Le Grand Kallé & l’Orchestre Jazz -Souvenirs from the Congo

Made in Belgium always stand for quality; chocolates, tapestry, Belgian cuisine…just to name a few of the most famous Belgian exports. I would like to add music as another element of high quality to this list!

Souvenirs from the Congo is a beautiful double album by Le Grand Kallé and certainly a product of quality. Made with love.

I had the change to interview BART, the founder of Planet Ilunga who is responsible for releasing this excellent compilation. Pressed as a gatefold deluxe limited edition of 500 copies only. So don’t sleep….

Please note that there are 2 pages to this post, see the pagination at the bottom of this page…

See also Congo – a history by David van Reybrouck

See also Le Ry-Co Jazz – afro jazz in tumbélé style 1960’s



Le Grand Kallé –Parafifi

Le Grand Kallé – Mokonzi Ya Mboka

Please tell us more about yourself; your age, your interest in music, your label Planet Ilunga?

I’m a 28 year old who likes to collect different kinds of music on vinyl. One year ago I lost my job due to the economic crisis. This was a huge setback, but it gave me the opportunity and the time to fulfill the project that kept me dreaming the whole time: creating a music label and kick it off with an anthology on Joseph Kabasele (Le Grand Kallé).

I discovered him five years ago through a cd-compilation called Rumba on the River, compiled by Florent Mazzoleni. I was already collecting records for several years, but mainly electronic music from Chicago, Detroit and Belgium, some old jazz and blues and the occasional exotic compilation on labels like Soundway. After buying this cd I immediately became enchanted by this rumba-music from the likes of Franco, Joseph Kabasele, Docteur Nico, Tabu Ley Rochereau, Bantous de la Capitale, ergo the very best in the 50s and 60s in the two Congos.

From then on, my passion for Congolese and African music began to take form and I started to search frenetically for those rumba-sounds on legendary Congolese labels like Ngoma, Vita or Kabasele’s own label Surboum African Jazz. I soon became very frustrated because most of these records are not easy to find. What was a little bit easier was finding the releases on Sonodisc’s African label. Frustration took over again though when I saw how very disorderly their catalog was compiled adding very little or no documentation to any of the music. I found this a disgrace for music history. That’s why I decided to compile my own Joseph Kabasele-compilation. It was released on June 30, Congolese independence day.


What are your plans with Planet Ilunga?

The main intention with this first anthology is to give some background on Kallé and l’African Jazz – since Sonodisc failed to do so on their releases – and release it in a valuable package with a good remastering and nice label artwork. I’m aware there are already a lot of reissue labels for African music among whom some great ones, but a lot of them are reissuing African music, because it has a certain appeal to western dj’s or because it sounds funky or because it’s afrobeat. That’s not what this label stands for. I would like to reissue the artists who were at the forefront when modern music started in different African countries. If all goes well, I will release a series of Congolese artists first on Planet Ilunga and then move to artists from Guinea, Tanzania, Cameroon, etc. There’s still a lot to discover and so much important music is not available on vinyl or cd.



Tell us more about the compilation; quality wise; pressing, mastering, where is it for sale etc?

For this compilation I could choose from the Grand Kallé’s tracks which were released on different albums, singles and compilations on Sonodisc’s labels. I selected 26 tracks and divided them in four stories: ‘The Belle Epoque’ (mostly tracks from the fifties); ‘Vive The Independence’ (politics-related songs like Table Ronde and Africa Mokili Mobimba), ‘Pièce de Résistance’ (for the most part post-colonial songs from the early sixties when the band got more mature) and finally ‘The Cuban Connection’ (where the influence that the Cuban Son, Cha-Cha and other Latin-American styles had on Kabasele and his peers can be heard even more than in the other ‘stories’). 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.

There is no cd or digital version, maybe I will do this for a next compilation. I don’t have a distributor yet, but people can buy this first compilation from different record stores across Europe, like Rush Hour in Holland or Oye Record Store or HHV in Germany. In Belgium you can dig for it in all the good record stores. You can also buy directly from the label by sending me an email.

Why compile music from Congo –now République Démocratique du Congo (DR Congo)?

Do you know the stamp that Polydor pressed on their African music 45 sleeves? It says ‘The music that makes you happy’. For me this is the most spot-on baseline I ever encountered and it reflects why I plundered my bank account to finance this release. These Congolese recordings are giving me lots of ‘joie de vivre’ and I just want to share this on my favorite medium -vinyl.

Furthermore, there is the political and social side in this music which I find interesting. In the two Congos music and politics have often gone hand in hand. Even the most fanatic propaganda song can be music-wise utterly brilliant. For example listen to this Franco song where he ‘s praising Mobotu and his MPR.

Despite of the sheer beauty it brings, I think the fifties and sixties music from both of the Congos is mostly neglected by the small or bigger reissue labels lately. This is very strange, considering the major influence the Congolese rumba has had on other regions in Central, Eastern and even West Africa. The labels Crammed Disc and Sterns Music are the exceptions though. One month ago Sterns put out their Grand Kalle anthology with different tracks than on the Planet Ilunga 2LP. They only released it as a 2CD. I couldn’t recommend this enough, there are some wonderful tracks on it.


Are you working as a musician, collector or cultural anthropologist?

No, I currently work as a journalist in other fields, but in the long run my ambition is to help preserving the African music archives as a full time job. There are many examples of Western institutions or even individuals who are doing a great job in preserving historic music archives, and not only in Africa. I find this wonderful, certainly if they share their knowledge. Regarding African music archives I must say Graeme Counsel did an amazing job in archiving Guinea’s music heritage. Even more interesting is the Tanzania heritage project. I hope it takes off well, so it can serve as an example for other African countries. It’s time some ministries of Culture in African countries begin to care about preserving their own music patrimony. Why are there few  projects in Africa that even try to preserve part of their (music) culture? It’s sad, this indifference. If only they knew how much export value this could have…


Dieudonné Niangouna’s Shéda at the Holland Festival -Les Bruits de la Rue

due to the ongoing civil unrest in Congo, Les Bruits de la Rue, a group of theatremakers are forced to perform in the streets of Brazzaville, next to the ravaged theaters that they once used to present their art.

The international premiere of Shéda, directed by Congolese theatre maker Dieudonné Niangouna and performed by Les Bruits de la Rue, will take place on 6 and 7 June 2013 as part of the Holland Festival. After the 7 June performance, Niangouna will participate in a Q&A with writer and director Maarten van Hinte. Dieudonné Niangouna is one of today’s most prominent innovators of African theatre and a Prince Claus Fund project partner. The production and performance of Shéda is supported by the Prince Claus Fund and the Institut Français.


“I will make the audience howl with laughter, while it’s all very serious and really nothing to laugh about.”

– Dieudonné Niangouna

Dieudonné Niangouna is a writer, director and one of the most prominent innovators of African theatre. Through his dynamic performances, he reflects the violence and anger in Congo today. By combining French, the popular poetry of Congolese writer Sony Labou Tansi and the traditional mythical stories of his people, the Lari, Niangouna has created a vibrant ‘living language for the living’ that serves as a weapon in the fight against injustice.

Les Bruits de la Rue’s performance of Shéda is a ‘choral odyssey’ with twelve African and European actors, including Niangouna himself, and two musicians. Part theatre, part musical performance, Shéda is an orchestrated stream of words, thoughts and images fused together to form a layered theatrical fresco. Niangouna employs his ‘living language’ onstage to create a refuge in the aftermath of an apocalyptic event. The characters that gather there embody fallen gods. They are heroes from a bygone era who have returned as ghosts or dreamlike apparitions. In Shéda, these spectres try to redeem their humanity while sharing their stories and memories of the end of the world.

Shéda by Les Bruits de la Rue, directed by Dieudonné Niangouna 

Thursday, 6 June 2013

20:00 – 23:00


Leidseplein 26, Amsterdam

Friday, 7 June 2013

19:45 Introduction by Maarten van Hinte

20:00 Performance

23:00 Q&A with Dieudonné Niangouna and Maarten van Hinte


Leidseplein 26, Amsterdam

Language: French with Dutch surtitles

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

les Sapeurs; battle of the dandies

A good day to all of you…This is not a fashion blog.

Yet,  I can not resist reporting this spectacular fashion event, held just last night. An official part of the Amsterdam Fashion Week 2010, organised by the Prince Claus Fund and the Amsterdams fonds voor de Kunst. Quite an official gathering…

My interest was stirred first of all since this night out promised to be a fashion battle and   a few key members of  ‘Sapeurs’, members of  La SAPE (Société  des Ambianceurs et Personnes Elegantes) were invited.  On the catwalk Sapeurs  from  Congo, Ghana, Rwanda and Morocco elevated fashion to the status of religion.

Les Sapeurs create a totally different identity through expensive Western haute couture garments that are presented with African eccentricity. Looking good for les Sapeurs is just as important as following the rules of elegance and good manners.

One could call them dandies, more critical minds may discard them as idle poseurs or fashion victims. But whatever their image may evoke, their impact on African culture should not be underestimated.

Les Sapeurs started in the mid 70’s as a small group of Zairous Fashion Lovers who rebelled against the regime of president Mobutu of Zaïre who introduced the uniformed look. A look for men and women based on communist Mao suits, replaced  the suit and tie  of Zaïre’s colonial oppressors and banned European fashion in general.  Les Sapeurs found a new way of protesting Mobutu’s  regime by importing Western extravagant outfits from chic boutiques in  Brussels and Paris. Musician Papa Wemba was their idol; ‘le pape du Sape’.

La Sape was a very peculiar movement. At first glance it seemed ridiculous for a man in Kinshasa, in the midst of an economic crisis, to walk around with gaudy sunglasses, a colorful shirt by Jean-Paul Gaultier and a fur coat of mink, but the materialism of Sapeurs was social criticism, as punk in Europe in later years was. It depicted a profound aversion to the misery, poverty and repression that they knew and it allowed to dream of a carefree Zaïre.

La Sape was all about success, about visibility, and about scoring. Discothèques were entered with a combination of Chic, Choc et Chèque. The true Sapeur was űber cool, he moved and spoke with perfect control, he regaled his friends on beer and women were his easy prey. He was a dandy, a playboy, a snob. The Sapeur was not despised but admired. For many poverty-stricken youth his extravaganza kept hope alive.*

Les Sapeurs are following the footsteps of those dandies who flashed the streets of South African townships like Sophiatown and Alexandra in the 40’s and 50’s. These people were known as tsotsis and widely regarded for their immaculate sense of dress. And love of music too; marabi, jazz. Tsotsis had been named for the zoot suits they adopted just after World War II, but the name was also conveniently close to the Sotho verb ho tsotsa, meaning ‘to behave thuggisly’.

Gangsterism had a range of forms and social meanings. Many gangs had started out as genuine self-protection groupings for country boys prey to the wicked big cities; to survive, they had to learn that wickedness themselves. They progressed to demand protection money, traded in dagga and bootleg liquor and controlled the prostitution market.

They gathered their inspiration from movies about Al Capone and Cab Calloway, of whom they borrowed their trademark look; the zoot suit. And they dated the beautiful ladies; Miriam Makeba, Dolly Rathebe, Thandy Klaasen. They were going through that whole thing of the moll, the gangster’s moll.


Their attitude towards women performers-as to women in general- was not so respectful as singer Dolly Rathebe recalls:

‘We used to have it very tough in those days…Sophiatown was like New Orleans -it had the jazz, the fashion, everything! We had competition with Orlando -we used to call them turkeys because they spoke too much of the native languages like Zulu. To us, it sounded like gobble, gobble. We were proud of our Afrikaans and English.

Those from Alexandra were real raw and uncouth and used to go and raid other townships, starting fights and kidnapping women. They came for me once, said; ‘after the show, you’re coming with us’! I had to go with them. What choice did I have? Oh yes, it was tough…the police didn’t care about it, because later I reported that this guy had taken me against my will, but nothing happened. We were just kaffir meids (black girls), Bantus, so the police didn’t care. We found ways to survive. The tsotsis were the best dressed gangsters in town and eventually I settled down with one of them. He looked after me. It was just that kind of life, and we’d grown up with it.’*

*from the book ‘Soweto Blues -Jazz, Popular Music & Politics in South Africa’ by Gwen Ansell. 2004 Continuum Publishing New York-London

on the Amsterdam catwalk last night, the finest selection of les Sapeurs had no criminal connections nor did they belong to any gang of tsotsis. Les Sapeurs LOVE fashion with a Sexy, Afro Glam Wham Attitude!

African chic combined with  European fashion. Models striking a pose to bass-heavy raw African tunes and sophisticated NYC 90’s discotheque hits.  Two young boys on the decks,  “l’Afrique Som System” signed for the soundtrack; Asheru Alhuag & Ashwin Murli.

Certainly  a night to remember,  quite refreshing and what great fun. Vive les Sapeurs! Long live the African Renaissance!

all photographs©Soul Safari 2010

a selection from ‘les Sapeurs’ soundtrack right here


**excerpts from ‘Soweto Blues -Jazz, Popular Music & Politics in South Africa’ by Gwen Ansell. 2004 Continuum Publishing New York-London

*excerpts on La SAPE  from ‘Congo. A History’ by David Van Reybrouck‘. 2010 De Bezige Bij Publishing Amsterdam