Agwaya (ARC Music EUCD1909, 2005)
From the opening bars of the irresistible ‘Mambo Bado’ to the sweet, bitter
end of ‘Mume Wangu’ (which should be very familiar to any fans of the giant of
Dar-es-Salaam, Remmy Ongala) it’s clear we’re in quality dance music country.
This album represents the first real interest in African dance music from UK
record labels, borne on the initial wave of world music fever back in the 1980s.
Virgin Records got their nose in first, alongside large indie Island Records,
Virgin sensibly taking their sound crew to Nairobi to record this band made up
of musicians from a number of countries. At the time many musicians from Zaïre,
Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya were working across the urban centers of East
Africa. Luminaries such as ex-TPOK Jazz guitarist and Makassy member Mosese Fan
Fan (these days resident in London) played the infectious music, influenced by
the big Zairian outfits of the 50s – 70s, known as rumba. The east African bands
performed a bold and brash version of the Congolese sound, favoring large horn
sections and shortening the songs to around 5 minutes in length. Makassy were, deservedly, huge. Under the leadership of mzee Makassy they
towered over the scene, drawing huge audiences wherever they played and the band
which started off earning a crust playing covers in tourist hotels became the
biggest band in Tanzania, the country with which they were most associated. This
set gives us all 9 tracks from ‘Agwaya’ plus two further crackers from the
period. Anyone with a yen for classy, polished African dance music should invest
in this collection without delay.
Legends of East Africa by Orchestra Makassy].