Liner Notes: Episode 9: Yo, Leki!

Aired live May 27, 2015, and available here online

This show is the last for the season but I’ll be back in August or September with music by Nyboma and Lipua Lipua, Orchestre Bella Bella, Shama Shama, Pepe Kalle, and more.

Tonight’s focus is ba leki or les petits frères (or little brothers, if you don’t speak Lingala or French). The title of the show, “Yo, Leki,” is simply “you, little brother,” and it comes from the infectious 90s song “Solola Bien” by Wenge Musica. My favorite part is this moment (not to mention the awesome ndombolo dancing and the chimp that’s like what the ?!@!).

Les petits frères of Wenge make us bouger bouger!

Les petits frères of Wenge make us bouger bouger!

It sounds so endearing, like advice from a big brother to his leki, until you realize he’s probably bashing musicians who splintered from his group.

This made me to think about real-life sibling rivalry in Congolese music, and, in a more positive light, the younger generation of musicians who borrowed from their older bros, so to speak.

When I started going to African dance parties many years ago, all I knew about Congolese music was the ndombolo style of Wenge and the like. So imagine my amazement when I played some oldies and discovered they’d been sampled! Especially for those of you who listen to Congolese music but have never heard anything before the 80s or 90s, this should be a special treat.

Bavon Marie Marie and his Negro Succès

Bavon Marie Marie and his Negro Succès: inspiration for the next generation of Congolese musicians

But first we’ll begin with the tragic tale of two brothers. Franco Luambo Makiadi and his band OK Jazz had been on the scene for a while when his petit frère, Bavon Marie Marie, started stealing the spotlight. First up is the song “Etabe ya Mofude” by Bavon and his band, Orchestre Negro Succès.

I started listening to Congolese oldies on a CD somebody gave me, and it had no track names. In those days, I thought Franco and his brother were the same person because their sound was so similar. I wonder if it was due to competition between them. In this next song, “Tonton” by OK Jazz, you can hear echoes of the song I just played.

Franco and the more established Tout Puissant OK Jazz

Franco and the more established Tout Puissant OK Jazz

Bavon Marie Marie, Congolese music's rising star, gone at 26

Congolese music’s rising star, extinguished at 26

The relationship between these brothers unfortunately went beyond playful rivalry. One night, they were arguing over a woman, as the story goes. Bavon, who’d had too much to drink, drove off with her, and his car crashed into a tree.

She lost both her legs. He lost his life. He was only 26 years old.

This next song by OK Jazz is a tribute: “En Mémoire de Bavon.”

In that song we heard the voice of Vicky Longomba. If you’re familiar with Congolese music of the latter years, this name might sound familiar to you. Vicky Longomba was the father of singer, dancer, and former drummer Awilo Longomba, who incidentally sampled many old Congolese songs, including this next one from the early 2000s, “Faux Dossier.”

Awilo Longomba, petit frère & king of samples!

Awilo Longomba, petit frère & king of samples!


Well, if danse makoloba [correction: makolo pente, as in “heavy footed”??] that he sings about that makes you bouger bouger was really a dance, Awilo didn’t invent it. Check this out: Negro Succès’s song, “Nelly na Place na Ngai.”

This next song from the 90s also sampled from [“Nelly na Place na Ngai”]. Just listen carefully to the rap they do near the end. The song is “Ma Chérie” by Nouvelle Génération de la République Démocratique.

And next I present to you what is probably OK Jazz’s most famous song. Incidentally it’s one I don’t like so much, but I’m showcasing it here because Awilo uses a very famous part: “Lelo makambo, lobi makambo. Biso tokosuka wapi-o?” (Today, problems. Tomorrow, problems. Where will it all end?). Of course, that song is “Mario,” featuring the svelte-voiced Madilu System.

For more fun facts about the other songs in this episode, listen here online.

Episode 9 Tracks:

Etabe ya Mofude – Bavon Marie Marie et Orchestre Negro Succès
Tonton – Franco et le Tout Puissant OK Jazz
Libanga na Libumu – Orchestre Negro Succès
Marie Naboyi – OK Jazz
Savon ya Sika Astra – Orchestre Negro Succès
Savon Reward Chez Marsavco – OK Jazz
En Mémoire de Bavon – OK Jazz
Faux Dossier – Awilo Longomba
Nelly na Place na Ngai – Orchestre Negro Succès
Ma Chérie – Nouvelle Génération de la République Démocratique
Ben Betito – Zaïko Langa Langa
Mario – OK Jazz
Gâter le Coin – Awilo Longomba

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2 thoughts on “Liner Notes: Episode 9: Yo, Leki!

  1. I have just come across your wonderful blog, as a fan of African music , this is great for me , and even better couse we seem to share the same enthusuasim for the great man’s music , Le grand Maitre Lwambo &his TP. ok Jazz. With all due respect, please allow me to make a small correction on your last post about Bavon’s death,Bavon did not ram his car onto a tree, the story is that after an arguement with his elder brother over suspicion that Franco had taken his gilfriend to a trip outside zaire(the band had actually just jetted back the same day)the lady in question,Lucy, left the hall and took a cab, Franco also left the hall to avoid further ugly scenes,Bavon ,quite angry by then , swung a blow at one of the musicians, Youlou,whom he was also acussing as having been Franco’s acompolice over the issue,and then he took off after the lady, Bavon chased the cab in his Renault which incidentally , was a gift from Franco,the cab driver on realising that the chase was becoming dangerous , stopped and dropped his passenger, Bavon immediately arrived and still angry,asked the lady to get into his car which she did, by then it was almost dark and drizzling abit, in the couse of arguement with the girl and the distraction and poor visibility, Bavon made a U turn on the road and rammed his car behind a stationary millitary truck which had broken down by the road side,he died on the spot and the lady survived but lost both legs.

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