Lost links & Re-ups

On any post, if the link is no longer good, leave a comment if you want the music re-uploaded. As long as I still have the file, or the record, cd, or cassette to re-rip, I will gladly accommodate in a timely manner all such requests.

Slinging tuneage like some fried or otherwise soused short-order cook

19 June 2013


Ramadhani ‘Remmy’ Mtoro Ongala was an African guitarist, singer, songwriter, & bandleader known as the ‘Doctor’. He was born in 1947 in Kindu, North Eastern Zaire. He performed in bands from the age of sixteen, learning his craft from his father, who was a well-respected, traditional musician. In 1978 Remmy travelled to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania where he joined Orchestra Super Makassy. Later he formed his own band, Orchestre Super Matimila (named after the local businessman who bought & owned the band’s instruments).

He had a majestic stage presence & his distinct voice, rich & soulful, soared above the lilting rhythms of the Orchestre Super Matimila. The rolling melodic drive of Zairean soukous is undeniable, but there is also the influence of traditional Tanzanian rhythms with plenty of snippets of latin & soul. His music was known as 'ubongo beat'. In Swahili 'ubongo' means brain. His lyrics gave his listeners much to think about.

He died at his home in Dar es Salaam after suffering kidney failure on December 13th, 2010.

This first release is from Remmy’s home-made two-track recording with its rough but understated sound.

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Side A –
Nalilia Mwana
Sika ya Kufa
Tembea Ujionee

Side B -
Ndumila Kuwili
Mnyonge Hana Haki
Arusi ya Mwanza

Also in 1988, a Kenyan bootleg of material called On Stage With Remmy Ongala (the record sides are labeled ‘Dance with Remmy Ongala On Stage’) became available internationally. This included a version of one of Ongala’s most popular songs, “Kifo” (Death).

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Side 1 -
Sauti ya Mnyonge
Asili ya Muziki
Side 2 -
Mama Mzazi
Narudi Nyumbani

This is a cassette release from the following year. This was a fertile time for Remmy, some of his greatest music.

Ahadi AHD (MC) 6009, 1989.
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Side A -
Hakuna Matapeli
Chaguo Lako
Side B -
Nani Ambembeleze Mwenziwe
Tumetoka Mbali


East Africa's distinctive taarab music (taarab meaning ‘to be moved’) is unique to the Swahili coast, which extends from Kenya down to Mozambique. But the music & culture's true homeland is the island of Zanzibar, off the coast of Tanzania. Taraab's best-known practitioners are the elegantly accomplished members of the great Culture Musical Club.

Taraab has its roots in Egypt, in the Cairo wedding bands with their classical Arabic repertoire. The instrumentation reflects this: ouds; khanouns; & dumbeks take places alongside bass, accordion, & violins. The music is dramatic & orchestral, like its Arabic inspiration, but sung in Swahili which gives it a thoroughly African twist.

Also like its Arabic counterpart, taarab is still performed at weddings. Culture Musical Club (known as Mila na Utamaduni in Swahili) is a true social club that still plays local weddings, as well as international festivals. The band gathers regularly at its clubhouse in Stone Town to rehearse & socialize. Although not the oldest taarab ensemble on Zanzibar (that honor goes to Ikhwani Safaa Musical Club, founded in 1905), Culture Musical Club has been an ongoing concern for decades, replacing members as needed & becoming a multigenerational outfit in the process.

Culture Musical Club began life as part of the youth organization of the Afro-Shirazi Party during Zanzibar's struggle for independence back in 1956. Today, Culture Musical Club is not only the largest, but also one of the most prolific, successful orchestras of Zanzibar. In addition to innumerable performances in Stone Town, villages of Zanzibar, & on the Tanzania mainland, this group has toured internationally with outstanding success. They have developed a distinct uniquely Swahili style.

 Culture Musical Club -Shime!, World Village, 2009. 
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Tracklist -

Yangu Haikuhusu
Ni Yeye
Sina Haja Ya Pendo Lako
Rejea Tena Chuoni
Muziki Ni Kazi Yetu
Kama Yalivyonipata
Kidumbaki, Part I: Babu / Naumwa
Kidumbaki, Part 2: Tuheshimu Wazazi / Mama wa Kambo / Kwa Heri Nakuaga

Bonus for all my loyal traveling companions. Taj Mahal is an musical adventurer with refined taste. The veteran American bluesman has long been fascinated by African styles. He has explored the links with the blues through his recordings with Toumani Diabate or live collaborations with Tinariwen. On this release he has moved from Mali to Zanzibar, to team up with the island's best-known orchestra, Culture Musical Club. It is as a reminder that there is great music in eastern Africa as well.

CMC are a world (or at least half a world) removed from Taj's robust blues trio. So to get comfortable with each other, the two cautiously explore each other's music, with the Club providing atmospheric bursts of gently wailing violins & Taj playing suitably Arabic-edged banjo on their sturdy songs. Then the two come together through the magick of musick. They kick into “Catfish Blues”; the legendary Bikidude, now in her 90s, tackles “Done Changed My Way of Living”; & they gamely tackle the witty M'Banjo (which although a Taj Mahal tune, even seems to be named appropriately African). I think you’ll all enjoy this. The result is much more than musical tourism.

Tradition & Moderne T&M 031, 2006.
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Tracklist –
Dhow Countries
Muhoga Wa Jang’ Ombe
Catfish Blues
Naahidi Kulienzi
Done Changed My Way of Living


1 comment:

  1. Nalilia Mwana
    On Stage With...