April 02, 2010


"Darling, if you don't know how to twist, don't feel ashamed. I will explain it to you. This is the moment to start". These lyrics, in french (!!), are on this EP with the surprising title of "Nigeria's Greatest". The artists performing this song with the exciting title of "Cherie Si Tu Ne Sais Pas Twister" are none other than Air Congo Orchestra City Five from Leopoldville, Congo. And if this is the first time you have heard of this ensemble: you're not the only one!

Fortunately, the other three tracks are by Nigerian artists, but - perhaps disappointingly - I have posted these before; all three are on the collection "Nigeria's Request Programme" (also on Philips West African Records).

But there is more 'new' material on this second EP, also released by Philips. And again the title, "Top Hits from Nigeria Vol. 2"* may lead to some confusion, as there is another 'foreign' band on this selection: Negro Jazz Brazzaville. They appear to be accompanied by George Arakpo and His Congo Bell (who are likewise complete strangers to me). This Negro Jazz sings in what is suppose to be spanish, borrowing some lyrics from Dewayon's Conga Jazz ("Eh non non non Mamie"). The result can be described as quite invigorating.

Again, the three remaining tracks are by Nigerian artists. The first is a highlife tune by one of the pillars of Nigerian highlife, Roy Chicago and his Rhythm Dandies, who will the subject of future posts (plural). Then there is a very enjoyable ibo highlife track by another Great, Rex Lawson and his Mayor's Dance Band. Note, by the way, that his nickname on this EP is not "Cardinal", but "Pastor". And finally, there is more twisting, with a second twist (after his "Suzzy Twist" on "Nigeria's Greatest") by King Kennytone and his Western Toppers.

With all this twisting going on, and assuming that all tracks are from roughly the same period, I think it is safe to date these recordings in the first half of the 1960s. The fact that EP's too are a phenomenon from this period, and "Leopoldville" (renamed "Kinshasa" in 1966) in the name of Air Congo City Five seem to confirm this estimate.

If anyone has any more information about the two orchestras from the two Congos, please let us know.

Philips 420026 PE
Philips 420018 PE

*The backside of both sleeves show there is also a volume 1 and a volume 3, and many more marvels still to be (re)discovered.....


gracenotes said...

Thanks for these - lovely stuff.

I'm sure I remember reading somewhere (but can't put my hand on the reference)that in the 1960s, because Congolese music was so popular, West African bands made pseudo-rumba recordings under invented "Congolese" names. So, the reason you've never heard of these bands before might be because they never actually existed. I could be completely wrong, though - maybe they were Congolese musicians who had moved to Nigeria to try and take advantage of rumba's popularity.

Peter said...

I only know one Negro Jazz from Brazzavile and that's the band that Essous and Malapet started in 1954. But is it the band on the EP?

Re: City Five. The singer is Lola Checain (who joined OK Jazz in 1967). The second voice is probabaly his brother, bass player Johnny Bokosa (who joined Africa Fiesta National in 1967).

Together with guitarist Lindiongo Danyla, the brothers joined City Five in 1962, after their stint in Danyla's short-lived group Los Cantina (w/ Verckys and Michel Sax).

According to Mfumu Fylla, City Five was founded in 1960 by musicians from Eastern Congo. I assume bandleader and sax player Ben Apudo must have been one of them.

During the 1960s, the band played regular gigs at a nightclub called "Afro Mogambo". A picture from 1967 can be found here: http://sirismm.si.edu/eepa/eep/eepa_06032.jpg

In 1963, City Five also recruited Bohlen, lead guitarist with Negro Succes, which had broken up after Vicky and Brazzos rejoined OK Jazz.

Later that year, City Five went to Belgium. It's possible that's where they recorded "Cherie Si Tu Ne Sais Pas Twister".

WrldServ said...

Michel Lonoh also mentions an Orchestre City Five, also called Afro-Lipopo, with members Charles Sankatuka, Nicolas Beni, John, Ngala, Makatcha, Johnny Bokossa and Joseph Shuza.
This Afro-Lipopo seems to have had their own label (see http://www.kentanzavinyl.com/Site/AFRO-LIPOPO.html). Note, by the way, that the name of Sankatuka is written on the label on this page as "Senkatuka".
The Air-Congo titles of two songs on this label suggest that this is the same orchestra as the "Air Congo Orchestra City Five".

When we interviewed him in 1991, Checain himself said he had left Los Cantina in 1962 (after 3 months) to go and work in night-clubs in Leopoldville, where he mainly interpreted french songs and Elvis' songs. He said he was not with an orchestra until he joined the OK Jazz in April 1967.

Elsewhere City Five is also linked with Les Noirs. Perhaps the "Shuza" Lonoh mentions is "Chuza"?

In looking for possible links with this orchestra I had assumed they had actually played in Nigeria at one point. But this seems unlikely now.

It does make the title "Nigeria's Greatest" even stranger...

Peter said...

Afro-Lipopo very much looks like the record label associated with Orch. City Five. Nicolas Beni or Beni Nickolas must be Ben Apudo. Senkatuka sounds like somebody from Uganda. I also noticed the name of Franck Lassan who is the elder brother of Lola and Johnny. In the 60s, Lassan used to perform at the Afro Mogambo (also, when the club was still called Afro Negro).

A musician who played with City Five in the early 60s is Raymond Brainck (see http://wrldsrv.blogspot.com/2009/11/bukasa-kalombo-brainck.html ). Later he was part of Les Noirs in Kenya but I'm not sure if it explains the link Les Noirs-City Five. Another musician Fylla mentions is a drummer called Tshionza who was with City Five in 1960.

As for Lola Checain, the Twist track by City Five is proof that he was with other bands between Los Cantina and OK Jazz. In fact, in 1964, after returning from Belgium with City Five, Lola joined a new version of Rock'a Mambo that had been resurrected by Lando Rossignol. In 1965, he switched to Dewayon's Cobantou and, a year later, he joined Rossignol again in a band called Rock'a Festival.

Unknown said...

Re Gity Five - i believe the band was formed in kenya and late fifties or earlier 60 before moving to congo then they proceede to Belgium via Brazzaville during the revolution in Kinshasa the compromise- the late Ben Nicholas Apudo,Frank Lassan,Joseph Chuza ,Pascal Onema and the fifth i do not remember,according to the words of Ben Nicholas.The most popular song was WHISKY AND SODA [Madou madou].

Unknown said...

Ben Nicholas Apudo was Married to Fadhili William's(of Malaika fame)Sister and had a daughter who before his death was in Zambia.He was burid in his native Home Siaya Western Kenya.

Unknown said...

Ben Nicholas Apudo was Married to Fadhili William's(of Malaika fame)Sister and had a daughter who before his death was in Zambia.He was buried in his native Home Siaya Western Kenya.

WrldServ said...

@Mahmoud Murbe: Thank you for this additional information.
These details are very much appreciated!

Unknown said...

was trying to trace the whereabouts of Ben Nicholas Apudo's Daughter and unfortunately found out she passed away in Zambia on the 23rd
July, 2012.She was diabetic as her Father, She is survived by her five children and two
May her soul rest in peace.
1955 - 2012

Unknown said...

Mzee Ngala Makossa was the fifth member of City five when the left Kenya.

Unknown said...

please mr wrld service, iam one of the daughter of mr Ben Nichilas apudo.My name is Chantal Apudo>Pls feel free to call 301 7684452 Bless>>>

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
WrldServ said...

@Tabu Osusa: please edit your comment to make your mailaddress less vulnerable to bots looking for addresses, for example by adding "[at]" instead of "@".

Unknown said...

Hi Chantal,
My name is Tabu Osusa and I consider your dad Ben Nicholas as my mentor. I stayed in his house in Barumbu when I visited Kinshasa in 1976. I later met him briefly when he retuned to Kenya in the mid 1980s before he passed on.
You can contact me on: www.facebook.com/tabu.osusa