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.