So much inspiration, and so little time... I hope to have more time in the next month to post all the things I have in mind, - or just planned.
You may remember the post of those great EP's recorded by Les Bantous for the Stenco label. These EP's were actually pressed and marketed by Pathé. Gary Stewart's "Rumba on the River" reports that the label was founded in Brazzaville in 1963 by a French clothing salesman called Stein. Apparently he did so well in the clothes business that he expanded into music, first opening a bar - called "Super Jazz" - and then a home recording studio. Stein not only was the recording engineer for his own Stenco label, but also took care of the artwork* for the sleeves, as well as marketing the records 'locally' in Congo Brazzaville. He managed to persuade Pathé to do the pressing, and the distribution and marketing on the international market.
Unfortunately his success did not go unnoticed. A few years later he was miraculously forced out of business with the help of and/or by the Brazzavillois authorities.
The two EP's in this post were recorded and released on the Stenco label. Both records feature the Negro Band (of which I posted some later work earlier), an orchestra which was founded in Léopoldville in 1958 according to some by sax & clarinet player Max Massengo, according to others (Stewart, page 163) with the aid of Franklin Boukaka and Michel Boyibanda, while others (Mbokamosika) add even more 'founders'.
The eight songs on these two EP's are of a disarming freshness which typifies the Negro Band at this stage of their existence. They have their 'own thing', while on the other hand I am constantly reminded of Franco and his O.K. Jazz, - and not just by the solo guitar of Jean Mokuna a.k.a. 'Baguin', but also by the vocals (by Démon Kasanaut?) which bear some resemblance to Vicky Longomba's.
As with their work on the Esengo label I particularly like their 'spanish' songs. I am using quotes as these songs are in a kind of mock language, which sounds very good, but is mainly rubbish. I love it! On Negro Band No.5 there are two of those: a pachanga called "Bailar Con Negro" and an "afro cha cha" called "Ahora Las Mariposas" ("Now the butterflies"). I would love to have a year to investigate the meaning of this last song....
Stenco NB 4092
Stenco NB 4099
* You may remember that brilliant sleeve of Negro Band No.3 (see the Muzikifan site)!