Showing posts with label Muziki wa Dansi. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Muziki wa Dansi. Show all posts

Saturday, January 5, 2013

More Memories of Maneti



A couple of years ago I posted some memorable Muziki wa Dansi, a tribute by Tanzania's Orchestra Vijana Jazz to their departed lead singer Hayati Hemed Maneti. Hayati Maneti (Last Recording) (Ahadi/Flatim AHD (MC) 6018) is another outing dedicated to the great vocalist. The usual caveats regarding recording quality apply:

Orchestra Vijana Jazz - Witi Zangu Mnaninyanyasa

Orchestra Vijana Jazz - Ngapulila No. 2

Orchestra Vijana Jazz - Imani za Uchawi

Orchestra Vijana Jazz - Nyongise (Kihehe)

Orchestra Vijana Jazz - Heshima ya Mtu

Orchestra Vijana Jazz - Siri ya Ndani

Download Hayati Maneti (Last Recording) as a zipped file here. Purely by coincidence, when I logged on this morning I saw that Stefan at WorldService has posted the great Vijana LP Mary Maria here. And if you're looking for still more classic Vijana, Sterns Music's The Koka Koka Sex Battalion: Rumba, Koka Koka & Kamata Sukuma - Music From Tanzania 1975-1980 is highly recommended. The picture at the top of this post is entitled "My Village" and is by a Tanzanian artist named Mkumba. Explore more of his work and that of a number of other excellent East African artists here.


Thursday, July 12, 2012

More Mlimani!




What better to liven up a slow Thursday morning than another dose of Muziki wa Dansi, courtesy of Tanzania's DDC Milmani Park Orchestra? The usual caveats apply to this Flatim Records/Ahadi cassette of Sitokubali Kuwa Mtumwa (AHD(MC)6024): Red hot music, lo-fi sound. Enjoy!

DDC Mlimani Park Orchestra - Sitokubali Kuwa Mtumwa

DDC Mlimani Park Orchestra - Ukali wa Nyuki

DDC Mlimani Park Orchestra - Safia

DDC Mlimani Park Orchestra - Naomi

DDC Mlimani Park Orchestra - Epuka Jambo Lisilokuhusu No. 2

DDC Mlimani Park Orchestra - Naomba Tuaminiane

Download Sitokubali Kuwa Mtumwa as a zipped file here. More Mlimani songs are available as streaming audio here.

Monday, June 11, 2012

DDC Mlimani - Nelson Mandela




The subject of many musical accolades over the years, South African liberation fighter (and President from 1994-99) Nelson Mandela receives his due in this cassette (Ahadi/Flatim MSKCAS 512) by Tanzania's immortal DDC Mlimani Park Orchestra. It was released around 1994 but I suspect the material was recorded a few years earlier in the Radio Tanzania studios.

I don't have much to say about this one save that it combines the usual sweet vocals, expert finger-picking and red-hot horns of classic Muziki wa Dansi with the poor recording quality that is the hallmark of most of these Flatim Records releases, usually made from second- and third-generation dubs of the original masters. I am pleased to announce, however (and thanks to Zim Bida for making me aware of it) that a project is underway to digitize and preserve for posterity more than 100,000 hours of recordings like this in the Radio Tanzania archives. You can go to the website of the Tanzania Heritage Project here, listen to some recordings here, and pledge your financial support here. Plans are to release a compilation CD and make a documentary film of the project.

Enjoy Nelson Mandela!

DDC Mlimani Park Orchestra - Nelson Mandela

DDC Mlimani Park Orchestra - Tumetoka Mbali

DDC Mlimani Park Orchestra - Utamaduni

DDC Mlimani Park Orchestra - Kauli Yako Nimeisikia

DDC Mlimani Park Orchestra - Maneno Maneno Ya Nini

DDC Mlimani Park Orchestra - Kupenda Sio Ndoto

Download Nelson Mandela as a zipped file here.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Another Souvenir




As a follow-up to the last post, here is another ukumbusho (souvenir) from another great exponent of Muziki wa Dansi, Tanzania's International Orchestra Safari Sound.

IOSS was formed in 1985 when businessman Hugo Kisima dissolved his group the Orchestra Safari Sound, and recruited six members of Mlimani Park Orchestra to form a new orchestra. IOSS & Mlimani were considered the two top rivals for leadership of the Tanzanian music scene for a time but for some reason Kisima dissolved IOSS in the early '90s. Confusingly, at one point Ndala Kasheba briefly revived the "old" Orchestra Safari Sound, and there may have been two factions of the International Orchestra Safari Sound, the IOSS (Ndekule) and IOSS (Duku Duku).

Shukrani kwa Mjomba (Ahadi/Flatim MSCAS 513) is credited to the International Orchestra Safari Sound (Ndekule), and as usual with Ahadi/Flatim releases provides no recording information other than a track-listing. As "Chatu Mkali" on the cassette inexplicably cuts off in the middle of the song, I've used the version from the CD Musiki wa Dansi: Afropop Hits from Tanzania (Africassette AC 9403, 1995), which is still in print and available here. Enjoy!

International Orchestra Safari Sound - Shukrani Kwa Mjomba


International Orchestra Safari Sound - Shida

International Orchestra Safari Sound - Pendo

International Orchestra Safari Sound - Majuto


International Orchestra Safari Sound - Kaka Kinyongoli

International Orchestra Safari Sound - Chatu Mkali


Download Shukrani Kwa Mjomba as a zipped file here. More IOSS here. The batik at the top of this post is taken from this website.


Thursday, March 11, 2010

A Tanzanian Souvenir




Orchestra Vijana Jazz, one of Tanzania's top dance bands, was founded in 1971 under the sponsorship of Umoja wa Vijana Tanzania, then the Youth League of the ruling Tanzania African National Union (TANU). Over the last couple of decades as the Tanzanian economy has "liberalized" I suspect Vijana has had to make its own way. It quite possibly may not exist anymore. The Orchestra has undergone numerous personnel changes over the years, notably the death of vocalist Hemed Maneti, who wrote some of the band's most memorable tunes like "Mary Maria" and "Tambiko la Pamba Moto."

"Ukumbusho" literally translates as "reminder" but it probably more closely means "souvenir" or "in memoriam." The cassette Ukumbusho: Hayati Hemed Maneti (Ahadi/Flatim MSKCAS 514) was apparently issued to commemorate the life of Vijana's beloved lead singer. As usual for an Ahadi/Flatim production the sound quality is not up to snuff. Musically it's memorable indeed.

Orchestra Vijana Jazz - Jiko Limenuna

Orchestra Vijana Jazz - Najilaumu

Orchestra Vijana Jazz - Nilitaka Iwe Siri


Orchestra Vijana Jazz - Unikubalie

Orchestra Vijana Jazz - Ndoa Ni Kuvumiliana


Orchestra Vijana Jazz - Madaraka Kwenye Bar

Download Ukumbusho as a zipped file here. More Vijana Jazz on Likembe here, and you can find another great cassette by them here.



Sunday, January 10, 2010

Black Warriors




Ronnie Graham's The World of African Music (Pluto Press/Research Associates, 1992) states that Tanzania's DDC Mlimani Park Orchestra recorded several albums and singles in the early '80s under the name "The Black Warriors." Doug Paterson told me a few years ago, though, that The Black Warriors were actually a subgroup of Mlimani who recorded in Nairobi without permission from bandleader Michael Enoch. For this transgression they were expelled from the group, only to return later.

Whatever the true story, in the early '90s Flatim Records in Nairobi compiled six Black Warriors 45s into a compilation cassette, Tunazikumbuka Vol. 20 (AHD [MC] 038), which I present here. This cassette is compiled from vinyl pressings rather than the original source tapes, and Flatim cassettes are well-known for their dodgy technical standards. The quality of the musical performances shines through nonetheless, and I'm sure you'll enjoy hearing alternate versions of some Mlimani classics.

The Black Warriors - Nawashukuru Wazazi Wangu Pts. 1 & 2


The Black Warriors - Zimbabwe Pts. 1 & 2

The Black Warriors - Bubu Ataka Kusama Pts. 1 & 2

The Black Warriors - Nalala Kwa Tabu Pts. 1 & 2

The Black Warriors - Najuta Pts. 1 & 2


The Black Warriors - Uzuri wa Mtu Sio Sura Pts. 1 & 2

Download Tunazikumbuka Vol. 20 as a zipped file here. The artwork at the top of this post is by Tanzanian artist Mwamedi Chiwaya, and is in a style called Tingatinga. It is taken from this website.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Some More Seldom-Heard Tracks by Remmy Ongala




Like Comb and Razor, I seem to be experiencing some difficulty managing to get a post up, not, as in Uchenna's case, because I'm terribly busy with anything else, but because of a general sense of ennui. Spring fever perhaps?

Anyway, I've got a few things in the works, but I just realized that it's been more than two weeks since I've posted, so here's something in the nature of a stop-gap.

In one of my first dispatches, I posted five tracks from Remmy Ongala's two 1988 albums On Stage With Remmy Ongala (Ahadi AHDLP 6007) and Nalilia Mwana (Womad WOMAD 010). Which leaves seven tunes that I didn't post, so here they are!

"Tembea Ujionee," from Nalilia Mwana, means "Travel and See For Yourself." Remmy sings, "Travel and see for yourself. Don't wait to be told about it. There are many things to see in the world. Waiting for you. . ." By the way, although the liner notes of the LP credit this song to "Remmy Ongala & Orchestra Super Matimila," I suspect it, along with other songs on Nalilia Mwana, was recorded when Ongala was with Orchestra Makassy. That sounds an awful lot like Mose Fan Fan Se Sengo on lead guitar!

Remmy Ongala & Orchestra Super Matimila - Tembea Ujionee

In "Mnyonge Hana Haki" ("The Poor Have No Rights") Remmy deplores the plight of the unfortunate. "I have nothing to say. . . Remmy is a poor man, an ugly man. Remmy has nothing to say to his companions. A bicycle has nothing to say in front of a motorbike. A motorbike has nothing to say in front of a car. A car has nothing to say in front of a train. The poor have nothing to say in front of the rich. . . The poor have no rights."

Remmy Ongala & Orchestra Super Matimila - Mnyonge Hana Haki

The liner notes of Nalilia Mwana state that "Arusi ya Mwanza"
is ". . . about a young woman who is married in Mwanza and goes to live with her husband in Dar es Salaam. After a few days he deserts her and she is too ashamed to return home to face the questions of her parents and neighbors. She warns other women that men are deceitful and will promise a house and car to make girls give up their studies. She herself only wanted to be happy and start a family like her friends. . ."

Remmy Ongala & Orchestra Super Matimila - Arusi ya Mwanza

On Stage With Remmy Ongala unfortunately doesn't provide song translations.

Remmy Ongala & Orchestra Super Matilmila - Sauti ya Mnyonge


Remmy Ongala & Orchestra Super Matimila - Asili ya Muziki

Remmy Ongala & Orchestra Super Matimila - Maisha

Remmy Ongala & Orchestra Super Matimila - Mama Mzazi


If you would like to recreate the original LPs using the other five tunes, the tracklistings are as follows:


Nalilia Mwana (
Womad WOMAD 010, 1988)
1. Nalilia Mwana
2. Sika ya Kufa
3. Tembea Ujionee
4. Ndumila Kuwili
5. Mnyonge Hana Haki
6. Arusi ya Mwanza

On Stage With Remmy Ongala
(Ahadi AHDLP 6007, 1988)
1. Sauti ya Mnyonge
2. Asili ya Muziki
3. Maisha
4. Kifo
5. Mama Mzazi
6. Narudi Nyumbani
The picture at the top of this post is from this site.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Pamba Moto, Sikinde, Duku Duku & More




In the last week I've been afflicted not only by writer's block but by a mild yet persistent case of the flu. So let's make a virtue of necessity - less talk, more music! Here's another helping of Muziki wa Dansi from Tanzania, one of the more popular entrees on the Likembe menu. Let's kick-start things with a classic 45 by the reigning kings of the big-band Swahili sound, DDC Mlimani Park Orchestra. This is AHD 02 in the Ahadi catalog, released in 1983:

DDC Mlimani Park Orchestra - Matatizo ya Nyumbani Pts. 1 & 2

Here's another great track from the excellent 1986 collection Best of DDC Mlimani Park Orchestra Vol. 1 (Ahadi ADHLP 6002):

DDC Mlimani Park Orchestra - Clara

I'm not sure if Orchestra Vijana Jazz is still on the scene, but it was formed in 1971 and has undergone numerous personnel changes over the years, suffering a major loss in 1990 with the death of its leader Hemed Maneti. Here's a rollicking 45 from 1983, Ahadi catalog number AHD 03:

Orchestra Vijana Jazz - Mama Njiti Pts. 1 & 2

Now we have this 45 from 1983 or '84 (Ahadi AHD 04), credited to Ndala Kasheba ("Freddie Supreme") and Orchestra Safari Sound (Dar). Werner Graebner writes that the OSS was dissolved in 1985 by its owner, businessman Hugo Kiisima, who then set up the International Orchestra Safari Sound, led by Muhiddin Maalim Gurumo and Abel Balthazar. So, did Kasheba keep the "old" OSS going? The release Tanzania Hit Parade '88 (Ahadi AHDLP 6005, 1988) lists two IOSS bands, subtitled "Duku Duku" and "Ndekule." Mysterious and mysteriouser:

Orchestra Safari Sound (Dar) - Dunia Msongamano Pts. 1 & 2

Here's the song that, as I've written earlier, launched my love affair with Swahili music: Remmy Ongala's ethereal "Mariamu" (Polydor POL 554, 1983). In my opinion it's superior to the
version that appeared on 1989's Songs for the Poor Man (RealWorld 91315-2), with these heartfelt lyrics: "Love burns like a fire . . . I cry for the wrong that I have done. Pity me, there is nothing I think of more than you. I am thin like a coconut palm, for the love of you. At night I dream, the whole day I can't eat. My heart is boiling, my body and blood dried-up. With the love that's burning within me. My Mariamu, my lover, you come today, you go today. I am suffering in my heart, and you are my heart":

Remmy Ongala & Orchestra Super Matimila - Mariamu Pts. 1 & 2

Finally, here's a group that I'm not actually sure is from Tanzania. Orchestra Super Sound, led by Kalala Mbwebwe, could very well be Kenyan. Their sound is closer to the sort of pop confections that were popular in the Nairobi music scene ca. the mid-'80s. But since this 45 was released on the Ken-Tanza label (KT (C) 055, to be specific), which as far as I know, released Tanzanian artists exclusively, I'll assume they're from that country. Enjoy!

Orchestra Super Sound - Fantaar Pts. 1 & 2

The picture at the top of this post is "Drummer Girl"
(2006) by Tanzanian artist Maurus Michael Malikita. Efforts to get in touch with Mr. Malikita by email to ask his permission to reproduce were unsuccessful, so I took the liberty. I apologize to Mr. Malikita for this, and if he would like me to remove it, he can get in touch with me via the comments or write me here: beadlejp (at) yahoo (dot) com. You can view some of Mr. Malikita's work at the above link (or click on the picture). Please drop in, and consider buying one of his paintings.
At the end of this week I'll be heading out East to do the college-tour thing with my daughter. We'll probably meet up with a couple of fellow African music fans that I've been in touch with, and I'm hoping to check out some African restaurants. Chances are I won't have access to a computer, so this will probably be my last post for awhile. If your musical cravings become too unbearable, please check in with some of the fine purveyors over in the left-hand sidebar. Ciao!

Saturday, March 1, 2008

More Mbaraka




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?

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Tanzania Hit Parade '88




Note: This post was updated on September 20, 2008 to incorporate a translation of the song "Marashi ya Pemba" by reader/listener Xodi.

Judging from the feedback I've gotten on the last couple of Tanzanian posts it seems that people just can't get enough of the classic Muziki wa Dansi sound - massed horns, a subtle yet propulsive beat, vocals to make you cry - and who can blame them? I present to you, then, four of the bands that made it happen in Dar es Salaam back in the '80s: Mlimani Park, Vijana Jazz, Maquis Original, and two versions of the International Orchestra Safari Sound (Duku Duku and Ndekule), from the LP Tanzania Hit Parade '88 (Ahadi AHDLP 6005, 1988).

Like those Mlimani Park tracks I posted a couple of weeks ago, this is a Doug Paterson production, and Doug has a great background article on the artists by Werner Graebner over on his site. Enjoy!

Vijana Jazz Orchestra - Mundinde

Maquis Original - Clara

Reader/listener Xodi writes: "Marashi ya Pemba - this brings back lots of memories - my translation is probably not the best nor is it quite complete but I think it conveys the essence of the song:

at dawn the sea breeze hit me
i saw the star in the east
to live on an island mama has its own sweetness
mafia pemba zanzibar - our islands

the day I get to pemba
the wife of the sultan shall organize
that I get to explore all its sections - till the last

the perfume of Pemba
Cloves!

I will not be left behind - I will get on a plane to Pemba
I hear it is very nice (there)
that in the evening there is a seabreeze/light wind
that it smells strongly of cloves
International Orchestra Safari Sound (Duku Duku) - Marashi ya Pemba

International Orchestra Safari Sound (Ndekule) - Christina Moshi

Vijana Jazz Orchestra - Chaurembo

DDC Mlimani Park Orchestra - Hasira

Update: You know what would be really nice? If someone who knows Swahili could fill us in on what the lyrics are all about. C'mon! I know you're out there!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

By Request: Mbaraka Mwinshehe




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!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Sikinde Ngoma Ya Ukae!




With our laptop out of commission for a while, the household is down to one functional computer, which the kids have commandeered for their own uses. I've been working on several posts at once, but I just haven't had time to rip some of the tunes I've wanted to use. Fortunately, I have a fair number already digitized. So this will be a quickie, but a goodie.

Like just about everybody, I love the Tanzanian band DDC Mlimani Park Orchestra, led by Michael Enoch (above). We were very fortunate indeed when a wonderful "Best of" compilation of their hits was released some time ago (Sikinde [Africassette AC9402] in the U.S.). I believe it may still be in print. One CD, however, just isn't enough to embrace all of the "best" of this prolific congregation. Fortunately, I have in my posession the two-volume Best of DDC Mlimani Park Orchestra issued in Kenya and produced by our friend Doug Paterson of the East African Music Page.

So, here are five tunes from those LPs. "Mume Wangu Jerry" and "M. V. Mapenzi 1" are from Best of DDC Mlimani Park Orchestra Vol. 1 (Ahadi AHDLP 6002, 1986). The other songs are from Best of DDC Mlimani Park Orchestra Vol. 2 (Ahadi AHDLP 6006, 1988).

DDC Mlimani Park Orchestra - Mume Wangu Jerry

DDC Mlimani Park Orchestra - M. V. Mapenzi 1

DDC Mlimani Park Orchestra - Matatizo ya Uke Wenza

DDC Mlimani Park Orchestra - Majirani Huzima Radio

DDC Mlimani Park Orchestra - Naheshimu Ndoa

Discography of DDC Mlimani Park Orchestra

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Some Seldom-Heard Tracks by Remmy Ongala




Swahili music was terra incognita to me until one day in the summer of 1984. I was visiting Edmund Ogutu, a Kenyan friend of mine. He'd brought out a stack of East African 45's and was playing them for me. I certainly enjoyed the sounds of the Kilimambogo Brothers and DO7 Shirati Jazz, similar in some ways to other African music I was familiar with, yet refreshing in their rustic straightforwardness. Then Edmund brought out a red-label Polydor 45. The song was "Mariamu" and it was by a Tanzanian group called Super Matimila. From the first bars I was completely transported. Here was something that clearly shared the DNA of Congo music but had mutated in various subtle ways. Obviously the fact that it was in Swahili rather than Lingala was one point of difference, but what really struck me was the singer, who had a jazzy, improvisational vocal style that was cool and warm, friendly and reserved at the same time. Looking at the record label I discovered that this person was named Remmy Ongala. Edmund couldn't tell me anything about him.

That's where things stood for a couple of years, until I read an article by Ron Sakolsky in Sound Choice, a long-forgotten music magazine. Ron had lived in Tanzania and, having been similarly transformed by the music of Remmy Ongala, wanted to tell the great man's story. It turned out that Remmy was originally from Kindu, in the Congo. He began his musical career in that country (soon renamed Zaïre), and migrated to Uganda, ending up in Dar-Es-Salaam, Tanzania in 1978, where he joined Orchestra Makassy, a band led by his uncle. Three years later he departed to join Super Matimila and soon became its leader.

I got in touch with Ron and he sent me dubs of more records by Remmy Ongala, wonderful songs like "Ndumila Kuwili" and "Mnyonge Hana Haki." Finally in 1988, WOMAD Records in Britain released a full-length anthology of Remmy Ongala's East African recordings, Nalilia Mwana (
Womad WOMAD 010).

Remmy and Orchestra Super Matimila performed at the WOMAD Festival that year and in 1989 recorded their first "professional" album, Songs for the Poor Man (
Realworld CDRW6), followed in 1992 by Mambo (Realworld CDRW22). Both of these albums are fine, but to my mind the intimacy and immediacy, the soul of the Tanzanian recordings has been lost in the transition to a "professional," "modern" recording studio. Nalilia Mwana, which was never issued on CD, has long been out of print, and as far as I know there are no plans to reissue it, although an edited version of the title track appeared on 1995's Sema (Womad Select WSCD002).

It pains me that the general public is unfamiliar with the true, authentic sounds of Remmy Ongala and Orchestra Super Matimila, the music that is known and loved by millions of people in East Africa. To rectify this injustice I present several tracks from Nalilia Mwana and from another album that was issued only in East Africa, 1988's On Stage With Remmy Ongala (Ahadi AHDLP 6007). The song descriptions are from the liner notes:

"Nalilia Mwana" (I Cry for a Child) is the lament of a woman who cannot give birth: "Mola, I cry to you, Mola, I beseetch you, what did I do to deserve this misfortune. A child isn't something that you can buy... To the mother a child never grows up. Even if it were lame, or ugly like Remmy, it would still be a child."

Remmy Ongala & Orchestra Super Matimila - Nalilia Mwana

Our next selection is also from Nalilia Mwana. "Sika Ya Kufa" (The Day I Die) tells the sad tale of a man who is dying: "Beauty is finished, youth is finished, intelligence has left. But the house I built remains and my children are crying. A corpse has no companions - all my friends run away from me. Whereas we used to eat and drink together. Now they are frightened of me. Now I am like the devil."

Remmy Ongala & Orchestra Super Matimila - Sika Ya Kufa

"Ndumila Kuwili," (Don't Speak With Two Mouths), our last from Nalilia Mwana, deals with that age-old problem, jealousy: "We used to be friends. We lived together like brothers. But I am surprised, brother - don't speak with two mouths. Playing off one person against another. Jealousy and discord are not the right way.""

Remmy Ongala & Orchestra Super Matimila - Ndumila Kuwili

"Kifo" (Death) was my favorite song on Songs for the Poor Man, so when I received a copy of On Stage with Remmy Ongala, which includes the original, I was curious to hear how the two versions compared. This is a case where, in my opinion, the "remake" is an improvement on the original, which is a mighty fine tune already. The lyrics: "Death, you took my wife. My child cries every day. 'Father, where is my mother?' But I can't find the words. The tears just fall down my face. Because of you, Death."

Remmy Ongala & Orchestra Super Matimila - Kifo

A remake of "Narudi Nyumbabi," from On Stage with Remmy Ongala, was featured on Mambo under the title "I Want to Go Home," and here the original is clearly superior. There's just something about the "low-tech" nature of the recording, and the Swahili lyrics, that just expresses the poignancy of the lyrics so much better: "I want to go home. I need to go back home. The place that is our home. Good or bad still home."

Remmy Ongala & Orchestra Super Matimila - Narudi Nyumbani

A couple of years ago I convinced Doug Paterson of the East African Music Page to compile a discography of Remmy Ongala's many recordings for the East African market. If you'd like more information on these, you are encouraged to consult it here.


Update: Thanks to reader Daan42, who passes on a link to an article about Remmy Ongala's current activities here.