Thursday, January 04, 2007

James Brown in Africa

As a tribute to the recent death of James Brown, matsuli music brings you his legendary 1974 Kinshasa performance. This was part of the "African Woodstock" musical build up to the Rumble in the Jungle fight between Mohammed Ali and George Foreman. The documentary When We Were Kings captures these events in vivid detail. If some of the re-collections are to be believed then America's black musical elite could have dissappeared overnight if their overloaded DC8 had gone down on its way to Kinshasa.
"I, along with the James Brown band, had flown to Kinshasa, Zaire, on the same overloaded DC-8 as Muhammad Ali and his crew. The plane was so overloaded because the organizers had tried to get all the people who participated in the music festival on that same airplane. I don't think they had properly anticipated the amount of equipment the performers carried with them. I bet the wardrobe for the Pointer Sisters alone took up an entire bin. The plane barely got off the ground.

"Along with Brown and the Pointer Sisters, the cast included B.B. King, the Fanya All-Stars, the Spinners, Bill Withers, the Jazz Crusaders, Sister Sledge, some African bands and dancers and a lot of artists, I'm sure, I am forgetting. I sat with Big Black, the great percussionist. I remember asking him how it felt to be returning home to Africa. He told me that contrary to his persona and attire, he was from South Carolina and that this was his first trip.

"There was a prevailing feeling of excitement throughout the plane as we interacted with one another, laughing and talking and anticipating each other's performances in Africa. Johnny Pacheco of the Fanya All-Stars provided much of the entertainment with his flute and his comedy during the long flight over.

"When we arrived in Kinshasa the real fun began. I was personally greeted by Hugh Masekela. For some reason he had sought me out and we were frequent companions for the whole two weeks. We checked into our hotels and were told to charge all food and drinks to our rooms. This was hard to believe. Who in their right mind would let a bunch of entertainers eat and drink free with no limit?

"I think maybe some of the economic problems Zaire is experiencing today are a residual effect of that 1974 music festival."
Fred Wesley, Seattle Times, Monday, April 21, 1997.

James Brown- The Godfather Goes To Africa
The Zaire Music Festival, Kinshasa Stadium, 23/9/74
1. Intro
2. The Payback
3. Soul Power
4. The Boss
5. Make It Easy
6. Doin' It To Death
7. Bewildered
8. Sex Machine
9. Interlude
10. The James Brown Theme Part 1
11. The James Brown Theme Part 2
12. Caught With A Bag / Gimme Some More
13. Get On The Good Foot Part 1
14. Get On The Good Foot Part 2
15. It's a Man's World Jam Part 1
16. It's a Man's World Jam Part 2
17. Money
18. Finale



Anonymous said...

I want the concerts of Franco or Tabu Ley from that event.


b2v said...

sendspace crashed !!!

Unknown said...

Hello there !

I grew up in Africa (cameroun) and i'm hosting a podcast based in Lyon-France called RADIO SHIC (

Please, tell me where i can find your great mix "Wax d'Afrique Vol. 1" ?

Merci !


Unknown said...

That concert, or series of concerts is a facinatiny moment--not just Franco and Tabu Ley, but Mwenda Jean Bosco, Miriam Makeba and countless other African superstars played. As much as I like the "When We Were Kings" movie, I am disappointed that they don't show this at all. I think you can hear OK Jazz playing at the airport when the Americans arrive, and there is some Makeba footage included to represent some colonialist notion of the "voodoo woman". Does anyone know anyhing about the existence of more audio or video from these concerts?


Anonymous said...

PEACE! first and foremost i would like to say THANK YOU!! this blog is DOPE!

i would love to see this concert in it's entirety too.
my mom (RIP) is from Mbanza Ngungu and she told me her father was there at the fight (i'm not sure if he was at the concert tho).
Anyhow thanks a lot for this james brown. keep up the good work. this blog is truly great! PEACE

Anonymous said...

can u upload the file again??

Anonymous said...

Re-trawling the site and came across this.Just saw the film Soul Power,which is the musical outtakes from the cutter of When We Were Kings.A great slice of music from a special time.Always wondered why Masekela did not play,as it was his idea after all? Koos