August 06, 2010


Pronounced "bah-bee", to be precise. A track which first appeared on the 1991 album "L'Orchestre T.P. O.K. Jazz (Héritage de Franco) avec le Commandant Josky Kiambukuta", and - like all the tracks on that album - composed by Josky himself.
More significant is the subtitle of this album: "Les Mayeno A Gogo", - where "mayeno" refers to breasts, and not the young variety, but those of a mother. While I am told that the "mayeno" is actually a traditional dance of the Bantandu, it is clear that the T.P. O.K. Jazz after Franco's death made an effort to stay "with it".

R to L: Chécain, Aimé, Josky, Ndombe, Diatho (Brussels, 1991)
With Franco still alive things were very different. His songs were always the subject of public scrutiny, and his lyrics always led to popular discussion, as they dealt with issues concerning the average Congolese, the man in the street.
Franco's death meant the end of an era and the start of a period of great unrest. Within a year of his death many musicians, including longtime members of the O.K. Jazz Isaac Musekiwa and Dessoin Bosuma, died - often under mysterious circumstances. Rumours of sorcery (never far away where Franco was concerned) and treachery were rampant. Every incident was viewed with suspicion.

With Franco gone, the remaining members of the T.P. O.K. Jazz and those who had (re)joined the band (Carlito, Ndombe) looked around and saw that the public's focus was rapidly shifting towards other, younger musicians. Franco's death also offered new possibilities: Franco had never been somewhat 'reserved' in adding synthesizers and electronic effects to his songs, stating that he wanted to make sure that the public knew it was Franco who was playing. And Franco had been quite strict when it came to moonlighting outside of the O.K. Jazz.

In this setting the regrouped T.P. O.K. Jazz introduced a new dance, the "mayeno". In retrospect I doubt whether this was a smart move. Franco's sexually explicit songs weren't sexually explicit just for the fun of it; he wanted to draw attention to the perversity in parts of Congolese society. Franco was always a 'naughty boy'; when he made sexual references in his songs, these were never out of character. With the "mayeno" Simaro's T.P. O.K. Jazz stepped out off character. They attempted to compete with bands like Zaiko Langa Langa, who in the early 1990s introduced a dance called "Etutana, Yango Na Yango" (which I gather translates into "Bang them together, this and that!"). Although the mayeno seems innocent compared to this, it just didn't seem right to see the middle-aged frontmen of a respected, 35-year old orchestra on stage pretending to juggle their tits....

Musically Josky remained more in style, continuing his line of songs in the San Salvador tradition he had started with "Fariya", - a song which he repeats in a medley on the 1991 lp. In fact, all the tracks on the 1991 lp are in this style, including "Baby".
The lp can be found, by the way, on the Global Groove blog.

Instead of the lp I would like to share with you this remarkable video of Josky performing "Baby" with Zaiko Langa Langa. Joining Josky in this song are his O.K. Jazz colleagues Madilu System and (later) Lukoki Diatho. Malage De Lugendo is also in this video, but had already moved to Zaiko. I estimate this video to be from 1991, but please correct me if I am wrong (it can't be a lot older, as I copied it in 1993).

By the way, you may have noticed that YouTube is now allowing videos with a maximum length of 15 minutes. I have therefore reposted "Testament Ya Bowule" (see here and here), Dalienst's "Munsi" (the Abidjan version, see this post) and Hawa Dramé's "Noumou Foli" to YouTube.
Hawa Dramé:

P.S.: The great photo on the right was taken by Aboubacar Siddikh during a rehearsal.


Kisondella, A.A said...

Thanks for your post AS, and the most useful is the explanation behind it.

I had heard about "Baby" played by Zaiko Langa Langa, who is the founder of the song then.

Did either, one band requested for improvising the same song from another band.

Please help

Kisondella - from Tanzania

Anonymous said...

This "Baby" sounds like a demo for Zaiko's classic "Dede sur mesure" from Avis de recherche(1995). don't think they mentionned Josky in the credits though.