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.


LeFranck said...

Thanks a lot for this vinyl rip. Really great.
Strange that they pressed a vinyl with tracks that contains just the one part of a song.

I found out in my collection that the hole song "Mbuta" was released in 1997:
"Les Plus Grands Succès. Les Freres Soki (1971-1975). Vol 2. (Ngoyarto NG 030)".

John B. said...

Frank, thanks for the tip. As it happens another reader has passed on a rip of that song to me. If I can come up with the full versions of "Yokolo" and "Dona" also I will make all of them available asa separate download.

Timothy said...

Thanks for the tracks. Now that you mention Short Wave Radio you get me travelling down memory lane. Short Wave Radio always brings back fond memories of listening to foreign broadcasts in Africa in the 197Os and the 1980s. Radio Zaire was a rare find, but it came in loud and clear just after 20:00 East African Standard Time. Of course President Mobutu loomed larger than life. Nowadays the airwaves link with the Democratic Republic of Congo seems to be Radio Okapi, which I sometimes pick up on 11,890 khz (17:00 - 18:00 CET). At least I never miss the Lingala News Broadcast online. Does anyone remember the buzz of getting a QSL card from a distant broadcaster? Those were the days!

joe said...

@ Timothy: Yeah, it was always a special day when you opened the mailbox and there was some token from some far away place waiting for you there. Sometimes the card was mundane and institutional, and sometimes it was a sincere and appreciative reply, one which assured you that a person on the other end actually took a few moments to thank you for listening. I once received (after 10 months waiting) a simple piece of folded stationary (with what appears to be a small oil painting affixed to the front) and a personal note inside from a staffer at Radio Candip in Bunia, Zaire. It's a treasured memento, and it represents one of the most special Shortwave Memories I have.

And John, thanks much for this post!!

Apurva Bahadur said...

Thanks for sharing this album. Apurva from Pune, India.

Shabik/Nairobi. said...

Can you just post the full copy of the song Mbuta now. i have missed it for long.Thanks in advance.

John B. said...

Complete versions of "Yokolo," "Mbuta" and "Kamale" are available as a download here: