As promised, I will dedicate a few posts in these weeks to the work of Franco and his OK Jazz. And today I start with this album of songs recorded and released in the 1960s (I estimate they are from 1966 and 1967). As far as I can ascertain (I have never seen a catalogue of this label), all these tracks were originally released on the Boma Bango label.
Most of the tracks on this lp have been digitally released on Sonodisc CD 36553, and two of those tracks have been re-issued on Glenn Music SAKU 007. Personally I can remember feeling very disappointed when I heard the Sonodisc cd, as the wonderfully open sound of the Pathé lp had been dynamically compressed (thus boosting the presence of the music and levelling the depth). In retrospect I can only conclude that the level of compression is rather moderate, and that things have gone from bad to worse - and way beyond - since....
The songs are from a period when both Vicky Longomba and Mulamba Joseph a.k.a. Mujos were still active as singers with the OK Jazz. Backing them on most of these songs is Michel Boyibanda.
A number of these songs seem to carry a political message, "Retroussons Les Manches"("Let's roll up our sleeves") being the most obvious of these. With "Matinda" there is only a slight reference to Patrice Lumumba, and it seems unlikely this has a political intention.
"Colonel Bangala", however, is certainly political, or at least a reference of a more topical nature. Colonel Alphonse Bangala, Governor of Leopoldville, had in May 1966 turned in four ex-ministers, stating they were plotting a coup against Mobutu (who himself had assumed power only six months before). He claimed he had received instructions from Mobutu to pretend to go along with the plot. More details can been found in these two (1, 2) newspaper clippings. It seems safe to assume Franco was singing in praise of the Colonel....
But the song "Course Au Pouvoir"("Race to power") has nothing to do with politics. It is Franco's final retort to Kwamy's repeated attacks, the last of which had been "Faux Millionaire" (with Rochereau's African Fiesta). Kwamy had recruited some of the members of the OK Jazz for his Orchestre Révolution (more about this here, and in a future post), and Franco was getting really fed up with Kwamy. According to Ewens (in his book "Congo Colossus") Franco* replies: "You are running me down everywhere, my brother, but I take it as a joke. You have invaded my private life. What jealousy. It hurts you to hear that Franco has done this or that... You wish Franco's name would disappear for ever. God created Judas, but judas stabbed him in the back" (* although it is actually Vicky who is singing). The duel between Franco and Verckys, that follows these harsh words has become a classic in the extensive repertoire of the OK Jazz, and was repeated in Abidjan, in 1980, with Matalanza playing the part of Verckys.
Pathe STX 229 (new link August 27, 2012)
PS: I will be back with more Franco very soon.