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
As early as 1950s, electric guitars were a phenomenon in the Madagascar islands. In subsequent years, it was typical for lead guitarists to layer their strumming with dazzling riffs on a song hurtling along a frantic pace. This could have been the basis which likely influenced the late Jimmy Mawi’s style, long before he packed his bags destined for the Kenyan capital where he pitched tent in the mid 70s. Unwittingly, he was just coming ‘back home’ as at some point – Madagascar supposedly opted to break away from East Africa’s fold. More significantly, the islands have on instances been described as the country “..where old rock albums go to die..” This uncanny aphorism perhaps resonates with the groove that infuses hard-to-find, rare – until recently, handful tracks credited to Mawi. The not-so-popular Madagascan guitarist virtuoso’s insistent dance-frenzied, Afro-funk singles Black Star Blues, Let Me Keep Away From You, I Want Get Up and Black Dialogue – are already making a grand comeback on the global disco trail. Mawi’s name is undeniably as unfamiliar as his previously out-of-circulation songs, but which are now available on limited editions 10″ Vinyl on Soundway records. Incidentally, rave reviews blatantly draw parallels between Mawi’s “..rough heartfelt frenzy..” vocals expression with his first-name sake Jimi Hendrix’s bluesy funky-rock elements. These 45s were initially recorded some 40-years ago, during late 1970s in Nairobi, then East Africa region’s musical hub.
A) Jimmy Mawi ‘Vero’
B) Jimmy Mawi ‘Broken Love’
MOTO MOTO, a subsidiary label of A.I.T records, a Kenyan distribution source for Tanzanian bands. Acts like Orchestra Dar International, Vijana Jazz, Jamhuri Jazz Band and Urafiki are frequently featured. Check out our sales selection for a roundup with audio snippets. If you have special interest check out the book on the subject of Tanzanian popular music written by Alex Perullo. We feature a 45 that was dug up by extraordinaire French digger and DJ Grégoire de Villanova. A great funky doublesider with kick ass guitar, heavy organ and drums in the mix. Some are put off by the slightly mannered vocals, but we think it rocks just as hard .. black black is beautiful indeed! Psst! If your destined to find the song on vinylt there is is also a slightly cheaper French RCA pressing.
|A) Sunbust ‘Let’s Live Together’
B) Sunbust ‘Black is Beautiful’
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’
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’|
There is something very appealing about these early Ethiopian Philips singles. Especially with the picture sleeve. They often come with a very high price tag, if it’s in the right condition. Musically a league of it’s own. This monster of a doublesider showcases Mulatu Astatke at his creative peak. He had just returned back to his homeland from the US ready to shape what later became the Ethio-Jazz sound. Here in a collaboration with the renowned Ethiopian singer Tilahun Gessesse, who he also recorded several other great singles with. You can find them over at Peter Piper’s great Modern Ethiopian Music Discographies. ‘Emnete’ was reissued on 10′ SNDW10001 by Soundway. ‘Tezalègn yétentu’ is avaiable on éthiopiques-17: Tlahoun Gésséssé from Buda Musique.
|Gessesse & Mulatu ‘Tiz Alegn Yetintu’
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’
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’
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!
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’|
Sometimes you find something special, this is one of those tunes. Funky base, a nice guitar lick and a crazy cool vocal effort. It has this melancholy vibe. I bet he is singing about a lost girl or a failed marriage. Pressed on the prolific east African ASL label that had signed a wealth of artists from Congo to Tanzania. Focusing on Lingala and rumba music. Mr. Ntone however originates from Cameroon that also explains the French Fiesta label release of the identical tune. All in all a top notch track for a DJ’s who wants to spice up their selection.
|B) Bernard Ntone ‘Mussoloki’|
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’