10 songs & 1 book to celebrate 40 years of Surinam independency

suriname vlag

happy birthday Surinam! The former Dutch colony celebrates 40 years of independency today.
During the festivities swinging music will be heard on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. It seemed appropriate to me to select 10 personal favourite tracks from my own collection to celebrate this festive day here in Amsterdam and Surinam. May these gems be heard around the world, as far as  Paramaribo…Kawina, Kaseko, disco, surinam soul, latin, mambo …all from different decades and representing the most typical styles of  Surinamese music.

sranan gowtu book cover

At the same time I would like to pay attention to a special book which recently appeared; “Sranan Gowtu’ by Diederik Samwel. Published by Nijgh & Van Ditmar in association with record label Top Notch which already released two compilations with the stars of the Surinamese music in 2013.

The first step in the revaluation of Surinamese music started in 2013 with the collector ‘Sranan Gowtu’ with songs from six different decades. The compilation is packed with Creole music, calypso, Kaseko music, winti songs, salsa, soca, dancehall to the timeless pop hit ‘Wasmasjien! ” by Trafassi. Besides digitally and on CD this compilation is also available in gorgeous red and green vinyl.

However, this is only the beginning. The purpose of Sranan Gowtu is not only to provide an overview of the range of beautiful Surinamese music, but also to go in depth with compilations of individual performers. So meanwhile the best work of  Dear Hugo, Trafassi, Max Nijman, Papa Touwtjie and Kid Dynamite has been republished.

And here are my 10 favourite songs from Surinam….

suriname ost herman vander horst watermarked

Big Jones and his Kawina Band -Ala Pikin Nengre

from the soundtrack ‘Faja Lobbi ‘; a film by Herman vander Horst (1960)

a kind of ballad about the town of Paramaribo. In the introductory solo singing, all the children (ala pikin nengre) are called to go to the town (foto) to admire everything that may be seen there; the houses (hoso), the big ship (biggie boto), the factories, the machines, the cars, the shops (wenkri) etc. Finally we arrive at the market (wojo) where we find an endless variety of articles, and an equally wide variety of people.

big jones -par'bo mambo label watermarked

Big Jones -Par’Bo Mambo

rare mambo track that celebrates life in the capital Paramaribo

coco valoy -juliana label watermarked

Coco Valoy -Juliana

great latin instrumental by a member of Los Virtuosos

orchestra tropical tata vodoe cover watermarked

Orchestra Tropical -Tata Vodoe

the kasekomasters -boroe cover watermarked

The KasekoMasters -Boroe

max nijman and the new faces -sugar label watermarked

Max Nijman and The New Faces -Sugar

ricky -poeirie label watermarked

Ricky -Poeirie

erwin bouterse watermarked

Edwin Bouterse and his Rhythm Cosmos -Disco Party

spooky -music watermarked

Spooky’s Express -Express

instrumental version called ‘Express’, while the vocal side is called ‘Music’. Clearly a remake/rehash of ‘Soul Finger’, the big instrumental hit of 1967 by The Bar-Kays.

billy jones & the stars -all my brothers are clean label watermarked

Billy Jones & The Stars – All My Brothers Are Clean

more Surinamese music in subsequent posts.

“Afro Mood”-a burlesque short with exotic dancer Amalia Aguilar

Amalia Aguilar-Afro Mood

Afro Mood

A burlesque short film starring exotic dancer Amalia Aguilar.  “Afro Mood” is one of two numbers that she performed in a movie entitled “A Night at the Follies”, which was made in 1947. The name of the other number she performs in that film is “Rumba-Amalia”.

Spectacular dancing to African and Afro-Cuban music, tribal dancing for the  theatre. What this has to do with Africa, though, is questionable but the music and the tribal dance sequence are great. As far as the term “Afro” in the title, sometimes Latin music like Rumba is referred to as “Afro-Cuban” music, as a major portion of its origins are from Africa.

Amalia Aguilar -Afro Mood

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

Poem for a Coral Reef -Select 4 update & new remix

for over a year now, you have chosen poem for a Coral Reef by Yemu Matibe and Alungile Sixishe-Musique Exotique to be the most popular post on this blog so far.  Thank you!

Even more so, I am happy to announce that Claude Challe & Jean-Marc Challe, über DJ’s from Paris have selected the song ‘Poem for a Coral Reef’ as the opening of their new compilation ‘Select 4 -Music For Our Friends’

 Indeed a great pleasure to be in the company of artists as diverse and inspirational….this compilation has a truely worldwide appeal and the selection of exotic moods and timed moodswings is phenomenal.

Orlando Voorn

Furthermore, Dutch wunderkind producer/DJ Orlando Voorn has  remixed the original of  ”Coral Reef” into a driving, punchy powerful groove that blends  traditional African instruments like kalimba in perfect unision with electronic dance music….

Hear the remix and see the video here  

Downloads at Beatport

the Bleached Zulu Pt 3 -The Shangaans -frontiers of Afrocentric Rock

If there is one white pop band that deserves to be crowned as the Bleached Zulu then it must be the South African group The Shangaans. They even adopted their name from an African tribe noted for their musical virtuosity. See previous post  for the song “Liwa Wechi”, the B-side of their hitsingle “The Click Song” (Columbia 45-DSA 612, 1965)

Now here are a few selections from their 1965 debut album “Jungle Drums”, remarkable fact is that both tracks were written by Miriam Makeba. The album was released in the UK and spawned many hit singles and a overseas career for the 5 young guys known as The Shangaans. Not a bad achievement considering the fact that the international boycot against South African apartheid then ruled the world.

The Shangaans -Ntijilo, Ntjilo

The fusion of conventional western world melodies and lyrics with pulsating African tribal rhythms –as perfected by South Africa’s top group The Shangaans –represents one of the most exciting, out-of-the-rut sounds ever heard on the British music scene. After hitting the highspots throughout South Africa, the five-strong Shangaans arrived in the UK in the summer of 1965 and immediately clicked in a big way with fans via two big –selling songs “Genzene” and “The Click Song”. Now comes their first album and the overall title ‘Jungle Drums’ aptly summarizes their unique, highly individual style of exotic, percussion-based pop music.

The use of stereophonic sound greatly enriches the never-ending cross-pattern of percussive sounds from a wide variety of authentic African instruments –including chopi piano, kalimba, and any amount of big and small tribal drums. Although basically an instrumental set –with such highspots as the throbbing revival of the Lou Busch favourite, “Zambezi”, and the kwela flavoured “Afrikaan Beat” –The Shangaans, nevertheless, are accomplished singers too, and show their paces in fine style on “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” (perhaps better known in some quarters as “Wimoweh”.

The Shangaans -Jikal ‘Emaweni

Who are The Shangaans? Their names are Grahame Beggs, Alain Woolf, Mark Barry, Bill Muller and Glen “Tich” Muller. They represent the cream of the South African music scene, since all five have made their mark in the past with other leading groups. Individually, they are brilliant musicians; collectively, they make a remarkable, multi-talented outfit. Grahame doubles lead, rhythm and 12-string guitars, plus maracas and African drums, whilst Alain handles the lead, vocals, penny whistle, and a host of percussion instruments. Organist Mark is also featured on piano, celeste, chopi piano, and vibraphone, and Bill Muller doubles drums, thumb piano and African drums. Younger brother Glen completes the picture on bass guitar, doubling African percussion.

musical selections from The Shangaans -“Jungle Drums”

Columbia Mono 33JSX 76, 1965 South Africa

A1 Taboo
A2 Yellow Bird
A3 Afrikaan Beat
A4 Watusi
A5 Skokiaan
A6 The Lion Sleeps Tonight (Wimoweh)
B1 Zambezi
B2 A Swingin’ Safari
B3 Ntjilo, Ntjilo
B4 Inhlazane
B5 Jikal ‘Emaweni
B6 Voodoo Drums

Bass Guitar, Percussion – Glen “Tich” Muller
Drums, Thumb Piano, Percussion – Bill Muller
Guitar, Vocals, Percussion – Grahame Beggs
Organ, Piano, Vibraphone, Celeste, Chopi Piano – Mark Barry
Vocals, Percussion, Whistle – Alain Woolf

Info taken from the liner notes written by Dave Wynn for “Jungle Drums” album released in 1965.

Poem For A Coral Reef by Yemu Matibe & Alungile Sixishe; Musique Exotique

Once you have seen the splendor of coral reefs it’s easy to imagine that this underwater world is so fragile. That their existence is linked immediately to climate change is an indicator of the ecological distress on the planet caused by the buildup of greenhouse gases.

High ocean temperatures are taxing the organisms most sensitive to them, the shallow-water corals that create some of the world’s most vibrant and colorful seascapes . Coral reefs also harbor perhaps a quarter of all marine species, including a profusion of fish. Worldwide, corals are reacting to the changing temperatures of the oceans by bleaching, or shredding their color and going into survival mode.

This process has been going on ever since 1983 when the first large-scale weather event known as El Nino hit the Eastern Pacific and the Caribbean. Serious regional bleaching has occurred intermittently ever since the 1983 disaster. And it looks like it’s not going to stop…*

*Excerpts from an article by Justin Gillis -The International Herald Tribune

So I feel that the time is right for a poem, a text I wrote on the beauty of coral reefs, ecosystems in peril. The translation from English to Xhosa was done by Lunga Heleni. The song was recorded in South Africa during February 2009 at Sonic Art studio in  Grahamstown.


Young Xhosa singer Yemu Matibe who studies at Grahamstown’s Rhodes University sings the operatic parts and Alungile Sixishe recites the text. The song is based upon ‘Dido & Anaïs’ by the English Baroque composer Henry Purcell. Musical accompaniment  by Brazilian guitarist Nelson Latif and South African maestro James Foerie on kalimba and percussion. Piano by Coen Molenaar, cello by Bonno Lange.

Original version of  ‘Coral Reef ‘ from the album ‘Musique Exotique’ 

P + © Ubuntu Publishing 2010. catalog nr. UP 2010.002 CD

(poem for a) Coral Reef  -English lyrics

by Eddy De Clercq

Eternal source of color and light

a world without seasons

a world without reason

no day nor night

flowers born out of rock and sand

a garden untouched by human hand

rays of light break thru emerald

fish disappearing in deep blue depths

clouds of silver shimmering

vibrating pulse of life

thru misty depths of deep dark

full of unseen creatures

that crawl along the bottom

hide in cracks and holes of the reef

change color quickly

hide in a cloud of inky water

down here floating over the coral reef

this deafening silence that surrounds me

once man has seen this beauty

will he understand his own belief?

(poem for a) Coral Reef –Ikorale yoqaqa lolwandle -Xhosa lyrics

translated by Lunga Heleni

Mthombo wanaphakade wombala nokhanyo

Ilizwe ngaphandle kwamaxesha onyaka

Ilizwe ngaphandle kwezizathu

Kungekho suku nabusuku

Zintyatyamb’ ezizelelw’ ematyeni nasesantini

Sitiya esingachukunyiswanga sandla samntu

Matha okhanyo aqhekeza ngapha kwe – emeraldi

Ntlanzi ezinyamalalela kwiinzulw’ eziluhlaza

Mafu esilivere amenyezelayo

Intontozo esukumayo yobomi

Kwiinzulu ezinkungwana zobunzul’ obumnyama

Zizele zizilo ezingekabonwa

Zikhasela kumazantsi olwandle

Zizimele kumathanda nasemingxunyeni yoqaqa lolwandle

Zijik’ umbala msinyane

Zizimele kwilifu lamanz’ aluzizi

Ezantsi apha zidada ngaphaya kwekorale yolwandle

Lenzolw’ ibang’ ubuthul’ obundingqongayo

Xa umntu ethe wabona obubuhle

Angayiqonda na eyakhe inkolelo?

© Eddy De Clercq/Ubuntu Publishing 2010

Contact: ubuntu-publishing@xs4all.nl


African Lament -Miriam Burton, Rites of Passages 1961

here is an extremely rare record that was found on my last African trip;  ‘African Lament’, with a battered cover alas, but what a find! One of the true rarities of wordless Exotica by a moody  lady who’s  up there with Yma Sumac and Leda Annest a.o.

Although ‘Palm Wine Party’ seems to be the best known title, the album holds several great jazz tunes that are far more superior; ‘Rites of Passage’ for instance.

All songs on African Lament (Epic LN 24011 Mono) were composed by Sascha Burland and Pat Williams. Released in 1961 by EPIC Records, US.

Miriam Burton’s vocal performance is outstanding, set in a seductive soundscape of traditional African percussive instruments, flutes, tipples, marimba… a fascinating hybrid sound that expresses the curious co-existence of the old and the new in Africa. And to capture the vibrant spirit, the pain of the African caught in turmoil, Miriam Burton’s soaring wordless vocal obligatos complete the picture.

It is an album of musical expressions of a continent in dramatic transition. Burland writes that he and Williams have made no attempt at ethnic authenticity, but have simply tried to set down musical pictures which relate to certain African facts and folklore.

Titles are

Rites Of Passage pts 1-3


Kalahari Bushmen

Congo Lament

Yoruba Lady


Palm Wine Party

A word about Miriam Burton. With a background ranging from jazz singing to serious Carnegie Hall concerts, Miss Burton has been  touring with the Katherine Dunham Dance Company throughout Europe, making triumphant Broadway appearances in ‘Porgy and Bess’ and ‘House of Flowers’ and performing in several television specials with Harry Belafonte.

see rare pics of Miriam Burton in a collage of ‘Palm Wine Party’