Orchestre Afrisa International

Music of the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Describing the music of the Democratic Republic of the Congo is difficult, due to vagaries surrounding the meanings of various terms. The country itself was formerly called Zaire and is now sometimes referred to as Congo-Kinshasa to distinguish it from the Republic of the Congo (or Congo-Brazzaville). In this article, Congo will refer specifically to the Democratic Republic of the Congo unless otherwise noted. Outside of Africa, most any music from the Congo is called soukous, which most accurately refers instead to a dance popular in the late 1960s. The term rumba or rock-rumba is also used generically to refer to Congolese music, though both words have their own difficulties and neither are very precise nor accurately descriptive. People from the Congo have no term for their own music per se, although they do use muziki na biso (our music) on occasion.

History

Colonial times

Since the colonial era, Kinshasa, Congo's capital, has been one of the great centers of musical innovation, ranking alongside Nairobi, Lagos, Johannesburg and Abidjan in influence. The country, however, was carved out from territories controlled by many different ethnic groups, many of which had little in common with each other. Each maintained (and continue to do so) their own folk music traditions, and there was little in the way of a pan-Congolese musical identity until the 1940s.

Like much of Africa, the Congo was dominated during the World War 2 era by rumba, a fusion of Latin and African musical styles that came from the island of Cuba. Congolese musicians appropriated rumba and adapted its characteristics for their own instruments and tastes. Following World War 2, record labels began appearing, including CEFA, Ngoma, Loningisa and Opika, each issuing many 78 rpm records; Radio Congo Belge also began broadcasting during this period. Bill Alexandre, a Belgian working for CEFA, brought electric guitars to the Congo.

Popular early musicians include Feruzi, who is said to have popularized rumba during the 1930s and guitarists like Zachery Elenga, Antoine Wendo Kolosoy and, most influentially, Jean Bosco Mwenda. Alongside rumba, other imported genres like American swing, French cabaret and Ghanaian highlife were also popular.

In 1953, the Congolese music scene began to differentiate itself with the formation of African Jazz (led by Joseph "Grand Kalle" Kabasele), the first full-time orchestra to record and perform, and the debut of fifteen-year-old guitarist Francois Luambo Makiadi (aka Franco). Both would go on to be some of the earliest Congolese music stars. African Jazz, which included Kabasele, sometimes called the father of modern Congolese music, as well as legendary Cameroonian saxophonist and keyboardist Manu Dibango, has become one of the most well-known groups in Africa, largely due to 1960's "Independence Cha-Cha-Cha", which celebrated Congo's independence and became an anthem for Africans across the continent.

Big bands

Into the 1950s, Kinshasa and Brazzaville became culturally linked, and many musicians moved back and forth between them, most importantly including Nino Malapet and the founder of OK Jazz, Jean Serge Essous. Recording technology had evolved to allow for longer playing times, and the musicians focused on the seben, an instrumental percussion break with a swift tempo that was common in rumba. Both OK Jazz and African Jazz continued performing throughout the decade until African Jazz broke up in the mid-1960s. Tabu Ley Rochereau and Dr. Nico then formed African Fiesta, which incorporated new innovations from throughout Africa as well as American and British soul, rock and country. African Fiesta, however, lasted only two years before disintegrating, and Tabu Ley formed Orchestre Afrisa International instead, but this new group was not able to rival OK Jazz in influence for very long.

Many of the most influential musicians of Congo's history emerged from one or more of these big bands, including Sam Mangwana, Ndombe Opetum, Vicky Longomba, Dizzy Madjeku and Kiamanguana Verckys. Mangwana was the most popular of these solo performers, keeping a loyal fanbase even while switching from Vox Africa and Festival des Marquisards to Afrisa, followed by OK Jazz and a return to Afrisa before setting up a West African group called the African All Stars. Mose Fan Fan of OK Jazz also proved influential, bringing Congolese rumba to East Africa, especially Kenya, after moving there in 1974 with Somo Somo. Rumba also spread through the rest of Africa, with Brazzaville's Pamela M'ounka and Tchico Thicaya moving to Abidjan and Ryco Jazz taking the Congolese sound to the French Antilles. In Congo, students at Gombe High School became entranced with American rock and funk, especially after James Brown visited the country in 1969. Los Nickelos and Thu Zahina emerged from Gombe High, with the former moving to Brussels and the latter, though existing only briefly, becoming legendary for their energetic stage shows that included frenetic, funky drums during the seben and an often psychedelic sound. This period in the late 60s is the soukous era, though the term soukous now has a much broader meaning, and refers to all of the subsequent developments in Congolese music as well.

Zaiko and post Zaiko

Stukas and Zaiko Langa Langa were the two most influential bands to emerge from this era, with Zaiko Langa Langa being an important starting ground for musicians like Pepe Feli, Bozi Boziana, Evoloko Jocker and Papa Wemba. A smoother, mellower pop sound developed in the early 1970s, led by Bella Bella, Shama Shama and Lipua Lipua, while Kiamanguana Verckys promoted a rougher garage-like sound that launched the careers of Pepe Kalle and Kanda Bongo Man, among others.

By the beginning of the 1990s, the Congolese popular music scene had declined terribly. Many of the most popular musicians of the classic era had lost their edge or died, and President Mobutu's regime continued to repress indigenous music, reinforcing Paris' status as a center for Congolese music. Pepe Kalle, Kanda Bongo Man and Rigo Starr were all Paris-based and were the most popular Congolese musicians. New genres like madiaba and Tshala Mwana's mutuashi achieved some popularity. Kinshasha still had popular musicians, however, including Bimi Ombale and Dindo Yogo. In 1993, many of the biggest individuals and bands in Congo's history were brought together for an event that helped to revitalize Congolese music, and also jumpstarted the careers of popular bands like Swede Swede. Throughout the eighties, one artist that dominated the Congolese music scene is King Kester Emeneya.

External links

  • Nostalgie Ya Mboka - A radio program playing the 'belle epoque' of Congolese music. Broadcasts in London and the Internet on Resonance FM. MP3 of latest show is kept here
  • African Music Forum - Discussions on contemporary Congolese Soukous and Classic Congolese Rumba music. African Music Forum features numerous video clips, mp3 jukeboxes and Internet radio broadcast archives of African Music.

See also

References

  • Ewens, Graeme. "Heart of Danceness". 2000. In Broughton, Simon and Ellingham, Mark with McConnachie, James and Duane, Orla (Ed.), World Music, Vol. 1: Africa, Europe and the Middle East, pp 458-471. Rough Guides Ltd, Penguin Books. ISBN 1-85828-636-0
  • Stewart, Gary. (2000) Rumba on the River: A history of the popular music of the two Congos Verso. ISBN 1-85984-744-7. Tells the story of Congolese music, history, and popular culture.

Search another word or see Orchestre Afrisa Internationalon Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2014 Dictionary.com, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature
FAVORITES
RECENT

;