Northern Thorns

Dance Rock | Seattle

Tag: 70’s

Kiam Collection Is Now Complete!

Orchestre Kiam Super Hits Vol. 1 Front Cover

Kiam Super Hits

I finally found the last two Kiam songs that I hadn’t heard! This LP popped up as an auction on eBay a couple weeks ago and I jumped on it. I have been looking to collect all the Kiam songs on vinyl, which I assume will be a years-long project. This is the third of the four Kiam LPs that I have now (they have a lot of 45s as well).

However, I was also missing two songs from my digital collection of Kiam songs, and in fact had never heard them at all. Yule and Namaraley are on this record, and I now have the whole Kiam discography in some form or another.

I listened to them for the first time yesterday. It’s a collector-grade piece of vinyl, very clean jacket and record, and it plays perfectly (this means I’ll have better versions of Mbale, Makonda and Azangai too, as soon as I get around to ripping them). I paid an awful lot for it, more than I ever expected I would. There were other bidders but in the end I was willing to spend whatever it took, and I scared them off when they weren’t able to outbid me.

As for the unheard songs? I see why no one bothered to put them online as of yet, they’re comparatively pretty weak. But they have their moments, and I’ve satisfied my completist desire for the whole catalog.

Also of great interest was the rear jacket, which has some great biographical info on it including a mantion of Lita Bembo playing in the group at one time. I had no idea about that.

Orchestre Kiam Super Hits Vol. 1 Back Cover

Kiam Super Hits

The text on the rear jacket (complete with spelling and syntax errors):

Orchestre Kiam is not a new name in the music world as when most of us hear the name of this group we are reminded of their Top Single such as MEMI, KAMIKI, YANGA YANGA –  to name but a few. This group was formed only three years ago but as a result of their efforts they have managed to get themselves a good place in the Top list of best players of Zaire in 1976 and so they were sent to Lagos Nigeria during the Black African Festival.

The name KIAM in it’s long form means KIAMUANGANA so when you hear this you know undoubtedly that Kiamuangana Mateta – the Pop star is involved in one way or the other. I should say he advises them in the musical field and arranges orchestration. It is his own band but he doesn’t play with them. The group is composed of very special members whose functions apart from playing istruments are known for their compositions – people like Kanza Rayon, Muzola Ngunga, Bamueniki [Mwana-Moni  Afinda]  Lita Bembo, Nkodia via Nkodia to name but a few.

This is KIAM’S first LP in their super Hits series and includes the latest and newest hit “MBALE” by mfui Mwane as well as “AZANGAI” by Shgungu. 

Join us and keep up to date with orch. Kiam.

I Realize No One But Me Finds This Exciting

But I found a new image of Orchestre Kiam that I’d not seen before. Also I read that both guitarists are now dead, as are a lot of the musicians from the golden era in Kinshasa. I guess there wasn’t much hope of a reunion anyway.

Orchestre Kiam Band

There was also a Kiam song on YouTube that I hadn’t heard, posted a couple of weeks ago. Mayika is the name, and now I’m only missing two songs: Yule and Niamaraley(sp?)

This is a great song, classic sebene riffs and a very nice ensemble vocal call. See what you think:

Verckys, all things Verckys.

It’s criminal to me that Verckys Kiamuangana Mateta barely has a Wikipedia page, it’s like a consolation prize considering his influence on Afropop. My favorite group of the whole era, Kiam/Orchestre Kiam, was one of his stable bands and took its name directly from his.

Verckys was a musician, manager, promoter, club owner and financier of a lot of the very best bands in the Congo music scene, and was right on the cutting edge of bringing in rock influences to the music. The bands Verckys was involved in are some of my favorites. Rather than going on at length about him here, I’ll link to a Likembe post that was significant for me when I was discovering this stuff. It has a free downloadable mix, grab it! It’s great.

– Adam

To Start At the Beginning

This music I’m obsessed with, cavacha or soukous music, is from Zaire, now the Democratic Rebublic of the Congo, and its lineage like any other music can be traced as far into the past as you’re willing to dig. But the stuff I’m obsessed with is from the mid- to late-1970’s basically; I consider that time period the golden age of hard soukous music (by the way, most of the history I know surrounding this I gleaned from Gary Stewart’s excellent book Rumba On the River, the Congo music bible for uninitiated English speakers.

Gary Stewart Rumba On the River

Stewart describes early in his book the phonograph becoming available to the Congolese and all the music of Cuba and South America migrating back across the Atlantic after centuries of a sort of exiled development in the west. Access to recorded music, and migrants from outside the cities, made the scene in Kinshasa and Brazzaville possible.

So, rumba happened, and got hugely popular, all over Africa. Often the genre was referred to as “Congo” music. It eventually grew to utilize large bands with multiple percussionists and electric guitarists, big horn sections and 3-5+ vocalists (the stars of the scene generally). The primary percussion instruments were maracas, bells and conga drums. Some big names such as African Jazz and OK Jazz reflect the Congolese affinity for the American term Jazz, even if their sound bore little resemblence to it. This Congo rumba music is often beautifully melodic, and there’s an absolute ton of it out there to discover. The scene thrived for decades.

Sometime in the early 1970’s (near as I can tell), the American drum set was introduced to Kinshasa, and almost overnight everything got driving, louder, and irresistibly danceable. Bands discovered Jimi Hendrix and James Brown (whose visit to Africa in 1974 is constantly cited as a watershed moment for African music), and everything took on a rock and roll quality, even using the backbeat at times.

This is the era I’m in love with. The marriage of the qualities of Congolese rumba with western rock music produced the best sounds I’ve ever heard. And though some people know the term “soukous,” I think the music of this era deserves to be heard more. So that’s my mission, on this site and through my own band.

OK, that’s more than enough for now

– Adam

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