February 26, 2012


You may have read my complaints in earlier posts about the multiple omissions in the digitisation of the works of Franco and his O.K. Jazz. To be fair these omissions are negligible compared to what has happened with the repertoire of the other 'Grand' of the music of Congo. For of the spectacular (and this is an understatement!) music of Joseph Kabasele and his African Jazz only mere snippets have been converted to digital form.

And what has been released has been often sadly accompanied by no or incorrect information. Or it has been released in a unbelievably mangled form (e.g. Sonodisc CD 36579 and 36582). Or re-recordings by Kallé himself have been released as the original versions (Sonodisc CD 36560 and 36561).
Ntesa Dalienst mentioned in 1991 that the family of le Grand Kallé had been unsuccesful in claiming the copyrights of their father (and uncle) with the Belgian SABAM. So it seems that there is little hope of a structured and comprehensive release of the extensive African Jazz catalogue (but I am nevertheless still hopeful that someone will prove me wrong).

Perhaps as a result of the greater western 'input' most of the recordings of African Team have been preserved, and have been re-issued in digital form. Unfortunately these recordings do not - in my opinion - do justice to the great artist that Kabasele was.
So all in all it is not surprising that the appreciation of this Monument of African music has been lacking, especially amongst audiences that have not seen or heard him during his lifetime.

This is only a first attempt at helping out. The two singles I would like to share with you were recorded for the Surboum African Jazz label, but for a series (1000 etc.) of which I unfortunately have no details. It seems to me that these recordings were made in the mid-1960s, when Kabasele had revived African Jazz and was joined by Jean Bombenga, who previously had played with Jazz Africain, the band that Kallé had left behind in Congo at the time of the Table Ronde. Kallé and Bombenga together with Mathieu Kouka formed the vocal heart of this new edition of African Jazz. I suspect that the guitarist in these songs is André 'Damoiseau' Kambite, although Papa Noel also played with Kallé for a short while in that period. According Michel Lonoh (in his "Essai de Commentaire de la Musique Congolaise Moderne") the sax player in the August 1966 lineup was Michel Yuma (a.k.a. Michel Sax), who after the death of Franco joined the T.P.O.K. Jazz (and sadly passed away on December 29, 2005).

All four tracks demonstrate the vocal brilliance of the African Jazz during this era. The harmonies are unequaled, with solos by Kabasele in the second version of "Caisse D'Epargne" and the second part of "Somba Journal Special".
The composer of the song "Julie Aboi Ba Mbanda", a certain Rody, is completely unknown to me, but if anyone has any information about him, please let us know.
The first single has a slight bump in the middle, but fortunately still does not leave the groove, and the delightful music can still be enjoyed.

Surboum African Jazz AJ 1004 & AJ 1005

PS: The photo on the left, borrowed from Sylvain Bemba's "50 Ans de Musique du Congo-Zaïre", is from 1966. According to Bemba it shows - from left to right - Damoiseau, Kabasele, Bombenga, Mathieu Kouka, an unnamed artist (Joseph Diasemwa??) and on the far right Papa Noel. I have my doubts about the last name. It doesn't look like Papa Noel to me....


dial africa said...

Thank you very much. So beautiful!

reservatory said...

Thank you for these first steps into the legacy of African Jazz & Malapet, Kabasele, Tino Baroza. Your Malapet post has been on constant rotation at my house, and I'm sure this will follow.

Anonymous said...

Again thanks for the historical background of this wonderful music. I am familiar with the tracts but not the history and personel.
wuod k

FrancoPepeKalle said...

That picture I am guessing had to be taken in 1966 with Bombenga before he had his own band with Papa Noel as soloist.

Peter said...

Rody must be a misspelling of Rolly, the nickname of singer Jean Nsita who joined African Jazz in 1964.

The vocals on the Julie track are probably Matthieu Kouka, Alex Mayukuta and Rolly Nsita. That trio was the attaque chant of African Jazz in their final period.

After African Jazz fell apart in 1969, the trio continued in Volcan Ni Beto and, after Volcan ended in Uganda in 1971, Rolly returned to Kinshasa where he joined the new band GO Malebo, the group that backed Grand Kalle during his performances in Zaire in the 1970s.

As far as I know, Rolly (born 1945) is still in Kinshasa where he sings with Afric' Ambiance, the band that keeps the music of African Jazz alive.