October 26, 2009

Authentic 1977

I would like to start this week with a dose of high energy from Senegal. Although I have had this album by Orchestre Gorom for years, it is only over the last ten to five years that I have come to fully appreciate the content of it. I stress the word 'content' because the splendid cover had caught my eye straight away, and perhaps was what motivated me to buy the record in the first place.

It started when I heard the cd "Gainde" in the World Network series by Youssou N'dour and (mainly) Yandé Codou Sène. I immediately recognised that incredibly fierce voice from a documentary I had once seen on French TV5. I am sure I must have this documentary somewhere; as soon as I have recovered it I will post it.

Listening to her contribution on "Gainde" was the key to the lp by Orchestre Gorom. Although her direct influence is limited to only two songs it 'opened up' the others as well. Of these two songs, by the way, one can be found on both albums, although the name is slightly different ("Siyare Na La" with Gorom and "Siare Naala Ndigal Faal" on Gainde).
It is a pity the writer of the sleeve notes got carried away a bit and attributed all the songs to Mrs. Sène. I have a nasty suspicion this exaggeration may be politically motivated. Yandé Codou is a representative of the Serer culture, a Senegalese ethnicity to which belonged President Léopold Sédar Senghor. A (more recent) documentary (of which this is an excerpt) even refers to her as "The Griot of Senghor".

Looking back on it now, I think Khar Mbaye Madiaga should get at least similar credit for her influence on this record. She also contributed two songs, and has also left a severe impression on Senegalese music and culture. Judging by this article I guess she must be considered to be a guardian of Senegalese tradition (another interview with this remarkable grande dame can be found here).

But don't get me wrong: the lp and Orchestre Gorom have stood the test of time, and for that reason alone deserve credit.

Sonafric SAF 50056

October 25, 2009

Mamaye

Words fail to express the sadness I felt at the news of the death of another great human being, talented musician and friend: Mamaye Kouyaté. I only heard this a few days ago, but it appears he died last month, after a prolonged illness.

Husband of that great diva of Malian music, Mah Damba (who featured in this earlier post), father of some very talented children and good friend of the late Alou Fané, who even named one of his children after him. It was Alou who introduced me to Mamaye and Mah, and right from the start they treated me like I had been a friend for years.

As a musical couple they were very well known, in Mali, but perhaps slightly more in Paris where they lived. While their intention has always been to stay close to tradition, living in Paris has meant that some compromises have been necessary to survive and live of what was essentially their purpose in life: being a griot or djeli. I know this has never been easy, but I can assure you this is not due to their (lack of) talent.....

This cassette is proof of this immense talent. It features both Mah and Mamaye in great form. I am told that this cassette was the basis for a cd called "Nyarela", but I have not heard this cd.
The title track "Nyarela" (after the quartier in Bamako) is one of my favourite tracks of Mamaye. This 22+ minute track is a monument of his skills as a ngoni player, as a traditional griot (talking), as an accompagnateur of his exceptional wife.

My condolences for Mah and family.
The world has lost a great musician, Mali a worthy cultural ambassador, and I a friend.

Paix à son âme.


Samassa IC 0397

October 24, 2009

Morogoro

I have been busy digitising another batch. Unfortunately this resulted in another 'issue' which had to be resolved: lack of disc space. But after rearranging, moving and some good old throwing away, I managed to finish what I wanted to do. The fruits of these efforts I will share with you in this blog, albeit little by little.

But this is an lp which I had intended to post earlier, but for some reason I haven't gotten round to it. It is an older lp by one of my favourite artists from East Africa, Mbaraka Mwinshehe. An earlier post was dedicated to Mbaraka with the Super Volcano orchestra. But this is from before 1973, when he was still with the Morogoro Jazz, or the "K.Z. Morogoro Jazz Band" as they are called on this album. Most of these tracks have been reissued on the 'Ukumbusho' lp's, that brilliant series on Polygram's Polydor label.
But compared to those releases, I would say that the sound of this album is perhaps slightly more open, more translucent.

As always Mbaraka is without any presumptuousness or pretension. Horns blaring, guitars skuffling, the typical vocals: I just love this guy.

More to follow soon.

Polydor POLP 502

October 20, 2009

Bilombe ya mindule

I am hoping that this post can shed some light on a mystery that's been bugging me ever since I have heard "Bilombe ya mindule", a song attributed to Franco and his O.K. Jazz. The thing is: I can't identify the singer of this song. There are some slight touches of Kwamy in his voice, but it's not him. It's certainly not Vicky or Youlou, and after closer study Boyibanda and Chécain could also be eliminated. Given that the music suggests the track is from the late 1960s, there is not a lot left....

Friend Aboubacar decided to ask a Congolese connaisseur, and his answer meant a dramatic shift in my perception of the track. He wrote: "Here is my true opinion: this is from CONGO-BRAZZAVILLE, not necessarily from the Bantous de la Capitale, but nonetheless from some band in Congo-Brazaville. I'd say even the lyrics point at that side: traditionnaly & 'politically' people from Congo-Brazzaville have always wished the two Congo's to unite... Listen to Franklin Boukaka for instance .... Whereas my people have always seen those from Congo-Brazzaville with suspicion...
The lyrics talk about the Congolese music and musicians of both sides. No Congolese musician from Congo-Kinshasa would sing about a musician from Congo-Brazzaville, - not that I know of anyway..
"

The title, he explained as follows: "Bilombe is the plural of elombe. And what does elombe mean? (...) Elombe = someone living, thus elombe mobali = a man, elombe mwasi = a woman. Elombe is always 'positive' and contains some kind of admiration, the opposite is yuma. Bilombe ya Mindule = those 'fantastic men' who make music & song, i.e. musicians (with the touch of admiration I was referring to above)."

With this in mind, I begin to understand why I couldn't recognise the singer: maybe the song is simply not by the O.K. Jazz... Could the track be by the orchestra that is responsible for the A-side of this single on the Pathé-Marconi label: orchestre Manta?
A mix-up is not completely unlikely. Manta also released some records through Franco's Epanza Makita label, so maybe the mistake started there.
And listening to one of those records, I can hear some similarities between the singer of "Tokei Kotala Bango" and the singer of the mysterious "Bilombe Ya Mindule"....

But there is still doubt. A doubt inspired by the horns on "Bilombe Ya Mindule". There is no sax at all on the Epanza Makita record, and only one sax on "Gaby Kulutuya Tango", the A-side of the Pathé 45.

So who are these 'fantastic men'?

Pathe PF 11590
Epanza Makita 384.432

PS: Come to think of it: where is Franco on "Bilombe Ya Mindule"?

October 18, 2009

10 Ans de Chansons

Let me start this post by drawing your attention to the update of an earlier post, which dealt with a delightful collection of songs from Ivory Coast, called "Ivoire Retro". I have retrieved the two songs that were missing of the original album. The lp can now be savoured in its complete form (or you can download the two missing tracks).

The same Dolf that helped me out with that lp, also happened to be in the possession of this rarity, titled "10 Ans de Chansons 1960-1970". It's another collection of musical petit fours from Côte D'Ivoire. The quality of this lp on the Fiesta label (the precursor of the African label) is not as good as the Ivoire Retro lp, but to me any additional track of artists like Amedée Pierre, Fax Clark or Mamadou Doumbia is already a veritable treat!

And I hadn't even heard of the other surprises! How could they have kept these gems by A.A. Adrien, Malick Koffi, Anoman Brouh Felix and A. Yapo hidden? It makes you wonder what still remains un(re)discovered in the musical vaults of the various African countries*....

Of course, the two (yes!) songs by Amedée Pierre stand out, but "Ma Douce Mado" by Malick Koffi (and I suspect Mado in this case is a female) and Fax Clark's growled "Findjougou" offer stiff competition. Tracks like "Super Nord" by Anoman Brouh Felix (of whom I recently saw some singles on the internet - e.g. this one on the right) and "Ayame Cherie" by A.A. Adrien & R. Yapi (with a slightly disturbing bit of slide guitar!) again show traces of the influence of Congolese music.

If there is anyone out there hoarding similar treasure troves, please contact me!

Fiesta 365.007

PS: The sleeve at the top of this post has no relevance to this post. The Comoé sisters are on Ivoire Retro. The sleeve actually contained only red dust; the record was - tragically - missing....

Vingt kilomètres

I copied this cassette from Ali Farka Touré in the early 1990s. He used to bring cassettes along on his travels, usually from local celebrities*, and occasionally of his own work. In turn I made copies for him of music which over time had become rare in Mali, - like for example the Koni Coumaré lp on Fiesta, or (good quality) cassettes of Toumani Koné.

The cassette contains private recordings made by Ali himself, of a concert in Dofana by his group Asko, featuring Ali, Hamma Sankaré and Amadou 'Affel' Bocoum. So the recordings were made 'chez lui', and if you ask me, this can clearly be heard in the result. Ali is obviously in his element. Take the last song: this is music for wide horizons, for the slow flow of water in the nearby river.
I haven't checked this, but I wouldn't be surprised if all of the songs have - in one version or another - been released on the many cd's Ali has left behind. I do know the first song was re-recorded a few years later for the album "The Source".
But this cd-version, in my opinion, can't compete with the version on this cassette.

In case you're wondering about the surrealistic picture on the right: I have added this partial screenprint from Google maps to give you a (very rough) idea of the layout of the village that is the subject of this song. The yellow line on the top right is a road. So to get from Niafunké (the principle village in the cercle, as Affel remarks) the river seems the easiest way. And the 'vingt kilomètres' (twenty kilometers) must be the distance from Niafunké to Dofana by pirogue. The song celebrates a project in Dofana to use water from the river for irrigation (thus enabling some agriculture to take place in this remote locality) and the initiator of this project.

Ali himself followed this example some years later, and eventually even retired from music all together to concentrate on this original form of culture....

Dofana Oct. 1990

I found this video on YouTube, which seems very appriopriate with this post:


PS: alternative download link.

* I'll post some of these later (...oh oh, there he goes again, promising things....)

October 17, 2009

Malandros


I would like to begin this post by referring you straight away to the site of Muzikifan, which not only offers a concise discography of Super Mama Djombo, but also a very relevant introduction to these two records.

Yes, two records: the second and third volume of the SMD series. I copied these lp's years ago, and for some reason lost in the mist of time (or my memory) I have not copied the second track. So to make up for this act of obvious stupidity I am adding a second lp.

The second volume is titled "Festival", which as they keep repeating in the title song is a reference to the festival Super Mama Djombo attended in La Habana, where they joined the struggle ("luta") against imperialism. With this song you don't have to understand crioulo or portuguese to get an idea of what this orchestra from Guinea-Bissau is talking about.
It gets more difficult with the other songs. "Mortos" no doubt means "dead", and "nega" may have something to do with denying. But what does Cabo Verde have to do with this? And about which Cabral are they talking: about president Luis Cabral, who was overthrown at around the time this record was released, or about his brother Amilcar, who was killed in Conakry in 1973, by the Portuguese (who three years before had attempted to get rid of both Sekou Touré and Amilcar Cabral).
And the one that keeps bugging me most: "Sociedade de malandros". What a great title! Repeat it a couple of times and I am sure you'll agree. A "society of sneaky rascals", - now there's one that gets my imagination going......

Luckily it is balanced by the peaceful "Julia", which is neatly summed up by Muzikifan: "There is a dreamy guitar floating across the stratosphere". Great song, which was a logical choice for that memorable CD released in 2003 on the Cobiana label.

The third volume, "Sol Maior Para Comandante", is really another album in the Regard Sur Le Passé style, including a storyteller recounting the historic events. The difference with Bembeya's Regard is the fact that the events (the heroic acts of Amilcar Cabral in the luta for the independance of Guinea-Bissau) weren't from a (relatively) distant past, but from a few years before the release of the album!
Like the Bembeya classic, the album not only conserves a very interesting chapter of African history, but also offers some brilliant music from a country which has remained relatively underexposed in the study of and research into African music.

SMD 002
SMD 003

UPDATE: Alastair from Muzikifan was kind enough to send the missing track of SMD 002, plus copies of both sleeve and labels. For those who have already downloaded this volume, here is the additional material. Those who have not yet downloaded the volume can use the 'normal' link to download the complete album.
Thanks also to African Music Recycler for sharing the missing track through the link in the comments.

October 14, 2009

Power kora and copper vocals

A quick midweek post now, and one in a very different mood and from a different culture.
In an earlier post I have already mentioned the inimitable Lalo Keba Dramé. Well here is full cassette of that master of kora and copper vocals from the Casamance.
In this cassette the metal ring to his voice is accentuated even more by a female backing vocalist. Together they venture to the edge of the tolerable, - and sometimes even beyond this (if you can't stand nails on a blackboard, be warned!).

Lalo Keba Dramé's kora playing is dynamic and full of jumpy energy. Unlike more recent kora artists, Dramé's art has a popular feel: I never get the impression he is trying to convey a 'higher', more sophisticated Art form.

Personal favourites are the first track, "Coura M'Bissane", the excellent razor-sharp version of "Bamba Bodian" and the undulating "N'Diato". Also I would like to draw your attention to the last track, "Kantintin", a tribute to former president Senghor, - or "Leopold" for his more intimate friends......

Bellot Records C 3801

October 11, 2009

Quart de Siècle

In 1981, celebrating the 25th birthday of his orchestra, Franco released a series of four LP's: Le Quart de Siècle de Franco de Mi Amor et le T.P. O.K. Jazz, Volumes 1 to 4.

To commemorate the anniversary of his passing away, 20 years ago on October 12, I am posting this series.

Most of this material is from the first half of 1981, except "Lolaka" and "Mamba", which were recorded earlier.

On every volume is one composition by Franco. The only two other songs he played on are "Bimansha" by Josky Kiambukuta and "Bina Na Ngai Na Respect" by Ntesa Dalienst. On these six songs Franco played mi-solo. The solo guitar is played by Gerry Dialungana, except on "Tailleur" (Papa Noel), and the rhythm guitar is played by Gégé Mangaya, except on "Bimansha" (Makosso). It is my guess on these songs (and more) Mpudi Decca played bass, Ntoya drumkit and Bosuma Dessoin percussion. Also note Josky on maracas on "Bimansha" and "Respect".

Many of these songs were released on cd, mostly with equalising, several of them shamelessly cut short; most notably "Bimansha", where Franco's guitar solo is cut short by three minutes (like cutting a piece off a Van Gogh painting to make it fit the room), but also "Mujinga". The songs were never released in the combinations of songs that Franco had intended. The original albums were all torn apart. Here they are in their original Edipop form.

Several of these songs have been posted on YouTube, with some additional information (or explanations by the composers) here and there, most notably "Tailleur" with an insightful translation into English (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0dErA-rwenw). Also, live versions of some of these songs can be found on my YT pages ("Bimansha" (version 1), "Bimansha" (version 2), "Mamba", "Mandola").

Note: The copper sounding like they were playing from the corridor and the reeds from even further down the hallway on "Ilousse", "Katebe" and "Tuti" was, according to Ntesa Dalienst, a mixing error, during recording I'm sure, because he added that Franco said it must have been meant to be, so he did not want second takes to be recorded. (Franco did most of his recording in one take in those days.)

There is also a Quart de Siècle Volume 5, but that was released at a later date and does not contain any recordings that Franco made in 1981.

Le Quart Siècle Vol. 1 (POP 01)
Le Quart Siècle Vol. 2 (POP 02)
Le Quart Siècle Vol. 3 (POP 03)*
Le Quart Siècle Vol. 4 (POP 04)

This post is also dedicated to Jerry Zee, without whom this post would not have been possible.

* new link November 2, 2010

Fifteen Years Ago

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.

ASLP 1001

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...

October 07, 2009

Balandzan

In an interview in 1986 I asked Amadou Bah (nicknamed 'Armstrong'), who was at the time 'chef d'orchestre' of the Malian orchestra Super Biton National, about the record released on the Tangent label and titled "Balandzan". He told me "Balandzan" was in fact the name of the group. This group from Ségou was a sort of nursery for the Super Biton orchestra; talents were recruited and trained in this nursery until they were ready for the 'real thing'. Also, if for some reason they were short in certain positions within the orchestra they could invite members of "Balandzan" to join them. The lp, explained Amadou Bah, was recorded by members of this group in Abidjan. The mention (on the sleeve) of the name Biton was to indicate not only the orchestra to which they were related, but also the repertoire which they were using. Because all the songs on the album are in fact songs from Biton.

Despite never hearing anything to indicate the contrary I am not convinced that the musicians in this record weren't at the time members of Biton. Could it have been a coincidence that the orchestra played nearly all the songs from this lp when they toured Europe in 1986? And why were members of Biton selling a cassette (on the right) with (on the B-side) the tracks of this lp?
I suspect political motives may play a part in this affair. Biton was the regional orchestra of the Ségou region, and funding came from the regional authorities. I have heard many rumours about the strict rule of regional directors and conflicts between musicians and regional authorities (as in other countries, usually about money).

To be honest, I am inclined to prefer the older repertoire of Biton*. But as Biton is one of my favourite Malian orchestras, this album still features in the top 100 African lp's.

The majority of the songs of this great orchestra are traditionals rearranged for an 'orchestre moderne'. Of course, most of these traditionals were from 'their own' region. The opening track "Sodanso", for example, was taken from a traditional made famous by the great Hawa Dramé. She also sung "Garaba Mama", which is on the cassette Biton were selling in 1986.
The themes of the songs are mostly of a moral nature. Even in praise songs, the emphasis is on the moral aspects. This doesn't mean that controversial subjects are avoided. In "Waracoro" a man rejects the popular 'norm' that a man can only be succesful and get married if he is well-dressed and his appearance is smart. He chooses to stay single and have girlfriends instead. And "Diagneba", on the cassette, is about arranged marriages. "I will marry the one I love" is the message of this song.
"S.T.I." is a song in praise of an organisation, the Sociéte de Transports Internationaux. I am told this song caused some trouble for the orchestra, presumably because the regional authorities hadn't authorised the flattery.
"Kara Demba" is a song about a great Bozo (an ethnical group of fishermen), who knew the profound mysteries and myths of the Bozo culture.

I am adding the cassette Biton were selling during their European tour of 1986. Side B of this cassette has the same tracks as the lp, but side A has five great additions to the songs on the lp. I would like to draw the attention of the connoisseurs to the first track of the cassette, "Bomama", which you may recognise as (the older) "Zani Diabaté" by the Super Djata Band.

Tangent TAN LP 7008
Bomama (cassette 1986)

As a bonus I would like to add this 'teaser' of a French documentary about the great Malian orchestras. This contains recent footage of members of Super Biton in Ségou, including Toussaint Siané, Mama Sissoko and Aboubacar Kissi 'Cubain'.


*I hate to keep referring to future posts, but I can assure you I will get round to this.

PS: The photo at the beginning of this post was taken by Isabelle Vigier at the 1986 Biennale in Bamako, and shows - from left to right - Toussaint Siané, Mama Sissoko, Amadou 'Armstrong' Bah and Mamadou 'Blick' Diarra.

October 06, 2009

Dogons and Rio

Two more scratchy singles today, I'm afraid. This time by Senegalese bands.
Although I admit it took me a while to figure out that "Les Dogons con Cissé Macki" was in fact a Senegalese band, or at least a band based in Senegal. I still have my doubts about Mr. Macki's origins, and suspect he or his family may have roots in Mali.

Apart from this is I have little to report on Les Dogons. Their record is another matter though. It contains two remarkable covers, one of Abelardo Barroso's classic "En Guantanamo", which has also been covered by other African artists (notably by Rochereau), although undoubtedly not as often as "El Carretero", - let alone "El Manisero" (and that's an example of what I call world music!).
On the B-side is a cover of another Cuban composition, in this case by Duo Los Compadres. It's a mystery to me why Mr. Macki has picked this rather typical Duo Los Compadres song. In the Les Dogons version it just doesn't seem right.
For good measure I have added the Cuban version, so you'll have an idea what I mean.

Befor 17-04

The second single is by the Rio Band de Dakar. This band is often mentioned in relation to bands like Baobab and the Star Band, but recordings appear to be more rare. Judging by this single, it is a pity. The A-side features another Cuban classic (and it is so common that I can't even tell you who is the original artist): "Caramelo (A Kilo)". The version is recognisably Senegalese, with some nice guitar and ditto sax.
The B-side seems an original composition by the Rio Band, "Vamos A Bailar (Con El Rio)". A nice enough song, but I have my doubts about the chorus. For some reason the repeated "Con El Rio" gets misformed in my perception to a word which can't have sounded pleasant in francophon Senegal (I leave you to guess the word...).

N'Dardisc 45-18

EDIT December 23, 2010: The Rio Band single is actually N'Dardisc 45-18. I suppose I have misread this...

October 04, 2009

Viclong

In 1970, the turn of the decade saw some decisive events in the history of the O.K. Jazz. Franco himself about this period in an interview in 1986: "I was a shy person at the time. But what do you want? I had friends in the OK Jazz that left and returned, and left and returned. And at a certain point I said: "Stop! If you leave, you leave for ever." And when they had gone for ever, I tried to organise the O.K. Jazz my way" "A coup, yes. Because, although shy, with them going one day and coming back the next, I said "Stop!", and tried to organise things my way. Je me suis imposé."

I can't help but thinking that after the attempts that were made to end the reign of the OK Jazz in the second half of the 1960s (Orchestre Révolution - see this post and this post / Verckys' attempt to lure away half of the orchestra in 1969 - post coming up), it was not surprising that the number one singer Vicky Longomba started looking for some securities.
In 1969 he followed in the footsteps of Verckys and founded his own record label, rather unimaginatively called "Viclong". Apparently he did this in total harmony with Franco, because the first recordings on this label were with the O.K. Jazz, and with Franco.
At a later stage, after the break-up with Franco, Vicky released the recordings of his own Lovy du Zaïre through this label.

But in this post I would like to share three of the Viclong singles of the OK Jazz with you.
The first of these is also the first record released on the label. It contains, like the other two singles in this post, two songs composed by Vicky. The A side, "Nakosala Nakolota", is a good example of Franco's talent as a backing vocalist, or 'second'. It is a side of Franco which unfortunately has remained somewhat hidden in the writings and releases of his work.
While the A-side may be seen as a demonstration of harmony between Franco and Vicky, "J'Ai Trompé Mon Amour", the B-side, can be seen as proof of Vicky's independence of Franco. It is a remake of a song Vicky recorded (probably in 1962) with his own Negro Succes and released on the Esengo label (see this post).
Unfortunately the quality of this single is rather poor.

African 90.318 [Viclong VC1]

Luckily the quality of the second single is a lot better. It contains a downright impertinent version of the Cuban classics "El Carretero", renamed "A Moins Que Namikosa", and subsequently claimed by Vicky. Franco is at it from the word "go", and remains unstoppable throughout this brilliant interpretation. On the B-side Vicky is backed by Lola Djangi, a.k.a. Chécain, a - in my opinion underrated - singer with a voice with a built-in dose of sadness and nostalgia (who will certainly also be subject a future post).

African 90.452 [Viclong 20]

I regret to say the last of these three singles is again rather scratchy. The A-side "Mbanda Nani A Gagner?" is a ballad sung solo (and beautifully) by Vicky, with some very nice sax (by Musekiwa? or Rondot? or whom?), and no noticeable Franco, - although I keep expecting Franco to 'impose' himself...
"Nasomba Mwana Naboti?", which was released (and fortunately in a better quality) on Sonodisc CD 36586, compensates for the absence of Franco's guitar on the A-side. Backing Vicky is Michel Boyibanda.
I like the songs Vicky later made with Lovy, but to me they can not compare with the songs Vicky made when he was with Franco.

African 90.468 [Viclong VC 23]

More Franco coming up soon.

Balafon dancing

A quick post, this time, featuring a video from Malian television. The artist is the wonderful Mariam Bagayogo (who as far as I know is no close relation to Assa Bagayogo or Hawa Dramé). The quality is - regretfully - slightly below zero, but the music and the spectacular performance should compensate for this.

The song was recorded in the Palais de la Culture in Bamako, in November 1988. And the occasion was a 'soirée' in protest against the Apartheid regime of South Africa.

The music is firmly rooted in the Bambara tradition of what used to be called (and is often still referred to as) the Bélédougou region. It is therefore pentatonic.
I think you'll agree with me that the dancing is out-of-this-world....

October 03, 2009

9ème Festival

Is nostalgia the longing for a past one has personally experienced, or is it possible to yearn for events of which one was completely unaware at the time when they happened? I ask this, because I experience an extreme attack of nostalgia whenever I read about the 9th Festival National des Arts et de la Culture. The event took place from March 4 to 22, 1973, in Conakry, the capital of Guinea.
I have a strong tendency to burst out in tears even when I only read the programme:
● the 7 nationals orchestras*
● 30 federal orchestras
● the Tout Puissant O.K. Jazz (in 1973!!)
● Myriam Makeba and the Quintette Guineen
● Orquesta Aragon from Cuba.

Of the "inoubliable show global" of the T.P. O.K. Jazz not even a memory remains in present-day Guinea (and I am still hoping someone proves me wrong!). But luckily there is this great album on the Syliphone label which gives us at least a glimpse of the Greatness of this 9th Festival. Although it "only" features tracks from the regional orchestras, it is still one of my favourite lp's on the Syliphone label.

The album contains some brilliant contributions from Nimba Jazz (later known as "Le Nimba de N’zérékoré"), from Kébali Jazz from Dinguiraye, Niandan Jazz from Kissidougou (two tracks), Kakandé Jazz from Boké, Télé-Jazz from Télémélé, Kalum Star from Conakry I, "22 Novembre" Band from Kankan, Dirou Band from Kindia and Palm Jazz from Macenta. There are no "weaker" tracks on this lp. Tracks which may seem 'inferior' initially will grow after hearing them a few times.
But this said, I do have some favourites: "Wara" (Nimba Jazz) with the great interaction between guitars and balafon; Kakandé Jazz's uptempo "Nkhama Gnakha" with its enthusiastic horns; "Djarama Sinta" by Télé Jazz, a favourite for late-night car journeys; Kalum Star's "Lalaba" with its catchy rhythm and great monomaniac rhythm guitar; the "22 Novembre" Band and its "Kouma", I could easily listen to a few albums filled with just that superb band.

Listening to this album I can't help being overwhelmed by a strong sense of nostalgia.

Syliphone SLP 42

* I have no idea what the seventh orchestra was, after (1) Bembeya, (2) Keletigui, (3) Balla, (4) Amazones, (5) Horoya and (6) Boiro Band. Was the Orchestré de la Garde Républicaine 2ème formation still in existence in 1973?

October 02, 2009

Franco in Paris

As promised, I will dedicate a few posts in these weeks to the work of Franco and his OK Jazz. And today I start with this album of songs recorded and released in the 1960s (I estimate they are from 1966 and 1967). As far as I can ascertain (I have never seen a catalogue of this label), all these tracks were originally released on the Boma Bango label.

Most of the tracks on this lp have been digitally released on Sonodisc CD 36553, and two of those tracks have been re-issued on Glenn Music SAKU 007. Personally I can remember feeling very disappointed when I heard the Sonodisc cd, as the wonderfully open sound of the Pathé lp had been dynamically compressed (thus boosting the presence of the music and levelling the depth). In retrospect I can only conclude that the level of compression is rather moderate, and that things have gone from bad to worse - and way beyond - since....

The songs are from a period when both Vicky Longomba and Mulamba Joseph a.k.a. Mujos were still active as singers with the OK Jazz. Backing them on most of these songs is Michel Boyibanda.

A number of these songs seem to carry a political message, "Retroussons Les Manches"("Let's roll up our sleeves") being the most obvious of these. With "Matinda" there is only a slight reference to Patrice Lumumba, and it seems unlikely this has a political intention.
"Colonel Bangala", however, is certainly political, or at least a reference of a more topical nature. Colonel Alphonse Bangala, Governor of Leopoldville, had in May 1966 turned in four ex-ministers, stating they were plotting a coup against Mobutu (who himself had assumed power only six months before). He claimed he had received instructions from Mobutu to pretend to go along with the plot. More details can been found in these two (1, 2) newspaper clippings. It seems safe to assume Franco was singing in praise of the Colonel....

But the song "Course Au Pouvoir"("Race to power") has nothing to do with politics. It is Franco's final retort to Kwamy's repeated attacks, the last of which had been "Faux Millionaire" (with Rochereau's African Fiesta). Kwamy had recruited some of the members of the OK Jazz for his Orchestre Révolution (more about this here, and in a future post), and Franco was getting really fed up with Kwamy. According to Ewens (in his book "Congo Colossus") Franco* replies: "You are running me down everywhere, my brother, but I take it as a joke. You have invaded my private life. What jealousy. It hurts you to hear that Franco has done this or that... You wish Franco's name would disappear for ever. God created Judas, but judas stabbed him in the back" (* although it is actually Vicky who is singing). The duel between Franco and Verckys, that follows these harsh words has become a classic in the extensive repertoire of the OK Jazz, and was repeated in Abidjan, in 1980, with Matalanza playing the part of Verckys.


Pathe STX 229 (new link August 27, 2012)

PS: I will be back with more Franco very soon.