Papa Wemba R.I.P. (1949 – 2016)

Last Sunday Papa Wemba collapsed at a concert in Ivory Coast and died shortly afterwards. To die in the armor is probably just the way he had always wanted it, how shocking this news may seem. Papa Wemba (born Lubefu in 1949) became famous as a young singer when he joined the band Zaiko Langa Langa in 1969.

Congolese rumba (or soukous) was big in the fifties and sixties, when African artists were mixing traditional Congolese music with soul and Latin American and Caribbean rhythms.

The band played a  modern and bold version of rumba, full of tight drums and electric guitars, and therefore Zaiko Langa Langa was very popular with mainly Congolese youth. Not least because of the appearance of the band, always well dressed in the latest imported fashions. But Zaiko Langa Langa was also popular because the band created a true dance craze in the seventies with the very exciting cavacha rhythm.
From 1974 onwards Papa Wemba founded a few own bands. First Isifi Lokole, later Yoka Lokole and eventually the band Viva la Musica.  As a bandleader with this group Wemba wanted to give young Congolese talent an opportunity and the composition of the group therefore changed constantly. Viva la Musica had big hits with songs like ‘African Bokulaka’ and ‘Mere Superior. And Papa Wemba was a star in his home country, especially as one of the leaders of the Congolese La SAPE, a movement which wanted to show with striking and fashionable clothes that Africans could survive very well without colonial rulers.

See also les Sapeurs; battle of the dandies

Too numerous to mention but one of my own favourites must be this collaboration with Hector Zazou from 1983 on the excellent Crammed Discs from Brussels, Belgium. A quite rare and hard to find wave-afro funker.

Zazou/Wemba -Malimba

(Crammed Discs 023 -Belgium 1983)

See also this documentary of Papa Wemba – The King Of Sape/ Papa Wemba Le Roi De La Sape. Not for the fainthearted….

source; de Volkskrant April 25 2016 -Robert Gijssel


Orchestre Les Rebelles -Manicero

Hit Parade Africain -Spring 2013 Mix -rumba, soukous, afrobeat , one of my previous posts attracted enough comments and a few requests to single out one particular track; Orchestre Les Rebelles -ManiceroI agree that this is a standout track.  Enjoy the download

hit parade africain cover voor

Hit Parade Africain Vol 4 -Orchestre Les Noirs, Orchestre Sinza, Franco & Orchestre TP Ok Jazz, Orchestre Les Rebelles, Les Bantous, Orchestre Mando Negro, Orchestre Hi-Fives MLP 12-198 UK

Hit Parade Africain -Spring 2013 Mix -rumba, soukous, afrobeat

hit parade africain cover voor

to kick off the new month here is a groovy mix of great rumba, soukous, afrobeat…all tracks taken from ‘Hit Parade Africain Vol 4’, released by the wonderful label Melodisc Records Ltd that was based in London.  No year of publication is indicated, so I estimate that  this release is from mid 70s.  Melodisc Records Ltd released a remarkable selection of early ska, rocksteady and African music and the records are quite rare these days….so enjoy this mix!

Hit Parade Africain Vol 4 -Orchestre Les Noirs, Orchestre Sinza, Franco & Orchestre TP Ok Jazz, Orchestre Les Rebelles, Les Bantous, Orchestre Mando Negro, Orchestre Hi-Fives MLP 12-198 UK

hit parade africain cover achter

hit parade africain label side 1

Hit Parade Africain Mix 1 April 2013

 Orchestre Sinza -Mahoungou

Franco et l’Orchestre TP OK Jazz -Ye Nr. 1

Orchestre Les Rebelles -Manicero

Les Bantous -Macaro

Orchestre Les Noirs -Sikiya Sauce Nr. 1

Orchestre Les Noirs -Amin Nr. 1

Orchestre Hi-Fives -Belina Mon Amour

hit parade africain label side 2

Dig the Latin bag, bro!

Good day to all. Today I bring you a selection of tunes that reflects the cross-pollination of Africa and Cuba. Music that injects Afro into Cuban and Cuba into Africa. Danzón, Son, Cuban jazz, Rumba, Boogaloo, Salsa, Mambo;  those rhythms came from the African continent in the first place. Large numbers of African slaves and European (mostly Spanish) immigrants came to Cuba and brought their own forms of music to the island.

In the 50’s and 60’s New York was the birthplace of Boogaloo (or Bugalu) and Mambo  and other Afro-Cuban inspired rhythms like Salsa. Latin youth culture flourished during those days and the trends and styles of the barrios of  downtown Bronx and Spanish Harlem were eagerly copied by African musicians on the other side of the ocean. Sort of a global village in fact. Africa dissolved Latin rhythms within it’s own music,  so the circle was round.

I start this selection with a rare album, released originally in France on African Records in 1970, that features the talents of Le Grand Kalle, Don Gonzalo and Manu Dibango as L’ African Team.

‘Africa Boogaloo’ and ‘Boogaloo la Fontaine’ are two tracks from this album that could easily have been recorded for Fania or Tico but were made in Africa. On both tracks Manu Dibango & Kalle sing and play, the groove is tight and mesmerizing.

L’African Team -African Boogaloo

L’African Team -Boogaloo La Fontaine

Of all African musicians Manu Dibango surely must have been one of the most succesful and busiest working showman around the globe. He can be heard with the Fania All Stars on an album that was recorded in New York’s Yankee Stadium on August 24th, 1973. The event was a concert, organised by Fania Records under the title Nuestra Cosa -best translated as ‘Our Latin Thing’. Forty thousand souls, mostly from the barrios of Manhattan and the Bronx, turned to welcome Mongo Santamaria’s Septet, El Gran Combo from Puerto Rico and the Fania All Stars featuring Manu Dibango. Although the New York concert ended prematurely due to chaos and riots caused by the public’s enthousiasm, the track ‘Soul Makossa’ was re-recorded during another concert by the same line-up in San Juan. Hear Manu Dibango introducing his big hit ‘Soul Makossa’ to an ecstatic crowd….

Fania All Stars featuring Manu Dibango -Soul Makossa

Ray Barretto needs no further introduction. His musical career spans many decades and he was without a doubt one of the great Latin musicians who is widely credited as the godfather of Latin Jazz. In 1960, Barretto was a house musician for the Prestige, Blue Note and Riverside labels. New York had become the center of Latin music in the United States and a style called “Charanga” was the Latin music craze of the time. He never forgot the African roots of his music as ‘Abidjan Revisited’ proves, a slice of uptempo conga madness and flute while Manu Dibango is namechecked in the lyrics.

Ray Barretto -Abidjan Revisited

In the year 2009 African Boogaloo was being re-discovered by Europeans and Africans alike. The excellent compilation ‘Africa Boogaloo’, with stunning artwork proves just that. This package presents a range of tracks from the 50s through the 70s – some of the earliest African interpretations of Latin styles that blend with grooves like Congolese Rumba; AFRO & F.U.N.K.Y. Latin Jazz.

Titles include “A Moins Que Namikosa” by Orchestra OK Jazz, “Rampa Rampa” by Orchestre Yaya Mas, “Quiero Wapacha” by Charles Lembe, “Ven Y Ven Y Ven” by Orchestre OK Jazz, “Vamos A Bailar” by Rio Band, “Guantanamo” by Laba Sosseh, “On Verra Ca” by Orchestre Baobab, “Mi Guajeo” by Orchestre N’Guewel, “N’Niyo” by Amara Toure, “Il N’Est Jamais Trop Tard” by Pierre Tchana & Orchestre Poly Rhythmo, “Africa Boogaloo” by Le Grande Kalle with Don Gonzalo & Manu Dibango and “Adigbedoto” by Gnonnas Pedro.

The best news is that most of the selections come from albums or CD’s that are still available! Or have been re-issued with new packages and liner notes. Click the titles to see where you can purchase this great music. Caliente!

Recommended Listening

Africa Boogaloo – The Latinization Of West Africa-Various Artists HJRCD41 (Honest John’s 2009)

Le Grand Kalle and l’African Team (Sonod 1999)

Fania All Stars -Latin Soul Rock (Fania SLP 00470)