June 28, 2009

Soap and margarine

When it comes to adverts in African music I often detect an "ahhh" factor with western audiences, combined with something I would describe as melting, - but predominantly of brain cells.
Within the boundaries of Congolese music there are of course famous examples like Franco's "AZDA" (often cited as a favourite), Dewayon's "Fiat Na Zaïre", Vicky's "Cigarette (Filtrée) Leopard", Rochereau's "Savon Omo" or Franco's "Savon Reward chez Marsavco".

Staying with the latter: I stumbled on this page with an interesting discussion (in french, I am afraid) about the lyrics of this song. Apparently soap manufacturers in Congo attribute the same miraculous characteristics to their product as they do in the west, and probably all over the world. In this case the manufacturer of Reward soap promises that using the soap will give you the soft skin of when you were young.
From my personal experiences as a longtime soap user, I can tell you this is all a lie. The best way to get a baby's skin is to avoid any contact with sunlight and drink yourself into a drunken stupor until your skin becomes soft and puffy.

And this brings us to the heart of the matter: who is this manufacturer? The Marsavco website:
"The Company of the Margarines, Savonnerie and Cosmetics, MARSAVCO in initials, is an industrial and commercial company. It was part of Unilever group and was born from the merger of 'Margarinerie Rotterdam' in Holland and 'Brother'* in London. It was at that time a public limited company form SARL. That company created in colonial times, in January 1922 under the name SAVCO, 'Savonnerie Congolaise' had as an aim for the manufacturing of soap from palm oil and palm kernel. Following the installation of new equipment for the manufacturing of margarine, it changes its name and became the Marsavco 'Margarinerie Savonnerie the Congo' in 1929." (* I assume they meant to write "Lever Brothers")
"In 1999, having to deal with an unfavorable economic situation, coupled with a unhealthy macroeconomic environment, where the operator did not find any more his account, The Unilever Group decided to stop all its production in 2000. (....) In February 2002, The RAWJI GROUP bought all the shares in the Marsavco and became the sole owner. " Background info on multinational Unilever can be found here. And the history of the Rawji Group can be found here.

So, all things considered, this post is about a part of UK/Dutch colonial history. With this in mind, the two singles by Bobongo Stars somehow sound less happy, less 'innocent'...

The first of these two singles is in praise of "Monganga", a soap with health claims ("parfum de la santé"; and this video commercial) that would certainly get the manufacturer into trouble in the Netherlands. Apparently the melody of this commercial was used for a longer period judging by this video. Compared to later videos - and especially this one - the tone of the Bobongo Stars version is rather understated. And Bobongo Stars weren't the last to be contracted by Marsavco to do a musical commercial for the soap, as you can see in this video, which is erroneously (?) titled "Blueband Judo".

Bobongo BBG 03

And that brings me to the second product recommended by Bobongo Stars. Blue Band margarine is one of the products responsible for the enormous expansion of the Unilever company. As a brand it has also over the years made claims with regard to health, family and prosperity & 'good living'. A few years ago Unilever even seemed to suggest that 'new' Blue Band could make children more intelligent.
In Congo too, Marsavco seems to have opted for the same strategy of suggesting that children will be healthier when they eat the butter surrogate. All the usual ingredients of a Blue Band commercial are also present in the Bobongo Stars song: family (a child asking his father), health (vitamines) and prosperity (the neatly dressed children with shoes and even socks on the sleeve).
This song too seems to have survived for quite a while, going by this commercial.

Bobongo BBG 04

PS: Of the Bobongo Stars I know next to nothing. I have heard Ray Lema at one point played with them, and members of this orchestra played with various others (e.g. the drummer on B.S. played on Franco & Mangwana's "Cooperation" album).

June 27, 2009

Friends & family

To tell you the truth, I am stuck. Having converted another great video of Hawa Dramé from tape to digital format, I found the result is just over twelve minutes. YouTube has a limit, however, of nearly eleven minutes. And I simply refuse to cut the video in two.

Perhaps there is someone who can point me in the direction of an alternative that will accept a twelve minute clip.

Meanwhile, I have two Hawa Dramé related items. First, here is a video of Hawa Dramé's daughter Assa Bagayogo.
I just love this pentatonic Bambara music. The video was recorded (probably in 1986) by Malian television in Ségou, the heart of Bambara country, and everything about it is authentic, including the dancing and the clothes worn.


The second item in this post is a cassette by Hawa Dramé's friend (and I have heard rumours that at one point he was more than that..) and accompagnateur Ganda Fadiga.
I have some recordings of him accompanying Hawa Dramé, but I prefer this cassette titled "Economie", which was originally released in Mali, but rereleased in Paris. I can't tell you what his message is with regards to the economy, but I am sure it is sound advice...

Camara C.K.7 006

June 25, 2009

Trio fédéral

A few days ago I heard that Stern's are planning another release in their Syliphone series. And -three cheers for Stern's- it will be a double cd of the Horoya Band. That's certainly good news.

In the mean time, and partly as a foretaste of this compilation, here is an album on the Syliphone label with three tracks by the Horoya Band, three by Kebendo Jazz and four (!) by Niandan Jazz. The lp was released, according to the sleeve notes to highlight three of the thirty federal orchestras, which were rising to a level close to that of the five national orchestras. But more remarkably the notes state that these orchestras next (the lp is from 1971) will produce a 'grand volume-identité' to present their musical personality. The only orchestra to in fact produce an entire album after this collection was the Horoya Band, and neither Kebendo Jazz nor Niandan Jazz ever released an lp on the Syliphone label!

If you have read my earlier posts about the Kebendo Jazz you won't be surprised when I tell you the Kebendo tracks are my favourites. "Soumba" is even in the top-ten of favourites of the Syliphone label. Apparently this is a shortened version of a track recorded slightly earlier by Kebendo Jazz (which I pray* will one day be released on CD in its full glory). Hearing the three Kebendo tracks I am again (see this post) left wondering what they did wrong? It can't have been the subjects of their songs; there is enough Sékou Touré, PDG and RDA in them to satisfy even the most orthodox of party members.....

The same, but to a slighty lesser degree, goes for Niandan Jazz. They featured on four compilations (SLP 19, 25 -i.e. this one-, 42 and 50), but never had their own lp. I can't seen why. Their orchestration is simply great, the singing perhaps not top-notch, but still better than others. "Fassouloukou" can compete with any of the songs on the first lp of Super Boiro Band (to name just one of the national orchestras). So where did they screw up?

I am sure you will like this album. I advise you to study the notes with the individual songs. To me they are one of the many attractions of the Syliphone label. But the main attraction remains, of course, that wonderful, incomparable and authentic Syliphone sound!

Syliphone SLP 25

* and don't ask me to whom...

June 24, 2009

Misfortune

Some artists just seems to be born for an unfair share of bad luck. Although I have no insight into his personal situation with regards to loves and winning the lottery, Tanzanian singer Issa Juma seems to have fallen in this category. And I am speaking of the past, because this voice among voices, this Star among East-African stars has died almost two decades ago. He hadn't been too fortunate before that, having been partially paralyzed after a stroke. This happened after he had stopped performing and withdrew from music after spending six months in jail for working without a permit. And this was just one in series of mishaps.

Going by this record from 1984 I am sharing with you in this post, I get the impression Issa himself was -consciously or subconsciously- aware of his destiny. Accompanied by Waanyika, one of the many aliases of a band that had split off from Les Wanyika (see the discography by John B.), his singing is brilliant, - but definitely filled with a deeply sensed sadness. The guitars certainly contribute to confirm this impression. In the track "Utalia Na Nani" sorrow even surfaces and crying is heard....

This said, I hasten to add that this is one of my favourite East African records in the swahili rumba genre, with four tracks of outstanding quality.

And a strange thing about this record: after listening to it I always feel a lot happier. It is like the misfortune of Issa Juma acts a counterbalance to any negative emotions I might have had.......

Nyika LP-02 OR: NYIKA LP-02

June 21, 2009

El Rego

I am very very slowly sorting through some 45s from Benin, and these two have certainly caught my attention. So I thought I would share them with you, in the series of posts of 45s.

Both are by El Rego. The first with "son ensemble typique", and the second with his "Commandos" and singer Cornaire Salifou Michel, who according to the cover is nicknamed "Miguelito Cuini", - but I expect they meant to write Cuni, like the great Cuban sonero of Chappotin's Estrellas*.

You can read more about Theophile Do Rego, better known as 'El Rego', in this post on the Radiodiffusion blog.

As you can hear, both records have suffered as a result of time, dust and wear, but I think the essence is still audible. The 'El Rego et son ensemble typique' single features an extraordinary collection of curiosities, from a somewhat pretentious blues track with a solid dose of late-night ambiance (I get drunk just listening to this...) on the A-side to a version of "Donnez-Moi Ton Sourire" (which you may remember from this memorable Ivorian collection) plus an initially almost unrecognisable version of the hit of Cuban tourist bars "Buru Barara" on the B-side.

Disques ISB RGO 201.002

The second single is from a later date (but what?). This is one for the organ lovers, and more particularly of the close-to-the-edge organs (like me). On both sides the rhythms appear to be of Beninois origin, and the orchestration is rich, with some nice horns (especially on the B-side).
For experts of the music from Benin, like Oro (loads of great music from Benin can be found on his very active blog), a line-up of the Commandos is printed on the back of the sleeve.
I am hoping to dedicate another post to guitarist/singer Cornaire Salifou Michel in the future, when I have sorted through these 45s.

Etape Du Voyageur EPEV 002

*I am still hoping to -one day- find a Chappotin recording which hasn't been posted on the fantastic Listen with my (or to your) ears blog.

Cidade Linda

On this side of the world today is the longest day of the year. It is the start of the summer and, contrary to the predictions, the weather is fine (touch wood). The outlook for the next few weeks is even sunnier, so there are grounds for optimism.

There is a long line of festivals this weekend or coming up, in often pleasant surroundings. And perhaps I should be preparing to go out and party & dance in the streets. But -apart from one or two exceptions*- the 'offerings' at these festivals are often disappointing and/or selected for motives other than their musical value. Too often organisers select artists for financial (cheap or guaranteed crowd-pullers) or socio-political reasons. Understandable as these 'safe' choices may be, they won't persuade me to overcome my natural inhibitions when it comes to large crowds.

So I'm at home, posting carnival music from Angola. Music by Dimba Dya Ngola, an orchestra founded in 1963. They featured on an album I posted earlier.
"Luanda Cidade Linda" (Luanda beautiful city) is a very happy and optimistic lp from 1984, with a very Angolan sound and very Angolan (semba) music. I have never been to Luanda, and therefore am in no position to judge Luanda's beauty (the photos I have seen neither confirm nor contradict such a claim), but this album at least leaves me with a very positive feeling about the place....

IEFE Discos 059 (new link November 10, 2012)


*I make an exception for the great Afrikafestival in the village of Hertme in the east of the Netherlands. Highly recommended, and if you need to be persuaded: read the programme and listen to the podcast (bottom left)!

June 19, 2009

Siramori's Sara

I can be very short about this cassette. If you want to read about the legendary artist recorded on it, I refer you to the expert, i.e. this concise article by Jan Jansen (also available here, - in case the link goes dead...).

There is no doubt about Siramori Diabaté's status as a musical legend. You just have to listen to this cassette to understand that this status is completely justified. The intensity and profound emotion in her hoarse voice can't help but move even the coldest of humans.

Most, if not all of these tracks have been covered innumeral times by others. "Sara" most famously (and twice) by Balla et ses Balladins; of "Baninde" a great version by Les Messagers du Mali comes to mind; "Kanimba" was covered impressively by the Horoya Band.

Don't forget to read Jan Jansen's article.

Syllart SYL 83106

June 16, 2009

Wasso

I am taking a risk here, in assuming the title of the last track of this lp is misspelt (or misspelled) and the actual title should be "waso" with one "s", meaning "showing off" or "boasting". You will find many songs in Malian music telling you that showing off is not acceptable ("waso magni").

The Rail Band is not one of those bands that can be accused of showing off. On the contrary, they have been very modest in the long time of their existence. Forever linked to their 'alumni' Mory Kanté and Salif Keita (and the latter only was a member for two years!), the band has struggled through the decades, playing at the Buffet de la Gare in the centre of Bamako. And I can assure you that this was not always the 'hottest club in town'....

Lately, with the release of the Belle Epoque series (of which the second is my favourite, by the way) they have been rightly brought into the limelight. But there is still a lot of ground to be covered for a band that has been in existence for 40 years this year.

Consider this album my 'drop in the ocean'. Recorded for the Sacodis label in Abidjan in 1979, it is remarkable how close the orchestra has managed to remain to their live sound. Listening to these tracks I have no problem imagining myself sitting at a table at the Buffet de la Gare, a rapidly warming beer within reach plus the inevitable 'loose women'.... The cool but decisive guitar of Djelimady Tounkara, (the late) Tidiani Koné, who founded the band, dodging around him on sax and leading the horns, the mainly doubled vocals...
It is no wonder they lasted so long!

Sacodis LS-25

June 14, 2009

Origine Esengo

Returning to the series of posts of singles, here are two EP's on the Columbia label. Originally all the eight tracks of these records were recorded for the Esengo label, which -as I reported before- had started on January 1, 1957.
Four of these tracks are by Orchestre Bantou, which had been started in 1959 by musicians from Brazzaville who had been working in Leopoldville. With the prospect of the independence of the Belgian colony, they thought it might be wiser to return to their side of the Congo river. The heart of the new orchestra consisted of key members of the Rock-a-Mambo orchestra. With a history on the Loningisa label and the OK Jazz, Essous, Pandi and Nino Malapet had created havoc in Leopoldville. As Rock-a-Mambo or combined with Kabasélé's African Jazz and Dewayon's Conga Jazz they produced a stream of brilliant hits on the Esengo label, so they were received as veteran artist when they returned in Brazzaville.
All the four songs were composed by Jean Serge Essous, who also is the lead singer on two ("Padrona de la Musica" and "Una Noche"), and at least three of these -and especially "Una Noche" and "Luiza"- can easily be mistaken for songs by Rock-a-Mambo.

The other half of these two records is for artists which normally will be associated with the OK Jazz. Vicky Longomba had left the OK Jazz to join Kabasélé at the Table Ronde in Brussels, and on returning to Congo had founded his own orchestra, Negro Succès. For this he recruited among the existing orchestras, snatching (amongst others) a young guitarist Léon Bombolo, a.k.a. 'Bholen', away from the Loningisa stable where had just started alongside Franco. In more than one way the two songs by his Negro Succès bare a strong resemblance to tracks by the OK Jazz.

The last orchestra on these two EP's is perhaps the least known. But Kongo Jazz contains some of the most noteworthy, but unfortunately not so well-known artists of Congolese music. And I am not referring to the young rhythm guitarist Lutumba Simaro, who not much later made the move to the OK Jazz. I am, however, referring to Gerard Madiata, a singer who has performed with nearly all the great Congolese orchestras, but has nevertheless remained a solo artist throughout his entire career. And I am referring especially to -in my opinion- the star of these tracks: the unbelievable guitarist Raymond Brainck*. Listen carefully to this highly underrated master. In a future post I will be sharing more wonders by this musical hero....

Columbia ESDF 1407
Columbia ESRF 1415

*his name is spelled "Braing" or "Brainq" on this record, but this must be a mistake.

Lat Dior

Ousmane Diallo, better known as Ouza, seems to have been a controversial figure in the Senegalese music scene. I first heard about him in the context in a discussion between some Senegalese about the use of the tama talking drum. According to Ouza, they said, the excessive use of the tama was clouding, or even ruining, the lyrical content of the Senegalese songs.
Having seen a few Senegalese groups overdoing it in this area, I could see where this criticism was coming from, so my interest was aroused.

Born in 1947, Ouza spent several years in Côte D'Ivoire studying and performing with traditional music groups and ballets, before returning to Senegal and playing a major role in Senegalese culture; and not just in modern music (he also was a leader of the Orchestre National du Senegal), but also traditional music and ballet. He is seen as an influential innovator and as a coach of talented singers. On his official site you can find a rather uninformative biography.

Although he is said to have founded his first group in 1965, it took him ten years to release his first album (in 1975* - see this discography, which is slightly more complete than this one). This album is credited to Ouza et ses Ouzettes, and I gather that this was one of the female vocal groups which Ouza coached. Unlike the "4 Femmes dans le vent" album they are not very present in these tracks. I can only hear some female voices in the very distant background in a few of the tracks. Maybe this is due to a technical error, but I have my doubts....

I really like the ballads on this lp, and especially "Dollar", "Dunia" and the title track "Lat Dior". These are the tracks that make this album special.

Jambaar JM 5003

*this re-release is from 1980.

June 11, 2009

Apala harmony

"His continued success depended on a number of star qualities. As a singer, he had the ability to create thought-provoking lyrics about issues, places, real life situations and even the philosophy of life where he was comfortably at home with the use of parables and anecdotes. He consistently projected the virtues of life and living through these channels without soaring to unnecessary praise singing and abuse which later became the order of the day.

Knowing that Apala music, like every other typical African music form is characterised by repetitive rhythm and percussion, he was able to introduce the element of variety to his style through the creation on the spur of the moment, of myriads of choruses which derived inspiration from situational social events as they unfolded themselves. They added extra artistic substance and colour to social commentaries that were rehearsed and pre-meditated.

Besides rhythm which forms the bedrock of Apala music, Haruna realised the essence of a well-blended group-vocal harmony treatment. And so he always had in the band an abundance of percussion while they doubled proficiently on vocals to provide the necessary call and response pattern of music. For this purpose, he had perhaps the best crop of singers at any point in time."
I am quoting Benson Idonije in an article about the late Apala king Haruna Ishola. You can read the full article here.

As to the "well-blended group-vocal harmony treatment" there are some great examples of this on any of his records, but perhaps slightly more so on this one. The chorus seems a little more pronounced than on other records. I am being cautious, because in my experience the perception of Haruna Ishola's music keeps changing. I can listen to a record that I have had for years, and suddenly discover completely new elements. And songs that have seemed to last forever before can pass in minutes the next time.

By the way, the titles of the tracks of this lp seem to be missing in the discography. Although you can find the titles in the tags, I will repeat them here:
a. Egbe Omojaiyejaiye, Shagamu / Yiyo Ekun Tojo Ko
b. Ire Ni Temi / Kosi Ohun To Ye Ode Biko Perin Wale / Nigeria Ejeki A Dupe Lowo Olodumare / Operation Feed The Nation


SRPS 36

Edit: as before, Cheeku has dug up some additional material, in this case -from ebay- a copy of the front sleeve (well, at least part of it...). ¡Gracias!

June 10, 2009

Horoya live

This post is partly intended to point you into the direction of some very interesting videos, which have been uploaded to YouTube by Graeme Counsel (of the very instructive RadioAfrica website). Specifically I am referring to this superb video by the Horoya Band, recorded by Graeme in October 2008. The video offers proof that the Horoya Band is still very much alive and going very strong! I can't tell you how elated I felt when I saw this video. It means there is still hope I will be able to see this legendary orchestra. Judging by their performance in this video, I am expecting to be seriously steamrollered by them.



In the second part of this post I would like to carry on where I left off in an earlier post, i.e. with the Horoya Band in their mid-1980s glory. This cassette was brought back from Guinea in 1986, and features some tracks which I would label as classics from the post-Syliphone era. The track "Hakilimaya" has been released on some lp's too (which were mostly credited to Conde Demba 'chanteur du Horoya Band'). The quality of the recording is not very good, but the music - live and steaming - is brilliant.

Horoya live

PS: There are more great videos on the RadioAfrica video page!!

June 08, 2009

Bougouni

She has the appearance of a girl, - but one with a voice like a dagger. Na Hawa Doumbia is one of the great singers of the Wassoulou you can't help loving. Although she has wandered along a musical path I personally have no interest in following, I still admire her for the stubbornness and decisiveness in which she gone her own way.

Born in a village near the Ivorian border but raised in Bougouni (Sikasso region), Na Hawa started off in the Chant Solo category of the Biennale Artistique et Culturelle, with wonderful songs like "Nyama toutou" (1974), "Banani" (1978) - the song in the video at the bottom of this post - and "Tignè de be laban" (1980), with which she won first prize. From there she was allowed to participate in the Découverte competition of Radio France Internationale, where she was first in the category 'Songs with a traditional source'. This meant that she could perform at the soirée at the Théâtre Daniel Sorano in Dakar. Her performance accompanied by her guitarist (and husband) N'Gou Bagayogo attracted so much attention that was invited to record an album. This album, "Kourouni", released in 1981, was followed by a second, "Sakory Mery", in 1982 and by a third, "Korodia", in 1983.

This third album was Na Hawa's first attempt of finding her own way in music. It is a discovery of possibilities and perspectives. In fact, there is only one 'foreign' instrument in this album: the piano. But the way the piano interacts with guitar, kamelan n'goni and percussion is completely unique.
On the lp three* songs from the "Sakory Mery" album are repeated. The reason for this I don't know. Maybe she wanted to contrast the new songs with the old.
To me it doesn't matter, I still can't help loving this unique singer from Bougouni....

AS Records AS 011

Here is, as a bonus, a delightful video featuring Na Hawa performing her 1978 song "Banani" in the streets of Bougouni.


* I am only including two of these. I will post the other two albums at a later date. The posted tracks are, by the way, compiled from several cassettes.

June 07, 2009

E.K.'s No.1 Band

"E.K. Nyame was born in 1927 in Ghana. He revolutionised West African music in the 1950s, as he not only updated the Highlife music of the Palm-Wine groups, but also combined it with the acting of the local concert groups" (John Collins, African Pop Roots, The Inside Rhythms of Africa, 1985).

This may still sound a bit vague, but I gather that E.K. Nyame played a major part in getting rid of western ballroom music (foxtrot, quickstep, waltz etc.) in concert parties and gradually replacing it with highlife music based on the guitar music of the palm-wine bars. He also slowly introduced more Twi into the shows.

It is not surprising that he became Kwame Nkrumah's favourite musician. E.K. in turn supported Nkrumah in songs and plays. He told John Collins he had composed 40 songs in praise of Nkrumah. With the decline of Nkrumah's rule in the 1960s, E.K.'s songs were used by the opposition.
E.K. Nyame died in 1977.

Here are two singles, released in the Philips label, of E.K.'s No.1 Band. I'm not sure if this means there was also a No.2 Band (there ís a K.K.'s No.2 Band, but I think they are from a later date). But I prefer to think this was meant as a qualification or ranking....

Philips PF 383571
Philips PF 382418

June 06, 2009

Anniversary

Today it's the anniversary, and not just of D-Day, my sister, King Albert of Belgium, Thomas Mann and Bjørn Borg, but especially of the founding of one of the greatest African orchestras of all time: the OK Jazz. In a future post* I will explore the details of this momentous event.
But for now I would like to share this double album on the Pathé label with a selection of songs from the 1950s and 1960s, when the OK Jazz was just OK, and not yet Almighty.

Of the 25 tracks in this collection 8 are from the 1950s. Of these the oldest are the two compositions by Dewayon; these are from 1956 and are the last two tracks recorded on the Loningisa label featuring singer Rossignol, Essous (clarinet) and Pandi (sax). On January 1, 1957 they left for the newly started Esengo label, where they founded Rock-a-Mambo.
In the other six Loningisa tracks (from 1957 and 1958) the focus is on Vicky Longomba; not only has he composed four of these songs, but he is the lead singer in all six. Not including at least one bolero sung by Franco himself seems to me a regretful omission...

And while on the subject of composers, I would like to point out that there appear to be some 'politically motivated' errors in the composers listed on the sleeve. It is well known that Franco had a tendency to claim songs which he hadn't composed. And in this case I can understand Franco claiming "Na Congo Nazali Refugie Te" and the sublime "Mivais Temoin", which were both composed by 'persona non grata' Kwamy (who accused Franco several times of not keeping his promises**). But I can't figure out why he would claim Michel Boyibanda's "Masua Enani".

I certainly won't complain about the inclusion of the songs featuring Kwamy. I love the songs from the "Bolingo Ya Bougie" era; and "Vincent" and "Na Congo Nazali Refugie Te" are a welcome addition. The same goes for "Zuani Naweli Kitayele", which has been sadly shortened on the CD-version (on CD 36553).
Compared to the re-issues on CD I can only conclude that a lot of the original sound has been lost in the conversion to digital form. The most tragic example of this is the track "Gare A Toi Marie", which really sparkles on this album. In general, I can recommend any of the records of the OK Jazz on the Pathé label for their superb sound quality, - and will be posting some more in the future....

And I can assure you there will be lots more (Tout Puissant) O.K. Jazz in future posts!

Pathé 2C 150 15973/74 part 1
Pathé 2C 150 15973/74 part 2

* the second in the series about the OK Jazz on the Loningisa label will highlight the 'birth' of this orchestra on June 6, 1956.
** I will come back to this in a future post. For more Kwamy I refer you to the podcasts (bottom left of this blog).

June 05, 2009

Badmos

Continuing the series of posts of 45s, I have dug up two singles on the Badmos label from Malian artists. In general, singles from Malian artists are rare and mostly -if not all- manufactured 'abroad' (i.e. not in Mali). The Badmos label was owned by a Nigerian living in Abidjan, and the lack of information on the sleeves of the Badmos records has led to some speculation and misunderstandings about the origins of the artists.

In this case the artists are from Mali, although in the case of Mamadou Doumbia it seems likely that he was one of the many migrants from Mali living in Côte D'Ivoire. A hit from the 1960s, "Super Bébé", can be found in an earlier post.
Regretfully the quality of this record is poor, mainly as a result of dust wear. But if you are -like me- a regular listener to sand-blazed vinyl you will be able to enjoy a delicate and suave (ahum) two-part ode to the women of Ivory Coast and their sisters in other African countries.

Badmos BB 183

The second single is by Tentemba Jazz, a Malian orchestra that has managed to stay well out of the limelight. That is to say, I have never heard anyone mention them in Mali, and I can only find a very limited amount of records by them. But these two tracks, mangled as the record may be (and this is the best of two copies I have!), are pure gold. With a leader singer vaguely reminiscent of that shining star of African music, Amadou Balaké, great guitars, a solid groove and even a (toy?) trumpet.
The track on the A-side has been covered to by the Rail Band, but I can't remember if they have recorded it. The pure platinum "Moussolatintani" was covered -and probably later- by the 22 Band (on SLP 67), - or maybe it just served as an inspiration for that version.

I am hoping someone has a better copy of this single than the frustrating one posted here. If so, please let me know (please...).

Badmos BB 229

June 04, 2009

Finger-picking

Reading about the influences of modern-day Kenyan music the name of John Mwale will frequently pop up. He is often cited as having been influenced by the finger-picking guitar style of Jean Bosco Mwenda and Losta Abelo (both from Katanga, Congo) who had become known through the recordings made by Hugh Tracey.

Strangely, although John Mwale is mentioned quite often, it seems hard to find any music by this Kenyan musical pioneer. All in all I know of only two (2) other songs credited to John Mwale, which are available on the Original Music CD "Before Benga Vol. 2: The Nairobi Sound"(OMCD 022).
So the fourteen on this lp can be considered to be a 'Mwale flood'...

Of Reuben Shimbiro, who features with John Mwale in this collection, I have found no mention whatsoever. I can only assume that he is responsible for the second vocal and the very creative percussion in these songs.

The songs themselves are, I am told, delightful little portraits of life in Nairobi in the late 1950s/early 1960s. They are about love, hope and the daily frustrations of River Road, Nairobi.

Here are two examples:


If there are any more songs of this wonderful duo, please let me know!

AGS LP 2008

PS: Sorry, no sleeve. In fact, I can't find a photo of these artists anywhere!

June 03, 2009

UCAS

Family matters have kept me from posting for a while. I am sure you haven't had time to get bored, with all the posting of the various blogs, but I am hoping to do some 'catching-up' in the next few weeks.

The UCAS Jazz Band from Sedhiou (Casamance, Senegal) is said to be the oldest Senegalese band in existence. Allegedly* founded in 1959, it seems unlikely that the orchestra which released a CD (and DVD) in 2003 has links other than the name to the original band, - or even to the band who released this lp in the 1970s.

According to the sleeve of this lp on the N'Dardisc label** the orchestra won the gold medal at the Semaine Nationale de la Jeunesse in 1967, 1970 and 1972, participated in the panafrican youth festival in Tunis in 1973, and performed at some festivals in Spain and France. The mention of the festivals in Europe can only be explained by the year this album was released, - which was before the many European festivals with African artists.

The orchestra is obviously inspired by the broad scope of traditional music from the Casamance, which is considered to be the region from where the kora originated (although Sidiki Diabaté talked about Guinea Bissau in a video - which I will post later). Apart from the remarkable use of a kora in this modern orchestra, their link with tradition is apparent, if not obvious, from the songs selected. Songs which are from the repertoire of regional legends like Lalo Keba Dramé and Soundioulou Sissoko. As in all modern Senegalese music from this period there is a Latin element, in this case in the song "Yatouloveras" ("Ya tu lo veras", but not the Dimension Latina song).

It may surprise you, but my favourite tracks are tracks without kora: the two ballads "Regret" and "M'Badighol", and "Waite-Nao". And I love the vocals on "Tourban".

N'Dardisc 33-12

*the sleeve notes claim that the Union Culturelle et Artistique de Sédhiou was founded in 1959. I can find no proof that the orchestra was initiated in the same year.
**a following album on this label (33-14) is the one by Laba Sosseh I posted earlier.