Amabano ‘Amsterdam Ticket’

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 and the single is available now through our music shop, with reasonable worldwide shipping prices, use this link to buy directly from us, we also have other Afro7 releases available.

Afro7LINK TO SNIPPETS from the Amabano ‘Amsterdam Trip’ LP
LINK TO SNIPPETS FROM Niki Dave & Afro Kids Shoreza Inyange and Amayaya SINGLE

David Waciuma ‘Devil Go/Jesu Kristo’ Afro7

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!

Afro7A) David Waciuma & Rapture Voices ‘Devil Go’
B) David Waciuma & Rapture Voices ‘Jesu Kristo’

Jimmy Mawi ‘Vero/Broken Love’ Razaka

malagasyAs 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.

Mombasa RootsA) Jimmy Mawi ‘Vero’
B) Jimmy Mawi ‘Broken Love’

Sal Davis ‘Sultan Qaboos Song’ SDP

Port Sultan Qaboos, Muscat, Oman.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’

Sunbust ‘Black is Beautiful’ Moto Moto

kenyabooksMOTO 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.

Moto MotoA) Sunbust ‘Let’s Live Together’
B) Sunbust ‘Black is Beautiful’

Latapaza Band ‘Maziwa ya chai’ Sirocco

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!

SiroccoA) Latapaza Band ‘Maziwa Ya Chai’
B) Latapaza Band ‘Odi Yoo’