Wednesday, August 18, 2010

From Congo via Nigeria




Priscilla tells me that in the 1970s, when she was a girl in Awo-Omamma, Nigeria, the family used to sit around the short-wave radio almost every night to catch the broadcasts from Radio Brazzaville. I imagine the music they heard sounded an awful lot like the contents of Music from Zaire Vol. 6 (Soundpoint SOP 044, 1978), today's featured recording.

Congo music, of course, was huge in the 1970s all over Africa, and especially in Eastern Nigeria, where it sparked the development of a whole new genre of guitar-based highlife music exemplified by Oliver de Coque, the Oriental Brothers and their many imitators and camp-followers. The numerous Nigerian pressings of Congo music that were made in the '70s feature the musicians that influenced this trend, in the case of Music From Zaire Vol. 6 the artists in Kiamuangana Verckys' stable like Orchestres Kiam, Lipua-Lipua and Cavacha. The music echoes down through the years. I was amazed, on viewing a video of my father-in-law's funeral, made in 1998, to hear an Igbo-language version of Lipua-Lipua's "Nouvelle Generation" played by one of the local bands. No doubt you could hear the same thing in Yaoundé or the backwoods of Kenya - truly it's one of the most influential African songs of all time.

As much of this music is already available through many reissues and postings on the internet, I was hesitant to tack it up here. But recently both Worldservice and Global Groove posted Stars From Zaire Vol. 4 (Soundpoint SOP 042), another installment in the series. That got me to thinking: Is there something about these particular Nigerian pressings that makes them unique? I think so. For one thing, as Worldservice points out, there is a tendency to not include the slower "A" sides of the various recordings and go directly to the big payoff: the "sebene," the faster, more improvisatory second half. This structure is typical of Igbo guitar highlife recordings of the '70s and '80s as well. Just listen to Oliver de Coque or Kabaka and compare them to Music From Zaire Vol. 6 and see what I mean!

The picture of the Yoruba drummers on the back of the record is also interesting:



Here, then, is the music. Just sit back and imagine you're listening to a shortwave radio in Awo-Omamma, Nigeria in the '70s . . .







I believe track 6, "Mwana Yoka Toli," was misattributed on the album sleeve. I'm following the liner notes of Jeunes Orchestres Zaïrois 1971/1973/1974/1975 (Sonodisc CD 36517, 1992) and crediting it to Orchestre Bella-Bella. To download Music from Zaire Vol. 6 as a zipped file go here, and following Worldservice's example, I'm making the "complete" versions of "Baya-Baya," "Mombasa" and "Shama Shama" available here. I'll probably be posting more of these Nigerian pressings of Congo music in the future.

8 comments:

øשlqaeda said...

stellar as ever. thank you very much

Tim said...

Excellent compilation, thanks so much for sharing it. The cross-cultural influences of music within Africa are a source of endless fascination and this post together with the recent Global Grooves and World Service posts underline how music from one region could find a wider audience despite language and cultural differences. Ultimately, I guess, a good groove transcends all boundaries.

joe said...

John; I'd like to sit back and imagine that I was listening to a shortwave in 2010... That was my passionate hobby from the time I was a kid, and continued through the early '90's. Nowadays, broadcasting via shortwave has for the most part been supplanted by more "rational" if far less romantic means. One never knew, on any given night, what was "in" and could be heard. One never knew if tonight was the night you would finally hear Radio Nibi-Nibi, after trying to hear them for years and years. Shame...

WrldServ said...

Thanks for this post, John.

It seems, as you write, extremely likely "Mwana Yoka Toli" is by Bella-Bella. Two versions of this song composed by Soki Dianzenza are on Ngoyarto NG 095 and NG 096, Volumes 4 & 5 of "Les grands succès de l'orchestre Bella-Bella & les frères Soki".

North said...

Not sure if there's more than one version of the song listed as Shama Shama Pt.2 by Orchestre Cavacha. I believe the song's name is Vicky Shama by Orchestre Shama Shama. Great music. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Great Lp!

thank you
sincerely

wuod k

david said...

Great music. Thanks.

Edward Ntephe said...

John B, I came by your Likembe after searching for many years for the incomparable Yokolo Part 1 http://likembe.net/Sounds/Zaire3/Yokolo%20Pt%201.mp3. Thank you. May your days increase.