Pablo Lubadika Porthos – En Action: Ma Coco (1981)

Pablo Lubadika Porthos
En Action – Ma Coco
Released 1981
Afro Hit Records Discafrique – DARL-019 (France)

1. Ma Coco
2. Mbongo Mokonzi
3. Madeleina
4. Bo Mbanda

Pabulco Lubadika Porthos – composer, arranger, vocal, guitar, bass
Lea Lianzi – lead vocal
Jo John Mboutany – backing vocal
Master Mwana – congas, guitar
Domingo “Salsero” – drums, percussion
Manga Jerry – Trumpet
Priso – sax
Roger Kom – sax


Produced by Sonny Dick
M’Bahia Jean-Charles – manager
Richard Dick (!) – “executive producer”

Recorded at Studio Laguna, Paris.  An “International Salsa Musique” production

PABLO, Lubadika Porthos

(b 1950s, Zaire) African singer-composer, bassist, guitarist. Played in the 1970s with bands including Kin Bantous, Lovy du Zaire, Groupe Celibithou, Orchestre Kara; to Paris to play with Sam Mangwana and the African All-Stars on classic ‘Georgette Eckins’, joined session musicians on Salsa Musique label, playing on albums by Pamelo Mounk’a, Master Mwana Congo, Assi Kapela, and pursued a solo career with albums of fast, sweet soukous: Concentration, Idie, Revient En Force, En Action. Tracks ‘Bo Mbanda’ and ‘Madeleina’ on Island label’s African compilation ’81 brought wider fame; played with Les Quatre Etoiles in London ’84, released first UK album Pablo Pablo Pablo ’85 on Globestyle. He was much sought after for sessions. There was a compilation Okominiokolo ’93 on Stern’s.

from from

Vinyl; Pro-Ject RM-5SE turntable (with Sumiko Blue Point 2
cartridge, Speedbox power supply); Creek Audio OBH-15; M-Audio
Audiophile 192 Soundcard ; Adobe Audition at 32-bit float 192khz; Click
Repair light settings; individual clicks and pops taken out with Adobe
Audition 3.0 – resampled (and dithered for 16-bit) using iZotope RX
Advanced. Tags done with Foobar 2000 and Tag&

random crate digging lead me to this gem of early 80s soukous music and a
few others like it.  The guitars intertwine like go-go dancers playing
Twister at a ballet.   This is not to be missed, but since I don`t speak the
languages I can’t offer any insight into the lyrical content or context.  The vocals, sung in harmony throughout, are lovely and melodic, even if the melodies begin to seem a little overly familiar by the end of the second side.  The big hit on this record was “Madeleina” which offers a little of the best of everything.  It also showcases one of the unique traits of soukous – about which I know very little so indulge me for a moment:  it is a pop style, but one that has limitless patience to show you what it has to say.  It is uptempo but unhurried.  For those whose ears were first subjected to the strains of 80s “World Music” it may even seem oddly familiar, because in a way Soukous and Highlife conquered the world in that decade, reaching a global audience, and often being diluted and neutered by European and American pop stars incorporating them into their records.  Every now and then an actual African managed to garner fame enough to work up some ticket and record sales with non-African audiences.   It is not my area of expertise but I’ll go out on a limb and say that the popularity of African musics in Europe and the U.S. would not be possible without the vibrant immigrant populations and neighborhoods, whether in Paris, Notting Hill, or New York.  This particular album was recorded in Paris and released on the Afro Hit Records Discafrique label, with the “executive producer” / label guy / liner note author / redundantly-named man Richard Dick.

The drummer Domingo “Salsero” gets extra points for sheer stamina and the ability to fend off painful leg cramps from a pounding kick drum beat that never varies.  Drop the pitch on that drum a little and you would keep today’s club kids happy and giggling in Ecstasy for hours.  An interesting stylistic point is that the snare drums is barely used at all, being deployed only for fills.  The main beat is carried out strictly on kick and hi-hat, except for Madeleina which has a few sections where Domingo just rocks the fuck out on the snare.  In fact the centrality of the hi-hat to mark time leads to a technical problem with the vinyl.  As most vinyl enthusiasts have noticed, some records (in combination with some tone-arms and stylii) are prone to “inner groove distortion” where tracking the groove becomes a bit of a problem as the needle moves closer to the inner label, the end of an album side.  When IGD is present, the distortion is almost always in the forms of high frequency sibilance.  In this case, it sounds as if the hi-hat is in danger of coming loose from the drum kit, flying out of your speakers, and decapitating you on your sofa.  So don’t turn the volume too loud or that just might happen.  My cartridge can be prone to sibilance in the first place (as one obnoxious blog visitor pointed out), but usually it is only an issue with certain records and even certain pressings of certain records.   Some months after transferring this album, I realized
that an extra tenth of a gram of weight on the tone-arm could sometimes
help this problem, helping the stylus to sit better in the groove and hence track more cleanly, but by then I had already refiled the LP, done
preliminary processing (Click Repair and track division) and sort of
resolved myself to working with this as it is.  If I can remember to try playing
this album with a little more weight someday, maybe I will start all over
again on this one, but don’t hold your breath.  I am also not convinced the difference will be anything but minimal, as a lot depends on the quality of the recording and especially the pressing plants that made the records.  Sad but true, while many major-label albums are certainly known to give audio enthusiasts a headache with Inner Groove Distortion (there are lists out there!), the problem seems even more common with smaller labels who had lease resources, quality control, and/or access to first-rate mastering and pressing facilities.

Draft of an abstract, The Story of the Object, the Circulation of the Commodity, and the Inscription of Names: Globalization and African Music from Paris to New York.  Submitted by Flabbergast  to the Journal of Musical Semiology and Historical Materialism, Ikea Publishing House: Amsterdam.

This Pablo Lubadika Porthos album once belonged to Rex.  After he brought it home, Rex noticed that
the New York City shop where he purchased it was astute enough to put a
little sticker on the back cover advertizing its name and location.
Good business practice for an independent retailer specializing in the
importation of African music.  Realizing that he also had a
responsibility to future generations, Rex resolved to inscribe his own
mark for the aid of future music historians.  He did this with a big
thick magic marker on the front, back, and center labels of the album.
Like any fine artist, he set his work aside for a day or two to
contemplate it, putting it on an easel in the corner of the room where could gaze upon it while smoking cigarettes and eating jelly donuts.  The muse
whispered in his ear that the work was not yet finished.  Going to the
art supply shop, he bought himself a fine felt-tipped pen and came back
to his loft, where he set to work inscribing his name in his
characteristic, singular hand, in miniscule letters nestled inside the
lettering of the album title, and inside the back cover photo of
Lupadika.  In one final flourish, he signed and dated the inner label:

At last the artist could rest.

More than 30 years later, an artificial intelligence on the internet named Flabbergast took it upon
himself to “restore” this artwork in Photoshop and remove all traces of Rex’s handiwork before further circulating the commodity in the accumulation of bandwidth. With the important exception of the inner label marking, which is permanent and irreversible.  In this act of inscription, Rex highlights how the erasures of colonial histories are resistant to the globalizing universalism of Late Capitalism.

password: vibes

Harry Whitaker / Black Renaissance – Body, Mind and Spirit (1976)

Black Renaissance
Body, Mind and Spirit

1. Black Renaissance
2. Magic Ritual

Recorded at Sound Ideas, New York, NY (01/15/1976).

Arranger: Harry Whitaker.

Players: Harry Whitaker (piano); Lani Groves, Edna Holt, Sandy Nakarmura, Assata Dolby (vocals); Azar Lawrence (soprano & tenor saxophones); David Schnitter (tenor saxophone); Woody Shaw (trumpet); Buster Williams (bass); Billy Hart, Howard King (drums, percussion); Mtume, Earl Bennett (percussion)


For those of you who have never heard of this album, it will come as a lovely surprise. For those who have heard about it but have yet to actually hear it, it might well seem a bit over-hyped, due in no small part to the douchebaggery of one Giles Peterson, who prattles on in the liner notes about how cool he is for knowing about it and showing it off to any other DJ’s who “dared to challenge” him. Well if you ignore that bloated musical neocolonialist (and snappy dresser), you can immerse yourself in what was truly a lost gem, lost even to its creator for decades.

Recorded on Martin Luther King Day in 1976, Whitaker invested his own hard-earned money as an arranger, writer, and session player into making this boldly uncommercial soul-jazz exercise in musical stretching. It features understated riffing from Azar Lawrence, David Schnitter, and the eternally-underrated Woody Shaw. Anchoring the rhythm is stalwart bassist Buster Williams with Howard King on drums and James Mtume on percussion. These latter two would go on to release the first album from the band Mtume the following year, and it’s interesting to keep that in mind while listening to this. While the first side of this album straddles a line between between mellow funk and spaced-out soul jazz (and is a bit long-winded at 23 minutes), the second and shorter side ‘Magic Ritual’ is a more aggressive, agitated piece of Afrocentric celebration. There is effective use of spoken word here that puts us comfortably in Strata-East and loft scene territory. More industry/label hype is compelled to claim this is “one of the earliest examples of rap” or some such nonsense. How many records are we going to bestow that honor on? At any rate claiming this for an album released as late as 1976 is a ludicrous statement that ignores so many musical ancestors it barely merits discussion. So, I’ll stop discussing it.

Since it is Martin Luther King Day in the United States, and since the next US president is likely to abolish that holiday, this makes today probably the last opportunity to celebrate this album without being locked up and held in indefinite detention without Habeas Corpus.

The sound on the CD is burdened with distortions, but given that the masters were destroyed and the source used here is presumably the Japanese bootleg that until now was the only available release, at the end of the day it sounds surprisingly good.

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Mulatu Astatke – Mulatu of Ethiopia (1972) 180-gram vinil


Mulatu Astatke
“Mulatu of Ethiopia”
1972 Worth Records (W-1020)
2003 Reissue on 180-gram vinyl

1 Mulatu 5:00
2 Mascaram Setaba 2:40
3 Dewel 4:00
4 Kulunmanqueleshi 2:05
5 Kasalefkut-Hulu 2:25
6 Munaye 3:15
7 Chifara 7:00


Vinyl -> Pro-Ject RM-5SE turntable (with Sumiko Blue Point 2 cartridge, Speedbox power supply) > Creek Audio OBH-15 -> M-Audio Audiophile 2496 Soundcard -> Adobe Audition 3.0 at 24-bits 96khz -> Click Repair light settings -> dithered and resampled using iZotope RX Advanced. Tags done with Foobar 2000

from the back cover:

“Once again Mulatu Astatke has come to us from Ethiopia, with a new and different sound. He has interwoven into his fantastic arrangements the beautiful Ethiopian five-town scale and the Afro-American soul and jazz sounds.

The melodies and rhythms pulsate through your mind hours after hearing them. This is a record you cannot play just once. It is musically addictive, especially when the volume is turned up.

I have worked with Mulatu on three albums and find him to be a unique and creative individual, a composer, arranger, and fine instrumentalist. Here is a man from the New Africa, who will change the face of music, a man destined to make international musical history. All of Ethiopia can be proud of Mulatu Astatke.

Mulatu would like to thank the Ethiopian Airlines, Mr. Magos Legesse and Mr. Girpa Geba, for their kindness and cooperation.

— Gil Snapper
President of Worthy Records “


Although “Gil Snapper” may have been prone to hyperbole — and an unnecessary use of commas, which I took the liberty of removing — in the text above, he was right on about one thing: Mulatu Astatke was destined to make international musical history. At the time this album was released, however, he was not nearly as well-known in the US (where these sessions were recorded) than in Africa. Listening to it, it is pretty damn striking just how “ahead of his time” the guy was in 1972, and how much this single record must have influenced a lot of other influential musicians, arrangers, DJs, and so on.

This is some of the funkiest, most ‘out’, and most psychedelic stuff Mulatu ever committed to tape, and to my knowledge has never appeared on any of the voluminous Ethiopiques collections. Most likely due to somebody who has the rights to the obscure Worthy Records label catalog? Well, this was reissued on vinyl in 2003 and apparently on CD only in Japan. I would be interested in hearing the Japanese pressing to see if it lives up to that country’s usual audiophile standards.. Because this vinyl pressing really isn’t worthy (pun intended…) of a 180-gram pressing. That could easily be because of the source material of the master tapes, original mixes, etc, and Lord knows there has been far worse issued as 180-gram strictly to cash in.. Even so, I have heard both the ‘normal’ 2003 repressing and the 180-gram and can’t discern any audible difference between the two. This rip is not from a mint-condition copy and has a rather ‘dull’ fidelity to it, but any distortions you might hear are almost definitely from substandard vinyl-pressing and/or on the masters used for it. Also, although I took some high-resolution photos of the album, I can only find the shots I took of the label on the vinyl, and the album is now in a Galaxy Far Far Away, so you will have to settle for the low-res pics I found on Discogs. If I locate the better photos I will post them here.

The music? F’ing fantastic. Truly hypnotic grooves, fantastic sax and flute work, innovative soul-jazz-funk drumming and bass guitar lines.. Too bad none of the musicians are credited. Unfortunately the keyboard player, who seems to be playing the same two chords on a Farfisa through a wah-wah peddle throughout the entire album, is mixed WAY too loud in the right channel. But even that can’t spoil the sheer joy of this album. (p.s. A listener who grabbed this somewhere else I had posted it tells me he had good results just boosting the left channel about 2 db.)

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in FLAC LOSSL3SS AWDIO. still pretty small.

It’s a short album. Give FLAC a chance!

Bembeya Jazz National – The Syliphone Years (2004)

Sterns Music

Bembeya Jazz National
The Syliphone Years
Recordings from the 1960s and 1970s
2-CD Anthology released by Sterns Africa 2004
Liner notes in French and English by Graeme Counsel


1. Republique Guinee
2. Sabor de guajira
3. Armee Guineenne
4. Dembaty Galant
5. Air Guinee
6. Guinee Hety Horemoun
7. Montuno De La Sierra
8. Waraba
9. Dagna
10. Doni Doni
11. Camara Mousso
12. Super Tentemba
13. Mami Wati
14. Alalake


1. Beyla
2. Fatoumata
3. Moussogbe
4. Sou
5. N’Gamokoro
6. Ballake
7. Mussofing
8. Dya Dya
9. Sino Mousso
10. N’Temenna
11. Telephone
12. Petit Sekou

I don’t usually like to just cut and paste reviews from other places in lieu of my own thoughts and commentary. But not only am I running around trying to settle a nasty visa issue this week, but I have also been sitting for months on a stack of amazing compilations from the likes of Sterns and Analog Africa and it’s about time I shared one of them. Since this one has a nice, well-written review from BBC, why not let them do the talking while I sip my morning coffee? I will just add: this is great music.


BBC Review
“‘..its hard to fault this superlative and long overdue re-issue,which commemorates a truly golden era in African music.”

Jon Lusk 2004-12-21


The music made in Guinea during the first two decades after independence from France in 1958 represents some of the most sublime and influential that any West African nation has ever produced. Backed by Sékou Touré’s socialist government, groups from every region of the country were encouraged to modernise their ancient musical traditions and were given the financial assistance to do so. And of all the musical riches that this policy unearthed, those of Bembeya Jazz National were the finest.

If you weren’t quite convinced by the band’s 2002 comeback album Bembeya, and the recent Guitar Fö from their mighty guitarist Sékou Diabaté, this 2-CD compilation really shows what all the fuss was about. It’s a thorough selection of their best work for the national Syliphone label, which began releasing local music in the mid 1960s. For those already familiar with compilations like Mémoire de Aboubacar Demba Camara -at least half of which is reproduced here -the first disc, which includes many early singles previously unavailable on CD, will be a revelation.

Highlights? Pretty much the whole damn thing, though it depends on your mood, such is the variety of styles they experimented with. All the ingredients that made their music so wonderful are there on their first single “République Guinée”; the trademark off-key brass section, grooving percussion, Sékou Diabaté’s exquisite guitar and the distinctively savoury vocals of Demba Camara. Apart from updating the griot songs of their largely Maninka heritage, the band revelled in outside influences.

Titles like “Sabor de Guajira”, “Montuno de la Sierra” and the rumba-flavoured gem “Dagna” illustrate the passion for Cuban music which they shared with many West African musicians of their generation. Likewise, “Mami Wata” is an affectionate nod to Ghanaian highlife, and “Sou” takes a short trip to Cape Verde. The compilation brings us as far as 1976, three years after the death of Demba Camara, by which time their sound was beginning to take on a soukous flavour.

Those who are fussy about sound quality should perhaps be warned that some of the recordings are copied from vinyl rather than the original master tapes, but also that this music is about ambience, not accuracy. The only major omission is anything from the epic Regard sur le Passé, probably because as Graeme Counsel’s excellent sleevenotes explain it consists of a single song spread over two sides of vinyl, and is best heard in its entirety. Otherwise, its hard to fault this superlative and long overdue re-issue, which commemorates a truly golden era in African music. If the brooding, majestic grace of Ballake doesn’t give you goosebumps, you should probably see a doctor soon. – Jon Lusk, BBC

Sterns Music

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Thre Green Arrows – 4-track Recording Session 1974-79 (2007) {Analog Africa No.1}

This post is for Waltzing Matilda in São Paulo


analog africa

4-Track Recording Session
Released 2006 on Analog Africa
Original recordings made between 1974 – 1979

1 Mwana Waenda
2 Bambo Makwatila
3 Chitima Nditakure
4 Amai Mandida
5 Towering Inferno
6 Nkosi’s Intro
7 Chipo Chiroorwa
8 Dororengu Rinonaka
9 No Delay (Bullitt)
10 Nhengure
11 Infalilibe Chisoni
12 Madzangara Dzimu
13. 13 Nherera Zvichengete
14. 14 Musango Mune Hangaiwa
15. 15 Nyoka Yendara
16. 16 Hurungwe
17. 17 Chechule Wavala Botom
18. 18 Chimamuna Chamímba
19. 19 Vaparidzi Vawanda
20. 20 Wasara Wasara

This is a great compilation from the wonderful Analog Africa label. The first release in their catalog, it is put together with all the loving care you would come to expect — great notes, great research, amazing photos and graphic layout. Sound is good too. One weird thing is that the booklet refers the listener to their website to check out the lyrics, and the website — even in 2010 — is a placeholder with nothing on it. It is almost charming that they don’t give a crap about websites and instead focus on such amazing, dedicated PHYSICAL OBJECTS of their releases!

In the links you will find full artwork scans of the 20-page booklet in JPG and TIF. Lots of photos of the band posing around motor vehicles of some kind — cars, buses, tractors…

I don’t typically like posting reviews from other places, but I am busy writing other things today and this brief piece from the BBC is smart and succinct:

Garth Cartwright 2007-04-17

Zimbabwe is an African nation that is constantly in the news for all the wrong reasons: Robert Mugabe’s lethal grip on power, the collapse of the economy, brutal oppression of any individuals brave enough to challenge the ruling regime, absolute poverty and a soaring mortality rate. To think Zimbabwe was once a nation feted by the likes of Bob Marley and celebrated internationally for its fertile music scene!

Depressing as current conditions in Zimbabwe are this album reminds of how magical the nation once was and hints that the natural talent and ingenuity of the citizens will once again flower in a better future. The Green Arrows are now considered the most important musical act to emerge from Zimbabwe in the 1970s. Initially formed by Zexie and Stanley Manatsa in 1966, The Green Arrows rapidly rose to become (by 1970) the most popular bar band in Rhodesia (as the nation was then known). Stanley quickly developed into a superb guitarist whose sparkling, melodic playing continues to inspire today.

Nicknamed “wha-wha (=beer) music” as they made their name playing the large drinking dens the nation’s workers congregated at, The Green Arrows were the first Zimbo band to record an LP (in February 1976) and still hold the record for the longest stay at No 1 (with ”Musango Mune Hangaiwa” holding on for four months). This 20-track compilation covers their recording history from 1974-1979 and reveals a remarkably dynamic and imaginative band. While the drums-bass-guitar(s) line-up mimics Western pop-rock acts, the Manatsa brothers were inventive musicians who effortlessly fused traditional Southern African flavours with American influences. Superb sleeve notes from African music expert Banning Eyre make this a CD to treasure.

analog africa

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