Kalle chanting Satchmo: a warm breeze in a cold war

Some months ago I found the seven inch vinyl with the African Jazz song ‘Satchmo Okuka Lokolé’ in which Kalle is chanting Louis Armstrong. Aside from being a very joyous song it provides inadvertently part of the soundtrack to some somber passages in Congolese history books. On October 28th 1960 Louis Armstrong (Satchmo) and his All Stars band arrived in the newly independent Leopoldville as part of a African good-will-tour, organised by the US government. These trips with famous Afro-American performers were part of the propaganda war with Sovjet Union. Despite the turbulent political climate around the time in the Congo – war in Katanga province – the Congolese people gave ‘Satchmo’ a welcome he would never forget. From then on Satchmo was called ‘Okuka Lokolé’, as you can hear in this tribute song Joseph Kabasele composed for him. After performing in Leopoldville, Armstrong and his All Stars played several weeks later in Elisabethville (Katanga). A day-long truce was called so that both sides could attend Armstrong’s performance. Armstrong later commented that he had stopped a civil war. The US based Penny Von Eschen states in her book ‘Satchmo Blows Up the World: Jazz Ambassadors Play the Cold War’ that “Armstrong did not know however that at the time of his visit to Léopoldville at the end of October and to Katanga in November Lumumba had been arrested and would later being held and tortured by Tshombe’s army, with American assistance”.

Lyrics

Sepela a a a, Nzambe alingi yo okoma na mboka ya baninga e e e
Ya bisu u u u na kati kati ya Afrika kombo Congo e e e
Armstrong e e e mboka mosusu babenga yo kombo Satchmo
Na Congo o o o tobakisi yo kombo Okuka Lokolé e e e

Chorus (2x)

Ho o o Armstrong Okuka, ho o o Satchmo
Oyei na mboka baninga e e e toyambi yo , toyambi yo e e e Okuka Lokolé
Ho o o Armstrong Okuka, ho o o Satchmo
Ho o o Lokolé o o o Lokolé o o o toyambi yo Okuka Lokolé
Ho o o Armstrong Okuka, ho o o Satchmo

Ho o o Armstrong Okuka, ho o o Satchmo
Ho o o Lokolé Lokolé Lokolé toyambi yo e e e
Na  Congo, Okuka Lokolé
Ho o o Armstrong Okuka, ho o o Satchmo
Ho o o Lokolé Satchmo Armstrong yamba mbote ya Congo die e e e
Ho o o Armstrong Okuka, ho o o Satchmo

“Sois-heureux Dieu t’aime tu arrives au pays des autres
notre pays au centre de l’Afrique nommé Congo
Armstrong e e e autre pays on vous appelle au nom Satchmo
Au Congo o o o nous t’ajoutons le nom Okuka Lokolé”

Many thanks to Christian Ongoba & Henriette ta Belle-Sœur for the transcription in Lingala & translation in French. Merci beaucoup Christian & Henriette!

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