In the last week I've been afflicted not only by writer's block but by a mild yet persistent case of the flu. So let's make a virtue of necessity - less talk, more music! Here's another helping of Muziki wa Dansi from Tanzania, one of the more popular entrees on the Likembe menu. Let's kick-start things with a classic 45 by the reigning kings of the big-band Swahili sound, DDC Mlimani Park Orchestra. This is AHD 02 in the Ahadi catalog, released in 1983:
DDC Mlimani Park Orchestra - Matatizo ya Nyumbani Pts. 1 & 2
Here's another great track from the excellent 1986 collection Best of DDC Mlimani Park Orchestra Vol. 1 (Ahadi ADHLP 6002):
DDC Mlimani Park Orchestra - Clara
I'm not sure if Orchestra Vijana Jazz is still on the scene, but it was formed in 1971 and has undergone numerous personnel changes over the years, suffering a major loss in 1990 with the death of its leader Hemed Maneti. Here's a rollicking 45 from 1983, Ahadi catalog number AHD 03:
Orchestra Vijana Jazz - Mama Njiti Pts. 1 & 2
Now we have this 45 from 1983 or '84 (Ahadi AHD 04), credited to Ndala Kasheba ("Freddie Supreme") and Orchestra Safari Sound (Dar). Werner Graebner writes that the OSS was dissolved in 1985 by its owner, businessman Hugo Kiisima, who then set up the International Orchestra Safari Sound, led by Muhiddin Maalim Gurumo and Abel Balthazar. So, did Kasheba keep the "old" OSS going? The release Tanzania Hit Parade '88 (Ahadi AHDLP 6005, 1988) lists two IOSS bands, subtitled "Duku Duku" and "Ndekule." Mysterious and mysteriouser:
Orchestra Safari Sound (Dar) - Dunia Msongamano Pts. 1 & 2
Here's the song that, as I've written earlier, launched my love affair with Swahili music: Remmy Ongala's ethereal "Mariamu" (Polydor POL 554, 1983). In my opinion it's superior to the version that appeared on 1989's Songs for the Poor Man (RealWorld 91315-2), with these heartfelt lyrics: "Love burns like a fire . . . I cry for the wrong that I have done. Pity me, there is nothing I think of more than you. I am thin like a coconut palm, for the love of you. At night I dream, the whole day I can't eat. My heart is boiling, my body and blood dried-up. With the love that's burning within me. My Mariamu, my lover, you come today, you go today. I am suffering in my heart, and you are my heart":
Remmy Ongala & Orchestra Super Matimila - Mariamu Pts. 1 & 2
Finally, here's a group that I'm not actually sure is from Tanzania. Orchestra Super Sound, led by Kalala Mbwebwe, could very well be Kenyan. Their sound is closer to the sort of pop confections that were popular in the Nairobi music scene ca. the mid-'80s. But since this 45 was released on the Ken-Tanza label (KT (C) 055, to be specific), which as far as I know, released Tanzanian artists exclusively, I'll assume they're from that country. Enjoy!
Orchestra Super Sound - Fantaar Pts. 1 & 2
The picture at the top of this post is "Drummer Girl" (2006) by Tanzanian artist Maurus Michael Malikita. Efforts to get in touch with Mr. Malikita by email to ask his permission to reproduce were unsuccessful, so I took the liberty. I apologize to Mr. Malikita for this, and if he would like me to remove it, he can get in touch with me via the comments or write me here: beadlejp (at) yahoo (dot) com. You can view some of Mr. Malikita's work at the above link (or click on the picture). Please drop in, and consider buying one of his paintings.
At the end of this week I'll be heading out East to do the college-tour thing with my daughter. We'll probably meet up with a couple of fellow African music fans that I've been in touch with, and I'm hoping to check out some African restaurants. Chances are I won't have access to a computer, so this will probably be my last post for awhile. If your musical cravings become too unbearable, please check in with some of the fine purveyors over in the left-hand sidebar. Ciao!
Saturday, March 8, 2008
Saturday, March 1, 2008
I have a number of posts that are just on the threshold of going up, but I seem to have been gripped by an inexplicable and debilitating case of writer's block. Still, I feel the need to put something online. So, here goes: Back in September, I posted some tunes by Tanzania's late, incomparable Mbaraka Mwinshehe, with a promise of more to come. Thanks to our friend Cheeku, here they are: Five more tracks from the Ukumbusho series, pressed by Polygram Kenya in the 1980s (Polygram's successor, Tamasha, has recently reissued them in CD format, but as far as I know these are unavailable outside of E. Africa). Typically, these compilations feature no personnel listings or information on the original recordings. I suspect, though, that these tracks are from Mwinshehe's career with Super Volcano rather than his earlier band Morogoro Jazz.
"Shida," from Ukumbusho Vol. 1 (Polydor POLP 536, 1983) has already been featured on at least two other blogs, Benn Loxo du Taccu and Steve Ntwiga Mugiri. Still, it's such a great song I couldn't resist putting it up again. Enjoy, and if you've heard it before, enjoy it again:
Mbaraka Mwinshehe - Shida
East African musicians don't seem as given to fawning praise songs as Nigerians (paging Oliver de Coque!), but they do produce enough of them, including, I assume, this one, also from Ukumbusho Vol. 1. Don't know if it's fawning, though. Love the guitar that kicks in toward the middle of the song:
Mbaraka Mwinshehe - Dr. Kleruu
Here's a scorcher from Ukumbusho Vol. 7 (Polydor POLP 566, 1988). The guitar work and vocal banter are exceptionally free and easy but what closes the deal is the wild "Hugh Masekela-ish" (is that a word?) trumpet playing toward the end:
Mbaraka Mwinshehe - Nipeleke Nikashuhudie
As I said before, the Ukumbusho series was assembled haphazardly, with tunes from various points in Mwinshehe's career thrown together willy-nilly. Although "Baba Mdogo" is from Ukumbusho Vol. 8 (POLP 575, 1988), it's similar in tone to "Shida" from Vol. 1, above. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if they were recorded at the same time. We adjourn this session with "Mashemeji Wangapa," also from Vol. 8, which echoes Orchestra Simba Wanyika in its overall ambiance.
Mbaraka Mwinshehe - Baba Mdogo
Mbaraka Mwinshehe - Mashemeji Wangapa
For more music like this, check out Buda Musique's excellent Zanzibara Vol. 3: Ujaamaa, or this earlier compilation of music by Mbaraka Mwinshehe.
In the course of researching this post, I came across this polemic, in regards to the above-mentioned Zanzibara 3, by Alastair Johnston, who is responsible for the essential Muzikifan site:
". . . Now I don't want to start ranting in the middle of this panegyric but I have an issue that needs to be raised: the tendency of (mostly white, I suspect) people to treat this music with a colonial mentality. "It's great, so let's just put it on the net for anyone to hear." This devalues the music. I am not saying it should be the exclusive province of people with great wealth who can buy the copies that turn up on EBAY, I am saying this music should be respected. Before throwing it onto a blog it should be researched and properly documented. Optimal copies should be tracked down. Anyone downloading should pay nominally for the privilege and the money should be put in escrow to go to the descendants of the composers. Then there will be some parity with Western artists who get their royalties. I am sick of seeing sites with crappy-sounding singles ripped from cassettes and a note saying, "This is cool, I don't know anything about it but look here..." and a link to my pages. I've given up asking these clowns to respect my copyright, but ultimately they will kill the demand for CDs (& their crucial liner notes) and there won't be anyone, like Budamusique, taking the trouble to produce a magnificent package like this. You have to buy this, for the music, for the package, and to safeguard the future of the music!"Alastair raises a valid point here, and I hope people can respond to it in the comments. I often feel very conflicted about posting the music I do on this site, for exactly the reasons Alastair brings up. I won't knowingly put up music that is available through the usual outlets: Amazon, Sterns, iTunes, Calabash or even the lesser-known World Music™ purveyors. And I'd like to recompense the artists in some way, but how? (Needless to say, I'm not making any money myself from this site.) It seems to me, though, that when I post stuff like these tracks by Mbaraka Mwinshehe, or the earlier Somali Mystery Funk, or some exceedingly rare tunes by Area Scatter, it has the potential to sell more CDs or downloads in the long run. In other words, there will be no market for the music if no one even knows that it exists. That's what I think, anyway. Your thoughts?
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Thanx and a tip of the Hatlo Hat to Andy Healey, who alerted us to the existence of this incredible, mind-blowing sample of Igbo Roots music by Shidodo & ensemble from eastern Nigeria:
The amiri, or Igbo flute, gets things going here, soon joined by the ashakala, or calabash rattle. Especially notable is the masterly use of the ogene, the traditional Igbo double bell. I've never seen or heard ogenes used in ensemble in quite this manner - very interesting. The abia (drums) and opi (the conch-shell instrument that sounds like an ocarina) round things out beautifully.
With so many music videos out of Nigeria lately "underwhelming" (to say the least), it's a real pleasure to showcase one that really does justice to the true beauty and complexity of Igbo culture. More fascinating videos by Shidodo here, here, and here. And kudos to Codewit, who has diligently posted over a hundred videos like this on YouTube.
Sunday, February 10, 2008
Like Kiné Lam and Daro Mbaye, Ndeye Mbaye is a veteran of the Ensemble Lyrique Traditionel of Senegal's esteemed Daniel Sorano National Theatre, which she directed from 1987 to 1990. Previously she was a member of the National Ballet of Senegal for seven years starting in 1965.
Mbaye's cassette release Kóllëré (SAPROM, early '90s), a Youssou N'Dour production (he appears on one track), amply displays her expansive voice as well as top-flight work by an ensemble that includes Vieux M. Faye on lead guitar and Mbaye Dieye Faye on percussion. "Liiti Liiti" is a traditional song that has been recorded by numerous artists, including Orchestre Baobab (on A Night at Club Baobab, [Oriki 6129372, 2007]), but Ndeye's version is my favorite by far:
Ndeye Mbaye - Liiti Liiti
Ndeye Mbaye - Saxalaat
Ndeye Mbaye - Serigne Fallou
Ndeye Mbaye with Youssou N'Dour - Damel Fall
The limitations of the cassette format just don't do this music justice. The recording quality of Ndeye's cassette Ndaamal Daaru (Génie Musique, early '90s) is even more restricted, nor does the music reach Kóllëré's exalted level, in my opinion. It still features some notable music, though, including these two tracks:
Ndeye Mbaye - Nelson Mandela
Ndeye Mbaye - Aduna Ack Lici Biram
Friday, February 8, 2008
Liitaal, by Aby Ngana Diop, is one of those recordings that sneaks up behind you, knocks you upside the head with a two-by-four, and leaves you dazed and bleeding on the sidewalk, wondering what hit you.
I know absolutely nothing about this Senegalese chanteuse, nor does anyone else, but that hasn't stopped those who have heard this early '90s cassette (apparently her only recording) from going absolutely bonkers (just Google her name if you don't believe me).
Continuing the sporadic series "Dakar Divas," here is Liital in its two-fisted, glorious, astonishing entirety. Aby Ngana Diop - truly a singer worthy of the name diva!
Aby Ngana Diop - Dieueul-Dieuleul
Aby Ngana Diop - Ndame
Aby Ngana Diop - Yaye Penda Mbaye
Aby Ngana Diop - Liital
Aby Ngana Diop - Sapaly
Aby Ngana Diop - Ndadje
Update: Thanks to Matthew Lavoie from the VOA African Music Treasures blog, for providing some essential background information on Aby Ngana Diop and her music. According to Matt, Mme. Diop was born in the Dakar region and was the area's most famous tassukat (tassu being a form of sung Wolof rhythmic verse that is often used to impart traditional values to children). Matt writes, ". . . She performed in Europe a few times and appeared on stage with Doudou N'Diaye Rose. Most of her performances though were at baptisms and weddings in and around Dakar. Your post sparked my curiosity. I have been trying to learn more about her life. So far, I've come up short. I spoke with Mbaye Gueye, who produced the cassette, and he knew nothing about her. I've also spoken to several music journalists in Dakar. . . nothing. I'll keep you posted." Matt also reports that he's heard that Aby Ngana Diop passed away in the late '90s, between '96 and '98, although he can't confirm this.
Saturday, January 26, 2008
Born in the suburbs of Abidjan around 1990, Polihet is just one of a dizzying array of styles that have made that city a musical hotbed to rival Kinshasa, Dakar and Lagos. Ziglibithy, Zouglou, Zoblazo. . . all have made their mark, only to be abandoned as fickle Ivoiriens moved on to the next craze. All of these styles are characterized by criss-crossing polyrythms and frantic, shouted vocals. About Polihet, Nick Deen over at Natari said it best: ". . . I'd love to actually see the dancing that goes with this music in action as I reckon you'd need three pairs of legs just to keep one foot on the ground!"
Gnaore Djimi was Polihet's foremost practitioner, and in response to a request from a reader over at VOA's African Music Treasures, here are some tracks by him. I've been unable to find out anything about Gnaore Djimi, and Pollihet itself seems to have faded away. Our first selection is the title tune from Djimi's 1991 cassette release Azigbo (EMI EO 241191-4):
Gnaore Djimi - Azigbo
Also from 1991, here's the opening track from Nouveau Deux (EMI 012002-4):
Gnaore Djimi et le Polihet "Plus" - Nouveau Deux
Finally, here's a scorcher from 1992's Polihet Innovation '93 (EMI EO 301192-4):
Gnaore Djimi - Zikebou
Gnaore Djimi was by no means Polihet's only representative. Olives Guede was apparently a Gnaore Djimi protegé who had a style that was maybe a bit more straightforward, with a tad less emphasis on the polyrythms and a bit more guitar. Here's the title track from 1991's Solidarite (EMI EO 15491.4):
Olives Guede et le Polihet "Plus" - Solidarite
Click on the pictures to enlarge.
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.
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!!