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’
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’
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’
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’
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’|
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’
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’|
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’
In the exciting evolution of Benga the Kikuyu artists implemented a fast paced rhythm, duo vocal harmony with several layers of guitar comp, melody and a minimalstic steady bumpin base/drum beat with little variation. This receipt seem to have worked as there are several Benga tunes perfected in the same style, often new incarnations of the same melody but with different vocals. Peter Kigia (Wa Ester) had a big hit with the B-side of his own privately financed MPP label. Rickard Masip made us aware that the artist is still ongoing with this youtube clip. Enjoy the original release from 1991! Who said the 90’ties was boring?
|B)Chania River Boys ‘Reke Tumanwo Biuu’|
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’|
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’|
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’
Digging through thousands of Kenya 45’s has proven one certainty, labels marked “Afro rock” provides positive results and usually in a funky manner. In this case, a full on quality double sider from Latapaza Band. The single was unearthed sometime in the 90’ties by Duncan Brooker, if you haven’t read the story check out this 2001 Guardian article on his ventures in Kenya. He released the b-side here ‘Odi-yo’ as a Kona promotion 45 for the forthcoming Afro-Rock 2 sampler, a compilation that never came. A shame because this stuff really hits the spot, some great guitar work featured and a catchy vocal effort on both sides of the 45. Produced by Love peace & happiness .. check!
A) Latapaza Band ‘Maziwa Ya Chai’
B) Latapaza Band ‘Odi Yoo’
About time we posted something proper funky. A Killer ghetto production with a huge break, catchy horns and a infectious moog lick high up in the mix. And wait till the trumpet solo hits in the end. We’re suspecting this might be a cover of something coming out of the US in mid seventies? The WRC label is a weird one, with local cover productions, reggae hits and a lot of mediocre disco stuff. We’re glad Nairobi native George Fombe produced this one, as nearly everything that has his name on is gold. Where is he today and who said Kenya can’t be funky?
|A) Silver Survivors Experience ‘Funky-Station’|
It’s late 1980. Imagine yourself sitting in a local bar downtown Harare with a cold Zambezi by your side. The comfort and mood is just right as the red neon light paints a positive atmosphere in the bar. There is a stage there and it’s starting to get crowded! L’Orchestra Les Igao band has come all the way from Kenya and Congo to perform their newest hit. “African Disco Zimbabwe” It’s the end of an era as colonial times are history, you can feel the joy in crowd and the rush of the band. Big ups to fellow crate digger Christian Mikkelsen of ONA fame for turning up a copy of this beauty from the collection. We have no info on the band but you can read more about the City Boom label on Kentanza vinyl. Enjoy!
|A&B) Les Igao Band ‘African Disco Zimbabwe’|
We haven’t found any information on the label nor the artist here, looks like a private one off. Great label design, is that a horn upside down? The music speaks for itself here, a religious Kikuyu duet with a great slab of horns and funky guitar drive. In tradition of similar sounding Kikuyu groups at the time (Lulus band, Rift Valley bros) the sound on the b-side is nearly all instrumental. Note the funky change-up at 1:35 and wait for the bass solo! This smells of dancefloor potential. Probably from around mid seventies 75 or 76. Enjoy![audio:http://www.afroseven.net/songs/Band-sauti-popote-ithui-riu-pt12.mp3|titles=Band sauti popote – Adam Na Hawa pt1&2]
We have been up and down the coast of Kenya’s Swahili land scouting for records but we never came across this little 45. It was just a few years ago tropical master digger Rickard Masip turned up a copy in his own homeland of Sweden. Obviously a souvenir brought back from the Reef Hotel Mombasa (still running today!). A killer funky instrumental double sider. Percussive, organ, wah-wah and tribal vocal chant. Infectious! The band also released a full album by the name of the Vikings ‘African songs’, recorded in Switzerland. Both songs from the single are featured on the lp but the 45 take sounds earlier and better to our ears. [audio:http://afroseven.net/songs/mombasa-vikings-kibe-kibe.mp3|titles=mombasa vikings – kibe kibe]
One of many Lulu’s band singles. A prolific Kikuyu group that recorded for several labels, the groups private D.K. Undugu Sounds was run by the groups leader Daniel Kamau. Expect excellent loud pressing and tight production, simple funky aural esthetics’s as tight drumming, catchy vocals and a thousand dollar guitar riff! Perfect for the dancefloors of 2012.
|B) Lulus Band ‘Nguinio Nuu’|
Another Kenyan Congolese import band. And another AIT subsidiary label. There is no information to scout on the NET whatsoever on the band, although they released three other singles on the same label. Build up around a lovely hummin’ chorus, great atmosphere and a kickass tropical guitar harmonic ostinato, listen when it goes jazzy and the horns kick in midway .. what a tune! Both part 1 and 2 from the single assembled in the audio.
|A&B) Orch. Teke Teke Libala ‘Libala Bombanda Pasi’|
Here is a gem of a tune from Orchestra Bana Ekanga. Apparently a group that was an offshoot of the famous BABA NATIONAL, read more about the band and Baba Gaston on the excellent Muzikifan’s article Congolese bands in east Africa, The song features an Intricate drum beat with a beautiful female vocal effort by Nana Akumu wa Kudu of Pepelepe fame. Don’t believe the hype? Listen in and get hypnotized! [audio:http://afroseven.net/songs/Orch.-Bana-Ekanga-Haraka-Haina-Baraka.mp3]
A duet for a change, a very sweet growing slow-burn track musically labeled Coast, strangely it has this Ethiopia vibe to it. The Famous Nyahururu Boys was a Kikuyu band with frontman James Wahome who is credited for the tune and the label. As it is sung in Kikuyu we can’t find anyone who can translate it, but we’ve got it confirmed from our Swahili source it’s another love song 🙂 Listen in while it build towards the end ..
|A) Famous Nyahururu Boys ‘Mwendwa’|
If we got our facts straight ‘L’orchestre Masantula’ is a Tanzanian group, released on an AIT subsidiary label. ‘SAUDA’ A nice traditional track with a nice uplifting edge: driving percussive backing, guitar, sax and cool chorus. Curious about the message of the song we had to consult with our man in Nairobi, unfortunately he lost his mobile phone so we will have to wait to get the lyrics translations sorted out. Anyways we’ve merged both sides of the vinyl platter so enjoy the whole track! If you like this track we suggest you buy it, it was compiled on Essential East African Hits Volume 2 and The Essential East African Collection Vol 2. [audio:http://afroseven.net/songs/Orch.-Masantula-Sauda.mp3|titles=Orch. Masantula – Sauda]
We hit the first day of 2012 with this brilliant track from The Uppers hailing from Ghana. Unfortunately we don’t have much information on them except their former band name was Uppers International and they released a couple of singles on Polydor. With a mellow groove, keys, funky drumming and a jazzy trumpet and tenor-sax solo the scarce 2.50 track-time will have you wanting more. Also we’d love to know what the lyrics are in English, post a reply if you can translate. [audio:http://afroseven.net/songs/Uppers-chapter-two-Samari-bolga.mp3|titles=Uppers chapter two – Samari bolga]
Happy X-MAS to all our followers! Here is a track on the polygram subsidiary label Tsavo. For those of you who are familiar with the name your reference might be the Kenya national parks; Tsavo east and west. Although the name has a more dreadful meaning in Kikamba, check the facts on Wikipedia. This Lingala track from Orchester Sombo Sombo is all about joy and has all the right ingredients for a party number. A great guitar lick, dirty horns and cool vocals! Enjoy! See you in 2012! [audio:http://afroseven.net/songs/Orch-Sombo-sombo-sombo-sombo.mp3]
|A) Orchestra Sombo Sombo ‘Sombo Sombo’|
Johnny Bokelo, the counterpart of Congos renowned Franco Luambo had a belt of labels and groups during the seventies and eighties. Like many other Congolese musicians he went to Kenya to finance and release his music. In this case, the song “Nakupenda Sana” is sung in Swahili, meaning again “I love you ..” A tight guitar lick, thematic horns with a neat breakdown. Somewhat reminiscent of a Manu Dibango tune. If you heard it before it was booted with a bogus name on a French 70’ties lp called Kouloukoko du Zairie.
|B) Conga Internationale ‘Nakupenda Sana’|
I’m wondering if this group is the same group as the Eagles lupopo, if anyone have any information please let us know. The track is credited Yusuf Omar and Suddy Mohamed. Lupopo released several singles on the same African Eagles label so there must be some connection. I’m loving the sax work on this track, it opens up with a traditional romantic lingala flow and goes uptempo with a cool nearly free sax solo at the end. Definitely a standout!
|A) Eagles Band ‘Nyumba Imepigwa Na Radi’|
Here is a tune that is fairly easy to find if you scouting eBay regularly. One of the coolest artistic label designs, and a definite standout when you are digging through hundreds of 45’s. The music is a powerhouse of a lingala tune, starts in usual traditional style and slowly builds up with a killer guitar lick and a restless horn section. Brilliant! A pity the pressing is a bit low-fi. Check out Izile Topoke – Butu pt1 And if you can’t enough of that our in-house DJ BAZ has made an exclusive EDIT of the track cutting the best part aimed straight for the floor. Download high quality .MP3 and .WAV files here!
|A&B) Topoke ‘Butu’|