October 20, 2009

Bilombe ya mindule

I am hoping that this post can shed some light on a mystery that's been bugging me ever since I have heard "Bilombe ya mindule", a song attributed to Franco and his O.K. Jazz. The thing is: I can't identify the singer of this song. There are some slight touches of Kwamy in his voice, but it's not him. It's certainly not Vicky or Youlou, and after closer study Boyibanda and Chécain could also be eliminated. Given that the music suggests the track is from the late 1960s, there is not a lot left....

Friend Aboubacar decided to ask a Congolese connaisseur, and his answer meant a dramatic shift in my perception of the track. He wrote: "Here is my true opinion: this is from CONGO-BRAZZAVILLE, not necessarily from the Bantous de la Capitale, but nonetheless from some band in Congo-Brazaville. I'd say even the lyrics point at that side: traditionnaly & 'politically' people from Congo-Brazzaville have always wished the two Congo's to unite... Listen to Franklin Boukaka for instance .... Whereas my people have always seen those from Congo-Brazzaville with suspicion...
The lyrics talk about the Congolese music and musicians of both sides. No Congolese musician from Congo-Kinshasa would sing about a musician from Congo-Brazzaville, - not that I know of anyway..

The title, he explained as follows: "Bilombe is the plural of elombe. And what does elombe mean? (...) Elombe = someone living, thus elombe mobali = a man, elombe mwasi = a woman. Elombe is always 'positive' and contains some kind of admiration, the opposite is yuma. Bilombe ya Mindule = those 'fantastic men' who make music & song, i.e. musicians (with the touch of admiration I was referring to above)."

With this in mind, I begin to understand why I couldn't recognise the singer: maybe the song is simply not by the O.K. Jazz... Could the track be by the orchestra that is responsible for the A-side of this single on the Pathé-Marconi label: orchestre Manta?
A mix-up is not completely unlikely. Manta also released some records through Franco's Epanza Makita label, so maybe the mistake started there.
And listening to one of those records, I can hear some similarities between the singer of "Tokei Kotala Bango" and the singer of the mysterious "Bilombe Ya Mindule"....

But there is still doubt. A doubt inspired by the horns on "Bilombe Ya Mindule". There is no sax at all on the Epanza Makita record, and only one sax on "Gaby Kulutuya Tango", the A-side of the Pathé 45.

So who are these 'fantastic men'?

Pathe PF 11590
Epanza Makita 384.432

PS: Come to think of it: where is Franco on "Bilombe Ya Mindule"?


Anonymous said...

Love the detective work so interesting and illuminating too . Thanks for this upload hopefully somebody will recognize the singer .

Wanduni said...

"Elombe" is not a Lingala word I'd normally look up. I take it to mean "hero". After reading the explanation given in this post, I couldn't resist looking it up. Ashem Tem KAWATA and Adolphe DZOKANGA, Africa's top Lingala lexicographers concur on the basic meaning of "hero". But DZOKANGA gives a nuance which would be more pertinent here by rendering "elombe" as "vedette" (star) too. Indeed, "Bilombe Ya Mindule" would be appropriately translated as "POP STARS" in the context of the current post. Malcom Guthrie, the famous missionary scholar translates "elombe" as "champion" or "giant". A translation I'd love to get my hands on is the one by Van EVERBORECK in his respected dictionary "Maloba Ma Lokota". That's one item I'd love to have on my shelf, but I might have to search for it in second-hand shops in Brussels or Kinshasa. Having said all that, I'm on no account disputing the translation given in the post since I'm not a native speaker of Lingala.
"Bilombe Ya Mindule" echoes Orchestre Bella Bella's "Place Aux Vedette" and, to a lesser extent, Dr Nico's "Bilombe Ya Afrika", but I wouldn't say that latter too loudly since it features TLR and I'm aware AboubacarSiddikh is not exactly the greatest fan of the man nicknamed Rochereau.

Peter said...

Re "Bilombe ya mindule" - there's no doubt in my mind that the band is OK Jazz. And that Franco played guitar on this track, his own composition.

Also, I don't think the song was recorded in the late 1960s but probably in 1966. That year Franco spent some time in Congo-Brazzaville where he recruited Youlou and also invited his old friend Edo Ganga to rejoin the band. Anyway, I believe the singer of "Bilombe ya mindule" is no other than Edo Ganga.

Some of Edo's compositions with OK Jazz from this period have been released on the Sonodisc CD " Franco, Vicky, Edo & L'OK Jazz, 1966/67" (CD 36553).

Nimy Nzonga writes that early 1967 Edo joined Franco, Vicky and Verckys on a recording trip to Brussels and, after their return from Europe, Edo went back to Orch. Bantous in Brazzaville (Dictionnaire des Immortels, p 117).

WrldServ said...

@Peter: This could explain the lyrics and confirm our Congolese friend's explanation about these, as Edo was from Brazzaville.
I'll have to dig a bit in my Bantous collection to look for a comparison.
Aboubacar has posted the track on YouTube (here). He also thinks it's Franco. And, as I wrote, I too initially had no doubt it was Franco. But the doubt arose from our Congolese friend's explanation.

Anyway, I am sure you'll agree it is a remarkable track.

@Wanduni: As you can see, Aboubacar and I don't always agree about everything.
But I wouldn't like to compare this song with Nico's "Bilombe Ya Africa", because it seems to me Rochereau is singing about the the members of African Jazz (i.e. also about himself)...

kiku said...

I exchanged (in french) several emails with Messager, who runs MbokaMosika website :

Q/ Comment traduiriez-vous "Bilombe Ya Mindule"?
Et selon vous, est-ce une chanson de l'OK Jazz?

A/ Après plusieurs auditions il n'y a aucun doute, la chanson Bilombe ya mindule qui veut dire les "connaisseurs de la chanson" ou les "célébrités de la chanson" est chantée par un groupe de Brazzaville. Le lingala chanté dans cette chanson a un accent de Brazzaville. Il doit y avoir une erreur de transcription. cette chanson ne comporte aucune marque de l'OK Jazz ni de Franco. Il n' y aucune voix d'un seul musicien de l'OK-Jazz. La confusion proviendrait de l'édition Epanza makita qui appartenait à l'OK-Jazz et qui éditait aussi les chansons des orchestres de Brazzaville.

Q/ Vous n'avez pas la moindre idée de l'orchestre qui interprète cette chanson? (je reproduis également le commentaire de Peter au sujet d'Edo)

A/ Cet argument ne tient pas debout. Franco ne s'est jamais établi au Congo. Il s'y rendait souvent. D'ailleurs Kinshasa et Brazzaville sont en fait une même ville. Certains travaillaient ou étudiaient à Léo tout en habitant Brazzaville.
Cette chanson n'est en rien de l'OK-Jazz. Je vais vérifier si réellenemnt la voix est de Edo Ganga. Ce denier a chanté dans l'OK-Jazz en étant à Kin, parfois ils se rendaient à Brazza pour jouer. Mais l'orchestration n'est pas de l'OK-Jazz.

(plus tard)

A/ Je viens de trouver la solution à la question. Après vérification l'orchestre qui interprète la chanson Bilombe ya Mindule s'appelle MANTA LOKOKA. Si vous auditionnez bien la chanson, à la 3'08, le nom de l'orchestre Manta Lokoka est bien cité. Ensuite parmi les noms des musiciens de deux rives, on cite vers la 4'25 PENKI (Paul Gombet) qui n'est autre que le saxophoniste et fondateur de l'orchestre Manta Lokoka. C'est la première fois que ce nom est cité parmi les grands de la musique de deux rives. Celui qui chante c'est Obami Maurice, décédé vers 1969 après avoir composé "Manta Lokoka" meilleure chanson de l'année 1969.

WrldServ said...

@kiku: Thank you for this very helpful contribution. And of course a very big thank you too to Messager!

Especially the mentioning after 3:08 minutes of the name of Manta Lokoka seems decisive.
Studying songs by Edo, I don't hear any similarity with the singer of "Bilombe Ya Mindule". On the other hand, the more I listen to the song "Tokei Kotala Bango", the more I am convinced that this must be the same singer, - who must be Obami Maurice. He, by the way, composed the track "Nalingi Yo", but I don't think he is singing the lead vocal in that song.

Should anyone need a translation of Kiku's comment, please let me know.

Peter said...

Hard to believe that the "Bilombe ya mindule" group with "OK Jazz horns" is the same as the African Fiesta style band on Side A. They sound so different. But I agree, the mentioning at 3'08 of the name Manta Lokoka leaves no other conclusion than that it's Orch. Manta on both sides. Which means no Franco. The guitarist must be Denis "La Cloche" Loubassou who played with Manta Lokoka since their formation in 1967.

Unknown said...

I know that it is several months late. My French is not the best, so I may need some help with kiku's contribution :)