The Light & Sound of Mogadishu

Posted May 20th, 2008 at 10:05 pm (UTC-4)
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Blue and White, the colors of the Somali flag, Blue and White, the colors of Mogadishu. This city, that over the last seventeen years has become a symbol of anarchy and suffering, was once one of East Africa’s most appealing capitals. Friends and colleagues who lived in Mogadishu in the early 1970s remember a city of whitewashed corral houses, with Arabic arches and elaborately carved rosettes, of Italian art-deco cafes and colonial administrative buildings, a city of tree shaded boulevards, and the cobalt blue of the Indian Ocean. They remember a city where young women in miniskirts strolled alongside older women in colorful and billowing Direh, where young dudes grew Afros and strutted, in bell bottoms, past groups of men in ma’awis kilts and white skullcaps. Today, living far from Mogadishu, these friends and colleagues feed their memories with a steady diet of thirty-year old recordings by their favorite poets and singers from ‘back home’.

These rich memories, and reveries, of the early 1970s are captured in this set of 45s on the ‘Light & Sound’ label from Mogadishu. The label was an offshoot of the successful ‘Light & Sound’ electronic appliance store located in the center of the city. The store, which shared a building with the famous ‘Cinema Hamar’ (which was the first enclosed movie theater in Mogadishu), and the label, were both owned by Dahir Omar. The recording studio was located in a back room off the main sales floor, and may have been the first private recording studio in Somalia (at the time most recordings were made in the studios of Radio Mogadishu or Radio Hargeysa). Today, both the store and the ‘Cinema Hamar’ are closed. I do not know how many singles were released on ‘Light & Sound’ (I have not yet been able to track down Dahir Omar, or anyone who worked at the store), but the 45s below represent some of Somalia’s most loved artists.

Although Somalis remain divided politically, and dispersed geographically, they generally agree that ‘Halima Khaliif Omar’, known as ‘Magool’, was the greatest singer of her generation. She was born on May 2, 1948 in the city of Beledweyne, the capital of the Hiraan region. In 1959, she made her professional musical debut with a Mogadishu-based group, and within the year had moved to Hargeysa (the capital of Somaliland) where she joined that city’s municipal orchestra. In the mid-1960s she returned to Mogadishu where she became one of the most popular singers in the Radio Mogadishu orchestra.

By the late 1970s, Magool was as known for her politically engaged songs as for her romantic repertoire, and by the early 1980s she was living in exile in the Middle East. In 1987, her triumphant return to Mogadishu was celebrated with a concert in the city’s stadium that drew over 15,000 people. Into the early 1990s, she continued to sing out against the depredations of the Siad Barre regime. She died, of breast cancer, on March 19, 2004 in a hospital in Amsterdam. Her fans still call her ‘Hooyadii Fanka’, or ‘the mother of Somali song’.

These two recordings are love songs (both songs are split between the A and B sides of the single). In ‘Wal’y Sita’ she sings, ‘I don’t know what I am doing. I don’t know where I am. Do I have to be patient? Should I sleep? I am waiting for you, what should I do?’

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    Magool ‘Wal’y Sita’

‘Shimbir Yohou’ is one of Magool’s most famous recordings from the 1970s. Addressing herself to a little bird, she sings, ‘where do you fly? Do you serve the people, or do you just follow the air streams? Can you take a message for me? I am lost and tired. Little bird can you find your way? If I tell you where to go, can you take a message for me?’

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    Magool ‘Shimbir -Yohou’

Hibbo Nuura, who today lives in Rochester, Minnesota, and has been performing for almost three decades, made some of her earliest recordings for the ‘Light & Sound’ label. Born in the Northeastern city of Boorama, she grew up in Mogadishu, and started singing at the age of 7. In 1970, when she was only 14 years old, the singer and composer Ahmed Rabsha discovered Hibbo, and three years later, he brought her to the ‘Light & Sound’ recording studio.

Ahmed Rabsha was born in Mogadishu in 1945, and started singing when he was only 13 years old. He made his public debut in 1963, performing at weddings and parties, and six years later formed his first group, ‘The Soul Full Five’. In 1970, he was hired as a music teacher at the Institute for Traditional Arts in Mogadishu. One of his first responsibilities was to recruit talented young female singers and teach them a new repertoire of patriotic songs (General Mohammed Siad Barre had taken power in 1969, and was just kicking off his ‘social revolution’). In 1974, Rabsha won a scholarship to study music in the Sudan, and by the end of the decade he had moved to Dubai, where he trained the Police Orchestra. He spent the last years of his life in London working on a history of Somali music. He passed away last fall.

This duo with Ahmed Rabsha, which was released back in 1973, was Hibbo’s second recording. She described this music to me as Somali Rumba.

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    Ahmed Rabsha & Hibbo ‘Bohol You’

These next four tracks are built on the deep-grooves of Ahmed Naaji and his great ‘Sharero Band’. The Naaji family is from the Benadir ethnic minority, who have roots in Yemen and the Persian Gulf, and who were some of Mogadishu’s earliest residents. In the early 1970s, Ahmed, who for many years was a member of the Radio Mogadishu orchestra, formed a band to perform a new style of Somali music; one that was inspired by Santana, The Doors, and James Brown.

His new group was originally called ‘Gemini’, but by the early 1970s it was going by the name ‘Sharero band’. The core of the group consisted of Ahmed on keyboards, Ali Naaji on bass guitar, Anter Naaji on drums, Said Abdallah on lead guitar, and Mohammed Abadallah ‘Jeeri’ on lead vocals. They performed most weekends at the Jazeera nightclub in southern Mogadishu, at the Juba nightclub in central Mogadishu, or at the Al-Curuba nightclub, located in the majestic Al-Curuba hotel. The group split up some time in the 1980s. Today, Ahmed Naaji lives in Yemen, and continues to perform throughout the Somali Diaspora, Ali Naaji lives in Denmark, and a new generation of Naajis is making music in Toronto.

Here is the Sharero Band backing Faadumo Qaasim, one of the most appreciated Benadiri singers. She sings, in the Hamari dialect of the Benadiri, ‘whoever God brings down to earth will see many surprising things. Who should I trust? Who should I lean on? My luck has turned sour. Who should I blame?’

This next single features the voice of Ahmed Abukar, a blind singer from a Benadiri family from Northern Mogadishu. This is my favorite single of the bunch.

This song is the first of a series of five recordings that tell the story of Abukar’s tragic, and unrequited, love for a woman named Asha. Ahmed Abukar is currently living in Yemen, and is said to be in poor health.

Our final pair of ‘Light & Sound’ tracks are B-Side instrumentals (don’t pay attention to the 4A you see written on the label below).

Both of these tracks feature Ahmed putting the squeeze on his Farfisa organ, and Said Abdallah giving his guitar ‘the Shaft’.

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    The Sharero Band ‘Sharero 75’

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    The Sharero Band ‘Sharero’

Very special thanks to Hibba Nuura, Abdi Yabarow, and Farhia Absie for their time, memories, and help with translations!

Back in Business!

Posted May 12th, 2008 at 3:56 pm (UTC-4)
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Well, almost.

I have just returned from a month out of the office. I am currently finishing up the research for several forthcoming posts. In the days to come you should be able to enjoy some rare 45s from Somalia, some great tapes from Radio Mali, and hopefully, a second installment of Mauritanian music-I was in Nouakchott two weeks ago and brought back some interesting recordings.

In the meantime, here is a great single to tide you over. These tracks, which I just recently heard for the first time, were recorded before our VOA Heartbeats recordings.

In early 1963 the group went into the studios of the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation, in Freetown, and recorded enough material for a few singles. These tracks were released in 1963 on Geraldo’s label ‘Pino Records’. None of these early singles have ever been reissued.

The biggest hit of the bunch was ‘Maria Lef For Waka’, which was composed by one of the group’s founding members, and then guitar player, Mr. Johnson ‘Dr. Dynamite’ Balogun-Williams. The ‘B-Side’ is ‘Heartbeats Merengue’, which features some great playing by percussionist Francis Fuster.

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    Heartbeats ‘Maria Lef for Waka’

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    Heartbeats ‘Merengue Heartbeats’

Bakongo roots from the D. R. Congo

Posted April 8th, 2008 at 11:37 pm (UTC-4)
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I will never forget the first time I heard the group ‘Konono # 1’ from Kinshasa. It was back in the fall of 1995, when I working in a record store in Cambridge, MA. One afternoon a friend-and fellow music enthusiast- came in to browse through whatever new releases had arrived that day, and as he made his way through our large collection of African music, he pulled out a CD called ‘Musiques Urbaines à Kinshasa’. He handed me the disc and said, ‘if you haven’t heard this yet, put it on before you leave tonight’. A little later, when the store was empty, I cracked open the case, and dropped the disc into the stereo. I listened to ‘Musiques Urbaines à Kinshasa’ for the next four hours straight, turning up the volume every twenty minutes. By closing time it felt like ‘Le Tout Puissant Konono # 1’ had replaced my brain; the bass-Likembe runs rippled through my nervous system, every cymbal crash soothed the muscles in my neck, and the rhythmic accents of the whistle made my ears prick up like a hunting dog’s.

When I finally made it to Kinshasa, in November of 2003, I hassled my hosts, and everyone else I spoke with, until I found a cassette vendor who could scratch my itch for more ‘urban’ roots music from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. My obsessive-and I imagine, annoying- behavior led me first to a market stall in Matonge (the neighborhood that has long been Kinshasa’s musical heart) with shelves full of cassettes, mostly of religious recordings.

One of the best of the batch I picked up in Matonge was this cassette by ‘l’Orchestre Yamba Yamba Beto Ba’. The group was founded in Kinshasa by Makengo Makape, and has been together for several decades. Their sound is rooted in the musical traditions of the Bantandu people, who are a subgroup of the Bakongo. (The roughly 10 million souls who consider themselves Bakongo are spread between the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Republic of the Congo, and Angola. The Bakongo are a blend of different peoples who, over the centuries, have assimilated the Kongo culture and language: an assimilation that started with political domination of the region by the Kongo Kingdom in the 15th century. Some of the many Bakongo subgroups are the Mayombe, the Bantandu, the Laari, the Vili, and the Bazombe-Konono’s repertoire is based in Bazombe musical traditions. Each of these groups speaks their own dialect of Kikongo.) The ‘Orchestre Yamba Yamba Beto Ba’s grooves are built around the guitars of Maitre Makape and his colleague Lutumba, with a Likembe holding down the bass, and embroidered by bells, rattles, and percussion.

The next, and most rewarding stop, on my musical scavenger hunt through greater Kinshasa was at the main market in Selembao, which is a dense suburb, southwest of downtown Kinshasa. My friend Jean-Paul took me to ‘Edition Mongo Kibila’, the retail outlet of Papa Ya Nsiala. From ten feet away I knew that Papa Ya Nsiala had what I was looking for. His shop consisted of a countertop, cassette deck, amplifier, and huge speakers at the front of a bar. Under the countertop were boxes with dozens of cassettes, and each time he put a new one into the deck, the patrons in the bar expressed their approval with loud cry’s and wobbly dance moves.

Papa Ya Nsiala was born in December of 1956, in the village of Kevuka, in the Lukaya District, which is part of the Bas-Congo Province (which translates as the ‘Lower Congo Province’-the name refers to the river- and is also the home of the Bakongo people). He came to Kinshasa, after his father died, in 1969, and was taken in by his uncle Alamoule, who was a music producer who had worked with Tabu Ley Rochereau and Franco. Ya Nsiala soon found work on the production line of the Phillips vinyl factory, which pressed the 45 rpm singles, and 33 rpm lps, that kept Kinshasa ‘on the good foot’. Even before Papa Ya Nsiala arrived in Kinshasa he was crazy about Bakongo traditional music, what in Kinshasa is called ‘le folklore’.

In 1970, after seeing an inspiring performance by a 12-year-old musician by the name of Koko Shando, who was also from the Bas-Congo Province, Papa Ya Nsiala decided to get into music production. With the help of his uncle, he opened his first stall in Selembao, and released his first recording of Koko Shando. Almost forty years later, Papa Ya Nsiala, under his label ‘Edition Mongo Kibila’ (with the exception of a few titles under an ancillary label), has released just over 200 different titles of Bakongo ‘folklore’. He told me that the most popular cassettes in his catalog have sold over 10,000 copies.

Koko Shando’s best selling release from the late 1990s, which is also Papa Ya Nsiala’s best-selling production, is ‘Kibwisa Muini’. It features the Likembe driven sound that he performs at weddings, funerals, and baptisms throughout Selembao, greater Kinshasa, and the Bas-Congo region.

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    Koko Shando ‘Nkinsangu’

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    Koko Shando ‘Luzolo Luntima

Another group that Papa Ya Nsiala has been working with throughout the last ten years is ‘l’Orchestre Maita 1er de Ya Garry’, a band that has 15 members, and are based in the Gafani neighborhood of Selembao. They have released three cassettes on ‘Edition Mongo Kibila’, but their best remains their first release ‘Lumata’.

The group’s sound is similar to that of ‘l’Orchestre Yamba Yamba Beto Ba’, anchored by some nice rhythm guitar playing, and two Likembes.

As Papa Ya Nsiala told me, ‘the new dances of Wazekwa, Werrason, and all of the modern musicians, capture the attention of the public for a few months, then disappear. But the ‘folklore’ that we produce and promote stays for years’.

Special thanks to Eddy Isango in Kinshasa for his translating help.

The Heartbeats of Sierra Leone

Posted March 31st, 2008 at 11:45 pm (UTC-4)
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Ever since our weekly radio program ‘Music Time in Africa’ first hit the airwaves, back in 1965, Geraldo Pino and the Heartbeats of Sierra Leone have been part of the show: for the last 43 years our opening and closing theme has been a guitar loop taken from the Hearbeats song ‘Zamsi’. Over the course of two long sessions, in November and December of 1964- at the VOA African Program Center in downtown Monrovia, Liberia-the Heartbeats recorded over thirty songs, virtually their entire repertoire at the time. These were not the group’s first recordings (those were made around 1963, in Freetown, at the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Service), but they were the last made by the ‘original’ Heartbeats.

The Heartbeats were formed in Freetown, Sierra Leone, back in 1961, by Balogun ‘Dr. Dynamite’ Johnson-Williams and Gerald Pine. Dr. Dynamite remembers first running into Gerald at a meeting of the ‘Reveler’s Club’, a social club that often organized musical events. Gerald showed up one afternoon with his electric guitar and started to play covers of Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly songs. By the end of the day, Gerald and Dr. Dynamite had decided to form a band, and were soon rehearsing together at Gerald’s house on Shalot Street, where he lived with his mother and sister. Their first recruits were bassist George Keister, singer Hassan Deen, and drummer Reuben Williams, who was soon replaced by percussionist Francis Fuster. Their early repertoire, which consisted of covers of songs by the British Pop sensations ‘Cliff Richard and the Shadows’, changed drastically after the Congolese group ‘Ry-Co Jazz’ arrived in Freetown in the early 1960s (probably in 1962). The Meringues, Cha-cha-chas, Mambos, and Rumbas performed by the Congolese group sparked the imagination of all of Freetown’s young musicians, and the Heartbeats soon jumped on the Rumba bandwagon.

Over the next two years the Hearbeats became one of the most popular groups in Sierra Leone, performing frequently in Freetown, and up-country, sharing bills with the Ry-Co Jazz, the Ramblers from Ghana, and Keletigui et ses Tambourinis from Guinea. As the group became more successful, Dr. Dynamite and Gerald-who by that time had adopted the name Geraldo-started to disagree about finances, and in January of 1964, Dr. Dynamite left the group. Dr. Dynamite’s replacement was Tom Brown, a Kru from downtown Freetown, remembered as an imposing (even menacing), and relatively uneducated man; and a fiercely talented guitar player. By the end of 1964, Geraldo had brought the Heartbeats to Monrovia, Liberia, where they landed a six-month engagement at the Ducor Intercontinental Hotel.

It was at the Ducor Intercontinental that the Heartbeats crossed paths with the Voice of America. Leo, who had just recently arrived in Liberia, caught the group’s set one night and invited them to come down to the Voice of America studios in downtown Liberia. Leo was interested in recording young groups he could feature on his programs, and Geraldo was interested in a set of high-quality recordings that he could issue as 45-rpm singles. During the first recording session, which was held on November 26, 1964, the Heartbeats recorded twenty-one tracks, with only one second-take. The second session, which was held on December 2, 1964, yielded sixteen tracks, with only two repeats from the November sessions. For reasons that no one can any longer remember, some of the recordings at the November session were made in mono, and others in stereo.

The Heartbeats repertoire in 1964 could be divided into four different styles; original material, covers of popular Latin hits, covers of Congolese songs, and covers of British and American popular music-especially the hits of Cliff Richard, Elvis Presley, and perhaps Buddy Holly. The recordings they made at the Voice of America feature their entire repertoire except for covers of British and American popular music: Dr. Dynamite thinks the group did not record this material for fear of copyright infringement-Pino was planning on releasing these recordings. (I don’t know whether the Heartbeats VOA recordings were, in fact, ever commercially released. Geraldo Pino told me they were not, but ‘Jet’ Arnold Nylander, the guitar player who replaced Tom Brown in 1966, and remained with Pino until 1972, insists they were. Many of these recordings, however, were definitely played on radio in Liberia and Sierra Leone.) Interestingly, none of these recordings seem to feature the voice of Geraldo Pino. The main appeal of these recordings, over forty years later, has got to be Tom Brown’s guitar playing.

One of the highlights of the sessions is ‘Tom Brown’s Gamal’ a guitar Merengue. Tom Brown tears it up on a cherry-red Fender Jaguar, running through a Dynachord amplifier with a wicked tape-loop echo.

Next up is ‘More Time’, an original composition by Geraldo Pino. This recording features the voices of Hassan Deen and Francis Fuster.

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    The Heartbeats ‘More Time’

The next track is an original Heartbeats composition written, and sung, by bass player George Keister. He sings, in the Temne language, ‘Girl, I love you. If you love me, let me know right away’.

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    The Heartbeats ‘Wa Tibera Yo’

The only other original composition the Heartbeats recorded during these sessions was ‘Zamsi’, written by Francis Fuster. This is the song that Leo used for ‘Music Time in Africa’s’ theme song. There is a great percussion break a minute into the song.

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    The Heartbeats ‘Zamsi’

The Heartbeats definitely took these next two songs from the Ry-Co Jazz repertoire. First up is ‘Give Me Bombolo’, a song that Ry-Co Jazz wrote while they were in Freetown, and that became a huge hit for them in Sierra Leone. (The Ry-Co recording of this song was made in 1963, and can be heard on the Ry-Co compilation released in 1996, by RetroAfric.)

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    The Heartbeats ‘Bombolo’ (Rumba)

The Ry-Co Jazz often performed covers of popular Congolese songs. This next track ‘Kayi Kayi Pachanga’ is a Dr. Nico composition, that was recorded by the African Jazz in the late 1950s, and that Ry-Co Jazz probably performed. This song again features Hassan Deen, who was hired to sing the group’s Congolese material.

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    The Heartbeats ‘Kayi Kayi Pachanga’

The Heartbeats repertoire in 1964 included songs in Spanish, Creole, Lingala, Fanti, Igbo, Temne, and Wolof. This next track is a cover, sung in Wolof, of ‘Fatou Diouf’ by Gambia’s Super Eagles. Before coming to Monrovia, the Heartbeats may have performed in the Gambia (Dr. Dynamite thinks they did).

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    The Heartbeats ‘Fatou Diouf’

The next three selections are covers of popular Latin hits. All three former Heartbeats I spoke with (Dr. Dynamite, ‘Jet’ Arnold Nylander, and Geraldo Pino) identify Ry-Co jazz as the source of these songs. These are all Cuban compositions that were probably part of the Ry-Co repertoire. First up is ‘Alto Songo’, a Cuban Son-Montuno that was composed by Luis ‘Lili’ Martinez Grinan, who became famous as Arsenio Rodriguez’s long-time piano player. The most popular Cuban version of this song was recorded by Felix Chappotin’s popular conjunto. This song was also recorded by Johnny Pacheco and his Charanga in 1962, it was the flip side of ‘Acuyuye’, the track that, Johnny says, ‘took me to Africa. It was a huge hit over there’.

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    The Heartbeats ‘Alto Songo’

This next song ‘El Que Siembra Su Maiz’ was composed in 1928 by Miguel Matamoros, the founder of the legendary Cuban group the Trio Matamoros. In the late 1950s this song was recorded by ‘Le Grand Kalle’ and his African Jazz, and was probably part of the Ry-Co Jazz repertoire.

This final recording is called ‘Cha-Cha-Cha Block’. I have not been able to trace this song. If you have any idea who composed this song please let me know!!

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    The Heartbeats ‘Cha-Cha-Cha Block’

Two years after these recordings were made the Heartbeats went through dramatic changes. In 1966, during their second trip to Liberia, Tom Brown left the group. (I am not sure what became of him. One story is that he left Monrovia to return to a girl he was crazy about. He may have subsequently joined the Liberian army, and may have passed away several years ago.) More importantly, however, it was during this trip that the new Heartbeats line-up, which included guitarists ‘Jet’ Arnold Nylander and Emile Walsh, started to perform the American soul covers that would make them so popular throughout Ghana and Nigeria in the years to come.

By the time the ‘original’ Heartbeats broke up in 1972, they had performed for packed crowds throughout all of Ghana and Nigeria, famously influencing a young Fela Ransome Kuti. Today, Geraldo Pino lives in Port Harcourt, Nigeria (he has been there for the last twenty years) and continues to perform with his ‘Heartbeats’. Of the other 1964 Heartbeats, Hassan Deen passed away in Freetown several years ago, and Francis Fuster (who went on to perform with Hugh Masekela and Paul Simon-the Graceland tour) and George Keister live in London.

I would like to thank Balogun ‘Dr. Dynamite’ Johnson-Williams, ‘Jet’ Arnold Nylander, and Geraldo Pino-all ‘original’ Heartbeats- for their time and generosity.

Ethiopia’s revolutionary sixties

Posted March 18th, 2008 at 3:23 pm (UTC-4)
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Over the last ten years, thanks largely to the herculean efforts of French researcher Francis Falceto (he’s the man behind the Ethiopiques CD series released by Buda Musique: each of the twenty-three volumes so far released are essential listening), curious music lovers have discovered the glories of 1970s ‘Ethiopian Groove’, a potent brew of traditional rhythms, brilliant arrangements, swinging horns and soulful vocals. These stirring recordings from the 1970s were the fruit of a decade of musical innovation. Influenced by the musical wisdom and instruction of Nerses Nalbandian (a composer, arranger, chorus leader, and music teacher of Armenian origin, who worked with hundreds of Ethiopian musicians), and the R&B, Soul, Rock and Pop hits broadcast by the American military radio at Kagnew Station (an American military base outside Asmara, the capital of Eritrea), and played in the nightclubs and discotheques of Addis Ababa, a young generation of Ethiopian musicians, throughout the 1960s, created, to again quote Francis Falceto, a ‘societal revolution’ through music. These ‘adadis zefanotch’, or ‘new songs’, were distinctly modern- in their instrumentation, arrangements, and groove-and uniquely Ethiopian, in their melodies and ‘feeling’.

This new style of music was nurtured by two of the country’s great musical incubators, the Police Orchestra and Emperor Haile Selassie’s Imperial Bodyguard Band: these ensembles, like all music ensembles in Ethiopia at the time, were controlled by the government. The greatest singers, and musicians, of the 1970s-Tlahoun Gessesse, Mahmoud Ahmed, Bzunesh Beqele, to name just three-honed their skills through thousands of performances with these ensembles. Unfortunately, aside from a few 45s released in the mid-1960s, no commercial recordings of these ensembles were made until 1969, when Amha Eshete created Amha records, Ethiopia’s first independent record company (according to Falceto there were just under 500 Ethiopian 45s and around 30 lps released between 1969 and 1978, when record production stopped completely). There were, however, reel-to- reel recordings of both groups made by Armenian merchant Garbis Hayzagian, and by Radio Ethiopia.

In the late 1960s (probably 1967 or 1968), Leo made his first trip to Addis Ababa, where he quickly met many of the city’s musical luminaries. One of Leo’s more gracious hosts was the composer and conductor Tsegaye Debalqe, who at the time was also the Music Director of Radio Ethiopia. Before Leo left Addis, Tsegaye Debalqe gave Leo this reel with fifteen songs featuring the Police Orchestra, the Imperial Bodyguard Band, and some of the era’s greatest singers. These recordings were made in 1961 (the 1953 date on the label above refers to the Ethiopian Orthodox calendar, which is eight years behind the Gregorian calendar), and are a wonderful snapshot of the opening salvos of Ethiopia’s musical revolution.

The first song on the reel is a duet between Lieutenant Mesfin Haile and Hirut Beqele accompanied by the Police Orchestra, featuring a terrific violin player. They sing, “Life is Tough. This world is an unforgiving and bitter place, and now you are leaving me.

Next up is a recording of “Altchalkoum”, one of Tlahoun Gessesse’s most famous, and most controversial songs; ostensibly a dispute between two lovers, this song was actually a protest against the imperial regime. The title of the song can be translated as ‘I can’t stand it anymore’, and after the failed coup d’etat of December 1960, this song led to Tlahoun’s arrest and emprisonment. Tlahoun kicks things off and Bzunesh Beqele takes it home.

Bzunesh Beqele was the greatest female singer of her generation, one of the first artists to embrace the ‘new songs’ of the 1960s. She was born in Harar in 1935, came to Addis at a young age to attend school, and by her mid-20s had joined the Imperial Bodyguard Band, where she spent most of her career. She released a series of singles in the early 1970s, and at least two cassettes in the 1980s-both of which are fantastic. She passed away, in 1990, at her home in Addis Ababa; she was only 54 years old. Several years ago, the Ethio Sound record label released a great compilation of her early 1970s Phillips singles. This next track is the earliest Bzunesh recording I’ve heard.

Next up is a dance song composed by Gelan Tessema, who was one of the first dance teachers and one of the stars of the Imperial Bodyguard Band’s stage show. In ‘Endete Menewot’, he sings, ‘I wished for her and I got her, I wanted her and she is mine. Because of her I am happy.’

Tefera Kassa was another of the Imperial Bodyguard’s great singers. Although he doesn’t seem to have made many commercial recordings, he was very popular in the 1960s. He still lives in Addis. (I have heard that parallel to his musical career, he also worked, for many years, at the Ministry of Information).

This next track is one of my favorites on the reel. It is a charming distillation of the different spirits that would eventually create the potent ‘Ethiopian groove’ of the 1970s. He sings, ‘When we dance to the Dorze rhythm, we are really happy. Merengue cha-cha.’ The song brings together Latin rhythms, the traditional dance style of the Dorze people (from Southern Ethiopia), with a Dorze melody and singing style, resulting in a song that is simultaneously traditional and modern! The chorus singing the response includes Tezera Haile-Michael, Ayele Mamo, Tlahoun Gessesse, Bzunesh Beqele, Askale Brhane, and Laqo Ayele.

These next two songs are modern arrangements of more distinctly traditional material. This first track, by the Police Orchestra, is a popular melody sung in Oromigna, the language of the Oromo. This song features the voice of Taye Tessema. He passed away in the 1980s, and this was his biggest hit.

Here is the Imperial Bodyguard Band interpreting a Dorze melody from Southern Ethiopia. The dominant male voice is that of Demisse Komba, and the chorus features Bzunesh Beqele and Askale Brhane. I love the vocal polyphony.

Last but not least, an accordion-driven instrumental by the Imperial Bodyguard Band. For many years this song was played by Radio Ethiopia to kick off the day’s programs.

Many thanks to Mahmoud Ahmed, Mulatu Astatqe, Tizita Belachew, Negussie Mengesha, and Solomon Kifle for their help with research and translations.

Lost Liberian 45s from the 1960s

Posted March 4th, 2008 at 11:28 pm (UTC-4)
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The 1960s were a time of optimism, relative prosperity, and rapid growth in Monrovia, the ocean-side capital of Liberia. For almost one hundred and fifty years the city had been the economic, political, and social hub of the ‘Americo-Liberian’ community, who had governed the country since July 26, 1847, when the independence of the Republic of Liberia was officially declared. (‘Americo-Liberians’ are the descendants of the freed African-Americans who crossed the Atlantic, in the 1800s, and settled in the ‘Promised Land’; the name Liberia stands for ‘liberty’, and the country’s motto is ‘The love of liberty brought us here.’) In the years since 1822, when a ship sponsored by the American Colonization Society, first landed in this natural harbor, Monrovia had become one of West Africa’s more cosmopolitan cities. By the early 1960s, the city was home to an educated, budding middle-class of ‘Americo-Liberians’ who rubbed shoulders, in Monrovia’s bars and ballrooms, with members of the city’s Lebanese, Armenian, Greek, and American communities.

The urban dance music of the time reflected the Americo-Liberians trans-Atlantic cosmopolitanism. (In the early 1960s Americo-Liberians still had no interest in Liberia’s ‘African’ music. The Liberian Broadcasting Corporation, for example, almost exclusively featured North American music.) At their frequent performances, at the Ducor hotel ballroom, at the Saturday Afternoon Club (a sea-side dancing hall in the Palmgrove neighborhood, generally called the SAC), or at the Mama Rena dancehall, bands like J. Richard Snetter’s ‘Melody 8 Dance Band’ kept their fans entertained with a repertoire of American Soul and Country covers, Twists, Foxtrots, Cha-cha-chas, Highlife, and the occasional Calypso.

Recorded in 1963, ‘Amour in Twist’ is an instrumental dance number driven by a loping upright bass and the conga player. This song features a nice guitar solo and a charmingly sour saxophone break.

The B-side, ‘West Point Calypso’ was composed by J. Richard Snetter, and features the vocalist Abrom Robinson, who sings of the dangers of Monrovia’s West Point neighborhood, which was home to the city’s nascent gangs.

By the mid-1960s Monrovia was demographically and musically changing, as thousands of rural migrants, growing weary of working on up-country rubber plantations, started to move to the capital. These migrants brought their musical traditions with them, and once settled in Monrovia, soon discovered new musical styles. One of the first musicians to break away from covers of American songs and record ‘Afro-Liberian’ music was Morris Dolly, from Bomi County, not far from Monrovia. A member of the Golla ethnic group, Dolly was also one of the first artists to sing in several different Liberian languages. In 1977 he gained regional recognition, with the performance of his song ‘Who are you baby?’ at the Festival of African Art and Culture (FESTAC), held in Lagos, Nigeria. Morris had another big hit in the mid-1980s with ‘Osia’, and passed away about five years ago.

This next song is a great example of his Merengue-Highlife music, a style that was inspired by the coastal palm-wine music of the Kru, and the Merengue guitar grooves that were introduced to Monrovia by Congolese musicians. (There is a neighborhood of Monrovia called Congotown, and there were several Congolese groups who performed in Monrovia throughout the 1960s, including the famous trio Ryco Jazz, and lesser-known groups like the Congo Star Band. Leo recorded a full set of the Harlem Band from Kinshasa performing live at the Roxy nightclub, in downtown Monrovia, which I’ll feature at some point.) I love the guitar playing on this track, and I’m a sucker for any song with whistling.

Richard Walker was a member of Morris Dolly’s ‘Sunset Boys’, and is also from Bomi County. His biggest hit was ‘Kakaleka’, a song he released in 1992. His recordings are less polished than Dolly’s.

On these next two tracks he his backed by a great guitar player, bass and percussion. This 45 was produced, probably in the later 1960s, by Solomon’s Music Center, which was a record store located on Mechlin street, near Broad, in the heart of downtown Monrovia.

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    Richard Walker ‘Martha Cobo’

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    Richard Walker ‘Mullaa’

Solomon’s Music Center seems to have specialized in ‘roots’ music. Harris Sarko, from Nimba County in eastern Liberia, who started his career with the Liberian Police Orchestra, was one of the artists who created a gloriously rough style of dance music called ‘Nimba Disco’. This was the kind of music that up-country migrants danced to at the ‘Fence Affair’ playgrounds, or at afternoon dances at the ‘Booker Washington Institute’. This pressing is not the greatest, but it gives you an idea of how this group could drive an audience wild.

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    Harris Sarko ‘Jiba’

This last song is one of the most entertaining West African singles I have heard. As many CD compilations have demonstrated, there were many groups throughout Africa, in the 1970s, who were inspired by James Brown’s music. And given its deep ties to the American south, it is not surprising that Monrovia was perhaps the first African capital to fall under the spell of the ‘Godfather of Soul’. (“West Africa’s ‘James Brown'”, as Sierra Leone’s Geraldo Pino was nicknamed, brought his Heartbeats group to Monrovia for two years [1962-1964], before moving on to Nigeria, where his Afro-funk repertoire famously influenced Fela Kuti. Leo made the only recordings of the Heartbeats from this era.)

Unfortunately, I have not been able to learn anything about Amos Koon. Again, this pressing is pretty lousy, but the music is worth hearing. If you have ever played in a middle-school garage band, this loose recording should bring back memories.

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    Amos Koon ‘Stage Dance’

Special thanks to Mr. E. Tonieh Williams, co-chairman of the Liberian copyright board, and Mr. Ted Roberts, of the Voice of America, for their help with research.

Musical Sunshine from Malawi

Posted February 26th, 2008 at 1:33 am (UTC-4)
12 comments

Nestled between Zambia, Tanzania and Mozambique, Malawi has earned it’s nickname as ‘the warm heart of Africa’. And ‘warm’ is precisely the adjective I would use to describe Malawian music. There is a sunny optimism in much of the Malawian music I’ve heard, and after a grim weekend of cold, rain, and snow, here in Washington D.C., I figured I’d warm myself up with a few Malawian recordings from our collection.

One of the most popular styles of music in Malawi, in the late 1960s was South African Kwela; a driving dance music, powered by virtuoso penny whistle players. Migrant workers returning from South Africa and Zimbabwe brought kwela music to Malawi, and it was in Salisbury, the capital of the federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland (which is now Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe), that Daniel and Donald Kachamba discovered Kwela music. When the brothers returned, in 1961, to Nyasaland (which became Malawi in 1964), they started to perform Kwela music on the streets, at markets, and in nightclubs. Daniel played the guitar, and his younger brother Donald was a penny whistle virtuoso; he had been playing the instrument since the age of six.

In 1967, the Austrian ethnomusicologist Gerhard Kubik heard the Kachamba brothers playing for a large crowd near the main market in Blantyre, Malawi’s largest city. And at some point that same year, he brought the Kachamba brothers band to the United States Cultural Center in Blantyre. In February of 1968, the United States Information Service office in Blantyre, sent a four-song tape to the Voice of America, with the following description: ‘enclosed is [a recording, made on December 4, 1967 of] an African combo consisting of four boys aged 7-16. They were recently discovered by a German musicologist who was researching African music in Malawi.’

In fact, at the time of these recordings Daniel was 20 years old (he was born in 1947, and passed away in 1987), and Donald was 14 (he was born in 1953, and passed away in 2001); two younger boys accompanied them, one playing the string bass, and the other the rattle. Donald’s penny whistle playing on these two tracks is fantastic.

Let’s jump ahead a couple of decades, with one of Malawi’s most popular bandleaders of the late 1980s and 1990s, Robert Fumulani (he is the man crouching in the picture above). He was born, in 1948, in the city of Zomba (which is 40 miles northeast of Blantyre), and first started to draw the attention of Malawian audiences in the 1970s. During the 1980s, Fumulani won the Malawian ‘Entertainer of the Year’ award three times. And by the time he passed away, in 1998, his musical earnings had allowed him to open several businesses, including the Likhubula Entertainment Centre, his nightclub in Chileka (a suburb of Blantyre), and a cargo services company at Chileka airport. His musical legacy is kept alive by three of his seven sons; Anjiri, Musandide, and Chizondi- who are the core of the Black Missionaries, currently one of Malawi’s most popular groups.

This track gives you a good idea of Fumulani’s relaxed Afroma (a contraction of Afro-Malawian) groove. In this one Fumulani pleads with ‘Patricia’, he sings, ‘don’t leave us, stay with us, don’t break up your family.’

One of the key ingredients of the Likhubula River Dance Band’s sound was the guitar playing of Ernest Mapemba. Near the end of ‘Mwana Wanga’, or ‘My Child’, Mapemba breaks things down with some wonderfully relaxed playing.

This last track has got a nice reggae beat. Fumulani asks for guidance and advice.

Let’s keep the reggae beat going with Evison Matafale, who before he passed away in 2001, was one of Malawi’s most loved artists. In 2000, he surprised music fans with his debut release ‘Kuyimba I’, which became one of the year’s best-selling releases. Matafale recorded the album with Robert Fumulani’s three aforementioned sons, who after Evison passed away, renamed themselves the Black Missionaries.

In 2001, after a long battle with tuberculosis, Matafale released ‘Kuyimba II’. He passed away several months later, however, dying suddenly while in police custody. He was only 32 years old. According to an article published by the BBC, Matafale’s brother Elton believes Evison was killed, because of letters he had written to then-president Bakilu Muluzi, denouncing his government’s policies. In ‘Yang’ana Nkhope’, Evison sings ‘Look at my face, look at your face, we are all God’s Children.’

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    Evison Matafale ‘Yang’ana Nkhope’

Next up is Joseph Tembo, a great guitar player, from southern Malawi. He was born in 1997, in southern Malawi, and is a member of the Sena ethnic group, who are related to the Shona people of Zimbabwe. This relationship helps explain the similarities between Tembo’s music and the Shona melodies and rhythms of Zimbabwean Chimurenga music.

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    Joseph Tembo ‘Dimingu’

This last song is by Coss Chiwalo, who for many years was (and may still be) the bandleader of the ‘Alleluya Band’, a Malawian musical institution. He was born in 1974 and has released three solo albums. ‘Wakwatiwa’, one of his biggest hits, is a song that is usually played at weddings. He sings of the joy of the bride and groom.

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    Coss Chiwalo ‘Wakwatiwa’

I hope the music hit the spot. I would like to thank Dr. John Lwanda of Pamtondo records for his help with research and song translations.

Waka and Apala from Nigeria

Posted February 18th, 2008 at 11:51 pm (UTC-4)
18 comments

In 1965, Leo Sarkisian launched the Voice of America radio program ‘Music Time in Africa’, a show that featured traditional and contemporary music from throughout Africa. Today, 43 years later, Music Time is still on the air, presenting, every Saturday and Sunday, music from throughout the continent, to listeners across Africa. It was also in 1965 that Leo made some of his best recordings; the tapes I treasure most in our collection.

In 1965, Leo was living in Monrovia, Liberia, where he was working for the Voice of America’s African program center. One of his primary responsibilities was to record and collect music for the VOA’s Africa service. In the spring of that year, Lillard Hill, who at the time was the VOA representative in Lagos, Nigeria, called Leo to tell him about a young Nigerian bandleader he should consider recording; his name was Fela Ransome Kuti.

In August of 1965, Leo, accompanied by his wife Mary, flew from Monrovia to Lagos. Several days after their arrival in Lagos, they went to the port, to pick up their 1964 Willys Jeep, which had been shipped from Monrovia. Inside the Jeep was Leo’s recording equipment; three two-track tape machines (including Leo’s favorite Nagra), two MX-777 Sony six-input mixers, twelve microphones, a generator, customized frequency meters, and a crate full of cables and microphone stands. Leo and Mary spent the next six weeks traveling around Western Nigeria, recording some of the region’s most appreciated musicians. (Before hitting the road, however, Leo did record Fela and his Koola Lobitos- you can see a picture of the reel in our picture gallery- and Cardinal Rex Lawson. I will feature both of these unreleased recordings in the future.)

One of the first people Leo and Mary met in Lagos was Mr. Tunde Sowande; a specialist in Yoruba music and the nephew of Fela Sowande-the pioneer of modern Nigerian ‘Art music’. Tunde Sowande traveled with Leo and Mary, suggesting which musicians to record, facilitating introductions, and helping to organize the recording sessions. Over the course of their six-week trip Leo made over a dozen recordings, all of them are fantastic. Here are my three favorites.

Waka music is genre of popular Yoruba Muslim song, performed exclusively by women, that was developed in the 1950s-it predates juju and fuji musics. One of the pioneers of the genre was Alhaja Batile Alake from Ijebu province, in Western Nigeria. This recording features one of Alhaja Alake’s contemporaries, Nosimotu Alimi from the village of Ago Iwoye, also in Ijebu province. At the time of this recording, Mrs. Alimi, who had already been performing for fifteen years, led a group of 8 young men and women. She starts this piece with an exhortation to cleanliness, goes on to praise municipal health inspectors, and continues with fulsome praise and prayers for the teachers who shape Nigeria’s future generations.

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    Nosimoto Alimi & her Waka Group

Apala music is one of my favorite genres of Yoruba music. This style has roots in the songs and rhythms that were used to wake worshippers after fasting during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. Apala music, which is one of the roots of juju and fuji, was always an urban music; open to new influences and ‘foreign’ rhythms.

At the time of this recording session, Rasaki Ajadi and his Apala group were based in Ibadan, also in Western Nigeria. The group consisted of three gangans (talking drums), one agidigbo (a large, three-key, box thump-piano), the maracas, one akuba (a small conga-shaped drum) and the konnongo (is this a small frame drum?). Rasaki starts the song by calling on the Yoruba God ‘Oranmiyan’ to ‘protect us from death and unforeseen circumstances.’ He sings, ‘be careful, life is unpredictable; it is impossible to know the future. Death is inevitable, neither the rich nor the poor can escape.’ He goes on to exhort the rich to help the poor.

Rasaki start’s this next piece with a few verses of praise for his music and orchestra before launching into a series of Yoruba proverbs. He sings, ‘Life keeps going on without stopping, and the maker of time keeps counting the days. You people that are unhappy with our work, with our music, it is because you don’t know what the future holds.’

This final recording is the best of the bunch. This is Timiaju Abiodun, who was twenty-five years old in 1965, a rising Apala star. He led a group of ten musicians that performed frequently throughout Western Nigeria. He introduces this next piece by telling his listeners; ‘I am here with my musicians for your pleasure. Those that are standing keep standing firm. Those who are sitting keep sitting still. And if you don’t want to do anything, go home now. If we call your name three times, put your hand in your pocket and bring out some money. The amount of money you can put down will determine the potency of the dose.’

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    Tiamiju Abiodun & his Apala Group

I hope you have enjoyed this first batch of Nigerian recordings from Leo’s 1965 trip through Western Nigeria!

THESE ARE STEREO RECORDINGS AND I STRONGLY ADVISE THAT YOU LISTEN TO THEM ON A PAIR OF EXTERNAL SPEAKERS!!

Musical memories from Cameroon

Posted February 12th, 2008 at 12:35 am (UTC-4)
9 comments

Yesterday, the Egyptian national soccer team, the Pharoahs, only needed one goal to beat Cameroon’s Indomitable Lions, and win the Africa Cup of Nations for the sixth time. This morning, the Pharaohs-who were the defending champions- returned to Cairo International airport, where they were met by thousands of overjoyed fans. The Cameroonians, meanwhile, returned to Yaoundé, where their glum fans were still absorbing the team’s defeat. While soccer-mad Egyptians are enjoying the trophy, I imagine many Cameroonians must be nostalgic for their great soccer teams of the 1980s and 1990s.

And while I can’t bring back the 1984 Indomitable Lions of Théophile Abega who-under his leadership-won the 1984 African Cup of Nations, or Roger Milla’s 1990 squad, who brought Cameroon to the World Cup quarterfinals, I can hopefully relieve the nostalgic aches of some fans with a few selections from our archives.

Nelle Eyoum Emmanuel, from Douala, was one of the pioneers of Cameroonian modern music. Every weekend, throughout the mid-1960s, fans would flock to the bar ‘Le Flambeau’ where, with the help of his band Los Calvinos, Nelle Eyoum would keep Douala’s music lovers dancing through the night. Nelle Eyoum Emmanuel and Los Calvinos, along with Ebanda Manfred and Epée Mbende, laid the foundations for what became Makossa music. The story goes, although I have not been able to confirm this, that as Los Calvinos would work themselves into a solid groove, and the dancers would fall into the rhythm, the band would call out ‘Kossa, Kossa’-which is also the name of a children’s hand-clapping game. Eventually this dance call gave its name to a new style of music from Douala, the Makossa.

This reel was given to us by Radio Douala back in the 1960s; we don’t have an exact date, but judging by the music, and the tape stock, I am guessing probably around 1965-6. This is a two-track recording, featuring a lean line-up of two guitars, an upright bass, congas, and maracas. Unfortunately, there is no documentation accompanying this reel. The lineup is a mystery to me. I know that François Misse Ngoh was the guitar player for Los Calvinos for many years, before breaking away and launching his own successful career. I, however, I am not sure that he is the lead guitar player on these recordings (whoever the guitar player is, he is a wonderfully fluid soloist). I imagine that this reel is pretty representative of the pre-Makossa repertoire of Los Calvinos; the Cuban and Congolese rumba influences are obvious, and there are also some hints of highlife.

This next track is my favorite of the bunch. The band goes into a great percussion breakdown that gives a glimpse of the rhythmic changes that were to come with Makossa.

I don’t know if all of the tracks on this reel were recorded during the same session; and if they were, in what order they were recorded. The guitar soloist, however, does seem to get looser and more expressive in the final two songs.

Enjoy the music, and here’s to hoping the Indomitable Lions come back stronger in two years for the next African Cup of Nations!

Kadongo Kamu from Uganda

Posted February 5th, 2008 at 12:47 am (UTC-4)
30 comments

Kadongo Kamu, or ‘one guitar music’, is a style of narrative song from central Uganda that dates back to the early 1950s. Over the last fifty years the genre has gone through many transformations, but has never strayed from its central purpose: communicating traditional wisdom and morals through anecdotes, stories, and social commentary. The earliest ‘Kadongo Kamu’ musicians accompanied their stories only with the Endongo (the bowl-lyre of the Baganda people), while later generations have turned to drum machines and electric guitars.

Although Kadongo Kamu has always attracted listeners in Kampala, it was, and as far as I can tell, remains, more popular in rural areas. When performing for appreciative audiences, Kadongo Kamu performers- especially in the past- would devote fifteen to twenty minutes to the telling of a particular epic; stretching and embellishing them as narrative twists caught the attention of their listeners. Some of the early pioneers of the genre were Christopher Sebadukka, Elly Wamala, and Fred Ssebatta. One of the few Kadongo Kamu performers to be noticed outside of Uganda was Bernard Kabanda, who passed away in 1999.

The 1970s were, for Kadongo Kamu performers, and most Ugandans, a difficult time. Idi Amin Dada’s repressive regime did not encourage political commentary by popular artists, and Kadongo Kamu musicians, for the most part, turned to singing love songs. But if the Kadongo Kamu recordings of the 1970s do not represent the genre’s poetic golden age, there are plenty of singles from the era that are very musically satisfying. We have quite a few of these 45s in our archive and I’ve picked out a few of my favorites. This is music for listening, not dancing, and the clear, repetitive guitar parts have a restrained charm.

In ‘Namusoke’, recorded in 1975, Chrizestom Ssebuziba announces: “I have a secret to reveal”, and goes on to tell the story of how he met the woman he loves.

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    Chrizestom Ssebuziba ‘Namusoke’

The B-side of the single is ‘Ndowoza Suzanne’. Chrizestom tells the story of Suzanne: she abandoned him and now he wastes his time thinking about her, he doesn’t where she went or what to do with himself.

This single is my favorite of the bunch. In ‘Nakabiri’, Gerald Kaboggoza sings about one of his girlfriends. She is annoyed by his frugality. The moral of the story is ‘you should be generous to those you love’. It must not have worked out with the girlfriend in question.

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    Gerald Kaboggoza ‘Nakabiri’

The musicians accompanying Gerald Kaboggoza (Gerald may be one of the guitar players) remind me of Bern Nix, Charles Ellerbee, and Jamaladeen Tacuma when they were the heart of Ornette Coleman’s great 1970s Prime Time band. Every time I listen to ‘Anyize Lwa Butamuwa’ I hear parallels to the harmolodic interplay of Nix, Ellerbee, and Tacuma: pay attention to the guitars in the intro, and to the bass player-Jamaladeen could be playing those lines!! Interestingly, both this single and Ornette’s Prime Time masterpiece ‘Body Meta’ were released in 1975.

We have a handful of singles by Leo N. Ssekamanya. These next tracks are my favorite sides. He seems to drive his musicians a bit harder than Kaboggoza and Ssebuziba.

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    Leo N. Ssekamanya ‘Zamufuula’

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    Leo. N. Sskemanya ‘Kabuladda’

Our final selection always gets a nice response from our more nostalgic radio listeners in Uganda. It is by the late great Eclas Kawalya. It is not, however, Kadongu Kamu music. This is an example of the dance-band music that was played in the clubs of Kampala in the 1960s.

Eclas Kawalya had a very long career and just passed away several years ago. His daughter Joanita inherited his musical gifts and has recorded many songs with the Afrigo Band. In ‘To Nyiiga’, which translates roughly as ‘don’t be annoyed’, Eclas tells the story of ‘Esther’ who, although they are not married, gave him a ring. Every time he looks at the ring he things of Esther. Eclas sings: ‘Esther, it is difficult for a man to shed tears.’

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    Eclas Kawalya ‘To Nyiiga’

Unfortunately, I have not been able to learn anything about the three Kadongo Kamu singers featured above, or about the Mukwano record label. Please, if you know anything about the record label or the singers , get in touch!!

About

About

Heather Maxwell produces and hosts the award-winning radio program “Music Time in Africa” and is the African Music Editor for the Voice of America. Heather is an ethnomusicologist with Doctorate and Master’s degrees from Indiana University specializing in African Music. She is also an accomplished jazz and Afrojazz/Afrosoul vocalist and has been working, researching, and performing in Africa and the U.S. since 1987.

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