Please join me in welcoming to the Blogosphere our good friend Fabian Altahona Romero of Barranquilla, Colombia. His new Africolombia blog promises plenty of wall-scorchers, not only from Colombia but from Nigeria, Congo and points farther afield. Since starting the blog on January 2o, Fabian has posted: Ernesto Djedje, a cumbia remake of Fela's "Shakara" by Colombia's Pedro Beltran, a number of other killer Colombian 45s (I haven't had time to download them all yet), Nigeria's Imo Brothers, Bopol Mansiamina, and much, much more!
I check the Google Analytics statistics for Likembe every morning, and I'm amazed at the number of hits that come from Colombia, most from the Cartagena-Barranquilla area. There are some serious African music fans around those parts! If you enjoy Champeta and the other African-inflected sounds of Colombia's Caribbean coast as much as I do, and are interested in further explorations, you could do a lot worse than to check Fabian's blog out.
Saturday, January 26, 2008
Monday, January 21, 2008
In Ronnie Graham's Stern's Guide to Contemporary African Music (Zwan Publications, 1988, published in the U.S. as The Da Capo Guide to African Music), there is an intriguing reference to something called "Igbo Blues," which he defines as ". . . basically a percussion arrangement supported by vocals and lacking even guitars. . ."
What Ronnie calls "Igbo Blues" would probably be more properly labeled Igbo Traditional or Igbo Roots Music, and this is an extremely popular and variegated genre in the Nigerian music industry, encompassing myriad styles and artists. I've never actually seen a recording labeled "Igbo Blues," although the appellations "Igbo Native Blues" or "Igbo Native Music" are sometimes used. Below are two record labels featuring the former term, the first from Ogbogu Okoriji & his Anioma Brothers, a percussion and vocal ensemble from Delta State, the second by the fifty-member women's dance and vocal group group of the Nnewi Improvement Union (Lagos Branch). I've also seen "Igbo Native Blues" applied to solo pieces for ubo (Igbo thumb-piano) and voice, and also to straightforward Igbo guitar highlife, so who's to say what it really means?
As an example of an "Igbo Blues" artist, Ronnie cites the musician Morocco Maduka. Morocco's recent recordings feature the sort of stale arrangements, cheap synthesizers and ticky-tacky drum machines that currently blight the Igbo music scene. An artist with a similar, but superior, sound is Chief Akunwata Ozoemena Nsugbe (right), who places more emphasis on the traditional Igbo percussion line-up of drums and bells. Here's a track from his cassette Ifunanya (Olumo Records ORPS 1034). "Chief John Nnebeolisa" is the sort of obsequious praise song that is rife in Nigerian music. The honoree is lauded for his great success in life, his charitable works, and his tendency to give away cars as gifts. Mr. Nsugbe asks the great Chief if he could get a gift also:
Chief Akunwata Ozoemena Nsugbe & his Oliokata Singing Party - Chief John Nnebeolisa
Another popular version of Igbo traditional music is performed by amateur and semi-professional percussion and dance troupes. Around Christmastime or during village celebrations, such as the Iri Ji, or New Yam festival, these groups are ubiquitous in Ala Igbo, traveling from house to house and compound to compound to perform for money. During my first visit to Nigeria in December 1994 I made a number of videos of groups such as these, which I really should post on YouTube some day. From the cassette Chukwunna Njieme Onu (EMI Nigeria NEMI 0692), here is a tune by the Ifediora Mma Egedege Cultural Dance Group of Uga, which is a noteworthy examplar of this style.
Here the full panoply of Igbo traditional instruments is displayed to great effect. The amiri (reed flute) leads off, to be joined in succession by the ekwe (wooden slit drum), ogene (two-headed bell) and oyo (rattle). The title, "Chukwunna Njieme Onu," means "My God that I Brag About." Lead singer Ann Ezeh addresses God in a very personal way: "God, please bless us, God that we rejoice in, God give us your grace, God that is all-good, God in heaven ('Olisa din'igwe') make our way easier."
Ifediora Mma Egedege Cultural Dance Group of Uga - Chukwunna Njieme Onu
One of the outstanding Nigerian releases of the 1980s was Anti-Concord/Apama (Nigerphone NXLP 011, 1988) by Ibealaoke Chukwukeziri & his Anaedonu (right). Side 1 featured sparkling guitar highlife, while side 2 was devoted to some great Igbo cultural roots music, including this song, "Apama," or "carry me," which addresses the burning issue of Igbo women not being as tall as they used to be! You can see a video of it here.
Ibealaoke Chukwukeziri & his Anaedonu - Apama
Finally, any discussion of Igbo roots music would be incomplete without an example of women's choral music. There are literally thousands and thousands of Igbo female singing groups throughout Nigeria, and many have made recordings. One of the more popular ensembles in the '80s was the Okwuamara Women's Dance Group of Umuoforolo, Nkwerre in Imo State. "Nkwerre Imenyi Anyi Abiala" is from their LP Okwuamara '88 (SIL 001), and serves as an introduction to the group: "Nkwerre Imenyi [the group's home village], we have come, the beautiful ones have come." The chorus then replies "yes, we have come." Greetings are then given to the people of Nigeria, of Imo State, etc., etc.
Okwuamara Women's Dance Group of Umuoforolo, Nkwerre - Nkwerre Imenyi Anyi Abiala
Thanks once again to my wife, Priscilla, for interpreting the lyrics. Please let me know if you've enjoyed these tracks. I have tons of music like this, and I'd love to make it better known.
I like to give "shout-outs" to other African music sites whenever I can, and it occurred to me yesterday that I've never mentioned Matt Yanchyshin's excellent blog Ben Loxo du Taccu. This was the first serious African music blog, and it's been the inspiration for many others. If you're reading this, you've probably seen Ben Loxo already. If you haven't, though, do yourself a favor and drop by now. It's an excellent way to find out about and sample the latest sounds out of Africa. It's "Eritrea Week" at Ben Loxo right now, and Matt's got a platterful of musical treats from that country for your listening enjoyment.
I'm indebted to Matt in a number of ways. Not only did he directly inspire this blog, he personally advised me on some of the technical issues involved, and has been generous in his praise and encouragement ever since.
Friday, January 11, 2008
Here's another long-lost cassette from the "Derg years" in Ethiopia. Bati (Ambassel Music Shop, ca. the early '80s), by Rahel Yohannes & Shambel Belayneh, was apparently quite popular in its day, and perfectly illustrates the confluence of the ancient and modern that is so typical of contemporary Ethiopian music.
Rahel Yohannes (right) began her career not as a singer but as an entrepreneur. In Addis Ababa she managed a restaurant and often entertained the customers with impromptu a capella vocal performances. This led to her introduction to the late Ketema Mekonnen, a singer and player of traditional musical instruments. A professional career, and ten albums, soon followed. To this day she is both a performer and a restaurateur, entertaining audiences at her Fasika Restaurant & Nightclub in Addis.
Shambel Belayneh (left) is a master of the Masinko, the traditional one-string Ethiopian violin. He has performed with the greats of Ethiopian music, including Aster Aweke, Mahmoud Ahmed and the Roha Band, among many others. He currently lives in the United States.
Rahel Yohannes and Shambel Belayneh both have CDs available from AIT Records.
As I discussed in my last post on Ethiopian music, music distribution in Ethiopia during the '80s was a "do-it-yourself" affair, cassettes being duplicated one-by-one by various music shops. Bati is no exception, and it shows in the recording quality. The musical quality is another matter. I'm sure you'll agree with me that this is an outstanding work of art.
Our opening tune, "Bati," is one of the standards of the Ethiopian repertoire, and has been recorded by innumerable artists. An exceptional version opened 2001's Éthiopiques 15: Jump to Addis (Buda Musique 82264-2). From the liner notes of that disc I got these lyrics:
Like the road to Bati, deep in the gorge,Unfortunately I have no idea what the other songs on Bati are about. If anyone out there knows Amharic, I'm sure we'd all like to know.
I wonder if your love will last,
He ate a fruit in Dèssié and went crazy,
He saw a beauty in Kombolcha and went crazy,
I want to leave him before he gets what he deserves.
Rahel Yohannes & Shambel Belayneh - Bati (Bähäbrät)
Rahel Yohannes & Shambel Belayneh - Änta Aynama
Rahel Yohannes & Shambel Belayneh - Endenäu (Bähäbrät)
Rahel Yohannes & Shambel Belayneh - Leqerbwe Leraqwe
Rahel Yohannes & Shambel Belayneh - Änaznegahe Hody
Rahel Yohannes & Shambel Belayneh - Bale Dere (Bähäbrät)
Rahel Yohannes & Shambel Belayneh - Zenay (Bamebele)
Rahel Yohannes & Shambel Belayneh - Klelelaye
Rahel Yohannes & Shambel Belayneh - Yedaoo
The tracklist on the cassette lists ten tunes in all. The ninth, "Anejetyne Balakewe," is missing. The song titles were transliterated by myself from a photocopy of the cassette inlay card (below) using the Geez syllabary, so I can't vouch for their accuracy. Anyone with a knowledge of Amharic is invited to correct any errors.
Wednesday, January 9, 2008
I just had to share this with you as soon as I got it. Matthew's new blog is just incredible. It's great news for African music lovers and I'm proud that I played some small part in bringing it about. Check it out here.
Hello, I hope this message finds you in good spirits. My name is Matthew Lavoie. I am a music broadcaster and producer for the Africa service of the Voice of America. We broadcast throughout Africa in English, French, Portuguese, Amharic, Tigrigna, Oromo, Hausa, Swahili, Ndebele, Shona, Kinyarwanda, Kirundi, and Somali.
I have consulted the discographies of African music that you helped put together for many years, and for the last three months I have been a regular visitor to your Likembe blog. Likembe is one of the most informative and diverse African music blogs I've read. Thanks for all of your efforts!! I especially enjoyed the Daro Mbaye entry, and your recent postings about Somali funk ... great sound files, great videos, and I appreciate the effort you made to talk in detail about particular songs.
Reading Likembe convinced me that blogs can sustain serious discussions of African music. In fact ... I was inspired enough to start a blog of my own to feature recordings from our (the VOA's) African music archives. We have got a collection of over 10,000 audio reels, several thousand lps and 45s, thousands of cassettes and cds. Our collection includes music from every country on the continent and includes rare unreleased recordings that were made for VOA programs (for e.g. unreleased recordings of Fela and the Koola Lobitos, Cardinal Rex Lawson, and many Apala recordings from the mid 1960s - I know you love Nigerian music). Our radio programs, however, are broadcast exclusively in Africa and there are many potentially interested African music lovers who never get to enjoy the recordings we have. I thought a blog might be a nice way to share some of this music. Here is the link...
I am just getting this thing rolling and will add new entries weekly.
I am also hoping that you can help me! The first entry I posted featured the Rwandan musician Bizimungu Dieudonne. I love his music but have not been able to learn much about him. Do you know anything about him? his career? his discography?
Thanks again for all of the great music at Likembe!!
Monday, December 31, 2007
Sadly, Daniel Owino Misiani, founder of the influential Kenyan band Shirati Jazz (also known as the D.O. 7 Band and D.O. 7 Shirati Jazz), passed away on May 17, 2006, but he left a legacy of hundreds of memorable tunes. While Misiani and Shirati Jazz did not establish benga music, they did more than anyone else to popularize and codify that musical style.
"I'm Tired" (Bwana Otieno Weche PIC 3) is not at all representative of the Shirati Jazz style. It's a novelty tune, sung in Swahili and English rather than the group's usual Luo. I think that D.O. Misiani might not even be on it (the group occasionally recorded without him). In the future I'll probably post some more "typical" Shirati Jazz songs, but I'm sure you'll enjoy this one:
D.O. 7 Shirati Jazz - I'm Tired Pts. 1 & 2
The Maroon Commandos (above) were established by Habel Kifoto (center) as a military band from the 7th Batallion of the Kenyan Army, and are best known for their smash hit "Charonyi Ni Wasi," which was featured on the compilation CD Kenya Dance Mania (Sterns Eathworks STEW 24CD). The Commandos usually record in Swahili, but "Liloba" (African Beat PA 7226), which features Laban Ochuka on lead vocals, is sung in Luhya:
Laban Ochuka & the Maroon Commandos - Liloba Pts. 1 & 2
Tanzanian singer Issa Juma was a founding member of the group Les Wanyika in 1978, and graced their smash hit "Sina Makossa" (also available on Kenya Dance Mania) as lead vocalist. He soon split off from that group to form his own band, variously entitled Waanyika, Wanyika Stars, Super Wanyika, Wanyika Super Les Les etc. "Ateka" (Waanyikaa NYIKA 09), is an outstanding example of his work:
Issa Juma & Waanyika - Ateka Pts. 1 & 2
Les Volcano were originally the backup band for Tanzanian vocalist Mbaraka Mwinshehe. When he was killed in an auto accident in 1979, they continued under the leadership of Charles Ray Kassembe, and made a number of outstanding recordings, including "Uhangaika Bure" (Superphonics BOY 002):
Les Volcano - Uhangaika Bure Pts. 1 & 2
The Luhya people of western Kenya have produced a number of outstanding musicians, but the most renowned is probably Sukuma Bin Ongaro, who contributed a couple of tunes to the compilation Guitar Paradise of East Africa (Sterns Earthworks STEW 21), a few years back. Listen to "Mukamba Leya" (Upendo UPP 7-644) and you'll understand the reason for his popularity:
Sukuma Bin Ongaro & Sukuma Band - Mukamba Leya
The picture at the top of this post is from the Shirati Jazz release Benga Beat (World Circuit WCB 003, 1987).
Oh, and Happy New Year!
Thursday, December 27, 2007
I mentioned a while back that I recently digitized a number of 10" tape reels that I've had lying around for many years. I've been working through this material ever since, organizing it and processing the sound, and the result has been a number of recent posts. Today I'm putting up several 45s of classic music from the Congo (then known as Zaïre). These were all issued in Kenya in the early '80s.
Our first selection is by Mayaula Mayoni (above). Mayoni, formerly of Congo's Vita Club football team, was a member on and off of Franco's TPOK Jazz, played in other bands, and put out a number of solo recordings in the TPOK Jazz vein. "Ba Chagrins" was issued in Kenya as ASL Records ASL 3390:
Mayaula Mayoni et son Ensemble - Ba Chagrins Pts. 1 & 2
Speaking of Franco, if you're a devoted fan, I'm sure you've heard this one. "Tangawusi" is one of TPOK Jazz's most popular songs, and has appeared on a number of compilations and reissues. Naotaka Doi's excellent Franco discography at Forest Beat credits the song to Papa Nöel (right), which would lead one to think that he sings lead as well (an extra bonus, Papa Noël being one of my fave African musicians of all time). Here's the Kenya pressing (ASL records ASL 2318):
Franco & l'Orchestre TPOK Jazz - Tangawusi Pts. 1 & 2
Souzy Kasseya is best known as a backup musician, particularly on the recordings of Tshala Muana, but he has had a number of solo outings, particularly "Le Telephone Sonne" (left), which I understand actually "crossed over" in Europe and got some mainstream radio play. He was born in Lubumbashi in 1949 and bounced around among various orchestras including Vox Africa, the African Team and Mpongo Love's group. "Sulia Tantine" was issued in Kenya as ASL Records ASL 2328:
Souzy Kasseya - Sulia Tantine Pts. 1 & 2
Doug Paterson wrote in the British magazine Africa Beat in 1986: ". . . In 1984 the biggest selling single in Kenya was 'Amour Cherche Amour’ by Manana Antoine, a record with a French title and Lingala lyrics sung by a Zairean working in Cote D'Ivoire. It sold 30,000 and got universal radio airplay while the biggest vernacular record got heard only on its local district radio and sold 8,000. . ." Antoine, known as "Papa Disco," was a well-known musician in Côte d'Ivoire for a time, with his own record label, but he seems to have dropped from view in the years since. Here is "Amour Cherchez Amour" itself, from the Kenyan pressing (ASL Records ASL 2329):
Manana Antoine (Papa Disco): Amour Cherchez Amour Pts. 1 & 2
Lipua-Lipua was one of the many innovative new bands that arose in Zaïre in the early 1970s. While the label of this 45 (Editions Sakumuna SN 018) credits "Anifa" to Lipua-Lipua, the very informative Bolingo website lists a version by Les Kamale (on the LP Sonafric SAF 50087, right). Of course, Nyboma Mwan'dido was a member of Lipua-Lipua before splitting to form Les Kamale, sings on this version (although not lead), and on SAF 50087 is credited as composer. I've been unable to dig up another citation of "Anifa," and not having the Kamale LP, I can't say if there are actually two versions of this song or one version issued under two different names. Can someone clarify?
Orchestre Lipua-Lipua - Anifa Pts. 1 & 2
Update: Several reader/listeners have confirmed that there are two different versions of "Anifa," one by Lipua-Lipua and the other by Les Kamale. Thanks also to Ronald, who informs us that the lead vocalist on "Tangawusi" is Ntesa Dalienst, not Papa Noël (although Papa Noël did compose it).
Friday, December 21, 2007
Nigeria's Oriental Brothers International were established in 1971-72 by Owerri innkeeper Chief James Azubuike, who needed a house band for his establishment, the Easy Going Hotel. To this end he recruited Godwin Kabaka Opara and Ferdinand Dan Satch Emeka Opara (no relation) of Owerri and Christogonous Ezebuiro Obinna ("Warrior") of Abor Mbaise. These three were soon joined by Nathaniel Ejiogu ("Mangala"), Lyvinus Alaraibe ("Akwilla"), and Prince Ichita, all freelance musicians in and around Owerri and Aba. Mangala died shortly after the founding of the band.
Although the Orientals in the early years were ostensibly "led by Godwin Kabaka Opara," Kabaka (above) walked out in 1977 to found the Kabaka International Guitar Band. The main reason was apparently a leadership struggle with Dan Satch, but there were probably artistic differences as well. Kabaka wanted to move the band toward the faster-paced Ikwokilikwo style then being made popular by the Ikenga Super Stars of Africa and Oliver de Coque, which Dan Satch and Warrior resisted. On the Kabaka Guitar Band's first recordings, its style is described on the label as Ikwokilikwo Kabaka.
Kabaka was joined by no one when he left the Oriental Brothers, but he was able to draw on a large pool of free-lance musicians in Owerri to assemble a first-rate guitar band. The group's first LP, titled Mangala Special (Deram DLPS 004, 1977, right) in honor of the late musician, caused an immediate sensation, and the group has enjoyed many years of success in Nigeria. In recent years Kabaka and Dan Satch, the two surviving founders of the Orientals, seem to have reconciled and have made videos together under the Orientals banner.
Want to know what all the excitement was about? Here, in its entirety, is Mangala Special:
"Izu Kanma na Nneji" more or less means "It's easier to agree with someone when you share the same mother." This phrase takes on added meaning in the context of the African practice of polygamy. Polygamous families often divide into factions based on the offspring of various mothers.
Kabaka International Guitar Band - Izu Kanma na Nneji
"Chukwu Kere Mmadu" means "God Who Created People": "God ('Chukwu,' literally 'Great Spirit') created everybody and he created rich and poor, but death ('onwu') intrudes. Death doesn't discriminate, death has no friends. Kabaka, my brother, let it go." This apparently alludes to a tragedy that had recently befallen Kabaka or someone in his family.
Kabaka International Guitar Band - Chukwu Kere Mmadu
The title of this song means "God, Drive Away the Devil": "God ('Chineke') is the 'king' ('eze') of heaven, and his wrapper ('ogudo') drags on the ground. Everything in the world is his creation. Please, God, use your powerful hand to protect us ('tukwasa anyi na ishi,' literally 'cover our heads'). God, forgive all of our sins."
Kabaka International Guitar Band - Chineke Wetuo Ekwensu
"Mangala Special" is a tribute to Nathaniel Ejiogu, a founding member of the Oriental Brothers who died shortly after the founding of the group ('Mangala,' his nickname, literally means a type of dried fish!): "One doesn't know what someone else is looking for in life. Send a message home to Imo State that Mangala died a tragic death. He will no longer enjoy his cigarettes. He will not get married." The refrain "Mangala Sarawa" is hard to decipher. "Sarawa" is not an Igbo word. Possibly it is Hausa. Is this a slang expression?
Kabaka International Guitar Band - Mangala Special
One irritating feature of Igbo records produced in Lagos and outside of Nigeria is that the song titles often contain mis-spellings that change their meaning or render them unintelligible. Mangala Special features several incorrect spellings of this type. This song was entitled "Ichere Chi Amaghi Onye Iwu," which means "do you think the Creator doesn't know who you really are?" The title actually should be "Ichere Shi Amaghi Onye Iwu," meaning "do you think I don't know who you really are?" The lead singer here calls out to various individuals with this phrase. Presumably it is meant as a compliment, but maybe it isn't.
Kabaka International Guitar Band - Ichere Shi Amaghi Onye Iwu
"Ajam Ashi-Mi" is an undecipherable phrase, possibly a regionalism. The lyrics themselves are hard to figure out. They literally seem to say, "Instead of telling me the truth, you told me you were going to park your car." But the song has a good beat!
Kabaka International Guitar Band - Ajam Ashi-Mi
Thanks once again to my wife Priscilla for interpreting the lyrics. Thanks also to Vitus Johnson Laurence, who provided much of the background information on Kabaka and the Orientals.
Discography of the Oriental Groups
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
As you would expect this time of year, things have been super hectic around here, and I just haven't had time to post. There's not a lot of African Christmas music out there, but I did manage to dig up a couple of tunes for your holiday enjoyment. Our first selection is by Kenya's Kilimambogo Brothers Band, "Shangilia Christmas Pts. 1 & 2," (Les Klimambogo LES 22). The second is side 1 of Ebenezer Obey's (left) 1972 LP Odun Keresimesi (Decca WAPS 62), also known as A Christmas Special From the King of Juju.
I'll try to get in another post in the next couple of days (I've got a couple in the hopper; I'm just working on the finishing touches), but if I don't: Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, a festive Kwaanzaa, whatever!
Les Kilimambogo Brothers - Shangilia Christmas Pts. 1 & 2
Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey & His International Brothers Band - Odun Keresimesi / Irinse Lo Jona Obey O Jona / Irin Ajo / Ile Oba To Jo
Update: I just found out that Eid Al-Adha begins Thursday, December 20 this year. My very best wishes to all of our Muslim friends, and I apologize for overlooking this earlier.
Sunday, December 9, 2007
I wrote in my first posting that through Likembe I sought to educate but also hoped to be educated. The response to the post Somali Mystery Funk has certainly borne out that expectation - in fact it's yielded an embarrassment of riches. Our friend Sanaag, who so kindly provided information on the songs in that posting, has answered a number of questions I posed to him, which provide essential background on Somali music. I specifically asked about Sahra Dawo (above), who sang lead on two of those tracks by Iftin, and the group Durdur, which she fronted. I'm just going to let Sanaag speak for himself. This is the first of several postings.
Sahra Dawo was a pop star in the 80's and probably up 'til now. As the lead singer of Durdur, she was very popular with the younger generations, specially teenagers and twentysomethings, including me at the time. I am not sure how she did with the general public. As far as I know, she didn't strike a strong chord with the older audience probably because of the obvious dissonance between her lyrics (often emotional) and music (usually joyful with sometimes an over-the-top acts in live performances).
Durdur (rivulet, creek, streamlet...) was simultaneously Iftin's little cousin and rival; they started their career in the late '70s or early '80s and were quite influneced by Iftin which was founded about a decade earlier, I think around 1970. I vaguely remember that some of Durdur's musicians had learnt their craft as trainees with/friends of Iftin.
In "Juba Juba Aaka Aka Sholo Lob" Sahra Dawo & Durdur are singing about their mutual love in a Southern dialect that I don't understand very well as I come from the North, a + 1000 km walk. The title sounds like a sort of Somali scat singing without any specific meaning. Juba or Jubba is the biggest river in Somalia. It's also the name of a famous hotel in Mogadishu where Durdur often performed. I believe some/many of their videos were recorded there:
By the way, this kind of music is quite popular in Somalia. It's actually the transcription of shareero music on modern instruments. Shareero is an old Somali instrument:
In comparison with many/most contemporary bands, Durdur & Iftin were quite atypical in the sense that their lyrics were often simple, almost exclusively about (the pains of) love and totally non-political. Iftin also sang about the importance of education (a ministerial obligation, I suppose) as illustrated in this song, "Toban Weeye Shaqalladu" (The Ten Vowels):
Iftin - Toban Weeye Shaqalladu
For most Somalis, the lyrics are at the very least as important as the music. 'The Nation of Poets' is one of Somalia's nicknames; hence the wild popularity of poetry cassettes you referred to in your post. Moreover, art was one of the major channels - if not the major channel - to ventilate dissidence during the [Siad Barre] dictatorship. Even when love was the subject matter, as was often the case in lyrics, the socio-political message was up for grabs beneath the surface. Iftin's (forced?) marriage with the authorities was probably the culprit for their political and poetic castration. I don't know why Durdur acted like an ostrich; as far as I know they were not sponsored by the Government.
"Ligligaan Jacaylkiii Hayaa" means "Holding On to Love With Tremors." It is also known as "Mays Af Garanaa?" - "Shall We Strike A Deal (and Become Partners)":
Sahra Dawo & Durdur - Ligligaan Jacaylkii Hayaa
"Wax la Aaminaan Jirin" - "Nobody to Confide In, Nothing To Trust." This is a parable for 'betrayed love and careless environment'. The girl is pregnant but the guy is shunning the responsibility and she's reluctant to talk with her family/friends as pregnancy out of wedlock is a social stigma:
"Gucliyo Orod" - "Trot and Gallop/Dawdling and Darting." I am hardly familiar with this song and the sound is so distorted that it's difficult to decipher what exactly she's saying:
Saturday, December 8, 2007
Taarab, the intoxicating Afro-Arab-Indian music from the East African coast, has been surprisingly available lately, if you know where to look. John Storm Roberts opened our ears about 25 years ago with his Songs the Swahili Sing (Original Music OMCD 024), and then Globestyle Records in the '80s kept things moving with a series of fascinating releases documenting the styles of Zanzibar and the Mombasa coast. These recordings may still be found with an assiduous search. Recently Buda Musique has launched the ambitious Zanzibara series, which promises new revelations.
With everything else I've had going on, I'm just getting around to posting some of this music. I just finished digitizing about 24 hours worth of East African 45s that I've had stashed away on 10" tape reels, including a couple of taarabs. They were dubbed for me by Ron Sakolsky many years ago, and they're primo examples of the style.
The Black Star Musical Club, from Tanga, Tanzania, was founded in the 1950s, and played a crucial role in establishing the modern taarab sound. Werner Graebner writes in the liner notes of Nyota: Classic Taarab Recordings from Tanga (Globestyle ORBCD 044, 1989):
. . . It was the strong cross-fertilization between taarab and dance music, the interchange of musicians and instruments, which produced the excitement of the new style and made it acceptable to the broader public. the Black Star Musical Club introduced guitar and bass guitar into taarab, the guitar often being played in the style well-known through Tanzanian and Zaïrean dance music. The normal line-up of the group featured the following instruments: 2 guitars, accordion, organ, taishokoto, bass guitar, rika and manyanga. Influences on the rhythms came from dance music (samba and rumba) as well as from local ngoma (dances of the different ethnic groups resident in Tanga and the vicinity). . .Werner credits Black Star vocalist Shakila (née Tatu Saïdi) with establishing a new vocal style shorn of the melisima and vibrato characteristic of classical taarab. Shakila and her husband left Black Star in 1971/72 to establish a new group, Lucky Star Musical Club, which is featured along with Black Star on Nyota.
Here are two recordings from 1973 by Black Star Musical Club, sides A & B of Melodica 7-6247. I don't know who sings lead on "Mno Nasubini," but I suspect the vocals on "Alpenzi Na Kiumbe" are by Sharmila (Jalala Rashid, above), who took Shakila's place in the band:
Black Star Musical Club - Mno Nasubini
Black Star Musical Club - Alpenzi na Kiumbe
Tupendane S. Club represents an older tradition in taarab, that of the big orchestras. I know nothing about the group or the lead vocalist, Mohamed Juma, but Ron Sakolsky suspects they are from Zanzibar. This tune is Sides 1 & 2 of the 45 Zombe ZM 4:
Mohamed Juma & Tupendane S. Club - Pendo ni Pepo ya Dunia Pts. 1 & 2
More taarab can be found at Sterns or on Amazon.