March 26, 2010

Soukous

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...

19 comments:

Pountecon said...

Its Official; Gilles Sala created soukous. They say if you send it to the internets its never leaves, never dies. Thank you for the music, history lesson and making my routine afternoon beat mining feel like the most important part of my life.

Peter said...

Many thanks for the music.

I checked Ossinonde's book on Les Bantous. Apparently, the tracks on this LP were recorded during the Bantous first trip to Europe in Nov. 1962. The following year, Papa Noel, Jose Bukasa and Jacky Mambau left the band to help Grand Kalle restart African Jazz.

As for the "Soukous" label, I suspect these tracks were initially released as 45rpms and only years later on LP. Probably in the late 60s, when soukous became a catchword to market Congolese music. But that's just my guess.

The Bantous book you can find here:
http://www.bassoka.com/shop/product_info.php?products_id=103

WrldServ said...

@Peter: That does explain a lot, especially with regard to the line-up.
The Congolese source of this record insists, however, that the lp is from the mid-sixties. I am in no position to argue...

Re. the book: I'm afraid I can't keep up (mainly financially) with all the books being published.

b2v said...

waou ! what a vibe ! thanks for the music !

b2v said...

the youssouf Diara (Rock Star (Shakara music SHA 004)) is amazing
same for The last recordings of Mbaraka Mwinshehe & Orchestra Super Volcano

bless

b2v said...

dude, sorry to bother once again but Les Ambassadeurs du Motel de Bamako is crazy, I love it !

Peter said...

Re: claim that the Bantous LP is from the mid 60s - I would argue that the use of the term Soukous suggests a later date. In the mid 60s the dance craze in Brazza was the boucher. Soukous became popular much later, in the late 60s.

More info from the book on the 1962 tour.

Apart from the 51 singles that the Bantous recorded in Brussels for Izeidi's CEFA label, they also did some recording in Paris, 4 singles for Louis Gasté. I assume Gasté (husband of Line Renaud) later gave the tapes to Gilles Sala who re-issued the 8 tracks on stereo LP.

The Bantous on tour included all the musicians listed on the back cover, plus Celestin Kouka. Don't know why he is not credited as one of the singers.

Peter said...

Correction, I meant to say:
I assume Gasté later gave the tapes to Vogue Records who re-issued the 8 tracks on stereo LP

Radio Africa said...

Greetings WrldServ. Yes, Gilles Sala - would love to know more about him. He used to run a record store in Paris, and was selling the early Syliphone LPs there (SLP 1-7) in April 1967, which helps to date their release. In the book "Rumba on the river" by Gary Stewart, published in 2004, Gilles Sala was thanked, so he may be still be around. People at RFI would know...

zim said...

Ossinonde's book on les bantous is fantastic

anyway, this LP came up for sale some time ago on ebay, the seller at the time gives the pressing of the LP as 1983, though the recordings date from much earlier

I've seen a few LPs on the soukouss label - they always seem to date much later than the mid-sixties. It seems to me much more likely that the label took its name from the dance/established word than coined the phrase

WrldServ said...

@Peter & zim: I am very inclined to agree with you both, - but my Congolese contact remains adamant...

I can't remember having seen other records from this label. Do you know which artists were on those records?

tom said...

Sorry to spoil the party but it really looks likes this LP is a mid-70s release, like every other release on that label. The Bantous LP is SV 13001. I have the Afro-Succes/Casino-Kasingo LP (SV 13004) which is dated 1976, a Kante Manfila 45 (SV 11011)dated 1975 and a Black Soul 45 (afro disco funk)dated 1976 (SK 14047). The year is printed on the label of each record. I found and incomplete Soukous discography on the internet, containing nothing but releases as from 1975. SV 13002 and SV 13003 are both dated 1975. Hope this helps ... http://www.discogs.com/label/Soukous

WrldServ said...

@tom: No need for a "sorry". Your contribution is very welcome and appreciated. This seems to clinch the dating of the lp. Given the frequency of the releases I think it is safe to say that the lp must be from 1975.

Are you perhaps willing to share any of the records you mention as having in your possession (I ask cautiously...)?

canard said...

Gilles Sala was also the manager for a congo music radio show in Paris for africa N°1 for many years in the 90's; dre to his sickness, he was replaced by Manu Dibango : http://www.africa1.com/spip.php?rubrique15

DJ Daudi said...

I love this album. My copy has gotten lots of spin time. I am particularly fond of the photo of Papa Noel on the cover. This must be the youngest photo of him I've ever seen.
I have a few 45s on the Soukous label. They are mostly "Congolese rock n roll" recorded in France.

Anonymous said...

Dear World Service
This is a terrific album. I'm still wondering whether it was recorded in the mid 60s and released in mid 70, or do you think it was recorded in 70s. The twangy, Hank Marvin guitar style of Papa Noel is fantastic, especially on Brazza-Paris. Thanks.
Paul

WrldServ said...

@Anonymous (Paul): As Peter has commented, the recordings are from 1962, and - as Tom commented - the lp was released in 1975. Given the evidence there is little or no doubt about this.

Dr. Funkathus said...

I was looking for informations about Gilles Sala which I enjoyed as a biguine singer and sort of west indian troubadour/crooner. There's very little about him on the internet. So I'm really surprised to discover on your great blog that he might be the inventor of soukous... It seems strange to me though...
But if you'd heard his music too, it might seem strange to you either...

And by the way, I've just put a link to WorldService on my own blog...
http://lelixirdudrfunkathus.blogspot.com/

ajnabi said...

Thanks for much for the music on this album and many others you've shared. I'm sure you've read Rumba on the River by Gary Stewart, so will spare you my thoughts on your comment on the inventor of soukous.
Fantastic work. Thanks from Australia.