May 22, 2011

Franco at Ngoma

You may remember my earlier posting of two of the volumes of the Sonafric series (of three) "Les Grands Succes Zaïrois". In that post I mentioned that all of the tracks on those two albums appeared to have been released on the Ngoma label.
Furthermore I indicated that it looked to me like the two tracks by Franco et l'O.K. Jazz on Volume 3, "Beyos" and Franco's superb "Ngai Na Boya Na Boya Te", had been shortened.

A few weeks later I received a mail from Danish journalist and connaisseur Flemming Harrev. He wrote: "I can confirm that the two Sonodisc albums 'Les Plus Grands Succès Zaïrois' vol. 2 (SAF 50.043) and vol. 3 (SAF 50.044) were rereleases. They were originally released by Ngoma in France ca. 1969. The Ngoma albums were titled 'Toute l'Afrique Danse' vol. 5 (J 33 008) and vol. 6 (J 33 009) respectively. The track-titles and the sequencing is identical on both Sonodisc albums. In your comments on the Sonodisc albums you indicate the length of the tracks have been tampered with. I have a copy of Ngoma J 33 008 and have compared it to Sonodisc SAF 50.043 and can confirm that the length of all the tracks are identical. The back cover of my Ngoma album has b/w pictures of covers and track info on nine other Ngoma albums (inluding J 33 009 alias Sonodisc SAF 50.044)."

And there is more!
"When it comes to Sonodisc SAF 50.044 I can only make a comparison of the two tracks with Franco & OK Jazz (BEYOS / NGAÏ NA BOYA NA BOYATE) which I also have as an Ngoma single (J 1 056). When I checked the length of the tracks on the single against the length of the same tracks on the Sonodic album I came up with the following result: the Ngoma single tracks are 5.26 / 5:21 respectively, compared with the Sonodisc album tracks' 3:49 / 4:15. Voila!

I have copied the cover of the Ngoma single - attached. On the back-cover you will find the missing series number on your list of Ngoma original singles for Verckys & son ensemble (Okokoma Mokristo / Sasa Akeyi Congé): J 5 146. I also have two other Ngoma singles with OK Jazz: J 1 058 MARIE CECILE / MARIE ELENA and J 1 059 CONGO MIBALE / THOMAS which I could send if you are interested.

Returning to the Sonodisc albums 'Les Plus Grands Succès Zaïrois'. Vol. 1 (SAF 50.042) is identical to the Ngoma album with Dr. Nico and African Fiesta (J 33 007). Another Ngoma album with Dr. Nico (J 33 001) was rereleased as Sonodisc SAF 50.007, Ngoma J 33 002 with Rochereau was rereleased as Sonodic SAF 50.004, Ngoma J 33 003 with Dr. Nico was - as far as I can make it out - never rereleased (Alastair Johnson does not have it in his book either, so it must be very rare) , Ngoma J 33 004 - still in the 'Toute l'Afrique Danse' series - was with Don Diego et son orchestre (Cuban band-leader), Ngoma J 33 005 with Rochereau was rereleased as Sonodisc SAF 50.002, Ngoma J 33 006 with Dr. Nico was rereleased as Sonodisc SAF 50.003, Ngoma J 33 008 and J 33 009 became vol. 2 and 3 of 'Les Plus Grands Succès Zaïrois', Ngoma J 33 010 with Kosmos Alphonso et l'orchestre Les Esprits I have no further information on.

I have checked old issues of Bingo Magazine and found 3 more Ngoma albums in Gilles Sala's list from March 1971 (page 57): J 33 013, J 33 014 and J 33 015. Judging from the album titles alone the two first albums with Verckys would be identical to Sonodic SAF 50.008 and SAF 50.009. The third album (J 33 015) Kwamy à Paris 'Ma cousine Bernadette' I have no further information on. I miss copies of Bingo from 1969 and 1970 (have 1967-1968 + 1971-1991) so I have no idea of what might have been released on Ngoma J 33 011 and J 33 012.

In your comments on 'Les Plus Grands Succès Zaïrois' you also made a point of Cercul Jazz not being a band from Zaire but came from Congo-Brazzaville. Maybe the other two unknown bands, Kongo Vox and Congolia, also cane from Brazzaville. I have a another Ngoma single with Kongo Vox where the composer of the tracks is given as Dupool - alias Jean-Félix Pouela - whom I am to believe came from Brazzaville (according to the information I can find on the internet) and who should have had a short envolvement with OK Jazz. Does this ring a bell with you?

What a delight to receive such detailled information!

I must correct the point about Docteur Nico's Ngoma J 33003 not being in Alastair's book. It is, on page 40.

I am very curious about the Kwamy à Paris album (Ngoma J 33015). If anyone has it, please share it with us!

As to Dupool, Lutumba Simaro mentioned him in 1991 as a drummer originally from Brazzaville, where he played with Les Bantous.

It gets even better. Flemming not only sent the three singles he mentioned in his mail, but later even found a fourth one. And all four singles are in absolute top condition. And, as if to prove a point I made in an earlier post, none, - I repeat: none - of these tracks has made it on to CD.
Which, if you ask me, is a miracle......

Because not only is there an extended version of "Ngai Na Boya Na Boya Te", which not only means the sax solo is finished (it is faded out on the lp version), but also that Franco returns once more. This 'upgraded' version of one my (many) favourite O.K. Jazz songs would be enough for me.
But the other three singles also have some classic O.K. Jazz songs to offer.

"Michaël Bolingo" is one of these, with Vicky Longomba (again - as in "Beyos") delicately backed by Franco, and with Youlou joining Franco when Vicky does his solo bits. For some it may sound like more of the same, but me, I can't get enough of these songs.
The B-side "Mbanda Na Ngai" (not to be confused with the song of the same title by Kwamy on the Surboum label) again offers proof of composer Lola Chécain's great skills as a backing singer. Here he backs Youlou like a shadow, - but does add his signature after 48 seconds...

On Ngoma J 1058 "Marie Cécile" offers a mystery. Well, at least to me. For who is the singer next to Franco at the beginning of this song? Is it a cleverly disguised Michel Boyibanda? And who is the guy talking after 1'11? And what is the meaning of that comical interlude with the sums, after 4'10?

And talking about comical, is the B-side serious? I mean, it is an absolutely fantastic version of that Mexican evergreen "Maria Elena". But it is also very much too. The singing is relatively normal (and who is singing the lead? And is that Chécain backing? Or - also - Franco*?), but my pants dropped when the trumpet came in.

I suspect "Congo Mibale" is one of Franco's song with a Message. The decisiveness of Franco's singing, the fact that he is trying to fit words into the rhythm, the naming of famous Congolese (Lumumba).... The passage between 1'48 and 2'55 suggests that the song is about the division of the two Congos. Franco names the languages the two countries have in common. It is clear that this was in issue in the second half of the 1960s (see also my earlier post about Orchestre Manta Lokoka).
As to the B-side, "Thomas" (again composed by Franco**), is it me, or is this song dominated by the bass player? For some reason it seems to provide a perfect build-up to Franco's solo, starting at 2'41.

I have mentioned it before, and these four singles offer more proof: there is still a great part of Franco's legacy that has never been released in digital form. So there is also no reason to stop looking, and to only reproduce (and sometimes even in distorted or incomplete form) what others have produced before.

Ngoma J 1056
Ngoma J 1057
Ngoma J 1058
Ngoma J 1059

Alternatively you can download all four singles in one file.

* I am almost sure the hums after 4'42 are Franco.
** In fact the only two songs on these four singles not composed by Franco are the song composed by Chécain and "Marie Elena".


bolingo69 said...

Wonderful post Stephan!

Thank you very much for this very informative post! Thanks also of course to Flemming Harrev! This is the kind of co operative work that I think is the best part of the internet. The possibilities of sharing this kind of rare and close to impossible to find information and material! Thank you both of you! You made me very happy!

reservatory said...

Although I'm more of a Nico fan, the cooperative archaeology on display here is first class. I totally agree with Bolingo about the potential of the interwebs when people put their minds to it. THANKS for these treasures!

reservatory said...

PS, I'm getting the old familiar Public File Busy refusal @ A Drive, but will keep trying. Thanks again!

øשlqæda said...

blessings be upon ya

Unknown said...

Great music Stefan, when I read the "Marie Elena" title I confused it with "Marie Helena" which if I'm not wrong, was composed by Franco. Anyway, it was a pleasant surprise. Like reservatory I lean towards Nico, but I can never have enough of Franco.


Timothy said...

Thanks for the vintage music from Congo, the Heart of Africa.

joji said...

Just to say : thank you. Dank!
We can't get enough from Franco.
Wondering which are your favorite Franco/OK Jazz songs and why you like especially "Ngai Na Boya Na Boya Te"
Shukrani tu!

WrldServ said...

@reservatory: That is why I gave two different options for downloading. In the long run Adrive may prove more stable (I hope).

@joji: As I wrote, I have many favourites. And that's just the O.K. Jazz.
In general I am a sucker for Franco's boleros. But I could dedicate a whole series of posts to the subject of favourites and why they are favourites, - and may do so (some time)...

Matt Temple said...

Thanks again for the depth, attention to detail and for sharing....

joji said...

Yes, please, share your knowledge...

Any hidden place on www where we can find the lyrics of the Franco/OK Jazz songs?


Rhythm Connection said...

Echoing bolingo69: Thank you very much for this fantastic post: for the wonderful depth of information, and for the exquisite music. Just "awesome," as my son would say.

Koronya said...

Thank you. This is beyond a gift. I sometimes feel like I do not deserve to know about all this history and like I'm not meant to listen to these gems. At least not at the single click of a link. Thank you and pass my gratitude to your friend Flemming.

gracenotes said...

I can only add my humble thanks and appreciation for giving us this beautiful, historic music, and offering such fascinating and authoritative background in your post. And those lovely scans, too!

Grumpy said...

A cast-iron contender for blog post of the year. Serious research and priceless information not to mention wonderful music and scans. Must echo Bolingo69's opening remarks.

internetbob said...

THX, THX and THX for the great music !!

Don Julian said...

Hartstikke bedankt voor deze obscure OK Jazz singles Stefan.
Zoals voor zovelen is Franco één van mijn favoriete Congolese artiesten.
Je kunt nooit teveel van zijn muziek hebben vind ik.


Anonymous said...

Fantastic post this. Thanks very much.

Keep up the good work, it is very much appreciated.

XO said...

Congo Mibale stops abruptly.

Thanks a lot for these great songs! Congo Mibale is now one of my favourite Franco songs. Unfortunately it stops abruptly after 3.32 (in both download versions). Do you have the possibility to post a version with a decent end?

WrldServ said...

@XO: There is not a lot I can do.
It appears to me the song just stops like that. I have no other version to compare it, but listening closely to the end of the song I hear some record noise, which would confirm this.

stax121 said...

Great info. Beyos/Ngai Naboya Naboya Te will always be some of my Franco favorites which I have not heard in over 30 years. Who's on the saxophones? Are vocals only by Franco, Vicky, Youlou/ Who are on guitars? Really glad to discover this blog. Thanx, Aboubacar Siddique for pointing it out.

Anonymous said...

thank you very much! to me "Ngai Na Boya Na Boya Te" is such a great song! regards