East African Music - African Radio

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Doug Paterson's Music Projects...

Here's another release in Stern's Music continuing series of reissues from the tape archives of Nairobi's AI Records. While I have worked on nearly all of the previous numbers in this series in selecting songs, writing notes, and restoring audio, this release was under the direction of DJ John Armstrong and I wasn't involved except as an interested observer. It's a great selection of 1970s - early 80s music from Tanzanian dance bands (muziki wa dansi), Congolese rumba bands (at the time called Zairean), and Kenyan benga groups. I did a short review of Urgent Jumping! for Afropop Worldwide which I have reproduced below:

Urgent Jumping! East African Musiki wa Dansi Classics is Stern's latest deep dive into the reservoir of classic East African pop music from the AI Records archives. The two disc set, compiled by UK (and one time Dar es Salaam) -based DJ John Armstrong, provides a fabulous blend of music by Kenyan, Tanzanian, and Congolese musicians as heard in East Africa throughout the 1970s and 80s. The collection features several flavors of rumba music interspersed with benga music from western Kenya, but sprinkled throughout with some interesting hybrid sounds that don't neatly fit either category very well.

From Tanzania, we have rumba dance music from Dar International Orchestra, Vijana Jazz, Urafiki Jazz, Afro 70, and the Congolese group Maquis du Zaire. From Kenya, there are the up-tempo benga sounds from Golden Kings, Kauma Boys, Victoria Jazz, Sega Sega, and Earthquake and a broad spectrum of Congolese rumba from Special Liwanza, Super Mambo, Super Jambo, Grand Piza, and Orch. Moja One. The hybrids and outliers include Sunburst, an Afro-rock group that formed in Tanzania in the early 70s and then recorded in both Kenya and Zambia; Super Mambo's "Nasalaki Nini," a rumba number that starts off in classic Congolese form and morphs into a pulsing Kenyan rumba style; Afro 70's "Cha Umheja" which is in the cyclical style of traditional Gogo music from central Tanzania; and Johnny Bokelo's Conga Internationale, out of character in doing a seemingly James Brown-inspired funk number, "Nakupenda Sana," rather than his usual rumba style.

As one might expect from a polished DJ, Armstrong's sequencing of the two discs is nicely done. The various styles fit together and flow smoothly from one to the next. Some East African music enthusiasts may not be pleased that Urgent Jumping! includes eight songs (of twenty-seven) that are easily available in several other compilations. For most, this shouldn't be an issue. As for the album notes, Armstrong draws us into the context of this music with some personal anecdotes and provides an overview of the musical setting. The text is not without some minor flaws and typos, however. In his discussion of record producers, he means River Road studios rather than River Boat and for Kenya's "twist music" originator, he writes John Mwale when he likely means John Nzenze (along with Daudi Kabaka), and the very first song title is misidentified as "Rufaa ya Kiko" when it should be "Rufaa ya Kifo" (an appeal against death as opposed to an appeal of pipes). Finally, in the subtitle to Urgent Jumping!, it should be muziki wa dansi (a Z rather than an S) and the notion of "dance music" bands is largely reserved for rumba music from Tanzania (as opposed to East Africa generally). Despite these quibbles, musically, this is a sweet, delightful album and another welcome addition to the growing body of classic East African Music now available to us.

For those who would like to explore issues discussed in the notes in greater detail, I recommend a volume of the journal World of Music edited by Frank Gunderson titled "Zili(zo)pendwa: Dance Music and Nostalgia in East Africa."

More information on this release and music samples are available on the Stern's website.

Doug Paterson

STCD3052 Western Jazz Band

Various Artists

Urgent Jumping! East African Musiki wa Dansi Classics

Stern's CD3067-68







East African Music - African Radio

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To contact Douglas Paterson, send email to dbpaterson(at)eastafricanmusic.com.

Last updated 26 October, 2016.

Copyright 1996-2016 Douglas B. Paterson, All Rights Reserved.