April 10, 2011

Mwana ya Luambo

So far this has not been my year, I think. Fate (or call it what you like) seems to throw all kinds of obstacles in my way to prevent me from spending time on this blog. Since my - apparently dangerously - optimistic penultimate post both sad personal events and ill health have been demanding my full attention. So I am more careful now in promising very frequent postings, but I can assure you that this blog will continue, - and hopefully also to surprise you with more musical 'wonders of the past'.....

It is hard to imagine that he must be 64 by now. In my mind I still see Youlou Mabiala as the mwana ya Luambo, as Franco's musical child. Discovered at the age of only 15 in a vocal group which performed on Brazzaville radio, he was recruited into the O.K. Jazz in 1963. He spent the first years in the shadows, being drilled into singing shape by the likes of Vicky, Kwamy and Mujos, before being allowed to contribute his first composition ("Obimi M'Bwe") in 1966.

On the basis of just the historic facts it is hard to understand how Youlou ever got his nickname. He was involved in several rebellions against Franco, starting with the one in 1968 which led to the departure of Verckys, followed only a few years later by the "Orchestre Mi-affair". He even left the O.K. Jazz in 1972 to join Vicky in Orchestre Lovy, and returned three years later only to leave again in 1977 to launch "Les Trois Frères".
I recall reading somewhere that he did return to the O.K. Jazz in 1987 to record the medley version of "Vyckina" (a.k.a. "Nakomi Musulman").

Of course there is his marriage to Franco's daughter, which certainly must have contributed in the family's selection of Youlou as the heir to the name of Franco's orchestra in the early 1990s (but not the orchestra itself!).

To understand why Youlou is called "mwana ya Luambo" you have to turn to the music. To the many duos of Franco and Youlou in the late 1960s, to the gentle guidance Franco provided to Youlou's sometimes hesitant vocal, to the at times brilliant interplay between Youlou's and Franco's voices.
Then there is the reception of Youlou, after his stint with Lovy and Somo-Somo. Remarkably, Youlou is treated almost as a prodigal son, and is allowed a position at least equal if not more prominent than new stars like Josky Kiambukuta. Testimony to this is this video from the end of 1975, showing a very confident Youlou Mabiala:


Personally I am inclined to think that Franco saw in Youlou a worthy replacement for the likes of Sam Mangwana, who - as Franco was beginning to understand - would always be a 'cavalier seul'. The single which I would like to share with you may have confirmed Franco's vision of Youlou.
This single is surrounded by some mystery. According to this discography Youlou is being accompanied by the O.K. Jazz. Although the orchestra is very competent, I have my doubts about this. It seems more likely that this is a recording from his Orchestre Somo-Somo period.

But, as always, I hope you are able to shed more light on the matter....

Editions Elengi ELg 008
or ELg 008

More posts about Youlou in the future.

P.S.: a full version, but in black&white can be found here. And the singers accompanying Youlou are (l. to r.) Michel Boyibanda, Wuta Mayi and Lola Djangi 'Chécain'.

EDIT April 14, 2011: As Peter Toll has pointed out, Youlou did not enter the O.K. Jazz in 1963, but in 1966. In my hurry to post this I did not look this up. Simaro actually confirmed this in an interview in 1991. Naturally this means that neither Kwamy nor Mujos were involved in his training.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Megaupload resets the web page just before download. It takes for ever to get it to let you download. If you could use another storage facility. Thank you.

Jonah said...

Very sorry to hear about your personal problems. You have given many joy through this blog!

bolingo69 said...

Dearest Stephan!

So very happy to see you back here and so very distressed at hearing that what I was fearing was the reason for your absence also was the case. I thought maybe you had come across some unfortunate times and consequently were not in a mood or position to post on your blog. I was several times about to write and ask but then I was uncertain if that might disturb you even more.

Anyhow, I hope that you can feel some console in the fact that you are much loved and much missed here!

I have so many good things to listen to because of you and so much more knowledge about those things than I have gained anywhere else, at least in one place! Hope all hindrances and obstacles shall be cleared away and wishing you and your family bountiful happiness and lasting health!

Welcome back again and hope nothing shall draw you away from the Service to the World!

With my best well wishes!

Bolingo

NGONI said...

Stefan is here with fresh fruit!

Welcome!

Tim said...

Many thanks for putting Youlou and Franco's relationship in context.

The description of this single as being by Youlou and OK Jazz in the Kentanaviyl discography, which I run, is based on what it says on the label of the Kenyan release according to a valued contributor to the site.

Your suggestion that Youlou is singing with Somo-Somo may well be correct. Labels are not always the most reliable source of information but, since I've heard only a fraction of the records listed in the discography, sometimes they are the only information available.

So I am really looking forward to hearing this single and judging with my ears!

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you' re back, Stephan!

A.

Peter said...

Stefan,

my respect for the way you keep this blog going. Also, I really hope you can keep it going because I am always interested in what you write about Congolese music. However, that Youlou joined OK Jazz in 1963 is incorrect. I guess the result of an error that Nzau Diop made five years ago: http://www.laconscience.com/article.php?id_article=3485

"Rumba on the river" has the correct date. Around mid 1966, OK Jazz lost most of his members (p. 131) and, in search for new musicians, Franco went to Brazzaville where he recruited Youlou, Bitshou and Dupool (p. 145).

In other words, Youlou joined OK Jazz in Aug. 1966 and the 19-year old was subsequently trained by Vicky. Not by Kwamy or Mujos because those two singers had already left by that time.

That Youlou was "involved in several rebellions against Franco" seems a bit exaggerated. Veve was started as a side project (p. 152) and, as for the Mi Amor recordings, Youlou did not take part in that. Finally, when he deserted Franco in 1972, he did not rebel. He just resigned and joined another band for a while.

Also, that Franco might have seen Youlou as a "worthy replacement for the likes of Sam Mangwana" would be a bit odd. First of all, Youlou joined OK Jazz way before Sam did and secondly, Sam was still around when Youlou returned. For instance, you can hear them together in "Ledi": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sZQytSi2WDU

Aboubakar thinks "Ledi" is from 1975 but, judging by the guitar solo at the end, I think it's from 1974. Also, there is another record that indicates Youlou was back again with OK Jazz in 1974, "Massi": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=anGO55TNhOU

On whether ELG 008 is really OK Jazz, I can only speculate but I agree, it is probably not. "Ma Josie" sounds indeed like Somo Somo and "Lité" might be very well Youlou's answer to the OK Jazz hit of 1973, "Ebale Ya Zaire" aka "Masua", a song that Youlou tried out first but was eventually recorded with Sam: http://www.kasaflo.net/artistes/liste/poete%20simaro%20lutumba/biographie.htm

Peter said...

My respect for the fact you keep this blog going, despite personal problems. Also, I hope you can keep it up because I am always interested in what you write about Congolese music. However, that Youlou "was recruited into the O.K. Jazz in 1963" is not correct. Perhaps the result of an error that Nzau Diop made five years ago?
http://www.laconscience.com/article.php?id_article=3485

The book "Rumba on the river" has the correct date. Around mid 1966, OK Jazz started to lose most of his members (p. 131) and, in search for new musicians, Franco went to Brazzaville where he recruited Youlou, Bitshou and Dupool (p. 145).

In other words, Youlou joined OK Jazz in Aug. 1966 and the 19-year old was subsequently trained by Vicky. Not by Kwamy or Mujos, because those two singers had already left by that time.

That Youlou was "involved in several rebellions against Franco" seems a bit exaggerated. Veve was started as a project on the side (p. 152) and, as for the Mi Amor recordings, Youlou did not take part in that. Finally, when he deserted Franco in 1972, he did not rebel. He just resigned and joined another band.

Also, that Franco might have seen Youlou as a "worthy replacement for the likes of Sam Mangwana" would be a bit odd. First of all, Youlou joined OK Jazz way before Sam did and secondly, Sam was still around when Youlou returned. For instance, you can hear them together in "Ledi":
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sZQytSi2WDU

Aboubakar thinks "Ledi" is from 1975 but, judging by the guitar solo at the end, I think it's from 1974. Also, there is another record that indicates Youlou was back with OK Jazz in 1974, "Massi":
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=anGO55TNhOU

On whether ELG 008 is really OK Jazz I can only speculate but I agree, it is probably not. "Ma Josie" sounds indeed like Somo Somo and "Lité" might be very well Youlou's answer to the OK Jazz hit of 1973, "Ebale Ya Zaire". Aka "Masua", it's a song that Simaro tried out with Youlou but eventually recorded with Sam:
http://www.kasaflo.net/artistes/liste/poete%20simaro%20lutumba/biographie.htm

WrldServ said...

@Peter: Apparently your comment was interpreted as spam, probably as a result of the links included.

Thanks again for your comment!
And of course you are right about the year Youlou entered the O.K. Jazz. I will add an extra bit to correct this.

As to whether or not Youlou was involved in rebellions against Franco, I was consciously playing the devil's advocate. I know Youlou always ended up chosing Franco's side.

When I wrote that "I am inclined to think that Franco saw in Youlou a worthy replacement for the likes of Sam Mangwana", I did not connect this to a specific date. By pointing out that Youlou had been an option for "Ebale Ya Zaïre" you actually seem to confirm this view.
Of course, this must be seen in the context of the single I posted, - which was released on the same label and shortly after Sam Mangwana's "Babla".

Stan Cetti said...

You, your blog, and the discovery of African music are some of the best things that have happened to me in the last 5 years. I've enjoyed every post probably will do so in many years - your dedication shows in each.
Thank you and all the best.If I was a praying man I'd ask Thor to send favors your way but I guess he already knows that.

Timothy said...

Yes, there's something special about Youlou Mabiala's voice. Three of his songs make my soul touch eternity, namely:
(1) Radio Trottoir
(2) Mace
(3) Bisalela
I think there's something unique in each of Franco's great vocalists - Vicky, Sam Mangwana, Josky Kiambukuta, Ntesa Dalienst, Youlou Mabiala etc. Heaven knows how the Grand Maître picked out such talent!

Anonymous said...

hi there, thank you very much for all the music, information and over all investigation on your blog!!!
unfortunately, the first link for this post is dead, the second leads to kenyan les mangelepa's madina album.
any chance for re-up this? would be very great!!
thanks in advance

WrldServ said...

@Anonymous (the last one): Hmmm. I was trying to correct a dead link (Megaupload), but seem to have gotten things mixed up. I'll correct it this evening.
Have you tried the link with the Madina post? ;-)

WrldServ said...

The link now leads to the correct file. Thanks again for letting me know.