Zaire ’74 Live!

I wish I was of party-going age in 1974. That was the year of the famed Ali–Foreman “Rumble in the Jungle” fight in Kinshasa. In anticipation of the fight, a mega-concert was held in the city featuring musicians from the US and Africa, mostly from the Congo.

I saw snippets of the concert in two documentaries: When We Were Kings (about the fight) and Soul Power (about the American musicians, mostly). If you’re anything like me, you would have been eager to see extended clips of OK Jazz and others.

I’m hoping that that film is in the works, but in the meantime, the live recordings are now available in the recently released album, “Zaire ’74: The African Artists.” Among the musicians featured are OK Jazz and Tabu Ley’s Afrisa, featured previously on Cavacha Express!, as well as Congolese female singer Abeti. Visit the Archives of African American Music and Culture’s Black Grooves blog to learn more and listen to tracks!

Post …

Friends,

It’s been a long time. As I continue to finalize my novel, I haven’t been able to focus on CAVACHA EXPRESS! On top of it, life has felt like a cataclysm during these post-election days in my country.

Rest assured that Congolese music is always in my heart, mind, and ears. And my hope as of now is to start producing monthly shows again in January.

For now, I’m ecstatic to share with you the video clip below. On Episode 2: Yaka Tobina/Let’s Dance, I mentioned wanting to see the 1960s Kiri Kiri dance in action, and today I got my wish!

This SO brightened my day and momentarily took away my post-election blues, and I hope it lifts your spirits too.

In the meantime, if you’ve enjoyed the radio show and blog, feel free to drop me a line and say hello or mbote! I love hearing from all of you out there around the globe who have a soft spot for this music.

xoxoxo,

kimi

Liner Notes: Episode 13: Something about Mady

Aired live April 27, 2016, and available here online

When I browse through my collection of Congolese music, I see that many individuals—real or otherwise—have inspired songs and their titles. Two of the most famous are probably OK Jazz’s Mario, and in the more recent years, Awilo Longomba’s Karolina.

There was also Kikam, Gaby, Doris, and Isabelle. Mimi, Lina, and Sandralina. Youyou, Sarah, and Samantha. The list goes on and on, including the anonymous Mama, Papa, and Chéri(e).

bimi

Bimi Ombale, who sang to Sandralina, Madi, and more

But one muse reigns supreme in my collection, and her name is Madeleine. Only, she tends to go by Mady/Madi, Madia, or Mado. If you’ve been following Congolese music recently, this last name should be very familiar to you.

Fabregas le Métis Noir and crew doing the Ya Mado dance

And speaking of contemporary Congolese music, just this weekend, superstar and “king of Congolese rumba,” Papa Wemba, passed away. I don’t believe he ever recorded a song about Madeleine, but his influence on Congolese popular music, dance, and culture stretches to the present day, including probably the latest song about Madeleine.

The title of tonight’s episode, “Something about Mady,” references the ‘90s movie, There’s Something about Mary, where several men compete for the attention of you-can-guess-who. I’m not sure why so many Congolese singers devoted songs to Mady. Perhaps it’s just a popular name in the Congo. Or perhaps gals named Mady have a way of making themselves popular. In fact, I’ve already played two songs dedicated to Mado, on the first episode: one by African Jazz and another by OK Jazz.

dizzy

Dizzy Mandjèkou

First up is “Mady Motema” by Dizzy Mandjèkou, who delivers some sweet lyrics in both French and Lingala. Ma belle rose, zalaka sincère; noki nakoboma nzoto—my beautiful rose, be sincere with me, or I’m gonna off myself, Mady.


Next we have another singer whose voice I adore, Nyboma Mwandido. I might be cheating with this song because the title is “Madiana,” and I’m not sure if that’s a nickname for Madeleine. But the shoe almost fits and I love the song. Reviennes-moi; zongisa motema sima—come back to me; give my heart back, Madiana.

tabu ley

Tabu Ley, who sang to Sarah, Hortense, Madia, and more

In last month’s episode I joked about how I tend not to understand Tabu Ley’s poetic lyrics, but this song I do understand [“Madia”] and it’s one of my favorites by him. Naloba te; nakotala se yo—I won’t even have to speak; I’ll just look at you, Madia.

For more of Kimi’s attempts at translating French and Lingala lyrics in this episode, listen here online.

Episode 13 Tracks:
Mady Motema – Dizzy Mandjèkou
Madi – Bimi Ombale
Madiana – Nyboma & Kamalé Dynamique
Mado Ya Sango – OK Jazz
Mado – Les Grands Maquisards
Madia – Tabu Ley
Mascara (“Ya Mado”) – Fabregas Le Métis Noir

Liner Notes: Episode 12: Masters of Smooth

Aired live March 30, 2016, and available here online

Tonight I was in the mood for sharing some of the smoothest Congolese songs in my collection. As I curated the playlist, I discovered something fascinating: many of these songs are about good love.

I’ve mentioned before that the Congolese songs I’m able to translate have depressing lyrics, despite the uplifting beat. A Congolese friend of mine challenged this, telling me that he knows plenty of songs that aren’t about the blues. As I assembled tonight’s playlist, I realized he might be right.

I also realized that these “good-lovin-feeling” songs have a few things in common. Now, mind you, the statements I’m about to make are in no way statistically significant, but I do believe I’m onto something.

With a voice like butter, Pamelo Mounk’a does not need a plane to propel him!

For one, I noticed that the musicians tend to be from Congo-Brazzaville, and that French—as opposed to Lingala—is the go-to language. Here are a few other patterns I noticed, along with possible reasons why songs like these are largely absent from my collection:

1. They’re ballads. I don’t really care for ballads sung in languages besides English. I find them too sappy. And since yours truly has been in a sort of romance desert for way too long, mushy love lyrics tend to give me more motema pasi than kizungu-zungu. The songs tonight are an exception because of the singers’ svelte voices and the rhythms like an island breeze.

2. They’re slow. I like fast. It helps shake off the blues.

3. They’re sung by Tabu Ley Rochereau, king of Congolese crooners and probably the Congo’s most beloved singer. He reportedly produced thousands of songs during his career. I have less than 50.

kimi's favorite Tabu Ley album (so far!)

kimi’s favorite Tabu Ley album (so far!)

So, with these criteria in mind, I couldn’t put my favorite band, OK Jazz, on tonight’s list because most of the songs I adore by them are about absolute misery. But as I’ve mentioned time and again, OK Jazz had far reaches, and one of the first singers I thought to include tonight was practically the face of OK Jazz in its later years: Madilu Système.

Madilu, king of smooth

He’s the man in the white suit on tonight’s flyer. The only thing missing from that picture is the rose between his teeth. And with a voice like his, you don’t even notice the cheese—well, yes, I know that even his socks are white, and they look to be silk, but still!

First up is one of my favorites by him, “Si Je Savais Ça” (“had I only known”). It actually deviates from my theory because it’s about a wistful reflection on a relationship, but you might not realize that from the sweet-sounding sebene at the end.

Next up is one of the few songs I adore by Tabu Ley Rochereau. Congolese people are aghast upon learning that he’s not one of my favorites, but then they tend to rave about his poetic language. Unfortunately, my Lingala is too limited as of now for me to appreciate it. For example, why is this next song called turtle heart?? “Nzenze Motema” by Tabu Ley.

Kongo Retro Band: paying homage to old-school smooth

Next up is Kongo Retro Band 83, who made a killer album, Escale à Brazza (“Stop in Brazzaville”), presumably in 1983. I stumbled across it recently and fell in love with their harmonies, which are reminiscent of Josky Kiambukuta and Ntesa Dalienst. This next song, “Air Fluvial,” is a tribute to San Salvador, a 1950s group formed by singers Adou Elenga, Léon Bukasa, and Manuel D’Oliveira—who I profiled on my last episode—and Georges Edouard.

I leave you with another band I also discovered recently, Orchestre Telé-Music. Like Kongo Retro Band, no one seems to know much about them. If anybody out there has information on either of these bands, drop me a line!!

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

Episode 12 Tracks:
Si Je Savais Ça – Madilu Système
Amour Quand tu me Prends – Pamelo Mounk’a
Nzenze Motema – Tabu Ley Rochereau
Kizungu-zungu – Papa Noël
Air Fluvial – Kong Retro Band 83
Foya d’Ambiance – Orchestre Telé-Music

March 30: Smooth Congolese Grooves

Episode 12 of CAVACHA EXPRESS! will feature some of the most heartfelt crooning in kimi’s collection of Congolese music. Get ready to fall in love to the voices of Madilu System (pictured), Pamelo Mounk’a, and more!

Create a FREE account here to listen LIVE on Wednesday, March 30, 2016, 8:00 PM – 9:00 PM EST (New York City time zone).

Missed a previous episode? Listen HERE on YouTube!

Later,

Kimi K.

Liner Notes: Episode 11: The 50s

Aired live February 24, 2016, and available here online

Tonight I’m taking us way back to the 1950s and even the 40s—the earliest days of recorded Congolese popular music. It’s quite different from most of what I’ve played so far. Back then, musicians were still closely imitating Cuban music, and some songs were even sung in Spanish. The songs are also quite short—most under four minutes. And, unlike my favorite tunes from the 70s, there are many songs about love as opposed to lamentations.

Congolese partygoers in the 50s, captured by photographer Jean Depara

Congolese partygoers in the 50s at the Oui Fifi, captured by photographer Jean Depara

A plethora of recordings exist from the 50s, and I own very few because I prefer the music styles that evolved later. If you’ve listened to my earlier episodes, you’ll know that OK Jazz is my favorite band, and I don’t even like many of their songs from that time. But recently, I found a compilation of 50s music, and four musicians kept grabbing my ears: Léon Bukasa, Camille Feruzi, Manuel D’Oliveira, and Adou Elenga.

Coincidentally, I next found a song from the 80s that memorializes all of these men, in addition to Wendo Kolosoy. If you’re a fan of Wendo, you won’t hear his music tonight because it’s not really my flavor, but I had to mention him because of his significance to the history of Congolese popular music.

He was one of the first superstars, such that this whole era of music I’m showcasing tonight became known as tango ya ba Wendo—“Wendo’s time.” And you can hear this referenced in songs even into recent times. Which is incredible, considering that at Wendo’s peak of stardom, he stopped performing in response to the Mobutu-led coup, which occurred just weeks after the country’s independence from Belgium in 1960. And he didn’t perform again until the 90s, after Mobutu was finally ousted.

The dapper men of African Jazz

The dapper men of African Jazz

As you listen to the songs tonight, keep in mind that in the 1940s and 50s, both Congos were under colonial domination: by France to the north and by Belgium to the south. And on the eve of independence for both countries, their popular music scene was already going strong, with band lineups constantly changing. In fact, most of the musicians you’ll hear tonight performed with each other at some point, including in OK Jazz.

First up is a song that I fell in love with the first time I listened to it, a few years ago. It’s one of my favorites by far from the 50s. The mighty Joseph Kabasele with “Parafifi.”

So there you heard the suave voice of Kabasele, also known as Grand Kalle. And along with it, the lovely guitar work of Nico Kassanda, who was only thirteen years old. The title he later chose for himself—docteur (doctor)—is much deserved. Next up is a song by African Jazz, the band Kabasele and Nico later formed. And the song is “Lea.”

A very young Dr. Nico working his guitar

A very young Dr. Nico working his guitar


Next up is Camille Feruzi, known for his use of the accordion. When I first heard this song, a line in particular jumped out and got a chuckle out of me: “Okoki kozua mobali lokola ngai te.” If you don’t speak Lingala, you’ll hear the meaning after this song, “Lingale.”

So, what did he say? To borrow from Lou Rawls—you’ll never find… Yes, he declares to Lingale that she won’t find another man like him! And moving right along, of course I can’t seem to make an episode without including OK Jazz, so they’re next! Franco and the fellas actually got their start in the 50s, so it’s only appropriate. OK Jazz with “Mabe Nde Kolimwa.”

Léon Bukasa, kimi's latest favorite singer from the 50s

Léon Bukasa, kimi’s latest favorite singer from the 50s

Next up are a two songs by Adou Elenga. When I listened to his “Tebo” for the first time, I couldn’t help but wonder if it was the inspiration for Sam Mangwana’s “Maria Tebbo,” which I played on Episode 3, and lo and behold, it was! Following that will be “Ata Ndele,” which was banned by the Belgian colonial authorities. They probably felt threatened by what it seemed to imply—to borrow from Sam Cooke: a change gon’ come.

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

Episode 11 Tracks:

Parafifi – Joseph Kabasele
Lea – African Jazz
Coco – Tino Baroza
Lingale – Camille Feruzi
Mabe Nde Kolimwa – OK Jazz
Merengue – OK Jazz
Tebo – Adou Elenga
Ata Ndele – Adou Elenga
Basi Banso Tapale – Manuel D’Oliveira
Mama Aboti Biso – Manuel D’Oliveira
Elongi ya Cherie – Manuel D’Oliveira
Kenga Mwangandu – Léon Bukasa
Mantare Mwasi Kitoko – Léon Bukasa
Bolingo Na Biso Na Yo Esila Te – Léon Bukasa

Going Way, Way Back to the 50s on February 24

show flyerEpisode 11 of CAVACHA EXPRESS! will feature some catchy Congolese rumba from the 1950s. Get ready for a joyride even further back in time!

Create a FREE account here to listen LIVE on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2016, 8:00 PM – 9:00 PM EST (New York City time zone).

Missed a previous episode? Listen HERE on YouTube!

Later,

Kimi K.

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”

Greetings from Matongé, Bruxelles

I am on vacation in Belgium but will be back in a few weeks with some more Congolese music classics!

And of course, I had to visit the Matongé section of Brussels and soak up some Congolese flavor and food (moamba!) and Lingala…

xoxo,
Kimi

Cheri Samba welcoming us to MatongCheri Samba welcoming us to Matongé

Cheri Samba welcoming us to Matongé

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