March 31, 2009

Moussolou (2)

I can get really annoyed by those who consider Oumou Sangaré to be the first Malian artist to sing about women's issues. Those who have visited the country will agree that there is not (and has never been) a lack of 'strong' women in Mali. I would even go so far as to state that the country has managed to survive mainly by the efforts of the female population.

The plight of women has been the subject of great singers long before Oumou. The topics may have changed with the times, but the message has remained essentially the same.
All things considered Kandia Kouyaté has always been a symbol of the determination and strength of Malian women and doesn't even have to sing about women to achieve this. One only has to look at her, performing on Malian television at the age of 18, to see the incredible personality and power of this Grand Dame of Malian music. Here she is in another video from the early 1980s, a song entitled "Moussolou" (women)...


You may have noted that I have added the chat with presenter Zoumana Yoro Traoré. Even if you don't understand a word of Bambara you will have to acknowledge the confidence shown by this young star...

Her first lp, recorded with the help of fan and sponsor Amary Daou, offers more proof of this confidence and of Kandia's strong personality. Just listen how she announces the titles of the tracks.
My favourite track on this is the last, but there are really no weaker tracks on this great album by one of Mali's alltime superstars.

In the near future I will post more music and more videos of Kandia, including some material which has not been previously released.

AD 001

March 30, 2009

Africa Mbonda

In an earlier post I have expressed my surprise about the lack of information on the www about Johnny Bokelo. There has been no improvement since, and it seems unlikely there will be in the near future.

So we have to rely on our ears for information.
This record is a good as any starting point. Released in Kenya in 1988 it does tell a story about the mechanics of Bokelo and his orchestra. The first track gives an immediate insight into his influences. The song kicks off with a rhythm resembling the 1987 TP OK Jazz song "Tala Merci Bapesaka Na Mbua"; the vocals are definitely influenced by Pepe Kalle. The influence of Franco has been predominant in the whole of his career and, like Franco, Bokelo has moved with the times. When, in the 1980s, Franco incorporated the successful vocal sound of Empire Bakuba's heavyweight star by moving Madilu to the foreground, Bokelo followed...
If you listen carefully you will detect some influences from the east of Africa; most notably in the singing in the second track. Bokelo catered for the considerable following he had in those countries.

This is not Bokelo's best lp, but in my opinion it still manages to beat the majority of the records that have been released since.

KVL 5007

Cañonazo

One doesn't have to try very hard to find amazing amounts of latin music on the internet. The majority of this is salsa. And I mean this in the narrow sense of the word as it is accurately described here. Personally I am inclined to prefer the music of pre-salsa times, and for this I refer you gladly to the listentoyourears blog (which in my opinion is on a level of its own*).

Strangely the salsa artists I like always turn out to have Cuban origins. Apparently the son & rumba roots are difficult to lose. This is the case with both Papaito and Monguito, who have unfortunately both passed away (in 2000 and 2006). They both feature on this classic collection from the SAR label with two songs. The remaining tracks are by another artist with Cuban roots, SAR-(co)founder Roberto Torres, and by Conjunto Crema (no Cubans there, I think).

Cañonazo seems a bit exaggerated, but it's certainly an enjoyable collection.

SAR 1041 (new link November 10, 2012)

*despite the use of rapidshare....

March 29, 2009

Mbira singles

Although I like all kinds of music from Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwean music that - to me - really reaches the parts other can't is mostly traditional. I have a soft spot for the mbira.
This soft spot has only increased in size since seeing Hakurotwe Mude and his Mhuri Yekwa Rwizi ensemble perform (in 1994). I had been a fan of his since I had heard him on Shona Mbira Music and The Soul of Mbira (this album, originally released in 1973, is a must for any serious music lover), but live he was even more impressive and profound. Unfortunately most of the later records don't succeed in conveying the essence of this spirit music. This is understandable. The ancestors are not likely to communicate in the profane surroundings of a studio.

That's why I was surprised when I heard this cassette entitled "Mbira Singles Collection". It is a very nice collection of 16 tracks by 7 (or 8*) younger mbira groups. Most only use traditional instruments (mbira and hosho), but one (Nyadzonya Mbira Sounds) allows itself the use of a drumkit. There are versions of traditionals like "Nyamaropa", "Pidigori" (made famous by Thomas Mapfumo), and of "Hwahwa" (called "Ngoto Yakaipa" on this collection).

Over the (ten) years that I've had this cassette favourites have varied. That's usually a sign of a very durable collection...

MJCHZ 827 or (MF) here

* track A8 appears to be by two groups.

March 25, 2009

March 24, 2009

Loyalty

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....

Pathe 2C054-15194

*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) .

March 22, 2009

Boum!

When it comes to Guinean music from the 1960s I have thought for a long time that there were only two 'players': Syliphone and Tempo. In the last ten years a few Guineans appeared with recordings on other labels (Pathé, Ngoma and few Ivorian labels), but that was about it.

But recently this lp has popped up in what appears to be two different forms. I would like to stress the "appears", because I am confused. Our friend Graeme Counsel sent me a copy of an lp on the East-German Electrola Ausland Sonder Dienst label. And recently another friend and regular contributor of wonderful music to this blog, Faas, came up with what appears to be the same lp, but printed in West-Germany and without a word about Electrola. Are we dealing with a covert infiltration?

I can only hope that this is the first of a stream of undiscovered treasures from the vaults of socialist Eastern Europe. Because there is no doubt that is a real Treasure!

The lp contains five tracks by the Orchestre de la Paillote, two by the Orchestre du Jardin de Guinée and three by the Orchestre de la Bonne Auberge. The latter of the three was, if I understand Graeme correctly, a predecessor of Paillote (and that orchestra was a predecessor of Keletigui et ses Tambourinis).

All tracks are -like all Guinean music from this era*- great, but some are extra remarkable. Like Paillote's version of "Yo Vine Pa'Ve", a track which I recently discovered through the amazing ListenToYourEars blog in a version by Cuban charanga artist Belisario Lopez. Apparently the margins of Sekou Touré's 'authenticité' also allowed a version of "La Paloma", in this case by Orchestre de la Bonne Auberge, and also "El Checheré", performed live by Paillote, may very well a version of a Latin song. Jardin has an alternative (to the one on SLP 2) version of "Fruitaguinée". Certainly remarkable is the instrumental version by Bonne Auberge of the Malinké traditional "Djandjon" (titled "Yamaré lé" on this album), which breaks off without warning. The last track is more in line with the 'normal' Syliphone repertoire. Named "Kindiakayé bara tongo" on the sleeve, the title on the label is "Kindiakayé bara gagné, coupe P.D.G.", - no doubt an ode to the Parti Democratique de Guinée.

DYL 006

*according to Graeme the lp is from 1965

March 19, 2009

Batourou Sekou Kouyaté

Although this post is supposed to be about one of the greatest kora players of all times (and all places too), one can easily be distracted by an artist who has -long after this recording- become a world-wide star of popular music. Because one of the singers on this lp by the ensemble of Batourou Sekou Kouyaté is none other than Mory Kanté (see this post).

This record was released in 1975, and probably recorded a year earlier. So this is from the time when Mory had already joined the Rail band and had replaced Salif Keita as the lead singer (Salif had left in 1973).

Born near Kissidougou in Guinea into a family of griots, Mory had been sent to Bamako in the 1960s to stay with his aunt, singer Manamba Kamissoko, and to learn the griot métier. He played in a band called the Apollos, until he was 'discovered' by Tidiane Koné, the chef d'orchestre of the Rail Band.
In the early 1970s he became more and more interested in the kora, and even more when he heard Batourou Sekou Kouyaté, who was the father of a friend. Legend has it that he learned to play the instrument on Batourou's kora. According to Mory himself, the kora which he uses on stage was given to him by the kora legend in 1974.

I am not sure about the names of the musicians on this lp, but I suspect the female singer on these superb and rare recordings (featuring classic interpretations of "Keme Bourema", "Belebele", "Djandjon", "Wara" and "Koulandjan") is Nantenegwe Kamissoko, who presumably is a cousin of Mory.

No doubt coached by the brilliant Malian kora master, Mory manages to pluck emotional strings which in my opinion very few of his later recordings have been able to touch....

Makossa KR 28 or (MF) here

March 17, 2009

So.Pe.Ka.

Two of my favourite singers from the Tout Puissant O.K. Jazz in the 1980s are Josky Kiambukuta and Malage de Lugendo.
Malage was taken on as a singer with the OK Jazz in 1986 primarily to replace Carlito. With songs like "Testament Ya Bowule", "Ida" & "Celio" (on "La Vie des Hommes") he soon proved that he fitted in well with the big boys.
Josky wás one of those big boys, and had been ever since joining the OK Jazz in 1973. He has produced a stream of classic compositions with the OK Jazz, from "Monzo" and "Fariya" in the 1970s to "Chacun Pour Soi", "Bimansha", "K.S.K." and "Kita Mata Bloqué" in the 1980s.

This is an album he recorded in Kinshasa in 1988, outside of the OK Jazz but with the help of some of his colleagues. Josky himself wasn't too happy about the production and the mixing, so he re-recorded one of the tracks ("Telema Na Malembe") a year later in Brussels (renaming it to "Namabele"*).
But I just love the singing on this album, by both Josky and Malage. The sleeve also mentioned Madilu, but he only features in the chorus - and not of all the songs -, and the photo certainly is not of Madilu (but looks more like Mayaula Mayoni).

Both Josky and Malage are brilliant in this record. And that's enough for me.

REM 810

Additionally here is a video of Josky and his cousin Serge Kiambukuta (who was a singer with Orchestre Vévé), recorded from Zairean television. The track is "Ayez Pitié", which Josky recorded with Ntesa Dalienst and released in Brussels on the "Selegina" lp. The orchestra accompanying the cousins is (at least part of) the orchestra of Johnny Bokelo, and the show was called "Tonton Skol".
Special attention for the commercial at the end....

March 16, 2009

Chiquita

To tell you the truth, I had this record for years before I realised the singer was in fact a woman. The realisation coincided with my first trip to Cuba.
I know sleeve clearly states the artist performing is Chiquita Serrano et son ensemble typique, but who was to say that Chiquita was the singer?

In hindsight I should have known it was a female voice. I have listened to a compatriota of Chiquita Serrano, Celia Cruz, for even longer.

I have tried to find out more about Chiquita, but have found little more than that she was a singer with Rico's Creole Band and that she performed and recorded with her own orchestra in Paris in the late 1950s.
This may explain why she appears on this French label with obvious Senegalese 'roots'.

The lp has a remarkably distinct sound, and a nice selection of songs, with three versions of Cuban classics ("Guajira Guantanamera", "Son De La Loma" and "Mata Siguaraya"), a Santeria-related and a carnaval track. My favourites are the opening tracks of both sides: "Negro Bembon" and "Mari Juana"(!*).

Bellot Disques MAG 117

*and this track reminds me of Amadou Balake's "Yamba"...

March 15, 2009

Passionaly

If you are wondering about the title: so am I. It is part of one of the titles of this cassette released by Bellot in 1982. There are more mysteries in the titles; in fact the whole of the B-side only has titles in English: "Character...", "A Sweet Pleasant Woman" and "Competitor...". What's the deal with these titles? Why in English?

Not a word of English is sung on this cassette by Dieuf Dieul, and listening to the music there is no doubt that this is a band from Senegal. I have read somewhere (but I can't recall where) that there are several bands called Dieuf Dieul. And listening to this cassette I am not entirely convinced the whole cassette was recorded by one band. The last two tracks remind me of the early work of Super Diamano, with a strong presence of an electric piano. The other songs are more like Etoile or Number One, with tama's and lots of guitars.

The vocals on both 'types' are great though. Personally I particularly like the singer in the faster tracks on the A-side. My favourite is the second track, awkwardly titled "Treme Dous. Passionaly Ragûati" , - although I suspect it's just a version of "Yobalema"....

Bellot C003 (new link November 10, 2012)

Urafiki

According to local sources Mbaraka Mwinshehe was killed on January 12, 1979 when his car drove into a tree on the road from Mombasa to Nairobi. Years later taxidrivers could be seen pointing at various trees along the road where the fatal crash of the star of Mombasa's Bush Bar had occurred.

Although to those who don't speak or understand swahili (like me) Mbaraka may be known primarily for his unique guitar playing and singing style, in Kenya and in his native Tanzania he was -and still is- highly respected and loved for his lyrics. Mbaraka sings about the lives, loves and problems of the 'common man'.

I have already posted one of the Ukumbusho series released by Polygram Kenya in the 1980s (volume eight to be precise), and will -in the course of time- post all the others. To give you an idea of his lyrics, here is an example from Ukumbusho Volume Two "Urafiki mwisho wa mwezi".
Urafiki* mwisho wa mwezi
Friendship at the end of the month

You know I am having problems,
you've heard I am sick,
still you don't come and see me.
Is that what you call friendship?
It's more like animosity,
if we can't help each other.
When you hear I have money again,
you come running to see me.
Is that what you call friendship?
It's more like animosity,
if we can't help each other.
What kind of friendship is this at the end of the month?
When I am broke, you don't show up.
Even when I'm sick you don't want me.
When I'm sick you don't care about me.

In this volume Mbaraka is accompanied by his Super Volcano orchestra, which he founded in 1973 after leaving the Morogoro Jazz. The other songs are about similar 'challenges' of the ordinary Kenyan and Tanzanian (or, come to think of it, citizen of any country). "Mtaa wa saba" (the seventh street), about moving away from a poor neighbourhood, where the noise deprived him of his sleep, and the landlord of his money. "Pole dada" (poor girl), about a girl who was passed over by love. "Kibena" and "Jasinta", both about the bad influence of city life on these 'village' women.

In the spirit of the time (the 1970s) Mbaraka occasionally chose a more educational subject, like in "Vijana wa Afrika" (youth of Africa), in which he calls on the youth of Africa to defend 'the revolution in Africa' (no doubt referring to Nyerere's Ujamaa).

Timeless lyrics and a timeless music: Mbaraka Mwinshehe's recipe to overcome death.

POLP 537

*friendship (the lyrics were translated by Joris Oldewelt)

March 14, 2009

Black and White

I haven't been posting as much as would have liked. This is mainly due to the hosting situation. In the near future I will probably move to a more reliable setup, i.e. a 'dedicated' hosting service (any useful tips are welcome). But for the moment, I'll continue as before.

This post is a direct result of an earlier post about Amara Touré. Our good friend Zim was helpful then by supplying a colour copy of the sleeve to replace my rather shoddy photocopy. Later, he sent me these wonderful singles by Amara Touré and his Orchestre du Black and White.

Although some of these six tracks are of a disappointing quality, they have only increased my curiosity. I would certainly like to know more about Amara Touré, and about this superb orchestra. I can only guess that the Black and White was a bar or restaurant, because I can't find any solid information about the band.

My favourite is the track "N'niyo"*, of which I already had a copy on a mysterious cassette from Guinea. Vocally one of the highlights of Touré's (known) repertoire, with an overall excellent performance by all musicians (note the great percussion!).

Amara Toure 45s

Thanks again for these singles, Zim!

*the "2" seems to be a superfluous addition to the title.

March 11, 2009

Technical challenge

Adrive has changed its policy. After 14 days the links expire. The files remain on the server though, and new links can be made.

So files can be temporarily unavailable....

March 08, 2009

Revival

I first heard about in Jean Bittard in 1988. Some cassette vendors in Bamako informed me that this was the cassette I should buy. A collector's item with cult status, I gathered.
"But who is this guy?", I asked. "He's the son of a Lebanese father and a Malian mother from Kayes", they told me. "He used to be with Sidi Yassa, the regional orchestra of Kayes. But after he made this cassette, he got big-headed, too good for this country. That's what got him killed". "Killed?", I asked. "Yes, he got into a fight and was stabbed to death".

I had no reason to doubt their word, until I stumbled upon a review of a concert by the deceased in Bamako in 2004. His resurrection was confirmed by another article, from which I gather that he's also made a new album. Apparently Jean Bittard has been pursuing another career.

Although his new album was released at least five years ago, I haven't heard or seen it (apart from the cover - on the right). He has taken the production in his own hands (which may be the reason for the poor distribution).

Here is the lp he recorded in Abidjan in 1982. My cassette copy is dated a year later, and is - as I have been able to ascertain since - a pirated copy of the lp with a Nigerian source.

KS 209 (new link Nov.10, 2012)

I recently found a videoclip of a slightly different version of the track "Mayomba". Bittard has also covered this track on his new album, although he seems to have changed the spelling to "Maillon Ba".

Devil's Horn

From the maker's website:
In the highlands of Bolivia there is still a lively brass-band tradition, originating in the military bands brought to Bolivia by the European colonists. Over the years the military bands evolved into the civilian bandas, in which European influences blended with the local musical tradition. The bandas play an important part on the feast-days of patron saints - the fiestas.

Besides accompanying groups of dancers, they are involved in all the ritual and social activities associated with the fiesta. The banda serves as the main visiting card of the sponsor of a fiesta: if the band is good, the fiesta will be more successful and the sponsor will gain more respect in his village. The participating groups of dancers compete mainly on a musical level: with their singing trumpets and swinging tubas, the bandas try to outplay each other by playing as loud and as long as possible.

Most bandas keep to the Andino-tradition of sacrificing to the musicians' devil, known as the sereno. They believe that he will inspire them, and that the banda with the most obliging sereno will win the competition.

This documentary tells the story of the bandas on the patron saint feasts, the rituals and the competition. The documentary is the result of an investigation carried out by Miranda van der Spek into the role and function of the bandas in Oruro, Bolivia. For a year, she herself played the tuba with the banda "Espectacular Pagador de Oruro", which greatly assisted her in the making of The Devil's Horn.

This is my favourite part of the 23-minute documentary:

March 06, 2009

Kaloum Star live

Kaloum Star is one of those bands from Guinea that has never really made into the limelight. Founded in 1969 by 'Maître' Mamadou Barry (the one with the big smile on the right) they only managed to get a couple of tracks on two lp collections and three single records on the Syliphone label.
I suspect this may be a result of their choice of repertoire. In Sékou Touré's Guinea there was a clear preference for the culture of the presidents ethnical group, the Malinké (or Mandingo). Susu, Peul (Fula) and the many other cultures of Guinea only featured in the folkloric music of ensembles instrumentaux or in ballet. Kaloum Star's strength lay in the Susu rhythms derived from the yankadi street parties.

It wasn't surprising that Maître Barry was very optimistic after the demise of Sékou Touré. "Without a policeman watching our every move you will see an explosion of musical talent in Guinea", he commented in 1986.
A year later they embarked on a European tour, which also led them to the Melkweg in Amsterdam. Their concert on May 22, 1987 was recorded by Dutch radio (to be precise by Dave van Dijk for VPRO Radio). Of these recordings here are five tracks (unfortunately I don't have the titles of these tracks).

I managed to get a copy of the promo cassette which they sent to the programming staff of the Melkweg. Recorded live in Conakry, the drive and energy of these four tracks is unbelievable, and it's the best (by far) of what I have heard of Kaloum Star.
Judge for yourself!

March 01, 2009

Kayes

Ami Diarra is a griot from Kayes, the capital of the region with the same name in the west of Mali. But she's more than that. Paralysed as a child by polio, she has become an ambassador for those less fortunate. With great energy she uses her skills as a griot to educate the youth from Kayes about the dangers of AIDS, to fight against outdated traditions like female circumcision and arranged marriages.

But she is an impressive singer too, as you can see in this video from the early 1990s, in which she is performing with the Ensemble Balemaya.

Farka (2)

This is a very short post. There is more than enough information about Ali 'Farka' Touré on the web (here or here or here), and there will be plenty of other occasions to write about this interesting artist from Niafunké, Mali.

This is the second of two wonderful cassettes released in 1988 and produced by Mahmoudou Maïga in Bamako. The first I posted earlier. Like the first volume, the second volume features Ali on electric guitar.

MM 5002

Board Members

I was digging through what I call "my archives" (and what my wife calls "that junk in the attic") when I came upon a pile of magazines from way past. If I'm not mistaken I picked them up sometime during the mid-eighties from Stern's, when they were still a little cornershop in Whitfield Street.

One of the magazines, the September/October 1981 issue of Africa Music, contained an interview with juju master Ebenezer Obey, "popularly called "Chief Commander" by his closest fans as well as adversaries". The interview (pdf copy here) is full of references to his religious ardour ("I see myself as a musician, gospeller, and businessman who will spend the rest of his life spreading the gospel").

Two quotes caught my eye: "We have also seen how cassettes are threatening to wipeout the music industry by its negative effects" and "Among those old hits, 'Board Members' remains the all time bestseller and my own favourite".

So I am posting the cassette version of this classic album from 1972, re-released on Obey's own Obey label.

Obey OC 38 (new link Nov.10, 2012)