Sunday, April 29, 2007

Marrabenta time with Fany Pfumo and friends

Here is the compilation of Mozambican 45s I promised. A number of the tracks are by Fany Pfumo, widely acknowledged as one of the most influencial marrabenta performers. Marrabenta is a style of dance music associated with Maputo, the capital of Mozambique. The name was derived from arrabentar - meaning to break - in the local venacular. The earliest international bands exposing this style to international audiences were Eyuphuru and Orchestra Marrabenta Star de Mozambique.

Mozambique 45s Tracklisting
01. Lesni Wene Unga Xonga: FANY PFUMO
02. Famba Ha Hombe: FANY PFUMO
04. Ngongondira: FRANCISCO CUNA
07. Khanimambo: FRANCISCO CUNA
10. Senamuka: PAULO MIAMBO
12. Nwananga: TITO CHICHAVA
13. Canto das Criancas: RACHID ISMAEL
14. A Basati Ba Lunau: FANY PFUMO



Friday, April 27, 2007

Man in the Hills

'I was born and grew up in D'Aguilar Town, Eastern Kingston, at the foot of Wareika Hill. I came up playing with Tommy McCook's Supersonics, and The Skatellites. I was the first trombonist of Count Ossie's Mystic Revelation Of Rastafari. My first popular instrumental was Lambs Bread Collie, which I recorded with The Light Of Saba. So we play, so we learn, melodies and sound go on and on, the limit of Jah is unquestionable... These are my recordings from the last couple of years, blazing groundation roots reggae.'

These are the words of veteran trombonist Calvin Bubbles Cameron. Since the old days he has resided above the headquarters of The Mystic Revelation Of Rastafari, in the Wareika Hill district of Kingston, Jamaica.

Its out now on the Matsuli "Five star-rated" label Honest Jons.

Still doubting? Now listen to the Wareika Hills rework of Tony Allen's Ise Nla.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

"I'd like to spend some time in Mozambique"

As a taster for a new compilation of Mozambican singles that I transferred to tape in the early 90s take yourself on a brief journey to Mozambique courtesy of YouTube. You can find a whole lot more music videos from Africa here MUSIC VIDEOS OF AFRICA

And heres the cover for the singles collection

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Four in One Serenades Special!

As promised here are the next installments in the African Serenades series. Still to come are AS37 - Tony's Zimbabwean Singles and AS50 Matt's Psychedelic Daze.

Volume 46 has been compiled by Cheeku with some killer rare tracks that you won't find anywhere else. The African Diva volumes (47a and 47b) have been put together by an John B from equally obscure sources but the sound quality is top-notch. The second From Africa to Cuba volume (48) comes once more from artist Ken Abrams. Tracklistings can be found in the pdf covers in the download folder.

For a number of reasons I am using the Badongo service instead of SendSpace. Because of the size of the files you need to download two parts and join them. This should not be too difficult.
UPDATE @ 17.36 GMT on 12 April:
The badongo service is the pits....will be reloading later today to SENDPSPACE.




Wednesday, April 11, 2007

A request for help

I am currently sourcing original Syliphone vinyl recordings for two forthcoming compact discs to be released by Sterns. Both CDs will be double CDs and will feature Balla et ses Balladins and Keletigui et ses Tambourinis. I have received vinyl from many collectors but still require the following discs -

SYL 513 Keletigui et ses Tambourinis. Kesso / Chiquita
SYL 514 Keletigui et ses Tambourinis. I boyein-boyein / Tambourinis sax parade
SYL 515 Keletigui et ses Tambourinis. Quinzan / Il tomatero
SYL 516 Keletigui et ses Tambourinis. Banankoro / La loma de belen
SYL 517B Balla et ses Balladins. Vacillon
SYL 519B Keletigui et ses Tambourinis. Guajira con tumbao
SYL 522A Keletigui et ses Tambourinis. N'nadia (May be "Nadia" from SLP 23 or "Nadia" from SLP 1)
SYL 524B Keletigui et ses Tambourinis. Mi corazon
SYL 547B Pivi et ses Balladins. Como cocina et la corda
SYL 572 Balla et ses Balladins. Hafia / Wilikabo

You may be aware of my previous collaborations with Sterns which saw the release of "Bembeya Jazz National. The Syliphone Years", in 2004. I am currenty working on "Authenticite. Guinean Orchestras 1965 - 1980", which will be out in a few weeks. I also manage my web site "Radio Africa" - which features many discographies and information on West African music.

If you have any of the above discs in VG++ or at least VG+ condition, or know someone who has, please contact me at

Many thanks,



Sunday, April 08, 2007

Ambiance! Ambiance! (African Serenades 49)

Franco and crew in the early days

Ambiance! Ambiance! - a killer selection of tunes and Volume 49 in the African Serenades series - is courtesy of our very special guest and contributor Jonathan E of

In the mid 1980s the music usually known as soukous from the countries then known as Zaire and the Congo was my favourite African music. I was as crazy for it as I’ve ever been for any music and I bought almost every LP that came my way. The shouted exhortations to the guitarists and dancers, the zippy guitar lines, the sometimes jazzy R’n’B feel of the horns, the clattering drums, its sweetness and joie de vivre all combined to lift my heart and move my feet.

As a DJ I loved spinning soukous in the clubs of San Francisco, at least those that were open-minded enough to hire me to play the mix of musics then known as world beat. This was several years before the “invention” of “world music” at the notorious Empress of Russia meeting of various English music industry dissidents, malcontents and hustlers — but that’s another story.

Soukous appealed to me as a DJ because it was basically impossible to mix on the beat with the songs frequently beginning slow and working up to a frenzy. To tell you the truth, I was a pretty lousy beat mixer anyway, but I liked doing fades from song to song. The varied pacing of soukous with its relatively long songs, its focus on having a good time, and its occasional sonic ferocity fascinated me in other ways. It was at once both a contrast to prog rock, pub rock and punk — all musical genres I admit I had previously obsessed over — and a strange combination of their significant elements.

At the time, soukous also provided a welcome relief to the dismay brought about by the right-wing crackdowns of Reagan and Thatcher, which were beginning to bite down hard on our accustomed freedoms of previous decades. It was fun music, nothing much political to it. Even though it came from countries suffering through the post-colonial traumas that have become such ugly ongoing features of the world today, it was escapist to us and didn’t have the political-correctness baggage that South African music had with the then-current struggle against apartheid.

To some extent, African music was soukous to me for a couple of years. I’d heard Osibisa (Do they count as African music? Sure, they do!) years earlier and Manu Dibango’s mighty “Soul Makossa,” but both had rather faded from the scene. King Sunny Ade’s Juju Music had recently reawoken me to African music, but that and Prince Nico Mbarga’s classic “Sweet Mother” was about all that was available for a time besides soukous, which was presented on various albums and compilations from Island and GlobeStyle. For about five minutes, it looked as though soukous might be “the next big thing” on the music scene — but that was a naïve thought formed before the imperatives of homegrown culture and the conservative influence wielded by industry gatekeepers became obvious. (I should have known better having seen how punk was received in the United States.)

Kanda Bongo Man was the artist I absolutely adored. His cries of “Ambiance! Ambiance!” just enthralled me and Diblo’s guitar carried me right along into that ambiance. In 1984, I embarked on a bicycle tour of southern England. After a few days of slogging along the South Downs, we reached Petersfield in Hampshire, which may be considered my hometown if I have to have one (I wasn’t born there and haven’t lived there since 1966, but a few years of moderately happy childhood were spent there). There, I picked up a copy of NME, then still a readable and credible music magazine. I learnt that Kanda Bongo Man was to perform at the Ashton Court WOMAD festival, on the outskirts of Bristol, that weekend. We got on our bikes and rode for three days along the edge of Salisbury Plain, straining ourselves up and wearing our brakes out down the sides of some steep and narrow valleys. We even stopped to look at the cathedrals of Winchester and Salisbury on the way. On the morning of the fourth day, we were lost riding around Bristol looking for the festival. Eventually we found it. Kanda Bongo Man was superb — the first live soukous I had seen. Afterwards riding back in the dark to our campsite in Bath, my girlfriend fell off her bike and broke her arm. Such was the feel-good power of soukous even that didn’t ruin our day!!

The history of soukous is a complicated tangle of shifting alliances between musicians with added difficulties for outsiders due to the frequently long Lingala names and the geographical confusion of the two competing capital cities of Congo and Zaire, Brazzaville and Kinshasha, facing each other across the Congo River, not to mention the changing names of those countries. It is much and variously told in African music reference books. There is little agreement even about the name used for the music, some preferring rumba, rumba rock, or various Lingala words referring to specific styles covered by the convenient overall umbrella of soukous. Perhaps the quickest, more detailed introduction for the neophyte is the Wikipedia page on the subject.

In its heyday, soukous was popular throughout Africa, pretty much the fabled Pan-African sound, with substantial migration of musicians to both Kenya and Abidjan in Côte d’Ivoire. Later, as conditions worsened in Zaire, Paris became a place of refuge and many musicians relocated there. However, ultimately Paris was not good for the music. Production styles became increasingly technological with drum machines and synthesizers substituting for the musical interplay between humans. Much of the emphasis even shifted from the music to the extravagant high-style suits worn by the musicians. The sapeur movement, as this was known, was considered to be a sophisticated fashion statement and “the antithesis of hippiedom.” To this old hippie, it was more like the antithesis of music. Thankfully, in the past few years artists such as Kékélé, Sam Mangwana, Papa Noel, and Mose “Fan Fan” have all revived the earlier, more organic styles of Congolese music with an impressive series of releases. RetroAfric, Crammed, Syllart, and Network Medien have all released reliable compilations of the early days of Congolese music, while Stern’s has a selection of later soukous titles.

Ambiance! Ambiance! is a personal selection of fine soukous tunes from the decade between the mid 1970s and the mid-late 1980s. Some purists might quibble that a couple of the earlier songs predate the general definition of soukous. No matter! It’s all great music of the time with plenty of feel-good exuberance from Congolese-Zairean musicians. All are taken from original vinyl, as you will hear in a couple of spots despite my efforts with SoundSoap — that’s the nature of the wax. As far as I can ascertain, only one track can be found on any sort of current release — that would be Kanda Bongo Man’s “Djessy,” available on a GlobeStyle compilation, Non Stop Non Stop, and a song that exemplifies the call of “Ambiance! Ambiance!”

Enjoy! That’s the point of soukous!

1. Franco et Orchestre T.P.O.K. Jazz — Matata Ya Muasi Na Mobali Ekoki Kosila Te
2. Tou Lè Dè — La Vieille Marmite Prepare Toujours De La Bonne Soupe
3. Les Bantous De La Capitale — Boumamou Sili
4. Moro Beya Maduma — Mamema
5. Fidele Zizi — Ma Musique A Moi
6. Nino Malapet — Mokilimbembe
7. Arlus Mabélé — Africa Mousso (Femme d'Afrique)
8. Kanda Bongo Man — Djessy
9. Shaba Kahamba et Les Esprits Saints — Naweyi
10. Lutchiana Mobulu accompagné par Empire Bakuba — Malata

DOWNLOAD Wax d'Afrique Vol. 2 — Ambiance! Ambiance! [SENDSPACE FOLDER]

And if thats not enough of an Easter Monday treat then check out this video of Sam Mangwana with Franco (thanks to the Lone Groover for this)

The Toast of Old Havana

A special treat for those of you outside the UK or not currently subscribing to the Times newspaper. A great feature on Cubas first female orchestra and six tracks to download sans DRM.

"This is the extraordinary story of Anacaona, a glamorous all-girl orchestra which stormed to success in Thirties Cuba and became the toast of Old Havana. The 11 sisters took their exotic ‘son’ rhythms across the world before fading into obscurity after the Cuban Revolution. Here, in an extract from a new book, saxophonist Alicia Castro, now in her eighties and one of the surviving four, recounts how it all began."

For the rest of the story, downloads and sleevenotes CLICK HERE