Saturday, August 31, 2019
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 Mayi, Nyboma Muan'dido, Bopol 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 For whatever reason (probably visa-related) Nyboma does not appear here, and has been replaced by drummer Komba Bellow, a fine musician in his own right.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.
Sunday, November 30, 2008
In the last twenty years or so there has emerged a trend in the African music scene toward "Greatest Hits" compilations rerecorded "Megamix" style in 15-20 minute continuous medleys. This tendency was kick-started around 1990 with the release of the Soukous Stars' smash CD, entitled, appropriately enough, Megamix Vol. 1 (Syllart 38779-2, below left). Not only is the Soukous Stars' success pegged on mixes like this, another group, Soukous Vibration, has arisen that specializes exclusively in this sort of thing, and there have been mix albums released from all over Africa: Madagascar, Mali, Nigeria, even Chad.
I'm a bit distressed at this fad (which, truth be told, has already faded considerably). One would like to see African musicians stretching themselves and developing new syntheses, not just rehashing the old glories. Still, in a way it's a good thing, because it brings the classic sounds to new generations.
Before Megamix Vol. 1, there was another great megamix-style album, probably the first of the genre. I'm talking about Syran Mbenza's Africa: The Golden Years (AMG 007), released sometime in the late '80s by the DC-based label African Music Gallery. Although it's arguably the best of all of the megamixes and probably directly inspired the trend, it's faded completely from sight.
Mbenza, a native of the Congo, is well-known to African music fans, having been a stalwart of the Kinshasa-, West African- and Paris-based African music scenes since 1968. He's been involved with numerous groups including Sam Mangwana's African All-Stars, Le Quatre Etoiles and the supergroup Kekele. Africa: The Golden Years is notable for its synthesis of classic Congolese rumba with West African highlife. I'm sure it had been done before, but probably not to such great effect.
Here's the album. For more information on the songs and the musicians, click on the picture at the bottom of this post:
Syran Mbenza - Adjoa-Sawale-Mbanda Kazaka
Syran Mbenza - Mabele Ya Paulo-Bottom Belly-Super Combo