Dance Rock | Seattle

Tag: cavacha (Page 2 of 2)

Workflow and Ideas

It’s been a little while since I’ve written any music, but I have a ton of new ideas sitting in voice memos on my iPhone. Voice memos are crucial to my general workflow: listen to music -> hear things based on said music -> whistle or sing them into my phone -> weeks or months later do an intensive when I can set aside a big chunk of time -> make demos in Logic and sequence the voice memo ideas into songs. Some songs have been entirely linear senquences of my voice memo ideas (Bonfire, specifically, was constructed from like seven different unrelated ideas from over the course of 18 months). They percolate in my head once I have them down so I know I won’t forget them, and they combine with each other and become verses and choruses and calls.

I have my favorites likes everyone else within the genres I prefer, but I always treasure the first listen to something because a lot of new ideas seem to come out of that. Something about not being familiar with a song, not knowing where it’s going to go next because you’ve never heard it before, causes my brain to create the other places where I might have taken a phrase or song structure, the other notes I might have played over the chords. And that in turn leads to my own ideas, melodies that are only vaguely related to what I was listening to. Not that I haven’t been guilty of unconsciously lifting lines from old soukous records, I catch myself doing that from time to time. Sometimes I change it to fix it, and sometimes I just leave it. But the blank slate of the first listen often leads to my own new ideas, in ways that hearing old favorites probably never will.

– Adam

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

I still burn CDs. Sometimes.

Last year I started making mix CDs (“mixtape” sounds so much more legit so I’m going to use that term in the future) of African music I had run across from various ethnomusic blogs and YouTube. I then annoyed some of my friends and delighted others by passing them out semi-indiscriminately. I tried to kind of give them a theme, i.e. all hard-soukous, all catchy highlife etc., but I was making them before I had a decent understanding of the attributes of the genres and traditions. But, here’s the first one I did:

Africa Mix 1 (band – song)

  1. Kiam – Ifantu
  2. Stukas – Samba
  3. Zaiko Langa-Langa – Zaiko Wa Wa
  4. Kiam – Kamiki 1
  5. Kiam – Kamiki 2
  6. Zaiko Langa-Langa – Ngeli Ngeli
  7. Okukuseku Band of Ghana – Atanfo Wmohyere
  8. Basokin – Basongye

The songs are long, so eight tracks basically filled a CD. There was no theme to this one, I just put a bunch of songs that really stuck out to me on it. If anyone would like a copy of this mixtape, contact me.

– Adam

The Old and New World


Page 13 of Rumba On the River. I like the way Stewart describes the arrival of Latin music to Congo. Much of it was black music from the New World, shaped through the lives of generations of slaves, coming home to Africa through the phonograph and being eagerly greeted by the neighborhoods of Kinshasa.

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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