Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Kinshasa Acoustic: Kawende et ses Copains



Kinshasa!, by Kawende et ses Copains (Plainisphare ZONE Z1, 1984), was the first of three LPs released in the mid-'80s by the Swiss recold label Plainisphaire. These pressings, all recorded in Kinshasa, in the country then known as Zaïre and is today the Democratic Republic of Congo, are notable for sounding not really very much like what is generally perceived as Congolese music at all! This is no reflection on their authenticy, though. I'm sure they're quite typical of the sort of genuinely popular Congolese music that is never recorded, or recorded but not considered "commercially viable" outside of the country.

The sound here is loose and unpolished, probably recorded in one take. The musicians are not slick but all the more affecting for that. I don't know who Kawende and his group are as the liner notes give little information. I'm sure you'll enjoy this!

Kawende et ses Copains - Kinshasa!

Kawende et ses Copains - Tshura

Kawende et ses Copains - Sawande

Kawende et ses Copains - Ekulusu

Kawende et ses Copains - Mtoto Mpotevou

Kawende et ses Copains - Kabibi

Kawende et ses Copains - Eh Ya Ele

Kawende et ses Copains - Tshingoma

Kawende et ses Copains - Sosange Mosi

Download Kinshasa! as a zipped file here. I will soon be posting the other two albums in this series, Nasiwedi (Plainisphare ZONE Z-4, 1985), by Orchestre Sim-Sim International, and Malo (Plainisphaire ZONE Z-5, 1986), by Ali & Tam's avec l'Orchestre Malo.


Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Reggae Senegal



Barry Allama Boy is a musician about whom I've been able to find nothing, and I mean NOTHING, on the internet or anywhere else. This cassette, Medina Larabi, was recorded in Ivory Coast, but I believe he is from Senegal, probably from the southern Casamance region. I like this indigenous Senegalese take on reggae music and I hope you will too!







Download Medina Larabi as a zipped file here.


Friday, April 5, 2019

Music For Ramadan



I just realized that Ramadan this year begins the evening of May 5 and ends the evening of June 4. It's a little early, but I thought it would be nice if we could listen to some music from Nigeria that is intended for this auspicious occasion.

There are two terms for Yoruba Islamic music used to arouse the faithful during Ramadan: Ajísáàri and wéré. Ajísáàri refers either to the style of music or the person who performs it. Ajísáàri is usually performed solo and wéré by ensembles. Ajísáàri and wéré are performed by men. A related genre, wákà, is performed by women. These popular Islamic styles are percursors of secular fújì music, which is quite popular in Yorubaland. Christopher Alan Waterman discusses this music in his essential study Jùjú: A Social History and Ethnography of an African Popular Musc (University of Chicago Press, 1990):

Extensive Islamic conversion led to the development of musical genres performed during Muslim holidays (e.g., Ramadan, Id El-Fitr) and ceremonies marking the return of pilgrims from Mecca (àláji, m.; àlájà, f.). One of the earliest of these genres was wákà, sung by women and accompanied by beaten sélí or péréṣéké, pounded tin discs with metal rings attached. Another popular genre, wéré or ajísáàri, was performed by groups of young men during the Ramadan fast to wake the faithful for their early meal. Both of these genres incorporated aspects of Islamic cantillation — nasalized, tense vocal quality, melismatic text settings, microtonal melodic embellishments, and Qur'anic texts — into performances guided by Yoruba musical values and techniques. Wákà and wéré were associated with the high status of Islam in traditional Lagos and the continued vitality of economic networks linking the Yoruba to Muslim societies in the northern hinterland. 
Today's musical offereing, Itan Anabi Muhammad (Leader Records LRCLS 61, 1987), is one of a number recorded by the youth group of the Ansar-Ud-Deen Society of Lagos. The Society itself is a fraternal and educational association founded by Yoruba Muslim notables in 1923. It was a response to the ascendence of Christian elites and had a reformist conception of Islam which sought to reconcile it with modern ideas.

Ansar-Ud-Deen Youth (Lagos Branch) - Yatarikan Li Solathi / Itan Anabi Muhammad

Ansar-Ud-Deen Youth (Lagos Branch) - Alhamdu Lil'Lahi

Ansar-Ud-Deen Youth (Lagos Branch) - Latarkanana Ilal Ahwah / Eje Ka Ronu Eyin Araiye / Bi Al Ouyaoma Ba De

Download Itan Anabi Muhammad as a zipped file here.


Monday, March 25, 2019

Back to the Village



It's time for another deep dive into the world of "Igbo Blues"- real village music from southeastern Nigeria!

I know nothing about Goddy and Achinkwa and their musical group. This LP, Anya Ukwu Adiro Nma (Nigerphone NXLP 014, 1989), though, is one of the best examples of this genre I've heard, displaying the full panoply of traditional bells and percussion - ogene, onye ekwe, igba and the like. Enjoy!

Goddy na Achinkwa Musical Group - Uchicha Melu Ife Ebolu Oke

Goddy na Achinkwa Musical Group - Ezigbo Omume Akaka

Goddy na Achinkwa Musical Group - Anya Ukwu Adiro Nma

Goddy na Achinkwa Musical Group - Lagos Special (Ego Igwe)

Download Anya Ukwu Adiro Nma as a zipped file here.


Wednesday, March 20, 2019

A Purloined Master Tape



Back in the early days of online file-sharing, the 1973 album Destruction (Orbitone OT 005) by the Nigerian group the Nkengas achieved legendary status, traded far and wide and included on numerous funky mixes. When an official reissue came out in 2013 (Secret Stash Records SSR-CD-293), fans could satisfy their cravings legally.

The Nkengas released one other LP, Nkengas in London (Orbitone OT 006, 1973), which I feature here. It's apparent even from a casual listening that this is a radically different recording than Destruction. Every song save one ("Asa Mpete Special") features the vocals of the great highlife superstar Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe.

What's going on here? The story, as best I can piece it together, involves a number of sessions in London in the early '70s, which produced some of Osadebe's most beloved recordings. At some point in the process members of Osadebe's backup band, the Nigeria Sound Makers, led by Victor Okoroego, defected, taking a master tape with them and marketing it as Nkengas in London. Destruction, on the other hand, is pretty much pure Okoroego save for one track, "London Special," with Osadebe on lead vocals.

After Nkengas in London the group changed its name to the Ikenga Super Stars of Africa, who were to achieve fame and fortune with a number of chart-topping hits. "Asa Mpete Special" on Nkengas in London features Pele Asampete on vocals. This is a slightly reworked version of  the Osadebe hit "Ezi Ogelidi" from the album Egbunam (Philips 6361024, 1972). Asampete later left the Ikengas and did another version of this tune, "Ezi O Goli," on his solo LP (Rogers All Stars RASLPS 043). Pop/highlife star Chris Mba did still another remake in the early 1990s.






Download Nkengas in London as a zipped file here.


Friday, March 15, 2019

Ebenezer Obey Sings For The People



Singing For The People (Obey WAPS 578, 1980) continues the explorations in jùjú-funk that Ebenezer Obey started with Eyi Yato (Decca WAPS 508, 1980), posted a few days ago in this space. There's nothing much more I can say except if you liked that one, you'll like this one. Enjoy!

Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey & his Inter-Reformers Band - Singing For the People / Je K'Ajo Mi Jashi Rere

Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey & his Inter-Reformers Band - Alfa Omega / O Se Baba

Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey & his Inter-Reformers Band - Eiye To Ma Ba Kowe Ke / Mori Sisi Kan / Eje A Mo / Nike Oluwole

Download Singing For The People as a zipped file here.


Sunday, March 10, 2019

"This is Something Different"



I was under the impression that Nigeria's jùjú legend Ebenezer Obey had retired from the music scene some years ago, but it turns out I was wrong! Benson Idonije in The Guardian of Lagos reports:

...Only recently on September 15, 2018, he almost pulled down the roof of the now popular 10 Degrees Events Center in Ikeja, Lagos. What with excitement almost reaching bursting point and applause rising to a deafening crescendo? He was performing at a high society wedding with the Executive Governor of Ogun state, His Excellency, Ibikunle Amosun as chair person. Obey went down memory lane to remind the audience about the past. He also came up with new songs most of which he created on the spur of the moment with the spontaneity of a prolific composer. At 76, his voice is still as strong as ever, moving with considerable ease in all the vocal registers –high, middle and low. 
Not many musicians are capable of playing music that has the enduring allure of Obey’s juju music: full of melodic inventiveness and driven by messages of peace, hope and goodwill, this trait has characterized Obey’s music from the very beginning of his career. I remember the impact he made in the 80s while I was still in broadcasting and was organizing a scientifically credible hit parade that had Popular Music and Nigerian Social Music as its extent of enquiry. Most of his releases topped the charts and remained there almost forever where some others hit the number one slot and crashed out in no time – an indication that these were just instant hits and disposable flukes that could not stand the test of time. Ebenezer Obey is the pioneer of modern juju music. His melodies and messages have a way of naturally growing on the people....
Speaking of Memory Lane, I think it's an auspicious time to post here one of the Chief Commander's recordings from the '80s, one that truly stands out for its wild inventiveness and funky chops. Which is saying something, the '80s jùjú scene being at the pinnacle of creativity and influence. The liner notes of Eyi Yato (Oti Brothers OTI 508, released in Nigeria as Decca WAPS 508, 1980) say it well:

...The tracks on this album are a complete departure from the mainstream of juju format, although Obey's style and grace of delivery is very distinct. Obey has attempted and achieved in this album a very high level of sophistication through his powerful guitar fireworks, beautiful lyrics and masterly instrumentation. As Obey himself said on one of the tracks on the album, "THIS IS SOMETHING DIFFERENT" or to put it properly in Yoruba language "EYI YATO." 
Enjoy! And if you like this one, be sure to check out Likembe's Ebenezer Obey archive. Next up I will be posting another classic Obey LP from the '80s, Singing for the People (Obey WAPS 578, 1983)

Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey & his Inter-Reformers Band - Ere Wa Di Oloyin Momo / Kosi Eni Ti O Mo Ojo Ola / Tepa Mose / Chief George Oyedele


Download Eyi Yato as a zipped file here.


Tuesday, March 5, 2019

I Love Bikutsi, but I Love Makossa Too!



The two major musical styles of Cameroun are bikutsi, centered around the capital city Yaoundé, and makossa, from the coastal metropolis Douala. I've really been getting into bikutsi lately, and posting some of it here, but I love me some makossa also!

Makossa arose in the early 20th century with the intersection of the rhythms of the local Douala people and foreign sounds brought in by merchant marines, and mutated into a modern dance style by the '60s. Notable for its distinctive beat, the sound got a big boost with the success of Camerounian musician Manu Dibango and his 1972 international hit, "Soul Makossa," which ironically, wasn't makossa at all! Jean-Victor Nkolo writes in the 1994 book World Music: The Rough Guide:

...the fact remains that, with the exception of his bold venture (this is not his territory, say purists) into bikutsi with ' 'Mouvement Ewondo" on his Seventies album, and maybe another exception, "Idiba" (composed by Francis Bebey), Dibango, who is primarily a jazz musician, has never been the cup of tea of Cameroon's DJs, nor popular in the drinking parlours, nor has he cut any kind of figure in the  clubs or on the dance floors.  
Cameroonians generally consider "Soul Makossa" to be a hybrid - funky music with lashings of brass and a relatively strange rhythm that's good for signature tunes and other uses abroad, but is rarely played at home - and certainly not makossa. Anyone who listens will have difficulty finding any makossa in Cameroon that has a beat even close to that of "Soul Makossa"- or vice versa! The only "makossa" thing about the hugely successful track is the name, and Cameroonians are always lost when they have to dance to it. But while not a single Dibango track has been a dance success in Cameroon, his career has followed a very different path abroad, where he has been a figure of real importance...
The '80s were the high tide of makossa, with a torrent of dance hits that swept Africa. Moni Bilé, Guy Lobé and Toto Guillaume are standouts of the period, but many more musicians made their mark. These slick, if somewhat formulaic productions, many from the stable of producer Alhaji Touré, were distinctive, often utilizing string sections to good effect, a rarity in African music. The good times couldn't last, though, and the '90s saw makossa somewhat eclipsed by the more rough-hewn bikutsi style.

Today's musical selection, the 1987 compilation LP Africa Oumba No. 1 (Blue Silver 8260), highlights music from an earlier makossa era - 1977 to be precise. The sound here is a little more relaxed but no less creative, and is downright addictive. All of the tunes here were originally released on 45s and LPs on the BBZ Productions label out of Paris.

Contributing the most to this compilation is bassist Jean-Karl Dikoto Mandengue, who cut a wide swath in the music scene of Cameroun and has been renowned internationally. He was born in Douala in 1948 and was a session musician in France by the '60s, joining the legendary London Afro-rock band Osibisa in 1973. His solo makossa recordings were mainly made in the '70s and early '80s, but lately he's made a comeback, and has long served as a mentor and inspiration to a younger generation of Camerounian musicians:

Jean Mandengue - Muna Munengue

A different version of "Muna Munengue" can be heard on this earlier Likembe post.

Ekambi Brillant was also born in 1948 near Douala, and in 1971 joined a local band called Les Cracks. Taking first place in a musical contest opened the way for his first single, "Djongele La N'Dolo." His first LP, Africa Oumba, was released in 1975, and he continued to record through the '80s.

Ekambi Brillant - Ngal'a Tanda

Abêti Masikini, who was not from Cameroun but from the Congo, was the subject of an earlier Likembe post.

Abêti - Bi Suivra Suivra

Jean Mandengue - Na Bolane Oa Nje

Ekambi Brillant - Ashiko Edingue

Jean Mandengue - O Danga Londo O Bia

Ekambi Brillant - Awolo

Abêti - Ngblimbo

Pierre "Didy" Tchakounté was born in 1950 in Douala, although his roots are farther north in the Bamileke country of Cameroun. Drawing on those influences he made a series of funky 45s in the '70s that were not really makossa per se but definitely established him as a force in the Camerounian music scene. In the '90s he became an officer in the French professional music associations SACEM and ADAMI. He continues to record and perform.

Pierre "Didy" Tchakounté - Meguela

Jean Mandengue - Mathilde

Ekambi Brillant - Nyambe

Jean Mandengue - Saturday Afternoon

Download Africa Oumba No. 1 as a zipped file here.


Wednesday, February 27, 2019

King Sunny Adé: The Message



King Sunny Adé's 1981 LP Juju Music (Island ILPS 9712) was a revelation for many outside of Nigeria, making him a global superstar, making way for other African musicians and opening the floodgates for the World Music™ craze (or hype, or gimmick) to come.

By the time Juju Music was released, Adé had been recording for fifteen years. His early outings, with the Green Spots Band, were short, punchy compositions meant for the 7" 45 format. As LP records became the medium of choice in Nigeria, and the Green Spots mutated into the African Beats, the music stretched out, becoming languid medleys taking up whole sides of albums.

French producer Martin Meissonnier, in packaging Juju Music for the world market, made the shrewd move of chopping the medleys into individual compositions and adding a few subtle production tricks, but avoiding the "crossover" trap and leaving the sound basically as it had been heard in Nigeria. It's an excellent introduction to King Sunny Adé's sound, and jùjú music in general, and is considered a classic.

Those who have heard Juju Music will find much of The Message (Sunny Alade Records SALPS 25) familiar. Parts of it were the basis for two songs on the former album, "Ma Jaiye Oni" and "365 Is My Number/The Message." It's one of my favorite Sunny Adé records. Enjoy!





Download The Message as a zipped file here.


Friday, February 22, 2019

King Sunny Adé: Juju Music of the '80s



Kudos to the blog Music Republic for posting the great 1981 King Sunny Adé LP Check "E" (Sunny Alade Records SALPS 26). I've been inspired in turn, and  I will be posting two more 1981 offerings from Sunny (he was very prolific - he released five albums in 1981 alone!)

Today's offering is Juju Music in the '80s (Sunny Alade SALPS 24), and in a few days I will post The Message (Sunny Alade SALPS 25).

These albums were released only in Nigeria, right before the monumental Juju Music (Island ILPS 9712). That was Sunny's first international release, which put jùjú music on the map and launched his career as a world superstar. Unlike that album, which was tailored somewhat for global tastes (but still great), this one sticks to the Nigerian convention of long jams that fill each side of an LP record. Enjoy!



Download Juju Music in the '80s as a zipped file here.