Thursday 26 May 2016

Nguashi Ntimbo (1981)

OK to round off our very pleasant diversion into Congolese rumba via the lens of East Africa, herewith an offering from TP OK Jazz vocalist Nguashi Ntimbo. Ntimbo frequented Nairobi, and was hugely successful with Shauri Yako (your problem), sung in Swahili, and one of my all-time favourites. It was later covered by, among others, Orchestra Super Mazembe. You can check the original song out by clicking on the image below :
In-between working with Franco and OK Jazz as a vocalist and composer, Ntimbo also had his own bands that he toured with. Today's offering is a 1981 Kenyan pressing of recordings he made with  the bands: "Festival du Zaire" as well as "Orchestres Sentima." On another day I will share another of his recordings with the band Citoyen.

From what I read on the internet, I am led to understand that the tracks featured on this Kenyan compilation album are not released on any other recording. Perhaps others among you who know more about these things might clarify? Either way, this is great Congolese rumba music - enjoy!

NGUASHI NTIMBO: "In na ndima ba pasi ya mokili "
ASLP 923, 1981
All songs composed by Nguashi Ntimbo
Made in Kenya
1. Moto Moto parts 1 & 2, 
2. Lacaza, 
4. Nzambe Mungu
5. Bondumba
6. Sawa Sawa" parts 1 & 2.

Download link here

Thursday 19 May 2016

Western Stars Conquers East: 1982

Congolese rumba was huge in Kenya, especially via the ASL label which recorded and pressed albums in Nairobi. This 1982 offering “Western Stars Conquers East” features four extended tracks from four Congolese music greats; Dizzy Mandjekou, Vata Mombassa, Asi Kapela, and Theo Blaise.

There are a number of very good blogs and discograpjhies where you can read  persons more knowledgeable on the Congolese musical diaspora in East Africa. Try these for starters: muszikifan; kentanzavinyl and eastafricanmusic.

I highlighted in my last post that in 1985 Kenya’s President Arap Moi ordered the deportation of foreign musicians in Kenya. A few of you pointed out that the ‘ban’ was short-lived as there were unanticipated political implications in the form of an uproar from tavern owners around the country. To soften matters further Tabu Ley composed something of a political praise song “Nakei Nairobi” (Let’s go to Nairobi) for Mbilia Bel to sing. The ban did not last long.

ASLP 949 (1982)

1. Maitre Dizzy (Mandjeku): Saila Pt.1 & Pt. 2
2. Vata Mombassa: Mokili Pt. 1 & Pt. 2
3. Asi Kapela: Sama Sama Pt. 1 & Pt. 2
4. Theo Blaise: Bella Amicha Pt. 1 & Pt.

Download here

Friday 13 May 2016

Swahili Special Hit Parade: (1983)

Government decrees to promote increased air-play of local music content are quite common, and they all have their good effects, as well as some unintended consequences. This  week the state-controlled South African Broadcasting Corporation issued a decree requiring ninety percent of the music featured on 18 of its radio stations be music created and/or performed by South African citizens.

This got me thinking about a parallel situation in Kenya in 1985 which contributed to dismantling the East African rumba scene.

Call it Swahili rumba or Soukous, in East Africa it is known as “Muziki wa Dansi!”. This compilation showcases four top bands and serves as a great introductory compilation to the genre and time. Nairobi was a huge magnet for African bands from the Congo, Tanzania and elsewhere, with a phenomenal live music scene which fed a burgeoning record industry. For example, the Simba Wanyika track "Shillingi" featured in this compilation sold 50,000 copies in Kenya in 1983.

In 1985 the Government of President Arap Moi cracked down on foreign bands in Kenya, and the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation further decreed that 70 percent of music played by all radio stations should be Kenyan music. It was also required that thirty percent of the music on vernacular radio stations would be music featured from other tribes and regions. 

Kenya's foreign music clampdown had the effect of many pan-African bands disbanding or leaving the country to play elsewhere. Kenya's current national music policy requires sixty percent local content on radio. But only last year local musicians took to the streets in protest, asking "how local is local": In August 2015 The Daily Nation wrote: 
"The protesting musicians are particularly irked that Kenyan airwaves are saturated with Nigerian pop. Three decades ago, the foreign dominance came from another part of Africa: Kinshasa, Congo DR (then known as Zaire). But what really is foreign music in today’s interconnected world?Kenyan musicians have been openly craving for collaborations with their Nigerian counterparts. The leading pop band in the country at the moment, Sauti Sol, have just released their new single, Shake Your Bam Bam, whose beat is taken from a Jamaican riddim, never mind that they claim it’s a throw back to the “Kenyan beat in the 90s”. The same song interpolates lyrics from a soukous hit by Awilo Longomba, while the video is directed by a Nigerian Clarence Peters.Given this confluence of styles and influences, would Kenyan radio stations play Sauti Sol and not Awilo, for instance?"
You can read the full article at the Daily Nation.

So, as of today the state-controlled South African Broadcasting Corporation requires that 18 of its stations present  90 percent local music content. With immediate effect nine out of every ten songs played between 05h00 and 23h00 must meet two out of four of these criteria:

  • The lyrics are written by a South African citizen
  • The music is composed by a South African citizen 
  • The music and/or lyrics are performed principally by musicians who are South African citizens
  • The musical work is a live performance recorded wholly in South Africa, or performed wholly in South Africa, and broadcast live in South Africa.

You can read the full text of the decree here

Personally, I might feel more comfortable if the decree also incentivised the playing of musics from other African countries too  - what better way to get to know and appreciate the wonderful diversity this continent has to offer.

As for Swahili rumba, it has achieved worldwide recognition and is selling very well - though I am not sure how much the Kenyan economy is benefiting. Doug Patterson has put together at least ten different CD compilations for Sterns. Check out Doug's site here. Doug tells me that when he heard the Maroon Commandos track on this compilation featured in this post, he knew it had to be featured on his "Nairobi Beat" compilation. (Part one only).You can still find that wonderful compilation online, for example at AmazonYou can also find another great compilation available from Naxos,

There are three excellent East African discography sites produced by Doug Patterson, Alastair Johnston and John Beadle which you should check out. 

Kenya-based Simba Wanyika was founded by two Tanzanian brothers in 1971, and continued playing and touring in one form or another until 1994. 

Kurugenzi Jazz is a less often recorded band with roots in Tanzania, all the more a pity. The influence of Franco is clear in this 9:45 track.

Vijana Jazz: John B writes on his Likembe blog: “Orchestra Vijana Jazz, one of Tanzania's top dance bands, was founded in 1971 under the sponsorship of Umoja wa Vijana Tanzania, then the Youth League of the ruling Tanzania African National Union (TANU).

Led by Habel Kifoto, the Maroon Commandos remain one of my favourites for what feels to me like a tropical laid-back sound-track to the life I would like to have. Founded in 1971 this Kenyan band was originally made up of members of the 7th Kenya Rifles in Nairobi.

POLP 539 Swahili Special Hit Parade
Recorded in the Nairobi Polygram Studios on 8 track.
Engineer: Chris Mbindyo
Mixage: Isaya Mwinamo

Compilation: Justice M. Kasoya.

Download here

Monday 9 May 2016

Sporo: Nzimande All Stars (1977)

 Hamilton Nzimande's All Stars band were as strong and versatile as the Makghona Tsohle band, always at the top of their game no matter the genre. This time it is early South African disco, with their huge 1977 hit, Sporo Disco, strung out here to over 16 luxurious minutes.

The "B" side is not half bad either. "Breadwinner" will sound nearly familiar to those of you: "Breadwinner Part 2" has already been shared here. Another Sporo-inspired album by Thoams Phale can be found here. And more disco soul jive can be found here.

Siemon's Flatinternational site lists a further album, and also some background information.

Download here

Monday 2 May 2016

African Music Show #2: West & Central Africa (1984)

Here we go with Tony Hunter's second African Music Show broadcast on 3RRR radio in May 1984, with a two-hour sampler of Zairean (Congo Kinshasa), Ghanaian,  Nigerian and other classics from the 1980s and earlier. In addition to talking about the country's and their music scenes, Tony mixes it up, dropping in  James Brown to then mix into Fela Kuti, You will also encounter Franco, King Sunny Ade, Eric Ageyman, Prince Nico Mbarga, Manu Dibango, Benny More, and Tabu Ley.

You can read here  how Tony Hunter landed up teaching, travelling and collecting records in Africa in the first part of the 1980s. 

Tony picks up his story :
click here to go to radio station
There wasn't much Congolese or West African music in Zimbabwe when I lived there and I wasn't very familiar with the genres before arriving. But I did pick up a copy of a Franco album with a song that absolutely captivated me - Princess Kiku. The slow build up of the vocals ,the brass , the glorious seben.  I was hooked and from then on Kinshasa was on the list. 2 other album were Fela live with featuring ginger Baker on drums and the classic Black President.

So when my friend Jan and I finished our teaching contracts we travelled overland via trains busses and ferries intended to take in as much music as we could. Zambia, Rwanda, Burundi ( not much music in those 2 places pre the genocide, very sombre) then onto Mobutu's Zaire. We stayed at an acquaintance's apartment and took in the chaos of Kinshasa. Of course, music abounds but there were 2 highlights. Strolling downtown past the Town Hall I saw a concert was advertised and all these well-heeled families since kids were pouring in. So in I went ,and it was Mpongo Love who was good but the highlight was some youngsters, sapeurs...spats and everything. They were hot ,faster and straight into the seben, in other words soukous. They had  a charismatic young singer who I thought may have been Papa Wemba but so many years later, I am not sure who they were - but they were bloody good.

Congolese sapeur
Objective #1 was Une Deux Trois club to see Franco. Glamorous people alighted from Mercedes and BMWs as the evening went on but alas , we were advised that Franco was in Belgium with his other band. Quelle domage! But all was not lost, his Kinshasa-based band led by Josky Kiambakuta was on and these 18 or so musicians were superb. I'm not exaggerating to say the music never stopped all night. Musicians would just take a rest and others would step up. After dancing til 4 am under blue neon lights  in a palm-lined we left with the music still going.

Cameroon was a hard place to find music so we headed to Nigeria via northern Cameroon -an area these days inhabited by Boko Haram. Catching a lift into Maidiguri , the vehicle travelling at very high speed on a freeway lined with wrecks and Fela blaring out. I believe that you best appreciate a style of music when you hear it in its native environment and Afro Beat sure is Nigerian. Similarly sitting under a tree in sipping a coke with a caravan of camels crossing a bridge across the Niger is a pretty good time to first here a kora being played live. 

We had Ghana  and Senegal earmarked too but after trekking through Chad and Upper Volta  I ran out of puff in Cote D'Ivoire literally due to bronchitis so we flew to the Canary Islands and Morocco for some R and R.

I still look at Ghana and Senegal on the  map and think you aren't crossed off yet.

Mediafire download:
Tape 1 here
Tape 2 here