As promised, I am beginning to upload edited transcripts of the show, beginning here with the premier episode. Enjoy!
Aired live Jan. 28, 2015, and available here online
I’m so excited to share with you some of my favorite music from the Congo, but before I begin, I’d like to give a shout out to Jo de Presser, an amazing house music DJ from Chicago and a super-awesome human being. Jo de, as he’s known, invited me to join Jam Sessions and create this show, so thank you Jo de!!
Some of you might have no clue what Congolese music is, so let me give you a quick rundown. First of all, there are two countries in Africa with the name Congo in their titles: the Republic of the Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, formerly known as Zaire. I’ll be playing popular music from both.
Recorded popular music in the two Congos goes all the way back to the 1940s, when they were influenced by Cuban music called son, which is like rumba. Congolese musicians are still going strong today. That’s about 70 years of recorded music—a lot of music, y’all!
My favorite Congolese songs and bands were active in the late sixties through the eighties. Cavacha, which I chose as the title of this show, is a drumbeat that was said to be created by Meridjo, a drummer from the mega group and one of my favorites, Zaïko Langa Langa. In my opinion, it’s based on the clave beat that’s a staple of Afro-Cuban music.
Congolese songs from this period tend to be long, around 10 minutes on average, such as the one I’m about to play. So I encourage you NOT to sit back and relax but get up and get ready to dance!
As you might have noticed, this song [“Pacha Labaran” by Zaïko Langa Langa] has three parts, which is typical of the songs from the period I like. They begin with a slow ballad, which transitions to a mid-tempo rhythm and then to the final fast rhythm, called the sebene.
Some of these songs have a pause in the middle, because they were originally recorded on 45 records and were too long to fit on one side! The last part, the sebene, fit on side B of the 45. Side B, which became popular in Europe because it was upbeat and short enough for radio play, evolved into soukous, which you might have heard of.
Interesting fact: most of the Congolese songs I have in my collection of about 1,300 (and growing!) are sad love songs, but at the end, during the sebene, it sounds like the band is having a party. The same would be true of this next song: “Mombassa” by Lipua Lipua. Led by Nyboma Mwandido, whose voice I absolutely love, it’s apparently based on a true story: Nyboma had a girlfriend named Lola, who he discovered also had a few other boyfriends. Oh, Lola…
For more juicy details about other songs in this episode, listen here online.
Episode 1 Tracks:
Pacha Labaran – Zaïko Langa Langa
Mombassa – Nyboma/Lipua Lipua
Libanga na Libumu – Bavon Marie Marie & Négro Succés
Mea Culpa – Orchestre Bella Bella
Mea Culpa Tshama Pepe – Thu Zahina
Mado – African Jazz
Infidelité Mado – OK Jazz
AZDA – OK Jazz
UCB – Youlou Mabiala & Son Orchestre Kamikaze
Souvenir Masa – Zaïko Langa Langa