Jan 31, 2015

Kora Jazz Trio - Part One

Kora Jazz Trio was a three piece African musical group, founded in 2002 by Djeli Moussa Diawara, Guinean Korafola, with Abdoulaye Diabate and Moussa Sissokho, best known for producing a music that is a mix of American jazz with traditional African music. Described as "the encounter between mandinga musical tradition and the freedom of jazz, between West African percussion and Afro-American swing", they have been recognized for their focus on sharing their cultural heritage, without doing so for the sake of mainstream success or in an effort to create a movement.

After three albums, Djeli Moussa Diawara left the band to focus on personal projects and was replaced by Soriba Kouyate. The Kora Jazz Trio was replaced by the Kora Jazz Band in 2010, and the release of the album "Kora Jazz Band & Guests"


This is a pretty unusual jazz trio, formed by African musicians playing, apart from the piano, African instruments. The string sounds are from the kora, a traditional African harp that yields an almost Celtic harp sound. Without exception, all songs are excellent and the kora has an important part in the music. The songs are all joy and some have African lyrics. Some have a Caribbean beat or something like that. A must listen for those looking for different sounds, harp-related tunes and open to innovations without willing to being struck by experimentalist stuff as Zeena Parkins. By the way, the kora does not sound boring as we use to think of harp music, it actually reminds me of Jean Luc Ponty or even Pat Metheny. 

I listen to music from all over, and was familiar with the Kora and aftican percussion. But this is very approachable by anyone who has an ear for excellent musicianship. All players are great, but the piano player is just outstanding!
Check it out!
I totally agree with the previous two reviewers. The reason for writing yet another positive - five star review is to stress how much fun this CD is. I love both jazz and ethnic music and this is a perfect combination. Even though I love these two strands, I rarely find myself moving to the music with CDs; I much prefer live events. This is one of the few CDs that has me moving, jumping up and down and generally feeling groovy. One point I differ with nb is that I didn't think the kora sounded like an irish harp all the time; it did in passages but often, to me, it was more like a proto-guitar or a qanun. 



1 Tabou 6:23
2 N'Dyaba 5:20
3 Senef 6:00
4 Miriya 9:09
5 Now Is The Time 4:02
6 Goree 3:04
7 N'Dimi 6:34
8 Mimi 6:32
9 Matamani 3:47
10 Nina 6:26

Jan 30, 2015

Francis The Great - Ravissante Baby

Wow! This is one of the greatest African disco - funk records ever produced - absolutely stellar groove. In essence a maxi, it's all about the B-side. Unheard and uncompiled.

'Look up in the sky (negro nature)' is a stretched funk groove with synth and a bubbling bassline added (probably by bass giant Vicky Edimo who produced the record). What makes this extra special is the lead vocalist, a 10 year old kid called Francis Mbarga (rumoured to be Prince Nico Mbarga's kid brother, but we can't confirm) who at the time was schooling in France. He sings/raps in parts of the song, in both French and English about the beautiful sky and the birds.  He did one more LP after this which is easier to find.

The other side of the LP contains a long jam in highlife style, again with the squeeky vocals of Francis.



One of the most amazing Afro Funk album ever!
Rare funk & Avant- Garde soul from  a seven years old kid singer featuring best of French and cameroonian musicians , recorded in Paris in 1977.

The album contains two nicely dramatic tracks .

“Look Up in the sky” ( Negro nature)  is a stretched funk groove with psyche synth by Michel Morose , bubbling bassline by the great Victor Edimo , the famous Toto Guillaume on guitar , and a brilliant poetic song by Francis the great who at that time studied in Menilmontant (Paris) .

“Ravissante  Baby” ( Negro Phasing)  is a long hypnotic funky soukous track with a tremendous lead guitar with a long spoken word and soulful kid vocal about the beauty of nature .

Originally produced by his father , a great impresario of African artists in Paris during the 70 ‘s and coordinated by her mother  , this album is unique, fresh and out of genre in a way ! It’s universal Funk !

Hot Casa Records is proud to reissue this holy grail  after years of research on a deluxe lp including interview and officially licensed with Francis Mbarga himself  in Yaounde ( Cameroon) .


Jan 22, 2015

From Germany: Onom Agemo & The Disco Jumpers - Cranes and Carpets

Berlin-based quintet Onom Agemo & the Disco Jumpers follow up their 7″ single „2 Feet / Kibili „ with an album of poly-rhythmic afro grooves, sax and psyched-out synths.

The group has developed a unique groove and style of playing, constructing a collection of eight songs, that throws together tight and funky influences from Morocco and Ethiopia with crunchy analogue synths, spacey organs and effects, and fluid sax and flute lines for a sound that’s all their own.

This LP is a collection of compositions by travelling sax man Johannes Schleiermacher, inspired by his journeys through the world. The band even travelled to Morocco for playing and recording with a quartet of percussionists/ singers in the Issawa tradition, a Sufi Trance Brotherhood in central Morocco.

Onom Agemo and the Disco Jumpers have been playing together for years, and it shows. Taking Schleiermacher’s compositions, the group rehearse the songs and play them live to finalize the arrangement before recording the tracks to different 4-track tape machines, mostly at drummer Bernd Oezsevim’s rehearsal space. Take the track „Cool Runnings“ for example: locked in the groove, the intertwined sax and synth melody moves up and down the Anichihoye scale. Not to be confused with the comedy of the same title, the track is named after a bar in Berlin-Friedrichshain, where friends of the band put on their night Tropical Timewarp.

This interlocking of groove and melody is a signature element, and also inspired the title of the album. Cranes and Carpets alludes to changing patterns, and how the parts of a wider whole can work together in synchronicity. Combine an almost telepathic group intuition with the fact that Schleiermacher also engineered and produced the record, and the pieces start to add up to why the Disco Jumpers sound like they do.

It’s an authentic mix of North African rhythms and modes, live jazz musicianship and analogue synths that’s reminiscent of electronic African pioneers like William Onyeabor and Manu Dibango as much as modern ensembles like The Heliocentrics. While the album sounds like it could have been discovered on a dusty old tape down a Marrakesh marketplace, it has a modern twist in the neat craftsmanship and tight arrangements that ensures a blend of styles that couldn’t be anyone else.

The Band:
Johannes Schleiermacher – woodwinds, synth, perc
Bernd Oezsevim – drums
Kalle Zeier – guitar
Jörg Hochapfel – synth
Kalle Enkelmann – bass



01.Trudy the Monster
02.Le Bess
03.No Stitches
04.Cool Runnings 
05.Escape Cultural

Jan 20, 2015

"Off We Go" by The Brighton Beat

Driven by a unified belief in real people playing real instruments expressing real human emotions, The Brighton Beat's goal is to create music that is able to live, breath and develop, with songs that allow the musicians to communicate and tell a story through carefully crafted melodies and inspired solo passages. Real world experiences and an inherent knowledge of jazz set them apart from the crowd. This is a band of working professional musicians looking to make a name for themselves in the ever burgeoning Afrobeat scene. Heavily influenced by Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti, but in no way traditional, The group creates grooves reminiscent of Herbie Hancock, at times reaching the raw, unbridled expression found in the music of Miles Davis and Freddie Hubbard.

The Brighton Beat is centered around a strong rhythmic foundation of bass, drums and dense percussion. Varying textures of unique, vintage keyboard and guitar sounds help to thicken the compositions. Leading the group, the adventurous horn section bring their heavy jazz influence to the forefront. Bassist Ryan Hinchey and Drummer Sammy Wags established their groove during recording sessions and national tours with various funk and reggae outfits (iLa Mawana, 6th Degree, The Hub Dub). The horn section leaders; Jon Bean (tenor sax) and Mark Zaleski (alto sax) came together while studying jazz at the New England Conservatory. Upon finishing they quickly established themselves as first-call session players for many of Boston's highest regarded jazz projects, all the while cultivating their own ideas, and exploring the different styles of music that influence The Brighton Beat's diverse catalog.



01. Off We Go
02. Green Monster
03. Hit The Bricks
04. Fortune Teller
05. Fortune Told
06. Stand With The Herd - Part 1 
07. Stand With The Herd - Part 2
08. Red Orange
09. Orange Sunshine 
10. Summer Lullaby 

Jan 19, 2015

More zamrock ... Stanford Tembo

By AUSTIN KALUBA - Zambia Daily Mail

He is among few important surviving Zamrockers from the most creative period in the history of Zambian music- the Zamrock era.

That is Stanford Tembo, the former front man of Mukusi band, an important Zamrock band that despite not recording any songs at the peak of its popularity helped to shape the Zamrock era that lasted from 1974-1979 before being driven into oblivion by the emergence of Disco.

Tembo, who is now in his mid 60’s, recounted the genesis of Mukusi relishing the old good days when the band played at Barn Motel attracting scores of patrons.

Mukusi is a si-Lozi word gotten from a hard wood found in Western Province to metaphorically capture the hard rock the band played during the Rocka mania that saw local bands playing covers of Western bands like Santana, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Rolling Stones and Jethro Tull.

“The name symbolically meant we were strong since we played hard rock. We lived up to the band’s name by not disappointing our audience,” the stocky musician said.

Mukusi comprised Stanford Tembo on lead vocals, George Sitali (now a witchdoctor) on lead, George Machiya on second guitar, Newet Chulu on bass and John Mengo on drums. Cosmas Zani, an accomplished keyboardist, sometimes played with the band.

Owned by the former Finance Minister Arthur Wina, Mukusi signed a six months contract to play at Barn Motel, then run by Mr Wina, though it played in other popular joints of the day like Lido Drive Inn.

Apart from playing covers of popular rock bands like Santana, the band’s repertoire included Mboto, Katyetye, Elina and Tiyende Pamodzi.

Since Mukusi never recorded any song at its peak, Tembo, who was also the band’s sole songwriter, has added Mukusi classics like Mboto, Katyetye, Elina and Tiyende Pamodzi on the album Katyetye.
Tembo started his musical career in 1969 when he joined his first professional band called Suzie Q jamming with his colleagues at Waddington centre in Kabwata-Lusaka.

After leaving Suzie Q, he joined Gipsies teaming up with Gary Victor Phiri, Chris Andrew Mbewe doing covers of Jimi Hendrix, Cream, Black Sabbath, Credence Clearwater Revival and popular western bands of the day. The Gipsies was named after Jimi Hendrix and the Gipsies.

The rock era spawned local bands like the Witch, Tinkles and the Rave Five, which went through several names like the End, Macbeth and Aqualung.

After leaving the Gipsies, Tembo joined one of the most important Zamrock bands Mukusi formed in 1974 during the genesis of Zamrock, a term coined by Dr Mannaseh Phiri, who was and still is a prominent TV and radio personality.

Dr Phiri was an accomplished music critic who had seen Zambian music evolve from largely unfocused mimicry of foreign bands to come up with its own sound that fused rock and native music.
Mukusi, like Mosi-Oa Tunya (the best band to have come from Zambia) was birthed by Osibisa, a largely Ghanaian dominated band based in England  that took the country by storm when it visited the country challenging local bands to play African music.

Mukusi was a band to reckon with and apart from Mosi-Oa-Tunya and the Witch, it had very few rivals when it came to defining local sounds fused in with rock.

After the emergence of Disco era that was ushered in by the Bee Gees hit Saturday Night Fever with a film of the same name, the Zamrock era and generally Zambian music almost went into oblivion.
“The coming of Disco meant that many Zambian bands had either to conform or disappear into oblivion. Disco posed a big threat to both Zambian and international music,” he said.

Mukusi disbanded in 1979 but Tembo was not the type to give up music, and joined the Witch, which had incorporated new members like Patrick Mwondela, Patrick Chisembele and Masauko Mwale under a new songwriting inclusion of Shaddick Bwalya.

His first contribution to the band was a jaunty song Freedom Fighter dedicated to the freedom fighters in neigbouring Zimbabwe.  The single resonated with the nationalistic fervor that was in the air on imminent freedom in Zimbabwe and topped the chart.

The Witch arrived in Zimbabwe in April 1980, a week after the country’s independence, and became part of the ecstatic citizenry that attained freedom by the gun.

The following year saw the band release a Disco album Moving On at the prestigious Shed Studios in Harare. Tembo’s contribution to the album was Desire, which went straight to number one in Zimbabwe, and South Africa.

Tembo, however, left the band in 1982 and went to the newly-independent Zimbabwe where he joined Nissan Zimbabwe working as a technical training instructor. The company later sent him to Japan for further training.

‘When I returned, I trained artisans in Harare, Gweru, Bulawayo, Mutare and Masvingo. I never stopped playing music. I joined a band called Touch and played a lot of reggae music,’ he said.
Always on the move, Tembo left Harare in 1985 and went to Bulawayo, where he joined the National Railways of Zimbabwe as senior mechanical instructor based at the mechanical training centre.
“Again the music bug was still with me forcing me to join two bands, Magic and Unique between 1985 and 1989.”

Despite being established in Zimbabwe, Tembo left Zimbabwe for South Africa, where he joined Lindsay Sakers, a V.W and Audi dealership, working as a mechanics apprentice instructor.
“While in South Africa, I was privileged to meet the late great Zambian guitarist Bestine Mwanza, whom I teamed up with and started playing in restaurants and hotels.”

As a solo artist, he has released four albums Katyetye (2009), Tuli tubili ntu Bantu (2010), 3rd Chapter (2011) and Stanford (2012) He is now working on his fifth album to be entitled Choices.
His music is a mixture of several genres like Afro Jazz, Afro Cha Cha Cha, Afro Pop, Afro Soul and several other fusions.

“I arrange my own music which I blend with brass since I feel music without brass is incomplete. I am currently spending a lot of time in South Africa and Zimbabwe.”

Commenting on current music in Zambia, Tembo said he was happy with what young musicians are doing since they are still keeping the industry active.

However, he said he was disheartened by the reliance on the computer and non-investment in learning music to improve the skill.

“Music changes with generation. The young musicians should be commended for playing and releasing new material. The only problem is failure to play instruments and learning how music works. Overall, I admire what the musicians are doing.’

He said the Zamrock era was the best thing to happen to Zambian music since all bands played something different from other groups, which wasn’t the case now when most groups are playing the same music.

“The music being produced now sounds the same. When you hear one musician, you have heard others who play and sound the same. In the past it wasn’t the case. We knew the sound of the Witch, Keith Mlevu, Tinkles and other bands who played then.”

A father of five children Kelvin, Zinwazi, Caroline, Christopher (named after his best friend Chris Mbewe, the lead guitarist for the Witch) and Rudo, Tembo is a widower who lost his wife Christine Mwitwa Mbunda Tembo in May 2005. He has a song dedicated to his wife on his Katyetye album.
As listeners continue to be flooded with one-week bubblegum hit wonders, Zambian music lovers should sample some of Zamrock hits of yesteryears to realise what their missing.

By AUSTIN KALUBA - Zambia Daily Mail

Jan 16, 2015

We’re a Zambian Band: Stroy of "The Witch"

The drunks at Mindolo Dam rouse themselves at our approach. A teenager in swim trunks and a sun-bleached T-shirt puts down his plastic cup and unlocks the gate. He regards us with bloodshot eyes. “Morning, boss,” he says, angling for a tip.

It’s a Sunday morning in Kitwe, a colonial-era mining town in Zambia’s Copperbelt. Clouds hang low, and the air is hazy. In the countryside, farmers are burning their fields in preparation for the rainy season. We’ve come to this recreation area to see an important part of the country’s musical history.

Emanuel “Jagari” Chanda hops out of a truck. Once upon a time, he was the country’s biggest rock star. As one of the founders of the “Zamrock” psychedelic rock scene of the 1970s, Jagari (an Africanization of Mick Jagger) was a household name. His songs were radio staples, groupies mobbed him, he always drank for free. Now sixty-plus years of age, he’s lost the Afro and gained a few pounds, but he retains a youthful, loose-limbed gait.

The recreation area sits on the edge of a manmade lake, and it’s a gently-ruined place. Jagari strides toward the water, past worn picnic tables and fire pits. Beyond the water lie the copper mines that power this central African country’s economy, open-cut gashes in the earth surrounded by heavily-rutted roads and streams running with mine tailings. Jagari grew up around here. He takes it all in, a dethroned king surveying his lost kingdom. “It’s rundown, as you can see,” he says. “Back then it was new.”

As singer for the Witch, the biggest Zamrock band, Jagari played to packed stadiums and toured across southern Africa. This recreation area was always one of his favorite venues. Often the band played from a stage backed up to the lake. The crowd—miners, soldiers, office workers, students—caught fish, barbecued, drank, and danced. Sometimes the Witch played at night, other times in the afternoon, the show peaking as the sun set over the Copperbelt.

Jagari says, “There was a kind of magic here.”

I first heard the Witch in 2008, via an mp3 blog dedicated to obscure African sounds. The music was incendiary, all crystalline guitar lines and supple rhythms, topped by Jagari’s plaintive voice. The recordings were rife with the pop and hiss of old vinyl; sometimes the music hiccupped, slurring for a moment. This only intensified the thrill of discovery. I found a few more bootlegs online, which confirmed my initial impression: something special went down in Zambia in the 1970s.

At the time, though, reliable information about either the music or the men who made it was hard to come by. How did Zamrock get started in the first place? Sub-Saharan Africa, after all, isn’t really known for its guitar rock. And where were all the musicians now?

Zamrock was the energetic sound of a nation that had just thrown off the British colonial yoke. Though Zambia is now one of the poorest countries in the world, at independence it had the second highest GDP on the continent thanks to its copper industry. Zambians expected great things—prosperity, modernization, and equal standing with the West. With its fuzzed-out guitars, propulsive beats, and cosmopolitan outlook, Zamrock provided the soundtrack to this hoped-for future.

That future never arrived. Instead the country was brought low by a series of crises, external and internal, that would render it a ward of the international community by the 1980s. The Zamrock scene, devastated by economic collapse, the AIDS epidemic, and changing musical trends, withered and died.

As for Jagari, I read that he was still alive, but it was hard to say anything else for certain. One report had him working as a foreman at a uranium mine; in another, he was a youth music mentor. A Europe-based musician who had met him emailed me a warning. “Watch out for Jagari,” he wrote. “He can be a bit of a hustler sometimes.” It wasn’t much to go on—from America I couldn’t find a phone number or an email address for him. There was only one way: a friend and I decided to travel to Zambia to track him down.

The man we found, in 2010, had cycled through many lives since his rockstar days. He had been a music teacher, gone to prison for smuggling Quaaludes—a crime he insists he didn’t commit—and found God. Eventually he became a gemstone miner, sleeping in a tent and working an open-pit mine near the Congolese border. A modern-day 49er, Jagari hoped a big score would be his ticket back into the music business.

When we met him, Jagari was unknown outside Zambia, and largely forgotten even in his own country. Since then, improbably enough, he has achieved some of the international fame that eluded him the first time around—a degree of vindication for the lost years.

At the recreation area, we walk down to a weathered dock, the drunk teenager trailing us. As we pose for photos, the kid strips off his shirt and jumps into the dark water. He paddles around self-consciously for a few minutes, as if giving a performance. Jagari ignores him. “It’s like I died and was resurrected,” he says. “That’s how I feel coming here.”

Just before midnight on October 24, 1964, the drummers muted their drumming, the lionskin dancers ceased dancing, and everything went dark. Then, at precisely 12:01 a.m., the Union Jack was lowered and the Zambian flag rose over Independence Stadium in Lusaka, the capital. Fireworks arced through the sky, and the crowd roared. The old order was dead.

Later that day, Kenneth Kaunda, a socialist and former teacher who had canvassed support for the struggle by playing “freedom songs” on his guitar, was sworn in as president. Speaking to a crowd of 200,000, Kaunda acknowledged the sacrifices of those who had fought. Independence hadn’t come bloodlessly—security forces had shot, tortured, and imprisoned hundreds—but there were sunny days ahead. He urged his fellow citizens to “rise and march forward to peace, progress, and human development and dignity.”

Zambians had reason to feel good about the future. Just three hours before independence, the government had negotiated a more equitable stake in its copper mines—which at the time provided 90 percent of the country’s foreign exchange—with the British company that had owned them since the late 1800s. Kaunda embarked on an ambitious nation-building campaign, constructing schools and training a black African professional class. The need was acute: at independence Zambia had fewer than 100 native-born college graduates.

With the copper profits rolling in, however, nothing seemed out of reach. While Zambia’s rural areas were undeveloped, the New York Times noted in 1964, its main cities were “among the most modern in Africa, with shiny, airy public buildings that many Americans and Europeans might envy.”

The Copperbelt was especially prosperous; as more black Zambians rose through the ranks, miners bought pricey suits, new cars, and Western-style houses. Photos from 1963 show the first black Africans, employees of Roan Antelope mine, in Luanshya, to move into a previously all-white neighborhood. The images carry a whiff of suburbia: housewives pose next to gleaming stoves; a man in shirtsleeves mows his tidy lawn. Simon Zukas, a liberation hero and former Member of Parliament, remembers the euphoria of the time. “There was great optimism,” he says. “The first few years were very good.”

Jagari came of age during this heady era, a member of the first generation of Zambians to grow up more urban than rural. Though born in a northern village, he was raised in the rapidly-growing Copperbelt by a brother who worked as a foreman in the mines. Middle-class by Zambian standards, Jagari attended high school, went to nightclubs as well as traditional township bars, and listened to the latest foreign records at a downtown music store. Indeed, the globalizing forces that brought the ideas of Marx and Fanon to inland Africa also brought the sounds of the British Invasion. To young Zambians like Jagari, the Fender Stratocaster was the sound of modernity.

By the late 1960s there were dozens of rock groups scattered throughout Lusaka and the Copperbelt. Some of these bands just imitated their Western idols, but the best of them mixed the pop sensibilities of the Beatles, the fuzz guitars of Cream, and indigenous kalindula rhythms, creating something distinctly Zambian. There were standard-issue tunes of broken hearts, but other songs displayed a profoundly non-Western take on the world. A band named Amanaz, singing in one of Zambia’s seventy-two different languages, charted the continent’s journey from slavery to independence. Paul Ngozi sang of the nightmares he endured after renting a house next to a graveyard.

The Witch, an acronym for “We Intend to Cause Havoc,” was the most popular band in the country. Along with another pioneering group, Rikki Ililonga’s Musi-O-Tunya, they forged the path that others would follow. As Eothen Alapatt, who runs Now-Again records in Los Angeles and has reissued a host of Zamrock albums, puts it, the two bands were “the scene godfathers, the inspiration for them all.”

Jagari joined the Witch in 1971, while he was still in high school. His older brother disapproved—“rock star” was no career for an educated Zambian—so he ran away from home. He finished high school but never looked back. The band’s first two albums, with simple-but-catchy songs and one-take production values, were hits. It wasn’t until the third album, 1975’s Lazy Bones, that the Witch hit its stride. Driving and often dark, with melancholy melodies and acid-laced guitar playing, the album sold 7,000 copies its first week—huge numbers for the place and time. Alapatt calls it “a masterpiece—not just of Zamrock, but of psychedelic rock in general.”

The band’s live shows, meanwhile, became the stuff of legend. While the band vamped behind him, Jagari jumped into the crowd from balconies, gyrated like a dervish, screamed or sang as the spirit took him. Shows often went for six hours or more. Typically, they began with an hour of instrumentals followed by a few cover songs—“Sympathy for the Devil,” maybe, or Grand Funk Railroad’s “We’re an American Band.” Jagari modified the lyrics to that one: “We called it ‘We’re a Zambian band.’ People liked it that way.” Some nights, the crowd demanded to hear the band’s hit songs two or three times over.

Soon the Witch was headlining stadiums across the country. Errol Hickey, the former chairperson of Lusaka’s Radio Phoenix, Zambia’s only independent station, says, “Those were the only places that could hold them—they could draw a couple of thousand people, easy.”

In some ways, the Zambian rockers were similar to their Western counterparts. Sporting luxuriant Afros, platform boots and voluminous bellbottoms, Zamrockers defied the prevailing conservative attitudes. Sometimes the Witch went onstage with artfully torn clothing, or women’s underwear over their jeans. Keith Kabwe, who sang for Amanaz and is now a Pentecostal pastor, wore a skeleton costume and jumped out of a coffin onstage, a la Screamin’ Jay Hawkins .

Such antics occasionally got them into trouble. One October evening in 1974, the Witch was playing a show in a tony Lusaka neighborhood when the police showed up. The Minister of Home Affairs, no rock ‘n’ roll fan, lived nearby. Jagari and his bandmates were charged with “noisemaking to annoyance” and thrown into Kamwala prison for three days.

Alcohol and drugs, meanwhile, were everywhere. Some used speed and acid, but weed was by far the most common drug. Jagari says he drank a bit but otherwise abstained. Others indulged. “We smoked,” Kabwe says, laughing. “We smoked a lot! There was hard stuff here. Once you’d pull it, you’d be seeing things.”

And then there were the women. In Ndola, the administrative capital of the Copperbelt, I meet a teacher who tells me that she grew up going to Witch shows. Her best friend, she adds, once dated Jagari—“he was so crazy.” When I mention the woman to Jagari, he says he doesn’t remember her, but he’s not surprised. “Everybody had groupies.”

Even at the best of times it wasn’t a lucrative life. Instruments were expensive and payment low. A Copperbelt record label, Edward Khuzwayo’s Music Parlour, was known for treating bands fairly, but that was the exception. As Wayne Barnes, who played guitar for Musi-O-Tunya, recalls in an interview with Alapatt, “There were some really shady whites running nearly all the record companies in Africa.”

Still, Jagari got by. The band toured constantly, from Botswana to Kenya—in Malawi, they received a police escort on the way to a concert for the local diplomatic corps. They recorded two more albums of increasing sophistication, which incorporated strong African and Latin elements. The years passed, and Jagari dared to dream of more—London, New York, Los Angeles.

Zambia’s golden years didn’t last. By the late 1970s the price of copper had plummeted. Inflation spiked, and the mines slashed their workforces. There were lines for bread, shortages of salt. The government had nationalized the mines, and it proved disastrous. To pay off its creditors, Zambia borrowed more. The economic death spiral tightened.

Meanwhile, there was chaos on the borders. Mozambique and Angola were fighting civil wars, and black rebels in Rhodesia, Zambia’s southern twin under colonial rule, were engaged in an insurgency against the white government. Zambia, which sheltered Zimbabwean and South African guerrillas, suffered under curfews and blackouts, its power stations bombed by the apartheid state’s security forces. While Kaunda’s government foiled a coup attempt in 1980, an uprising in the country’s remote northwest simmered for years. Led by an ex-game warden named Adamson Mushala, the rebels burned villages and press-ganged children into service. People said Mushala could render himself invisible, and shape-shift into a giant bird. More credible were the reports of his South African backing.

In response to these pressures, the once-progressive liberation government turned increasingly authoritarian. It wasn’t a dictatorship, exactly, but you had to watch your step. Informers were everywhere. As Hickey puts it, “If you said ‘Kaunda is shit’ you’d go into jail for a few years.”

For the Zamrockers, it was all bad news. The curfew reduced bands to playing “tea-time” shows, which greatly limited their audience. Tastes were changing, too, as disco and Congolese rumba began to supplant rock as the new sound of urban Zambia. Finally, piracy was on the rise; bootleggers copied Zamrock albums in Nairobi then sold them throughout Zambia.
It had never been easy to be a fulltime rock musician in Zambia. Now, with little money to record or tour, it was almost impossible. Jagari bailed out. He had just married his wife, Grace, and they were starting a family. In 1980 he landed a job teaching music at a Lusaka college (He would go on to major in music and English). He spent the next years studying and working to support his growing family.

Jagari was lucky in one respect. He got out just before AIDS decimated the Zamrock community. One by one, his former bandmates succumbed to the virus—the last on Christmas Eve in 2001. “Musicians in Zambia are very careless with life,” says his wife Grace. “Jagari’s not better than the ones who died. He could have been gone as well.”

In 1993, though, things went horribly wrong. Jagari was arrested and charged with trying to pick up a shipment of Mandrax (the southern African name for Quaaludes) from India at the Lusaka airport. He denies having any knowledge of the illegal drugs in the boxes; acquaintances tricked him, he says, into letting them use his ID. “I have never even been to India,” he says. The judge didn’t buy it, and sentenced him to a couple of years in prison.

When he emerged from prison he was broke and pushing 50. He had lost both his job and his home. Gradually, he found a new path. He became a born-again Christian, giving up alcohol and womanizing. As much as he loved making music, it seemed out of the question—he needed money. “Maybe God is saying something to me,” he thought. “Maybe it was my turning point to do other things.”

He became a miner.

Zambia is the size of Texas, with a population of 14 million. As we touched down in Lusaka, the capital, in 2010, we worried that we wouldn’t be able to find Jagari.

We needn’t have. Within a day of our arrival we were sitting across a table from Jagari’s oldest son, Dale, who we had found through a mutual acquaintance. The son of a woman Jagari dated in the 1970s, Dale was an easy-talking 32-year-old who had worked as a traveling salesman, a gemstone miner and seller, and a political campaigner. He hadn’t really known his father as a child; the two reconnected after Dale, then 18, read a newspaper article in which Jagari said, “I don’t know where my son is, but I love him.”

Dale informs us that his dad is “in the bush” at his open-pit mine in Mansa, in the red-dirt highlands along the Congo border. Gemstone mining is a common occupation in Zambia. While the country’s organized mining business is the province of multinationals, tens of thousands of Zambians lease small digging concessions from the government, scratching out a living with shovels and sweat. The area around Mansa is rich in citrine, amethyst, and black tourmaline. Jagari and two Senegalese business partners had been working their plot for about a decade. They hadn’t yet struck it rich. Hope, as they say, springs eternal.

A plan comes together: Jagari will take a minibus to meet us in Kitwe, the Copperbelt city where he grew up. I give Dale money to wire to his dad for bus fare, even though we’re not sure yet if Dale’s for real. He’s already floated the idea of a joint real estate deal; it’s possible that he’s conning us clueless mzungu (“white people”). He speaks movingly, however, of his relationship with Jagari, and of his desire for his father to get the recognition that he deserves.

The next morning, we pile into a rented pickup truck and drive the 200-plus miles to Kitwe. The Copperbelt road, a narrow stretch of tarmac punctuated by small roadside settlements, is mostly empty. There are occasional checkpoints; they provide opportunities, Dale explains, for poorly paid cops to extract bribes from minibus passengers. Every so often, an 18-wheeler carrying oil to the mines appears on the horizon. Other cars pull to the roadside like submissive dogs, huddled against the force of the rig’s passage.

We meet Jagari at an upscale miner’s bar that evening. Dressed in a leather bomber jacket and a baseball cap, he looks more like a suburban dad than a rock star. But the magnetism that once captivated audiences seems to be intact. He flirts with the waitress, a sly smile on his face, and as the DJ plays auto-tuned hip hop he recounts his life story. A group of younger Zambian guys gathers at the other end of the table. They haven’t heard of him, but one guy leans in, listening raptly. He yells over the music: “Respect!”

A few days later I meet Jagari in downtown Lusaka, a sprawling city that makes up for in friendliness what it lacks in organization. He arrives in an old Japanese car, wearing an oversize white tunic and matching pants. Markers of the gemstone business are strewn about the car. A bag of citrines sits in the console between the seats; he has an appointment later to get them cut and polished. We drive around, listening to the Hollies.

The sidewalk outside the public library is crowded with men doing gemstone deals, coming together to negotiate and then breaking apart to mutter into their cellphones. Some of the stones were mined legally; some certainly were not. Overall, Zambia’s economy is booming, buoyed by the mines and Chinese investment. Apartment blocks and mega-malls are rising all across Lusaka, but there are few new jobs. Sixty-four percent of Zambians still live below the poverty line; more than 80 percent work in the “informal” economy.

I ask Jagari about the Witch’s legacy. He reminisces about the time they opened a show for British-Ghanaian Afro-rockers Osibisa. With more ambition and business savvy, he muses, perhaps the Witch could have gone international—a Zambian Osibisa. But they were too comfortable being big fish in a small pond. “We never took the risks.”

While he plays occasional oldies gigs, Jagari still dreams of getting back into music full-time. If he can find the money, he’d like to open a music school and a recording studio. “That’s why I go into the bush to look for stones.”

At noon, we take the elevator up to the eleventh floor at Radio Phoenix. Errol Hickey, the station’s former chairperson, has arranged for us to appear on a national radio show. As Jagari tunes his guitar, the host, a young guy named Luchi, tells me that he hadn’t heard the Witch until now.

On-air, Jagari plays a few Witch classics. His voice is raspy, weathered by the years. Near the end, he launches into a song called “It’s Alright.” It’s a love song, but today it ends up sounding more like a statement of defiance.

Listeners call in to speak to Jagari. One says he saw him perform at Mindolo Dam. Another asks about a comeback: when will he start playing out again? “Give me kwacha [the Zambian unit of currency], man, to organize the shows,” Jagari replies. “And I’ll be there.”

I left Zambia the next day. Back home in San Francisco, I wrote a couple of articles about Zamrock and kept in occasional touch with Jagari. I never expected to see him again; Lusaka is a long way from California.

Over the next few years, though, Jagari’s star began to rise. Ben Phiri, a journalist from Ndola who has written more than 70 columns on Zamrock for the Times of Zambia, says that young Zambians are “slowly awakening” to their rock ‘n’ roll heritage. “They marvel when they listen to Zamrock. They think Zambians could not have done that.”

Meanwhile, Alapatt’s Los Angeles record label, Now-Again, kept pumping out Zamrock reissues. In 2011, he arranged for Jagari to speak at a music conference in Madrid. The following year, Jagari played two well-received shows in France with fellow Zamrock survivor Rikki Ililonga. There was a Chinese documentary film, and a South African one is due for release this year. Bit by bit, Jagari’s profile grew. I was happy for him: at long last he was getting some of the recognition that had escaped him in his youth.

Then, one morning last spring, I woke to the news that he was coming to America.

The first Zamrock concert in North America takes place in Los Angeles in May 2013, and is followed by another in San Francisco in June. For both shows Jagari is backed by a crack group of LA jazz-funk musicians. Billed as “Zamrock Live!” the LA show is a private concert at a Hollywood art space. The crowd is small but appreciative, and it is wonderful and a little surreal to see Jagari on an American stage, roughly 10,000 miles from where I last saw him. We embrace like old friends after the show.

In San Francisco, Jagari opens for the indie beatmaker and DJ Madlib, and the nightclub is packed. Most of the crowd probably doesn’t know who he is, but they go nuts anyway. In response, Jagari turns back the clock. He jumps and screams, flirts and teases, runs in place like Mick Jagger and duckwalks like Chuck Berry. The closer, “October Night”—a song about the band’s 1974 arrest for playing too loud—sprawls into a nine-minute, Latin-infused space jam. He exits the stage, and it feels like a triumph.

Backstage, Jagari chats with fans, still flush with adrenaline. I ask Alapatt if there are more shows in the works. He shakes his head. “This is it, man,” he says. “I don’t know how to get him back over here.” A number of African bands, of course, tour America regularly. The Malian desert-blues band Tinariwen, for example, whose members wear turbans and cultivate a sort of revolutionary chic, come through California just about every year. Jagari’s music and image, though, isn’t nearly so exotic—he mostly sings in English, and mostly plays a recognizable form of rock ‘n’ roll. Discussing it later, Alapatt says, “Perhaps that just doesn’t fit with the modern booker’s idea of what music from this part of the world ‘should’ sound like.”

Jagari makes the most of his time here. He records some new songs, two of which Alapatt releases as a single: a 1960s-style pop number and a haunting adaptation of a traditional Zambian song about witchcraft. I spend some time playing tour guide in both cities. We eat burritos and drive out to the ocean, watch the surfers and take photos, debate the meaning of life and whether or not the members of Black Sabbath were Satanists (he says yes; I say no). He is philosophical about his late resurgence. “I had hoped for this much earlier,” he says. “But that’s the human point of view. God saw it differently. He was grooming me for the challenge.”

On his last night in America, Jagari comes over to the apartment I share with my girlfriend. Grabbing my acoustic guitar, he gives us an impromptu lesson. Eyes shining, sweat beading on his forehead, he leans into the instrument, working the strings and singing in a soulful growl. “You should practice each skill until it is automatic,” he says, his fingers moving nimbly up and down the frets. He smiles and adds, “Then you are prepared for anything.”

 Originally published by Chris A. Smith, (August 5, 2014) @ theappendix.net

Jan 14, 2015

From Burkina Faso: Baba Commandant & The Mandingo Band - Juguya

Baba Commandant and the Mandingo Band are a contemporary group from Burkina Faso. Coming from Bobo-Dioulasso, the group is steeped in the Mandingue musical traditions of their ancestral legacy. The enigmatic lead singer Baba Commandant (Mamadou Sanou) is an original and eccentric character who is well respected in the Burkinabé musical community. A sort of punk Faso Dan Fani activist for traditional Mandingo music, Baba continues to redefine the boundaries between traditional and modern. In 1981, he joined the Koule Dafourou troupe as a dancer. Later, he embarked on his current musical direction as a singer, first in Dounia and then in the Afromandingo Band. His current band -- when he's not playing with the now-famous Burkinabé musician Victor Démé -- is the Mandingo Band. At present, he is a practitioner of the Afrobeat style, drawing inspiration from the golden era of Nigerian music. Fela Kuti/Africa 70 and King Sunny Adé are big influences, as is the legendary Malian growler Moussa Doumbia. Baba Commandant plays the ngoni, the instrument of the Donso (the traditional hunters in this region of Burkina Faso and Mali). His audience comprises multiple generations and strata of Burkinabé society; he accordingly adapts his repertoire to his surroundings, which range from cabaret Sundays in Bobo-Dioulasso to the sound systems of Ouagadougou. Baba Commandant and the Mandingo Band are a formidable force steeped in Ouagadougou's DIY underground musical culture.Juguya is their sound. Limited edition LP housed in a Stoughton tip-on sleeve.
Check out here!

Sonny Oti and His Group - Late Husband


A Late Nite Husband
B1 Afo Ekwegh Ukwu Zuo Ike
B2 Ochi Abugh Uto

Jan 12, 2015

Zamrock @ nowagain: Jagari Chanda

WITCH’s bandleader Jagari Chanda’s first recordings in over thirty five years – digital 7″ available now at Now-Again Deluxe!

This is a special release: WITCH’s bandleader Jagari Chanda’s first recordings since Zamrock’s most beloved band after their release of the Including Janet album! They were recorded in L.A. when he traveled to the USA for the first time to play a private show that we threw in conjunction with Urban Outfitters in Hollywood.

How, you ask? Well, it went something like this: our pal, the producer Luther Russell (you’ll be hearing more about him later this year), is as big of a WITCH fan as is Patrick Bailey, the guitar and bass player who assembled the band to learn and play WITCH’s Zamrock classics in L.A. (and a part of the great Jungle Fire and Ethio Cali ensembles).

Jagari had an idea for a song he wanted to record – a Zamrock take on a Zambian standard about – you guessed it – witchcraft. He met up with Russell and Bailey, recorded his ideas straight to tape (with Russell on drums and Bailey on bass), and rounded out the session with some acoustic songs that had been banging around in his head.

And then he went back to Zambia. Never to be seen in America again. Well, not quite. Madlib invited him up to play at the San Francisco Sounds of Zamrock Madlib Medicine Show extravaganza and Russell, overjoyed to be able to present Jagari with a most special gift, went back to his studio with Bailey and some friends and overdubbed the parts Jagari had told him he wanted to hear in the final arrangements. We presented the songs to Jagari in S.F., and he was overjoyed. And, well, we were too. So we’re giving these songs away to our subscribers at Now-Again Deluxe.


Subscribe @: https://drip.fm/nowagain

Jan 9, 2015

Interview with Kola Ogunkoya


Kola Ogunkoya, a Nigerian musician who nationalised in the United States of American came to limelight through playing Afro music.

He was influenced by late Afrobeat Legend Fela Anikulakpo Kuti but unfortunately, he is the only Afrobeat artiste who never played for late Anikulapo Kuti when he was alive.

Describing his music as a combination of Afro juju, high life and jazz with the smooth fusion of African percussion. Besides his music he is very angry with the way politicians are running Nigeria Kola shared his views with Ebun Babalola on Afrobeat music as well as his decision to stay back in United States of America. Excerpt.

Why did you decide to stay in America?

Because Nigeria is not a place to be.

What do you mean?

A lot of things are wrong in Nigeria.

Like what?
Health care, education, no light, bad roads etc, and quite deplorable there is no place for the Nigerian child.

There are people like you who also chose to stay in Nigeria to salvage the situation?

They are doing that on their own risk. These people are there everyday, struggling to
make ends meet, and each time you see them, there are virtually no changes one can see.

That means you can’t join others to make your own contribution?

Whoever does that, is just doing so at his or her own risk .

People do all sorts of miserable jobs to survive in America ;why not in Nigeria?

You can’t compare America with Nigeria. In America there are opportunities for citizens and non citizens,but not so in Nigeria. People are living miserably in Nigeria.

Don’t even go there at all because, injustice is another problem that Nigerians are battling with. Nigeria is the only country where people are killed and nothing will happen.

But people got killed in America too?

Anyone who plans to kill in America would have considered the implication before doing that. And in America, nobody kills and go away with it like what happens in Nigeria.

Killing has become part of life in Nigeria and injustice is the order of the day.

So, what is your impression about Nigerian Democracy so far?

There is nothing like democracy in Nigeria. Nigerians don’t know what democracy is all about, it’s mere lip service.

Won’t you come back to Nigeria?

For the love and vacation ,yes. But for settling down maybe when democracy is really working.
I don’t know what part of the country you are staying or maybe you are not even in this same Nigeria you’re asking me about ,but I’m sure you know that Nigeria is not a place to stay.

I remember the last time I came to Nigeria, nine years ago… believing I was going to make a difference with dollars, but I was disappointed.

So, what happened?

America gave me this money, meaning that I worked hard to play music all over every week.
I went to USA in1996, and made my money doing the right thing, playing music and I brought the American money to Nigeria with the hope of contributing my quota but the rest became history.

How much are we talking about here?

Close to 100,000 U.S dollars to the extent that I had to borrow money. Then, I opened a cultural club for Art and Music which was named Gbedu” the music village in Opebi, Allen, Lagos . Everything was moving on fine as planned. I did not know I was doing the wrong thing. I had spent all my money putting the place together.

The man who leased the place to me collected huge amount of money from me before he could lease it out. What he claimed was that, he loved me and that because he knew me, he was going to help me.
I paid for the venue, renovated, and embarked on the promotion of the business with a lot of money.
I performed every week with other Nigerian artistes. But, things changed when I was about reaping the fruit of my labour. When I was spending my money renovating his building he loved me but when the time to reap the work of my hands, he started drama.

I called lawyers but the surprising aspect was that Nigerian lawyers told me I should forget it if I loved my life and I decided to just leave and go.

Although I wanted justice at all cost but from where? in Nigeria? I’m sorry, no way. I tried all I could at the end of the day , I went back to USA to get more money to run things but along the line I had to readjust before I could come back to Nigeria.

What exactly happened?

I heard the news that my immediate elder brother (Kunle Ogunkoya) who was the manager of my Gbedu club was murdered in front of the club. And nothing was done by Nigerian Police to bring to book those perpetrators. And that was how I lost my brother and my business between 1996/99.

That was quite unfortunate

Yeah. As if that was not enough atrocity. There was a time I went to one of the Adewale Ayuba’s show in Ikeja, GRA. I was robbed. My car, money, passport gone, just like that. And nothing was done.

But that happens every where, every time

Don’t just go there.You can’t compare America and Nigeria by any standard. Nothing like those things I mentioned happen here without proper investigation and also bring the offenders to book..
In America, someone who falls down in a store would be taken care of by the owner of that store and that was the simplest way of explaining it.In Nigeria where everything goes if you fall in Nigeria, you may be slapped by the owner or probably interrogated.

Would you share your experience in America?

After my terrible experience in Nigeria I went back to America and I was accepted with love and even to crown it all I was granted citizenship.

That is the difference between America and Nigeria. So, tell me, if you were in my shoes, would you have advised me to forget the past?

America is the dream for any human being.

How would you rate democracy in Nigeria?

The situation is so poor compared to when the country got her independence. There is no democracy anywhere in Nigeria . Politicians are merely deceiving Nigerians.

Are you thinking of coming back to this country?

Maybe when sanity returns to Nigeria and when democracy is really working.

Your most embarrassing moment?

That was when I spoke and nobody understood what I was trying to say, I got frustrated but everything has become a thing of the past .

Americans are lovely people. If you speak bad English, they will not take offence. They don’t laugh at you or make you feel stupid. I’ve mixed, worked, talked with them and have made some friends with them

Your relationship with other Nigerians…

Of course, but anytime we see or meet, the only thing we discuss is Nigeria and all the atrocities, shame and disgrace our politicians have brought to the country.

Now, we are talking of re-branding the country…

What country, are we talking about here? Is it the country that killed its Attorney-General and nothing happened. Who wants to re-brand the country?

Please, enough of this Nigeria question, let talk about myself and my music

Wouldn’t you want to establish Gbedu in Nigeria?

I’ve not thought of playing or establishing Gbedu in Nigeria. Maybe, when I completely get over my brother’s death. I’m happy playing for the Americans and expanding my coast beyond America, but definitely not Nigeria.

Why the choice of the name, Gbedu Master?

Gbedu master is a name given to me by late Fela Anikulapo Kuti, Uncle Steve Rhodes, Ben Tomoloju, Uncle Benson Idonije at Uncle Tunde Kuboye during the 3rd year anniversary of my band, Afro Gbedu Ensemble, which has become my stage name while my business name remains Afrobeat music. That was 1989/90.

Were you by any chance influenced by Fela Kuti’s music?

Yes, but unfortunately, I’m the only Afrobeat artist that never played for Fela Kuti .

How long have you been playing music?

Since 1985.

Your first album.

That was in 1988. It was labeled, “Na jeje ooo” It took me three years to produce my first album and that between the year 1987 and 1990.

Why Afrobeat music?

I love Afrobeat because its our own African music inherited from our culture and I believe we should be proud of taking our culture abroad. It’s music for the matured minds and the only thing closed to Jazz music where good musicians can express themselves. It’s our music Originality Nigeria music not hip-pop.

How many highlife musicians have you met?

Many of them both in Nigeria and abroad from Dr. Victor Olaiya , Eddy Okonta, King Sunny Ade, Late Fela Kuti amongst others.

…And if not music?

I would have become a boxer.

How would you rate music generally?

Food of love , but rating my own music, It is just the beginning.

Your popular “Eleyinju Ege,” how did you come about it?

Eleyinju Ege was a song I composed and put together because I wanted to write a song that will last for ever , call it Evergreeen Song and I was able to do that with God’s blessing and that was the same research I did on “Omo Pupa ooo from Victor Olaiya”.

Growing up

Though, no encouragement , no money , no support.

How would you describe yourself?

My profile looks rough and good , I’m a Nigeria born American citizen Afrobeat Artist who believe in the African arts and culture .