Thursday, December 14, 2017

The Manding Archangel



Here's another recording that was featured not too long ago on another site - in this case Mangue Music, which posted it on January 10 of last year.

I hesitated before posting it again here, but in light of my last missive, which dealt with Yaya Bangoura and the fate of Guinean music since 1984, I figured, why not? Kadé Diawara is another Guinean artist who made the transition from state sponsorship under Sekou Touré to the modern era. And besides, L'Eternelle Kadé Diawara (Alpha Mamadou Cissé et Frères AMC 002, 1992) is so darn good, it's worth another listen!

I've been unable to find out much about Madame Diawara. I think she may have passed away recently, although I can't confirm that. She is (was?) from a musical family, performing since childhood. Earning the nickname of "The Manding Archangel," she was a member of l'Ensemble Instrumental National du Guinée in the '70s, making this remarkable video, apparently from a local broadcast:

Kadé Diawara & l'Ensemble Instrumental National - Armeé Guinéene

She made one LP for Editions Syliphone in 1976, L'Archange du Manding (SLP 62), a restrained effort with Moussa Konate and Abraham Kebe. I don't have it, but did find one track from it:

Kadé Diawara - Bélé Bélé

And then, in 1992, Madame Diawara made an outstanding comeback. The cassette L'Eternelle Kadé Diawara is quite an acheivement, combining modern technology, Manding tradition and a host of talented supporting musicians, notably Sekouba Bambino Diabaté. It is justly famed:

Kadé Diawara - A M'Boh

Kadé Diawara - N'Madjènè






At least two more releases followed.

Sadly, the story of Kadé Diawara's life doesn't seem to have a happy ending. According to this article, as of three years ago she had fallen on hard times, living off a modest pension and whatever she could scrape up singing at baptisms and weddings. The fate of too many musicians in Africa!

Download L'Eternelle Kadé Diawara as a zipped file here.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The "New" Guinea Sound



From Independence in 1958 until the death of dictator Sekou Touré in 1984, there was only one record company in Guinea, the legendary Syliphone label. Not only that, all professional musicians in the country performed under the aegis of the Parti Démocratique de Guinée, the only legal political party. They were employed by the state, which provided musical instruments and venues. This could make for some uncomfortable situations, such as when when trumpet player Balla Onivogui fell afoul of some government bureaucrats in 1970 and was deposed as leader of his own group, Balla et ses Balladins, in favor of his sideman Pivi Moriba. "Pivi et ses Balladins" recorded one album before the status quo ante was restored when Sekou Touré himself intervened.

This all sounds like a very stifling state of affairs, but in fact during this period Guinea produced some of the most vital and original music to come out of the African continent. The official cultural  policy was Authenticité, which rejected European influences and sought a return to African roots for inspiration (similar policies were in place in Mali, Tanzania and Congo [Zaïre] for a time). It's all documented in an excellent 2-CD compilation on the Sterns label, Authenticité: The Syliphone Years (STCD 3025-26, 2007), ably curated by Dr. Graeme Counsel, which samples the 83 LPs and 77 45s released by Syliphone.

Several years ago Dr. Counsel finished digitizing Syliphone's archives in their entirety, including many, many recordings that were never pressed on vinyl. You can listen to all of them on the British Library's website. At the completion of this massive project Guinea's Ministry of Culture held a celebration, featuring among others the legendary Amazones de Guineé:


This Golden Age of Guinean music came to an end in 1984 when Sekou Touré died and Syliphone was scrapped. The many national and regional musical groups sponsored by the Ministry of Culture were cast to the vagaries of the free market. Some survived and still perform to this day. Many foundered. Taking the place of Syliphone were a number of independent labels, dealing now in cassettes rather than vinyl (I would assume cassettes also have gone by the wayside since, but who knows?).

Guinean music, freed from political constraints, has tended more toward the slick sound that typifies modern African popular music, often utilizing synthesizers but still making use of traditional instruments like the kora and balafon. It is often recorded outside Guinea, for instance in Abidjan's JBZ Studios, as was today's selection, Yaya Bangoura's La Patience (D.D. United 96002, 1996).

Bangoura typifies the "new" breed of Guinean musicians (that is, "new" as of 1996 - I confess to not having heard much recent music from that country, although I'm sure there's plenty). He was born in 1957 and became a teacher in 1982. However, he'd always had an interest in music and was a featured singer on Syli Authentique's 1976 album Dans l'Arène (Syliphone SLP 57). La Patience was his first solo recording effort, followed in short order by Kalanyi, Koule Yèlè and several tours which would take him to Europe, the United States and Canada.

Crippling back problems have forced "El Bangou" to perform in a chair for some time. I read, however, that he recently arrived in the US for specialized medical care. Here's hoping that he will continue to entertain us for many more years!

Yaya Bangoura - Koundara

Yaya Bangoura - Sabou Fanniyi

Yaya Bangoura - Super V

Yaya Bangoura - N'na Barana

Yaya Bangoura - Khakhili

Yaya Bangoura - Bariké

Yaya Bangoura - Denké Touré

Yaya Bangoura - Koundara

Download La Patience as a zipped file here.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Urban Azmariwotch



The azmari is the Ethiopian equivalent of the West African griot - a troubadour, a truth-teller and "court jester" all in one, disdained and beloved at the same time. The essential release Éthiopiques 2: Techawet!: Urban Azmaris of the '90s (Buda Musique 82952-2, 1997) traces the development of a new urban form of the azmari's art to the the fall of the putatively "Marxist-Leninist" Dergue regime in 1991. Restricted by a curfew for the previous 18 years, residents of Addis Ababa took to nightlife with a vengeance, giving rise to many new azmarebets, or cabarets devoted to this musical form.

The usual azmari ensemble is composed of one or two vocalists, players of the krar (Ethiopian lyre), masinqo (one-stringed violin), percussion and perhaps accordeon. As today's selection, the cassette Democracy Mebtesh (Negarit Music Shop, ca. 1992) illustrates, this combination can be supplemented by organ or synthesiser, electric bass and drum machine (somewhat to the detriment of the music, in my opinion). 

The title, Democracy Mebtesh ("Your Democratic Right"), clearly alludes to the atmosphere that prevailed in Ethiopia in the early '90s after the fall of the Dergue and the rise of a new government led by the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front. My friend Andreas Wetter writes, "...I think it is meant in a rather ironic way. I remember having heard it used by people from time to time. The media was full of words about democracy but everyone knew that there was no real democracy. People usually felt a subtle oppression and didn't believe in the offiocial discourse, because there were imprisonments, often arbitrary, and even killings."

Our featured artists, Betsat Seyoum Abhra and Abbebe Fekade, exemplify the new urban azmariwotch. Betsat, born in 1965, does not come from a musical family but found her calling in 1985 performing in various establishments in Addis before opening her own azmarebet in 1990. Abbebe, born in 1970, by contrast comes from a musical heritage in the province of Gondar, where his father was an azmari.Performing together in Betsat's establishment, they are naturally simpatico!


Bati is one of the four major kiñits, modes or scales of Ethiopian music, the others being Tezeta, Ambassel and Anchihoye. For many years I thought "Bati" was an actual song. There are many versions extant and I featured one in a previous post. Andreas Wetter, though, tells me that no two versions have exactly the same words. The versions I've heard have usually been male and female duets, and even though I don't understand the lyrics, have always struck me as being flirtatious in nature. Andreas tells me the version here was particularly scandalous. Francis Falceto's liner notes for Betsat's and Abbebe's CD Urban Azmaris of Ethiopia (Long Distance 122166, 1995) translate the lyrics as follows:


As Falceto further explains, the words are more than what they seem. The underlined lyrics above are the literal meaning whereas the boldface are the actual meaning. The Abyssinica Dictionary explains, "Wax and Gold is the formula used by the Ethiopians to symbolize their favorite form of verse. It is a form build of two semantic layers. The apparent, figurative meaning of the words is called 'Wax'; their hidden actual significance is the 'Gold'. The term Wax and Gold is derived from the work of the goldsmith, who constructs a clay mold around a from created in wax and then, draining the wax, pours the molten gold into that form...." During the time of Haile Selassie and later under the Dergue such verbal subterfuge was a vital form of social protest.



Tezeta (or "Tizita") is often described as "Ethiopian Blues." The word means "memory" or "nostalgia," and like Bati above, it is one of the four major kiñits, or modes, of Ethiopian music. No two versions of Tezeta, even if literally called "Tezeta," will ever be the same. Falceto, in the liner notes of Éthiopiques 10: Tezeta: Ethiopian Blues & Ballads (Buda Musique 82222-2, 2002), writes,"...Singing one's sadness isn't as paradoxical as it may seem. There has to be a way to get through life's cruel twists of fate, and from the world's often comes the inspiration to overcome alll manners of adversity, public or private. Might as well do it in a song. If the Afro-American blues is the best-known means of expression combining music with wallowing in misery, there are many musical cultures throughout the world that have formulated in their own way this odd mixture of brightness and gloom, heavy-handedness and lightness of heart..."


"Enneggänaññallän" = "We Will Meet." 


Ambassel is the name of a district in Wollo Province and is also one of the four kiñits of Ethiopian music. Wikipedia describes it as the mode used for songs with historical themes.


"Ende Näh" = "How Are You?"

Betsat Seyoum & Abbebe Fekade - Ende Näh

"Lomi Nahe (She) Waye" = "You are a Lime" (a term of affection).



Download Democracy Mebtesh as a zipped file here. Many thanks to Andreas Wetter, who, as always, has provided much useful information for this post. The liner notes of Éthiopiques 2, Éthiopiques 10 and Urban Azmaris of Ethiopia were also quite helpful. If you really want to dig into the details of Ethiopian musical theory (something that's above my head), you might like to read this article by Timothy Johnson, who discusses the four major kiñits of Ethiopian music - Bati, Tezeta, Ambassel and Anchihoye. This article by Ezra Abate is also quite detailed.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Conspiration



Les Officiers of African Music were a "super-group" formed in the 1980s by Congolese musicians (mainly from the Brazzaville side of the river) in Paris, notably Tchico Tchicaya, Passi-Jo, Ballou Canta and Nianzi Gaulard, "L'Amiral Cheri-Gau," the star of today's offering, Conspiration (Savas SA 30.0048).

There's not much to say about this one except it's a primo example of mid-'80s Congo rumba at its best. Enjoy!


L'Amiral Cheri-Gau & Les Officiers of African Music - Ce Combat de la Vie

L'Amiral Cheri-Gau & Les Officiers of African Music - Mth Amour

L'Amiral Cheri-Gau & Les Officiers of African Music - Tungu

L'Amiral Cheri-Gau & Les Officiers of African Music - La Musique est une Science

Download Conspiration as a zipped file here.


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The Voice of Arewa



A while back I posted about northern Nigeria's greatest female singer, Barmani Mai Choge. I devote today's post to Alhaji Mamman Shata, acclaimed as the greatest male singer of "Arewa," a giant who ruled the Hausa music scene for over 60 years.

Finding out more information about Dr. Mamman Shata has not been easy. He is the subject of at least one biography, "Shata Ikon Allah!" by Ibrahim Sheme (Kaduna, Infomart Publishers, 2006), and at least one doctoral dissertation, “The Role of an Oral Singer in Hausa/Fulani Society: A Case Study of Mamman Shata," by Dr. Abdulkadir Dandatti (Folklore Institute, Indiana University, 1975), neither of which I've been able to get hold of. There does seem to be a fair amount of information about him online in Hausa.

Shata was born in Rugar Kusa, Musawa Village, Northern Nigeria in 1922. Although his father disapproved of his interest in music, he began singing at the age of 13 and was soon composing his own Wakokin, traditional Hausa praise songs. He was accompanied by musicians playing kalungu, small talking drums, and travelled throughout the north of Nigeria gaining fame if not yet fortune. He once told an interviewer, “I ventured into music out of childish exuberance. I didn’t inherit it from either of my parents. I sang for a long time without collecting a penny. Even when I was given money, other praise singers collected it. I only started collecting money when I made it (music) a career." He settled down in Funtua, also the home of Barmani Mai Choge, a wild and wooly municipality that hosted many brothels. Chafing at the strictures of conservative Hausa Muslim society, he had a taste for drink and sang its praises.

It is said that Mamman Shata never rehearsed and composed his songs on the spot. I've been unable to track down much of his discography and I suspect most of his music was never pressed but recorded for broadcast. Probably much of it was not recorded at all. In addition to praise songs, his repertoire covered all manner of subjects, from agriculture to politics to the military, even food! One notable song is said to have been broadcast throughout northern Nigeria during the troubles of 1966-67 preaching peace, tolerance and national unity. He performed throughout West Africa and even made it to Britain and the United States.

Alhaji Doctor Mamman Shata passed away on June 18, 1999, leaving behind three wives, 22 children, numerous grandchildren and an immortal musical legacy. The true voice of Arewa!


Here are two cassettes by the immortal Mamman Shata.

The cassette Bakandamiyar (EMI Nigeria EMI 003), which I obtained during a visit to Kano in 1995, is a dub of a scratchy LP recorded, I suspect, some time in the '70s or earlier. I would guess the song "Garba Bichi" is in honor of Abubakar Ali Bichi, who was a prominent Northern Nigerian businessman born in 1924. There is a Garba Bichi Ahmed (possibly his son?) who is a member of the Nigerian Federal House of Representatives from Bichi, Kano State, but since he was born in 1964, it's probably not about him:

Alhaji Mamman Shata - Garba Bichi

"Bakandamiyar"is considered one of Maman Shata's greatest songs. In it he sings his own praises:

I started Bakandamiya and embraced the thing that interests me most
Alo, Alo, the singer expresses his gratitude and so do the chorus.
As for me nothing interests me except my singing,
Beat your drum carefully,
Play slowly and carefully,
For drumming is your inheritance but not mine.
I started singing as a hobby,
Certainly I started it as a hobby and outshined the professionals;
Now it is my match that they search for and have woefully failed,
Alo, Alo, the singer expresses his gratitude and so do the chorus.
It is not parting with a hero that is painful,
But filling the gap which he created....

...One day here in the city of Dabo,
 I have ever lived in the city of Dabo,
During the reign of Sanusi Mamman,
Burhan father of Habu son of Abdu,
Then I packed my belongings and left,
And returned to the city of Dikko,
Our Katsina, the city of Shehu. 
My departure pleased the Kano singers;
They ganged up against me saying:
That bastard Shata has gone,
Good riddance Shata has left,
Ha! Since he left the city of Dabo,
No doubt has lost many good things.
Go your way; I am aware I missed Kano City,
And Kano too had missed a famous singer,
And you also had missed my singing. 
After six good months I staged a comeback,
I went away for six months,
And returned to the city of Dabo,
On Friday during the princess’s wedding,
I sneaked in with my mini car,
I took a corner and parked my mini car,
I put on a veil and joined the crowd..... 
.....I pondered and groaned,
There and then I uncovered myself,
And said, You have now felt the absence of Shata, the singer.
Even among kola nuts there are marsa,
Well much more so among the singers,
Princes, I hope and think that you will lend me your ears,
And listen to my song.
It is not parting with the hero that is painful,
But filling the gap which he created.... 
......That day I rose and praised myself,
And praised God and his Messenger,
That day I outshined Hamisu, outwitted Caji and put Dabolo out of action,
They cast a spell on me but to no avail,
And had I prior knowledge,
I would have brought my billy-he goat, and my speckled fetish cock,
What! Would that I were able to know in advance,
I would have prepared for it.
I ignored banjo and guitar players,
Because they are insignificant musicians who,
Play for money clothes to wear and a few pounds to get married.
Alhaji Mamman Shata - Bakandamiyar

Download Bakandamiyar as a zipped file here.

Emir of Hadeija (Polydor POLP 121), which came out in 1985 I think, was one of Shata's last recordings, and is considered one of his best. I presume from the song titles that they are in honor of various notables. For instance, Side One honors rulers of various traditional states in Northern Nigeria, while I would guess Side Two praises business or political leaders:

Alhaji Mamman Shata -  Emir of Hadeija / Emir of Bauchi / Bella Galadima of Katagun / Emir of Daura Alhaji Maman Bashar

Alhaji Mamman Shata - Habibu Fari Elema / Wili Dan Tijani / Shehu Kasimu Sarkin Mararaba / Malam Shuaibu Gadan Gayan / B.B. Faruku Na Allah

Download Emir of Hadeja as a zipped file here.

The picture at the top of this post is from the Mamman Shata Facebook page. The translation of the lyrics of "Bakandamiyar" is from the article, "10 Years After his Death, Shata Still Lives on," from the Daily Trust (Nigeria), June 21, 2009, which provided much useful information for this post. I'm also greatly indebted to the blog Taskar Mamman Shata and the Wikipedia article "Mamman Shata."



Wednesday, November 15, 2017

A Belated Farewell to Seydou Zombra



In 1987 French producer Jean Philippe Rykiel produced Soro, an album by the legendary Malian vocalist Salif Keita that was acclaimed as a World Music™ classic. Sorry, but I just hated it. I'm not saying that African musicians aren't allowed to take advantage of the latest in studio technology to appeal to an international audience, but something about that particular effort just left me cold. Keita's beautiful voice was swamped in instrumentation and rococo flourishes. What a waste!

Today's offering is Synimory (EMI E0199912-4), a 1991 cassette by Burkinabé singer Seydou Zombra. Synimory was also produced by Rykiel. On Youtube you can find a number of previous recordings by Zombra, and you know what? I like this one the most. Here the production elevates rather than overwhelms Zombra's rather impressive vocal chops.

The music of Burkina Faso is not well-known outside that country. Musicians from Burkina, like Amadou Balaké, often migrate to other countries, like Ivory Coast, to record and make a decent living. In Zombra's case it was apparently his parents who moved to Abidjan, where he was born in 1956. He is said to have been a talented footballer in his youth before becoming a sports announcer for Radio France International's program, "Les Dieux du Stade," and producing numerous other programs for the station. His first LP, Gnoumbono (Capriccio 37077), was released in 1979.

After a long illness, Zombra passed away in Paris on July 16 of last year. He is missed by sports fans and music aficionados alike. Adieu!
   
Seydou Zombra - Synimory

Seydou Zombra - Yeleen

Seydou Zombra - Fangan (Instrumental)

Seydou Zombra - Denwolo

Seydou Zombra - Fangan

Seydou Zombra - Synimory (Instrumental)

Download Synimory as a zipped file here.


Thursday, November 9, 2017

Sweet Sounds From Baba Gaston



I was all ready to post today's selection - Baba Gaston's wonderful 1983 release Condition Bi-Msum (ASL ASLP 971) - when I realized that Stefan Werdekker had made it available on his blog WorldService a while back. Should I or shouldn't I, I wondered? Then I decided to go ahead with it. If you missed it before, here's your chance to enjoy some of the sweetest soukous the '80s managed to produce.

I've written about Baba Gaston before. He's one of many Congolese musicians who made their way to East Africa during the '70s and '80s. Coming from Lubumbashi in the southern part of then-Zaïre, where Kiswahili was already the lingua franca, it wasn't a difficult transition for Gaston and his Orchestre Baba Nationale to settle down in Dar Es Salaam in 1971, relocating to Nairobi a few years later. Here the band gave rise to many offshoots and a distinctive East African iteration of the classic Congo rumba sound. It all came crashing down in 1985 when foreign musicians were ordered to leave Kenya under President Daniel Arap Moi.

Enjoy Condition Bi-Msum. And for more information about Baba Gaston and other Congolese musicians in East Africa, read Alastair Johnston's essential Congo in Kenya.

Baba Gaston - Ekelekele

Baba Gaston - Hello Hello


Baba Gason - Rudi Nyumbani Africa


Baba Gaston - Condition Bi-Msum

Download Condition Bi-Msum as a zipped file, complete with album and label art, here.


Saturday, November 4, 2017

Zouglou Gnakpa!



Les Côcôs were one of the innumerable groups that popped up during the first wave of Zouglou  in the Ivory Coast during the economic crisis of the early '90s. I wrote about the genre in an earlier post here. Through the travails of recent years, notably two civil wars, Zouglou has remained popular, according to this very informative article:

"...Through its emphasis on social and political criticism, zouglou developed into a form of Ivorian counter-culture. Zouglou musicians represent the perspective of marginalized youth and social underdogs and have been very critical of the devastating behavior of the wealthy and politically powerful in Côte d’Ivoire. Zouglou artists see their role as speaking truth to power, because, according to a famous nouchi (Ivorian street slang) saying, gbê est mieux que drap: “the truth is better than shame”. Zouglou music gave the youth in Abidjan a platform from which to participate in the public debate...."
As is often the case, I've been unable to find out much about Les Côcôs. After their first release, the cassette Zouglou Gnakpa (EMI EO38192-4, 1992), they seemed to disappear without a trace. That one, however, was a good seller and spawned at least one hit, "L'Enfant Yode" (listed as "Les Côcôs" on the inlay card), which has been included on several CD compilations. Enjoy Zouglou Gnakpa now!

Les Côcôs - L'Enfant Yode

Les Côcôs - Nathalie


Les Côcôs - Christina


Les Côcôs - Hommage


Download Zouglou Gnakpa as a zipped file, complete with scans of the inlay card, here.



Friday, October 27, 2017

Conflict!



It's easy to think of Gaby Lita Bembo as the Wild Man of '70s and '80s Zaïre/Congo music - his unrestained stage antics made him the toast of working-class Kinshasa and a star of television. Bembo's backup group, Orchestre Stukas, was founded by Alida Domingo in 1968, one of many "youth bands" that arose in the late '60s in reaction to the more laid-back sounds of orchestras like OK Jazz, Afrisa and Bantous de la Capitale. The new groups mostly dispensed with horn sections and went for a sound more frantic and based on traditional rhythms. Stukas in particular was notable for the lightning-fast work of its guitarists, starting out with Samunga Tediangaye and transitioning to Bongo Wende and others.

1974's "Rumble in the Jungle," the legendary Ali-Foreman fight in Kinshasa, further elevated Bembo's star when Stukas was selected to be one of the featured acts in the accompanying Zaïre '74 concert. It is said that he became a star of Kinshasa's television station Voix du Zaïre in the mid-'70s as the authorities found him useful for keeping kids off the streets during school holidays. Here's a representative show from 1976:



In the 1980s Bembo spent more time in Europe while Alida held down the fort in Kinshasa. His 1983 outing Conflit (EuroMusic 001000), recorded in Belgium with the uncredited "Musiciens Zaïrois de Bruxelles" and a bank of session players on electronics, is relatively restrained but still packs a punch. Check it out:

Lita Bembo - Conflit

Lita Bembo - Deese

Lita Bembo - Bonne Chance

Lita Bembo - Comprehension

Download Conflit as a zipped file, complete with album and label art, here.

And as an extra bonus, here's a scorcher by Lita and Orchestre Stukas Caiman from the 1978 compilation album L'Afrique Danse (African 360.122):

Orchestre Stukas Caiman - Wangata

Biographical information in this post about Lita Bembo and Stukas was taken from the liner notes of the CD Kita Mata ABC (RetroAfric RETRO 18CD, 2005), an excellent career retrospective of the group. You can get it here.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Afropea Rising



I've been hesitating to post here the cover of Zazou Bikaye's 1985 LP Mr. Manager (Pow Wow WOW 7401). I don't know who the artist is or what his or her intention is, to be "ironic" or whatever. It just strikes me as being kinda racist! Anyway, I'm going to put it right here, and you can make up your own mind:

Click on the picture to enlarge. Whatever you think of the cover, I hope you'll agree with me that Mr. Manager is one of the more notable African releases of the '80s, one of the first truly "Afropean" albums and a mostly successful attempte to fuse Congolese tradition with European techno music.

Zazou Bikaye was a collaboration between French/Algerian composer and arranger Hector Zazou and Congolese vocalist Bony Bikaye. I haven't found out much about Bony Bikaye. Discogs lists two solo albums and an EP but that's pretty much it. Hector Zazou, however, who died in 2008, boasted quite a C.V., with Wikipedia listing 44 citations. He specialized in cross-cultural fusions and mash-ups long before "World Music" was a marketing gimmick, or even a thing. Zazou and Bikaye's first outing, with French synthesizer wizards CY1, was 1983's Noir et Blanc (Crammed Discs CRAM 025), and has been described as "Fela Kuti meets Kraftwerk on the dance floor" and a cult classic. It will be reissued in November, and is available for pre-order here.

I dunno. I got Noir et Blanc not too long after it first came out, and I like it, but it's always seemed a little cold and austere for my taste. Maybe it deserves more time than I've been willing to give it. Mr. Manager, on the other hand, strikes a better balance between digital and analog. Two tracks in particular, "Nostalgie" and "Angel," always got a good reception back when I aired them on my old public radio program, "African Beat" in Milwaukee. It's a great album and I hope you'll enjoy it too!

Zazou Bikaye - Mr. Manager

Zazou Bikaye - Nostalgie

Zazou Bikaye - Soki Akei

Zazou Bikaye - (Little) Angel

Zazou Bikaye - Angel

Zazou Bikaye - M'pasi ya M'pamba

Download Mr. Manager as a zipped file, with cover and label art, here. I hope I'm not stepping on any toes by sharing this here. An internet search doesn't turn up any current availability for Mr. Manager through any online stores or streaming services, but if any label or copyright holder objects, let me know through the comments and I will remove these files immediately.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Une Étoile Brillante



Here's another classic from the last "Golden Age" of Congo music, the 1980s!

Wuta Mayi is best known as a member of two Congolese "super groups" - Les Quatre Étoiles, which launched in the early '80s, and Kékélé, from the early years of this century. However, he's had an illustrious career not only guesting on many others' recordings over the years but as a solo artist. He got his start with Jamel National in 1967 and the next year jumped over to Orchestre Bamboula, led by Papa Noël. He was invited to join le Tout Poussaint OK Jazz by Franco in 1974, where he stayed for eight years. The launching of Le Quatre Étoiles in 1982, uniting the talents of Mayi, Nyboma Muan'dido, Bopol Mansiamina and Syran Mbenza, supercharged the African music scene, taking it to new audiences around the world.

In between stints with Les Quatre Étoiles Wuta Mayi found time to record a number of solo albums including today's offering, Tout Mal Se Paie Ici Bas (Soweto Records 002, 1984).

An extra special bonus for this LP is the presence of Souzy Kasseya, whose brilliant guitar work enlivened many recording sessions from Kinshasa to Abidjan to Paris back in the '80s. Kasseya had a smash hit in France in 1983 with "Le Téléphone Sonne." Many years ago I posted another tune by him here on Likembe, which you can find here. Souzy's worth a post of his own in the future. In fact, I think I'll do that! In the meantime, enjoy this slice of sweet Congo soukous!

Wuta Mayi - Tout Mal Se Paie Ici Bas

Wuta Mayi - Elembo Na Mi Tema

Wuta Mayi - Batamboli Moto

Wuta Mayi - Maboko Pamba

Download Tout Mal Se Paie Ici Bas as a zipped file, complete with album and label art, here. Biographical information in this post courtesy of the liner notes of Rumba Congo (Sterns STCD 1093, 2001) by Kékélé, available here.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Woya: Ivoirian Funk/Zouk



 A few weeks back I got a request for something by Woya from Ivory Coast and I'm happy to comply! The group was formed in 1984 and their fusion of funk, zouk and Ivoirian tradition became the rage of West Africa in 1986 with the release of the hit LP Kacou Ananzé (African 425.004).

The group broke up in the late '80s and has re-formed several times over the years but the core has always been Marcellin Yacé on keyboards and vocalist David Tayorault, who on their own have been major powers in the Ivoirian music scene. Today's offering, the cassette La Tradition en Mouvement (EMI W.CORP01), was released in 1992 during a brief revival of the group. Woya was resurrected again in 1998, but since Yacé was killed by a stray bullet during an attempted coup in 2002 it's doubtful that there will be another incarnation.

I have Kacou Ananzé also and will probably post it some time in the future. For now, enjoy La Tradition en Mouvement!

Woya - Yayaclo Lo

Woya - Ayo

Woya - Zikpê


Woya - Woya Solution


Woya - Vent de l'Est


Woya - Tcha Tchèr

Download La Tradition en Mouvement as a zipped file here.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Lovers' Hi Life



I've been unable to find out much about Asare Bediako, who is responsible for today's offering, the very enjoyable Lovers Hi Life (Highlife World HW 2017) from 1986. I believe, however, that he is the "Sam Asare-Bediako" who has acheived fame as a composer and arranger of Christian devotional music in his native Ghana:



Whatever. Lovers Hi Life is a pretty good example of the sort of synth and drum-machine driven "Burger Highlife" music that became popular in the 1980s. Enjoy!

Asare Bediako - Odo

Asare Bediako - Ene Wiase


Asare Bediako - Ohufor


Asare Bediako - Abena


Asare Bediako - Ohianti


Asare Bediako - Ewisia


Download Lovers Hi Life as a zipped file here.


Friday, September 22, 2017

Pablo! Pablo! Pablo!



Congolese musician Pablo Lubadika Porthos began his career with several local assemblages in the 1970s, including Kin-Bantou, Lovy du Zaïre and Orchestre Kara before moving to France and becoming ubiquitous as a session musician during the heyday of the Paris-based Congo music scene of the '80s. He cut several fine solo albums as well, including today's offering, Ma Coco (Afrohit Discafrique DARL 019), from 1981.

Two tracks from Ma Coco were featured, in truncated form, on the influential compilations Sound d'Afrique (Mango MLPS 9697, 1981) and Sound d'Afrique II: Soukous (Mango MLPS 9754, 1982). Other recordings from Pablo are available for streaming from Apple Music and, I believe, other platforms. Enjoy!

Pablo Lubadika Porthos -  Ma Coco

Pablo Lubadika Porthos - Mbongo Mokonzi

Pablo Lubadika Porthos - Madeleina

Pablo Lubadika Porthos - Bo Mbanda

Download Ma Coco as a zipped file, complete with album and label art, here.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

The Diva of Northern Nigeria



As readers may be aware, I've had a long-time interest in Nigerian music and feature it often here at Likembe. However, all of the music I've posted here has been from the southern part of the country and of this the majority has been from two ethnic groups, the Yoruba and the Igbo. Nigeria, though, is a huge country of 186 million residents, who speak over 500 languages. Of these, along with the Igbo and Yoruba, the largeest nationality is the Hausa, who predominate in the northern part of the country. Nigeria's cultural diversity, a product of British colonial rule, has been a blessing and at times a curse.

Prior to 1995, the only Hausa music I had heard was a couple of LPs of traditional music - one from the esteemed Bärenreiter Musicaphon series and another issued by the African Record Centre in Brooklyn. In December of that year, during a visit to Nigeria, I was curious to discover more, so together with my brother-in-law boarded a plane to Kano, the largest city in northern Nigeria. Our cab driver directed us to a music store which had an extensive selection of cassettes, mainly featuring the ever-popular Congolese sound, but also many from Mali and other countries of the Sahel. Notably there were many cassettes from Sudan. I understand this popularity of Sudanese music is a result of pilgrims from northern Nigeria stopping off in that country on their way to and from Mecca. I regret now that I didn't purchase any of these at the time.

My main interest was Hausa music, and I was amply rewarded with about 30 cassettes by artists like Alhaji Mamman Shata, Dan Maraya Jos, Audu Waziri Danduna, Sanni Dandawo, and northern Nigeria's greatest diva, Barmani Mai Choge.


According to the article "Barmani Choge: The Last of the Strong Ones" by Abubakar Adam Ibrahim (Daily Trust, March 10, 2013), Choge, née Hajiya Sa’adatu Aliyu, was born in the town of Funtua in 1943 or '45 and "...soaked up the cosmopolitan nature of that place that produced the legendary Mamman Shata, and she picked up what had hitherto been a pastime for women in the confines of their houses (the beating of calabashes) and made a successful music career out of it. And all these, while having a dozen children or so along the way. A feat she celebrated in her song 'Gwanne Ikon Allah.' She reportedly married at 15...."

A publicity flyer for a 2008 performance states that "...Barmani Choge popularized the mature Hausa women genre of music called Amada (although she had precedent in the late Hajiya Uwaliya Mai Amada (1934-83)), which started as religious performance by women in their inner apartments, before later becoming secularized in public performances. Barmani Choge’s performances appeal typically to mature women in high society due to her daring – and often experimental – exploration of issues that other conventional women musicians avoid. Literally the last of her generation, she popularized the Amada genre of Hausa music which is centered around five upturned calabashes floating on water and played with the hands by rather elderly women...."

Barmani Mai Choge passed away in early 2013, leaving Nigeria a poorer place, but setting an example for the women of the North. I present here two cassettes by Choge - 1987's Mai Soso Ke Wanka (Polydor POLP 162) and A Kama Sana'a Mata (Polydor POLP 166) from 1988. I've been unable to find out much about the lyrics (Google Translate wasn't much help), but I'm passing on what I know.

From Mai Soso Ke Wanka:

"Gwarne Ikon Allah" - "The Blessings of Multiple Births"

Hajiya Barmani Mai Coge & her Group - Mai Soso Ke Wanka / Gwarne Ikon Allah / Wakar Da'a

Hajiya Barmani Mai Coge & her Group - Maras Sana'a / Sama Ruwa Kosa Huwa

Dowload Mai Soso Ke Wanka as a zipped file here. Here is A Kama Sana'a Mata:

"...The Funtua in which Barmani and Shata grew was teeming with brothels and a joie de vivre approach to life and was perhaps ripe for the lewd lyrics of her hit song “Wakar Duwai Wai”, which in contemporary Nigerian music would have taken a fitting title like “The bum bum song”. In it, Barmani praises the female physiognomy and its inherent powers, how a woman can wiggle her backside and have a man do her bidding. Women loved it, and men smiled a silent acknowledgement. And Barmani place as a social deviant was firmly established...." (Abubakar Adam Ibrahim, op. cit.)

Hajiya Barmani Mai Coge & her Group - Wakar Dwaiwai / Mai Abin Dadi / Azwage Zogala

"Woman, Take Up a Trade":

Hajiya Barmani Mai Coge & her Group - A Kama Sana'a Mata

Hajiya Barmani Mai Coge & her Group - Wakar Kishiya / Wakar Mutau Misau

Download A Kama Sana'a Mata as a zipped file here.

A future post will feature the music of northern Nigeria's foremost male singer, Alhaji Mamman Shata.


One question I had at the time of my 1995 visit was whether there was any analog in northern Nigeria to the popular musical styles of the South - highlife, jùjú, fújì and so forth. There were one or two Hausa highlife ensembles back in the '60s and '70s, and southern Nigerian artists will occasionally record songs in the language, but the answer, at least in 1995, seemed to be "no." The subject matter may involve modern concerns, but the music of Choge, along with the other artists I've mentioned, is definitely within the classic framework, utilizing percussion, one-string lutes and other traditional instruments.

Unknown to me at the time, though, Hausa music was undergoing a revolution, and this was spurred by the Bollywood film industry of India, whose products have been popular throughout Nigeria for many years. The liner notes of Harafin So: Bollywood Inspired Film Music From Hausa Nigeria (Sahel Sounds SS-014, 2013) tell the story:
"...Hausa tradtional musicians began to play cover versions of popular Bollywood soundtrack music...It was not until 1990, and the introduction of VHS, that the first Hausa language films were made in Kano, and Kannywood was born. Naturally, producers turned to the influences of films they had been watching for generations. Featuring plots of forced marriages and love triangles - indeed, sometimes copying the plot directly from the original Hindi films - these new homemade creations also retained the most popular feature of Bollywood: song and dance. 
"...as in Bollywood, soon the film songs came to eclipse the films themselves. It was not long before songs began to precede the film. In these polyphonic duets, men and women often would exchange words with one another, throwing barbs or providing romantic innuendos. Stylistic elements began to emerge in Hausa popular music, with the frenetic rhythm of a drum machine and synthesizer riffs. Autotune, the pitch correcting technology, joined the toolkit, offering a chance to compete with the high octave voices of Hindi film, becoming a signature sound of the film music..."
Harafin So is highly recommended. Here is an example of Hausa film music, thoughtfully featuring English subtitles:

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Let Us Dance Sikinde!



Here's another in Likembe's continuing series of releases by Tanzania's legendary DDC Mlimani Park Orchestra, this one a little-heard LP from 1989, Dua La Kuku (Polydor POLP 589). I can't say too much about this one - contrary to the photos on the album sleeve, it seems to feature a stripped-down lineup for the band, at least their sikinde sound isn't as "beefy" as usual. It's fine music nonetheless. Tucheze sikinde! "Let us dance sikinde!"

DDC Mlimani Park Orchestra - Dua La Kuku

DDC Mlimani Park Orchestra - Nakubali Nimekosa

DDC Mlimani Park Orchestra - Heko Rais Moi

DDC Mlimani Park Orchestra - Ukombozi Wa Afrika

Download Dua La Kuku as a zipped file here.


Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Highlife Music From the "Great White North"



Ghana's highlife great Pat Thomas has been experiencing something of a career renaissance lately. 2015 saw the release of  Pat Thomas & Kwashibu Area Band (Strut STRUT126CD), his first new recording in many years, and in 2016 a 2-CD retrospective of his recordings from 1964 to 1981, Coming Home (Strut STRUT147CD) hit the scene.

Thomas has been around for many years. He was born into a musical family in 1951 (his uncle was the legendary King Onyina), but got his first big break in 1966 when he made the acquaintance of Ebo Taylor, a musician who had studiend in London with Nigeria's Fela Ransome-Kuti. Thus began a musical partnership that would continue on and off for many years, producing a number of fine recordings and revolutionizing the Ghanaian music scene.Together, with Ebo on guitar and Pat as arranger and vocalist, they played in the Broadway Dance Band and the Stargazers, two of the most important orchestras of the era. Thomas's breakthrough as a highlighted artist came in with the release of 1974's False Lover (Gapophone LP 02), recorded with the Sweet Beans, official band of Ghana's Cocoa Marketing Board. A few tracks from this landmark recording are included in an earlier post here on Likembe.

Ghana's political and economic travails in the early '80s impelled many musicians overseas, to London, Germany and Toronto, which gave rise to new and exciting permutations of the highlife sound. Ghanaian musicians in Germany, where Thomas lived for a time, developed a disco/highlife hybrid called "Burger Highlife," which took Ghana and its diaspora by storm. In the late '80s Thomas made the journey to Toronto, joining a vibrant Ghanaian exile music scene which included at times musicians like A.B. Crentsil, Alex Konadu and Joe Mensah. He would remain in Canada for ten years, returning to Ghana in 1997.

Although it was recorded in Lomé, Togo, 1986's Highlife Greats Mbrepa (Jap Records JAP 0102) was released in Canada and is a product of this fertile period. It's a great album, which deserves a proper reissue. Perhaps tracks from it will be included in a future retrospective. For now, though, enjoy!

Pat Thomas - Mbrepa Baba

Pat Thomas - Onsu Nyame Ye

Pat Thomas - Adze Akye Henbia

Pat Thomas - Nyi No Nsen Hwe

Pat Thomas - Asembe Nyi

Pat Thomas - Odo A Me Do Woyi

Download Highlife Greats Mbrepa as a zipped file here.


Thursday, August 31, 2017

Jùjú-Àpàlà Roots!



Jùjú music, so popular in the 1970s and '80s, seems to have gone into eclipse in southwestern Nigeria, the land of its birth. Even fújì, which took its place for a time, has mutated into something rather removed from its origins. In their places, in the popular music arena at least, are variations on international hip-hop, heavy on auto-tuned vocals and synth.

Styles may come and go, but King Sunny Adé, the best-known jùjú musician outside of Nigeria, still keeps up a busy worldwide touring schedule. It's hard to believe he just turned 70!

Juju-Apala Live (Fortune Records, 2000) captures the King at the top of his form in front of a live audience in Lagos. Maybe it's just me, but before his fellow Nigerians, Sunny and the African Beats seem a lot more relaxed and uninhibited than they've been in front of US audiences, at least at the concerts I've been to. I suspect this CD is a bootleg recording, as it wasn't released through KSA's usual outlets. Moreover, my copy was an unauthorized rip of the original release - a pirate of a bootleg!

What's really ear-opening in this CD is the extended workout on Track 4, "Juju-Apala," with Musiliu Haruna-Ishola, son of the legendary Haruna Ishola, who perfected modern àpàlà music in the '60s and '70s. Àpàlà, a very traditional form, is one of the foundations of jùjú, fújì and other Yoruba musical styles, and Musiliu is ably carrying on his father's work.

The past and the future meet in Juju-Apala Live!

King Sunny Adé - Talking Drum

King Sunny Adé - Oro Ope Ko Ni Kase

King Sunny Adé - O Ya, O Ya Mi Bo

King Sunny Adé - Juju-Apala

Download Juju-Apala Live as a zipped file, complete with album artwork, here.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Lions of the Jungle



Now, this is an album I've been wanting to post for a long time!

Orchestra Simba Wanyika (Swahili for "Lion of the Jungle") was founded by the brothers Wilson Peter Kinyonga and George Peter Kinyonga of Tanzania, who joined the popular Jamhuri Jazz Band in 1966, where they served four years before leaving in 1971 to form the Arusha Jazz Band. A move to Mombasa, Kenya and a name change and in 1973 Simba Wanyika was born! They were to play a crucial role in the East African music scene for more that twenty years, giving rise, directly and indirectly to a plethora of other groups: Les Wanyika, Wanyika Stars, Orchestra Jobiso and many others. For more information about Simba Wanyika and its offshoots, go to the discography I authored with Doug Paterson and Peter Toll some years ago.

Haleluya (Polydor POLP 552, 1985) marks the high tide of Simba Wanyika's influence and creativity, following a flock of hit songs and right at the moment cassette tape piracy began to cripple the East African music scene. The band would go on to tour in Europe in 1989 and internationally in 1991, when they recorded their only world-wide release, Pepea (Kameleon KMLN 01, 1992). Sadly, George Peter Kinyonga passed away on Christmas Eve 1992 after a brief illness, and Wilson followed him in 1995. Although there was at least one recording made under the "Simba Wanyika" tag without the brothers, the band dissolved shortly after.

Enjoy Haleluya!

Orchestra Simba Wanyika - Haleluya

Orchestra Simba Wanyika - Mama Nyange

Orchestra Simba Wanyika - Mapenzi Yaniua

Orchestra Simba Wanyika - Baba na Mama



Download Haleluya as a zipped file here.

And, as an extra special bonus, here's Simba Wanyika's hit 1983 single, "Shillingi"(Polydor POL 543):

Orchestra Simba Wanyika - Shillingi


Saturday, August 19, 2017

Easy Ambiance



Two cassettes from Ivory Coast, both by the outstanding ensemble Système Gazeur, one of the many zouglou groups that emerged in that country in the late 1980s and early '90s. About the band I've been able to find little. I can tell you that zouglou arose on the college campuses partly in response to the crisis afflicting the educational system, and accompanied protests against the situation. In the words of a popular tune at the time by the artist Digbeu:

We're tired of your pretty speeches,
Tired of the unemployment rate,
Tired of all these untouchables,
Tired of your hospitals,
Tired of insecurity,
Tired of all these hold-ups.¹ 
Système Gazeur, in Ambiance Facile (EMI E06991-4, 1991) reject the electronic affectations of more recent zouglou artists like Magic System, Sur-Choc and Esprit de Yop, opting for a more organic, traditional vocal and percussion sound. It's truly execptional!

Système Gazeur - Zomammanzo

Système Gazeur - Anangotche

Système Gazeur - Awoulaba

Système Gazeur - Sebosei / Bolisika / Gazer

Système Gazeur - Awoulaba / Akepile / Manhouho / Kalaleda

Download Ambiance Facile as a zipped file here.



Mamie Ton Alloco (EMI E0106292-4, 1992), on the other hand, is well within the zouglou mainstream, with the full complement of drum machines and synth (and apparently a much-reduced lineup). It's nonetheless a great release, an excellent representative of the genre:

Système Gazeur - Mamie Ton Alloco

Système Gazeur - Nathalie Tu Exageres

Système Gazeur - Hommage a Fulgence Kassy

Système Gazeur - Te Memin Houmyoua

Système Gazeur - Depayou

Download Mamie Ton Alloco as a zipped file here.

-------------
¹ "Music is the Weapon of the Future," by Frank Tenaile, Chicago Review Press, 2002

Monday, August 14, 2017

Hot Dance Music from Côte d'Ivoire



Popoko (EMI EO173292-4, 1992) is a lively cassette from Ivory Coast by the group Les Woanthios. All I know about them, and the cassette, is this recommendation from the website NATARI:

Absolutely outstanding in every way. This virtually all girl group, whose popularity in the Ivory Coast is second only to 'Woya', are magic through and through. Which isn't surprising as their rich and varied modern dance music has retained its ethnic roots with a great beat, some really lovely guitar and absolutely smashing vocals. Ble Clotilde shines out both on lead guitar and vocals with a style of music that is very different from what you would normally expect from this part of Africa. My favourite tracks are 'Kopka' and 'Damozode' and that was a very difficult choice to make as dance wise 'Popoko' will leave your socks smouldering!
To that I have nothing to add. It's great!

Les Woanthios - Popoko

Les Woanthios - Tropic

Les Woanthios - Kopka

Les Woanthios - Damozode

Les Woanthios - Damozode (Remix)

Les Woanthios - Popoko (Remix)

Download Popoko as a zipped file here.