Conducted by Emile Biayenda, Les Tambours de Brazza works with rhythms from all over Africa, with particular emphasis on rhythms from Congo-Brazzaville, their home. There are approximately 50 different ethnic groups living in the Congo, and each of them lays claim to their own rhythms. Members of the company come from various of these ethnic groups, bringing great diversity and richness of culture to the sound of Les Tambours.
Emile Biayenda leads the group from his seat at the trap drum kit, and freely exhorts his musicians to mix traditional rhythms with urban influences and electric bass. Formed in 1991, the group has been performing, recording, and touring ever since, although never in North America. They have released several CDs, played at major world music festivals in Europe, including Musiques Metisses in France, the Moers Jazz Festival in Germany, the Roots Festival in the Netherlands, among many others. In addition to concerts the group delivers wonderful workshops for school-age children, and adults. They have toured most of Europe, and North Africa, as well as Japan, and Hong Kong.
American world music showcase globalFEST has announced the artists set to perform during its 15th Anniversary on January 14, 2017 in New York City.
globalFEST 15 Program
Ava Rocha: Post-Tropicalia avant-pop (Brazil)
Delgres: Creole blues reconnecting Guadeloupe to New Orleans
Eva Salina & Peter Stan: Balkan Gypsy (Roma) songs for voice and accordion
Grand Tapestry: hip-hop joins Indian sarod and tabla
Iberi Choir: Polyphonic songs from Georgia
Jarlath Henderson Band: Celtic folk music
Jupiter & Okwess: Congolese music
La Dame Blanche: Cuban rumba and son with hip-hop, cumbia, and dancehall
Mariachi Flor De Toloache: Female Mexican mariachi
Mohsen Namjoo: Modern Iranian songs
Thornetta Davis: Detroit blues
Miramar: Puerto Rican boleros
This 2 CD world music compilation is packed with over two hours of Afro-rooted dance music from 1970s and 1980s East Africa. Selected by British DJ and journalist John Armstrong, the anthology features many of the hits popular during two decades in East Africa.
Many of the Kenyan, Tanzanian and Congolese bands featured Urgent Jumping! included talented guitarists who combined modern elements with traditional rhythms. The vocals are in KiSwahili, the language spoken across many East African countries.
The most prominent genres included in this great compilation include benga, a style developed by the Luo people of western Kenya, who fused traditional beats and melodies with electric guitars and basses.
Congolese music was also very influential. Congolese migrants brought Cuban-inspired rumba and soukous to Kenya and Tanzania. It was common bands that featured musicians from various countries.
Lastly, there is the Arabic and Indian music influence that came across the sea. This includes taraab from Zanzibar, Lamu and other islands off the East African that had an effect on pop music in the mainland cities of Mombassa, Nairobi and Dar es Salaam.
The artists featured in Urgent Jumping! Are: L’Orch. Dar International, Afro 70, Kauma Boys Band, Super Mambo Jazz Band “69”, Maquis du Zaire, Victoria Jazz Band, Orchestre Conga Internationale, The Golden Kings Band, Sunburst Band, Urafiki Jazz Band, L’Orchestre Grand Piza, Hafusa Abasi & Slim Ali and the Kikulacho Yahoos Band, L’Orch. Moja One, Sega Sega Band, L’Orchestre Super Mambo, Earthquake Jazz Band, Vijana Jazz Band, Orchestre Special Liwanza, Juwata Jazz Band and Orchestre Super Jambo.
John Armstrong did a fabulous job putting this collection together. It’s great to see East Africa getting some attention since most of the African music we normally get is dominated by West African acts.
Congolese band Mbongwana Star will be touring Europe in November 2016. The group combines Congolese rumba and soukous with urban and electronic influences. The group’s most recent album is From Kinshasa.
25 November, 2016 – Les Nuits Zebrées (Radio Nova) – Montpellier (FR)
26 November, 2016 – L’Observatoire – Cergy (FR)
27 November, 2016 – Arenberg Theater – Antwerp (BE)
30 November, 2016 – Kaserne Basel – Basel (CH)
2 December, 2016 – La Clef – St Germain en Laye (FR)
3 December, 2016 – Le Hangar – Ivry sur Seine (FR)
8 December, 2016 – Ouvre-boîte-Asca – Beauvais (FR)
11 December, 2016 – Pandora Hall – Utrecht, TivoliVredenburg (NL)
Siama Matuzungidi was deeply influenced by the soukous music of rural DR Congo (then known as Zaire) during his youth. He grew up in the Bakongo region, immersed in local traditions of music, storytelling and dance. He taught himself to play guitar at age 12, and later joined the band Cavacha in Kinshasa. He then moved on to Uganda and onward to Kenya; his later homes were in Dubai and Japan, and he is now based in Minneapolis.
Siama would go on to play with a range of soukous greats: Tshala Muana, Sam Mangwana, Kanda Bongoman, Samba Mapangala, Moreno, Lovy Longomba and more). In 2014, he received a McKnight Fellowship for Performing Musicians, and launched a solo career. His album ‘Rivers: From the Congo to the Mississippi’ was released in May 2016. Siama joins us in this interview on his extraordinary musical journey, influences and collaborations.
Q: From DRC to Minnesota – that has been a long and winding journey! What has inspired you, and what have been the challenges?
A: Music makes me feel good and I feel like I’m gifted to make people happy when they hear my music. But when I compose a new song it’s hard to know when it’s ready to let people hear it!
Q: Who would you say are the leading influences in your musical career?
A: I first taught myself guitar by playing along with big soukous artists like Franco and Tabu Ley on the radio. While I was living in Kenya in the 1980s, George Benson became a big influence and still is. I was so honored he came to our gig while I was living in Japan (with Ibeba System band) and he sat in with the band. Joe Pass made me love guitar more too.
Q: Who are some of the musicians you collaborate with the most, and how did these relationships get formed?
A: I really enjoy collaborating with musicians who play different styles because it makes me think in a different way. It’s a good challenge. One of my favorite collaborators is Nirmala Rajasekar, a veena virtuoso from South India. Her style of playing and singing is so different from mine but fits with my style so well, and she likes to experiment like I do. We first played together when Steve Kaul invited me to share a night at a world music venue. We composed a song on the stage and it felt like magic.
I play a lot with Mikkel Beckmen too. We met during the show with Nirmala. Mikkel plays washboard and other American traditional instruments which fit really well when I play my music on acoustic guitar. We wanted to perform at folk venues so he came up with the name, “Siama’s Afrobilly” for our trio (with Dallas Johnson) because the name describes the bridge between American and Congolese traditional music.
Dallas Johnson is a singer who co-produced my new record and introduced me to many of the musicians who played on it. Dallas and I met in 1995 when we both had just moved to Minneapolis and were in the same band. She has two original jazz CDs available online and now we write songs and perform together. She helped me start my solo career in 2014 and quit her job last summer to work with me full time. We got married in October and we get to do a lot of fun music projects together.
Q: Who are some of the musicians you have collaborated with for your new album?
A: My new record features collaborations with many musicians who play different styles. The core band (Greg Schutte, Tony Axtell and Brian Ziemniak) plays jazz and jazz-funk and the record also features pedal steel player Joe Savage, gospel singer J.D. Steele, cellist Jacqueline Ultan, world percussionist Tim O’Keefe, versatile guitarists Zacc Harris and Steve Kaul, trumpeter Bobby Jay Marks, jazz singer Dallas Johnson, veena virtuoso and singer Nirmala Rajasekar from South Indian Carnatic traditions, and Tibetan master multi-instrumentalist Tenzin Ngawang.
I could have invited a hundred more because there are so many musicians I love playing with. It makes me want to live a long time so I can try everything.
Q: What are some of the challenges in interpreting traditional folk music with modern instruments and style?
A: Traditional music from home was played with thumb piano, likembe and rhythm instruments. When I play traditional style songs with electric instruments the main thing that has to be right is the rhythm and the challenge is to play guitar chords that give a sense of the way traditional instruments sound.
I play around with the notes and picking a lot until it reminds me of home. Growing up, we called traditional music, “old people music” but the more I learn other styles and the more I travel the more I appreciate how much traditional music from DR Congo has influenced music all over the world.
Q: How are you able to do ‘fusion’ of different styles and instruments without ‘confusion?
A: The most important thing is picking musicians who are really talented and open minded. It takes courage and experience and each musician has to really listen and give each other room and be open to the moment.
In the studio, I told the musicians to be free and have fun and find themselves in my music. I didn’t want them to play what they thought I wanted to hear. We recorded all 12 songs in two afternoons. They’d learn the progression of a song, play it through once or twice and we’d record. Almost all of the songs were only second take. Back in Africa we’d record an album in one day, live to two-track. I wanted this record to feel live like that and we didn’t do much overdubbing so there’s more feeling in it.
I give our engineer and co-producer Steve Kaul a lot of credit because with so many really great tracks it was a big challenge to mix the record in a way that featured guest collaborators but kept the songs simple and open. When listening to one of the songs before mixing began, one of the musicians said, “You’re gonna have a job mixing that bowl of noodles!”. Steve was a master at that and he had such great ideas for the songs and the mixes. I owe him a lot.
Q: How long were you working on the album Rivers?
A: We recorded the main tracks in November, added special guests and vocals in January and March and did most of the mixing in April – so six months on and off. We’d do a few days, then take a break, do more, take a break. We did it that way because I wanted it to feel natural and not forced.
Q: What is your next album about?
A: [laughing] I don’t know yet. I’m busy promoting this one now. The feeling will come when it’s ready. Actually, Dallas Johnson and I have started writing some kids’ songs so that will be my next project, maybe during the winter. We love playing music with kids.
Q: The tracks Jungle Zombie, Sisilli, and Maisha Mazuri are fabulous please tell us how you composed them!
A: The 6/8 rhythm in Jungle Zombie is used in almost every traditional song back home. I was playing around with some chords on my guitar and imagining hearing that beat and the sound reminded me of people waking up in the morning and walking through the bush to get food at the farm. That’s why I wrote it in my mother’s language Kikongo when I sing, “Bring me water. bring me food.”
Sisili was the second song I composed in my life. I wrote it for my girlfriend Sisili, just as a love song for her. The melody came first and the words and chord progression came in a natural way. In the studio, Moni Mambo asked if any musicians had a new song so I played Sisili. He loved it and it became a big hit. The bad thing was Sisili’s dad didn’t want her dating a musician so he took her out of town and we never saw each other again.
Our sweet friend Krista moved in with us while she was very sick. I would sit quietly with her and play guitar to help her relax and the chords to Maisha Mazuri came to me during that time. She loved it and always asked me to play it for her. Even though she was facing so much pain she would invite her mom and her friends to hang out with her, meditate with her, make her healthy food and make her laugh. It was so inspiring to see how much she loved life so I wrote the lyrics for her. (“Beautiful life. Drink it up. No one knows about tomorrow but today is for us to live.”)
Q: How would you describe your musical journey?
A: It’s been fun! I’ve met so many people I wouldn’t have met if I wasn’t a musician. I would’ve been stuck in an office and I wouldn’t know why I was so bored and not happy. Music is so fun and inspiring. It makes people get along and enjoy life so much. Music is a great way to make friends with good people.
Q: Where do you see yourself headed in the next 10-15 years?
A: I want to be somewhere by the sea, relaxing without worries and of course I want to play music forever. Most of my life I played music every day but never made much money. I started my solo career in 2014 and things have been going great. I’m hoping this can keep growing so I can travel and collaborate with musicians and make friends around the world.
Q: Which are your favorite musical festivals, and what makes them so special?
A: I love the Winnipeg Folk Festival and the American Folk Festival because the musicians are so talented and you can hear so many styles so it’s inspiring. There are so many great music festivals here in MN during the summer. I’m really looking forward to the Lowertown Guitar Festival in August.
Q: What are some unusual reactions you have got during your live performances?
A: Sometimes people come to me in tears saying my music is a healing cure for their soul.
Q: Do you also teach workshops for students/musicians?
A: Yes, I teach songwriting, guitar and rhythm. I’d like to do more of this because I love helping people learn. They say I make it fun and inviting.
Q: What have been some of your collaborations with musicians from Asia?
A: I already described playing with Nirmala. I also love playing with my Tibetan friend Tenzin Ngawang. He is a master musician and singer who’s so creative and has such a big heart too. He seems shy but then he opens his mouth to sing and he surprises people with his big sound. He plays a dranyen (Tibetan lute) so it’s fun to play with another stringed instrument and fun to compose together because he brings different ideas I wouldn’t think of.
Q: What kinds of social and political messages have been conveyed in your recent albums?
A: My music is mostly a message about love and happiness, not politics. Everybody has a different purpose. Mine is to share love and make people happy.
Q: What is your message to the musicians and artistes of the world in this age of globalisation and also conflict?
A: Let’s create more positive music so negativity doesn’t make us forget the good things in life. Art and music are very important.
Born in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and raised in the UK, Robert Maseko is part of the new wave of Central African artists who are re-interpreting hip-swinging Congolese soukous music.
With his band the Congo Beat he has gone back to the rumba roots that so entranced Africa and added touches of reggae, flamenco, tango, merengue and zouk.
Elegant vocals, sizzling guitar and rumba propelled bass lines explore the deep roots of Afrobeat and the connections between African, Cuban and Caribbean music. “Congo has got plenty of clashes in it tradition and cultural rhythm where is rare for me to run out of beat and compositions it just flows out no stop, the gift every child has got is own – I love music,” Maseko says
His lyrics are written in Lingala, Swahili, French and English, accommodating the diversity and versatility audience.
Robert aims to promote African music, African literature and cultural diversity and understanding through his Drumming 4 Diversity project. Workshops include African drumming and music using ngoma, jembes, talking drum, marimba, xylophone and other instruments; African Literature using ancient African methods of story telling, poetry, dance and masks.
Soukous singer M’bilia Bel, known as the Queen of Congolese rumba, was born in 1959 and brought up in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. M’bilia Bel became successful in the early 1980s when she recorded and toured with Tabu Ley Rochereau, and made her own solo albums.
The birth of her first child prompted her to take a break from performing, however, and after a last album with Tabu Ley in 1987, she moved to Paris. There she started working with guitarist Rigo Star, and between 1989 and 1990 she went on tour to the United States of America, the United Kingdom, and West Africa.
With a combination of beauty, an angelic soprano voice, and tremendous agility on stage, M’bilia Bel stole the hearts of music fans all over the continent. She was Africa’s first female transcontinental diva. She became the first female musician from Africa who could claim popularity all over the entire continent and beyond. In fact, one could argue that there has not been any female musician from Africa who has captured the imagination of music fans across the continent as much as M’bilia Bel did in the eighties. South African Miriam Makeba, known as Mama Afrika, popularity peaked in the 1960s but could not attract as many fans as M’bilia Bel did later.
M’bilia Bel began her performing career at the age of seventeen singing backup for Abeti Masikini and later with Sam Mangwana. She burst into the music scene when she joined Tabu Ley’s Afrisa International in 1981. The duo of Tabu ley and M’bilia Bel was an instant hit. The combination of Tabu Ley’s composing genius and Mbilia Bel’s heavenly voice resulted in high sales of Afrisa records.
Her first album, released in 1983, was the extremely popular Eswi yo wapi, which roughly translates to “Where did it hurt you?”, composed by both Tabu Ley and M’bilia Bel. The song won the award for the best song of 1983 in Zaire, and M’bilia Bel won the award for best new performer.
Thanks to M’bilia Bel, the popularity of Afrisa International was soaring. Even songs that did not feature M’bilia Bel were receiving more exposure. The stranglehold that Franco’s TP OK Jazz had held in the music scene was now being loosened, as Afrisa could now match TP OK Jazz in popularity and record sales, thanks to the arrival of this new sensation who was now being referred to as the African tigress.
Concerts of Afrisa were now a huge draw. M’bilia Bel was always the main attraction, and when she made an appearance, the crowds often went into a frenzy. She was a talented stage performer and often tantalized crowds with her exceptional dancing ability when she would join the Rocherreautes (dancers) in their dance routine.
By the mid-eighties, Mbilia bel had officially married Tabu Ley and was a refined and mature performer. Her songs continued to dominate the scene. Among them was “Mobali na ngai wana”, which roughly translates to “This Husband of Mine”. The song was composed by Tabu Ley and Roger Izeidi and is an adaptation of a traditional song in Kikongo. In the song, M’bilia Bel praises her husband as being handsome and successful and stresses the fact that even though he has the opportunity to choose from any of Kinshasa’s beautiful women, he chose her. Other songs that blazed the charts during that period include “Balle a terre” and “Bameli soy”.
In 1987 Tabu Ley recruited another female artiste to accompany M’bilia Bel. Kishila Ngoyi was here real name, but she was known by her artistic name, Faya Tess. It was with this new lineup that Afrisa embarked on a tour of East Africa that took in Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda, culminating in the album Nadina, which had Lingala and Swahili versions of the title song.
M’bilia Bel quit the band late in 1987 to embark on a solo career. She briefly joined with a Gabonese producer in Libreville before leaving for Paris where she joined with guitarist Rigo Starr Bamundele. Her first album with Rigo Starr was entitled “Phénomène” and was a huge success in Kinshasa as well as abroad. Subsequent releases such as Yalowa, Desolé and Exploration have met with limited success.
Following the departure of M’bilia Bel, the popularity of Afrisa International as a band plummeted substantially. Tabu Ley himself seemed to lose inspiration for composing as is evidenced by the substantial reduction in the number of albums released. With the exception of her debut album, Phénomène, Mbilia Bel’s career also took on a downward spiral when she left Afriza.
Faux Pas (1983)
Loyenghe (Genidia, 1984) Boya Ye (Genidia, 1984)
Ba Gerants Ya Mabala Paka Wewe (1985)
Beyanga (Genidia, 1986)
Contre Ma Volonte (1987)
Phénoméne (1988) Bameli Soy (Shanachie, 1991)
Désolé (Celluloid, 1991)
Ironie, with Rigo Star (Celluloid, 1993)
Yalowa (1997) Exploration (Terrascape, 1997) Benedicta (Sonodisc, 1999)
Welcome (Syllart, 2001)
Boya Ye (2003)
Belissimo (Sterns Africa, 2004) Bel Canto: Best of the Genidia Years (Congo Classics 1982-1987) (Sterns Africa, 2007)
Lokua Kanza was born in Bukavu, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (former Zaire). His father is one of the Mongo people, known for their polyphonic singing, and his mother comes from Rwanda, known for its sophisticated court music. In Kinshasha he learned to sing in church choirs. To finish his studies he went to the Conservatory at Kinshasa, where he learned music theory, harmony and composition while perfecting his instrumental knowledge.
His decision to become a singer happened after he’d attended one of Miriam Makeba’s concerts, then her friend Ray Lema gave him his first guitar, and he made his first public appearances in some Zairean rumba bands. This was followed by a period of study – music theory and orchestration – at the conservatoire. He was always ready to listen to everything that came his way, from Bach to chanson by way of Rhythm ‘n Blues, pop and bossa nova.
Lokua Kanza became an exceptionally-gifted musician, playing guitars, sanza, percussion, flute, mandolin, bass, piano, and keyboards. Beginning in 1980, he spent the early days of his career along the Gulf of Guinea from Zaire to Ivory Coast, but his talent really came to the fore in the group of the great Zairean singer Abeti Masikini (a.k.a. La Reine Abeti).
In 1984 he left for Paris to take some jazz guitar lessons. He quickly became part of the African community there and accompanied Ray Lema, Papa Wemba, French jazz band Sixun and Manu Dibango.
In October of 1992, Lokua Kanza gave his first major concert in Paris, opening for Angelique Kidjo at the Olympia. Alongside him were two partners who have remained with him ever since: the radiant Julia Sarr (vocals), from Senegal, and his own brother, Didi Ekukuan (bass, vocals, various percussion, talking drum, tambourine, etc.)
Lokua Kanza recorded his first album, Lokua Kanza, during winter 1992/93, and it revealed-a deeply-inhabited universe “I wanted to rediscover the magic of the nights I spent in Kinshasa when I was a child,” he says. With its nostalgic atmospheres, its ethereal, meditative climate, destitution, simplicity, minimal chords, liquid, undulating, the art of Lokua Kanza imposed its highly subtle difference right from the very first hearing.
As early as the end of 1993, the bard became a star. He signed with a major record-company, toured all over the world, opened for Youssou N’Dour (he sings on several titles in the Guide (Wommat) and Patrick Bruel, produced sessions for his friends Papa Wemba and YYoussou N’Dour (in Peter Gabriel’s studios)… and got down to the producing of his second album, Wapi Yo (1995). This was a commercial success. However, the achievements of his third album, titled 3, more modest, didn’t have the same success.
After a three-year “retirement” (not that he was inactive, for he composed continuously), Lokua Kanza returned with Toyebi Te, sung in French, English and Lingala. The musicians featured included Didi, his old comrade, guitarist Sylvain Luc, percussionists Komba Bellow and Greg Bondo, the strings of the Bulgarian Symphony orchestra, his daughter Malaika and a choir made up of his four children. His 2010 album Nkolo includes vocals in Lingala, Portuguese and French.
Afrobeat master Kiala Nzavotunga is a founding member of the band Ghetto Blaster (1984 – 2006) and Fela Kuti’s band. Kiala Nzavotunga was born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (former Zaire), with family roots in Angola. At the age of ten, he moved to Kinshasa, the center of African music with Latin American influences like rumba, merengue and cha cha cha. There, he played in the boy scout band and was encouraged to study the guitar. He started playing in local clubs for a while, then he joined the soukous rumba band Negro Success and later Africa Jazz of Kabassele.
By 1974, he traveled through Africa playing, as a guitarist, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Angola, Gabon, Cameroon, and finally in 1975 in Nigeria. He remained in Nigeria for eight years playing with several groups, Eyes of Man, Black Children, Action Funk Ensemble and Stormers. In 1981, Fela Kuti invited him to join his band, Egypt 80 with whom he recorded on the album “Original Suffer Head”.
In 1983, Pascal Imbert, Fela’s manager suggested that he form a band with some African musicians including Udoh Essiet, Nicholas Avom, Willy N’for, Betty Ayaba and two French musicians, Stephane Blaes and Romain Pugebet. The band Ghetto Blaster was formed and they went to Paris in late 1983.
In Europe, Ghetto Blaster immediately began to have some success. They opened for artists such as James Brown, Albert King, Kool and the Gang, Manu Dibango, and Kassav. This led to their first record, “Preacher Man-Efi Ogunle” in 1983, and their first album “People” with Black Frame Productions – Mélodie in 1984 (including the hit “Na Waya”).
In 1988, they started a US tour, but, because of disagreements about the creative direction the band should take, Ghetto Blaster disbanded.
After the experience playing with Ghetto Blaster, Kiala wanted to explore different musical directions. He started a new group, One Love Connection, and worked on compositions and arrangements based on African music styles such as zebola, a Congolese dance music.
In 1989, he met the members of a Japanese band called Jagatara. He found a lot of similarities between Japanese and African music and became very interested in combining African rhythms and Japanese songs. In 1993, he recorded a demo of a Japanese traditional called Osaru-no-kagoya, with Kunimoto Kateharu (My Shammy Six). In this recording they used traditional instruments (Kunimoto playing the Japanese shamisen and himself playing the Congolese likembe).
In 1989-1998, he spent time between Tokyo and Paris writing, composing and playing with One Love Connection and a variety of Japanese groups including Vibrastone and Jagatara. In 1995, he wrote the title “Mbanza Mpuena” for the compilation “The Rainbow Colored Lotus”, a compilation for the Kobe earthquake in Japan.
Between 2001 and 2003, Kiala worked on an album project for the 20th anniversary of Ghetto Blaster. This album, “River Niger,” was released in 2003, it allowed the band to come back after few years of silent.
Between 2004 and 2006, he worked with Doctor L, who is very important in the electronic scene. They released the albums “Psycho” and “There Must Be A Revolution Somewhere” for Mind (2005), in which Kiala is author-compositor and plays likembe, guitar and lead vocal. They toured Europe with Omar Sosa and Stéphane Belmondo.
2009 was an important year for him. He started a new recording “One Race” with friends such as Sandra Nkake, Cyril Atef, Stéphane Belmondo, Lulendo, Rody Cereyon and the producer Slim Pezin. This allowed him to play music from his traditional heritage, African tradition, as well as jazz, blues and funk.
African Fiesta was a Congolese soukous group started by Tabu Ley Rochereau and Dr. Nico in 1963. Tabu Ley left the group in 1965 to form his own group, African Fiesta National. Sam Mangwana was also a member of African Fiesta until he left to join the new African Fiesta National.
Your Connection to traditional and contemporary World Music including folk, roots and various types of global fusion