zaterdag 20 februari 2021

Orchestre Massako

In the 1970s, the Gabonese musicians who reached an international audience could be counted on the fingers of one hand. You had Hilarion Nguéma, Mackjoss and that was about it. The international success of Akendengué and others only came in the 1980s. Nevertheless, at the end of the 70s, new names appeared at the local level, such as Martin Rompavet, Pierre Claver Zeng or Aziz'Inanga. A number of promising new bands also appeared on the scene in those years, including Orchestre Massako. They were mainly supported by government agencies. For example, Orchestre Massako was sponsored by the Gabonese armed forces.

Orchestre Massako was founded by Jean-Christian Makaya alias Mackjoss, one of Gabon's most successful artists. At the age of 17, he composed his first song, entitled "Tata Na Mame" (Papa and Mama" in the Yipunu language). 

He began his career with Mélo-Gabon, then joined Afro Stars and Alliance Rhythm, before founding Orchestre Negro- Tropical. In 1966 he put Gabon's pop music on the map of Francophone Africa with his hit "Le Boucher". 

♫ Audio: 1966 - Mackjoss – Le Boucher

After being drafted into the Gabonese armed forces in 1971, he founded the FAG Orchestra, the name of which was changed to Orchestre Massako shortly afterwards. Orchestre Massako soon became one of Gabon's most popular bands. Over the years, Orchestre Massako released about twenty albums and accompanied many Gabonese solo artists on stage, but also during recordings in the Libreville studio.

The "line-up" of the band can be read as a "who's who" of the Gabonese music scene. Led by Mackjoss and supported by, among others, the renowned guitarists Sec Bidens and Sita Mbele, Orchestre Massako made catchy uptempo dance music that was strongly indebted to the Congolese music of those years. Latin influences can also be recognised in their music, as well as makossa from neighbouring Cameroon.

♫ Audio: 1981 – Orchestre Massako – Mon Amour

♫ Audio: 1983 – Orchestre Massako – Mouille Mangondou

♫ Audio: 1985 – Orchestre Massako – Charlie

After Gabon was hit by a deep economic crisis in 1986, most government-sponsored orchestras such as Orchestre Massako did not manage to survive. Unfortunately, nothing has been heard of the band since the end of the 1980s. After the band fell apart, most of the former members chose solo careers, with varying success. Guitarist Sec Bidens, for instance, went back to his native Congo and built a solo career as an author, composer, guitarist and arranger there and alternately in Paris.

After a silence of more than twenty years, some interest in Orchestre Massako was rekindled in 2015 after the Analog Africa label released an album of classic songs by Senegalese singer Amara Toure, who had been a member of Orchestre Massako for several years in the early 1980s. Besides recordings that Amara Toure made with Le Star Band de Dakar, the Analog Africa release also contains the complete 1980 Sonafric album "Amara Toure accompagne par L'orchestre Massako". Unlike the other Massako albums, however, this is a purely Afro-Latin album, which differs greatly from their usual repertoire. 

♫ Audio: 1980 – Amara Touré accompagné par l’Orchestre Massako - Afalago

Amara Toure
Amara Toure

Unfortunately, the other albums by Orchestre Massako have never been re-released. If you want to get to know their music, you will have to look for second-hand LPs or make do with Youtube.

Band members

Vocals: Mackjoss, Lebel St. Camille, Vouma Lebissa, Mwamy Menghe, Bibounza Shakara, Amara Touré, Michama Nono, Apôtre Dionga, Chris Ondong Michel, Rachel Tchoungui, K.J. Rhenos.

(Mi) Solo, Rhythm guitar: Sec Bidens, Sita Mbele, Guy “Nono”Bouchard, Pendy Gaspard, Chris Ondong Michel.

Bass guitar: Djo La Basse, Regis Ougouamba, Didonanys.

Drums: Mba Wa Mba, Docteur Mabuse, Petit Jean, Georges Happi.

Keyboards: Gerard Fouda, Dominique Luro.

Trumpet: Petit Makaya, Beddios, Obanio.

Trombone: Roger Kom, Petit Makaya.

Sax: Asso Akouda, Roger Kom, K.J. Rhenos.


zaterdag 30 januari 2021

Samba Mapangala & Orchestre Virunga


Samba Mapangala and his group Orchestre Virunga are one of the classic bands from Central and East Africa from the last 25 years. Known and loved throughout East Africa and beyond for his astounding voice, Samba created an innovative mix of the best Congolese rumba and soukous with an earthier Kenyan style.Their song and CD of the same name “Malako Disco” originally released in 1981 is almost always featured in lists of the top all-time African recordings. 

Orchestre Virunga in 1982. From left: Tabu Osusa (manager), Dago Mayombe (singer), Fataki Lokassa (singer), Diana Kodila (trumpet), Marie Gabby (dancer), Bejos Dibuba Mikobi (guitar), Erica (dancer), Coco Zigo Mafwala (singer), Zorro Mapangala (Samba’s brother). In front: Kasongo Wa Kanema (singer), Tabu Ngongo (sax). On top: Samba Mapangala (singer & bandleader) in front of The Starlight Club, Nairobi.

Born in Matadi, Zaire (DR Congo), Samba Mapangala played with various Kinshasa bands including Super Bella Bella in the early 1970s, before forming his first band, Les Kinois in Kampala, Uganda where he had moved. Samba then led his band of musicians east after the stint in Uganda, and as lead singer and songwriter, they relocated to Nairobi, Kenya in 1977 where they took the scene by storm. Samba’s voice and songwriting talents won Les Kinois the recognition which lifted them above the crowd of bands struggling for work in Kenya. Samba was not satisfied by producing generic Congolese rumba (AKA soukous) and he quickly adopted East African influences, incorporating the lilting benga rhythms of Kenya.

♫ Audio: 1978 – L’Orchestre Les Kinois – Les Kinois Part 1 & 2 – 10:11

In 1981 he formed Orchestre Virunga, a band made up of Congolese and Kenyan musicians which became one of the most popular bands in all East Africa. Singing in both Congolese Lingala and Kenyan Swahili languages, Samba and the Orchestre Virunga won a large and dedicated following in Nairobi. This exploded internationally, following the British release of his classic track Malako in 1984 on the Earthwork label.

♫ Audio: 1981 – Samba Mapangala & Orchestre Virunga– Malako Disco – 6:42

In 1989 Samba made his first visit to Europe recording with Quatre Etoiles in Paris. In 1991 he returned with Orchestre Virunga for a European tour after which Samba stayed in London to record “Feet on Fire” for the Stern’s label. These recordings were extremely well received and a punishing tour schedule took them across the world. 


♫ Audio: 1989 – Samba Mapangala & Orchestre Virunga– Sungura – 6:38

Finally in 1997, after a successful but exhausting North American tour, Samba decided to settle in Washington DC, USA and take a well earned break. After three years however, he could no longer resist the urge to record and flew to France where he gathered a group of Congolese musicians with whom he made the album “Ujumbe”. Sambas lyric’s offer an insightful social commentary as well as plenty of homespun advice, and this is offset by the dance-friendly music his band creates.

2012: Ballou Canta & Samba Mapangala - Hertme The Netherlands

In May 2004 Samba went on a 2-week concert tour of Tanzania after a 7-year absence. He performed with an all-star line-up of musicians based in Kenya and Tanzania. he repeated this trip back to an equally heart-felt homecoming in Nairobi in 2006.In 2005 a collection from the Orchestre Virunga archives was released as  “Virunga Roots Volume 1”. Pleased by the enthusiasm with which this was received, the band regrouped in 2006 to record “Song and Dance” for Virunga Records. 

In the summer of 2007, Samba Mapangala went on tour in Canada and the U.S. for the first time in 10 years before heading for the WOMAD festival in England. Virunga's show at Yoshi's nightclub in Oakland, a jazz-club room with great acoustics and a devoted audience for African music, was one of the tour highlights. The recordings made at the time were available for digital download via the platform for some time. 

♫ Live: 2009 – Dunia Tuna Pita - Sauti za Busara Festival Zanzibar Tanzania – 10:19

♫ Videoclip: 2011 – Samba Mapangala & Orchestre Virunga – Life Is Sweet – 6:14

Samba Mapangala's most recent album contains eight new, fresh songs and was released in 2011 under the title "Life Is Sweet". In anticipation of the Kenyan general elections of March 2013, Samba Mapangala has recorded "Chagua Chagua (Vote in Peace)," an important new song that encourages people to choose their leaders wisely. Free audio downloads are available on

♫ Live: 2012 – Vunja Mifupa – live at Afrikafestival Hertme the Netherlands – 12:03

♫ Videoclip: 2012 – Samba Mapangala & Orchestre Virunga – Vote in Peace – 6:38

Fromleft: Jamarach Mulumbu (rhythm guitar), Jojo Monga (lead guitar), Ngouma Lokito (bass), Oscar Debe (drums), Eto'o Tsana La Patrona Mabina Danseuses, Samba Mapangala (singer/bandleader), Joseck Asikoye (congas), Freddy Nyembwe (vocals, animation). At Salisbury, MD NCTA Folk Festival. 9/9/19


woensdag 20 januari 2021

Abdul Tee-Jay & Rokoto


Abdul Tee-Jay hails from Sierra Leone although his parents and hence his full name, Tejan-Jalloh, come from Fouta Jalloh in Guinea. At a very young age Abdul learnt to play guitar. At that time there was music coming into the port of Freetown from many different regions such as soukous and high-life, traditional and popular as well as local musicians: Abdul was influenced by all of these sounds and joined local bands. He grew up in an academic environment and in 1974 he went to Virginia USA to study. While there he took the opportunities to learn more guitar, use better instruments, joined a band called Spice and learnt to play the dulcimer.

In 1979 Abdul came to Britain to work in banking but met other musicians and started to play music again. In the beginning, he played in several reggae bands. Later, he and some other Sierra Leonians and Ghanaians formed the band African Connection. The group released 2 EPs with Abdul for Oval Records, but before the 3rd EP was released he left the group because he no longer felt comfortable with the musical direction of the band.

♫ Audio: 1989 – African Connection – Tiembelema – 4:01

While the other band members were going more disco and funk side, Abdul became more interested in a pure African sound. This led to the formation of African Culture in 1982. With African Culture Abdul was looking for a pan-African guitar sound with Zairean, Kenyan and South African influences. Although this worked for a while the sense of direction was eventually lacking. Finally, Abdul decided to go back to his roots and modernize Sierra Leone's local music - called milo jazz.

In his own words: “That’s it. I’ve got it, and started writing Sierra Leone songs using old folk songs and developing them. So that’s the base of it. I can’t ignore soukous, I can’t ignore highlife, but everything I play should be based on Sierra Leonean music. That was the turning point”.

When he changed the style of music he played, he also changed the name of the band in Rokoto to make it sound more Sierra Leonian. Apart from sounding simple and nice, Rokoto was in those days the place to be in Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone. With it’s market place, bars and a lively nightlife, Rokoto was the nickname for that place. After the formation of Rokoto, the late 1980s saw the most successful period in his musical career. Abdul Tee-Jay and Rokoto, a seven-piece band, brought out 3 albums, Kanka Kuru (1989), Fire-Dombolo (1992) and  E'Go Lef Pan You (1997).

ROKOTO on the album Kanka Kuru

Abdul Tee-Jay – lead & rhythm guitars, vocals, keyboards, percussion, drum programming, bass.
‘Zozo’ Shuaibu – bass, vocals.
‘Katos’ Sidik – drums, percussion, vocals.
Sam Maitland – rhythm guitar, percussion, vocals.
David ‘Olo’ Oladunni – percussion, congas.
Colin Graham – trumpet, flugelhorn
Andy Heywood – alto & baritone sax

Whereas Rokoto was primarily an electrically amplified guitar band, from the late 1990s onwards Abdul's music developed more and more in the direction of traditional accoustic "Palm-Wine" music. This led to the album "Palm Wine A Go-Go" in 2003. In the group with the same name he sings and plays acoustic guitar and has just one or two other musicians on stage with kongoma (bass thumb piano), kondi (thumb piano) and drums. 

After Palm Wine A Go-Go, Abdul Tee Jay unfortunately did not release any new albums. However, he still performs with some regularity.