Sunday, January 20, 2013

A Double Dose of Dembo

Some years ago Sterns/Earthworks released a CD entitled Roots Rock Guitar Party. I remember thinking at the time: how can you assemble a collection of Zimbabwe's greatest guitarists and not include Leonard Dembo?

I would presume that the only reason Dembo was omitted from this otherwise excellent compilation was a matter of licencing. In the early '90s, he had risen to the pinnacle of the Zimbabwean music scene, only to die prematurely of AIDS in April 1996.

Dembo was born as Kwangwari Gwaindepi in 1959 and gained notice in 1982 as a member of a band called The Outsiders. Disagreements with his band-mates followed, and in 1985 he established Barura Express, which quickly notched a series of hits, notably the 1991 smash "Chitekete," about a young man who wishes to marry a beautiful lady. It is one of the biggest-selling Zimbabwean records of all time and is played at weddings to this day.

The Barura Express cassette The Singles Collection Vol. 2 (Gramma ZC 108) is a singular example of modern African guitar music, notably the opening tune "Zii-Zii," a song about a lover who is far away, whose repetitive motifs evoke a feeling of restrained euphoria:

Leonard Dembo & Barura Express - Zii-Zii

Leonard Dembo & Barura Express - Dudzai

Leonard Dembo & Barura Express - Kodzero

Leonard Dembo & Barura Express - Kukura Hakutane

Leonard Dembo & Barura Express - Gire

Leonard Dembo & Barura Express - Sheri Unodada

Leonard Dembo & Barura Express - Ndipeiwo Pokupotera

The Very Best of Leonard Dembo (Gramma ZC 113), covers some of the same ground, and includes "Chitekete":

Leonard Dembo & Barura Express - Shamwari Yangu Warova

Leonard Dembo & Barura Express - Venenziya

Leonard Dembo & Barura Express - Dudzai

Leonard Dembo & Barura Express - Wada Ne N'anga

Leonard Dembo & Barura Express - Chitekete

Leonard Dembo & Barura Express - Manager

Leonard Dembo & Barura Express - Sharai

Leonard Dembo & Barura Express - Vane Mazita Ngavaremwkedzwe

Leonard Dembo & Barura Express - Kukura Kwedu

Leonard Dembo & Barura Express - Zii-Zii

Leonard Dembo & Barura Express - Dambudzo

Leonard Dembo & Barura Express - Murombo

Leonard Dembo & Barura Express - Kukura Hakutane

Read about the Zimbabwean artwork in this post here.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

More Memories of Maneti

A couple of years ago I posted some memorable Muziki wa Dansi, a tribute by Tanzania's Orchestra Vijana Jazz to their departed lead singer Hayati Hemed Maneti. Hayati Maneti (Last Recording) (Ahadi/Flatim AHD (MC) 6018) is another outing dedicated to the great vocalist. The usual caveats regarding recording quality apply:

Orchestra Vijana Jazz - Witi Zangu Mnaninyanyasa

Orchestra Vijana Jazz - Ngapulila No. 2

Orchestra Vijana Jazz - Imani za Uchawi

Orchestra Vijana Jazz - Nyongise (Kihehe)

Orchestra Vijana Jazz - Heshima ya Mtu

Orchestra Vijana Jazz - Siri ya Ndani

Download Hayati Maneti (Last Recording) as a zipped file here. Purely by coincidence, when I logged on this morning I saw that Stefan at WorldService has posted the great Vijana LP Mary Maria here. And if you're looking for still more classic Vijana, Sterns Music's The Koka Koka Sex Battalion: Rumba, Koka Koka & Kamata Sukuma - Music From Tanzania 1975-1980 is highly recommended. The picture at the top of this post is entitled "My Village" and is by a Tanzanian artist named Mkumba. Explore more of his work and that of a number of other excellent East African artists here.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Echoes of Mogadishu Past

Happy New Year! Once again I must apologize for the infrequency of posts here on Likembe. There is no one reason why the spirit hasn't moved me to write more often, but I've made a New Years resolution to step up the pace in 2013. As luck would have it, reader/listener Sanaag has provided us with yet another glimpse at the wonderful Somali music and theater scene of the 1980s. This is a world that has almost disappeared but that, hopefully, may be on the verge of a renaissance with the coming of a measure of stability to Somalia. Sanaag has been an invaluable contributor to Likembe over the years, and I'm happy to announce that he now has his own blog, Tix iyo Tiraab, where this originally appeared. Here's Sanaag:
Libaaxyada Maaweeliska Banaadir (Banaadir Entertainment Lions)was a popular theater troupe founded in the late 70s/early 80s by a group of veteran artists and fledgeling talents. The project was intended to integrate young and old, tradition and modernity - a sort of Scorsese/Levin's "Godfathers and Sons" avant la lettre... but here with the Godmothers and Daughters, too. Besides entertainment, LMB's main goal revolved around the preservation and dissemination of the performing arts heritage of Banaadir, the region comprising Mogadishu and its immediate surroundings. In their, alas, ephemeral existence, they produced about a dozen plays which were highly appreciated nationwide.

This tape carries the soundtrack of the mid-80s play "Xiddigtii Is Xujeysay" ("The Self-Denouncing Star"). In that period, drama productions were staged in theaters and open stadia, and spread on VHS. The play/film scores were, however, rarely released apart on tape. Given the sonic flaws, this k7 is probably a bootleg recorded live outdoors by an audience member - Somalia's number one hobby at the time.

The play was written by Faynuus Sheekh Daahir (left), a renowned theater actress and folk dancer. To the best of my knowledge, this is her only play. Nevertheless, if the material on this tape is anything to go by, she is apparently equally proficient in spinning poetic lyrics (and thought-provoking dialogues). Besides the title of the play, some tracks gladly betray the burlesque tragi-comedy and tackled a number of socio-political issues as well. Songs like "Naga Tag! Kac! Hooyaa? ("Get Lost! Rise Up! Got It?") ) and "Abidkaay Ammaan Ma Sheegin" ("I Never Dish Out [Unjustified] Praise Words") must have flagellated the dictatorial heartbeat into higher and haunted spheres. . .

From memory: The female star (Somalia?) and the male star (Freedom?) are in love with each other while a third protagonist (the dictator?) is moving heaven and earth to drive them apart. Its political significance lies n my opinion in the fact that it and similar mid-80s-dramas preceded and may have partially inspired the second wave of armed opposition groups

All the tracks are sung or poetically recited by Axmed Naaji Sacad, Maxamed Cabdow Saalim and mainly Faadumo Qaasim, a brightly shining star since the '60s who sadly passed away last year. R.I.P !

For each play LMB toured with a different musical ensemble, almost always consisting of traditional and modern instrumentalists. The musical direction of this piece was in the hands of the aforementioned multitalented Axmed Naaji Sacad (below right) whose great '70s band "Shareero" is playing the lead role.

The modern instruments are up front and I, for one, would be content with less Hohner organ and more roars by the local instruments. The music and singing are, however, often based on the notes of time-honoured traditional poetry, dance and music genres. In addition to the readily recognizable modern instruments, anyone who is familiar with Somali culture will also frequently detect in this tape and get tingled - from head to heels - by an impressive array of currently neglected traditional instruments.

Although sparsely used and often overwhelmed by the electric instruments, some local lions are still holding their own. Particularly the reeme (roaring drum), shagal (metal hoe-blades), shunuuf (vegetable ankle rattles), shambal(wooden clappers), malkad (flute), and sumaari (double clarinet) casually manage to swing to the forefront. These precious and endangered instruments are setting the pace by generating distinct rhythms and melodies (see genres below) to send a call to a group of colourfully clad folk dancers who respond with graciously intoxicating and sinuously serpentine movements... gently enticing the spectators (occasionally including Yours Truly) to the dance floor.

Those were the days...!

"Soo Xarakoo" ("Strut Out In Style") Put on your best suit, concoct your magic elixir and present your case for love. Genre: Batar/Botor.

Libaaxyada Maaweeliska Banaadir - Soo Xarakoo

"Adaan Milkigaa Ahee" ("I Am All Yours") A double entendre. (Denunciation of) total submission to a spellbinding "suitor" Genre: Wiglo.

Libaaxyada Maaweeliska Banaadir - Adaan Milkigaa Ahee

"Abidkaay Ammaan Ma Sheegin" ("I Never Dish Out [Unjustified] Praise Words"). Vocalists and instrumentalists exchange compliments while subtly emphasizing that gratuitous praise of the undeserving is nothing but self-deprecation. Genre: Sharax, Saylici

Libaaxyada Maaweeliska Banaadir - Abidkaay Ammaan Ma Sheegin

"Naga Tag! Kac! Hooyaa?" ("Get Lost! Rise Up! Got It?"). Leaves no room for the imagination: The gun salvos, funeral processions, public rage... were in the mid-80s Somalia not yet pervasive but they're already an essential and gruesome part of the tyrannical policies and histrionics. Genre: Geblo shimbir.

Libaaxyada Maaweeliska Banaadir - Naga Tag! Kac! Hooyaa?

"Diinle Kabiiroow" ("Diinle, The Great"). Disappointment in and fury towards the clique that usurps the key to your love/life/rights and a complaint about the chief and his entourage who are greedy, pompous, unreasonable, unjust... and don't listen to the wise elders. Genre: Kabeebey.

Libaaxyada Maaweeliska Banaadir - Diinle Kabiiroow

"Hab I Soo Dheh" ("Jump Into My Arms"). The tragedy of unrequited love: He's hopelessly in love and she's diligently rejecting him. Genre: Walasaqo.

Libaaxyada Maaweeliska Banaadir - Hab I Soo Dheh

"Haan Iyo Haruubkeed" ("Water Container and Its Cover/Milk Vessel and Its Lid") "United we stand! The lovebirds are tired of waiting for the blessing of the self-appointed chargés d'affaires and take matters into their own hands. Genre: Dhaanto.

Libaaxyada Maaweeliska Banaadir - Haan Iyo Haruubkeed

"Waa Habeenkii Dhalashadaadee" ("It's Your Birthnight"). Happy with the decision they made in the last track and the rebirth of their freedom. Genre: Saddexley.

Libaaxyada Maaweeliska Banaadir - Waa Habeenkii Dhalashadaadee

"Kun Qof Iiga Roonoow" ("More Valuable Than a Thousand Persons"). Boundless love. Genre: Niiko.

Libaaxyada Maaweeliska Banaadir - Kun Qof Iiga Roonoow

"Sabraayaa Sedkii Hela" ("Patience Pays Off"). Those who are made for each other (lovers, people and their sovereignty...) always find each other. The two halves become One, no matter how long it takes. Genre: Hirwo.

Libaaxyada Maaweeliska Banaadir - Sabraayaa Sedkii Hela


PS. I'm not an expert and it's quite possible that my recognition of the multitude of Somali genres is, in some cases, off beat. Many genres ressemble each other and some are as deceptively similar as identical twins. I'd appreciate any corrections and additional info.

PPS. I've the impression a couple of tracks are missing. Anyone?

Download Xiddigtii Is Xujeysay as a zipped file here.