Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

Music And Arts Scene

African Records Review

By Kwabena Asamoah

THOMAS MAPFUMO: 'Mr Music' (ERT 1008) 'Congress' 'Kufa Kwangu'/ 'Tondobayana' 'Juanita' 'Maria'

Once upon a time Thomas Mapfumo was a war hero during the Zimbabwean struggle for independence. The war is over but Mapfumo still remains a hero with his foot-stomping music devel- oped out of his native 'mbira' music. Mind you, 'mbira' is a hand instrument rather than a dance form but Mapfumo coordinates both dance and instrument well.

The full brassy intro coming from the Blacks Unlimited in the opening 'Congress' opens the doors for the hoarse but attractive voice of Thomas Mapfumo who is now reckoned to lead the greatest folk/rock band. The guitar picks throughout Mr Music is the hallmark of Zimbabwe pop music as you would find even in 'Congress' whose title alone says a lot.

Although recorded in an 8-track studio in Harare, this LP can match up against many others especially if you hear 'Tondobayana' which uses the 'mbira' instrument extensively. 'Juanita' sounding almost funky also showcases the other side of Mapfumo's music and its direction. The confirmation comes in 'Maria' with its reggae-based bass guitar works.

One is tempted to conclude that Thomas chooses wrong image on stage for his music (almost moving towards Bob Marley style) but the mood of his music remains both Zimbabwean and authentic. It would be interesting to hear his next LP recorded in London during his recent tour. Meanwhile, you cannot miss this LP.

TABU LEY: 'Afrisa Selection' (STERNS 1011) 'Amilo' 'Camarade Des Sous'/'Sanza Misato' 'Ebeze'

The two names Tabu Ley and Franco still stand supreme in Zairean music. Their styles are different but both still play Zairean pop music.

This first British release by Tabu Ley on the Sterns label marks the beginning of a historic event in the UK: to open the door to non-Anglophone African music. Though already released on the Genidia label in France under a different title, this new LP has an extra- ordinary array of exuberant music bol-stered by beautiful guitar works and excellent production. I wish I knew the secret of this production.

Saxman Modero and singer Pompon Kuleta play important roles on this LP arrangements and compositions. At a time when most Zairean groups sound a bit noisy at times Afrisa International manage to tune up at right angles. The Latin feel in 'Camarade Des Sous' and the soukous in the opening 'Amilo' portray a decent dance floor music.

Tabu Ley's own beautiful voice in spite of his long career permeates the music with grace which he sometimes shares with his beautiful wife and co- singer Mbilia Bel who is conspicuously absent from this LP. The vocal harmony in 'Sanza Misato' though com- mon with Zairean musicians is overtly extra beautiful here.

Zairean rumba is something which the world adores and you have it in 'Ebeze' where the bassist proves that he is the best from Zaire.

Let's try this LP which is already fast selling all over.


1. BEYOUNA Youlou Mabiala (TCHIKA) Congo
4. IL Y A UN SOLEIL Nya Soleil (MROL) Cameroon
5. OTITO (THE TRUTH) Sunny Ade (SALPS) Nigeria
6. AFRICA SELECTION Tabu Ley Rochereau (STERNS) Zaire
8. MAKWANDUNGU Bopol Mansiamina (BM TINA) Zaire
9. MR. MUSIC Thomas Mapfumo (EARTHWORKS )
10. GO SOUTH Various Artists (EARTHWORKS) Zimbabwe
11. OJO JE Segun Adewale (STERNS) Nigeria
12. ZULU JIVE VOL. 2 Various Artists (EARTHWORKS) South Africa
13. OYE ODO Pat Thomas/Ebo Taylor (DAN) Ghana
14. THE MASTERS A.B.Crentsil/J.Y. Thorty (ABC) Ghana
15. JALIYA Malamini Jobarteh/Dembo Konte (STERNS) Senegambia

Chart courtesy of AFROBOOM RECORDS,
135 Clarence Road, London E5 8EE (Mail Order & Distribution only).


A Bright Morrow

Indigenous heads crush under jackboots
they revenge and are
with pride and hope besmeared
faces they blubber
for they gather the tears and blood
in buckets and in drums
send them down the throats
and up through the goggled eyes of these
white usurpers
white strangers
white rulers
of the land of the
Blacks of South Africa
and their offspring and like rain falling from the heavens
fall from there
they will get drowned in a sea
of Black tears
of Black blood
at the appropriate time

Kwadjo Attakora Baah,

talking drums 1985-09-30 Ghana Now Inconsistencies and Realities - Miriam Makeba