February 19, 2013

¿Qué Ry-Co?

In case you are wondering about the fall in the frequency of the posting on this blog, I have recently purchased a new second-hand VHS recorder, and have been messing about with the digitisation of video-cassettes. I hope and intend to share the fruits of these efforts (which are in an exploratory phase right now) at a later moment.

In the meantime here is a short interludum.

With this record by Ry-Co Jazz I get the same uneasy feeling I had when I first heard the CD on the RetroAfric label (Retro10CD, 1996). In fact even slightly more so than that CD. It's not that I don't like the CD; there are quite a few rather nice songs on it. And there is the added pleasure of Gary Stewart's informative liner notes (which is a thing that is missing from a lot, if not most, Congolese albums...). It is just that there is a certain akwardness about it, which I for a long time credited to the Parisian influence. I saw a comparison with the recordings of Kabasele with the African Team, and the feeling of missed opportunities I often get when listening to those records.

But now, many years later, I suspect bad timing may have something to do with my uneasiness. This single is a good example of this. Both sides feature a cover of a song originally recorded by the O.K. Jazz. The A-side is a cover of Dele Pedro's "Tu Bois Beaucoup" (which is also on the CD, by the way), which even within the repertoire of the O.K. Jazz is not a typical song. The appeal of the song is one of a gimmicky type. Musically it is not one of the highlights of Congolese music of the early 1960s. In the version of Ry-Co Jazz the gimmick is watered-down, and the result falls absolutely short of the mark.

The B-side is a cover of Franco's 1960 classic "Liwa Ya Wech". This song has been covered by artists in several countries. I have even heard a Guinean version (and I don't mean the version by Miriam Makeba). In a way this is surprising as this is a very personal song, about the death of a personal friend of Franco. If you ask me the personal touch and even intimacy of the original is completely flattened by this version, even it is sung by Essous, an ex-member of the O.K. Jazz. Although I am not averse to organs, the one on this single does not lift me off the floor and definitely sounds very dated, very late 1960s.
All in all I don't feel all that Ry-Co after listening to these two songs....

DEBS 45 DD 159

PS: Who is this "Mawa"?

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Awww, maybe you're being a little bit hard on this album. Is it classic material? Maybe not, but, prima facie, it sounds pretty good. I'll always give Ry-Co Jazz a fair hearing since they do have a lot of classics to their credit. And you have to admit that they had some of the best cover art.

Timothy said...

Many thanks for your precious posts. “Mawa” is not a person’s name. It is a Lingala word which means “sadness”. The word features prominently in Lingala funeral songs. In “Liwa Ya Wech”, the expression “(n)sango ya mawa” means “sad news”.
I agree with you about the version of “Tu Bois Beacoup” posted here. In my view, the original version, which I discovered in the “Rumba on the River” compilation, is quite a hit. Its comic effect lies in the story of a drunk’s “club crawl” as the notorious reveller quenches his thirst in the most popular bars in Kinshasa, so much so that he ends up being unable to understand either Lingala or French, the exception being “allez-y on va prendre un verre” (let’s go have a drink).

WrldServ said...

@ Timothy: Re. "Mawa" I was referring to the backside of the sleeve; "chant: Freddy - Essous - Mawa". I.e. "Mawa" is a singer.

I know "mawa" means "sadness", but is there a singer called Sadness?

Timothy said...

@ WrldServ

I'm sorry I went for the music and missed the sleeve! Googling, I find that there is a musician called Reuben Mawa, associated with a band named LOS ANGEL (Information provided by Muzikifan at http://muzikifan.com/shika.html). Among the Bantu people of Africa, a name that means "sadness" wouldn't be surprising at all. The name "KYEVA" among the Akamba people of Kenya translates as "MAWA" (sadness) in Lingala. Having said that, I wouldn't vouch for the identity of the Congolese musician but I bet some expert out there has the information.

WrldServ said...

@ Anonymous: About the fair hearing we agree, but about the cover art we don't. Perhaps having lived through the sixties has spoilt it for me..

Anonymous said...

I agree that you're being too harsh on this posting - true it's certainly not up to the most exacting standards but on their day this band could really fly. And Essous was one of the all time African greats I'm sure you'll agree. Nevertheless your point is valid and the parallels with Kalle's African Team and to some extent Manu Dibango (who I rate very highly too) are valid too. My theory is that when some of these wonderful musicians are taken away from their African audiences,and are pressured to adapt to and suit European metropolitan audiences and their often fickle tastes, perhaps a very important and recognizable essence is lost. An example - Franco was anchored so solidly in the culture that nurtured him that he never seemed to have had issues about confidently connecting with his audience. Maybe it's that confidence that we sense is missing here.
You have built a fantastic blog here, with plenty of musical treasures and I hope many more to come. Thankyou - from mamboPete

phonomundial said...

Hi
I agree that the first versions of these are great but i just love the organ here. Interesting thing about Ry-Co Jazz is what they brought into antilles music at the time ...

i'm new into blogs but i just posted this
http://phonomundial.wordpress.com/2013/01/22/bo-na-ne-ryco-jazz/

regards
thank you for your work that i'm following through years
L

giveitaname said...

Hey . i love your blog .i believe this was recorded in Antilles by the great Henri Debs (A man of Lebanese descent from Guadeloupe) - not sure if that should be called a Parisian influence. many thanks for the beautiful music. David

jeanluc said...

Thanks for posting...
Worldmusic people write a lot about their influences... I don't see this when I listen to the music of this time. To me the band is much overrated. I think they were more influenced by antillian music then then left any congolese marks in antillian music...

edgar said...

Ryco Jazz muy hermoso su ritmo ,pero aqui en Barranquilla-Colombia es recordado Mame de Ryco Jazz esperamos la publiques es mi preferida