Saturday, November 17, 2018

Awesome Awigiri



A while back I did a post devoted to awigiri, the highlife music of the Ijaw (Izon) people of the Niger Delta. I have quite a few LPs of this particular genre, and I've been digitizing them in preparation for a future post, or series of posts. In the process this particular album, Late Chief Ohbobo Special (Success SSLP 027) really caught my attention and I thought it was worth posting in full.

I know absolutely nothing about the Boroism International Dance Band of Nigeria or its leader, Jay Eboge - "Monkey No Fine." I assume the group takes its name from Isaac Adaka Boro, who led a twelve-day armed uprising against the Nigerian and Eastern Nigerian governements in 1966. He was subsequently jailed, then amnestied on the eve of the Biafran war of independence in 1967. He died fighting for the Nigerian Federal Government in 1968 under what are described as "mysterious" circumstances and is a hero to Niger Delta indegenes.

I particularly enjoy the saxophone work on this album by a musician credited only as "Boma." I hope you'll enjoy it also.

Boroism International Dance Band of Nigeria - Late Chief Ohbobo Special

Boroism International Dance Band of Nigeria - Late Commodor Kentebe

Boroism International Dance Band of Nigeria - Izon Otu Meinye Ana

Boroism International Dance Band of Nigeria - Late Cardinal Rex Jim Lawson

Boroism International Dance Band of Nigeria - Asima Popo

Download Late Chief Ohbobo Special as a zipped file here.


Monday, November 12, 2018

Deep Awurebe!



Wow, check out the tribal marks on these guys! The cover of Iya Alakara (Awurebe Records DELP 8303, 1983) is arresting, the music on the inside even more so.

Alhaji Dauda Epo Akara called his music awurebe. I'm not exactly sure where it stands in relation to other percussion-fueled Yoruba musical styles like fújì, àpàlà and the like. Maybe it's just a marketing gimmick. Whatever the provenance, it's very impressive music!

According to his sparse Wikipedia entry, Dauda Epo Akara was born on June 23, 1943. The Nigerian newspaper This Day reported that he passed February 18, 2005. Wikipedia says that he started out as a practitioner of wéré (or ajisáàri), an Islamic style of music meant to be played during Ramadan, and updated it after returning from his hajj to Mecca and Medina. At least judging by this recording awurebe lacks the religious focus of wéré , but shares the characteristic vocal flourishes of "secular" Islamic styles like fújì and the like.

The respected Nigerian music journalist Benson Idonije wrote in 2008:

Three years have passed slowly by since Awurebe King Dauda Kolawole Akanmu, known in show business as Dauda Epo Akara passed on, in 2005. His exit marked the end of a musi-cultural era, the era of a generation of musicians whose roots are deep in the urban social fabric and heritage of the Yoruba speaking people of South Western Nigeria.

An indigenous music type whose hallmark is the syncopation of rhythms generated in patterns that are intricate, Awurebe is the fusion of àpàlà, sákárà, woro and even dadakuada from Kogi and Kwara States of Nigeria. It is the perfect blend of these various musical cultures that have given it a uniquely definitive sound identity.

While Haruna Isola and Ajao Oru pioneered àpàlà and took it to a level where it became universally accepted, Yusuf Olatunji popularised sákárà and established it as an acceptable social music type. And of course the likes of Batile Alake took on the female version of these music forms and handed it down to the likes of Salawa Abeni who is still carrying on the tradition.

Even though Epo Akara's awurebe came much after the first generation of our traditional musicians, his fusion was blended to fall into the same era. As a matter of fact, like fújì music, awurebe is a product of the street music performed during Ramadan called wérè. He was influenced in the same way that Alhaji Ayinde Barrister was, but this influence affected them differently.

While Barrister merely accompanied his social commentaries with the legion of drums and other percussion instruments in a direct fusion, Dauda, who, perhaps was operating from a point where he had been influenced by almost all the social music genres, decided to fuse elements of everything into one whole unit.

The music did not assume the commercial viability that fújì had because of its direct identification with the roots of our traditional forms. For instance, Epo Akara's awurebe did not have widespread acceptance in Lagos until the 1980s, even though it was popular in places like Mushin and Somolu, with danfo drivers and meat sellers as the bulk of its devotees. The music came into the forefront with the emergence of the Top 10, instituted in the early 1980s by Radio Nigeria 2....
Enjoy this deep, deep Yoruba roots music!

Alhaji Dauda Epo Akara & his Awurebe Experts - Won Ti Fepo Lade / Ota Awori Nile Won / Yusuf Oladejo / Epo Ni Roju Obe

Alhaji Dauda Epo Akara & his Awurebe Experts - Tiri-Misi- Riyu / Egbe Ifelodun (Abajan) / E Fowo Mi Wo Mi / Iya Alakara

Download Iya Alakara as a zipped file here. In preparation for this post, I did a little research on the question of  "tribal marks" in Nigeria and discovered that they are, or used to be, most common among the Yoruba people, although other groups have them also. I take it they are considered somewhat old-fashioned these days, as indicated by the delightful video below. I think they're kind of awesome myself!




Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Liberian Voices



Liberia has never played a big role in the African music scene. In a fascinating post on his old Voice of America blog, Matt Lavoie surveys the 1960s Liberian musical landscape and includes a number of recordings. The Ghanaian producer Faisal Helwani set up a recording studio in Monrovia in the early '80s, and claimed to have 54 albums ready for release, but apparently only two, by Fatu Gayflor and Cesar Gator, saw the light of day. Increasing political and economic instability, leading to the onset of the first Liberian Civil War in 1989, put the kibosh on whatever musical scene existed in the country.

At some point a Liberian band, the Music Makers, made it to Onitsha, Nigeria, where they were recorded by R.E. Okonkwo's legendary Rogers All Stars label in 1988. Their album Enjoyment (Rogers All Stars RASLPS 096) brings to mind the sound of Afro National from neighboring Sierra Leone, who acheived fame in the 1970s. Other than that I can't tell you anything about this enigmatic group.

Enjoy this sample from the lost world of Liberian music!






Download Enjoyment as a zipped file here. A technical note: This album is one of a number I picked up directly from the Rogers All Stars office in Onitsha. One thing I've noticed about these late-'80s RAS LPs is the muddy quality of the sound. I have no idea why this should be: poor mastering? I've tried to compensate for this by boosting the high and low frequencies slightly, to limited effect. My apologies.


Friday, November 2, 2018

Forest Sounds



Some years ago I posted the LP Pre-Festival Lagos 77, featuring tracks from a number of Guinean orchestras who were in competition to appear at the memorable Second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture, or FESTAC '77, which was held in Lagos in 1977.

One of these groups was the memorable Nimba de N'Zérékoré, based in Guinea's second city. The group also released an album on their own in 1980, Gön Bia Bia (Syliphone SLP 71), which I present today. From the French liner notes I take it these songs are based on traditional initiation rites. Since I don't know French and don't have access to anyone who does at the moment, I've depended on Google Translate to render these. The results, while hardly "vernacular" English, are oddly poetic! For instance, this passage by producer Justin Morel Junior:

This disc is an ethnology page.

It retraces moments of initiation. The initiation marks in the traditional society the passage of the child-adolescence the maturity, at the age of responsibility.

"Initiation is understood as a set of practices aimed at communicating to the individual necessary for his proper integration into society. In short, all the moral patrimony of the group that is transmitted on the occaision of initiation":

GÖN BIA BIA", the essential title of this disc, celebrates the departure for the initiatory camp. The merit of the Nimba musicians of the City of N'zérékoré, is to have been able to transpose the sounds with fidelity. Foresters: these hoarse voices, these phoned rhythms, these tiered horns that reproduce an endearing forest atmosphere. At the end of listening to these songs, we can no longer doubt the words of the conductor of Nimba, Samaké Namakan: "the mysteries of the forest can be mastered in music"
Comments on the songs likewise are from the liner notes, via Google Translate.

Gön Bia Bia - "This song tells of the departure for the initiation camp. Blowers shine, guitarists sparkle. Beautiful stereo dialogue blowers. Sovereign intervention of tenor KOUI BAMBA. Warming!"

Le Nimba de N'Zérékoré - Gön Bia Bia

Kori Magnin - "Literally: 'Fatigue is Dangerous.' In the deep meaning it is about 'deprivation.' The solo guitar breaks loose and screams its revolt in enflamed notes."

Le Nimba de N'Zérékoré - Kori Magnin

Ziko - "Call singing telephoned and answered with passion."

Le Nimba de N'Zérékoré - Ziko

Babaniko - "This is the favorite piece of the orchestra. Taken with warmth, color and flavor, it is the song of exit of the initiation camp. Succulent dialogue of the wind. Broken voices. Rhythms cut. Spicy melodies."

Le Nimba de N'Zérékoré - Babaniko

Kongoroko - "The forest is resplendent and sunny. The secret forest, mysterious. The forest that thinks and dances! Stubborn rhythm. Rapacious music."

Le Nimba de N'Zérékoré - Kongoroko

Zoo Mousso - "Song of gratitude, reunion and rejoicing."

Le Nimba de N'Zérékoré - Zoo Mousso

Download Gön Bia Bia as a zipped file here. A technical note: this is one of the first albums I digitized a dozen years ago when I was first getting started with this blog. I hadn't yet mastered the software and there's a little clipping on some of the tracks. It's not too noticeable, though. My apologies.


Saturday, October 27, 2018

An Overlooked Genius



Théo Blaise Kounkou is one of those African musicians who, while building substantial careers and achieving popularity throughout Africa and the diaspora, have received little notice in the broader musical community. This is a shame.

Blaise was born in Brazzaville on April 24, 1950 in the former French Congo. Here he performed with various groups, notably Les Grands As. It was in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, however, that he really made his mark as part of Sam Mangwana's groundbreaking African All-Stars. The All-Stars lasted only from 1978-79 in their original incarnation (reemerging in later years as Mangwana's backup band). They revolutionized the existing Congo music paradigm, speeding up the tempo and introducing various pop and funk influences. The group toured West Africa from Nigeria to Senegal and has had a lasting influence on the music of the region.

After the All-Stars broke up most of the members, including Mangwana, Lokassa Ya M'Bongo, Bopol Mansiamina, Syran M'Benza and Blaise, gravitated to Paris, where they formed the nucleus of the burgeoning African music scene in that country. It was here that Théo Blaise Kounkou recorded at least a dozen solo LPs. Back in the early '90s a series of three CDs, Le Plus Grands Succès Vols. 1-3, was released, compiling some of the highlights, but far from all. Not included in any of those volumes are the tracks from today's offering, Célia (Disques Sonics SONIC 79 397, 1983).

Célia is classic Blaise, showcasing not only his lovely voice but a lineup of crack session musicians, including not only Bopol Mansiamina on bass and rythm guitar but the brilliant Master Mwana Congo on lead. It's a highlight of the classic 1980s Congo sound!





Download Celia as a zipped file here.


Monday, October 22, 2018

I Just Saved You $1350.71



As more evidence that the collectors' market for used African recordings has entered Dutch Tulip Mania territory, I present the following from Amazon:


Not too long ago I wrote of the ridiculous asking price for a used cassette of a classic recording by King Sunny Adé. That was absurd, but at least Sunny has been an international superstar for almost 50 years. While Obiajulu Emmanuel Osadebe came from musical royalty (his father was Nigeria's late, great highlife master Stephen Osita Osadebe), and was talented, his recording career, prior to his untimely death in 2009, had not reached a level anywhere near that of his father. I have two vinyl LPs by him from the early '90s, and the CD Ifugo America (O & I Productions OANDI 001, 1998) was recorded during a sojourn in Atlanta during the late '90s. That's the extent of his recorded outlet as far as I know. He also opened for Sunny Adé during a US tour shortly before his death.

Obialju died only a year after his father passed away. The Nation newspaper of Nigeria wrote this on the occasion of his death:

The first son of the late highlife music maestro, Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe, Obiajulu, is dead. According to a family source, Obiajulu, 43, died on Tuesday at Niger City Hospital, Onitsha, Anambra State, after a brief illness. 
The body has been deposited at the Ozubulu Central Mortuary in Ekwusigo Council area of Anambra State. Although the cause of his death could not be ascertained as at press time, there were speculations that he died of heart failure. He had been bed-ridden for over five months at his Atani country home, Ogbaru Local Government Area, Anambra State. 
Obiajulu, who came back to the country after the burial of his father on February 8, last year, stepped into his father’s shoes, remixing some of his hit songs. He also performed at some popular joints within and outside Onitsha. 
Until his death, Obiajulu was married to Olayinka. They have a daughter. Besides, he is survived by an aged mother, brothers and sisters. 
Ifugo America is a pretty good recording, albeit a little too dependent on synthesizer (Obiajulu's Nigerian albums used his father's backup band), but that's no doubt a matter of economics. I just don't think it's worth $1350.71. But decide for yourself!







Download Ifugo America as a zipped file here.


Wednesday, October 17, 2018

"The Otis Redding of Zimbabwe" (Eyeroll)



Oliver "Tuku" Mutukudzi has been called "The Otis Redding of Zimbbawe," a comparison that has always irritated me. Oliver Mutukudzi isn't the Otis Redding of Zimbabwe, he's the Oliver Mutikudzi of Zimbabwe - his music stands on its own, it's unique and incomparable. Moreover, these sort of analogies, well-meaning, often made by publicists and music journalists, seem really ethnocentric, as if American or European music is the baseline against which all other music is defined.

End of rant. Born in 1952, Oliver grew up in Highfield, the historic African "ghetto" of Harare (called Salisbury under Ian Smith's racist Rhodesian regime) and learned to play a homemade instrument from a book called "It's Easy to Play the Guitar." He started singing gospel music and in 1975 joined Thomas Mapfumo in the Wagon Wheels band. By the '80s, as a solo artist, he had acheived massive fame in Zimbabwe, with many best-selling singles and albums and growing popularity across Southern Africa. By the turn of the century, several international releases and tours had made Mutukudzi, along with Mapfumo, one of the two most popular Zimbabwean musicians in the world.

Here is Nzara (Kudzanayi BL 459), a 1983 release that showcases Tuku at the peak of his powers, his soulful voice soaring above inspired arrangements and a variety of styles. Enjoy!











Download Nzara as a zipped file here. I have another album by Oliver Mutukudzi, Sugar Pie, that I'll be posting soon.


Friday, October 12, 2018

"Some Beautiful Woman Are Dangerous"



The Okukuseku International Band, led by Sammy Koffi, was a Ghanaian group that made its way to Nigeria in the '70s and built an enduring career there. In this Okukuseku was not alone: the '70s oil boom was like a giant magnet that drew musical talent from across Africa. When the Nigerian economy crashed in the '80s these musicians were all sent packing. Sammy and Okukuseku apparently also retreated to Ghana, but by 1989 they were back in Nigeria, where today's offering, Beautiful Woman (His Master's Voice/EMI Nigeria HMV (N) 061), was recorded.

Sammy Koffi himself  started out with K. Gyasi's band in Ghana in the '60s, before leaving to form Okukuseku's No. 2 Guitar Band in 1969. I've been wanting to post something from Okukuseku for a while. Thing is, quite a bit of their material has been posted on various blogs already, notably Moos's Global Groove, which has an extensive selection. Beautiful Woman, to the best of my knowledge, has not been made available before. In fact, it's not even included in Discogs' extensive listing. So, double bonus!

The title song, "Beautiful Woman," seems to draw on the same sentiment as, if it's not directly inspired by, Jimmy Soul's 1963 smash "If You Want to Be Happy," but I really enjoy the extended jam that takes up Side Two of this LP. I hope you'll enjoy it also!




Download Beautiful Woman as a zipped file here. Side A of this pressing was off-center, resulting in a slight "wow." My apologies, couldn't do anything about it!


Sunday, October 7, 2018

Kiamwuangana Verckys, Producer Extraordinaire!



No sooner had I posted Likembe's last offering then I realized that I had another, similar pressing. Orchestres Kamale et Kiam was issued in 1981 by Rogers All Stars records in Onitsha, Nigeria on license from Editions Vévé in Kinshasa, reference number VOZ 1003. I now present Voice of Zaïre Vol. 1, VOZ 1001 in the same series. I presume there is a VOZ 1002 and even other volumes, but I've been unable to find out about any. Although they were issued in the '80s in Nigeria, the songs on these collections were all recorded in the '70s.

It all goes to demonstrate the great popularity of the Congo sound in Eastern Nigeria during the '70s and '80s, and especially the productions of Kiamwuangana Mateta "Verckys."

Perusing Alastair Johnston's excellent overview, "Verckys and Vévé: A Critical Discography," I see that the songs in this collection haven't had a lot of distribution outside of Africa. Several were featured in the Sonodisc/African "360" series issued in France, now long out of print. A couple were included on CD reissues and may still be available in that format. Nonetheless, listening to these tracks should evoke a sense of déjà vu. They've been remade numerous times and included on medleys by such artists as the Soukous Stars and Soukous Vibration. Moreover, they acheived such widespread distribution back in the day that they're part of the DNA of African music from Kenya to Senegal. A comment on YouTube about Orchestre Kiam's "Masumu" is representative: "...I was a little boy at that time when my late Daddy and his Seamen friends used to rock those songs on a 45 rpm turntable. Guinness was 30c, Heineken 25c in Sierra Leone.  Music is sure History...."

All of these bands have been featured on previous Likembe posts, which you can access here. Another version of Orchestre Vévé's "Lukani" was included on this post.






Download Voice of Zaïre Vol.1 as a zipped file here.


Monday, October 1, 2018

Kamale et Kiam



Today's post covers some old ground - classic orchestras from the stable of wunderkind Kiamwuangana Mateta, aka "Verckys," the musician and producer who blew up the Congo music scene back in the 1970s. A lot of this music has been posted in other venues, in fact a couple songs were featured here previously at Likembe. Still, I thought it would be useful to post Orchestres Kamale et Kiam (Vévé-Rogers All Stars VOZ 1003, 1982), as it gives an insight into the sort of Congolese sounds that Nigerians were listening to in the '70s and '80s. This LP was licensed from Verckys' label Vévé and pressed in Nigeria by Onitsha-based Rogers All Stars.

Side One of the LP features Orchestre Kiam, Side Two Orchestre Kamale. As was often the case at the time, at least for Nigerian releases of Congo music, most of these tracks are not complete, featuring only one side of the 45 versions. If you're interested, I've provided a link at the end of this post so you can download the complete versions.

My friend Matt Lavoie, formerly of the Voice of America, currently proprietor of the essential Wallahi le Zein! blog and Orchestre Kiam fanatic, has done the monumental work of compiling an oral history of the band. Do yourself a favor by going to his site, downloading and reading it and also downloading an almost-complete collection of their recordings. In Matt's telling, the musicians who became Kiam were "poached" by Verckys in 1973 from Papa Noel's Orchestre Bamboula when he brought them into the studio for a recording session! He christened the group after his own first name, and under his supervision they recorded a series of hits that made them a sensation in Kinshasa and throughout Africa.

Success, and Verckys's stifling sponsorship, brought dissension, and in 1975 a group of band members decamped to form Orchestre Baya-Baya, named after one of the group's early hits. With a new lineup, and with most of the defectors returning to the band after a while, Kiam acheived even greater heights, releasing in 1976 "Kamiki," their biggest hit ever, and a pan-African smash. By 1983 Orchestre Kiam had been dissolved, but alumni have played important roles in the Congo music scene to this day.




Orchestre Les Kamale is perhaps better known internationally thanks to the success of its leader Nyboma Mwan'dido. Nyboma was a singer with the Vévé group Orchestre Lipua-Lipua in 1975 when he split off to form Orchestre Les Kamale. This group divided in turn in 1978, a number of musicians leaving to form Orchestre Fuka Fuka and Nyboma reorganizing the remnant. Nyboma then broke with Verckys and set off on a journey across Africa and eventually to Paris, in the meantime recording the classic LP Double Double, which received international distribution. He's well-known both as a solo artist and as a member of Les Quatre Etoiles, the Congolese super-group.




Likembe has had several posts featuring the classic "Verckys Sound" of the '70s and '80s:

The School of Verckys



Download Orchestres Kamale et Kiam as a zipped file here. Click here to download complete versions of "Baya Baya," "Moni Afinda," "Ayi-Djo" and "Masua."


Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The Voice of the People



Cape Verdean musician Abel Lima (above) graces two recent excellent collections of music from that island nation - Space Echo: The Mystery Behind the Cosmic Sound of Cabo Verde Finally Revealed (Analog Africa AACD 080, 2016) and Synthesize the Soul: Astro-Atlantic Hypnotica from the Cape Verde Islands 1973-1988 (Ostinato OBT CD0002, 2017). 

He was born in 1946 in Curral Velho on the island of Boa Vista. At the time Cape Verde, along with its sister countries Guinea-Bissau, Angola, Mozambique and São Tomé & Principe, were under the heel of Portuguese colonialism, and over the years armed resistance movements grew in opposition. Cape Verdean men over the age of 16 faced conscription to fight in these wars, so at the age of 13 Lima emigrated illegrally to Ivory Coast, where he took up typography. Moving on to Senegal, and then to Paris in 1969, he joined the Partido Africano da Independência da Guiné e Cabo Verde (PAIGC), a liberation movement devoted to the independence of Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau, and began his career as a musician. The lyrics of Lima's songs in this period are marked by his devotion to the liberation of Cape Verde and African people, for instance "Cabral 1924-1973," dedicated to the memory of Amilcar Cabral, the assassinated founder of the PAIGC.

The liberation movements in Portugal's African colonies were successful to such a degree that they brought about the collapse of the Portuguese government itself, the Carnation Revolution of April 25, 1974, and independence for the African countries. Abel Lima returned to Cape Verde in 1974 to participate in its renaissance, and here recorded "Corre Riba, Corre Baxo," a stinging denunciation of the exploitation of African exiles in Europe. Unfortunately, family and economic necessities forced him to return to France.


It was during Lima's second French sojourn that he hosted a radio program, "Prends l'Afrique et Tire-Toi," and recorded today's offering, a 1983 LP by the same name (Radio Rivage AL 07). The backup band, Voz di Povo, draws on the ample supply of African musicians in Paris, including Congo's Maïka Munan, Ballou Canta and others. The result is a unique blend of Cape Verdean sounds and soukous. Delightful!

Over the years Abel Lima made a living in the printing industry in France while recording a number of albums as an avocation. After retiring in 2003 he returned home to Curral Velho, where he passed away in October 2016.






Download Prends l'Afrique et Tire-Toi as a zipped file here.



Wednesday, September 19, 2018

A Couple of Rochereaus



Just about everyone in the United States who started collecting African music in the 1970s and '80s is familiar with the productions of Brooklyn's African Record Centre, with its labels Makossa, Star Musique and others. Back in those days it was pretty much the only source in the US for authentic African music, by which I mean the sort of stuff that's listened to in Africa itself. The ARC licensed many recordings by Fela Ransome-Kuti (later Fela Anikulapo-Kuti), then only known to a small but devoted coterie. It released a raft of funky Ghanaian guitar-highlife records, recordings by Franco and other "Zaïrean" artists, 12" benga records produced by Kenya's indomitable P.O. Kanindo, and an amazing series by the US-based Sierra Leonean group Muyei Power, some of which have been gathered into a retrospective by London's Soundway Records. 

These recordings would make their way through obscure distribution channels to record stores throughout the land, where perplexed clerks would stash them in the "International" bin along with records by Nana Mouskouri and Heino. "World Music™" had yet to be born!

By 1983 I had already been a fan of Fela's for a while, King Sunny Adé had made a splash, and in 1981 and '82 Mango Records had released two compilations of African music, Sound d'Afrique and Sound d'Afrique II: Soukous, both of which were revelations but especially the second, which showcased the music of the Democratic Republic of Congo, then called Zaïre. So, during a trip to New York City I had to make a pilgrimage to 1194 Nostrand Ave. in Brooklyn, this Mecca of African sounds.

I have to say the store was everything I'd hoped for, crammed to the gills with not only ARC's own productions but even more mysterious imports actually pressed in Africa! I wasn't exactly flush with cash at the time - I could only afford five LPs. I got a couple of Sunny Adé Nigerian pressings, and a French reissue of Fela's Coffin for Head of State. What would the fourth and fifth ones be? I liked the Zaïrean music I'd heard - could the clerk make a recommendation? It turned out Makossa had just released a number of recordings from that country, including the one the clerk handed over - Kele Bibi: Rochereau Vol. 8 (Disco Stock Makossa DM 5001, 1982), by an artist I'd never heard of - "Seigneur Tabu Ley."

I'll admit I looked at this record with some skepticism. Who was this middle-aged, rather paunchy fellow in a cheesy Elvis-style white jumpsuit and cape? But when the clerk put the record on the turntable I was sold! I got that one and a second record, Mpeve Ya Longo: Rochereau Vol. 7 (Disco Stock Makossa DM 5000, 1982), this one featuring Tabu Ley and a female singer, M'Bilia Bel:


According to Wikipedia, Pascal-Emmanuel Sinamoyi Tabu was born November 13, 1937 or 1940 in Bagata, in what was then the Belgian Congo. He came by his nickname "Rochereau" after correctly naming the French general Pierre Philippe Denfert-Rochereau in a quiz at school. In 1956 he joined African Jazz, the musical congregation of Joseph Athanase Tshamala Kabasele, or Le Grand Kallé, considered the father of modern Congolese music, and notched a number of hits with the group before leaving with Nicolas Kasanda wa Mikalay (known as Docteur Nico) in 1963 to form African Fiesta. This group split in turn in 1965, Rochereau forming African Fiesta National, renamed Afrisa International in 1970. Around this time he also took on the stage name "Tabu Ley" as part of President Mobutu Sese-Seko's Authenticité campaign.

During the '70s Afrisa International vied with Franco's TPOK Jazz and other groups to popularize Congolese music around the world, making it the most widespread and popular style across Africa. During this period Afrisa performed at the legendary Zaïre '74 concert, during FESTAC '77 in Lagos, and at the Olympia Theater in Paris.

It was Rochereau's lovely voice that made him a star, instantly recognizable on such classic tunes as "Afrika Mokili Mobimba" and many others, but it was his stage show and musical innovations that kept him on top for many years. Elvis, of course, was an inspiration, but so were James Brown and other American R&B stars. He even did a cover of the Beatles classic "Let it Be"

M'Bilia Bel (born Marie-Claire M'Bilia M'boyo in Kinshasa in 1959) got started as a singer and dancer with Abeti Masikini. Here she was spotted by Tabu Ley and invited to join his female backup group, the Rocherettes.She performed with them for a few years before making Mpeve Ya Longo with Ley, her recording debut. She was an immediate hit and soon cut a solo album, Eswi Yo Wapi (Genidia GEN 102, 1983), with more recordings, solo and with Tabu Ley, to follow. The pair were soon married, with Bel as the junior wife in Rochereau's polygamous marriage.

The two albums showcased here, Mpeve Ya Longo and Kele Bibi, come at an interesting inflection point in the careers of the two artists. The following year, 1983, would see the release of several recordings on Rochereau's Genidia label that catapulted the pair to international fame, with more to follow over the next few years. A compilation on the Shanachie label, Rochereau (43017, 1984) introduced them to US audiences. A few years ago Sterns Music released The Voice of Lightness Vol. 2 by Tabu Ley (STCD 3056-57, 2010) and Bel Canto by M'Bilia Bel (STCD 3037-38, 2007), which showcase the best music of the Genidia years.

The sound of Mpeve Ya Longo and Kele Bibi is subtly different from the Genidia recordings. I don't know if it's because of different recording engineers or what, but the mixes here are looser-sounding, less polished and push the vocals to the forefront while making way for some really inspired instrumental jams. Truly infectious!

After several years and one child together, the personal and professional partnership of Tabu Ley and M'Bilia Bel came to an acrimonius end in 1987, allegedly over disrespect shown by Bel to Tabu Ley's senior wife, Mimi Ley. Whatever the reason, Bel's career on her own, after a promising start with 1988's Phènomené (Mbilia Production MCB 001), has declined over the years, although she continues to record and tour.

Following Bel's departure, Rochereau hooked up with two new female singers, Faya Tess and her sister Beyou Ciel, and continued to record and tour internationally. After the fall of Presidnet Mobutu Sese-Seko in 1997 he took a cabinet position in the new government of Joseph Kabila and followed that up with several other positions over the years. He passed away on November 30, 2013 in Belgium and was buried in Kinshasa after an official mourning ceremony.

Here is Mpeve Ya Longo: Rochereau Vol. 7:





Download Mpeve Ya Longo as a zipped file here. And here is Kele Bibi: Rochereau Vol. 8, the record that made me fall in love with the great Tabu Ley:





Download Kele Bibi as a zipped file here. I have Vols. 5 and 6 of this series also, and I might post them in the future.While researching this post I came across this rare video, which reunites Rochereau with his old partner, Docteur Nico. I suspect this was recorded in the early '80s, shortly before Nico's death, but he's in stellar form! Turns out this was uploaded by Stefan Werdekker of the excellent WorldService blog. Thaks, Stefan!

Thursday, September 13, 2018

More Coastal Sounds From Kenya?



Here's an LP that my old friend Steve Kamuiru brought me from Kenya back in the early '90s. I have been unable to find out anything about Aziz Abdi Kilambo, but from his name and style of dress I would speculate that he is from the coastal area of Kenya. Somebody correct me if I'm wrong! Likewise Orchestra Benga Africa's sound has a more languid (coastal?) rumba feel to it. Talanta (Polydor POLP 615, 1991) is an enjoyable excursion indeed!

Aziz Abdi Kilambo & Orchestra Benga Africa - Talanta




Download Talanta as a zipped file here. Other recordings by Aziz Abdi Kilambo are available for streaming on Amazon, Spotify and other platforms.


Friday, September 7, 2018

Fifty Years of Xalam



About ten years ago I devoted a post to the Senegalese jazz/funk group Xalam, then celebrating their fortieth anniversary. It seems that Xalam is still around, and going strong! So next year will mark the fiftieth anniversary of this very influential combo.

Xalam has been a home for many Senegalese musicians who have gone on to acheive fame as solo artists and session musicians. Among these are founding members Seydina Insa WadeIdrissa Diop and Cheikh Tidiane Tall. As well, the group has opened for Western acts including Crosby, Still and Nash and Robert Plant. Xalam's percussionists were featured on the Rolling Stones' 1983 LP Undercover.

Here's a video of the group with the legendary Senegalese percussionist Doudou Ndiaye Rose:



And here for your listening pleasure is Xalam's 1993 cassette Samanka. Enjoy!







Download Samanka as a zipped file here.


Friday, August 24, 2018

Pat Thomas's False Lover



I posted four tracks from Pat Thomas's 1974 album False Lover (Gapophone GAPO 02) almost ten years ago. Recently a reader asked that I post the whole LP. Pat's been experiencing a career renaissance lately, and he's been a mainstay of Likembe, so I couldn't think of a good reason why not!

False Lover was Thomas's first solo LP after stints with the Broadway and Uhuru Dance Bands. As he states in the liner notes of the retrospective, Coming Home: Original Ghanaian Highlife & Afrobeat Classics 1964-1981 (Strut STRUT 147, 2016):

...I was planning to go to Europe but the Cocoa Marketing Board in Ghana got in touch and wanted me to form a new band. So, I went back to recording and writing music with Ebo [Taylor] and formed the Sweet Beans. The album featuring the band, False Lover, was my first album under my own name and it was very special for me. Reggae was "on" at that time and Jimmy Cliff was the top singer so I was trying reggae in his style on tracks like "Revolution" and "False Lover." I was open to all styles, though, and would always try whatever sounds were coming in. False Lover was a big album in Ghana ...
The first four tracks of False Lover are indeed reggae, but the rest of the album is straight-ahead danceband highlife, and very successful. Enjoy!

Pat Thomas & the Sweet Beans - Revolution

Pat Thomas & the Sweet Beans - False Lover


Pat Thomas & the Sweet Beans - Set Me Free







Pat Thomas & the Sweet Beans - Eye Wo Asɛm Ben

Download False Lover as a zipped file here.


Sunday, August 19, 2018

Between Man and Money



I've been posting some of the many Hausa cassettes from northern Nigeria in my collection with a bit of anxiety. It's not a genre I'm terribly familiar with - most of the documentation online is in Hausa. In terms of rhythm and orchestration, let's just say this music is not terribly ostentatious. Hausa music's attractions seem to lie in the quality of the lyrics, which I'm told can be poetic, legendary and amusing. But since I don't know Hausa or anyone who does, I can't tell you anything about them, other than what I can glean from the internet.

Still, Google Analytics and download statistics from Mediafire tell me that my Hausa postings have garnereed a fair amount of interest, so I'll keep putting them up here. Maybe someone reading this who knows Hausa can help fill in the blanks for us.

Today's featured artist, Alhaji Audu Wazirin Danduna (above), was one of the more popular Hausa bards. He passed away on July 6, 2013 after a long career marked by many beloved songs, including "Alhaji Abubakar Sarkin Karaye" ("Great King Abubakar") and "Dan Adam da Kudi" ("Between Man and Money"), both of which are included on our featured cassette, Harka Sai Da Kudi (EMI Nigeria HMV 032). The second song is the subject of a scholarly paper by Aminu Ali at Bayero University in Kano, "Money and Social Interaction in Simmel’s Philosophy of Money and Audu Wazirin Ɗanduna’s Ballad Tsakanin Ɗan'adam da Kuɗi," which you can download here. Ali writes:

...Wazirin Ɗanduna, in this ballad, Tsakanin Ɗan’ adam da Kuɗi, portrays his perception of the character of money in modern society. His skilful vignette of the character of money and analysis of how it transforms social relationships was similar to Simmel’s philosophy of money. He, like Simmel, sees money as a component of life that aids an understanding of the totality of life. He is of the view that reification, cynicism, a blasé attitude, and impersonal relationships and individualism characterized social life in a money economy. Wazirin Ɗanduna repeatedly narrates, in different stanzas, that money creates and expands social networks among individuals and its possession is inevitable for an individual’s continuous social existence. For instance, he sings:

Hausa:
Wazirin Ɗanduna: Yanzu ba ka mutane sai kana da kuɗi
’Y/Amshi: Tsakanin Ɗan’ adam da Kuɗi

English:
Wazirin Ɗanduna: People relate with you only if you have money
Chorus: Money and a man

Hausa:
Wazirin Ɗanduna: Yanzu duk wata harka sai kana da kuɗi
’Y/Amshi: Tsakanin Ɗan’ adam da Kuɗi

English:
Wazirin Ɗanduna: Every deal nowadays is traced to money
Chorus: Money and a man

In the two stanzas above, Wazirin Ɗanduna also expresses the tragedy of culture; people indispensably need money (the objective culture) in order to relate with others and be functioning members of society, which paves the way for self-reflection and development of self-consciousness (the subjective culture). This means that money has assumed a life of its own, exerting independent influence on the humans who created it.

The impersonal nature of money has also been stressed by Wazirin Ɗanduna. He, like Simmel, affirms that people are connected only by an interest that can be expressed in monetary terms. He also indicates in the stanzas following that money, rather than individuals’ personal qualities and social ties, shapes our everyday dealings with others. In other words, it depersonalizes relationships between individuals; it makes an individual’s personal attributes, other ties, etc. immaterial. For instance, when he says ‘no deals without money’ and ‘every deal nowadays is traced to money,' he underestimates the influence of blood and social ties or, more precisely, envisions them as withering away in modern time. Wazirin Ɗanduna says:

Yanzu ba wata harka sai kana da kuɗi
‘No deals without money’

Yanzu duk wata harka sai kana da kuɗi
‘Every deal nowadays is traced to money’

Akan so mummuna saboda kuɗi
‘Someone ugly is desired because of money’

Ka ga ana ƙin kyakkyawa saboda kuɗi
‘And someone beautiful is rejected because of money

Wazirin Ɗanduna was also interested in analyzing the reification that characterized a money economy. He identifies certain attributes that were hitherto non-monetary, but are nowadays treated as if they are concrete or material things. He specifically emphasizes respect, truth and love as abstract things that are tied to money in the stanzas quoted beneath:

Ko girma ma sai kana da kuɗi
‘Prestige is only tied to money’

Kuma akan yi rashin girma saboda kuɗi
‘And one falls from grace because of money’

Ana ɗaukar magana saboda kuɗi
‘Command is obeyed because of money’

Ana ƙin magana saboda kuɗi
‘And command is disobeyed because of money’

Ana raba ka da girma saboda da kuɗi
‘You can be snubbed without money’

Ҡaramin yaro saboda kuɗi
‘A boy with money’

Ana masa ban girma saboda kuɗi
‘Is respected because of money’

Ana take ƙarya saboda kuɗi
‘a lie is often covered-up because of money’

In the stanzas above, Wazirin Ɗanduna explicitly shows that respect and disrespect are associated with money. He also shows that lies can be covered up and treated as truths because of money. This means that respect and truth are treated as if they are commodities that have prices. To further illustrate this point, he narrates that:

Ko Alhaji ya zo sai ka na da kuɗi
‘Alhaji’s presence is recognized only if he is affluent’

Alhaji ko baya nan don saboda kuɗi
‘Alhaji’s absence is noticed because of money’

In the preceding stanzas, he shows that Alhaji’s (used in this context to refer to a head of a family) presence or absence is recognized even by the members of his family only because of money. This means one’s position in the family does not determine the respect accorded to him or his influence on other members of the family – what determines these things is his or her material position.

Wazirin Ɗanduna also shows that reification has resulted in a blasé attitude; people are unperturbed by certain virtues, they are rather concerned with excessive materialism. To stress this, he, like Simmel, uses marriage for material gain as an example. Wazirin Ɗanduna demonstrates that material consideration assumes more prominence in choosing a marriage partner than genuine personal affection, state of health, temperament, physical appearance, and other non-material virtues possessed by the chosen partner. Wazirin Ɗanduna explicitly shows this in the stanzas below:

Ana auren gurgu saboda kuɗi,
‘A paraplegic is often married because of money’

Ana ƙin mai kafa saboda kuɗi
‘And yet a healthy person is disliked because of money’

Ana son mummuna saboda kuɗi,
‘Someone ugly is desired because of money’

Ka ga ana ƙin kyakkyawa saboda kuɗi
‘And someone beautiful is also rejected because of money’.

The aforesaid stanzas indicate that physical deformities, ugliness and beauty are ignored or, to put it differently, are less important in selecting a partner. What is most important is the material status of the partner. This means money has made people develop a blasé attitude with respect to these virtues (beauty, truth, temperament, fitness, etc.)...
I hope Dr. Ali won't object to me posting this extensive extract from his paper. I think we're all interested in putting the music we listen to into context.

Alhaji Audu Wazirin Danduna -  Alhaji Abubakar Sarkin Karaye / Duniya / Ibrahim Tahir

Alhaji Audu Wazirin Danduna - Dan Adam da Kudi / Garba A.D.

I will continue to upload music like this if people are interested. Download Harka Sai da Kudi as a zipped file here.