Historically, the region of the Congo was a vast geographical area of equatorial Africa located in the tropical wet forest of Central Africa called Congolian forests. It also owes its name to the predominant ethnic group in the region, ruled by Kingdom of Kongo founded towards the end of the 14th century and extended from 1390 to 1914.
Although the span of rule of the kingdom varied, in its greatest extent, the Kingdom of Kongo reached from the Atlantic Ocean in the west to the Kwango River in the east, and from the Congo River in the north to the Kwanza River in the south. The kingdom largely existed from c. 1390 to 1891 as an independent state, and from 1891 to 1914 as a vassal state of the Kingdom of Portugal. The Congo River, its main river, flows through the region forming the Congo Basin.
Some groupings advocate a return to one Congolese homeland on the basis of the historical kingdom. Very notably, the Bundu dia Kongo movement advocates reviving the kingdom through secession from Angola, the Republic of the Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Gabon. The nowadays geographic region spans across the Republic of the Congo (former French Congo), Democratic Republic of the Congo (former Zaïre/Belgian Congo), and the Angolan exclave of Cabinda (former Portuguese Congo) which lies (bizarly !) between the Republic and the Democratic Republic and produces lot's of oil. Ah yes big business making lots of money with Congolese resources.
Ok the coming weeks we're hearing about the music from this African jungle heart, it's a strange place for Westerners, life is cheap and emotions rise quickly. Religion and music deliver the much needed coherance so for the coming 3 or 4 weeks we will present stars some of which have released many albums most of these never reached the Western public or even the great Discogs database. Today here 2 great old singers accompanied by top orchestra's .......N'joy
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There's no doubt that Franco was, in every sense of the word, a big man in African music. Sometimes weighing in at 300 pounds, he also earned his nickname as "The Sorcerer of the Guitar," making it sing like no one before, with effortless, fluid lines. Also an accomplished composer and vocalist, Francois Luambo Makiadi remains a towering figure even in death, probably the greatest the Congo (later Zaire) has ever produced, and as the leader of the long-running O.K. Jazz group, he was one of the fathers of the modern Congolese sound.
Born in the rural village of Sona Bata, his family moved to the capital, Leopoldville, when he was still a baby. By the age of ten he was already the master of a homemade guitar in the Belgian colony. Within a few years he was exposed to both European music, from missionaries, and the Cuban sounds that began to spread like wildfire on the radio. He made his recording debut at 15 as part of the house band for the Loningisa label, where bandleader Henri Bowane dubbed him Franco, a name that would stick with him for the rest of his life. Although he was getting plenty of studio work he also formed a band, which debuted in 1955 at the OK Bar, whose name he took a year later, calling the band O.K. Jazz. Within a year they were challenging the established stars, Dr. Nico's African Jazz, as the Congo's top group. Like many musical heroes before and since, Franco had his brushes with authority throughout his career, and the first came in 1958 when he was jailed for a motoring offense; he was released to waiting crowds, who hailed him back.
In 1960 the Congo gained independence, and in the ensuing unstable political climate, Franco and O.K. Jazz, with its constantly changing personnel, headed off to Belgium to record. By 1965, with President Mobutu in power, things became better, and the band was without doubt the top name in the country, playing the Festival of African Arts in the newly-renamed capital, Kinshasa, the following year. Franco, as well as being a bandleader, guitarist, singer, and writer, proved to be a more than adept businessman, forming an empire to control his music, from the record company to spin-off bands (at one point he had two versions of O.K. Jazz -- a European one and a Zairean one). He didn't shy away from political issues on his songs, which resulted in his spending a few nights in jail several times when he displeased the authorities.
Throughout the '60s and '70s, Franco and his band toured and recorded constantly, although they never managed to crack America; a brief 1983 jaunt there didn't work out as hoped. In 1980, Franco was named a Grand Maitre, a huge Zairean honor, and thus became firmly entrenched as part of the ruling clique in a country that was undergoing massive economic problems. His writing style changed dramatically, switching to patriotic praise songs and tributes to rich fans -- a 180 degree turn from the younger man he had once been. He'd ballooned up in weight in his more mature years as well, although on-stage and in the studio he could still be an incandescent player and singer.
By 1987, rumors were circulating that Franco was sick, and certainly he was much slimmer. There was, perhaps, a hint in his solo recording from that year "Attention Na SIDA" ("Beware of AIDS") -- and the disease would kill him in 1989, sparking four days of national mourning in Zaire befitting a musical genius and one of the country's icons for over three decades. But he left a big legacy. Not only did he record hundreds of albums, where he and the band stretched out their material, but in O.K. Jazz he offered a launching pad for many artists, including Sam Mangwana, Papa Noel, Mose Fan Fan, and a host more. Ultimately, though, he had the vision to push the music forward, to have bands that could really play and develop the rumba style, and cope with it when it speeded up into soukous during the late '70s. And he was justifiably revered as a guitar god, even if he never became fully known in the West.
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Franco Et Le T.P.O.K. Jazz - Le Grand Maitre (flac 490mb)
01 Mario (Non Stop) 5:34
02 Les On Dit 7:55
03 Tala Merci Bapesaka Na Mbua 11:00
04 La Bralima Est La Brasserie De L'an 2000 9:16
05 Nalobi Na Ngai Rien 8:17
06 C'est Dur La Vie D'une Femme Celibataire 8:54
07 Eperduement Te 12:10
08 Flora, Une Femme Difficile 10:21
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The second and final volume of Franco & TPOK Jazz's retrospective is a fine document of their work during the 1980s. The late guitarist, singer, composer and bandleader François Luambo Makiadi—best known simply as Franco—remains an epic figure in African popular music. Referred to as Congo Colossus by his biographer Graeme Ewens, Franco ruled his nation’s music at a time when Congolese music ruled sub-Saharan Africa. During the heyday of Congolese rumba and soukous, many considered Congolese musicians to be Africa’s most sophisticated and professional; their reputation was due, in part, to the enormous size of the country (renamed Zaire during the regime of Mobutu Sese Seko and now the Democratic Republic of the Congo), as well as its prolific recording industry. The swirling, layered sound of numerous intertwining guitar lines known as sebene was especially innovative and influential. Franco and TPOK Jazz (Le Tout Pouissant Orchestre Kinshasa Jazz, or The All Powerful Kinshasa Jazz Orchestra) released a staggering amount of recordings: the liner notes to Francophonic estimate 1,250 releases. In short, Franco and TPOK Jazz were at the epicenter of a musical shockwave that swept Africa and continues to make waves two decades later.
Recordings like Francophonic provide a musical soundtrack to the dawn and early days of African national independence, and careful listeners can hear the gradual acceleration of influences and hybridization between disparate musical regions: African, Caribbean (“rumba”), and American (“jazz”) elements become so integrated and layered that it becomes nearly impossible to distinguish modern from traditional, or local from cosmopolitan. Welcome to music in the late 20th century. Franco’s most memorable contribution was as a bandleader, not necessarily as a virtuosic instrumentalist, nor as an especially creative songwriter. Like many bandleaders, part of Franco’s mystique lies in the ways his personal history and charisma intertwined with his music. The liner notes to Francophonic Vol. 2 by Ken Braun (provided in both English and French) do an admirable job of sketching historical and political contexts for Franco’s life and career in a sensitive, nuanced way—including some especially insightful, albeit brief, comments on Franco’s lyrics and wordplay.
There is no way for Francophonic to be representative of the vast body of recordings by Franco & TPOK Jazz, but the thirteen selections in Vol. 2 manage to cover a lot of ground over two and a half hours. The tracks are fairly long, averaging nearly 12 minutes in length, and they convey an important aspect of the band’s irresistible appeal: grooves that seem like they can go on forever without ever losing a dynamic forward motion. A mellow duet with Tabu Ley Rochereau named "Suite Lettre No. 1" opens the second disc with a beautiful example of OK Jazz’s long, close-harmony vocal lines—a signature part of their sound that can be heard throughout both volumes of Francophonic. Most often, though, the singers layer their disarmingly pretty sound on heavier, more dance-friendly grooves like "Nostalgie" and "Coopération," collaborations featuring Sam Mangwana in which Franco’s voice—relatively rough in its timbre and intonation—provides a contrasting texture.
And that is one of the most seductive, enduring aspects of Franco & TPOK Jazz: their music is filled to the brim with elegant contrasts. The sounds, the tunes and the arrangements are simultaneously dense and sparse, pretty and rough, complex and simple, sentimental and relentless, serious and light. The way these contrasts are made seamless is one of the things that make the sound of Franco & TPOK Jazz such a deep well for fans and musicians and an essential part of a golden age for Congolese music. Just as crucial as the first Francophonic compilation, Vol. 2 should not be overlooked.
Franco and; Le TPOK Jazz – Francophonic Vol. 2 - I (flac 528mb)
01 Tokoma Ba Camarade Pamba 11:26
02 Bina Na Ngai Na Respect 17:28
03 Sandoka 12:53
04 Princesse Kikou 14:08
05 Nostalgie 10:00
06 Coopération 12:09
Franco and Le TPOK Jazz – Francophonic Vol. 2 - II (flac 491mb)
01 Suite Lettre No. 1 10:17
02 Missile 7:33
03 Pesa Position Na Yo 9:22
04 Kimpa Kisangameni 10:07
05 Mario 13:36
06 Testament Ya Bowule 11:09
07 Sadou 8:17
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