The OK Jazz started the 1970s with an all-time low. The year 1970 not only saw the final break between Franco and Vicky Longomba, but also the death of Franco's younger brother Bavon Marie Marie, with Franco playing a very dubious role. To make matters worse, Franco split up with his wife Paulina, with whom he appeared to have had such a strong bond.
After a period of semi-retirement Franco decided it was time he took control. The coming and going of musicians must end, he ordained. Once someone left there was no turning back. He took on extra musicians too, four trumpet players, and replacements for those who had left.
Among those being replaced was Celi Bitshou, bass player and a remarkable composer. His replacement was Mpudi Decca (who will be the subject of a future post).
It seems likely that the tracks of this lp were recorded in the time before Celi Bitshou left the OK Jazz. On the other hand, Franco felt no qualms about using a composition after the composer had left the orchestra; so it's possible that Bitshou's most famous composition was recorded without him. This composition is "Mado", also known as "Infidélité" or "Infidélité Mado".
The track is in a lot of respects typical of the period. And even more so, the 'alternative' version on this lp (second track on the A-side). The unusual guitar solo is Franco's cynical reaction to the criticism that his solos were getting monotonous (Graeme Ewens also writes about this in his "Congo Colossus").
The release of these songs must have coincided with president Mobutu's launch of his 'Authenticité' and 'Zaïrisation' (or 'Zaïrianisation') campaign. The sleeve shows the OK Jazz in the uniform of revolutionary militants of the Mouvement Populaire de Révolution (left to right: Dele Pedro, Rondot Kawaka, Isaac Musekiwa, Celi Bitshou and singers Lola Djangi 'Chécain' and Youlou Mabiala).
But more interestingly, the lp features a song by Manuel D'Oliveira, the Angolan star of the 1950s Ngoma label and leader of the legendary ensemble San Salvador. According to Chécain he can be even heard singing in the chorus (lead vocals are by Michel Boyibanda and Youlou Mabiala). The song, "Na Mokili Mibale Na Mibale", is a version of San Salvador's 1953 song "Lokumu Ya Mwasi Mpo Na Mobali" (Ngoma 1445). Apparently Franco (too) interpreted the slogan 'Recours à l'authenticité' as a return to the times before Western influences had 'changed' Congolese culture. Evidence of this can not only be found on this record, but also in -for example- the recordings with another star of the 1950s Ngoma label, Camille Feruzi. Later, this interpretation was rejected*.
Franco later claimed that he had always interpreted 'Authenticité' as the loyalty to one's own roots. And of that kind of 'Authenticité', which he later described as "originalité", Franco was and remained a Master....
*cynically four titles on this lp are in French, with in at least two cases good Zairean alternatives ("Je Ne Peux Faire Autrement" = "Ma Hele" and "Infidélite" = "Mado"). This is due to the release in France (and not to Franco's naughty nature) .
Les Shleu-Shleu a New York Mini Records 1973
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