Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Syran M'Benza 4: More Sessions

This post is Part 4 of a four part series, a celebration of the career of guitarist Syran M'Benza upon release of his new CD Immortal Franco: Africa's Unrivalled Guitar Legend.
Parts 1, 2 & 3 of this series are below and on the previous page. If you have not seen them already, I recommend that you start there!

Syran M'Benza Part 4: More Sessions
Compilation 4: https://rcpt.yousendit.com/719346210/5546b0217de8d14acda6e6e12cc4e84c
This compilation contains one song from each of the albums pictured on this page.

We start off with a song from a solo album by Kekele collaborator Bumba Massa. Bumba Massa worked with Syran M'Benza in Vicky Longomba's Lovy du Zaire in the early 70s and with Bavon Marie Marie, Franco's brother, in the late 60s. He has made a number of very good albums in between. This is the only one that I have on which Syran participated. And it's a great record!

In earlier posts in this series, you were able to hear songs from Richard Dick's Africamania production label. Here is another.

Asi Kapela is an artist I do not know much about. Many people in the west have, however heard a song from the LP featured here. The song Yo Yo Yo was on a very popular compilation album, Sound D'Afrique. In the compilation here, however, I have included the title song.

Another producer and label mentioned frequently in the previous posts is Eddy Gustave and his Eddy'son label. Gustave produced albums under the Eddy'son, Disques SONICS and K'Dance names. Here are four LPs from Gustave's labels that feature Syran M'Benza on guitar.

Lea Lignanzi and Domingo Salsero, from Central African Republic, are featured artists on other Eddy Gustave and Richard Dick albums. Lea's song Dede Priscilla from his album of the same name is also featured on the Sound D'Afrique compilation. Usually, the solo guitarist is Master Mwana Congo. On both albums above, it is Syran M'Benza who takes the lead with Pablo Lubadika accompanying.

On these two, Syran's guitar accompanies the solos of Master Mwana Congo.

Like the Eddy'son and Africamania labels, another producer who employed Syran M'Benza for sessions was Ibrahim Ba of the African Music Gallery in Washington, D.C.. I have no idea how many albums I bought at his stores, but I bought many simply because I saw Syran's name on the sleeve. Included here is a killer song from a solo album by Empire Bakuba singer Misha M'Fum.

I've mentioned that Syran M'Benza did not always play lead on some sessions that he contributed to. Another artist whose albums usually featured Master Mwana Congo accompanied by Syran was Theo Blaise Kounkou. This is one of those albums.

Syran played solo or lead guitar on any number of solo ventures by other artists, some well known, others more obscure. Here are a few examples.

Jean Raph Loumbet's LP features Syran's long time guitar collaborators Rigo Star and Mayindov Pyrrath (Pirate) as well as vocalists Theo Blaise and Passy Jo.
On Lady Isa's album we hear J.P. Ramazani on vocals and rhythm guitar by Bopol Mansiamina.

On Awilo Longomba's CD -his best IMHO - we hear singers Sam Mangwana and the late Dindo Yogo as well as Syran on lead guitar and Pablo Lubadika on bass. Ya Mauro, another artist I know little about, has Syran M'Benza on lead guitar accompanied by Ya Mauro and Bopol Mansiamina on bass.

Syran M'Benza does play lead guitar on other recordings by other artists, but not necessarily on every song. The next few albums are examples of this. I've picked songs for which he is actually given credit on the liner notes for specific tracks, including two from Congolese-born American salsero Ricardo Lemvo, and others where he is credited, but not for any particular tracks, and I believe that I hear his distinctive style. The last song here is the remake of a classic from Sam Mangwana's Rumba Music. Appropriate to end this with, don't you think?

Syran M'Benza Part 3: Sessions

This post is Part 3 of a four part series, a celebration of the career of guitarist Syran M'Benza
upon release of his new CD Immortal Franco: Africa's Unrivalled Guitar Legend !

Parts 1 & 2 of this series are below and on the previous page. If you have not seen them already, I recommend that you start there!

Syran M'Benza Part 3: Sessions
Compilation 3: https://rcpt.yousendit.com/718315930/f72174404f92521ca9be2291717d8d25
This compilation contains one song from each of the albums pictured below.

As one of the best and most respected Congolese guitarists residing outside of RDC, Syran M'Benza was sought out and contributed to the albums and songs of many others. His work can be found on the recordings of artists from RDC, Congo, Central African Republic and more.
In this post, you'll hear his guitar on a number of LPs and a couple of CDs made by a few of the artists with whom Syran worked often, if not regularly, throughout his career.

Singer Wuta Mayanda - also known as Wuta Mayi - appears on Syran M'Benza's new CD, singing some of the best songs on the album. He is also, like Syran, a member of the band Kekele.In the 1970s Wuta Mayi sang in the group Continental, a group that also included guitarists Bopol Mansiamina and Papa Noel. He spent eight years during the 1970s and early 1980s as singer in Franco's T.P. OK Jazz, joining Syran M'Benza in Paris to form Les 4 Etoiles in 1982. He made a few solo solo albums with guitarist Syran M'Benza and other albums, of course, including a few more with guitarist Dino Vangu.
In this compilation, you hear Syran play on songs from these albums of Wuta Mayi, the first two recorded on Eddy Gustave's label.

Two guitarists with whom Syran M'Benza recorded on a more or less steady basis are Pablo Lubadika "Porthos" and Bopol Mansiamina.
Bopol, like Syran and Wuta Mayi, was one of Les 4 Etoiles and has a long history as an innovative composer and arranger. His work with Orchestre Mode Succes on the Innovation label in the 80s is still sought after today. His recent arrangements can be heard on albums by, among others, Sam Tshintu and Congolese-born American singer Ricardo Lemvo. He has also collaborated with a number of Colombian "champeta" artists in recent years.In this compilation, we hear songs from these albums which feature Syran M'Benza on lead guitar. The Bopol Mansimina & Syran Mbenza album is, I have long suspected, a live recording, possibly recorded in Paris or maybe in the French Antilles.

Syran has a longer history with Pablo Lubadika, working with him in Orchestre Kara in Kinshasa before moving to West Africa to join Sam Mangwana's African All Stars, and working with him often in Europe after that. Lubadika, like Bopol, has made many solo albums and, like Syran, has contributed innumerable others.
In this compilation, you may hear a couple of great songs that feature Syran M'Benza from a couple of what I think are among his best albums. Like Syran's wonderful Eliza Dangwa LP, Idie is on Richard Dick's Africamania label. The other, like a number of 4 Stars albums, is a Syllart production.

nother singer who has woked and collaborated with Syran M'Benza is Passi-Jo. If you have visited the previous posts in this series, you will have heard him sing and seen his name before. The first song of his in this edition is from yet another great Eddy Gustave production featuring the guitar of Syran M'Benza.

Next (and last) post in this series:
More sessions. You'll hear some real rarities!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Syran M'Benza Part 2: Solo Albums & Ventures

This post is Part 2 of a four part series, a celebration of the career of guitarist Syran M'Benza. Part 1 is below. If you have not seen it already, I recommend that you start there!

Part 2: Solo Albums & Ventures
Compilation 2: https://rcpt.yousendit.com/718314382/1c10dc34497d1d55df7d86d2beba5ef0
This compilation contains on song from each of the albums shown below.

Syran M'Benza's first solo album Kouame, on the Afro-Rythmes label, and the Africamania label album Elisa Dangwa are still today among my favorite albums.

On Kouame, Syran M'Benza is joined by guitarists Dizzy Mandjekou, Lokassa Kassia, and Bopol Mansiamina.On Elisa Dangwa, guitarists include Syran, Master Mwana Congo and Pablo Lubadika. With this gem, we are also treated to vocals by guest artists Theo Blaise Kounkou, Ballou Canta and Jose Missamou.

Syran M'Benza recorded a number of other albums under his own name. These were mostly on the Eddy'son label of Eddy Gustave and, in America, on the African Music Gallery label.

He also recorded, under his own name, another album on the African Music Gallery label that I have not included. Called Africa: The Golden Years, that album was a "non-stop" album, a continuous medley of Pan-African favorites reinterpreted into a soukous style. Although it has long been a consistant dance floor filler among my West African friends, I have not included it here. This album had a sister LP called Maloko: Soul On Fire, another non-stop album, this one featured virtually the same line up of artists interpreting American soul classics into the soukous style.
Syran would contribute to a large number of other albums as a much sought after and respected session guitarist, many of which were also on the Eddy'son and African Music Gallery labels.

On the Syllart and Hysa labels, he recorded Sisika and Symbiose.

You may hear a song from each of these on the compilation. Thanks to C.C. Smith of The Beat for contributing the song Molatisi. I had that album only on cassette and I cannot seem to find it!
On Sisika, Syran is joined by guitarist Rigo Star Bamundele. Rigo and Syran have worked together quite effectively over the years, Rigo Star contributing greatly to the music of the group Kelele.
The line up on Symbiose presents a veritable who's-who of the soukous genre with Syran, Dally Kimoko, Diblo Dibala, Lokassa and Bopol on guitars.

Along with 4 Etoiles associates Nyboma and Wuta Mayi, the singers on Symbiose include Passi-Joe and J.P. Ramazani. Another of Syran M'Benza's ventures was in the creation of a short-lived but dynamic group called Kass Kass. Passi-Joe and J.P. Ramazani were also founding members of that band. The album Kass Tout is a SMOKER!

Next post: Sessions

Syran M'Benza Part 1: The Bands

Over the last three decades, any release of any new album featuring guitarist Syran M’Benza has been an anticipated event for me.
Like many people outside of RDC, the former Zaire, I first heard Syran's guitar on the albums of Sam Mangwana’s African All Stars. Although Sam Mangwana has had a huge effect upon the career of Syran M’Benza, it has been Franco, Luambo Makiadi, who has provided him with the greatest influence and inspiration.
It is fitting and possibly overdue that coinciding with the 20th anniversary of Franco’s passing, Syran M’Benza has, for the first time after about as many years, released a new solo album. This is an album that is a stunning tribute to Franco. You can see the cover of the new CD, read about the album and even sample a song here:
Syran M’Benza’s career has been outlined nicely in this concise article by C.C. Smith of The Beat magazine.

This series of posts will attempt to illustrate in pictures the huge number of albums that Syran has contributed to over the past 30+ years and will, hopefully, illustrate with music just why this man’s personal style – much influenced by the personal style of Franco – has made him a much-sought-after solo artist, colleague, collaborator or session musician.
These posts are my tribute to Syran M’Benza.
You are invited to add any information that I have omitted or point out any errors that I have made.

Part 1: The Bands
Compilation 1: https://rcpt.yousendit.com/718699364/10ca513fc09213d2ff3c583b302f89d0

The first real “name” band that Syran M’Benza worked with was Vicky Longomba’s Lovy du Zaire. Rare recordings of that band with Syran on board have been, to date, impossible for me to obtain. Artists from this band would, with others, make up a new band, Orchestre Kara. In this band along with Syran was guitarist Pablo Lubadika and singer Djo Mpoyi.
The first two songs in the compilation available above, both showing the strong influence of Franco and OK Jazz, are from the albums shown here:

While Djo Mpyoi joined OK Jazz in 1978, both Pablo and Syran were lured to Lome and Abidjan by hopes of better financial circumstances than were available in Kinshasa at the time.

Syran joined Sam Mangwana and the African All Stars. The first in a series of really big hits for this band was Georgette Eckin’s, followed quickly by Souzana Koulibali (Coulibaly). In the next couple of years, the band would split into two parts, Mangwana’s faction, including Syran M’Benza, released a small number of very successful songs.
Songs from these albums are included:

In the early 1980s, a group of artists from both factions of the African All Stars and others, all of whom had made their way to Paris, united to form Les Quatre Etoiles. The Four Stars were Syran M'Benza, Wuta Mayi, Nyboma Mwan Dido and Bopol Mansiamina. This group, with the winning combination of experienced and innovative musicians created a signature style of Congolese music that was both authentic and accessible to the western ear. Many of my own countrymen were introduced to Congolese music by the recordings of this band.
Included in the compilation is one song from each of these albums by Les 4 Etoiles.

4 Etoiles recorded a couple of nice live albums, but in the ineterest of space I have not included those on this page.

Another band with which Syran M’Benza worked was Somo Somo, a group led by Fan Fan another guitarist who had worked with Vicky Longomba and who would go on to join OK Jazz. Somo Somo was dispersed and reassembled with a varying lineup a number of times. Syran M’Benza was in the original Somo Somo and later rejoined briefly in 1995 with the other members of 4 Etoiles for a comeback album called Hello Hello.

Although we hear Syran’s name called out prominently before his striking solo on the title track, I am very partial to the song Ndemdeli, so I have included that one here.

Before forming his new Ensemble Rumba Kongo, Syran joined up with a number of veteran singers, friends and colleagues from his long career, to form the group Kekele. In today’s era of flash, bling and incessant trendiness, Kekele have been the true champions of a Congolese rumba revival. It may or may not be coincidence, but the rise of Kekele on the international scene has come with an increased interest and marketability of many classic African musical genres worldwide. Kekele have recorded three outstanding CDs. The last three track in this compilation are one apiece from each CD.

Next Post: Solo albums and other ventures.