Aired live March 25, 2015 and available here online
Tonight I’m focusing on yet another of my favorite voices in Congolese music: that of Ntesa Dalienst. He built his career with my favorite band, OK Jazz, but before that, he helped launch the group Les Maquisards, which Sam Mangwana was also affiliated with.
So, why do I love this man’s voice so much? Like Sam Mangwana and Josky Kiambukuta, who I profiled on the last two episodes, Ntesa’s voice is distinctive and memorable, but unlike those other two, it’s high-pitched.
I mentioned in an earlier episode that men with high-pitched voices in Congolese music sometimes sing from a woman’s perspective. This gender-bending is much appreciated by me, considering I’m a soprano who loves to sing along, and considering that women are practically nonexistent in this music scene (you might have noticed that none of my episodes so far has featured a female vocalist).
In the 70s and 80s, there were a few female stars—notably M’bilia Bel, M’pongo Love, and Abeti—but as much as I’m an advocate for women’s rights, I much prefer the gentlemen of Congolese music.
And gentleman Ntesa Dalienst seems to have been, at least from his musician’s persona. He penned the anthem to women, “Bina na Ngai na Respect” (dance with me respectfully), which I played on Episode 2. And photos of him show a very tall man who is always smiling. If this isn’t enough to endear him to you, hopefully the sweetness of his voice will.
Tonight I begin with the song that introduced me to Ntesa, from his time with Les Grands Maquisards. I loved it so much that it was one of the first songs I learned to sing verbatim in Lingala: “Jaria,” a plea of love to a young lady whose mama and tata don’t quite approve, unlike her Auntie Celia.
Next up is another one by Les Grands Maquisards, “Biki,” a plea for marriage. I’m not sure what Ntesa is saying at the end because it’s not Lingala, but whatever it is, it makes him cry. I believe this is the only song in my collection that drives a singer to tears, by the way. Oh, mawa!
And finally, I’ll end with one of Ntesa’s big hits with OK Jazz, where he sings from a man’s perspective about a woman named Mouzi, who makes him feel, he says, as though a tick has entered his heart.
So now I hope you understand why Ntesa’s voice has entered my own heart. But unfortunately, this man is no longer with us! If they ever figure out time travel, you can bet that I’ll be headed to some nightclub in the Congo, circa 1975.
In the meantime, Ntesa lives on through the voice of his daughter, Christelle Ntesa Love, who is following in her father’s footsteps with her own version of “Bina na Ngai na Respect”!!
For more fun facts about the other songs in this episode, listen here online.
Episode 5 Tracks:
Jaria – Les Grands Maquisards
Biki – Les Grands Maquisards
Maria Mboka – Les Grands Maquisards
Tala Ye na Miso – OK Jazz
Mobali Malamu – OK Jazz
Mouzi (Liyanzi Ekoti Ngai na Motema) – OK Jazz