December 30, 2015

La femme se plaint

Is there an element linking this and the previous post? The answer is yes. What both artists have in common is a unique and original singing style. And that's not all: they both draw their inspiration from tradition. Although I add that the source of this tradition may not be so clearly defined - and certainly not in ethnomusicological (what?) terms - in the case of the singer who is the subject of this post.

I am sure you have already recognised him from the photo on the sleeve; the subject of this post is Josky Kiambukuta. I am sure I am not the first blogger to post this album, but there is a valid reason why I still would like to share it with you again. This is a special album. First, because it was conceived as an album, and not as a random collection of previously released songs. Secondly, because Josky was the first singer who was allowed to make his own album with the T.P. O.K. Jazz.

Josky was recruited into the O.K. Jazz (by Simaro Lutumba*) after Sam Mangwana to add a different style to the orchestra. As an ex-singer with Docteur Nico's African Fiesta Sukisa and a member of the Orchestre Continental (as was Wuta Mayi) he was firmly rooted in the African Jazz school of Congolese music. As he explained in an interview in 1991 he had been a great fan of Rochereau since his early youth. Obviously his first vocal contributions were in the style of idol (great example), but he soon started making his mark in the O.K. Jazz, and was actively encouraged to develop his own style. Like all musicians within the O.K. Jazz he was also asked to contribute as a composer, which he did with fervour ("Kebana", "Monzo", "Seli-Ja").
In the interview he pinpoints the song "Fariya" as the start of his own style. A style which he traced back to the legendary ensemble San Salvador, who dominated the recordings on the Ngoma label in the first half of the 1950s. He further developed and refined his style in songs like "Ba Pensées", "Amour Violé", "Mobali Amesana Na Ngai", "Toto", "Bisengambi", "Tokabola Sentiment", "Propriétaire" and - of course - "Bimansha" and "Nostalgie". All these songs were hits.

In the 1991 interview Josky indicated that traditional music was another source of inspiration for these songs. He named "Amour Violé" and "Limbisa Ngai" as based on a traditional rhythm from Shaba (now once more named Katanga**). This personal development culminated in the lp "Franco présente Josky Kiambukuta du T.P. O.K. Jazz", an album which he treated with considerable respect and care. This resulted in a true Classic of Congolese music.

And this is a rare feat for an O.K. Jazz album to which Franco himself has not contributed (i.e. he is not playing in these recordings...). What I personally really like in these four songs is the variation which Josky has managed to introduce both in the rhythms and in his singing. He is without a doubt the star in these songs, but none of the songs is the same, and within the songs it is like he is constantly 'feeling his way', almost exploring the right notes. Solidly backing him in all songs are Aimé Kiwakana, Lokombe Ntal and Madilu System. This harmonic backing only acts to emphasise Josky's vocal excellence in all four songs. Just listen to the ease with which he weaves through "Massini" and "Mehida"!

Josky stated in the interview that most of his songs are sung from a perspective of a woman. "La femme se plaint" (the woman complains) as he described it. Keep this in the back of your mind and listen to this album again. It will add another dimension to what is already a masterpiece.

Edipop POP 025 (1983)

* who knew him from the age of 15.
** Josky himself is from Bas-Congo.

December 29, 2015

In control

A few posts to round off this disappointing year...
In the first of these I would like to share with you a cassette by Hawa Dramé. Hopefully you have seen (and perhaps even watched) the videos I posted some time ago (here and here). More persistent fans of the classics of Malian music may have even listened to the two (1 & 2) cassettes I have shared*.
This cassette is different from those two cassettes in so far that I strongly suspect the recordings on this cassette were all made in a studio. Consequently the sound is more refined, even to the point where it can be called 'delicate'.

This cassette is linked to strong personal memories of my travels in Mali in the late 1980s. Particularly in the town and region of Ségou this cassette could be heard on almost every street corner, and even in the taxis-brousse. Listening to songs like "Tunkan Te Dambe Do" I can almost taste the red dust again...

The songs in this cassette are all deeply rooted in the bambara musical tradition. One may be tempted to call this music 'simple', - but this doesn't do justice to Hawa Dramé's brilliant performance.
Take the first song on the B-side for example, "Klawa". The song starts off with a ngoni, which is joined by a second ngoni. Hawa opens after 40 seconds, careful at first; but soon she is in total control. This is her song.
The same can be said for all the songs on this cassette.

This is one of these cassettes which can last you a lifetime. I still discover 'new' things in the songs, and find that my reaction to the music varies with age, mood, circumstances. I particularly like the dynamics in these recordings: Hawa Dramé does not go full-blast all the time, but demonstrates that she stay in control in the wonderfully delicate and subtle parts of her songs too.

SYL 8331

* and if you haven't I strongly advise you to do so...