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


Ronald said...

I do have an lp produced by Richard Dick which features Dr Nico - Vonga Aye and Empompo Loway, each have two songs, Bolingo Mobesu is on that lp, the other Vonga Aye song is Probleme Eleki.

Here a clip by Vonga Aye:


Anonymous said...

You did it again, John! A great album. BTW I just thought I'd mention that your "Links" section, particularly links to audio, is the best out there. Not only have I copped some great sounds from your site, your links have enabled me to bulk up my music collection considerably.

calumbinho said...

i'm really happy to see you've started your own blog, man! you once helped me identify victor uwaifo's "jackpot" - i take it you must have some amazing, rare uwaifo albums ;)
thanks a lot - for the African Music Home Page, for the "jackpot" info, and now for this blog

Africolombia said...


Never before have I heard of this artist (she). its music is fantastic and this album that introduced us to your blog.

I heard music :

Mbilia Bel,Mpongo Love, Faya Tex, Abeti, Tshala Muana & Jena Manda Ko

Best Regards,

symbolkid said...

You made my (at least) week with this wonderful music. Vonga Aye makes me smile broadly :) Love the orchestra - sax and guitars are superb - and arangments are great too!

John B. said...


I have always suspected that the version of "Bolingo Mobesu" on Sound d'Afrique II (& which I posted here) was was considerably shorter than the original, which you have. Am I correct? And is there any chance you could pass on that version (& "Probleme Eleki") for the readers of this blog? Thanks for the YouTube link.

Isn't Vonga Aye great?

Ronald said...


The version on the Voga Aye lp is indeed longer than the one on the Sound d'Afrique one,7.42 - 4.30, quite a difference.

Unfortunately I have not been able to digitize my music otherwise I would gladly have posted that other song.

Anonymous said...

So you do not like more recent Congolese band leaders like King Kester Emeneya, Koffi Olomide, Werrason, and JP Mpiana? Or are they just not doing anything new (but is any large band style of African music breaking new ground?)?

John B. said...

It's not that I don't like the new stuff, per se, it just doesn't move me as much as the old material does.

It's purely a matter of personal preference.

Ronald said...

Vonga Aye has returned to Congo after having spend several years out of the country. The reason she was away from Congo was that she was looking for a producer, according to her she couldn't find one in Congo. On January 23 & 24 she will give concerts in Kinshasa and there will also a new cd be released.