Liner Notes: Episode 10: Cavacha Classics

Aired live Jan. 27, 2016, and available here online

The show is back! Now airing the last Wednesday of the month.

Well, it’s been a long time, eh? I didn’t think it would be this long, but I’m back now, with a show that’s a bit shorter and going live only once a month, on the last Wednesday. And I’d like to thank all my supporters near and far for their encouragement to keep this show going.

The main thing that’s been competing with my time is a novel I’ve been writing. This summer I had an amazing writing retreat in Belgium, and I was excited to hang out with some Congolese folks for a weekend in Brussels. But my transition back to New York City, after the green and peaceful countryside of East Flanders, was a bit rough, bandeko.

Congolese music, however, has always been in my heart, in my mind, and in my ears. Since you last heard my voice, I’ve added 150 songs to my collection, including some gems from the 50s, coming up on February’s show. And I was astounded to discover recently that Le Grand Maître Franco Luambo Makiadi set foot in a record store just walking distance from my apartment! More to come on that later.

Yanga-Yanga: cavacha masters. Just seeing this album cover brings me joy!

And as much as I love Franco and OK Jazz, they’re not in my playlist tonight. You see, I realized that despite the name of this show, I haven’t played much cavacha. OK Jazz didn’t do cavacha; they were already old school when it appeared on the scene with the youth bands of the 60s and 70s. Cavacha is a bit faster, a bit wilder than what OK Jazz plays. The guitar melodies that overlay that infectious clave-like beat get me high every time.

But here’s something important to note: if you don’t like the beginning of these songs tonight, just be patient. When you can anticipate that hip-shaking sebene—the second half of the song—it’s the best thing ever.

zaire ghana

Zaïko’s “Zaïre Ghana” album, which features some amazing cavacha.

The songs I’ve chosen for tonight’s episode have more than just cavacha in common. All of the bands also have double names, some of which were song titles of the band they emerged from! Most, if not all, of the bands tonight were recorded by the mega-producer Verckys Kiamuangana. More to come on him in a later episode too.

First up is Zaïko Langa Langa (and no, I didn’t stutter). I’m opening with them because they supposedly invented the cavacha beat. Zaïko from their amazing “Zaïre-Ghana” album with “Zaïko Wa Wa.”

And now we have Orchestre Bella-Bella, one of my favorite groups from this period. It was hard to pick a song for this episode because I love so many by them. Tonight I present to you “Yakani,” which has some very hypnotic call-and-response at the middle.

Bella-Bella

This Bella-Bella album, full of cavacha beats, is AWESOME!!!!


Next up is another of my favorite bands: Orchestre Lipua Lipua, which featured the amazing Nyboma and Pepe Kalle, both of whom came from Bella Bella. Not so surprising, since Bella Bella had a song called “Lipua Lipua.” Here is the group, Lipua Lipua, with “Niki Bwe.”

Next up is a group that no one seems to know much about. They apparently had only one album, and it’s a killer. The group is Orchestre Yanga-Yanga, and the song is “Yoka Olito,” about a dude who needs to take his mama’s advice.

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

Episode 10 Tracks:

Zaïko Wa Wa – Zaïko Langa Langa
Pamaphi – Orchestre Shama-Shama
Yakani – Orchestre Bella-Bella
Niki Bwe – Orchestre Lipua Lipua
Yoka Olito – Orchestre Yanga-Yanga
Pele Odija – Mose Se Sengo “Fan Fan”

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