January 29, 2012


Back to Congo in this post, with some more of those superb and timeless recordings from the early 1960s. In this case two EP's re-released on the Columbia label, but originally recorded on the Esengo label.

I'm afraid I don't know anything, or very little, about these two orchestras. Orchestre Jamel seems to be the better known one of the two, and is mentioned twice in Gary Stewart's "Rumba On The River". First as "a group of young musicians on the way to bigger things", where Franco's brother Bavon Marie Marie played sometime between 1961 and 1964 (when he joined Négro Succes).
The second time the orchestra is mentioned in the context of the Trio Madjesi. Apparently Loko Massengo a.k.a. Djeskain was a member, also before joining Négro Succes.

The second orchestra, Orchestre Casanova, features in Michel Lonoh's "Essai de Commentaire de la Musique Congolaise Moderne"(from 1966). "Features" is perhaps exaggerated, as only the members are listed. According to this list a Mbasi Alof P. was the founder, - as well as the bass player. I assume he is the same person as Alof Kesther, who the cover of this EP cites as directing the orchestra in the first track. The man in charge of the second track, evocatively named Samy de Mivida, is - according to Lonoh - really called Lendo Samuel. He is not only a "chanteur tenor", but also the chef d'orchestre.
His nickname "de Mivida" fits in a certain 'tradition' of semi-francohispanic nicknames used by Congolese artists since the mid-1950s: "De la Lune" (Daniel Lubelo), "De la France" (Pierre Bazeta), plus of course "de Mi Amor" (Franco). Casanova takes this fashion a step further by also using it in the intriguing songtitle of the fourth track: "Amina Lapaloma" ("Amina the dove").

Musically Casanova offers three pleasant rumbas, with a predictable influence of their colleagues at Esengo, Kabasele's African Jazz. The vocal harmonies, however, are original. The last track, "Amina Lapaloma", is a cha-cha-cha, with nice guitar bits, - but not of the level of Rock-a-Mambo or the O.K. Jazz.

Columbia ESRF 1759

Compared to Casanova, Orchestre Jamel is - in my opinion - a more interesting orchestra. The four tracks in this EP are all in the category "merveilles du passé", with one track even in the top of that category. That track is the bolero "Martha Au Clair". In general I have a soft spot for Congolese boleros, but "Martha" scores on critical points: slightly messy but dramatic guitar, sonorous vocals and fantasy provoking lyrics (in kikongo). A hit.

Although the cover clearly states "enregistrement Esengo", I have found no sign of other recordings by Jamel on the Esengo label. To my knowledge they recorded for the Ngoma label (and I will post one of their EP's from that label in the future*). This may also explain the fact that the two rumbas on this EP are more in the O.K. Jazz style. Certainly the guitarist (Bavon M.M.?) shows no attempt whatsoever to hide or disguise this influence.
Added bonus on this EP is the track with the vaguely spanish sounding title "Abrabiente", a "cha-cha arto" (and why not?) with a strong influence by Les Bantous and very concise lyrics.

Columbia ESRF 1784

*if there is any future, with the rapid removal of blogs that is going on....

January 24, 2012

Bamana musow

I am still upset about the brusque (over)reaction by other filehost services to the injust and in my opinion illegal action taken against Megaupload. I sincerely hope the pause at the Global Groove blog will be a temporary one, and that all blogs dedicated to the unearthing of non-western music in general, and African and Latin music in particular, will carry on uncovering and promoting the artists which have not received the global recognition and acclaim they thoroughly deserve.

By way of an in-between post I would like to share with you these two great videos from Mali, both in a way related to Super Biton and Ségou.

The first is by a group fronted by three women, or girls if you like. I know absolutely nothing of this group, apart from the fact that they are (or were) called Balandzan, which at least suggests a connection with Biton (see my earlier post). I discovered this song on a tape with a mix of Malian artists, and immediately fell for the sheer joy and even cheekyness of the three girls. My guess is that they're singing about boys acting tough but not getting things done, which certainly seems an appropriate theme, - and not only in Mali.

The second video is another video by Assa Bagayogo, the daughter of Hawa Dramé, that grand dame of Bambara music. I have no idea why, but I am absolutely crazy about this music, plus that rather awkward, but strangely fitting way of dancing of Assa. It is, in my opinion, just as fitting and natural as the dancing of that girl in the Oumou Sangaré video.
Unfortunately I have just the two tracks, recorded by the RTM in 1990*, by Assa Bagayogo. If anyone has more, please step forward.....

*in my earlier post I suggested this was recorded in 1986. I should have studied the rest of the video better......

January 22, 2012

Volta power

There have been a number of releases of music from Burkina Faso in the last year or so. You may remember my anticipation at the release of "Ouaga Affair". I have to admit this anticipation turned into frustration after hearing the tragically strangled and muffled sound of this compilation.

Luckily the producers of the CD with the somewhat misleading title "Bambara Mystic Soul" learned from this mistake (at least I hope it was...) and released a far better sounding collection. Personally I was very happy with the highly improved versions of no less than six tracks by my hero Amadou Traoré dit Ballaké. But at the same time I think too many concessions were done to the funk fans, of which you may remember I am not a part.

Just before the end of last year Florent Mazzoleni, who I met in Bamako in October, sent me a copy of his book "Burkina Faso Musiques - Modernes Voltaïques". I have since had some time to actually read it, and I must say I loved it. Not only is it - as far as I know (and please correct me if I am wrong!) - the first book to be written about the modern music of Burkina Faso / Upper Volta, and as such of great value. But also it is a very readable and enjoyable book, with some absolutely fantastic photos. It is very hard to judge the factual information, but it appears to be at least very thorough. As such it clears up a lot of mysteries, for example about Amadou Ballaké's adventures in Guinée.

And if this is not enough, the book comes with a superb CD. Not one track by Amadou Ballaké, and still the best compilation of Voltaïque music to be released to date, if you ask me. I gather Florent shares my enthousiasm for the Volta Jazz song "Djougou Malola". I especially adore the killer track "Noglem Nooma" by the Harmonie Voltaïque. This is one of those ballad to completely melt away. Ay qué rico!

The appearance today of a new podcast (on the left) is no coincidence...

The single I would like to share with you in this post is also mentioned in Florent's book. I don't remember reading about the artist, but that is understandable given the quantity of talent in Upper Volta.

I particularly like the B-side. No doubt another song about the new constitution introduced in 1977 by president Lamizana and the "Renouveau" this implied, but brought with an almost disturbing pathos. By contrast the A-side seems casual, although the melody is catchy.

Nice music, but not of the standard of Florent's CD.

Club Voltaïque du Disque CVD 81

EDIT (February 22, 2012): It appears the book is not always sold with a CD. I did not know this. Florent Mazzoleni has informed me that the CD will be released separately, with a few tracks added, in the near future.
In the meantime I would advise to ask the seller if the CD is included when buying the book.
As to this being the first book on the modern music of Burkina Faso, I have been pointed out that there is in fact another, older, book available titled "Histoire de la Musique Moderne du Burkina Faso - Genèse, évolution et perspectives" by Auguste Ferdinand Kaboret and Oger Kabore (released by Edipap International, Burkina Faso / ISBN 2-914707-31-2). One to look out for.

EDIT:(October 30, 2012): The link has been removed by Mediafire:
"Dear MediaFire User:

MediaFire has received notification under the provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act ("DMCA") that your usage of a file is allegedly infringing on the file creator's copyright protection. The file named Traore Ablo et l'Orchestre du Peuple Melodie Volta (Disques CVD CVD 81, 1977).rar is identified by the key (i76rdv948romkru). As a result of this notice, pursuant to Section 512(c)(1)(C) of the DMCA, we have suspended access to the file.

The reason for suspension was:

    BDM user "lachandra" says: Hello, My Name is Hervé Lemaire , CEO of LeakID, I am legal representative of lemaire which does business under the name Metropolitan, Authorized to act on behalf of the owner of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed. You are hereby given notice valid under the DMCA copyright infringement notification requirements, 17 U.S.C.512. I am the designated agent of the owner of the copyrights of the images and audio/visual works listed below. I believe that the images and audio/visual works listed at the times cited below are being copied and distributed in a manner that has been not authorized by the owner of the copyrights, its agent or the law. All link below containing pirated versions of lemaire copyrighted works. The information in the notice is accurate, under penalty of perjury. Please remove all linksAs soon as possible, we will check them everyday. Thanks to inform us about y our actions. We appreciate your efforts toward this common goal. Very truly yours, Hervé Lemaire Leakid 15 bis rue de chateaudun 92250 La garenne colombes France 0033698211000 Contact lemaire Expendables

It appears M. Lemaire has taken it upon himself to defend the rights of (even) Burkinabé artists, - or perhaps the whole world? See wikipedia and many other sites.

January 21, 2012


Continuing the story of that great Malian orchestra, Super Biton de Ségou, I would like to share with you two cassettes released as 'solo projects' by members of the orchestra.

Both cassettes are from the early 1990s, i.e. the period that can best described as the doldrums, after the stormy European tour and the desastrous last Biennale. The orchestra was in a state of serious decay, which had set in after the retirement of Amadou 'Armstrong' Bah (see also in this post).

Singer Mamadou Doumbia a.k.a. 'Percé' moved to Paris. I understand that he has since retired from music, although I have heard other reports that he performs infrequently at weddings and sumu's* ( or 'soirées'). To many his name is firmly linked to those two 'golden' albums released on the Mali Kunkan label, with evergreens like 'Taasi Doni', 'Nyeleni' and 'Nyangaran Foli'. I have been told that many of these hits were researched and contributed by Percé, but I have to add that my source, Daouda 'Flani' Sangaré, may have been slightly biased, as he and Percé were good friends.

It is clear that this cassette comes nowhere near the level of Super Biton, and the fact that it was recorded in Paris doesn't help either. I am reminded of Amadou Bah's words (in reference to Salif Keita) that you can't expect to remain true to your culture if you go and live somewhere else. The music on this cassette breathes the stress of Parisian life, combined with an undetermined shallowness which tends to prevail in a lot of Parisian recordings of African (and not only Malian) artists.
I think the cassette doesn't do justice to the great singer Percé was when he was a member of Biton.

Camara CK7 047 (or CK 047)

I met Aboubacar Kissa dit 'Cubain' in 1990. He didn't take part in the European tour of 1986, as a result of a dispute with the regional authorities in charge of the orchestra (according to some sources about his drinking habits). I was sitting in a bar in Bamako with Flani, waiting for Zani Diabaté, when Cubain walked in followed by Zani. He and Zani joined us, and we ordered more drinks. After a while a young guy playing an acoustic guitar came up to our table and, recognising Zani, started playing one of the Djata Band's tunes. Badly, I must add. Zani got somewhat annoyed, at which the youngster remarked that his guitar was a bit out of tune. Zani asked to hand it to him and proceeded to play the opening chords of "Farima". "Nothing wrong with the guitar", he noted, and switched to his signature tune "Diabaté Zani". Flani and Cubain soon picked up the vocals.
The young guitarist, by the way, recorded his first album not much later. He, Lobi Traoré, died of a heart attack in June 2010...

I am always reminded of this incident listening to the last track of this cassette. Although named "Maliba" it is, of course, exactly the same song as "Diabaté Zani".
This, unfortunately, does not mean that it gets anywhere near Zani's version. Compared to Percé's Parisian effort this cassette does, however, has some redeeming qualities.
First of all, it was recorded in Mali. And this is manifest, not only by the more relaxed atmosphere of the recordings, but also because of the somewhat makeshift character of the instrumentation. The synthesizer is downright irritating, and annoyingly prominent in all songs.

Positive features of the cassette are Cubain's singing and his choice of songs. He includes three songs from the Biton repertoire: "Diagneba" and "Garaba Mama" (see my earlier post), plus "So Karafe" from the "Nyangaran Foli"/Mali Kunkan lp. The execution of these songs is at times - to put it bluntly - bizarre. "So Karafe" is given an unsettling reggae treatment, while "Garaba Mama" can be recommended as a song to get the last drunks out off a bar at closing time.

Nevertheless, all in all, I prefer Cubain's cassette to Percé's. I was very happy to see Cubain with Super Biton in October last year. That's where he is at his best, as he proved during the concert at the Institut Français (of which I'll post more very soon). Toussaint Siané confirmed that Percé is still in France and has no intention to rejoin Biton, - which is a pity.....

Oumar Kouba OKP 004 (or OKP 004)

I have received a report from Bamako, by the way, that Super Biton were due to play at the Festival "Les Voix de Bamako", but in the end didn't. I am waiting to hear why.

*more about this phenomenon in a future post.

EDIT January 22, 2012: Ngoni sends me this video of the first song (gracias!) and points out that Djeneba Seck is in the chorus:

January 20, 2012


I've decided that the only way to counteract the absurd foreign intervention is to step up the posting. Apparently the "home of the free" has mutated into the "headquarters of the global police". I particularly like the metaphor used in one of the comments in a Dutch newspaper that the removal by the FBI (arrests in New Zealand! - do they have authority there???) of the Megaupload site is like bombing a highway because drug traffickers drive on this highway. If this is an attempt by the US authorities to demonstrate that 1984 has already come upon us, it is working.

The Netherlands is doing its very best to present itself as the puppy devoted to its american masters. The so-called antipiracy 'authority' has come out succesful in the legal action ordering two providers to block a torrent site (and don't be surprised if you can't follow the link...).

But enough of these depressing subjects.

In this post I would like to share two more singles by one of Benin's oldest orchestras: Orchestre Super Star de Ouidah.
Unfortunately, as in my earlier post, I am confronted by an enigma. What do they mean by "un point c'est tout"?
The lyrics are printed on the back of the sleeve and at first glance seem to clear up some of the mystery. The "PCD" is more than likely the Presidential Council of the early 1970s, which was the subject of a song by El Rego which I posted earlier. If you are interested I recommend you read the very detailed entry on Hubert Maga in the wikipedia.
I wasn't surprised to read that Maga, like (the for incomprehensible reasons widely revered) Senghor and 'dinosaur' Houphouet-Boigny, had gained respectability by getting himself (by ruse and deceit) elected into the French National Assembly.
The fact that there were "nordistes" (northerners) and "sudistes" can, it appears, be at least in part by attributed to Maga.

So what about this "point"?
Well, I think the answer can be found in this passage of the wikipedia: "A presidential council, consisting of Maga, Ahomadégbé-Tomêtin, and Apithy, was set up on May 7 with a presidency that changed every two years. Maga inaugurated this system for the first two years. Each man agreed to not use the military to extend their term or use any other means toward that consequence. If decisions were not unanimous during the first round of voting, a two councilman majority would suffice on the second round. The council served as the executive and legislative branch of Dahomey."
So "un point c'est tout" would mean that one vote could decide the majority. Is it me, or does this sound familiar?

What is the B-side of this single on the label is the A-side on the cover. This song was composed by Nigerian highlife star and innovator Roy Chicago (more about him here). I'm not sure what the relation is between Pascal Médagbé, the sax player portrayed on the sleeve, and Roy Chicago, but listening to his abuse of the sax it seems unlikely Médagbé played with the master.

Discafric DCF 13

Musically I prefer the next single, which is coincidentally also the next single on the Discafric label. This is largely due to the guitar playing of 'Timo' Apovée, nicknamed (at least on the sleeve) "Dieu de la guitare".

For those who don't understand french, the text on the back translates as: "Born in Ouidah on January 24, 1939 Timothée was taken by his father to Libreville in 1946. At the age of seven he was admitted to the catholic primary school Monfort led by brother F. Macaire and he worked there with a remarkable courage, but the death of his father who managed a business (Hatton and Cooks'son) sabotages his plans.
Taken back to his native country in 1955 by one of his uncles, very soon great problems come down on his existence. He liked staying alone in his little room to hum some songs to the sound of what later became his 'violon d'Ingres' (great love): the guitar.
He founded several orchestras: the Mexicana Jazz, Jazz King's Band and then the Super-Star de Ouidah. So he became Solo Guitarist/Composer and chef d'orchestre.
Let us hope and wish that Timo God of the Guitar reaches the top of the stars of the country and is able to one fine day compete with his Congolese colleagues.

I'm not sure what the relevance is of the mention of the headmaster and the name or even profession of his father, but I don't think the hopes and wishes expressed in the last sentence became reality.
This doesn't mean he is no good as a guitar player. I particularly like the sound of his guitar. It reminds me of the guitars of the earlier Guinean orchestras (Paillote, Jardin and such).
And anything that reminds me of those glorious orchestras must be good.

Discafric DCF 14

January 15, 2012

San revisited

Following a comment on Youtube claiming - with valid arguments - that the video I posted might not be what I stated it was, I have been tracing the friend who copied the video for me (years & years go). Contributing to my doubts regarding the origins of the groupe in the video was my discovery, on one of my VHS-tapes, of two tracks by "Les artistes de San".
This the first of these:

I am sure you agree that this music is quite different from that of the two tracks I posted earlier.

It appears the two videos where mixed up in copying, because the video from the "artistes de San" was labelled "Nioro". And it seems very likely that the two videos I posted earlier are from a cultural ensemble from that town in the Kayes region near the border with Mauretania.

You may note some similarities with the wonderful Safoura Denou and Seny Sangaré I posted earlier.
I can assure you I have not been fiddling with the sound in this video. The echo (after 4'37) was added by the recording technicians of the RTM.
I love those guys....

January 13, 2012


I really had no intention of dedicating a post to this singer from Nigeria, but one of the tunes has been stuck inside my head for nearly two weeks now. So I am hoping writing about it may be conducive to the process of exorcism (so to speak).

You may remember my post about the great Tunde Nightingale, where I expressed my puzzlement about the nickname reserved for this singer. It just goes to show that when it comes to vocals there may be some cultural differences between my western perception and that of the varied African peoples. "Peoples", for Tunde was not the only vocalist with this 'nom de plume' (or 'nom de micro', if you like). There is Rossignol (real name: Philippe Lando), star of the first line-up of the O.K. Jazz and co-founder of Rock-a-Mambo. And I remember a record (which can still be found on the Global Groove blog) where Tchico - normally also a "rossignol" - is called a "ladybird" (at the end of the song "Oh! Maman Chérie")!

In this case I am puzzled about the adjective used to describe the voice of Alhaja Hassanah Waziri.
Unless it is meant as a clever alternative to "rough" or "rough-edged" I am at loss for the source of this label.
Maybe it is a cultural thing...

And that brings me to the reason for my original reluctance to post her lp. For as to her roots I can only speculate. The reference to her in the discography of Alhaji Waziri Oshomah may suggest a (family) relationship. Perhaps she is also from the Etsako region of Edo State?

As a layman when it comes to highlife in general and Nigerian highlife in particular I am at times reminded of the likes of Orlando Owoh, i.e. of what I would like to call the more 'muddy' variant of Nigerian highlife. As a bonus Ms. Waziri has a nice horn section backing her, and that's one thing I have never heard with Owoh (but then, what do I know?).

The song stuck in my mind is, by the way, "Emomhe Alhaja Awawo Oigbesor". Be warned...

Shanu Olu SOS 219 (1986)