You may have noticed that I have a soft spot for female singers with unique, over-the-top vocal styles. Kiné Lam is one. Daro Mbaye is another. I fell in love with Vonga Aye and her baby-doll voice the first time I heard "Bolingo Mobesu," her contribution to 1982's groundbreaking compilation Sound d'Afrique II (Mango MLPS 9754). I know she put out several LPs, and over the years I've searched high and low for more music by this idiosyncratic chanteuse, but all I have been able to come up with is 1984's Pare-Chocs (Veve International EVVI 25). But what an album it is!
People speak of "the Golden Age" of Congo music, but in reality there are several "Golden Ages." For some it is the early 1960s, the era of Grand Kallé, African Fiesta and "Afrika Mokili Mobimba." Others swear by the late Sixties and early Seventies, when Authenticité was the rage, Congo (Kinshasa) was rechristened Zaïre, and harder, more indigenous sounds displaced the old Latin paradigm.
To me, the real Golden Age of Congo music has always been the late Seventies and early Eighties, when the great Orchestres - TPOK Jazz, Bantous de la Capitale, Afrisa and Veve among others held sway on both side of the Zaïre River. Pare-Chocs is well within this tradition, although scandalously none of the backing musicians are given credit. I suppose they are drawn from the ranks of Orchestre Veve or others in that milieu (Pare-Chocs sounds an awful lot like others on the Veve label). At any rate this is obviously a band that is used to working together. Sadly, the mid-Eighties marked the end of the big band era in both Zaïre (Congo-Kinshasa) and Congo-Brazzaville. As political chaos mounted and the economy went south, the musicians went north, to Paris and points beyond. And while there have been some bright spots, as far as I'm concerned, the last twenty years have been the Dark Ages of Congo music.
Given the title of this blog, it's about time I posted some Congolese music, so here it is in its entirety: Vonga Aye's Pare-Chocs, and for good measure I've thrown in "Bolingo Mobesu" as well!
Vonga Aye - Pare-Chocs
Vonga Aye - Yona Nani
Vonga Aye - Nazali Occupée
Vonga Aye - Mina Kupenda
Vonga Aye - Bolingo Mobesu