More Than OK

Franco and TP OK Jazz

It has been a long time since the last post, with time seemingly at a premium at the moment. Today’s selection may seem like a bit of an obvious choice of a band and a record but despite my love of the obscure and unknown it is definitely necessary to cover the biggest, in both popularity and personnel over their life, as well as most prolific bands in Africa.

OK Jazz was formed in 1956 and lasted 37 years before being disbanded in 1993, giving the Rolling Stones a run for their money in terms of longevity. The band’s history and changes in personnel are complex, reading like a who’s who of Congolese musicians recording hundreds of records over their lifetime. Arguably the most well known member and eventual band leader was guitarist François Luambo Makiadi, known as Franco. Franco’s period of assuming leadership of the band in the late 1960’s that transformed it to all conquering can be read about on the meticulously written and researched World Service, here.

Soukous, or Rumba, from the French word secousse, to shake, is one of the most popular styles of music in Africa, spreading from Kinshasa, in the Belgian Congo to Nairobi in Kenya, where it is known as Lingala after the dialect the songs where sung. African Rumba is said to originated when Cuban songs were played on the national radio station in Kinshasa in the 1940’s and 50’s. The typical Cuban style horns were played on the guitar and the lyrics were sung in French and Lingala by early Congolese bands and musicians like Papa Wenga.

By the 1960’s and 70’s Soukous was at the height of its popularity and Franco and TPOK Jazz were in full swing. Such was their popularity they split into two groups, with one remaining in Kinshasa playing local clubs, the other touring Africa, Europe and America. Here they can be seen playing Kinsiona in 1987 in Utrecht, Netherlands.

Today’s selections come from a 1974 LP and show the range of the band, and the power of Franco’s voice framed with blaring horns.

Kinsiona

Mambu Ma Miondo

Record details:
Franco et L’Orchestre TP OK Jazz – Editions Populaires (1974) – African (360.056)

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Take Two!

Kofi Sammy & Walter Proof

Back on familiar territory with some more Ghanaian Highlife from blog staple, Kofi Sammy and Okukuseku.

According to the sleeve notes the band was formed by Sammy along with Walter Proof, an actor and former member of E. K. Nyami’s No. 1 Band. They hit a hurdle when they realised they had no instruments to play! Thankfully, Proof’s past as an actor came in handy and they were able to borrow instruments from the Ghana Film Corporation and start recording.

Today’s post is from their second LP; it appears they recorded over 60 singles and several albums making them one of the most prolific bands in Ghana at the time. Today’s selection is a medley of their songs on side 1 of the LP. Highlife bands appeared to do this regularly perhaps to showcase their ability and range as musicians.

Medley

Record Details:
Kofi Sammy and his Okukuseku Band – Bosoe Special (197?) – Ambassador (LPAM 004)

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Drowned in Sound

Muluken Melese

Today has been a washout weather wise. I’m not complaining though as all afternoon I’ve been listening to this tape dug in Ethiopia several months ago and I must say, IT IS BLOWING MY MIND!!

Not being able to read Amharic, means that I have no idea who the artist is or the names of any of the tracks. The recording is terrible with drops in volume on some songs, tape warble, constant hiss and the last track is cut out halfway through, but  I still love it because the quality of the music shines through.

Please if anyone can give me any information on this artist, the album or the track names, I would be very grateful. I’ve included the whole tape – it definitely warrants being heard in its entirety.

Right, back to listening.

Update:
Song writer – Tesfaye Lemesa.
Image of Artist on cover – Muluken Melesse.

Side A. 2. Feels sad when i can not find you 3. Almazewae (Song for a lady named Almaz) 4. When can i meet you ? 5. Is it it a sin to love ?

Side B 1. Youth of Harar 2. Why 4. Not my personal ownership 5. Me & you only.

Thanks to Seyum Berhe for the information.

Side 1:
Track 1

Track 2

Track 3

Track 4

Track 5

Side 2:

Track 1

Track 2

Track 3

Track 4

Track 5

Track 6

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Play That Funkee Music

During the 1960s and 1970s Nigeria, and more specifically Lagos, its creative hub, was producing some of the greatest West African bands. Groups such as Blo and MonoMono were creating heavy psych-rock music, in the vein of Santana and Hendrix, but putting a distinctive African stamp on it that made it dance floor friendly. With the arrival of The Funkees, hailing from Aba, in South East Nigeria, Lagos’s dominance was no longer a given.

The band was formed in the early 70s, towards the end on the Nigerian Civil War and after a few changes in line up, they settled with Jake Solo (Guitar), Harry Mosco (Guitar), Chyke Madu (Drums), Danny Heibs (Bass), Mohammed Ahidjo (Vocals) and Sonny Akpan (Congas). In 1973 the band’s popularity sky-rocketed and they were invited to London to record and perform. They played in several clubs in London, notably Ronnie Scott’sand recorded their first LP, Point of No Return, for Amba Records.

Point of no Return LP

Point of no Return LP

Things started to turn sour and after a few years Jake Solo left the band to join Afro super-group, Osibisa. The Funkees recorded a final LP, Now I’m a Man, in London and returned to release it in Nigeria on EMI in 1976.

Now I'm a Man LP

Now I’m a Man LP

Today’s selections are two tracks from the first album, that were re-released a year later by Black Magic records on a 7inch single. Abraka is a highly charged instrumental featuring Sollo’s wah-wah guitar licks and great percussion. My personal favourite is Ole, one of the great songs by the band. Everything comes together perfectly; it’s smooth, the guitar is to die for, the drum break is out of this world and its so Funkee!

Abraka

Ole

Record details:
The Funkees – Abraka / Ole (1975) – Black Magic (BM 114)

funkees-abraka-black-magic funkees-ole-black-magic
Thanks to 45cat for the label scan – it is a far better quality than my photo of the label

Soundway Records have released a lovely retrospective on the band, collecting the best tracks from their two LPs and 45s, that I highly recommend picking up.

Gbah Eugene and the Ziglibitiens

A quick post for today, mainly because I do not have much information on this record or the band, plus it has been a long week!

Gbah Eugene with backing from the band Ziglibitiens has recorded this single on the large Ivory Coast label, Badmos. The band seem to have been named after the huge African hit Ziglibitien by Ivory Coast’s most popular musician Ernesto Djedje.

Today’s selection is the A side Ayamtchere. It is a great upbeat track complete with joyous vocals, lovely horns and a swirling organ.

Have a nice weekend!

Ayamtchere

Record details:
Gbah Eugene Et Les Ziglibitiens – Ayamtchere  / Nin Poa Ninhe (197?) – Badmos (BB 244)

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Appearances Can Be Deceptive

Volta Basin

It has been a several weeks since the last post, but with this, I hope it has been worth the wait.

The Volta River and its three tributaries, the White, Red and Black Volta, form a region in Burkina Faso in the North and Ghana in the South, where the rivers feed Lake Volta, the largest natural reservoir in the world. The region is not only geographically rich; it contains numerous tribal groups with the Ewe making up a large part of the population mainly in Ghana, but formally Togoland, and the Gurma in Burkina Faso in the North. With bands like Super Volta Jazz and Amadou Balake the music in this region is, unsurprisingly, pretty special.

Featured today is a single from prolific Orchestre Volta Jazz. They have recorded over 30 7 inches for Burkinabé label Disques France-Afrique; a fullish discography can be found on Radio Africa’s great site here. The band was formed around the same time as Super Volta Jazz in the 1960s but did not appear to start releasing until mid to late 70s. This could explain why despite today’s record being released in the late 1970s it is appears musically to be from a decade earlier.

The A side is a Congolese style piece but the B side has a great 60s Garage sound to it. Having a love of Garage this really ticks the boxes for me. The guitar break could have easily been written by The Sonics or The Dirty Wurds.

BOSS!

B.B. Peyrissac

Bi Kaméléou

Record Details:
Orchestre Volta Jazz – B.B. Peyrissac / Bi Kaméléou (197?) – Disques France-Afrique (LGVD 1.089)

Volta1Volta2Volta3Volta4

Bumpy Roads

Today marks a first for this blog. Rather than posting a record, I have decided to raid my Ethiopian cassette collection, so excuse the sound, that is often poor due the low quality ferrics and poor dubbing that are typical on these African cassettes.

I am aware that I am not the first to post music from cassettes on a blog; there is one very well known and high quality one – Awesome Tapes from Africa, that makes it the only source of the music. The blog has gone from strength to strength and now is even reissuing quality material on LP, CD and cassette. My intention is not to get in on the action but simply to post great music that I want people to hear. Enough of my speel.

Whilst travelling in Ethiopia you quickly realise that travel is very different to what we have come to expect in the West. The long distance bus is a challenging ordeal. The vehicles are ancient, the suspension gave up years ago, and the bus quickly fills with a thick dust that gets into every crevice of your being. For this reason CDs do not fair well in motor transport, the place were most people listen to music, as they would skip, get scratched and very quickly become unplayable. The humble tape is therefore the solution. This is my theory why tapes are still so popular and most new music still gets a cassette release. Whilst hunting for music I could pick up countless tapes whereas records were far harder to find.

Today’s selection is from an Ethiopian artist. Ephrem Tamru, who first came to my attention here, has recorded several albums from the early 1970s onwards. The album I am posting from has a great cover showing Tamru perched in front a bank of sythns that explain how he builds up this incredible hypnotic wall of sound that runs through the whole tape.The song is the first track on the album and I can’t stop playing it!

Track 1

Cassette Details:
Ephrem Tamru – ????(1985) – Electric Music

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