The earliest recorded tracks of the Negro Band from Brazzaville date from the time when Simarro was playing with the Kongo Jazz, Dewayon with Conga Jazz, and when Rochereau (accompanied by "l'African Rock") had a hit with "K.J.". It must have been 1960.
But this post is not about these eventful times; nor is about the Negro Band's adventures at the Stenco label, nor about their relationship with Franco and his record labels.
This post is about what can be seen as the Negro Band's heyday.
In 1968 they managed to land a contract for concerts and recordings in France. At the time the line-up of the Negro Band included Michel Boybanda who shortly before had seen Orchestre Révolution disintegrate. He had been a member of the OK Jazz since 1963. When in 1967 established members like Kwamy, Mujos, Brazzos, Isaac Musekiwa and Dessoin left the OK Jazz to form this orchestra (a move which according to Simaro was helped by the financial support of one of Mobutu's subordinates), Boybanda at first was hesitant to join them. He was however persuaded by the apparent wealth the new orchestra displayed (they had bought new Vespa's and cars, and new instruments). A few months after joining Révolution he was even in charge, as Kwamy and Mujos almost never bothered to show up.
Boybanda wasn't new to the Negro Band. He had been present at its formation in 1958, and had worked with them off and on until joining the OK Jazz.
The Paris recordings by the Negro Band were released on the Pathé label, in the form of one lp and a few singles. The sleeves appear to carry the same photo, but if you look closer you'll see some remarkable differences.
How many can you spot?
Pathé 2 C054.15054 (lp)
Pathé 2 C006.15004