12 June 2009

African Journey - Part 4: South and South-Eastern Africa

All journeys must come to an end, so Soundbombing wraps up its big African tour down south. Everyone knows how the music of South Africa got big in the '80s, trading off its boost in popularity Stateside from Paul Simon and its constant presence in the news. In 1988, I found an amazing CD compilation in a small underground record shop in Melbourne, Australia, that collected the rootsy side of South African music... and I've still never heard music from that country to top it. The comp smokes from start to finish, so here are two of my favorites. I'm sure a Zulu speaker would be reduced to tears of hilarity hearing my phonics-based singalongs of these tunes.
15-Imali Impamde Yesono by Umazambane, from Soweto Street Music (Prism, 1988) 16-Angisenaba by Amentkentshane, from Soweto Street Music (Prism, 1988)
I had to include Juluka here, because a fateful showing of their "Fever" video on an episode of Night Flight way back when was one of the first sparks to my interest in African music. So 'nuff respect for putting me on the right road! They did go pretty poppy there at one point in the late '80s/early '90s, but Biza is a world away from that stuff. Listen to how thick and rubbery the bassline is here. As usual, the vocals are split between Sipho and Johnny, a white and black South African, both singing in Zulu. Ubuhle Bemvolo is an early all-Zulu-language release.
17-Biza by Juluka, from Ubuhle Bemvolo (Rhythm Safari, 1982)
Entering Zimbabwe, we get a loping, lagging-rhythm example of chimurenga music. It "electrifies" the sound of the mbira, or thumb piano, and Mapfumo is its most famous practitioner. But note that the "electrifying" is by way of transcribing the mbira lines to a guitar or a marimba, as opposed to the Congotronics method of vastly amplifying and distorting the mbira's sound... plus Mapfumo did it 15 years earlier.
18-Muchadura by Thomas Mapfumo & Blacks Unlimited, from Corruption (Mango, 1989)
And our final stop is on the island of Madagascar. Madagascar is the home of the Malagasy people, who arrived on the island not from nearby Africa but rather from the area around modern Indonesia. The local sound is based on 8/12 time.... frantic and insistant in the best possible way.
19-Indosiko Anao by Jaojoby, from Malagasy (Discorama, 2004)
I hope you've been along for the entire African Journey, and will do my best to get back up online and Soundbombing as soon as possible after our Spain-to-USA move. Until then, enjoy the 19 hand-picked tracks of the Journey with a cold beverage in hand and smile!

African Journey - Part 3: Central Africa

We now move south into the very center of the continent... and here we discover my favorite of all African music, the angelic sounds of soukous, the music of Congo/Zaire. This region dominates the continent's musical world, and rightfully so... its a languid but utterly spellbinding sound which is at the heart of the debate of whether Latin music originated in Africa or the New World. The typical soukous song is marked by two parts; the beginning, slower section-known as the rhumba; and the seben, the high-energy, longer tail-end of the song that typically kicks into gear with a drum riff. Trop C'est Trop is a great example in brief, with the rhumba giving way very quickly to the sweet seben section. Tabu Ley is a Congolese legend that can regularly sell out 200,000 seat stadiums in Paris... and I saw him with Katrina & 10 or 12 others in Blind Melon's in Pacific Beach, CA. That remains one of the most unlikely, and mind-blowing, concerts of my life... 10-Trop C'est Trop by Tabu Ley Seigneur Rochereau et l'Orchestra Afrisa, from Trop C'est Trop (France Gefraco, 1990) Next up is Tabu Ley's predecessor on the soukous scene, Franco. This is classic in every sense of the word, and really shows you where the rhumba debate originates. Vicky has some sweet and super-clean guitar work starting 1.50 in, Franco's trademark... 11-Vicky by Franco, from La Bell Epoque 1966-67 (Sonodisc, 1996) Diblo Dibala was a member of Tabu Ley's band, but after years of being the featured lead guitarist he wanted to strike out on his own. Loketo was the band he formed, and they went on to make some great albums under his leadership. Extra Ball is classic, but has some cheesy keyboard sections... Soukous Trouble is a bit more rootsy so I'll give it the ever so slight nod. Kimia Eve is but one of the many classic tracks from these two albums. 12-Kimia Eve by Loketo, from Soukous Trouble (Shanachie, 1990) Charlotte Mbango is next with an all-time Casa Gomek classic. This one has been on repeat play since the late '80s, an absolute scorcher where everything falls in place together... the web of guitars, the shuffling drums, the horn blasts, the Lingala lyrics... it just all works. One of my top ten songs EVER. 13-Dikom Lam La Mota by Charlotte Mbango, from African Typic Collection (Stern's/Earthworks, 1988) And finally Sam Mangwana, a Congolese of Angolan ancestry. Mangwana was another member of Tabu Ley's band to make good on his own, and this song is yet another example of how guitar SHOULD be played... not as a shrieking air-raid siren but as a weaver of dense sonic webs, nestling you ever deeper in their seductive grasp. 14-Yenga Yenga by Sam Mangwana, from Eyebana, Volume 2 (Ngoyarto, 2003) Next Destination: South and South-East Africa...