August 14, 2010


As has happened a few times before, in the process of writing this post I found that others (in this case Global Groove) have posted the same (see below) album. In this case I am going to completely ignore this. Well perhaps not completely. But I am nevertheless going to post it.

I know I should get over it, but even with the steady process of aging and the tolerance this is supposed to bring I can still get disproportionately irritated about the indiscriminate use of the adjective "African". The World Cup in South Africa provided plenty of opportunities to congratulate/sympathise with/praise etc. the "African" people/organisers/public and what-have-you. Do these commentators, big shots and others seriously think that there is one common factor in this immense and mindboggling variety of peoples, cultures and worlds which can be found in the African continent? Can anyone explain why a Senegalese should be primarily seen as "African", while an Italian is rarely addressed as "European"?
And I could even see the logic of the latter. There is a far greater homogeny between Europeans than there is between the inhabitants of the African continent. There are plenty of reasons why Africa can not be seen as a country. For one thing, infrastructurally Africa is in parts still in the (relative) dark ages. And I could go on, elaborating on the ethnic diversity of individual countries, the vast differences between cultures within a single country etcetera.

So please, think before chucking in "African", while talking about one country in the continent....

Now that I've got that of my chest, let's get to an example of an "African" lp. A multi-country affair, with music from Congo (Zaïre) but released in Nigeria. A rather strange compilation with two part two's and a mistake which wouldn't look out of place with a African (!)/Sonodisc or a Syllart compilation.

Ntesa Dalienst is represented with two of his compositions with Les Grands Maquisards, "Biki" and "Maria Mboka" (misspelled "Mariam Mboka"). The version of "Biki" is by far the longest I know; it's more than three minutes longer than the version on African 360.014 and the one on African 360.155, and even longer than the almost eight minute version on Ngoyarto NG 034. Like "Biki", the wonderful "Maria Mboka", with Diana, Kiesse Diambu and Lokombe in the chorus, is one of the many highlights in the career of Ntesa (who sadly passed away in 1996).

The first two tracks certainly merit their selection in any compilation of Congolese music. I can think of few songs which are more typical of Johnny Bokelo's Conga 68 (Success) than "FC Dragons", and I can see how the break after 2'52 would appeal to a Nigerian dance crowd.
I can only speculate, but it appears to me that "Lisumu Lisango" by the Elegance Jazz was (also) included for the 'rootsy' feel of the song. And this may also be the reason for the selection of the two part two's. Verckys' "Mfumbwa 2" would undoubtedly get Nigerian 'booties' shaking.... The same goes for Orchestre Bella-Bella's "Sola 2" with the 'get down' break after only 50 seconds.

As a European I am strongly inclined to look up the first part of these part two's. I would like to argue that in both cases these are an essential part of the composition. The song "Mfumbwa" is just not the same without the "bolingo " after 1'11, the subsequent clucking, and - of course - the great horns.
And with "Sola", composed by Mulembu Tshibau, who apparently died this year, I get goosebumps from Pépé Kallé's backing vocal in part 1 in particular and the vocal harmonies in general, plus the horns, the bass player (!) ... and I could go on.

So, European as I am, I am adding the complete tracks as an extra to this post.

The last track, by the way, is not by Bella-Bella, but - of course - by Verckys and his orchestre Vévé (and can also be found on the African 360.014 lp I mentioned above). This song "Na komitunaka" ("I keep asking myself") has been the subject of many studies. In it Verckys asks why all the saints are white. Why is God not an African?

Soundpoint SOP 042

P.S. It appears that this lp has been released at least twice in Nigeria. This version, which I bought at least 25 years ago, is on the Soundpoint label, while the lp Global Groove posted is on a label called Deram.
Has anyone ever seen the volumes 1, 2 or 3???


moos said...

I can't beat you there Stefan, grappig toeval toch..? thanks for the full story.

gilhodges said...

I really respect and appreciate your thoughtfulness and intelligence. And the music ain't bad. Thank you.

John B. said...

I have several of the volumes in this series, I forget the numbers.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great story behind the fantstic music

@John B
Why dont you share the other volumes?



wuod k

WrldServ said...

...I second that.

John B. said...

Anon & World: I think I just might. The only reason I haven't before is because much of this music is out on other blogs & the many Sonodisc reissues. But the unique "Nigerian" take on the music, the selection & so forth, makes them interesting in and of themselves.

gracenotes said...

I agree entirely about 'African'. A colleague of mine told me emphatically that he didn't like African music. When I asked why, he told me that somebody had once lent him a Manu Dibango album, which he hadn't liked. So that was 'African music' taken care of.

joji said...

@ moos
grappig toeval? Gelukkig toeval!
@ WrldServ
Hard to believe you are European. How come you know so much about Lingala and Swahili music?

Kila la heri kwenu nyote wawili! We are very grateful : both of you are so generous.

Koronya Mwambia said...

While others just post the music you go the extra length and give us some badly needed background ... not everyone has been a fan from the 60's you know. My position is it has not been posted if it is not followed by at least a paragraph of info. thank you Wrldsrv.

Feel free to repost everything here.

muzikifan said...

STARS OF ZAIRE VERSE 2 (BLACKSPOT 008). the tracklist is different from what it says on the cover. According to my reckoning the playlist is
1 Tambolo na mokili by J Bokelo
2. Fifi by Veve
3.  Lumumba Heros National by OK Jazz
4. Monthana (or Montana) by Comete Mambo Tcheza
1 Awouba by Mando Negro Kwala Kwa
2 Sapato by Negro Succes (? not sure, sounds like them)
3. Tolela ba oyo Bakenda by Veve
4. Dragon le Montre by Conga 68 de Bokelo

here's verse two side one
here's side two

WrldServ said...

@muzikifan: Alastair, what a nice contribution! Thanks for this lovely album.

gnom said...

thank you WrldServ for uploading this beautiful music and your excellent comments.

please could someone reup the tracks of STARS OF ZAIRE VERSE 2 BLACKSPOT 008)from muzikifan.

Thx in advance

WrldServ said...

@gnom: Here is an mp3-version of the Stars of Zaïre lp from Muzikifan.

Anonymous said...

This is a great blog. I'm learning a lot from both the music and the commentary. I am very appreciative of the hard work that goes into such a project.

Your rant about the term 'African' is peculiar, however, since on many of your posts you do not identify the country or region of the artist. I've had to keep a tab open on Wikipedia as I browse your blog.