Gravity – Lost in love Towards the end of the 1970s, which had been a decade of abundance in Kenya’s homegrown music industry, CBS (Columbia) set up a well-equipped studio in Nairobi and started releasing records locally. Apart from reissues of European, American and South African hits of the day, they also recorded regional acts. Some of the most interesting output on CBS was produced by Nigerian-born Desmond Majekodunmi, better known as Des Majek, who had moved to Kenya with his wife Sheila who was a gifted singer (together with her husband she would released two singles for CBS Kenya). His early engineering credits in the UK included albums by Fleetwood Mac and Thin Lizzy, and before he started out with CBS in Nairobi he produced a few records for bands in Nigeria. In the early ‘80s Gravity, a group of college students, recorded three singles, two of which for CBS with Des Majek. Group members included Chris Kariuki, better known as Njoroge Benson and Anthony Ndungu, who would later provide lead vocals for the African Heritage Band. While the ballad ‘Goodbye Masai Girl’ catapulted Gravity into the local pop charts, it’s the modern soul / funk on the b-side that makes today’s boogie heads’ hearts skip a beat, and collectors pull out their wallet.
Matokenya – Mrs. Onyango Unknown to them, Kenyan disco group Makonde became an unlikely hype on the dance floors of uptown New York, not long after their first international record was released in France in 1977. ‘Manzara’, a raw disco anthem led by a looping clavinet, a distorted bass and the vocals of Greek-Tanzanian band leader Taso Stephanou, was hand-picked by Afrika Bambaataa and Jazzy Jay for its huge percussive breakdown 2/3 into the song, which made it the perfect record for b-boys to perform their moves to. And so a Kenyan song became a part of the early history of hip hop culture, a fact immortalised on a bootlegged cassette recording of Jazzy Jay deejaying in 1978. While Makonde enjoyed some celebrity in Kenya towards the end of the ‘70s, and group member Sammy Kasule kept using the Makonde name when he moved to Sweden, they were soon forgotten by most until the new millennium when diggers rediscovered the Manzara 12 inch (‘Soseme Makonde’) and the group’s second album ‘Matata Riots’ (EMI, 1978). Only recently, their first album reappeared on the radar – the original issue of their ‘Manzara’ hit. ’Dawn in Africa’ was formally a split title, with four Makonde songs on the a-side and the b-side credited to a group named Matokenya. However, at least some of the credits were shared between both groups, including the Demis Roussos-style vocals by Stephanou, and indeed Matokenya’s sound is very much in line with the early Makonde work. ‘Mrs Onyango’ (likely a tribute to Shaban Onyango’s wife), like ‘Manzara’, is a brilliant merger of distorted disco percussion, fuzzy bass, a trumpet that sounds much like the Makonde horns and a guitar riff that appears borrowed from a rumba song.
Jabali – Folk Song (Kanyoni) The previous Afro7 12-inch release featured Dai, a song by Francis Njoroge. Nowadays seen around Nairobi with his jazz funk outfit, Francis’ early studio credits include Makonde, Radi and Jabali. In the latter project he was joined by Joe Kuria, a versatile artist and music manager who in the ‘70s had coordinated Afro-rock band Awengele (featured on the Kenya Special Volume 2 compilation). The Jabali sound was a precursor of what we hear on ‘Dai’, joyful pop with a disco groove and smooth keyboard licks. The vocal melody and the lyrics were inspired by a famous Kikuyu traditional, Kanyoni Ka Nja (‘little bird’) here sung by Chinese kids. ‘Folk song’ is still remembered by many who grew up listening to Kenyan radio in the ‘80s. Jabali also recorded an LP which remained largely unnoticed and is by now near-impossible to find.
A1) Gravity ‘Lost In Love’|
A2) Matokenya ‘Mrs. Onyango’
B) Jabali ‘Folk Song (Kanyoni)’
One of the most prolific Kenyan taarab musicians from the 1950s and ‘60s was Yaseen Mohamed. Born in Mombasa in 1922 to a Omani mother and Kenyan father, Yaseen got professionally involved in music while working for a Mombasa-based music store as a radio technician during the second world war. Assanand, which would later grow into a well known music store brand with branches in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam and whose name is still on a store front in Nairobi today, started recording local musicians for Columbia Records to meet demand of a growing market for East African music on 78 rpm shellac records. Around 1950 Yaseen joined the recording sessions at Assanand as a singer, cutting a couple of songs for Columbia Records. In the next fifteen to twenty years many more followed on a number of labels, including Jambo, which released songs he recorded as Yaseen & Radio Singers for Sauti ya Mvita, a local radio station. Towards the early ‘60s Assanand started its own label called Mzuri, which would continue to put out an impressive range and number (hundreds) of songs from Kenya and Tanzania up to the 1970s on 78 rpm records and 45 rpm singles.
One of the first releases on Mzuri was indeed by Yaseen; ‘Harambe/Africa Twist’ (Mzuri HL 2) carried the enigmatic name of Mac & Party (a group name that was not remembered by anyone we met in Mombasa) but an early Mzuri master catalog mentions Yaseen as the artist. Other Yaseen releases on Mzuri were under the name of Yaseen & Party. At least some of the songs were available both on fragile 78 rpm records as well as the handy and modern 7 inch format. While many of Yaseen’s releases under his own name (sometimes accompanied by his wife Saada, also known as Mimi) were Swahili songs in a number of styles loosely based around the increasingly eclectic Mombasa taarab, this and following Mac & Party singles were mostly sung in English, and musically the Mac & Party songs related to the international pop styles of the era. As Yaseen explained in the ‘60s to musicologist John Storm Roberts: “There is no certain thing which is tarabu. Even rock is tarabu if people just sit and listen”. Rather than explaining the genre by its borrowing from Arabic or Indian musical traditions, to Yaseen it was mostly the way the audience experienced the performance – sitting down – that made taarab unique, while “style depends on the people’s choice”. This would explain the experimentation and innovation during the era, and the introduction of new instruments such as tabla, a drum kit or the taishogoto, a Japanese harp.
In a way, Mac & Party’s light hearted songs can be seen as an early example of pop targeting foreign visitors to coastal Kenya, an approach that – twenty years later – introduced thousands of westerners to Kenyan music via pulp compositions such as ‘Jambo bwana’. However, the Mac & Party compositions were uniquely Kenyan, as can be heard in the instrumentation on on both ‘Harambe’ and ‘Liverpool’ which bridges to the taarab sound of the era, not least with its trademark electronic organ sound, and even in Yaseen’s vocals in ‘Harambe’ – right from the intro ‘Msenangu’ meaning ‘my friend’ in Giriama language. The lyrics to ‘Liverpool’ (the b-side to ‘Hi-Life Mambo’, Mzuri HL 59 and reissued by Philips) are a youthful fantasy of becoming rich and moving to England, released shortly after Kenya became independent. An edited version of the song, which was included on a Dakar Sound promo cd in the 1990s, ended up on the late BBC deejay John Peel’s playlist. ‘Harambe’ was most likely released in 1963; harambe was a concept promoted in post-independence Kenya under president Jomo Kenyatta, urging communities to stick together to build the nation, and the single’s b-side followed the international dance craze that was the twist.
A clue to Yaseen’s reasons for leaving the music industry can be found in the lyrics of one of his Mzuri singles, ’Nimepata mwana’ on which he sang about the birth of his first son. As new parents, Yaseen and Saada decided that their hobby of music should take a back seat so that they could provide for the family. In the early ‘70s, Yaseen moved to Oman where he worked as an engineer. In the next decade, his earlier releases got distributed outside Kenya through the compilation ‘Songs the Swahili sing’ (Original Music) which featured two of his songs. Yaseen Mohamed passed away in 1985; even though the majority of his songs came out over half a century ago, he’s still remembered as one of the most important names in Mombasa taarab. Some of his later songs are available on the Zanzibara 2 compilation (Buda Musique, 2005) and one of his sons has uploaded a number of tracks to Youtube.This and two other singles are now available again from afro7.net head over to the shop and grab your copy. Special thanks to Michael Kieffer for the transfer of Liverpool track.
A) Mac & Party ‘Harambe’|
B) Mac & Party ‘Liverpool’
Loi Toki Tok band started out as a nondescript musical group. But irrefutably, the band’s star scaled the heights and shone brightly on the early 1970s Kenyan capital, Nairobi’s burgeoning live music circuit. And basking on the top of the pops charts, was vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Leon Kabasela aka Kalle. He also doubled as band’s composer and songwriter – earning credits for among other tracks, this mellow ‘ballad’ aptly titled Mungwana – loosely translated in Swahili, is descriptive of a selfless and conscientious gentleman. Kalle is one of handful surviving remnants of the band, whose lifespan was somewhat short-lived. It lasted barely three years – circa 1971 to mid-1973. Mungwana’s lyrics, sang in Congolese lingala dialect, mirror his roots and musical dream, which lured the youthful artiste during late 1960s to pack bags, and desert the rural fringes of Lubumbashi – then Zaire’s second largest city. On the 45 single flipside is a soulful, funky hit Chakacha – a seemingly timeless afro-soul flavoured cut. Its catchy and hypnotic lyrical refrains, easily grow on the listeners. The vocals of the band’s one-time frontman, singer Kasim Combo, ooze with an unmistakable tinge of late 1960s to early 70s American soul rhythms, propelled onto the global showbiz spotlight by US pop stars Otis Redding, James Brown and Jimi Hendrix. Their popular hits gained massive, almost staple airplay on Kenya’s then sole broadcaster’s twin national radio stations. The fact that this record was pressed on an obscure Athi River label, is perhaps symbolic of Loi Toki Tok’s last band phase – shifting base from Club Arcadia in the heart of Nairobi, to the Small World Club in Athi River – an equally nondescript urban town, tucked away along the Mombasa highway. This and two other singles are now available again from afro7.net. head over to the shop and grab your copy. Special thanks to Rainer Windisch @ konzeptlos.org for the Mungwana transfer!
A) Loi Tok Tok Eboma ‘Chakacha’|
B) Loi Tok Tok Eboma ‘Mungwana’
Awengele was a self-styled ‘boy band’ comprising four members, all of Luhya origin (West Kenya). Barely out of school, they were all pursuing careers – as an engineer, civil servant, a cartoonist and marketeer – and played music in their free time, doing regular shows at schools and public events, but never on the club circuit. Inspired by the afro-rock of Osibisa as well as Santana and the Motown hits of the mid-seventies, their style was defined by the musical instruments at their disposal: guitar, bass and a drum kit. Through their manager Joe Kuria they got to record a single for the Akili label, adding an organ to the mix. Kenyan 45s typically mentioned the style of the song on the label, and their self-titled debut listed both ‘rock’ and ‘Maasai’. The latter referred to the vocal style used on the chorus, which was obviously inspired by Maasai chants, and to the song’s lyrics which were in Luhya with a few words of Maasai thrown in; the flipside was in English. Kenya in the 1970s counted a handful of other bands playing rock (never as many as Zambia or Nigeria though). These included Black Savage and Jimmy Mawi, who was an inspiration to the group as they often played together. However, Awengele’s fusion of soul, funk and psych-rock was one of a kind. This and many more great tracks from Kenyas musical golden era 1970s & ’80s are out now on Soundway’s Kenya Special:Volume II, get your copy from the publisher!
A) Awengele ‘Awengele’|
B) Awengele ‘Loving Day’
A studied lawyer, Chris Kariuki took his hobby of music quite seriously, from the early ‘80s right up to his death in 2001. His earliest recordings while barely out of college were with the boogie-funk Gravity who recorded two singles for the CBS label. In the ‘90s he took up the artist name of Njoroge Benson (or ‘Joroge’) and recorded two singles, right at the very end of the vinyl era in Kenya. The dancehall-inflected ‘Gichichio’ and its b-side ‘Nyinyukia’ came out on an obscure label, Odyssey records. During Kariuki’s Gravity days, boogie funk may have been the sound of the day, but by the early ‘90s the Nairobi dancefloors were tuned to (American and European) house, hip hop, dancehall and everything in between. A series of locally released compilation LPs with foreign hits is a reminder of that. ‘Nyinukia’ is one of only a handful of Kenyan songs from the era that reflect that sound, including the keyboard stabs that are very similar to the piano used on Ultra Naté’s 1991 hit album ‘Blue notes in the basement’, and about a thousand other house songs from the early ‘90s. The drum pattern borrows a bit from the new jack swing groove. Njoroge Benson’s lyrics here are in English, but the title and chorus (‘Nyinyukia’ is Kikuyu meaning ‘take me home’) indeed take it home.
A) Njoroge Benson ‘Gichichio’|
B) Njoroge Benson ‘Nyinyukia’
By the time multi-instrumentalist Francis Njoroge released his first solo single, he’d already been recording for more than a decade. An early trace of his musical activity is found on a classic Zamrock album ‘Soweto’ by Rikki Ililonga, recorded in Nairobi and released in 1977. A founding member of Afro disco/funk/rock group Makonde, it’s the track ‘Manzara’ (catapulted to b-boy classic by Afrika Bambaataa and Jazzy Jay back in 1977) that’s become Francis’ most well-known song worldwide, although until recently he was not even aware of the fact. When Makonde broke up in between a European tour and a US gig that never happened, he joined the African Heritage Band, one of the hot new names on the Nairobi live scene at the dawn of the 1980s. Shortly after a European tour he quit the band to take up a gig at a new night club in town. Together with fellow Makonde veteran Sammy Kasule he then formed a new group called Radi whose music leaned on boogie-funk. Another project in the ‘80s was Jabali, whose ‘Folk Song (Kanyoni)’ was an audience favourite. Musically it sounds like a stepping stone towards the sound on ‘Dai’, with its drum machine, synth bass and poppy arrangement. The latter was a full-on dancefloor oriented track that came with a dubby remix on the flipside. And where ‘Folk song’ mixed English and Kikuyu lyrics, Dai (‘riddles’) was all Kikuyu: a lyric urging the young generation to maintain the tradition of telling riddles. Originally released on the small Turbo label as a 45, it had disappeared into oblivion until last year when we dug up a copy in a Kikuyu ex-DJ’s private collection in a wooden cottage outside Nairobi.
A) Francis Njoroge ‘Dai’|
B) Francis Njoroge ‘Dai’ ReMix
Born in Nyeri in 1953, Rachel Wanjiru, aka Tanya Ria singing came at an early age, as a dedicated Christian in the Kikuyu tribe choir practice is day to day routine. It was in 1977 Kenyan music journalist Nick Ayub and producer Joe Rogoiyo took her to the studio and recorded Do the Smasher and Love You Didn’t Want backed up by the Trippers band(not to be confused with the Tanzanian outfit) led by Francis Njoroge on Keys, Berry on guitar, Charlie Muthemba on bass and Franco on drums. However it was a short-lived singing career, she was professionally a physiotherapist and that took over her time. Sadly Tanya Ria passed in 2013 only 60 years old. It was to her family great surprise they stumbled upon her mother’s recordings on afro7.net by googling her stage name. It was the first time they had heard these songs! Back on wax again as a limited single, with press out centre and silk pressed custom sleeve. Check out the tracks below and buy direct through our order page.
A) Tanya Ria ‘Do The Smasher’|
B) Tanya Ria ‘The Love You Didn’t Want’
SCREW RECORD STORE DAY! We would have had AFRO7 01 & 02 singles available by this date, but they didn’t make it. On the positive side, we got this one in our store: The Scorpios A west London based Sudanese band playing Traditional tribal songs about family, love and religion from central Sudan. The songs which were played at weddings get together’s, religious ceremonies and events. Many of the musicians moved from Sudan after the Islamist take over and play music coming from a 60’s and 70’s inclination. At that time there was a melting pot in Sudan with many western influences with roots in South American, Funk and Rock&Roll. Sudan was always the country at the Horn of Africa country most willing to mix these influences. The music consists of Arabic rhythms with guitars, heavy bass and synths and sometimes horns supported by heavy percussion and drums. The music consists of songs either sung by women or men depending on the nature of the songs. Much of this music is slowly being forgotten by newer generations from Sudan. This limited single is just a teaser for the full album coming later this year. Hear or download full mp3 tracks in the links below. If you like it head over to the store to grab your copy!
A) The Scorpios ‘Yaelhajarok (They Leave You For Me)’|
B) The Scorpios ‘Yadob Yadob (A New Beginning)’
‘See Lamu, see Paradise’ describes the archipelago of Indian Ocean Islands off Kenya’s northern shores. Each Island has its share of Arabian Nights’ history, often only preserved in song and folk-tale, and this collection contains recordings of music which has all but disappeared into the mist of Time. Under the palm trees beside the white sand beaches, on sea-going dhows and in time of traditional celebrations, singers and instrumentalist give you songs of long ago with authenticity and lilting loveliness. A1) Song Of The Coconut Climers: ‘Life is a gift from God’, is the message from this gay melody. A2) Flute Among The Sand Dunes: On the eve of a celebration, soft music of the flute floats hauntingly in the Lamu air. A3) Lamu Love Song: A poem of dreams – treasure and a wedding bed made of Ivory tusks, sung here in a narrow backstreet by Hadija Hamisi. A4) The Siwa Horns Of Lamu: As sailing dhows return from their long sea-journeys, captains order the traditional Siwa horns to be Blown. A5) Ocean Song: In a beautiful melody, accompanied on the bow-harp Uta, Athman bin Khamis tells the love of the sea. B1) Uta Dance: The abundance of the coconut crop brings this happy celebration from the pickers, with their UTA bow-harp. B2) Zumari Music: A wedding celebration by the high-pitch traditional wind instrument of the islands. B3) Love Poem of Mwana Kupona: Lessons of the happy life and successful marriage. B4) Matondoni Celebration: The women of this little village gather, with drums and horns, to dance the age-old Vugo. B5) Coconut Climbers Dance: Warm nights are gladdened by the enchanting music of this dance by the coconut gatherers.
And now for something completely different! The Black Savage group, famous for the rare mid-70s EMI LP. The band line-up featured one prominent member; Job Seda, better known as Ayub Ogada (later released an album on Peter Gabriels Real World label) In a Pink Floyd-esque landscape these two tracks are oddball and unique enough to go unnoticed. Completely without any noticeable local rootings, except the lyrics. There is an uncanny quality over them and both songs complete with anti-hunting lyrics “Save the Savage, don’t shoot ’em down, they are trying to survive, they have feelings too…You know people, I think it’s very strange. How would you feel if someone was wearing your skin, or wrapping it around their feet, have you ever stopped to think, that all these animals all over the world, you know they have feelings too, bet you never thought of that, there you go shooting them down hanging them up on your wall to hide the cracks!”. Thanks to Jumanne Thomas for finding the tunes!
A) Black Savage ‘Do You Really Care’|
B) Black Savage ‘Save The Savage’
Love songs, irrespective of lyrical inspiration or language used – are endearing and captivating. They always have a way that connects to audiences with consummate ease. The song Amalia is no exception, despite its seemingly economical use of verses, astutely weaved around four simple lines that ooze with passion. Undeniably, the song-writer must have been deeply smitten and enamored by his feelings for Amalia. She is lyrically described as being “..ua langu la maisha ya dunia…” [the flower in his life on earth]. His heart yearns intensely for her charm, and love to shine through the darkness of a lifetime without her presence. The song’s laid-back and mellow refrain did likely serenade countless couples on the dance-floor, drawing lovebirds closer in tight embrace, each enveloped in the idyllic moment. Witty words like bolero [means slow-tempo] engraved on the 45rpm sleeve, were used to categorize specific tracks. Anyone with a keen ear for good music is bound to appreciate song’s adeptly structured guitar-work and rhythmic interplay, crafted during what was a possibly riveting recording session. On the flip side, Lakusema Mimi Sina – loosely translates in English as having nothing to say, steps up the tempo a notch higher but lyrics maintain the quest-for-love theme. Notably, either track bears less or minimal foreign influences – a tactful departure from the commonplace feature for most bands of the era. There is hardly any pronounced James Brown overtones on the trend-setting Loi Toki Tok band’s songs – grounded in an indigenous feel flowing through the instrumental arrangements.
|A) Loi Toki Tok ‘Amalia’
B) Loi Toki Tok ‘Lakusema Mimi Sina’
Mangale is no doubt one of veteran saxophonist Joseph Ngala’s hit songs. It’s simple yet intricately cascading horns section and heady bassline irresistibly grows on the listener – often luring one unwittingly to the dance floor. With its catchy lyrics sung in the indigenous coastal Rabai dialect, this song is still as fresh to the ears as it was when originally composed over three decades ago during the mid 1970s. Alongside this Bahari imprint 45 inch flip side track Pekeshe – the twin traditional ‘ballads’ are timeless and enduring – easily resonating with cross-generational audiences. But notably, Mangale must have irrefutably been a somewhat melancholic, yet happy party song as its jazzy-riffs driven refrain attests – wherein the seasoned lead vocalist calls out the names of Bahari Boys Band members – Lubwe, Washo, Ndangu, Mutunga, Chiranzi, Ngala, Funzi and Kondo. This camaraderie trait was common among most closely-knit local bands hailing from the 70s era – with each instrumentalist regularly looking up to rest of crew as a source of inspiration. Pekeshe on the other hand still reigns supreme as a popular request song especially during communal events and cultural festivals held seasonally among the Miji-Kenda – nine tribes’ resident along the coastal strip. But more significantly, these now rare 45s double tracks stand out among veteran Ngala’s handful seminal recordings – traced back to an era widely referred to as the golden age of Kenyan music.
A) Bahari Boys ‘Pekeshe’
B) Bahari Boys ‘Mangale’
Kenya is renowned for its cross-breed of benga and rhumba rhythms. But listening to What Is It [That You Want] and My Everything – cut circa 1978 – these double-sided 45inch single tracks seem somewhat misplaced categorized as ‘Kenyan’ songs. That the funky and indisputably bouncy, disco pop-groove recordings were pressed in Nairobi during late 1970s, is a glaring pointer to the regional showbiz capital being a bedrock of diverse musical influences. Foreign pop music saturated playlists on then sole national radio broadcaster – with sprinklings of local songs accorded sporadic airplay. These formative twin tracks are credited to composer Abdalla ‘Dala’ Hamisi – who had just joined Mombasa Roots band alongside Ahmed ‘Emil’ Juma [both formerly affiliated to defunct Mombasa Vikings] and Tamrat Kabede [drums]. The group is arguably among most consistent bands plying their musical trade along Kenya’s Coastal strip. Their informal gigs began way back during mid 70s and one can still encounter the ‘Roots’ engaged in regular or private performances on evenings or weekends, often serving up covers and original cuts. The group prides itself as “.. a live and dancing band for all occasions..” Much like other musical outfits from the coast, the band formed in 1977, started out as a family affair. Its original line–up comprised the ‘Juma Brothers’ – Saeed [manager], Suleiman [keyboards], Ebrahim [guitarist] and then Ahmed ‘Emil’ [sax/vocals/guitar], who came on board later on.
A) Mombasa Roots Band ‘What is it that you want’
B) Mombasa Roots Band ‘My Everything’
Hazar Imam or Prince Shah Karim Al Hussaini Aga Khan is a British Shia Muslim imam and business magnate. His following in Eastern Africa extends to great recognition for his religious role and aid work. Given the fact that there are several development aid institutions, including health and education services with his name on it. In occasion of his 1981 visit to Kenya this single was issued by Ismailia Women’s association. Sung in Swahili ‘Karibu Karim’ delivers classical Indian instrumentation spiced with a cool 80s synth, catchy chorus in a trad meets modern package. Notice the slight taarab feel over the arrangements. Sadru & Zeenat Kassam on vocals. Music by Shiraz. Lyrics by Mansoor. Enjoy!
A) Shiraz with the Sunny ‘Karibu Karim’
B) Shiraz with the Sunny ‘Believe me, Na Badlenge Hum’
Announcement from the SOUNDS EXPRESS label! Straight from the hot press! Ladies and Gentlemen it’s the NEW SUNSHINE BAND! The second single from the band that has been creating FUZZ around your door, keeping the elders awake and the youngsters dancing their feet! Don’t miss out on the fun it’s the hottest sounds around! Evan and Sam at their catchy best! You don’t believe it? BELIEVE ME, BELIEVE IT! For distribution and commercial inquiries visit Waceke Nganga Music Store River Road, Nairobi.
A) New Sunshine Band ‘What do you Feel?’
B) New Sunshine Band ‘Believe me, Believe it!’
We’ve been digging through the Ken-Tanza label, check the new stock! One of favorite outputs is this monster modern RUMBA take, and a fine example of how a tune can sound totally different from part 1 to part 2. No info on the band on the net whatsoever. Credited to Solomon M. Kombo. I suspect it might be a offshoot group. Tune delivers tempo, and a superb-guitar drive, drum laden breakdown. “Hay-Hay” Cosmic!
A) Kenya Super Rumba ‘Mpende Mwenzio Pt. 1
B) Kenya Super Rumba ‘Mpende Mwenzio Pt. 2
Kenyan singer Sal Davis has had a fascinating career and is still musically active; his ‘Makini’, released in Belgium in 1969, is a sought-after funky mod classic that was reissued on a collectors label in UK in 2008. He also recorded ‘Back in Dubai’ in 1984 which became a classic to the expat community there in the 1980s, participated in the UK Eurovision song festival in 1979, and further back he recorded a tribute to Qaboos, the Sultan of Oman who is said to have turned his country from a poor, rural society to an oil producing wealthy state in the 1970s (and he’s still in power today, ever since 1970). This ode to the sultan was released on Sal’s own label, the b-side is a lounge love song with funky drums but the a-side is what it’s all about. (Editors note; check out the interview with Thomas Gesthuizen aka Jumanne of africanhiphop.com with a brand new killer afro-disco mix to boot!
|A) Sal Davis ‘Sultan Qaboos Song’|
About time we brought out another Taarab single, it’s taken a while as they are bloody hard to come by. Some of the bigger Kenyan Taarab labels like Pwani, Mzuri seem to be hard trace even in sales and auction lists. Taaarab is coastal music, Arabic fused rhythms of the Swahili coast, expanding from the south shores of Tanzania, Zanzibar and to the north shores of Lamu in Kenya. Often in small settings with Harmonium, wooden flutes and indian percussion. Omari is praying for his dead parents and he see them in his dreams. “Samahani” is a song about forgiveness.
A) Omari Commander & his Group ‘Samahani’
B) Omari Commander & his Group ‘Omari Baba Mzazi’
AbaGusii or more common Kisii people are a tribe located on the western parts of Kenya near Lake Victoria. This single showcases straight from the roots benga in luo tradition, bouncy tempo with drive and the guitarist shifting dynamics gives the track a certain cosmic appeal. The release also goes into A. P Chandaranas treasure trove of Kenyan and Tanzanian released music. The label was distributed from the small town of Kericho. If anyone can enlighten us with identification of the platter object shown on the label we’d be delighted.
|A) Shem Onderi & Nyamwari Band ‘Robert Nyamgwono’
B) Shem Onderi & Nyamwari Band ‘Ebisio Bia Byasae’
First feature of 2014 is a doublesided Kikuyu Disco burner. Private production by Jimmy Wa Eunice distributed by Centre Music store Nairobi. Steady beat with little variation, it’s the stone hard groove and the basic but very infectious melody line that sets the mark. Guitarist steps it up a notch and starts his improvisation in the last part. Turn the single around and you have another track that is just as good as the first one. If anyone have any information about the producer or the band, or the record store for that matter please leave a comment.
A) Kahurika Brothers ‘Muka Wa Mikora’
B) Kahurika Brothers ‘Kairitu Roiko’
With a good dose of Reggae and Eddy Grant’s magic touch, Nigerian born Sonny Okusun had a big international hit in 79 with the political fueled ‘Fire in the Soweto’. 2 years earlier he had released ‘Papas land’ a key Africa record that had impact spanning from west to east. Kenyans own pop star Slim Ali’s version features great horns, wah-wah, moog, and sassy vocals .. this is the version I personally come back to. Released on the mystical World Records label, responsible for catering the Kenyan music market with domestic artists but also acts ranging from pre-War Señor Soul to Kylie Minogue.
|B) Slim Ali ‘Papa’s Land’|
Anyone who is interested, and ready for a short history brief in last century’s Kenyan music scene should read Doug Paterson’s excellent introduction notes to Soundway’s compilation Kenya Special. Doug makes a point about Kenyan bands being tuned in to international sounds around, and The African Pioneers ‘My Loving Sister is a great example. First off, it’s a weeding song, not a very uncommon feature in East African matrimonial celebrations. But this one is sung in English. A punchy guitar riff with a nice catchy melody, and the arrangements takes some quirky turns and leaps that adds to the appeal. Enjoy!
|A) African Pioneers ‘My Loving Sister’|
So here’s my absolute favorite kenyan 45. It’s actually a very odd and obscure afro soul masterpiece, with the catchy and hypnotic vocals ‘Chakacha… Mombassa’ that does the job… what else do you need? Maybe some handclap with that? Yes indeed! This 45 pressed on ultra rare kenya label Athi River was made by Loitoktok Eboma, with his band called Cassim Combo. The b-side of this record called Wild in Bush is also killer, but I’ll keep it for later… Thank you and please just enjoy!
A) Cassim Combo ‘Chakacha’
B) Cassim Combo ‘Wild in the Bush’
A personal favorite from the mighty Nairobi Matata Jazz catalogue that truly showcase how tight they where back in the days. This Swahili number pretty much has it all for me, a bouncy bassline, superb breakdowns, fierce guitarlines plus a razor sharp rhythm section to match. Update! A user comment requested part one of the song so we’ve added that one as well. Please enjoy!
Nairobi Matata Jazz ‘Tereza Sina Ubaya Pt.1’
Nairobi Matata Jazz ‘Tereza Sina Ubaya Pt.2’
JOSEPH KAMARU – 1965-2013 48 YEARS IN MUSIC – AND STILL GOING ON! Backing up a dozen releases and half a million records sold, this is a name on the Kenyan music scene you cannot avoid. Like his kikuyu counterpart Daniel Kamau, JK also had his own vinyl record label imprint with KENYA UNITED SOUNDS. The success of his seventies outings ensured him a prolific career mastering all the ups and downs of the Kenyan music scene to this day. He has been performing Gospel music the recent years. Read the Daily Nation post “The memoirs of a musical maverick” and see the K24 feature “Where are they now” on YouTube. The Über funky driven ‘Mukurara Nake’ a is not a political fueled track but merely the classic emotional interaction between a man and a woman. Sung out in the Kikuyu language a man comes home to find his girlfriend in bed with another man, the disdained man is not angry, this is something he has been suspecting for some time… as the lyrics goes: Since we have known each other a little over 1 year you should know when I am mad. Look at my eyes and see proof that I am not mad. No matter what you do even if you lock the door with chairs and locks, I will still leave so the two of you can sleep together. I was so prepared, I had dressed up for you, brushed my teeth so I can kiss you but sadly now I will go home and sleep alone staring at the roof. Stop pretending that you don’t know your other lover just because am here. Stop making him look bad in my eyes because no matter what you do am leaving. Thanks to Moses Mungai for the translation.
|Kamaru Celina Band ‘Mukurara Nake’|
Dug up by Duncan Brooker in the late 90’s, and later to be compiled on the first wave of Africa rare groove-comps; AFRO-ROCK on Koda an Strut. ‘MABALA’ is a Kenya instrumental funk classic! Layered with spacey Moog effects, a bluesy guitar lick, stripped sax and cool spoken female vocals it showcases the Yahoos in great form. A band who have several noteworthy releases on different labels, note the Taarab collaborations with vocalist Hafusa Abasi. Their largest output however was on the Matata and KWE labels. Judging from the musical output of these labels I’ve come to believe the band was performing in tourist circles, if anyone have any more history of the Yahoos band please let us know.
|Fathili & The Yahoos Band ‘Mabala’|
In all its splendor here is the original Kenyan ‘AFRO-ROCK’ label pressing from the mid-seventies. Let’s follow the lifespan of this song: 1977 – second pressing released in France . 1978 – Used in BBC documentary on African Music. 2001 – Compiled on Duncan Brooker’s Afro-Rock volume 1. 2005 – A remixed NYC/Cuban version with hip-hop vocals is released on Yerba Buenas Island Life album. 2006 – opens up the Last King of Scotland film, as soundtrack. 2010 – Afro-Rock Vol. 1 re-released by Strut with additional unissued material by the same artist. It could be interesting to know what Ismael himself gained from all this renowned fame. Ironically enough it seems from this deleted article that it was Kenya’s large on-going acts of music piracy that shelved his career back in the day. And sadly enough the article also tells us that Ismail Jingo passed away in Mombasa some years ago. In the light of its day ‘FEVER’ was obviously inspired by its West African contemporaries. With its catchy refrain, funky base and killer horn section it was unquestionably a hit record when it was released and to this day. Allegedly a dead rare original LP from Jingo also exists.
|A&B) Jingo ‘Fever’|
We’ve been busy updating the shop side of things this summer, you can now actually order original Kenyan sevens directly from the blog. You’ll find the different categories under music shop on the right. There are only a 100 singles added so far, we will add more during the next months. The elusive Almasi label is always interesting as the styles in the music differs from each release. Can’t find much information about the band but it’s pretty certain they originate from the town with the same name in the Rift Valley province. Note that in seventies Kikuyu Benga the foremost and predominant instrument used is the guitar, it’s nice to hear an organ in the arrangements for a change.
|A) Nyahururu Success ‘Wendo wa Mithaiga’|
This is l’Orchestre Todi National” from Kenya. Don’t know anything about this band, except they recorded a couple of 7″ on the delicious Melodica label (also check Melodica Teens Band!). This one has a sweet melody called ‘Misumba’. I’m addicted to this one, has a super deep bassline that makes you feel like your navigating on the ocean under a bright blue sky, and with that amazing guitar and cool vocals, you just can’t wait to take another sip of that drink you’re having and chant misumbaaa! Burner.
A) L’Orchestre Todi National ‘Misumba’
Finally a track by the legendary Kenyan military band Maroon Commandos, ‘Adeh Deh’ delivers in afro-pop fashion with a pinch of reggae in the mix. With a catchy sing-along lyrics and a sweet feel-good melody. A significant horn section sets the pace of the tune. If its a Maroon Commandos track, expect killer horns! Formed in 1970 by the legendary band leader Habel Kifoto, its military band origins quickly established the group and landed a deal with Polydor in 1971. A success story that landed a string of hits over a span of 20 years. Several 70’ties tunes from the Maroons will be featured on this blog in the coming months
A) Maroon Commandos ‘Adeh – Deh’
You can image what kind of influence Manu Dibango’s mega hit ‘SOUL MAKOSSA’ had on this slice of East African Disco funk. In typical Kenyan fashion, the common phrase “ASANTE SANA” is used repeatedly in the refrain. Meaning “Thank you very much” and with the included cheeky female sexual groans you can do your own further conclusions on the lyrics. Both sides in one mix. Enjoy!
A&B) Said w/Wyne Barnes ‘Asante Sana’
Ohh! Special nightclub pressing, or is Jera Inn a hotel? Probably a mid seventies pressing and it seems the only output on this label is this excellent Cavacha tune by the Great Boma Liwanza. Another Congo import group that recorded and released in Nairobi. The group also had a full LP release and 45 outputs on major labels as Africa, ASL, Pathe & Super Musiki du Zaire. Check out Muzikifan.com for more info on the band. The interplay between the guitar and the horn section is super, and the intricate drum rhythm that sets the pace of the tune. Both sides roughly edited together. Enjoy!
A&B) Boma Liwanza ‘Jera Inn Pt. 1 & 2’
A sweet vocal number by the Elgonets, a group that had quite a few releases on different labels. Listen to the great driving guitar/drum shuffle beat that lays the mood for the crooner ending the track; “God bless Africa, Africa we love, with wild animals, with oceans and woods, god bless the continent Africa, Kilimanjaro and Mt. Kenya, use your bow and your machete and guard it. The togetherness of Africa is worth great goals. Look at it and what it offers, wild animals, lions, crocodiles ..” Thanks to Irine Nzungula for the translation.
|A) The Elgonets ‘Umoja Wa Africa’|
Another goodie from Santa Loi-Toki-Toki Jasta, a lovely tune with mod feeling. Check the superb organ & guitar solos. They recorded several funky pop songs such as ‘Ware Wa’ or ‘Lakusema Mimi Sina‘ on Pathé, and one 45 on Angel, which is a bluesy, melancholic afro-ballad with deep wah-wah guitar licks. Very unique sounds. One of the most distinct bands from Kenya.
|A) Loi Toki Tok ‘Wakati Nilikuwa Na Baba’|
Today’s selection comes from our good friend Philippe Noël (Canicule Tropicale) from Montréal, Canada. Phil chose this obscure 45 pressed in Kenya – probably another Congolese band based in Kenya at that time – because the guitar seems to be doing both the melody and the rhythm at the same time. Really unique sound, especially on ‘Mtoto wa mama’ The flip side Sukuma Wiki (Kenyan-style sauteed greens) is we assume is dedicated to the kenyan side dish. Love the way the song builds up into a chanting vibe! Hope you’ll enjoy this record as much as we do!
|A) Medico voice of Africa ‘Sukuma Wiki’
B) Medico voice of Africa ‘Mtoto wa Mama’
Digging through thousands of Kenya 45’s has proven one certainty, labels marked “Afro rock” provides positive results and usually in a funky manner. In this case, a full on quality double sider from Latapaza Band. The single was unearthed sometime in the 90’ties by Duncan Brooker, if you haven’t read the story check out this 2001 Guardian article on his ventures in Kenya. He released the b-side here ‘Odi-yo’ as a Kona promotion 45 for the forthcoming Afro-Rock 2 sampler, a compilation that never came. A shame because this stuff really hits the spot, some great guitar work featured and a catchy vocal effort on both sides of the 45. Produced by Love peace & happiness .. check!
A) Latapaza Band ‘Maziwa Ya Chai’
B) Latapaza Band ‘Odi Yoo’
No it’s not the new IPHONE 5 we are presenting here, it’s the B-side of a Kenyan single released on the Kikuyu label late 70’ties. It’s one we’ve come to like during the last few months as it features some cool drumming, a distorted wah-wah guitar and wicked bumpin’ base. In typical Kikuyu style you can’t help but hum along to the refrain. Another love sung we presume as we can clearly hear “I love you” in some of the vocals. Listen to the tempo change at 02:22!
|B) Kiratu & his Group ‘Yanagiria Kayo’|
We keep the trend of posting dancefloor oriented material and this track is no exception. It’s a cover tune of a Loi Loki Tok song. And it’s a hard one; heavvy driving percussion with a neat chant, dirty wah-wah, fierce horns and a wicked synth riff. Released by Polydor East-Africa, judging from the Mijikenda tag on the label this is from the Coastal regent of Kenya, most possibly a Mombasa band. Major thanks to Rickard Masip of Tropical treats fame for this one.
A) Cobra ‘Wari Wa Pt. 1’
About time we posted something proper funky. A Killer ghetto production with a huge break, catchy horns and a infectious moog lick high up in the mix. And wait till the trumpet solo hits in the end. We’re suspecting this might be a cover of something coming out of the US in mid seventies? The WRC label is a weird one, with local cover productions, reggae hits and a lot of mediocre disco stuff. We’re glad Nairobi native George Fombe produced this one, as nearly everything that has his name on is gold. Where is he today and who said Kenya can’t be funky?
|A) Silver Survivors Experience ‘Funky-Station’|
The cool label name pretty much sums it up. We can’t find any info on the band and our KENTANZA source tells us it’s the only release on the label out of two singles. A top notch traditional track here with a happy driving beat and a great guitar lick. And we love the way the harmony vocals works here. From the Taita tribe sung in the Kitaita language, closely related to Swahili. The lyrics tells another story about moral and ethics, don’t be careless and play-away with your life.
|A) Gonda Success Band ‘GOnda Ya Bara Isanga’|
It’s late 1980. Imagine yourself sitting in a local bar downtown Harare with a cold Zambezi by your side. The comfort and mood is just right as the red neon light paints a positive atmosphere in the bar. There is a stage there and it’s starting to get crowded! L’Orchestra Les Igao band has come all the way from Kenya and Congo to perform their newest hit. “African Disco Zimbabwe” It’s the end of an era as colonial times are history, you can feel the joy in crowd and the rush of the band. Big ups to fellow crate digger Christian Mikkelsen of ONA fame for turning up a copy of this beauty from the collection. We have no info on the band but you can read more about the City Boom label on Kentanza vinyl. Enjoy!
|A&B) Les Igao Band ‘African Disco Zimbabwe’|
We haven’t found any information on the label nor the artist here, looks like a private one off. Great label design, is that a horn upside down? The music speaks for itself here, a religious Kikuyu duet with a great slab of horns and funky guitar drive. In tradition of similar sounding Kikuyu groups at the time (Lulus band, Rift Valley bros) the sound on the b-side is nearly all instrumental. Note the funky change-up at 1:35 and wait for the bass solo! This smells of dancefloor potential. Probably from around mid seventies 75 or 76. Enjoy![audio:http://www.afroseven.net/songs/Band-sauti-popote-ithui-riu-pt12.mp3|titles=Band sauti popote – Adam Na Hawa pt1&2]
We have been up and down the coast of Kenya’s Swahili land scouting for records but we never came across this little 45. It was just a few years ago tropical master digger Rickard Masip turned up a copy in his own homeland of Sweden. Obviously a souvenir brought back from the Reef Hotel Mombasa (still running today!). A killer funky instrumental double sider. Percussive, organ, wah-wah and tribal vocal chant. Infectious! The band also released a full album by the name of the Vikings ‘African songs’, recorded in Switzerland. Both songs from the single are featured on the lp but the 45 take sounds earlier and better to our ears. [audio:http://afroseven.net/songs/mombasa-vikings-kibe-kibe.mp3|titles=mombasa vikings – kibe kibe]
One of many Lulu’s band singles. A prolific Kikuyu group that recorded for several labels, the groups private D.K. Undugu Sounds was run by the groups leader Daniel Kamau. Expect excellent loud pressing and tight production, simple funky aural esthetics’s as tight drumming, catchy vocals and a thousand dollar guitar riff! Perfect for the dancefloors of 2012.
|B) Lulus Band ‘Nguinio Nuu’|
Another Kenyan Congolese import band. And another AIT subsidiary label. There is no information to scout on the NET whatsoever on the band, although they released three other singles on the same label. Build up around a lovely hummin’ chorus, great atmosphere and a kickass tropical guitar harmonic ostinato, listen when it goes jazzy and the horns kick in midway .. what a tune! Both part 1 and 2 from the single assembled in the audio.
|A&B) Orch. Teke Teke Libala ‘Libala Bombanda Pasi’|
Here is a gem of a tune from Orchestra Bana Ekanga. Apparently a group that was an offshoot of the famous BABA NATIONAL, read more about the band and Baba Gaston on the excellent Muzikifan’s article Congolese bands in east Africa, The song features an Intricate drum beat with a beautiful female vocal effort by Nana Akumu wa Kudu of Pepelepe fame. Don’t believe the hype? Listen in and get hypnotized! [audio:http://afroseven.net/songs/Orch.-Bana-Ekanga-Haraka-Haina-Baraka.mp3]
A duet for a change, a very sweet growing slow-burn track musically labeled Coast, strangely it has this Ethiopia vibe to it. The Famous Nyahururu Boys was a Kikuyu band with frontman James Wahome who is credited for the tune and the label. As it is sung in Kikuyu we can’t find anyone who can translate it, but we’ve got it confirmed from our Swahili source it’s another love song 🙂 Listen in while it build towards the end ..
|A) Famous Nyahururu Boys ‘Mwendwa’|
Happy X-MAS to all our followers! Here is a track on the polygram subsidiary label Tsavo. For those of you who are familiar with the name your reference might be the Kenya national parks; Tsavo east and west. Although the name has a more dreadful meaning in Kikamba, check the facts on Wikipedia. This Lingala track from Orchester Sombo Sombo is all about joy and has all the right ingredients for a party number. A great guitar lick, dirty horns and cool vocals! Enjoy! See you in 2012! [audio:http://afroseven.net/songs/Orch-Sombo-sombo-sombo-sombo.mp3]
|A) Orchestra Sombo Sombo ‘Sombo Sombo’|
Johnny Bokelo, the counterpart of Congos renowned Franco Luambo had a belt of labels and groups during the seventies and eighties. Like many other Congolese musicians he went to Kenya to finance and release his music. In this case, the song “Nakupenda Sana” is sung in Swahili, meaning again “I love you ..” A tight guitar lick, thematic horns with a neat breakdown. Somewhat reminiscent of a Manu Dibango tune. If you heard it before it was booted with a bogus name on a French 70’ties lp called Kouloukoko du Zairie.
|B) Conga Internationale ‘Nakupenda Sana’|
I’m wondering if this group is the same group as the Eagles lupopo, if anyone have any information please let us know. The track is credited Yusuf Omar and Suddy Mohamed. Lupopo released several singles on the same African Eagles label so there must be some connection. I’m loving the sax work on this track, it opens up with a traditional romantic lingala flow and goes uptempo with a cool nearly free sax solo at the end. Definitely a standout!
|A) Eagles Band ‘Nyumba Imepigwa Na Radi’|
Here is a tune that is fairly easy to find if you scouting eBay regularly. One of the coolest artistic label designs, and a definite standout when you are digging through hundreds of 45’s. The music is a powerhouse of a lingala tune, starts in usual traditional style and slowly builds up with a killer guitar lick and a restless horn section. Brilliant! A pity the pressing is a bit low-fi. Check out Izile Topoke – Butu pt1 And if you can’t enough of that our in-house DJ BAZ has made an exclusive EDIT of the track cutting the best part aimed straight for the floor. Download high quality .MP3 and .WAV files here!
|A&B) Topoke ‘Butu’|
The Green rovers, a band that released several 45’s with some of Kenyas biggest labels. One of their better tracks is this very righteous take with the AIT subsidiary label Moto Moto. A cool baseline hook with a sweet vocal chorus and an underlying synth line. Even the drummer get’s his due in the cue! ‘Dynamite’ indeed. Over to the translation section, Masikini means in Swahili “unfortunate” The message of the song is be grateful for what you have, don’t try to get more on behalf of other people. Then you heart is black. And that message still packs a punch today, 33 years later. Enjoy!
|A) Green Rovers Band ‘Masikini’|
The small Umoja label only released this and two other singles as documented on the great KenTanziaVinyl site. Dug up by Sweden’s own tropical master digger Rickard Masip. A cool synth line sets the pace with a nice vocal harmony effort. And wait until the horn section let’s loose. Great track. In Swahili Umoja means togetherness. And ironically the text of the songs is not about the continent, it’s about a guy who has lost his love. “Asia you’ve done bad things, you have scared me and given me sorrow. Why did you leave?”
|A) Orch. Bimalee ‘Asia pt.1 ‘|
Kenyas answer to beach boys! Bahari in Swahili means ocean and what a great label it is! One of those us label nerds drool over. A private press where the name of the band is the same as the label. Great logo graphics too. The song is sung in the Bantu language, with a traditional twist is has nice melody and a great “happy” vocal feel. Kikamba music is known for their catchy vocal efforts. This tune has really grown on me and has become one of my favs. Check out Bahari boys – Msinzili and hold your horses when the conga and fuzz guitar breakdown hits you near the end. We have no clue what they are singing about so if can translate anything be sure to leave a comment.
B) Bahari Boys ‘Msinzili’
We open this blog with a 45 I found in Linkoni outside Mombasa Kenya in 2007. It was stored by a woman who had a coastal distribution business of recorded music back in seventies and eighties. There was shitloads of 45’s there all stacked in three meter towers. I only had a few hours so I grabbed out about 10 singles and headed back on the ferry over to the mainland. Sorting out my find later that day I realized I had found something special. Since 2007 this track has been featured in several mixes so the cat is out of the bag so to speak. If you haven’t heard it yet it’s a quality double sider from the coastal province of Swahili land Kenya. Fused with Arabic elements and a genuine funk twist supplied by maestro Slim Ali himself. Check out the tracks. B) Hafusa Abasi & Slim Ali ‘Sina Raha’ and ‘Hayes Mawazo’ We also hope that you check out our blog in the future as there will be new Kenyan 45’s added every week!
|A) Hafusa Abasi & Slim Ali ‘Hayesh Mawazo’
B) Hafusa Abasi & Slim Ali ‘Sina Raha’