I have trying very hard to get an accurate dating for this lp by Les Bantous. This dating may be of interest for historians for two reasons. I have been assured that this is the first record by a Congolese (and in this case of the Brazzaville side of the river) artist released in stereo. And secondly, it appears to be one of the first uses of the word "soukous" in combination with Congolese music.
I estimate this record to be from either 1964 or 1965. It was recorded in Paris, with the aid of Gilles Sala, who has played a crucial role in the development and popularity of African and particularly Congolese music. It remains a mystery to me that so little can be found about this man and his part in the 'rise' of African music. His name keeps popping up, whether in the context of African Jazz (someone even told me that he was instrumental in linking Roger Izeidi, and through Izeidi not only African Jazz but also OK Jazz, with Fonior) or Ry-Co Jazz, or G.G. Vikey, or Malian stars like Fanta Damba and Sory Bamba.
In this case I strongly suspect that he may be responsible for the name "Soukous", which was a label of the French record company Vogue. So it may well be that Gilles Sala was the 'inventor' of soukous music (there you go: I've said it*).
Let's get back to the dating. Jean-Serge Essous was still in charge. He gradually got involved with other matters (Ry-Co Jazz, African Team) in and from 1965. In 1966 Bantous played at the Premier Festival Mondial des Arts Negres in Dakar, and remained in West-Africa for a while before returning to Paris. There are only a limited number of musicians on this album, all from the 'old', early sixties Bantous. So this suggests it was a one-off trip to Paris with just a small team.
And there is - as always - the evidence of the music. And don't be fooled by the clear, stereo, sound. There are two songs labelled "twist". This strongly suggests a date in the early to mid-sixties. The 'cha cha' and "guapacha" even would point to an even earlier dating.
One thing is obvious, though. This is a very remarkable album, with some great songs, featuring superb artists like Essous and Papa Noel (who are both on the cover). I particularly like Papa Noel's "Paris-Brazza" and Essous' instrumental "Souvenir de Paris".
My only regret is that there is only a disappointing 25 minutes on this album....
Soukous SV 13001
* I am regretting it already...
Global Sampler vol. 10 – Various Artists
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