A few years ago I expressed (in this post) my preference for the more 'profane' work of Nigerian juju star Ebenezer Obey. "Profane" in the original sense that is, i.e. "not belonging to a church or religion".
On closer inspection, I have to take back what I wrote.
In fact there are, in my opinion, no better songs in Obey's extensive repertoire than the godfearing tracks collected on this album "Ebenezer Obey in the 60's".
This has been one of favourite juju albums (if not THE favourite) for over 25 years. And in all this time its shine has not diminished. On the contrary, the lp has only grown in stature, as a monument to the early work of the now chief commander.
Unlike the majority of juju music albums this lp does not contain two medleys, but a total of twelve short tracks. Among these there are several that, as far as I am concerned, can compete with the best tracks from the sixties by pan-african superstars like Franco and Kabasellé.
To me the very best of these is the concise but heavenly "Ori Bayemi". I get tears in my eyes every time I listen to this stupefyingly beautiful song. Obey manages to cram all of the good bits of juju music into less than three minutes, including - in order of appearance - some eternal guitar chords, very casual sounding but for exactly this reason brilliant lead and chorus interplay and a 'get down & shake it' drums bit.
The whole of the A-side is in fact of a surreal wonderfulness. "Ope Fun Oluwa" and "Gbe Bemi Oluwa", both songs filled to the brim with Jesus and Our Lord (Oluwa), offer stiff competition to "Ori Bayemi", with the rootsy (okay, you can shoot me now) "Ope Fun Oluwa" very close, if only for the great rhythm.
The only hint of profanity is in "Pauline", a song with sensual guitar balanced against manly vocals and chest-beating drums.
On the B-side there are some surprising jewels. Like "Edumare Lon Pese". After the opening notes I almost expect Tunde Nightingale to squeak in. I love the guitar in this song.
This lp is the first volume in a series of two. But if you ask me, the second volume does not get close to this (mono!!) evergreen of Nigerian - and African - music.
Some of you have reported that the Adrive service is not working. In attempting to download from Adrive a message appears suggesting that the service is overloaded ("Public File Busy").
Inspection of the number of downloads shows that no downloads at all are possible from Adrive. I have reported this to Adrive, and am awaiting their answer.
I will re-upload some of the more recent files to another server. If you want to download an older file on Adrive, please report this to me (for example by commenting on this post). I will subsequently upload that file to another server.
UPDATE Mat 30, 2011: Adrive reports that the issue has been resolved. I have checked this with a few files and everything seems to be in good working order now.
You may remember my earlier posting of two of the volumes of the Sonafric series (of three) "Les Grands Succes Zaïrois". In that post I mentioned that all of the tracks on those two albums appeared to have been released on the Ngoma label.
Furthermore I indicated that it looked to me like the two tracks by Franco et l'O.K. Jazz on Volume 3, "Beyos" and Franco's superb "Ngai Na Boya Na Boya Te", had been shortened.
A few weeks later I received a mail from Danish journalist and connaisseurFlemming Harrev. He wrote: "I can confirm that the two Sonodisc albums 'Les Plus Grands Succès Zaïrois' vol. 2 (SAF 50.043) and vol. 3 (SAF 50.044) were rereleases. They were originally released by Ngoma in France ca. 1969. The Ngoma albums were titled 'Toute l'Afrique Danse' vol. 5 (J 33 008) and vol. 6 (J 33 009) respectively. The track-titles and the sequencing is identical on both Sonodisc albums. In your comments on the Sonodisc albums you indicate the length of the tracks have been tampered with. I have a copy of Ngoma J 33 008 and have compared it to Sonodisc SAF 50.043 and can confirm that the length of all the tracks are identical. The back cover of my Ngoma album has b/w pictures of covers and track info on nine other Ngoma albums (inluding J 33 009 alias Sonodisc SAF 50.044)."
And there is more!
"When it comes to Sonodisc SAF 50.044 I can only make a comparison of the two tracks with Franco & OK Jazz (BEYOS / NGAÏ NA BOYA NA BOYATE) which I also have as an Ngoma single (J 1 056). When I checked the length of the tracks on the single against the length of the same tracks on the Sonodic album I came up with the following result: the Ngoma single tracks are 5.26 / 5:21 respectively, compared with the Sonodisc album tracks' 3:49 / 4:15. Voila!
I have copied the cover of the Ngoma single - attached. On the back-cover you will find the missing series number on your list of Ngoma original singles for Verckys & son ensemble (Okokoma Mokristo / Sasa Akeyi Congé): J 5 146. I also have two other Ngoma singles with OK Jazz: J 1 058 MARIE CECILE / MARIE ELENA and J 1 059 CONGO MIBALE / THOMAS which I could send if you are interested.
Returning to the Sonodisc albums 'Les Plus Grands Succès Zaïrois'. Vol. 1 (SAF 50.042) is identical to the Ngoma album with Dr. Nico and African Fiesta (J 33 007). Another Ngoma album with Dr. Nico (J 33 001) was rereleased as Sonodisc SAF 50.007, Ngoma J 33 002 with Rochereau was rereleased as Sonodic SAF 50.004, Ngoma J 33 003 with Dr. Nico was - as far as I can make it out - never rereleased (Alastair Johnson does not have it in his book either, so it must be very rare) , Ngoma J 33 004 - still in the 'Toute l'Afrique Danse' series - was with Don Diego et son orchestre (Cuban band-leader), Ngoma J 33 005 with Rochereau was rereleased as Sonodisc SAF 50.002, Ngoma J 33 006 with Dr. Nico was rereleased as Sonodisc SAF 50.003, Ngoma J 33 008 and J 33 009 became vol. 2 and 3 of 'Les Plus Grands Succès Zaïrois', Ngoma J 33 010 with Kosmos Alphonso et l'orchestre Les Esprits I have no further information on.
I have checked old issues of Bingo Magazine and found 3 more Ngoma albums in Gilles Sala's list from March 1971 (page 57): J 33 013, J 33 014 and J 33 015. Judging from the album titles alone the two first albums with Verckys would be identical to Sonodic SAF 50.008 and SAF 50.009. The third album (J 33 015) Kwamy à Paris 'Ma cousine Bernadette' I have no further information on. I miss copies of Bingo from 1969 and 1970 (have 1967-1968 + 1971-1991) so I have no idea of what might have been released on Ngoma J 33 011 and J 33 012.
In your comments on 'Les Plus Grands Succès Zaïrois' you also made a point of Cercul Jazz not being a band from Zaire but came from Congo-Brazzaville. Maybe the other two unknown bands, Kongo Vox and Congolia, also cane from Brazzaville. I have a another Ngoma single with Kongo Vox where the composer of the tracks is given as Dupool - alias Jean-Félix Pouela - whom I am to believe came from Brazzaville (according to the information I can find on the internet) and who should have had a short envolvement with OK Jazz. Does this ring a bell with you?"
What a delight to receive such detailled information!
I must correct the point about Docteur Nico's Ngoma J 33003 not being in Alastair's book. It is, on page 40.
I am very curious about the Kwamy à Paris album (Ngoma J 33015). If anyone has it, please share it with us!
As to Dupool, Lutumba Simaro mentioned him in 1991 as a drummer originally from Brazzaville, where he played with Les Bantous.
It gets even better. Flemming not only sent the three singles he mentioned in his mail, but later even found a fourth one. And all four singles are in absolute top condition. And, as if to prove a point I made in an earlier post, none, - I repeat: none - of these tracks has made it on to CD.
Which, if you ask me, is a miracle......
Because not only is there an extended version of "Ngai Na Boya Na Boya Te", which not only means the sax solo is finished (it is faded out on the lp version), but also that Franco returns once more. This 'upgraded' version of one my (many) favourite O.K. Jazz songs would be enough for me.
But the other three singles also have some classic O.K. Jazz songs to offer.
"Michaël Bolingo" is one of these, with Vicky Longomba (again - as in "Beyos") delicately backed by Franco, and with Youlou joining Franco when Vicky does his solo bits. For some it may sound like more of the same, but me, I can't get enough of these songs.
The B-side "Mbanda Na Ngai" (not to be confused with the song of the same title by Kwamy on the Surboum label) again offers proof of composer Lola Chécain's great skills as a backing singer. Here he backs Youlou like a shadow, - but does add his signature after 48 seconds...
On Ngoma J 1058 "Marie Cécile" offers a mystery. Well, at least to me. For who is the singer next to Franco at the beginning of this song? Is it a cleverly disguised Michel Boyibanda? And who is the guy talking after 1'11? And what is the meaning of that comical interlude with the sums, after 4'10?
And talking about comical, is the B-side serious? I mean, it is an absolutely fantastic version of that Mexican evergreen "Maria Elena". But it is also very much too. The singing is relatively normal (and who is singing the lead? And is that Chécain backing? Or - also - Franco*?), but my pants dropped when the trumpet came in.
I suspect "Congo Mibale" is one of Franco's song with a Message. The decisiveness of Franco's singing, the fact that he is trying to fit words into the rhythm, the naming of famous Congolese (Lumumba).... The passage between 1'48 and 2'55 suggests that the song is about the division of the two Congos. Franco names the languages the two countries have in common. It is clear that this was in issue in the second half of the 1960s (see also my earlier post about Orchestre Manta Lokoka).
As to the B-side, "Thomas" (again composed by Franco**), is it me, or is this song dominated by the bass player? For some reason it seems to provide a perfect build-up to Franco's solo, starting at 2'41.
I have mentioned it before, and these four singles offer more proof: there is still a great part of Franco's legacy that has never been released in digital form. So there is also no reason to stop looking, and to only reproduce (and sometimes even in distorted or incomplete form) what others have produced before.
As I reported a while ago I have been very busy - in my spare time - backing up my collection of CD's. Unfortunately this process is taking a lot longer than I anticipated. And the backing-up process itself is not a very pleasant or exciting one. In fact, it is just slightly more entertaining than watching paint dry.
So every now and then I like to take a break. Earlier this week I broke the monotony by listening to and digitising a few cassettes. And I was so pleasantly surprised by one of these that I decided to share it with you in this post.
This cassette is a (more than likely bootleg) version of the first of two lp's released in 1979 on the Disco Stock label in Abidjan by guitarist Djelimadi Tounkara and the Rail Band du Mali. Graeme Counsel has dedicated a page on his website to these two albums, which to be honest leaves me slightly confused. He writes: "Djelimady Tounkara was the lead guitarist of the Rail Band until 1979 when, with Mory Kanté, he left to form L'Orchestre Super Rail Band International in Abidjan. He rejoined the Rail Band in 1984. The above recordings were released on the Disco Stock label and finds the group at their creative peak, with the tracks "Dosoke cery" and "Djiguiya" stand-out numbers. Tounkara is one of West Africa's foremost guitarists, and is well supported by the keyboard solos and the excellent brass arrangements."
These recordings are from 1979, but does this mean that they are in fact by "L'Orchestre Super Rail Band International"?
Although neither the cassette sleeve (right) nor the lp sleeve of the Disco Stock lp (left) mentions the "Orchestre Super Rail Band International" I am inclined to believe the answer to this question is "yes".
The two tracks Graeme cites are both from the second volume*. I am surprised he has left out what I consider to be the highlight of this first volume: the brilliant, passionate version of "Soundiata" by Mory Kanté.
To be honest, I started off on the wrong foot with Mory Kanté. The first songs I heard, in the mid-1980s, were from his European albums, 'culminating' in the hit "Yeke Yeke", - which even gave rise to a sentiment bordering on resentment. It took me more than ten years to get over this negative feeling. Since then I have come to appreciate especially his older work, like for example the wonderful album he made as part of the ensemble of kora legend Batourou Sekou Kouyaté. This version of that Malinké classic "Soundiata" is another of my favourite Mory Kanté songs.
On the three other tracks of this album the emphasis is on the instrumental. The guitar playing by Djelimadi is in the typical Malinké style. Nowadays he regularly accompanies griots from his native Kita (like diva Kandia Kouyaté). On this record too he stays close to his roots.
Notable too are the penetrating organ chords, particularly on "Nama" (another** version of the song about a historic sinking of the ship of the same name on the Niger river?) and "Famadenke" (see my earlier post and the link to the history and lyrics of this song). But I certainly don't want to leave out the horn section, which in my opinion is classical in its own right.
You may remember my posts (here and here) about the "South African Jive" series of cassettes which I bought in London in the mid-1980's.
Following the last of these two posts one of the followers of this blog emailed me to inform me that his friend Keith had created and sold those cassettes from his African/Latin records stall in Camden Market. "They were naturally very popular and sold well, and now seem to be doing the collector's rounds via the web. None of this was sold as CDs because it was all before CDs were easy to home-copy, and long before the web and mp3s", he added. In a later mail he recalled that Keith moved to teach Economics in Botswana University.
I promised to share the other three cassettes with you, and am doing so in this post.
I know Volume 3 has been posted on the ElectricJive blog, but I am still posting it again. Although on principal I have no objections to removing noise from noisy, crackly or hissy analog recordings, I am inclined to be cautious when it comes to older recordings. And in my humble opinion some of the character of the originals has been lost in the version posted by ElectricJive.
My favourite tracks on the first volume were the two tracks by the Transvaal Rocking Jazz Stars accompanying the Dark City Sisters. On the third volume they have been my favourites too for a long time, until I visited South Africa in the late 1990's and began to understand the atmosphere which must have led to the other of these instrumental tracks. Since then my favourites have broadened, to include guitarist Rex Ntuli and the remarkable Boy Masaka (I hope you haven't missed the special at ElectricJive).
Volume 4 has perhaps the most varied selection in the series. It has instrumental tracks, including the lovely "Matcheketcheke" by Steven & His Twisters, some by illustrious vocal groups like the Dark City Sisters (with a version of "Langa More" without the "tap tap"), Black Mambazo (not to be confused with Ladysmith B.M.) and the Killingstone Stars, plus some brilliant more 'ethnic' (for lack of a more appropriate description) songs. Especially the latter stand out, like the soulful "Udokotela" by Mekuyise Maphumulo & Party and Alfred Muchunu's "Umakhlehlana", which - most of the time - is my favourite on this cassette.
Volume 5, titled "Soweto Special", has a whopping 20 tracks, including (oh bliss!) seven by the Flying Jazz Queens and five very diverse tracks by Black Mambazo. Top favourites are the three tracks by the Flying Jazz Queens on the B-side, which to me have a wonderful feeling of decisiveness. These ladies are not kidding, and know what they want!
I would also like to mention the two tracks by Frans Mdau, - and in case you are wondering: I didn't 'accidently' remove the beginning of "Hey Cherrie", this is the way it is on the cassette...
I was happy to read this article about the celebration of the great Victor Olaiya's eightieth birtday. Happy, because at least one of my musical heroes has reached the age of eighty. And also happy, because he has not done so in total obscurity, forgotten by generations that have never heard the truly miraculous highlife this man has produced. And certainly also happy, because it provides me with another opportunity to share some more of his music with you!
Here in the Netherlands we are enjoying another patch of splendid weather, which makes this music even more appropriate. But with a bit of imagination it also works with the worst storm and rain.
This is music which will melt even the coldest soul, which will comfort the inconsolable.
All seven tracks are jewels, but my personal favourites are "Laba Laba", a brilliant example of Nigerian highlife at its very best, Kendy Adex*'s "Ije Jemila", music to lie down and dream away, and especially "Iyawo Patako", a seemingly unpretentious masterpiece with an almost unbelievable durability, a song which has over the last 25 years sounded fresh and has never failed to move me every time I heard it.
But I also love the trumpet and the singing (by the master himself) in "Moonlight Highlife" and in the opening "All Stars Invitation" (great bit of trumpet playing after 2'30!).
With "So Fun Mi" and "Me Fe Mu'Yan" (mentioned in the article I referred to at the beginning of this post) I can't help thinking I am missing most of the song because the emphasis appears to be on the lyrics. But I realise this is just my own inadequacy in not understanding the language...
After more than 23 years of making radio programmes I am seeking new ways to share my passion for African and Latin music. My intentions are 100% non-commercial.
If any post offends you please email me or report this in a comment.