The recent dénouement of the 25-year Tamil insurgency in Sri Lanka was reminiscent in many ways of the end of the Biafran war in Nigeria in January of 1970: both of them were hard-fought popular rebellions that collapsed very suddenly. In both cases the human and economic cost was horrendous.
In its time Biafra was a cause that engaged people the world over in support of its beleaguered people. The proximate reason for the start of the war was a series of pogroms across Northern Nigeria in 1966 directed at natives of the Eastern region of the country, mainly Igbos. In response, Eastern Nigeria, under the leadership of Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, seceded as the Republic of Biafra on May 30, 1967.
Sometime during the course of the war, Nigerian highlife star Cardinal Rex Jim Lawson recorded his song "Odumegwu Ojukwu," commonly known as "Hail Biafra." I'm told that this was released on Onitsha's Nigerphone label, although I have no more information about it. Given its controversial nature, it's not surprising that "Hail Biafra" was more or less banned in the post-war years, and was not on any of Lawson's five "official" Nigerian LPs. The song came to light again in the late 1990s when it was released as part of a compilation entitled Rex Lawson Uncensored: Hail Biafra (Mossiac MMCD 1036).
"Odumegwu Ojukwu" is apparently in Ijaw, so I can't give an exact translation of the lyrics, but in spoken English comments toward the end, Lawson clearly indicates his support for Biafra's Head of State. These sentiments are said to have earned his detention by Federal troops, to whom he is said to have told that he recorded the song "to uplift the rebels." Here's the song:
Rex Lawson - Odumegwu Ojukwu (Hail Biafra)
More interestingly, sometime later Lawson recorded a song in tribute to Isaac Jasper Adaka Boro, who not only had led an earlier separatist rebellion in the Niger Delta (the so-called "Twelve-Day Revolution") but died fighting on the Federal side against the Biafran separatists. Boro was an ardent defender of the interests of his Ijaw people, and by some accounts his sentiments toward the Igbo (who predominated in Biafra) were chauvinistic bordering on racist. Such are the dynamics of ethnic politics in southeastern Nigeria! "Major Boro's Sound" was included on the album Rex Lawson's Victories Vol. 2 (Akpola AGB 003) and is also featured on Rex Lawson Uncensored: Hail Biafra:
Rex Lawson - Major Boro's Sound
If there was one thing Rex Lawson wasn't, it was a narrow-minded tribalist. A true cosmopolitan, he had an Ijaw father and and Igbo mother, and his Majors Band (later The Rivers Men) included musicians from various ethnicities. He sang in all of the languages of southeastern Nigeria. Some years ago a fellow named Ofon M. Samson emailed me with English-language summaries of some of the songs on Lawson's LP Love "M" Adure Special (Akpola AGB 002, below). I believe the original songs were all in Efik. In the first of these, "Saturday Sop Di," Lawson sings that he wants Saturday to hurry up and arrive:
Cardinal Rex Lawson & his Rivers Men - Saturday Sop Di
"Abasi Ye Enye" was supposedly written after Lawson had lost a child. He sings, "Whoever killed my child, God will see him or her":
Cardinal Rex Lawson & his Rivers Men - Abasi Ye Enye
"Tom Kiri Site" means "The World is Bad":
Cardinal Rex Lawson & his Rivers Men - Tom Kiri Site
"Ese Ayang Iso" is about a leper, about whom Lawson sings, "ese Ayang iso, kuse ikpat," meaning "look at Ayang's face not her feet because she has a disease":
Cardinal Rex Lawson & his Rivers Men - Ese Ayang Iso
"Akwa Abasi" means "Almighty God." Lawson quotes John 3:16, ". . .For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."
Cardinal Rex Lawson & his Rivers Men - Akwa Abasi
In "Nkpa Ke Da Owo," Lawson sings about death taking someone away. During the break one of the band members asks, "Death why have you taken our master? Who is going to lead us?." A prescient question, given that Lawson would die in 1971:
Cardinal Rex Lawson & his Rivers Men - Nkpa Ke Da Owo
Sunday, June 21, 2009
Friday, June 12, 2009
If you're a fan of Aster Aweke or Kuku Sebsebe, you'll no doubt enjoy this cassette by Ethiopian vocalist Martha Ashagari.
Ärä Bakeh (Ambassel Music Shop) was released in 1993 shortly after the fall of the Derg, but Ashagari has been singing professionally since 1988 with the Abyssinia and Roha Bands, and during the '90s had her own nightclub in Addis Ababa. In 1996 she recorded the CD Child's Love/Ye-Lij Fiker, which is available online from AIT Records (I included a tune from it on my compilation African Divas Vol. 2).
Ashagari is notable for her unique vocal tone, somewhere between a sob and a wail. Side 1 of Ärä Bakəh typifies the '80s-'90s Ethiopian style, but Martha really hits her stride with side 2 of the cassette, especially the emotional ballads "Zoma" and "Ende Näh" and the Tigrinya song "Sälam Bäluläy."
Martha Ashagari - Ärä Bakeh
Martha Ashagari - Feqer Näw
Martha Ashagari - Alchalkutem
Martha Ashagari - Bämen Yedanyal
Martha Ashagari - Gorded
Martha Ashagari - Dämayle
Martha Ashagari - Zoma (Yäbati lej)
Martha Ashagari - Endäzzihəm Allä
Martha Ashagari - Ende Näh
Martha Ashagari - Sälam Bäluläy (Tigrinya)
Download Ärä Bakeh as a zipped file here. As usual, I'm including a scan of the original cassette inlay card if someone would care to correct my transliteration of the Ge'ez text (click to enlarge):
Update: Thanks to Andreas Wetter for his correction of my transliteration.
Saturday, June 6, 2009
We're all thrilled that Matt Yanchyshyn is back on the scene and posting once more on his blog, Benn Loxo du Taccu, after a long hiatus. Of course, Matt's had pressing business - getting married, for one thing. Congratulations, Matt!
So now that Matt is rested and relaxed he's once again making available the great music we've come to expect from Benn Loxo. Do yourself a favor and check out this post of some of the latest tracks from Dakar. Matt is far more cognizant than I of what's going on in the music scene in Senegal, and writes about the current sensation:
. . . Without a doubt the biggest thing going in Dakar these days is Titi. Ask any mbalax fan in Dakar between the age of 16-30 and you’ll usually get a “Titi, j’aime titi,” which admittedly makes me laugh every time for every immature reason. Titi is a hot little mbalax number - a classically tall, thin and beautiful Dakaroise woman - who gets about as much radio play these days as Youssou’s latest Live at Bercy. I think her voice sounds a lot like Michael Jackson in his child-star, Jackson 5 days. . .It happens that Titi features prominently in Mbeuguel Da Fa Khew Vol. 19, a "pirate" compilation by DJ Fallou & Beug Sa Reuw Productions that I picked up in Little Senegal in New York a couple of months ago. Apart from Youssou N'dour and Viviane most of the artists are unknown to me, but I see they're well represented on YouTube, for instance Pape Thiopet here, also Assane Mboup, Abdou Guite Seck and, of course, Titi herself here, here, and here.
Here then is Mbeuguel Da Fa Khew Vol. 19. It's not generally my policy to post "new" recordings in their entirety on Likembe, but since this is a pirate pressing, I think I can make an exception. . .
Titi - Tayou Mako
Assane Mboup - Aye Beugueunte La
Titi - Love You
Yousou N'dour & Viviane N'dour - Amitie
Pape Thiopet & Ass Seck - Takkal
Khadim Diaw - Moytoulma Dokhou Mbende Bi
Aida Ndiaye (Ndiole) - Diama Noir
Assane Ndiaye - Diamale
Abdou Guitte Seck - Beuss Bi
Gorgui Ndiaye - Yaaye
Youssou N'dour - Sama Gamou
Titi - Music
Youssou N'dour - Niit
Titi - Boulma Taanal
Abdou Guitte Seck - Jangaro
Monday, May 25, 2009
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:
The picture at the top of this post is from this site.
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
5. Mama Mzazi
6. Narudi Nyumbani
Sunday, May 10, 2009
I linked to a video by Senegalese musician Abou Diouba Deh in my last post about Fatou Laobé without realizing that I've had one of his cassettes for some time, and an excellent one it is.
Like Laobé and the well-known Baaba Maal, Abou Diouba Deh is a member of the Fulani ethnic group. The Fulani, traditionally nomadic, have played an outsize role in West African history. From their homeland in the Fouta Tooro region of northern Senegal and southern Mauretania they have spread as far as the Central African Republic and Sudan. The most prominent Fulani in modern history was Usman Dan Fodio, a religious mystic and political reformer who founded the powerful Sokoto Caliphate in the early 19th Century in what is now Northern Nigeria. Numerous other West African leaders are of Fulani descent.
I've been unable to find out much about Abou Diouba Deh, but his cassette Yoo Bele Ndenndu (Tiïtounde) (Talla Diagne), which I post here, is a great example of the popular "neo-traditional" current in Senegalese music, traditional xalaam and percussion brilliantly complemented by the (uncredited) electric guitar. Enjoy!
Abou Diouba Deh - Gidam
Abou Diouba Deh - Ganndo Mayo
Abou Diouba Deh - Uururbe Daakaa
Abou Diouba Deh - Jaaraama Laaba Juude
Abou Diouba Deh - Beeli Seeno
Abou Diouba Deh - Jasar Wuddu Mbodo
Abou Diouba Deh - Taan Seex Aljumaa Bah
Abou Diouba Deh - Teddungal
Here's that YouTube Video. The cars racing by in the background detract a bit from the folkloric mood, I think:
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Barely known to me until I picked up a few of her CDs in NYC's Little Senegal a few weeks ago, Fatou Laobé is a huge star in Senegal, and a welcome addition to the Dakar Divas pantheon.
Fatou got her start as a backup singer and dancer with musicians like Baaba Maal and Ousmane Hamady Diop, and has toured the world with Youssou N'dour and Abou Diouba. Striking out on her own in 2000, she released l'An 2000 with her group le Laobé Gui on N'dour's Jololi label. The recordings have followed fast and furious ever since. Her music is deeply rooted in the folklore of the Laobé, a subset of the Pulaar, or Fulani, people who are known for their craftsmanship.
The six tunes on offer here are taken from three CDs: Hé Laobé Rewmi (Origines, 2004), Bara Mamadou Lamine (Ekla, 2008), and Keysi Bousso (Ekla, 2008). Enjoy!
Fatou Laobé & le Laobé Gui - Gambia Modou
Fatou Laobé & le Laobé Gui - Gawlo
Fatou Laobé & le Laobé Gui - Bara Mamadou Lamine
Fatou Laobé & le Laobé Gui - Doolé
Fatou Laobé & le Laobé Gui - Lambo
Fatou Laobé & le Laobé Gui - Harouma Play-Boy
Sunday, May 3, 2009
Since achieving independence from Portugal in 1974, the small west African nation of Guinea-Bissau hasn't been much in the news until recently, when a series of political upheavals, fueled in part by drug trafficking, has brought it to the world's attention.
Bissau's music is also little-known, but Super Mama Djombo and Kaba Mane have achieved some recognition outside the country. Another prolific Bissau artist is Ramiro Gómes Días, better known as Ramiro Naka, or sometimes Naka Ramiro. He was born in 1955 and formed his first band, N'kassa Cobra, sometime around Independence. His disagreements with Bissau's new rulers led him to relocate to Lisbon in 1976, and later to Paris, where he established the Orchestre de Guinea-Bissau, which achieved some distinction in the lively African music scene as the foremost purveyor of Bissau's indigenous Goumbé style.
A series of excellent, if not always well-known recordings has followed, and Naka has also established himself as an actor in the nascent Guinea-Bissau film industry. I hope you will enjoy these selections from his early recording career, all released in the 1980s.
In "Ou Moundou Balas," from his album Je Viens d'Ailleurs (Rá Dya Music DYA 81055, 1983), Ramiro Naka sings in Mandjacque, "The world of singers is considered to be a crazy world. But in my eyes this world is more important than being a king. I will sing about it to the new world":
Ramiro Naka & l'Orchestre de la Guinee-Bissau - Ou Moundou Balas
"Fanta Mané," also from Je Viens d'Ailleurs, is in the Portuguese-based Crioulo language of Guinea-Bissau and the Casamance region of Senegal. It is about a boy who traveled to the town of Farim to meet the beautiful Fanta Mané. In this way he discovered the happiest city in Guinea-Bissau:
Ramiro Naka & l'Orchestre de la Guinee-Bissau - Fanta Mané
"Meu Trabalho," from Bikelia Ma Fiancée (Ramiro Naka RA 81065) expresses Naka's philosophy of life: "I prefer to entertain you so that you can forget life's chimeras. It's impossible to do both at the same time. Earning money is nice, but it is still necessary to do what one wants":
Ramiro Naka & l'Orchestre de la Guinee-Bissau - Meu Trabalho
Also from Bikelia Ma Fiancée. "I never get tired of talking to you about Guinea-Bissau. She is found at the end of the world in a small corner, but she exists all the same":
Ramiro Naka & l'Orchestre de la Guinee-Bissau - M'bin de Lundju
The title track of Bikelia. "You arrived with only one glance and only one smile. You changed my life. For freedom let us remain good friends in happiness and keep trouble far from our marriage":
Ramiro Naka & l'Orchestre de la Guinee-Bissau - Bikelia Kelly
Na Bolon (N'kassa Cobra NK 04880) finds Ramiro Naka reuniting with his old band N'kassa Cobra (who also did at least one recording on their own, 1995's Lundju), and hewing closer to the "mainstream" African sound. Unfortunately, summaries of the lyrics aren't available:
Ramiro Naka & N'kassa Cobra - Na Bolon
Ramiro Naka & N'kassa Cobra - Kara Bacile
Ramiro Naka & N'kassa Cobra - Nha Indimigo
Many thanks to my daughter Aku for translating the liner notes from Je Viens d'Ailleurs and Bikelia Ma Fiancée.