The Harlem Band of Kinshasa

Posted September 15th, 2010 at 8:44 pm (UTC-4)

Most of the time I have found recently to devote to this blog has, unfortunately, been devoted to working on a redesign of the site. This has meant that I have had less time to finish the several long posts I have promised, and that I have been working on. The good news is that, hopefully, we will soon kick off the new and improved blog with a few serious features. In the meantime, I wanted to share a few more reels with you. Like the S.E. Rogie recordings I featured a little while ago, this first reel is not particularly unusual. It features the Harlem Band, a group of musicians from Kinshasa who Leo met in Monrovia, Liberia in 1965.

The Harlem Band was a working bar band, and their repertoire reflects the many different styles that were popular throughout West Africa in the first years after Independence. I don’t recognize any of the Congolese musicians in the group, but am hoping that you might! The lead vocalist is Andre Tchagna, the two guitar players, Gabu Lambert and Gabu Marcel, are perhaps related, the singer is Andre Pongo, and the drummer is Locomotive Daddy, who I believe is from Sierra Leone.

Leo made these recordings at the Voice of America African Programming Center in downtown Monrovia in the fall of 1965. The balance is wonderful and the band sounds terrific. Listening to this reel makes me nostalgic for a time I never knew, an era when musicians this talented were playing in bars throughout West Africa. I am particularly impressed with the guitar playing of Gabu Lambert. Check out his jazzy arpeggios and swinging solo in ‘Los Cueros.’

2 responses to “The Harlem Band of Kinshasa”

  1. Messager says:

    Mr Matthieu Levoie,

    Je vous écris à propos du groupe Harlem Band. Notre blog Mbokamosika est en contact avec Lamert Ngabu, le fondateur de ce groupe. Il sollicite auprès de vous et de la VOA la possibilité d’avoir d’autres enregistrements de son groupe, en dehors de six que vous avez diffusés.

    Merci et au plaisir de vous lire prochainement.


  2. lilly says:

    Thanks for sharing this. really beautiful uplifting songs. been searching high and low to find where I can find these songs. Any leads?
    Thanks so much



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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