February 28, 2010


I thought you might be ready for another spiritual boost by Haruna Ishola and his Apala Group.

I have been using public transport a lot during the past months of snow and other phenomena which I - wishfully perhaps - considered to be nasty memories from the past. And I have found that the at times absurdly prolonged waiting can be reduced considerably by the auditory consumption of some apala music by our revered Alhadji. I haven't been able to make any reliable measurements, but it may even beat the flying of time when having fun!

I am still trying to figure out how this time manipulation works. Of course there is the force of repetition and the highly refined use of syncopation.
And on this album, which I suspect is from the early 1980s, maestro Haruna adds another magical ingredient: echo.

I would advise public transport in the Netherlands to distribute this music to all their passengers, in order to reduce waiting times..........

Star Records SRPS 41

February 27, 2010

Fifteen years ago (3)

This album by Franco and his O.K. Jazz was released by Polygram Kenya in 1986 as the third volume of a series entitled "Fifteen Years Ago". And for this album the title is not completely inappropriate. As far as I can deduce, only "Où est le sérieux?" (with Sam Mangwana) is definitely from a much later date than 1971.
It seems wise to be cautious in dating songs of this period, as it is not always clear which was the 'original' release (the Congolese or the French) and as tracks were (seemingly) not always released in the order in which they were recorded.

The album is, like the others in this series (Volume one can be found in this earlier post), a collection of tracks previously released only on singles. And as such there are some real 'marvels of the past' to be enjoyed on these volumes.

Such as Franco's version of "Maseke Ya Meme", a song by his brother Bavon Marie Marie which must have provoked some emotion with Franco, who felt at least partly responsible for the death of his younger brother, as the car accident in which Bavon was killed was a result of the fury after a row between the brothers. Franco sings the song together with Youlou Mabiala (photo on the right), who also played a part in the events leading to the accident. Bavon had accused him too of getting too friendly with his girlfriend.

As the first volume was centered around Vicky Longomba, in this third volume the focus is more on Youlou. Vicky is, however, present in "Makambo Maneno", although in a modest role. His presence suggests, by the way, that the track is from an earlier date than the others.

Youlou contributes two composition to this album*, and is vocally present in all of the tracks except the 'misplaced' "Où est le sérieux?". His singing is great, and I especially like the combination with Michel Boyibanda in Boyibanda's "Osabote Jean Jean" and "Andu Wa Andura". But my favourite track is composed by Armando Brazzos. "Sukola Motema Olinga" is one of those (many) special tracks that you can listen to again and again and still discover new details. Particularly the interplay between Franco's lead and the rhythm (Brazzos) and bass never seems to sound the same. Note the way in which Franco leaves the last word in this track to Brazzos.

ASLP 1018

* the first of these, "Sentence" (or "Sentence Ya"), is credited to Kwamy on Sonodisc CD 36603. Given that Kwamy is either almost inaudible or simply not singing in this track, and that Youlou has very clearly the lead role, I think the credits on this album are more likely to be correct.

February 21, 2010

Marehwarehwa (repost)

This is really the video that started my research into the (im)possibilities of sharing longer (than just under 11 minutes) videos.
Another (and for now the last) of the reposts. In this case of Thomas Mapfumo's "Marehwarehwa" (originally posted here).
The full 24+ minute track is split into 5 RAR files, plus a zip file with PAR's.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

EDIT: I don't mind it others use my posts, but would appreciate it - as a matter of common decency and respect - if they would at least inform me of this use. As they haven't, I feel free to re-use their efforts. In this case I am referring to the re-use of the video shared in this post by symbolkid on the Black Man Land blog.

Thomas Mapfumo - Marehwarehwa (1994) from symbolkid on Vimeo.

Testament (repost)

While I am at it, I may as well repost this (11'37) video in its entirety....

T.P. O.K. Jazz - Testament Ya Bowule (1986)
Uploaded by wrldsrv. - Music videos, artist interviews, concerts and more.

February 20, 2010


In terms of nobility, of character, of even resolve in defending the traditions she believed in, Hawa Dramé is without a doubt an 'old school' griot.
Born in Niono, Hawa started singing for an audience - not unlike many of the Great Griots from Mali - as a young girl, at the age of six. In an impressive career, which not only brought her national fame through her membership of Mali's Ensemble Instrumental National but also international recognition, she was both a fantastic singer and also a researcher into the vestiges of bambara musical culture. As such she was in turn a source of inspiration for others, - like the Super Biton orchestra, which converted many of the traditional themes (or 'rhythms', as they are often called in Mali) made famous by Hawa Dramé into modern orchestral pieces ("Lefenin", "Sodanso" and others).

In my opinion there is no better proof of Hawa Dramé's talent than this cassette, which consists of songs recorded by the ORTM. At least three of the five songs were originally recorded for television. The first of these, "Djandjon", I have posted earlier. The cassette was released* in the late 1980s, but I am assuming the television recordings were made a few years earlier.

My favourite song of this cassette, and perhaps even my favourite song by Hawa Dramé, is the monumental version of "Mbaoudi". The song starts with a two minute instrumental introduction by a choice selection of Malian instrumentalists, with Bouba Sacko (ngoni) and Tata Bambo's husband Modibo Kouyaté(guitar). Then, Hawa Dramé takes command of the song. She does so in a way which leaves no doubt about who is in charge. She is the singer and the group is there to follow her lead. Although the accompagnement is quite loud, she has no problem staying on top.

In tracks like "Hinebe Delila" and "Djoba" Hawa Dramé shows the value of an aspect which many of the present-day artists from Mali seem to have forgotten. Instead of going 'full-blast' throughout the song, she alternates a more intimate singing style with more forceful passages.
But all her songs have one thing in common: they are all 'posé', with an almost striding rhythm - and a matching regal voice.

Syllart SYL 8384

I have delayed posting this cassette to find a way to add this wonderful twelve minute (i.e. too long for YouTube) video of "Noumou Foli". This ode to the blacksmith patrons (by the name of Ballo) of Hawa Dramé's family is also on the cassette, but breaks off after six minutes. In the video, which is the same recording as the cassette, the full version (well almost....) of this great song can be heard.

* and I have been assured this was done without the consent - or even knowledge - of the artist!

February 15, 2010

Disco time

Let me begin by assuring you that there is nothing wrong with my record player. Also there is no problem with the record itself; it is not one of those slightly oval pressings, or one with a hump.
This is how it is supposed to sound.

Listening to this record by Moussa Doumbia can be an unsettling experience, though. With its unsteady pace, its weirdly mind-piercing organ, its unexpected breaks this 1980 album, released on the Ivorian Sacodis label, is not suitable for listeners with a nervous disposition. And listening to it while in a state of inebriation can lead to long lasting mental problems.
Even the three songs which were recently (well alright, not recently - it was nearly three years ago...) included in the CD on the Oriki label, sound different on vinyl.

Of course, in the present-day craving for Afro-funk Moussa Doumbia's music will be labelled as 'funk'. And I am sure he has - like many African artists - been influenced by the Fela Kutis and James Browns of this world. But nevertheless this native from Mali has retained a high level of originality, and arguably even authenticity.
Despite the embellishment Doumbia's singing in the opening track "Houphouet Boigny" is in a relatively normal djeli (or griot) style. And if you listen closely "Samba" is actually the same song as "Samba" by Pivi et les Balladins from Guinea. And "Mokholou" a tune from the broad repertoire of hunters' songs from the Wassoulou, made famous by the great Toumani Koné.

But it does not explain the beginning of "Disco Time".

Personally, I am inclined to favour the B-side. And not just because of the blasting version of "Mokholou", but even more because of "Mamadou Coulibaly" and "Dialaman", - of which "Disco Time" is the instrumental version....

Sacodis LS 28

February 13, 2010


Temperaturewise I don't think it is a good time to post this record, - or at least in this part of the world. This lp is more suited for a sweaty tropical evening, relaxing with friends after a good meal. In the village of Osumenyi, in the Nnewi South region of Anambra State in south-eastern Nigeria, perhaps....

I can just imagine the scene: Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe and his Nigeria Sound Makers International have been invited to entertain at the Freedom Social Club. All the right people are there. Osadebe, himself a native from Anambra State and born in Atani, is politely greeting the functionaries of the club, who in return, at the mention of their name and the recognition of their importance, discreetly - but nevertheless sufficiently open - hand the national artist the equivalent of a month's salary of one of the waiters who are inobtrusively serving the gathered dignitaries. The music is pleasant and all the guests are happy and content.

Later in the evening, there is room for a dance, - a merengue even. Osadebe style, of course. So the ladies can show off their dancing skills without making a fool of themselves. Halfway down the song changes pace, and even the elder members of the club can't help themselves and are bending their knees at the rhythm. Even the royal visitors invited for this special occasion are on the dancefloor now. Osadebe points at the guitarist who carefully guides the by now wildly dancing mass into a state of musical bliss.

Doctor of Hypertension?

Polydor POLP 092, 1982

February 12, 2010


Unless they are ingeniously trying to get to a socialist utopia via the great Kladderadatsch*, the labelling of the Zimbabwean regime as 'marxist' seems somewhat outdated. What started as a struggle for freedom, independence and 'justice for all', has evolved into oppression, depression and misery. Hopes and ideals have faded into desillusion and despair.

Such ideals have certainly played a part in the life of Simon Chimbetu. Having been active in the struggle in the 1970s (although not as a fighter), he turned to a career in music after independence had been won. In the late 1970s he and his brother Naison had been performing with John Chibadura's Sungura Boys. In the revolutionary vigour that came with independance they founded their own band and named it the Marxist Brothers.
Like other Zimbabwean artists the liberation struggle had shaped Simon's view of life. I gather that many of his songs have politically 'coloured' themes, - although others prefer to think this was only a matter of perception.
He went through a very dark period in the late 1980s/early 1990s. After he and his brother had split up in 1988, the following year he was sentenced to four years imprisonment for his involvement in the theft of a car. While in prison, his wife left him.
He managed to bounce back, however, and he continued his musical career with his new band, the Dendera Kings, named (according to this article) "after the Mozambican camp which the Chimbetu brothers called home during the revolutionary struggle against white settlers in the 1970s".

Dendera was also the name of the farm which the Chimbetu brothers obtained in 2000. They were on the receiving end of ZANU-PF's land reform, which caused so much controversy both in and outside Zimbabwe. Simon was again under attack a few years later, when it was reported that he wasn't paying his farm workers. In general, his support and defense of Mugabe's policies gradually led to Chimbetu falling out of sync with his audience.
Simon Chimbetu died under somewhat mysterious circumstances at the age of 49 on August 14, 2005, in Harare.

A more indepth study of his lyrics can be found in this study, and a rather chaotic entry in the wikipedia can be found here.

As an illustration of his work I am including two albums: the Marxist Brothers's first album "Mwana weDangwe" from 1983 and the cassette version of the 1995 album "Karikoga".

"Mwana weDangwe" 1983
"Karikoga" 1995

*I'm afraid I can't point you in the direction of an explanation of this bit of Marxíst theory. I have found no useful link...

EDIT June 11, 2013: The links to the cassettes have been updated.

February 08, 2010

More Mwanga

This is a first on this blog: I am going to repeat an earlier posting!
It's really not as bad as it sounds; I am just repeating two EP's by Paul Mwanga I posted earlier, in order to present them in a broader setting. So instead of two EP's this time I am posting five extended play records by this legend of Congolese music.

The three extra EP's feature Mwanga with his Affeinta Jazz, so in total there are now sixteen tracks with Affeinta Jazz and four with Jazz Venus. Musicians of the latter band, reportedly founded by Mwanga, also played in Jazz Mango, which in the early 1960s acted as a backing band to Leon Bukasa.

As I mentioned in my earlier post, my favourite tracks by Mwanga are the ones with kikongo rhythms: "Mambu Ku Ntuala", "Butuka Ku Kongo", "Kongo Mpaka Diena", "Ngudi Wabebeas Mwana", "Mambu Ngola Mena", "Putulukesu Zengele Ndombe", "Tuwizana" and "Ma Bulu Mankatu Lutima". I can't get enough of these songs, which to me are shining examples of the blending of traditional rhythms into modern music.

Ngoma Super 45 6 / 29/ 30 / 66 / 1004 (in one rar-file)

February 07, 2010


His fellow musicians often refer to him as just "Diabaté". But if you search on the internet you'll soon find that Abdoulaye Diabaté is the subject - or victim even - of a lot of confusion.
So let me get a few things straight. He doesn't play the kora, but does have an above average talent as a drummer. He does have a brother, but isn't the brother of Kassemady. He does not live in Canada or the US, but in Koutiala in the Sikasso region of Mali.

This Abdoulaye Diabaté (subject of earlier posts, here and here) is the man who drove audiences wild* at the Biennales in the 1980s.
I first met him at the 1988 Biennale, which was the last of the old style Biennales. I even interviewed him and Mamadou Diakité, chef d'orchestre of the Kéné Star, the regional orchestra of Sikasso. He struck me then as a somewhat shy person, who left all the talking to Mamadou Diakité.
I met him again just over a year later, when he was playing with his own Koule Star in Markala, near Segou. Surrounded by local (female) fans, he was far more relaxed and obviously in his element. He even allowed me to make some recordings, which I may post at a later date.

Both at the Biennale and at the Markala concert he played most of the tracks of this cassette. The track "Louanze", about the poor legal position of tenants, even became a nationwide hit.
At the concert in Markala he surprised me by dedicating a song to me; much to my annoyance the song was "Africa", which I consider to be the most irritating song on this album.....

This is certainly not my favourite album by Abdoulaye Diabaté. It was recorded in Abidjan, and that is always a huge handicap for Malian musicians. It usually means arrogant recording engineers imposing their technical gadgets on overwhelmed artists. In that respect the lp, which was later released for the western market, is in my opinion slightly worse than the cassette. So I am including both the cassette and the lp, so you can make up your own mind.

Luckily Diabaté did manage to slip in two more 'basic' tracks, with only guitar and ngoni accompanying his (brilliant) vocals. These two tracks alone justify posting this album.....

SYL 8387 cassette
Syllart 8387, Melodie 38765 lp

As a bonus I am adding this video, from a concert in 1988 in Bamako. The track is actually from the cassette which I posted earlier.

*all within Malian proportions, that is. So no hysterical scenes....

EDIT March 14, 2016: the link to the cassette version has been renewed!

February 05, 2010


I have been listening a lot to "Sound Time", a CD containing re-mastered masterpieces by the - unfortunately late - consistent highlife king, Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe. And although the collection is recommendable and very enjoyable when travelling to work, I can't help feeling it is also a bit 'overpimped'.

So I have rummaged about in my archives, and have dusted off some more of the (many) lp's I bought at Stern's when they were still a little corner shop in Whitfield Street, and were desperate to get rid of the flood of Osadebe albums clogging their stocks. I was glad to come to the rescue at the time, and actually even regret not buying more.

Here is one from 1982, in an authentic, underpimped state. "Onye Ije Anatago" is one the many albums with just two tracks. Tracks that gradually evolve. A musical voyage with Osadebe as our tour guide, drawing our attention to the sights. My favourite part of this album is the break after 11 minutes on side B, - but not because of the drums, but rather for the almost obvious - but complete - change of rhythm.

There is more to come....

POLP 074