All About Jazz

Home » Articles » African Jazz


Compilations: Doing The Right Thing

Chris May By

Sign in to view read count
Double-albums of classic Congolese and South African recordings demonstrate the right and the wrong ways to go about compilations.

Tabu Ley Rochereau

The Voice Of Lightness Vol. 2: Congo Classics 1977-1993



From its inception, everything about Sterns' compilation program has been pitch-perfect. Curated by enthusiasts with deep knowledge of their subjects, who assemble collections which balance greatest hits with more obscure material, Sterns' compilations are exemplary. The care with which they are put together respects artists and listeners.

Congolese singer and bandleader Tabu Ley Rochereau's The Voice Of Lightness Vol. 2: Congo Classics 1977-1993 maintains the standard. Compiled and annotated by Ken Braun, one of the world's top half dozen Congolomelomanes (his term), the 17 tracks combine the familiar and the less well-known, and come with a 56-page booklet packed with photos, track-by-track personnel listings and a scholarly commentary which incorporates previously unpublished interview material with Rochereau and some of his surviving associates, including his longtime arranger and saxophonist, Modero Mekanisi.

From the 1960s through the 1980s, Pascal Tabu—better known as Seigneur Rochereau or Tabu Ley—was one of the best selling voices in Zairean, not to say African, music. The heir to Congolese rumba's Joseph Kabasele's progressive originating style with his band, African Jazz, Rochereau—today 70 years old and dividing his time between Kinshasa, Paris and Brussels—kept the flame burning with new dances and rhythms, poetic and romantic lyrics, and new fashions and forms of stage presentation.

By the late 1980s, Rochereau had released over 170 albums, and a total of over 2,000 songs, putting him in the same heavyweight bracket as his contemporary rumbaist Franco (who has been anthologized, also by Braun, in Sterns' Francophonic series). More polished than Franco's, Rochereau's style presented his own mellifluous vocals in front of Mekanisi's sophisticated arrangements for a band which featured, over the years, such breathtaking guitarists as Nico Kasanda Mikaleyi and Dino Vangu, and horn sections which could rock out, as powerfully as did Franco's T.P.O.K. Jazz, the extended "soukous" instrumental sections which were a feature of classic Congolese rumba.

The Voice Of Lightness Vol. 2: Congo Classics 1977-1993 can only skim across the surface of Rochereau's prodigious output, but it touches down in all the right places. It includes two tracks, "Kabesele In Memoriam" and "Lisango Ya Banganga," made by Rochereau and Franco together in Paris in 1983—the pair had been reunited by a shared desire to honor their mentor, Kabasele, who had just died back in Kinshasa—and another, "Loyenghe," featuring vocalist Mbilia Bel, who Rochereau in turn mentored and made into a star. Also included, the most explicit political song Rochereau ever recorded, "Le Glas A Sonne (The Bell Has Tolled)," which compares Zaire's President-for-Life, Mobutu, unfavorably with Congolese independence heroes Kasavubu, Lumumba, Bolikambo and Tshombe. The track was made in exile in Paris, along with "Exil-Ley," also included here, in 1993.

The Voice Of Lightness Vol. 2: Congo Classics 1977-1993 shows how a compilation ought to be put together.

Mahlathini And The Mahotella Queens / Soul Brothers

Jive And Soul: The Very Best Of



Compared with the Rochereau set, Jive And Soul: The Very Best Of is a little disappointing. There's nothing wrong with the music—a CD's worth each from South African township stars Mahlathini & The Mahotella Queens and the Soul Brothers—which focuses on both groups' gritty, early recordings from the 1970s and early 1980s. And the liner essay, by John Armstrong, is good so far as it goes, though it's too short to cover anything other than the basics. But crucially, the liner credits, as for Nascente's Miriam Makeba anthology, South Africa's Skylark (2010), lack session and personnel information (though they do include composers and publishers). When dealing with historically important material, it is incumbent on record labels to do the right thing by artists, listeners...and history.

That said, there are two discs of immortal music here, from the close harmonizing, rootical Mahotella Queens and their basso profundo male "groaner," Mahlathini, and the more outward looking Soul Brothers, whose Hammond B3-infused style incorporated elements of American soul, funk and gospel.


Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

Related Articles

Read Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba: Jama Ko African Jazz
Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba: Jama Ko
by Chris May
Published: January 14, 2013
Read Senegal’s Orchestra Baobab and Guinea’s Authenticite Movement Show Their Roots African Jazz
Senegal’s Orchestra Baobab and Guinea’s...
by Chris May
Published: February 3, 2012
Read Owiny Sigoma Band: Rising From The East African Jazz
Owiny Sigoma Band: Rising From The East
by Chris May
Published: May 1, 2011
Read Compilations: Doing The Right Thing African Jazz
Compilations: Doing The Right Thing
by Chris May
Published: December 5, 2010
Read The Majestic “Return” of King Sunny Ade & His African Beats African Jazz
The Majestic “Return” of King Sunny Ade &...
by Chris May
Published: September 29, 2010
Read Senegal's Etoile de Dakar featuring Youssou N'Dour and south London's Yaaba Funk African Jazz
Senegal's Etoile de Dakar featuring Youssou...
by Chris May
Published: June 1, 2010
Read "C. Michael Bailey’s Best Recordings of 2017" Best of / Year End C. Michael Bailey’s Best Recordings of 2017
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: December 5, 2017
Read "Autumn 2017" Blues Deluxe Autumn 2017
by Doug Collette
Published: September 23, 2017
Read "Jazzing: New York City's Unseen Scene" Book Reviews Jazzing: New York City's Unseen Scene
by David A. Orthmann
Published: August 29, 2017
Read "Pharoah Sanders at SFJAZZ" Live Reviews Pharoah Sanders at SFJAZZ
by Harry S. Pariser
Published: October 5, 2017
Read "Mike Jurkovic's Best Releases of 2017: Pianos Lead the Way" Best of / Year End Mike Jurkovic's Best Releases of 2017: Pianos Lead the...
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: December 30, 2017
Read "Holiday Roundup 2017" Multiple Reviews Holiday Roundup 2017
by Mark Sullivan
Published: December 11, 2017