Side 1 a) GONDA: A bewitching dance for young adults. Girls don ostrich-feather Head-plumes and enticing skirts. Others wall as drums pound out rhythms in dramatic bursts of energetic ferocity. b) LUMBOMBOMBO: The ‘Lumbombombo’ is a very rare one-stringed violin. In this song the singer praises his skills as a player in an almost-forgotten-melody. c) MUCHECHEMEKO: Calabashes, flutes, tins, rattles and drums combine to create an erotic atmosphere on the shores of the Indian Ocean. d) SPIRIT DANCE: In the middle of the night, a witch doctor encourages a patient to shake to the medicine of the drum. Hysteria follows.
Side 2 a) KAYAMBA: The most famous of all Giriama dances, featuring the weird, wonderful ‘Bungo’ horn.b) MWANZELE: The strange, eerie sounds, often used at funerals, created by metallic percussion.c) EARLY HOURS SPIRIT DANCE: The spirit of the drums gather momentum, hotter and hotter, as the night becomes day. d) KAYAMBA FANTASTIQUE: A larger horn bellows forth in brilliant improvisation. e) GIRIAMA FINALE: A sensational beat erupts with bursts of the ‘Bungo’ horn, then dies away into the wilderness.
Side 1 a) GONDA: A bewitching dance for young adults. Girls don ostrich-feather Head-plumes and enticing skirts. Others wall as drums pound out rhythms in dramatic bursts of energetic ferocity. b) LUMBOMBOMBO: The ‘Lumbombombo’ is a very rare one-stringed violin. In this song the singer praises his skills as a player in an almost-forgotten-melody. c) MUCHECHEMEKO: Calabashes, flutes, tins, rattles and drums combine to create an erotic atmosphere on the shores of the Indian Ocean. d) SPIRIT DANCE: In the middle of the night, a witch doctor encourages a patient to shake to the medicine of the drum. Hysteria follows.
Side One 1. KILUME DANCE, of the fun-loving Akamba people, is sedately energetic and traditionally restricted to elders-of both sexes-of this large Kenya ethnic group. 2. TYPICAL OF BORDER DISTRICTS of Uganda and the eastern Congo is this enchanting beat, played by two leisurely drummers as evening falls. 3. SPIRIT-EXORCISM, a rhythm of Kenya’s Teita people, in a rare, secret ceremony called “upepo” 4. GAY GIRIAMA, of the Kenya coastland, play their drums under the palms when the hot African sun makes work a burden.
Side Two UGANDA DRUMS, in a banana grove outside Kampala, capital city of one of Africa’s most beautiful countries. 2. CHUKA DRUMMERS, from Embu District, Kenya, perform precise and measured dance movements, carrying their tall drums between their legs. 3. ABOARD A DHOW, sailors celebrate a home-coming with happy rhythms. 4. KAMBA DRUMMER-some of Africa’s most accomplished-are urged on by dance leaders eager to call villagers into the moonlight.
Side one 1. AKAMBA, of south-eastern Kenya, sing the “ng’eta” and stomp out the strond rhythm of a traditional dance. 2. ABALUYIA GROUP, with Africa’s one-stringed fiddle, and a song hummed by a contented villager at nightfall. 3. FROM THE KIKUYU PEOPLE, a song in praise of their leaders is sung by a gaily-attired group of women, in typical style after harvesting. 4. CONCH-SHELL HORN, played in this strange style, can be heard at the Kenya coast as ferry-boats are hauled across the wide creeks. Side Two 1. LUO TROUBADOUR, representative of Kenya’s second larges ethnic group, sings to his “nyatiti” harp accompaniement. 2. MASAI YOUTHS, as they tend thei cattle, extemporize with warrior dreams and ancient battles. 3. KURIA ELDER; with his single-stringed instrument, tells the district new as he strolls along a northern Tanzania country road. 4. TIRIKI MUSICIANS, from western Kenya, sing wryly of their cattle and provide an interesting example of sophisticated African rhythm.
Press to hear SIDE A of the single
Press to hear SIDE B of the single
Side one 1. LIONS: Lionshave just brought down a wildebeest and are roaring triumphantly over the kill. As they begin to tear their victim to pieces, they snarl and growl at each other. 2. ZEBRAS: Zebras have got the wind of a lion, and their excited barks can be heard from near and far. 3. WILD DOGS: African wild dogs hunt in packs. When at play or fighting among themselves they utter chitting and twittering sounds. 4. LEOPARD AND BABOONS: The harsh, sawing call of a leopard is answered by a male baboon’s bark of alarm. The spotted cat snarls, and the whole troop of baboons jabbers with excitement.
Side two 1. ELEPHANTS: Human scent has alarmed a herd of elephant. The animals are screaming, trumpeting and grumbling. 2. TREE HYRAXES AND COLOBUS MONKEYS: From the treetops of the forest come the eerie calls of the tree hyraxes and the throaty, throbbing chorus of the colobus monkeys. 3. RHINOS: In dense bush country we come across two mating rhinos and hear their gentle squels and harsh snarls. 4. HYENAS: A lion has made a kill and hyenas bgin to circle around him. We hear their howls as well as the uncanny laughter to which they give vent in high exciement. 5. HIPPOS: Hippos blowing and snorting as they float practically submerged in the water.
Side one 1. GREATER FLAMINGO (Phoenicopterus ruber): On many saline lakes of East Africa’s Great Rift Valley the Greater Flamingo’s beautiful deep-crimson wings, with their black flightfeathers can be seen. But here is recorded the rare and remarkable sound of a breeding colony, with young. Distribution: Throughout eastern Africa.
2. FISH EAGLE (Cuncuma vocifer): A sound which is very essence of Africa, as blackwingled male and female call and respond in their breeding territories near lakes, rivers and coast. Distribution: From Senegal, southern Sudan and Ethiopia, throughout East, Central and Southern Africa. 3. TROPICAL BOUBOU SHRIKE (Laniarius aethiopicus): A veriety of calls from different races of this bird-beautiful bell-like notes as male and female sing in duet. Distribution: Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, SUdan, Ethiopia, SOmaliland, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Cameroun, Congo Kinshasa, Zambia, Malawi. 4. SLATE-COLOURED BOUBOU SHRIKE (Laniarius funebris): In dry thornbush country, slate-black male and female sing attractive duets. Distribution: Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Somaliland, Ethiopia, Southern Sudan. 5. DIDRIC CUCKOO (Chrysococcyx cupreus): This small, beautiful cuckoo-its upper parts metallic emeral green and bronze and with a white eye-stripe – often varies its call throgh the seasons. It is parasitic, but takes on its young for feeding after they have left the nest. Distribution: Ethiopia, southern Arabia, Sudan, throughout eastern Africa to southern Africa. 6. RED-CHESTED CUCKOO (Cuculus solitarious): Although this cuckoo is large, it is frequently difficult to observe in tree branches, with its camouflaging chestnut-coloured chest. Sometimes called “the rain bird”. Distribution: Gambia, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, through to southern Africa. Side Two 1. SPOTTED MORNING WARBLER (Cichladusa guttata): Despite its common name, this is not a Warbler at all, but related tot the Trush and is one of Africa’s finest songsters and mimics. Whistle at this little bird and it will usually answer. Distribution: southern Ethiopia, southern Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, Tanznia. 2. BLACK-THROATED HONEY GUIDE (Indicator indicator): The male of this interesting species is brownish-grey above, with a distinctive black throat patch, and it havitually tries to lure human or honey badger towards honey bees nests. From tree to tree it flits, chattering and waiting for its followers to catchup. If honey is found, then you must share some with the bird, or trouble will befall you, runs the legend. The song recorded for this disc is its normal treetop melody. Distribution: Senegal, Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Congo through to South Africa. 3. RUPPELLS ROBIN-CHAT (Cossypha semirufa): A fine songster, favouring woodlands and gardens, this handsome bird is also a beguiling imitator of other species. Distribution: Ethiopia, southern Sudan, Kenya and Tanzania. 4. BLACK-HEADED ORIOLE (Oriolus larvatur): Distinctively golden yellow, with head and wings black, its call is also unmistakable. Distribution: Sudan, Ethiopia, southern Somalia, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Malawi, Rhodesia, Mozambique to the Zambesi River. 5. CROWNED PLOVER (Stephanibyx coronatus): This noisy call warns other birds and animals of the stranger’s approach. Distribution: Ethiopia, southern Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi to South Africa. 6. GREEN WOOD-HOOPOE (KAKELAAR) (Phoeniculus Purpureus): A large bird, which tumbles around the trees in small, noisy groups. In sunshine, the male’s iridescent upper parts gleam greenish-black, its throat deep blue and the remainder of the spectacular plumage, purple. Distribution: Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Congo Kinshasa to the Zambesi River, Sudan, Ethiopia.
From the heart of untamed Africa, where savage nature still reigns supreme, comes this spell-binding series of records which have captured for you-in brilliant hi-fi the stirring sounds you thrilled to during your safari.
Re-live the fascinating excitment and the majestic grandeur of breathtaking Africa unspoilt by the hand of civilisation.
Heartbeat of Africa will conjur up for you, again and again, vivid pictures of growling lion and trumpeting elephant, snarling leopard and lumbering rhino, the rhythmic jangle of tribal dancers, the vibrant throbbing of African drums, the voluptous melodies of tropical birds, and all those memorable experiences which will carry you back, in rapturous transport, to the enchantment that is Africa.
Press to hear SIDE A of the single – 1 Animal Voices of Afria; 2 East African Birdsong; 3 Night at Treetops.
Press to hear SIDE B of the single – 4 East African Drums; 5 Safari Song; 6 This is East Africa.
Undergrünnen are finally ready with the follow-up to the critically lauded and Spellemann nominated debut album.
It was winter again and in Haugesund it rained, if possible, even more than before. There was nothing else to do for Undergrünnen but to barricade themselves in the studio and daydream of sweaty clubs and hot beaches. Roof leaks, the IRS, pining for fast money, deaths in the family and the monotonous bore of working for the post office, influenced and inspired the wild recording sessions that resulted in the new record.
The album’s centerpiece is the hectic, 13 minute long “Nå e me her” (“Now we’re here”). A wild ride with frantic guitar picking, congas and almost chanted vocals. The lyrics have become eerily relevant in these chaotic times, with repeated lines of “I’m not getting any peace”, “what are we doing here”, “have to wait here” and “what do I do now”. Sounds like existential crises in quarantine times, if you ask us.
With Ein revnande likegyldighet, the band takes their music even further than what the debut could. The production is more cheeky, the songwriting is sharper. The songs vary between the two-and-a-half-minute rocker “Burmavegen Baby” to the 13-minute afro-kraut-banger “Nå e me her”. The album consists of six songs that takes the listener on a rhythmical excursion in hip-shaking, unclassifiable rock – in Norwegian.
The Undergrünnen of 2020 mixes 60’s psychedelia, afrobeat, jazz and minimalistic new wave, with Pål Jackman’s biting lyrics about life’s existential nonsense and the unbearable indifference of being. In other words, it still sounds unmistakably like Undergrünnen. As one writer noted on the former album: “It’s as though Paul Simon had eschewed Ladysmith Black Mambazo for ‘Graceland‘ and asked, say, The Monks or MC5 to be his backing band instead AND they sing in Norwegian”.
Ein revnande likegyldighet was recorded in Hauge Sjakklubb, Karmøy, with Vegard Fossum (Beforeigners) as technician, and was mixed and mastered in London’s Eastern Studios by Jason Emberton (Nick Cave, Warren Ellis).
‘Harambe’ by Mac & Party was one of the most interesting recent rediscoveries of Kenyan taarab from the past decades. An English language taarab song with the prominent presence of an early synthesizer, it sounded unlike any other Kenyan music that came out during the 1960s and ‘70s. Initially, when trying to license the track for reissue in 2016 (Soundway’s ‘Kenya Special volume 2’ and the 45 RPM reissue on Afro7), we didn’t have much luck in finding out who had recorded and composed the song, or even when exactly it had come out. Comparing discographies of the original label, and listening to other songs that were close enough by catalogue numbers, it appeared to be the work of the late singer/composer Yaseen Mohamed. His sons were able to confirm that it was their father singing on those singles, that Mac & Party and Yaseen & Party were most likely the same band, and that the recordings were done in the early ‘60s.
A closer look at Yaseen Mohamed’s legacy reveals that he was an important figure in Kenya’s taarab music of the 20th century. Between his first 78 RPM record, which came out around 1947, and the last single released in the mid-sixties, his discography spans nearly 50 confirmed releases, and possibly many more collaborations that he was not credited for.
Yaseen was born in Mombasa in the 1920s. His parents were of Omani heritage. Growing up he joined the British colonial army, which allowed him to travel around the region and soak up a wide variety of cultural influences. During Yaseen’s youth, recorded taarab music had become popular across the region, pioneered by a group of musicians from Zanzibar whose musical output from the late ’20s and early ’30s set a trend.
Socio-economic changes in the colony during the 20th century, which transformed Mombasa from a Swahili town of less than 30,000 people, reigned by the sultan of Zanzibar, into a metropole in the newly independent country of Kenya, had a major impact on music culture. These changes were mirrored in the evolution of taarab between the 1920s and ‘60s. Yaseen’s early work is a patchwork of stylistic influences from Indian and Egyptian film melodies, Cuban son, and trendy dance styles such as the twist, mambo and samba, all thrown in the mix with a traditional taarab combo line-up of vocals, ud and percussion. He would later be quoted as saying that “there is no certain thing which is taarab. Even rock is taarab if people just sit and listen”.
By the early ‘50s, Yaseen had joined Assanand & Sons (Mombasa) Ltd., a shop selling musical instruments and 78 RPM records, which was quickly being developed into Mombasa’s most popular music studio. Yaseen was an all-round member on the team, recording his own music, performing as a session musician, acting as a studio technician, and scouting new talent for Mzuri, the in-house label. Apart from singing and composing he became a master of the taishokoto, a musical instrument of Japanese origin which was introduced in Kenya in the 1940s. During this time he started recording with his wife Saada (credited on releases as ‘Mimi’), who joined him on the stage during live single mic set up in the storage room at the back of the Assanand shop.
Yaseen, Mimi and their band were at the forefront of innovation in Mombasa taarab; their small-band approach with newly introduced instruments such as the (amplified) taishokoto, accordion, and the Clavioline, a predecessor of the synthesizer, sounded quite different from the big-band taarab approach of orchestras that were around during the 1940s and ‘50s. Their short songs (limited to 3 minutes per side for 78 RPM releases, and a bit longer when Mzuri started pressing on 45 RPM singles) appeared easy on the ear, but the lyrics were rooted in the intricate Swahili poetry that had been popular among the East African coast for centuries.
In 1962, Yaseen and Mimi got their first child, a milestone described in ‘Nimepata mwana’. From then on, Yaseen focused on working regular jobs, while music remained a hobby. They struggled to make ends meet though, living with their four children in a single-room apartment in Mombasa’s inner city. While Yaseen was of Omani heritage, Mimi’s parents were Digo, a people from coastal Kenya who were discriminated against during the colonial era. Yaseen’s close family didn’t accept Mimi and her kids into the family. In 1972, Yaseen left Mimi and the children to take up work in Oman, which had just started a transition from one of the middle east’s most traditional societies into a modern Arab oil-fuelled economy. Yaseen’s professional skills as an electrician and a mechanic were welcomed as he joined thousands from the Omani diaspora in East Africa in occupying the work force. Despite continuing to make music in his pastime, performing on national television and radio with his taishokoto, and composing a song for sultan Qaboos, he didn’t record any more music. Yaseen returned to Mombasa to visit his wife and sons every few years, and he intended to retire bring the family over to Oman, but he passed away in 1985. By that time, the Mzuri label and Assanand shop were long gone, and the production of taarab in Kenya had started a decline that has nearly decimated the Mombasa scene by 2019. A few of Yaseen’s songs were featured on foreign compilations, some of his recordings can be found on bootleg CDs in Mombasa, but only some of the older generation in Kenya are aware of the remarkable legacy and the impact that Yaseen and his wife have had on Kenya’s coastal music.
The full album LP with 4-page fold-out insert with extended liner notes and the single can be bought seperate through our music shop, with reasonable worldwide shipping prices, use this link to buy directly from us, we also have other Afro7 releases available.
LINK TO SONG SNIPPETS from Yaseen & Party Compilation LP
LINK TO SONG SNIPPETS from the Single Mac & Party Zandale and Kiss to Kiss single
Even though African music of the past four decades is being rediscovered, catalogued and reissued by foreign labels at an accelerating speed, music from the East-Central African nation of Burundi remains somewhat of a blind spot to collectors who are not from the region. Western audiences have long associated the country with pop hits by singer Khadja Nin (based in Belgium since 1980) or even with Burundi Black (1971), the worldwide hit by French pianist Michel Bernholc (alias Mike Steiphenson) that sampled a recording from 1968 of traditional Burundian drumming. There are two vinyl releases from 1980 and 1987 that hint at the unknown history of Burundian pop music, records that have gained grail status among collectors, even though the story behind those LPs has never been told in full.
The first is a 7-LP box, released by Radio Nederland in 1980 (only 80 copies were made), containing the 100 entries to a band competition that the station organised for undiscovered talent from the Francophone African region. Among them was Amabano, the group that would become one of the two winners of the Concours du Moulin D’or (Golden Windmill contest), and who were invited to pick up their trophy, tour and record an album in a well-equipped studio in the Netherlands. The four tracks featured on the promotional vinyl are dreamy, mid-tempo psych-funk grooves with a touch of jazz and rumba, sung in the Kirundi language. The other LP, by the same group, was released in 1987 on the Soviet Union’s Melodiya label in two different editions, each limited to 1000 copies, and now near-impossible to find. ‘Gasuku’ was not a delayed release of their previous Dutch recordings, but a new set of songs, put to tape by a Soviet team that had travelled Burundi for the occasion. Like their 1980s contest entries, the ‘Gasuku’ album had a musical approach that was deeply rooted in psych, funk and rumba of the 1970s.
The remarkable story behind these records started in East Africa in the ’70s, when young musicians Africanova (Antoine Marie Rugerinyange) and Niki Dave (David Nikiza) were involuntarily exiled due to the civil war in Burundi. Both started a string of gigs with bands in Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. Africanova even was a member of the Suicide Revolutionary Band, a large army ensemble, along with Idi Amin’s later wife Sarah, until life under Idi Amin’s reign became too unpredictable. They ended up working together in a seedy nightclub in Kenya, in Nairobi’s River Road. Africanova was a multi-talented musician with a penchant for Congolese rumba, while Niki Dave would become known as a singer specialised in soul and funk. Their band was called the Afro Kids and featured members from Burundi, Congo and Kenya. By 1977 they found themselves recording a full album, which remains unreleased, and two singles, including the psych-funk title ‘Shoreza inyange’, which would make them superstars in Burundi and Rwanda. On the strength of these hits, they were invited by the state-owned national radio of Burundi to come back home for a tour. The first gig, using the new name of the Explorers, was sold out, and many more followed. The band’s unprecedented success quickly became an argument for the government, proving to the thousands of exiled Burundians in neighbouring countries that Burundi had become a safe place for them to return to.
In 1978, the Explorers signed with the Ministry of Information to become the state-sponsored house band of the national radio station. They picked the new name of Amabano, and musically their base of funk, soul and rumba, sung in a multitude of languages, absorbed a lot of influence from Burundian traditional music, and the Kirundi language would be heard in many of their songs. Winning the Moulin D’Or award, and the subsequent European trip in 1980, elevated their status as Burundi’s number one orchestra. In the next five years, they would feature prominently on radio, television and representing the Burundian state during international conferences. At the time, Burundi did not have professional music studios, and the only alternative to travelling abroad to record was to use the limited facilities at the radio station. Although Amabano received carte blanche to order their preferred musical equipment from abroad, there was nobody around to produce an album according to their standards. They contemplated another trip to Europe to record a full album, as their previous effort with Radio Nederland remained unreleased. Ultimately it was through the friendship of a Burundian government minister and the Russian ambassador that another plan was put into practice: a Russian team would come down to Bujumbura, record the band and then mix the album back in the USSR. The session was indeed released in the Soviet Union, by the state-owned Melodiya which was equally at home releasing major Russian pop bands and small-run pressings of regionally known bands by ethnic minorities within the USSR. It’s not known what the intended audience was for the Amabano LP, but it did nothing to catapult the band to international fame; the musicians were not even aware of the album’s release, although a copy was sent to Burundian radio.
While the Soviet Union was about to experience radical political changes that would affect the Melodiya label, back in Burundi there was also a change of leadership that resulted in the total lack of promotion of the Amabano album. The regime of president Bagaza was removed during a military coup during the same year the LP came out. Under the new government, conditions were not very favourable for Amabano. In 1990 the band left the radio and split up. The former band members continued to be active as musicians, and Africanova had success as a solo artist and running a music studio before he moved to Ivory Coast, and later to Canada. Niki Dave had left the band shortly before Amabano travelled to the Netherlands, and continued making music until his untimely death in 1992.
Today Amabano and its members are fondly remembered by many for their musical legacy that unified people in Burundi as well as neighbouring Rwanda across ethnic, economic and age boundaries. Apart from cassettes and CDs of their recordings in the studio of the Burundian national radio, their music has remained out of print until the current re-release of the Amabano LP (now called ‘Amsterdam Ticket’ after one of the songs on the LP, composed by Manu Dibango for the Radio Nederland contest), and the accompanying 45 RPM reissue of a single by the Afro Kids.
The full album LP with insert and the single can be bought seperate through our music shop, with reasonable worldwide shipping prices, use this link to buy directly from us, we also have other Afro7 releases available.
LINK TO SNIPPETS from the Amabano ‘Amsterdam Trip’ LP
LINK TO SNIPPETS FROM Niki Dave & Afro Kids Shoreza Inyange and Amayaya SINGLE
The Cranes were one of Uganda’s most popular teenage bands in the 1970’s. Founded in 1965, they metamorphosed at the end of the 1970’s into the Afrigo Band which is still, up to today, the number one band in the country. What’s love and Joy, both written by singer and guitarist Tony Senkebejje, appeared in 1974 on the only Cranes’ LP ‘Top Ten Hits’.
When the album hit the record stores in Kampala, bad luck had befallen The Cranes. A month before the recording of the album their bass player Jessy Kasirivu was killed because of President Idi Amin’s amorous association with his girlfriend. Senkebejje, scared for his life, fled to Kenya, only returning to Uganda 15 years later. The song What’s love describes how confusing love can be to a young soul and is partly inspired by Kasirivu’s death. Joy is a love song for Senkebejje’s wife Rachel who followed him to Kenya and who has been singing lead and playing guitar with him in their Simba Sounds Band ever since. Both songs feature prominently in the documentary Bwana Jogoo: the ballad of Jessy Gitta (2019 – 70 min – UG/NL/FR) which investigates the death of Jessy Kasisirvu at the hands of Idi Amin‘s State Research agents. Bwana Jogoo, directed by Dutch filmmaker Michiel van Oosterhout, showcases many great 1970’s songs from Uganda while letting Uganda’s musicians of yesteryears recount fond memories of one of their own, Jessy Kasirivu. These are the folks that worked and socialized with Jessy and knew him better than most. Their accounts of the events that led to Jessy’s disappearance are riveting and haunting. It lays bare a hitherto unexplored subject and one deserving of serious interrogation and scholarship – the naked power of authoritarianism and sexual predation.
A) The Cranes ‘What’s Love’
B) The Cranes ‘Joy’
It’s a been a long while with no posts at all, and what about all those dusty Kenyan 45’s that are lying around that need another review or a bigger audience? Well, there has been so much other stuff going on that we’ve (we? Well it’s just me, one guy) just haven’t had time to do it. I promise more focus on this in the future with a fresh blog post on a regular basis. We generally put up new vintage singles in our music shop every week, so check in on the shop through this link every Friday! What we have now is the last in line of a series of special DJ twelve inches we’ve been doing for the last years.
Let me tell you about this one: the label these songs originally came out on was CBS Kenya, a local franchise of the American Colombia records which focused on local artists and imports to the Kenyan market in the late seventies and early eighties. With local pressing facilities at hand, there’s a number of international big names whose music got released on the Kenyan CBS imprint, ranging from Madonna and ABBA to Queen, and even Pink Floyd. There are also West- and South African and Caribbean artists, such as Caiphus Semenya, True Tones and Bunny Mack. For this release we focus on disco, boogie and reggae by local artists. The familiar Black Savage band (see AFR7-LP-03) is featured as opening act on this EP with their very last recording. By the time ‘Fire’ was put to wax, only band leader Gordon Ominde was left of the original line-up. Here he teamed up with Ali ‘Rastaman’ Magobeni, another veteran of the Kenyan music scene, for a reggae crossover sound that could fit a hit in the Kenyan music market of early 80’s.
In the early years of CBS Kenya, before the ‘Fire’ single was released, Nigerian Desmond Majekodunmi was at the production helm running the CBS recording facilities. His Nigerian/American wife Sheila was a profiled singer in Nairobi at the time and the couple had several recording dates in Kenya. We’ve picked one that has a slightly quirky disco backing, but with the great voice of Sheila Majekodunmi in front. Read the full story of the Majeks in this write-up by renowned Nigerian music journalist Uchenna Ikonne, following Superfly Records’ recent reissue of their late 80’s Nigerian Polygram album.
Flip the 12 inch and you’ll find two great cuts by the mysterious OVID group. In coastal fashion, the lyrics to ‘Karibuni’ were aimed at tourists: “Welcome, welcome to Kenya”. The drum machine vamp and vocals serve as the intro to a more electric club cut with nice soulful vocals. ‘Operator’ is an uplifting reggae track.
A1) Black Savage ‘Fire’|
A2) Sheila and Desmond Majek ‘Got the Feelin”
B1) OVID ‘Karibuni’
B2) OVID ‘Operator’
The mid-seventies in Nairobi were a time of tremendous growth. In the first decade after independence, the city’s population doubled and the economy grew at a rapid pace. Pop culture experienced a boom, live music thrived around the city and young, aspiring musicians were exposed to a wide variety of local, regional and international influences. This was the time Nairobi developed into a musical melting pot that nurtured artists who are well remembered even outside Kenya, such as Les Mangelepa (still performing!), Matata, or Joseph Kamaru. The music industry increased its capacity and by 1975 local pressing plants were able to produce over 10,000 records per day. Amidst the proliferation of Kenyan music being released by hundreds of bands and solo artists, some of the most interesting records did not receive proper distribution or promotion, and four decades down the line they remain ungoogleable, unmentioned in discographies and generally unheard.
One band whose recorded output has been all but invisible until recently, but who are well remembered by people who were young in 1970s Nairobi, is Black Savage. Their music was released on an LP and three singles between the mid-70s and the early 80s, and has remained out of print ever after. The early years of the band, whose members met during their secondary school years in Nairobi, are well described in the liner notes accompanying the current reissue compilation by Afro7. Band leader Gordon was the son of professor Simeon Ominde, who had led the reform of Kenya’s educational system in 1964 upon independence, and who was teaching at Makerere University in Uganda in 1956 when his son was born. Gordon Ominde’s earliest memories included Louis Armstrong’s concert in Kampala in 1961, where – at the age of four – he was invited on stage and started conducting the band. Musical inspiration also came from his sisters who were singers, and from attending musical classes, although at Lenana – a former whites-only boarding school which was gradually being reformed to cater to Kenyans of different backgrounds – music education meant studying Beethoven and Mozart. Together with a group of younger students who shared an interest in music, including original Black Savage members Job Seda, Jack Otieno and Ali Nassir, he started practice sessions using the musical instruments that the school provided. After completing school the band decided to rejoin and pursue a career in music, despite all odds: obtaining their own instruments, finding rehearsal space and getting the approval of their families would all have been challenges in mid-seventies Kenya.
In 1973, two Kenyans of Indian heritage who had run a successful photo business since the mid-50s, gave Kenyan music a boost by investing in a 24-track recording studio, and by acquiring EMI, Pathé and other label licenses for recording and distributing local and international music. In the next few years the Sapra studio, record plant, tape duplication facility and colour printing business would become the go-to spot in Nairobi’s Industrial Area for musicians and labels from all around East Africa. The studio was built and – as the owners struggled to find a sufficiently trained local engineer – also run by Detlef Degener, a German who had come to Kenya to construct studios for training journalists. Between 1975 when Sapra studio opened and the end of 1978 when the company went bankrupt, he recorded hundreds of bands from as far as Zambia (many Zamrock albums were produced under his guidance). Black Savage also came to record at Sapra for their debut album, which was to be released by EMI.
‘Something for someone’ provides a refreshing look at Kenya’s musical landscape of the mid-seventies. Black Savage weren’t drawing their primary influence from rumba or benga but from psych and folk rock, funk and r&b. All songs were in English, and the lyrics were politically and socially aware, breathing the activist vibe of the international ‘summer of love’ generation. The band released three more singles. ‘Do you really care/Save the savage’ is two sides of semi-acoustic protest folk, ‘Grassland/Kothbiro’ embraces the group’s Kenyan identity through the music and language, and ‘Fire/Rita’ (released around 1982 on the short-lived Kenyan CBS label) sounds as if the group attempts to reinvent itself – as a reggae band.
Given the rarity of the original vinyl releases, the lack of airplay and the absence of biographic info on the band, one could conclude that Black Savage ended up all but forgotten. It’s reassuring that the musical paths of the band members didn’t end there, though. Job Seda (who changed his name to Ayub Ogada) and Jack Otieno (today known as Jack Odongo) joined the African Heritage Band. Job then became an actor (Out of Africa), joined the UK record label Real World and scored Hollywood soundtracks. Jack went on to produce numerous Kenyan bands throughout the 1980s and 90s, and is still active as a gospel musician. Gordon Ominde continued his studies but ultimately chose for a career as a musician, and his music took him to England and to Germany where he started a family; he died unexpectedly in 2000. Mbarak Achieng is credit for composing Black Savage’s Kothbiro, which Ayub Ogada re-recorded and which ended on the soundtrack of the Constant Gardener. The memory of Black Savage as Kenya’s most prolific rockers of the 1970s remains vivid in the hearts of thousands of Nairobians, and the current Afro7 reissue is a worthy first attempt at introducing their best work to an international audience.
|A3) Black Savage Band ‘Sharpeville’|
The Sudanese London collective The Scorpios have been making waves the past few years after the Afro7 release of their acclaimed debut release. Voted album of the week last summer by Gilles Peterson, many have come to treasure this great album that shines more and more upon repeated listenings. A future classic for sure!
We’re really glad to be able to offer more music from The Scorpios, this is their new hot single straight off the press! Two sides of Sudanese magic recorded at the legendary Abbey Road studios, ‘Mashena‘ is a take on the classic Sisters Al Balabil tune. The new version is spiced up with a tight percussive backbone, huge drums, flute and the lovely vocals of talented Regia Ishag. One for the dancefloor! Flip the single and you’ll find a beutiful slowburn traditional gem Samha. Comes in bespoke jacket and lovely custom made labels. We only made 500 of this so head over to the Afro7 music shop to secure your copy of the single. Their second album will be out later this year but catch them live at UK’s WOMAD – World Festival at Charlton Park 26-29 July!
A) The Scorpios ‘Mashena’
B) The Scorpios ‘Samha’
Etuk Ubong (born June 25, 1992) is a trumpeter, composer and bandleader. Hailing from Akwa Ibom State in southern Nigeria, raised in Lagos, he started playing at the age of 14 thanks to his mother’s encouragement. The past years he has been very active in Nigeria but also seen on spots in London and other European countries. Check out his previous albums Songs of Life and his Miracle >(due out on vinyl over summer!)
Following the Nigerian musical tradition of powerful protest songs against injustice and corrupt goverments, Etuk has penned two original numbers targeting todays state of affairs. It never manifest, they never fulfill their promises. They are meant to Provide good roads, stable Light, Free Education, Free Health Care Facilities, Jobs and security. With this brand new Afro7 single Labeled Earth Music, Etuk Ubong and his band raises up a fierce rhythmical storm, drawing traditions from funk, high-life, jazz and afrobeat. Laced with tape effects, delays and spiced up rawness by Neo Funk’s new wonderboy Estonian Misha Panfilov, it’s a sureshot mover for this summers tropical dancefloors. Not to be missed, head over to our shop to grab your copy!
A) Etuk Ubong ‘Black Debtors’
B) Etuk Ubong ‘Collaboration of Doom (C.O.D.)’
Located on Nyali Beach, south of Mombasa city lies Mombasa Reef Hotel, maybe the grandest of all the classic Kenyan hotels, run and managed by the same family since the mid-seventies. Catering westerners to safaris and snorkelling, and providing local acts of art-acts and music, including the hotel’s then house band the Mombasa Vikings. A band name undoubtedly suited for the many Nordic tourist that frequently visited. If you wanted to bring back some of the magic, musical souvenirs was offered for sale after the nightly musical show and another way for the band to make some extra needed pesa.
Fast forward somewhat 35 year the original Beach Rhythm’s Mombasa Roots seven-inch vinyl single with these two tracks finds Sweden’s own Rickard Masip in some now defunct Stocholm shop, he was mindblown over the music of the b-side track Mama Matotoya, it’s not exactly afro-beat more of a hybrid, heavy percussive with a a tip of chakacha rhythm pattern, a flute solo ooozing with jazz sensibility.
The Ensemble consisted of Tony Rusteau on Reeds. Abdalla ‘Dala’ Hamisi on Percussions and vocals, the late Ahmed ‘Emil’ Juma on lead guitar (…of later Mombasa Roots fame) Keneth Lucas on bass, Clement Fernandes on acoustic guitar, Bernard Pu Cheok Chuen on drums and Bruno Da Silva (who still works at the hotel to this day) and Richard Rusteau on perucssion and effects. The band was a fine example of how good it gets with a daily playing schedule and excited crowds.
We’ve been a fan of this 45 for a long time and the original still is extremely rare (only two copies known to have been found in Sweden!) We had to make a replica and with the help of Carvery’s Frank Merritt and Racuba’s Adam Isbell it’s finally available again sounding fresh and better than it ever did. 100% officially lisensed from the original band members!
A) Mombasa Vikings ‘Kibe Kibe’
B) Mombasa Vikings ‘Mama Matotoya’
David Waciuma a BIOGRAPHY – he was born in 1945 in Naaro Village, Kandara Muranga County. He went to Naaro / Kirunguru Primary Schools where he did his KAPE. He then proceeds to the Duke of Clocester High School (Nairobi High School) After Independence he was the first lot to be taken to Denmark to be trained as Air force cadet. Around 1964 he came back and said the place was too cold for him. And then in 1965 he was taken again to Egypt Cairo for the same cause. After one year he came back again because of fighting in the collage not completing his scholarship … yet again! His good mother (Wangui Waciama) again talked to Dr. Kiano and he was taken to Canada for full Scholarship to do same cause for 3 years, and then later he joined his brother in America. This is where he started and polished his music career and formed a band. Now in 1971 he came back and told his parents he wanted to become a musician then his older brother whom he was with in USA (Dr Wanjohi Waciama) bought him musical instruments. In 1972 he formed his first band The Monks Experience as a lead guitarist he made an impact to the young and old in the boogy euphoria. He was mostly performing in a club on top of a tall building in the Nairobi KICC, but then he moved to Florida Club along Koinage Street – Nairobi. In 1976 he met the love of his life Anne Kamwende, a student teacher in Kilimambogo Teachers Collage. They tied the knot in PCEA Ting”ang”a Church on the 11th Dec 1976. Then after that he changed from secular music to Gospel music in 1977 and formed RAPTURE VOICES further on he started attending evangelical meetings and getting more socialised in that comunity, eventually he became less active in playing music. David and Anne were blessed with two girls and two boys. David Waciuma died in December 2016. Editors note: The best tracks from David Waciuma and the Rapture Voices are back now as a remastered limited seven inch on Afro7 records. Head over to the shop to secure your copy!
A) David Waciuma & Rapture Voices ‘Devil Go’
B) David Waciuma & Rapture Voices ‘Jesu Kristo’
When thinking of urban coastal Kenyan musicians whose careers run decades deep, taarab performers may be the first who come to mind. Indeed, taarab taps into a poetic tradition that goes back centuries and it may be the longest surviving thread in popular music across the Swahili coast. Sadly, in recent years the thriving scenes of Mombasa and other coastal towns have become increasingly quiet, for a number of reasons including economic decline, the ageing of the live musicians who came up in the 1960s and ‘70s, Congolese and later Nigerian music becoming popular, and the recent clampdown on terrorism which adversely affected public life in Mombasa.
There’s another Kenyan coastal sound, one that came up in the seventies and survived it all, a genre that even enjoyed commercial success abroad but has often remained ignored and despised by western critics. Afro7 previously released an EP re-introducing one of the finest examples of this school: Them Mushrooms, a band that played its part in the introduction of coastal dances like cha-cha to the masses; then the second volume of Kenya Special included Hinde, a song from the mid-eighties by African Vibration which even made Kikuyu people in Nairobi speak a bit of the coastal Giriama language at the time, as it became an anthem of sorts. Taarab music has been the essential wedding music of the Swahili coast, but these new bands made their living recording for the club and radio, and performing in hotels. Even though the different currents in Mombasa taarab all borrowed from a multitude of local and foreign genres, Them Mushrooms, Safari Sound Band and the likes created a type of pop music with a modern sound led by keyboards and drum machines that was soon embraced by the eclectic Kenyan audience and foreign visitors alike.
One of the most prolific bands in this field has been Mombasa Roots. They recently hit their 40th anniversary, not a small feat in the Kenyan musical landscape that is full of pitfalls. When they started out in 1977, the group was made up of the brothers Ebrahim, Suleiman and Ethiopian drummer Tamrat Kebede, among others; another Juma brother, the late Ahmed Juma, joined the next year as he left the Mombasa Vikings. In 1979 the band, trying their best to come up with their own compositions, recorded their first single in their residence at Muthaiga (Nairobi) with the assistance of Nabil Sansool, the Syrian born producer who, later on, would assist in elevating the production values of Kenyan coastal music. On What Is It That You Want / My Everything, which was released on the Mombasa Roots imprint, the band was still carving out their own niche, and it wasn’t a big hit. Unlike other bands, they invested in their own instruments and the equipment from the start, which helped them finetune the sound that propelled them to fame by the mid-eighties.
It was a string of singles, released in 1984 and 1985, and ultimately compiled on their first lp ‘MSA-Mombasa’ (1987), that landed the work of Mombasa Roots in discos, bars and jukeboxs in the remotest corners of the country. ‘Disco cha-ka-cha’ was a sensation when it came out, a bold attempt at reinterpreting a semi-traditional female wedding dance for the clubs, but it worked well. Up to that point, the most common way for urban Kenyans and foreign visitors to hear traditional Kenyan music had been through performances during ceremonies or aimed at tourists. Their version of ’Kata’, a sparse and hypnotic rhythm with the right touch of keyboard, is still well remembered after three decades. The chakacha dance songs helped them gain popularity among the taarab audience, but It was their version of ‘Kasha langu’, a Swahili evergreen first recorded in the 1950’s, that got them a lot of new fans; it’s still a part of Mombasa Roots’ live set today.
From its inception, Mombasa Roots played the live circuit on the coast and upcountry in clubs aiming at local audiences and foreign tourists, too. In the years to come they accepted gigs abroad, which led them to places like Germany, Dubai and Ethiopia, where they have been regular guests for the past twenty years. And despite most of the founding members leaving the group (Tamrat and Emile since passed away), Mombasa Roots is still going strong today. The band performs in different venues seven days a week with a diverse line-up of young musicians led by veteran Ebrahim Juma, playing own compositions and covers. The latest Afro7 release is a tribute to these pioneers of Kenyan pop music. The EP combines the first Mombasa Roots Band single from 1979 with three of their biggest hits from the mid-eighties: the melancholic ‘Kasha Langu’, the poppy disco of ‘Karibishe’ and the chakacha trance groove of ‘Mezea tu (Lele mama)’.
Head over to our shop to secure your copy, in shops on the 13th of April, but we’ll start shipping out preorders as fast as we have them.
A1) Karibishe A2) Mezea Tu (Lele Mama) A3) Kasha Langu
B1) What is it that you want B2) You’re my Everything
This song rekindles memories of the fiery wave of the black consciousness movement that swept across the African diaspora from 1960s through to the ’80s. The Rift Valley Brothers band’s lyrics are seemingly a clarion call imploring local Kenyans to come to terms with their rich African roots and home-grown heroes. These were likely inspired and penned in praise of Kenya’s liberation struggle and key Mau Mau frontline freedom fighters. Several unsung and long forgotten ‘bush’ generals are saluted for their sweat, gallantry and bloodshed. But the underlying message is undeniably emphatic on the pressing need (especially for the younger generation) to embrace selfconsciousness and pride in their African heritage.
A) Rift Valley Brothers ‘Mu Africa’
B) Rift Valley Brothers ‘Uhiki Wa Nduru’
Happy summer! We are have been working hard to update the site to be more mobile friendly and will keep adding more vintage stock throughout the year! Keep coming back in!
The intermingling of nifty guitar riffs on this blend of Congolese and Kenyan musical influences is deeply original and typical of a very unsung musical outfit that seemed to have become largely forgotten over the years. ‘Let’s sing, dance and party on to our music’ (ngoma yetu)’ the lyric goes. This deep track is indicative of the multi-layered repertoire of The Loi Toki Tok – the resident band at the uptown Arcadia Club (now the Florida Night Club) along Koinange Street in Nairobi. This track is featured on Kenya Special by Soundway records, compiled by Miles Cleret, Fredrik Lavik and Rickard Masip. It was recently repressed and can be bought here on all formats!
A) Loi Toki Tok Band ‘Leta Ngoma’|
B) Loi Toki Tok Band ‘Jennie’
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
One of the great Somali female vocalists of her time was Faadumo Qaasim, from the Benadiri ethnic group. She passed in 2011 but the composer Said Harawo is to this day still living in Mogadishu and working at the National theatre of arts. Though constant menacing threats of the Al Shabaab towards music and culture, it’s sad to say the fear has put restrains on his movements. He rarely leaves his house these days. The song Majogo means I am not here. It’s a love song. She is singing how she is unavailable for love. At the same time she says “I am so in love with you my body aches” Another classic case of being love sick. So instead of welcoming love, she would rather chase it away.Berflasana is sung by another artists who is sadly not among us anymore. Ahmed Sharief Yusuf, also from the Benadiri tribe with roots in Yemen, where he relocated after the civil war. Berflasana means we are going to farm. Somalis are typically nomad culturally, where farming is very limited. Back in 60s and 70s the government introduced programs to promote farming. This song talks about the pros and cons of farming. It says that we are going to farm if we want food. If we don’t farm we going be depend hand-outs or aid. This single is now available again from afro7.net. head over to the shop and grab your copy. Special thanks to Keynaan Cali for the translations!
A) Faduma Kassim ‘Majogo’|
B) Ahmed Sharief Yusuf ‘Berflasana’
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’
Glad to announce that the first compilation on our own in-house label now is available for purchase through the Shop. Light & Sound of Mogadishu comes as first of it’s kind, a unique compilation of tracks from the seventies Somali scene. Light and Sound was a was a small label and shop that operated in the ‘Cinema Hamar’ complex downtown Mogadishu. Vinyl singles was shifting hands among electronic equipment and lighting products. From the funky fused organ led rhythms of The Sharero band to the mesmerizing voice of Magool. Light & Sound had the sounds of the times! The vinyl has 7 tracks, the digipack CD has 8. Compilation comes fully remastered with liners and pictures. Read the press release through this link. In shops from the 29th of august. The bonus track on the CD is the excellent guitar percussion driven ‘Jacil Dheeg Malago Qury’ Hear part 1 and 2 in the mp3 link below. Translated to “Is Love Written in Blood?” thanks to Risto Nevanlinna for letting us borrow the original for the master and Lidwien Kapteijns for the translation of the song title.
|A) & B) Magool ‘Jacil Dheeg Malago Qury’|
Le Nzoi aka The Bees originated sometimes in the early seventies assembled by the famous vocalist Edo Gang, who’s been in bands like Les Bantous De La Capitale and T.P.O.K. Jazz. The Edition Populaire was a label owned by Franco, and this gem of a tune ‘Declaration’ was recorded on a mobile recording studio Franco used for all his sub-labels. Never discard a Congolese track after the first minute, it starts cooking mid-way. The Bees start to sting real hard here at 1:45! Departing from a call and response duet a killer guitar riff kics in and meets the sax solo half-way. This track can be looped throughout the day and night, it has everything you need!
|A) Orchestre Le Nzoi ‘Decleration’
B) Orchestre Le Nzoi ‘Ou Est Le Probleme’
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’
In times of “Feelabration” here at Afro7, we’ve tried to trace the Afrobeat sound in the East and Central Africa. Are there any musicians from Kenya, Tanzania or Congo that can match the prowess and sound of Nigerias Fela Kuti and his counterparts? The closest we come to trace this sound is Johnny Bokelo’s ‘Nakupenda Sana’ that we posted a few years ago. A Congolese artists in the ranks of Verckys and Franco. Mbuta Teka’s Orchestra Baya Baya (an offshoot of Veves) released this track on the Tanzanian state run label Kwetu. A rumbling backbone, funky guitar lick, jazzy horns and a soaring organ line. A different kind of opening jam! Sadly for us Soukous fans it doesn’t really take off in part 2 but still some amusing solos and and quirky lyrics. “Kidogo Sana” means “a pinch..” or “very little.. ” in English. “Alright man! That is new sounds from Africa!!” Enjoy…
|A) Orch. Baya Baya ‘Kidogo Sana Pt. 1’
B) Orch. Baya Baya ‘Kidogo Sana Pt. 2’
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’
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’
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’|
Famous band from Tanzania, this release was before they changed their name to DDC Mlimani Park Orchestra after a sponsor deal. Notice the name typo done by the Kenyan label press. Read Werner Graebner excellent notes on the band over at East African Music.com This number translated to “Gossip among people” is a great showcase number; fluid rumbling backbone, fierce guitar interplay and fantastic horns. We’ve glued both parts together so you can hear the song in it’s entirely .. even put in the drop noise of the needle in the start. If you are curious about other releases on the label follow the label logo graphics on bottom right.
|A&B) Orchestre Milimani Park ‘Fitina Za Watu’|
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’|
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’
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’|
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’
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’
Congo band with both Kenyan and French pressings. You can find some great stories about this and others bands in Gary Stewart’s book “Rumba on the River: A History of the Popular Music of Two Congos”. Orchestra Bella Bella released this single in 1974 and the lyrics of this particular song deals with prostitution; “I Nganga, what do you want me to do. My work is my livelihood. You find me money, my brothers. I will help you” A slightly rough sounding pressing, but dig the sassy guitar play and horn-section, and the nice handmade label design of Elengi. There is also a mini bio on the group on Tim Clifford’s excellent KentanTanza vinyl site.
|A&B) Orch. Bella Bella ‘Nganga 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’
Probably a hit song, as this is one of the more common Ahma singles. Appears to be the Greece pressing without the picture sleeve. Great double sider in typical hypnotic Ethio-style fashion, oozing with timeless quality. Arrangements provided by the all famous Mulatu Astatke, vocals by Menelik Wossenachew and The All star band providing the sounds. ‘Belew Bedubaye’ utilizes the Ethiopian scale in full with a clever piano line, cool chorus, handclaps and a dirty sax line improvising over the main theme. ‘Tezeta’ has a more dreamlike mellow kind of vibe, listen repeatedly and picture yourself on a warm day in Adis with a Hakim Stout in your hand. እንጆይ ትሀ ሊስተን ..
|A) All star band ‘Belew Bedudaye’
B) All star band ‘Tezeta’