Franco Luambo — Attention Na SIDA
from Attention Na SIDA (1987)
I’m reading microbiologist Peter Piot’s excellent book about his life working in Africa, No Time to Lose: A Life in Pursuit of Deadly Viruses. It details the discovery and scientific detective work behind big killers like Ebola and HIV in central Africa, especially the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
In the book he mentions several campaigns to publicize the threat of HIV in 1980s Zaire. One was the “social marketing” of condoms—supplying them outside bars and nightclubs alongside cigarettes, drinks and cola nuts.
Another way to get the message out was music, like this track by Franco Luambo, from the Tout Pouissant Orchestre Kinshasa Jazz Band, which people danced to in nightclubs across the country. SIDA means AIDS in French—syndrome d’immunodéficience acquise—and Franco’s lyrics talk of protecting oneself to fight its spread.
The track had a personal resonance for Franco. He’d already been living with HIV for some years when he recorded this track, and he died of AIDS just two years later, in 1989.
Props to Rhythm Connection for the rip…
Teaspoon Ndelu — Sputla
from Ke Kopa Madulo (1981)
Disco funk from South African sax legend Teaspoon Ndelu. Just a few years before, American disco hit big in the townships, crosspollinating local mbaqanga and soul styles with glossy dancefloor sounds. Here’s the result. Yes please!
From the back of the LP: “Side Two kicks off with Sputla, a township lingua franca for a gin and tonic mix. If you are a man who seldom sleeps at home, better listen to this woman’s lament.”
Grab the album over at Electric Jive, an excellent collection of rare and out-of-print recordings from South Africa.
Francis Bebey — Pygmy Divorce
from Pygmy Love Song (1982)
Cameroonian synth music with yodeling, to tell the story of a failed pygmy marriage. Rarely does a song marry so thoroughly the politics of elephant tusk trading for a wife, with sentiments of regret. “Just now I be sorry, sorry plenty, sorry that I marry you. Because you make me cry all time. Why you make me cry and feel sad like that?”
The genius behind this strange brew is African renaissance man Francis Bebey, not only an accomplished singer, songwriter and musician (he played all the instruments on this album) but also a poet, writer, journalist and reporter for Radio France Internationale.
This album and many others at Freedom Blues, purveyor of the finest triple-distilled African tonics out there.
Hey guys. One post about geopolitics and then we can hustle back to your regularly scheduled programming of music and NYC photos.
My friend recently started up the blog World Leader du Jour, with this promise: “One world leader a day, 5 days a week. I do the work, you look worldly.” Well, if you’ve been waiting for the right moment to cancel your subscription to The Economist, this might just be it.
Follow if you like…and fasten your seatbelts cause word on the street says the DuJour-mobile is headed towards the Stans of Central Asia soon. Are you really gonna keep pretending you know who the leader of Kyrgyzstan is?
All aboard! We’re going to Morocco, home to Casablanca, Tangier and the capital city of Rabat. (The capital used to be Fes, but the French changed it after they invaded in 1912.)
Morocco has a prime minister, but the political power here belongs to King Mohammed VI, since he can dissolve parliament at any time.
Two fun (ish) facts about King Mohammed VI:
He has an honorary degree from George Washington University.
He has a Facebook page with many fans. Here is one:
Also, did you know couscous is a pasta, not a grain? Wha?!
*Crosby, Stills and Nash song, but I love this version. Hasheeshy.
Toumani Diabaté — Kaounding Cissko
from The Mandé Variations (2008)
I’ve been fooling around with my friend Sean’s Celtic harp lately, trying to get something that sounds good to come out of it. It’s addicting…and because it has many strings but no frets, it forces you to tell musical stories in different ways than a guitar would. A different sensibility. At any rate the harp has gotten me hooked on the sounds of many-stringed instruments.
Feeding that obsession, today I was very excited to see two guys playing koras in the subway. (see previous post) Here’s some music from the Malian kora master Toumani Diabaté to help you get strung out too.
Listen for the staccato rhythm of the lowest bass strings, deep below the cascading sounds of the highs. Amazing.
Celestine Ukwu & His Philosophers National — Okwukwe Na Nchekwube
from Nigeria Special: Modern Highlife Afro Sounds & Nigerian Blues 1970-76
Soundway Records with a beautiful two-disc set of highlife and blues. The slower tunes on this set, including this one by Celestine Ukwu & His Philosophers National, are sublime.
This is slide guitar used to its best effect…a feeling of drifting, of floating, of flying.