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.

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  1. You are such a geek… <3
    And your writing makes me as happy as the music, possibly more. THANK YOU.

    By the way, Rex called and he wants his record back.

  2. gracias grazia! Oh Rex

  3. Flabber gasted as always! I can't thank you enough for this quality recording, it sounds baaaad ass, just like the front cover.

    Much love from Amsterdam,


  4. I have to confess that African music drives me a little crazy with its massively repetitive nature but I appreciate the post and the informative writeup nonetheless.

    Remember Rex means "King". Rex may or may not be dead. Long live Rex!

  5. …I'm also not a fan of sweeping generalizations so I should have said "I'm not a big fan of THIS KIND of African music". There very well may be other varieties that are not quite so repetitive.

  6. Adoro quando você faz posts assim, tão sutis e engraçados. Você escreve muito bem, Flabber.

    Mas apesar de muito inteligente seu artigo sobre o dito "inner groove distortion", acho que você está subestimando nosso caro amigo.

    Olhe com cuidado, tenho certeza que você encontrará nos sulcos do vinil, perto dos selos A e B, pequenas "anomalias". Sob inspeção mais cuidadosa (talvez seja necessário o uso de microscopia), será possível decifrar suas verdadeiras formas: Nada menos que três minúsculas letrinhas escritas em alto relevo.

  7. Don't know this, but looks intriguing. Thanks a lot!

  8. Thanks for this – Madeleina was released on a 12" by Island records over here in the UK. Played it lots back in the day, but had minimal info on the artist who was just listed as Pablo from Zaire – So it's great to have the full album and the full story more that 30 years later. Ta very much

  9. Many thanks for this – like Anon. had Madeleina on 12" and on the NME compilation tapes

  10. Glad it is still up. And am I glad they gave credit where credit is due: The ladies on the cover went to

    Coiffure Marceline “Chic African Hair Dress”
    56, rue des Poissonniers – 75018 Paris

    Anyway, great Soukous music that sounds so much better in the extended version – rather than the abbreviated one on “Sound d’Afrique II”.

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