Please don't think that the stream has dried up. I have been very busy digitising more cassettes and records. Given the small amount of time I have this has kept me from sharing more musical wonders with you in the last fortnight.
In this post I would like to revisit the music of one of my favourite orchestras: Franco's O.K. Jazz. And in particular I would like to share more examples of the musical talent of Lola Djangi a.k.a. Chécain (see this post, and many others).
In my earlier posts I wrote about his role as a vocal "deuxième". This usually means the lower of the voices in a song. In this position out of the limelight Chécain's voice can at times - by those unfortunate beings who are less acquainted with the work of the O.K. Jazz - be mistaken for the voice of another vocalist. I can particularly understand his voice being confused with Franco's. Those who have heard his interpretation of "Mario", after Franco's death, will have to agree that - apart from the power which came from Franco's assertive personality - it was the closest anyone has come to Franco's original in sound and timbre.
But luckily Chécain has found another way to 'make his mark'. In the majority of his songs he manages to insert some kind of spoken comment. In the first of these six songs I am sharing with you in this post. "Ta Noel", he can be heard after 33 seconds, - exactly the same moment as his intervention on the B-side "Bana bakufelaka ngai tina nini?".
Both these songs, sung by Youlou Mabiala and Chécain, were composed by sax player Isaac Musekiwa, not one of the regulars when it came to contributing compositions. One would perhaps expect a good dose of sax, but in fact the horns don't show up till after 1'52 and - although present - don't outshine Franco's guitar. On the B-side we even have to wait for just more than two minutes to get any sax....
According to the label of this single on the African label, but originally released on Franco's Epanza Makita, the single was produced in 1970. Although dating in this period is a tricky business I think this must be correct, given that Chécain's "Emilie Na Gabon" and Youlou's "Likweyi" (both on Sonodisc CD 36520) were released as Epanza Makita 100 and 101. Of the singles released on the Epanza Makita label relatively many remain undigitised. And the singles of this period that háve been digitised have sometimes been sadly mistreated.
African 90.464 [Epanza Makita 114]
The second single was released on Decca's Congo sublabel. The B-side of the single is the same as the B-side of the first single. The A-side was originally released as Epanza Makita 111, with "Nabanza tele" on the flipside (according to Ewens). This song, "Nganda Benda Bika", was composed by Michel Boyibanda, who is also one of the three singers. The others are, yes you guessed right, Youlou and Chécain.
In this song Chécain is perhaps a bit harder to discover. He is certainly not responsible for the spoken incursion after 52 seconds. To be honest I don't really know who is talking there. Any ideas?
The quality - 'vinylwise' - of this single is disappointing, as is the case with most of the singles I have heard of this label. I am not sure if this is a problem of aging or one of intention on the part of Decca.
Musically this is also not one of the hottest songs in the extensive catalogue of the O.K. Jazz....
Decca Congo CD.191 [Epanza Makita 111/114]
In case you are wondering: the A-side of the next release on the Epanza Makita label, Epanza Makita 112 was "Bolingo Marie-Angele", composed by (who else?) Chécain, and digitally released on Sonodisc CD 36514. This is a track very much in the vein of "Ta Noel"/"Bana bakufelaka ngai tina nini?", - with Chécain's trademark comment at almost exactly the same point in the song.
Our friend again features in the next single, released originally as Epanza Makita 113, but here in the Decca Congo version. On both sides he is backing Michel Boyibanda, and this appears to give him almost an equal spot in the vocal balance. Particularly in these two songs the resemblance to Franco is noticeable.
Listening to the opening of "Simon Temoin Ya Libala" (I suppose this means "Simon witness at the wedding") one wonders what Chécain contribution was in this composition by drummer/conga player Jean-Félix Pouéla a.k.a. Du Pool (who I think I mentioned earlier*), as the bride appears to be his dearest Emilie ("Emilie mon amour"). The same Emilie as the one in Gabon (see above)? Chécain certainly has composed songs about his own experiences.
In both songs he is a bit late with his chat. He doesn't show up until after 0'50. I must add that someone else takes over after him (after 0'56) in "Simon Temoin Ya Libala".
I like these two songs, despite the poor record quality. Although they don't radiate brilliance on the level of Franco's Great Hits, they are good enough for a modest spot in the limelight.
Decca Congo CD.192 [Epanza Makita 113]
All three singles can also be found, bundled together, here.
* and who I as I recently noted also played on that classic Papa Noel album "Bon Samaritain", with that glorious voice of Carlyto.
Wonderful Konadus Band Alau Records 1977
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