February 25, 2009

Musica Exotica

Dave van Dijk, one of the pioneers on Dutch radio of black music in general and latin and african music in particular, has died yesterday. He had been ill for quite a while.

For a lot of music lovers in the Netherlands in the 1980s Dave's radio show "Musica Exotica" was the first introduction into new and exciting music styles. Although broadcast initially in the middle of the night (but always live!), the show soon gathered a loyal group of followers. Dave's expertise lay primarily in latin and salsa music, so he invited others to his show with knowledge of other music styles.

Dave was also responsible for a impressive series of live recordings.

To commemorate this radio legend I would like to share this lp from Côte D'Ivoire featuring one of Dave's favourite salsa artists, Monguito El Unico.

This one's for you, Dave.

Sacodis LS 48

February 23, 2009

Donso 1: Yoro Sidibé

After some minor technical issues in December I have had to overcome some major computer challenges this past week. So there has been a break in my posts. Luckily everything seems to be in perfect working order now (touch wood), so you can expect the usual steady stream of posts to continue.....


This is the start of new series of posts featuring some of stars of the donso ngoni (litt.: hunter's guitar) music of Mali.

It is not completely unintentional that I am starting this series with a cassette by Yoro Sidibé. Because I would also like to draw your attention to the good work done by Jack Carneal and his Yaala Yaala label. I strongly sympathise with his mission "to release this music ( ... ) that you might hear if you were wandering yourself among the cassette stalls in Bougouni, Bamako, Kolondieba, Sikasso, Segou, Fez, Marrakesh, Cairo, Dakar."

A lot of mystery surrounds the hunters in West-Africa, and even more tradition. Like the blacksmiths (numu) the hunters often form (secret) societies, with their symbols and rituals. The ngonifo (ngoni player) plays an important part in confirming the status of the hunters and perpetuating the tradition. Often the donso is from a numu family (Koné, Fané, etc.) and therefore combines two strong traditions.

Yoro Sidibé is from a Fula or Peul family from the village of Bambala, in the Sikasso region south of Bamako and very near the Guinean border. He comes from a long line of hunters, and his great-grandfather is said to have stopped Samory Touré from entering into the village of Bambala. Yoro Sidibé was born in the 1940s, and has established himself as a teacher of the music and its traditions.

The cassette I am posting here is from a brilliant series released by Siriman Diallo. The cassette is undated but I suspect the recordings were made in the early 1990s. The quality of this cassette is astounding, as is the quality of the music.

SD 112

February 15, 2009

Alemayehu Eshete

With every new release in the Ethiopiques series I have been anxiously skimming the tracks, hoping to find more of - or like - the music of this mystery cassette. And by "mystery cassette" I don't mean I don't know who the artist is. It is none other than the great Alemayehu Eshete.
The mystery is in the date, the context and the tracks.

This cassette was copied for me some time in the early 1990s by a very kind Ethiopian, whom I had asked for a copy of his favourite music. And this was it.
He gave no explanation, no titles, nothing; only the music.

To me the cassette ranks in the Top 5 of Ethiopian collections. And that's saying a lot, with the stiff competition of Tilahuns, Mahmuds and Bizuneshes....

I am assuming at least part of the cassette was recorded from a radio show. Accompanied by piano, sax and accordeon Alemayehu's voice soars and touches emotional buttons others will never find. Real damage occurs with track A7, a track which has left scars in my heart.....

As if this is not enough the B-side of the cassette continues with Alemayehu with a full grown horn accompagnement, leaving me gasping for air by the time I get to the end of this 60 minute cassette.



Additionally, here is video with two clips plus a short interview with Alemayehu Eshete, from a documentary about Ethiopian music. I think the documentary was broadcasted in the early 1990s.

Micky-Micky

I am not going to argue with anyone who says that this was not one of the greatest bands from Congo (Zaïre). Orchestre Micky-Micky wasn't even the best of the Congolese bands residing and recording in Nigeria. Their singing is poor, at times even off key. They lack great instrumentalists, no Franco or Nico imitations, no blaring horn section.

Nevertheless this is one of the classics of African music.

According to the information on the sleeve the lp was originally released in 1977 by Namaco Nigeria (also responsible for those wonderful releases of Tchico), but others claim it was recorded in 1976 at the studios of Radio Television Gabonaise in Libreville (and post an alternative/original sleeve). Both may be true.

What makes this record a classic is the enormous energy of the two tracks, the repetition of chords carried on beyond the absurd, the undulating effect of the hi-hats or maracas, the intertwining of the guitar patterns, the 'animation': the lunacy Micky-Micky style.

Listen to the music, and you will know what I mean.

SAF 50089 (new link June 11, 2013)

February 14, 2009

Folclore

Despite the wonderful collection of five CDs on the Buda label (still available, if you look around a bit) and the historic "Soul of Angola" collection on Lusafrica I keep feeling that we've only seen the tip of the iceberg of Angolan music.

Angolan musicians have played an essential role in African music, but Angola hasn't seen the recognition for this. I am referring primarily to the San Salvador group of Manuel D'Oliveira, whose rhythms can still be heard in the music of artists like Koffi Olomide, Josky Kiambukuta and - of course - Sam Mangwana; and through them in many other musical styles. And I am sure other influences are still waiting to be uncovered.
I suspect the long period of 'unrest' (excuse my understatement) hasn't helped.

The title of this lp from 1976, "Folclore de Angola", and the pictures of half-naked girls on the sleeve tell us more about the perverted mentality of the Portugese producers than about the music. Unfortunately there is little or no information on the sleeve, other than the titles, artists and composers. Four of the ten performers also feature on Buda's "Angola 70's (1972-1973)" CD, one (Dimba Dia N'Gola) on "Angola 60's (1956 - 1970)" and one (Sofia Rosa) on "Angola 70's (1974- 1978)".

This is what the sleevenotes of these CD's have to report about the artists on this lp:
Dimba Dia N'gola (or Dimba Diangola), founded in 1963 by Dominguinho, Boano da Silva, Barros and Manecas and one of the first bands in Luanda, was a succesful group that managed to survive for two decades, with a few minor interruptions.

Africa Show was founded in 1969 by percussionist and dancer José Massano Junior, and was one of the most modern groups with electric guitars and an organ (Tony Galvâo) and horns (Nando Tamborino on trumpet). They often backed artists like Zé Viola and Teta Lando. They were disbanded in 1975 for reasons linked to the political troubles. Massano left for Zaïre, but returned to Luanda in the early 1980s and played with the group 1e de Maio.

Super Coba (photo on the right) was the most renowned orchestra from Cabinda, with fans in both Congo-Brazzaville and Zaïre. It was a large orchestra (twenty-five members) with four guitars, drums and a solid horn sections. They sang in lingala, kikongo, french, english and portugese. They were known for their extended tracks with breaks and rhythms changes, and also for their covers of Otis Redding and James Brown songs.

Cabinda Ritmos came to Luanda to record "Cafe" (copied from Franco's version of this latin track) at the Voz de Angola studio. They were persuaded by Dionisio Rocha to stay for a series of very succesful concerts. They sang in kikongo and lingala, with a very strong Congolese/Zaïrois influence.

Ngoma Jazz was founded in Luanda by musicians from the north who had been playing in Quinteto Angolano. Two percussionists from Luanda, Mangololo (tumba) and Caetano (bongos), completed the group. Their songs were in kikongo and kimbundu.

Sofia Rosa was a unique star (see photo on the right) in the constellation of great popular singers. He grew up in the Samba district of Luanda, where he learned the kimbundu language and traditions from fishermen and tradeswomen. In 1963 he joined the Ngongo theatrical group and travels with them to Portugal where he appears on tv. He records his first record (45 rpm) in 1970, and seven follow later. He was a great composer and interpreter of songs in kimbundu, expressing the life and feelings of common people. He became famous for his songs, his extraordinary look and his modest and simple personality. He moved to Lobito in 1973. When in November 1975 the Unita forces took the town, Sofia Rosa, who had never concealed his sympathies for the MPLA, was murdered, probably by Savimbi's troups.

About the other four performers, Musangola, Ndombe Jazz, Kibandos do Ritmo and Os Kotumbas, I have found no information.

I can't wait to hear more music from Angola.....

Roda SRL 5541 or Roda SRL 5541

February 12, 2009

Saya

I was going to post this two days ago, but the upload to YouTube took to long, so I didn't have time to finish it.

Here is another video from the same concert as "Yayoroba" by Oumou Sangaré. The concert was recorded by Malian television in 1988, - so from the earliest part of Oumou's professional career.

The song "Saya magnin"(which can be loosely translated as "Death sucks") is based on a traditional from the hunters (donso*) music of the Wassoulou region, but is a 'popular' theme in other Malian musical styles too.
Unfortunately the song breaks of after just over four and a half minutes.


*This is the official spelling. It is often pronouced as "dozo".

February 10, 2009

Tropical Jazz

This is one of these posts with a minimum of information. This was copied for me by a friend who had borrowed it from someone else, so I never even had a chance to copy the cover.

Orchestre Tropical Jazz de Dakar was one of the orchestras at the root of the tree from which all the branches of Senegalese modern music have sprouted. Founded in the 1950s, they blossomed in the sixties (when Amara Touré sang with the orchestra), and lost their leaves in the seventies.

This album is from the mid-1970s, judging by the two tracks dedicated to the memory of Aboubacar Demba Camara, the legendary singer of Bembeya Jazz National who died in Dakar on April 5, 1973.

Apart from those two tracks the lp contains four latin tracks (all with Cuban origins, if I am not mistaken), plus one bolero in Malinké.
It's a pleasant enough lp, but not one to spend a few hundred euros on.....

MAG 100

February 08, 2009

Mangala

The first time I consciously heard the music of Mamoutou Mangala Camara the owner of the cassette was very reluctant to tell me the name of the singer. "He is an alcoholic", she said. "He has left the music now, and lives as a drug-addict in Paris", others told me. Some even claimed that he had died from an overdose.

Fifteen years later, Mangala Camara seems to have come out on top. He is an acclaimed star of Malian music, winner of the Tamani D'Or in 2007 and "almost a mix of Mick Jagger, James Brown and Bob Marley" (according to this article). He was one of the stars of the Festival on the Niger in 2007 and 2008, and again in the recently held 2009 Festival. But going by this interview, he still seems to be surrounded by controversy.

His 2006 CD "Minye Minye" has been a huge success in Mali. But, call me awkward, I still prefer the first cassette I heard, and which I am posting here. The cassette was, as far as I can ascertain, first released in 1993 as "Complaint Mandingue Blues" (Badaban BAD 5560), but this version - with exactly the same tracks - is called "Yougou Sague" and is dated 1997.

Mangala seems to have had quite a career before this cassette. And with his extraordinary voice, I am sure we will hear more about him in the near future.

IC 1097

February 06, 2009

Shangara


Some even claim that Joshua Dube was the first to adapt mbira music for the electric guitar, but I seriously doubt this. And I base this doubt on the musical evidence, and on the words of both Thomas Mapfumo and Jonah Sithole.

It doesn't mean, however, that Joshua Dube was not a great guitarist. As you can hear from this cassette from 1993, which he himself gave to me in 1996, when both he and Jonah Sithole were playing with the Blacks Unlimited.

Unfortunately Joshua died in 2001, at the relatively young age of 49.

CC Shangara 001

February 04, 2009

The young lioness

Teningnini Damba (who surely must be 'Tenin' by now*) has built her whole career on the repertoire of her father, the legendary 'Vieux Lion' Bazoumana Sissoko. She has reworked and rearranged a great number of his songs, and has had quite a bit of success in Mali and with Malians outside of Mali.
I can imagine it may be hard for an outsider to understand the appeal of her work. Because she doesn't have the voice of a nightingale (unless you count nightingales of the Nigerian or Congolese variety) or the accompanying group of Hawa Dramé.

So it must be the legacy of her father.
Bazoumanaba's version of the song in this video was released on the second of the two Bärenreiter-Musicaphon lp's (BM 30 L 2553). The sleeve notes read: "Sarafo really originates from Moorish folk-lore; but it has also been sung for Siaka Traoré at Kémè-Na near Barawili".
Need I say more?


* the "ini" bit of the name means "little", as in "young".

February 03, 2009

Posé

Personally I can never get enough of the music of Haruna Ishola. Listening to the master of apala music I can easily loose track of time and even surroundings. And this without the aid of any other sensory stimulants....

I am sure the quality of his recordings are beneficial in reaching this 'mental oasis'. But the main reason is the music itself, which is in my opinion best described by the French "posé". I will go as far as to say that the meaning of the word "posé" is best illustrated by the music of Haruna Ishola.

I am told that there is much more going on in this music for those 'in the know'. And I suppose this is an ever decreasing group of Nigerians that understand all the proverbs (mainly containing moral messages), - and not just the ones in the lyrics, but also those expressed by the talking drums.
Come to think of it, maybe this music is full of subliminal messages!!

I already feel a lot better about not understanding the words....

Star Records SRPS 26

February 02, 2009

De la calle

If any artist in Cuba can be labelled "de la calle" (from the street), I am sure it must be Candido Fabre. His following can be mainly found, not amongst the reggaeton loving younger generation, but with the housewives and mothers of Cuba. They will go out of their way to see a concert of this sonero, who will turn 50 this year.

He was born in the province of Santiago de Cuba, in very musical surroundings, and from a very young age he started singing in schools and in the streets. Although even at that age his voice was strangely hoarse and certainly no way near 'belcanto', he was popular from the start, especially for the content of his songs. He would change the lyrics of the hits of the day, improvising as he went along. Over the years Fabre's improvisation skill have earned him the title of Cuba's most versatile sonero.

His talent ripened during his ten years (from 1983 to 1993) with the Original de Manzanillo, where he was the number one composer. His compositions have been covered by a wide range of artists and orchestras, including Los Van Van, Aragon and Celia Cruz.
He himself doesn't consider himself a composer: "To be a good sonero you have to be a good improvisor first, - plus a good creator".

If you ask around in Cuba (and, as I said, ask the mothers) you won't find it hard to dig up some bootleg recordings of a local concert by Fabre and his banda. The tracks I am posting here are mainly from a concert during the 2005 carnival in Camagüey*.

Fabre - Camagüey

And, to give you an idea of his talent as an improvisor, here is an excerpt from a documentary by the Tunesian director Karim Dridi about another sonero from the 'calle', Miguel Del Morales a.k.a. 'El Gallo', featuring Fabre playing baseball, Cuba's national sport and a subject of quite a few of Fabre's songs.


*By the way: I don't advise you to visit Camagüey as a tourist during carnival (end of June). Unlike the rest of the year, it is certainly not safe.

February 01, 2009

Ivoire retro

I am looking for some assistance with this one. It is a great lp from Cöte D'Ivoire, which I copied years ago. It may be a sign of old age, but I am d*mned if I know why I didn't copy the last track (and a half). Maybe I was going through a desperate period, or maybe the owner of the lp was in a rush; I can't remember.

So I am appealing to you.
I do know the missing track is by Les Soeurs Comoé and is from 1967.

Almost all the songs in this compilation are from the 1960s. Only the song by Justin Stanislas (with the catchy "Lelelelele Lelelelele"...) and the one by Ernesto Djedje are from the early 1970s. My personal favourites are the two tracks by Amedée Pierre (photo on the right - who will be the subject of a post in the near future) with his authentic interpretation of Congolese music styles, and the brilliant "Super Bébé" by Mamadou Doumbia, followed at short range by "Missi Milai" (I would really like to know the story behind this title!!) by Les Soeurs Comoé, the over-the-edge "Donnez-moi ton sourire" by the Orchestre de Bouaké and the two (or one and a half) tracks by Les Abidjanais.


And all this in a astonishingly squeaky clean 1960s recording quality!

Philips 6332.334

EDIT: The missing last track by Les Soeurs Comoé, plus the full penultimate track have been sent to me by Dolf Motz. So a big thank you to Dolf for sharing these!!
And here are these two tracks.

UPDATE (October 18, 2009): I have stumbled upon the two tracks, which I thought I hadn't copied! For those who have already downloaded the other tracks, you can download the two missing tracks of the original lp here (in the same pristine quality). I have also added these tracks to the full album. So the lp is complete!

Kanaga

The first regional orchestra of the Mopti region of Mali was the Bani Jazz, named after the river that joins the Niger near Mopti. Founded after the coup d'état of 1968, Ali 'Farka' Touré was the first chef d'orchestre. He was also the first to exploit the enormous variety of traditional music from the Mopti region in a modern orchestra, with tracks like "Manden Po".

According to Ali (in an interview in 1989) things turned sour after two years, due to his relationship with Sory Bamba. When he discovered he lacked the support of the regional authorities, Ali left the orchestra. And the orchestra was taken over by Sory Bamba and renamed Orchestre Kanaga de Mopti.

The lp Kanaga recorded in 1977 for the Mali Kunkan label is certainly one of their best. It is also, unfortunately, one of the few in which the orchestra is credited and which is not -like the albums released on the Songhoy and Sonafric label- presented as a solo project by self-acclaimed superstar Sory Bamba.

I am somewhat cautious in labelling it The Best, because I suspect there may be more by Kanaga which at least I haven't (fully) discovered. After discovering some fragments of tracks on a cassette I bought in Bamako, I have been looking for more; but so far I have only found more of the same...
I am sure you will understand my frustration about this when you hear the two and a half minute fragment I have added as a bonus.

I have several versions of this lp and can't make up my mind which one to post. So here are two versions for you to download: the first is from a cassette I bought in 2000 and is at least almost complete (there is a bit missing in the track "Kanaga") and of a consistent quality.
Mali Kunkan KO 77.04.15

The second file consist of the best versions of several sources. The tracks "Gambari", "Sory Bamba" and "Sare Mabo" are so clean that one could be inclined to think they were reworked from an original tape. I have no idea if this is the case.
Mali Kunkan KO 77.04.15 (alternative) plus bonus track

EDIT November 10, 2012: The links have been renewed.