I remastered all the tracks and pressed them on two 180 gram vinyls and packaged them into a gatefold format. Each copy (500 in total) is numbered and accompanied by a 24-pages booklet. I included a short biography, lyrics in Lingala, pictures and a list of the musicians. In short, it gives some background on Congo’s most beautiful export product.
What is the importance of Le Grand Kallé & L’ Orchestre Jazz?
Even when he was alive people already called Joseph Kabasele Le Grand Kallé or Le Vieux Kallé, because of the influence he had on other musicians. Until today, more than thirty years after his death, Kabasele is considered the father of modern Congolese music. His African Jazz ensemble was the first fully professional orchestra in the two Congos. It was also the first Congolese band that included the word jazz in its name. Other Congolese bands like T.P.O.K. Jazz, Ry-Co Jazz and Bantous Jazz would later adopt this trend. Also, if you listen to artists from countries like Tanzania, Cameroon or even Guinea you sometimes hear how Congolese rumba slipped into their music. So, you can say Joseph Kabasele was highly influential to many generations of Congolese musicians, but he also contributed to diffusing rumba across the African continent.
How difficult/easy was it to compile this selection of music? From your own collection or from the archives of Sonodisc?
When I started this project I hoped to find some master tapes or reel-to-reel tapes, but apparently this was an utopian thought: after I paid a license fee to Sonodisc, it was clear that that they could not help in getting me those. So I started, for the remastering of this compilation, from my own collection: vinyl albums and singles on the African and Surboum African Jazz labels, even using a few cd’s for the tracks I couldn’t find on vinyl. Like I said, the main intention with this release was to give some background to the music, rather than putting out the rarest Grand Kallé songs. Maybe I will do this in the future or maybe someone else will. The most important thing is to release as much of his music as possible. The labels are just the facilitators…
Le Grand Kallé –Basi Ya African Jazz
Le Grand Kallé -Laora
Why is the music of Congo so important for Belgians?
A friend once told me that these kind of compilations only would be done by Belgians, but I don’t think he is entirely right. Due to our shared past, there are still many Belgians who have some affinity with the Congo and there is a a big Congolese community still living in Brussels among whom some well-known musicians. What I do think is that this music is universal, there are relatively as much Congolese rumba fans in for example London or Paris as in Belgium.
Why is important to save this music for the world?
The rich Congolese modern music scene that surfaced in 1948 is actually very documented through literature and in the blogosphere. Regarding books, I can recommend Rumba on the river; Dictionnaire des immortels de la musique congolaise moderne and the publications from Clément Ossinonde. You also can sharpen your knowledge on the music heritage of both the Congos on devoted websites like mbokamokisa, worldservice or muzikifan. However, as good as Congolese music is documented through written publications, it’s very under-documented release-wise. There are so many gaps in the repertoires of Grand Kallé or Franco on vinyl or even digital and they are not the only ones. The catalogs of legendary labels like Ngoma, Esengo, Loningisa are also mostly missing. These labels have released thousands of songs in the fifties and sixties from which we only know a fraction of. That’s why it’s important to release as much as possible and by preference on 180 gram vinyl. It’s the music format that has the longest lifespan, and it’s the music format that makes me happy…