New release: O.K. Jazz – The Loningisa Years 1956-1961 (Planet Ilunga 03)

After some silence Planet Ilunga is happy to announce a new vinyl compilation on the early days of Congo’s most famous band, O.K. Jazz. Discover the unique and hair-taking take of Franco & co on rumba, cha-cha-cha, calypso, merengue, porro and his favourite rhythm, the bolero, in the video below and on the 32-track compilation.

2LP comes with a 40-page booklet. Early birds receive an imaginary poster of O.K. Jazz’s first concert in Léopoldville, that took place on Wednesday June 6, 1956.

Compiled with the precious help of Stefan Werdekker from the music plaform Worldservice and Flemmming Harrev from afrodisc.com.

Special thanks to Julien Rocky Longomba and Yves Luambo Emongo, respectively sons of Victor Longomba (aka Vicky, tenor voice in O.K. Jazz) and François Luambo Makiadi (aka Franco, guitarist in O.K. Jazz).

Thanks to the 78 rpm collectors Christian Van den Broeck and David Manet. Thanks to Alastair Johnston from the Muzikifan website who made the poster and revised the booklet. Melesi mingi Christian Ongoba & Henriette Alipaye for the transciption of the songs in in Lingala.

Artwork booklet & cover album from the France-based artist Aurélia Randriamorasata. Check out her Facebook-page.

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“Mawa mingi Faignond”

I would like to share ‘Elie Violette’, one of the songs in my continuously changing top three African Jazz list. This rumba lingala, composed by Roger Izeidi with him and especially Kabasele on chant and Docteur Nico on the guitar at his very best. The song has been originally released on Esengo 147 and it’s an ode to Chez Faignond, a mythical bar in Poto-Poto (Brazzaville). The bar was founded in 1948 by Emile Joachim Faignond and turned out to be a favourite nightspot among Congolese and Europese music lovers as the best bands and musicians (Jhimmy, African Jazz, Orchestre Rock-a-Mambo, O.K. Jazz, Orchestre Bantou,…) from both sides of the river performed there. Chez Faignond was even popular with Europeans from Leopoldville who crossed the river for enjoying the nightlife in Poto-Poto as social segregation was at the time maintained by law in the capital of the former Belgian Congo.

Among the attractions in Chez Faignond was La Violette, an association consisting of elegant young women showing the latest fashion in pagnes, hairstyles and make-up. These women danced in the bar to entertain the musicians and the clientele. There were lots of other women associations in both Kinshasa and Brazzaville such as La Rose, Lolita, Elégance and Diamond. Emilie Flore Faignond, daughter of the founder, kindly provided me with some pictures of La Violette and Chez Faignond that she found in the family archive. You can find two of them below and two more in the video above.

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L’Orchestre African Jazz wasn’t the only band that immortalized ‘Chez Faignond’ in their music. I heard l’Orchestre Bantou chanting Faignond in ‘Anto Na Nganda’ a rumba composed by Essous. The one I would like to share with you in the video below is the best and also the oldest one I came across until now. Mariana was released on the 25th of January in 1952 by Tino Mab accompanied by Na Bana Loningisa, the Loningisa label’s early house band. Boléro style and very enjoyable despite being taken from a rather scratchy 78 rpm copy. A real treasure nevertheless. In the eighties, Franck Lassan made a comeback with his ‘Fariala’ album and he included a new version of Mariana. If you are aware of other songs making references to Faignond, welcome to put in the comments.

More about Chez Faignond in Cléments Ossinonde’s book ‘Chez Faignond Premier sanctuaire congolais de la rumba et des musiques du monde, au cœur de Poto-Poto – Brazzaville’ & Phyllis Martin’s ‘Leisure and Society in Colonial Brazzaville’.

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!

Planet Ilunga’s ‘Souvenirs from Esengo’ release party

We are organising a little release party on Friday August 29 in the Pianofabriek in Brussels (Saint-Gilles) to celebrate the second vinyl release on Planet Ilunga. One of the guests will play a 78 rpm set, with some of the best African shellac from his mouthwatering collection. Expect rare and rocking sounds from labels such as Opika, Gallotone, Elengi, Ngoma, Cefa and so on. The stuff that dreams are made of!

Free in of course, more details on the Facebook-event

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[FR] Vous êtes invités à l’occasion de deuxième sortie vinyle du label musique Planet Ilunga au Pianofabriek à Bruxelles (Saint-Gilles). On vous présentera ‘Souvenirs from Esengo 1957-1961’. Découvrez la magnifique sonorité des 78 tours d’Afrique et d’ailleurs. Plus de détails sur Facebook.

The new Planet Ilunga is out! Gatefold 2LP edition on 180 gram vinyl with 28-page booklet. Please message me if you want a copy, there are only 500 made.

PI 02 promo facebook

First review + launch youtube channel

While the pressing plant keeps delaying the vinyl release of the Esengo-compilation because of “an increasing demand in vinyl orders” (will be out in 3 weeks now), Alastair Johnston’s eminent muzikifan website, already published a well-written review on the Rock-a-Mambo/l’African Jazz Esengo double vinyl compilaton:

The formation of Rock-a-Mambo seems to have been for fun and to indulge a shared passion for Latin music. They wrote Spanish lyrics without much effort (“Yo me muero, ay, yo te quiero” — yes, really), but every groove exudes joie-de-vivre, or esengo. (…)”

You can find the whole review here (under this month’s new releases), also check out the dedicated and interactive page on Rock-a-Mambo on the same website.

Meanwhile I launched a Planet Ilunga YouTube page. I will post now and then Congolese music from the golden age that’s not on YouTube yet. I have uploaded so far two rare tracks of Le Grand Kallé & l’African Jazz, more to follow. Enjoy!

a little update…

First of all, thanks to all of you for the warm response on the announcement of the ‘Souvenirs from Esengo’ compilation, keeps me going for future releases on Planet Ilunga.

Today I found a very good reason to cancel the things I was supposed to do, as the vinyl test pressing of the Rock-a-Mambo/l’African Jazz record arrived this morning! I’m satisfied about the result. A few tracks (3) sound a little bit rough as the original take in the Esengo studio in Léoville was rough too, but overall it’s sounding dynamic and warm, especially the tracks remastered from the original shellac. While I was listening and doing awkward dance moves to this joyful music, I could only imagine that the Rock-a-Mambo Orchestra had way too many talented musicians. My favorite tracks on this double lp are ‘Ya Biso Pembeni’ (l’African Rock),  ‘Toca Mi’ (Rock-a-Mambo) and ‘Oye Jacquy’ (Rock-a-Mambo) and so on…

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Normally I should get the finished vinyls and booklets within +/-3 weeks, so we ‘re slowly getting to the release date. I will keep you all posted of course. You can still secure your copy by sending me an email, but from now on shops and indivuals can also pre-order this release through the Rush Hour shop/distribution in Amsterdam:

individuals:
http://www.rushhour.nl/store_detailed.php?item=77595

shops:
http://www.rushhour.nl/distribution_detailed.php?item=77595

 

Out soon on Planet Ilunga

Planet Ilunga proudly announces a retrospective on the short-lived Esengo label. Esengo is one of the legendary labels that operated in the former Leopoldville (current Kinshasa) in the fifties. In a five-year time span (1957-1961) this publishing company – named after the Lingala word for ‘pleasure’ – released over 400 records, all issued on 78 rpm records. The 2LP Souvenirs from Esengo 1957-1961 focuses on the recordings of two of the most important and earliest ensembles of Esengo: Rock-a-Mambo and l’African Jazz. Several tracks on this compilation are remastered from the original 78 rpm records pressed in former Leopoldville. These have now been reissued for the very first time.

rock a mambo 1957 african rock esengo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Out in June 2014, more details here and in the following video:

A curiosity in Kalle’s repertoire

In Belgium the “mother of all elections” is coming up, meaning: hollow phrases, waste of paper and lots of casually dressed up politicians on the daily food markets begging you to vote for them. Yes, I miss something pleasant in the campaigns.

In the Congo, politics and music have been going hand in hand until today. In the fifties and sixties, songs for Congolese independence and Pan-African causes were spreading over the country and sometimes beyond, most notably just before and after Congolese independence.

The propaganda side in the repertoire of the father of modern Congolese music, Joseph Kabasele, is rather unknown. Unlike Franco, Kalle wasn’t used to sing propaganda songs. He did sing songs for Modibo Keita, the former president of Mali, and for his friend Patrice Emery Lumumba, but those songs served more collective purposes.

Since Mbokamosika’s article ‘Le Grand Kalle avait quand même chanté Mobutu !’ it is known that Joseph Kabasele got involved with propaganda, for Mobutu. Around 1966 he released two songs for this president’s regime: ‘Indépendance Economique’ and ‘Congo Centrafrique’, two themes that were part of his nationalization discourse. Included is the cover of the 45rpm record that was released on Kabasele’s own Surboum African Jazz label – the two songs are available for streaming on the Mbokamosika link. Joseph Kabasele himself and Alex Mayukuta (Alexis), one of the singers of l’African Jazz in their final period (1964 – 1969), were in charge of the vocals.

 

The vocal duo Kalle-Alexis also released another song that can be seen as a propaganda song. The song is called ‘President Yakubu Gowon’ and has been made in 1966. For info, in July 1966, Yakubu Gowon took power after a military coup d’état in Nigeria, making him the president of Nigeria and head of the Nigerian military army until 1975. I guess Kalle made (or better was ordered to make) this song for the self-proclaimed new president in 1966. The flip side offers another surprise, as there is a Kalle & l’African Jazz version of the ‘hymne national de la republique democratique du Congo’.

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To this day, I haven’t found any more evidence of propaganda songs from Kalle, but feel free to comment if you know more. There is always more…

Bakolo miziki

Gelukkig Nieuwjaar – Bonne Année – Best wishes

We kick off the year with some bakolo miziki, originally recorded for the Opika label in 1954.
On the line-up we find a singer from Congo-Brazzaville – Jacques Elenga Eboma – and the (later) African Jazz members Albert Taumani, Charles Mwamba (Déchaud) and possibly a very young Nicolas Kasanda (Docteur Nico). In the video we can hear the rework of the song by Gandou Gérard and his Orchestre Espérance Eboma De Brazzaville.

 

In Lingomba Ya Fiere  the singer tells he is proud to sing a song from his own culture (Nzembo na ngai),
along some musicians from the other side of the river (Léopoldville).

(chorus from the original song) *thanks to Pie-Aubin Mabika*

A yo Olélaka é
Lingomba moko ya fièré mama
Ya eboma Mwana Odilo
Lingomba moko ya fièré mama
Eboma espéransa

Image   Jacques Elenga Eboma in 1971, (©) Star du Congo

For more background on Jacques Elenga Eboma, check this excellent article on Star du Congo, coming from Clément Ossinonde (French only).