Enjoy this video of Mukadota and the original "Katarina":
Friday, May 18, 2018
Take Cover! Zimbabwe Hits Vol. 1 (DiscAfrique AFRI LP 01, 1986), and its sequels, Goobye Sandra: Zimbabwe Hits Vol. 2 (DiscAfrique AFRI LP 05, 1988) and Advance Kusugar! Zimbabwe Hits Vol. 3 (AFRI LP 006, 1988) capture a magic moment in African music - the optimistic years immediately after Zimbabwean independence in 1980. Thomas Mapfumo and the Bhundu Boys are familiar artists from this period, but these collections highlight musicians who aren't as well-known outside of Zimbabwe. I'm pleased to offer Take Cover! today, with the other two volumes to follow soon.
The Jairos Jiri Band has been one of the leading musical congregations of independent Zimbabwe. It is the official orchestra of the Jairos Jiri Rehabilitation Centre, which for six decades has worked to to rehabilitate and integrate into society Zimbabweans with disabilities. All of the members of the band are "disabled" in one way or another, and Paul Matavire, who led the group for a number of years, was blind. Matavire left the band in 1995 and died in 2005. Following a period of inactivity, the Jairos Jiri Band was recently revived under the leadership of Stewart Njodo."Take Cover" refers to the privations Zimbabweans suffered during the bitter struggle against white minority rule:
Ephat Mujuru (1950-2001) was well-known to African music aficionados in the US, particularly in the Pacific Northwest, where he was resident for many years at the University of Washington in Seattle, lecturing and teaching the mbira (thumb piano). Mujuru founded his first musical group, Chaminuka, in 1972, renaming it Spirit of the People after the fall of the Rhodesian regime in 1980:
The Family Singers, led by Jonathan and Shuvai Wutawunashe, were a leading Zimbabwean gospel group of the '80s. "Tarira Nguva," their first single and a smash hit, shows the clear influence of American country-western music. Shuvai Wutawanashe sings, "All Christians must work hard to uphold Christianity, as the devil is working hard to destroy us.":
The O.K. Success had their origins in Congo, but since their arrival in the former Rhodesia in 1960 they have become thoroughly Zimbabwean, both in personnel and in the subject matter of their music. The lead singer of "B.P.," James Chimombe, got his start with Thomas Mafumo's Acid Band before moving on to O.K. Success, and later recording with the Huchi Band and Ocean City Band. In 1990 he became the first prominent Zimbabwean musician to die of AIDS. The lyrics: "To err is human my friend. We all make mistakes at some stage in our lives":
Over on the Electric Jive blog Tony Hunter describes his first encounter with Africa Melody: “...I had a friend who lived in Kwe Kwe and I stayed with his family. There was a band that’s sound captivated me. Africa Melody was led by a guy called John Kazadi who I think came from Lubumbashi [Congo]. The few references to the band describe it as sungura music but to me it had less of rhumba feel and at times more of country rock sound with the guitars right upfront...." "John Waenda" is about a widow whose husband died, leaving her no money to look after her children:
Born in the late '30s, Safirio Madzikatire ("Mukadota") became well-known as a comedian with his own radio program, "Mhuri Yekwa Rwizi." He soon transitioned to making music with various musicians, including the Brave Sun Band, led by his son Elijah, the Mukadota Family and this group, the Sea Cottage Sisters. In this song a man named Dickson apologizes to his girlfriend for letting her down and begs her to take him back:
In this song, a man named George leaves his long-time girlfriend for a nurse who buys him a car:
I'm not sure if there is any relationship between this Super Sounds and another group called the Ndolwane Super Sounds. In "Chipendani" a young man inherits a fortune from his father but soon squanders it. To survive he is forced to make his living as a herder:
A tribute to the late Jairos Jiri, founder of the Jairos Jiri Rehabilitation Centre, which has worked for six decades helping disabled individuals who have been abandoned by their families:
BBC Radio host John Peel described The Four Brothers band as "the best live band in the world." From 1977 to the early 2000s they were a mainstay of the Zimbabwe music scene, finally succumbing to the death or disablement of the founding members. There have been efforts to revive the group, with limited success. "Wapenga Nayo Bonus" decries the practice of people spending their yearly bonus unwisely:
"Katarina" was one of the biggest hits in Zimbabwe during the '80s. A young man desires to leave his home because everyone is jealous of his relationship with a beautiful dancer named Katarina. Later he decides he will ignore the gossip and stay at home:
Enjoy this video of Mukadota and the original "Katarina":
"Amayo" is in Chewa, a language spoken in neighboring Malawi. A young man objects to the woman his mother has picked for him to marry:
Download Take Cover! Zimbabwe Hits Vol. 1 as a zipped file here. Researching this post I found the book Roots Rocking in Zimbabwe by Fred Zindi (Mambo Press, Harare, 1985) very helpful. The translations of the lyrics are taken from the US edition of Take Cover! (Schanachie 43045, 1987).
Saturday, May 12, 2018
Nigerians are known for songs extolling their mothers, notably Prince Nico Mbarga's famous "Sweet Mother." In honor of Mothers' Day 2018, here is Mamma (Ivory Music IVR 057), a cassette by jùjú maestro Dayo Kujore, who was featured a few months ago on this blog. Enjoy!
Dayo Kujore - Toju Yeye / Iya Lolugbowo Mi / Omo Unmoti / Iya Mi Ose / Mother
Dayo Kujore - Fi Wa Jomi / Oruko Jesu / Awa De / Darling My Lover / Fans' Rhythm Special
Download Mamma as a zipped file here.
Sunday, May 6, 2018
Ọdun Nlọ Sopin, by the Good Women Choir, has been one of Likembe's most popular recent downloads, at least according to Mediafire. Now brace yourself for some more feel-good Yoruba gospel music from Nigeria, this time courtesy of Sister Dunni Olanrewaju, or as she is often known, "Opelope Anointing," after her biggest hit.
Sister Dunni was born December 2, 1960, in Alabata, Oyo State. She was called to the gospel at an early age, as her father was a cathechist and her mother a Deaconess in Christ Apostolic Church. She began singing in the choir at age 9, and dropped out of secondary school to pursue her passion for music, much to the consternation of her mother.
Dunni Olanrewaju & Golden Voices - Ayo Re Mbo
Download Ayo Re Mbo as a zipped file here. Unfortunately the sound quality of this cassette is not the best. I hope you will agree with me that the quality of the music outweighs this technical limitation.
Monday, April 30, 2018
Orchestre Les Hi-Fives, originators of the popular Kibushi sound, were one of many Congolese dance bands who, fleeing political turmoil, made their way east to Tanzania and Kenya. They were founded as Bana Kibushi Batano by Vicky Numbi in Lubumbashi, Congo. In 1965 they moved to Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, and two years later to Mombasa to join the burgeoning Congolese exile music scene in Kenya. Here, like much of this cohort, they became as much a "Kenyan" group as a Congolese one.
Various problems, notably with residency permits, forced the band to break up some time in the late '70s or early '80s, and the members scattered to the four winds. Many years ago my friend Kenneth Chitika loaned me this album, Wanawachezea Mfululizo wa Kibushi (Philips PKLP 105, 1972), and I dubbed it to a 10" tape reel. Ten years ago I digitally ripped this in turn, and here it is! I got the sleeve and label art from Discogs, which was also the source for some of the information in this post.
Download Wanawachezea Mfululizo wa Kibushi as a zipped file here.
Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Last month I gave you A.B. Crentsil's great 1985 LP Toronto by Night, with a promise of more sophisticated sounds from the king of '80s Ghana highlife. Well, here they are! Tantie Alaba (Earthworks/Rough Trade ERT 1004, 1984) was recorded at the Ghana Film Studios in Accra, and has more of an "organic" sound than Toronto.
Researching this series of posts devoted to Ghana music from the '80s, I've been digging through my archives, compiled back in the days before the internet, and came across issue #5 of Africa Beat magazine, published in London in Summer of 1986. It contains a most informative article, "Sweet Talking Man," about Mr. Crentsil, then on a European tour:
The dramatic plunge in the value of the Ghanaian currency, the cedi, has thrown up some stories. One of the most heartbreaking is the virtual death of the Ghanaian recording industry. The price of imported basics, like guitar strings or vinyl, has killed off virtually every full-time touring professional band. Some put the number of survivors as low as three.
One man who has survived all this and a lot more is A.B. Crentsil, the 36-year-old singer whose mid-1970s band Sweet Talks was a germinating ground for some of the strongest talents to emerge out of Ghana during the last ten years - the Sunsum Band, Eric Agyemang and Thomas Frempong among them. But the figures even he throws out so casually are terrifying. He starts off talking about how his second band the Lantics were stolen away from the Atlantic Hotel by an extra 25 cedi a month - "100 cedi a month was a lot and we were happy to go!," he chuckles. Now he talks about paying his bus driver 10,000 cedi a day, a week, a month, whatever it takes to keep him.
Even more scaring is his account of the break-up of Sweet Talks in 1979 and the court battle to get money out of the manager of the Talk of the Town Hotel who owned the band's instruments and in a lot of ways seemed to own their souls as well. "In court we heard that Phonogram had paid him 5.4 million cedis. Out of that we had seen 68,000 cedis." Needless to say there were dark doings in the background and A.B. is not a rich man - but her survives.
And away from the numbers, back to the music. Throughout the 1970s A.B. played in the best hotel bands in Ghana - first the El Dorados, performing funk, reggae and James Brown material, the usual songs known as "copyright." The there was the Lantics, again tied to a top hotel but this time getting away to record the first album, Adam & Eve [as the Sweet Talks] in 1975. They had been spotted playing in the hotel by Phonogram MD Arthur Tay who swept them off to the 16-track EMI studio in Lagos which was quite a jump from the two-track they had used for three 45s earlier.
The 75-venue tour of Ghana which followed built Sweet Talks into one of the biggest bands in the land. Throughout the string of LPs that followed - Kusum Beat, Spiritual Ohaia, Osode - it was all up and up, closer to dangerous temptations that lay in wait when Phonogram Holland took them to Los Angeles' Total Experience studio to record the best-selling Party Time [Hollywood Highlife Party]. It was then that they discovered that their manager was using their money to send a Thunderbird back to Ghana. It was when they got back they discovered they were broke, and broke up....Which brings us up to 1984, and Tantie Alaba, recorded with Mr. Crentsil's reorganized Super Sweet Talks International, and the first of his albums to receive modest international distribution. Here's a nice video someone made of the title track, utilizing footage that apparently has nothing to do with the song itself, but, I'm sure you'll agree, matches up very well indeed!
A.B. Crentsil & Super Sweet Talks International - Tantie Alaba
A.B. Crentsil & Super Sweet Talks International - Akpêtêchi Seller
A.B. Crentsil & Super Sweet Talks International - Odo
A.B. Crentsil & Super Sweet Talks International - Who is Free
Download Tantie Alaba as a zipped file here.
Friday, April 20, 2018
Augustin Kouassi is an Ivorian musician who's apparently been around the block a few times. Discogs lists a couple of LPs by his band, Les Messagers de la Paix, apparently from the '80s. Other than that, I can't say much more about him and the group. How many times have I had to say that here?
I got today's offering by them way back when it first came out, along with a raft of other cassettes from Ivory Coast, and didn't pay much attention to it then. Man, was I missing out! Mambo Attoh Théophane (Carine Musique CAR 01, 1993) is one of the most addictive recordings I've heard in a long time. Everything about it is first-rate, from Gaiten Kouao's exquiste guitar work to the outstanding vocals (different members take turns singing lead, and the chorus is tight). Of course, Congo music is an influence, and the vocals have that sweet-and-sour quality you hear in West African music from Ghana to the Niger Delta. I'm tempted to label it "Soukous-Highlife," but that just doesn't do it justice. Let the music speak for itself!
Augustin Kouassi & Les Messagers - Mambo Attoh Théophane
Augustin Kouassi & Les Messagers - Kêgbè Piemin
Augustin Kouassi & Les Messagers - Yié Koubê
Augustin Kouassi & Les Messagers - Boto Sopie
Augustin Kouassi & Les Messagers - Adja Ayo
Augustin Kouassi & Les Messagers - N'Douci Carrefour
Download Mambo Attoh Théophane as a zipped file here.
Sunday, April 15, 2018
None of these, though, have had the impact of the biggest splinter group of them all, Orchestra Les Wanyika, founded in 1978 by Simba Wanyika rhythm guitarist Omar Shabani and several other members, who were joined by John Ngereza and Issa Juma. A couple of smash hits ("Paulina" and "Sina Makossa") later and Issa Juma too had flown the coop to form his own band, variosly called Waanyika, Super Wanyika and Wanyika Stars.
Never mind. That was just a speed bump for Les Wanyika, who notched a plethora of hits over the next decade, including "Dunia Ki-Geu Geu," "Mbaya Wako Rafiki Yako" and "Naogopa," culminating with today's offering, the 1988 LP Nilipi la Ajabu (Polydor POLP 582), featuring one of their most popular tunes, "Afro."
Nilipi la Ajabu was followed shortly by Nimaru (Polydor POLP 598, 1989), which I will also be posting here soon, and several other albums including Amigo (Clifford Lugard Productions CLP 001, 1997) a collection of re-recorded versions of their hits that is Les Wanyika's only record to get widespread distribution outside of Africa.
Sadly, Omar Shabani died in 1997, and his longtime colleague John Ngereza passed in 2002, but their legacy is eteral through recordings like Nilipi la Ajabu. Enjoy!
Tuesday, April 10, 2018
Since its foundation in 1970 as the official orchestra of Mali's National Railway Company, the Rail Band has occupied a prominent place in the firmament of West African music, and through its ranks have passed some of the most respected musicians in the region. The band's Affair Social (Sacodis LS-25, 1979) is such a spectacular, mind-blowing achievement that I figured one of the other African music blogs must have posted it long ago. But apparently not, so here it is!
Affair Social was recorded during a tumultuous period for the Rail Band, relocated to Abidjan, Ivory Coast from Bamako and rechristened the Super Rail Band International. Salif Keita, the group's lead singer, had decamped in 1972 to found Les Ambassadeurs du Motel and later gained world fame as part of the World Music™ craze. He was replaced by Mory Kante, an equally gifted vocalist, who by the time Affair Social was recorded had also departed for a solo career. Other members of the "classic" Rail Band lineup, among them founder Tidiani Koné, had similarly moved on.
Perservering, though, was Djelimady Tounkara, one of Africa's greatest guitarists, who reestablished the band with new personnel, none of whom, unfortunately, is credited in the liner notes of Affair Social. The Super Rail Band International have continued performing and recording to this day, still under the able leadership of Tounkara. Enjoy!
Download Affair Social as a zipped file here.
Wednesday, April 4, 2018
Thanks to Andreas Wetter for apprising me of this offer on EBay:
Yes, that's right: Someone is asking $850 dollars for the cassette version of the 1972 LP Master Guitarist Vol. 5 (African Songs LPAS 8014) by Nigeria's Sunny Adé & his Green Spot Band!
I have long been astounded at the sort of prices some African music fans are willing to pay for scratchy old vinyl from the Continent - and in this case, not even vinyl, but a no-doubt-inferior cassette version of same! It puts one to mind of the 17th Century tulip mania.
But you don't need $850 to listen to this recording. The blog Snap, Crackle & Pop posted it a few years back and you may have grabbed it then (the link to the file is now broken). And now I'm posting it again. You can have it for free!
What's doubly confusing is that the tracklist on Vintage doesn't even agree with that of Master Guitarist Vol. 5. In fact, the listings on the sleeve and record labels on Vintage don't agree either. But they are indisputably the same recording. In fact, I think Vintage is not even a "pirate" pressing - it was apparently officially licensed and legitimately issued.
If all you have heard of King Sunny Adé is his recordings from the '80s and later, Master Guitarist Vol. 5 may come as something of a revelation. The Green Spots were Adé's first band, founded in 1967 after he left Moses Olaiya's Federal Rhythm Dandies, and their sound is not as dense and "sophisticated" as that of the later African Beats. Sunny Adé's brilliant guitar work, of course, shines through loud and clear.
Here's Master Guitarist Vol. 5. I'm following the tracklisting from that pressing, and not that from the later Vintage King Sunny Adé. Enjoy!
Sunny Adé & his Green Spots Band - Late Dr. Nkrumah / Ka Ma Buni Lole / I. S. Adewale / Ololade Wilkey
Sunny Adé & his Green Spots Band - Sunny Special / Owo Ko Nife / Awon Ti Won Yo / Alhaja Bintu
Download Master Guitarist Vol. 5 as a zipped file here. I've included scans from Vintage King Sunny Adé also. The record sleeve scans of Master Guitarist Vol. 5 are from Snap, Crackle & Pop. Thanks!
Thursday, March 29, 2018
I've been going through my record collection, pulling out and digitizing Ghanaian LPs that I got hold of back in the '80s when I was a regular customer of Sterns African Record Centre in London. Most of these were recorded in London, Berlin and Toronto, the economy in Ghana at the time having forced some of the biggest stars there to seek sustenace overseas. The result was a new, hybrid sound, marrying the standard themes and sounds of Ghana highlife with modern production values, synthesizers and drum machines.
Over the next weeks and months I'll be presenting the results of my excavations, but I think it's only fitting to open with an LP that stands as a pinnacle of the '80s Ghana highlife sound - A.B. Crentsil's Toronto by Night (Wazuri WAZ101, 1985).
Alfred Benjamin Crentsil was born in 1950 and showed an early aptitude for music, forming with his friends in the mid-'60s a group called the Strollers Dance Band. A few career moves later and he founded, with Smart Nkansah, the group that would make his name, the Sweet Talks. Their fledgling effort, Adam and Eve in 1975, almost single-handedly rescued highlife music in Ghana, then under assault by assorted foreign styles. Many more hits - Kusum Beat and Hollywood Highlife Party (recorded in the US in 1978 when the band was playing backup for the Commodores) among others - and the Sweet Talks were at the top of their game.
As is often the case for African musicians, dissension set in and the classic Sweet Talks lineup was no more. Smart Nkansah left to found the Black Hustlers (later named the Sunsum Band) and Crentsil carried on with the Super Sweet Talks International. More solo recordings followed (among them the controversial Moses), and Crentsil found himself in Canada, where Toronto by Night, a certified classic, was recorded.
Crentsil has been back in Ghana for many years and is still recording. In 2016 he received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 17th Ghana Music Awards.
"I Go Pay You Tommorrow" is a rework of Crentsil's big hit from 1984, "Akpêtêchie Seller," from his LP with the Super Sweet Talks International, Tantie Alaba (I will be posting this album some time in the future). In it an alcoholic beseetches a seller of Akpêtêchie (distilled palm wine) to give him one more drink until payday:
Download Toronto by Night as a zipped file here. Ronnie Graham's article from the August 11, 1986 issue of West Africa magazine, "A.B.'s Highlife Humour," was extremely useful in researching this post.
Saturday, March 24, 2018
Cheikh Lô has been a sensation on the World Music™ scene since the release of his album Né la Thiass, produced by Youssou N'Dour, in 1996. He was born in Burkina Faso (then Upper Volta) to Senegalese parents and started his musical carreer with Volta Jazz, then a leading musical group in that country. He moved to Senegal in 1978 and later spent time as a session musician in Paris, the main center of the African music scene outside the continent, picking up various musical influences in the process.
Before Né la Thiass, Lô recorded at least two cassettes in Senegal. Doxamdeme (Audio-Video AVP 00010) came out in 1990, and today's offering, Dieuf Dieul (Audio-Video AVP 0013) was released in 1992.
Cheikk Lô's quiet, mainly acoustic take on Senegalese music, with nods to reggae and other styles, is deeply informed by his membership in Baye Fall, a sub-group of the Mouride movement, an indigenous Sufi Muslim order founded in 1883 by Cheikh Amadou Bamba. Baye Fall members are distinguished by their dress, dreadlocks, and dedication to hard work. Although I don't know for sure, I suspect several of the songs on Dieuf Dieul are dedicated to Cheikh Lô's religious concerns.
Recorded before Cheikh Lô's ascension to world fame, I've found Dieuf Dieul bears repeated listening. It's moving and infectious. Enjoy!
Cheikh Lô - Bambaa Bakh
Cheikh Lô - Niani Bañna
Cheikh Lô - Guney Senegal
Cheikh Lô - Babylone
Cheikh Lô - Saly
Download Dieuf Dieul as a zipped file here. If you like Cheikh Lô's mellow style, you'd probably enjoy this album by Seydina Insa Wade that I posted nine years ago.
Monday, March 19, 2018
Mwakaribishwa na Maroon! That's Swahili for "Welcome to Maroon." It's also the title of today's featured recording (Polydor POLP 600, 1989) by Kenya's legendary Maroon Commandos. The Maroons have been around since 1970, founded by Habel Kifoto (that's him on the left above) as the offficial band of the 7th Kenya Rifles of the Kenyan Army, based in Langata Barracks, Nairobi.
The Maroons' modest goal in the beginning was to tour the country entertaining homesick troops, but it wasn't long before their infectious blend of rumba, benga and traditional music caught on with the general public. Their first hit was "Emily" in 1971, and then an unfortunate traffic accident in 1972, which killed one member, sidelined the group for several years until they came roaring back in 1977 with "Charonyi ni Wasi," which is included on the collection Kenya Dance Mania (Sterns/Earthworks STEW24CD, 1991). Written by Kifoto in his native Taita language, it is a sad melody of nostalgia and hard times in the big city. I shared another great song by the group, "Liloba," in an earlier post. That one, by the way, featured the vocals of Laban Ochuka, who later founded the Ulinzi Orchestra, the subject of a future post.
About a recent performance, Daniel Wesangula wrote in the Daily Nation newspaper:
Three nights a week 20 Kenyan soldiers take a break from the rigorous routine that defines their military life from sunrise to sunset. On these nights they let another side of their personalities take over as they mingle with civilians through music. Hands trained to hold weapons hold guitars, trumpets, drumsticks and microphones. Feet accustomed to marching in formation and jumping in and out of trenches tap lightly, keeping beat to the music.
Voices conditioned to bark out orders in military drills croon words that have entertained generations. And the faces that seldom crack the faintest of smiles soften and become warm. During the two hours on stage there are no ranks, no obligatory salutes. During this rehearsal, united by their common love of music, they are all equal.
After a ten-year recording hiatus, the Maroon Commandos returned to the scene in 2007 with a new album, Shika Kamba, and have continued to entertain East Africans up until the present. I was saddened to learn while researching this post, though, that Habel Kifoto passed away in 2011. He had retired from the Army in 2009, passing on leadership of the band to Diwani Nzaro and subesquently Sgt. David Kombo. Kifoto remained active in music, however, and is said to have recorded a new album just before his death.
Enjoy Mwakaribishwa na Maroon!
Download Mwakribishwa na Maroon as a zipped file here.
Wednesday, March 14, 2018
Some of my more purist-minded fellow African music fans looked down their noses at Touré Kunda. Their sound, not as hard-edged as the product coming out of Dakar, seemed suspiciously affable. Were Touré Kunda just a marketing gimmick? Were they an African version of The Monkees?
Not so! Touré Kunda's easy-going, less angular sound is deeply rooted in the Casamance, a region that was under Portuguese rule until 1888. And what's wrong with being likable and popular, anyway? Despite some ill-advised tech flourishes on their mid-'80s albums I've always appreciated Touré Kunda.
The 1992 cassette Sili Béto (Irema CB 521) dispensed with the "World Beat" excresences and was a welcome return to form for the group. I've always loved their take on reggae, and the Portuguese-influenced vocals are great as usual. I hope you'll enjoy it also!
Touré Kunda - Hadidia
Touré Kunda - Fatou Yo
Touré Kunda - Casalé
Touré Kunda - Akila
Touré Kunda - Soppé
Touré Kunda - Ké Diaré
Touré Kunda - Fiança
Touré Kunda - Téria
Touré Kunda - Cira
Touré Kunda - On Verra Quoi? Ça!
Touré Kunda - Oromiko
Download Sili Béto as a zipped file here.
Friday, March 9, 2018
Who is Tayo Jimba? I have no idea. I do know that I enjoy this 1988 LP, Ise Aje (Leader LRCLS 65), a great deal. The label lists the musical style as "Jùjú/Highlife," and that sounds about right. It is actually quite similar to recordings I've posted here before by Adé Wesco and Orlando Owoh - a funky, rootsy, less-cluttered sound that takes us back a few decades to the point where jùjú and highlife music were less differentiated.
The label also lists the language as "Yoruba/Ikale." Ikale is generally considered a dialect of Yoruba rather than a separate language, and since Ikale speakers are concentrated in Ondo State, western Nigeria, it's reasonable to surmise that Tayo Jimba is from there also. Reader/listeners are invited to tell us more.
Enjoy Ise Aje!
Tayo Jimba & his Black Shadows - Ori Mi / Oro Owo / Oro Nigeria
Download Ise Aje as a zipped file here.
Sunday, March 4, 2018
The musical roots of zouglou lie in the local Ivorian musical styles tohourou and aloucou from western Côte d’Ivoire, which became popular in the urban centres in the 1960s and 70s. The direct musical base of zouglou music grew out of what is known as ambiance facile or woyo: chants to percussive music on improvised instruments such as metal scrapers, glass bottles and of course drums. This music grew out of the songs that accompanied sports competitions in Côte d‘Ivoire‘s schools during the 1980s. Groups of students that called themselves “supporters committees” would accompany sports teams to the games and make up songs to encourage their teams. As school teams and their supporters committees travelled to matches against other schools across the country, they picked up new melodies and rhythms along the way.The musical group Zougloumania, founded by the duo Poignon and Bouabré in 1990, was the biggest of the "First Generation" of zouglou groups. Its first and apparently only release, Zomammanzo (EMI E028991-4, 1991), hit the scene like a bombshell, becoming the greatest hit of the zouglou era, exceeded only by Magic System's "Premier Gaou," released in 1999. Listening to it, it's not hard to understand why - every track on Zomamanzo is a scorcher!
Ambiance facile and woyo music sessions also became a popular past-time in Abidjan’s working class (popular) neighborhoods. In these multi-ethnic neighborhoods, children and teenagers would teach each other songs from their home regions. This mostly unrecorded leisure music is still popular across Côte d’Ivoire. Through the sports matches and neighborhood sessions, ambiance facile drew on rhythms and melodies from many different regions of Côte d’Ivoire. Zouglou music also drew on these rhythms and melodies and thus became the first musical style that was considered to be multi-ethnic and nationally representative of Côte d’Ivoire.
In 1990, zouglou was invented first as a dance among university students residing in the Yopougon student accommodation at the University of Cocody in Abidjan, now known as Felix Houphouet-Boigny University. This dance consisted of throwing one’s arms in the air with angular movements, mimicking an imploration to God to help the university students that were suffering under the budgetary cuts in the education sector (fewer scholarships, inadequate student housing, catering and transport, etc.)...
After this auspicious debut, Poignon and Bouabré went ther seaparate ways, bringing an end to Zougloumania. Bouabré moved to France and Poignon remained in Abidjan, becoming a solo artist as well as performing with Les Doyas, a trio composed of Poignon, Alan Bill and Yodé Côcô. He has lately been afflicted with facial paralysis and is in need of proper medical care. Let's hope he recovers soon!
Zougloumania - Zomamanzo
Zougloumania - Elle a Bu Degue
Zougloumania - Djaba
Zougloumania - Zito
Zougloumania - Ah Ma Soeur
Zougloumania - Tchicala
Zougloumania - Kapa
Zougloumania - Zomamanzo (Instrumental)
Download Zomamanzo as a zipped file here.
Tuesday, February 27, 2018
I think the Pressmen Band, described as "teen sensations" in their heyday, are still extant and catering to the tourist trade around Mombasa, Kenya. Today's offering by them, Dash-Dash (CBS (N) 034), is from the late '80s and features the chakacha coastal sound that they helped to popularize along with bands like Them Mushrooms and the Mombasa Roots Band, who were featured in an earlier post.
The opening tune, "Musenangu," was a big hit for the Pressmen. It's in the Chonyi language and is about two lovers who are parting ways. Although this sort of music isn't exactly my favorite, there's no denying its popularity, not only among tourists but among Kenyans of all walks of life. Enjoy!
Thanks to the commenter "Sashahon" on YouTube for transcribing and translating the lyrics to "Kadogo":
We kadogo nakupenda
Nikuone uwe wangu
Na mimi sina mwingine
Nimpendaye kama wewe
Usingizi siupati, Nikifiki ulivyo
Fanya hima tuonane, tuelewane pamoja
Waniacha mi naponda, kwa kufikiri wewe
Moyo wangu wateseka, vile nakupenda you
Kadogo I love you
I want to marry you so you'll be mine
I don't want anyone else
That I love as I love you
I can''t sleep thinking about you
Try we meet so we come to agreement
I yearn for you in my thoughts
My soul suffers for loving you
Download Dash-Dash as a zipped file here.
Thursday, February 22, 2018
There was growing interest in South African music during the 1980s. The initial impetus came from the Soweto uprising of 1976 and the surging freedom movement against the racist apartheid regime. In 1983 the compilation Zulu Jive: Umbaqanga (Earthworks ELP 2002), released in Britain, was the first exposure many of us outside of the country had to the down-home, funky sounds of urban South Africa, and its sequal, The Indestructible Beat of Soweto (Earthworks EWV 14, 1985), kept the momentum going.
Indisputably, though, the event that really put Black South African music on the map internationally was the release in 1986 of Paul Simon's LP Graceland. Initially quite controversial, it was recorded in part in Johannesburg with veteran studio musicians. Graceland brought international fame for the a capella singing group Ladysmith Black Mambazo and ensuing tours by Simon with Hugh Masekela and Miriam Makeba revived their careers as well.
Of course, the success of Graceland meant that record companies were in a rush to put out more product for the growing international market. Most of these releases were on smaller independent labels, but the bigger companies got in on the act also. Among the most notable of these latter releases was the double LP set Sounds of Soweto, issued in the US in 1987 by Capitol Records/EMI (CLB-46698).
Sounds of Soweto got such widespread distribution at the time that I was surprised to discover that it has long been out of print. Apparently it was never reissued on CD and is not even available through downloads or streaming services. What makes this oversight all the more notable is that Sounds of Soweto highlights a style of music that, while lacking the rough edges of umbaqanga and other earlier styles, was wildly popular in South Africa at the time - the synth-driven and disco-inflected "bubblegum music" of artists like Brenda Fassie and Condry Ziqubu. This music is being rediscovered through the efforts of people like Dave Durbach ("DJ Okapi") and his Afro-Synth blog and record store in Johannesburg. I'm happy to present Sounds of Soweto for your listening enjoyment today. The descriptions of the songs are taken from the liner notes of the album. You will note that for all the upbeat sound of these tunes, their lyrics are hardly frivolous.
"A song about drought and the suffering it brings. It tells of a time when mealie (maize) meal, the staple diet of the majority of South Africans, was in such short supply that the people were forced to eat inferior grades to which foreign substances had been added, turning it yellow in colour."
Lumumba with Condry Ziqubu - Yellow Mealie Meal
"Most black South Africans live without access to electricity for cooking, lighting or heating. Amalahle (coal) remains a prime commodity in the townships and the coal vendor an important community figure."
Amalahle - Brenda & the Big Dudes
"Life in South Africa's black townships is lived against a backdrop of violence and conflict, a situation powerfully reflected in the Zulu chant which runs through the song. It translates as: Confusion everywhere, everthing is burning."
Condry Ziqubu - Confusion (Ma Afrika)
"An old story - naïve country boy leaves home for the bright lights of the big city, falls in love with slick city girl who breaks his heart and takes his money. Penniless and disillusioned, he sings 'Mali Kuhaba' (there is no money) and longs for the sinple rustic existence he left behind him."
Kaputeni - Mali Kuhaba
"Great quivering chunks of joyous funk. Pure celebration."
The Winners with Lionel Petersen - Wedding Day
"A shadowy figure in Soweto legend, the Gorilla man employed a henchman who would abduct beautiful women of the street and deliver them up to his master's brutal pleasure."
Condry Ziqubu - Gorilla Man
"An instrumental whose title means 'What are you doing to me?' Unclassifiable, but undoubtedly African, undoubtedly danceable."
Rex Rabanye - O Nketsang
"Dark street, bad night, bad town. This time it's some lawless piece of Soweto. But it could be any city - the feelings remain the same."
Thetha - Dark Street, Bad Night
"This is a tribute to Nelson Mandela and others who have made tremendous sacrifices in the struggle for a free and just South Africa."
Johnny Clegg & Savuka - Asimbonanga
"Light-hearted, yet moralizing. A song about a rich old woman slaking her appetites on young men."
Lumumba with Condry Ziqubu - Kiss Kiss (Sugar Mama)
"A cheeky love song directed at a young woman glimpsed on the street. The title means 'Sweetheart,' and this is followed by increasingly risqué wooings as the courtship progresses, township style."
Supa Frika - Manyeo
"The message, one of spreading love and harmony through music, is hardly new. But it has seldom been more relevant than it is in South Africa today."
The Winners with Lionel Petersen - Feel Free
"Third World Child desribes the forced route march that Third World cultures have experienced in order to survice both colonization and modernization."
Johnny Clegg & Savuka - Third World Child
"Although on the surface it is a song of admonition directed against a woman who fails in her duties towards her husband and child, Ramasela nevertheless has biting political overtones; it is after all the apartheid system which has put black family life so much at risk."
Sankomota - Ramasela
"Textures of township life, this time a warning to a gangster, who, while pretending to look into shop windows, is actually sizing people up for mugging."
Mara Louw - Brother Joe
"Speaks for itself, doesn't it?"
Supa Frika - Love is on Our Side
Download Sounds of Soweto as a zipped file here. The zipped file includes complete scans of the album cover and liner notes, which feature information about the artists. Also, if you enjoy the music in this record, I can't recommend the blog Afro-Synth enough. Its proprietor, DJ Okapi, has compiled a number of great compilations of South African "bubblegum music" of the '80s and '90s.
Saturday, February 17, 2018
It's about time we returned to Ihiagwa, just outside of Owerri, capital of Imo State, Nigeria and home of the Obi Wuru Otu Dance Group, led by Madam Maria Anokwuru and featuring the stellar vocals of Rose Nzuruike!
On January 24, 2010 I posted their hit LP Nwanyi Ma Obi Diya (Onyeoma C.Y. Records CYLP 016, 1984), one of the biggest-selling Igbo records of all time. I've since found out more about the group and its star, Madam Nzuruike (thanks, internet!). A collective endeavor by all eight of the villages that comprise Ihiagwa township, the group was founded in 1979 as the Ndom Ihiagwa Dance Group. Mrs. Rose Nzuruike was selected from her village, Umuemeze. She initially demurred as her husband had recently passed away and she had young children to care for. However, she reconsidered when her late husband Remy came to her in a dream and urged her to perservere. She was then judged the best, and hence lead, singer of the group, a role she has fulfilled ever since.
I now present Ezi Nne (Onyeoma C.Y. Records CYLP 047), a further exploration of Igbo roots music, Owerri style!
The insistent beat of the udu (bass drum) leads off Side One and the song "Ezi Nne" ("Good Mother"). Mrs Nzuruike sings that there is no substitute for one's mother, whether she is good or bad, and the chorus joins in agreement. In the second song, "Onye Egbula Onwe Ya" ("Don't Kill Yourself") we are implored not to stress over money problems and so forth, we'll only get sick and it won't solve the problem:
Obi Wuru Otu Dance Group - Ezi Nne / Onye Egbula Onwe Ya
"Anala Nwa Ogbenye Ihe Ya" ("Do Not Take Advantage of the Poor and Weak") opens Side Two. "Jehovah, come help us. To sin is human. Please help us." The second song is "Enyere Ibe Nyem" ("When You Give to My Peers You Give to Me Also"):
Obi Wuru Otu Dance Group - Anala Nwa Ogbenye Ihe Ya / Enyere Ibe Nyem
By the way, Onyeoma C.Y. Records, which issued these two Obi Wuro Otu albums and at least one other, Aku Ebi Onwu (CYLP 028), was one of the more interesting smaller Nigerian labels, specializing in roots music like this as well as Ghanaian highlife bands resident in Nigeria. In 1995 I paid a visit to their office in Onitsha with the intention of perhaps licencing music for release in the US. No one was there, so I left a note under the door. Several months later I received a letter from the proprieter of the label, who was definitely interested! However, lacking the proper entreprenurial spirit, I suppose, I never pursued the idea. Oh, well!
Download Ezi Nne as a zipped file here. Many thanks as usual to my wife, Priscilla, for interpreting the lyrics. The website of Ihiagwa Township is a fascinating resource which was quite useful in researching this post.
Tuesday, February 13, 2018
I've been collecting Nigerian music since the 1970s, but never actually made it to the country until 1994 and 1995. By then it was apparent that the music industry was going through a crisis, or at least big, big changes. The Nigerian affiliates of the two international record companies, Polydor and EMI, had been sold off and changed their names to Premier Music and Ivory Music respectively, while Afrodisia, formerly Decca West Africa, had gone inactive. A few LPs were still being pressed, but most "official" music distribution was via low-quality cassettes. The industry was suffering a death by a thousand cuts as pirated cassettes swamped the market.
By the mid-'90s in southwestern Nigeria jùjú music had been eclipsed by fújì and other styles, as I've discussed earlier. King Sunny Adé and Ebenezer Obey were still on the scene, though with lower profiles. Their more laid-back, philosophical brand of jùjú had given way to a frenetic, materialistic version, epitomized above all by Sir Shina Peters, who sang of the good life and conspicuous consumption.
"Wonder" Dayo Kujore, born in 1958, is another exponent of the new jùjú sound. Like Shina Peters, he served his apprenticeship in the band of Prince Adekunle, playing lead guitar on some of the maestro's biggest hits. Kujore soon left to form his own group, but it wasn't until the early '90s that he really made a mark with albums like Super Jet, Easy Life and today's offering, 1993's Sọkọ Xtra (Ivory Music IVR 039), one of his biggest hits ever.
The basic elements of the 1990s jùjú sound are all here: the punchy, forward-driving rhythms complete with electronic drum pad, synthesizers and no pedal steel guitar to be found. And check out the Paul Simon reference in the opening bars of "Eko Ayo!"
I've always preferred "Old School" jùjú myself, but newer productions like Sọkọ Xtra have their attractions. Enjoy!
Download Sọkọ Xtra as a zipped file here.