Monday, December 22, 2008

Gabon Funk

Here's another 45 I found in Dakar. I haven't come across a lot of Gabonese music but Gabon must have had its share of good music. Libreville (French for Freetown) is a port town, that grew rapidly in the 1970s because of oil, which usually means plenty of travelling musicians coming through.

Vyckoss Ekondo grew up in Libreville and started his musical career at the Lycee Leon M'ba (M'ba was Gabon's first president; the second and current president is Omar Bongo, the world's longest serving ruler, excluding monarchies).

After further studies in Canada, Vyckoss returned to Gabon and became a well-known television presenter, hosting the popular 'Sunday Idol' show, a launching pad for many young bands. He also composed soundtracks and in the 1980s started a musical troupe, combining traditional dance and initiation rhythms. Check out his Tandima group (in French).

Funny how I found this in Dakar. The reason for going to Dakar was a conference which should have been held in Libreville (in 2007), but was re-scheduled and moved to Dakar. Maybe I'll get another chance to go to Gabon: several people have told me Libreville is a happening place.

For now, enjoy these 45 sides:

Vyckoss - Dibenga (L'Incredule)

Vyckoss - Mbea (L'Aigle)

I Got The Feelin

Victor 'Bovick' Bondo Gala turned 60 this year. In Gary Stewart's Rumba On The River, there's not much information about him, except a few lines mentioning his membership in Dr. Nico's Orchestre African Fiesta, Tabu Ley's Afrisa, and Verckys' Orchestre VeVe. I've always been fascinated by this 'Bovick' since hearing tunes like Sookie and Save Me (see Radiodiffusion Internationasionaal Annexe or Voodoo Funk).

Bovick grew up in Lubumbashi (then Elisabethville). Being close to southern Africa, Bovick was exposed to more Anglophone influences and music. He also got to know some English. When he joined Dr. Nico's African Fiesta in the late 1960s, he helped popularize the Orchestra's fame in Kinshasa, no doubt because of his knowledge of American Soul (and some say his resemblance to Jermaine Jackson of the Jackson Five helped his strong appeal among the young girls of Kinshasa). An accomplished musician (guitar, bass), he stayed with Dr. Nico for two years. Then he joined Verckys' new Orchestre Veve, where he probably could explore his musical interests into soul and r&b further, with the likes of Mario, Djeskain, and Max Sinatra, of later Trio Madjesi fame. I wonder how many compositions should actually be credited to Bovick; it is clear he played a bigger role than has been acknowledged.

Later, he also played and became 'Chef d'Orchestre' with Tabu Ley. During one concert tour in Europe, a couple of musicians, including Bovick, decided to stay in France. Bovick eventually settled in Switzerland, where he continues his musical career, playing, teaching, setting up studios, and selling musical equipment.

During a short work visit to Dakar, I managed to find some vinyl, including this 45 (SUKISA 86). On the B-side, there's another great Bovick tune, "I got the feelin." It's so much fun to discover this piece of Africa's vast musical history. I've never heard this before, nor seen it elsewhere. I will post more of these soon; I know it's been very calm on this blog the last months but there's more to come.

Enjoy,

I Got The Feelin