April 25, 2010

Babla

I am sorry for the delay in posting. There seems to be some mild form of flu going 'round. I myself haven't been affected - so far (knock on wood)-, but have had to attend to & serve those who have....

Anyway, I have been planning this post for a while, but kept postponing it. The reason for this is that I have been trying to figure out the truth about the origin of the song "Mokolo Nakokufa". Rochereau claims it as his composition, and given the poetic/philosophic (or - if you like - intellectualistic) content it seems more than likely that this is true. However, it may also be true, as some Congolese sources claim, that Rochereau was 'inspired' by a song Wendo Kolosoy performed, accompanied on guitar by another legend from those early days of Congolese music Honoré Liengo, at the funeral of Paul Mwanga* (see here, here and here) in 1966.
I have come to the conclusion that it seems unlikely the real sequence of cause and effect will ever be revealed.

It does seem a bit ironic, however, that Rochereau claimed to be the heir of Wendo ("Mokitano ya Wendo"), after he invited Wendo (who was unemployed after Ngoma closed down in 1966) to join his African Fiesta National, - only to subsequently treat him with little respect, even to the point where Wendo (and others) was left stranded in Brussels without pay....

The version of "Mokolo Nakokufa" I want to post is not the one by Rochereau (which by the way can by found in this post on the Global Groovers blog), but the one by Sam Mangwana, who was a member of African Fiesta at the time when Wendo joined.
Mangwana recorded this version at a time when he had decided to leave the T.P. O.K. Jazz and (again) go his own way. He was after all, as Franco accurately described him in an interview in 1987, "cavalier seul" ('lone rider'), albeit one with a foot in both 'schools' of Congolese music.

The lyrics are slightly different from Rochereau's version. Sam leaves out the personal references Rochereau made, and Rochereau's final lines about a ndumba (unmarried woman or girl) thinking of what will become of her only worldly goods, i.e. her wig and her clothes. But he also has two additions to the lyrics, the first of these being the addition of "nkisi" (which translates as "medicin"; but usually meaning "traditional medicin" or even witchcraft) as a possible cause of death, and the second are two additional, spoken lines in which Sam also addresses Rochereau with the rather cryptic "Tabou, oh words".

Here is the translation of Mangwana's version, borrowed from Aboubacar Siddikh's YouTube post:

(chorus) Mokolo nakokufaThe day I will day
Mokolo ya liwaThe day of my death
Mokolo mosusu ngai nakanisiThe other day I was wondering
Naloti lokola ngai nakolalaI dreamt as I was sleeping
Aa mama aa Mokolo ya liwaAh mother, the day of my death
Mokolo nakokufa nani akolela ngai?The day I day, who will weep for me?
Nakoyeba teI don't know
Tika namilelaLet me weep for myself
Liwa ya nzamba soki mpe liwa ya maiDeath in the forest or in water?
Liwa ya nkisi soki mpe liwa ya mpasi mamaDeath by witchcraft or of illness
Mokolo ya liwa, mamaThe day of my death, Mother
Mokolo nakokufa, ngai moto ya mbongoThe day I will die, I the rich man
Nakanisa nini kaka mosolo o?What will I think of, but my property?
Nakanisa lopango na bakaminyoI'll think of my houses and lorries
Nakanisa bana ngai natinda kelasi koyekolaI'll think of the children I sent to school
Mokolo ya liwa, mamaThe day of my death, mother
Mokolo nakokufa, ngai moto ya pauvreThe day I die, I the poor man
Nakanisa nini kaka bana na ngai?What will I think of but my children?
Nakanisa kaka mpasi ya mokili ezali kotikalaI'll only think of the problems of the world that will be left
Mokolo NakokufaThe day I die
Mokolo nakokufa ngai moto ya kwitiThe day I die, I the drunkard
Nakanisa kopo ya masanga na ngaiI'll only think of my glass of beer
Nakanisa nini kaka suka ya sanzaWhat will I think of but the end of the month
Tango namelaka ngai na baningaWhen I used to drink with my friends
Aa mama, mokolo ya liwaAh mother, the day of my death
Mokolo nakokufa nani akolela ngai?The day I die, who will weep for me?
Nakoyeba teI don't know
Tika namilelaLet me weep for myself
Liwa ya nzamba soki mpe liwa ya maiDeath in the forest or death in water?
Liwa ya nkisi soki mpe liwa ya mpasi mamaDeath by witchcraft or of illness?
Aa mama, mokolo ya liwa.Ah mother, the day of my death
(spoken) Liwa, elombe ayaka nayo centre na la vieDeath, the hero who comes with you to the centre of life
(spoken) Tabu, O MalobaTabu, Oh, words!
Mokolo nakokufa ngai moto ya kwitiThe day I die, I the drunkard
Nakanisa kopo ya masanga na ngaiI'll think of my glass of beer
Nakanisa nini kaka suka ya sanzaWhat will I think of but the end of the month
Tango nakutana ngai na baningaWhen I met with friends
Aa mama, mokolo ya liwaAh mother, the day of my death
(chorus) Mokolo ya LiwaThe day of my death
Mokolo nakokufaThe day I will die

Sonafric SAF 1819


This is not all.
I also would like to share this single with you which Sam Mangwana recorded just before or even while he was working with Franco. It is from 1973 and features Sam with a group called "orchestre Beya Maduma". This Beya Maduma was a sax player who in the sixties played with Negro Succes, and in the mid-seventies with orchestre Vévé and from there with Bana Ngenge, before moving to Abidjan and working on the famine relief project 'Operation Africa' in 1985. My favourite of these two songs, both of which are very much in the African Jazz/Fiesta style, is the B-side "Bigina", which sounds very 'live' and offers Sam the opportunity to use some of his crooning skills.

ZP 01

And talking about Mangwana's crooning skills, here is a rather mysterious, undated track which will certainly hit home with all fans of Mangwana. It is a total mystery to me why these songs have never been released in digital form, and especially the B-side, titled "Babla". It is not without a reason that this post bears the title of this song, which I consider to be a highlight in Mangwana's extensive career. The song fits Sam like a glove, and shows him in brilliant form. It is obviously aimed at the east-african audiences with a mix of lingala and swahili in the lyrics. Note also the great accompagnement.

I am sure there must be someone who can tell us more about this song, the musicians, - and perhaps even the circumstances of these recordings?

ELG 06

PS (May 1, 2010): I see I have forgotten to post a link to Flemming Harrev's website ("unofficial homepage"). Essential information about Mangwana.

EDIT October 31, 2011: I've changed the link for the first single.

EDIT November 5, 2011: *the funeral apparently was not of Paul Mwanga, but of another Paul: the musical pioneer from 1940s Brazzaville, Paul Kamba.

6 comments:

joji said...

Furaha tupu : umetimiza ahadi yako. Baada ya muda mrefu... Shukrani tu! Melesi mingi!! Asante sana. Nitarudi kwako baadaye.

joji said...

Furaha tupu : umetimiza ahadi yako. Baada ya muda mrefu... Shukrani tu! Melesi mingi!! Asante sana. Nitarudi kwako baadaye.

joji said...

Just marvelous! Too nice!! Have been waiting for it for a long time. Thank you very much.

Peter said...

"Babla" is a great song. The cat. #, ELG 06, indicates it was released on Editions Elengi, a Kenyan label for Zairean music in the 70s:
http://www.kentanzavinyl.com/Site/EDITIONS_ELENGI.html

In 1979, Mangwana re-recorded "Babla" with the African All Stars. He renamed it "Bambara". See # 70: http://www.cultures.dk/sam/_private/sam/disco03.htm

As for "Mokolo Nakokufa", I'm not crazy about Sam's la bamba version. The western-style backing band must be the Black Devils.

On YouTube I found the original version of "Mokolo Nakokufa" by Tabu Ley & Fiesta 66:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ysHDF1Oywek
I think this clip was filmed in 2006, 40 years after the song was released.

"Mokolo Nakokufa" came out in 1966 on Editions Flash (#12) and earned Tabu Ley his first golden disc for more than a million copies sold. But did Tabu Ley really write those words? It's a public secret that Tabu Ley put his name on many songs that were actually written by others.

Mpisi suggests in his biography of Tabu Ley that the public hanging of four political adversaries by Mobutu on June 2, 1966, might have been the inspiration for the song. I doubt it.

Nor do I believe that Wendo wrote the lyrics of "Mokolo Nakokufa" (although he might have been involved in music part). As you point out, the lyrics are too "intellectualistic" for somebody like Wendo.

So, who was the "parolier" of "Mokolo Nakokufa"? I believe it was the late great Max Mongali: http://www.congolite.ca/music3.htm

Peter said...

Added note re:
"earned Tabu Ley his first golden disc for more than a million copies sold"

I copied this info from Mpisi's book. However, over a million singles sold seems very unlikely. It must have been much less.

Also, the number of sales required to get a golden disc depends on the country. In the US and France you need to sell 500.000 singles but in a place like Finland only 5.000. Don't know what the criteria were in Congo in the 60s.

Frank said...

I love the album "Mokitano Ya Wendo. (Sonafric SAF 50.002)"
Thank you so much!

I have tried to find out when the album was recorded without any luck.
Can anyone help?