Showing posts with label Soukous. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Soukous. Show all posts

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Odds and Ends




Taking care of some unfinished business today. . . Many thanks to Ken Chijar Ekezie, who provides us with Part Two of the exceedingly rare "Yokolo" by Docteur Nico and Orchestre African Fiesta Sukisa (above). As far as I know, "Yokolo" has only been available in its entirety as Sides A & B of a single issued and re-issued (Sukisa 501 and Ngoma DNJ 5274) sometime in the late '60s. Part One was included on the Nigerian compilation Music From Zaïre Vol. 3 (Soundpoint SOP 043) which I posted here.

Here is "Yokolo Pt. 2":

Docteur Nico & Orchestre African Fiesta Sukisa - Yokolo Pt. 2

And here are Pts. 1 & 2 joined together:

Docteur Nico & Orchestre African Fiesta Sukisa - Yokolo Pts. 1 & 2

Loyal Likembe reader/listener Sanaag, who has done so much to enlighten us on the Somali music scene of the '70s and '80s, graces us once again with a better pressing of the LP Famous Songs: Hits of the New Era (Radio Mogadishu SBSLP-102, 1973), this time complete with liner notes! You can get it all here. And thanks once again, Sanaag!

Update: Many thanks to African Music Recycler for providing us with a scan of the sleeve for "Yokolo." It gives credit to "Docteur Nico & Orchestre African Fiesta." I'm fairly certain, though, thanks to Alistair Johnston's Docteur Nico Discography, that it is by African Fiesta Sukisa. This was Dr. Nico's band following his split with Rochereau, which gave rise to two orchestras, African Fiesta Sukisa and African Fiesta National.

Friday, June 29, 2012

The School of Verckys




Note: This post was updated and corrected on July 3, 2012.

The rambunctious saxophone stylings of Kiamwuangana Mateta "Verckys" are a hallmark of many of the 1960s recordings of Congo's great Orchestre OK Jazz. Bandleader Luambo Makiadi Franco is said to have much valued his improvisational style and invocations of American-style R&B, a counterpoint to the rest of the band's more sedate sound.Verckys attempted a mutiny in l968 while Franco was away in Europe, enticing several of the band members to join him in forming a new orchestra. When Franco returned he was able to convince most of the defectors to come back, but Verckys, unrepentant, launched Orchestre Vévé in 1969. He later managed the careers of up-and-coming bands like Les Grands Maquisards, Bella-Bella, Lipua-Lipua and Empire Bakuba. There was a distinct Verckys sound or "school" exemplified by these groups, which was influential across Africa as I discuss in this post..

By the early 1980s Verckys had established himself as an emperor of the Zaïrean music scene to rival Franco himself, with his own recording studio, record label, nightclub, pressing facility and a stable of the hottest bands in Kinshasa, including various Zaïko Langa-Langa offshoots and Victoria Eleison.

The 45s I offer here were borrowed from various friends and dubbed onto 10" tape reels back in the '80s. Several years ago I digitized them, along with a number of other recordings in my library. Unfortunately I didn't think to photocopy the labels, but I copied the recording information from them. These were all pressed in the mid-'70s in Kenya.

"Lukani" (Editions Vévé VV213), composed by Tusevo Nejos and released in 1975, elicits warm feelings of nostalgia across Africa, as typified by these comments on YouTube: ". . .:Brings back childhood memories growing up in eastern Nigeria then. Quite fun listening to my elder ones singing along as the music is being played on the popular IBS radio station. Oh Africa, home of good and undiluted music." ". . . Reminds me of the Kampala of the 1970's, when Idi Amin ruled supreme. Remember those bell-bottoms, eh?":

Orchestre Vévé - Lukani Pts 1 & 2

The LP Les Grands Succes de Editions Veve (Sonafric SAS 50039, 1977) features another version of "Engunduka" by Orchestre Engunduka. I'd give the edge, though, to Vévé's interpretation of Sax Matalanza's song (Editions Vévé VV-234-N), which starts out somewhat restrained but quickly succumbs to frenzied guitars and some truly insane sax work:

Orchestre Vévé Internationale - Engunduka Pts 1 & 2

According to Mboka Mosika, Orchestre Kiam was founded in 1974 by Muzola Ngunga. In appreciation for the band's sponsor Kiamwuangana Verckys, who provided its musical instruments, he proposed to name it "Kiam." Orchestre Kiam lacked the distinctive horn section of Vévé and had a radically different style. "Kamiki" (Editions Vévé VV218), which Ngunga composed, was a big hit in 1975. Here the stripped-down guitar sound, scattershot percussion and frantic vocals bring to mind the sound of Orchestre Stukas du Zaïre, a contemporary aggregation:

Orchestre Kiam - Kamiki Pts 1 & 2

Orchestre Bella-Bella was founded in 1969 by the Soki brothers, Emilie Diazenza and Maxime Vangu. When they hooked up with Verckys and his label Editions Vévé this caused a fair amount of disagreement within the band, leading to the departure of a number of members in 1972. The result, though, was the accession to Bella-Bella of several musicians who were to become leading lights of the Kinshasa music scene, including Malembu Tshibau, Shaba Kahamba, Pepe Kalle and Nyboma Mwan'dido. Dissension continued, however, and Emile left to form his own short-lived group, Bella Mambo, only to rejoin a few months later. By 1973, feeling ripped off, the brothers left Editions Vévé, taking the Bella-Bella name but leaving behind their musical instruments, which were owned by Verckys, and a number of musicians including Pepe Kalle and Nyboma, who became the foundation for a new band, Orchestre Lipua-Lipua.

The two Bella-Bella songs here, "Pambi Ndoni" (Bilanga Bl 001) and "Nene"(Editions FrancAfrique EFA 08), were both written by Soki Vangu around 1975 after the break with Verckys. The late '70s were the peak of Bella-Bella's influence, and the group waxed numerous classics including "Tika Ngai Mobali," "Houleux-Houleux" and "Zing Zong." In 1977 Soki Diazenza apparently suffered a nervous breakdown. It was all downhill for Bella-Bella from that point and by 1981 it had effectively disappeared.

Orchestre Bella-Bella - Pambi Ndoni Pts 1 & 2

Orchestre Bella-Bella - Nene Pts 1 & 2

As recounted above, Orchestre Lipua-Lipua was formed by the musicians who stayed with Editions Vévé after the departure of Bella-Bella in 1973. It too suffered its share of defections, notably that of Pepe Kallé, but soon recruited a number of talented musicians, notably rhythm guitarist Vata Mombassa, who became leader with the departure of Nyboma Mwan'dido and several others in 1975 to found Orchestre Les Kamalé. He is responsible for the next two tracks, "Bondo" (ASL ASL 7-2109) and "Lossa" (Editions Vévé VV198):

Orchestre Lipua-Lipua - Bondo Pts 1 & 2

Orchestre Lipua-Lipua - Lossa Pts 1 & 2

Lipua-Lipua winds things up with Tedia Wamu Mbakidi's scorcher "Temperature" (Editions Vévé VV 228N) from 1977. Nzaya Nzayadio's vocals and Santana Mongoley's lead guitar really make this one a standout. Lipua-Lipua would continue on for several years until sputtering out around 1984. Vata Mombassa pursued a solo career, ending up in Abidjan, Ivory Coast where he remains to this day.

Orchestre Lipua-Lipua - Temperature Pts 1 & 2

Download the songs in this post as a zipped file here. For more information on Verckys and his label Editions Vévé, see Alistair Johnston's discography here. The liner notes of Vintage Verckys (Retroafric RETRO 15CD, 2001) were very helpful in researching this post; in addition the blog Classic Ambiance: Franco and Pepe Kalle Flashback is highly recommended. African Rock: The Pop Music of a Continent by Chris Stapleton and Chris May (Obelisk/Dutton, 1990), Congo Colossus: The Life and Legacy of Franco & OK Jazz by Graeme Ewens (Buku Press, 1994) and Rumba on the River by Gary Stewart (Verso, 2004) are all excellent reference books. All of these may be purchased or downloaded by clicking on the links.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Real Rumbira Sounds



A major force in the Zimbabwe music scene of the 1980s, the Real Sounds of Africa were in fact founded by a group of Congolese musicians in Zambia in 1975. Moving to Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia under the white-minority government of Ian Smith) in 1978, they became an immediate sensation, releasing their first LP, Harare (Zimbabwe ZML 1015), in 1984.

The foremost Congolese-origin band in Zimbabwe, the Real Sounds forged a unique blend of rumba music and indigenous sounds that they called rumbira. Success followed upon success, and in 1986 the group toured Europe, releasing two albums in the UK, Wende Zako (Cooking Vinyl COOK 004, 1987), and Seven Miles High (Big Records BIG 1, 1989).

I don't know what has become of the Real Sounds, but their music, especially their football songs, continues to be popular to this day.  Enjoy Harare!

The Real Sounds - Kapinga

The Real Sounds - Ozweli Ngai Mbanda

The Real Sounds - Baninga

The Real Sounds - Harare

The Real Sounds - Chamunorwa

The Real Sounds - Dynamos Versus Caps (0-0)

Download Harare as a zipped file here.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Smooth as Butter



Congo music doesn't get much smoother and more elegant than Bumba Massa's 1982 outing L'Argent et la Femme (Star Musique SMP6017), recorded in Togo with the participation of Bopol Mansiamina, Syran Mbenza and Lokassa ya Mbongo, among others. When I posted Bumba's 1983 LP Dovi earlier this year, I promised this one would be coming your way also. Enjoy!

Bumba Massa - L'Argent et la Femme




Download L'Argent et la Femme as a zipped file here.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Congo Memories with Bumba Massa




Best-known for his work with the super-group Kékélé and last year's release Apostolo, the honey-voiced Bumba Massa is one of the great unsung heroes of '80s Congo/Zaïre music. Born in Kinshasa in 1945, in 1963 he founded Orchestre Cubana Jazz with Empopo Loway and Siongo Bavon Marie-Marie, the younger brother of Luambo Makiadi Franco. He then progressed to work alongside Johnny Bokelo in Conga '68 and with Vicky Longomba in Lovy du Zaïre, before joining Franco's TPOK Jazz in 1976.

Bumba Massa launched his career as a solo artist in 1978 with a tour of West Africa, ending with the release in 1981 of Gare à Toi Mon Ami in Ivory Coast. Despite a number of outstanding releases like l'Argent et la Femme and Dovi in subequent years, Massa was unable to really "break through" on the international scene (l'Argent et la Femme did receive some limited distribution by Brooklyn's African Record Centre) until 2001, when Kékélé's first recording Rumba Congo (Sterns STCD 1093) brought the sounds of classic Congo music to a new generation.



Listen to Bumba Massa's brilliant 1983 outing Dovi (Syllart SYL 8306) and understand why I consider the 1980s the last "Golden Age" of Congolese music. Recorded in Paris under the direction of the great producer Ibrahima Sylla, and with the participation of outstanding sidemen like Pablo Lubadika Porthos and Syran Mbenza, it stands as a pinnacle of the sound: smooth, seemingly effortless and sublime. If you like this one, in the future I will post 1982's l'Argent et la Femme, which is almost as good.





Download Dovi as a zipped file here.



Saturday, October 9, 2010

Shortwave Memories



More Congo classics via Nigeria here! Music From Zaïre Vol. 3 (Soundpoint SOP 041, 1977) opens with "Ngalula Marthe" by Orchestre Elegance Jazz, a song that provokes fond memories among West Africans of a certain age. A quick scan of the internet produces numerous comments about it, including these: ". . .I dreamed of my childhood in Sierra Leone. When I board a public transport like a taxi, private bus, pick trucks travelling to the countryside, this record was the music of the time in Sierra Leone in all these public transportations. . ." ". . . This song typified my happy childhood in the good old days in Nigeria. Late 70s and early 80s, I think. Remembered it being played on the state radio's ikwokilikwo hour in Anambra back them. The best of the classic Congolese music! It's soothing!" ". . . We used to organize dancing competitions with this song back then in Cote d'Ivoire. . ."

As regards the meaning of the lyrics, another listener writes, ". . . Ngalula is the name of a girl in the Kasai culture: Ngalula is special because of her genetic makeup. So is Ntumba from the cultural perispectives. These children were concieved without sex after mother has just had another child. . ."

There's no doubt that this 1972 classic had a broad influence on West African music. Compare the guitar work at around the 3:30 mark to Prince Nico Mbarga's "Sweet Mother," released in 1976:


Here's another song evoking the feeling of something you'd hear over a shortwave radio late at night. I'm not the only one who's looked high and low for part two of "Yokolo," but according to Alistair Johnston's discography of Docteur Nico it is avaliable only on two 45s (Editions Sukisa S.500 & Ngoma DNJ 5274) issued in the late '60s. To the best of my knowledge the only album Part 1 is available on is Music From Zaïre Vol. 3. A rarity indeed!


Nyboma Mwan'dido made his musical debut in 1969 at the age of 16, and was recruited by the musician and promoter Kiamuangana Verckys to Orchestre Bella-Bella in 1971, and subsequently to Orchestre Lipua-Lipua. "Kamalé'" proved to be such a smash for Lipua-Lipua and its lead singer that in 1975 Nyboma split from Verckys to form his own band, Les Kamalé, which notched a series of hits, including the enduring classic "Doublé Doublé." You can hear a full-length version of "Kamalé" here.



When Kiamuangana Verckys left OK Jazz in 1969, he soon developed a recording empire and a raucous sound to rival those of his mentor Franco and the other giant of Congo music at the time, Tabu Ley Rochereau. I've been unable to locate Part One of "Dona," the wild horns, biting guitar licks and over-the-top vocals of which showcase the "Verckys Sound" at its best:


Part One of Bella-Bella's great "Mbuta" has also eluded me. You can hear Nyboma singing backup here:


"Infidelité Mado," also known as "Mado," realeased in 1972, was a great hit for Franco and Orchestre TPOK Jazz. I apologize for the poor sound quality of the version here, indeed of the last four tracks on Music from Zaïre Vol. 3 (Side Two of the LP is slightly off-center). You can hear a better version of "Mado," courtesy of Worldservice, here:


Founded in 1953, Joseph Kabasele's African Jazz was the first "modern" Congolese orchestra:


Download Music From Zaïre Vol. 3 as a zipped file here.


Saturday, September 25, 2010

More Desert Island Music




Given that he's one of the most illustrious Congolese musicians of his generation, information about Côme Moutouari, better known as Kosmos, is a bit hard to come by. I know that he's one of a trio of musical brothers (the others being Michel and Pierre Moutouari), that he got started in the '60s with the legendary Bantous de la Capitale in Brazzaville, that he left that congregation in the '70s with Pamelo Mounk'a and Celio to form Trio Ce.Pa.Kos and Orchestre le Peuple, and that in the '80s he recorded a series of solo LPs that are some of finest Congo recordings of that golden decade.

Of these, Ba Camarades (Safari Sound SAS 040, ca. 1983) is true "desert island music" that stands as a distillation of all that was great about '80s Congo music: the sweeping guitar filigrees, the understated horns and above all, Kosmos's lovely voice. They sure don't make records like this any more!





Download Ba Camarades as a zipped file here. Here are some earlier recordings by Kosmos that I took from the compilation CD Best of Kosmos Vol. 2 (Glenn Music GM 324008, 1995). The song translations are from the liner notes. "Miléna," recorded with Bantous de la Capitale, is one of Kosmos' best loved songs. In it the singer recounts the pain his love for Miléna is causing him: "They make me suffer for loving you. I didn't know that my mother-in-law was a merchant of children. She wants me to give her all of the money I make. Oh mother-in-law, please don't tell Miléna to give my child to a man richer than me":


In "Kamwiya" Kosmos and Pamelo Mounk'a sing, "You are losing your way. Bring your heart back to its place. I love you but don't come to me because of bad advice. Don't lose the light of my love. I'm fed up with that suffering":


"Milla, I've heard something horrible. Tomorrow you're flying to a foreign country. Where you are going there are a lot of men. I am afraid you will forget me. I am crying. You leave me with a wound that can only be healed by your return":


Saturday, September 18, 2010

Another Rockin' One-Off




Roaring out of Kinshasa by way of Paris with drum machine in tow, it's Rigo Star and Josky Kiambukuta with Jotongo (Mayala MA4005, 1986), a platter that can best be described as "soukous rock."

Josky Kiambukuta is the honey-voiced vocalist who joined Franco's legendary TPOK Jazz in 1973 and composed many of its greatest songs. Rigo Star made his mark in Papa Wemba's Viva la Musica before decamping to Paris and recording with the likes of Sam Mangwana and Kanda Bongo Man, later becoming a much-sought arranger and producer. Like Uhuru Aiye by Bob Ohiri and his Uhuru Sounds, posted in this space earlier, Jotongo is an apparent one-time studio collaboration that was never repeated. Similarly, its somewhat deracinated sound has a "hard rock" edge that sets it apart from some of the more mainstream sounds of the day. As no other musicians are credited on the sleeve, I suspect all of the musical contributions were provided by Kiambukuta and Star via overdubbing.






Download Jotongo as a zipped file here.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Still Another Re-Up




I've been unable to find out much about Congo's Bobongo Stars, but their unique blend of funk, rock & roll, Soukous and Mutuashi made them stand out in the crowded '80s Kinshasa music scene. They had their own night club, made commercial jingles, played backup for the Angolan singer Diana, and achieved a measure of renown in Europe before fading from sight.

Some time ago I posted the Bobongo Stars album Makasi (Celluloid CEL 6627, 1983) over on Uchenna Ikonne's blog With Comb & Razor, and as it's since gone offline, I thought now was a propitious moment to make it available again.


The above photograph of the Bobongo Stars was taken by Chris Stapleton and appeared in his article "Kinshasa Diary: Zaïre," which was in the Summer 1986 issue of Africa Beat (London). Here are the songs from Makasi, and you can download them as a zipped file here:

Bobongo Stars - Mbati

Bobongo Stars - Joyce

Bobongo Stars - La Vie Ya Lelo

Bobongo Stars - Nazangi Yo

Bobongo Stars - Koteja

Bobongo Stars - Simba Moto


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.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Lovers' Soukous for Soukous Lovers




It's no secret I'm not thrilled about some of the Congo music that's been coming out lately, particularly from the Paris-based bunch. For those of us who got to know it in the '70s and '80s, "soukous" is synonymous with the mellow, hot-yet-cool sounds popularized by the great Franco and Rochereau, Kosmos Moutouari, Pamelo Mounk'a, and of course, Lipua-Lipua and its many offshoots. That was real cuisine. The new stuff? Well, it's just fast food.

Of this crew guitarist/composer Papa Noël has always held a special place in my heart, although he's labored in the shadows of better-known musicians for many years. Born Antoine Nedule Montswet in 1940 in Leopoldville (today Kinshasa), he was nicknamed "Noël," having taken his first breath on Christmas Day.

In 1957 Noël made his first record (backing Léon Bukasa) and joined the group Rock-a-Mambo, which crossed the river in 1960 to the newly-independent French Congo and became Orchestre Bantou (later Bantous de la Capitale), a major force in Congo music for decades. In 1963 he returned to Leopoldville, and was soon asked by the great bandleader Kabaselle to join his Orchestre African Jazz. Here he played for five years, leaving to lead his own Orchestre Bamboula for a few years, and then to play with a succession of combos. In 1978, Papa Noël was asked by Franco to join his
Orchestre Tout Poussaint OK Jazz, where he stayed until the great man's death in 1989 (it was as a member of OK Jazz that Noël was jailed for 22 days in 1978 as punishment for Franco's notoriously filthy song "Jacky," a recording in which, ironically, he played no role).

During the years that Papa Noël toiled as a "musician's musician" in other people's projects, lending them his soft-spoken elegance and masterful guitar work, he occasionally made solo recordings to great acclaim. Two of these were Bon Samaritain (1984) and Haute Tension (1994), tracks from which are available on the CD Bel Ami (Sterns SDCD 3016, 2000).

In 1999 the family and I had the pleasure of hearing and meeting Papa Noël when he performed in Milwaukee as part of the backup group for Sam Mangwana, who had just released his CD Galo Negro and was touring the U.S. to promote it. Although Mangwana was the "star" of the show, these two great musicians were definitely co-equals in our eyes. I could tell Noël was pleased to have been recognized in his own right, and he seemed touched that I had brought two of his hard-to-find LPs for him to autograph. Here we are below:



Papa Noël's Allegria (Editions Provil PV 015, ca. 1987) is one of those "desert island" recordings, a masterpiece that I rank, along with Fela Anikulapo-Kuti's Zombie, Kiné Lam's Galass, and Kuku Sebesebe's Munaye, one of the ten greatest African recordings of all time. See if you don't agree:

Papa Noël - Allegria

Papa Noël - Sem-Sem

Papa Noël - Nzoto Pasi

Papa Noël - Sante Pepele

Download Allegria as a zipped file here. Much of the information in this post was mined from Ken Braun's very informative liner notes for Bel Ami.



Monday, December 22, 2008

Merry Christmas!




A glorious Christmas to our readers and listeners who follow the Christian faith! To commemorate this joyous occasion I present Oliver de Coque's "Omumu Onye Nzoputa (Jesu Kristi)/Olu Ebube Nke Onye Nweayi," an account of the Christmas story from his 1983 LP of the same name (Ogene OGRLPS 03):

Oliver de Coque & his Expo '76 Ogene Sound Super of Africa - Omumu Onye Nzoputa (Jesu Kristi)/Olu Ebube Nke Onye Nweayi

This is one of my favorite de Coque songs, thanks to his eloquent guitar work and the interplay of traditional Igbo percussion. Some listeners may notice something oddly familiar about the melody, however. Take a listen to this song, by Congolese orchestra Minzoto Wella-Wella from their LP Malembé Kidiba Chant (K-Dance/Eddy'son 4219):

Minzoto Wella-Wella - Nanu Lubutu


It's obvious that somebody copied someone else. The Minzoto LP is not dated, but I suspect that it was issued sometime before the de Coque record. Oliver no doubt, then, lifted the melody and distinctive guitar work from the Minzoto record and not the other way around. But who cares? They're both great records!

Speaking of lifting, I purloined the image at the top of this post from the BBC's site. It is from a series of Christmas cards drawn by students at Swanland School in Nairobi. Follow the link and consider buying a set of the cards. Proceeds go toward rebuilding the school.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Dawn of the Age of the Medley




In the last twenty years or so there has emerged a trend in the African music scene toward "Greatest Hits" compilations rerecorded "Megamix" style in 15-20 minute continuous medleys. This tendency was kick-started around 1990 with the release of the Soukous Stars' smash CD, entitled, appropriately enough, Megamix Vol. 1 (Syllart 38779-2, below left). Not only is the Soukous Stars' success pegged on mixes like this, another group, Soukous Vibration, has arisen that specializes exclusively in this sort of thing, and there have been mix albums released from all over Africa: Madagascar, Mali, Nigeria, even Chad.

I'm a bit distressed at this fad (which, truth be told, has already faded considerably). One would like to see African musicians stretching themselves and developing new syntheses, not just rehashing the old glories. Still, in a way it's a good thing, because it brings the classic sounds to new generations.

Before Megamix Vol. 1, there was another great megamix-style album, probably the first of the genre. I'm talking about Syran Mbenza's Africa: The Golden Years (AMG 007), released sometime in the late '80s by the DC-based label African Music Gallery
. Although it's arguably the best of all of the megamixes and probably directly inspired the trend, it's faded completely from sight.

Mbenza, a native of the Congo, is well-known to African music fans, having been a stalwart of the Kinshasa-, West African- and Paris-based African music scenes since 1968. He's been involved with numerous groups including Sam Mangwana's African All-Stars, Le Quatre Etoiles and the supergroup Kekele.
Africa: The Golden Years is notable for its synthesis of classic Congolese rumba with West African highlife. I'm sure it had been done before, but probably not to such great effect.

Here's the album. For more information on the songs and the musicians, click on the picture at the bottom of this post:

Syran Mbenza - Adjoa-Sawale-Mbanda Kazaka


Syran Mbenza - Mabele Ya Paulo-Bottom Belly-Super Combo


Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!




Whoa! I just realized today is Halloween, and to mark the occasion, here's the only thing I could come up with that approaches being an "African Halloween song." From the Congo via Nairobi, here's Orchestre Les Mangalepa (above) and "Dracula" (ASL 2250N, circa 1983):

Orchestre Les Mangalepa - Dracula Pts. 1 & 2


Friday, August 22, 2008

Some Somo-Somo




Guitarist Mose Se Sengo "Fan Fan" was a crucial member of Franco's Orchestre TPOK Jazz from 1967 to 1972. In that year he left, and after some time in Orchestre Lovy, founded the first of several orchestras called Somo-Somo in 1974. This band was short-lived, and Fan Fan soon made his way south and east, first to Zambia and then Tanzania, where he played with the legendary Orchestra Makassy, composing some of its greatest hits, notably "Ciska," "Mosese" and "Molema." Moving on to Nairobi in the early '80s , he founded another iteration of Somo-Somo, recording two LPs and several singles with the group.

In the mid-'80s Fan Fan ended up in London where he formed a new Somo-Somo band, which recorded a wonderful LP entitled, of course, Somo-Somo (Sterns 1007, 1985, left). What set this London version of the band apart from the earlier incarnations was that, apart from Fan Fan, fellow Congolese N'Simba Foquis and South African vocalist Doreen Thobekile Webster, it was composed entirely of British session musicians.

I suppose the line-up of the UK Somo-Somo was more a product of necessity than design (Unlike, say, Paris, there is a dearth of Congolese musicians in London), but the tracks on Somo-Somo, mainly reworks of songs Fan Fan recorded earlier in Africa, have a punchiness and vitality lacking in many of the more formulaic Paris productions. The extensive use of saxophones really sets it apart - talk about making lemonade from lemons!

Somo-Somo has long been out of print. For some time I've wanted to digitize it and make it available here, but wouldn't you know? Moos, over at the blog Global Groove, has beat me to it! You can download it here.

However, I have two more hard-to-find Fan Fan tracks for you, apparently recorded around 1983 during his sojourn in Kenya. I have no idea what the lyrics of "Kimoze-Moze" (
Editions FrancAfrique EFA 015) are about but the chorus does seem to share a theme with Fela Anikulapo-Kuti's classic recording "Lady." Musically, of course, the songs have nothing in common:

Mose Fan Fan et son Orchestre T.P. Somo-Somo - Kimoze-Moze Pts. 1 & 2

And here's Fan Fan's cover of Pamelo Mounk'a's classic tune "l'Argent Appelle l'Argent" (Editions FrancAfrique EFA 013):

Mose Fan Fan et son Orchestre T.P. Somo-Somo - l'Argent Appelle l'Argent Pts. 1 & 2

You can get Pamelo's original here.

An excellent overview of Fan Fan's career is available on the CD Belle Epoque (RetroAfric RETRO 7CD), issued in 1994 and available here. Several recent recordings by this consummate professional are available from Sterns.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Franco in the Age of Authenticité




It's hard to believe that the great Franco, l'Okanga la Ndju Pene Luambo Makiadi, has been gone almost 20 years now (he passed on October 12, 1989). In his day he strode the scene like an elephant, or more like a Brontosaurus, really - pretty much defining modern African music, not only in his native Congo, but throughout the continent.

It just so happens that among the many hours of African 45s on tape reels that I recently digitized are thirteen tracks that le Grand Maitre recorded with his band le Tout Puissant OK Jazz in 1972-73. This era is interesting for several reasons. In October 1971 President Mobutu Sese-Seko proclaimed his policy of Authenticité, which had a number of implications. For one thing, the name of the Democratic Republic of Congo was changed to the Republic of Zaïre (it was changed back following Mobutu's overthrow in 1997). The cultural dimensions of authenticité are described by Graeme Ewens, in his essential biography Congo Colossus: the Life and Legacy of Franco & OK Jazz (Buku Press, UK, 1994):

. . . Authenticite coloured every aspect of Zaïrean culture, and Mobutu started by renaming all those places without African names, before imposing the same indigenisation on the people themselves. . . Women were prohibited from wearing miniskirts or trousers, on pain of arrest, while the approved wear was the pagne, or cloth wrapper. Taking further inspiration from the French Revolution the people were obliged to call each other 'citoyen' and 'citoyenne.'. . . Although there were no written laws on the production of music, there were constant reminders that this too should meet the criteria of Authenticity. . . (pp. 135, 137)
Mobutu, of course, was the archetype of the African kleptocratic ruler (he is said to have embezzled over $5 billion from his country), and one could argue that Authenticité was a cynical diversion meant to occupy the masses while they were being fleeced by their rulers. Perfectly reasonable, but there is a lot to be said that it had a salutary effect on the development of music in Congo/Zaïre. Musician Sam Mangwana said:

. . . I am not a politician or a fan of politics, but you can honestly say that when Mobutu spoke of the need for Authenticity it gave the musicians many ideas. Authenticity never blocked musicians from playing other music, like soul or funk if they wanted. But Zaïrean musicians are very proud of their music. They play as they feel, and they don't feel the need to change for any other people. . . (Congo Colossus, p. 140)
The songs presented here, then, show Franco at a major turning point in his career, when short, catchy melodies gave way to lengthy, more complex compositions. In a few years his style would mutate even further, toward baroque, almost orchestral pieces like "Proprietaire," "Tres Impoli" and "Attention na SIDA." While some of these tunes have been reissued on CD in recent years, I'm not sure that any of them are in print now. Others have never been reissued to my knowledge. All of these are Kenyan pressings.

"Siluvangi Wapi Accordeon" and "Casier Judiciare" are Sides A and B of ASL Records ASL 3245. Accordionist Camille Ferruzzi, featured in "Siluvangi Wapi Accordeon," was a contemporary of Antoine Wendo Kolosy and was one of the first Congolese musician to be professionally recorded in the early 1950s. This song and "Casier Judiciare" present Franco and the band in a more sensitive light than many associate them with:

Camille Ferruzzi & l'Orchestre TPOK Jazz - Siluvangi Wapi Accordeon

Luambo Lwanzo Makiadi (Franco) & l'Orchestre TPOK Jazz - Casier Judiciare


"Mbanda Nazali Nini" and its flip side "Likambo Ya Ngana" (ASL 7-3244) also feature Camille Ferruzzi:

Camille Ferruzzi & l'Orchestre TPOK Jazz - Mbanda Nazali Nini

Luambo Lwanza Makiadi (Franco) & L'Orchestre TPOK Jazz - Likambo Ya Ngana

In the early 1980s TPOK Jazz was actually two orchestras, one based in Brussels and led by Franco and a second team helmed by Lutumba Ndomamuendo, or "Simarro," which stayed in Kinshasa. I've been unable to find any mention of "Exodus" (ASL 2271) in Congo Colossus or in Naotaka Doi's extensive Franco discography. I suspect that it has been released under another title. It's just too good a song to dwell in obscurity! Note: See update below.

Lutumba Ndomamuendo (Simarro) & l'Orchestre TPOK Jazz - Exodus Pts. 1 & 2

Likewise, I've been unable to find any mention of "Tangela Ngai Mboka Bakabaka Mobali" (ASL 7-3274, side A) in any of the literature. Check out the extended instrumental break that kicks in around the 3:30 mark! The B side, "Envoutement," features Michel Boyibanda, a talented vocalist from Congo-Brazzaville who joined TPOK Jazz around 1963:

l'Orchestre TPOK Jazz - Tangela Ngai Mboka Bakabaka Mobali

Boyibanda & l'Orchestre TPOK Jazz - Envoutement

"Lezi," written by Simarro, is from the Editions Populaires pressing EP 151:

Lutumba & l'Orchestre TPOK Jazz - Lezi Pts. 1 & 2

Bassist Celi Bitshoumanou ("Bitshou"), who wrote "Mokolo ya Mpasi" (Fiesta 51.086B), joined OK Jazz around 1965 when the band was temporarily in exile in Brazzaville following a run-in with the newly-installed Mobutu regime. He was responsible for a number of OK Jazz hits, including the classic "Infidelité Mado." Bitshou left the band around 1974 with Mosese "Fan Fan" Sesengo and Youlou Mabiala to form the first incarnation of Orchestre Somo Somo. "Fifi Nazali Innocent" is the B side.

Bitshou & l'Orchestre TPOK Jazz - Mokolo ya Mpasi


Simarro & l'Orchestre TPOK Jazz - Fifi Nazali Innocent

Armando Antoine aka "Brazzos," who wrote "Sukola Motema Olinga" (Fiesta 51.125B), was a founding member of OK Jazz in the mid-1950s. "Andu wa Andura," another Michel Boyibanda composition, is the flip side:

Brazzos & l'Orchestre TPOK Jazz - Sukola Motema Olinga

l'Orchestre TPOK Jazz - Andu wa Andura

About "AZDA" (Editions Populaires EP 140), Graeme Ewens writes in Congo Colossus, "As if to show just how good a commercial song could be, in 1973 Franco released what proved to be one of his biggest hits outside Zaïre, AZDA.' This was the advent of the full-blown big band sound which would be the trade mark of the latter-day OK Jazz. While many outsiders thought it must have a heavily romantic lyric it was, in fact, an advertisement for the national Volkswagon dealership, whose acronym made up the title. The refrain 'Veway, Veway, Veway, Veway' is the local pronunciation of 'VW.'"

Luambo Makiadi (Franco) & l'Orchestre TPOK Jazz - AZDA Pts. 1 & 2

Update: Reader Peter writes, ". . . As for 'Exodus,' I don't think it was written by Simaro & performed by OK Jazz. I think it's a Youlou Mabiala track from the late 1970s." Which could very well be true, although I transcribed the recording information on the label correctly. Consulting Tim Clifford's new Kenya-Tanzania 45s, it appears that "Exodus" was issued in the late '70s-early '80s, rather than in the early '7os as I had earlier thought.

Update 2: I should have mentioned this earlier but didn't. The background information in this post came from Congo Colossus, cited above. It's a great book! You can get it from Sterns or Amazon.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Those Were the Days




I mentioned a while back that I recently digitized a number of 10" tape reels that I've had lying around for many years. I've been working through this material ever since, organizing it and processing the sound, and the result has been a number of recent posts. Today I'm putting up several 45s of classic music from the Congo (then known as Zaïre). These were all issued in Kenya in the early '80s.

Our first selection is by Mayaula Mayoni (above). Mayoni, formerly of Congo's Vita Club football team, was a member on and off of Franco's TPOK Jazz, played in other bands, and put out a number of solo recordings in the TPOK Jazz vein. "Ba Chagrins" was issued in Kenya as ASL Records ASL 3390:

Mayaula Mayoni et son Ensemble - Ba Chagrins Pts. 1 & 2

Speaking of Franco, if you're a devoted fan, I'm sure you've heard this one. "Tangawusi" is one of TPOK Jazz's most popular songs, and has appeared on a number of compilations and reissues. Naotaka Doi's excellent Franco discography at Forest Beat credits the song to Papa Nöel (right), which would lead one to think that he sings lead as well (an extra bonus, Papa Noël being one of my fave African musicians of all time). Here's the Kenya pressing (ASL records ASL 2318):

Franco & l'Orchestre TPOK Jazz - Tangawusi Pts. 1 & 2

Souzy Kasseya is best known as a backup musician, particularly on the recordings of Tshala Muana, but he has had a number of solo outings, particularly "Le Telephone Sonne" (left), which I understand actually "crossed over" in Europe and got some mainstream radio play. He was born in Lubumbashi in 1949 and bounced around among various orchestras including Vox Africa, the African Team and Mpongo Love's group. "Sulia Tantine" was issued in Kenya as ASL Records ASL 2328:

Souzy Kasseya - Sulia Tantine Pts. 1 & 2


Doug Paterson wrote in the British magazine Africa Beat in 1986: ". . . In 1984 the biggest selling single in Kenya was 'Amour Cherche Amour’ by Manana Antoine, a record with a French title and Lingala lyrics sung by a Zairean working in Cote D'Ivoire. It sold 30,000 and got universal radio airplay while the biggest vernacular record got heard only on its local district radio and sold 8,000. . ." Antoine, known as "Papa Disco," was a well-known musician in Côte d'Ivoire for a time, with his own record label, but he seems to have dropped from view in the years since. Here is "Amour Cherchez Amour" itself, from the Kenyan pressing (ASL Records ASL 2329):

Manana Antoine (Papa Disco): Amour Cherchez Amour Pts. 1 & 2


Lipua-Lipua was one of the many innovative new bands that arose in Zaïre in the early 1970s. While the label of this 45 (Editions Sakumuna SN 018) credits "Anifa" to Lipua-Lipua, the very informative Bolingo website lists a version by Les Kamale (on the LP Sonafric SAF 50087, right). Of course, Nyboma Mwan'dido was a member of Lipua-Lipua before splitting to form Les Kamale, sings on this version (although not lead), and on SAF 50087 is credited as composer. I've been unable to dig up another citation of "Anifa," and not having the Kamale LP, I can't say if there are actually two versions of this song or one version issued under two different names. Can someone clarify?

Orchestre Lipua-Lipua - Anifa Pts. 1 & 2

Update: Several reader/listeners have confirmed that there are two different versions of "Anifa," one by Lipua-Lipua and the other by Les Kamale. Thanks also to Ronald, who informs us that the lead vocalist on "Tangawusi" is Ntesa Dalienst, not Papa Noël (although Papa Noël did compose it).

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Points of Light




In my last post I described the last twenty years as the "Dark Ages" of Congolese music. I'll admit that this isn't my main area of interest or expertise, and the stuff I have heard is mostly from Paris-based Congo musicians, but I stand by my judgment for the most part. What has the Paris-Congo axis produced in the last two decades? Mainly endless posturing and rehashing of past glories (cf. Soukous Vibration!). Please prove me wrong!

I do concede that there have been a few bright spots in Congo music lately. Of course, I loved the two Congotronics releases on CramWorld. Another artist who redeems Congo music for me is the great Bozi Boziana.

Bozi got his start in Zaïko Langa-Langa, the first and most influential of the "New Wave" bands that burst onto the Kinshasa scene toward the end of the '60s. From there he journeyed through a veritable "Who's Who" of the Congo music world: Isifi Lokolé, Yoka Lokolé, Langa-Langa Stars and the Choc Stars, finally establishing his own Anti-Choc about twenty years ago.

Anti-Choc's first releases were decent enough party music but I think Boziana realized something was missing because around '88 he started teaming up with a series of spunky female vocalists - notably Joly (or Jolie) Detta (with Bozi Boziana, above) and Déesse (or Deyess) Mukangi, and the results were nothing less than sublime. The best of his recordings with these two stellar singers were gathered in two compilations issued around 1997 by Ngoyarto, now sadly out of print.

Here are two recordings from Anti-Choc's early work, enjoyable if rather formulaic examples of the Kinshasa/Paris sound as it existed in the late '80s, featuring light-fingered guitar playing and noteworthy vocals marred by rather irritating synthesizer work. "Adieu l'Ami" is from Anti-Choc (Sterns 1022, 1988):

Anti-Choc - Adieu l'Ami

"Pot Pourri 18 Ans de Succes," from 18 Ans de Succes (Mualaba Lukusa SIC 003, 1988) is a medley of tunes Bozi Boziana recorded with various groups throughout the Seventies and Eighties. The complete playlist is as follows:

1. Tshala (Choc-Stars)
2. Touou Muana CFA (Zaïko Langa-Langa)
3. Diana Ya Mama (Zaïko Langa-Langa)
4. La-Mignone (Langa-Langa Stars)
5. Alena (Choc-Stars)
6. Sandu Kotti (Choc-Stars)
7. Sisina (Choc-Stars)
8. Expplication Sisi (Anti-Choc)
Bozi Boziana & Anti-Choc - Pot Pourri 18 Ans de Succes

Now here's where I prove my point that the collaboration of Bozi Boziana, Déesse Mukangi and Joly Detta marked a quantum leap forward for Anti-Choc and Congo music in general. Bozi Boziana has one of the sweetest, most plaintive voices in African music. Of course, I don't understand Lingala, but he usually sounds like he's hurtin'! But listen to Bozi when he teams up with those two sassy ladies, Joly and Déesse. Talk about synergy! The interplay between the voices, guitar and synthesizer in these tracks is unequaled. The first three tunes here are taken from The Collection Bozi Boziana Vol. 1 featuring Jolly Detta & Déesse (Ngoyarto NG 020), the last two from The Collection Bozi Boziana Vol. 2 featuring Déesse, Scola Miel (Nza Wissa) & Betty (Ngoyarto NG 021):

Bozi Boziana & Anti-Choc w. Joly Detta - La Reine de Sabah

Bozi Boziana & Anti-Choc w. Joly Detta - Evelyne

Bozi Boziana & Anti-Choc w. Déesse - Ba Bokilo

Bozi Boziana & Anti-Choc w. Déesse - Fleur de Lys

Bozi Boziana & Anti-Choc w. Déesse - Lelo Makambo Lobi Makambo

It makes you wonder why more African bands don't make use of female vocalists. Of course, Tabu Ley and Afrisa International had M'Bilia Bel (before their rancorous falling-out), and Franco and TPOK Jazz made use of Joly Detta herself on one memorable recording, but this great cultural resource has generally been underutilized.

Déesse has made a couple of solo recordings (Little Goddess on Sterns [STCD 1040, 1992] was a standout), while providing backup vocals on a number of recordings. Joly Detta, sadly, has kept under the radar, but you can view her in a wonderful recording with TPOK Jazz here.



Discography of Bozi Boziana & Anti-Choc

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Avoid Shocks, Indeed!




You may have noticed that I have a soft spot for female singers with unique, over-the-top vocal styles. Kiné Lam is one. Daro Mbaye is another. I fell in love with Vonga Aye and her baby-doll voice the first time I heard "Bolingo Mobesu," her contribution to 1982's groundbreaking compilation Sound d'Afrique II (Mango MLPS 9754). I know she put out several LPs, and over the years I've searched high and low for more music by this idiosyncratic chanteuse, but all I have been able to come up with is 1984's Pare-Chocs (Veve International EVVI 25). But what an album it is!

People speak of "the Golden Age" of Congo music, but in reality there are several "Golden Ages." For some it is the early 1960s, the era of Grand Kallé, African Fiesta and "Afrika Mokili Mobimba." Others swear by the late Sixties and early Seventies, when Authenticité was the rage, Congo (Kinshasa) was rechristened Zaïre, and harder, more indigenous sounds displaced the old Latin paradigm.

To me, the real Golden Age of Congo music has always been the late Seventies and early Eighties, when the great Orchestres - TPOK Jazz, Bantous de la Capitale, Afrisa and Veve among others held sway on both side of the Zaïre River. Pare-Chocs is well within this tradition, although scandalously none of the backing musicians are given credit. I suppose they are drawn from the ranks of Orchestre Veve or others in that milieu (
Pare-Chocs sounds an awful lot like others on the Veve label). At any rate this is obviously a band that is used to working together. Sadly, the mid-Eighties marked the end of the big band era in both Zaïre (Congo-Kinshasa) and Congo-Brazzaville. As political chaos mounted and the economy went south, the musicians went north, to Paris and points beyond. And while there have been some bright spots, as far as I'm concerned, the last twenty years have been the Dark Ages of Congo music.

Given the title of this blog, it's about time I posted some Congolese music, so here it is in its entirety: Vonga Aye's Pare-Chocs, and for good measure I've thrown in "Bolingo Mobesu" as well!

Vonga Aye - Pare-Chocs

Vonga Aye - Yona Nani

Vonga Aye - Nazali Occupée

Vonga Aye - Mina Kupenda

Vonga Aye - Bolingo Mobesu