Showing posts with label Congo to East Africa. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Congo to East Africa. Show all posts

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, September 5, 2009

From Congo to Kenya Pt. 2



As a follow-up to my earlier post From Congo to Kenya Pt. 1, here are some melodies courtesy of the Congolese diaspora in East Africa. Like that post, this one is focused on the early 1980s. In 1985, President Daniel Arap Moi ordered the expulsion of foreign workers, including musicians, from Kenya, and the Congolese/Zairean musical community there scattered to the four winds.

For some time I had wondered who possessed the soulful voice that featured on so many 45s issued during the '80s in Kenya by such disparate groups as the Kenya Blue Stars and Bana Ngenge. Was it the same person? Along comes Alastair Johnston to clear up the puzzle in his article Congolese/Zaïrean Musicians in East Africa. Turns out the mystery voice is Moreno Batamba (nee Batamba Wenda Morris), who was born in Kisangani in 1955 and joined Orchestre Maquis Sasa in 1971. In 1974 he hooked up with Fataki Lokassa and a number of other Congolese exiles in Uganda to form Bana Ngnege, which seems to have undergone a number of permutations and name changes over the years. Although Alastair writes that Bana Ngenge broke up in 1976, a group called Bana Ngenge Stars Popote, featuring Fataki Lokassa, released this record in Kenya (Universal Sounds USD 005) in the early '80s. Moreno is relegated to supporting vocals:

Bana Ngenge Stars Popote - Dunia Imelaniwa Pts. 1 & 2

After serving stints with Orchestra Shika-Shika, Les Noirs (both featured in From Congo to Kenya Pt. 1) and Orchestre Virunga, Moreno started Moja One in Nairobi in 1980 and recorded "Dunia si Yako si Yangu" (CBS/ACP 702) around 1983:

Moreno & Moja One - Dunia si Yako si Yangu Pts. 1 & 2Finally Moreno shows up as part of the pop/disco trio the Kenya Blue Stars, along with Margaret Safari & Sheila (pictured at the top of this post), who recorded this infectious little ditty (CBS/ACP 1201) in 1984:

Kenya Blue Stars - Shufa Pts. 1 & 2

Along with Jimmy Monimambo and Frantal Tabu (about whom more below), one of Moreno's colleagues in Shika-Shika was Lovy Mokolo Longomba, whose high-pitched voice was a perfect counterpoint to Moreno's. His father was Vicky Longomba, a founding member of OK Jazz, and his brother Awilo Longomba, is one of the biggest stars of contemporary Congo music. Lovy moved from Kinshasa to Nairobi in 1978 and joined Les Kinois, a predecessor of Orchestra Virunga. His sojourn there lasted only three months, after which he left for stints with Boma Liwanza and Super Mazembe. While a part of Orchestra Shika-Shika, he also helmed his own band, which recorded under the names Orchestre Super Lovy and Bana Likasi. Sadly, Lovy Longomba died in an auto accident in Tanzania in 1996. Here he is on Editions Lovy 01:

Orchestre Super Lovy - Elee Pts. 1 & 2

Frantal Tabu (picture below), like Moreno Batamba, hails from Kisangani, and also played a role in Orchestra Shika-Shika, as well as Boma Liwanza and other bands. He formed Orchestra Vundumuna in 1984, which also featured Ugandan Sammy Kasule on vocals. Here is a recording Frantal Tabu made with Orchestre Malekesa du Zaire on the Editions du Hudson label (EDH 01):

Frantal Tabu & Orchestre Malekesa du Zaire - Asali Pts. 1 & 2




Finally, here are a couple of sides in the style made famous by Verckys & Orchestre Veve, from a group I know nothing about. I don't know for sure that Python Mas's group Zaire Success was based in East Africa, although the name gives a clue (groups that were actually based in Congo/Zaire didn't usually include "Zaire" in the name), and this 45 (sides A & B of Africa AFR 7-36) was pressed in Kenya:

Python Mas & Orchestre Zaire Success - Sofia Motema

Python Mas & Orchestre Zaire Success - Mado

For more about these artists and many more I refer you once again to Alastair Johnston's essential article
Congolese/Zaïrean Musicians in East Africa.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

From Congo to Kenya Pt. 1



Have you seen Alastair Johnston's website Muzikifan? It's a must-go-to destination for anyone who's interested in African music or World Music™ in general. Alastair recently published A Discography of Docteur Nico (Poltroon Press, 2009), which is an outgrowth of the site. I haven't seen it yet, but it's an obvious labor of love, and a must-have for any African music fan. You can get it through the site. As of yet there doesn't seem to be any distribution through Amazon or Sterns, but hopefully there soon will be.

But that's not what this post is about. Some time ago, Alistair began a comprehensive study/discography of Congolese/Zaïrean musicians in East Africa, which over the years has grown into an impressive body of work. It turns out I have a fair number of tracks by some of these musicians, so I thought it would be worthwhile to give them a spin.

Political and economic turmoil sent Congolese/Zaïrean musicians east to Tanzania and Kenya beginning in the '60s, and the '70s through the mid '80s were the "Golden Age" of expatriate musicians in East Africa (in 1985 President Daniel Arap Moi of Kenya ordered the expulsion of foreign workers, including musicians). The well-known Samba Mapangala of Malako Disco fame is part of this generation, as are Mose "Fan Fan" Se Sengo and Remmy Ongala.

Probably the most influential of these artists was Baba Gaston (1936-1997), whose picture is at the top of this post, and who ended up in Dar-es-Salaam
with his Orchestre Baba Nationale in 1971, moving to Nairobi four years later. Gaston's various orchestras comprised a veritable university of East African music owing to the numerous musicians who passed through before going on to join or establish other outfits, among them Les Mangalepa.

Here are some 45s from Gaston's career in East Africa. I suspect the first two tracks (from ASL ASL 7-1520) are from 1973 or thereabout, while "Kalai" (Yahoos YS 001) is probably from the early '80s:

Baba Nationale - Zala Reconnassant Fa Fan

Baba Nationale - F.C. Lupopo Bana Ya Tembe

Baba Gaston & Orchestre Tchondo National - Kalai Pts 1 & 2

You can download Baba Gaston's wonderful LP Condition Bi-Msum (ASL ASL 971) from Worldservice here.

Jimmy Monimambo, who features in "Amba," was one of three outstanding vocalists in Orchestra Shika-Shika, the others being Moreno Batamba and Vicky "Lovy" Longomba, who will be discussed in a future post. "Amba" (Daraja DJ 005) was one of the group's major hits:

Jimmy Monimambo & Orchestra Shika-Shika - Amba

"Shauri Yako" is a song that is well-known to many Likembe reader/listeners thanks to the version by Orchestre Super Mazembe, but it was written by Nguashi Ntimbo, a veteran of Baba Nationale for many years before starting his Orchestre Festivale du Zaire and later working for Franco's TPOK Jazz. In addition to Super Mazembe, "Shauri Yako" was recorded by Ugandan singer Sammy Kasule and Mbilia Bel, but Festival du Zaire's version (ASL ASL 3393) is arguably the best. You may have heard this one before as it's been on a couple of other blogs, but another go-round won't hurt you:

Orchestre Festival du Zaïre - Shauri Yako

"Madya" (ASL ASL 7-3351) was apparently recorded a year or two before "Shauri Yako":

Orchestre Festival du Zaïre - Madya


It's interesting how, once Congo musicians moved to East Africa, their sound opened up and became more rhythmically free and experimental. To get what I'm talking about, listen to the guitar and horn work in the next two tracks (ASL ASL 7-1145) by Les Noirs/City Five. Alastair doesn't say much about the origins of Les Noirs, but they seem to have been one of those groups that everyone was a member of at one point or another:

Les Noirs/City Five - Mungo Iko Helena

Les Noirs/City Five - Lwaki Oyomba Awatali Nsoka
Alastair Johnston's article "Congolese Bands in East Africa" was of inestimable help in preparing this post, and should be consulted for more information about these artists. I'll be discussing more Congo musicians in East Africa in a future post.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Some Seldom-Heard Tracks by Remmy Ongala




Swahili music was terra incognita to me until one day in the summer of 1984. I was visiting Edmund Ogutu, a Kenyan friend of mine. He'd brought out a stack of East African 45's and was playing them for me. I certainly enjoyed the sounds of the Kilimambogo Brothers and DO7 Shirati Jazz, similar in some ways to other African music I was familiar with, yet refreshing in their rustic straightforwardness. Then Edmund brought out a red-label Polydor 45. The song was "Mariamu" and it was by a Tanzanian group called Super Matimila. From the first bars I was completely transported. Here was something that clearly shared the DNA of Congo music but had mutated in various subtle ways. Obviously the fact that it was in Swahili rather than Lingala was one point of difference, but what really struck me was the singer, who had a jazzy, improvisational vocal style that was cool and warm, friendly and reserved at the same time. Looking at the record label I discovered that this person was named Remmy Ongala. Edmund couldn't tell me anything about him.

That's where things stood for a couple of years, until I read an article by Ron Sakolsky in Sound Choice, a long-forgotten music magazine. Ron had lived in Tanzania and, having been similarly transformed by the music of Remmy Ongala, wanted to tell the great man's story. It turned out that Remmy was originally from Kindu, in the Congo. He began his musical career in that country (soon renamed Zaïre), and migrated to Uganda, ending up in Dar-Es-Salaam, Tanzania in 1978, where he joined Orchestra Makassy, a band led by his uncle. Three years later he departed to join Super Matimila and soon became its leader.

I got in touch with Ron and he sent me dubs of more records by Remmy Ongala, wonderful songs like "Ndumila Kuwili" and "Mnyonge Hana Haki." Finally in 1988, WOMAD Records in Britain released a full-length anthology of Remmy Ongala's East African recordings, Nalilia Mwana (
Womad WOMAD 010).
Remmy and Orchestra Super Matimila performed at the WOMAD Festival that year and in 1989 recorded their first "professional" album, Songs for the Poor Man (
Realworld CDRW6), followed in 1992 by Mambo (Realworld CDRW22). Both of these albums are fine, but to my mind the intimacy and immediacy, the soul of the Tanzanian recordings has been lost in the transition to a "professional," "modern" recording studio. Nalilia Mwana, which was never issued on CD, has long been out of print, and as far as I know there are no plans to reissue it, although an edited version of the title track appeared on 1995's Sema (Womad Select WSCD002).

It pains me that the general public is unfamiliar with the true, authentic sounds of Remmy Ongala and Orchestra Super Matimila, the music that is known and loved by millions of people in East Africa. To rectify this injustice I present several tracks from Nalilia Mwana and from another album that was issued only in East Africa, 1988's On Stage With Remmy Ongala (Ahadi AHDLP 6007). The song descriptions are from the liner notes:

"Nalilia Mwana" (I Cry for a Child) is the lament of a woman who cannot give birth: "Mola, I cry to you, Mola, I beseetch you, what did I do to deserve this misfortune. A child isn't something that you can buy... To the mother a child never grows up. Even if it were lame, or ugly like Remmy, it would still be a child."

Remmy Ongala & Orchestra Super Matimila - Nalilia Mwana

Our next selection is also from Nalilia Mwana. "Sika Ya Kufa" (The Day I Die) tells the sad tale of a man who is dying: "Beauty is finished, youth is finished, intelligence has left. But the house I built remains and my children are crying. A corpse has no companions - all my friends run away from me. Whereas we used to eat and drink together. Now they are frightened of me. Now I am like the devil."
Remmy Ongala & Orchestra Super Matimila - Sika Ya Kufa

"Ndumila Kuwili," (Don't Speak With Two Mouths), our last from Nalilia Mwana, deals with that age-old problem, jealousy: "We used to be friends. We lived together like brothers. But I am surprised, brother - don't speak with two mouths. Playing off one person against another. Jealousy and discord are not the right way.""

Remmy Ongala & Orchestra Super Matimila - Ndumila Kuwili

"Kifo" (Death) was my favorite song on Songs for the Poor Man, so when I received a copy of On Stage with Remmy Ongala, which includes the original, I was curious to hear how the two versions compared. This is a case where, in my opinion, the "remake" is an improvement on the original, which is a mighty fine tune already. The lyrics: "Death, you took my wife. My child cries every day. 'Father, where is my mother?' But I can't find the words. The tears just fall down my face. Because of you, Death."

Remmy Ongala & Orchestra Super Matimila - Kifo

A remake of "Narudi Nyumbabi," from On Stage with Remmy Ongala, was featured on Mambo under the title "I Want to Go Home," and here the original is clearly superior. There's just something about the "low-tech" nature of the recording, and the Swahili lyrics, that just expresses the poignancy of the lyrics so much better: "I want to go home. I need to go back home. The place that is our home. Good or bad still home."

Remmy Ongala & Orchestra Super Matimila - Narudi Nyumbani

A couple of years ago I convinced Doug Paterson of the East African Music Page to compile a discography of Remmy Ongala's many recordings for the East African market. If you'd like more information on these, you are encouraged to consult it here.


Update: Thanks to reader Daan42, who passes on a link to an article about Remmy Ongala's current activities here.