Of course you know that this post isn't about Fela Anikulapo-Kuti or his LP Black President.
What can I say? I never thought I would see this day as long as I lived. The whole idea that a Chicagoan would be elected President of the United States is odd enough, much less a Hawaiian. But a biracial son of a Kenyan immigrant and a white American woman, with a Muslim name, who grew up in Indonesia?! Who could have imagined it?
For those of us who are in interracial relationships Obama's triumph is especially sweet. It's not like Priscilla and I have had a hard time of it the last 23 years (it's not the 1950s, after all), but finally we feel like we've really, really arrived. Our daughters Ify and Aku have been especially ecstatic the last few months - Barack Obama after all is one of their own, or rather our own. In the last month Aku has spent 2-4 hours every evening after school down at the local Obama headquarters and walking door-to-door on behalf of the campaign.
Of course I don't think the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. I've always felt that real social progress comes when the masses of people organize in their own interests - against war and racism, for unions and justice on the job, in defense of women's rights and equality for gays. So while this may be a largely "symbolic" victory for us radicals and progressives, at least for one day the oppressed and neglected can hold their heads high.
I know this is an African music blog, but in my first post I reserved the right to write about other subjects. Thanks for indulging me this time, and anyway, if you're reading this, I'm pretty sure you're an "Obama person" (to the McCain supporters, if any, my condolences). To mark this joyous occasion, and courtesy of Steve Ntwiga Mugiri, here are a couple of tracks recorded by Congolese/Kenyan musician Samba Mapangala during his recent US tour. Click the link to Steve's blog to read more about them:
Samba Mapangala - Obama Ubarikiwe (Vocal Mix)
Samba Mapangala - Obama Ubarikiwe
Update: In the comments, Kreismyr passes on a link to this great video by Kenyan-American band Extra Golden:
Update 2: Thanks to Squeezyboy for tipping us off to this Kenge Kenge video here. And the video of the Samba Mapangala track is here.
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Thursday, May 22, 2008
Reader/listener Tim Clifford has a big interest in East African music and is responsible for two of the best installments in Matsuli's late, great "African Serenades" series. Tim's working on a detailed discography of East African music and I was happy to pass on to him a listing of titles in my collection. In response to one of these, he wrote, ". . .I can't wait for you to post the single by Brother Charlly Computer and the Gloria Kings as it just might be the best band name ever!"
Of course, I agree. I'm happy to post Brother Charlly, and why don't we listen to a few more Kenyan 45s while we're at it? Most of these are from around the same period, the early to middle '80s, and they are among the last singles pressed in that country (record piracy pretty much killed the format within a few years).
I know absolutely nothing about Brother Charlly and his band. They apparently didn't make many waves, but "Goodbye Hully!" and "Achieng Born-Zo" (Brother Charlly BRO 1) are prime examples of the benga sound, then at the peak of its popularity:
Brother Charlly Computer & the Gloria Kings - Goodbye Hully!
Brother Charlly Computer & the Gloria Kings - Achieng Born-Zo
One thing the Victoria "B" Kings cannot be accused of is being one-hit wonders. Together with D.O. Misiani's Shirati Jazz they were the foremost proponents of benga in its salad days. The Mighty Kings of Benga (Globestyle CDORBD 079, 1993) is a great collection of their 45s. Here are two side of a single (Pamba Oluoro Chilo PAC 14) that is not on that release:
Victoria "B" Kings - Leo Odondo Mak-Awiti
Victoria "B" Kings - Wabed Gi Hera Chuth
Barrier 4's version of benga (this example being Elimu ELM 06) is somewhat more subdued than the above examples, and is also in Swahili rather than Luo:
Barrier 4 - Gharama Haihesabeki Pts. 1 & 2
I understand that the Mombasa Roots Band are one of those Kenyan groups that cater primarily to the tourist trade. Here's their infectious update of the coastal chakacha style (Polydor POL 561):
Mombasa Roots Band - Disco Cha-Ka-Cha Pts. 1 & 2
Malako, recorded by Samba Mapangala & Orchestra Virunga in the early '80s, is rightly considered an African classic (it was reissued in 1990 as Virunga Volcano [Sterns/Earthworks CDEWV 16]). Mapangala, who is originally from the Congo, had a thriving career in East Africa throughout the decade. Around 1990 he left for greener pastures abroad, first in Paris and more recently in the U.S. Sadly, his more recent efforts, recorded with Congolese expatriates, lack the spark of his earlier recordings. "Kweya" (Editions Virunga EDV 005) represents him at the peak of his Kenyan success. Even the cheap-sounding drum machine (something I normally abhor) is in good form here:
Samba Mapangala & Orchestra Virunga - Kweya Pts. 1 & 2
To close out, let's journey about ten years earlier than the previous records. Gabriel Omolo & the Apollo Komesha's record "Lunch Time" not only received a gold disc in Kenya in 1973, it was a smash throughout Africa. Here's the B-side of the Nigerian pressing (Philips West Africa APL 7-618). And if you want to hear "Lunch Time," you can get it on Kenya Dance Mania (Sterns/Earthworks STEW 24CD):
Gabriel Omolo & the Apollo Komesha - Tutakula Vya Ajabu
Update: Tim Clifford's two "African Serenades" compilations are available again, for a limited time, here. Get 'em while they're hot!
Update 2: They're already gone. Sorry!