“…the silent wilderness surrounding this clear speck on the earth struck me as something great and invincible, like evil and truth…”
Joseph Conrad – Heart of Darkness
When I think of the Congo several things come to mind: the great river, the early exploration into Africa, humanity’s capacity for evil, as shown in Conrad’s novel Heart of Darkness, and more recently the bloody conflict that has raged for over twenty years, claiming over five million lives. The danger with these western stereotypes, as Chinua Achebe, the Nigerian writer, famously said in his 1975 lecture An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness”, is Africa becomes “the other world”; it is dehumanised and ends up “a foil to Europe”. Achebe is a great humanist and I urge everyone to read Things Fall Apart to get another perspective of colonialism in Africa.
The intention of this blog is to document the rich music of Africa, however, with D.R. Congo it is hard not to digress. The history of this Central African country is complex, fascinating and heartbreaking. From the arrival of the Victorian explorers like Henry Morton Stanley and David Livingstone, to the unashamed and uncompromising ambitions of the Belgian monarch Leopold II, through to the present day civil war, Congo’s history warrants common knowledge. Sadly it has become the West’s dirty secret.
Back to the music, which is obviously a great way to humanise. Today’s selection is from a Congolese band based and recording predominately in Kenya. Orchestre Les Noirs were founded by Chuza Kabasellah who was born in Kasai, D.R. Congo. The band reformed with different personnel and were renamed several times with similar variations of their name. The track Sikiya Sauce is typical Soukous, Lingala, if you are from Uganda or Tanzania, and Rumba in Zambia and Zimbabwe; music does not recognise borders.
Sikiya comes from the East African language of Kishwahli, which has a large presence in Central Africa, particularly in Lumbumbashi, D.R. Congo. Sikia means to listen, feel or even taste (hence the connection to sauce). The rough, but very apt, translation is therefore listen to the delicious tasting music. The word sikiya is suitably peppered throughout Central and East African music.
Season well and enjoy both sides of this single.
Orchestre Les Noirs – Sikiya Sauce Part 1 & 2 (1972) – EMI/Pathé (2C 006-15.234M)