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african and latin music



Updated: 2018-04-24T11:15:22.772-07:00

 



Le Poète à 80

2018-03-20T13:00:20.530-07:00

A tribute to Le Poète Lutumba Simaro, on the occasion of his 80th birthday.

Tracks (all composed by Simaro):
01. Na Lifelo Bisengo Ezali Te (Orchestre Mi)
02. Fifi Nazali Innocent (O.K. Jazz)
03. Motema Na Yo Retroviseur (T.P. O.K. Jazz)
04. Mambo Mucho (Kongo Jazz)
05. Affaire Kitikwala (T.P. O.K. Jazz)
06. Oko Regretter Ngai Mama (T.P. O.K. Jazz)
07. Inoussa (T.P. O.K. Jazz)
08. Santa Guy Guyna (O.K. Jazz)
09. Mado Aboyi Simaro (O.K. Jazz)
10. Annie Obosani Ngai? (O.K. Jazz)
11. Odutaka Na Vie Mon Cher (T.P. O.K. Jazz)
12. Lisana Ebandaki Na Kin Malebo (Orchestre Mi)
13. Testament Ya Bowule (live TV) (T.P. O.K. Jazz)

src="https://archive.org/embed/80MinutesDeLutumbaSimaro&playlist=1&list_height=150" width="400" height="50" frameborder="0" webkitallowfullscreen="true" mozallowfullscreen="true" allowfullscreen>



Foundation

2018-01-21T05:23:47.991-08:00

I am well aware that it has been over a year since the last post on this blog. I hope to change this in 2018, but am making no promises. Fortunately others are still going strong or have in the last year returned to blogging. Besides the usual subjects (the work of Franco and his O.K. Jazz, music from Mali and such) I hope to share some traditional music with you in the year which has just started. But first a post about a cassette which has resurfaced occasionally in the last two decades since I copied it from my friend Faas. A cassette which has intrigued me because of its rare mix of traditional and modern elements. The cassette is by the Ensemble Instrumental Raoul Follereau de Bamako, an ensemble which I have been unable to trace in Mali and which none of the artists I have spoken to (in the past) have ever heard of. That is one of the intriguing elements... It doesn't take too much imagination to figure out that there must be a link to the Fondation Raoul Follereau. This assertion is backed up by the first track on the B-side, which is about this journalist, writer and welldoer of French origin. Raoul Follereau, who died in 1977, is best known for his struggle against leprosy and poverty. He did not created the foundation which carries his name (this was founded 7 years after his death), but did inspire its foundation. The man appears to have been inspired in turn by Charles de Foucauld*, although perhaps I should write that he used Foucauld for his personal objectives. And these were - in retrospect - not as elevated and pure as the creation of a foundation in his name may suggest, - or as they may have seemed at the time. Follereau founded the Fondations Charles de Foucauld in order to rebuild the French church of the Sahara ("reconstruire l'Église française du Sahara"). The key words in this are "french" and "church", for - very much in the spirit of the 1930s - nationalism and christianity were very much part of Follereau's philosophy. In 1927 he had created "la Ligue de l’Union latine", "destinée à défendre la civilisation chrétienne contre tous les paganismes et toutes les barbaries" (to defend christian civilisation against paganism and barbarism). Of course (and like present-day nationalistic movements) the superiority of the own, national culture was not in dispute. Follereau went as far as to join forces with all those willing to fight the "complot judéo-maçonnique", openly praising Mussolini and supporting the Vichy regime during WWII. Although this may have nothing to do with the work of the Fondation, it does perhaps raise some questions about the motives of the organisation. The French have always had a tendency to promote their way of thinking, under the guise of 'francophonie' or 'collaboration'. And it is surprising how little this has done to really help the countries and societies which were the target of French aide.Back to the cassette. The cassette was released in 1993, i.e. five years after the last 'old style' Biennale. Still the music does evoke memories of these great events, which coincidentally were relaunched last week in Bamako (although apparently not everyone agreed that this was the right moment to do so). Particularly the chorus reminds me of the great choruses I have seen and heard. What I find refreshing with these choruses is the lack of pretence. Although the girls all sings in unison, they still create the impression of being an unruly (but happy) group of individuals. Most of the instruments accompanying the girls are those one would expect with an ensemble instrumental from Mali: kora, balafon, flutes, bolon, drums. The twist is in the addition of an electric guitar. And what a nice guitar it is. This is the kind of guitar one would occasionally hear with a djeli, or with Abdoulaye Diabaté: plenty of reverb and smooth as silk. This is nice music to dream away, to glide smoothly into the new year.Happy New Year.Ensemble Instrumental Raoul Follereau de Bamako(AFR 001, 1993)* for those who can read French: the entry in the French wikipedia[...]



Best of Taarab updated

2016-11-30T11:00:33.949-08:00

I am still looking for a way to get some kind of logging of the changes and updates to earlier posts. In the meantime this update seems worth a separate post.

Posts which have been updated in 2016:
- Diabate (Abdoulaye Diabaté & Le Kéné Star)
- Staying O.K. (three O.K. Jazz singles)
- Succes Zaïrois (two compilations of 1960s Congolese hits)

The update to Best of taarab was sent to me by Pauly Becquart, residing in Tanzania.
He writes: "The cassette contains tracks from 4 volumes of "Best of Taarab" published earlier by Melodica, Nairobi.
Song B6 is named "Walimwengu wanaina" and song B7 is "Khiyana"; both are from Vol. 3 (see cover).

The infos I got at Melodica while buying these cassettes more than 20 years ago is that at the base the band is Black Star Musical Club with Kibwana Saidi and Sharmila at vocals.

Black Star Musical Club is a band originating from Tanga, Tanzania. At the time of these songs it was very difficult for Tanzanian band to travel for political reasons. Many bands recording in Kenya didn't want their name published as they didn't want to get into trouble in Tanzania. For this reason many records are published under wacky names (e.g. 'Ewe Mola' and 'Karibu ramadhani' published by Melodica on 7'' single on label Halal QM 001A under the name Yahoos Band & Hafusa Abbasi and also on the Vol. 4 of Best of Taarab under 'no name' ...)
(Tanzania never got any vinyl production up to now, perhaps this last couple of years because of the uprising of music production in Tz, but I don't think so, never had heard while still in contact with Tz musicians; turntable is a very very rare tool in Tz).

Anyway all tracks on these cassette are from Tanga's original Musical Clubs who had their own taarab style.
Band members recording are rarely the original members. To credit theses cassettes to Black Star Musical Club is not an error nor a big sin.
"

A flac version of this great cassette can be found here, but only until June 1, 2017: CS KSS 117. The updated mp3 version can be found with the original post.



Post-Syli

2016-05-16T08:33:16.812-07:00

I have been plowing my way through the immense wealth of Guinean music, which is the result of Graeme Counsel's efforts to retrieve what remains of the recordings at the national radio in Conakry, Guinée. And, as some have pointed out, of course the navigation at the site of the British Library is challenging, to put it politely. But what a treasure trove it is! Orchestre de la Garde Républicaine (later: Boiro Band)There are updates and additions, confirming what we already knew, i.e. that the orchestras of the Sekou Touré era of Guinean music are rightly labelled as legendary. Take for example those live recordings of Balla et ses Balladins ("Keme Bourema", "Sara", - yet another - "Sara", "Soumbouyaya", "Diarabi", "Assa", "N'wato Barale" - a song which was previously only known in the version by Aboubacar Demba Camara and Bembeya Jazz -, "Autorail"), a brilliant new version of "Paulette" by the same orchestra, two fantastic versions of "Beni Barale" (here and here), of "Moi ça ma fout" (here and here) and of Rochereau's "Ruphine Missive" (serious competition to the original, if you ask me) by Aboubacar Demba Camara with Bembeya Jazz, out-of-this-world versions of "Air Guinée", "Kankan yarabi", "Bandian" and "Nadiaba" by Orchestre de la Paillote, paradigm shifters like "Commissariat" (a version of "Moi ça ma fout"), "Sabougnouma" and "Malisadio" by Orchestre de la Garde Républicaine, "Bafing bluese" (more tango than blues) and "Cherie kuma" by Bafing Jazz, and many, many atom bombs by Kebendo Jazz. Particularly this last orchestra has, as I have written before, remained one of the hidden treasures of Guinean music for too long. I have asked Graeme to see if he could find out why this orchestra, winner of the national orchestral competitions in 1962, 1963, 1964 and again in 1970 and 1972 (i.e. in 5 of the 11 orchestral competitions held in Guinée), was never given the status of national orchestra, but unfortunately no one seems to be able to give an answer. The mystery is accentuated even more by simply unbelievable songs like "Soumba" (the longer version I referred to in this earlier post), "Keme Bourema" (or "Toubabalou kaba", as it is titled in the catalogue), "Bebe", "Kakilambe"...... I just love the voice of Mamady Traoré. Besides confirming what we already knew, the collection offers an insight into the wealth of 'other orchestras', which were hardly or even not at all heard on the records of the Syliphone label. In the category "not at all" are Sasse Jazz, with this wonderful version of "Nankoura", Badiar Jazz, with "Air Guinée" to the tune of "El Manicero", and Fetore Jazz, with a slightly weird version of Kabasele's "Besame Mucho Jacqueline" titled "Esperanser". Les Amazones (Formation Feminine Orchestre de la Gendarmerie Nationale)And that brings me to a point which struck me in the catalogue: the great number of covers of songs of the African Jazz side of Congolese music. Particularly Rochereau seems to have made a great impact on Guinean orchestras; his composition "Porti Caliente" is covered by Nimba Jazz, "Mokolo Nakokufa" by Kebendo Jazz, "Tuson" and "Maria Chantal" by Normalien Jazz and "Madina" by Koloun Jazz. Docteur Nico is covered by the Dirou Band ("Motema" = "Angele Ozali Wapi"), by the Djoli Band ("Nico 'sopela'" = "Boya Kobina"), Koloun Jazz ("Nakokoma", which is the correct title) and Kélétigui et ses Tambourinis ("Sukissa" = "Sukisa"). African Jazz's version of Miguel Matamoros' "El Que Siembra Su Maiz" has even been covered three times: by Simandou Jazz, by Kebendo Jazz and by Tomine Jazz. Franco's "Liwa Ya Wech" also gets covered a few times (by Camayenne Sofa and Orchestre de Kissidougou), but I guess this may have more to do with the fact that Miriam Makeba had a hit with it than with knowledge of the original. Kaloum Star bravely did attempt a version of "Azda".Les Bantous were apparently also known in Guinée, going by the covers of "Comité Bantou" by Kebendo Jazz and "Makambo Mibale" by Kebaly J[...]



La femme se plaint

2015-12-30T14:01:58.000-08:00

Is there an element linking this and the previous post? The answer is yes. What both artists have in common is a unique and original singing style. And that's not all: they both draw their inspiration from tradition. Although I add that the source of this tradition may not be so clearly defined - and certainly not in ethnomusicological (what?) terms - in the case of the singer who is the subject of this post.I am sure you have already recognised him from the photo on the sleeve; the subject of this post is Josky Kiambukuta. I am sure I am not the first blogger to post this album, but there is a valid reason why I still would like to share it with you again. This is a special album. First, because it was conceived as an album, and not as a random collection of previously released songs. Secondly, because Josky was the first singer who was allowed to make his own album with the T.P. O.K. Jazz. Josky was recruited into the O.K. Jazz (by Simaro Lutumba*) after Sam Mangwana to add a different style to the orchestra. As an ex-singer with Docteur Nico's African Fiesta Sukisa and a member of the Orchestre Continental (as was Wuta Mayi) he was firmly rooted in the African Jazz school of Congolese music. As he explained in an interview in 1991 he had been a great fan of Rochereau since his early youth. Obviously his first vocal contributions were in the style of idol (great example), but he soon started making his mark in the O.K. Jazz, and was actively encouraged to develop his own style. Like all musicians within the O.K. Jazz he was also asked to contribute as a composer, which he did with fervour ("Kebana", "Monzo", "Seli-Ja"). In the interview he pinpoints the song "Fariya" as the start of his own style. A style which he traced back to the legendary ensemble San Salvador, who dominated the recordings on the Ngoma label in the first half of the 1950s. He further developed and refined his style in songs like "Ba Pensées", "Amour Violé", "Mobali Amesana Na Ngai", "Toto", "Bisengambi", "Tokabola Sentiment", "Propriétaire" and - of course - "Bimansha" and "Nostalgie". All these songs were hits.In the 1991 interview Josky indicated that traditional music was another source of inspiration for these songs. He named "Amour Violé" and "Limbisa Ngai" as based on a traditional rhythm from Shaba (now once more named Katanga**). This personal development culminated in the lp "Franco présente Josky Kiambukuta du T.P. O.K. Jazz", an album which he treated with considerable respect and care. This resulted in a true Classic of Congolese music.And this is a rare feat for an O.K. Jazz album to which Franco himself has not contributed (i.e. he is not playing in these recordings...). What I personally really like in these four songs is the variation which Josky has managed to introduce both in the rhythms and in his singing. He is without a doubt the star in these songs, but none of the songs is the same, and within the songs it is like he is constantly 'feeling his way', almost exploring the right notes. Solidly backing him in all songs are Aimé Kiwakana, Lokombe Ntal and Madilu System. This harmonic backing only acts to emphasise Josky's vocal excellence in all four songs. Just listen to the ease with which he weaves through "Massini" and "Mehida"!Josky stated in the interview that most of his songs are sung from a perspective of a woman. "La femme se plaint" (the woman complains) as he described it. Keep this in the back of your mind and listen to this album again. It will add another dimension to what is already a masterpiece.Edipop POP 025 (1983)* who knew him from the age of 15. ** Josky himself is from Bas-Congo. [...]



In control

2015-12-29T13:29:53.480-08:00

A few posts to round off this disappointing year...
(image) In the first of these I would like to share with you a cassette by Hawa Dramé. Hopefully you have seen (and perhaps even watched) the videos I posted some time ago (here and here). More persistent fans of the classics of Malian music may have even listened to the two (1 & 2) cassettes I have shared*.
This cassette is different from those two cassettes in so far that I strongly suspect the recordings on this cassette were all made in a studio. Consequently the sound is more refined, even to the point where it can be called 'delicate'.

This cassette is linked to strong personal memories of my travels in Mali in the late 1980s. Particularly in the town and region of Ségou this cassette could be heard on almost every street corner, and even in the taxis-brousse. Listening to songs like "Tunkan Te Dambe Do" I can almost taste the red dust again...

The songs in this cassette are all deeply rooted in the bambara musical tradition. One may be tempted to call this music 'simple', - but this doesn't do justice to Hawa Dramé's brilliant performance.
Take the first song on the B-side for example, "Klawa". The song starts off with a ngoni, which is joined by a second ngoni. Hawa opens after 40 seconds, careful at first; but soon she is in total control. This is her song.
The same can be said for all the songs on this cassette.

This is one of these cassettes which can last you a lifetime. I still discover 'new' things in the songs, and find that my reaction to the music varies with age, mood, circumstances. I particularly like the dynamics in these recordings: Hawa Dramé does not go full-blast all the time, but demonstrates that she stay in control in the wonderfully delicate and subtle parts of her songs too.

SYL 8331

* and if you haven't I strongly advise you to do so...



Tempo

2015-10-18T04:56:14.378-07:00

'Tempus fugit', often translated as 'time flies', actually means 'time escapes'. This is how I experience the passing of time; it rushes on and I am running after it trying to catch up. In this post I would like to share with you a video, which I recorded in 2011 and which I have been meaning to post on this blog ever since. But time has been escaping me, and we are now in 2015.The recording was made in October 2011, in a bar called Le Tempo in central Bamako. And the name seems very fitting for the music which was performed by a group of clearly seasoned musicians. For walking into the bar was like walking into a time machine, and being transported to the early 1970s. And perhaps even to a different place. For this music reminded me of legendary artists like Dexter Johnson, Laba Sosseh, Idy Diop, Papa and Mar Seck. Music with a strong Latin or Cuban flavour, hot and languid. Languid in a positive sense: with the ease that comes from an inherited understanding, and not from fanatic practice. Unfortunately the sound is slighty distorted, but it should give you an idea of the almost unreal quality of this orchestra. The flute player would fit in easily with any top Cuban orchestra. Unfortunately I did not have time to go back and find out who he is, but this man is topnotch. The vocals in these two cleverly linked songs are superb. The harmonies in "Que Humanidad" (the first if the two) are in my opinion better than in Johnny Pacheco's original from the mid-1960s, particularly for the despondent tone. The second song, "Oriente", does not surpass the original, but this is not surprising as the original is by the immortal Cheo Marquetti* when he was singing with Chappottin y sus Estrellas, at a time when they were - rightly - at the top of their fame. But the Tempo band still manages to give the song its own feeling. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="480" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/ncxMDtPZZxs" width="640">Out of character and emphasising that I am not going to be making a habit of this, I would like to add that if you like this 'genre' I can recommend the releases by Terangabeat, noteably those of Idrissa (Idy) Diop, Mar Seck and Dexter Johnson, despite the fact that I get the impression that in 'restoring' the original they may have in some cases overshot the mark. Returning to the music of Mali: a lot has been written about the Latin influence into the music of the Malian orchestras. While I am inclined to believe that this influence is being overstated, it does not mean there was no influence. Apart from a few musicians who went to, visited or even studied in Cuba (such as Boncana Maiga, who can been seen nowadays presenting a rather unfortunate weekly magazine on modern African music on the French TV5), Mali also went through a Latin 'wave', - as did most countries in Africa, Europe and the Americas**. Often records from the GV-series on the HMV-label (from the 1950s) are cited as a major influence on West African music, but I have my doubts about this. This series contained mainly Cuban son music, and little of this music remains in the West African music of either the 1950s or 1960s. I suspect Mali went along with the worldwide craze in the 1960s.I had heard from several musicians that there had been orchestras in the era of Modibo Keita which combined Latin with Malian, and even French music. But for decades this music seemed to have been lost in the mist of time (as is the case with far too much music in the African continent). But fortunately Florent Mazzoleni managed to dig up this cassette, which I would like to share with you here. The cassette contains no information apart from the title of the orchestra: Askia Jazz.This orchestra was reputedly founded in 1960, in the wake of Mali's independence, by pupils of the Lycée Askia Modibo in Bamako. Several musicians claim to have started in this orchestra, but one member who has been con[...]



Balance

2015-09-12T07:40:33.498-07:00

Another song that has been haunting me for the last few weeks months. I have lost track of where and when and from whom I have copied this video, but it seems to me that it must have been a private recording. This has some negatives, notably the flaws in the sound (after 3'48), but in all the positives have the upperhand.
This song, "Kabambare" composed by singer Papy Tex and performed by him with Pépé Kallé and Empire Bakuba was released in 1985 on the album of the same title. But to be honest the album version can only be described as 'anemic' in comparison to the superb full-blooded version in this video. And this is mainly due to the technical imperfection of this recording, and in particular the balance between vocals and supporting instruments.

I add that in general I am not a fan of Empire Bakuba, let alone an expert on the group. But this video is official and irrefutable proof of the vocal talents of Papy Tex, Dilu Dilumona and Pépé Kallé, both as individual vocalists and as a harmonic trio.
It explains too why Franco was desperate to have a Pépé Kallé voice in his orchestra (see this post)...
width="640" height="480" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/t4XKNiiOV5I?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen>

EDIT September 12, 2015: I have mixed up the two songs of this video. The song you find above is "La Terre Sainte", and the one I have added below is "Kabambare". This song too demonstrates the vocal talent of the singers of Empire Bakuba, and adds to my point that these live versions are more interesting than the studio version.
"La Terre Sainte" (the holy land) is composed by a certain Dadou; and this is probably not the Dadou of the songs with this title.
width="640" height="480" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/9Iogzj1u1sw" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen>



Obsession

2015-06-12T06:25:51.110-07:00

I have been struggling to compile traditional songs from the DR Congo for a podcast. The struggling was certainly not a result of the lack of choice, but entirely the result of my obsession with this cassette.
(image) I got stuck on this cassette, and just couldn't get any further.

The recordings on this cassette are generally labelled as 'traditional music', and I am sure there must be some form of passing on from one generation to the next involved. Unfortunately the label 'traditional' suggests, at least to a large section of western audiences, cultures on the brink of extinction, archaeological finds, ethnomusicologists travelling to remote regions to record octogenerians, staged performances of natives in costumes which even their grandparents would be too embarrassed to wear. These recordings are indeed made by an ethnomusicologist, and it seems more than likely that quite a bit of travelling had to be done to get to the location where the recording took place. But "staged performance": I don't think so. And the performers are perhaps nów in their eighties, but they weren't at the time of the recordings in the mid-1970s.

(image) The recordings radiate the confidence and general optimism which is typical of a lot of - if not all - Congolese music of that era. This is particularly the case with the songs in these recording which are performed by women and girls. The casual boldness of the singing, the natural and unforced interaction between the individual women, who manage to combine chaos with harmony, is simply spellbinding.

Take the third song on side A. Every participant is free to add her own individual melodic line to the collective. The effect is both kaleidoscopic and harmonic. I would have loved to be there when the recording took place!

Magic can be found in all tracks of this cassette; there are simply no weaker songs. Besides the songs sung by women, either accompanying themselves or accompanied by an issanji or sanza ensemble, there are songs sung by men. These are, fortunately, in the same vein, with the same tendency towards controlled anarchy in the chorus. The last two songs are different from the others in that these are examples of the evolution towards modern instruments, - in this case a acoustic guitar and a bottle... The result is mesmerising and nimble, delicate and confusing.

I am sure you have recognised the musical style as the one that was modernised and commercialised by Tshala Muana. Personally I find that she took the evolution a step too far and has lost the magic of the original, which can still be heard on this cassette. I can only pray that some of the essence of this brilliant music has survived, somewhere in the immenseness of the border regions between Congo and Angola.

LLCT 7313



Apologies

2015-05-11T12:21:25.014-07:00

width="640" height="480" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/JvpHctOthT8?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen>

width="640" height="480" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/0C8pg8bAR5w?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen>

width="640" height="480" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/MroZRb_JKtc?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen>

Apologies for the image quality of these three videos. But certainly not for the music. The videos have in common, besides the fact that they all feature great artists from Mali, that they are all too good not to share.
The drive, the passion and the unadulterated fun of the Ambassadeurs, the refined dancing combined with the brilliant vocals by Alou Fané and Flani Sangaré plus the unique talent of Zani Diabaté, the soul-piercing singing by Mah Damba backed by her late husband Mamaye Kouyaté: they are hard to surpass.

More soon...




Mumble

2015-02-21T12:41:23.687-08:00

(image) The record I would like to share with you in this post has been in my possession for quite a few decades. I can't even remember where and when I bought it. But listening to it again, years later, all of a sudden the penny dropped.
This happens occasionally, and it usually leaves me wondering why the penny was stuck in the first place. Maybe it has to do with maturity and the patience (never one of my key features..) that is said to come with it. Or maybe it has to do with the relative quality of the recording: the bigger the pile of disappointing (or downright crap) new releases, the better the chances for the former 'mediocre' recordings. In this case I suspect it may have to do with never getting beyond the first track, combined with my generic impatience.

A big mistake, I admit it.
For this is a special lp. The artists are probably from Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, and have - as far as I am aware - never gained any renown outside of their region. The Kwana-Moto Band is led by Alport Astazio, and the latter is also responsible as composer or arranger for the twelve songs on this album. The principal instrument of the group is - as the cover suggests - the marimba. The marimba skills of the group are particularly evident from the tracks "Odoli"(b2) and "Gweru" (b4), if you ask me.

The two final tracks of each side demonstrate that the repertoire of the group is somewhat wider. Both songs are of the kind that take some getting used to. "Intandane (Orphans)", clearly a sad theme, starts off with an acoustic guitar, a flute and a female singer, but when a man has repeated the lines of the woman a mbira joins in and the songs changes in character. Strangely it fades out when one would expect a lot more... The second non-marimba song, "Urombo (Poverty)", is a more typical instrumental mbira tune.

The songs which make this album really special are the songs with lyrics. These lyrics are mainly spoken and not sung, or perhaps I should say they are mumbled. Because they are drowned out by the instruments. In "Kwira Mungoro [Get Into The Cart]" the argument between the woman and the man is still audible, and in "Ranchera" the instruments quieten to allow the singing to be heard, but in "Lobengula" (my favourite song of the album) all that remains are the mutterings of a man about his experiences in the big city.

Please listen to the album a few times, it may grow on you.

Inter Africa Records 1ALP9



Moriba Kaba

2015-02-08T05:45:46.886-08:00

(image) In 1988 he was not one to push himself to the forefront. He hadn't been part of the European tours of the years before, so he was 'outside'.
Guitarist Mama Sissoko had moved himself in the limelight during the concerts in Holland, and - according to some - was rivalling for the position of leader of the orchestra, after the retirement of Amadou 'Armstrong' Bah. But sax player (and hunter) Mamadou Diarra better known as 'Blick' had filled that position, a logical choice given the historic focus on the horn section.
I had met with Toussaint Siané a few months before, and had been spotted by Amadou Bah when he was touring in Ségou on his Yamaha motorcycle while I was trying to get some money out of the bank.

Singer Papa Gaoussou Diarra I didn't meet until I saw Super Biton play at the Hotel GTM on November 19, 1988.

Both public and bandmembers addressed him as Papus, at the the time. Later on, after he had made three solo albums (one of these is posted here), he acquired the surname of "Pèkèlè", after one of his hit songs. But to me he will always be linked to the concert at the Hotel GTM.

A few days ago I received news that he has died on January 25, at the age of just 56.

By way of a tribute to Papus I would like to share with you the song that earned him a place in my list of best musical moments ever.
This song was the opening song of the concert at the Hotel GTM in Ségou. Technicians of Malian television were still installing their equipment to record a few songs, which were to be part of a celebratory emission for the (then) president Moussa Traoré. On guitar is, of course, Mama Sissoko, and the vocal in this Malinké classic is by Papa Gaoussou Diarra.

Moriba Kaba (flac)

Additionally here is a video of a song featuring Papa Diarra, recorded at the Institut Français in Bamako in October 2011. The sound is slightly overmodulated (sorry).
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Je veux danser

2015-01-07T12:56:37.723-08:00

Another new year. Of course I wish all of you a very good 2015, with only good things.To get this year off to splendid start I would like to share with you this wonderful cassette with sixteen songs from the late 1950s/early 1960s Congo. You may remember those five cassettes of classic South African songs I posted some time ago (here, here and here). This cassette is from the same source, and - judging by the artwork - released by the same people.This has been a truely eye-opening cassette for me. After hearing it for the first time, some thirty years ago, I knew I want more. That has proven to be quite a bit of a task...Of the sixteen tracks on the cassette six were recorded for the Loningisa label. The other ten were originally released on the Esengo label. And while to me it was more than obvious that this was music of an exceptional quality, the likes of which will be hard to find on this entire planet, I was disappointed to find that the music of these Congolese labels is extremely hard to find. And that is true to this day. Especially the tracks from the extensive Esengo catalogue remain obscure and very hard to find. Luckily some have survived through Pathé re-releases (particularly songs by African Jazz and Rock-a-Mambo), and recently some have popped up on the two (recommended) releases on Planet Ilunga. But the bulk of the releases on this label remains hidden, and is perhaps even lost (aaarghh!!).Of the ten Esengo tracks three are by De Wayon (or Dewayon) and his Conga Jazz, four are by the Negro Band (from Brazzaville), one is by orchestre Bantou (still without an "s" at the end), and two are by Rochereau with African Rock. African Rock is one of the many combinations of musicians from Rock-a-Mambo and African Jazz. To be honest I find the two Rochereau compositions the least interesting on this cassette, despite the contribution by Jean-Serge Essous. But that may be due to the level of competition.The one who does stand out is De Wayon, with three absolute scorchers. I love the joy and playfulness of "Josephine", the cheeky staccato in "E Champrau" (and the little cries just kill me) and boyish singing and almost subversive interplay between the guitars in "Merengue Conga Jazz". Lovely naughty music!Competing on equal terms is the Negro Band. "Bambanda Bayini Negro", composed by guitarist Baguin, with its almost absurd guitars, "Bolingo Rosalie" with the subtly off-key harmonies (by composer Demon Kasanaut and?) which oddly only add to its attraction and the apparent insanity of "Paresse Bobo", another staccato cha-cha-cha. Again contributions from other musicians at Esengo appeared to be more of a rule than an exception, although it is not always clear who is who in these recordings. The fourth Negro Band track ("Los Amor Mary-Clary"), for example, is credited in the Esengo catalogue to Nezy with the Negro Succes. While Vicky Longomba's Negro Succes were recording for Esengo at the time, it seems very unlikely that a singer who spent a large part, if not all his career, with the Negro Band would contribute a composition to another, rivalling orchestra.Of the six Loningisa tracks four are by the O.K. Jazz, and the other two are credited on the cassette sleeve to the O.K. Jazz. The tracks which áre by the O.K. Jazz are by Vicky ("Nakolela Mama Azonga", a rumba also featured on Sonodisc CD 36502 and African 360.144), by Franco (the iconic bolero "Maladi Ya Bolingo") and by Daniel Lubelo, better known as De la Lune. Especially the two tracks composed by De la Lune are ver special. The first, "Ozali Se Wa Ngai", is a wonderfully languid song which is just made for warm summer evening and romantic dancing. The second, "Ntsay Ya Bala Ba O.K.", a song which clearly borrows from traditional r[...]



My joy is so great...

2014-12-28T12:21:08.155-08:00

I have never been a great believer. When it comes to belief I have always been on the side of caution. It may have been my catholic upbringing and the deeprooted hypocrisy that comes with this religion that has led to a profound mistrust of firm believers. I would even go as far as to state that I am convinced there should always be room for doubt.I won't come as a surprise that my attitude towards religion is somewhere between serious suspicion and extreme wariness. And certainly I draw the line at religious groups claiming to be superior or better than others, and firmly oppose any sects, extremists or religious nuts claiming to belong to the "only acceptable religion". I mean, if you are going to be religiously inclined that's fine, but don't bully others into involuntary partaking in your convictions.In my opinion too much is made of the differences between religions. The fundamental difference between christianity and islam, of example, may be the belief in the human god, but apart from this the similarities far outweigh the differences. The emphasis on differences usually has its roots in culture and politics, or in the interpretation of the principles of the specific belief. The scope of interpretation within one religion is usually greater than the root difference between 'rivalling' religions. Strict interpretations and a strict imposing of one interpretation have over the centuries only resulted in greater variety. New varieties have had to accentuate their differences in order to survive, thus creating rivalry, hardline interpretation, oppression and finally new religions...And I don't mean I am immune to the reasons that lay at the basis for belief and religion: fear of the unknown, lack of control of one's destiny and fate, uncertainty, insecurity and the sense of insignificance within the enormity of all.A country that has been at the forefront of the rivalry between religions for quite a while now is Nigeria. As far as I know (and I realise I am very much limited by the minimal coverage of Nigerian affairs in western media!) this has only led to a violent struggle in the last few years. In music we have come to know both strong believers of the Christian faith, like juju-stars King Sunny Ade and (the reformed) Chief Ebenezer Obey, and devout Muslims, such as that hero of apala music Alhadji Haruna Ishola.In this post I would like to share with you exponents of both Christianity and Islam. And in both cases with an explicit focus on their respective religion. Islam is represented by an album by the Muslim Carol Singers, led by brother Latifu Fagbayi Oloto. I bought this record in the mid-1980s at Stern's, and I gather they were glad to get rid of it, as there was an overcrowding of similar albums in their shelves. It has been an album that has raised eyebrows, evoked some curiosity, but one that has not been copied a lot.The music is in a style that at times borrows from fuji and at times from apala. While I like the choruses, I am not too impressed by brother Latifu's contribution. The best track, if you ask me, is the title track (B1). In apala style, but not in the same league as the great Alhadji Haruna Ishola. The music never gets off the ground, never really flows.Leader LRCLS 52Representing Christian faith is a group with some mystery attached to it. The CD is credited to the Brotherhood Youth Fellowship Choir, but the publisher leaves some doubt if this is indeed the gospel choir which can be heard in these 21 songs. The songs are copied from cassettes bought in 2000, but probably recorded in the 1970s. This is a capella music in the strictest sense of the word, so no instruments and as in a church (i.e. "a capella"). The titles are largely unknown or[...]



Rise of the machine

2014-12-24T12:32:00.507-08:00

The other day I was reading about the potential threat of robots. Apparently even respected scientists like Stephen Hawking are warning against the rise of the machine. Here in the Netherlands there seem to be opposing points of view, albeit by the same persons. Our present Dutch government, for example, sees technology as the main driving force behind the economy, while at the same warning against loss of jobs as a result of increased automation and computerisation. In the meantime millions (and more) are lost on computerisation projects failing. I can imaging how this would lead to economic gain, in the same way that bombs and ammunition are a economically very profitable venture, - from the purely capitalistic point of view of the manufacturer at least (boom!! - and it's gone). In my experience automation projects have a strong tendency to fail for one reason: the human factor. On the one hand suppliers of the automated solution are inclined to impose their wonderful 'technical advancements' on the future users, while on the other hand users are simply unable to visualise the end-result. Unfortunately this often leaves the suppliers to do whatever they want or see as "the best solution for the customer". The idea that the final product requires an intricate knowledge of technology does not occur to the supplier, while the user doesn't want to be caught out as a digital dunce. The balance between supplier and user is disturbed even further by present-day managers, for whom staff is mostly seen as a negative influence on profits and automation as the best way to correct this. In music we have seen a similar move towards automation. The extreme exponents of this musical rise of the machine are the Tiësto's, Armin van Buurens and Afrojacks* of today. Skilled artists have been replaced by a single person mixing their music using machines.The rise of the machine in music started way before the rise of computers. The relative innocent Solovox organ, introduced into African music in the mid-1950s, at least added a new sound. The same can be said for the organs used in the 1970s and 1980s. Generally they were used as an adornment and not as a replacement for other instruments and their players. That is: not until this was demanded by western producers. Several musicians I talked to in the 1980s told me that there was always a limit to the number of persons they could take on a tour. So at a time when many musicians travelled outside Africa for the first time and became known to a western public, they often performed with reduced formations. This became more of an issue in the second half of the 1980s. Groups were more than often 'completed' by local artists or musicians; at first by countrymen of the imported performers, but later on by (at best) native professionals or (even) native amateurs. This trend coincided with cuts on another level: the often impressive horn sections were replaced completely - you guessed - by machines. One may argue that we were lucky to see artists in the first place. But let me refute this with this question: how would you feel if the horn section in a concerto by Mozart was replaced by a synthesizer?Personally I have objected to the replacement of those lucious horn sections by the constipated sound of synthesizers since the late-1970s. And we were lucky to see the O.K. Jazz when they were still "Tout Puissant", to see Fela's Egypt '80 blowing us straight to heaven and back, to hear the suave harmonies of the horns of Super Biton, Les Ambassadeurs, Bembeya Jazz and all those orchestras that would be and are left amputated without the horns. And the worst is: there is plenty of evidence that it must have been even better [...]



Sullen charm

2014-12-13T13:34:22.933-08:00

I am hoping to share more memorable music with you before the end of this year. A year which has gone by too fast, and with too little focus on the good things in life. There is so much to catch up...

You may remember that lovely cassette by Malian singer Molobaly Traoré which I posted some five years ago. If you've missed it, please do yourself a favour and go back and listen to it. Listening to it again the other day I was immediately taken back to the dusty streets of Mali and particularly those of the Ségou region. Real music can do that.
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That cassette is from the early days of Molobaly's career. A career that ended far too early, with her death in 2009.
The cassette I would like to share with you in this post is from a few years later. It is clear that some of the innocence which marked her earlier cassette - and which certainly added to its charm - has gone. But other elements have remained: the slight tendency towards sullenness, the faint air of gloom, the strong Bambara repertoire, - now even more accentuated by the use of the sokou (violin). There are no credits on the cassettes, but my guess is that it may well be Zoumana Tereta.

You may recognise the second track, "Laban Kasi". This is a version of a song from Ségou, also performed by 'Tasidoni' Karamoko Keita. "Diandjo", however, is not a version of the song with the same title by Hawa Dramé, although the subject of the song may be the same.

The title of the song "Dely Magnin" confuses me. I may be wrong, but I was under the impression that "dely" is "to pray". But a title "praying is wrong" seems somehow unlikely in a country like Mali. So perhaps it can also mean something else...

If you ask me this is a cassette has not lost its power over the last twenty-two years. In fact, in my personal ratings it has only grown in stature, - as Molobaly Traoré has grown with it. More of this late but great artist in a future post.

IK 010



Roitelet

2014-11-12T23:11:18.758-08:00

Roitelet is the bass player (second from the right)Yet another Congolese musical hero has gone. Augustin Moniania better known as Roitelet has died on November 8 in Kinshasa. Born in 1934, he was one of the very last survivors from the Tango Ya Ba Wendo (the era of Wendo's people). He started his career in the mid-1950s with the CEFA-label, at a time when Belgian guitarist Bill Alexandre introduced the electric guitar into the budding Congolese music scene. There he played with Roger Izeidi, who later played a crucial role in the development of Congolese music (and not only with African Jazz and African Fiesta), and with Victor 'Vicky' Longomba (see a dozen or so other posts on this blog).He went on to play at the Loningisa label (both before and with the O.K. Jazz), with Esengo (with Rock-A-Mambo, African Jazz, and the various combinations) and with the Ngoma label (with the Beguen Band).Roitelet was one of those musicians who constantly popped up over the years, but also a musician who never seems to have committed to one orchestra. Predominantly a bass player, I am told he also played other instruments. I must admit I am not sure which. Despite his longevity in the Congolese music scene I think a lot of people may have problems naming Roitelet's songs. A quick search on the internet confirms this. Some websites appear to credit him for songs like "Tika Kondima Na Zolo" (Loningisa 156, composed by Franco). They may have overlooked spectacular songs such as "Anduku Lutshuma" and "Houlala Mopanze", both composed by Roitelet. To compensate for this lack of respect for this great musician I would like to share with you nine of my favourite Roitelet compositions:Roitelet with Rock-A-Mambo01. Antoinette - Moniana Augustin [CEFA]02. Banzanza - Roitelet & Bana Loningisa [Loningisa 153B]03. Nzungu Ya Loso - 'Roitelet et son ensemble' [Esengo 123A]. 04. Imana Ya Daring - "Monian A. MA. Mulumba" [CEFA]05. Sala Mbongo Kudia Mbongo - Roitelet avec le Beguen Band [Ngoma 1863]06. Cherie Margot - Roitelet et Bana Loningisa [Loningisa 144A]07. Tozo Na Bozo - Moniania Augustin [CEFA]08. Le 4 Janvier 1959 - Roitelet et l'O.K. Jazz [Loningisa 277A]09. Bakala Nyonso Luvumu (Roitelet avec le Rock-A-Mambo) [Esengo 80A]These songs should give you an idea of the loss...May his soul rest in peace.EDIT November 11, 2014: In my haste to get this post online I added a song twice, with different titles (tracks 8 and 9 of the original upload). This has now been corrected.EDIT November 14, 2014: It still wasn't right. To make up for this messing about I have now also uploaded a flac-version of the nine tracks (besides correcting the mp3-version). The flac-version is available until January 1, 2015.[...]



Seduction

2014-10-12T13:16:33.716-07:00

Today it is exactly 25 years ago that Franco passed away in Namur, Belgium. To commemorate this tragedy, and as a tribute to this giant of Congolese, African and global music, I would like to share with you some of the songs of his early career. Songs which earned him the appellation "Franco de mi amor".These songs by the O.K. Jazz were recorded between August 28, 1957 and March 10, 1959; so at a time when Franco (born July 6, 1938) was 19 and 20 years old. All songs fall in that unfortunate category of 'inédits', i.e. songs which - as far as I know (and please correct me if I'm wrong!) - were never rereleased. They were originally recorded for the Loningisa label owned by the cousins Basile and Athanase Papadimitriou, and released both on the Loningisa label and on His Master's Voice. The full catalogue of the Loningisa label can be found here, and more detailled catalogues of the HMV releases of Loningisa recordings and of the O.K. Jazz songs on Loningisa can be found on Flemming Harrev's excellent Afrodisc.com.As I have written before, it is a mystery to me why these songs have not been reissued, either on vinyl or in digital form. These recordings are in my opinion of the quality which should deserve them the protected status of the Unesco's World Heritage List or such.I have to add that a number of songs of this era have been released, both on vinyl (African 360.1441 and 360.158, Discostock DS 7950) and on CD (Sonodisc 36502 and the first 10 songs on 36505, RetroAfric Retro 2XCD). But still a lot risk being forgotten in the dense mist of time.....Let me stress that the quality of (the copies of) these records leaves a lot to be desired. Although this is not always a bad thing. A good example of this is the song originally released as Lon 199: "Linga Ngai Tolinga Ye". Despite its obvious shortcomings I prefer this version to the remastered (?) version on Discostock DS 7950. The instruments, the vocals, they are much clearer in this version, far more defined. Vicky Longomba's heavenly velvet voice, backed by the subtly understated Edo Nganga, Franco adding touches, colour, filling in sentiment in the background, caressing Isaac Musekiwa's sax play (in one of his very first recordings with the O.K. Jazz!), Brazzos providing the stable base on rhythm guitar: what a sheer delight is this song! A boléro, but one that seduces the listener into movement, - if not dance. The second song in this collection is the A-side of Lon 203: "Oboyi Ngai Likambo Te", composed by Celestin Kouka. The B-side, "Tika Na Bala Ye", can be found on Sonodisc 36505. A typical rumba, with Franco and Musekiwa side-by-side providing the base of the song, sung by Vicky and Kouka. I particularly like the decorations added by Musekiwa. Ordinary as these may sound now, they were completely new at the time. Musekiwa had come over from African Jazz just a few months before, so he and Franco were busy inventing a new style in these songs.In the A-side of Lon 205, "Obebisi Chance Stephanie", the interplay between Franco and Musekiwa is very different. Instead of joining they are complimenting each other. Isaac plays the chorus2, with Franco doing the decorating. And in the refrains Isaac does the decorating, while Franco signals the breaks. The B-side of Lon 205 is equally interesting. Both "Tokomi Na Bonne Année" and the A-side are composed by Vicky, but he does not sing the lead vocal on the B-side. Instead he modestly backs Edo. Franco is very active in the refrain and the first chorus is another combined effort with Isaac. But from halfway into the song Isaac takes over from Franco in the refra[...]



Macki

2014-08-26T11:57:04.629-07:00

I have added the last of the three songs I have of Fanta Damba No.2, recorded at the R.T.M. in Bamako in 1983 for the series "L'artiste et sa musique" presented by Zoumana Yoro Traoré (see the earlier post). Accompanying her were Bouba Sacko (guitar - also see here) and Moctar Koné. This song, "Macki", is really the first of the three.

Zoumana Yoro Traoré was a well-known presenter at the RTM. You may have seen him with the videos of Coumba Sidibé, Kandia Kouyaté, Ami Koita and others. Some ten years ago I heard he had moved to France; this was later confirmed by an article on MaliWeb, and by an article in which he was said to be living in bad conditions (little or no work, separated from his children/family). I am not sure if he has returned to Mali since.

So the order is:
1. "Macki", better known as "Maki" or "Maki-Tara".
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2. "Duga" (or "Douga")
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3. "Jajiri"
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Unplugged

2014-08-26T10:09:11.853-07:00

Salif Keita, Hertme July 6, 2014 (photo: Ineke Hardeman)I was listening to some recordings of the performance of Les Ambassadeurs at the Afrika Festival in Hertme. I can't say I was very disappointed about missing that particular concert. I have never been a great fan of Salif Keita's European oeuvre, but it struck me that the gap between the recordings which made him famous in Africa and the almost parody in Hertme was getting too great. So this short post is really about reinforcing my belief in Salif. Stern's have recently released a compilation of tracks by Les Ambassadeurs du Motel de Bamako. Despite the fact that it adds little to what has been released before (notably on the two lp's on Sonafric), it is a pleasant release. It shows respect for the artists, which has been missing in many of the earlier re-releases. And it is just good to have these tracks together on two CD's. The album I would like to share is from the beginning of the Abidjan 'episode' of Les Ambassadeurs. In 1979, a year after the release of "Mandjou", Salif and Manfila recorded two lp's, which nowadays would be labelled as "unplugged". I.e. the music is mainly acoustic. I have always thought that these were albums were inspired by the Épopée du Mandingue series released six years earlier on the Guinean Syliphone label. Salif himself has declared many times that he was a great admirer of Sory Kandia Kouyaté. This he already demonstrated on the albums with Les Ambassadeurs du Motel, by the choice of songs like "N'na", directly borrowed from Sory Kandia.Salif lacks the 'belcanto' (and - luckily for him - the pompousness) of Sory Kandia, but adds a touch of street-wise popularity which his example lacked. I love this album, and I love Salif Keita for making this album into a classic. In it Salif shows many shades (even more than 50...) of his vocal range. But I must add that it takes many hearings for the beauty of these songs to really open up. The expressiveness of "Djandjon" is balanced by the almost painful shyness of "Finzamba". What is lacking from the present-day Salif is best demonstrated in the last song "Wara-Mana": the intense, deep felt passion of his singing. Please forgive the quality of the record. BLP 5013 -- plus flac (until Oct 1!).[...]



Lemon or lime

2014-04-26T08:22:37.607-07:00

A few days ago I stumbled upon the video by Karamoko Keita which you can find at the bottom of this post. Although I was looking for something else I couldn't help but watch the whole video. The thing is, this man has got certain 'je-ne-sais-quoi' which really appeals to me. I like his singing style, which is old-school Bambara (pentatonic) without being mouldy. The quality of the video is slightly below poor to hopeless, but just watching the movement, both of Karamoko himself and the chorus in the background, makes me irrationally happy.
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I first heard his music during one of my first visits to Mali in the 1980s. To be honest, it was very difficult not to hear it because everybody was playing it, in the streets of Bamako and in every town and village I visited. The children were singing Karamoko's songs and their parents knew every single word of the lyrics.
They were playing this cassette, recorded for Malian radio, and here in the release of the Super Sound label of Monrovia, Liberia. You can see the first song, "Diama", in a video which I posted earlier.

This cassette just oozes old-style Malian music. And if you ask me it even oozes old-style Mali. I can't help but thinking of that friendly and hospitable people I encountered all over the country. People were curious without being nosey, warm without being pushy... They shared the little they had and demanded nothing in return. It was, in short, a country that was easy to fall in love with.
I know a lot has changed since those days, but I am sure these qualities are still there, perhaps hidden under a layer of cautiousness. A defence which may be the result of the invasion from neighbouring countries over the last decades, - or of the opening up to the modern world in general.

This is one of those cassettes with shifting favourites. All tracks are great, so it depends on moods, susceptability and environment which I prefer. When I first heard it it was "Lemourou". In hindsight I think this may have had to do with hearing this in the villages, where little girls were chanting it. I asked them what it meant and they contorted their faces. Later on someone told me it meant "citron" (lemon), but then I saw someone selling limes shouting "lemourou". My guess is it means both lemon and lime.

Super Sound SS-36

And, as mentioned above, here is another song from the same concert as the video I posted before. Karamoko with a somewhat larger ensemble and dancing, which adds an extra element of joy to his songs, if you ask me.
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Dots on the i's

2014-04-24T11:22:19.441-07:00

This short post is really about just one song. And about a survivor.For as far as I am aware he is one of the few survivors from the brilliant orchestra which rocketed Congolese music to an altitude where it subsequently influenced the whole of a continent. I was reminded of this the other day when I saw him on a photo (on the right - and Edo is the second from the right) uploaded by Dizzy Mandjeku. Born on October 27, 1933, Edo Nganga has left enough traces in the musical history of the two Congos to warrant a prominent place in the hall of fame of African music. Contrary to some reports, he was not present at the founding of the O.K. Jazz. But he did arrive only a few months later, when Rossignol (Philippe Landot) and others left for the new Esengo label. Edo has contributed many memorable compositions to the 'grand oeuvre' of the O.K. Jazz (and I am tempted to post a selection of these). But he is perhaps best known for his songs based on traditionals. I am referring to tracks like "Semba Mbwa Semba Dibou", "Tsia Koi Bon Tchele"(both on African 360.156*), "Ba O.K. Batele Wo" (Sonodisc CD 36553) and "Bazonzele Mama Ana" (Sonodisc CD 36555). I am still not quite sure on which tradition these are based. I have been told that Edo was inspired by the folklore of the Kongo people, but that seems to refer to many rather distinct traditions. I am assuming there must be more songs by Edo Nganga with the O.K. Jazz which have only been released on a 45 r.p.m. record (i.e. never been reissued). And one of these is the gem on side B of this EP: "Veronica". A beautiful bolero, offering Franco the opportunity to do what he does best: decorate and dress a song. He is at it right from the start, putting the dots on the i's, the cream on the cake, the frills on the wedding dress... The effect is accentuated even more because of the rather 'normal' (well at least compared to the Vicky's and the Kwamy's of those days) vocal of Edo Nganga. What never ceases to amaze me is the timing with which Franco adds his decorations. Take the dramatic 'interlude' starting at 1'04 and ending 20 seconds later: just perfect!As the two other songs on this EP: the second song on the B-side, "Ba O.K. Batele Wo", is probably from the same recordings session, while the song on the A-side, Franco's "Timothée Abangi Makambo" (which as appeared on several lp's and CD's), is from a totally different recording session. Pathé 45 EG 958* "Semba Mbwa Semba Dibou" was later reissued on Sonodisc CD 36521, but the brilliantly arranged "Tsia Koi Bon Tchele" has never made it to a digital release, as far as I know. Why?[...]



Mbaraka's twist

2014-03-03T13:11:31.725-08:00

As a counterweight to any kind of cynicism I would like to suggest an artist whom I least suspect of possessing this state of mind: Tanzanian superstar Mbaraka Mwinshehe Mwaruka. He is - to me at least - a shining example of a joyful mix of naivety, amateurism and innocence. And he manages to combine this with a positive attitude, a potent dose of originality and fine sense for good music. He is one of the many artists whom I wish I would have had the chance to meet, if only to confirm what I hear in his music.In certain aspects he reminds me of the late Remmy Ongala, whom I did have the fortune to meet (several times even), and who convinced me of his sincerity when he claimed he was singing for the poor people. The vigour with which he claimed this, the body language, the open attitude: the cynic in me was unable to resist this. It was hard not to like the man.Mbaraka died at a time when my African music collection consisted of no more than a dozen cassettes. I first heard his music in the mid-1980s when through the contacts with the Dutch management of Polygram (then still owned by Philips) a local record store started importing albums directly from Kenya. I was sold to Mbaraka's disarming sound right from the start. The start being the confusingly named "Ukumbusho Volume Pesa No. 1".My curiosity aroused, supply through the local store could not keep up with my demand. So I persuaded a friend, who was working in Kenya at the time, to bring me back all he could find of this series commemorating Mbaraka's greatness. I recently discovered that I still haven't collected all of these*....This volume contains songs of Mbaraka Mwinshehe with his orchestra Super Volcano. The orchestra is not credited on the sleeve, but Mbaraka himself cites the name of the orchestra in the songs.This lack of info on the sleeve in itself is not unusual, given the state of literacy of the target audience. But it does suggest that the marketing department never imagined a European listener would ever be interested in this product of 'native culture'. Most of the songs are in the typical Mbaraka style, with the usual references to Congolese sources of inspiration, such as Franco and Docteur Nico. But there is always an authentic twist. While Franco would go full-blast after a carefully constructed build-up like the one in the first track, "Bibi Wa Watu", Mbaraka instead (after 3'34) opts for a subtle, understated and very elegant 'mipanza' (see this post). I love it.Every song comes with such a 'twist'. In "Dina Uliapa" he clearly uses Nico's style, but ends with a typical Mbaraka touch, with the solo guitar strumming and the rhythm guitar moving to the forefront. I realise this may be a bit of paradigm shift for some of the readers, but the first song on the B-side seems inspired by Tabu Ley's Afrisa of the early 1970s. If you imagine Rochereau singing instead of Mbaraka, I am sure you'll hear it. Of course, Mbaraka lacks the pretence and the intellectual air, and this is not only reflected in the singing, but also in the down-to-earth sax.The song which stands out on this lp is, however, very much an original. "Masika Mtindo Mpya" is one of those songs that will force its way into your long-term memory. Despite the rather monotonous rhythm, that trumpet (!), Mbaraka's guitar: who can forget this song?Polydor POLP 550There is more.As a bonus I would like to share with you these five alternative takes, which were sent to me by Mr. Msomali, who you may remem[...]



Cynic

2014-03-15T02:55:24.194-07:00

Since the beginning of this year we are being bombarded with news that the Economic Crisis is over. And even it is not completely over, we are economically on the 'up'. I have my doubts.The former public, and now very much private, utility companies are still busy raking in the money. Water, electricity, health insurance, public transport, cable companies: we were led to believe that privatisation was necessary, if not crucial. The free market should, no would lead to lower rates, lower tariffs, lower premiums, lower charges. Instead, these have gone up and up. Excuses were sought - or made up. In the last few years the crisis and the falling revenue on investments was a good and much used excuse. In 2013 local bus fares went up by 15%. "Catching up with the increase in the cost of living" was the excuse. This year they are up again, "to be able to guarantee a good service to our customers" is the excuse this time. In the meantime salaries have not followed suit. After years of 0% increase a miserable 1% was graciously granted, - which was amply compensated by the abolition of privileges and benefits. Meanwhile the banks, the main perpetrators in the economy scam, are humbly offering apologies for the prolonged extortion of their customers, and have spent the whole of last year proclaiming that their main concern from now on will be the service to these same customers. Words. And words alone. The actions show another picture: interest rates on saving accounts are lower than the rate of inflation, on loans (if indeed the customer can demonstrate that he or she is worthy of such a great honour) they are still as high as ever. Here in the low countries the banks are almost all under the control of the state, but this public control has not led to a more public friendly approach. When it comes to the security of online banking - for example - we, the customers, are more than ever seen as incompetent idiots; and I am convinced the next step will be that we as customers will have to prove that a sudden cleaning-out of our account was not due to our own stupidity. To those who think I am exaggerating I would like to say "NSA". For which hardcore addict of conspiracy theories would have conjured up what has now come to light about the big-brother activities of this American public organisation? And if you ask me, we have only scratched the surface.On the other hand, maybe I am turning into a sad old cynic. Maybe I should nurture my more naive side, encourage my 'inner child'. And that brings us to the music of this post. Isn't it tempting to romanticise about an unspoilt, 'primitive' life in the wild? Living off the earth, being one with nature. The simple existence of the hunter-gatherer. The music captured on this brilliant cassette and recorded in the central Kalahari by Arthur Krasnilnikoff in 1987 (all tracks except B1) and 1992 (B1) does everything to coax the listener into the idyll. The delicate plucking of the mouthbow and all the other out-of-this-world, magical instruments, the innocence of the singing, but above all the unedited, untouched, uninterfered and intimate character of these great recordings: they all combine to make you want to believe the fairytale. Even the bleating of the goats and the bumping into the microphone contribute to a miraculous feeling of well-being, of paradise, where life is simple and easy.N!oakwe - Music of the Central KalahariBut of course life is neither simple nor eas[...]



Fire

2014-01-10T13:03:49.439-08:00

Perhaps you have been wondering why I haven't posted a eulogy to the late Taby Ley Rochereau. Or why I haven't commented on the death of Nelson Mandela. And what are my feelings at the death of prolific producer Ibrahima Sylla?I certainly have opinions about all of these, but in the case of the first and the last this is not the time to express these. And in the case of Madiba: what can I add that has not already been written, by persons far more qualified, far more knowledgeable than me? I simply have nothing new to contribute to the overwhelming sorrow at the death of this inspirational human being.And those who wondered if this blog had come to an untimely end, or if inspiration or motivation had run out, can rest assured that this is certainly not the case. I was merely getting overworked and simply had neither the time or the physical energy to sit down and spend time sharing the wonderful and ever amazing music of the African and latin continents. Inspiration, passion even - just listening to the music you will know that there is very little chance that this will go away. In this post I would like to share a cassette by an artist who has featured in this blog before (here and here): Sali Sidibé. Many of Sali's cassettes are among my favourites from Mali, and this is certainly one of those. It is a somewhat exceptional cassette in that Sali is accompanied not by a 'traditional' ensemble but by a modern orchestra. According to the guitarist Boubacar Diallo the orchestra consisted of members of National Badema (do yourself a favour and listen to their cassette if you have - erroneously - overlooked it). Going by the sound of the orchestra this seems very likely, although I have heard others claim that members of the Rail Band are actually accompanying this great singer from the Wassoulou district in the Sikasso region of Mali.What makes this cassette really special is the authority with which Sali addresses the people of Mali. She does so talking, and this in itself is part of a long and very respected and respectable tradition in Mali. Ms. Sidibé is dishing out advice on all kinds of issues, and particularly issues which would concern those living in the more rural areas of Mali. I particularly like her warnings against tasuma , i.e. fire, in the longest track on this cassette, "Anw Ka Jiri Turu". The song starts of with the sokou (probably Zoumana Tereta) imitating the sound of a fire-engine. In the opening line of her (spoken) message to the public Sali gets straight to the heart of the matter: "tasuma magninde" ("fire is no good"). She continues to point out the places where fire can present a serious risk. In any other country this may sound like kicking in a space where no door has ever been. And I suppose to a lot of Malians too it does sound like she is stating the obvious. But this is also part of her role as a musician. She is confirming the obvious. Fire cán burn you, bush fires cán ruin lifes. So "tasuma maginde". Be careful with fire, think of the risk.But even you have no idea where Sali Sidibé is talking and singing about this is simply a superb cassette with great music.ASF 320[...]