Dembo & Barura Express - Shamwari Yangu Warova

Leonard Dembo & Barura Express - Venenziya

Leonard Dembo & Barura Express - Dudzai

Leonard Dembo & Barura Express - Wada Ne N'anga

Leonard Dembo & Barura Express - Chitekete

Leonard Dembo & Barura Express - Manager

Leonard Dembo & Barura Express - Sharai

Leonard Dembo & Barura Express - Vane Mazita Ngavaremwkedzwe

Leonard Dembo & Barura Express - Kukura Kwedu

Leonard Dembo & Barura Express - Zii-Zii

Leonard Dembo & Barura Express - Dambudzo

Leonard Dembo & Barura Express - Murombo

Leonard Dembo & Barura Express - Kukura Hakutane

Read about the Zimbabwean artwork in this post here.

Update: I have been made aware that several of the tracks in this post are available for download through Itunes. Hence the links to them have been removed.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

More Memories of Maneti

A couple of years ago I posted some memorable Muziki wa Dansi, a tribute by Tanzania's Orchestra Vijana Jazz to their departed lead singer Hayati Hemed Maneti. Hayati Maneti (Last Recording) (Ahadi/Flatim AHD (MC) 6018) is another outing dedicated to the great vocalist. The usual caveats regarding recording quality apply:

Orchestra Vijana Jazz - Witi Zangu Mnaninyanyasa

Orchestra Vijana Jazz - Ngapulila No. 2

Orchestra Vijana Jazz - Imani za Uchawi

Orchestra Vijana Jazz - Nyongise (Kihehe)

Orchestra Vijana Jazz - Heshima ya Mtu

Orchestra Vijana Jazz - Siri ya Ndani

Download Hayati Maneti (Last Recording) as a zipped file here. Purely by coincidence, when I logged on this morning I saw that Stefan at WorldService has posted the great Vijana LP Mary Maria here. And if you're looking for still more classic Vijana, Sterns Music's The Koka Koka Sex Battalion: Rumba, Koka Koka & Kamata Sukuma - Music From Tanzania 1975-1980 is highly recommended. The picture at the top of this post is entitled "My Village" and is by a Tanzanian artist named Mkumba. Explore more of his work and that of a number of other excellent East African artists here.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Echoes of Mogadishu Past

Happy New Year! Once again I must apologize for the infrequency of posts here on Likembe. There is no one reason why the spirit hasn't moved me to write more often, but I've made a New Years resolution to step up the pace in 2013. As luck would have it, reader/listener Sanaag has provided us with yet another glimpse at the wonderful Somali music and theater scene of the 1980s. This is a world that has almost disappeared but that, hopefully, may be on the verge of a renaissance with the coming of a measure of stability to Somalia. Sanaag has been an invaluable contributor to Likembe over the years, and I'm happy to announce that he now has his own blog, Tix iyo Tiraab, where this originally appeared. Here's Sanaag:
Libaaxyada Maaweeliska Banaadir (Banaadir Entertainment Lions)was a popular theater troupe founded in the late 70s/early 80s by a group of veteran artists and fledgeling talents. The project was intended to integrate young and old, tradition and modernity - a sort of Scorsese/Levin's "Godfathers and Sons" avant la lettre... but here with the Godmothers and Daughters, too. Besides entertainment, LMB's main goal revolved around the preservation and dissemination of the performing arts heritage of Banaadir, the region comprising Mogadishu and its immediate surroundings. In their, alas, ephemeral existence, they produced about a dozen plays which were highly appreciated nationwide.

This tape carries the soundtrack of the mid-80s play "Xiddigtii Is Xujeysay" ("The Self-Denouncing Star"). In that period, drama productions were staged in theaters and open stadia, and spread on VHS. The play/film scores were, however, rarely released apart on tape. Given the sonic flaws, this k7 is probably a bootleg recorded live outdoors by an audience member - Somalia's number one hobby at the time.

The play was written by Faynuus Sheekh Daahir (left), a renowned theater actress and folk dancer. To the best of my knowledge, this is her only play. Nevertheless, if the material on this tape is anything to go by, she is apparently equally proficient in spinning poetic lyrics (and thought-provoking dialogues). Besides the title of the play, some tracks gladly betray the burlesque tragi-comedy and tackled a number of socio-political issues as well. Songs like "Naga Tag! Kac! Hooyaa? ("Get Lost! Rise Up! Got It?") ) and "Abidkaay Ammaan Ma Sheegin" ("I Never Dish Out [Unjustified] Praise Words") must have flagellated the dictatorial heartbeat into higher and haunted spheres. . .

From memory: The female star (Somalia?) and the male star (Freedom?) are in love with each other while a third protagonist (the dictator?) is moving heaven and earth to drive them apart. Its political significance lies n my opinion in the fact that it and similar mid-80s-dramas preceded and may have partially inspired the second wave of armed opposition groups

All the tracks are sung or poetically recited by Axmed Naaji Sacad, Maxamed Cabdow Saalim and mainly Faadumo Qaasim, a brightly shining star since the '60s who sadly passed away last year. R.I.P !

For each play LMB toured with a different musical ensemble, almost always consisting of traditional and modern instrumentalists. The musical direction of this piece was in the hands of the aforementioned multitalented Axmed Naaji Sacad (below right) whose great '70s band "Shareero" is playing the lead role.

The modern instruments are up front and I, for one, would be content with less Hohner organ and more roars by the local instruments. The music and singing are, however, often based on the notes of time-honoured traditional poetry, dance and music genres. In addition to the readily recognizable modern instruments, anyone who is familiar with Somali culture will also frequently detect in this tape and get tingled - from head to heels - by an impressive array of currently neglected traditional instruments.

Although sparsely used and often overwhelmed by the electric instruments, some local lions are still holding their own. Particularly the reeme (roaring drum), shagal (metal hoe-blades), shunuuf (vegetable ankle rattles), shambal(wooden clappers), malkad (flute), and sumaari (double clarinet) casually manage to swing to the forefront. These precious and endangered instruments are setting the pace by generating distinct rhythms and melodies (see genres below) to send a call to a group of colourfully clad folk dancers who respond with graciously intoxicating and sinuously serpentine movements... gently enticing the spectators (occasionally including Yours Truly) to the dance floor.

Those were the days...!

"Soo Xarakoo" ("Strut Out In Style") Put on your best suit, concoct your magic elixir and present your case for love. Genre: Batar/Botor.

Libaaxyada Maaweeliska Banaadir - Soo Xarakoo

"Adaan Milkigaa Ahee" ("I Am All Yours") A double entendre. (Denunciation of) total submission to a spellbinding "suitor" Genre: Wiglo.

Libaaxyada Maaweeliska Banaadir - Adaan Milkigaa Ahee

"Abidkaay Ammaan Ma Sheegin" ("I Never Dish Out [Unjustified] Praise Words"). Vocalists and instrumentalists exchange compliments while subtly emphasizing that gratuitous praise of the undeserving is nothing but self-deprecation. Genre: Sharax, Saylici

Libaaxyada Maaweeliska Banaadir - Abidkaay Ammaan Ma Sheegin

"Naga Tag! Kac! Hooyaa?" ("Get Lost! Rise Up! Got It?"). Leaves no room for the imagination: The gun salvos, funeral processions, public rage... were in the mid-80s Somalia not yet pervasive but they're already an essential and gruesome part of the tyrannical policies and histrionics. Genre: Geblo shimbir.

Libaaxyada Maaweeliska Banaadir - Naga Tag! Kac! Hooyaa?

"Diinle Kabiiroow" ("Diinle, The Great"). Disappointment in and fury towards the clique that usurps the key to your love/life/rights and a complaint about the chief and his entourage who are greedy, pompous, unreasonable, unjust... and don't listen to the wise elders. Genre: Kabeebey.

Libaaxyada Maaweeliska Banaadir - Diinle Kabiiroow

"Hab I Soo Dheh" ("Jump Into My Arms"). The tragedy of unrequited love: He's hopelessly in love and she's diligently rejecting him. Genre: Walasaqo.

Libaaxyada Maaweeliska Banaadir - Hab I Soo Dheh

"Haan Iyo Haruubkeed" ("Water Container and Its Cover/Milk Vessel and Its Lid") "United we stand! The lovebirds are tired of waiting for the blessing of the self-appointed chargés d'affaires and take matters into their own hands. Genre: Dhaanto.

Libaaxyada Maaweeliska Banaadir - Haan Iyo Haruubkeed

"Waa Habeenkii Dhalashadaadee" ("It's Your Birthnight"). Happy with the decision they made in the last track and the rebirth of their freedom. Genre: Saddexley.

Libaaxyada Maaweeliska Banaadir - Waa Habeenkii Dhalashadaadee

"Kun Qof Iiga Roonoow" ("More Valuable Than a Thousand Persons"). Boundless love. Genre: Niiko.

Libaaxyada Maaweeliska Banaadir - Kun Qof Iiga Roonoow

"Sabraayaa Sedkii Hela" ("Patience Pays Off"). Those who are made for each other (lovers, people and their sovereignty...) always find each other. The two halves become One, no matter how long it takes. Genre: Hirwo.

Libaaxyada Maaweeliska Banaadir - Sabraayaa Sedkii Hela


PS. I'm not an expert and it's quite possible that my recognition of the multitude of Somali genres is, in some cases, off beat. Many genres ressemble each other and some are as deceptively similar as identical twins. I'd appreciate any corrections and additional info.

PPS. I've the impression a couple of tracks are missing. Anyone?

Download Xiddigtii Is Xujeysay as a zipped file here.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Fighting Biafra

Thanks to a tip from reader/listener Zim Bida, I was able to score from Ebay an almost-mint copy of the elusive LP Igba na Egwu Ndi Biafra Ji na Anu Agha: Drums and Chants of Fighting Biafra by the Biafran Freedom Fighters (Afro Request SRLP 5030, ca. 1968), and for a very reasonable price!

Although I've been looking for this album for some time, I would have to say after listening to it that it is of more historical than musical interest. According to the liner notes, the "Biafran Freedom Fighters" are ". . .from the ranks of young soldiers who have adapted some old Ibo folklore, that are sung at the camp fires. In addition, they are performing present day war songs." The genre is what is considered "traditional" Igbo music for voice and percussion, or "Igbo Blues." These amateur musicians are not generally of the caliber of artistes like Bob Sir Merengue, Morocco Maduka or Area Scatter who have been featured in earlier posts here. Still, as another snapsot of the Biafran war of 1967-70, Igba na Egwu Ndi Biafra Ji na Anu Agha is well worth listening to. Enjoy!


"I Say You Don't Fear." Okwa imaregu. Ka ayin bawa egu. If you know no fear, then this is the time to prove it:

Biafran Freedom Fighters - Isikwa Inara Egwu

"The Goddess." Nmebo nwo ogara nye. Oyeri Ngwa. We know you are like a goddess, so we expect you to behave like one:

Biafran Freedom Fighters - Oyeri Mayo Ngwa

"Letting Down the Boss." Nye ka yo obusu ma ka no abubu kayo obubu ma. Mbebe nwo ogaranyi kayo bubuma. To let down your boss is really more than killing him:

Biafran Freedom Fighters - Mbebo Nwo Ogaranyi

"Bonny Creek." Tumbi Ibani a quo eruwe ru. Ibani Creek is a very long journey. Let us try our best and paddle hard to the journey's end:

Biafran Freedom Fighters - Tumbi Ibani

Biafran Freedom Fighters - The Nwatan War Drums

"The Colored Animal." Anu turu agwa gwa we eke. Ilema ayan nu zo a nuturu. Agwa gwa we ke. Be on your guard like a colored animal and adjust yourself to the surroundings:

Biafran Freedom Fighters - Anu Turu Agwa Gwa

"Mosquitoes Molest Me." Atita ekwemu ni hie urura nu lo de de. Despite the arduous journey, I cannot sleep because the mosquitoes molest me:

Biafran Freedom Fighters - Atita Ekemwu

"Beloved Biafra Land." Ayin ga do ala nna ayin Biafra. Let us defend our motherland Biafra to the last drop of our blood:

Biafran Freedom Fighters - Ala Biafra

"Elephant Crush." Eyin mba eyin. Use the elephant's strength to crush the enemy:

Biafran Freedom Fighters - Eyin Mba

"Tied Feet and Hands." Sometimes fear ties our feet and hands. So let's go forward resolutely with our leader:

Biafran Freedom Fighters - Aku Ne Ke Aka

"Fight to the End." Eke le ndu uwa lu o gu ka madu. This fight is a struggle to the end. We will win:

Biafran Freedom Fighters - Ekwele Ndu Uwa

"It's Time." Adama luru di na abali. Adama ni ogeru. After all this, it will be yime that Adama marries her fancy:

Biafran Freedom Fighters - Adama's Ogeru


The translations are from the liner notes of Igba na Egwu Ndi Biafra Ji na Anu Agha. To download it as a zipped file, go here.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Odds and Ends

Taking care of some unfinished business today. . . Many thanks to Ken Chijar Ekezie, who provides us with Part Two of the exceedingly rare "Yokolo" by Docteur Nico and Orchestre African Fiesta Sukisa (above). As far as I know, "Yokolo" has only been available in its entirety as Sides A & B of a single issued and re-issued (Sukisa 501 and Ngoma DNJ 5274) sometime in the late '60s. Part One was included on the Nigerian compilation Music From Zaïre Vol. 3 (Soundpoint SOP 043) which I posted here.

Here is "Yokolo Pt. 2":

Docteur Nico & Orchestre African Fiesta Sukisa - Yokolo Pt. 2

And here are Pts. 1 & 2 joined together:

Docteur Nico & Orchestre African Fiesta Sukisa - Yokolo Pts. 1 & 2

Loyal Likembe reader/listener Sanaag, who has done so much to enlighten us on the Somali music scene of the '70s and '80s, graces us once again with a better pressing of the LP Famous Songs: Hits of the New Era (Radio Mogadishu SBSLP-102, 1973), this time complete with liner notes! You can get it all here. And thanks once again, Sanaag!

Update: Many thanks to African Music Recycler for providing us with a scan of the sleeve for "Yokolo." It gives credit to "Docteur Nico & Orchestre African Fiesta." I'm fairly certain, though, thanks to Alistair Johnston's Docteur Nico Discography, that it is by African Fiesta Sukisa. This was Dr. Nico's band following his split with Rochereau, which gave rise to two orchestras, African Fiesta Sukisa and African Fiesta National.