I have a number of posts that are just on the threshold of going up, but I seem to have been gripped by an inexplicable and debilitating case of writer's block. Still, I feel the need to put something online. So, here goes: Back in September, I posted some tunes by Tanzania's late, incomparable Mbaraka Mwinshehe, with a promise of more to come. Thanks to our friend Cheeku, here they are: Five more tracks from the Ukumbusho series, pressed by Polygram Kenya in the 1980s (Polygram's successor, Tamasha, has recently reissued them in CD format, but as far as I know these are unavailable outside of E. Africa). Typically, these compilations feature no personnel listings or information on the original recordings. I suspect, though, that these tracks are from Mwinshehe's career with Super Volcano rather than his earlier band Morogoro Jazz.
"Shida," from Ukumbusho Vol. 1 (Polydor POLP 536, 1983) has already been featured on at least two other blogs, Benn Loxo du Taccu and Steve Ntwiga Mugiri. Still, it's such a great song I couldn't resist putting it up again. Enjoy, and if you've heard it before, enjoy it again:
Mbaraka Mwinshehe - Shida
East African musicians don't seem as given to fawning praise songs as Nigerians (paging Oliver de Coque!), but they do produce enough of them, including, I assume, this one, also from Ukumbusho Vol. 1. Don't know if it's fawning, though. Love the guitar that kicks in toward the middle of the song:
Mbaraka Mwinshehe - Dr. Kleruu
Here's a scorcher from Ukumbusho Vol. 7 (Polydor POLP 566, 1988). The guitar work and vocal banter are exceptionally free and easy but what closes the deal is the wild "Hugh Masekela-ish" (is that a word?) trumpet playing toward the end:
Mbaraka Mwinshehe - Nipeleke Nikashuhudie
As I said before, the Ukumbusho series was assembled haphazardly, with tunes from various points in Mwinshehe's career thrown together willy-nilly. Although "Baba Mdogo" is from Ukumbusho Vol. 8 (POLP 575, 1988), it's similar in tone to "Shida" from Vol. 1, above. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if they were recorded at the same time. We adjourn this session with "Mashemeji Wangapa," also from Vol. 8, which echoes Orchestra Simba Wanyika in its overall ambiance.
Mbaraka Mwinshehe - Baba Mdogo
Mbaraka Mwinshehe - Mashemeji Wangapa
For more music like this, check out Buda Musique's excellent Zanzibara Vol. 3: Ujaamaa, or this earlier compilation of music by Mbaraka Mwinshehe.
In the course of researching this post, I came across this polemic, in regards to the above-mentioned Zanzibara 3, by Alastair Johnston, who is responsible for the essential Muzikifan site:
". . . Now I don't want to start ranting in the middle of this panegyric but I have an issue that needs to be raised: the tendency of (mostly white, I suspect) people to treat this music with a colonial mentality. "It's great, so let's just put it on the net for anyone to hear." This devalues the music. I am not saying it should be the exclusive province of people with great wealth who can buy the copies that turn up on EBAY, I am saying this music should be respected. Before throwing it onto a blog it should be researched and properly documented. Optimal copies should be tracked down. Anyone downloading should pay nominally for the privilege and the money should be put in escrow to go to the descendants of the composers. Then there will be some parity with Western artists who get their royalties. I am sick of seeing sites with crappy-sounding singles ripped from cassettes and a note saying, "This is cool, I don't know anything about it but look here..." and a link to my pages. I've given up asking these clowns to respect my copyright, but ultimately they will kill the demand for CDs (& their crucial liner notes) and there won't be anyone, like Budamusique, taking the trouble to produce a magnificent package like this. You have to buy this, for the music, for the package, and to safeguard the future of the music!"Alastair raises a valid point here, and I hope people can respond to it in the comments. I often feel very conflicted about posting the music I do on this site, for exactly the reasons Alastair brings up. I won't knowingly put up music that is available through the usual outlets: Amazon, Sterns, iTunes, Calabash or even the lesser-known World Music™ purveyors. And I'd like to recompense the artists in some way, but how? (Needless to say, I'm not making any money myself from this site.) It seems to me, though, that when I post stuff like these tracks by Mbaraka Mwinshehe, or the earlier Somali Mystery Funk, or some exceedingly rare tunes by Area Scatter, it has the potential to sell more CDs or downloads in the long run. In other words, there will be no market for the music if no one even knows that it exists. That's what I think, anyway. Your thoughts?
Saturday, March 1, 2008
Thursday, September 20, 2007
A reader/listener requested some music by Mbaraka Mwinshehe, and I'm more than happy to oblige! Mwinshehe was the great Tanzanian guitarist and vocalist who thrilled East African audiences from 1965 to 1979 with the famous Morogoro Jazz Band and then with his own Orchestra Super Volcano. He tragically perished in an auto accident in January 1979.
Mbaraka became known to many outside of Tanzania and Kenya in 2000 with the release of Mbaraka Mwinshehe & the Morogoro Jazz Band: Masimango (Dizim 4702-2). Polydor Kenya had previously released at least ten volumes of Ukumbusho (or "remembrance"). This LP series gathered together many of the singles and LP cuts that Mwinshehe made over the course of his career.
Unfortunately, the Ukumbusho volumes do not provide information on the individual recordings and seem to jumble together tracks from various points in Mwinshehe's career. Of the five songs featured in this post, "Daktari ni Mimi" (from Ukumbusho Vol. 3 [Polydor POLP 542], 1983) and "Mama Chakula Bora" (from Ukumbusho Vol. 4 [Polydor POLP 550], 1985) were apparently recorded with Morogoro Jazz, while "Vijana wa Afrika," "Jasinta" and "Mtaa wa Saba" (all from Ukumbusho Vol. 2 [Polydor POLP 537], 1983) were probably made with Super Volcano.
Mbaraka Mwinshehe - Daktari ni Mimi
Mbaraka Mwinshehe - Mama Chakula Bora
Mbaraka Mwinshehe - Vijana wa Afrika
Mbaraka Mwinshehe - Jasinta
Mbaraka Mwinshehe - Mtaa wa Saba
Several months ago our friend Zim Bida was kind enough to send me rips of almost all of the Ukumbusho volumes that I don't have. Would you believe that I haven't even had time to listen to them all yet? Rest assured that I plan on posting more of this great music in the future!