Dances of the Salampasu, Zaire

Goodbye 2011, welcome 2012. Best wishes!

so have you enjoyed the holidays? Just like last year my visit to the colonial museum in Tervuren, Belgium was a special experience. The Royal Museum for Central Africa (RMCA) in Tervuren  is one of the most fascinating and beautiful African institutions in the world. The exhibition “UNCENSORED. Colorful stories behind the scenes”, is the last exhibition before the major renovation  begins at the end of 2012 and is your last chance to visit a traditional ‘colonial museum .

elephant in the snow The Royal Museum for Central Africa, Tervuren B

This time my interest was stirred since I received these rare recordings  as a Christmas present, made by Jos Gansemans in 1973 in Zaire, sponsored by the Royal Museum for Central Africa. The recordings come from a people called the Salampasu, which are distinguished by the use of the  xylophone, similar to the music of the  Mchopi tribe or Chopi, a Bantu-speaking people of northern Mozambique on the borders of Tanganyika. See also my previous post more African tribal dances from the Witwatersrand Gold Mines …

Mask Sakashya Makondi

Dances of the Salampasu, Zaire

The territory of the Salampasu in the south of the Kasayi province/Zaire is bordered by the Lulua and the Kasayi-rivers. Their neighbouring people are the Lunda in the South, the Kete in the north and east and the Lwalwa in the west.

Because of their bloodthirsty behaviour and because of the headhunting, in the past frequently attended by cannibalism, they became very feared. Consequently they remained a homogeneous people that succeeded in keeping its traditions, language and customs free from foreign influences.

To dance, the Salampasu dress up themselves with all kinds of skins, head-dresses and body paintings. The ritual characteristics find their best expression in the head-hunting dance matambu, the mask dances and the dances held during the healing rituals as there the Luanda, the mfuku, the utshumbu and the kabulukuta, the latter exclusively being performed by women. On the organological level they differ from the Lunda, Kete and Luba by the apparent preference they give to the xylophone madimba, the most important instrument of their orchestras.

From the liner notes of the album ‘Zaire, Musique de Salampasu’ Radio France BRT 1981 by Jos Gansemans

Zaire -Salampasu -Nazuji

Zaire -Salampasu -Sanza Ensemble

Salampasu -Misengu dance

Zaire -Salampasu -Misengu

Misengu dance

The misengu dance, Mukasa Nsaka, is one of the most impressive dances of the Salampasu.

The quantity of dancers easily amounts up to around a hundred, separated in two groups.

Now and then the groups are facing each other, they run around while dancing and threaten each other with their fightful swords, meanwhile they stamp loudly on the floor and made resound their ankle-rattles isuka. The xylophone and drum orchestra accompanying this dance is composed of four madimba xylophones, two ngoma drums beaten with the hands and two cylindrical drums ikandi on which they play with two sticks.

 Zaire -Salampasu -Kalesa

All recordings from the album ‘Zaire, Musique de Salampasu’ Radio France BRT 1981

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!


“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…