October 02, 2009

Franco in Paris

As promised, I will dedicate a few posts in these weeks to the work of Franco and his OK Jazz. And today I start with this album of songs recorded and released in the 1960s (I estimate they are from 1966 and 1967). As far as I can ascertain (I have never seen a catalogue of this label), all these tracks were originally released on the Boma Bango label.

Most of the tracks on this lp have been digitally released on Sonodisc CD 36553, and two of those tracks have been re-issued on Glenn Music SAKU 007. Personally I can remember feeling very disappointed when I heard the Sonodisc cd, as the wonderfully open sound of the Pathé lp had been dynamically compressed (thus boosting the presence of the music and levelling the depth). In retrospect I can only conclude that the level of compression is rather moderate, and that things have gone from bad to worse - and way beyond - since....

The songs are from a period when both Vicky Longomba and Mulamba Joseph a.k.a. Mujos were still active as singers with the OK Jazz. Backing them on most of these songs is Michel Boyibanda.

A number of these songs seem to carry a political message, "Retroussons Les Manches"("Let's roll up our sleeves") being the most obvious of these. With "Matinda" there is only a slight reference to Patrice Lumumba, and it seems unlikely this has a political intention.
"Colonel Bangala", however, is certainly political, or at least a reference of a more topical nature. Colonel Alphonse Bangala, Governor of Leopoldville, had in May 1966 turned in four ex-ministers, stating they were plotting a coup against Mobutu (who himself had assumed power only six months before). He claimed he had received instructions from Mobutu to pretend to go along with the plot. More details can been found in these two (1, 2) newspaper clippings. It seems safe to assume Franco was singing in praise of the Colonel....

But the song "Course Au Pouvoir"("Race to power") has nothing to do with politics. It is Franco's final retort to Kwamy's repeated attacks, the last of which had been "Faux Millionaire" (with Rochereau's African Fiesta). Kwamy had recruited some of the members of the OK Jazz for his Orchestre Révolution (more about this here, and in a future post), and Franco was getting really fed up with Kwamy. According to Ewens (in his book "Congo Colossus") Franco* replies: "You are running me down everywhere, my brother, but I take it as a joke. You have invaded my private life. What jealousy. It hurts you to hear that Franco has done this or that... You wish Franco's name would disappear for ever. God created Judas, but judas stabbed him in the back" (* although it is actually Vicky who is singing). The duel between Franco and Verckys, that follows these harsh words has become a classic in the extensive repertoire of the OK Jazz, and was repeated in Abidjan, in 1980, with Matalanza playing the part of Verckys.

Pathe STX 229 (new link August 27, 2012)

PS: I will be back with more Franco very soon.


Anonymous said...

I love this rich history, as much as i love the music

wuod k

Timothy said...

Thanks for the great music. Now that you've mentioned Verckys, hopefully you'll post something by Orchestre Vévé (1975-1977). I've totally forgotten how "Baluti", "Muana Mburu" and "Kalala" sounded on vinyl. These days we can only get a glimpse of the wonderful past through the distorted "lenses" of cds and mp3. Thanks for sharing gems from your collection.

Anonymous said...

and another piece about colonel Bangala.

WrldServ said...

@Anonymous (the last one): I assume you mean http://www.mbokamosika.com/article-36756056.html.
For those who don't understand french: the post reports that to act against the youth gangs of the time (the "Bills" and "Yankees" - see for example this post on the Sea Never Dry blog), the authorities looked at several solutions, one of which was appointing officers and tough men like Manzikala in charge (of the town). The first of these was Colonel Bangala, one of Mobutu's companions in the 'revolution' (coup), who was instructed, as Franco sings in "Colonel Bangala", to fight against juvenile deliquency.

Thanks for this addition!

@Timothy: you seem to have read my mind. I am at this very moment preparing a post with some Vévé's music!

Anonymous said...

sorry but there's also an error with this one. hosting site opens but the downloader doesn't appear... tried it several times, deleted cookies etc.
would be very glad to get this nice music, lately.

WrldServ said...

@Anonymous: The link has been replaced.
Thanks for letting me know.

Anonymous said...

thank you for uploading again!
it's a very nice selection of congolese music you share with us via this blog. i just love songs like mi amor, lisana ebandaki na kin, Franco & OK Jazz EP 78 [Fiesta 51.149] etc etc. (not to speak of the great music from the other countries..)
can't thank you enough!

Anonymous said...

if it's not too much trouble, this link is again not working.

WrldServ said...

The link has been restored. Thanks for letting me know!

Mark said...

and thank you so much for doing that. I have been immersing myself in your blog for about a month now, and rather unapologetically so at that. I am giving myself a mid-level crash course in this continent's many musical movements through your thoughtful comments and uploads. I had an inkling via a slew of John Storm Roberts-curated releases years ago that I would some day venture down this path, and I'm happy you are helping me - unwittingly, perhaps - along. Thank you.