Saturday, October 27, 2018
Sunday, October 7, 2018
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...."
Monday, October 1, 2018
The School of Verckys
Wednesday, September 19, 2018
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.
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!
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.
Monday, April 30, 2018
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.
Monday, January 8, 2018
Thursday, November 30, 2017
There's not much to say about this one except it's a primo example of mid-'80s Congo rumba at its best. Enjoy!
L'Amiral Cheri-Gau & Les Officiers of African Music - Ce Combat de la Vie
L'Amiral Cheri-Gau & Les Officiers of African Music - Mth Amour
L'Amiral Cheri-Gau & Les Officiers of African Music - Tungu
L'Amiral Cheri-Gau & Les Officiers of African Music - La Musique est une Science
Download Conspiration as a zipped file here.
Thursday, November 9, 2017
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.
Friday, October 27, 2017
In the 1980s Bembo spent more time in Europe while Alida held down the fort in Kinshasa. His 1983 outing Conflit (EuroMusic 001000), recorded in Belgium with the uncredited "Musiciens Zaïrois de Bruxelles" and a bank of session players on electronics, is relatively restrained but still packs a punch. Check it out:
Lita Bembo - Conflit
Lita Bembo - Deese
Lita Bembo - Bonne Chance
Lita Bembo - Comprehension
Download Conflit as a zipped file, complete with album and label art, here.
Orchestre Stukas Caiman - Wangata
Biographical information in this post about Lita Bembo and Stukas was taken from the liner notes of the CD Kita Mata ABC (RetroAfric RETRO 18CD, 2005), an excellent career retrospective of the group. You can get it here.
Friday, October 20, 2017
I've been hesitating to post here the cover of Zazou Bikaye's 1985 LP Mr. Manager (Pow Wow WOW 7401). I don't know who the artist is or what his or her intention is, to be "ironic" or whatever. It just strikes me as being kinda racist! Anyway, I'm going to put it right here, and you can make up your own mind:
Click on the picture to enlarge. Whatever you think of the cover, I hope you'll agree with me that Mr. Manager is one of the more notable African releases of the '80s, one of the first truly "Afropean" albums and a mostly successful attempte to fuse Congolese tradition with European techno music.
Zazou Bikaye was a collaboration between French/Algerian composer and arranger Hector Zazou and Congolese vocalist Bony Bikaye. I haven't found out much about Bony Bikaye. Discogs lists two solo albums and an EP but that's pretty much it. Hector Zazou, however, who died in 2008, boasted quite a C.V., with Wikipedia listing 44 citations. He specialized in cross-cultural fusions and mash-ups long before "World Music" was a marketing gimmick, or even a thing. Zazou and Bikaye's first outing, with French synthesizer wizards CY1, was 1983's Noir et Blanc (Crammed Discs CRAM 025), and has been described as "Fela Kuti meets Kraftwerk on the dance floor" and a cult classic. It will be reissued in November, and is available for pre-order here.
I dunno. I got Noir et Blanc not too long after it first came out, and I like it, but it's always seemed a little cold and austere for my taste. Maybe it deserves more time than I've been willing to give it. Mr. Manager, on the other hand, strikes a better balance between digital and analog. Two tracks in particular, "Nostalgie" and "Angel," always got a good reception back when I aired them on my old public radio program, "African Beat" in Milwaukee. It's a great album and I hope you'll enjoy it too!
Zazou Bikaye - Mr. Manager
Zazou Bikaye - Nostalgie
Zazou Bikaye - Soki Akei
Zazou Bikaye - (Little) Angel
Zazou Bikaye - Angel
Zazou Bikaye - M'pasi ya M'pamba
Download Mr. Manager as a zipped file, with cover and label art, here. I hope I'm not stepping on any toes by sharing this here. An internet search doesn't turn up any current availability for Mr. Manager through any online stores or streaming services, but if any label or copyright holder objects, let me know through the comments and I will remove these files immediately.
Friday, October 13, 2017
Here's another classic from the last "Golden Age" of Congo music, the 1980s!
Wuta Mayi is best known as a member of two Congolese "super groups" - Les Quatre Étoiles, which launched in the early '80s, and Kékélé, from the early years of this century. However, he's had an illustrious career not only guesting on many others' recordings over the years but as a solo artist. He got his start with Jamel National in 1967 and the next year jumped over to Orchestre Bamboula, led by Papa Noël. He was invited to join le Tout Poussaint OK Jazz by Franco in 1974, where he stayed for eight years. The launching of Le Quatre Étoiles in 1982, uniting the talents of Mayi, Nyboma Muan'dido, Bopol Mansiamina and Syran Mbenza, supercharged the African music scene, taking it to new audiences around the world.
In between stints with Les Quatre Étoiles Wuta Mayi found time to record a number of solo albums including today's offering, Tout Mal Se Paie Ici Bas (Soweto Records 002, 1984).
An extra special bonus for this LP is the presence of Souzy Kasseya, whose brilliant guitar work enlivened many recording sessions from Kinshasa to Abidjan to Paris back in the '80s. Kasseya had a smash hit in France in 1983 with "Le Téléphone Sonne." Many years ago I posted another tune by him here on Likembe, which you can find here. Souzy's worth a post of his own in the future. In fact, I think I'll do that! In the meantime, enjoy this slice of sweet Congo soukous!
Wuta Mayi - Tout Mal Se Paie Ici Bas
Wuta Mayi - Elembo Na Mi Tema
Wuta Mayi - Batamboli Moto
Wuta Mayi - Maboko Pamba
Download Tout Mal Se Paie Ici Bas as a zipped file, complete with album and label art, here. Biographical information in this post courtesy of the liner notes of Rumba Congo (Sterns STCD 1093, 2001) by Kékélé, available here.
Friday, September 22, 2017
Congolese musician Pablo Lubadika Porthos began his career with several local assemblages in the 1970s, including Kin-Bantou, Lovy du Zaïre and Orchestre Kara before moving to France and becoming ubiquitous as a session musician during the heyday of the Paris-based Congo music scene of the '80s. He cut several fine solo albums as well, including today's offering, Ma Coco (Afrohit Discafrique DARL 019), from 1981.
Two tracks from Ma Coco were featured, in truncated form, on the influential compilations Sound d'Afrique (Mango MLPS 9697, 1981) and Sound d'Afrique II: Soukous (Mango MLPS 9754, 1982). Other recordings from Pablo are available for streaming from Apple Music and, I believe, other platforms. Enjoy!
Pablo Lubadika Porthos - Ma Coco
Pablo Lubadika Porthos - Mbongo Mokonzi
Pablo Lubadika Porthos - Madeleina
Pablo Lubadika Porthos - Bo Mbanda
Download Ma Coco as a zipped file, complete with album and label art, here.
Friday, June 29, 2012
Note: This post was updated and corrected on July 3, 2012.
The rambunctious saxophone stylings of Kiamwuangana Mateta "Verckys" are a hallmark of many of the 1960s recordings of Congo's great Orchestre OK Jazz. Bandleader Luambo Makiadi Franco is said to have much valued his improvisational style and invocations of American-style R&B, a counterpoint to the rest of the band's more sedate sound.Verckys attempted a mutiny in 1968 while Franco was away in Europe, enticing several of the band members to join him in forming a new orchestra. When Franco returned he was able to convince most of the defectors to come back, but Verckys, unrepentant, launched Orchestre Vévé in 1969. He later managed the careers of up-and-coming bands like Les Grands Maquisards, Bella-Bella, Lipua-Lipua and Empire Bakuba. There was a distinct Verckys sound or "school" exemplified by these groups, which was influential across Africa as I discuss in this post..
The 45s I offer here were borrowed from various friends and dubbed onto 10" tape reels back in the '80s. Several years ago I digitized them, along with a number of other recordings in my library. Unfortunately I didn't think to photocopy the labels, but I copied the recording information from them. These were all pressed in the mid-'70s in Kenya.
"Lukani" (Editions Vévé VV213), composed by Tusevo Nejos and released in 1975, elicits warm feelings of nostalgia across Africa, as typified by these comments on YouTube: ". . .:Brings back childhood memories growing up in eastern Nigeria then. Quite fun listening to my elder ones singing along as the music is being played on the popular IBS radio station. Oh Africa, home of good and undiluted music." ". . . Reminds me of the Kampala of the 1970's, when Idi Amin ruled supreme. Remember those bell-bottoms, eh?":
Orchestre Vévé - Lukani Pts 1 & 2
The LP Les Grands Succes de Editions Veve (Sonafric SAS 50039, 1977) features another version of "Engunduka" by Orchestre Engunduka. I'd give the edge, though, to Vévé's interpretation of Sax Matalanza's song (Editions Vévé VV-234-N), which starts out somewhat restrained but quickly succumbs to frenzied guitars and some truly insane sax work:
Orchestre Vévé Internationale - Engunduka Pts 1 & 2
According to Mboka Mosika, Orchestre Kiam was founded in 1974 by Muzola Ngunga. In appreciation for the band's sponsor Kiamwuangana Verckys, who provided its musical instruments, he proposed to name it "Kiam." Orchestre Kiam lacked the distinctive horn section of Vévé and had a radically different style. "Kamiki" (Editions Vévé VV218), which Ngunga composed, was a big hit in 1975. Here the stripped-down guitar sound, scattershot percussion and frantic vocals bring to mind the sound of Orchestre Stukas du Zaïre, a contemporary aggregation:
Orchestre Kiam - Kamiki Pts 1 & 2
The two Bella-Bella songs here, "Pambi Ndoni" (Bilanga Bl 001) and "Nene"(Editions FrancAfrique EFA 08), were both written by Soki Vangu around 1975 after the break with Verckys. The late '70s were the peak of Bella-Bella's influence, and the group waxed numerous classics including "Tika Ngai Mobali," "Houleux-Houleux" and "Zing Zong." In 1977 Soki Diazenza apparently suffered a nervous breakdown. It was all downhill for Bella-Bella from that point and by 1981 it had effectively disappeared.
Orchestre Bella-Bella - Pambi Ndoni Pts 1 & 2
Orchestre Bella-Bella - Nene Pts 1 & 2
As recounted above, Orchestre Lipua-Lipua was formed by the musicians who stayed with Editions Vévé after the departure of Bella-Bella in 1973. It too suffered its share of defections, notably that of Pepe Kallé, but soon recruited a number of talented musicians, notably rhythm guitarist Vata Mombassa, who became leader with the departure of Nyboma Mwan'dido and several others in 1975 to found Orchestre Les Kamalé. He is responsible for the next two tracks, "Bondo" (ASL ASL 7-2109) and "Lossa" (Editions Vévé VV198):
Orchestre Lipua-Lipua - Bondo Pts 1 & 2
Orchestre Lipua-Lipua - Lossa Pts 1 & 2
Lipua-Lipua winds things up with Tedia Wamu Mbakidi's scorcher "Temperature" (Editions Vévé VV 228N) from 1977. Nzaya Nzayadio's vocals and Santana Mongoley's lead guitar really make this one a standout. Lipua-Lipua would continue on for several years until sputtering out around 1984. Vata Mombassa pursued a solo career, ending up in Abidjan, Ivory Coast where he remains to this day.
Orchestre Lipua-Lipua - Temperature Pts 1 & 2
Download the songs in this post as a zipped file here. For more information on Verckys and his label Editions Vévé, see Alistair Johnston's discography here. The liner notes of Vintage Verckys (Retroafric RETRO 15CD, 2001) were very helpful in researching this post; in addition the blog Classic Ambiance: Franco and Pepe Kalle Flashback is highly recommended. African Rock: The Pop Music of a Continent by Chris Stapleton and Chris May (Obelisk/Dutton, 1990), Congo Colossus: The Life and Legacy of Franco & OK Jazz by Graeme Ewens (Buku Press, 1994) and Rumba on the River by Gary Stewart (Verso, 2004) are all excellent reference books. All of these may be purchased or downloaded by clicking on the links.
Sunday, June 17, 2012
A major force in the Zimbabwe music scene of the 1980s, the Real Sounds of Africa were in fact founded by a group of Congolese musicians in Zambia in 1975. Moving to Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia under the white-minority government of Ian Smith) in 1978, they became an immediate sensation, releasing their first LP, Harare (Zimbabwe ZML 1015), in 1984.
The foremost Congolese-origin band in Zimbabwe, the Real Sounds forged a unique blend of rumba music and indigenous sounds that they called rumbira. Success followed upon success, and in 1986 the group toured Europe, releasing two albums in the UK, Wende Zako (Cooking Vinyl COOK 004, 1987), and Seven Miles High (Big Records BIG 1, 1989).
I don't know what has become of the Real Sounds, but their music, especially their football songs, continues to be popular to this day. Enjoy Harare!
The Real Sounds - Kapinga
The Real Sounds - Ozweli Ngai Mbanda
The Real Sounds - Baninga
The Real Sounds - Harare
The Real Sounds - Chamunorwa
The Real Sounds - Dynamos Versus Caps (0-0)
Download Harare as a zipped file here.
Thursday, October 6, 2011
Congo music doesn't get much smoother and more elegant than Bumba Massa's 1982 outing L'Argent et la Femme (Star Musique SMP6017), recorded in Togo with the participation of Bopol Mansiamina, Syran Mbenza and Lokassa ya Mbongo, among others. When I posted Bumba's 1983 LP Dovi earlier this year, I promised this one would be coming your way also. Enjoy!
Bumba Massa - L'Argent et la Femme
Monday, May 30, 2011
Saturday, October 9, 2010
Saturday, September 18, 2010
Saturday, September 11, 2010
Some time ago I posted the Bobongo Stars album Makasi (Celluloid CEL 6627, 1983) over on Uchenna Ikonne's blog With Comb & Razor, and as it's since gone offline, I thought now was a propitious moment to make it available again.
The above photograph of the Bobongo Stars was taken by Chris Stapleton and appeared in his article "Kinshasa Diary: Zaïre," which was in the Summer 1986 issue of Africa Beat (London). Here are the songs from Makasi, and you can download them as a zipped file here:
Bobongo Stars - Mbati
Bobongo Stars - Joyce
Bobongo Stars - La Vie Ya Lelo
Bobongo Stars - Nazangi Yo
Bobongo Stars - Koteja
Bobongo Stars - Simba Moto
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Priscilla tells me that in the 1970s, when she was a girl in Awo-Omamma, Nigeria, the family used to sit around the short-wave radio almost every night to catch the broadcasts from Radio Brazzaville. I imagine the music they heard sounded an awful lot like the contents of Music from Zaire Vol. 6 (Soundpoint SOP 044, 1978), today's featured recording.
Congo music, of course, was huge in the 1970s all over Africa, and especially in Eastern Nigeria, where it sparked the development of a whole new genre of guitar-based highlife music exemplified by Oliver de Coque, the Oriental Brothers and their many imitators and camp-followers. The numerous Nigerian pressings of Congo music that were made in the '70s feature the musicians that influenced this trend, in the case of Music From Zaire Vol. 6 the artists in Kiamuangana Verckys' stable like Orchestres Kiam, Lipua-Lipua and Cavacha. The music echoes down through the years. I was amazed, on viewing a video of my father-in-law's funeral, made in 1998, to hear an Igbo-language version of Lipua-Lipua's "Nouvelle Generation" played by one of the local bands. No doubt you could hear the same thing in Yaoundé or the backwoods of Kenya - truly it's one of the most influential African songs of all time.
As much of this music is already available through many reissues and postings on the internet, I was hesitant to tack it up here. But recently both Worldservice and Global Groove posted Stars From Zaire Vol. 4 (Soundpoint SOP 042), another installment in the series. That got me to thinking: Is there something about these particular Nigerian pressings that makes them unique? I think so. For one thing, as Worldservice points out, there is a tendency to not include the slower "A" sides of the various recordings and go directly to the big payoff: the "sebene," the faster, more improvisatory second half. This structure is typical of Igbo guitar highlife recordings of the '70s and '80s as well. Just listen to Oliver de Coque or Kabaka and compare them to Music From Zaire Vol. 6 and see what I mean!
The picture of the Yoruba drummers on the back of the record is also interesting: