Nicolas Kasanda (1939-85) was one of the most influential guitarists to come out of Africa. He and his brother, Dechaud, as members of Joseph Kabasele's African Jazz (1952-63), pioneered a new style of guitar called mi-solo which interpolated a third guitar between the rhythm and lead. The mi-solo could double the lead or fall back and augment the rhythm creating a more complex sound. The style quickly caught on and was adapted throughout the continent. From Angola to Mali bands covered Nico's sound as he broke away from African Jazz and created an exciting new band, African Fiesta, with Tabu Ley Rochereau on vocals. There is a decided Cuban feel to many of the band's mid-sixties recordings but Nico's ecstatic solos transcended musical genres. He also adapted the Hawaiian guitar with echo for a unique haunting sound on his ballads. After Rochereau split at the peak of African Fiesta's career, Nico went through several new combinations. In 1969 he launched a 6 month tour of West Africa. In Sierra Leone he created a new dance, the Kono that took the continent by storm. His band became the proving ground for many new talents (including Josky & Bopol) but he was clearly a tough boss and his career went into a premature decline. Though overshadowed by the successes of Rochereau and the rival camp of OK Jazz, Nico was a highly respected musician & left an incredible legacy of magical music. This is the first monograph devoted to the artist and places him on a level with better-known African superstars such as Fela & Franco.
The Discography of Dr Nico started out as a muzikifan web page but outgrew it. The book uses rare documents to reconstruct the output of this artist: catalogues of the VITA label (1963-5) which issued 128 singles, the SUKISA label (1966-74) which released 136 singles, and reissues on the Ngoma & African labels. These catalogues are cross-indexed with LPs and CDs that appeared on many labels in Africa, Europe & the United States. The LPs & CDs are described & annotated with comments and notes on the tracks. Individual portraits and a group shot of African Fiesta band members are included; there is a brief biography of Nico and, thanks to assistance of Gary Stewart (author of the definitive study of Congolese popular music Rumba on the River [Verso, 2000]), Johnston was able to use a large collection of contemporary newspaper clippings from Stewart's own archives. These he has translated and presented in full. In addition to a cartoon and an obituary, there are 16 contemporaneous articles about specific songs and interviews with Nico from the Zairois daily press.
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