Aired live Feb. 18, 2015 and available here online
I promised to share songs from one of my absolute all-time favorite singers in Congolese music, and this time, I didn’t lie. The man’s name is Sam Mangwana, and I think he’s remarkable for so many reasons. First, his voice is amazing, if you didn’t know already. Second, he sings in not only my beloved Lingala, but French, Portuguese, Kikongo, Swahili, Spanish, and English—and maybe more. Third and most important, especially for all of you out there (you know who you are!) who refuse to be converted to the wonders of Congolese music:
Sam is the man who made me do it!
When I meet Congolese people, or basically ANYone for that matter, they always ask me how I—an African American with no immediate ancestry from the Congo—fell in love with this music, so much so that I decided to teach myself Lingala.
Let me tell you: it was 15 years ago. I was in Washington, DC, and walked into a shop selling novelties from around the world. The music floating above my head had a tropical melody that made me start dancing, and then the singer’s voice blew me away. I never forgot his name.
A few years later, I came across one of those Rough Guide music CDs. The only thing I cared about was Sam Mangwana’s name on the first track. I didn’t know anything about this Franco dude, or this Pepe Kalle character, or Zaïko Langa Langa. And from track one, I was hooked.
That song, dear friends, was “Coopération,” a collaboration between Sam Mangwana and my now beloved Franco. And I’m giving you a special treat. That Rough Guide CD cut off two minutes of the song. In my previous episodes, I mentioned how Congolese songs from the late 60s through the early 80s were really long, so it’s understandable that the full version wouldn’t fit onto a compilation CD. But what a difference two minutes makes when you already can’t get enough.
Warning!! If you’re any bit hesitant about going all the way with Congolese music, there might be no turning back from here.
There’s a video of the band performing this song [“Toyeba Yo,” by OK Jazz] on YouTube, where you can see their very tight and very Cuban-inspired outfits. Speaking of Cuban, you can hear a strong influence in this next song, created when Sam was a member of the band, Festival des Maquisards, in his earlier years. Sam sang with so many groups, in addition to making several solo albums, that he became known as the voyager pigeon of Congolese music. This next song is called “Charanga Adaptation.”
And now we’re switching back to the Putumayo album and to the language of Lingala. This was I believe Sam’s third to last album. Sam is still living, unlike most of my favorite musicians from the Congo, but I’ve never had the chance to see him perform live. I’m waiting for a new album, or a performance—please, Sam, if you’re listening…
For more tidbits about Sam Mangwana and the other songs in this episode, listen here online.
Episode 3 Tracks:
Coopération – OK Jazz
Toyeba Yo – OK Jazz
Charanga Adaptation – Orchestre Festival des Maquisards (Sam & Guvano)
Mabele – OK Jazz
Galo Negro – Sam Mangwana
Ata Bassali Nakozonga – African All Stars
Adama Coly – Les Quatre Étoiles
Ya Mbemba – Sam Mangwana
Vamos Para o Campo – Sam Mangwana
Manjani – Sam Mangwana
Maria Tebbo – Sam Mangwana