Monday, June 28, 2010

The Return of Toguy




Here, as promised, is Elimbi na Ngomo (Production TN, TN 591), Toto Guillaume's 1985 LP that is rightly considered a monument of the makossa genre. I agree that it's a masterpiece, but pride of place as Guillaume's "best" recording belongs, in my humble opinion, to Makossa Digital
(Disques Esperance ESP 8404, 1983), which I posted here earlier. That said, there's little doubt that the title track, "Elimbi na Ngomo," is one of Toguy's most popular songs, remembered fondly by all Camerounians of a certain age.

Elimbi na Ngomo, makossa for the ages. Enjoy!

Toto Guillaume - Elimbi na Ngomo

Toto Guillaume - Bulu

Toto Guillaume - Raison

Toto Guillaume - Eh Oa

Toto Guillaume - Mulalo

Toto Guillaume - Ngila Nama

Download Elimbi na Ngomo as a zipped file here.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Another Re-Up




Occupying a location somewhere near the intersection of Afrobeat, Juju and garage rock, the album Uhuru Aiye by Bob Ohiri and his Uhuru Sounds (Ashiko Records AR 001, ca. 1985) is often rumored but seldom heard. A track from it appears on the new collection Nigeria Afrobeat Special (Soundway SNWCD021), so it's worth taking a closer look.

Bob Ohiri was a guitarist with Sunny Adé's African Beats and is said to have briefly played with Fela's Africa '70, although I can't confirm that. The "Uhuru Sounds" were apparently a one-off - basically just some guys jamming in the recording studio. The only members credited on the sleeve are "Prince," "Bob" and "Shegun."

So what to make of the music? Uhuru Aiye is truly an odd and idiosyncratic amalgam - like no "World Music™" or "Afrobeat" or "Afrofunk" you've ever heard. It doesn't always succeed, but when it does it works very well.

Like my previous posts "Unknown Fela," Uhuru Aiye was originally contributed by me to Uchenna Ikonne's blog
With Comb and Razor. It went off-line a while back, so I thought I'd make it available again.

Bob Ohiri & his Uhuru Sounds - Ariwo Yaa

Bob Ohiri & his Uhuru Sounds - Obhiha

Bob Ohiri & his Uhuru Sounds - Aiye


Bob Ohiri & his Uhuru Sounds - Nigeria London na Lagos


Bob Ohiri & his Uhuru Sounds - Imo State Express


Bob Ohiri & his Uhuru Sounds - Africa is Free for Us

Bob Ohiri & his Uhuru Sounds - I Like to Be Free

Download Uhuru Aiye as a zipped file here.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Down-Home Sounds of Kakai Kilonzo




Major players in the '70s and '80s music scene in Kenya, Kakai Kilonzo and his band the Kilimambogo Brothers were one of the few benga groups whose popularity crossed tribal lines. It helped that they recorded in Swahili as well as their native Kamba language, but the quality of their musical output no doubt played a major role as well.

Kilonzo's beginnings in life were modest indeed. His daughter Anita Kilonzo writes:


Kakai Kilobzo was born in1954 at Kilimambogo in Machakos district. He attended Primary education at Kilimambogo in 1962 to 1965. He definitely did not finish it because of lack of school fees. Kakai then sought for cheap labour like herding in to help his poor family. These continued for a duration of five years.

In 1970 he was employed in Thika town at farms that dealt with pineapple plantations as a harvester.

While in Thika, Kakai made single stringed guitars which were made of tin, due to his interest in music. He played then during his leisure time in the farms. Through his peanut earnings he managed to by a box guitar. He used to entertain local people at night during his off-time; which is termed as Tumisonge in Kamba.
Kilonzo's talents as a musician soon won him renown. He recorded "Kaylo Kyakwa na Mary" in 1974 and with the Kilimambogo Brothers scored many hits like "Baba Mkwe," "August One" and "Mama Sofia." Many of these recordings are collected in two CDs, Best of Kakai Vol. 1 (Shava Musik SHAVACD011-2, 2002) and Best of Kakai Vol. 2 (Shava Musik SHAVACD017, 2006) and an LP that was released in 1987, Simba Africa (Popular African Music PAM 03). As far as I can tell, these compilations are all of of print.

Well before his time, Kakai Kilonzo passed away in 1987 after a brief illness. His presence in the Kenyan music scene is sorely missed.

Many years ago I dubbed onto 10" tape reels a number of 45s by Kakai Kilonzo and the Kilimambogos, and was recently able to digitize them. None of these are on any of the above-referenced pressings. Except for "Christmas Day," which is in Swahili, these records are all in Kamba. For the most part I have no idea what the lyrics are about, but I presume that they deal with the usual subjects of Kenyan popular music: Family matters, love and harvests. It is benga, the music of Kakai Kilonzo and artists like him, that is the true voice of Kenya's rural majority - blunt and straightforward, real Kenyan "country music."

Here's a recording from the late '70s or early '80s, the A & B sides of Kakai Kilonzo Sound KLZ 7-002:

Kakai Kilonzo & Kilimambogo Brothers Band - Kithetheesyo Ki Muka

Kakai Kilonzo & Kilimambogo Brothers Band - Katuli Lungi

Les Kilimambogo LES 007:

Les Kilimambogo Brothers - Mutwawa Niwatwana

Les Kilimambogo Brothers - Mathitu Mowe

Les Kilimambogo LES 08:

Les Kilimambogo - Ngungu Na Muoi

Les Kilimambogo - Kilinga Munguti

The Kilimambogos celebrate the birth of Christ on Les Kilimambogo LES 16:

Les Kilimambogo - Christmas Day Pts 1 & 2

Hear another Kilimambogo Christmas song here. Here are the A & B sides of Les Kilimambogo LES 17:

Les Kilimambogo - Sera Ndungembeti

Les Kilimambogo - Ngomelelye Kitambaasye

Let's close with the Swahili sounds of the Original Kilimambogo (OKB) Stars. The OKB Stars were formed in 1978 when Joseph Mwania left the Kilimambogo Brothers Band to form his own group. This recording was issued as New Mwania Sound NEW 108:

Joseph Mwania & the Original Kilimambogo (OKB) Stars - Mama Sheria Pts 1 & 2

For more rustic, down-home Kamba sounds, go here. Download the songs in this post as a zipped file here.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Mensy's "New Sounds"




For many years I've wanted to know the identity of the Camerounian group Mensy, whose
scorching tune "Ane Ya" opened up the 1982 compilation LP Sound d'Afrique II (Mango MLPS 9754).

I'm sorry to say that 28 years of research have turned up nothing about Mensy, but many moons ago I was thrilled to discover a whole LP by the group in a long-lost African record store in DC. New Sounds of Africa Vol. 1 (Discafrique DARL 021) contains not only a longer, uncut version of "Ane Ya" but three more slices of Afro-funk that make your typical deracinated World Music™ sound like nursery rhymes!

As the LP sleeve contains no recording information at all I wish I could tell you who the nimble guitarist on "Ane Ya" is or who's responsible for the brilliant horn work of "Sotuc." I'll just have to let you hear for yourself. Enjoy!

Mensy - Ane Ya

Mensy - Dis-Le Moi

Mensy - Mari Na

Mensy - Sotuc

Download New Sounds of Africa Vol. 1 as a zipped file here.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A Musicians' Musician




Back in the 80s Toto Guillaume ("Toguy") was a ubiquitous session musician on recordings coming out of Cameroun. The great guitarist and arranger first made a splash in the '70s alongside François Nkotti and Emile Kangue in the influential group Black Styl. His first solo hit "Françoise" was released in 1974, followed by "Mba Na We" in 1975. Together with the bassist and producer Aladji Touré, Manu Dibango, Emmanuel Nelle Eyoum and others, Guillaume played a pivotal role in crafting the modern makossa sound based on the traditional rhythms of the Douala region.

Among his albums, Toguy's 1985 release Elimbi na Ngomo (TN Productions TN 591) is justly famed, but I've always had a soft spot for 1983's Makossa Digital (Disques Esperance ESP 8404), with its
lush strings and brilliant arrangements. A true pinnacle of makossa!

Makossa began to fade in the late '80s, a victim of its own formulaic sound, but for a time it was Congo music's main rival for the affections of African music fans. Toto Guillaume too dropped out of sight around this time, but I understand he's been making a comeback in recent years.

Enjoy Makossa Digital, and I promise I will make Elimbi na Ngomo available also sometime in the future:

Toto Guillaume - Mundende Mwa Bedimo

Toto Guillaume - Mulema Mwa Muna

Toto Guillaume - Bata Ba Nunga

Toto Guillaume - Paï 'a Nyambe

Toto Guillaume - Ewes' Am

And, because Makossa Digital, like most Camerounian releases of the era, is much too short, here's a "bonus track" from 1983's wonderful 3-disc compilation Fleurs Musicales du Cameroun (Afrovision FMC 001/002/003):

Toto Guillaume - Seto Nyola

Download Makossa Digital (+ "Seto Nyola") as a zipped file here.
A technical note: I haven't been posting many vinyl rips here lately because the stylus on my turntable was way past its expiration date, and I didn't want to harm my treasured old LPs. But listening to Makossa Digital and other rips I've made since getting a new stylus it's apparent how much sound quality I had been sacrificing with that old needle as well. I'd like to re-rip and re-upload much of the old material but that's obviously going to take a while. In the meantime I'd appreciate your input. When I processed Makossa Digital I tweaked the high frequencies upwards just a little bit as it seemed to add a fair bit of clarity to the sound. However, I'm aware that my hearing is not what it used to be, and what sounds fine to me may be hopelessly screechy to others. So, let me know. Input from people with a background in audio engineering is especially appreciated.