One of Africa's most well known and influential musicians, and an international style icon, Congolese singer Papa Wemba died suddenly during a performance in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, on April 24, at age 66. Aside from the video clips contained within this NPR obituary, I'd recommend the entertaining feature film from 1987 starring Papa Wemba, La Vie est Belle.
‘Tired of pre-conceptions around African music, Mbongwana Star are creating their own identity, fusing traditional Congolese rhythms with post punk and electronics inspired by life in the townships around them, “making magic out garbage”’—some tracks on YouTube: Malukayi (ft. Konono No. 1); Shégué; Nganshe; Kala. You can listen to their debut album From Kinshasa in full on Soundcloud (some reviews 1, 2, 3). [more inside]
Les disques africains collects, rips, and uploads out-of-print records (and their sleeves!) from the golden age of vinyl in francophone Africa. Don't miss la belle chanteuse Sali Sidibé, psychedelic grooves from Benin, or this incredible 35-minute oral-musical history of Bobo-Dioulasso. New posts appear, as if by some rare magic, every three to four days.
The Congolese Sape is a photoessay by Héctor Mediaville on Sapeurs, a male subculture in the Democratic Republic of the Congo which is defined by its haute couture clothes. Blogger Eccentric Yoruba wrote a post for steampunk blog Beyond Victoriana on Sapeurs which was crossposted to Racialicious detailing the history of the movement and linking it to dandyism in general and explaining its political significance in the 70s, when it was championed by music legend Papa Wemba (live footage from the 90s and 70s).
The other day I happened to come upon a music video that is just so grooving, so human and so real, that, well, it moved me, darling. Just check it out. After watching the clip, I learned that these guys are mostly disabled by polio (that's why several of them are in those rather unusual wheelchairs) and that they were living on the grounds of the Kinshasa zoo, which is where the clip was filmed. Then I learned that last year they were seeking to bring a lawsuit against the UN. Then I found some other clips. And now I am a major fan of Staff Benda Bilili. [more inside]
#1 African Music Website. Africa Hit offers an extensive and varied selection of great music videos from West Africa. [more inside]
The full-on, amped-up sanza sounds of Konono No. 1 have been celebrated here at MeFi not once but twice, and they are indeed wonderful. Björk's been working with them a bit lately, too. But let's go back a few decades, and take a listen to the unplugged version of this type of music: mesdames et messiurs, Papa Kourand, the grand old man of the sanza! [more inside]
To be a Sapeur in Kinshasa is to treat every trash-strewn alley or muddy street as a fashion catwalk. Inspired by Congolese rumba star Papa Wemba* and his Société des Ambianceurs et Persons Élégants* (le Sape), urban peacocks cheerfully adopted "Religion Kitembo”, literally the worship of clothes. "The Pope of the Sapes" himself appears to have undergone a conversion since his recent legal troubles. Photo gallery by Héctor Mediavilla. *sound
Congotronics! Mawangu Mingiedi, 72, a musician and truck driver from Kinshasa, was simply trying to allow the music of his street band, Konono No. 1, be heard over the traffic and street noise, but when he fashioned home-made amplifiers out of junkyard parts he created something raw and distorted with a sound all its own (quicktime). (via MonkeySARS, where an MP3 awaits you)
Konono No. 1 "This band is one of the main exponents of a spectacular style of music which has developed in the suburbs of Kinshasa (DR Congo). The Congolese call it "tradi-modern", in other words: electrified traditional music. These are musicians who left the bush to settle in the capital and who, in order to go on keep fulfilling their social role and make themselves heard by the ancestors (and, more concretely, by their fellow citizens) despite the high level of urban noise, have had to resort to DIY amplification of their instruments, and to megaphones (conical speakers). This makeshift electrification has provoked a radical mutation of their sound, as it has introduced distortions which they have integrated to their style. [...] The band's line-up includes three electric likembés [thumb pianos] (bass, medium and treble), equipped with hand-made microphones built from magnets salvaged from old car parts, and plugged into amplifiers." Via womanonfire.