December 29, 2008

Trust

Another of the Syliphone releases from 1980 features another* orchestra from Beyla: Simandou Jazz.

Unlike Palm Jazz or Télé-Jazz, they get the full Syliphone treatment on the sleeve of their album.
I am referring to the lyrical descriptions of each individual track. "Faisons confiance en l'avenir. Demain sera le fruit de nos mains. Saxo ténor sentimental serpentant dans les jardins fleuris des guitares" ("Let us lay our trust in the future. Tomorrow shall be the fruit of our hands. Sensitive tenor sax snaking through gardens blossoming with guitars" - the translation is not as ridiculous as the French original). Wow!
I just love these little explosions of enthusiasm. They fit in so well with the music.

Because the music is just that: enthusiastic and exciting. This lp has no weaker tracks and I can only say that some tracks are slightly more favourite than others. "Kani Ye Sa", with the distant trumpet solo and the superb rhythm guitar. "Sensenko", with that great sax. "Festival", for the fantastic turbo horn section. And gardens blossoming with guitars too, - trust me.

SLP 72

*PS: I hope you have noticed this great post on the VOA site.

Tremendo punto

As I have mentioned before, Sonodisc was never very generous in the information they provided on the sleeves of their albums, and in the little they did provide not always very accurate.
In this case I think they accidently replaced one track by another and forgot to mention this on the sleeve.

All the compositions on this lp by Orchestre African Fiesta are by Roger Izeidi (the short guy in the photo, to the left of Kabasele), except one. The odd one out is "Minge Rumba Fiesta", a composition by Rochereau which on the sleeve is called "Tremendo Punto". This version of a track by Orquesta Aragon is not on this album, but on African 360.071.

The lp contains some memorable songs from the -relatively short- time that African Fiesta was one. A time when Roger Izeidi, Rochereau and Docteur Nico were the heirs to Kabasele's throne. After a row with Kabasele, who (according to some) had retired from music before his marriage in 1963 and/or (according to others) had been kicked out of his own orchestra by the disgruntled trio, about the use of the Surboum African Jazz label (see this post), Izeidi had called on his business contacts and founded a new record label: Vita. All the songs of this lp were originally released on this label.

If I am not mistaken, some of the tracks of this lp have never made it to CD. As it happens, these are the most interesting tracks.
Take the catchy "Contentieux Belgo-Congolais". Although my knowledge of lingala is minimal, I gather the song is about the dispute centred around the settlement of debts from the colonial era (see this article, or this). It makes you wonder why this was never re-released.
"A.M. Decantonio" is another track that never ended up on CD. This is even stranger, as it is to my knowledge the only track from this era featuring Nico on acoustic guitar. I'm not sure though if Rochereau has any idea of what he is supposed to be singing (but then who had - in this era?).

All in all this is a very enjoyable lp from African Fiesta at its best.

African 360.015

December 27, 2008

Request



I have nothing to add. (It's all true!)

PR 13407

Pioneers of Malian music (5)

After these intense days of Christmas, you may feel the need for some exercise. And what better exercise is there than dancing on the Bambara rhythms of the Super Djata Band?

As I have mentioned in earlier posts, the origins of this band were with the Ballet National du Mali. And although the direction of the videos of the Angoulême festival I posted earlier leaves a lot to be desired, they should give you some idea of the brilliant dancing technique of Daouda 'Flani' Sangaré, Alou Fané and Zani Diabaté.

This is one of the most danceable albums by this great band. It features tracks just made for dancing, like "Maliniwoula", "Zani Diabaté", "Konadou" (tracks which the band played in all of their European tours), plus -my favourites- "Sinaya" and "Signana". I am not quite sure who the other singers -besides Alou Fané- are in the first of these two; if I remember correctly one of them is called Sidi Touré. He is probably also singing in the latter, besides Flani and Alou.
Zani's guitar is clearly leading the dancers, turning and swirling, directing the breaks...

The sax is somewhat lost in the mix, but I for one am not unhappy about that.

I only have the cassette version of the album which was released -as the lp I posted earlier- on the Disco Rama label in Côte D'Ivoire. It's possible the cassette doesn't contain the complete album. The track "Yacouba", the last track of side A, is only three and a half minutes long, about half the size as the same track on MAD 004 on the Musique Mondiale label*.

As a bonus, here is a short video of a concert at the back of the Carrefours des Jeunes. I am not sure where Flani was during this recording, but I suspect he was on tour with Alou. According to the video the track is called "Balla", but I have my doubts about this title.

* which I'll post later

December 25, 2008

White Christmas

Here's the runner-up in the enigmatic cover competition.
This great cover doesn't give you an inkling of a clue towards the music on the cassette.

You will never guess that the music is by a Guinean accordionist, by the composer of the track "Autorail", by one of my musical heroes: Petit Moussa.

I am absolutely baffled by this man's music. And I can tell you this doesn't happen easily.

Accompanied by a great guitarist (Petit Mamadi?), an 'old-style' talking griot (Djiba Kamisoko?) and a powerful female singer (Namafa* Dioubaté?) Petit Moussa creates a wondrous world in which a listener can drift away.

Snow in Guinea? Why not!

ENC 9022

* I'm not sure about this name. I refer you to the first track.

December 24, 2008

Alhaji and the....?

After the previous two posts (here and here) I don't think I have to introduce this great artist to you anymore.

This lp is one which was released by Haruna Ishola's son four years after his death. The music is -as always- brilliant.

But what's this with the blonde? Who is this woman*? And why the languid look into the lens?
This cover is one of the greatest enigmas in African music!

GBLP 003



* I am almost tempted to write "what's with the German hooker?" But I won't.

Foutah party

I would like to quote Baaba Maal in this very interesting article:
"There is a proverb in Fulani from Fouta Toro who say, the language of the Fulanis people, the Pulaar, was born in the Fouta Toro. The language grow up in Fouta Djallon. And the language become like an old man at Masina--that's at the north of Mali. And they explain it. They say you can see a lot of musicians in Fouta Toro. The language they are singing is very [much] for ambiance, and when they are talking, it is really very straight, the communication. But when you go to Fouta Djallon, it's a little bit more mature. It's a lot of knowledge that goes with the talking. And when you go to Masina, it's lke an older person who is talking. He is using symbols. They use symbols. But we all keep and maintain the relationship between the three Fulani centers from Senegal to Guinea and to Mali."

The Télé-Jazz are from Télémélé, which is a town (and préfecture) in the Foutah Djallon. And their lp on the Syliphone label certainly shows the maturity to which Baaba Maal refers.
The orchestra distinguishes itself from the Malinké (Mandingue) groups from Kankan or Conakry, not just by the language but also by the pentatonic origin of their music.

My favourite track on this lp is (I am almost inclined to write "of course") the superb ballad "Dyamaa", which even after years sends chills down my spine.
"La fête au Foutah", certainly, - but mostly a celebration of Foutah Djallon culture!

SLP 74

Porcupine

As promised another post about Amadou Balaké.
First I would like to refer you to a biography by Joachim Vokouma on LeFaso.net. It is in French, so here is a partial translation:

His adventure as professional musician starts off in 1962, in Mali. He's enlisted into the orchestra of the Grand Hotel, that plays every night in the Moulin Rouge, a night club in Bamako.

In 1963 he leaves the Malian capital and finishes up in Abidjan, where he plays, with Italians, at the Tropicana, in the Ivoire hotel. The collabaration lasts a mere six months and our adventurer decides to leave for Guinea. Thanks to the good care of a (lady) friend who is a member of the bureau politique of the PDG (Parti Démocratique de Guinée), the single party at the time, he is appointed chef d'orchestre of the Horoya Band from Kankan.

Very soon, the relations between this 'married lady' and her protégé take on a nature which hardly pleases the latter. In the end he decides to pack his bags, and sets off, first to Conakry, and subsequently to Mamou where, in charge of the Bafing Jazz, he participates in artistic competitions. He is invited regularly to perform at the meetings organized by the president Sékou Touré in the interior of the country.

In the first years after independence, the relationship of the Guinean leader Sékou Touré with some of his African counterparts is very low, in particular with the presidents Félix Houphouët-Boigny of Ivory Coast, Maurice Yaméogo of Upper Volta (the present Burkina Faso) and Léopold Sédar Senghor of Senegal. Amadou Traoré will be a victim of this hate between the socialist camp and that of the pro-western (leaders).

Denouncing his great closeness to the former colonial power, Sékou Touré refers to the Ivorian president as a lackey of French imperialism, hostile to African unity. In defense of Houphouët-Boigny, the president of Upper-Volta replies and calls Sékou Touré a representative of communism, the real enemy of the Africans. On the airwaves of the national radio he attacks Sékou Touré in terms of a coarse nature unworthy of a head of state. "Who is this Sékou, also known as Touré, who longs so much that we talk about him? An arrogant man, a liar, jealous, envious, brutal, hypocrite, ungrateful, intellectually dishonest... You're nothing but a bastard amongst the bastards that populate the world. That's what you are, Sékou, a bastard of bastards."

On this the entourage of Sékou Touré turnes to Amadou Traoré and asks him to compose a song in response to the president of Upper-Volta who, in the eyes of Sékou Touré is nothing but a "travelling salesman for the division Africa and an errant boy of Houphouët-Boigny". Which he refuses. "How can I return home (to my country) if I insult my president", he justifies himself. Seeing the clouds appear on the horizon, Amadou Traoré asks and is granted a meeting with the Guinean number one and expresses his wish to go back to see his mother. Much to his surprise, Sékou Touré doesn't object, even offers him travellers cheques, as the Guinean franc was not convertible.

Back in his country he joins the Harmonique Voltaique where he has played before leaving his country and which is now directed by Maurice Simporé. The song he composes, "Balaké", which signifies "porcupine" in mandingue (Malinké), is a hit, mediawise and commercial in several African countries. Ever since, he is called "Balaké".

This sudden succes was however going cause him trouble. According to Amadou Balaké, Maurice Simporé "chased me out of the group arguing that the Harmonique Voltaïque isn't a mandingue orchestra. A false pretext, because in fact he was jealous of my popularity", he believes.

With his experience as a worker in Civil Engineering, Amadou Balaké is recruited by ITS, a German company that in 1969 has taken on the asphalting of the road from Ouagadougou to Pô. As a result of an accident at work Amadou Balaké breaks his right leg and he feels more or less condemned to make a succes of his musical career. In 1970, he forms a group called "Les 5 Consuls de Balaké" that brighten up the evenings at the Don Camillo, then located not far from cinema Rialé.

In 1971 he records an lp "Mdolla Yacouba" ("my lover Yacouba") with Adama Ouédraogo, boss of the Club Voltaïque de Disques. Next he is recruited by a young Nigerian producer residing in Abidjan, Aboudou Lassissi, whose financial proposals were not uninteresting. With him, Amadou Balaké records (in Ibadan) "Taximan n'est pas gentil", which was very well received by press and public.
Unfortunately the biography speeds up immensely in 1971, because the encounter with Lassissi is, if I am not mistaken, at least five or six years later.

I would like to focus in this post on some recordings made between 1971 and 1976 at the Club Voltaïque de Disques of Adama Ouédraogo.

Disques CVD 46:
This record contains a song dedicated to the memory of Aboubacar 'Demba' Camara (the legendary singer of Bembeya Jazz who was killed in a car crash on April 5, 1973), with several quotes from Demba's songs. The B-side is not a version of the track on Amadou Balaké à New York (LS 22-79), but a track in the 'funky' style of "Super Bar Konon Moussou" and others, composed by a certain Abdoulaye Derme.
Disques CVD 48:
Balaké accompanied by the Volta Jazz orchestra in a track that reminds me more of Malian orchestras (apart from the Demba-like exlamations), and with what sounds like a typical Balaké story. The track is covered on the cassette I posted earlier. The track "Johnny" on the B-side appears to deal with a similar subject of 'tough guys'.


Disques CVD 52:
On the A-side the brilliant original of the song he covered in 1981 on the Afro-Charanga lp. Even the guitarist seems inebriated. And on the B-side a song in Balaké thanks his woman for cleaning his clothes and preparing his meals (with a revealing line: "Ma femme ne sort pas la nuit, elle est toujours pour moi" - "my wife doesn't go out at night, she is always mine").
Another original version, but this time of the Africando hit "Betece" (or should I say "Motécé"?). Great track. The B-side was covered several times as "Voiture D'Occasion" (Zamidou Prod. 1582, 1981) and "Super Mobili Occasion" (on the CVD 008 lp).

Disques CVD 66:
Balaké is not mentioned on the sleeve, but does sing the lead on both tracks. I think it's safe to assume Mangue Kondé is the guitarist...
Disques CVD 83:
On the A-side all the ingredients of tracks like "Taximen" are present, albeit with a more pronounced horn section. The B-side is a familiar sounding (but I can't recall where I heard it before) version of the Malinké track.


A special christmassy thanks to Faas T. for these great 45s.

PS: you can hear parts of another of these CVD records here.

EDIT (Jan.4, 2009): Lamine Camara, the present chef d'orchestre of the Horoya Band, is quite definite about Amadou Balaké never being a member of the orchestra, let alone chef d'orchestre, reports Graeme Counsel (I asked him to check this).

December 23, 2008

Coup de maître

This may not be the most opportune moment to start about a 'coup' in reference to Guinea. While writing this the initial reports of a coup d'état by the military -only hours after the death of President Lansana Conté- are being contradicted by governmental sources.
But I'm just quoting the sleeve of this great album by the Palm Jazz from Macenta on the Syliphone label, a label closely connected to the Guinea of former President Ahmed Sékou Touré. The quote is about new groups, and how they can succeed or fail. "Un coup d'essai peut être un coup de maître", which translates (awkwardly, I admit) as "a tentative sweep can be a stroke of genius".

They were too modest.
One only has to listen to this brilliant recording to detect the blatant genius. And I am not just talking about the orchestra, but also about the superior recording quality. I am sure the Syliphone recordings will be condemned as being technically inadequate by western sound technicians. Instruments can disappear in the background, vocals can hoot in a single channel, there can be tape errors, hums, noise, musicians coughing.... And that's just what I love about these albums. They're alive. And will remain alive for ever.

My two favourite tracks on this album are the last two. First the extreme energy of "Gbangba Gnale" (what this he is singing about "Saint Nicolas"??), and then an absurdly bluesy blues track "Kobogui" with 'late night solos' by the trumpet and sax players.
Genius!

SLP 73

December 22, 2008

El acordeón cubano

As a fan of any type of accordion music I was very surprised to find the instrument in the touristic resort of Trinidad, Cuba. A place well worth visiting, by the way.

The discovery of the instrument was actually a coincidence, because the owner wasn't playing the instrument when we met. He was playing a tres in a small conjunto. He did this with so much fervour that I decided to compliment him. We got to talk about his music and his musical interests, and he revealed that he owned an accordion, which he played sometimes in another bar.

I asked him if I could record it and he agreed.

And here are these recordings, of Ramón Castro. Recorded in Trinidad, Cuba, in March 2002.

EDIT June 11, 2013: The link has been refreshed.

Souraka djeli


Her paternal ancestor, named Nogo Tomo Dramé, was "Souraka Djeli" originating from Nioro. He came to settle in Fala, in Nogales near Kolongo where the chiefs where the Samaké. Nogo Tomo and his descendants put themselves at the service of these noble Samaké by becoming their griots. However, their "Diatigui" (hosts) are the blacksmiths Ballo to whom Hawa Dramé paid tribute in the famous song "Numu foli". Her father, Tiéna Dramé, was a mechanical workman at the Office of Niger and her mother, Doussou Koné, female griot singer of the line of the Diarra of Segou (descendant of Da Monzon). (mali-music.com)
Hawa Dramé, who died in 1996, was known in Mali as a djeli without frills. A humble and sincere person who was above all a defender of the authentic Bambara rhythms and culture. The absence of jewelry and expensive clothes distinguished here from other griots and strengthened her ties with the rural communities where she was adored.
She spent only a few years in the Ensemble Instrumental National du Mali, but definitely made her mark in that time.

Here is a video featuring Hawa Dramé, accompanied by an small ensemble of some of Mali's top instrumentalists. It is one of the few live performance recorded outside, in the field. I copied the video in the late 1980s, but I assume the recording (by Malian television) was made a few years earlier.

PS: "Souraka" = "Moor" or "Maure"

December 21, 2008

Juju organ

In order to stay ahead of the competition the stars of juju music have always tried to introduce 'novelties' into their music. I don't mean I.K. Dairo's accordion, because the accordion was his original instrument. I am referring to the steel or hawaiian guitar which, started as a novelty, at one point even threatened to dominate the music style.

A more innocuous form of novelty can be found on this album from 1978 by Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey and his Inter-Reformers Band. Luckily the organ is limited to the A-side of the lp. Don't get me wrong: it's great, but two sides would be too much of a good thing...

The album cover seems to portray Obey as the reformed religious man he would like to be. A shepherd and his flock.

WAPS 418

December 20, 2008

Surboum (1)

I am hoping this will be an interactive post. I mean, I will tell you which tracks I am looking for and will share with you the ones I do have; and I hope you will share the missing tracks with us.

The OK Jazz only released 70 records on the Surboum label. And in this post we will be looking at the first ten of those. All those 20 tracks were composed by Franco.

To explain how the OK Jazz got to record these tracks, one has to go back to the time just before Congo's independence. Kabasele (Kallé) had been asked to perform at the Round Table (Table Ronde) conference in Brussels. But not just Kabasele: Franco too had been asked to join what was supposed to be a selection of the best Congolese music had to offer. Vicky Longomba (who after his return to Congo formed the Negro Succès) had already accepted the invitation. Franco hesitated. It was a difficult time for the OK Jazz; the orchestra hadn't recorded for several months, and spirits were low. And to top it all, key-musician Brazzos also decided he would go with Kabasele. Finally Franco, discouraged, accepted the invitation. Tickets were bought and passports arranged. But his wife, Mama Paulina, intervened. A strong woman, and a prominent member of the OK Jazz fan club, she accused Franco of betraying his style and all that the OK Jazz stood for. When Kabasele and Roger Izeidi came to make the final arrangments for the voyage, she grabbed Izeidi by the tie and told them to go away and leave her man alone; her François was not going!

Franco decided to take charge and found two replacements for Vicky: Mulamba Joseph a.k.a. Mujos and Jean 'Kwamy' Munsi. And to replace Brazzos, Bombolo Léon 'Bholen' and -later- Jean Bokelo were invited.

But a new challenge surfaced, -this time of a technical nature. The Loningisa label had problems with the new 45 rpm format. The quality of the records was unacceptably low.

At the time it was rumoured that rivalry between the OK Jazz and Kabasele's African Jazz were at the basis of Franco's refusal. But in fact Franco had the greatest respect and admiration for Kabasele, and Kabasele was a great admirer of Franco.
In Brussels Kabasele recorded some tracks which were released on a new label called "African Jazz". When he returned to Kinshasa, Franco turned to him for help. Also to show there were no hard feelings between the two men, Kabasele invited Franco to come and record in Europe, and to release his records at his label, which he had renamed to "Surboum African Jazz".

The first ten records released by the OK Jazz on the Surboum African Jazz label were all compositions by Franco.

TitleComposerCD/ lp
001La Mode Ya Pius Apiki DalapoFranco
Ngai Mwana Na WeyiFranco
002Amida Asukisi MolatoFranco
Mboka Mosika MawaFranco
003Mibali Bakomi Mpasi Na LeoFranco
Pa Roger Na DoliFranco
004Cha Cha Cha EriqueFranco
Soki Ngai Na Bandaki YoFranco
005Liwa Ya WechFranco(CD 36508/ 360.070)
Na Likuanga Na SeliFranco(CD 36508/ 360.070)
006Baiser Na LitamaFranco
Bana MpotoFranco
007Franco CantarFranco
Tika Toloba LeloFranco
008Lopango Ya Bana Na NgaiFranco
Mbanda Mwasi Alingi NgaiFranco
009Amida Muziki Ya O.K.Franco(CD 36508/ 360.070)
Motema Ya FafaFranco(CD 36508/ 360.070)
010Muana Moko MawaFranco
Ye BoFranco

The titles in green are the ones that are missing in this collection (new link January 5, 2012). I am hoping someone can provide these.... (fingers crossed)

In the next post about the OK Jazz on Surboum African Jazz I will give you more details about the line-up.

More Tasidoni

Since my first post about 'Tasidoni' Karamoko Keita we have learned that our hero is no longer with us. The more reason to raise a statue for this artist, who can been seen as a man of the people, a Malian amongst Malians.

He has no airs, no pretentiousness. Listen to the intro of this cassette: Karamoko thanks God and subsequently introduces himself and the people present at this recording session. I just love this cassette. It's so authentically Malian, so characteristic of the Bamako of the 1980s.


SS 87 (new link October 30, 2012)

A Tout Casser

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

December 19, 2008

Pioneers of Malian music (4)

As I have mentioned in an earlier post Alou Fané and Daouda 'Flani' Sangaré were the first to record kamalen n'goni music. The recordings were made in the studios of Radio Mali in 1968. But they were released a few years later, on an lp on the Disco Club Bagoué label in Abidjan.

The focus in this album is equally divided between Alou (sitting down playing the n'goni on the photo) and Flani (on the right looking down). Alou is the lead singer in four of the eight tracks. These are clearly 'his' tracks, with titles like "Komo" (referring to a -secretive rather than secret- initiation cult in which members of the blacksmith families have a special place) and "Noumousso" ("house of the blacksmith" - a track which he later used with the Super Djata Band). In some of these tracks Flani plays the kamalen n'goni.

This lp should make an end to a popular misconception, that the kamalen n'goni music is a 'watered-down' version of the dozon n'goni (hunters) music of the Wassoulou region. In all aspects this is a completely original music style, with links to local music styles of the Sikasso region. In future posts I intend to dig deeper into those local styles.

FT 001

December 18, 2008

Syli Orchestre National

Formed in 1959, the Syli Orchestre National contained Guinea's elite musicians. The orchestra represented Guinea at international festivals, including Helsinki (1962), Algiers (1969), and Tunis (1973), as well as performing in Berlin, Lagos and Cuba. The first chef d'orchestre was Kanfory Sanoussi (accordion, banjo and vibraphone), with other musicians at the time including Kerfala “Papa” Diabaté (guitar), Balla Onivogui (trumpet), Kélétigui Traoré (tenor saxophone), Clement Dorego (tenor saxophone), Honore Coppet (alto saxophone), Momo Wandel (alto saxophone), Pivi Moriba (trombone), Kerfala Camara (bass), and Jean Fanga (drums). In later years the orchestre included Demba Camara (vocals) and Sékou "Bembeya" Diabaté (lead guitar). In 1962 they were disbanded, as they were too many musicians, though the orchestra were reformed for special occasions for many years to come. At the Premier Festival Culturel Panafricain held in Algiers in 1969 the Syli Orchestre Nationale performed "Regard sur le passé", by Bembeya Jazz, "Sara", by Balla et ses Balladins, and other material from Guinean orchestras. They were rewarded with a silver medal in the "Orchestre moderne" section.
Graeme Counsel (here)

Here is a video from the concert in 1969, featuring the legendary singer Aboubacar Demba Camara, and Sekou Diabaté 'le Docteur' (Balladins) and a young Sekou Diabaté 'Bembeya' on guitar, and Sekou Legrow (he's the one with the silly walk at the beginning), Balla, Kélétigui, Pivi and lots of other superb musicians.

The energy, the drive, the music, the voice: this is top of the league music from Guinea!*

*"O.U.A." (referring to the Organisation of African Unity) is a version of a track by the Orchestre de Beyla (i.e. Bembeya Jazz) on Syliphone SLP 5.

Franco in love

In the series Tracks-Which-They-Forgot-To-Digitize (see this post and this post) here is one of the most blatant omissions. It's a track from 1977 and it's in Franco's favourite bolero style.

I have been waiting since the introduction of the CD for a digital version of "Tolinganaki Toboyanaki" (which can be translated as "we were once in love, then broke up"). The song is sung by Franco solo. That is, if you don't count Isaac Musekiwa (he isn't credited but, given the prominent role of the sax, I am assuming it must be him). His sax follows Franco through the song, anticipating, replying, coaxing... Franco's guitar responds by brilliant bouts of what can be best described as musical love-making, with a climax after 6'35.

As far as I know Michelino's "Kamusengele" also has not been digitized, but Josky's "Monzo" and Franco's driving "Na Loba Loba Pamba Te" have, although I still prefer the lp version of the latter.

African 360.104


PS: this is the first of a series of OK Jazz posts which I have planned for the next few weeks. So watch this space.....

December 14, 2008

More Balaké

This is just an intermediate post. I will be posting some more 'historic' singles from the Burkinabe master in the near future.

It doesn't mean that I don't find this relatively recent (late 1990s) cassette by Amadou Balaké very interesting. What's most interesting is the fact that Balake remains 100% himself in these recordings despite the modern (and in my opinion inferior) instrumentation. It proves the timelessness of his talent.

The cassette contains versions of the classic Balaké tracks "Wariko" ("wari magnin" - money is bad, - and the root of all evil, even in Burkina Faso...), previously on Sacodis LS 7-78 and Zamidou Prod. 1582, and of "Kambeleba", previously recorded with the Super Volta orchestra.

Even if the cover is dreadful, I don't care: it's still Balaké!

MGS 3120

H-A-P-P-Y

Another early star of juju music is Tunde Nightingale. I get the impression that little has been published about his career, because the article about him in the wikipedia is minimal to say the least.

Personally I have no idea how anyone can describe his voice as 'sonorous' or sounding like a nightingale (unless the nightingale is being strangled), but that doesn't mean I don't like his music. I especially like the way he plays his guitar. He has a very special melodious, soulful style of playing, which I suppose inspired others like Sunny Ade and Ebenezer Obey to follow in his footsteps.

This lp is a volume 2, and maybe this record posted by a Canadian blogger is the 'matching' volume 1. Both records are on the Take Your Choice label, and both appear to be undated.

If your wondering about the title of this post, listen to the lp. I am sure you'll be h-a-p-p-y too!

TYC1-LP

Fauvette

Listening to the music I just couldn't believe this was another of the many anonymous bands from Congo. The cassette sleeve offers very little information, other than that the cassette was made in Kericho, Kenya.

A further search revealed more information about Orchestre Fauvette. Apparently the orchestre is from the east of Congo and was founded in the 1960s. Prominent member of the orchestra was Ndala Kasheba, a singer/guitarist, who later moved on to lead the Safari Sound Orchestra. There is a promotional video (here) in which he talks briefly about his life and in which he is seen playing with singer King Kiki (both are in the photo on the right, 'borrowed' from this informative article by Banning Eyre). The latter also was a member of Fauvette.
Ndala Kasheba died of a heart attack in November 2004 (see this article).

When fighting broke out in Katanga in 1967 while Fauvette was touring the eastern provinces of Congo, they decided to continue their tour outside of Congo. First they went to Bujumbura (Burundi) and from there to Kigoma (Tanzania). In 1969 they moved to Dar Es Salaam, where they were welcomed by Western Jazz, a very popular band at the time. Fauvette soon set up a base there and recorded a few tracks at the studio of Radio Tanzania Dar Es Salaam. One of these is the track "Mama Nakupenda" ("Mama I love you"), which is on this cassette.

In 1970 King Kiki, who -like Ndala Kasheba- grew up in Likasi, joined the orchestra. Two years later the band left Dar Es Salaam and changed its name into Safari Nkoy. After a short period in Bujumbura they returned to (then) Zaïre, where in 1974 Kiki left the orchestra.

So I think it is safe to assume that these remarkable recordings, released on the rare Stranger of the 70s label, were made in Tanzania.

C STR 01

Amara Touré

A man who has travelled quite a bit, this Amara Touré. Originally from Guinea, he was a member of the Tropical Jazz orchestra in Dakar in the early 1960s and was involved in the formation of the Star Band. Subsequently he was in the line-up of Dexter Johnson's Superstar de Dakar which can be heard on the magnificent Dakar Sound CD's DKS 016 and DKS 017. According to the liner notes he can be heard singing the lead vocal on St. Louis Sierra (DKS 017).

Apparently he ended up in Gabon in the 1970s. He teamed up with orchestre Massako "des F.T.N. du Gabon" (the army?) of Mackjoss (real name Mackaya Jean-Paul), one of the key figures in the Gabonese music scene from the 1960s on to the 1980s, and also a man with a taste for Afro-Cuban music (he is reported to have played with Sonora Matancera in Burkina Faso in the 1980s).

The result is this superb lp, on the Sonafric label. Amara Touré's singing is brilliant, but I also like the chorus and the superior horn section.

Sonafric SAF 50.107 (NEW LINK May 28, 2012)


I only have photocopies of the sleeve...

EDIT: I have replaced - thanks to zim - the photocopy of the front sleeve by a colour version...

December 08, 2008

Papus

After the lingering demise of Super Biton from Ségou (Mali), which set in after the European tour in 1986 and the subsequent retirement of longtime chef d'orchestre Amadou Bah, most of the bandmembers tried to save their musical hides. Some left for other orchestras, others embarked on solo 'projects'. One of the more succesful of these projects was one by a singer who hadn't joined the orchestra on the European tour.

I have never found out why Papa Gaoussou Diarra, a.k.a. Papus was left out of the line-up. Maybe he had fallen out of favour with the regional authorities. Or maybe he was left behind for musical reasons; because Papa Diarra had a secondary role with Biton, and was not one of the front men. During concerts he usually sang the 'lesser' tracks, which with Biton -as an orchestra from a Bambara region*- meant the Malinké classics.

The title track of this cassette was quite a hit in the late 1990. And I can imagine why. The whole cassette has an unpretentiousness, and (I am told) deals with everyday subjects of everyday people. The tunes are at least related to the repertoire of Super Biton, without being direct copies; the second track is the exception to this rule, as it is a version of the track Biton played at the last (old style) Biennale in 1988.
But all in all it's a very enjoyable cassette.

EDIT December 10, 2010: I see our friend Ngoni has posted a video if the song "Bila Siraba (52)". The copy of this video I have is nowhere near this quality...


*and I know there are other ethncial groups in the Ségou region...

December 07, 2008

Baba N'gani

Haruna Ishola Adebayo was born in 1919 in Ijebu-Igbo, in what is now known as Ogun State, Nigeria. His interest in music was awoken by his father, who was a native doctor and a singer. He started earning a living as a musician from 1944, and recorded his first record, titled "Orimolusi Adeboye" in praise of the Oba (ruler) of Ijebu-Igbo, in 1948. Sales were however disappointing, and it wasn't until 1955 that he made another recording, this time for Decca Records, but in praise of the same man, who in the meantime had passed away. The record proved to be the key to fame.

In 1969 he teamed up with juju-master I.K. Dairo to create their own record company, Star Records. They were the first African musicians to do so. His biggest hit on this label was the 1971 album "Oriki Social Club", which sold over 5 million copies.

Haruna Ishola, nicknamed Baba N'gani Agba, reached an almost mythical status, even during his lifetime. He was made a Member of the Order of Niger (M.O.N.) by the then president Shehu Shagari in 1981.
Haruna Ishola died on November 9, 1983.

The lp I am posting here contains a collection of tracks from the late 1960s. Technically Star Records could record tracks of up to 7 minutes. In the early 1970s, with the introduction of larger reels came the evolution into longer tracks, as in the lp I have posted earlier.

SRPS 39 (new link Febr 24, 2012)

Baba Gaston

I hesitate to post this lp because I have lost the photocopy of the record sleeve. On the other hand, the music is so compelling that I can't withhold it from you. The artist is the legendary Baba Gaston.

He was born in 1936 in the Katanga province in the southeast, and he died in 1997 in Tanzania.
But he made the greatest impact, not on the Congolese music, but on the music of East Africa. He settled in Tanzania in 1970 and moved to Nairobi, Kenya a few years later, where remained a leading player in the music scene until his retirement in 1989*.
His band was a training school for over 700 musicians, and split-offs have led to bands like Les Mangelepa, Super Mazembe and Viva Makele, while ex-members have ended up in bands like Les Wanyika and even the TP OK Jazz (singer Nana). You can read more about this remarkable artist on the site of Muzikifan.

Baba Gaston sang mostly in Swahili, but three of the four songs on this lp from 1983 are in Lingala. According to Peter Toll on Muzikifan the album may have been recorded in Kinshasa with local musicians, and features singer Stazo Ya Esta from Festival du Zaire.
Anyway, it's a great album!

ASLP 971 (new - and now correct - link including cover and improved track - see below. June 30, 2011)

* I wonder if there was a relation between Franco's death and his retirement?

EDIT: thanks to Peter Toll, here is an improved and complete version of track B1 "Rudi Nyumbani Africa" (new link June 30, 2011), plus a scan of the cover (below).

Ensemble Instrumental National du Mali

Listening to the Ensemble Instrumental National du Mali on a record is like watching a movie on the screen of an iPod: you get an idea of the plot, but it can't compare to the experience of seeing it in the cinema. Seen live in Bamako the ensemble offers an extra dimension, not just in sound but also in vision.

The ensemble was founded in 1961 by order of president Modibo Keita. Talents from the wide range of Malian cultures were recruited and the ensemble soon became a prestigious ambassador for Malian culture. The early line-up consisted of musical virtuosos like kora legends Sidiki Diabaté (on the photo with the green scarf on his kora), Djelimadi Sissoko (left from Sidiki) and Batourou Sekou Kouyaté (left from Djelimadi), but also of singers like Fanta Damba (Koroba) (2 rows above Sidiki Diabaté, on the right of the singer with the gold bracelet), Nantenedie Kamissoko (behind Djelimadi Sissoko), Mokontafé Sacko (with the gold bracelet??) and Waldé Damba. In later years, the ensemble saw a stream of talent passing through, with great singers like Hawa Dramé (post coming up!), Tata Bambo Kouyaté, Wandé Kouyaté, Coumba Sidibé and Bako Dagnon.
Reports that Kandia Kouyaté was ever a member of the Ensemble have been contradicted by the vedette herself.

To give you an inkling of an idea of the visual brilliance of the ensemble here is a video from Malian television, recorded during a concert in the Palais de la Culture in Bamako. The singer is -the in my opinion underestimated- Djelimadi Sissoko (also known as Djelimadi Sissoko II, to distinguish him from the kora-player), one of the few (if not the only?) male singers with the Ensemble.

And here is a classic album of the legendary Mali Kunkan label. It contains the epic tale (in two parts) of Dah-Monzon, king of the Bambara of Segou, and his general Bakaridian.

I am not sure who are the lead singers in these tracks, but I suspect one of them is Nantenedie Kamissoko, and the other is one of my favorite Malian singers: Hawa Dramé.

KO 77.04.11 (new link November 27, 2011)

December 06, 2008

National Service

I can only guess about the origins and status of the National Service Band from Tanzania. I suspect that they were related in some way to the army, but there is no basis for the suspicion. Google only offers an article about Kassim Saidi Mapili, who claims to have been a member of this band (when?).

Listening to the music, there is an elementary influence of Congolese music, but the style has developed into a very original Tanzanian sound. The lead and rhythm (do listen to the rhythm guitar!) guitars are very pronounced and rip through most of the songs. Saxes -but no trumpet-, with traces of Verckys/Musekiwa.
I would guess that the music is from the early 1970s.

If there is anyone who can provide additional information about this (in my opinion) great orchestra, please comment on this post!

C SABA 14

December 02, 2008

"Ultra Rare"


A few days ago I stumbled upon a record on ebay for a ridiculous price of $300. It has since expired, but there are others offering this "Amazing manding LP recorded in Abidjan, very similar to rail band de Bamako" for a mere $266. Alternatively you can go over to another version of ebay, and get the same record for an astonishing bargain price of $99.

On the other hand you also download the same recording here. I won't charge you a cent. Spend the money you save on a christmas present for your loved ones, or on one (or all!) of the Oriki albums.

I am not saying the record is no good. On the contrary, it is a great lp, by one of the erstwhile national orchestras of Mali, Les Messagers du Mali. It was originally released on the Musique Mondiale label in Abidjan (MAD 011, cover -reconstructed from the ebay photo- on the right ), but I bought the cassette version in Bamako in 1988 (cover below). I remember the seller was reluctant to sell it to me. It didn't have an original cover and I probably wouldn't like it, he argued. I countered by lowering my bid, and got it for an absurdly low price. Absurdly low, given the quality of the music.

The repertoire of Les Messagers consists mainly of Malinké classics, from the Siramori Diabaté line of traditionals. Tracks like "Baninde" (on this lp "Dianyemoko"), "Kanou" and "Signaro". What I like about the orchestra (apart from the presence of a solid horns section) is the enthousiasm with which they attack the songs.

KS 342