A pioneer of Congolese rumba, vocalist Wendo Kolosoyi celebrates the recent release of Marie Louise (Label Bleu, 1999) with tours in Europe and North America. A star in Kinshasa's golden years (1940s and 1950s), Wendo's fame spread overnight with the release of his single Marie Louise in 1948 on the Ngoma label, becoming the first pan-African hit.. On this recording he is accompanied by one colleague from those early days, the chorister Albert Emina, as well as a cadre of young crackerjack musicians, bringing the langorous sounds of classic rumba to life with warmth and humour.
Full name is Antoine Wendo Kolosoy, was born on the 25th of April, 1925
and passed away on the 28th of July 2008.
The touring group consists of seven musicians, including the distinctive young guitarists Vula Missy and Bikunda N'Zoku, and bassist Ngaila Bikunda. They perform such classic hits as "Marie Louise" (legend had it that when this was sung at midnight it could resuscitate the dead, causing the Catholic Church to chase Wendo out of Kinshasa), "Paul Kamba" and "Mobembo." This music is timeless and captivating.
Wendo perfected his musical skills while working as a ship's mechanic for the River Congo Transport Authority, performing in ports they visited up and down the river. He chronicled the daily lives of the Congolese in the decade leading up to their independence from Belgium in 1960. After independence, the musical scene in Kinshasa was dominated by politics, and Wendo, being apolitical, soon disappeared from view. Support from the label also disappeared when its owner, the famous Greek Niki Geronimidis, died soon thereafter. It wasn't until 1992 that Wendo recorded a new release, called Nani Akolela Wendo? It was a huge hit, and served to catapult this legendary artist back into the performance circuit after an absence of almost 30 years. After appearing at MASA in 1999, Wendo's reputation continued to grow abroad, resulting in a European tour in the fall of 1999. This marked the first time the septuagenarian had performed outside of the Congo. A tour in North America is being planned for the summer of 2000 (July-August).
*Wendo's name is Antoine Kalosoyi, which was transformed by popular usage into Kolosoy. He became 'Windsor' (in hommage, they say, to the Duke of Windsor), which then evolved into Wendo Sor. Today he is most often referred to as simply Wendo, or Papa Wendo.
He was known by his nick name amongst musician as Papa Wendo.
Kolosoy was considered one of the first Congolese musicians,
named the "Father" of rumba music. This Congolese musical style
blends cha-cha, beguine, rumba, waltz and tango dance music.
Life and Music
Wendo grew up in the Mushie territory. At that time, the government
was under the Belgian colonial rule. He lost his father at the age
of seven, then his mother soon after that event.
When the orphan Wendo turned 11, he started practicing guitar. He
began to perform on stage at the early stage of his life in order to
earn a living.
Throughout his life, he travelled to many places and worked many
jobs, including being a sailor, fighting as a boxer, and even
working as a longshoreman.
When Kolosoy turned 13, he went to entertain passengers in the long
trips on the Congo River ferries. that's the perios when he horned
his musical and performing skills as a professional artist.
Wendo is considered by many as the creator of Soukous.
"Soukous" in French means to shake, derived from the word "secouer".
Kolosoy's last album recording was the Banaya Papa Wendo,
which was sold and released in 2007 on IglooMondo label. Fans praise
this piece of art as The very best of Congolese Rumba - The
From 2005, Wendo started performing in the public with his music band, though he had to
overcome some financial difficulties left by politicians.
band originated from part of France -Rajasthan. Musafir has been on
stage performing with famous Kimmel Center in Philadelphia - a local
DJs Darshana group.
This music band is more like the "Gypsy" play with classical Hindi
country folk style of Rajasthani, usually used to entertain the
crowed in festivals of the Norhten America.
Among the team, demonstration by Aurelio Martinez was one of the
surprise for the general audience. The strange mixing of local
Caribs and the fast pace survivors style was the main emphasis of
the show, mainly using the drum with bare hands. His delightful
album Garifuna Soul can now be bought through electronic
media as MP3 tracks.
"In spite of war, poverty, disease, corruption, cynicism, and
indifference, there is always a bit of blue sky somewhere."
Crooners played a vital roll in transforming the style and the way
artists play music on stage, along with combining classic and modern
musical instruments, such as bass guitar sound
with digital piano keyboards mixing effects, rock and roll,
country style ancient harmonica and some other organs.
In the 1950s, deep in the heart of Africa, they were crazy about
jazz to the point that all they dreamed about was to become singers.
Their careers took off in the most promising manner, but the turmoil
of a long fight for independence in Zimbabwe brought chaos and
mayhem. Logically, their musical careers got put on the back burner.
Today, the Cool Crooners are starting a second life. The charm of
their harmonizing voices has retained all of its strength. Their
very first album, Blue Sky, is the tangible proof.
With a variety of styles and thanks to many artists such as Youssou
N'Dour, Salif Keita, Ismael Lo, Manu Dibango or Johnny Clegg, among
others, African music has been spreading beyond its boundaries for
many years. It can claim major influence on the most prominent
musicians of the western world, who find inspiration in its sounds
and rhythms. Nonetheless, vast and secret, Africa still abounds in
talented musicians who have remained obscure for too long. One
discovers them by chance, like the Cool Crooners, during a trip to
southern Africa, on the high plateaus of Zimbabwe - more precisely,
in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe's second largest city.
Bulawayo is a town where modernity and tradition, black culture and
the indelible white colonial influence intertwine in a typically
African way. Here , the heritage of British prescence is
omnipresent. In some elegant nineteenth century buildings, the sober
cut of the women's dresses is far from the traditional colorful
outfits of the women of Western Africa. So are the school girls'
uniforms that vary from British uniforms only in their pink shirts
and violet blouses borrowed from the flowering shrubs one finds in
abundance on the streets. Only a couple of miles away lies the tomb
of Cecil Rhodes, the British businessman who colonized, with the
help of the United Kingdom, the territories situated north of the
Transvaal that bore his name - Rhodesia - and which were to become
Music is for lazy people
There are still many other signs of past British imperialism, whose
rule was imposed in the sole interest of the white minority, and
could only be maintained through harsh racial segregation, as in
South Africa. One of the consequences was the gathering of the black
population, deprived of their land, in the ghetto called townships
on the outskirts of the cities. So it was with Bulawayo, whose
oldest township is Makokoba. Makokoba is where the four Cool
Crooners were born and where they still live today in small brick
buildings or in semi-detached houses covered with corrugated iron
and sparsely furnished. Laundry hangs from the windows while people
tend to their gardens and grow fruit and corn from the fertile
In this same township, in the early 1950s, a bunch of kids fell in
love with singing and the dance steps called footwork, and dreamed
of becoming musicians. Their parents would have preferred that they
become auto mechanics. Abel Sithole, wearing a beret, remembers: "My
mother was very strict. Because we were poor, she did laundry for
several white families in order to feed us all. I wanted to become a
musician more than anything else, against my parent's will, of
course. In those days, anyone who wanted to do music was regarded
simply as lazy. People just did not see any future in it. My parents
tried to dissuade me from practicing, but I had already started to
get away and participate in a few amateur competition nights. One
time, I made about five pounds and I bought my mother a tea set. My
parents were very surprised that I could make that much, so I kept
Two rival groups: the Golden Rhythm Crooners and the Cool Four
Soon, Abel started a group with three of his friends called the
Golden Rhythm Crooners. "Our ove for jazz brought us together. We
also loved South African music, groups such as the Manhattan
Brothers, the Woody Woodpeckers, Miriam Makeba, and many others. Our
music was really exciting. In the concert halls where we performed,
the people who came appreciated this style that stems from the
Mbaqanga, or township jazz." The music that came from the black
ghettos mixed western sounds with African rhythms and traditional
chants, therefore it was named after a soup dish that poor people
cooked up with whatever they had available. The main competition for
the Golden Rhythm Crooners were the Cool Four, who also came from
Bulawayo. "We sang in beer halls," Benny Phula Phulani remembers,
"with a makeshift guitar. In those days, we never had any decent
instruments." This didn't keep them from performing as far away as
Zambia or the Congo or from winning a jazz competition organized by
the Hotel Carlton in Harare. Abel remarks humorously, "That doesn't
mean that you guys were the best! For vocals, The Golden Rhythm
Crooners were the top act. But for dance performance, I agree that
the Cool Crooners were the best."
A career interrupted by the war
Meanwhile, in the 1960s, African countries were shaken by growing
fights for independence and saw hard times. In Rhodesia, the
conflict was only starting. When the white minority itself declared
independence in 1965, its real motivation was to take advantage of
the installation of a republic to reinforce discrimination. It was
completely opposed to sharing any power with the black population.
The black nationalists were left with only one solution - taking up
arms and starting a permanent guerrilla war. Like many others, Abel
joined in. "The Organization of African Unity told us to fight for
the liberation of our country. So I joined and went for training. I
did my military service for a year and a half. At the same time,
they asked me to leave the front line to go collect funds to free
Zimbabwe. I was captured. The judge condemned me to the death
penalty, which was later changed to an 18-year prison sentence. I
was in a terrible state when I thought that I was going to die. But,
I never regretted my commitment. So many people died for our
freedom." He was released after 10 years, in 1980 when Zimbabwe
really became independent. It comes as no surprise that, today, the
Cool Crooners' repertoire includes a traditional song with a blues
flavor, Blue Sky. "It was a South African prison," Abel explains.
"Many people feared it because it was unbearable. No matter what
your crime was, you were subjected to the harshest conditions. You
want to know why it was called Blue Sky? Because it was a
high-security prison with very high walls. All one could see was the
blue sky above our heads."
This troubled period marked the end of the Golden Rhythm Crooners
and the Cool Four. Even if their love for music never diminished,
another priority took over. When independnce finally arrived, people
didn't know where to start, everything needed to be built form the
ground up. Music took second priority to what was a matter of
survival. In the meantime, two members of each group had died'.So
Benny started selling furniture while Lucky worked for a record
company. Only Abel still performed on stage with one group or
another, or for a solo here and there.
A new group marks a new beginning
In the '90s, he got the idea to create a new group. "I thought that
our music should not die, that is should be revived so that the
younger generation would know what went on during our time." He
immediately remembered his old friends and rivals from the Cool
Four, Benny and Lucky, and contacted them. Even though they had
known each other since childhood, the initial approach took place in
a rather formal way - by mail. The project moved slowly in the
African way, where things need to be weighed and not rushed. Several
years later, they finally celebrated in style, with plenty of
ingwebu-a beer made from corn and sorghum and served in a
neighboring beer garden - the birth of the Cool Crooners, a name
that fuses the names of two original groups.
Their magic worked immediately. For example, during the Jazz
Festival in Harare in 1999 when a fascinated audience discovered the
trio onstage with their mellow, rhythmic, and festive repertoire,
and the dance steps that accompany each of their songs. Abel
explains, "Each step is determined by the song itself, by its
meaning. If you sing about running away, you need to dance that, the
steps need to show that you are fleeing." Age and adverse conditions
have in no way diminshed their creativity, their freshness, their
talent, and their soul. Because they embody the joy of singing and
the joy of life, no audience can remain indifferent. Patrick Meunier
certainly could not. As a film director who fell in love with the
mesmerizing charm of Africa, he planned to make a movie about
Zimbabwe. With the Cool Crooners, he knew that he had a perfect
subject and soon began working. In the meantime, the group got word
of mouth publicity and the clubs in Harare and Bulawayo requested
them more and more often. They were reviewed in newspapers and
attended by large numbers of young people.
A fourth member for the first album
Abel, Benny, and Lucky were perfectionists. They liked to practice
together a lot, even if they didn't have anything resembling a
rehearsal studio or the right equipment. Patrick Meunier, having
finished a moving documentary about the Cool Crooners discovered the
obvious: images are fine, but to extend the audience of the
musicians who inevitably became his friends, an album would be even
better. He offered them the opportunity to record their songs for
the first time. Even if they had never set foot I a recording
studio, they knew right away how things work. After three days, and
to everyone's satisfaction, the recording was all wrapped up. It was
also the occasion to add a fourth member to the group, a baritone,
in order to improve the balance of the vocal harmonies even further.
Eric Juba, a youthful fifty year old, is by far the youngest member
of the group, but he is no stranger. He grew up right next door to
Abel, who closely followed his musical career in Botswana, where he
colorfully interpreted Louis Armstrong songs. He shares with the
other members of the group the laughter that constantly surfaces in
their eyes and on their lips, the jokes they like to exchange like
unruly schoolboys, the child-like naivete and the astonishment that
they have managed to preserve against all odds.
Music is their secret of youth
Together, they generate, onstage as well as on their album, a unique
happiness, a glowing energy, and the joy of simply being alive. They
convey the grace of their voices blended together in perfect
harmony, their spontaneous charm, and the magic of their jazz
flavored by accents of their language, Ndebele. Whatever their age,
singing is always a pleasure, the pleasure they get from performing
and the pleasure they give to the audience each time. Because their
music is one of the best kept secrets of youth, as Abel confirms:
"Music is our life. What I like is that it keeps us in shape. We can
do anything. I don't know when I will die, so I need to continue to
improve my life and the life of the group. I cannot say, I'm
sixty-six, so I'm going to quit. Its my job, I need to see it
through to its conclusion."
Its clear that the Cool Crooners are happy about their newfound
popularity. Their record, Blue Sky, is their pride and joy as well
as the ambassador of long overdue and well-deserved recognition. It
will allow them to realize their fondest dream, which is to go on a
tour to Europe. "We sang in many African countries. Now, I would
like us to tour other countries and entertain different types of
audiences to show them what we can do. I think that it will make
them happy. Don't you think so?"
LLater on many of his songs have been recorded and widely distributed
through public networks, such as integration into iPod collections
and digital soundtracks that could be bought through apple online
Garifuna singer, composer and guitarist Aurelio Martinez grew up in
a small fishing village on the Caribbean coast of Honduras, taking
up his father's guitar, apprenticing as a sacred d'g' drummer, and
learning the traditional repertoire from his grandmother, a talented
singer. He moved in his late teens to the port of La Ceiba, where he
formed the noted traditional Garifuna ensemble Lita Ariran.
A veteran of tours in Europe, Japan, Central America, Mexico, Canada
and the United States (he enjoys a tremendous following in the
Garifuna community of New York City), Martinez brings a bittersweet
vocal style to the guitar-accompanied paranda ballad and other
traditional Garifuna song forms. Previously heard on Songs of the
Garifuna (JVC) and the critically acclaimed Paranda: Africa in
Central America (Stonetree Records), Martinez, one of the youngest
paranda interpreters, is recognized among Garifuna at home and
abroad as a soulful, powerfully evocative singer.
With a growing international profile, Martnez has been featured by
the PBS's Frontline-The World and he is the subject of a film
documentary on Garifuna culture directed by Patricia Ferreira, soon
to be aired on TV Espa'ola, the Spanish network. Garifuna Soul,
Martinez's solo debut album, recently captured the attention of
AfroPop Worldwide, which named him "Newcomer of the Year." Backed by
some of Belize's best studio musicians'who improvise adeptly on
Garifuna drums and turtle-shell percussion, saxophone, acoustic and
electric guitars, and bass'Mart'nez takes Garifuna music into the
future without compromising the cultural foundations of his
inspiration. No hype or derivative artifice, just contemporary roots
music true to its hybrid cultural origins, minus the
misrepresentations and commercial excess that characterize so much
of what's on offer in the global music souk these days.
Representing the Atl'ntida coast region of Honduras, a Garifuna
enclave, Aurelio Mart'nez also is an elected deputy (diputado) in
the National Congress of Honduras, where he holds additional posts
as President of the Commission of Ethnic Peoples (Comisi'n de Etnias)
and Secretary of the Cultural Commission (Comisi'n de Cultura).
The Garifuna are a minority African-Amerindian ethnic group of
Central America's Caribbean coast zone, living in Nicaragua,
Honduras, Guatemala and Belize.
Aurelio Mart'nez is arguably the foremost international cultural
representative of a people whose unique cultural heritage remains
under considerable threat. In 2001 the Director-General of UNESCO
proclaimed the Garifuna language, music and dance to be one of the
Masterpieces of the Oral & Intangible Heritage of Humanity. UNESCO's
proclamation highlighted the distinctive value of the Garifuna
cultural heritage, while also underlining its
vulnerability'particularly in the face of cultural tourism,
encroachment upon native lands and other forces of globalization'and
recognizing the urgency of taking action to safeguard Garifuna
With its dense percussive array and emphasis on vocal artistry, the
music of the Garifuna people is unlike any other in Central America
(or, indeed, in the rest of the Caribbean and Latin America).
Garifuna popular music is rooted in the sacred practices of
spirit-possession associated with the Garifuna d'g' ritual, which
shows cultural kinship with spirit-possession practices documented
in Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti, Trinidad and Brazil, all with West African
Although Garifuna musicians began taking their music north to New
York, Los Angeles, Chicago and other U.S. cities in a postwar
emigration process that took off after 1965, a sole field recording
made in the early 1950s was long its only recorded documentation.
The past 15 years, however, have produced a number of new recordings
on small labels, gaining the attention of The Rough Guide to World
Music, the Garland Encyclopedia of World Music, and the world-music
press and concert touring circuits in Europe and North America.
The above reprinted with permission from Michael Stone, Executive
Director, Program in Latin American Studies, Princeton University
Return from Artists Bands Music and Life to ALIA Agency