October 31, 2012

More Bukasa

As an intermission in my countermeasures, I would like to share with you some songs by one of my - in my opinion immortal - heroes of Congolese music: Léon Bukasa (see my earlier posts here and here).

Translation of the notes on the inner sleeve (on the right):
"Léon Bukasa, originating from Kasaï, as a young boy was enticed by the sound of a phonograph in a neighbouring village. Entranced by what he had just heard, he built a guitar with only three chords and started practising.

A year later, in 1950, he buys a real guitar and joins Editions Ngoma, where he soon makes his mark as a musician and a talented composer.

Among his numerous hit compositions are the Ngoma 78 rpm records: 1552 - 1657 - 1716 and 1778. These compositions were a huge success, both in the former Belgian Congo and in bordering countries, and especially the song "Congo ya biso basi bayebi kolata", meaning "In our Congo the women know how to dress (well)", - with the composer praising the elegance and the beauty of the congolese women.

Léon Bukasa also was the first singer to introduce into congolese music the usage of the clarinet, and subsequently, on the advice of Editions Ngoma, that of the double bass.

While getting better every day, he remains one of the top stars of congolese music

The songs I am sharing with you are actually not from the EP of which I am adding prints of the sleeve. And to the four tracks mentioned on the sleeve I am adding two more, "Bakimi na mbongo" and "Sabine ndeko", to complete the series of three subsequent 78s from the Ngoma label.

My favourite, and an overall favourite in the whole of Congolese music (and that is a lot of fantastic music!), is "Mokengele Honoré", which from my biased (I admit it freely) point of view is one of the few songs that can compete on equal terms with those merveilles du passé of the O.K. Jazz on Loningisa. The other five songs follow closely behind, - but nevertheless behind.
All six tracks were composed by Bukasa himself and were originally released in 1961. As far as I know these were the last three 78s released by Bukasa on the Ngoma label (but I am still hoping I am horribly wrong...).

Ngoma 2160-2161-2162 (mp3) and (as long as it lasts) a flac-version.

PS 1:
Ngoma 1552 = "Na mokolo mwa lelo" / "Mwana mwasi Adolphine" by Bukasa and Albino Kalombo
Ngoma 1657 = "Congo ya biso basi bayebi kolata" / "Mantar mwasi kitoko" by Bukasa
Ngoma 1716 = "E! E! E! Se liwa" / "Nakumbuka kimanda wangu" by Bukasa and A. Luango"
Ngoma 1778 = "Clara Badimwene" / "Nalembi makango" by Bukasa and Papa Noel (Papa Noel's very first hit)

PS 2:
Note the two extracts from the Ngoma Super 45 catalogue which are on the back sleeve and on the back of the inner sleeve. Mouth watering!

October 30, 2012


While it appears my worst fears with regards to the outcome of the elections here in the Netherlands are slowly becoming reality, with both a continuation of the growing intolerance (of the kind which in the 1970s we used to call "repressive tolerance"), of the so-called 'joys & benefits' of privatisation and/or the deification of The Economy, it appears that elsewhere in the world people are facing even greater and more anti-human challenges.

I read a few days ago (here) that those so-called rebels in northern Mali are considering banning music. That certainly will help their cause and create acceptance with the local population.

How dumb can one get? In a country that has music, storytelling and rhythm in both its soil and in the blood of every single individual of its population!

So I think it is time for some serious countermeasures.

I will start off with a cunningly devious weapon, seemingly innocent but potentially lethal. A sweet looking woman, a girl even. Lovely smile, modest expression. But a voice like a dagger! Kankou Demba not only has a powerful voice, but matching lyrics. She has a strong social message and doesn't believe in sweet-talk.
"Don't stick your nose in my business, young bambara who doesn't work the land
don't interfere with my affairs for he who has no respect for his people is like a roaming dog
Don't stick your nose in my business, young blacksmith who doesn't fire up the forge
don't interfere with my affairs for he who does not respect his country is like a roaming dog
Don't stick your nose in my business, young Sarakolé who doesn't work as a trader
don't interfere with my affairs for he who has no respect for his people is like a roaming dog
Don't stick your nose in my business, young Peul who doesn't herd cattle on the land
don't interfere with my affairs for he who does not respect his country is like a roaming dog
Don't stick your nose in my business, young griot who doesn't play the guitar
don't interfere with my affairs for he who has no respect for his people is like a roaming dog"*, 
sings Kankou in "I Dabo N'ga Kouma Na" ("You don't have the right to speak"). And with this she refers to a crucial concept in Malian culture and society: fasiya. I suppose this can best described as a mix of legacy, role in society and lineage. Perhaps not a concept which is very 'now' in western society, but one that has a tendency to be a essential element in the understanding of Malian culture. And of Malian griotisme, for that matter.

Kankou Demba's own lineage is apparent from her singing style. She follows in the footsteps of Fanta Damba and Koni Coumaré, with a definite Ségou bambara base.

I have had this great cassette for well over twenty years and it has not tired me. The conviction, the straight-from-the-heart honesty of Kankou's singing should, no must do something to start the process of corroding the iron resolve of those misguided 'fundamentalist rebels'.

SS-34 or SS-34

*translated from the translation (into french) by Cheikh M. Chérif Keïta in "Massa Makan Diabaté, Un Griot mandingue à la rencontre de l écriture".

October 12, 2012

23 Years

It is 23 years ago today that I, like many other mélomanes, was shocked to receive the news of Franco's death in Namur, Belgium. And in writing I am tempted to add "only". For in many ways it seems like no time at all has passed since the tragic day of October 12, 1989.

I am referring (once again) to the lack of progress in 'uncovering' Franco's legacy, in making available the treasures that so far have not been re-issued since their first (analog) release. Still the majority of the HMV/Loningisa catalogue remains hidden from the global audience, only a fraction of the Epanza Makita recordings have been reproduced, and less than half the wonderful tracks released on the Surboum OK and CEFA labels. And I could go on...

On this EP from 1964 alone there are - at least* - three songs that have so far escaped digitisation. Three songs which on their own would amply merit a release on CD. And not just for the fact that no less than two of the three are in the musical style which seems to fit Franco like a glove: the bolero.

The A-side contains two songs composed (and of course sung) by Vicky Longomba, while those on the B-side are composed by Franco lui-même. Needless to say that the two boleros are hot favourites on this record, with Franco at his dramatic best on guitar in Vicky's composition and addressing the Congolese/lingalaphone masses in the intriguing "Biloko Bihati Ntalona". This song is especially intriguing as it follows "On A Osé Le Dire", which can be translated (rather badly, I admit) as "They have dared to say it". Apparently the person who is being addressed in the song has been accused of using sorcery ("fétiches") against the singer, or rather the person represented by the singer. And the singer is gradually starting to believe that these rumours are true.

To add to the intrigue, I have the impression that "biloko" may refer to malignant dwarf-like creatures, which the Mongo people believe roam the dense forests and are considered to be the spirits of ancestors of the people living there, - according to this article in the wikipedia.

Perhaps someone who does understand lingala can help us out...?

Pathé EG 763

*I am not sure if "On A Osé Le Dire" has appeared on CD. I can't find it right now, but it is possible I have overlooked it...