OLD WORLD (Asia, Arabia, Europe)
This month's muzikifan podcast features tracks from new releases reviewed below,
Death and all its woesThe bombshell music news in North America last month was the sudden death at age 57 of Prince on April 21. If the autopsy shows it to be a painkiller overdose it will change the dialog on this hidden scourge. (There were 14 Fentanyl overdoses in Sacramento alone last week, but doctors pushed by Big Pharma continue to prescribe these powerful opiates and suburbanites gobble them like candy.) Since Prince tightly controlled his back catalog little of it is actually on the market currently. However, I suspect his posthumous catalog will grow, like Hendrix's, to overshadow what he has already put out. He was legendary for his "after parties" following shows where he would play Motown or R&B or funk sets and no doubt this aspect of his remarkable talent will start to appear. Here's a fine cover of "Creep", a Radiohead song, live at Coachella 2008, and if you want to see another awesome cover check out his "While my guitar gently weeps" solo at the George Harrison induction concert to the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame. Here are all these big name stars like Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne (remember him?!) and then the Purple One arrives to show them how it's done. 5 chumps and Prince. Need more? The full Coachella 2008 set (with Morris Day) is here and you can skip about.
R.I.P. ShabaWe also mourn the loss of the phenomenal bass player from Congo, Shaba Kahamba, aged 68. I used to think he was ubiquitous until I realized his name had become synonymous with stellar bass playing, so much so that other bass players were called "Shaba" when they were doing well, like when you call a great guitarist "Segovia" or the moment in "Hey Jude" when Lennon salutes MacCartney with "Hey, Liberace!" Shaba rose to prominence in Orchestre Bella Bella and wrote some of their early 70s songs, such as "Bondeko," "Ndele Okozonga," "Made," and their 1980 hit "Pambindoni." After the Soki brother split up the group, Shaba joined l'Afrisa International of Tabu Ley Rochereau and penned numbers for his new group, including "Amitié" (1983), "Vina," "Loumousou" (1984), and "Bomba Sékélé" (1985). He was also on the breakout Mbilia Bel albums produced with L'Afrisa; he played on many of their hits, including "Sorozo," "Ebue," "Tanga Tanga," and "Zuwa te." After touring with Kanda Bongo Man and Diblo in the late 80s he made a couple of solo albums. The non-stop disco version of his Bella Bella era hits (including "Pambindoni") was predictably synth and drum machine driven, but he returned to more organic sounds for Bitumba (1993) his masterpiece, after joining Eddy Gustave's elite Paris session group known as Les Esprits Saints. Huit Kilos (who also had a stint in l'Afrisa) plays lead guitar and Caen Madoka rhythm. Someone walked off with my copy of the CD after a wild soukous party at my apartment in San Francisco in the late 80s, so I was really pleased when my friend DJ IJ turned up a copy of the vinyl album for me.
Lord Tanamo, singer with the Skatalites, died in Canada, age 82. Here he sings "In the Mood for Ska"
And the Malian photographer who captured the evolution of the hip youngsters of the 60s, Malick Sidibe died last month.
Alive & KickingBrian Eno's unusual Desert Island Discs (you can hear most of them on YouTube of course) with amusing anecdotes about "the great musical quest" that true melomanes will recognize
PAPA WEMBA: KING OF THE SAPEURS
There is no doubt that "Papa" Shungu Wemba was one of the most important African artists in the 1970s and 80s, even the 1990s. That he was largely ignored in the West is of no consequence. He created a youth movement called "La Sape," giving young poor Kinshasans the ability to look sharp without spending a fortune, though once he moved to Paris, he started buying suits at Gian Franco Ferre and other high-end fashion designers. Then, ironically, he would wear them inside out to show the label -- and the stitching. His oversize suits were "borrowed" by David Byrne for his own Talking Heads shows. But the stylish look was only part of the story. Wemba was part of the revolutionary movement spearheaded by college kids who created Zaiko Langa Langa in 1968: they went for a rawer sound that the big rumba bands (like OK Jazz & Conga Succès) that preceded them, abandoning saxes and going for repetition and crowd-stirring frenzy in guitars and also in the shout-outs of the "Atalaku" or animateurs -- wild dancers who exhorted the crowd and urged the singers on. But far from raw, Wemba had the angelic voice of a choirboy and the passion adopted from listening to his mother, a professional mourner, who sang at funerals. Zaiko also had six singers -- instead of just one -- and he took the stage name Jules Presley. Dancing and singing alongside him were Dindo Yogo, Nyoka Longo, Bimi Ombale, Bozi Boziana, Evoloko Jocker and later Koffi Olomide. His first hits were "Chouchouna" and "C'est la Verité." But egos swelled and in 1974 he split with several members to form Isifi Lokole, and a further split to Yoka Lokole, groups that employed the traditional slit log drum -- the lokole -- as part of its signature sound. His music was popular from Paris to Tokyo. His Nippon Banzai concert brought soukous to Japan in a big way, and he thrilled the crowd by addressing them in Japanese. But then the band dumped him after two years and he decided to start his own band, taking the name Viva la Musica from a Johnny Pacheco album. It was with this group that he would rise to fame.
|I don't think you could have found a bigger Papa Wemba fan in the 1980s than yours truly. I eagerly awaited his every release and, as my disillusionment slowly and reluctantly built, I kept buying his records in the hope he would see the light and get back to the great sound that he started from. Every now and then he would throw me a bone: like the album L'Esclave (Gitta productions, 1986), one of his mid-period masterpieces, or La Guerre des Stars, where he was challenged to come up with the goods in a friendly duel with Lita Bembo, Esperant and Boziana. In fact the song "L'Esclave" is probably his greatest work and had he sung it in English it would be as big as Bob Marley's "Redemption Song." He still had Awilo Longomba on drums and Ikonola on lokole but the guitarists were all newcomers: Nguando Milos, Matianga Stella and Mukoka on bass. And I fervently hoped to see him live. Wemba did finally come on tour as opening act for Peter Gabriel at the Oakland Coliseum. I BARTed over there and bought a ticket from a scalper for $25. Wemba's show was pathetic: he was completely ignored by the fans who were hyped about seeing Gabriel so talked and milled about during his set. I had been to a few smaller Gabriel shows before "Biko" or whatever put him into the stratosphere of pop, but this one was like the Nuremberg rally. Wemba had traded in Viva la Musica for some French rockers who were awful, and I barely recognized his sound. The next Viva la Musica concert was to be a year later at Slim's in San Francisco, a perfect venue, and I hoped it would be the real band. However the show was canceled. What happened was the band showed up at SFO at 11 p.m. and called the club to say, Tell the opening act to keep going, we'll be there and ready to go on at 12. --Don't bother, we decided you were not showing, replied the promoters.|
All I had to sustain my interest was the video of LA VIE EST BELLE, the 1988 film by Benoit Lamy, starring Wemba as a down-and-out village kid who (eventually, after many picaresque adventures) makes it as a singer in Kinshasa and finally gets to appear alongside his idol Pépé Kallé. |
In the '80s I was in Paris and there were posters everywhere advertising a big night with Viva la Musica, but as I got deeper into the African neighborhoods I saw the posters had cancelation stickers glued over them. Every new album had one good song but it was 75% filler. Then each member of the group, even the drummer, did a solo album using the name. I began to feel I was supporting a huge extended family with my weekly cash investments. When they started singing "Get up! Stand up!" in every song, I sat down. Eventually, I culled my collection down to the essential 22 LPs & 8 CDs. I blamed the managers who try to make a crossover hit out of a fiercely original artist and lose sight of his originality in the process. When Wemba returned in triumph to tout his "crossover" album on the RealWorld label and appeared at the Fillmore doing a feeble version of Otis Redding's "Fa Fa Fa Fa Fa Fa Fa Fa (Sad Song)," I was horrified. That was the second show and the second disappointment, I felt I had really missed the boat. I refused to buy the RealWorld albums and felt betrayed by my idol. However as his popularity grew, his earlier material appeared on Ngoyarto, P-Vine (in Japan), and a set where he teamed up with Franco surfaced. So there were moments: Foridoles (Eds Esperance 1994), a return to the Viva la Musica lineup, featured a guest shot from Sam Mangwana and had a great Latin track; Nouvelle Ecriture (Eds Esperance 1997) packed the dancefloor. He returned to the Bay Area to play Ashkenaz in Berkeley in July 2001, and this time it was a reunion of his original Viva la Musica line-up, not the leather-pant Frenchmen. So I did get to experience it as it was meant to be: a small crowded dancefloor, overmodulated mikes, lots of yelling, people jumping on stage to dance, shout-outs to Bongo Wende, Awilo Longombo and there I was surrounded by happy Congolese experiencing their youth again and for me, experiencing it along with them. Now he is gone back to the idealized village he called "Molokai": Rest in Peace, Papa.
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Robi Svard is filed in Spain
Osei Korankye is filed under Ghana
Mbaraka Mwinshehe & Super Volcano's Masika 1972-4 is filed under Kenya/Tanzania part 2
Shujaat Husain Khan & Katayoun Goudarzi's Ruby is found in the Arabia section
Kandia Kouyate returns -- to Mali part 2
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A DISCOGRAPHY OF DOCTEUR NICO
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