I can imagine that it can very tempting to write about James Brown and his influence of Congolese and African music in the context of this record. With tracks like "Minoko" and "Edo (Aboya Ngai)" the temptation must be almost unbearable, - for some.
I prefer to view this from the artist's point of view. The artist being, of course, Franco. As he pointed out in an interview in 1987: "African, or European, or American music, it's all the same thing. (...) We in Africa, we listen to all music, whether it's European music, or American music. But Europeans and Americans, they should listen to our music too. Why this difference? Why won't Europeans listen to our records, buy our music? Me, I love 'slow'* music. And when I hear this music, I buy it. Although I don't understand English. But I buy it. But you, Europeans, don't want to buy our music. Why?"
Viewed in this perspective, there is nothing special about the first two tracks of this album, which was released in 1985 in Kenya. So, as the title "Fifteen Years Ago" indicates, the songs are from 1970. That is to say, a year after James Brown's first trip to Kinshasa. Like the Latin influence in the 1960s, the Congolese orchestras were quick to take on this new influence, - some more than others**.
To me, the four tracks with Vicky Longomba are more remarkable, as they are among the last of Franco and Vicky together. These songs (two composed by Franco, one by Vicky and one by Simaro) are the real treasure of this lp. And of these "Mokili Macaramba" is, in my opinion, the jewel in the crown, a classic among classics. In a recent post I have tried to draw your attention to Franco's talent as a backing vocalist. This song, and "Basi Ya Makango" (which - by the way - has been digitally released in an extremely mangled version on Sonodisc CD 36586 as "Catho Ya Poupée") and "Nakosala Nakolota" (a cleaner version than the single version I posted a week ago) and "Mwasi Ya Bapatrons" are more proof of this talent.
More Franco coming up!
*I suspect he was talking about American soul ballads.
** Here is a clip of JB in 1969. Seeing this, I am inclined to believe that Rochereau was more influenced than Franco...
Opambuo International Band of Ghana
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