Close to this time last year, November 30, 2013, the music world lost the great Tabu Ley Rochereau —leader and singer for his band Orchestre L’International Afrisa. I wish I could boast that I owned a great number of his records, but the man produced so much music over his career I doubt I will ever come close. Just days before he passed I happened to be doing a little “Black Friday” record shopping and came across an original two volume set of LPs from 1960s that highlighted his amazing Cuban influenced songs and features Dr. Nico on guitar before his departure to form his own group. I really can’t express enough how much I love this music. Just listen…
Tabu Ley Rochereau et Orchestre L’International Afrisa – Arsene Dionge
While in France a couple months ago I made sure to pick up more his records, specifically his material from the 70s when he branched out from Congolese Rumba and Cuban songs to produce more Soul influenced music. Here’s a wonderful example from 1973 that highlights the brilliance of Tabu Ley by his ability to lyrically construct a song using only 1 word — Sambuluma.
Hosts Arjuna (dj smokestack), Jacobo (dj pozole), Federico (dj papicultor), and May-Li (dj china tu madre) welcome special guest Daniel French from one of the hottest bands from East LA Las Cafeteras to La Sala. Our vinyl journey begins with classic sounds from Egypt then continues onto Tanzania, Zaire and Colombia before returning to California to connect the old with the new.
Please excuse our recent absence from this space. We’ve been doing some remodeling and maintenance, but we’re back now! We’re still very excited to continue sharing more music and culture. In fact, last week we got together and recorded our very first Pelangacast live from our LP clubhouse! The concept is not to have the typical radio “programmed show,” but instead to invite you into our cozy wall-to-wall collection of culture on vinyl as we share stories and discoveries from our musical addictions.
Below is our first episode with more to come soon. Have a listen, and let us know what you think.
Advice – I. C. Rock
Ce La Vie – Les Difficiles De Pétion-Ville
Ah Ah Oh No – La Protesta (ft. Joe Arroyo)
El Preso – Louis Towers [NOTE: This unlabeled record was in a Grupo Kuwait sleeve, but it’s actually Louis Towers]
(Where Were You) Last Night – Sumy
Banana Juana – Ralph Robles
Guami Guami – Sir Victor Uwaifo and his Melody Maestros
…with Franco and L’Orchestra TP OK Jazz! I mean no offence to Zumba enthusiasts out there, but with Franco’s hypnotic guitar playing and trademark Congolese Rumba, why workout to anything else? Here’s a 9 minute groove that’s guaranteed to get your whole body loose!
Once upon a time I couldn’t be bothered with compilations. Why not go straight to the source, I thought. Well, that shortsightedness eventually gave way as I found myself listening to large dosages of Ethiopian Jazz around 2003. With no plans to go record digging in East Africa and being too poor (and uninterested) in shelling out $100 plus for a single piece of vinyl on Ebay, the Ethiopiques series was my next best option!
Since then my eyes have opened to the ever-increasing number of compilations that are released each year, documenting even the smallest of musical niches, say like…cinematic Pakistani Psych-Pop or Peruvian Psych-Rock. Who knew such genres even existed?!
While finding original vinyl pressings remains hard to trump, over the years my appreciation for carefully crafted compilations has continued to grow. Just within the wild resurgence of West African music in recent years, labels like Sound Way, Strut, and Analog Africa have dedicated countless time to researching, locating, remastering, and releasing lost and forgotten music from a large part of the African continent. My favorite of these comps are chalked full of incredible artwork, photos, history and interviews with the original recording artists!
While earlier compilations of African music that came out during the 1980’s “World Music” awakening may not compare to the sleek packaging and dense liner notes of today’s comps, the musical content is often just as deep. Check out for example, The Sound of Kinshasa, an early 80’s compilation highlighting the influence of acoustic “Spanish” guitar and Latin rhythms on traditional Congolese music. Compiled and released by the British-born ethnomusicologist John Storm Roberts on his own mail-order label Original Music, The Sound of Kinshasa does an excellent job exemplifying the connections between Latin dance music such as rumba, chachacha, and salsa with Congolese rhythms like kirikiri, soukous, and boucher.
Featured here are 4 of my favorite selections from The Sound Of Kinshasa. Enjoy!
Sometimes I think that Joe Arroyo’s crazy versatility is one reason why he was not even more famous outside of Colombia. He was a massive salsero, but he was so much more than that! Hardcore salseros often like their music a bit more predictable. You never know where El Joe is gonna take you, or how you’re supposed to dance there. (But that won’t stop you – who else can get a bunch of stiff bogotanos to dance mapalé?)
I was thinking about this, and I remembered the stories of the Festival del Caribe in Cartagena in the early 90s where Joe Arroyo got onstage, completely unrehearsed, to trade verses with Haiti’s Rara Machine, Zaire’s Loketo, and a group from Cuba (forget which) one after the other. We thought we were pretty original when we started La Pelanga 3 years ago, to bring all these musics to the same space. But this man beat us by about 15 years! Well, we can still try our best.
Here’s Sheila Degraff with Clifford Sylvain from Rara Machine. (Short attention span? Your patience will be rewarded.)
And Loketo! Superstars of “TGV soukous” (the branch of soukous named after the French high-speed rail system), huge Pelanga favorites, and the only band I know to feature a car-honking solo:
In the comments of Papicultor’s excellent previous post of Ogyatanna Show Band he requested another 10 min African burner. Well this is about hot as they come. The one and only Lita Bembo et L’Orchestre Stukas Mombombo. Known in the 70s as just Orchestre Stukas, they started out in Kinshasa, Zaire as a pure James Brown cover band. Unlike their famous contemporaries Zaïko Lang Langa and O.K. Jazz who played in the downtown clubs they took to the strategy of playing in the outskirt rural areas for those who couldn’t afford to see the big acts in the city. This proved wise as they gained a big following to the point that the government actually had them performing daily on TV as a way to keep kids off the streets. Their popularity even gained them a spot at the legendary 3 day concert event — Zaire 74 (the famous concert that coincided with the Muhammad Ali – George Forman fight “Rumble in the Jungle”, which featured: Miram Makeba, The Fania All-Stars, BB King, Tabu Ley Rochereau, Bill Withers and James Brown.)
I’m not even sure where to begin to describe this song Dina.
If you close your eyes while listening you’ll likely have some strong visions like being in a cramped humid Kinshasa cinder block walled club, or perhaps some alternate world filled inter-galactic travelers who offer you a draw off their colorful hookah pipe. Whatever it is, if you’re anything like us pelangueros by half way through the song you’ll have all your furniture pushed out of the way, the volume up twice as high and be dancing wildly all over the place. Adjoa, I hope you like this one too. Enjoy!
And here they are performing “Mombomo Dominé” from one of their many TV performances. These guys are just nuts!