Forty (40) years after he first performed, while only aged Seven (7), at Kenya National Theatre Japanese jazz drummer, Shingo Okudaira, returned to the same venue for two (2) special homecoming concerts and he did not disappoint.
Truly a musical phenomenon, Shingo released his debut album: Maiden Voyage, at the tender age of 11. Then, at the age of 24, he moved to New York to pursue further growth as a jazz musician; and lived there for 19 years, only moving back to Japan in 2010.
Throughout his career, spanning four (4) Decades, Shingo has released six (6) albums: Maiden Voyage (1978), Kilifi (1995), Maconde (1996), Alisema (1998), The Force (2009) and I Didn’t Know What Time It Was (2013).
In this nostalgic concert series dubbed The Return of Shingo – Real Jazz from Tokyo, he also performed at Carnivore Simba Saloon. Shingo & The Force are one of Tokyo’s best Jazz groups but following the Westgate attacks, his main band members—pianist/keys and double bass opted out but their replacement are world class.
Shingo Okudaira, teamed up with Fumio Karashima, who is without doubt one world-renowned and most sought piano/keys player in Asia. Youthful but talented Takashi Sugawa played the Double Bass. These hugely endowed artists featured in the first act that had original numbers written by Shingo and other famous jazz greats like Coltrane etc.
In the second act, Shingo teamed up with Kenya’s own – Umoja Calabash Percussions, that also enabled Shingo to play some of his own original numbers that he composed in Kiswahili and performed over a hundred times but never in done by a Swahili speaker and in front of a Swahili-speaking audience.
In 1975, Orchestra Super Mazembe finally arrived in Nairobi having left the Democratic Republic of Congo some 5 years before. Their first years were lean, but in 1977 they scored a huge hit with the single Kassongo, and from that point on their fortunes lay in East Africa. They were incredibly productive; by 1984 they had released 42 singles under the Editions Mazembe imprint alone, and they toured relentlessly. This crucial selection from the late 1970s of one of the most successful of all East African dance orchestras gathers together some of Mazembe’s most popular 45rpm singles which have never before been released on CD.
Ah e e Africa
Eh e Africa
Ah e e Africa
Eh e Africa
Kokata koni pasi
Soki na kati koteka pasi
Na pasi oyo ya boye
Ngai na bana mawa
Basusu oyo naponaka
Pe na ba-voitures
Bavoti tango ekomaka
Ngai nakomaka moto
Nakomi tuna:Mondele akende
Lipanda tozuwaka o ya nani e?
Ah e e Africa
Eh e Africa
Ah e e Africa
Eh e Africa
Ah e e Africa
Eh e Africa
Wood chopping is tough
After chopping, selling is just as tough
With this kind of suffering
With my children, how sad
I won’t make
Some for whom I voted
Went only for power
and nice cars
When voting time is here
I become someone
I wonder, the white man did leave Africa
Whose independence did we achieve?
Ah e e Africa
Eh e Africa
Although he was born at the other side of the Congo river, Franklin Boukaka‘s first serious move into a musical career was made in Leopoldville. In Brazzaville he had helped to form the Negro Band, and when the band started recording at the Esengo label he came into contact with the Rock-a-Mambo/African Jazz clan and Joseph Kabasele (a.k.a. le Grand Kallé), who was at the time the Big Star of Congolese music. He joined Rochereau and Jean Bombenga in Jazz Africain in 1960, when Kallé was at the Table Ronde.
Gary Stewart states that Boukaka joined Bombenga and Casino Mutshipule in forming the first version of Vox Africa in 1960, but personally I think Jazz Africain was not abandoned so quickly, – although Rochereau left when Kallé returned.
Around 1963 or 1964 Franklin returned to Brazzaville to join Cercul Jazz, the band of the cercle culturel* in the Bacongo quartier of Brazza. It was with this orchestra that he moved away from songs about love and nature (as Ntesa Dalienst once described it), and started singing about social matters, and even politics (which finally cost him his life – but that’s the subject of a later post).
And that brings us to this great lp from the Merveilles du Passé series on the African label, released in 1986 and claiming to contain tracks from 1967.
This is likely to be true for the tracks with the Cercul Jazz. The most famous of these two tracks is “Pont Sur Le Congo”, in which Boukaka calls on the two Congos to unite (a translation of part of this song can be found in Gary Stewart’s “Rumba on the River“). I don’t want to go into the lyrics of this song.
What strikes me with this song is the vocals, with a strong influence of African Jazz – and more precisely Jean Bombenga – in the duets.
My favourite tracks on this LP are, however, the two tracks of Franklin Boukaka with the Negro Band. In every aspect in the style of Franco’s OK Jazz, including the great guitar picking, which must be by (the strangely unknown) Willy Stany. Both songs are composed by the other singer on “Journal Dipanda”, Démon Kasanaut.
The B-side of this lp contains four nice (but not as nice as the A-side) tracks by Franklin Boukaka and Negro Succes, composed by Bholen andBavon Marie Marie.
If all these tracks were recorded in 1967, Franklin Boukaka must have had a busy year. Because in the same year he founded his ensemble which he named “Franklin Boukaka, ses sanzas et son orchestre Congolais”.
I’ll be posting more of Franklin Boukaka in the very near future, starting with more of Franklin and the Cercul Jazz.
Oumou Sangare was born on February 25, 1968 in Bamako, the capital city of Mali. Her mother was a singer, who performed at weddings and village dances. Her father took a second wife and abandoned the family when Sangare was young. She began singing in local talent competitions to help her mother pay the bills, and by age sixteen, was a touring musician.
Oumou Sangare recorded her first album, called Moussoulou in 1989, and it became a hit throughout Africa. This success led to her being signed with an international record label, World Circuit Records, and ultimately to international renown. She has since recorded four more albums, all of which have been critically acclaimed throughout the world, leading her to become an unofficial ambassador for Wassoulou music and a major force in African feminism.
Wassoulou is a geographical region (not, as is occasionally misreported, an ethnic group) of Southern Mali, Western Guinea, and Northern Cote d’Ivoire. Wassoulou music is primarily performed by female singers who are accompanied by drums, harp (either kora or related instruments), and souk (a two-stringed fiddle). Lyrics often tackle women’s issues, such as marriage, motherhood, and the challenges of living in a patriarchal society.
Oumou Sangare’s music is strongly feminist, and frequently discusses the issues of marital choice and consent for African women, as well as the difficult topic of polygamy. She is a strong anti-FGM activist, and uses her fame to promote her strong views on women’s basic human rights.
Awards and Honors:
Oumou Sangare was made a commander of the Arts and Letters of the Republic of France in 1998, won the UNESCO music prize in 2001, and was named an official ambassador of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in 2003. In addition, her 1993 album Ko Sira won the European award for “World Music Album of the Year.”
Notorious for her abundant energy, Oumou Sangare has somehow found the time to take up a number of side projects in the business world. She owns a hotel in Bamako as well as a large farm north of the city, and has partnered with a Chinese automobile company to create a car called the “Oum Sang.”
Ko Sira- 1993
This is promising to be a fun filled night at the tranquil Carnivore Simba Saloon. “The Past, Present and Future Concert” bringing together the voices of the past, present and future. The divas of soul, Mercy Myra (past), who has not been seen on stage for over a decade and an African golden voice Atemi (Present), will scotch the stage, paving way for a new, promising artist, Dela (Future).
Organised by the Taurus Group and sponsored by Absolut Vodka, the event set to be staged on September 7 hopes to introduce the youth to an entirely different but brilliant genre of music. “Our dream is to create memorable parties and lifestyle events that will make excellent TV content”. Diana Otieno Events manager with Taurus pointed out.
Hugh Masekela is a world-renowned flugelhornist, trumpeter, bandleader, composer, singer and defiant political voice who remains deeply connected at home, while his international career sparkles. He was born in the town of Witbank, South Africa in 1939. At the age of 14, the deeply respected advocator of equal rights in South Africa, Father Trevor Huddleston, provided Masekela with a trumpet and, soon after, the Huddleston Jazz Band was formed. Masekela began to hone his, now signature, Afro-Jazz sound in the late 1950s during a period of intense creative collaboration, most notably performing in the 1959 musical King Kong, written by Todd Matshikiza, and, soon thereafter, as a member of the now legendary South African group, the Jazz Epistles (featuring the classic line up of Kippie Moeketsi, Abdullah Ibrahim and Jonas Gwangwa).
In 1960, at the age of 21 he left South Africa to begin what would be 30 years in exile from the land of his birth. On arrival in New York he enrolled at the Manhattan School of Music. This coincided with a golden era of jazz music and the young Masekela immersed himself in the New York jazz scene where nightly he watched greats like Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Charlie Mingus and Max Roach. Under the tutelage of Dizzy Gillespie and Louis Armstrong, Hugh was encouraged to develop his own unique style, feeding off African rather than American influences – his debut album, released in 1963, was entitled Trumpet Africaine.
In the late 1960s Hugh moved to Los Angeles in the heat of the ‘Summer of Love’, where he was befriended by hippie icons like David Crosby, Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper. In 1967 Hugh performed at the Monterey Pop Festival alongside Janis Joplin, Otis Redding, Ravi Shankar, The Who and Jimi Hendrix. In 1968, his instrumental single ‘Grazin’ in the Grass’ went to Number One on the American pop charts and was a worldwide smash, elevating Hugh onto the international stage.
His subsequent solo career has spanned 5 decades, during which time he has released over 40 albums (and been featured on countless more) and has worked with such diverse artists as Harry Belafonte, Dizzy Gillespie, The Byrds, Fela Kuti, Marvin Gaye, Herb Alpert, Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder and the late Miriam Makeba.
In 1990 Hugh returned home, following the unbanning of the ANC and the release of Nelson Mandela—-an event anticipated in Hugh’s anti-apartheid anthem ‘Bring Home Nelson Mandela’ (1986) which had been a rallying cry around the world.
Source: http://www.hughmasekela.co.za/; Pictures by kymsnetfeatures.
Legendary South African singer and activist Miriam Makeba (born 1932) rose to international fame during the 1960s, attracting a wide following through concert appearances and recordings. Although capable of great vocal versatility in a variety of languages and settings, including jazz and blues, Makeba became best-known for singing in her native dialect, distinguishable by explosive, clicking sounds formed with the epiglottis in the back of the throat.
Forced into exile from her native country in 1960, Makeba used her stature to speak out against apartheid – the institutionalized practice of political, economic, and social oppression along racial lines. Such efforts earned her the title “Mama Africa,” as she became an enduring symbol in the fight for equality. In 1991, following the 1990 prison release of Nelson Mandela, Makeba triumphantly returned to South Africa, settling in the city of Johannesburg. Since then, she has served as a spiritual mother and inspiration to numerous South African musicians and remains committed to social change within the country. South Africa, despite the dissolution of the apartheid regime and the creation of a new democracy, continues to face racial tensions, economic hardships, a high rate of crime, and a rising AIDS epidemic, all of which count among Makeba’s primary concerns. In 1995, she founded her own charitable organization designed to help protect the women and young girls of her homeland.
“We have a beautiful country. We are a beautiful people. We are a forgiving people,” Makeba told Interview magazine in May of 2001. “We’ve had a past of being oppressed and maimed, but when we gained our independence in 1994, our president then, Nelson Mandela, and even our president now, Thabo Mbeki, told us yes, we went through this, but we must try to forgive. We may never forget and we must not forget – but we must forgive. So please, world – you out there in the world – forgive us.”
Raised within an Oppressive Society
Zensi Miriam Makeba, born on March 4, 1932, came into a world that offered few opportunities. The South African government, amid worldwide condemnation for its inhumanity, denied non-white citizens the most basic of human rights, including the right to vote and own land, as well as laws restricting where blacks could live, eat, work, or travel. Such a policy of white supremacy through racial segregation – which became official law in 1948 under Prime Minister Daniel Malan – prevailed for decades, regardless of the fact that blacks (or Africans) outnumbered whites in South Africa at a ratio of four-to-one.
Makeba’s father, a schoolteacher and member of the Xhosa tribe, could only choose between two places for his family to live: either a rural tribal reservation where the soil remained uncultivated or a regulated township near a city. He opted for the latter and, after securing government permission, moved to Prospect Township. Located near Johannesburg, Prospect, Makeba’s birthplace, was one of many segregated shantytowns surrounding the city. Typically, the cheaply-built homes on the crowded reservations had no electricity or running water, and children had little room outdoors to play. Africans were permitted to work in Johannesburg, where they arrived on designated buses each day, but the law required them to leave in the evenings by a certain time. In order to help make ends meet, Makeba’s mother, a Swazi, took a job as a domestic worker at a white household in Johannesburg. She supplemented her income by illegally selling home-brewed beer. Eventually, she was charged for the offense and spent six months in jail. Makeba, then just 18 days old, went with her.
Inclined to Sing
Because free public education ceased to exist for black children, when Makeba reached school age, she attended Kilnerton Training Institute, a Methodist school for African children in the South African administrative capital of Pretoria, located a short distance from Johannesburg. Here she received limited musical training through participation in the school choir, where her vocal talents were readily recognized, as well as the opportunity to perform in public. At the age of 13, Makeba gave her first solo performance before King George VI of England during his visit to South Africa.
Music had always played an important role in Makeba’s life. Early on, she listened to and picked up the traditional songs of the Xhosa and Zulu dialects. And beyond the music of her native people, characterized by clicks unknown in any other language, she discovered other music from listening to the radio and phonograph records. She particularly loved American jazz recordings, especially those of singer Ella Fitzgerald. “Anyone who sings,” Makeba once said, as quoted by Louise Crane in Ms. Africa: Profiles of Modern African Women, “makes music, as long as it’s good to my ear.”
Makeba spent eight years at Kilnerton, then took work with her mother performing servants’ chores in white homes. An early marriage around age 17 resulted in the birth of a daughter named Bongi, but her husband died when Makeba was just 19 years old. Thus, with a baby to support, she continued to work as a domestic and sang at weddings, funerals, and other events in her spare time. These amateur showings led to contact with a professional group of eleven men called the Black Manhattan Brothers, who asked Makeba to join as their female vocalist in 1954. She remained with the ensemble until 1957, during which time Makeba performed throughout South Africa, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), and the Belgian Congo (now Zaire), and in 1956 recorded her signature song, “Pata Pata,” which would eventually become a major American hit in 1967.
After breaking with the Black Manhattan Brothers, Makeba formed an all-female group called the Skylarks in 1958. The following year, she toured for 18 months with a musical extravaganza, African Jazz and Variety, and began performing solo engagements. These personal appearances, coupled with a series of popular recordings, established Makeba throughout her native land. Thereafter, Makeba further enhanced her reputation playing the female lead of Joyce, the owner of an illegal African drinking place called a “shebeen,” in the jazz opera King Kong. Based on the tragic account of an African prize fighter jailed for a crime of passion, the production, which premiered on February 2, 1959, toured South Africa for eight months with surprising success, despite the humiliating restrictions levied because of apartheid.
King Kong was forced to play before separate black and white audiences, and performances for Africans were usually given under difficult circumstances. For instance, special transportation arrangements for African audiences had to be made, shows for blacks were restricted to small halls with inadequate acoustics, and the production was banned altogether in all-white Pretoria. Nevertheless, in the legislative capital city of Cape Town, whites lined up at dawn to reserve seats to the always sold-out shows. In the end, audiences of both races fell in love with and cheered the voice of the young star, Miriam Makeba, who transformed songs first introduced in King Kong, such as “Back of the Moon,” into best-selling records.
Prior to her role in King Kong, Makeba had already begun to attract international attention by playing the female lead and singing two songs in the 1958 film Come Back, Africa, an antiapartheid, semi-documentary produced and directed by independent American filmmaker Lionel Rogosin. Banned for obvious reasons in South Africa, the film was shot on location in Sofiatown, a reservation outside Johannesburg that was being demolished for a new, all-white suburb. Although Rogosin convinced authorities his intention was to simply document the ethnic music and folkways of African people, his real aim was to provide evidence to the world about the injustices of the South African government. Smuggled out of the country, Come Back, Africa debuted outside of competition at the 1959 Venice Film Festival and, when shown commercially thereafter, received critical praises for its dramatic impact.
Makeba, who had applied for a legal passport around 1957 to travel abroad, attended the Venice Film Festival. At the time married to Sonny Pillay, a ballad singer of Indian descent who Makeba both married and divorced in 1959, and concerned for her small child in South Africa, she initially intended to return home directly from Venice. But from the moment of her arrival, several American entertainers – namely Steve Allen – were so captivated by Makeba that they were determined to bring the young singer to the United States. Thus, from Venice, Makeba traveled first to London, England, where she met vocalist Harry Belafonte at a screening for Come Back, Africa. Judging her a revolutionary talent, he offered to act as Makeba’s chief sponsor and mentor.
Next, she arrived in America for an appearance on Allen’s national television show. After the program, airing on November 30, 1959, Max Gordon, owner of New York City’s Village Vanguard nightclub, booked the singer for four weeks on the recommendation of Belafonte. The already accomplished performer coached Makeba on her stage poise and hired an arranger, clothing designer, and musicians in preparation for her club debut. On opening night, February 2, 1960, Makeba delighted the audience sprinkled heavily with other entertainers. “Alternating between sensuous and explosive styles,” according to a Look magazine review, “she interpreted both dialect tunes and jazz standards with a finesse that heralded the appearance of a new star.”
Throughout the early-1960s, she continued to draw enthusiastic crowds, embarking upon several national as well as international tours with Belafonte, who allowed Makeba to share the bill with him. The pair also collaborated on a record, winning a Grammy Award for An Evening with Belafonte/Makeba in 1965. Over the years, Belafonte and Makeba continued to reunite periodically, releasing in 1972 the album Miriam Makeba and Harry Belafonte. Makeba later made a special guest appearance for the Harry Belafonte Tribute at Madison Square Garden in 1997.
As a solo artist, Makeba recorded such popular albums as Miriam Makeba (1958) and The Voice of Africa (1964). Her eclectic repertoire included English ballads, Portuguese fados, Brazilian bossa novas, Hebrew and Yiddish melodies, Haitian chants, and other folk and popular styles from around the world. However, American audiences were most taken by the songs of Makeba’s native heritage, particularly “Qonqonthwane,” or “The Click Song,” a Xhosan wedding tune, and “Mbube,” also known as “Wimoweh,” a Zulu lion-hunting song.
Forced Into Exile
Fortunately, Makeba quickly achieved international stardom, for when she attempted to return to South Africa in 1960 to attend her mother’s funeral, she learned that the apartheid government had banned her from returning to the country. She also endured personal turmoil during the 1960s, including another failed marriage to trumpeter Hugh Masekela (the couple married in 1964 and divorced in 1966), as well as a serious threat to her health when she battled cervical cancer through radical surgery.
After South Africa revoked Makeba’s citizenship, she was initially reluctant to speak too much about her political views, fearing the safety of family members who remained near Johannesburg. But increasingly, she became more vocal. During an exile spanning over three decades, Makeba was issued passports from nine different countries and often referred to herself a “citizen of the world.” On two occasions, in 1964 and 1975, she addressed the General Assembly of the United Nations on the horrors of apartheid and in 1968 won the Dag Hammerskjold Peace Prize.
Also in 1968, Makeba married controversial black activist Stokely Carmichael (later known as Kwame Toure), a union that negatively impacted her career in America. Possibly fearing that Makeba’s earnings would aid Carmichael, promoters cancelled concerts, and RCA dropped Makeba from her record contract. Ultimately, Carmichael’s “black power” activism led to his exclusion from the mainstream in the U.S, and the couple fled to Guinea, West Africa. After their divorce in 1978, Makeba remained in Guinea for several years, continued to perform in Europe and parts of Africa, and served as Guinean ambassador to the United Nations. While an honorary citizen of Guinea, Makeba suffered another tragic loss when, in 1985, daughter Bongi died giving birth to a stillborn child.
According to Makeba, music and religious faith helped her overcome life’s misfortunes, and she remained an active and respected musician throughout her life. In 1975, Makeba recorded the acclaimed album A Promise, and during 1987 and 1988, she joined Paul Simon and South Africa’s Ladysmith Black Mambazo for the legendary Graceland world tour. Then, recording her first American set in two decades, she released a tribal collection entitled Sangoma in 1988, followed by an album of both traditional and standard compositions, Welela, in 1989. During the 1990s and beyond, her works included Eyes on Tomorrow, a commercial blend of jazz, blues, and pop released in 1991, and the Grammy-nominated Homeland, an album of both South African roots and American blues-pop released in 2000.
Makeba published her autobiography, Makeba: My Story, in 1987. It was subsequently translated and published in German, French, Dutch, Italian, Spanish, and Japanese, a testament to Makeba’s musical and social influence on people not only in South Africa and the U.S., but throughout the world. “I’m always in Europe, and in Africa there are may be five countries that I haven’t been to,” said Makeba in a Down Beat interview with Aaron Cohen. “When they say I’m in the ‘World’ category, I say, ‘Actually, I am a world category.”‘
Almanac of Famous People, Gale Research, 1998.
Crane, Louise, Ms. Africa: Profiles of Modern African Women, J.B. Lippincott, 1973.
Contemporary Musicians, Volume 8, Gale Research, 1992.
Makeba, Miriam with James Hall, Makeba: My Story, New American Library, 1987.
Newsmakers, Issue 4, Gale Research, 1989.
Billboard, May 22, 1993; April 15, 2000.
Down Beat, April 2001.
Interview, May 2001. Jet, April 18, 1994.
Time, May 1, 2000.
UNESCO Courier, July 2000.