June 10, 2010

Cobantou

I hope you don't think I am going to go wild posting all kinds of football (soccer) related or South African music. I may be tempted to dedicate one (1) (or perhaps even two) post to football, and South African music is never off the agenda, but I'm afraid I am not going to let an over-commercialised and hyper-hyped media event dictate my blogging agenda (ahum)....

Instead I would like to dig a bit deeper into Congolese music. And in this post I would like to share three singles by Orchestre Cobantou, the orchestra founded and led by Paul Ebengo, better known as Dewayon.

You may recall that Dewayon played a crucial part at the start of Franco's career. Given this shared past, it is not surprising that when Congolese music started to be divided in two sides (or 'schools', or influences), Dewayon and his orchestra were categorised as belonging to the O.K. Jazz school. Nevertheless Dewayon has always managed to retain an authentic sound, at first - after switching from Loningisa to the new Esengo label in 1957 - with his Conga Jazz, and subsequently with Cobantou.

It is a pity that so little has been documented about the history of this orchestra, which over the years saw a great amount of very talented musicians pass through its ranks. It appears that Dewayon had some difficulty retaining these musicians, because I don't think many stayed for very long. One of these talented musicians was guitarist Raymond Brainck, who I mentioned in these earlier posts.

I am not sure when Brainck ceased to be a member. I known he was with Cobantou in the early days of the Londende label.
It is hard to say if he is playing on Londende Lo 040, the first of these three singles, mainly because it is very hard to distinguish any individual member in these two extremely unusual tracks. This may be due to the collaboration with le Groupe Monguande Folklorique, who appear to be doing their own Monguande (does this refer to the Mongo?) thing, while Cobantou are desperately trying to get their bit in....
It is clear, however, that Mobutu is the subject of both songs.

Londende Lo 040

Equally remarkable, but for very different reasons, is the second single, released as Londende Lo 043. The A-side contains a relatively normal rumba composed by Dewayon. In the song some of the members of the orchestra are named. Raymond Brainck is mentioned immediately after Dewayon (1'55 into the song), and they are followed by singer Flamy (Pierre Kiyika a.k.a. Kiyika Masamba) and Gérard (probably sax player Gérard Kongi, and probably not Gérard Madiata), Francky (the great singer Franc Lassan?? or the sax player who played with Nico?), Chécain or Lola Djangi (who switched to the O.K. Jazz in April 1967), singers Champro (often spelled as "Champrou" or even "Champroux") and Emmano Mbala, rhythm guitarist Jacky Mambau, someone called Tollo (who can he mean??), Jean-Paul (or Champro again?), Modero (more than likely sax player Mekanisi Modero, who later played in Tabu Ley's Afrisa) and André Mazi (drummer). Although this summing up of the names of band members may sound narcissistic to present-day western audiences, it was almost a necessity for a lot of African musicians, not only to receive immaterial credit from audiences in a largely oral culture, but also to avoid being excluded when it came to dividing the revenues.
The B-side of this single is again remarkable. Composed (and sung?) by singer Champro it is a french ballad, sung with a frenchness that would have made even Kabasélé jealous. It's a pity the song only lasts 2'22.....

Londende Lo 043

The third single is from a later date; it was originally released as Londende Lo 148. This suggests, by the way, that Cobantou have recorded and released quite a few singles in a short period. I deduce this from the presence of Chécain (standing fourth from the left and audible in the song on side A, and possibly on side B too). Apparently Raymond Brainck had left the orchestra, because Delafrance (before with Nico's African Fiesta) is named as the lead guitarist. I particularly like the A-side "Molangi Ya Pembe Communiqué".

African 90.404 [Londende Lo 148]

Again I invite you to correct, add, comment etcetera. I am trying to help in reconstructing some of the history of these glorious orchestras.

Edit (June 11, 2010): Here are all three singles in one file.

12 comments:

reservatory said...

I'm afraid something's up with the links. First one doesn't work, second and third are there but mislabeled. Two out of three sound good, but further Congolese treasure unavailable at present...

reservatory said...

First link works now. THANKS for these rarities.

WrldServ said...

All links should be working correctly now. I have added a link so you can download all three singles in one file.

jan duinkerken said...

COBANTOU muyeka bolingo ya bomuana/bondumba makambo P.5
COBANTOU naboyi yo kende/toyokana . . LO 8
COBANTOU mete ya kato bima/lokieme misita . . LO 9
COBANTOU asala kala/imeme voy . . LO 14
COBANTOU butu nde boyindi/jeannine motema ya raymond . . LO 22
COBANTOU muziki ya cobantou boyambela ngai/naboyi k.. . . LO 23
COBANTOU anto ozali se bolingo/la sioga . . LO 25
COBANTOU ata ko bayonaka ngai/radio ya congo . . LO 26
COBANTOU banguna nde baloki/ngai na æ boi . . LO 27
COBANTOU fatu wa ngai/vive diur . . LO 29
COBANTOU sango epanzana/mwasi na mobali . . LO 30
COBANTOU kimpumbi tata kwilu/babotoli ngai micro . . LO 33
COBANTOU mama a mbanda/ambi 66 90.039/LO 37
COBANTOU kosi kumbuango/nele muesinsi di tomina . . LO 39
COBANTOU+GROUPE MONGUANDE eyekomo mobutu/nikodolo tee mobutu . . LO 40
COBANTOU mwasi aboma mboka/na moderno . . LO 42
COBANTOU tembe ezali/katy-katy . . LO 43
COBANTOU yango boni oh oh/mes souvenirs . . LO 44
COBANTOU mama mangondo g./yale porto tiele comono . . LO 45
COBANTOU mama kolemba te/tabu wangu 66 90.099
COBANTOU oliki mayaza/monsieur dodo 68 90.286/LO 79
COBANTOU DE LA CAPITALE leki ya annie/souci ya mado . . MZ 001
COBANTOU mungu ve/kelika kiadi 71 F51.082

WrldServ said...

Jan, I'm afraid I don't understand this contribution.

jan duinkerken said...

I'm sorry. This is my list of Londende singles. But of course you know the complete Londende-list.
greetings, Jan.
You can remove the list.

C said...

oh come on ws, let your hair down and play some vuvezela jive! Otherwise your blog is unsurpassed for its level of detail, dedication and commitment to African sounds...keep it up!

vincent said...

Thank you for this !

Champro "King" is still alive and well in Kinshasa, he runs a bar in Yolo where he occasionally sings in his inimitable style. The way to the toilets is indicated by a sign: "el rio de suba suba" (the piss river).

PS Some of De Wayon's early recordings can be heard on "Roots of Rumba Rock" and the recenly re-released "Roots of OK Jazz", out on Crammed Discs

vincent said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
vincent said...

The riff in "Tembe Ezali" is almost the same as the one in Franco's "Course au pouvoir". And since "tembe ezali" means "the fight is on", the two songs seems to have the same subject, too. Don't know who came first, do you know the release date ?

vincent said...

Kathy-Kathy is a cover of a hit released in the early Sixties by Belgian singer Marc Aryan. With the money he made with that song he created Studio Katy, where Marvin Gaye recorded his last album "Midnight Love" in 1982. I happened to meet MG's musicians in the Brussels music shop where they came to buy the Roland TR808 drum machine you can hear on "Sexual Healing".

The group Monguande sounds like Ekonda pygmies, who are indeed related to the Mongo. On "Nikodolo Tee Mobutu" you can even hear some typical pymy yodl vocal technique. The responding voice might be De Wayon's. These are mazing tracks ! Thank you again.

WrldServ said...

@Jan: I was also referring to the titles breaking off. Can you send to complete titles to me? I'll use those to start a Londende discography.

@C: Vuvuzela jive? Those things are already getting on my nerves. And I think they should be banned. It is impossible to hear the reactions (cheers, singing, applause) of the supporters. These reactions are an integral part of the emotional experience of watching football.

@Vincent: Thanks! These are the kind of reactions I am hoping for. Re. the dating: I mentioned Chécain leaving in April 1967. This is the only date I am certain of. I don't know at what frequency the Londende singles were released, but I estimate it may have been less than 100 in a year. So that would put "Tembe Ezali" before "Course Au Pouvoir".
In general Franco didn't shun borrowing from others (even going as far as to take the credit for composition of other members).

It's good to hear that Champro is still alive. And also that the (highly recommended) "Roots of OK Jazz" collection is being re-released.

By the way, whatever happened to the Kallé collection I heard Crammed were going to release?