10 Africana record covers

Africa has always been a great inspiration for many contemporary artists, designers and musicians alike. No wonder that the record industry in the 1950’s-1960’s sent their best team of designers on safari discovering the great forgotten continent, either for inspiration or exploitation.

This gallery is dedicated to the wonderful art of Africana record covers from my collection.

2 vintage paper record bags from Davidson Bros. Port Elizabeth, South Africa 1950s 

Horst Wende & his Orchestra-Africana (Africa In Rhythm) (Polydor LPHM 46336, Germany)

This record from 1958 released on German Polydor Records showcases the variety of popular musical styles of South Africa re-arranged by producer and band leader Horst Wende, also known as Roberto Delgado.

Horst Wende & His Orchestra -Kwela

The big band orchestra of Wende/Delgado adapted their music to the various destinations of the time when tourism boomed; in ‘Blue Hawaï’ for Hawaï, South American Rhythms on ‘Caramba’, ‘Latin Flutes’ for Bolivia en Equator, while ‘Along Mexican Highways’ was a tribute to Herb Alpert (trumpet) and Julius Wechter (marimba).  The LP ‘Africana’ celebrates the music of South Africa in the 1960s,  originally popularized by local musician Nico Carsten and bandleaders like Sam Sklair and Dan Hill.

The Trans-World Symphony Orchestra-Edmond de Luca’s -Safari (Somerset Records SF5500, USA)

aah…Safari.  I found this LP during my recent Japan trip and was immediately attracted to the title and the fabulous cover. The selection turned out to be a musical safari throughout Africa by The Trans-World Symphony Orchestra, orchestrations based upon classical compositions as ‘Polovtsian Dances’ from ‘Prince Igor’ and ‘Ritual Fire Dance’ by Manuel de Falla. Symphonic shlock to the extreme but man, what a cover!

Prince Onago & Princess Muana & Native Drummers of the Belgian Congo: The Drums of Africa (20th Century Fox S20F-4008, 1959 Japan)

10″ record found in a small shop in Osaka, Japan.

The artwork was designed by Irving Seidmont Docktor who was a prolific artist and educator best known for his work as a book and magazine illustrator in the 1950s and 1960s.

Irv Docktor in his studio in the 1960s, brandishing a paintbrush.
Irv Docktor in his studio in the 1960s

The cover intrigued me as did the story and picture of Prince Onaga and Princess Muana. As the credits say this music was recorded with native drummers of the Belgian Congo, but in reality the recordings were probably more designed for the Silver Screen and the adventure of Stereo.

Prince Onago & Princess Muana & Native Drummers of the Belgian Congo -Flirtation Song

Prince Onago & Princess Muana & Native Drummers of the Belgian Congo -Congo Syncopation

Les Baxter -The Soul of the Drums (Reprise Records – R9-6100, 1963 USA)

no further explanation necessary. In the 1950s and 1960s Les Baxter, the king of lush Hollywood movie themes defined a sound and style that called itself ‘Exotica’. Great cover too…

African tribal masks have always intrigued artists from Picasso to Art Blakey to UK rapper MC Mello.

See also previous post  Chris McGregor’s Brotherhood Of Breath -1971 

MC Mello -Open Up Your Mind (Republic Records LICT 033, 1990 UK)

Anna Russell -In Darkest Africa (CBS BLD 7084, South Africa)

Anna Russell’s jokes ain’t funny any longer but this cover surely is….those warriors ain’t real Zulu Warriors for sure. That  photograph is oh so politically incorrect nowadays but as record cover art it works as good as it gets.

Nico Gomez & his Afro Percussion INC-Ritual (Omega International 444.022, Holland)

classic! Well searched after for the track ‘Lupita’.

Nico Gomez & his Orchestra -selftitled (Omega International 444.039, Holland)

musically the menu is all cha cha, mambo and Latin trashy sound-alikes but hey, what a funky Afro-hairdo!!

see also Afro baby! a tribute to a funksoulsista and

Blue Elephant -Black Is Beautiful -cover art

Congo Jazz -Blue Flamingo -1950s Congolese Rumba

The CD “Congo Jazz”  consists of three different parts centered around American hot jazz, Congolese rumba, and gospel. The title is rather misleading, as if the whole collection of music on this CD contains Congolese jazz but this style is only one part of this compilation. The release comes with an extensive booklet describing the music but without a track-list of the artists and titles. This is a major flaw as it is frustrating to listen to music without the possibility of checking the artist or title. A true collector would definitely have added this information. It took me quite some deep diggin’ to find the track-list of the featured mix and I want to add it to this post.

Anyway, I can recommend this CD, it is  an excellent compilation despite the missing track-list. The 78 shellac discs have been mastered and mixed together in sets. The atmosphere and the build-up  is addictive, the chosen music reflects good taste and style. Certainly a valuable addition to a collection of rare African -and early Afro-American- music.

Ziya Ertekin alias Blue Flamingo -Photo: Jan van der Ven

Ziya Ertekin alias Blue Flamingo, born out of Dutch and Turkish parents,  is responsible for this remarkable compilation of rare and sometimes one-off discs. As a collector he hunts for the forgotten sounds and styles from all over the world. He is also a musician and DJ who plays 78 rpm shellac discs at parties and events.

The compilation presents 3 mixes ‘Jungle Crawl’ (1920’s-1930’s Hot Jazz Jungle Exotica), ‘Congo Jazz’ (1950’s Congolese Rumba), ‘That Old Time Religion’ (1930’s-1950’s Jubilee, Gospel & Hard Gospel). The ‘Congo Jazz’ mix is composed from original 78-rpm shellac discs from the former Belgian Congo, where, under the influence of the Cuban son and rumba, one of Africa’s first modern popular music arose.

CONGO JAZZ (1950s Congolese Rumba)

9. LA FIESTA CUBANA – Tino Baroza
10. BOLINGO E GAGNE – Orchestre African Jazz
11. BANA T’ATOMIC JAZZ – Kaba Joseph & le Groupe Rythmique Ngoma
12. CANTA DEL NEGRO – Tchade. Mariola & Oliveira
13. ELIE VIOLETTE – Orchestre African Jazz
14. EL RICO CUBAN MAMBO – Orchestre Rock a Mambo

Blue Flamingo – Congo Jazz EXCEL96202

The Congolese developed a wholly unique style of guitar playing that showed great similarities to the way people played the native thumb piano. Dazzling single-note solos were melodiously plucked up and down the thumb piano. This style was perfected when the Belgian guitarist Bill Alexandre, who had performed in Europe with musicians like Django Reinhardt, tried his luck in Leopoldville, and briefly introduced the electric guitar to the region. Congolese music has produced many guitar virtuosos, including Papa Noel, Franco Luambo, Tino Baroza and the man referred to by his admirers as ‘le dieu de la guitare’; Nicolas Kasanda Wa Mikalay, better known as Docteur Nico. On the Congo Jazz -mix, a still very young Nico can be admired on the tracks ‘Boligo e Gagne‘, ‘El Rico Cuban Mambo’ and ‘Elie Violette‘.

Docteur Nico

“The foundation for modern Congolese music was laid in the 1930s, when the first 78 r.p.m. records, containing music from Latin America, reached the capitals of both Congos. These records were hugely popular with the young urban population, who were completely captivated by this music. Records had reached Central Africa before, but nowhere, not even in early jazz, was their ancestors’ legacy as clearly present as it was in the rhythms of Central and South America. It felt as if a part of Africa was returning home again. It was a homecoming that rooted deeply and fused rapidly with other Congolese traditions into something entirely authentic” 

Ngoma remains the most important Congolese record label, as well as one of the most important labels in all of Africa. It was started by two Greek brothers, Nico and Alexandros Jéronimidis, around 1948. Not only did they record well over a thousand discs, the first to capture all manner of Congolese musical styles (the rumba, cha-cha, and solo acoustic guitar picking of course), but they encouraged experimentation by their musicians. Ngoma records were pressed in France and distributed primarily in Central Africa – Congo and Cameroon especially – and as such are, well, impossible to find. Not only that, but all the Ngoma masters were long ago lost in a warehouse fire. As if that wasn’t enough, the company then donated all of its file copies to the Congolese government, only to have those destroyed during political strife.

Georges Edouard and Manuel D’Oliveira, released sometime in the late 40s-early 50s.

Edouard & Oliveira – Ngai Abuyi

source excavatedshellac

excerpts and pics from the original liner notes  of Blue Flamingo – Congo Jazz EXCEL96202

see also Origins of Guitar Music
Southern Congo and Northern Zambia, 1950-’58, recordings by Hugh Tracey

Gentlemen of Bacongo by Daniele Tamagni

as an addition to my previous post Les Sapeurs, battle of the dandies here is an interesting -and beautiful- book that deserves your attention, ‘ Gentlemen of Bacongo‘ by Daniele Tamagni (hardcover – Jun 1, 2009).

It was brought to my attention by fellow blogger A.G.Nauta Couture who wrote an interesting post on Les Sapeurs du Congo

See also this video-report from the night club Saint-Hilaire in Kinshasa in August 1967

At the same time a new fashion was emerging in the Saint-Hilaire and other clubs in Kinshasa. To dress perfectly like Europeans. It had begun 500 yards across the Congo River in Brazzaville but had spread to become a cult of elegance among young Kinshasans.

They were members of what they called La Societe des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Elegantes – Sapeurs for short. At the heart of the vision was a dream of Paris. It had started in the 1950s with trying to dress like post-war Parisian existentialists – or “existos”, but now it was all about wearing labels like Dior.

See also In pictures: Congo migrant fashion show

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excerpts from the blog by Adam Curtis 

Readers Post

Today I want to share some interesting news out of Soul Safari’s mailbox; your comments, requests and music….keep sending!

hot news from Africolombia’s Blog

‘ Today  I posted an album Champeta of Colombia con Influencias the Music of South Africa, I have posted 3 tracks. 2 of them are South African versions with Instrumentation of some artists from Colombia’s Caribbean coast, this album is the Year 1991, La Banda Keniantu was created in Cartagena Colombia in the 80s under the direction of Wady Bedran Singer of afrocolombian Cumbias’ 

also many thanks to reader Reto Muller from Switzerland for sending the following pics and mp3’s (directly from the original 78 shellac discs). Music from Uganda and Zaire, the former Democratic Republic of Congo, probably recorded on the spot or in Brussels, Belgium. Reto added;
‘have no further details on the musician. it is what it is – truly great singing and rockin’ overmodulated mbira’ 
..the year of recording or any additional info is appreciated, merci beaucoup!


Nyboma -“Doublé Doublé” 1982 Congolese rhumba and soukous

Good day to all. Today’s post shines a light on a rather exquisite album by singer and musician Nyboma from the Democratic Republic of Congo, the former Zaire; “Doublé Doublé”(1982 Celluloid, France). 

“Doublé Doublé” and “Papy Sodolo” were big hits at the time of release and they still sound as fresh and convincing as on the day they were recorded. It’s actually an excellent album from start to finish. If you like Congolese rhumba and soukous then these recordings are a very good reference.

The LP cover is equally nice, a painting from 1979 by artist Moke that evokes scenes from Parisian underground nightlife where the African diaspora was relatively small at the time, but the parties were lively, nonetheless. No wonder this album was released in France.

Nyboma started singing with L’ Orchestre Négro Succes. In 1969 he joined the band Baby National, then Bella Bella. After these collaborations he joined a band called Lipua Lipua, with which he scored the hit “Kamale”. When he left Lipua Lipua, he called his next band Les Kamale. In the 1970s Les Kamale was a popular danceband with their hits “Salanga” and “Afida na ngai.” In 1979 Nyboma was drafted into African All-Stars from Togo, after the band’s founder Sam Mangwana had left. They recorded the hits “Doublé Doublé” and “Papy Sodolo”.Another tune from the album “Doublé Doublé” is equally strong and appealing; Nyboma -Kabanga

Nyboma is one of the big names spreading musical greatness from Congo. He has worked with Pepe Kalle,Madilu Système, Kamale, Lokassa Ya Mbongo, and others.

Le Trio Africain Los Makueson’s – Bonne Année (makossa) 2011

May 2011 bring all the best to you and your loved ones.

In the new year Soul Safari continues to bring you a personal selection of great music and all things African. In all colours of the Rainbow Nation and beyond. Books, music, art, culture.

Soul Safari proposes this Congolese gem by Le Trio Africain Los Makueson’s  for the launch of the new year.

♦Happy New Year♦♦2011♦♦Bonne Année♦

Le Trio Africain Los Makueson’s -Bonne Année (makossa)

Gérard Akueson made his way to Paris from his home in Togo. He worked on the periphery of the French entertainment industry singing his compositions as a solo performer and together with friends as the Trio Los Makueson’s. As his familiarity with the ways of Paris grew, he began to produce concerts for other African artists, including Ry-Co Jazz and Cameroon’s Francis Bebey. Akueson expanded his activities still further in 1968 with the launch of his own record label, International Disques Akué.

Among the label’s first releases were Akueson’s own works and those of a vocal group from Congo-Brazzaville calles Les Echos Noirs. The next year he recorded a new young singer from his own country named Bella Bellow. *


Rumba on the River: A History of the Popular Music of the Two Congos

*excerpt from a book by  Gary Stewart

“Congo. A History” by David Van Reybrouck

in a previous post on the Congolese youth movement La SAPE I have used an excerpt  from ‘Congo. A History’ a book by David Van Reybrouck ( 2010 De Bezige Bij Publishing Amsterdam).

La SAPE is a cultural underground youth movement  in Kinshasha; sapeurs dressing up, changing costumes and looks, changing  identities…3 times a day, and that’s just before lunch.

Of course, ‘Congo. A History’ is not only about fashion, music or  youth culture, it’s a well sourced document on the birth of a nation, the rise and decline of Congo, la République démocratique du Congo, the former Zaïre.

Belgian writer David Van Reybrouck describes for the first time the amazing history of Congo, from well before the arrival of the explorer Stanley to the influence of China in the last ten years and the recent economic crisis.

The birth of the new Congo was memorized by a song, “Independance Cha Cha” , composed in 1960 by Joseph Kabasele Tshamala (Grand Kalle), the father of Congolese music. The anthem of not only the nationalist movement in the Belgian Congo, but also the newly independent states of Africa  was first played at the Hotel Plaza in Brussels on January 27 1960

Le Grand Kalle & Orchestre African Jazz -Independance Cha Cha

Van Reybrouck relies not only on rare archival footage and cutting-edge research, but also on hundreds of interviews he conducted with Congolese. His eyewitness of centenarians are child soldiers, rebel leaders to smugglers, from ministers to cassava sellers. All their stories form the core of this phenomenal book coupled with data, facts and a most personal view on the past. ‘Congo. A History’ is above all  “a la recherche du temps perdu” since Van Reybrouck’s father lived and worked for years in the former Belgian colony.

The English translation of ‘Congo. A History’ by David Van Reybrouck in a bookstore near you soon!

David Van Reybrouck
The prestigious American publishing house HarperCollins has bought he world rights for the English translation of the  ‘Congo. A History’ for a “substantial amount”.  HarperCollins is one of the largest publishers of English-language fiction and nonfiction and has its headquarters in New York. The translation of the book will appear under the imprint Ecco Press.

Recently, ‘Congo. A History’ has won the AKO Literatuurprijs 2010 and the  Libris Geschiedenis Prijs 2010, two prestigious Dutch literature prizes.

Remember where you read this first! Well recommended…