Showing posts with label Congo. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Congo. Show all posts

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Tshala Muana: The Voice of Kasai



Acclaimed as one of Congo's greatest female singers, Tshala Muana over four decades in the business has emerged as the international ambassadress for Mutuashi, the insistent rhythm and dance style of Kasai Province in central Congo, very different from the mainstream soukous that is usually associated with the country.

She was born in Lubumbashi on March 13, 1958 and made her way to Kinshasa in 1976, where she joined M'Pongo Love's orchestra as a dancer. After recording two singles that didn't make a mark, she joined the group Minzoto Wella-Wella. It was in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, though, where she would make the acquaintance of the musician and arranger Jimmy Hyacinthe in 1981, that she finally made her breakthrough with her smash hit "Amina." Gary Stewart writes in Rumba on the River (Verso Book, London/New York, 2000):

With her straightened hair and evening gown, Tshala resembled one of the Supremes as she glided on stage at the cultural center of Abidjan’s Treichville neighborhood. She sang her songs and danced the mutuashi, a traditional dance of the Baluba from Zaire’s Kasai province. ‘Mutuashi,’she explained, was a Tshiluba word, a shout of encouragement for dancers that eventually became synonymous with the dance itself, and with Tshala Muana too. Subsequent appearances in Abidjan increased her nascent following. 
In 1982, financed by money borrowed from a friend, she flew to Paris with Hyacinthe’s band to cut a record. The A side, ‘Amina’ - a song given her by guitarist Souzy Kasseya, whom she’d met in M’Pongo Love’s band - packs a funky West African feel and lots of brass in support of Tshala’s tart commentary. 
Amina, shake my hand.
Even if you’re my opponent in this run-off.
I can’t hold it against you.
The world is like that, today it’s you, tomorrow it’s me.
Amina, I know what I think,
I’ve known a long time:
A man is like a hospital bed that takes in all the sick.
When you’re there it’s you,
When I’m there it’s me. 
Tshala sang ‘Amina’ in French to reach the widest possible audience, while the B side, ‘Tshebele,’ presented a more traditional piece with a percussion driven sebene in the mutuashi style and lyrics in Tshiluba. Back in Abidjan, the finished disc was reported to have sold more than 11,000 copies in Cote d’Ivoire alone.
Amina / Tshebele was licensed to Roland Francis's African Record Centre in Brooklyn (African Record Centre ARCS 3690) and released in the US to little notice, but nonetheless, Tshala was on her way to international fame:

Tshala Muana - Amina

Tshala Muana - Tshebele

Here's another US pressing from the early '80s (Disco Stock-Makossa DMGM 500, 1984):

Tshala Muana - Akouffa



Tshala Muana's outstanding 1984 release Mbanda Matiere (Safari Ambiance SAS 051) showcasing the stellar guitar work of Souzy Kasseya, is the one that really cemented her international reputation. Recorded in Paris, featuring soukous and mutuashi and lyrics in Lingala and Tshiluba, it established her in her home country as well. The collaboration with Souzy Kasseya is one that has continued on and off throughout Muana's career:






In the late '90s Tshala Muana returned to Congo from a long sojourn in Paris. She has continued her recording career, serving as a mentor to younger musicians who will carry the mutuashi torch. She's also gotten involved in politics and efforts to improve the status of women. 

Download Amina/Tshebele as a zipped file here.

Download Akouffa/Chokepansh as a zipped file here.

Download Mbanda Matiere as a zipped file here.

An informative article about Tshala Muana by Ken Braun from The Beat (Vol. 10, No. 5, 1991) here.


Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Jack of All Trades, Master of All



Footballer, guitarist and composer of many of the most memorable songs in Congolese music, Mayaula Mayoni (1946-2010) has often been overlooked. I posted one of his biggest solo hits, "Ba Chagrins", back in 2007.  The blog AfricOriginal ably summarized Mayaula's career in this post, which I reproduce here. Follow the link for pictures and further information about this well-respected musician. 
Born in Léopoldville (now Kinshasa) on the sixth of November 1946, Mayaula passes effortlessly through primary school. In 1962 he completed secondary education at the College of Kisantu. The young Mayaula appears to be a passionate and good football player. Between 1968 and 1971 he plays at a high level as a left winger in the first team of "AS Vita Club" in Kinshasa. In this period he is also selected for the national team of Zaïre.

When his father is stationed as a diplomat in Dar es Salam, Mayaula follows his father to Tanzania and plays some time with "Yanga Sports". Then he leaves for Charleroi in Belgium where he follows a course in data processing. In Belgium his talent is also noticed and he plays professional soccer with "Racing Club de Charleroi" and "Racing Club de Jette"in Brussels. He also plays for some time in Switzerland with "FC. Fribourg". In this period he gets acquainted with the guitar through a study friend. Also musically he shows himself a talented student and soon he joins the Congolese student orchestra "Africana" as rhythm guitarist.

When he returns to Kinshasa, Mayaula makes a career switch from professional soccer player to professional composer and musician. Back home he immediately draws the attention of his former football president and band leader Franco, who asks Mayaula to join his band and adds his song "Cherie Bonduwe" to the repertoire of his TPOK Jazz.

The melodic and thematically rich song receives much attention, not in the least because the National Censorship Commission prohibits the song. "Cherie Bondowe" presented the life of a prostitute from her point of view and is considered by the authorities as a defense of prostitution. The song was first released in Brussels, and rapidly found its way back to Kinshasa, despite the ban by the government.

Although Franco requested him to join TPOK Jazz, Mayaula Mayoni has never been an official band member of the TPOK Jazz. "He was something of an independent oddity in the music business" writes Gary Stewart in "Rumba on the River". "He prefered to compose his songs and then offer them to whichever artist he felt they fit. Many of his memorable efforts like 'Nabali Misère' and 'Momi' found their way to OK Jazz".

In 1977 it was female singer Mpongo Love who scored with Mayaula"s composition "Ndaya," a song that tells the story of a woman happy in her marriage and confident of keeping her husband, despite the overtures of other women.

Many people mistakenly think that Mayaula was not only a gifted guitarist and composer, but a good singer as well. Although he sometimes acted as background vocalist during recordings and live performances, he has never presented himself as a lead singer. Probably this misconception is caused by a picture on the cover of the album 'Veniuza', on which we find Mayaula behind the microphone.In 1981 Mayaula leaves Zaire together with some musicians from female singer Abeti's band Les Redoutables, to try his luck in West-Africa. In the period between 1981 and 1984 he records several solo LP's in Lomé (Togo) for the record label Disc-Oriënt'. In 1984 he returns to Zaire where he releases the album 'Fiona Fiona' in 1986. In the same year female singer Tshala Muana gains success with 'Nasi Nabali', a composition written by Mayaula Mayoni. He records his next album 'Mizélé' with the help of musicians of TPOK Jazz and singers Carlito Lassa and Malage de Lugendo.

In 1993 he hits the charts again with the album "L'Amour au Kilo". It then lasts until 2000, before he comes with a new album, "Bikini". Not long after the release of this album, Mayaula settles again in Dar es Salam, where he accepts a job at the diplomatic service. In the years that followed he began to suffer increasingly the consequences of hemiplegia, a disease that may result in loss of speech and paralysis of limbs. In 2005 he returns to his place of birth, Makadi. As his condition continues to deteriorate his family decides in cooperation with the authorities to bring Mayaula to Brussels for medical treatment. After a long illness of several month"s he dies in Brussels on May 26, 2010 at the age of 64 years. During his impressive career, Mayaula Mayoni was repeatedly voted "composer of the year" in Zaïre. In 1978 for the song "Bonduwe II", in 1979 for "Nabali misère" and in 1993 for the song "Ousmane Bakayoko".
I present here Mayaula Mayoni's album La Machine a Tube (Tabansi/Africa New Sound WNL 405), recorded during his Togolese sojourn in the early '80s:

Mayaula Mayoni - Veniuza

Mayaula Mayoni - Mokili Makambo

Mayaula Mayoni - Omari

Mayaula Mayoni - Sauce Ya Bolingo

Next I offer this late '80s LP Motors (Sukuma SUK 001), with Mayaula on Side 1 and guitarist/composer Dino Vangu on Side 2. I don't think this is a true collaboration between the two, but rather something that was stitched together by a record producer. Vangu is another often-overlooked figure on the Congolese scene. He got his start in Sam Mangwana's orchestra Festival des Maquisards in 1969 and then moved on to a number of other musical congregations, notably Tabu Ley Rochereau's Afrisa International. His guitar work with Afrisa is featured in several posts here at Likembe.

Mayaula Mayoni - Motors

Dino Vangu - Bondumba

Dino Vangu - Pumaza

Dino Vangu - Ngole

Download
La Machine a Tube as a zipped file here. Download Motors as a zipped file here. Both files contain scans of the front and back covers as well as the labels.


Saturday, August 31, 2019

"Live" at the Kilimanjaro



An often-overlooked item in the discography of Les Quatre Etoiles, 1988's Four Stars at the Kilimanjaro (Kilimanjaro International Productions KIP-006-88) purports to be a "live" recording at the Kilimanjaro Club in Washington, DC but is no such thing. While I'm sure Les Quatre Etoiles did perform at the Kilimanjaro, Side One of this LP is obviously a studio recording to which dubbed-in crowd noises have been added! This occasionally occurs in classic African recordings for inexplicable reasons. Sometimes, when the records are reissued, it has been possible to locate the original masters sans the additions. That's when we're lucky, but that usually isn't the case. Oh, well, at least Side Two of At the Kilimanjaro hasn't been defaced in this manner!

Les Quatre Etoiles (the Four Stars) are, of course, the Congolese super-group that was founded in the early '80s by Wuta MayiNyboma Muan'didoBopol Mansiamina and Syran Mbenza. They're still around and active! For whatever reason (probably visa-related) Nyboma does not appear here, and has been replaced by drummer Komba Bellow, a fine musician in his own right. That begs the question, though - without Nyboma, can this group really claim to be Les Quatre Etoiles? He's a pretty essential part of the ensemble, after all! Despite this, I think At the Kilimanjaro is an excellent recording, phony crowd noises and all. I hope you'll agree!

Les Quatre Etoiles - Kouame / Elena / Ayant Droit / Tuti / Zou Zou

Les Quatre Etoiles - Amerika

Les Quatre Etoiles - Djina

Les Quatre Etoiles - Dovi Dina

Download At the Kilimanjaro as a zipped file here. By the way, apparently when Syran Mbenza was in DC, he recorded another album, Africa: The Golden Years (African Music Gallery AMG 007), with some of the same musicians. I posted it many years ago here.


Friday, June 14, 2019

The Ladies of Missema, and Pamelo Mounk'a too!



The all-female Gabonese choral group Missema was founded in the 1970s, apparently with some official sponsorship, with the purpose of promoting Gabon's President and kleptocrat-for-life El Hadj Omar Bongo Ondimba and the ruling Parti Démocratique Gabonais. This is well-illustrated by today's musical offering, Omar Bongo 20 Ans (Missema Productions M 2005, 1986).

What makes this LP extra-interesting to me is the presence of Pamelo Mounk'a, an outstanding star of the '80s music scene in Congo-Brazzaville. Here Pamelo contributes not only his considerable vocal talents but his arranging skills and apparently many of the backing musicians. Omar Bongo 20 Ans is therefore a worthy and overlooked entry in Mounk'a's stellar discography.

Sadly Pamelo Mounk'a passed away, too young, on January 14, 1996. Omar Bongo managed to weather the political changes sweeping Africa in the early '90s, hanging on to power through hook or crook before dying of cancer on June 8, 2009. He was then succeeded in office by his son Ali Bongo.

Missema too have managed to hang on, at least until the last decade, and continue their praise-singing ways, as exemplified by this video:



Missema - Mbela Bongo


Pamelo Mounk'a w. Missema - Missema 10 Ans

Missema - Keli Bongo

Missema - Au Gabon la Vie est Belle

Missema - Josepha

Missema - Liboue la Bossi

Download Omar Bongo 20 Ans as a zipped file here.


Saturday, May 4, 2019

Kinshasa Acoustic: Ali & Tam's avec l'Orchestre Malo



Ali and Tam's together with Orchestre Malo wrap up our retrospective look at three interesting Congolese LP's released in the mid '80s by the Swiss label Plainisphare. Their contribution is Malo (Plainisphare ZONE Z-5, 1986), and it's arguably the most interesting and creative of them.

Aly Sow Baidy and Tamisimbi Mpungu were professors at the Institut National des Arts du Zaïre in Kinshasa and founded Orchestre Malo "...to revalue and to disseminate this authentic musical culture in the spirit of a broad openness to current movements of music." Toward this end they combined traditional Congolese instruments with modern ones "to give birth to new sounds while respecting traditional drives." In a review of the three Plainispare releases in Volume 6, issue 4 of The Beat from 1987, Elizabeth Sobo wrote:

...From the Switzerland-based Plainisphare label comes three novelty albums, all recorded in Kinshasa, Zaire, between July 1984 and October 1985, and none of which bears much resemblance to the well-known Kinshasa sound.  
Ironically, the first of these is titled Kinshasa, by Kawende et ses Copains. This production is not consistently great, but it does contain two selections that deserve praise. "Ekusulu" is gentle, guitar-dominated folk music, made special by a youthful-voiced female singer who delivers the Lingala lyrics in a manner quite unlike her classy, professional counterparts in Kinshasa, but who projects an innocence that makes her one solo appearance on this lp truly memorable. "Eh Ya Ele" is reminiscent of some recent material from the Zairean group, Somo Somo, differing from the standard Kinshasa sound both in language - it is done only partly in Lingala by a male lead singer - and in its generous use of percussions. The nine tracks on this album offer a variety of music not found on many other collections (though most have an emphasis on drumming and folk guitar in common) and a mix of languages from south-central and eastern Africa.  
While the Kawende disk at least presents a glimpse of some uncommon but authentic Central African music, Ali and Tam's Orchestre Malo on their self-titled lp can make no such claim. The group is apparently named for its two principals: Aly Sow Baidy (whose name strongly suggests a West African origin) and Tamisimbi Mpungu. The languages heard on the album are no help in categorizing this effort, and the music's rhythms, instruments and vocals are an odd combination that gives no hint of a dominant regional influence. Two tracks, "Tcheko" (you can hear a few words in both Lingala and Swahili here) and "Anita," include some nice horn playing. And the vocal on "Sougmad" is definitely intriguing — in fact quite likeable —but with a sound that is more like Khartoum than Kinshasa. "Tshikona," an instrumental cut, is a low point, a senseless and unsatisfying Fela imitation. This record has little to offer except its originality and even that runs thin at times... 
...If these recordings suggest a trend towards the promotion of music from places we seldom hear, it is a welcome change indeed. But they also demonstrate some of  the pitfalls of "mixed" music, which often ends up representing no particular region or style...
I must say I disagree with this assessment! Ms. Sobo's writings in the The Beat were often informative but just as often infused with an intolerance toward any sort of African music that didn't fit her dogmatic conception of what "African Music" was supposed to sound like. Heaven forbid that Congolese and West African musicians might want to record together, or make music that doesn't represent any "particular region or style!" In my opinion this disc by Orchestre Malo succeeds admirably. In the years since 1986, Congolese music, at least the stuff we've heard, has become hopelessly formulaic. One wishes that the example set by this disc had been taken to heart and emulated more.







Download Malo as a zipped file here


Monday, April 29, 2019

Kinshasa Acoustic: Orchestre Sim-Sim International



Here is the second of three "unorthodox" Congolese albums released by the Swiss label Plainisphare in the mid-'80s. Nsimba Vuvu was a former associate of Manu Dibango and assembled Orchestre Sim-Sim International from members of a number of bands then extant in Kinshasa. Apparently their only recording, Nasiwedi (Plainisphare ZONE Z-4, 1986) continues the casual ambiance of the first album in this series, Kinshasa!, by Kawende et ses Copains (Plainisphare ZONE Z-1, 1984), which I posted a few days ago. Apart from one electric guitar, Nasiwedi is also acoustic and refreshingly casual in its approach, almost like a recorded jam session.

Researching this blog I often have occasion to consult my collection of back issues of The Beat, an indespensible magazine that was published in the US from the early '80s to the early 2000s. Volume 6, Number 4 from 1987 contains a rather dismissive review of the Plainsphare series by Elizabeth Sobo, who did admit to enjoying Orchestre Sim-Sim's album:

By far the best of the three Plainisphare contributions is the one by Orchestre Sim-Sim. Its opening selection, "Nasiwedi," combines Congolese guitars reminiscent of the Le Peuple productions of years past, highlife-style horns, sharp percussion, a fascinating, catchy beat and two rather ordinary (but adequate) male voices. Perhaps the best track and the one closest to contemporary Kinshasa music is "Sekele," a captivating dance number sung in Lingala. "Kokiko," another welcome addition to the album, is slower, with an East African flavor and alternating male and female lead vocals. 
Sobo seems to have a rather dogmatic view of how "real" African music is supposed to sound. As I noted about Kinshasa!, these three recordings, while different from the Congolese music we usually hear, are undoubtedly authentic and probably representative of a whole stratum of sounds that is seldom recorded. In a few days I'll post the final entry in the Plainisphare series, an album by Ali & Tam's and Orchestre Malo.

Orchestre Sim-Sim International - Nasiwedi

Orchestre Sim-Sim International - Eh! Ya Ya







Download Nasiwedi as a zipped file here.


Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Kinshasa Acoustic: Kawende et ses Copains



Kinshasa!, by Kawende et ses Copains (Plainisphare ZONE Z1, 1984), was the first of three LPs released in the mid-'80s by the Swiss recold label Plainisphaire. These pressings, all recorded in Kinshasa, in the country then known as Zaïre and today as the Democratic Republic of Congo, are notable for sounding not really very much like what is generally perceived as Congolese music at all! This is no reflection on their authenticy, though. I'm sure they're quite typical of the sort of genuinely popular Congolese music that is never recorded, or recorded but not considered "commercially viable" outside of the country.

The sound here is loose and unpolished, probably recorded in one take. The musicians are not slick but all the more affecting for that. I don't know who Kawende and his group are as the liner notes give little information. I'm sure you'll enjoy this!

Kawende et ses Copains - Kinshasa!

Kawende et ses Copains - Tshura

Kawende et ses Copains - Sawande

Kawende et ses Copains - Ekulusu

Kawende et ses Copains - Mtoto Mpotevou

Kawende et ses Copains - Kabibi

Kawende et ses Copains - Eh Ya Ele

Kawende et ses Copains - Tshingoma

Kawende et ses Copains - Sosange Mosi

Download Kinshasa! as a zipped file here. I will soon be posting the other two albums in this series, Nasiwedi (Plainisphare ZONE Z-4, 1985), by Orchestre Sim-Sim International, and Malo (Plainisphaire ZONE Z-5, 1986), by Ali & Tam's avec l'Orchestre Malo.


Tuesday, March 5, 2019

I Love Bikutsi, but I Love Makossa Too!



The two major musical styles of Cameroun are bikutsi, centered around the capital city Yaoundé, and makossa, from the coastal metropolis Douala. I've really been getting into bikutsi lately, and posting some of it here, but I love me some makossa also!

Makossa arose in the early 20th century with the intersection of the rhythms of the local Douala people and foreign sounds brought in by merchant marines, and mutated into a modern dance style by the '60s. Notable for its distinctive beat, the sound got a big boost with the success of Camerounian musician Manu Dibango and his 1972 international hit, "Soul Makossa," which ironically, wasn't makossa at all! Jean-Victor Nkolo writes in the 1994 book World Music: The Rough Guide:

...the fact remains that, with the exception of his bold venture (this is not his territory, say purists) into bikutsi with ' 'Mouvement Ewondo" on his Seventies album, and maybe another exception, "Idiba" (composed by Francis Bebey), Dibango, who is primarily a jazz musician, has never been the cup of tea of Cameroon's DJs, nor popular in the drinking parlours, nor has he cut any kind of figure in the  clubs or on the dance floors.  
Cameroonians generally consider "Soul Makossa" to be a hybrid - funky music with lashings of brass and a relatively strange rhythm that's good for signature tunes and other uses abroad, but is rarely played at home - and certainly not makossa. Anyone who listens will have difficulty finding any makossa in Cameroon that has a beat even close to that of "Soul Makossa"- or vice versa! The only "makossa" thing about the hugely successful track is the name, and Cameroonians are always lost when they have to dance to it. But while not a single Dibango track has been a dance success in Cameroon, his career has followed a very different path abroad, where he has been a figure of real importance...
The '80s were the high tide of makossa, with a torrent of dance hits that swept Africa. Moni Bilé, Guy Lobé and Toto Guillaume are standouts of the period, but many more musicians made their mark. These slick, if somewhat formulaic productions, many from the stable of producer Alhaji Touré, were distinctive, often utilizing string sections to good effect, a rarity in African music. The good times couldn't last, though, and the '90s saw makossa somewhat eclipsed by the more rough-hewn bikutsi style.

Today's musical selection, the 1987 compilation LP Africa Oumba No. 1 (Blue Silver 8260), highlights music from an earlier makossa era - 1977 to be precise. The sound here is a little more relaxed but no less creative, and is downright addictive. All of the tunes here were originally released on 45s and LPs on the BBZ Productions label out of Paris.

Contributing the most to this compilation is bassist Jean-Karl Dikoto Mandengue, who cut a wide swath in the music scene of Cameroun and has been renowned internationally. He was born in Douala in 1948 and was a session musician in France by the '60s, joining the legendary London Afro-rock band Osibisa in 1973. His solo makossa recordings were mainly made in the '70s and early '80s, but lately he's made a comeback, and has long served as a mentor and inspiration to a younger generation of Camerounian musicians:

Jean Mandengue - Muna Munengue

A different version of "Muna Munengue" can be heard on this earlier Likembe post.

Ekambi Brillant was also born in 1948 near Douala, and in 1971 joined a local band called Les Cracks. Taking first place in a musical contest opened the way for his first single, "Djongele La N'Dolo." His first LP, Africa Oumba, was released in 1975, and he continued to record through the '80s.

Ekambi Brillant - Ngal'a Tanda

Abêti Masikini, who was not from Cameroun but from the Congo, was the subject of an earlier Likembe post.

Abêti - Bi Suivra Suivra

Jean Mandengue - Na Bolane Oa Nje

Ekambi Brillant - Ashiko Edingue

Jean Mandengue - O Danga Londo O Bia

Ekambi Brillant - Awolo

Abêti - Ngblimbo

Pierre "Didy" Tchakounté was born in 1950 in Douala, although his roots are farther north in the Bamileke country of Cameroun. Drawing on those influences he made a series of funky 45s in the '70s that were not really makossa per se but definitely established him as a force in the Camerounian music scene. In the '90s he became an officer in the French professional music associations SACEM and ADAMI. He continues to record and perform.

Pierre "Didy" Tchakounté - Meguela

Jean Mandengue - Mathilde

Ekambi Brillant - Nyambe

Jean Mandengue - Saturday Afternoon

Download Africa Oumba No. 1 as a zipped file here.


Friday, January 18, 2019

Sparkling Soukous



I love this album cover! I love the music on the album!

The group "Le Peuple" had its origins in a split from the legendary Bantous de la Capitale, the foremost musical congregation on the Brazzaville side of the Congo River. Fronted at first by the vocalists Célestin Kouka, Pamelo Mounk'a, and Kosmos Moutouari (or "Trio Ce.Pa.Kos."), the group, led by Célestin Kouka, soldiered on after Pamelo and Kosmos departed for solo careers. Le Peuple disbanded in 1985. This album, Bimbeni (Production Le Vaudou VAU 008), is from the post-Ce.Pa.Kos. period, sometime in the early '80s. Enjoy!





Download Bimbeni as a zipped file here.


Friday, January 11, 2019

Eclectic Diva



Elizabeth Finant, better known as Abeti Masikini, or just "Abeti," was a pioneer of the Congolese music scene - one of the first female singers there to really make an impact. She was born on November 9, 1954, in present-day Kisangani to a civil servant who, as a supporter of first Congolese President Patrice Lumumba, was murdered in 1961 during the unrest that followed Independence.

While Abeti sang in the Catholic Church as a child, and performed in clubs and competitions, her career received a jump-start in 1971 when she made the acquaintance of the Togolese producer Gérard Akueson. He became her life-companion and father of her children and produced all of her records. Her first release, 1973's Pierre Cardin Présente Abeti (Disques Pierre Cardin PC 93.501) was in the "contemporary" style popularized by singers like Miriam Makeba and Togo's Bella Bellow. Which is maybe not surprisng given that Akueson was also Bellow's producer.

A steady stream of releases followed, which placed Abeti at the pinnacle of the Kinshasa music scene, rivalled only by M'Pongo Love and M'Bilia Bel for the title of Congo's top female vocalist. Over the years she showed an eclectic willingness to wander outside the standard Congolese rumba/soukous paradigm, drawing on influences far and wide to forge her unique sound. An excellent example is the late-'80s recording Je Suis Faché (Bade Stars Music AM 033), which draws on techno and the zouk style out of the French Caribbean, which was then sweeping Africa and the world. This was probably her biggest hit ever and I'm happy to present it here by request.

Abeti died of cancer in France on September 28, 1994.

Abeti - Je Suis Faché

Abeti - Lolo

Abeti - Viens Mon Amour

Abeti - Piege Ya Bolingo

Download Je Suis Faché as a zipped file here.


Sunday, January 6, 2019

A Couple More Rochereaus



As promised in an earlier post, here are Volumes 5 and 6 of the series Rochereau Vols. 1-8, released by Disco Stock in Abidjan in 1982. The first four, Rochereau à Abidjan, did not get a lot of circulation outside of West Africa, but the last four were licensed by the African Record Centre in Brooklyn.

Congo's great Tabu Ley, nicknamed "Rochereau," is showcased to great effect in these wonderful albums. The no-frills production brings the voices to the fore while leaving plenty of room for the (uncredited!) backup musicians to display their chops. And some of the most-loved songs in Tabu Ley's repertoire - "On a Raconte," "Mazé" and "Sorozo" - are included.

On listening to these recordings, it struck me that the rhythm guitar ostinato on "On a Raconté," probably recorded in '81 or ''82, sounded awfully familiar. Compare it to 1985's "Haleluya" by Orchestra Simba Wanyika from Tanzania/Kenya. Was the later recording inspired by the first? Or is this a case of parallel evolution? The rhythm guitarist on "Haleluya" is probably George Peter Kinyonga, but who plays on "On a Raconté?" The liner notes give us no clue. Can someone out there enlighten us?

First up, here is Rochereau Vol. 5: Jalousie Mal Placée (Star Musique SMP 6005):

Tabu Ley Rochereau & l'Afrisa International - Jalousie Mal Placée

Tabu Ley Rochereau & l'Afrisa International - On a Raconté

Tabu Ley Rochereau & l'Afrisa International - Mela

Tabu Ley Rochereau & l'Afrisa International - Maika

Go here to download Jalousie Mal Placée as a zipped file.


And here is Rochereau Vol. 6: Mazé (Star Musique SMP 6006):

Tabu Ley Rochereau & l'Afrisa International - Mazé

Tabu Ley Rochereau & l'Afrisa International - M. Malonga

Tabu Ley Rochereau & l'Afrisa International - N'Gawali

Tabu Ley Rochereau & l'Afrisa International - Sorozo

Download Mazé as a zipped file here.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Bonne Année!



Happy New Year! Bonne Année! And here with us to celebrate the new year are Lokassa Ya M'Bongo, Sam Mangwana and the African All Stars with an LP appropriately entitled Bonne Année (Star Musique SMP 6039, 1983).

This album was recorded in Abidjan where the African All Stars were at the peak of their powers, creating a new iteration of Congolese rumba that would soon sweep the continent. All the gang is here - Lokassa on rhythm guitar, Dizzy Mandjeku on lead, Ringo Moya on percussion, ably fronted by the great Sam Mangwana on lead vocals, with Nayanka Bell and Chantal Taiba on backup.

Unfortunately, like a lot of these African Record Centre productions, the sound quality is not exactly ideal. I got it factory-sealed many years ago, but I suspect it was produced from a second- or third-generation master tape. I hope you'll enjoy it anyway. Bonne Année!

Lokassa Ya M'Bongo - Issa

Lokassa Ya M'Bongo - Dodo

Lokassa Ya M'Bongo - Bonne Année 

Download Bonne Anné as a zipped file here.


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.


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."


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!

Monday, April 30, 2018

Let's Dance Kibushi!



Orchestre Les Hi-Fives, originators of the popular Kibushi sound, were one of many Congolese dance bands who, fleeing political turmoil, made their way east to Tanzania and Kenya. They were founded as Bana Kibushi Batano by Vicky Numbi in Lubumbashi, Congo. In 1965 they moved to Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, and two years later to Mombasa to join the burgeoning Congolese exile music scene in Kenya. Here, like much of this cohort, they became as much a "Kenyan" group as a Congolese one.

Various problems, notably with residency permits, forced the band to break up some time in the late '70s or early '80s, and the members scattered to the four winds. Many years ago my friend Kenneth Chitika loaned me this album, Wanawachezea Mfululizo wa Kibushi (Philips PKLP 105, 1972), and I dubbed it to a 10" tape reel. Ten years ago I digitally ripped this in turn, and here it is! I got the sleeve and label art from Discogs, which was also the source for some of the information in this post.



Download Wanawachezea Mfululizo wa Kibushi as a zipped file here.