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!
The Grupo Folklorico y Experimental Nuevayorquino made only two records–Concepts in Unity (1975) and Lo Dice Todo (1976) –but both are classics of the 1970’s New York salsa scene. The recordings came out of jam sessions held in Andy and Jerry Gonzalez’s basement in the Bronx (I’m imagining the Latin version of Minton’s Playhouse), and they have that spirit to them: open, loose, with a lot of space for supremely talented musicians to do their thing.
I found Lo dice todo a few months ago, and have been listening to it over and over ever since. It was hard to pick out a track to post, but I finally settled on the rumba version of the old bolero “Se me olvidó”. It’s the one I just can’t shake. The opening is so spare, so melancholy, and I love how Virgilio Martí’s voice just glides over, under, and around Alfredo de la Fe‘s violin. And then it just builds and builds.
Apparently, I’m not the only one obsessed with this song. It’s just one of those that gets under your skin, which is why so many artists have tried their hand at it. I did a quick search and found plenty of covers, some better, some worse: Manu Chao, Bebo y Cigala, Roberto Ledesma, or this mariachi version by Francisco Lara from a Mexican telenovela I hope never to see (tequila shots taken with a scowl only add to the atmspherics.)
Se Me Olvidó
Another banger from Lo dice todo is Au Meu Lugar Voltar, an intriguing mix of salsa and samba rhythms, composed by Brazilian trombonist Jose Rodriguez, and featuring Ubatan do Nascimento on vocals. Nice.
Au Meu Lugar Voltar
FYI: Souljazz Records put out a collection called Nu Yorica! a few years back, featuring “Anabacoa”, a track from Concepts in Unity, and both of the Grupo’s albums are now available on CD. But the best news of all is that they’re performing again, so keep an eye out.