Showing posts with label Lingala. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Lingala. Show all posts

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.


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.

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.


Monday, January 8, 2018

Le Phenomenal Souzy Kasseya



I've written in this space several times of my admiration for Souzy Kasseya, the brilliant Congolese session guitarist who scored something of a crossover hit in France in 1983 with his single "Le Téléphone Sonne." Jumping across the English Channel in '84, it was released at a 12" single by Earthworks (DIG 12" 004), which was how many of us first heard it. I wasn't aware at the time, though, that "Le Téléphone Sonne" originally appeared on an LP, Le Retour de l'As (Eska Production SK 001, 1983), a product of Richard Dick's prolific Afro-Rythmes machine, and that this was a different, and arguably better version:


Anyway, here is the single version, along with the B side, "Ulta Ntima Tony." Decide for yourself:



Download the single as a zipped file here. Following the success of "Le Téléphone Sonne," Earthworks licensed the LP Le Phenomenal (Eska International SK 84003, 1984) for release in the UK (as The Phenomenal, ELP 2008, 1985):



Download The Phenomenal as a zipped file here. Those who can't get enough of this great muscian are invited to browse the Likembe archives here. A compilation I did, African Divas Vol. 1, also features two tracks by Souzy with Tina Dakoury from Ivory Coast and Tshala Muana from the Congo. Le Retour de l'As is available as a download from Global Grooves here.


Thursday, November 30, 2017

Conspiration



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

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


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

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

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

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

Download Conspiration as a zipped file here.


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.


Friday, October 27, 2017

Conflict!



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

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



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

Lita Bembo - Conflit

Lita Bembo - Deese

Lita Bembo - Bonne Chance

Lita Bembo - Comprehension

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

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

Orchestre Stukas Caiman - Wangata

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

Friday, October 20, 2017

Afropea Rising



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

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

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

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

Zazou Bikaye - Mr. Manager

Zazou Bikaye - Nostalgie

Zazou Bikaye - Soki Akei

Zazou Bikaye - (Little) Angel

Zazou Bikaye - Angel

Zazou Bikaye - M'pasi ya M'pamba

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

Friday, October 13, 2017

Une Étoile Brillante



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

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

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

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

Wuta Mayi - Tout Mal Se Paie Ici Bas

Wuta Mayi - Elembo Na Mi Tema

Wuta Mayi - Batamboli Moto

Wuta Mayi - Maboko Pamba

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

Friday, September 22, 2017

Pablo! Pablo! Pablo!



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

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

Pablo Lubadika Porthos -  Ma Coco

Pablo Lubadika Porthos - Mbongo Mokonzi

Pablo Lubadika Porthos - Madeleina

Pablo Lubadika Porthos - Bo Mbanda

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

Friday, June 29, 2012

The School of Verckys




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..

By the early 1980s Verckys had established himself as an emperor of the Zaïrean music scene to rival Franco himself, with his own recording studio, record label, nightclub, pressing facility and a stable of the hottest bands in Kinshasa, including various Zaïko Langa-Langa offshoots and Victoria Eleison.

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

Orchestre Bella-Bella was founded in 1969 by the Soki brothers, Emilie Diazenza and Maxime Vangu. When they hooked up with Verckys and his label Editions Vévé this caused a fair amount of disagreement within the band, leading to the departure of a number of members in 1972. The result, though, was the accession to Bella-Bella of several musicians who were to become leading lights of the Kinshasa music scene, including Malembu Tshibau, Shaba Kahamba, Pepe Kalle and Nyboma Mwan'dido. Dissension continued, however, and Emile left to form his own short-lived group, Bella Mambo, only to rejoin a few months later. By 1973, feeling ripped off, the brothers left Editions Vévé, taking the Bella-Bella name but leaving behind their musical instruments, which were owned by Verckys, and a number of musicians including Pepe Kalle and Nyboma, who became the foundation for a new band, Orchestre Lipua-Lipua.

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

Real Rumbira Sounds



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.