Sunday, July 19, 2009

From Congo to Kenya Pt. 1




Have you seen Alastair Johnston's website Muzikifan? It's a must-go-to destination for anyone who's interested in African music or World Music™ in general. Alastair recently published A Discography of Docteur Nico (Poltroon Press, 2009), which is an outgrowth of the site. I haven't seen it yet, but it's an obvious labor of love, and a must-have for any African music fan. You can get it through the site. As of yet there doesn't seem to be any distribution through Amazon or Sterns, but hopefully there soon will be.

But that's not what this post is about. Some time ago, Alistair began a comprehensive study/discography of Congolese/Zaïrean musicians in East Africa, which over the years has grown into an impressive body of work. It turns out I have a fair number of tracks by some of these musicians, so I thought it would be worthwhile to give them a spin.

Political and economic turmoil sent Congolese/Zaïrean musicians east to Tanzania and Kenya beginning in the '60s, and the '70s through the mid '80s were the "Golden Age" of expatriate musicians in East Africa (in 1985 President Daniel Arap Moi of Kenya ordered the expulsion of foreign workers, including musicians). The well-known Samba Mapangala of Malako Disco fame is part of this generation, as are Mose "Fan Fan" Se Sengo and Remmy Ongala.

Probably the most influential of these artists was Baba Gaston (1936-1997), whose picture is at the top of this post, and who ended up in Dar-es-Salaam
with his Orchestre Baba Nationale in 1971, moving to Nairobi four years later. Gaston's various orchestras comprised a veritable university of East African music owing to the numerous musicians who passed through before going on to join or establish other outfits, among them Les Mangalepa.

Here are some 45s from Gaston's career in East Africa. I suspect the first two tracks (from ASL ASL 7-1520) are from 1973 or thereabout, while "Kalai" (Yahoos YS 001) is probably from the early '80s:

Baba Nationale - Zala Reconnassant Fa Fan

Baba Nationale - F.C. Lupopo Bana Ya Tembe

Baba Gaston & Orchestre Tchondo National - Kalai Pts 1 & 2


You can download Baba Gaston's wonderful LP Condition Bi-Msum (ASL ASL 971) from Worldservice here.

Jimmy Monimambo, who features in "Amba," was one of three outstanding vocalists in Orchestra Shika-Shika, the others being Moreno Batamba and Vicky "Lovy" Longomba, who will be discussed in a future post. "Amba" (Daraja DJ 005) was one of the group's major hits:

Jimmy Monimambo & Orchestra Shika-Shika - Amba

"Shauri Yako" is a song that is well-known to many Likembe reader/listeners thanks to the version by Orchestre Super Mazembe, but it was written by Nguashi Ntimbo, a veteran of Baba Nationale for many years before starting his Orchestre Festivale du Zaire and later working for Franco's TPOK Jazz. In addition to Super Mazembe, "Shauri Yako" was recorded by Ugandan singer Sammy Kasule and Mbilia Bel, but Festival du Zaire's version (ASL ASL 3393) is arguably the best. You may have heard this one before as it's been on a couple of other blogs, but another go-round won't hurt you:

Orchestre Festival du Zaïre - Shauri Yako

"Madya" (ASL ASL 7-3351) was apparently recorded a year or two before "Shauri Yako":

Orchestre Festival du Zaïre - Madya


It's interesting how, once Congo musicians moved to East Africa, their sound opened up and became more rhythmically free and experimental. To get what I'm talking about, listen to the guitar and horn work in the next two tracks (ASL ASL 7-1145) by Les Noirs/City Five. Alastair doesn't say much about the origins of Les Noirs, but they seem to have been one of those groups that everyone was a member of at one point or another:

Les Noirs/City Five - Mungo Iko Helena

Les Noirs/City Five - Lwaki Oyomba Awatali Nsoka

Alastair Johnston's article "Congolese Bands in East Africa" was of inestimable help in preparing this post, and should be consulted for more information about these artists. I'll be discussing more Congo musicians in East Africa in a future post.

8 comments:

Renegade Eye said...

Your posts are incredible. This blog does a real service, highlighting world music as you do.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for 'From Congo to Kenya Pt. 1'. Waiting for Pt. 2.

gelliddewi said...

My room has caught fire !! Thanks.

Abdullah said...

Thanks a lot, can you please post "Shauri Yako" by Sammy Kasule?!

John B. said...

Abdullah: I was planning to do that soon, along with some other Sammy Kasule tracks.

Comb & Razor said...

I've got to get my hands on that Docteur Nico book!

Anonymous said...

John. I've been following your blog and some of your postings in the IgboEvents group on Yahoogroups. Fantastic all the way. I have some very old (about 55-60 years) GRAMOPHONE plates and they still work. Ever heard of Onitsha Native Orchestra? I also have some rare (?) Congo pieces (Biantodi Kasanda, Mama Eliza Mobange, Yokolo 1). However, I am looking for Yokolo 2 and it is nowhere to be found. Can you help? RHL.

Atuhaire Dan said...

Great work guys! And many thanks for this blog. Extremely educative!