April 26, 2013

Orchestra Super Mazembe | Mazembe @ 45 RPM Vol. 1

ARTIST: Orchestra Super Mazembe
TITLE: Mazembe @ 45 RPM Vol. 1
LABEL: Sterns
Super Mazembe was a popular Congolese export band: they left the Republic in 1970 in search of greener fields, spending time in Zambia and Tanzania before achieving major success in Kenya starting in 1977.  This fine new album, compiled by Doug Paterson for Sterns, assembles nine of Super Mazembe’s best singles from the Kenyan years 1977 to 1979. “Mazembe” translates from Lingala roughly as “earthmovers” or “bulldozers” and the obvious connotations are apt ones: subtlety wasn’t their strong suit, getting people up and sweating on the dance floor certainly was. All these sides follow a similar formula, with an introductory statement of the song’s verses followed by an upshift in tempo (known as the sebene) that continuously builds in excitement with solo statements, improvised lyrics and the multi-guitar interplay that is so highly valued by fans of this style of music. Super Mazembe was a master of the sebene; all nine songs here are great illustrations of Congolese music’s ability to get even the dead to dance. These bulldozers didn’t break a lot of new ground, but what they dug they dug good and hard.
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