Ethnomusicology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison

Download 1.35 Mb.
Size1.35 Mb.
Made in Congo

Rumba Lingala and the Revolution in Nationhood


Jesse Samba Samuel Wheeler

A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of

Master of Music


at the

University of Wisconsin-Madison

To Lillian Estelle Fishman Chasnoff and Jack Aaron Chasnoff

To my family and my friends, who help me compose my everyday life
List of Maps, Chart, Figures and Excerpts v

List of Audio Examples vi

Preface vii

Acknowledgments viii

Maps x-xi

1 Introduction 1

Review of Literature 9

2 Approaches 19

3 "Ah, Mokili!"-- a brief history 32

Life in the Cities 39

4 Urban Inventions -- a new old sound emerges 44

Maringa 49

Rumba Lingala 52

5 "Made in Congo" -- conceiving the nation 86

Performance Sites and Performance Rites 87

Technology 101

Language 117

6 Conclusions and Further Questions 132

Bibliography 142

Discography 151

Maps, Chart, Figures and Excerpts

Map 1: Democratic Republic of the Congo x

Map 2: Republic of the Congo xi

Chart 1: Growth of Major Congolese Cities 38

Figure 1: Maringa Rhythms 50

Figure 2: Clavé Beat in Rumba Lingala 59

Figure 3: Typical African Timeline 59

Figure 4: Cuban Clavé Beat 59

Figure 5: Fast Clavé Beat in Rumba Lingala 59

Figure 6: Variation on the Clavé Beat in Rumba Lingala 59

Figure 7: Medium Clavé Beat in Rumba Lingala 59

Figure 8: Bass Guitar Motif 60

Figure 9: Maracas Rhythm 60

Figure 10: Drum Rhythms 60

Excerpt 1: "Noko Akomi Mobali" 76

Excerpt 2: "Margarine Fina" 78

Excerpt 3: "Marie-Louise" 80

Figure 11: "Émissions Africaines" of RCBI 109

Figure 12: Indoubil Examples 125

Excerpt 4: "Cha Cha Cha Bay" 126

Excerpt 5: "They say that the town [sic]" 137
Audio Examples

A1: "Tout le monde samedi soir" -- Adou Elenga

A2: "El Manisero" -- Abelardo Barroso & La Orquesta Sensacion

A3: "Mazole Vanga Sanga" -- Bokolanga

A4: "Maria Antonia" -- Pholidor & Bana Loningisa

A5: "Indépendance Cha-Cha" -- Kabasele & African Jazz

A6: "Ménagère" -- Lisanga Pauline

A7: "On entre O.K., On sort K.O." -- Franco & O.K. Jazz

A8: "Noko Akomi Mobali" -- Adikwa

A9: "Prince Baudouin" -- Lufungola Alphonse

A10: "Na Mokili Moko Te" -- Kalima Pierre & His Fanfare

B1: "Njila ya Ndolo" -- Antoine Mundanda & Ses Likembes Geantes

B2: "Nalekaki na Nzela" -- Dewayon

B3: "La Rumba O.K." -- Franco & Bana Loningisa

B4: "Margarine Fina" -- Tino Mab

B5: "Marie-Louise" (1948) -- Wendo

B6: "Marie-Loiuse" (1958) -- Wendo & Beguen Band

B7: "Afrika Mokili Mobimba" -- Dechaud & African Jazz

B8: "Cha Cha Cha Bay" -- Camille Feruzi & L'Orchestre Mysterieux Jazz

B9: "Banzanza" -- Roitelet & Bana Loningisa
This thesis is the result of almost four years of research, the self-motivated learning of two languages, two months of lessons with a Congolese guitar teacher, and nearly ten years of uninterrupted listening to music. I first encountered Congolese music in 1990, when I spent six months in Kenya. Dancing in the discotheques at night to Pepé Kallé and Empire Bakuba, Kanda Bongo Man, Zittany Neil, Loketo, and Samba Mapangala's Orchestre Virunga, as well as Congolese influenced Kenyan artists, like Aziz Abdi, made me search out recordings of this music during the day. When I returned to the U.S. I brought back nine tapes and continued the search at home.

Congolese music, like much Afro-pop, has become increasingly available in this country, including re-releases of older recordings. Listening to and reading about Congolese music inspired me decide to study it and theorize about its role in society. In particular I was drawn to understand the incorporation of Latin musics by Congolese artists. I found that little had been written about the influence of Cuban music on African music, whereas the reverse was well researched. The pursuit of a graduate degree in Ethnomusicology has given me the opportunity to contribute to scholarship on this topic.

This thesis was completed in what I hope are unusual circumstances. I thank Andy Sutton, for assuming the position of my advisor in the final month and enabling the timely completion of my degree. The support he offered me, along with his respected scholarship and community involvement, makes him a credit to our department. I thank Lois Anderson for her high research standards and thorough bibliographic assistance. I give a hug of gratitude and deep respect to José Jorge de Carvalho of the University of Brasília, whose commitment to life has renewed my faith in academe.

Along the scholar's path I have met several people who have got me thinking: Of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I thank Florence Bernault, who taught the finest history course I have ever taken; Kirin Narayan, anthropologist and fiction writer, who confirmed that scholarly writing can be poetic and beautiful; Ron Radano, who introduced me to many of the thinkers whose works informed this thesis; and Brian Hyer, whose humanistic approach to music theory has changed how I hear. Of the University of Brasília, I thank Rita Segato, and, again, her husband Jorge Carvalho, whose fascinating, enthusiastic, energetic and ever reticulating discussions brought innumerable issues to my conscience. And I thank Northwestern University's Department of Performance Studies, especially Leland Roloff, Dwight Conquergood and Frank Galati, whose inspired teaching established a permanent link between body and mind in my scholarship.

I reserve my strongest sentiments for my family and friends. They are numerous, and I share the success of my work with each one of them. From the crowd I would like to single out for special recognition my father William Wheeler, my mother Salome Chasnoff, my step-mother Trudy Wheeler, my step-father "Little" Bobby Kahan, my sistren Molly, Alexis, Valerie, Courtnay and Micaela, and my one brer Sean: their direct and indirect support is in every word; my brother-in-soul Youssouf Komara, for his undying laughter and palpable appreciation of who I am; my "very friend" Yvette Orieji Hunwick, who kept her eye on me through every hour of every day in the first three years of this project; my fellow cast and crew of Wole Soyinka's The Bacchae of Euripides, whose communal energy crackled through the last months of this rite of passage; and the whole African community of Madison, whose very existence has enriched my life, and whose support of the Black Star Liner has enabled me to share my love of African music with the wider world.

Lastly, I thank "Franco" L'Okanga La Ndju Pene Luambo Makiadi and T.P.O.K. Jazz for giving me years of dancing pleasure. Some people say that the more they study music the less they listen to it. The reverse has been true for me. I turned to Franco every day for support -- his music powered this thesis forward.



Chapter 1

In the late 1930s and early 1940s in the countries now called the Republic of the Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a sonic revolution took place, one that, I argue, heralded the political revolution and ousting of colonial occupation twenty years later, in 1960. In the decades approaching independence, musicians created a music uniquely Congolese, thereby fostering a radically different social-consciousness. But this national music was not founded solely on Congolese musical forms. It also embraced musical genres practiced abroad, particularly in Cuba, as well as other Latin American and European countries. The Latin American musics imported into the Congo were not entirely foreign; the rumba, son montuno, and candomblé among other genres were founded to varying degrees on musical traditions taken from the Congo region across the Atlantic with the slaves. The orientation of tastes towards musics from abroad and the subsequent re-indigenization of these musical terms created a new medium of artistic expression. This new medium, together with the continual use of active, local music traditions, made audible the emergence of a reconceptualized nation. Embedded within the songs of this genre are blueprints to the construction of a new national identity. Close listening to these songs can, I believe, reveal how they “wrote” the nation.1

This thesis examines one kind of music that developed in a community located primarily in two countries, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), capital Kinshasa, and the Republic of the Congo (RC), capital Brazzaville. Both of the present-day countries experienced periods of tragic exploitation by European powers. The former was first The Congo Free State, a territory plundered by Belgian concessionary companies, and then the Belgian Congo, King Léopold's II personal colony. After independence on June 30, 1960, the country became known as the Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and then the Republic of Zaïre in 1970. In 1998 Zaïre reverted to DRC (see map, ix). Across the Congo River lay the French colony known as the Middle Congo, part of the territory called French Equatorial Africa. After its independence on August 15, 1960, it was officially called the Congo Republic. In 1970 it became the People’s Republic of the Congo, and in 1992 the Republic of the Congo (see map, x).2

The boundaries of today's countries are largely the legacy of cruel, violent, arbitrary, “cut-the-cake” decisions made between colonial powers. How these countries are mapped is a problematic entangled in issues of sovereignty, nationality and nationhood. The internationally recognized boundaries circumscribe countries, not nations; they often bisect actual nations, that is, ethnic groups sharing a common mother tongue. The countries of the DRC and RC thus demarcated are largely artificial entities that cohere not as a result of an organic, colloidal stability, but due to disciplining action in the name of statehood. Contrary to the prevailing notion of statehood, these constructed states are not static bodies. They are in flux, with permeable membranes and continual exchange with adjacent bodies.

The countries are imagined, however, to be discrete cultural units, whose independence from one another is thought to be rooted in an essence based on distinct ethnicity, in this case something essentially “Congolese.” That a multi-cultural operation such as the development of a new musical genre, one that combines idioms from several sovereign countries, could be central in the production of nationhood iterates the inconsonance of cultural patterns and political borders. Paul Gilroy writes in The Black Atlantic that cultures are entities that may exist across vast spaces, transcending ethnicity, nationality, place of origin and language. I would like to build on his assertion that cultures do not “flow into [or out from] patterns congruent with the borders of essentially homogeneous nation states” with the bracketed insertion.3 I want to open a discourse often preoccupied with roots to the exploration of routes. The musical idioms that left Equatorial Africa for the new world and those that returned were not created, defined or made meaningful by the polities from whence they came. Rather, their generative power and their stamina to remain meaningful over the centuries come from their creole polysemy.

I use nation to mean a social unit, a “large-scale solidarity”4 based on any of the following (among many more) socially and politically significant shared characteristics: language, cultural expression, spiritual identity, ethnic origin, moral principal, or political ideal. Nations can thus exist anywhere in/across space (or time), so long as people experience a belonging to a larger group. Nations do not, therefore, necessarily obey the same rules of demarcation that apply to countries. By country I mean an area of land, whose borders set it off from other sovereign countries. In this thesis I define the Congolese nation as a solidarity that includes the DRC and RC. It could encompass as well Cabinda and other parts of Angola, but I have limited myself to the areas I have sufficiently researched. Within and overlapping the Congolese nation other nations may exist; the interiors of nations house lacunae, dwelling places for members of other communities, who see themselves as sharing space, but not spirit, with their neighbors. Nationality, as used in my study, means then one’s own “region” of relation. It does not require recognition of what constitutes that region, be it a genre of dance or music, a common language, a religion, or all three. A certain amount of tolerance for ambiguity is helpful when attempting to define nations and nationalities, for just as with cultures, not everyone in a particular nation has everything in common with everyone else.

I will contextualize Congolese music within a discourse of identification and of nation-building.5 By identification I mean the never-ending process of self-definition, as opposed to identity, which is the naturalized, amorphous product that holds the illusion of equilibrium. The evolving nationhood of the Congolese people can be seen as a performance of both individuation and consolidation, in which musicians played an intrinsic role. I call the process a performance, because identification in general involves presentation, while in this case it also utilized an artistic representation of the process. Like Gilroy’s interpretation of trans-Atlantic slave ships, I see the songs of Rumba Lingala as shifting, mobile sites of political dissent, social expression and cultural production. In one sense they are a symbolic middle passage: they mark the transition from colonized to free. In another sense they recall the original middle passage: the importation into the Congo of Cubanized African rhythms is a dynamic that intensifies the social impact of the new music. The songs are palimpsests. They echo “the half-remembered micro-politics of the slave trade and its relationship to both industrialisation and modernisation.”6 They recount the flourishing of the new community whose growth they catalyzed. The compositions speak directly to these journeys, across the Atlantic and out from the shackles of colonialism, as well as other journeys ethnological, ideological, technological, and physically real.

"Rumba Lingala" is one of the names given to a genre of music that emerged in the urban centers of the Belgian Congo and the French Middle Congo. This name is derived from its assimilation of various Latin American musical forms, among them the Cuban rumba, and the practice of singing in Lingala. It has also been used by Günther Gretz and Dr. Wolfgang Bender.7 Other appelations for this music and that of the following decades include “Rumba Rock,” “Congolese Music,” “Modern Zaïrean Music,” and “Modern Congolese Guitar Music.” I find the first problematic, because the term “rock” carries inappropriate connotations based on the music of the United States and Great Britain. The others are undesireable, either because they relate too much to place, i.e., country, or else they invoke the treacherous connotations of “modern.” Rumba Lingala is the best name I have come across for the music through the late 1960s, when Latin music’s influence was still audible. It also signals the importance of the musicians’ main language of expression.

Rumba Lingala was a major catalyst for bringing together the variously related peoples inhabiting the Belgian Congo and French Middle Congo colonies. It was a cultural project whose production became an engine for the construction of a greater nation. In retrospect we can see, by the overwhelming popularity of the music across the continent, that it could have drawn many more people from other regions into the fold, were it not for the nation-state model first imposed upon and then appropriated by the post-independence leaders. Rumba Lingala was so effective that it was able to do what few non-totalitarian regimes anywhere in the world have managed, that is, draw together millions of individuals speaking different languages, practicing different religions, engaged in different economies, and oriented to different regions of the continent for heritage, mytho-historical origins and political center.

How was this movement achieved, and how did Léopoldville and Brazzaville act as centers, tucked away as they are in the extreme southwest of this region? In my reading, Rumba Lingala was as socially inclusive as possible within the fluctuating boundaries of the genre, making it a highly effective nation-building tool. By “socially inclusive” I mean the following: Congolese identity as exemplified by this music was not defined by any of the common social divisors such as language group, geographical region, lineage, skin color, religion, age, career, financial standing, political belief or any other socially constructed characteristic. Congolese identity was defined by the themes explored by the singers and the music composed by the musicians. Whosoever related to Rumba Lingala joined the new nation. What made this nationalist movement radical for communities in modern times was the following: Its inclusivity required members of the expanding Congolese nation simply to unify, not necessarily around a specific, central political issue. In other words, all anyone had to do was to recognize his or her place alongside others and accept interrelatedness. Entrenched, divisive biases were (temporarily) put aside for admittance.

This reading raises certain problematics. Since no restrictions as such were placed on membership, Europeans could, in theory, become Congolese. Moreover, it would appear impossible for Congolese identity as promoted by the music to establish the type of boundaries necessary for sustained political struggle: The music had no clearly articulated ideological center, not even the issue of independence. Some Europeans did become recognized members of the new Congolese music culture, such as the owners of the Ngoma record label.8 I argue, however, that Europeans' primary association with the political enemy precluded their entry into the emerging Congolese nation. Though Rumba Lingala was not intrinsically anti-colonial, it became by the reality of the colonial situation a unifier of Africans. Because the colonizing project was predicated on the segregation of the two groups, Africans assumed the Congolese identity constructed through Rumba Lingala. A question is why was this music so effective? As we shall see, Rumba Lingala was able to pull people together with its modern and yet traditional, international and yet local, sounds.

Rumba Lingala is a particularly perplexing and fascinating subject for study. As I mentioned above, it played a catalytic role in the restructuring of Congolese society into a nation. In order to accomplish such a feat it would seem that a genre-blurring, inter-ethnic syncretism would be most appropriate. Such a mingling of musical idioms is exactly what occurred, but the sound that became the new sonic standard, proclaiming national and cultural sovereignty, did not draw on domestic material exclusively. Had Léopoldville and Brazzaville been out of touch with the rest of the world, this more parochial approach may have worked. But these were modern, cosmopolitan centers, hosting people from around the world. The creators of Rumba Lingala were inspired by musics coming into the colonies as well. With the circulation of records of Latin music in the colonies, an infatuation, with Cuban musics in particular, developed and subsequently had an enormous impact on the new genre of Rumba Lingala. How this music, in large part of appropriated material, could be formative in the construction of a collective Congolese consciousness is what has driven this enquiry.

The role of Rumba Lingala in the reconfiguration of Congolese society needs to be analyzed in order to reveal how certain creative choices proved crucial to the ousting of colonial rule. I argue that Rumba Lingala musicians sought to be "conscious of and to integrate that which had been previously neglected by established structures."9 Musicians and the community at large were aware that the status quo did not serve them. That which did not fit with the colonial regime's program, that which was "ignored, disdained or excluded" is where the Adornian "truth content" lay.10 The Congolese desire to be free is precisely what did not fit; their humanity was ignored, their cultures disdained, and their people excluded from power. Reorganizing reality required expressing what did not fit and cracking open the hegemonic wall. Investigation into the musical project will reveal certain socio-political needs of the Congolese challenge to European domination and show what in the music helped make the revolution successful.

I am undertaking this investigation not as a sort of audient archaeology, which to me implies an excavation of a sonic civilization long dead. Many of the builders of this society, for whom music was edifying material, live on, and their music has changed (with) it. I see this project as akin to the on-going process of interpreting a sacred or philosophic text: both semivaporous conundrums and widely applicable, semiotically saturated parables intrigue us as potential semaphores. We simultaneously receive messages historically specific and archetypically timeless. The heteroglossia of Congolese music holds volumes, and I have been drawn to study them.

Review of Literature

Congolese urban music has been fairly well documented by a handful of scholars, with particular attention paid to musicians and ensembles of DRC. The majority are Congolese, though several foreigners have written on the subject, by and large less thoroughly and with less rigor. In my research I found very few efforts to theorize on Congolese music's role in society. In this regard my thesis appears to be original work. I have read no studies proposing an interaction between music and identity or the nation.

What has been written on Congolese music can be divided into two main categories: studies of rural music and studies of urban music. Certainly some overlap, but they pay far more attention to one or the other. As my study does not treat rural or traditional music, I will not review the literature available on that subject, except to say that many thorough organological catalogues and studies of the musics of particular ethnic groups are available.11

The bulk of the studies on urban music attempt a genealogy. Kazadi wa Mukuna has authored a number of articles, including a New Grove entry (1980), discussing different aspects of Congolese (Zaïrean) urban music. Over the last thirty years he has written about the links between the economic policies of the colonial regime and the growth of urban centers (1979-80, 1981), the origins and evolutionary phases of urban music (1992, etc.), the rumba and other Congolese dance styles (1971), Latin American influences (1998, etc.), the role of radio stations and the recording industry (1992, etc.) and the changing role of the guitar (1994). Aside from descriptive and historical works, he has also provided basic musicological analyses.12

Michel Lonoh (also called Michel Lonoh N'Shima-Boky, Michel Lonoh N.B., and Lonoh Malangi Bokelenge) is another of the major contributors to the body of literature on Congolese music. His Essai de commentaire de la musique congolaise moderne (1969) was the first authoritative study written. In it he looks at the musical traditions of the major regions of DRC and discusses the social functions of music. He discusses the changing musical environment and catalogs the early musicians, ensembles, recordings and analyzes the major lyrical themes. He hypothesizes reasons behind the music's pan-African popularity. The study includes interviews, surveys and his own position on the quality of compositions.

Lonoh's work Négritude et musique (1971) attempts to find a connection between the socio-political movement and music. He concentrates on American Jazz and Congolese music, concluding that these musics are rooted in realities of the black experience. He expands on the sociological study of music he hinted at in Essai, but he stops short of a rigorous examination of music in society. Instead the work becomes a varied look at Congolese urban music and does not offer much more. His other works include an article that updates his previous work (1986) and the forward to a biography of Joseph "Grand Kallé" Kabasele (1985).13

Sylvain Bemba wrote an authoritative history of the 1920-1970 period in his book Cinquante ans de musique du Congo-Zaïre, 1920-1970: de Paul Kamba à Tabu-Ley (1984). This work is descriptive and poetic. It details important musicians, ensembles and recordings. His lyrical analyses enable Bemba to construct an image of life during this period. His articles consider particular aspects of the music, such as the theme of love and the image of the female in song vis à vis colonial society (1977, 1988).14

Manda Tchebwa's Terre de la chanson is the latest authoritative study. It synthesizes the historical information in the works of Kazadi, Lonoh and Bemba, but adds pre-colonial research, an analysis of youth culture, including "Billism," a list of dances from the 1970s to supplement Kazadi's work, and a genealogy of Zaïko Langa-Langa, a fissiparous youth band.15

Kanza Matondo ne Masangaza's book Musique zairoise moderne describes the dances that were popular in the Belgian Congo from c.1920 and traces the beginnings of "Modern Zairean music." His work offers little history not included in Lonoh's Essai, though he examines the structure of ensembles during different phases of the music's development. Like Lonoh, Kanza comments on the changing quality of music through 1970. The only other work of his I have encountered is an essay describing the 1979 Festival of Kinshasa.16

Pius Ngandu Nkashama has written the most evaluative and interpretive works on the music. His two articles, "Ivresse et vertige" and "La Chanson de la rupture dans la musique du Zaïre" theorize on interactions between music and society. "Ivresse" looks at the youth bands of the early 1970s and the hubris of their dances. Nkashama interprets what he sees as exhibitionism and the "drunkenness" of the music as indicative of a social crisis. "La Chanson" builds on the earlier work and examines the crisis of conscience implied by the repetition of certain themes in Congolese music since the 1970s.17

Tshonga-Onyumbe has written several articles interpreting different themes in "musique zairoise moderne" from 1960 to 1981, such as marriage, the family, religion, socio-economic problems, and death. Debhonavi Olema analyzes the lyrics of two songs from 1974 and 1980. Olema interprets the image of a rich man who only wants a woman who can speak French and the recurring theme of death to express society's despair and misery. Through narrative analysis of lyrics to popular songs, Nkangonda Ikome and Aimisi Manara Bakari discuss themes in Congolese music which oppress women, for example degrading imagery, polygamy, infidelity and parasitism.18

Damien Matondo Pwono's 1992 Ph.D. dissertation "The Institutionalization of Popular Music in Zaïre" provides the only rigorous analysis of musical structure I know of. He focuses on the large bands of the 1970s, hardly touching on pre-independence music. I am aware of another dissertation on the subject, but I have not been able to access it: Andre Matondo's “La musique chantée des orchestres contemporains dans les deux Congo (construction imaginaire de l'ordre social),” written in Tours in 1979, may be a valuable resource. Its title suggests an interaction between music and the organization of society.19

Phyllis Martin's study Leisure and Society in Colonial Brazzaville examines various leisure activities of colonial society. Music, sport, and food and drink are analyzed as experimental arenas for negotiating and transforming time and space within and against the capitalist and colonial project of control. Though Martin focuses less on music than on other cultural forms, such as soccer, her book contributes historical research about urban music in Brazzaville (not as well documented as Kinshasa) and proposes a useful theoretical approach for further studies.20

Suzanne Comhaire-Sylvain authored two studies that have contributed to anthropological scholarship on the Congo in general, though both are of interest to the researcher of music. Food and Leisure Among the African Youth of Leopoldville (Belgian Congo) and Femmes de Kinshasa hier et aujourd’hui describe various aspects of women's lives in Kinshasa in 1945 and 1965, including, work, health, housing, recreation, and education. Women's associations and social clubs are examined, most of which directly interface with the music scene.21

Greta Pauwels-Boon's L’Origine, l’évolution et le fonctionnement de la radiodiffusion au Zaïre de 1937 à 1960 provides the researcher with detailed descriptions of the various private and government radio stations, including broadcast content.22

Alan P. Merriam's New Grove entry "Zaïre" treats rural music, though it makes mention of the urban genre influenced by Latin rhythms. His mappings of the music styles of Africa first included most of DRC in a greater central African music area (1959). He proposed that musics to the north and west, including RC, be grouped together with the central African musics, as they were different more in degree than kind. Along with his music research Merriam contributed an analysis of the political climate leading up to and just after independence in Congo: Background of Conflict. In it he discusses the nationalism that fueled the struggle, as well as the parties and politicians who dominated the political scene.23

Along with studies of rural and traditional music patterns (see note 9), Gerhard Kubik has written on urban music in Central Africa, including the emerging popular forms in the 1960s, and the link between the guitar and likembe (1995). His article with Artur Simon in Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart gives a history of urban music in the Congos.24

Ronnie Graham has compiled two substantive, annotated discographies of African urban music, The Da Capo Guide to Contemporary African Music (1988) and its update, The World of African Music (1992). Both volumes include numerous works by Congolese artists, major and minor, and a smaller number of traditional genre recordings. For the latter, several particularly useful African bibliographies and discographies that catalogue Congolese music and writings about Congolese music have been compiled, including Merriam's African Music on LP: An Annotated Discography (1970), with its many indexes, such as language of song texts and ethnic group, and his 1951 music bibliography; Carol Lems-Dworkin's African Music: A Pan-African Annotated Bibliography (1991), which begins with 1960 and updates four earlier bibliographies (Gaskin, Merriam, Thieme and Varley); and John Gray's African Music: A Bibliographical Guide to the Traditional, Popular, Art, and Liturgical Musics of Sub-Saharan Africa (1991), with more than 300 citations for the Congos. Others include Douglas Varley (1936), Jaap Kunst (1959), Darius Thieme (1964), and L.P.J. Gaskin (1965).25

Much, perhaps the majority, of what has been written on Congolese urban music is topical rather than scholarly. John Storm Roberts, founder of the Original Music label dedicated to early recordings of African pop music, has authored a book (Black Music of Two Worlds) and a cassette lecture (Afro-Cuban Comes Home) about the connexions between Latin America and Africa. Graeme Ewens has authored the definitive works on Franco and O.K. Jazz, Luambo Franco and 30 Years of O.K. Jazz, and the update Congo Colossus. Many interviews, album reviews and exposés of current artists have been published.26

To the best of my knowledge the hypothesis I present in this thesis is original. I have brought together theories on nationalism, performance, culture, identification, and music, and have applied them to the study of Congolese urban music in a new way that I hope will contribute to the scholarship on this music in particular, and to music research in general.

* * * * *

This thesis is divided into six chapters. Chapter 2 "Approaches" outlines the theoretical angles and specialized terminology I will use to analyze Rumba Lingala. Chapter 3 "'Ah Mokili!' -- A Brief History" reviews salient political, economic and demographic aspects of the region's history. Chapter 4 "Urban Inventions -- A New Old Sound Emerges" shows how the urban musical scene developed in the milieux described in the previous chapter. It introduces Rumba Lingala and relates it to other dominant musical genres it gradually displaced. As well as analyzing the lyrical content of three songs, I attempt the much more difficult musical interpretations. In these I adapt Theodor Adorno's methods of broad socio-musical analysis to Rumba Lingala. I also offer brief biographies of the two most influential ensembles, African Jazz and O.K. Jazz. Chapter 5 "Made in Congo -- Conceiving the Nation" explores the ways Rumba Lingala transformed the way people imagined the nation and established new affiliations. It addresses issues of performance, technology and language. Chapter 6 "Conclusions and Further Questions" looks at the twin processes of mimesis and alterity, while drawing together the study's conclusions and a few of the unexplored issues it raises.

Chapter 2

The tension produced in utilizing Cuban music to create a Congolese national musical expression can be explored by separating the notions of nation and culture. Benedict Anderson27 and Christopher Waterman28 have demonstrated how nation can be seen as a political strategy, while James Clifford29 and Gilroy30 have shown culture to be spatially unstable, always travelling. Congolese music is a case in point. An examination of its early history involves the navigation of circuitous routes. The image of a giant back-stitch, forever crossing the Atlantic to connect Cuba and the Congo, illustrates the threads of the fabric from which Congolese popular music was cut. Like hip-hop in the U.S.A., its inherent hybridity did not stop it from becoming a sign of cultural authenticity. Instead, this hybridity increased its strength as a national signifier: The more diverse a music’s composition, the more people it will be able to draw into the fold.

A foundational model for this study is Gilroy’s conceptualizing of the “Black Atlantic as a counterculture of modernity.” The hybridity inherent in Rumba Lingala demands an approach that decouples nation from state, and culture from nationality. The history of Equatorial Africa involves the inclusion of numerous distinct nations into superimposed states. This metissage created a culture that transgressed borders of nationality. A theory privileging creolization is needed to explain the growth of Rumba Lingala and its power as a hybrid music to construct national identity. Such a theory shifts focus away from origins onto the process and modes of re-creation that effect the cross-breeding. Not only does it question the patterns of cultural flow, it also interrogates the tools with which those flows are examined. Ideas of political, social and economic structures as cultural repositories are stretched to circumscribe geographical areas coterminous with no internationally recognized units such as nation-states. Moreover, biology as a factor in cultural production is discredited when infinitely diverse creole populations are the producers.

Gilroy’s metaphor is the slave ship criss-crossing the Atlantic, drawing the populations of Africa, Europe, South and North Americas together. "Ships immediately focus attention on the middle passage, on the various projects for redemptive return to an African homeland, on the circulation of ideas and activists as well as the movement of key cultural and political artefacts: tracts, books, gramophone records and choirs."31 This image of the ship is appropriate for the songs of Rumba Lingala, for the creation of this genre was exactly the kind of purposeful project to redeem a homeland. Moreover, this genre was made possible by the circulation of song. Like ships the songs, too, were "living, micro-cultural, micro-political system[s] in motion," shifting spaces of contact between points of the triangular trade, where new identities were forged, new modes of expression attempted, and various better futures envisioned.32 The notion of location as inscriber of identity remains intact, but the interstices between fixed (yet imaginary) points of nation, culture and essence become important. I see these ships as representing the sites of contact between individuals or communities, the loci of hybridization. The crossing of the slave ships is, therefore, both a literal and figurative image for the cultural hybridization that Rumba Lingala evinces.

Identity and Identification

Music-making and identification are appropriately studied together. Music-making is a "technology of self,"33 whereby the self is produced as an object in the world. It is a practice of self-constitution, one that forces recognition of, and reflection on, both the inside and outside worlds. Music is a mirror, and new musics produce new views of the self. Furthermore, music-making and identification are connected by performance. As we make æsthetic choices regarding the music we make and listen to, we are making a decision of affiliation. In the performing of an identity, the ego both showcases itself and subordinates itself to a group. Music-making, too, involves this constant commute between individuation and affiliation. Furthermore, group identification and musical performance serve the same end: Groups are formed through performance. In societies community solidarity often needs reinforcement, and group performance can achieve that. Said another way: getting together encourages playing together; playing together occasions getting together.

Identification, when seen as a discursive process, is an auto-developmental process, where the process itself develops and changes methods. Because this identification does not draw on something natural or essential, identification is a process of creation and continual re-creation, and identity becomes the creative, manufactured object. Over time the desired identity-image, the "who-I-want-to-be" object, changes. Different interests are served by different identities, thus group identity may be a fiercely contested site. As a bulwark against intrusion from competing, excluded identity-images, the excess beyond the borders, claims of authenticity are made, but are only fleetingly reliable. Whichever voice or vision is most passionately presented, most cleverly entered into the cultural debate, and most a propos the short-term needs of the people will, temporarily, win out. No identity-image is a perfect fit, however. The universal incorporation promised by identity-images is a fantasy. Identity becomes a strategy.

Since identification is a strategic process, it focuses our analysis on the becoming rather than on the being. The task is then to witness this dressing up, as it were, watch as this hat, that cape, these breeches and those boots -- each item chosen from a different wardrobe, possibly -- are donned to effect a particular image. The next step is to follow the subject and observe what means are employed to express or enunciate the chosen identity. Does our subject attend social events, like dances and luncheons? Does s/he take roles in the theatre, or appear on television? Does s/he teach a class or lead a band? As we note our subject's movements, we should observe the interactions with others. In this way we may begin to speculate on why that particular image was chosen. This choice may make more sense even after the subject's appearance has been noticeably remade, after the breeches, say, have been exchanged for a dress.

This characterization of identification as a dress-up process points to its playful aspects. "Precisely because identities are constructed within, not outside, discourse, we need to understand them as produced in specific historical and institutional sites within specific discursive formations and practices, by specific enunciative strategies."34 This complex web of actions and reactions involves deft play as the frameworks themselves within which identities are constructed shift. Furthermore, the jostling of competing identity-images, each set off from the next through the play of différance -- the playful marking of alliances and oppositions as well as the deference to recognized hierarchies -- pushes the whole process of identification onto a playing field, or a stage. Each match or performance constitutes an effort to temporarily resolve difference and present a unified, collective, homogeneous Self. The curtain or final whistle is the naturalized closure to this tussle over a fictionalized ontology, an artifice to achieve temporary consensus. As the participants walk off, they acknowledge amongst themselves with furtive glances the excluded, "out-determined" other, looming in the wings and on the sidelines for another sortie.

The problem with the dress-up metaphor is that in identification the authoring act is performed by multiple individuals, variously aligned and cognizant of one another. There is no single fountainhead. Some degree of collective agreement or mutual recognition is necessary. It is similar to Michael Chekhov's notion of "atmosphere," the feelings which belong to no individual actor, but to the performance itself. An example is the street accident, where a definite and particular atmosphere is generated. The emotions of individuals in the crowd, the policemen, the paramedics, the victims and those at fault will all contribute to the catastrophe's own palpable atmosphere. The atmosphere is to Chekhov the best director, because it influences people to act in ways that no human director could so persuasively suggest.35 Likewise, with identification the creative power lies with many, and it is largely unorchestrated. The resulting atmosphere will for a time move the actors of this community theatre to imagine themselves to be part of some determinative whole. Their actions, thoughts, speech acts and creative energies -- in short, their performances -- will issue from their perceived role in this whole. Again, like a particular identity-image, an atmosphere is never stable, but constantly in formation, blown about by new fronts, the fickle winds of prevailing political change.

Stuart Hall argues that, "all identities operate through exclusion, through the discursive construction of a constitutive outside and the production of abjected and marginalized subjects, apparently outside the field of the symbolic, the representable . . . which then returns to trouble and unsettle the foreclosures which we prematurely call 'identities'."36 The lacunae I espy in this theorization are the following: Firstly, it promotes a reverse-powered process of identification, in which the subjects back into an identity, as it were, involved in an elimination-identification, where the negative space is prioritized over the positive space. It allows only for an identification that must first locate and identify the other, before proceeding to define the self in relation to the other; it does not permit an identification whose "constitutive outside" is a by-product of self-representation. Secondly, I believe the "abjected and marginalized subjects" must be within the representable in order to be produced. I would go so far as to say that they may be nothing more than symbols, symbols of that in the spectral interior of the self which is repressed -- the landscape of denial. This is where my two points merge: the constitutive outside of excluded, symbolicized others is the offspring of identification, not the reverse.

I argue these points because they are important in the case of the Congo. In my reading of the creation of a new genre of music, I see a shift in the process of identification. The strategy becomes an inclusive one, so that as many people as possible are drawn into the community. The outside shrinks as more people identify with the image of Congolese-ness as manufactured by Rumba Lingala. The borders of this identity are permeable and so require a purposeful withdrawing by individuals in order to exclude themselves and traverse the outer realm. This could have been achieved by allying with and degrading everything save Europeans and their artistic culture. Furthermore, in the 1940s and 1950s, the "abjected" others of the Congolese identity, primarily the colonizers, are not passive, victimized by a change in Congolese self-definition. Rather, they constitute themselves as outsiders, as much as they are excluded by the insiders.

The marginalized colonizers are fully, if elliptically, represented in Rumba Lingala in the lyrics, the European instrumentation, and the hybrid musical figurations, structure, and style. Moreover, the symbolized other, the oppressor within the self, can be seen in the dominating, hegemonic sound that develops in Rumba Lingala. After independence, the commercialization of Congolese music forced bands to imitate each other, and a typical sound emerged, confining innovation within narrow limits. The two chief schools of the 1950s and 1960s, African Jazz of Grand Kallé and O.K. Jazz of Franco, trained scores of musicians and influenced innumerable others, some of whom started their own bands, such as Tabu Ley Rochereau, Dr. Nico, Jeannot Bombenga, Kiamuangana Matete alias Verckys, Vicky Longomba, Mose Se Sengo alias Fan Fan, Shaba Kahamba, and Siongo Bavon Marie-Marie. It was not until the very end of the 1960s that a third sound emerged. This period could be called the "garage rock" era of Congolese music, when teenagers broke the mold of their predecessors.37 Bands like Thu-Zaïna and then Zaïko Langa-Langa dispensed with the lavish sound of the big bands, replacing nearly every instrument with an electric guitar. This new style caught on and became the third major influence on bands of the last 30 years. Before independence, however, the genre of Rumba Lingala was still coalescing, full of innovation. The Latin-influenced music did, nevertheless, push out competing styles, such as fanfares, polkas, likembe-based maringas (these terms will be explained in chapter four), and the Katanga sound of Jean Bosco Mwenda wa Bayeke and Losta Abelo.

Simon Frith has pointed out that much musical analysis approaches questions of identity with the assumption that artistic expressions flow from social identity, an identity often cast in essentialist terms.38 He finds the challenge to be how music can produce a people, create and construct their experience. I see the two approaches to be two halves of the same whole; both must be employed to fully understand the cycle of cause and effect that binds art and society. This study will attempt to approach Rumba Lingala and Congolese society from both sides.

Super-, Sub- and Intercultures

Mark Slobin’s framework of superculture, subculture and interculture may prove useful for grappling with the forces at work in the production of Rumba Lingala and trying to pin them down for taxonomic analysis, before letting them go again. Supercultures are composed of three main components, as regards music: an industry, including its techno-, finance- and mediascapes; the institutionalized rules and venues of the structural entity, be it state, province, clan, etc.; and the shadowy, yet more insidious tentacles of ideology intertwined into everyday activities as “shared assumptions.”39 What I find appealing about the notion of superculture is that in the colonial context we clearly see two giant forces competing. It may be reductive to interpret the overarching battle as being between just two forces, European and African, but in looking for an incontrovertible and distinguishing feature to separate them, I can think of no other more so. As “everyday” entities, referring to Erving Goffman’s approach to examining the forces that shape our lives, African and European meet Slobin’s requisitely sketchy pre-conditions. Both express and impress upon people a non-monolithic, non-uniform, dominating and consciousness-forming ideology that is at times internally contradictory and contrapuntal (i.e., oppositions are composed into this “cultural fugue,” allowing for dissonance and harmony).40

Slobin’s analysis of the notion of subculture is a titration of sorts -- an experiment to determine which and how much of a variety of factors, such as ethnicity, class, politics, history and heredity affect the production and appreciation of music. What he leaves us with are more anti-results than conclusions. The crucial feature of the concept is that subcultures are far from tightly bounded entities, but are constituted by webs of affiliation, partially voluntary and partially super-mandated, sometimes visibly, other times not. I find the nebulosity of this analytical perspective to be one of its credentials; its interactive nature, which complicates analysis and discourse, would seem to reflect the lived experience of Victor Turner’s communitas, “a socially sanctioned feeling of oneness that both affirms and erases everyday boundaries.”41 We connect with a subculture to submit to and be subsumed by a larger, social whole, yet the personal is defined and projected onto the whole.

Subcultures are intrinsically performative, circumscribing identity-determinative choices, affinities and belonging, making the perspective doubly appropriate for ethnomusicological analysis. Everyday we alter ourselves, and music plays a role in this performance, larger perhaps in some societies than others. Rumba Lingala was a subcultural voice whose æsthetic appeal was the source of its power: It drew people in, created a sense of belonging, encouraged new affiliations, and spoke for a growing sector of Congolese society. Did it pass from status of subculture to superculture when it became the dominant musical genre? The answer seems to be yes, it did, begging the questions why and how. Locating the subcultures within, intersecting and peripheral to Rumba Lingala is another important challenge.

Lastly Slobin addresses interculture, of which he finds three types -- industrial, diasporic and affinity. No easier to define, these are the forces that work across boundaries and interface with hegemonic discourses. The subtype industrial group includes the “big-guy-on-the-block” record companies that penetrate local music scenes the world over and control to varying degrees the production, reproduction and commodification of popular musics. This kind of interculture played a mammoth role in the development of Rumba Lingala, as Greek businessmen established the recording industry in the Congo. The diasporic interculture refers to mobile communities, linkages established between subcultures and supercultures across national boundaries. In the context examined in the present study, a particularly important interculture existed in the settlements of West Africans and Caribbeans as laborers and soldiers in cities such as Matadi, Boma, Léopoldville and Brazzaville. They brought with them highlife, palm-wine guitar, and other musical styles that proved formative in the milieux from which Rumba Lingala sprang. Affinity intercultures are the connexions of choice that musicians and audiences establish to learn from one another’s music across national boundaries. The most important affinity interculture in this case would be the circulation of Cuban records throughout the Congo and the resultant imitation of, particularly, the son montuno.42 I would also include as both diasporic and affinity intercultures the mixing of ethnically specific musical styles in the urban environments, to where people from all over the Congo region migrated. They carried music with them in both directions.

Slobin's "cultures" will prove useful as this study proceeds, not only for their suggestion of a model of explicit, structural viability, but also for an implicit one. The blurriness of the different "cultures" allows for multiple analytic strategies that can move across planes and up and down through levels of activity and energy.

* * * * *

In The Wretched of the Earth, Frantz Fanon presents a model of the revolutionary arts in a colonial setting.43 In this model the arts proceed from contact with the colonizer’s arts, to the imposition of these forms and demise of traditional forms, to the rediscovery of tradition and eventual demise of the imitated forms. The interaction between colonial and indigenous musics in the Congolese context could be seen to have followed this course: Local, ethnically specific musical styles encountered European religious and military genres and, later, Latin popular musics; musicians opened to these influences and imitated them, while discarding local musics; they rediscovered what had been lost; and eventually purged the colonizer and his music. But this scheme is far from complex enough to understand what went on. Instead, we need to inspect the syncretisms. It would be more appropriate to view the colonizer’s music on the one hand and the local styles on the other as converging and confluent tributaries that together with others created a river (a music that one day would become the mainstream). Like all rivers, it could not possibly split downstream into branches containing the same waters as the constituent tributaries; they forever contain one another.

The river does not look the same in all places. It is swollen in some, meager in others. To me what occurs after Latin music becomes popular is the most crucial. When the son montuno, rumba and bolero join this swiftly flowing river, the Congo River, it floods, and the alluvium left behind fertilizes both banks for revolution. Artists in Brazzaville and Kinshasa embrace these familiar forms and give birth to Rumba Lingala, the sound that signals the demise of colonialism and the birth of a new nation.

Chapter 3

"Ah, Mokili!" -- A Brief History44
The general region I am concerned with in this study is the present-day countries of the DRC and RC. The nexus of my thesis, however, is the area of Kinshasa (ex-Léopoldville) and Brazzaville, including their hinterlands, the Malebo Pool (ex-Stanley Pool), and the Bas-Congo, or Lower Congo region (DRC), which includes the cities Matadi and Boma. These are the sites of Rumba Lingala's most vibrant activity during the period I have researched in greatest depth, the 1940s and 1950s. The music scene of Lubumbashi (ex-Elisabethville) in the Shaba (ex-Katanga) province of the DRC also contributed to the configuration of the new nation, but the style of music was different from and quickly overwhelmed by Rumba Lingala. Its impact will not be explored, therefore.

The history of urban Congolese music begins with the growth of urban centers. Many factors led to the establishment of what have been called “detribalized centers” and “centres extra-coutumiers."45 I have identified two of the more salient forces behind the population increase of these centers, namely commerce and industry. A brief historical look at how these forces impacted the pre-colonial ethnoscape will situate the urban musical mis-en-scène for the discussion that follows in chapters four and five.


Trading centers in the regions of Léopoldville, Kisangani, Kananga, and Lubumbashi were seasonal markets that had been bringing various people together long before the arrival of Europeans. In 1881 Henry Morton Stanley visited a market and wrote,

The natives of Ntambo still hesitate to welcome white men among them, for the Bazombo and Bakongo traders were jealous and threatened to never come back to buy ivory in these neighbourhoods, if whites were to settle here.46

Around the same time John H. Weeks reported the existence of five great markets held in conjunction with local ones:

These are named Nkenge Nkila, which is held in French Congo, just north of the main river; Konzo Makwekwe, held in Ngombe Lutete district; Konzo Kikandikila, held about three days south of Wathen mission station; Konzo Kinsuka, near the border of the Portuguese and Belgian Congos; and a Nkenge Elembelo, not far from San Salvador. There is thus a long line of these great markets, the gathering-places of large crowds of people from very wide areas, held every eighth day . . . and it is very possible that they run south to Angola, and well north into Landana, i.e. that they are only limited by the boundaries of the old Kingdom of Kongo, which formerly included both those places; and it may be that they also run east and west.47

Weeks' observation is particularly informative, for it describes an area that attracted diverse crowds and became the early center of urban musical invention.

The survival of forms of currency also indicates the intermingling of peoples from distinct regions. If those currencies were used throughout a wide area, then it is probable that the trade brought together different lineages, ethnic groups, language groups, etc. Evidence of interethnic commerce goes back a long way in this region. Brass, introduced by the Portuguese in 1484, was shaped into rods, wire and large-headed nails; raffia cloth was in use before European penetration. These were important historical currencies of the Kongo Kingdom and neighboring regions, a vast area that includes Kinshasa, Brazzaville, Boma and Matadi.48


"Colonisation, instead of being a standstill moment for the expansion of [Congolese music], was the time of acceleration, owing to its technical contribution and the crowding up of the masses."49 European mining projects increased population movements (see chart p. 36). Early European expeditions to the Katanga region followed rumors of gold. These rumors, though false, led to the discovery of copper reserves. These finds prompted the founding of thirty-three commercial companies prior to the establishment of Léopold II’s Congo Free State in 1885, and twenty-seven more by 1915.50 Together with the other two arms of the “Colonial Trinity,” the colonial apparatus and the Catholic missions, the gravitational force of private companies exerted immense pressure on inhabitants throughout the country.

The new communities included populations from neighboring countries, as well. The Union Minière du Haut-Katanga, now known as Général Carrière de Minerais, was founded in 1906, a partnership between the Belgian Katanga Company and the British-owned Tanganyika Concessions Company. To exploit the copper and tin deposits, a railway connecting Katanga to the South African system was constructed. This route would become an artery of migratory labor movement.51 Companies such as these greatly increased the diversity of peoples inhabiting the developing centers, who migrated with their different musical styles. Labor requirements demanded that workers be brought in from near and far.52 Alongside workers hired for low-level jobs, foreigners played leading roles as prospectors and engineers. Vellut notes that not only did English and South African languages prevail in Katanga, one of the early centers of new Congolese music, but that “[u]ntil the 1920s the fourth of July, anniversary of the United States Declaration of Independence, remained the great public holiday in Tshikapa, the diamond capital.”53

When history is recounted as smooth flow, eliding the eddies and counter currents, a false, romanticized harmony is often depicted. Mystification of this sort is perhaps even more of a tendency in studies of music history, due to the difficulty discourse has in disciplining music. Lest it be assumed that the movements of people from far and wide into labor communities were the happy wanderings to blissfully productive enterprise, from which would later emanate mellifluent melodies celebrating "the good old days," I include the following report from Le Chemin de Fer du Congo, founded in 1889 in Léopoldville for the building of railways:

. . . [M]en were fleeing into the forest, deserting work sites and camps. In the ten-week period from 15 November 1891 to 1 February 1892, we lost 14 percent of our staff. By 30 June 1892, after a year and a half, death had taken 900 men. The number of sick was in proportion; those who could work were demoralized, and rioted frequently. In one boat load, we were obliged to send back a large number of sick representing 13 percent of our total staff. . . . In these conditions, recruitments on the occidental coast of Africa, where blacks had lost their fear (respect for white authority), became very difficult: It was necessary to hire black workers in the Antilles and in Macao, Chinese who could not stand to work under Congolese climate.54

This report shows the ebb and flow of populations and diversity of peoples present in the area. Food shortages and labor shortages constantly plagued the industrial sector, despite forced conscription, manual labor as tax, permanently settled work forces, the hiring of migrant labor on contract, even the abduction of strong, young men in the middle of the night. The common practice of nocturnal removal, known as “Batumbula” in Katanga and “Mundele Ngulu” in Léopoldville, was perpetrated between 1910 and 1922.55 It was so terrifying that it became myth and lived on in song and literature long after it ceased. In 1929 a “stabilization policy” was adopted first by Union Minière and then by other companies. Mandatory extensions of workers’ contracts to three years staunched the ebb and flow of migrant workers, whose labor often could not be counted on from year-to-year. Company officials also knew that the cost per unit of work with a short-term, untrained workforce was much higher than it would be with a stable, skilled one. Workers’ camps were built, and employees’ families were permitted to accompany them for the first time.56 As a result of the policy, Union Minière’s annual turnover rate dropped from ninety-six per cent in the early 1920s to less than seven per cent only a decade later.57 This policy fostered the growth of what have been called by Sylvain Bemba, Kazadi wa Mukuna and others, the “detribalized centers” and “centres extra-coutumiers," the heterogeneous communities that became the crucibles for Rumba Lingala.58

Source: Crawford Young, Politics in the Congo: Decolonization and Independence (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1965).

Life in the Cities: Poly-ethnic Communities

The congregation of Congolese from different origins and languages, the sojourns of Africans from other parts of the continent, the arrival of Asian and Antillean laborers, and the pervasion of Portuguese, Belgian, Greek, French, British, Dutch, American and South African ex-patriots made diasporic agglomerations of the industrial centers and port towns. “A new world was born on the banks of the Congo in the 20s. . . . Léopoldville and Brazzaville, intense centers of acculturation, served at the same time as centers of ‘re-folklorization’.”59

On the one hand, the new city-dwellers developed ways of life different from that of the village. The collective approach to work in the village setting was utterly rent by the division of labor in European employment, in positions such as the domestic, the clerk, or the nurse.60 One could say generally about the industrialization process that, for most migratory Congolese, it transformed a rural and largely homogeneous existence into an urban, poly-ethnic one. The cities’ draw was manifold: industry and administration that offered the possibility of employment; an opportunity to escape the grip of clan chiefs, which tended to tighten in the tax-economy of the colonial system; the reduction of self-governed agricultural activity in certain regions; financial burdens and material desires caused by the cash economy; military service; the evangelical message that extolled the life of the individual; and the attraction of the new and its promise of an easier life.

Throughout most of the colonial period in both the French and Belgian Congos, the lack of commitment to education for Africans limited the opportunities for social, economic and political advancement. Indeed, this stunting of Africans’ potential was much of the plan. Differences in French policy between West Africa and Equatorial Africa were based on this prejudice, published for the 1931 Colonial Exhibition: “. . . [T]he cycle of evolution of the black race turns more slowly in equatorial Africa than in neighbouring colonies.”61 Both the Belgian and French colonial administrations turned education over to the missions, who agreed to teach the masses, urban and rural, in exchange for land.62

Missionary education also had an acculturative effect. On arrival in the city, the freedom felt by many youth from the patronage system and other traditional social responsibilities revealed its less appealing flip side: anonymity. By providing an organization to fill the social void, an education and its promise of upward integration into the colonial system, as well as a substitution for the abandoned way of life, missions attracted increasing numbers of youth. Followers of the new customs and beliefs (which, judging by the impact Christianity has had, must have been fashioned first to dovetail with, and then to gradually replace, previous Congolese cosmo-theology) were able to immerse themselves in this new way of life in the relative safety and tranquillity of the missions.63

On the other hand, the urban environment had, as a by-product of colonial city planning, the effect of reinforcing some customs and traditions from homogeneous village life. As the population of Léopoldville and Brazzaville grew, it became “necessary” for the Europeans to segregate themselves from the Africans. In Brazzaville the first measures were undertaken soon after the city was named capital of French Equatorial Africa, in 1909. The European neighborhood was located on the plateau, for the higher elevation was thought to be less debilitating to the European constitution. In addition, Europeans feared that close contact with the black masses would increase the likelihood of contracting malaria. Two villages, as they were called, were reserved for the Africans, one on either side of the plateau. The southern neighborhood was named Bacongo, while the northern was called Poto-Poto, meaning “mud” or “mire” in Lingala. The former was for speakers of Kikongo and the latter Lingala. Since many spoke both, this division translated into linguistic and ethnic segregation; indeed, the French enforced the carrying of identity cards that declared ethnic origin. By dividing the Africans and constructing inequalities between the two villages they could be made to compete. Green separated the whites from the blacks – parks off-limits to Africans were positioned between the communities.64

In Léopoldville the Africans were segregated into the ville indigène. It appears that no physical segregation of ethnicities or languages was enforced as in Brazzaville; Léopoldville, Elisabethville, Kananga, Matadi and Boma were, in particular, referred to as “detribalized centers” and “centres extra-coutumiers,” as mentioned above. The administrations of Brazzaville and Léopoldville permitted and encouraged the development of associations based on ethnic or regional origin.65 This retrenchment of ethnic and regional identity was nurtured by the commonplace custom of newcomers’ staying with relatives while looking for work and housing. Furthermore, they came into close contact with West Africans:

In Brazza as in Léo, West Africans were attracted by the establishment of the first Dutch and Belgian factories, in which they fulfilled the enviable and longed-for function of accountant. But they did not come alone, and, as the Bible says, they were accompanied by their maidservant, by their donkey, by their ox, but also by their music, by their culture.66

Actually, there were two groups of West Africans who came to inhabit the Lower Congo region. Those referred to as “Haoussa” included Ivorians, Senegalese, Mauritanians and Nigerians, who occupied office jobs, positions to which the Congolese were denied access. Those called “Krou-Boys” or "Kroumen" came as warehousemen of the merchant marines from Sierra Leone and Liberia (from the Kru people of the same countries). The Force Publique, or police and security forces, included men from Sierra Leone, Liberia, Zanzibar and Benin, chosen for police and military service, because colonial officials believed them less likely to desert, since the area was unfamiliar to them. Officials also hoped that, as they had no cultural bonds with the local society, they would less likely collude with locals against colonial authority.67 Inhabitants of many West African countries settled in the burgeoning cities along the Congo River. Together they were called “Coastmen” and “Popos” and formed a large community.68

The large-scale migration to cities precipitated cataclysmic upheavals in the terrain of identity-images. The ethnoscape of Léopoldville and Brazzaville after World War I became increasingly complex, as the multitudes mingled, withdrew into homogeneous enclaves, recirculated among one another in the job force, heard each other's musics, had the opportunity to eat each other's foods and wear each other's clothes, traveled to and from other homes in distant places, broke free of familial restrictions, assumed new obligations, and struggled to maintain a sense of dignity and hope while suffering destructive dehumanization. The challenge and celebration of survival in an environment as vertiginous and blinding as the twin cities stimulated the growth of arts awe-inspiring in their wit, creative use of restricted resources, piercing commentary and fierce dedication to the vision of a better life.

Chapter 4

Urban Inventions -- A New Old Sound Emerges
The development of urban musics proceeded through several successive stages. In my reading of the music’s history, these stages all involved the fusion of diverse styles; they differed in the degrees to which one element or another predominated. In hearing the power differential between the competing voices, we can tune in to the changing levels of assimilation and rejection. The extent to which the greater politico-artistic process made use of both inclusion and exclusion requires a detailed, close listening to the soundscape.

Christian Singers, Agbaya, and Fanfares

In the Belgian Congo, a good education implied instruction in mathematics, French and music.69 Schools played a strong role in the configuring of musical tastes of young, educated Kinois, the inhabitants of Léopoldville. The first Christian chorales formed in mission schools in the beginning of the 20th century. These ensembles were inter-ethnic, foreshadowing in that regard the urban popular music ensembles of the rest of the century.70 Many famous musicians would get their start as Christian singers: Joseph Kabasele (a.k.a. Grand Kallé), Vicky Longomba, Roger Izeidi, and others. Most early migrants were commended by the missions as “good Christians,” a label important for placement in schools and jobs, if they shunned rural musical practices.71 This musical blackmail would not succeed as had been hoped. Instead of discarding their musical heritage as the missionaries had prayed they would, these men and women used their training to syncretize, effectively circumventing the suppression of African (read: rural, traditional) musics. The availability of instruments, such as woodwinds and brass, and tutelage in schools and mission groups produced the first wave of musicians of the new urban styles. They were by and large from an educated class, and the first ensembles were formed by men in the same profession, kalaka (clerks) for example.72 Brazzaville office employees Paul Kamba and Bernard Lebel Massamba founded Victoria Brazza in 1942.

The 1920s is remembered for the popularity of the agbaya, performed in a circle, without partners, by shifting the weight from leg to leg, swinging the arms and clapping the hands. One or two dancers would solo until the end of the refrain or a strong cadential moment, at which point two dancers would meet at their navels with pelvic motions.73 It was accompanied by a guitar or likembe, a lamellophone.74 This instrument goes by many names around the continent: mbira, sanza, karimba and kalimba to name a few. Little is known or remembered about the rhythmic pattern or melodic composition of agbaya music, since it disappeared before recording technology arrived in the Congo. One possible influence on agbaya was the palm-wine guitar of West Africa. As mentioned above, there was a strong presence of West Africans and Caribbeans in the Lower Congo cities. Outside of the mission-sponsored activities, music was exclusively a leisure activity, performed after hours. It appears that workers from Sierra Leone and Liberia had introduced their distinctive guitar style by the first decade of the century.75

A possible ingredient in the choreography of agbaya was the circle dance. Kazadi notes the night-time performance of the mbenga and lutuka among the Baluba of the Kasai region of the DRC, circle dances that provided opportunity for courting. The historical prevalence of such dances makes it plausible that they played a seminal role in the early urban syncretic musics.76

The origin of the word agbaya is uncertain, but the explanation Kazadi and Daniel Pwono propose leads to an insightful discussion of the origins of early Congolese urban music. It has been suggested that it is an imitation of the Ewe term agbadza, perhaps exclaimed during dancing.77 Considering the impact the musical practices Ghanaian immigrants had on the social life of 1920s’ Léopoldville, it merits serious consideration. The name agbaya was given to all social dances, regardless of ethnic origin, until approximately 1925.78 It seems, however, that this term was not used anywhere but in Léopoldville, pointing to its origin in the international urban milieu.

Among the earliest innovations was the incorporation of different instruments into musical practices. The likembe had served as the primary melodic instrument up through the 1930s, but it was gradually replaced as musicians experimented with new instruments. Certainly in mission schools, where, as noted, many musicians got their start, the likembe was demeaned as a primitive instrument. European brass and reed instruments were taught, and a style of music called fanfare developed out of this education. In popular, extra-curricular milieux accordions and guitars gradually replaced the likembe, due to their ability to closely imitate the melodies and rhythms of the likembe. Accordions were heard by 1902 in Brazzaville, possibly earlier in Léopoldville.79 Exactly when the guitar was first used in Congolese music is less clear. The most likely terminus post quem for its appearance in Africa appears to lie somewhere around 1500.80 I am speaking here of the so-called Spanish guitar, which began to make its presence felt on Congolese music by the 1930s. Kazadi theorizes that it came to the Congo through Angola from Portugal.81 Another possibility is that it may have come west from the from the Indian Ocean, along the Arab trade routes. During the first half of this century, guitars were more common in the region of Katanga in the southeast of DRC, which may explain why the early stars of new Congolese pop music, like Jean Bosco Mwenda wa Bayeke and Losta Abelo, hailed from there.

Another of the first urban, syncretic genres of music to appear was that of the brass bands, also called fanfares. Archival photographs show that these groups featured a tuba, baritone, trumpets, cornets, flugle horns, clarinets, saxes, and a bass drum.82 The fanfare phenomenon flourished after World War I in conjunction with the social groups, and according to Kazadi, their repertoire derived from combining West African and European idioms.83 I believe the Congolese musicians were receiving instruction in European waltzes, polkas and military music from the schools and European-sponsored clubs, while simultaneously learning from the West Africans styles like Ghanaian highlife in their free time. An example of direct transfer between West Africa and the Congo is Adou Elenga's 1951 recording of "Tout le monde samedi soir" (audio ex. A1).84 This song is a rendition of a coastal West African hit, popular from Senegal to Nigeria.85 Elenga's version, called a highlife by Ngoma, is for solo guitar. The combination of strumming and picking shows influences of both the palm-wine style of the Kru and Krio of Liberia and Sierra Leone, and also the two-finger style from Shaba and northern Zambia. He sings in French and Lingala. Furthermore, it is interesting to note that the recording I heard was transferred from a shellac disc found in the collection of the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Company.

Few could afford the foreign instruments used to play the European music, but fortunately the youth clubs sponsored by the missions began making them available. In Brazzaville, clubs like the Patronage Saint-Louis, established in 1907, alumni associations of the Catholic and public schools open from the mid-1930s, and L’Union Educative et Mutuelle de la Jeunesse de Brazzaville, established in 1942, provided opportunities for youth to learn how to play musical instruments and learn European and American harmonies and notation. The clubs also sponsored bands in which anyone could play.86 With the growing popularity of Latin music the fanfare tradition began to fade, disappearing in the late 1950s and early 1960s.87


When the elite dance halls in Brazzaville were playing the most popular European dance steps, including the “highly fashionable Cakewalk,” the masses were enjoying the maringa.88 The maringa may have been created in Loango (DRC), or in another of the new urban centers in either Congo in the early to mid-1920s.89 However, Herbert Pepper observed the maringa of the Vili and Pongwe in Libreville, Gabon.90 The name was also used in Sierra Leone.91 As with "agbaya," it is difficult to settle on an etymological history for "maringa." Judging from where the dance made its first appearance, it is highly possible that the term resulted from encounters with migrant communities from across the Atlantic, most likely from Francophone territories. Haiti had a music genre called mering from the first half of the 19th century, a possible nominal antecedent.92 The maringa dispensed with the circle of the agbaya. Instead, it was a partnered dance with hip movements and a shifting of weight from leg to leg in a manner reportedly similar to the rumba. The instrumentation was the melody instrument, either a likembe, an accordion, or a guitar, accompanied by a rhythm section of bottle-cum-knife and some kind of drum, either a crate, a patenge (a square frame drum), or one of the ngoma type (a cylindro-conical drum), played with two hands and the right heel, which was pressed on the hitting surface to change the tension and voice of the drum.93 Two typical maringa rhythms are shown below (figure 1).

Fig. 1: Maringa rhythms94

$ [cggh ch cggh ch|c c c c] (time line, played on bottle and knife)

$ [ycjj ch ycjj ch |ycjj ch ycjj ch](patenge counter pattern)

The earliest music groups had three or four members, with the guitar and drum as their basic structure to which anything else available could be added.95 In 1935, youth from the Colonie scolaire de Boma formed the first ensemble in the Belgian Congo, a maringa group. They and other similar groups played mandolin, banjo, guitar, violin, accordion and patenge. Orchestre Excelsior, formed by Coastmen in Boma in 1940, also used piano.96 In 1954 a maringa ensemble based in Léopoldville operating under the name Congo Excelsior Club (whose relationship with the above is unclear) had eleven members, playing violins, brass and woodwinds, an accordion, maracas, bass drum and cymbals.97 With this eclectic collection of instruments these maringa ensembles synthesized foxtrot, waltz, polka, quadrille, tango, bolero, swing and, of course, the myriad of regional musics known to the musicians.98 The maringa's enduring strength was directly related to its adaptability; it became a flexible framework into which Congolese musicians could assimilate foreign musics and instruments. Three main versions of the maringa were popularized in the 1930s: one incorporating the polka, one the polka piqué, and one the quadrille. When they added violins and brass they created other variants, such as the sebene, ebonga and biguine.99 The musics learned from the Coastmen and West Indian soldiers stationed in Brazzaville were similarly given a maringa treatment. This inclusivity enriched the melodic possibilities of maringa by expanding its tone palette.100

The maringa was the first movement, the first expression of the urban community, to write the nation. The use of foreign and familiar instruments acknowledged the place of the Congo in an increasingly interconnected world, as did the incorporation of rhythms from other repertoires. Equally important was the maringa's community-building effect that ran counter to the missions' attempts at splintering traditional communities and creating enclaves that would promote their own goals. The maringa provided urban migrants with outlets for their need to gather, reconnect and express their changing identities. It entered the lexicon, as shown by Kanza: “One ‘went to the Matanga,’ [a large, upbeat wake, held after mourning has ended] to designate traditional, customary social gatherings, but one ‘went to the Maringa’ when speaking of events less customary that took place in specific places.”101

The troubadour tradition of Antoine Wendo Kolosoy, Léon Bukasa, Adou Elenga and Henri Bowane (guitarists), Antoine Mundanda (likembe-ist), and Camille Feruzi (accordionist) coexisted with the new orchestras into the 1950s. As the concept of ensembles displaced the troubadour tradition, most of them became leaders of their own ensembles. Sometimes they joined together, as in the case of Trio B.O.W., co-led by Bukasa, Manuel d’Oliveira and Wendo, formed in 1953. Their era, known as Ntango ya baWendo (“Time of the Wendos”), declined when maringa music was swept away by the Latin craze.

Rumba Lingala

They (the freedom fighters) rediscovered the old songs -- they had never completely lost touch with them -- and reshaped them to meet the new needs of their struggle. They also created new songs and dances with new rhythms where the old ones were found inadequate.102

Thanks to 78s and the wind-up Edison, the 1930s heard the sounds of Cuban bands like Orquesta Aragon, Septeto Habanero and Septeto Nacional on both sides of the River.103 The following steps became popular in the following decades: Dominican merengue, Haitian mering, the beguine from Martinique, the tango from Argentina, Brazilian samba, and the Cuban cha-cha, bolero, and mambo. But the forms of Latin music that cut the widest swathe in the Congos were the Cuban son montuno and Cuban rumba, the latter being the rhythm most heavily influenced by African rhythms.104

Rumba Lingala emerged as a defined genre in the Lower Congo (Boma and Matadi) and Stanley Pool (Léopoldville and Brazzaville) regions in the 1940s. Due in part to the rumba’s appearance at the 1932 Chicago World Fair, it had become respectable to many Europeans. Machito and his Afrocubans, Orquesta Broadway, and Johnny Pacheco's band, among other ensembles, introduced audiences in New York to Latin dances, sparking an international craze. These dances reached the Congos on records and in person when the colonial governments hired them to entertain the colonial officers. The first band in Brazzaville to play Latin American music was Orchestre Congo-Rumba, started in 1934 by Jean Réal, a French man from Martinique.105 Ensembles followed the "Haitian model" of guitar, cornet, sax, patenge and two singers.106 The first African-led bands to incorporate rumba into their repertoire were established in 1942: In Léopoldville, Américain, Martinique, Odeon and Victoria Léo; in Brazzaville, Melo-Congo and Victoria Brazza.107 Other groups from the mid-1940s include the Congo Bar's house band Kin Jazz and Jean Lopongo’s Mabokoji Group. These bands, along with Excelsior, are regarded as the first orchestres, or dance bands, ensembles with multiple vocalists, woodwinds, brass, chordophones and percussion. Typically these ensembles played for the following occasions: mourning, births, baptisms, family parties, marriages, as well as for popular amusement.108 The Congolese scholar of music Lonoh Malangi Bokelenge states that before the arrival of Europeans to the Congo, dance bands such as these did not exist; local musical organizations were the norm.109

Bands adapted to the new music by changing their instrumentation. They replaced the tuba with the upright bass; substituted a full percussion section of congas, maracas, claves, güiros, etc. for the bass drum; added lead and rhythm guitars; and added or retained a clarinet or other wind instrument. Their early works were often covers of Latin classics, such as the son-pregón “El Manisero” (“The Peanut Vendor” -- audio ex. A2),110 which became a staple of dance bands.111 Bokalanga's rumba "Mazole Vanga Sanga," recorded on Loningisa 1953-1954, begins with "Mani-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i," a direct quote from "El Manisero" (audio ex. A3).112 Songs were often sung in French or Spanish. The newly structured ensembles sometimes changed their names to reflect their "modernization." L’Harmonie Kinoise, for instance, became La Joie Kinoise in 1949. La Joie Kinoise, under the leadership of singer, interpreter and composer Joseph Kabasele Tshamala, later changed its name to African Jazz for its first official appearance in Kinshasa in 1953.113 Musicians also Latinized their names to demonstrate their hipness. François and Francis became "Franco," Edward "Edo," Nicolas "Nico," and Balozi "Baroza."114 The rise of this type of dance band and the integration of Latin themes signified the birth of modern Congolese music, Rumba Lingala.115

The lyrics of many early cha-chas, boleros, pachangas and merengues were sung in a pidgin Spanish, copied from the recordings the musicians were imitating. Even in original compositions singers would often insert Spanish. In an interview with Kazadi, Franco said, "Well, nobody understood Spanish. Nevertheless, we took a dictionary and searched for words that would sound good and we used them regardless of their true meaning."116 "Maria Antonia," recorded by Pholidor and Bana Loningisa 1955-56, is an example of the "Rumba Española," a rumba sung in an untranslatable "Spangala" (audio ex. A4).117

The use of Spanish diminished in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The following description by Comhaire-Sylvain is informative. Firstly, it underscores the point about linguistic interpolation I have been making; secondly, it addresses the popularity of several varieties of music during the period; thirdly, it corroborates something I have been able only to infer, that is what people were buying before 1948, when the earliest extant local recordings were made.

Many recordings were being sold in Kinshasa in 1945. Those with success were dance music. Contrary to Spirituals which were not being sold, American jazz tunes were very much appreciated and often imitated by Congolese bands. Local composers sometimes adapted Lingala words to tunes which were enjoyed the most by the population. South American and Afro-Cuban music were also popular and several Congolese singers adorned their own works with Spanish words. 118

Defining Rumba Lingala is not easy. Firstly, neither the beginning nor the end of its period can be clearly marked. Secondly, it was performed differently by different groups. Thirdly, it changed drastically over time. We can simplify the task by focusing on the period 1948-1960 and examining it as performed on the main record labels and by its primary practitioners. I have chosen 1948 as a starting point, because the first recordings of Congolese music available today were made that year. My analysis ends in 1960 with independence.

The new form was popularized first by the collection of artists recording for the labels Ngoma, Opika, Loningisa, and CEFA (see further on media in chapter five).119 The artists on Ngoma included Antoine Wendo Kolosoy, Manoka "De Saio" Suleyman, Camille Feruzi, Manuel d'Oliveira, Georges Edouard, Léon Bukasa, Antoine Mundanda, Camille Mokoko, Adou Elenga, Victor Mokoko, Bosele François, and Luampasi Albert. Most of these artists had been working for the label's owner as musicians, even before Ngoma had been established. Once a proper label, the studio formed Beguen Band, a house band whose notable members included Balozi alias Tino Baroza, Depiano, Pierre “Delafrance,” Fariya wa Yembo alias Franck Lassan, Edo Paulin, Albino Kalombo, K.P. Flammy and Roitelet.

Early stars on Loningisa included Henri Bowane, Paul Ebengo alias Dewayon, Jean Bokelo, Kalima Pierre, Honoré Liengo, Adikwa, Pholidor, Bemi, Pembellot alias Tino Mab, and the members of Bana Loningisa, the house band. Bana Loningisa included Luambo Makiadi alias Franco, Dessoin, Daniel "De la Lune" Loubelo, Jean-Serge Essous, Edward "Edo" Nganga, Pandi Saturnin, Landot Rossignol, and, from time to time, Roitelet. It was this 1955 line-up of Bana Loningisa, plus Vicky Longomba and minus Roitelet, that in 1956 recorded for Loningisa under the name O.K. Jazz.

Opika boasted Zacharie Elenga alias Jhimmy "the Hawaïan guitarist," Paul Mwanga, Charles "Dechaud" Mwamba, Andre "Damoiseau" Kambite, Tino Baroza, Honoré Liengo, Gobi, Soudain, Eboma, Tanko, Basile and its greatest star, Joseph Kabasele. Information about CEFA has been more difficult to find, but sources show that Vicky Longomba and possibly Roitelet recorded on that label.

Artists tended to stay with one label, but some, like bassist Roitelet, guitarist Honoré Liengo and singer Vicky, who left CEFA for Loningisa, moved around. Each house seems to have employed one or more Europeans who wanted to play Rumba Lingala. Ngoma organist Pilaeïs, CEFA guitarist Bill Alexandre, Opika saxophonist Candrix, Ngoma organist Gilbert Warnant, Lonongisa/CEFA organist Sarti (who may in fact have been Gilbert Warnant) and the under-identified Jacques Pelzer all collaborated with Congolese musicians. Alexandre and Candrix are particularly remembered for their musical contributions. Alexandre brought the first electric guitar to Léopoldville, a Les Paul, and its sound so impressed listeners that it was dubbed the "talking guitar." He is credited with introducing Franco to the runs of sixths that later became his signature style.120

This European clique of musicians acted as an interculture of affiliation between the subculture of rising Congolese Rumba Lingala musicians and the supercultural European-controlled mediascape. They also helped bridge the two musical supercultures, African and European. As fusion artists they introduced European techniques and instruments to Congolese musicians, who were eager to experiment. It is curious then, given their interaction, that no European musician appears in any of the labels' photographs. Did the prohibition of Africans' performing before white audiences restrict joint media appearances? Or was it the marketing decision of the labels' executives? Perhaps they decided that they wanted to promote Rumba Lingala as music by Africans for Africans. If so, this would have indirectly contributed to the definition and construction of the Congolese nation.

Perhaps it was the aurally and physically evident African influence in the rumba that made it initially popular in the Congo. Cuba and the Congo were anything but two “fully formed and mutually exclusive cultural communities” colliding.121 The rumba itself sprang from the mixture of the folk musics of the Spanish slavers and the African captives brought to Cuba, seventy percent of whom were from the Congo basin.122 The Spanish and Portuguese idioms contributing to the musical traditions of the Americas were also influenced by the North African Moors occupying the Iberian peninsula in the eighth century. These African impressions imprinted the music of Cuba with an indelible mark easily read and copied by future Africans.

What was called Rumba Lingala was related to but not identical to Cuban rumba. After examining Cuban rumbas and Congolese rumbas, I see rhythmic resemblance only in the clavé beat. In the Congo the term "rumba" seems to have been applied to any music with a clavé beat, even if there were no other formal similarities. Eventually the name was applied to all music with a Latin tinge, even if it more closely resembled a maringa in rhythm. A reinterpretation of the name thus accompanied the assimilation of the music. Kazadi asserts that the decision to retain the name rumba was a studio decision, based on the word's commercial appeal.123

Rumba Lingala's signature rhythm, according to my analysis, is a duple meter. Its clavé beat (fig. 2) is articulated by percussion, guitar, horn, or organ. For comparison, figure 3 shows a timeline found in many parts of West Africa, and figure 4 shows the Cuban clavé beat .

Fig. 2 $ {ounEeeE}

Fig. 3 $ {eEeEeEEeEeEE}124

Fig. 4 @ {oun’Eeq}125

As I hear these rhythms, the rest between the grouping of three and the grouping of two gives a feeling of a dragging, holding, then catching up. In its faster form the Rumba Lingala clavé beat may enunciate just the slide, by eliding the first two pulses (fig. 5).

Fig. 5 @ {qn}

Variations occurred, in which beat 3 becomes 1, resulting in figure 6.

Fig. 6 $ {EeeEoun}

Another variation, used in medium tempo songs, is shown in figure 7.

Fig. 7 $ {neEneE}

The lull of the rests preserves the “sliding” feeling, which the right foot outlines at the top of the square in the ballroom version of Cuban rumba.

Even this neat delineating of the Rumba Lingala rhythm is not without its problems, for several tracks called rumbas by the record label exhibit other rhythms. Moreover, the slower rhythm (fig. 2) could be stretched to cover two measures.

The bass guitar emphasized the clavé beat and provided the harmonic framework, typically a I-(IV)-V-I progression (fig. 8). Maracas (fig. 9) and drums (fig. 10) filled out the rhythm section.

Fig. 8126 ¯=4=(=G¶=I¶=K==D´=F´=H==) bass

Fig. 9 $ \ ch ch ch ch \ ch b \ maracas

Fig. 10 $ [ s u e c ch ] drums

$ [ s u e cjjj ch ]

The guitars were tuned D-G-D-G-B-D, called the "Hawaiian" open tuning. Musicians used a capo to change keys, and vibrations of the open strings against it produced a highly desirable buzzing effect.127 This buzzing timbre is found in many parts of Africa; in the Congo region the keys of likembes are fitted with bits of metal, which buzz when the keys are plucked. The square wave, or signal distortion, of amplified guitars, which Rumba Lingala musicians began experimenting with in the early 1950s, produces a similar timbre.

Most singing is syllabic, with melismatic inflections at the end of lines, many of which use a rhetorical call of "mamá, é." The harmonies are usually thirds, though Kazadi notes the occasional octave or fifth, used for special effect.128 Three types of call and response recur: between singer and chorus; between singer and instrument; and between instruments of different sections. Pieces exhibit a combination of homophony and polyrhythm. Melodic interest is concentrated in a single part with subordinate accompaniment, but rhythmic texture is denser and more differentiated across the various instruments. Horns often punctuate, interspersing with vocal lines, rather than carry the melodic line, except when used antiphonally with the lead singer or chorus. Improvisation generally consists of variations of a motif, often involving a third. The lead guitarist of African Jazz, Dr. Nico, played in higher registers and often improvised by moving up and down the scale step-wise through arpeggios on a single string or parallel third movement on two. Franco of O.K. Jazz preferred intervals of thirds and sixths on the mid-range strings, and his improvisations, which especially in later years featured variations on a series of repeated riffs, exploited the guitar's rhythmic capabilities. In his hands it became a voice conversing with other instruments in the percussion section.

During this era composers did not use modulation. Songs began and ended in a single key. From the beginning of Rumba Lingala, songs were by and large composed with multiple sections. The first was an introduction, in which typically everyone sang and played. The second section was often a sort of solo portion, called the sebene, which in some ways resembled the montuno portion of the Cuban son montuno form.129 Throughout songs, but especially during the sebene, musicians shout slogans. They often refer to the particular rhythm and dance of the song. As the sebene developed the special role of the animateur was created, whose job it was to incite the dancers with cries of "Kwassa kwassa!", "Kiri kiri!", "Moto!", "Zekete zekete!", etc. During the early years, shouted slogans were sonic signatures of a sort. For example, Edo Nganga was known to shout "Baila!", Rossignol "Caramba!", Kabasele "Chauffez!", and Bowane "Krr . . . wamoluka landa bango!" ("Krr . . . searchers, follow them!"). Dewayon was known to call out words and phrases in Indoubil, a slang combining Congolese and European languages, such as "Nzo nzoku mabe!"130 Notice the play of Lingala, Spanish, French and Indoubil. During this stretch the dancers would try out new steps.

Later compositions took on two or three distinct sections. The first was an introduction, where the lyrical and melodic motifs were presented in a slow to medium tempo. The sebene would begin with an obvious increase in tempo and perhaps a change in key. Singing might or might not continue. If so, a third, purely instrumental section could close out the song. The sebene grew longer and became the highly anticipated portion of a composition. Since the middle 1980s many bands, such as Kanda Bongo Man's group, Pepe Kallé's Empire Bakuba, Les Quatres Étoiles and Soukous Stars, have dispensed with the introduction altogether. Others, such as Wenge Musica, Shaba Kahamba's Les Esprits Saints and Mose Se Fan Fan's Somo Somo Ngobila seem now to be returning to the two-part format. In the early days of Rumba Lingala, however, the songs usually had a formal organization of A-B-A, where the sebene (B) differed very little in tempo or melody from the A sections.

I hear the adherence to a single tonality, the preference for close harmonies, and the use of call and response as a desire for unity. Expressions of agreement are privileged over those of dissent, those of harmony over those of dissonance, of inclusion over exclusion. The characteristic sweetness of Rumba Lingala, even of Congolese music up to the present, achieved by singing in upper registers and falsettos, the rounded timbre of the amplified guitars, the tight harmonies and the limited improvisation, eschews conflict, encourages agreement. It also makes up for the hardships of everyday life.

Musicians drew together local musical characteristics, such as singing in thirds, polyrhythm and homophony, and foreign elements, in instrumentation, harmonic progression and Spanish, in order to syncretize the dissonant environments and resolve the existential tension of the two colliding world systems. They sought to make a space where everyone could create, participate and identify. The syncretism shows both a nostalgia for a lost life and an excitement for the present and future. The sebene section is the time to celebrate the new identity in the company of the group, for the dancers to show that they belong. It is the time for the musicians to demonstrate their facileness with the world they have created -- their instruments and music -- thereby making it more attractive to everyone else.

Another characteristic of Rumba Lingala is the high degree of repetition in compositions. Short phrases in horn, guitar, percussion and vocal parts are repeated many times. As technological advances enabled longer recordings, the repetition increased. This feature lends itself well to dancing, as a stable base is needed to work the choreography and is characteristic of many of the rural music traditions in the Congos. I hear more than the simple transfer of a musical practice: Repetition can be a form of hyperbole, and in the case of Rumba Lingala, I think it is. Motifs are introduced and repeated with variations. The motifs express on the surface musical tendencies, and below the surface ideological tendencies. The exaggeration of repetition is what Max Paddison called a "stylistic device employed to highlight these tendencies and bring them vividly into consciousness."131 Their repetition is an effort to wear down the opposition, erode the system, break out of the confines of colonialism.


No standardized instrumentation emerged until the era of the big bands. In the early days rumbas could be played on two guitars. One guitarist would strum the rhythm and harmonic changes, while the other picked out the chords to support the voice that carried the melody. Overall, strumming was an infrequently used technique. Soon after Ngoma began recording, the bands began to fill out. Some of the early line-ups included: three guitars, clarinet, and “jazz,” the name given to the scraper (Manuel d'Oliveira et les San Salvador, 1952); three guitars, bass, maracas and claves (Wendo, 1956); one guitar, bass, two clarinets, trumpet, maracas, “jazz” (Léon Bukasa, 1957). A publicity photo of the Ngoma house band, the Beguen Band, from c.1955 shows the group with banjo, upright bass, trumpet, euphonium, alto and tenor saxes, and drum kit (including snare, two tenors and kick drum, and sock and ride cymbals). A similar photo from c.1959 shows two hollow-bodied, amplified guitars, upright bass, trumpet, alto sax, possibly clarinet, “jazz,” bongos, and maracas. Most of the songs also included a "tam-tam," most likely a single-headed, cylindrical drum.

These instruments were not restricted to rumbas. The rubric Rumba Lingala was inclusive, for most musicians of the Rumba Lingala era played variations on several Latin idioms. Bands responded to the changing times by incorporating new rhythms and dances into their repertoire. For example, the cha-cha became quite popular towards the end of the 1950s, prompting Wendo to re-record his hit "Marie-Louise" in 1958 as a cha-cha backed by the Beguen Band (audio ex. B6).132

The 1950s saw syncretization in many areas, as several bands explored the compositional possibilities of rumba. Instruments such as the acoustic string bass, electric guitar, conga drums, maracas, scraper, clarinets and flutes were added to the orchestras. While the fascination with Latin music heavily influenced these bands and many included Latin covers in their repertoires, they resisted the option of simply imitating and reproducing Latin hits.

No band felt content with playing in only one rhythm. Collections of recordings from the late 1940s through 1960 show bands performing rumbas, boleros, cha-chas, merengues, polka piqués, biguines133 and a variety of others. The rumbas, however, predominated. Each rhythm had its specific use: the cha-cha was the preferred form for treating joyous or celebratory subjects (African Jazz’s “Indépendance Cha-Cha” -- audio ex. A5),134 the merengue for light entertainment (African Team’s “Merengue Fontaine”), and the bolero for songs of elegy (O.K. Jazz's "Liwa ya Wechi" -- "The Death of Wechi"). Franco was known to interpolate liturgical compositions such as "Dies Irae" and "Kyrie Eleison" into the lead guitar voices of his boleros, reflecting the impact Christianity had made on the population.135 The rumba was an all-purpose rhythm, often used for stories of love, as well as social messages.

The song "Ménagère," recorded by Pauline Lisanga's ensemble 1953-1954 (audio ex. A6),136 shows an astute awareness of the contrasting significance of different rhythms. The title is a term borrowed from French (meaning "housewife") and used in the Congo to designate a European man's African mistress. Loningisa called it a "polka piké." The song begins with a polka piqué, one of the favorite rhythms of the early 1950s in the villes indigènes, played on guitar, accordion, snare with cymbal, saxophone and possibly kazoo. A third of the way into the 2:51 song, everything but the snare and accordion drop out. With a shout of "Tango! Recommended by doctors!" a slow tango ensues.137 The word used for "doctors" is polyvalent: Banganga may refer to both European-trained physicians and traditional healers. The tango was at that time in vogue among the Europeans and immatriculés, a class of privileged Congolese with identification cards and the freedom to drink alcohol and stay out after the nine-o'clock curfew.138 I read this as the band's testament that their music heals, and theirs is good for everyone: whether they would visit just one kind of doctor or both, as would many Congolese, especially if the European treatment did not have the desired effect. The dose of tango is small -- just about a minute. The polka piqué then resumes. This song shows more clearly than most the phase of musical transition between European- and Latin-oriented sounds. It reveals the ambiguity of identity in living between two worlds, African and European. It also speaks to a belief in music's ability to heal.

Though its influence can still at times be recognized, Latin music ceased to be a model for imitation in the period after independence had been achieved, tapering heavily in the early sixties. Only Grand Kallé's African Team and Dr. Nico's African Fiesta Sukisa continued in the idiom late into the decade.

Bands' Names

Many bands carried the name of the publishing firm, recording studio or their founder/leader, such as the group of Tekele Monkango, one of the earliest Congolese chanteuses. Other women in the early groups include Pauline Lisanga, who later worked for Radio Congo-Belge, Marthe Mandibala, Anne Ako, Marie Kitoko, Lucie Eyenga, Photas and Marcelle Ebibi from Cameroun.139 The activities and music of these first singers does not appear to have been preserved, but a stage-savvy theatricality is apparent in some of these women's names; kitoko is Lingala for "beautiful" and eyenga "holiday" and "celebration."

As in their approach to the new urban music genres, instrumentation and their own stage names, musicians were fond of using foreign elements in their bands' names. Some examples are Orchestre Machina Loca (Spanish for "Crazy Machine"), Trio Fylla, Beguen Band, San Salvador, Likembes Geantes, Novelty, and African Soul Quintet. The term "jazz" occurred frequently in bands' names. It did not signify that the band played jazz music; instead, it was a symbol of modernity. Some examples are Dynamic Jazz, Affeinta Jazz, Vedette Jazz, Negro Jazz, Mysterieux Jazz, Ry-Co Jazz, Mexico Jazz, Kin Jazz, Congo Jazz, Bantous Jazz, Cercul Jazz, O.D. Jazz, Jazz Vénus, Jazz Beguen, and Jazz Mango. Musicians' propensity to use "jazz" in their bands' names and the use of the moniker to designate the scraper, or mkwakwa, may have stemmed from positive impressions of African-American soldiers stationed in Congolese cities.140 Certainly, Congolese musicians were aware of American jazz; Louis Armstrong's visit to Kinshasa, where he gave a public concert, was much fêted. He was transported to the stadium like a chief, in a chair carried by porters and preceded by dancers and musicians.141 Why musicians were not drawn to more closely imitate American jazz is a question that was asked even in 1950. Jean Welle, a writer for the periodical Congopresse, wrote:

I have never heard Congolese musicians play jazz -- I mean true jazz, in the manner of the North Americans. I have been told when they listen to records from across the Atlantic they react with indifference. As regards their dancing, they are fond of the sounds from a pick-up [a turntable], that is, romantic recordings, and slow-fox or slow waltz melodies. . . .

But if the blacks of Harlem surrender to the rolling of nickel-plated drums, to the frenetic dances whose names evoke the ancestral jungle -- their brothers in the Congo, when they are not dancing the rumba to the sounds of their dance bands, they would prefer without hesitation the tender voice of Tino Rossi to the trumpet of Louis Armstrong.142

The juxtaposition of local and foreign words in ensembles’ names signaled a looking inward and outward, part of the syncretizing effort to create what Homi K. Bhaba called the "third space" -- a place they as the forgers of a new nation in a modern world could own. In my reading, the appropriation of the label "jazz" parallels that of the label "rumba." Both appellations issued from a people seething under oppression. Cuban rumba, as I explain in chapter five, and American jazz were practiced primarily by the sectors of society most marginalized. The race factor in the economic and political policies is consistent in all three of these regions (Congo, Cuba, U.S.A.) -- another face of the "black Atlantic." These artistic statements of self-esteem and group identification from Afro-Cubans and African-Americans were strong signifiers from peoples with shared history. Connecting -- indeed identifying -- with those across the Atlantic through "rumba" and "jazz" enlarged the Congolese world. Furthermore, "jazz" connoted resistance, virility and power over oppression, as shown by the following excerpt from the poem "Pleure, O Noir Frère Bien-Aimé" ("Weep, O Beloved Black Brother") by Patrice Lumumba, the leader of the pan-Congolese party Mouvement National Congolais and the first prime minister of the independent DRC:

. . . And it is there that it gushes forth, magnificent,

Sensuous and virile like a voice of bronze

Born of your sadness, your powerful music,

Jazz, today admired throughout the world

In forcing the respect of the white man,

In telling him most loudly that henceforth,

This country is his no more, as before,

Thus you have granted your brothers in race

The happy future that promises deliverance.143

The incorporation of "jazz" and "rumba" into the musical vocabulary heralded a significant shift in Congolese cultural politics. These two terms resisted the political marginalization and racial oppression by Europeans. Like "black" in Britain, these terms "came to provide the organizing category of a new politics of resistance, amongst groups and communities with, in fact, very different histories, traditions and ethnic identities."144 The diversity of subject positions and social experiences drawn into Congolese identity could be accommodated through the appropriation of these terms, charged as they were with an intrinsic rebelliousness. As a mode of representation Rumba Lingala assumed a radically different position and displaced earlier politico-cultural strategies. It recentered the world with a generalized local and diasporic African experience at the nexus. The spatial model of home and abroad acted as a temporal model, too. Through analogy, the musical melding of the past with present and local with foreign created a constellation of subject possibilities and identity options, all "Congolese" by virtue of their place in the chronotopic continuum. This new unifying framework, "based on the building up of identity across ethnic and cultural difference between different communities, became 'hegemonic' over other . . . identities -- though the latter did not, of course, disappear."145

The two greatest Congolese bands to emerge during this era of Rumba Lingala both used "jazz" in their names. I have given a few details below of their early days in part to personalize the history I have presented. I also want to show how the different milieux from which they sprang impacted the variety of Rumba Lingala they created.

African Jazz

Tshamala Kabasele Joseph Athanase, alias Kalé Jeef, Kallé Jeff and Grand Kallé, was born in Matadi on December 16, 1930. He grew up in Kinshasa, and at eight years old began his primary education at Saint Joseph school. In 1949, after his third year at the intermediate, or post-primary, level, he was expelled from school. According to Lonoh, "Three years of post-primary? That was a lot for the Congolese of the colonial period! To be in possession of a diploma or certificate of three post-primary years during colonization was to be classed among the black intellectual elite."146 Kabasele's first job was with his maternal uncle, the Cardinal Malula. He was able to find work in offices as a typist and stenographer and had hopes of eventually becoming a bureaucrat. While at school he had been exposed to the liturgical music of the Catholic Church, and after several years in office work, he decided to take up music as a career, despite family reproach.

At twenty years old he made his first recordings, together with Georges Doula, Marcelin Laboga and Albert Yamba-Yamba alias Kabondo. In 1951 he appeared in a publicity film and sang on two songs with Jhimmy and Tino Baroza. He also gathered together the musicians with whom he would form African Jazz and established a relationship with the studio Opika. In 1953 they made their public debut. He played with Belgian pianist Pilaeïs, the professor of music Dubois, maestro Henri Dupré, the European group of studio Esengo, and the Radio Congo Belge orchestra. In January 1960 he accompanied delegates to the Round Table meeting on Congolese (Léopoldville) independence in Brussels. He composed "Table Ronde" to commemorate the historic occasion, and "Indépendance Cha-cha" when the country gained independence on June 30, 1960. Throughout his career Grand Kallé turned out hits with African Jazz and later African Team, both of which had great followings, especially with the élite. He was responsible for creating one of the two most influential schools of musicians, as well as introducing the electric guitar and trumpets to the Rumba Lingala ensembles. Bowane's onomatopoetic imitation of drums inspired Kabasele to bring African percussion into his music.147 He said he was inspired by three schools of music: the Caribbean school (Afro-Cuban rhythms), European songs, and traditional Congolese melodies. His lyrics were always respectful, never obscene. The "Grandfather of modern Congolese music" passed away in February of 1983.

Kabasele preferred music closely linked to the Latin model. His ensembles' compositions featured soft timbres, a relaxed, lush sound, subtle horn arrangements, pronounced percussion sections, and amplified, slightly “nasal” sounding guitars arpeggiating in the upper register. Typically the upright bass plucked a I-IV-V-I, and claves, brushes, maracas, other percussion or guitar clearly enunciated the clavé beat. The vocalists elaborated melodies, and sang in upper registers with rich, well tempered harmonies. Their signature was a controlled, neat, impeccably arranged, sweet Latin sound.

O.K. Jazz

François L'Okanga La Ndju Pene Luambo Makiadi, alias Franco, was born on July 6, 1938, in Sono Bata, a village in the Bas-Congo region approximately fifty miles from Kinshasa. His father died ten years later, and his mother opened a market stall. He left school and to help his mother attract customers he played guitar, harmonica and kazoo at her side. He also played with some of the neighborhood boys who supported the soccer club Vita. At twelve years old he joined his first group, Watam (from "watama," meaning unemployed, vagrant), under the influence of guitarist Dewayon, whom he had met on his street. "He had a guitar he had made himself. . . . When he worked at night I used to pinch his guitar. That's when I started to discover some sounds."148 Dewayon's style was the music of the street boys, who called themselves "Bills" (see chapter five). Watam's rhythm section were Bakongo patenge frame drums. Many people took notice of Watam, and other musicians recognized Franco's talent.

In 1953 Franco accompanied another neighbor, the guitarist Albert Luampasi, on a three-month engagement. When he returned Watam had been contracted to record for Loningisa. The first song he played in the studio was probably "Esengo ya Mokili" ("The Pleasure of Life"), in which Dewayon sings, "Let the priest, Dewayon, Franco and others sing the rumba. The pleasure of life is to be famous."149 Franco recorded his first disc that year, and the owner of Loningisa was so impressed that he gave Franco the guitar he had been using -- his first real instrument -- and a ten-year contract to play with Bana Loningisa. He continued recording for Loningisa through 1955 and made several local hits. He gained quite a following during this time, especially with the street boys and the new generation of socially liberated and financially independent women of such societies as La Beauté, L'Élégance, Bana Ages ("Contemporaries"), Bana Mode ("Fashionable People") and Bana 15 Ans ("15-year-olds").150 It was these women who nicknamed him "Franco de mi Amor."

After falling out with Loningisa -- Watam had been smuggling out the equipment on Saturday nights to play at local bars -- the band approached Omar Kashama, owner of Chez Cassien O.K. Bar. On June 6, 1956, O.K. Jazz debuted and began to record again for Loningisa. It was at this time that they recorded their eponymous rumba "On entre O.K., On sort K.O." ("You enter O.K., You leave K.O." -- audio ex. A7).151 After a tour in Brazzaville, Franco was imprisoned for driving his Vespa (part of his payment under contract with Loningisa) without a license. Upon release he rejoined the band for a tour of the interior. Back in Léopoldville he was renamed "Sorcerer of the Guitar."

African Jazz was the hottest band at the time, and to compete O.K. Jazz initially imitated the rumba sound. Their style changed, however, as Franco experimented with traditional rhythms, melodies and instruments, like the slit-drum called a lokole. The early O.K. Jazz was always the lesser polished sounding of the two main ensembles. O.K. Jazz's amplified guitars had a edgier and less blended sound. Whereas the guitars in African Jazz played supporting arpeggios, the guitar in O.K. Jazz carried the melody, often doubling with a sax or clarinet. Throughout his career Franco's guitar was always the prominent feature of his music. The vocalists sing in a middle register with slightly nasal voices, and their approach to lyrics is more closely related to spoken language patterns. Generally speaking, the melodic contours are less dramatic and the compositions less complex than African Jazz's music at that time. The musicians in O.K. Jazz were self-taught, and none had the education of Kabasele. The resultant overall sound from less privileged backgrounds was smaller, tenser and rougher.

O.K. Jazz created the other major school of musicians in Congolese music. Once he assumed leadership of the band, Franco led O.K. Jazz until his death on October 12, 1989. Around 1962 they added "Tout Pouissant" ("All Powerful") to their name -- a fitting title, for in the 1970s T.P.O.K. Jazz swelled to include more than 40 musicians and support over 100 families.152

Themes in Congolese Song

Again Comhaire-Sylvain:

The most common subjects treated in the period after recordings were made (from 1948) were love and relationships between the sexes, difficulties of urban life (living in a colonial state), ethics, death, and dancing. Frequently musicians were contracted to advertise a particular product. Later politics and music interfaced directly as politicians exploited the popularity of particular bands and individual personalities to improve their election chances or endear themselves to the public. This overt relationship between music and politics was not a feature of pre-independence music.153

The rumba "Noko Akomi Mobali" ("The Uncle Becomes the Boyfriend"), recorded by Adikwa on Loningisa 1953-1954 is typical of the miniature soap operas of the 78 rpm era, in which love, frustration and moralizing were all covered (audio ex. A8). It features two guitars, a snare drum, maracas, and at least three singers.

Him: You lied to me when you settled this rendez-vous with me. Do you think a little girl like you can cheat an old dog like me? I waited for you, but now it's your turn to wait!

Her: Set your mind at ease, darling. There are many other days. Today I just didn't have the time.

Him: (Aside) As for me, I don't have much time left! (To her) You cheated me because of the beer, but from now on it's you and me till death do us part. (Aside) Even if I must pay her a taxi to Kitambo, what I will lose on one side I will gain on the other! (To her) You asked me to buy you four beers and to take you to the movies and you promised to take me home after. Now you show me this guy pretending he's your uncle. Suddenly the uncle becomes your boyfriend! (To the uncle) Did you see what that girl has done to me?

Uncle: Yes, those girls are always like that.

Him: Doesn't she ever stay at home?

Uncle: Leave her alone!

Him: And why should I pay a taxi for her? (Aside) It's a shame, my friends!154

This hilarious scenario satirizes several characteristics of life in the big city in the 1950s. Firstly, it spoofs the stereotype of gross age difference between the man and the woman with "old dog" and "little girl," the aside "As for me, I don't have much time to wait," and the possibility that her lover could pass for her uncle. Secondly, it also addresses the changing rituals of courtship: the beer and movie are commodities with arguably no use-value that virtually any man is able to present a woman. However, colonial control over the flow of capital diminished a man's ability to provide for a woman, thereby threatening to emasculate him. Thirdly, it comments on the place of women in urban society. Rural responsibilities were replaced by a reduced ability to contribute positively to society. Angling for the best man was a means of survival. Lastly, the line "What I will lose on one side I will gain on the other" summarizes a life-philosophy, one that has particular applicability when coping with colonial society. The rules were constantly changing, conspiring to keep the Congolese entangled in a web of obedience, transgression and punishment; the ability to see balance, even if only between this world and the next, increased one's chances for survival.

Other songs sought to instruct people how to comport themselves in the city. The rumba "Prince Baudouin" by Lufungola Alphonse, recorded 1953-1954 on Loningisa, warned of the dangers of traffic (audio ex. A9).155 A honking saxophone and clanging bells imitated the noises one would hear on the Boulevard Baudouin in Léopoldville, and the label's first electric guitar implied all things modern. "Na Mokili Moko Te" ("You're Not Alone in the World"), recorded 1953-1954 on Loningisa by tubist and pianist Kalima Pierre's fanfare, is a rumba instructing a young girl to stop boasting and let others celebrate her beauty (audio ex. A10).156

One of life's daily challenges was to avoid trouble with the authorities. Antoine Mundanda's "Njila ya Ndolo" ("The Road to Prison"), a rumba recorded for Ngoma in 1954 (audio ex. B1),157 and Dewayon's biguine "Nalekaki na Nzela" ("I Was on my Way"), issued by Loningisa 1953-1954 (audio ex. B2),158 both describe the ease with which a young man might find himself spending a night (or more) in jail. Franco's "La Rumba O.K. (audio ex. B3)," released by Loningisa 1955-1956, describes Franco's arrest and four nights behind bars, apparently for the way he had piloted his Vespa scooter.159

Songs were also used as advertisements for certain products. An example is "Margarine Fina" by Tino Mab, recorded for Loningisa in 1953-1954 (audio ex. B4). It is a biguine for two guitars, maracas, wood block and bass drum. Before the song starts we hear the following skit:

Woman: "Mmm."


Man: "Nde. Boni solo kitoko mpo na ndako?"

"What smells so delicious in the house?

Woman: "Nakalingaki ngombe na mafuta ya mindele."

"I fried meat in the oil used by the whites."

Man: "Nini? 'Margarine Fina'?"

"Which? 'Fina Margarine'?"

Woman: "Ehn?"

(in disbelief)

Man: "Mekisa ngai moke."

"Let me try a little."

Woman: "Mma."

(Signals him to open his mouth)

Man: "Mmm. Ya solo. Elengi, eh?"

"Mmm. Really good, no?”160

The leader and chorus then sing about how delicious and useful Magarine Fina is. Other song-ads included Camille Mokoko's promotion of Bata shoes ("Ekoko Bata"), an ad for Aspero brand aspirin, O.K. Jazz's advertisement of a Volkswagen ("Azda"), Kronembourg Beer, and African Fiesta's (led by Tabu Ley Rochereau) song "Toyota."

All strata of Congolese society were inscribed in the songs of Rumba Lingala. Colonizer, peasant, immatriculé, street peddler, housemaid, government clerk and young tough were all paraded before the listener. This manœuver to equalize meant that all classes could be judged side by side. It provided a badly needed outlet for social commentary, and Rumba Lingala's enormous circulation drew unprecedented numbers of listeners into the debates.

I will now take a look at an influential song from the very beginning of the recording era in Congolese music. The first recorded version of "Marie-Louise" by Wendo,a rumba, was captured onto acetate in 1948 (audio ex. B5).161 It was flown to Bruxelles where the pressing master was molded and released the following year on 78 rpm shellac as Ngoma 23.162 The version I have heard comes from a CD mastered from the re-released 45 rpm EP single Ngoma 1011. Its sound quality is tinny, scratchy, much like hearing a song over a telephone. The mid-range frequencies dominate; the upper and lower strings of the guitars often lose out to the middle. Overall their sound takes on a muddy, “nasal” quality. It sounds as if the upper string(s) are slightly flat. The voices come through strongly and clearly, and the lyrics are easy to understand. The singers utilize their natural range, without going into falsetto as many later signers would do.

On the surface "Marie-Louise" is a man's plea to a woman to marry him. He begs her to come to him. He talks of the resistance her family has put up to the marriage, but, he argues, their love is true and must be consecrated. It is self-referential: Wendo identifies himself as the suitor and a musician, and Bowane is named a musician and his brother-in-law. Bowane sings a verse, where he tells Wendo that he has nothing to complain about -- they have a car, guitars, their voices. He says they should run away with her to Kingabwa (presumably a town).


Marie-Louise solo ngai na yo

Marie-Louise, I am truly yours

Wapi nkombo Louise

Where is the one named Louise?
Lobela ngai ntina wapi, Louise.

Tell me why, Louise.

Louise, nakobala te.

Louise, I will not get married.

5 Louise, nakozila yo, bokilo alobi, Louise.

Louise, I will wait for you, as bokilo [see below] said, Louise.
Solo mpenza ngai nakobala, Louise.

It is so true that I want to marry you, Louise.

Bokilo aboyi ngai na yo nde libala.

Bokilo has refused you and me the marriage.

Ngai na yo tolingani.

You and I love each other.

Libala na ngai na yo, mama Louise.

Marriage is for you and me, [mama] Louise

10 Wapi Louise?

Where are you Louise?
Yoka sebene.

Listen to the sebene.
Bokilo alobeli ngai makanisa ya motema.

Bokilo has revealed the thoughts of his heart to me.

Kofinga ngai na mayele, kotongo ngai na mayele

He insults me mischievously, discredits me craftily

Likolo na mwana nde Louise.

Because of the girl Louise.

15 Ngai nakobala nde Louise.

I will marry only Louise.

Bokilo, bofinga ngai mpo Louise.

Bokilo, you insult me because of Louise.

Oyebaka te Bowane bokilo wa yo.

Don't forget Bowane is your bokilo.

Wapi Louise?

Where is Louise?
Wendo alingi komona mama Louise

Wendo wants to see [mama] Louise

20 Bongo apesa na Bowane

So he can show her to Bowane

Wapi Louise?

Where are you Louise?

Solo Bowane bola guitare kombo lindanda mpe likembe wa ngai.

Bowane plays guitar harmoniously and my likembe

Wendo, yokoloba pamba

Wendo, you talk for nothing

Biso tozali na voiture

We have our car

25 Biso tozali na baguitares na biso

We have our guitars

Biso tozali na mingongo ya biso

We have our voices

Tokokima na ye nzela Kingabwa mama

We will run away with her to Kingabwa [mama]

Solo mpenza nayoki nde lolaka

I hear only the music

Oyo bakonzemba ngai, bakotuna ngai, Wendosor.

That they will sing for me, what they will ask me, Wendosor.

30 Catalogue akonzemba mpe ngai, Marie-Louise.

Catalogue also sings for me, Marie-Louise.

Solo mpenza nakobola guitare.

Yes, I am playing guitar.

Nabola mpe likembe na ngai mpe na violon.

And I play my likembe and my violin.

Wapi Louise na ngai mama?

Where is my Louise [mama]?

Bola guitare lindanda!

Play guitar harmoniously!
35 Solo mpenza bino bakonzemba Louise

Yes, you who will sing for Louise

Baninga ba ngai yoka Bowane akonzemba mpe na lindanda

My friends, listen to Bowane, he will sing, and how sweetly

Solo ngai Wendosor mama. . . .

It is really me Wendosor [mama]. . . .163

My expanded reading reveals this song to be allegorical and quietly confrontational. Wendo and Bowane, two of the most famous and widely recorded musicians in their day (Wendo released a new album in 1995; Bowane's last, as far as I know, came in 1976 during his days in Ghana), sing about an object of desire that is beyond their reach. They want a different life, one where they are treated as equals, free to go wherever they want, with whomever and whenever. They recognize the perks of their status, the power of celebrity, but recognize its rewards are material only. They invoke the pride of their rural, familial, ancestral heritage and sublimate that force into the institutionalized captivity of the urban recording musician. Combined with the power of new technology they attempt to break out.

A different life is beyond their reach at the moment, for a certain "bokilo" will not marry them. The authority figure is ambiguously portrayed as "bokilo," which in Lingala can mean father-in-law, mother-in-law, sister-in-law, brother-in-law, or, colloquially, friend. Here the problem is most likely between Wendo and his potential father-in-law. All in-laws would play various roles even before marriage, even before they had legally become in-laws, and would impact the married couple's lives ever after. I see "bokilo" -- a force outside the nucleus of the marriage yet intimately and inextricably bound to the daily affairs of one's family -- as an allusion to colonial power, whose various agents impacted every aspect of Congolese life, like Orwell's Big Brother. Here the colonizer seeks to thwart Wendo's efforts by "not marrying him" to his object of desire -- freedom (line 7). Instead Wendo is criticized and insulted, rebuked for trying to achieve something outside his mandated position in colonial society (lines 13-4). Wendo's response is to remind his listeners that Bowane is on his side, and once he shows Bowane what it is he wants, Bowane will help him. (lines 17, 20, 22). Bowane needs to be convinced: He tells Wendo that he should not complain, not seek more than he already has (line 23). Not only have they been given material luxuries, but they have not yet been silenced (lines 24-6). Here Bowane shifts to supporting Wendo: Yes, they do have their voices and guitars, their instruments of power. Let them go forth together and take "her" (line 27). With that vote of confidence, Wendo hears the sounds of victory, the music they will play at his marriage (lines 28-9). He shows that he has more support. Catalogue (could be a friend, or the fashion pamphlets of the time that "were a source of reference and inspiration to the chic young people of Kinshasa"164) and other friends want it, too (line 30). It is true . . . they will succeed.

Wendo comments on the confluence of the streams of urban colonized life: the guitar -- the symbol of modernization accessible to regular folk, enabling them to bridge the gulf between the African and European conditions (lines 22, 25, 31, 34); the likembe -- the symbol of rural music, traditional patterns of life, and the "changing same" (lines 22, 32); and the violin -- the symbol of European culture held beyond the reach of most Africans (line 32). These intersecting spheres of society make up the very matrix from which Wendo's song and the whole genre sprang. It is in the negotiating of this uneven terrain that the Congolese become dexterous and are eventually able to throw the colonizer off balance and defeat him. It is Independence Wendo wants.

The allegorical style was probably chosen to reduce the likelihood of retribution. Wendo even comments on this choice in "Marie-Louise." He tells Bowane to play harmoniously and sing sweetly, so as not to appear confrontational (lines 22, 34, 36). Were they to sing a song directly demanding independence, it may not have gotten recorded, or it would have been banned immediately following its release, rendering the message entirely impotent. Wendo and Bowane could have suffered a fate similar to that of Adou Elenga, whose career ended in 1955 due to "lack of instruments." In fact, he had just released a song entitled "Ata Ndele" ("Eventually"), in which he sang "Hold your guitar in your hand and make her tremble so that the world will tremble. The world will change -- sooner or later the white man will give up. . . ."165 The record was snatched off the market.

Allegory's strength lies in its sly, slow-but-sure approach. It requires patience, a trust that better times will come. It is also more appropriate in situations where power is oppressive and vigilant, striking down any resistance. Music's strength lies in its open-endedness. If the lyrics are allegorical, they become nearly impossible to impugn. Nor can ambiguous messages be easily co-opted. Wendo reveals his awareness of music's power: He focuses his listeners not only on the lyrics, but also on the music, in the multiple references to instruments (lines 22, 25, 31-2, 34), voices (lines 26, 28-30, 35-6), and the sebene, or guitar solo (line 11).

Many other songs articulated a passionate desire for unity in Africa, a conviction that solidarity was the key to better life. Some examples include the rumba "Afrika Mokili Mobimba" ("Africa the World Over" -- audio ex. B7)166, "Addis-Abeba, carrefour d'Afrique" ("Addis Abeba, Crossroads of Africa"), "Nakeyi Abidjan" ("I went to Abidjan"), "La Vida Africa" ("African Life"), "Amité Senegalo Congolaise ("Senegalese-Congolese Friendship"), and "Congo nouveau, Afrique nouvelle" ("New Congo, New Africa").

Chapter 5

Made in Congo” -- Conceiving the Nation

"The Negro African music of the Congolese conception is the art of liberty: from 1945 to 1960 it actively took part, in a clandestine manner, in the struggle for independence, this common battle in which all oppressed peoples were engaged."167 The songs of Rumba Lingala were something more than mere entertainment of a new variety. They were a distinct mode of cultural production. Rumba Lingala's creolization of musical genres celebrated the demographic metissage of Brazzaville and Léopoldville. It provided a way to break out of the identities imposed by the colonizers to occupy continental interstices, borderlands that had previously been with few exceptions the exclusive terrain of the colonizer. Through Rumba Lingala musicians created a means to represent their own ideological passage to far away destinations. The interculture of the ships, and later airplanes, was recreated in music.

This chapter will develop a theory of identification through Rumba Lingala. First I shall discuss performance sites and rites, some of the specific places and ways identification was acted out. Then I shall investigate the role technology played in aiding the process of expanding and reconfiguring the Congolese nation. Lastly, I will look at language and the speaking of nationhood.

Performance Sites and Performance Rites

From the variety of experiences of chamber music in different communities, Philip Bohlman theorized that:

Viewed from the performative perspective, the absence of specific meaning within the text allows meaning to accrue only upon performance, thus empowering any group -- for example, an ethnic community -- to shape what it will from absolute music.168

To see how the performance of Rumba Lingala constructs meaning, a look at the topoi where performance takes place is needed. I have identified two common topoi: the body and the community. First I will analyze social clubs and bars, the loci of public interaction, to glimpse how the urban community performed identification.169 Then I will discuss dance as the body's performance of identification, and propose specific meanings that dancing rumba revealed and reproduced.

Social Clubs

Through music, communities reconstructed themselves along different lines from the original kinship organization. The groups and social clubs that appeared in urban centers in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s were attempts to regroup after the fissionary shock of large-scale rural exodus. Together they learned to cope with the cartographic rupture of pro-city migration. The new projection, engineered by the capitalist colonizers to maximize the profits of the metropole, reconfigured space in such a way that Africans, and among them the women especially, were "red-lined," or systematically denied access to resources. They comprised the labor pool, nothing more. Common backgrounds and interests provided opportunities for individuals to build communities and seek others out who could relate to their frustrations about life. Interpersonal relationships in the ethnically diverse urban centers, where members from different regions of the colony came into contact, enlarged people's images of the society in which they lived.

The urban environment brought people into contact with one another in ways different from the village environment. The reasons for gathering, the locales and the company at social events were re-invented in the cities. As stated above, one of the most musically salient features of urban life was the presence of West African "Coastmen" in the Congo. One impact the Coastmen had on the urban Congolese was in the formation of associations. One such association was CAM.DA.TO., a mutual assistance association for natives of Cameroun, Dahomey and Togo living in the French Congo. It served as a model for Congolese clubs, circles and societies that began appearing in 1939.170 One of CAM.DA.TO.’s activities was music-making; the highlife and palm-wine attracted the attention of the Congolese and endeared the Coastmen to them. The “Doualamen,” an appellation for those coming from Cameroun, were known for their guitar-playing and may have passed on to the Congolese their renditions of the polka-piqué, learned from the Germans, who had colonized part of Cameroun prior to W.W. I.171 Social groups included the eating of food in their parties, and the Lingala phrase loso ya Ghana (“Ghana rice”) came from a unique variety of rice served at Ghanaian functions in the 1920s.172 Günter Gretz attributes the Ibo minstrel sound (of, for example, Three Night Wizards) of "Nabuyusaki yo kokota te na ndako na ngai," recorded by Camille Mokoko in 1950, to the influence of such West African associations.173

In the 1930s Congolese social groups appeared, modeled to some extent on long-standing practices of organizing, and to some extent on the Coastmen's circles. By and large members grouped around a common interest, including sports, music, education, or particular concerns. Some were organized around a particular geographical region, drawing members with shared origins. Others were graduates of a particular school. Still others were based on political or religious beliefs. Others were only for women. In Léopoldville there were 116 circles with 5,600 members in 1948; in 1950 the number had risen to 528 circles with 28,000 members. In 1950 sport clubs were the most numerous, accounting for 259 circles and 14,000 members. Those dedicated to other recreation, including music, totaled 105 with about 10,000 members.174

While all-male associations existed, such as "Univers," "Vénus," "Cascade," "Mai masanga te" ("Water is not beer"), "Bamba Nationale," "La Borne" ("Milestone"), "Oiseau vert" ("Green Bird"), "Surfs Suprêmes," and "Super Charmeurs," co-ed and all-women's groups existed, too.175 The first female association formed in 1935. It was "La Mutuelle," a mutual aid organization, started by young women who had been members of the pupil's club in their convent. They had left to form their own club after the nun in charge of the pupil's club had prevented them from spending the subscription money to buy a wedding present for another member.176 Women formed recreational societies, as well. Regarding women's associations, Comhaire-Sylvain writes:

There were in fact in 1945 several exceedingly prosperous women's recreational associations. This had begun in 1937 when the "Club Américain," created on the model of the "Club Excelsior" of the "Coastmen" (West Africans employed by the large companies for office jobs at a time when these were still too complicated for Congolese) had decided to take on a feminine Société Américaine, which brought together the wives of civil servants.177

They were called "La Beauté," "Diamant," "La Rose," "Rosette," "La Fleur de Lys," "La Mode," La Boule de Soleil" ("The Sun Ball"), "La Beauté No. 2," and "Jeunesse Toilette."178

These recreational associations played an enormous role in bringing the burgeoning musical scene to life. Many groups maintained a music ensemble that reduced entertainment expenditures for events such as weddings, baptisms, or the parties following a period of mourning.179 Some of the first groups on this model were Odéon Kinois and L’Harmonie Kinoise, who had musical ensembles of the same name.180 The latter, which began in 1940, "possessed the best ensemble in Kinshasa with a complete set of brass, woodwinds and strings."181 Bands increased their exposure and successes with female groupies:

All ensembles had female "supporters" who were attached to them as "girls of protocol" or "girls of honor." Only "O.K. Jazz," one of the largest, annexed a mixed club, whose committee comprised several young girls: Thérèse Liyala, vice-president; Marie Kisangani, assistant treasurer; Caroline Lonkunku, commissioner of parties; Hélène Kamunga, chief of protocol; Florence Ekwa, head of women's affairs.182

In the Brazzaville neighborhood of Bacongo a vocal (i.e., not exclusively instrumental) ensemble called Mannequin formed in 1937, based on a mutual aid organization. A teacher named François Bamanabio and Lebel Massamba founded Jazz Bohème in 1939, and two years later, Jeunesse Dahoméenne and Liberia, also linked to associations, appeared. Bacongo and Poto-Poto rivaled each other for prestige and elegance. The dances at which these groups played were scenes in which the urban haute-couture was molded. A chief of protocol named “the president of the court” selected the couples to dance, choices based on not only who was best dressed, but who could best dance the European dances.183

Comhaire-Sylvain’s recollection illustrates well the social activities of these groups:

I remember attending a festival given by ‘Odéon Kinois’ in which European dances were interrupted by contre-dances and folk dances executed by members directed by a choreographer. Some organizations had also included dramatic activities. For example ‘La Jeune Espérance,’ whose orchestra had only a few instruments, enjoyed a great reputation for its songs, recitations, and comedy.184

The physical reorganization of personal and community space engendered by these social clubs significantly altered the process of identification. It concentrated in specific places large numbers of individuals who looked both outward to other countries, represented in music performance by record, musician, and dancer, and inward to the changing ethnoscape of the Congos. The existential probing that occurred in these social environments, manifested in the performances of variously syncretized Latin, European, local and other African arts, produced innumerable identity-images. As they surfaced on the bodies of the performers -- both the group on stage and those on the sidelines -- these images began to coalesce around commonalties in the projected desires of the individuals. This "clumping" of identity-images catalyzed the production of certain dominant definitions of community, paralleling the emergence of a dominant genre of music. Rumba Lingala became the voice of these ineffable yet palpable and binding new meanings of nation.


Bars were the premier location for Rumba Lingala ensembles to perform. Firstly, bar owners provided space, the instruments and equipment. Secondly, these venues were meeting places; they existed in every neighborhood, numbering approximately 100 in Kinshasa in 1945185 for a population of approximately 100,000, and half again as many ten years later.186 Brick walls surrounded the posher establishments, and glowing bulbs hung around the cement dance floor. They were called "Congo ya Sika" ("The New Congo"), "Astra," "Bosenge Bar," "Tahiti," "Air France" (where Franco and Watam played for a time), "Elysées Bar," "Indépendance Bar," "Quist Bar," "Au Record" and "Yaka Awa" ("Come Here" -- where Patrice Lumumba and his followers were known to meet187). Some of Brazzaville's music joints were named "Chez Faignond," "Congo Zoba" (Crazy Congo), "Lumi-Congo," "Mouendo Koko," "Nouani Bar," and "Chez Hughes."188

Many groups used the name of the bar in their title, for often it was the bar owner who acted as a kind of patron of the arts, providing instruments, a place to rehearse and perform, and advertising. Quist Bar's Le Groupe Quist and Franco's O.K. Jazz, named after Omar Kashama's O.K. Bar are examples. Bars also had turntables to spin the latest offerings from Ngoma, Opika, Loningisa, CEFA and Esengo, or a newly released Latin hit from HMV.

These bars were places where Africans could go to be with one another, hear their music, dance to their music and see their own people perform. Men and women met. They were also places people could work out their frustrations with the outside world, dance out their anger, regain the strength necessary to face another day. "The dancing bar is precisely the place of such a social truce, the space where all conflicts are put aside temporarily before resuming with greater acuity on the battlefield the struggle for existence."189 Thus the music, one could argue, played a role in keeping people healthy.

During the colonial period ensembles were segregated. Generally, Africans could not even perform before a European audience. One notable anecdote is that Jean Lopongo, respected by Belgian musician and instructor Pilaeïs, was permitted to play with Pilaeïs and two other Belgians in a European music ensemble at a hotel for Belgians. To preserve the purity of the Belgian æsthetic, a screen was placed between Lopongo and the audience. In January 1950 Lopongo was granted formal permission to be seen by whites.190

The following excerpt from a 1950 Congopresse article paints an excellent picture of the bar scene.

Night on the native town in Léopoldville. Except for the central avenue, lined by tall sodium street lamps, the countless alleyways that criss-cross this city of more than 130,000 inhabitants open like canals of shadow. . . . But here is a fragment of a sort of dance music, suddenly illuminating the area. Not the beating of a tam-tam or the deep sound of a balafon, but the sentimentally nasal sounds of a saxophone, the clear din of a trumpet, the sharp cry of a clarinet.

We push open a door jealously guarded by a doorman -- and we are in a bar. It is a large enclosure, surrounded by white walls, the open sky, decorated with garlands and lanterns. Loaded with glasses and bottles of beer, the tables are surrounded by many clients. In the center, the dance floor and, on a stage, the band. . . .

They total a good dozen musicians, armed with gleaming instruments. Like their colleagues in European bands they are uniformly dressed and before their attentive eyes the leader, concerned with the sound. . . .

At the moment, the group is playing a tango. Men and women, embracing, glide lithely on the dance floor with an easy grace, accentuated by their hips. . . .

All of a sudden everything changes! The tango ends, and in the brief silence that follows, a drum begins, lively and tense, the muffled beating of a rhythm dry and rapid, like the pattering of small hailstones on a roof, the sound of countless seeds shaken rhythmically in the hollow of a gourd. The rumba is beginning.

Before long the horns join in, launching the melody. Once more they will not vary by even an eighth-note. This will be the same song, tirelessly repeated until the last burst of the drum.

But the song never sounds disagreeable. Quite the contrary, because it is original, because its sonority is unexpected. The Congolese musicians have, in effect, succeeded in transplanting melodies they like onto the rumba, conga and samba, and if the dances they execute are no longer entirely African, the music is no longer altogether South American. . . .191


The public consumption of dance music was a convenient and powerful way to write the Congolese nation. All of the Congolese popular music I know of from 1948 until today with the exception of one artist (who has not enjoyed a mass following) has been dance music. A current superstar, Papa Wemba, has said that dance styles change every six months.192

Why Latin musics, and the name rumba in particular, became so influential is a question that must be explored in order to fully understand Rumba Lingala's role in shaping the Congolese nation. I believe that part of the answer lies in rumba's significance in Cuba, a significance that, I argue, was communicated to Congolese audiences through listening and, more powerfully, through dancing.

Rumba in Cuba emerged after slavery was abolished in 1886, when large portions of the freed population shifted to the cities in search of work. The migrants joined the urban poor in slums and shanty towns, and together they created a "collective lay festivity," that was named rumba, tumba, macumba, tamba and other words derived from African languages.193 "Rumba" became the most widely used term for this festivity and even a synonym for dancing, celebrating, partying, etc. "From the very beginning the places where rumbas were held became the meeting place of the most diverse African peoples and ethnic groups who had been brought over as slaves. The poor white population also joined in. . . ."194 As rumba developed, its main musical feature became the polyrhythmic interaction and improvisation of the instruments occupying the lower frequencies, originally packing crates or drawers of a wardrobe, and later membranophones. Ngoma-type drums of the Bakongo and other Bantu-speaking peoples are the organological predecessor of the membranophones that came to be part of the rumba ensemble, whose names bear witness to that link: conga, bombo, tumbadora.195 The clavé maintained a steady, foundational rhythm in the upper frequencies. This particular distribution of musical function by registers is a common trait in many West African musical traditions, where a bell or other high-pitched idiophone stabilizes the polyrhythmic and polyphonic interaction of the other instruments, most often membranophones. On the contrary, in European music the lower registers most often serve as the unchanging base for improvisation in the upper registers.196

Cuban rumba was created in conditions strikingly similar to Rumba Lingala. The displacement of populations, exodus from rural, agricultural lifestyles to urban, industrial lifestyles, the heterogeneous mingling of diverse, multilinguistic populations, and the choice to use music to express life's complexities: this human history is carried by the music. I find especially relevant the manifested euphoria of slavery's abolition in the music, articulated in the collective lay festivities of rumba. What an inspiration to a people struggling for independence! Polyrhythms, I propose, are powerful because they refuse to reduce to a single rhythm. They open spaces for richer interaction and the cooperative input of distinct ideas. They establish a base for broad communication between differing voices, all of equal value. The polyrhythms of rumba make it especially capable of expressing the needs of people from different origins, etc. -- like a conversation between speakers of different languages.

Yvonne Daniel argued that Cuban rumba carried many deeply resonant meanings.197 Castro's government, which took power in 1959, realized that dance conveys a message and chose rumba as a medium for promoting its ideas of national identity and social equality.198 Among rumba's meanings I believe the most relevant to the Congolese situation are: pride in history and national identity, respect for the worker, egalitarianism, and community proliferation. African and Latin heredity, the two factors most important in promoting the Cuban government's revolutionary program, is played out in rumba unlike any other Cuban dance, the basis for its status as that country's national dance.199 Rumba's heritage imbues its practice with the strength to champion the elements that contributed to its formation. "The repeated display of rumba signifies the desire of the Cuban government to publicize its affinity with the working masses as well as its African heritage from Spain through Moorish contact and its African heritage from West and Central Africa through the Analeptic slave trade."200 This official recognition not only directly affirms the value of the African component, but diminishes the importance of European heritage and influence through the choice of rumba over ballet or another more European dance form. Beyond its familiarity as a relative of current Congolese dances, I propose that rumba's positive embodiment of African heritage made it an affirmation of self to a population in desperate need of weaponry to counter European domination and denigration.

Rumba is performed primarily by dark-skinned Cubans, the same Cubans relegated to the lower strata of Cuba's pre-revolutionary society.201 That they historically practiced rumba identifies the dance with the oppressed, a signification that carried over ideals of pride and struggle to the Congo. Promotion of the worker represented the ideal of egalitarianism, likewise a concern for the Congolese population forced to conform to a class system that put them at the bottom of the ladder. With the welfare of the Congolese community thus challenged, rumba was a life symbol: "Rumba's style and organization of energy focuses on sensual qualities that analytically reference sexual activity."202 The interaction of the couple brought individuals together in a context that implied the survival of the Congolese community in multiple ways. Firstly, it kept them in touch, literally -- the extending of the arm to ask another to dance, couples' bodies pressed against one another -- and figuratively -- the dance site was a recognized meeting place where members of the community could catch up on the latest news. This kind of contact was capable of achieving two levels of self-affirmation. Secondly, the recreational atmosphere of a dance provided a space for the procreational innuendoes of the choreography. In a basic way, sexually suggestive behavior stimulates participation in activities. Thirdly, the enactment of such charged images could lead to the Act itself and a possible numerical strengthening of the community.

The power of dance, as with music, is its tug on the sublogical levels of self. Dance is visceral persuasion; its power resides in the voluntary nature of participation, where bodies are coaxed into conforming to the pulse. They become conduits for the energy, as ions in water conduct lightning. Once struck by this energy they are transformed from mere conduits into generators that build, rise, burn, writhe, and create more energy than they initially absorbed. In the group each body potentiates the others.

Maurice Bloch called dance's particular power "illocutionary," and I believe that is also where music derives its unique force.203 We cannot contest its meanings, because they are transmitted non-verbally, sublogically. This manner of communicating is residual, in that repetition is necessary for meaning to register. As a performance of community, social dance, like rumba, is unintentional memory work.204 It has qualities which could make it a special category of ritual: It is not merely expressive; it is formalized, stereotypic, repeatable, its effect is not limited to the ritual occasion, and interference is not tolerated. It is formalized, in that each dance has a special set of canonized steps, postures, gestures and body movements. It is stereotypic, in that a large number of people consider the particular dance’s form and pattern to be correct and hold to it for a period of time. Its repeatability is demonstrated in dance halls and living rooms: thirty years later it is possible to dance a soukous. It is an incorporating practice, one in which bodily interaction transmits the information encoded into the formalized language. When performed the dance utters the “cognitive content of group memory;” when dance is a frequently enacted communal ceremony, as it is in the Congos, that content is able to “exercise persuasive and persistent force.”205 In order to unpack its meaning, we need to observe dance repeatedly with all of our senses. The images of a particular dance, that is the physical shaping of the body during enactment, are one of the carriers of meaning.

As a performance of community, social dance, like rumba, intentionally reaffirms identity. New Congolese dances frequently imitate earlier ones, offering a way to recuperate, to reconnect with, the past. Likewise, especially during the period approaching independence, traditional tunes were often re-recorded over a new rhythm.206 In the case of a society that has experienced a disjuncture like colonialism, exhuming signs from earlier eras may serve as a way to heal the rupture. As a frequently repeated mass ceremony, dance may give individuals confidence that they are participating with actual and imagined others. The changeability of dances, as Papa Wemba attested to, requires continual involvement in this community, promoting a “deep, horizontal comradeship.” Furthermore, in their social and political content, songs played a part analogous to that of the novel and newspaper in the growth of nationalism elsewhere.207


The ways in which a musical style and the technoscape interact will have determinant consequences for that music. One such consequence regards the audience -- its size, demographic composition, location, etc. Another regards its performance -- how particular songs are recorded and how they are performed in vivo have reciprocal impact on each other. The technoscape is a vast playing field for competing and co-operating agendas of ideologies and methodologies, as well as the numerous accidental outcomes of planned actions that can have substantial impacts on policy.

In the case of Rumba Lingala the technoscape was in its formative stages. In the 1930s the first broadcasting stations were being built, and the first radios for home use were becoming widely available. Later, the first recording studios were opened, and the first phonographs made their debut appearances. Electric instruments, synthesizers and loudspeakers were likewise being experimented with for the first time. The commercial enterprises attempting to profit from these innovations were in the hands of the dominant classes.


The first radio stations in Congo-Kinshasa were privately owned and run. La Voix de la Concorde ("The Voice of Harmony") a.k.a. Radio-Léo initiated broadcast in 1937, installed in the Collège Albert in Léopoldville. It was a Jesuit station with an evangelical mission, targeting both Europeans and Africans within transmission range (first 400 km, then 1,000 km). It ceased operating in 1967.208

In 1939 the secular Radio Congolia was established, also in Léopoldville. Its objective was to communicate with amateur operators in the country and to promote the founders' commercial establishment. Congolia began to target the African population in 1945.209 Pauwels-Boon writes

Seen in the context of that distant time period, the greatest merit of Radio Congolia was that of being the first in the Congo to broadcast programs for the black population, distinguishing itself from five other private stations which hardly, if ever, thought of a black public.210

Approximately thirty minutes of Radio Congolia's total daily air time, between sixty and ninety minutes per day (the longest of any station), was devoted to Congolese programming, including the music “the population desired, modern Congolese dance music with South American rhythms rather than traditional African music.”211 Loudspeakers were erected in public places in Léopoldville to amplify its programs. Broadcasts were primarily in French, but also in the four principal Congolese languages (Lingala, Kiswahili, Kikongo and Ciluba), with a preference for Lingala. Congolia left the air for good when the government's Radio Congo Belge took charge of broadcasting to the African population in 1948.212

Radio Congo Belge (RCB) was the first government station, installed in Léopoldville in 1940. RCB's main objective was to keep the European population apprised of the latest developments in the War.213 In 1942 the 20-kilowatt station began broadcasting music, news and educational talk shows each Friday to Congolese soldiers stationed in Nigeria. It was, however, too weak to reach the troops stationed in Egypt.214 It played both Cuban and Congolese records.215 Five other privately owned stations began operating in the Belgian Congo during this period.216 Radio Brazzaville, a 30-kilowatt station set up by the French government-in-exile for long-range diffusion of anti-Axis/pro-Allied propaganda, began operating around the same time. After W.W. II it began broadcasting both Congolese pop and traditional musics.217

In January 1949 RCB initiated programming specifically for the local population. Called Radio Congo Belge pour les Indigènes (RCBI) and Radio Congo Belge – Émissions Africaines, it took over Radio Congolia's post-1945 activities, when the latter lost its government subsidy. This change in policy followed a 1948 governement ban on transmissions in African languages by private stations.218 Each evening between 17.30 and 18.30 GMT a program comprising news, editorials and music, both "indigène" and European, was broadcast in French and each of the four major languages, depending on the day of the week.219 RCB’s provincial stations, whose range was limited by weak signals (from three to ten kilowatts),220 also broadcast certain programs in local languages.221 The range of topics covered was broad and included items on hygiene and agriculture.222

Colonial administrators believed that the new urban music was less educational than traditional African music and European classical music.223 From the beginning RCBI reserved a portion of air time for traditional Congolese music. Ensembles playing such music were invited into the studio for live broadcasts. Later, two musicologists were sent on recording expeditions.224 These programs never received as much air time as those featuring new urban musics, however. By 1954 RCBI had a weekly segment featuring music from other African countries, entitled "L'Afrique chante pour vous" ("Africa Sings For You") and later "Le Monde chante pour vous" ("The World Sings For You"), when music from the Antilles was broadcast.225

After independence RCB changed its name to Radio Nationale Congolaise (RNC). Through the programming of Radio Congolia, RCBI and RNC, Rumba Lingala was transmitted throughout the Congos and across much of the continent to Accra (Ghana), Lagos (Nigeria), Dakar (Senegal), Freetown (Sierra Leone), Lusaka (Zambia), Kampala (Uganda), and Nairobi (Kenya).226

When radios first became available in the Congo does not appear to be documented, but by the forties the medium was well established. Pauwels-Boon provides the only figures on radios and listenership available, but she questions their reliability. The lowest figure offered for the total number of radios in the colony in 1958, including those of Europeans, is 28,879. From another source she reports 100,000 radios and five times as many listeners in 1959.227 There was no way, she says, to accurately measure such quantities. We have to rely on non-empirical evidence to fill in this part of the picture.

The presence of radios in Congolese homes is recorded in the pages of Nos Images, a weekly magazine printed in French and the four major languages of Congo Belge. Photographs showing the family gathered around the radio abound. One from 1952 shows a well dressed family enjoying a program on their modern radio, on top of which sits a modern electric fan. The man of the house sits in a sofa chair in the foreground reading the radio publication, La Voix du Congolais.228 In another issue, a photo montage celebrating Congolese women's fashions shows a well dressed young woman and man smiling and looking at their state-of-the-art radio, as the man adjusts a dial.229

In 1954 Nos Images featured a two-page photo spread celebrating five years of the African Program on RCBI. Photographs show a crowd gathered around a loudspeaker erected outside; a man and woman at home enjoying their radio; the inside of RCBI's music library, where some 3,000 discs were stored; a wall of photographs sent in by listeners along with letters, of which 17,000 were received in 1953; and several studio shots, including one with the first female voice on RCBI, Mlle. Pauline Lisanga (a.k.a. Lisanga Pauline -- see audio ex. A6), a famous singer of the new Congolese music. The photo shows her reading a list over the air, and the caption indicates she was charged with handling music requests.230

Further evidence of the availability of radios is contained in the advertisements. A frequently run ad in the pages of Nos Images was for Philips, a cartoon which depicted two African school boys hearing "beautiful music" from the distance. They realize it is coming from the house of their friend, who tells them, "It's mine, and I am so proud of it. It's a Philips radio. It's so beautiful and it wasn't expensive. But only a Philips is a Philips . . . and so beautiful!" The ad tells readers that Philips-Congo has offices in Léopoldville, Elisabethville and Usumbura.231

An informational cartoon series published in Nos Images entitled "The Adventures of Mbumbulu," the tone of which is patronizing and whose drawings resemble Sambo of the American South, devoted an episode to radio. In it villagers install a loudspeaker and diffusion center in the main square. Music begins to play, and Mbumbulu says to his wife, "Listen well, Maria. This music you hear here is at this moment being played in Léopoldville, hundreds of kilometers from here. The radio is truly a wonderful thing!" From then on the villagers assemble every evening to listen to the interesting programming, including world news, talk, music, songs, etc. The cartoon concludes, "This entertainment will make them very happy, and they will quickly profit from it!"232

To take advantage of the profitable music market, Radio Bush, marketed by a British firm, advertised on Ngoma record sleeves, promoting radio throughout Central Africa wherever records were bought. Shortwave transmitters in Léopoldville and Brazzaville diffused their signal around the continent. In this way radio stations also provided Ngoma with major advertising. Ngoma sent complimentary copies to most Central African stations, and as far away as Sierra Leone.233

I would like to examine the specific broadcasts of one of the above stations. A weekly schedule of the "Émissions Africaines" of RCBI from 1954 gives a clue to the popularity of Congolese urban music, as well as other types. The African programs began daily at 11:30 a.m (11:00 a.m. on Sundays) and continued until 1:00 p.m., then resumed at 5:30 and ended at 8:00. The format was different from that of American radio today, in that music was largely interspersed with talk. For example, 10 minutes of music could be followed by 10 minutes of news, letters from listeners, educational information, or a communiqué from the capital.234 Therefore, the total time allotted to music is important, not the length of the individual segments. On average just over two hours out of four were devoted to music Mondays through Thursdays and Saturdays. On Sundays 3 3/4 hours out of 4 1/2 were for music. The morning program on Friday followed the normal schedule, whereby 1 1/4 hours out of 1 1/2 were for music, while all save 30 minutes of the evening program was reserved for special broadcasts from the Force Publique.235

The schedule gives an idea of what kinds of music were played at what times. For example, "Guitaristes congolais," a category that would have included Rumba Lingala artists, were featured 11:30-11:45 Monday through Saturday, 5:30-5:40 and 6:40-6:45 Monday through Thursday, as well as 6:35-6:40 on Thursday (25-30 total mins/day). "Musique folklorique" was broadcast 5:50-6:00, 6:25-6:35 and 6:55-7:00 Monday to Thursday (25 total mins/day). Requests were an important part of the programs, as a way of involving listeners and increasing audience size. Fifteen minutes every morning and evening (unless pre-empted by the Force Publique), more than an hour Saturdays and almost all of Sunday were reserved for requests. Sundays also featured a record of the month competition. Other segments were devoted to "Musique congolaise variée", the African montage "L'Afrique chante pour vous", and a variety of specifically named musics, such as South American music, Hawaiian music, accordion music, French songs, and marches. Monday through Thursday from 7:30-7:45 was reserved for "serious" music, such as musettes, operettas and French songs, and any requests from other "serious" music genres. 236

The table below compares the named music segments and the amount of air time they received in August of 1954.

Type Segment Length Days/Week Mins/Week
Guitaristes congolais 25-30 mins. 6 155

Musique folklorique 25 mins. 4 100

Musique congolaise variée 10 " 4 40

French songs 15 " 3 45

Mixed African 15 " 1 30

South American music 15 " 1 15

Hawaiian music 15 " 1 15

Accordion music 15 " 1 15

Marches 15 " 1 15

Musettes 15 " 1 15

Operettas 15 " 1 15

(Request music 15-90 " 7 565)


Totals237 7 370

The amount of play each type of music received is important, as it indicates what people were hearing. The schedule shows that Congolese guitar music was by far the most often heard type, though the content of the request slots could have altered the ratios. This type of music would have included the solo and ensemble music of the first star guitarists of the Katanga style and Rumba Lingala, including Jean Bosco Mwenda wa Bayeke, Losta Abelo, Paul Mwanga, Henri Bowane, Wendo, Jhimmy, Adou Elenga, Léon Bukasa, Tino Baroza, Nedule alias Papa Noël, Honoré Liengo, Adikwa, Antoine Brazzos, Dewayon, Nicholas Kasanda wa Mikalayi alias Dr. Nico and, a few years later, Luambo Makiadi alias Franco. The relative importance of their type of music to the radio station signals three things: the popularity of this music among listeners; the acceptability and even support of the genre by the colonial government; and the availability of recorded examples of the music of this genre.

The first conclusion is self-evident; no radio station thrives on playing music no one cares to hear. Furthermore, the numerous commercials of the day utilizing the music of the early guitarists -- to promote Fina brand margarine, for example -- speak to the commercial viability and hence the popularity of the music. RCBI's Congolese programming was controlled by the department of Indigenous Affairs of the Gouvernment General.238 The official approval necessary to support the broadcasting of this music on the colony's flagship radio station is also clear.

The constant availability of recordings, possible only with a prospering recording industry, is essential for a station to play music week after week, unless it relies primarily on the broadcast of live performances. This would be an unusual policy, and there is no evidence to support the conclusion that RCBI followed such a policy.

RCBI's schedule suggests the popularity of Rumba Lingala. It likewise points to the popularity of several other genres that help to demonstrate the musical environment of the era. "Musique congolaise variée" most likely refers to the number of popular, largely urban genres, such as fanfare, discussed in chapter four. One might have heard tubist/pianist Kalima Pierre's rumba "Na Mokili Moko Te" (audio ex. A10) on this program. Another genre that may have been played on this show was the new lamellophone music of artists like Antoine Mundanda. With groups such as Antoine Mundanda et Ses Likembes Geantes ("A. M. and His Giant Likembes") and Antoine Mundanda na Baninga Banei ("A. M. and Four Friends"), Mundanda directly interfaced the rural with the urban, adding guitar, bass and "tam-tam" to two or more lamellaphones. His composition "Njila ya Ndolo" ("The Road to Prison" -- audio ex. B1), about trouble with colonial authorities, and an earlier lament for Paul Kamba, "Mabele ya Paul" (lit. "The Soil of Paul"), won Hugh Tracey's African Music Society's Osborne Awards.239

The popularity of "Musique folklorique" is not clear, for, as mentioned above, RCBI promoted it as a matter of principle. The agenda behind this policy is not clear; it may be as stated – to preserve “an artistic patrimony of real value, which, alas, is not renewable.”240 Another possible motive for the “revaluation of traditional music”241 may have been to counter change by this sector of the Congolese population -- a move to regroup and re-merge with diasporic communities, for this motion was taking place outside of colonial control.

Of the other genres played on RCBI, the one most significant to this study is South American music. This category likely covered all available Latin musics, from Cuban rumba, bolero, mambo, son montuno and cha-cha, to Argentine tango and Dominican merengue.

Phonographs, Gramophones and Recording Studios

"[T]he ship remained perhaps the most important conduit of Pan-African communication before the appearance of the long-playing record."242

Recordings played a major role in the dissemination of first the Latin sounds and later maringa and Rumba Lingala. In the latter 1920s phonographs became available, but were affordable only to the élite.243 In the 1950s the Papadimitriou brothers' Loningisa label distributed their 78s together with wind-up phonographs throughout the Belgian Congo, to be exchanged on the barter market alongside other appliances, such as sewing machines.244 Like motor scooters and automobiles (especially large American cars, like Cadillacs), phonographs became a status symbol. They were, however, superior to other examples of wealth and worldliness, in that they could be kept in the house, while proof of possession -- in the form of music blaring from the windows -- could be displayed far and wide. In the pages of Nos Images images of phonographs reveal their symbolism clearly: At a fair of sorts where outstanding vegetables and crafts are displayed, a dense crowd has gathered around a large piece of wood furniture, designed to display and store items such as "a phonograph, discs, bottles, books, etc."245 My favorite image is of two men who submitted their photograph for inclusion in the section of Nos Images devoted to subscribers. Whereas most photographs show a man alone or with his family in front of his house, this one shows two men shaking hands over a phonograph. They are facing the camera, and each has a leg up on a rung of the chair between them used to elevate the phonograph.246

After 1927 British-owned Zonophone was selling its West African highlife records in the Belgian Congo and French Equatorial Africa. But the most influential recordings were the Cuban gramophones played by Antillean civil servants living in the African quarters.247 Guajiro groups such as Trio Matamoros, conjuntos like Sonora Mantancera, charangas like Orquesta América and the ensemble of Johnny Pacheco were favorites. Cuban pianist Moises Simons' 1929 "El Manisero" was a popular composition during this period. Musicians learned the 78s by rote and often imitated the Spanish lyrics.248

His Master's Voice, Vaya, and Fania were among the many labels exporting their recordings to Léopoldville and Brazzaville.249 Phonographs made by HMV, sold at the store of the British-owned “Société de Kwilu-Niari” were the most popular brand in Brazzaville.250 The brand was so popular in the Belgian Congo that when Nico and Alexandros Jéronimidis, the owners of the Ngoma label, had phonographs fabricated in France to sell to the locals, they collected dust.251 In the early 1950s the British company EMI re-released a series of Cuban records, mostly sones, on the GV label. Encouraged by the popularity of the GV sides, the local labels released a deluge of recordings of local rumbas alongside traditional music releases - over 4,000 by the end of the decade.252 Latin tunes learned from these 78s remained part of many Congolese bands' repertoires until the late 1960s.

Various sources recount the early history of recording studios in the Congo differently. According to Kazadi, Olympia Editions was the first recording company in Kinshasa, established in 1939.253 Alexandros Jéronimidis, who with his brother Nico established the Ngoma studio and record label, claims that Olympia opened in 1946 and folded two years later.254 What is uncontested is that Ngoma, opened in 1948, was the first successful studio and had an unquantifiable effect on urban Congolese music. A UNESCO representative had this to say to Ngoma's founders around 1950:

Thanks to you, the whole musical wealth of the Belgian Congo will not be lost and you have contributed in enlarging the area of human knowledge. The large collection of popular melodies and traditional songs you have put together are a treasure that will catch the interest of the musicians of the whole world.255

Following Ngoma (meaning "drum") came Opika in 1950, Loningisa (from "to shake") in 1950, CEFA in 1953, and Esengo ("happiness") in 1957. They were all Greek-owned, though CEFA was set up and run by the Belgian guitarist, musical mentor and instrument importer Bill Alexandre.256 Initially, however, Rumba Lingala was nearly synonymous with Ngoma. Opika studios possibly chose its name from the Lingala phrase "opika mpende" ("you should resist/oppose"), a signal of its competition with Ngoma. Dr. Wolfgang Bender, who maintains the African Music Archive, notes, "Of interest too, the congolese [sic] OPIKA label had Nigerian and Ghanaian bands in its programm [sic] and one wants to know, for whom they were intended to be sold for [sic]. Were they for the export to Nigeria, or was there a market for Nigerian or Ghanain [sic] music in the Congo? Among their artists were such eminent market leaders as Bobby Benson from Nigeria."257

Typically each studio gathered a pool of talented musicians and kept a house band to accompany different singers. They owned the instruments and often hired European musicians as teachers. Ngoma's main house band was "Groupe Rhythmique Ngoma," later renamed "Beguen Band."258 Opika studios formed "La Joie Kinoise" ("The Delight of Kinshasa"). Loningisa housed "Bana Loningisa" ("Loningisa Boys"). Often these bands gained enough notoriety that they performed in bars and eventually broke free of their home studio to record wherever the money was best. The Opika house band, for instance, became in 1953 African Jazz, while many of the members of Bana Loningisa went on to form O.K. Jazz.259

An article in Congopresse from 1951 described a couple of recording sessions. I include this excerpt to sharpen our image of what was happening at this time. The author reports, "In a modern studio, before a battery of microphones, crouched a Bakongo 'dance band.'" He lists their instruments, which include two likembes, an aerophone (not specified), a cow horn, rattles made from metal containers, an adjustable wrench struck with a metal rod, the rear axle of an automobile struck with a beater, and a double bell. The writer reveals that he was at first skeptical, but quickly forgot about the strange collection of instruments, once he was taken in by "the black soul that sang its lament." A Bapende vocal ensemble followed, presenting funerary songs. These "tore at his soul," and he concludes that both ensembles were worthy of recording.260

Technology: Conclusion

The importance of technology in promoting Rumba Lingala could hardly be overstated. As an industrial interculture, in Slobin's terminology, it provided crucial linkages. Firstly, the records and radios brought populations across the Congo colonies into contact with diasporic communities in Cuba. The trade in musics recalled the previous diasporic intercultural movement, namely, the middle passage and more recent labor migrations. Secondly, the technology promoted intercultures of affinity between musicians and audiences across national boundaries. Subcultural Rumba Lingala was thus linked with innovations in rumba, palm-wine, highlife and other musics. Thirdly, the Greek community that operated the technology acted as an interculture between Rumba Lingala and the European financial and media supercultures. It rewarded musicians with material gain, which in turn drew audience attention to Rumba Lingala.

The print excerpts and radio programming I have included show how technology gave Rumba Lingala entrée into a spreading mediascape, enabling it to bring various peoples into its sphere. Different bands tended to reflect (and construct) particular populations more than others, based on the specific experiences and origins of the band leaders. Within the Congolese umbrella Léon Bukasa and Kabasele expressed the sentiments of the Baluba region, Wendo and Roger Izeidi those of Bandundu, Lucie Eyenga, Vicky and Dewayon of Équateur region, and Franco Bas-Congo.261 Rather than divide the movement into fissiparous branches, I argue this plurality determined its success as national signifier. Rumba Lingala, with its international roots, was not the domain of any single group or region; it encouraged participation and diversification, yet managed through repetition to become standardized. As a pansophy it embraced the ideologies of these diverse populations, thereby uniting them. It was in this way that Rumba Lingala became a chief expresser of the nation's hopes and frustrations.

Technology vastly increased Rumba Lingala's audience. Through the distribution of recordings to radio stations and directly to consumers, every village of Equatorial Africa had, in theory, access to the music. This distribution was pivotal in Rumba Lingala’s writing of the nation. The media vaulted the musicians into the limelight, and they were Congolese figures, whose faces, voices, names and styles became easily recognized. Their wide popularity was evidence of inter-ethnic affiliation: you could be Tetela and adore a Kongo singer, for instance. The relationship was through the music, not other former, more narrowly conceived affiliations, such as place of birth, mother tongue, etc.


Pius Ngandu Nkashama interprets modern Congolese music -- "modern" signifying from the rise of the orchestres -- as an attempt to heal the rupture of colonialism. He sees the song as a site where social crisis is voiced and collective redemption is sought, through the coordination of the various segments of historical conscience. Language plays a critical role in this effort:

In so far as these songs are performed almost exclusively in the four principal languages established as national languages (Lingala of the capital Kinshasa, but also Kiswahili spoken all over the east, Ciluba in the center, and Kikongo in the south) for an immense country with more than 350 different languages, the song should be considered like a privileged space where an historic conscience is affirmed.262

A discussion of nation-building must include an analysis of language, for it both creates and results from national affiliation. Playwright, poet and essayist Femi Osofisan argued that the nation is defined by language and arts. In his discussion of language and arts in Nigeria, he asserted language and nation were coterminous, but that nations overlapped one another. He stated that in Nigeria there was one English nation that overlapped 300 other nations, including Ibo, Hausa, Yoruba, Ibibio, Efik, Ogoni, etc. Artists like Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka sought to resolve the language dilemma by developing an English different from the British language; its idioms, intonation, inflections, imagery and patterns were taken from other Nigerian languages. Likewise, the arts themselves merged European and local formats.263

One of the ways that Rumba Lingala pulled together the Congolese people was through the importation and resignification of rumba. Above I demonstrated Rumba Lingala's merging of local and foreign music traditions by combining instruments, rhythms, melodies, harmonies, song structure, and lyrical themes. Another way Rumba Lingala constructed the new nation was by using Lingala. This linguistic choice was crucial in the spread of the music, for it would not have achieved such mass appeal had it also been sung in the other languages as well. There were numerous compositions sung entirely or in part in other languages, especially Kiswahili and Kikongo, but these made up only a tiny fraction of the entire output of musicians. Lingala's significance as the language of revolution becomes clearer after independence, when it is chosen as the first language of the press, and when Mobutu chooses it as his mode for addressing the new country. The history of Lingala adds potency to its use as the means for bringing people together; it was created precisely for that purpose.

As I have shown, economic interests created ethnic agglomerations, much like the slave populations of the New World. Belgian officials did not employ the strategic separation of workers of the same ethnic origin to the same degree as was enforced in the southern U.S.A., but in the polyglot colonial army they made certain that no single ethnic group could dominate; members from many language groups were strategically mixed to prevent solidarities and resistance. The policy of divide and rule disrupted communication due to language barriers, which in turn stimulated the spread of a sort of “no-man’s” language. Lingala became the military lingua franca, as it drew from other major tongues, including Lobobangi, Kikongo, and Kiswahili. Its usage spread with soldiers’ deployment throughout the country.264

Language policies differed in the two colonies, but Lingala continued to pervade. In the French Congo, where the state was decidedly anti-clerical (but too poor to refuse the assistance of missions), a 1929 decree prohibited instruction in any vernacular except for religious purposes. This mandate was prompted by the state’s fear of anti-French propaganda and its inability to control a population it could not understand.265 Eventually the missions found ways around the law. The Holy Ghost Fathers, for example, used Lingala, Kikongo and Munukutuba with a broad, multi-linguistic population.266 Masses were given in French, Munukutuba and Lingala.267 These practices foisted a new lingua franca on those with other mother tongues.

In the Belgian Congo the missions also provided the only form of education available to the local Africans. Because of Belgium’s own bilingualism, the colonial educational system was fraught with more wrangling than on the Congo River's “left bank.” Among administrators in the Belgian Congo, speakers of French by and large held higher positions than did the Flemish and felt themselves to be superior. For a time both languages were considered official. Colonial agents were entitled to use just about any language in administrative duties, even Arabic, but English, considered a threat to Franco-Dutch culture, was conspicuously omitted from the list of suggestions.268 Eventually, however, Flemish lost out to a “French-plus-four” formula that is the standard still, with Lingala, Ciluba, Kiswahili and Kikongo regarded as the dominant African tongues.269 Mission educators privileged certain languages through their policies of proselytism. Between 1900 and 1910, the first Lingala and Kikongo translations of the Bible were distributed. In the 1920s Ciluba and Kiswahili translations were printed.270

The invention and subsequent widespread acceptance of Lingala gave individuals a way to communicate in theory with any other member of the growing, imagined nation. In multi-lingual societies such as the Congos, language choice is a highly contested site of political, economic and ideological consequence. The language-nation of Lingala was not coterminous with political or ethnic entities. The decision of musicians to make it their vehicle for communication locates Lingala as a powerful tool for generating community and configuring particular solidarities.271 But the contours of these solidarities are complex and uncharted.

Anderson’s theories on the role of language and print-media in the ascendancy of nationalism as the “most universally legitimate value” in politics has parallels in the way in which music and the recording industry shape the imaginings of community.272

What, in a positive sense, made the new communities imaginable was a half-fortuitous, but explosive, interaction between a system of production and productive relations (capitalism), a technology of communications (print), and the fatality of human linguistic diversity.273

The requirements of capitalism in the fledgling recording industry encouraged the growth of a narrow band of musical styles. The appearance and accumulation of records in whose grooves specifically chosen performances were preserved indirectly promoted a particular sound, what we might call in retrospect a classic sound, to the detriment of alternative styles.274 Its hegemonic thrust (as evinced by the failure of other styles) consolidated the movement, whose implicit mandate of community-fortification thereby gained velocity. The practice of selectively promoting Rumba Lingala established a more or less unified field of music circulation. The same records were now able to be played anywhere in the country, enabling music enthusiasts everywhere to relate to each other via vinyl. The analogy becomes clear when Anderson writes:

In the process, [speakers of the new print-languages] gradually became aware of the hundreds of thousands, even millions, of people in their particular language-field, and at the same time that only those hundreds of thousands, or millions, so belonged. These fellow-readers, to whom they were connected through print, formed, in their secular, particular, visible invisibility, the embryo of the nationally imagined community.275

The same process occurred through recorded media: listeners to the Lingala-language records and radio programs gradually became aware of the countless others who shared their ability to understand Lingala. Rumba Lingala, the first widely disseminated genre of music in the Congo to use an African language, formed the basis for the imagined Congolese nation. Furthermore, the predominance of this one musical form engraved it into the mediascape of the expanding nation. Its ubiquity made it mesh with its environment, thus programming it into the Congolese framework of daily existence. Rumba Lingala became "our music" -- the new, enlarged "our" -- like no other music before.276

The choice of the new urban musicians living in Léopoldville and Brazzaville to sing in Lingala both capitalized on its status as a major vehicular language and confirmed their commitment to a Congolese agenda. While the artists in Elisabethville (Lubumbashi) sang in Kiswahili, their impact on the contested site of language was not substantial, as their style of music was overwhelmed by the sound coming from the Lower Congo region. In its section on Zaïre, the Library of Congress Area Handbook Series notes:

In some cities, Lingala's expansion has been quantified. Kisangani, for example, which is in Haut-Zaïre, sitting astride the east-west dividing line between Lingala- and Kiswahili-speaking areas . . . has seen two communities shift from Kiswahili-speaking majority to Lingala-speaking majority since independence. More significant is the fact that Lingala in Lingala-speaking areas has become . . . the first language of the children of urban interethnic marriages. This development has occurred despite the fact that [it] was never the first language of any historical prenineteenth-century Zairian community.277

Anderson has asserted that “The nation was conceived in language, not in blood, [so] that one could be ‘invited into’ the imagined community.”278 In places where Lingala is not spoken it is nevertheless common for people to know it -- bringing them into the imagined community -- due to its use by news media (and musicians).279 The LOC Area Handbook continues:

The postindependence expansion of Lingala can be attributed to several additional factors. One is the enormous popularity of Zairian popular music, whose lyrics are mostly in Lingala. Lingala songs can be heard playing from radios in even the most remote villages throughout Zaire. Zairian music has reached an extremely wide area throughout sub-Saharan Africa and has established itself as one of the continent's most prestigious musical traditions. . . . President Mobutu's deliberate use of Lingala in his public addresses, even speaking to Kiswahili-speaking crowds in Bukavu and elsewhere, has given political expression to his reported rejection of Kiswahili as an acceptable Zaire-wide trade language because of its association with Arab slavers. Lingala is, in fact, the only African language Mobutu uses in public.280


Within the interculture of urban social formations, another subculture appeared in the late 1940s and early 1950s alongside Rumba Lingala. "Billism" and its signature language Indoubil sprang from the youth of Léopoldville and quickly found expression in the Rumba Lingala of the O.K. Jazz variety.281 Its speakers dubbed their mix of Lingala, other local languages, French, Spanish, English and Flemish "Indoubil" (also Hindoubil, Hindubill, and Indoubile) because it embodied two of their favorite activities: Hindi films and American Westerns, such as those that featured Buffalo Bill.

Indoubil was chic; it defined what was new, the cutting edge of Léopoldville's African culture. Billism marked its social space through the creation of its own fashion and language. The dress code required high-heeled ankle boots with pointed toes, a fitted shirt with checks or stripes and high collar, a colorful silk scarf around the neck, flares, hair teased out with a pick, a mustache and sideburns. The phenomenon of Indoubil sums up the syncretism of the city in a concrete way. It became a patois often heard in songs of that period and later. Some examples are given below.282




To die



De manger

Biloko ya kolia



Elenge mwasi


La mer






Indoubil commands grammatical rules, too. Kodayé, for instance, takes the Lingala pronoun prefix, so that “S/he is dead” is expressed “adayé,” similar to the true Lingala “akufí.” It does not, however, strictly adhere to the rule governing suffix tense markers, which in this case would call for an -í to be affixed to the stem to express the recent past or a stative condition.

"Cha cha cha bay," a 1959 Ngoma record by Camille Feruzi and L'Orchestre Mysterieux Jazz, is an example of a song sung in Indoubil (audio ex. B8).283 Camille Feruzi was born in Stanleyville (Kisangani) in 1912 and learned accordion from his father. He moved to Léopoldville in 1927 to become a professional musician and started recording in 1953.284 That he would sing in Indoubil at the age of 47 demonstrates its media capital. Its currency as communication of chic is reinforced by the use of the cha-cha, which was in vogue in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Electric guitar and bass, drum and "jazz" support Feruzi's accordion on "Cha cha cha bay." Below I have transcribed it to the best of my ability. Aside from what sound like Spanish words, I cannot translate the lyrics.

“Cha cha cha bay”

Eh, 'elló, ahorá, ericó.

Mi quieró para que para ya.

Que quera misó misó

Mista Mariola is far again [para que?]

Batumá, naketé (x2)

A shadow para ya

Esó mi corazón’ (x8)

"Banzanza," recorded by Roitelet and Bana Loningisa 1955-56, is another example (audio ex. B9).285 It is sung in Lingala and Indoubil to a rhythm known as "Saba-Keta." They sing, "BaYankee nyonso baini, sungani na baplan. BaHindu nyonso baboyi, sungani na mawa." I cannot translate this fully, but I believe that Hindus and Yankees have been competing, and it appears the Yankees have succeeded in their plans ("baplan"), while the Hindus are experiencing disappointment ("mawa").

I consider these songs part of the Rumba Lingala genre though they contain Indoubil, just as some compositions were sung in part or entirely in Kikongo and other languages. Within the greater genre there were stylistic sub-currents, which enabled the numerous bands to create individual spaces, while simultaneously identifying themselves with the genre. Commercial success required both.

Indoubil worked its way into mainstream usage in part through Rumba Lingala and can still be heard today. An example is the word from above “nzéle.” Though derived in part from “mademoiselle,” its meaning in Indoubil is “girlfriend.” I was taught this word by my Lingala tutor with the explanation that it was “a real Kinshasa word,” beyond which I had no idea of its origin (or, at the time, what Indoubil was). His reaction to my use of “nzéle” has always been to giggle, indicating to me he is aware he has taught me something unofficial, incongruous with his role.

When used in song, I suggest it was a sign that musicians were "keeping street," in touch with the neighborhoods they came from and the friends they grew up with. African Jazz, popular especially with the educated élite, used little if any Indoubil, whereas groups like Bana Loningisa, who had for the most part less schooling and had a strong fan base in the working class would use Indoubil frequently. On another level it sought to define a subculture within the diversifying urban Congolese community. Indoubil prevented the élite, whom the Bills resented, from travelling within their highly fashionable subculture, in which music played a part. Rumba Lingala was already well established as the music of modernity. Singing in Indoubil effectively appropriated a portion of this power for the "watama" class (see p. 70). The relative paucity of Indoubil songs on record raises the question of whether the recording companies discriminated against those songs. It could be that they simply did not see a market among the speakers of Indoubil, whom they viewed as impecunious. Or, it could indicate a concession by the companies to the colonial government's fear of the youth, whom they may have viewed as a proverbial powder keg. Spreading Indoubil may have subverted Belgium's efforts at keeping the Congolese in servitude.

The “Bill” or “Yankee” movement was the expression of irreconcilable conflicts brought on by urbanization: industrialization’s inevitable unemployment vs. the rise of the Congolese élite; the promulgated ideals of European education vs. the inaccessibility of the best schools to the vast majority; the arrival of an extreme materialism vs. the concentration of capital in the smallest sector of society; traditional ethics vs. the crookery and promiscuity of the city. It represented the efforts of those in the nexus of nation-building to cope with the heat of ground-zero politics: Christian morality, academic abstractions, urban existence, civil laws, diverse customs, race-based social confinement, etc. The need to rebel against a society so rigid demanded the remodeling of local spaces based on images culled from just about anywhere, as long as the result could be called their own. This movement appropriated its outer visage from the popular Hindi and American cinema of the day, which the colonial administration actively promoted amongst the African population, as these movies seemed best suited for the “native mentality.”286 Westerns were far and away the most popular, with heroes like Buffalo Bill, Hopalong Cassidy, Gary Cooper, Kirk Douglas, etc.: models of bravery who conquered all odds. Quarters of the city were dubbed “Quartier Far West” and the like. They were fought for, defended and dominated by Hindu, Bill and Yankee gangs.287

Indoubil was an attempt to resignify the rejection felt by the youth who had grown up in the later years of urban colonialism. As they became acculturated to a Euro-African urban life, the moral and social values of Congolese tradition were challenged and distorted by, and forced to adapt to, both the demands of the cash economy and colonialism's institutionalized degradation of Congolese self-esteem. Urbanism developed in direct proportion to the waning of a sense of belonging among many Congolese. While the evolués and immatriculés aspired to and sometimes achieved a respectable social position (for an African under colonialism), for many more modernity meant alienation. While children of the élite finished school and entered jobs in offices or education, the working class majority went to vocational schools and found manual labor jobs if fortunate. Those who did not make it, who could not join the supposed universal ascendancy of the good, material life, rejoined the street and faced a problem: How were they to integrate into a progressively urbanizing, European-constructed society, whose access point was open only to those with a carte d’immatriculation? On the other hand, how were they to fit into their own times, whose new symbols proclaimed revolt against the society created to keep them powerless? In his history of Congolese society, Manda Tchebwa stated:

In this decade, 1950-1960, a part of this youth gave the illusion of escaping from its social origins to yield itself to a mythic universe founded on a riskier vision of society, one that masked the other side of the picture.288

Language as Power

Ngugi exposed the politics of language in his rhetorical question, "What is the difference between a politician who says Africa cannot do without imperialism, and the writer who says Africa cannot do without European languages?"289 Given the ennobled status and politico-economic power of English, his stated refusal to write in English, except in translation, and his concomitant elevation of the "vernaculars," Gikuyu and Kiswahili, into official/academic discourse was tantamount to a coup d'état in Africans' continuing struggle to liberate their economies, politics and cultures from the neo-colonial Euro-American stranglehold. Though, arguably, literature has greater status than commercial music in European ideology, the choice of musicians to sing in a particular language has arguably more penetrating ramifications. Firstly, music reaches a larger audience. It requires fewer resources than print-based media to disseminate, especially in rural areas where the radio is the primary link to the metropolis, and music's reception is less dependent on external factors, like literacy. Secondly, its ability to subvert or support an ideology is more insidious. The ambiguity of music makes it harder to oppose and provides it with the power to conceal as well as reveal meaning (recall the censorship of Adou Elenga’s confrontationally literal “Ata Ndele”). Its greater efficacy across linguistic boundaries, due both to the messages inherent in the musical choices and the comparative simplicity of the lyrics, may shore up support for a cause.

Margaret Thompson Drewal has written that, "The central problem of ethnography is translation. Each language comes impregnated with its own peculiar past, loaded with its own ontology and epistemology."290 Thus different conceptual systems, constructed and carried in language, necessarily inflect communications and representations differently. The choice of language is always a fiercely contested site of political struggle. Rarely does a debated issue command the loyalty that language does. Congolese musicians were able to choose from Lingala, Kikongo, Ciluba, Kiswahili, French, and any of 350 other languages. Their choice to sing the overwhelming majority of their songs in Lingala utilized and promoted a conceptual system founded on a group ontology and an inter-ethnic epitemology.

Viewed from another angle, languages operate in an economy, in which their usage constitutes their value. In his study of violence in Northern Ireland Allen Feldman writes about political power as a function of one's control over the movement of bodies in time within politically marked spaces.291 Language becomes a unit of power and sites of domination are constructed as its use is governed in time and space. The decision to sing in Lingala made it iconic and imbued the songs with an authority.

Chapter 6

Conclusions and Further Questions
Rumba Lingala played a large role in the configuration of the Congolese nation. The new geography of the urban centers provided the matrix that birthed this revolutionary music, which was, according to Nkashama, a necessary response to "a social situation that achieved the disintegration of the traditional man."292 Like the jùjú of pre-independence Nigeria, as interpreted by Chris Waterman, Rumba Lingala was the most compelling artistic expression for the interculture of the urban wage force.293 This population occupied an entirely new social space, existing between the colonizers, who monopolized military, industrial and political power, and the rural segment of the colonies. The urban interculture also navigated the ideoscape between European and African modes of expression and ways of life. Rumba Lingala provided a forum for discourse; within it Congolese encoded their experiences in a syncretic universe, fashioned a sound that united diverse communities rather than divide them, and restructured society around a single nationality. Thus a revolution occurred on multiple levels, one musical, one social and, eventually, one political.

The revolution in identification was a reconfiguration of affiliation, a redefinition of "Congolese-ness." Central to the new definition was a relationship to a nation that was founded on Lingala and expressed itself through Rumba. This music was played everywhere, sung in a language that everyone could understand, and with rhythms both foreign and familiar. The combination of the music's familiarity, respectability and ubiquity integrated into people's lives. Its popularity everywhere helped people relate to one another. Its nexus was the Malebo Pool, so that it had an international following from the start. Its basis as an international music expanded people's horizons beyond their villages/cities. The sounds of highlife, palm-wine and other African musics gave it a continental feeling -- an anti-European quality. Non-ethnically rooted, this music was a pan-Congo statement.

Just as important as the Congolese feeling of the music was the expunging of European flavor. Fanfares gave way to rumba ensembles, tubas to string bass, bass drum to congas. The institutional rejection of the popular European dances, in favor of an idiom infused with African and diasporic material, constituted a move to suture the rupture of colonialism. In the imaging of a cultural connection to their Cuban cousins through a history of slavery, the music forged links across time and space. In the rumba the Congolese could hear themselves, and thus it was a twinkling star in a pre-colonial sky. Among the variously unified Congolese ethnic groups, bridges were built, joining the nation in space and spirit, founded on the common struggle against colonialism. The new music fostered a sensibility of individuation from the hegemonic discourse, and its performance acted as a “positive [agent] in the creation and maintenance of such a sensibility.”294 The new style became in musical terms what Fanon called a “literature of combat.”295

Rumba Lingala succeeded because people liked it, because it rang true to them -- it must have said something that needed to be said and that no other music at the time was saying. Listeners supported its growth by listening to it, telling others about what they heard, going to bars to dance to it, and buying records of it. Musicians in turn responded to the audience's feedback and sought to innovate within the slowly changing ideoscape of post-W.W. II Léopoldville and Brazzaville.

As Anthony Kwame Appiah has stated,

Invented histories, invented biologies, invented cultural affinities come with every identity; each is a kind of role that has to be scripted, structured by conventions of narrative to which the world never quite manages to conform.296

The narrative form that scripted Congolese cultural affinity was the Rumba Lingala song. The identity invented was a sophisticated, cosmopolitan, educated member of a large society, whose myriad other members shared something uniquely theirs: Rumba Lingala. The connexion of the music was uncommonly strong because it brought people together to dance and confirm their relationship to the whole. The commonalty of Lingala meant that people from all corners of the colony could celebrate their filiation. The widely understood lyrics enabled most everyone to relate to the topical narratives, which described Congolese lives -- if not their own, then someone else's, a someone who represented countless others. These innumerable individuals were, for the first time, perceived as being familiar, in that they all shared something fundamentally Congolese. What they shared was not in essence Congolese, but Rumba Lingala, their expression of life in the post-W.W. II colonies. The growing popularity of Rumba Lingala had a cascading effect. Despite the quotidian difficulties imposed by colonial rule, this music flourished. It became an outlet, a chronicle of the community's successes against colonization. Rising record sales and the growth in number of Rumba Lingala groups and dancing bars indicate that people turned in ever increasing numbers to Rumba Lingala to express themselves and to relate to their larger, imagined group.

Rumba Lingala's success as a catalyst in the independence struggle owed much to the recording industry. The recording technology gave a fixity to the sound, and radio gave it wings. The influential music performances that were taking place in the urban areas could reach every corner of the colonies. Their musical appeal lay in the balance of familiar and foreign. Their lyrical appeal lay in the accessibility of Lingala and the themes of modern life. Whereas each region had its own music to recount its particular past, these records spun tales of a generalized Congolese nation. The unified national sound made the nation imaginable. Like the South African Broadcasting Corporation’s Radio Bantu, RCBI and Radio Brazzaville used local music as a media tool, albeit for opposite reasons. Radio Bantu attempted to depoliticize the black population by stressing ethnic identification through the playing of local music and the broadcasting of news in vernacular languages. This program and mandatory Afrikaans education were tactics of divide and rule, aimed at countering the growing use of English as the lingua franca among different ethnic groups, and as a means for communicating with the rest of the world.297 The Congolese stations, on the other hand, achieved an audience who identified with the sounds they heard and, thus, empowered them. People all over the country were tuning in to the first mediated sound that was their own. The recorded songs have become archival records, contributing to the nation’s collective antiquity.

Is it important that the modes of production mentioned above, namely recording studios and radio stations, are nationally non-specific in character? I believe it is, for analyses of socio-cultural movements like this often ascribe a national or ethnically essentializing character to engines of solidarities and modes of cultural production, especially when music is a mobilizing factor.298 This mystifies the creative processes involved in exploiting such modes of cultural production. When analyzed along the bias of ethnohistorical specificity, revolutionary actions can be tacitly depleted of their power, transforming them into something to be expected and "natural," as in "Well, of course they did that -- it's in their nature." Thus, the successful, innovative manipulation of available technology becomes instead the deployment of weapons from the cultural arsenal, the domain of just one side. Our recognition of the neutrality reveals these particular modes of production to be exploitable by both sides.

After independence, as the nascent countries sought to consolidate power within the European political system, Rumba Lingala's potential as a tool of propaganda was fully exploited. The ability of the music to draw people together both physically and around social issues had been keenly observed by the young men who now occupied positions of leadership. Just as Rumba Lingala had been a successful means of marketing commercial, it could advertise a political candidate and his program. President Mobutu recognized the influence the stars had, in particular that of the celebrities Franco and Tabu Ley, and he took advantage of their popularity. The following excerpt is taken from a song written by Ley to win support for Mobutu’s decision to put the country under military rule for five years in order to redress the economic crisis. It was broadcast frequently in 1966 and became a kind of signature tune to underscore news bulletins. Originally in Lingala and French, it is reprinted here in its translated form as it appeared in John F. Carrington’s 1966 study. Unfortunately he elided its title.

They say that the town [sic] of Congo is full of people.

Fathers, mothers and children, come out into the open,

Let us agree together, let us put the town [sic] right.

Five years! Five years! Mobutu will set up the Congo.

Five years! By the fifth year, we shall agree together.

Five years! Five years! Mulamba will carry the government.

Five years! By the fifth year, we shall agree together.299

But why music? Because it has the power to move like little else. Dance music accompanies most life-events in the cultures of the Congo. With such a place in the psyche, it has a conduit to the soul. It can be appreciated regardless of educational level, created on homemade instruments and transmitted anywhere. Songs identify different social spaces, for example, the religious community, rural world, urban family, etc. Within the first few bars the song's æsthetics communicate its entire social landscape. Then, the desire to dance sets in, and the body transforms into a vessel.

If a type of music is popular with a group of people, they hear something in it with which they have chosen to identify. The music's appeal lies at least partially in its proposing of an image that coincides with an ideal held by members of that group. Meanings attach themselves to the music's instrumentation, timbre, rhythmic motifs, harmonic and melodic idioms, etc. These meanings then determine how long the music will remain popular; it will cease to circulate once the music's image no longer appeals to the group.

My thesis, that Rumba Lingala was a crucial part of the struggle against colonialism and the fight for independence, stems from the observation that all changes involving large numbers of people against powerful forces, require the participation of many. To participate people must feel strong in number -- righteous indignation is insufficient to liberate a nation. Rumba Lingala reinvented the ways people imagined their community. Onto the matrix of small, rural, kinship affiliations and medium-sized regional, commerce-based relationships, Rumba Lingala added a network of unprecedented dimension. The large, urban, inter-ethnic communities that produced Rumba Lingala mapped their perceptions of city, colony, nation and globe into their music. In the decade after the first recordings of Rumba Lingala were made, this revolutionary imaging of the Congolese geoscape spread far and wide. The recognition of size challenged people's previous images of self-in-the-world. A new phase of identification was initiated, one in which people saw themselves as belonging to a Congo full of other selves, a space that was no longer arbitrarily demarcated, but was becoming for the first time a nation. The music enabled people to travel virtually around this new nation. Strength in imagined numbers provided the critical mass for the fight for independence.

Constructing affiliations with unknown but imagined others played a crucial role in the liberation struggles of colonies around the world. India's successful war of independence against the British empire in 1947 must have empowered Ghanaians, who also opposed the British. In turn, their own independence in 1957 sent a message of common experience and shared ideals to other oppressed peoples in Africa, especially in cities like Léopoldville and Brazzaville, where Ghanaians and other West Africans were present in large numbers. This feeling of oneness provided moral and physically real support for those engaged in their own battles.

Rumba Lingala, like all genres of music, developed an æsthetics of existence uniquely capable of expressing the ideoscape of 1940's and 1950's Congolese society. Its lyrics were oral literature, relating conditions of life common to many, no matter where they lived. This ability to weave together so many different lives made it a "musica franca." Over time the expanding repertoire elaborated this æsthetic system, this stylization of daily life. Rather than romanticize pre-colonial Africa, Rumba Lingala constructed an image of the Congo as a modern, globally engaged social entity, connected to diasporic communities throughout the world. The establishment of artistic links to other societies through the exploration of foreign musical contexts in turn helped individuals in the Congo to make sense of changes in local affiliations and to comprehend the global meaning of being Congolese.

Rumba Lingala's success owed much to its successful merging of foreign and local elements. The tradition of audience participation continued in the writing of socially relevant lyrics and the fashion-forming, frequently changing dances. This constant reciprocation between performer and audience prevented Rumba Lingala from becoming abstracted from society. Musicians' use of both local and imported instruments gave the music the aura of being modern yet old, strange yet familiar. The names of ensembles and individuals, as well as bands' repertoires, reflect an expansion of their horizons, a sophistication rooted in an appropriated power. The new technology of electric instruments and records empowered the music in a society demanding change. It must have at first seemed mystical, giving Rumba Lingala and the artists themselves, as well as the men who owned the labels, an aura of the fantastic.

The Beguen Band's signboard, erected in front of the band for a promotional photo in 1959, is a rich image of the bridge between worlds constructed by Rumba Lingala. It shows a pluriarch (a bow lute), an ngoma, a tenor sax, and a frame drum or small bass drum. The sign is positioned between two amplifiers for the hollow-bodied guitars. This juxtaposition of local and imported instruments is interesting: it represents the merging of elements in the music more than just in the ensemble's instrumentation. With their name the band appropriated the imagined potency of the biguine, a dance and genre of music enjoyed and often recorded in the mid-1950s.300

The desire to assume the significations of technology, music and language of those perceived to be powerful is what links the Lari big men of Brazzaville who included phonographs among their burial goods; musicians like Franco and Saak Sakoul who in the 1960s intoned James Brown with shouts of ”Come on!” and “Sex!” (from "Sex Machine"); and the doctor in western Colombia who adorned the cracked, mud walls of the “alternative” clinic with framed advertisements from European and American medical journals.301 The song "Mwana Pause," recorded by Pholidor and Bana Loningisa 1955-1956, celebrated the club "La Pause," which derived its name from "la pose." Elegantly dressed youth were fond of posing in public places, copying attitudes from European fashion magazines (some of whose styles, like those of Yves St. Laurent, were based on fashions from Africa and elsewhere).302

Sounds, like all images, carry magic, waiting to be imitated. When mimetically reproduced, this energy is appropriated. The soundscape becomes infused with this energy and thus is altered. Both the original sound and the soundscape of the imitator undergo alterity. Musicians most likely could not wait to get their hands on a guitar in the beginning; reports of aspiring youths making them out of tin cans and wire are almost archetypal. When the guitar became cheap enough, it took over the music scene. Other than being a new sound, I wonder what it meant to them, what, in copying, they felt they gained.

The significance of reinforcing the bond with the Latino-Caribbean world lies in Rumba Lingala's articulation of what had been implicitly known but never expressed on a national level. The shared history of the Congo and the Americas, especially Cuba, was evident in the rumba and son montunos; their shared modernity was made audible by Rumba Lingala. The hypocrisy of colonial "civilization" and the myth of European superiority were challenged through the blending of iconic African and diasporic cultural forms with themes and imagery of contemporary life.

Adorno, Theodor W. 1976. Introduction to the Sociology of Music. Trans. E.B. Ashton. New York: Seabury.

Adorno, Theodor W. 1991. In Search of Wagner. Trans. Rodney Livingstone. New York: Verso.

Amuta, Chidi. 1995. "Fanon, Cabral and Ngugi on National Liberation." The Post-Colonial Studies Reader. Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths and Helen Tiffin, eds. London: Routledge. 158-63.

Anderson, Benedict. 1991. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. London: Verso. Orig. pub. 1983.

Angeloro, Al. 1992. “Back-to-Africa: The ‘Reverse’ Transculturation of Salsa/Cuban Popular Music.” Salsiology: Afro-Cuban Music and the Evolution of Salsa in New York City. Vernon W. Boggs, ed. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. 299-305.

Austen, Ralph A., and Rita Headrick. 1983. “Equatorial Africa under Colonial Rule.” History of Central Africa, vol. 2. David Birmingham and Phyllis M. Martin, eds. New York: Longman. 27-94.

Bartz, Jerzy. 1989. “Afro-Latin Connection.” Trans. Pawel Brodowski. Jazz Forum 119. 38-44.

Bemba, Sylvain. 1977. “En direct du Congo: musique traditionelle: realités congolaises d'aujourd'hui.” Recherche, pedagogie et culture 29-30. 49-52.

Bemba, Sylvain. 1984. Cinquante ans de musique du Congo-Zaïre, 1920-1970: de Paul Kamba à Tabu-Ley. Paris: Présence africaine.

Bemba, Sylvain. 1988. “Variations sur l'éducation sentimentale de deux peuples ou La naissance du discours amoureux dans la vie quotidienne chantée au Congo-Zaïre." Chansons d'Afrique et des Antilles. Itinéraires et contacts de cultures 8. Bernard Magnier and Massa M. Diabaté, eds. Paris: L'Harmattan: 39-53.

Bender, Wolfgang. 1997. Liner notes in Ngoma, Souvenir ya L’Indépendance. Popular African Music PAMAP 102.

Bender, Wolfgang, and Günter Gretz. 1996. Liner notes in Ngoma, The Early Years, 1948-1960.

Bernault, Florence. 1996. Lecture in course entitled History of Equatorial Africa, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Boone, Olga. 1936. Les xylophones du Congo belge. Bruxelles: van Campenhout.

Boone, Olga. 1951. Les tambours du Congo belge et du Ruanda-Urundi, 2 vols. Tervuren: Musée du Congo belge.

de Bouveignes, O. 1950. “Native Music in the Belgian Congo,” in The Arts in Belgian Congo and Ruanda-Urundi. Bruxelles: Centre d'information et de documentation du Congo belge et du Ruanda-Urundi.

Brandel, Rose. 1961. The Music of Central Africa: An Ethnomusicological Study. Den Haag: Martinus Nijhoff.

Carrington, John F. 1966-67. “Tone and Melody in a Congolese Popular Song.” African Music 4/1. 38-9.

Chekhov, Michael. 1985. "First Class: Why is a Method Needed in the Theatre of Today?" Lessons for the Professional Actor. Deirdre Hurst du Prey, ed. New York: Performing Arts Journal. 21-34.

Clifford, James. 1992. “Travelling Cultures.” Cultural Studies Reader. Lawrence Grossberg, et al., eds. New York: Routledge. 96-116.

Comhaire-Sylvain, Suzanne. 1950. Food and Leisure Among the African Youth of Leopoldville (Belgian Congo). Communications from the School of African Studies 25. Cape Town: University of Cape Town Press.

Comhaire-Sylvain, Suzanne. 1968. Femmes de Kinshasa hier et aujourd'hui. Paris: Mouton.

Congopresse (Léopoldville). Nos. 33-94 (January 15, 1949-August 1, 1951).

Connerton, Paul. 1989. How Societies Remember. Cambridge: University Cambridge Press.

Curtin, Philip, et al. 1995. African History from Earliest Times to Independence, 2nd ed. London: Longman.

Daniel, Yvonne. 1995. Rumba: Dance and Social Change in Contemporary Cuba. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Drewal, Margaret Thompson. 1992. Yoruba Ritual. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Duran, Gustavo. 1950. Recordings of Latin American Songs and Dances: An Annotated Selective List of Popular and Folk Music. 2nd ed. Gilbert Chase, ed. Washington D.C.: Dept. of Cultural Affairs. Orig. pub. 1941.

Ewens, Graeme. 1986. Luambo Franco and 30 Years of O.K. Jazz: A History and Discography. London: Off the Record Press.

Ewens, Graeme. 1994. Congo Colossus. Norfolk, UK: Buku Press.

Fabian, Johannes. 1986. Language and Colonial Power. African Studies 48. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Fanon, Frantz. 1968. "On National Culture." The Wretched of the Earth. Trans. Constance Farrington. The Post-Colonial Studies Reader. Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths and Helen Tiffin, eds. London: Routledge, 1995. 153-57.

Farewell to the Queen. . Last Modified: March 24, 1998. Accessed: February 22, 1999.

Feldman, Allen. 1991. Formations of Violence. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Frith, Simon. 1996. "Music and Identity." Questions of Cultural Identity. Stuart Hall and Paul du Gay, eds. London: Sage. 108-127.

Gansemann, Jos, and Barbara Schmidt-Wrenger. 1986. Zentralafrika. Musikgeschichte in Bildern 1, 9. Heinrich Besseler, Max Schneider and Werner Bachmann, eds. Leipzig: VEB Deutscher Verlag für Musik.

Gaskin, L. J. P. 1965. A Select Bibliography of Music in Africa. London: International African Institute.

Gilroy, Paul. 1993. The Black Atlantic. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Graham, Ronnie. 1988. The Da Capo Guide to Contemporary African Music. New York: Da Capo Press.

Graham, Ronnie. 1992. The World of African Music. Stern's Guide to Contemporary African Music, vol. 2. London: Pluto Press.

Gray, John. 1991. African Music: A Bibliographical Guide to the Traditional, Popular, Art, and Liturgical Musics of Sub-Saharan Africa. New York: Greenwood Press.

Grimes, Barbara F., ed. 1996. Ethnologue. 13th ed. Dallas: Summer Institute of Linguistics, Inc. . Last modified: November 25, 1997. Accessed: December 16, 1997.

Hall, Stuart. 1995. "New Ethnicities." The Post-Colonial Studies Reader. Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths and Helen Tiffin, eds. London: Routledge. 223-27.

Hall, Stuart. 1996. "Introduction: Who Needs Identity?" Questions of Cultural Identity. Stuart Hall and Paul du Gay, eds. London: Sage. 1-17.

Hamm, Charles. 1988. Afro-American Music, South Africa, and Apartheid. ISAM Monographs 28. Brooklyn: Institute for Studies in American Music.

de Hen, Ferdinand J. 1960. Beitrag zur Kenntnis der Musikinstrumente aus belgisch Kongo und Ruanda-Urundi. Tervuren: n.p.

Hernandez, Deborah Pacini. 1995. Bachata. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Hommage à Grand Kallé. 1985. Collection Témoignages. Preface by Lonoh Malangi Bokelenge. Kinshasa: Éditions Lokole.

Hurt, Ambra H. 1936. “The Music of the Congo." Étude 53. 402, 440.

Ikome, Nkangonda, and Aimisi Manara Bakari. 1989. “La condition de la femme à traverse la musique zaïroise moderne de 1964 à 1984.” Afrikanistische Arbeitspapiere 20. 5-47.

Indépendance (Léopoldville). October 2, 1959.

Kanza Matondo ne Masangaza. 1972. Musique zairoise moderne. Kinshasa: Conservatoire nationale de musique et d’art.

Kanza Matondo ne Masangaza. n.d. Musique d'animation politique & culturelle: Festival de Kinshasa du 2 au 14 Octobre, 1979: critique descriptive. Kinshasa: Édition “Dialogue.”

Kaye, Andrew L. 1998. "The Guitar in Africa." Garland Encyclopedia of World Music. Vol. 1: Africa. Ruth Stone, ed. New York: Garland. 350-69.

Kazadi, Pierre. 1971. “Congo Music: Africa’s Favorite Beat.” Africa Report 16/4. 25-9.

Kazadi wa Mukuna. 1979-80. “The Origin of Zairean Modern Music: A Socio-Economic Aspect.” African Urban Studies 6. 31-9.

Kazadi wa Mukuna. 1980. “Congolese Music.” New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. Vol. 4. Stanley Sadie, ed. 20 vols. London: Macmillan. 659-61.

Kazadi wa Mukuna. 1981. “The Origin of Zaire Modern Music: Result of a Socio-economic Process.” Jazz Research/Jazzforschung 13. 139-49.

Kazadi wa Mukuna. 1992. “The Genesis of Urban Music in Zaïre." African Music 7/2. 72-84.

Kazadi wa Mukuna. 1994. "The Changing Role of the Guitar in the Urban Music of Zaire." The World of Music 36/2. 62-72.

Kazadi wa Mukuna. 1998. "Latin American Musical Influences in Zaïre." Garland Encyclopedia of World Music. Vol. 1: Africa. Ruth Stone, ed. New York: Garland. 383-8.

Kenis, Vincent, and Dizzy Mandjeku. 1991. Liner notes in Roots of Rumba Rock. Zaïre Classics vol. 1, 1953-1954. Crammed Discs CRAW 4.

Kenis, Vincent, et al. 1993. Liner notes in Roots of O.K. Jazz. Zaïre Classics vol. 3. Crammed Discs CRAW 7.

Kenis, Vincent, et al. 1995. Liner notes in Roots of Rumba Rock 2. Zaïre Classics vol. 2, 1954-1955. Crammed Discs CRAW 10.

Kubik, Gerhard. 1983. “Mehrstimmigkeit in Zentral- und Ostafrika.” Musik in Afrika. Artur Simon, ed. Berlin: Museum für Völkerkunde. 84-102.

Kubik, Gerhard. 1995. “Urban/Rural Interaction in Central African Guitar Styles (1960s).” Papers Presented at the Tenth Symposium on Ethnomusicology, Music Dept., Rhodes University, 30 September to 2 October, 1991. Carol Muller, ed. Natal: International Library of African Music. 96-100.

Kubik, Gerhard. 1998. "Central Africa: An Introduction." Garland Encyclopedia of World Music. Vol. 1: Africa. Ruth Stone, ed. New York: Garland. 650-80.

Kubik, Gerhard, and Artur Simon. 1994. “Afrika südlich der Sahara.” Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart. 2nd ed. Ludwig Finscher, ed. Kassel: Bärenreiter Verlag.

Kunst, Jaap. 1959. Ethnomusicology. 3rd ed. Den Haag: Martinus Nijhoff.

Laurenty, Jean-Sebastien. 1960. Les chordophones du Congo belge et du Ruanda-Urundi. 2 vols. Tervuren: Koninklijk Museum voor Midden-Afrika.

Laurenty, Jean-Sebastien. 1962. Les sanza du Congo. Tervuren: Koninklijk Museum voor Midden-Afrika.

Laurenty, Jean-Sebastien. 1968. Les tambours à fente de l'Afrique centrale. Tervuren: Koninklijk Museum voor Midden-Afrika.

Lems-Dworkin, Carol. 1991. African Music: A Pan-African Annotated Bibliography. London: Hans Zell Press.

Library of Congress/Federal Research Division/Country Studies Area/Handbook Series/Zaire. Chapter 2. . Last modified: Unknown. Accessed: December 16, 1997.

Linebaugh, Peter. 1982. "All the Atlantic Mountains Shook." Labour/Le Travailleur 10. 87-121.

Lonoh Malangi Bokelenge. 1986. "Modern Zairean Music: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow." The Arts and Civilization of Black and African Peoples. Joseph O. Okpaku, ed. Lagos: Center for Black and African Arts and Civilization. 132-51.

Lonoh, Michel. 1969. Essai de commentaire de la musique congolaise moderne. Kinshasa: Ministère de la Culture et des Arts.

Lonoh N.B., Michel. 1971. Negritude et musique: Regards sur les origines et l'évolution de la musique négro-africaine de conception congolaise. République Democratique du Congo: n.p.

Maes, Joseph. 1921. Guide ethnographique du Musée du Congo belge. Bruxelles: Goemaere.

Maes, Joseph, and Olga Boone. 1935. Les peuplades du Congo belge, nom et situation geographique. Bruxelles: Impr. Veuve Monnom.

Maps on File. 1997. Facts on File, Inc.

Maquet, J.N. 1956. Note sur les instruments de musique congolaise. Bruxelles: Académie Royale des Sciences Coloniales.

Martin, Phyllis M. 1983. “The Violence of Empire.” History of Central Africa, vol. 2. David Birmingham and Phyllis M. Martin, eds. New York: Longman. 1-26.

Martin, Phyllis M. 1995. Leisure and Society in Colonial Brazzaville. African Studies 87. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Matondo, Andre. 1979. “La musique chantée des orchestres contemporains dans les deux Congo (construction imaginaire de l’ordre social).” Ph.D. diss. Tours.

Merriam, Alan P. 1951. “An annotated bibliography of African and African-derived music since 1936.” Africa 21. 319-329.

Merriam, Alan P. 1959. "African Music." Continuity and Change in African Cultures. William R. Bascom and Melville J. Herskovits, eds. Chicago: Univerity of Chicago Press. 49-86.

Merriam, Alan P. 1961. Congo: Background of Conflict. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press.

Merriam, Alan P. 1970. African Music on LP: An Annotated Discography. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press.

Merriam, Alan P. 1980."Zaïre." New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. Vol. 20. Stanley Sadie, ed. 20 vols. London: Macmillan. 621-6.

Ngugi wa Thiong'o. 1986. Decolonising the Mind. London: James Currey Heinemann.

Nkashama, Pius Ngandu. 1979. "Ivresse et vertige: Les nouvelles danses des jeunes au Zaïre." L'Afrique litteraire et artistique 51. 94-102.

Nkashama, Pius Ngandu. 1988. "La chanson de la rupture dans la musique du Zaïre." Chanson d'Afrique et des Antilles. Itinéraines et contacts de cultures 8. Bernard Magnier and Massa M. Diabaté, eds. Paris: L'Harmattan. 63-75.

Nos Images (Léopoldville). Nos. 15-127 (September 15, 1949-January 1, 1956).

Olema, Debhonvapi. 1984. "Société zaïroise dans le miroir de la chanson populaire." Canadian Journal of African Studies 18/1. 122-30.

Osofisan, Femi. 1999. Lecture at University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Paddison, Max. 1982. "The Critique Criticised: Adorno and Popular Music." Popular Music 2. 201-218.

Pauwels-Boon, Greta. 1979. L’Origine, l’évolution et le fonctionnement de la radiodiffusion au Zaïre de 1937 à 1960. Tervuren: Koninklijk Museum voor Midden-Afrika.

"Papa Wemba: Le Sapeur." 1995. The Rough Guide to World Music. Simon Broughton, et al., eds. London: Rough Guides Ltd. 320-1. Orig. pub. 1994.

Pwono, Damien Mandondo. 1992. "The Institutionalization of Popular Music in Zaire." Thesis (Ph.D.). University of Pittsburgh.

Renan, Ernest. 1990. “What is a Nation?” Nation and Narration. Homi K. Bhabha, ed. London: Routledge. 8-22.

Roberts, John Storm. 1973. Black Music of Two Worlds. New York: Praeger.

Roberts, John Storm. 1986. Afro-Cuban Comes Home. Cassette lecture. Tivoli, NY: Original Music OMWP01.

Rodríguez, Dr. Olavo Alén. 1998. From Afrocuban Music to Salsa. Berlin: Piranha.

Schmidt, Cynthia. "Kru Mariners and Migrants of the West African Coast." Garland Encyclopedia of World Music. Vol. 1: Africa. Ruth Stone, ed. New York: Garland. 370-82

Slobin, Mark. 1993. Subcultural Sounds: Micromusics of the West. Hanover, NH: Wesleyan University Press/University Press of New England.

Stapleton, Chris, and Chris May. 1990. African Rock: The Pop Music of a Continent. New York: Dutton

Taussig, Michael. 1993. Mimesis and Alterity. New York: Routledge.

Tchebwa, Manda. 1996. Terre de la chanson. Louvain-la-Neuve: Duclot.

Thieme, Darius. 1964. African Music: A Briefly Annotated Bibliography. Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress.

Tshonga-Onyumbe. 1982-88. Various. Zaire-Afrique 22-28.

Varley, Douglas. 1936. African Native Music: An Annotated Bibliography. Royal Empire Society Bibliographies 8. London: Royal Empire Society.

Vellut, Jean-Luc. 1983. "Mining in the Belgian Congo." History of Central Africa. Vol. 2. David Birmingham and Phyllis M. Martin, eds. New York: Longman. 126-62.

Waterman, Christopher Alan. 1990. Jùjú: A Social History and Ethnography of an African Popular Music. Chicago: University Chicago Press.

Weeks, John H. 1914. Among the Primitive Bakongo. London: Seeley, Service & Co., Ltd.

Welle, Jean. 1950. "Rumbas congolaises et jazz américain." Congopresse 57 (January 15). 1072-3.

Young, Crawford. 1965. Politics in the Congo: Decolonization and Independence. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Yungu, Robert. 1997. Personal communication.

Cuba Eterno: La Colección Cubana. 1999. Various artists. Music Club 50091.

Les Merveilles du Passé: 1957-1975. 1991. Various artists. Sonodisc CD 36501.

Les Merveilles du Passé: Grand Kallé et l'African Jazz 1958, 1959, 1960, Vol. 1. 1991. Sonodisc CD 36503.

Ngoma, The Early Years, 1948-1960. 1996. Various artists. Popular African Music PAMAP 101.

Ngoma, Souvenir ya L'Indépendance. 1997. Various artists. Popular African Music PAMAP 102.

O.K. Jazz Originalité. 1990. RetroAfric RETRO 2.

Roots of O.K. Jazz. 1993. Various artists. Zaïre Classics vol. 3, 1955-1956. Crammed Discs CRAW 7.

Roots of Rumba Rock. 1991. Various artists. Zaïre Classics vol. 1, 1953-1954. Crammed Discs CRAW 4.

Roots of Rumba Rock 2. 1995. Various artists. Zaïre Classics vol. 2, 1954-1955. Crammed Discs CRAW 10.

1Forgive the mixing of metaphors. It is a recognition of music's resistance against constraint within a lexical model.

2RC is sometimes called Congo-Brazzaville, or, locally, Congo-Brazza. DRC is locally called Congo-Kinshasa, or sometimes still Congo-Leo.

3Paul Gilroy, The Black Atlantic (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993), p. 5.

4Ernest Renan, “What is a Nation?” in Homi K. Bhabha, ed., Nation and Narration (London: Routledge, 1990), p. 19.

5I will use the terms "Congolese" and “Congo” to refer to both DRC and RC. I do not believe it necessary to differentiate for my purposes, as musicians and others moved freely back and forth across the river, thus creating a web of affiliations that extended beyond the colonial borders. The song "Towuti Brazza Toye Kisasa" ("We come from Brazzaville, we come to Kinshasa"), recorded by De Malo 1953-1954, describes the journey, with its crowded boats, pick-pockets, customs officials, taxis, etc.

Sylvain Bemba, in his article “Variations sur l'éducation sentimentale de deux peuples ou La naissance du discours amoureux dans la vie quotidienne chantée au Congo-Zaïre," in Chansons d'Afrique et des Antilles (Paris: L'Harmattan, 1988) says: "The musical history of Brazzaville and Léopoldville is circumscribed in a space which, even though separated by a river, constitutes nevertheless a cultural conurbation." [Translation mine. Original text reads: "[L]'histoire musicale de Brazzaville et de Léopoldville est circonscrite dans un espace qui, bien que séparé par une fleuve, n'en constitue pas moins une conurbation culturelle."]

6Gilroy, p. 17.

7See, for example, Ngoma, The Early Years, 1948-1960 (Popular African Music PAMAP 101, 1996).

8Nico Jéronimidis, the founder of Ngoma, was known as “Tatá Ngoma.” Tatá is Lingala for father and ngoma Kikongo for drum, and synecdochically, music. After Nico’s death, his successor Nikis Cavvadias took the name. During the unrest around independence Nikis would only travel in the Ngoma van, which allowed him safe passage through rebel check points. “There was always at least one soldier who knew what Ngoma stood for: ‘Hey, that man is o.k., that’s Tata Ngoma!’” Dr. Wolfgang Bender, liner notes in Ngoma, Souvenir ya L'Indépendance (Popular African Music PAMAP 102, 1997), p. 5.

9Max Paddison, "The Critique Criticised: Adorno and Popular Music," in Popular Music 2 (1982), p. 205.

10Paddison, p. 205.

11See: Olga Boone, Les tambours du Congo belge et du Ruanda-Urundi, 2 vols. (Tervuren: Musée du Congo belge, 1951), Les xylophones du Congo belge (Bruxelles: van Campenhout, 1936); O. de Bouveignes, “Native Music in the Belgian Congo,” in The Arts in Belgian Congo and Ruanda-Urundi (Bruxelles: Centre d'information et de documentation du Congo belge et du Ruanda-Urundi, 1950); Rose Brandel, The Music of Central Africa: An Ethnomusicological Study (Den Haag: Martinus Nijhoff, 1961); Jos Gansemann and Barbara Schmidt-Wrenger, Zentralafrika (Leipzig: VEB Deutscher Verlag für Musik, 1986); Ferdinand J. de Hen, Beitrag zur Kenntnis der Musikinstrumente aus belgisch Kongo und Ruanda-Urundi (Tervuren: n.p., 1960); Ambra H. Hurt, “The Music of the Congo," in Etude 53 (1936); Gerhard Kubik, "Central Africa: An Introduction," in Garland Encyclopedia of World Music, vol. 1., Ruth Stone, ed. (New York: Garland, 1998), “Mehrstimmigkeit in Zentral- und Ostafrika,” in Artur Simon, ed., Musik in Afrika (Berlin: Museum für Völkerkunde, 1983); Jean-Sebastien Laurenty, Les tambours à fente de l'Afrique centrale (Tervuren: Koninklijk Museum voor Midden-Afrika, 1968), Les sanza du Congo (Tervuren: Koninklijk Museum voor Midden-Afrika, 1962), Les chordophones du Congo belge et du Ruanda-Urundi, 2 vols. (Tervuren: Koninklijk Museum voor Midden-Afrika, 1960); Joseph Maes, Guide ethnographique du Musée du Congo belge (Bruxelles: Goemaere, 1921); Joseph Maes and Olga Boone, Les peuplades du Congo belge, nom et situation geographique (Bruxelles, Impr. Veuve Monnom, 1935); J.N. Maquet, Note sur les instruments de musique congolaise (Bruxelles: Académie Royale des Sciences Coloniales, 1956).

12Kazadi wa Mukuna, "Latin American Musical Influences in Zaïre," in Garland Encyclopedia of World Music, vol. 1., Ruth Stone, ed. (New York: Garland, 1998); The Changing Role of the Guitar in the Urban Music of Zaire," in The World of Music 36/2 (1994); “The Genesis of Urban Music in Zaïre,” African Music 7/2 (1992); “The Origin of Zaire Modern Music,” Jazz Research/Jazzforschung 13 (1981); “Congolese Music,” in vol. 4 of Stanley Sadie, ed., New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 20 vols. (London: Macmillan, 1980); “The Origin of Zairean Modern Music: A Socio-Economic Aspect,” African Urban Studies 6 (1979-80); Pierre Kazadi, “Congo Music: Africa’s Favorite Beat,” Africa Report 16/4 (1971).

13Lonoh Malangi Bokelenge, "Modern Zairean Music: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow," in Joseph O. Okpaku, ed., The Arts and Civilization of Black and African Peoples (Lagos: Center for Black and African Arts and Civilization, 1986); preface to Hommage à Grand Kallé (Kinshasa: Editions Lokole, 1985); Michel Lonoh N.B., Négritude et musique: Regards sur les origins et l'évolution de la musique négro-africaine de conception congolaise (Rep. Dem. du Congo: n.p., 1971); Michel Lonoh, Essai de commentaire sur la musique congolaise moderne (Kinshasa: Ministère de la Culture et des Arts, 1969).

14Sylvain Bemba, “Variations sur l'éducation sentimentale de deux peuples ou La naissance du discours amoureux dans la vie quotidienne chantée au Congo-Zaïre," in Bernard Magnier and Massa M. Diabaté, eds., Chansons d'Afrique et des Antilles, Itinéraires et contacts de cultures 8 (Paris: L'Harmattan, 1988); Cinquante ans de musique du Congo-Zaïre, 1920-1970: de Paul Kamba à Tabu-Ley (Paris: Présence africaine, 1984); “En direct du Congo: musique traditionelle: realités Congolaises d'aujourd'hui,” in Recherche, pedagogie et culture 29-30 (1977).

15Manda Tchebwa, Terre de la chanson (Louvain-la-Neuve: Duclot, 1996).

16Kanza Matondo ne Masangaza, Musique d'animation politique & culturelle: Festival de Kinshasa du 2 au 14 Octobre, 1979: critique descriptive (Kinshasa: Édition “Dialogue,” n.d.); Musique zairoise moderne (Kinshasa: Conservatoire nationale de musique et d’art, 1972).

17Pius Ngandu Nkashama, "La Chanson de la rupture dans la musique du Zaïre," in Bernard Magnier and Massa M. Diabaté, eds., Chanson d'Afrique et des Antilles, Itinéraines et Contacts de Cultures 8 (Paris: L'Harmattan, 1988); "Ivresse et vertige: Les nouvelles danses des jeunes au Zaïre," in L'Afrique litteraire et artistique 51 (1979).

18Tshonga-Onyumbe, various articles in Zaire-Afrique 22-28 (1982-88); Debhonvapi Olema, "Société zaïroise dans le miroir de la chanson populaire," Canadian Journal of African Studies 18/1 (1984); Nkangonda Ikome and Aimisi Manara Bakari, “La condition de la femme à traverse la musique zaïroise moderne de 1964 à 1984,” in Afrikanistische Arbeitspapiere 20 (1989).

19Damien Matondo Pwono, "The Institutionalization of Popular Music in Zaire," Ph.D. dissertation, University of Pittsburgh, 1992.; Andre Matondo, “La musique chantée des orchestres contemporains dans les deux Congo (construction imaginaire de l’ordre social).” Ph.D. diss. Tours, 1979.

20Phyllis M. Martin, Leisure and Society in Colonial Brazzaville, African Studies 87 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995).

21Suzanne Comhaire-Sylvain, Femmes de Kinshasa hier et aujourd’hui (Paris: Mouton, 1968), Food and Leisure Among the African Youth of Leopoldville (Belgian Congo) (Communications from the School of African Studies 25. University of Cape Town, 1950).

22Greta Pauwels-Boon, L’Origine, l’évolution et le fonctionnement de la radiodiffusion au Zaïre de 1937 à 1960 (Tervuren: Koninklijk Museum voor Midden-Afrika, 1979).

23 Alan P. Merriam, "Zaïre," in vol. 20 of Stanley Sadie, ed., New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 20 vols. (London: Macmillan, 1980), Congo: Background of Conflict (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1961), "African Music," in William R. Bascom and Melville J. Herskovits, eds., Continuity and Change in African Cultures (Chicago: Univerity of Chicago Press, 1959).

24Gerhard Kubik, “Urban/Rural Interaction in Central African Guitar Styles (1960s),” in Carol Muller, ed., Papers Presented at the Tenth Symposium on Ethnomusicology, Music Dept., Rhodes University, 30 September to 2 October, 1991 (Natal: International Library of African Music, 1995); Gerhard Kubik and Artur Simon, “Afrika südlich der Sahara,” in Ludwig Finscher, ed., Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart, 2nd ed. (Kassel: Bärenreiter Verlag, 1994- ).

25Ronnie Graham, The World of African Music (London: Pluto Press, 1992), The Da Capo Guide to Contemporary African Music (New York: Da Capo Press, 1988); Alan P. Merriam, African Music on LP: An Annotated Discography (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1970), “An annotated bibliography of African and African-derived music since 1936,” in Africa 21 (1951); Carol Lems-Dworkin, African Music: A Pan-African Annotated Bibliography (London: Hans Zell Press, 1991); John Gray, African Music: A Bibliographical Guide to the Traditional, Popular, Art, and Liturgical Musics of Sub-Saharan Africa (New York: Greenwood Press, 1991); Douglas Varley, African Native Music: An Annotated Bibliography, Royal Empire Society Bibliographies 8 (London: Royal Empire Society, 1936); Jaap Kunst, Ethnomusicology, 3rd ed. (Den Haag: Martinus Nijhoff, 1959); Darius Thieme, African Music: A Briefly Annotated Bibliography (Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 1964); L. J. P. Gaskin, A Select Bibliography of Music in Africa (London: International African Institute, 1965).

26John Storm Roberts, Afro-Cuban Comes Home (Tivoli, NY: Original Music OMWP01, 1986), Black Music of Two Worlds (New York: Praeger, 1973); Graeme Ewens, Congo Colossus (Norfolk, UK: Buku, 1994), Luambo Franco and 30 Years of O.K. Jazz: A History and Discography (London: Off the Record Press, 1986).

27Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (London: Verso, 1991), orig. pub. 1983.

28Christopher Alan Waterman, Jùjú: A Social History and Ethnography of an African Popular Music (Chicago: University Chicago Press, 1990).

29James Clifford, “Travelling Cultures,” in Lawrence Grossberg, et al., eds., Cultural Studies Reader (New York: Routledge, 1992), pp. 96-116.

30Gilroy 1993.

31Gilroy, p. 4.[Emphasis mine].

32Gilroy, p. 4.

33Stuart Hall, "Introduction: Who Needs Identity?" in Stuart Hall and Paul du Gay, eds., Questions of Cultural Identity (London: Sage, 1996), p. 14.

34Hall 1996, p. 4.

35Michael Chekhov, "First Class: Why is a Method Needed in the Theatre of Today?" in Deirdre Hurst du Prey, ed., Lessons for the Professional Actor (New York: Performing Arts Journal, 1985), pp. 21-33.

36Hall 1996, p. 15.

37I thank Peter Roller, colleague and friend, for suggesting the "garage rock" metaphor.

38Simon Frith, "Music and Identity," in Stuart Hall and Paul du Gay, eds., Questions of Cultural Identity (London: Sage, 1996), pp. 108-127.

39Mark Slobin, Subcultural Sounds: Micromusics of the West (Hanover, NH: Wesleyan University Press/New England University Press, 1993), p. 33.

40Slobin, p. 27; Moreover, they appeal to my commonsense as supercultures, though sirens are going off, warning me that my commonsense has been formed by the ideologies of my own superculture. I could, then, be disqualified for not being sufficiently detached from any system to make a valid observation. My defense is that the ideal of detachment is itself an ideology, though it masks itself as an anti-ideology. It owes its own existence to a superculture.

41Slobin, p. 41

42Created in the eastern province (Oriente) of Cuba, this consists of a moderate tempo first section of varying length (son), followed by a faster section (montuno). The son montuno became popular all over Cuba towards the end of W.W. I. See Gustavo Duran, Recordings of Latin American Songs and Dances, 2nd ed., Gilbert Chase ed. (Washington D.C.: Dept. Cultural Affairs, 1951), pp.47-8.

43Cited in Chidi Amuta, "Fanon, Cabral and Ngugi on National Liberation," in Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths and Helen Tiffin, eds., The Post-Colonial Studies Reader (London: Routledge, 1995), pp. 158-60.

44"Ah, mokili!" ("Oh, life!" in Lingala) is an oft heard cry in Congolese song, expressing the sublime, our vulnerability as humans, the incomprehensibility of life's patterns.

45Kazadi 1992, p. 74; Tchebwa, p. 47.

46Quoted in Kazadi 1979-80, pp. 33-4. My attempts to locate Ntambo on a map have failed. Kintambo, however, is in the greater Kinshasa area.

47John H. Weeks, Among the Primitive Bakongo, (London: Seeley, Service & Co. Ltd., 1914), p. 201.

48Weeks, p. 201.

49Lonoh 1986, p. 137.

50Kazadi 1992, p. 72.

51Jean-Luc Vellut, "Mining in the Belgian Congo," in David Birmingham and Phyllis M. Martin, eds., History of Central Africa, vol. 2 (New York: Longman, 1983), p. 127.

52According to Union Minière company records, men were hired by a recruiting company based in Zambia. “By 1921, the majority of the workers were from Rhodesia reaching a total of 80,000 men.” Kazadi 1979-80, p. 33.

53Vellut, p. 134.

54From a speech of M. Philipson, president of Le Chemin de Fer du Congo, quoted in Kazadi 1979-80, p. 33.

55Kazadi 1992, p. 73; Tchebwa, p. 52.

56Kazadi 1992, p. 74.

57Philip Curtin, et al., African History from Earliest Times to Independence, 2nd ed. (London: Longman, 1995), p. 465.

58Kazadi 1992, p. 74; Tchebwa p. 47.

59Bemba 1984, p. 53. Original text reads: “Un monde nouveau naît sur les rives du Congo dans les années 20. . . . Léopoldville et Brazzaville, intenses foyers d’acculturation, servent parallèlement de centres de ‘re-folklorisation’.” [Translation mine].

60Bemba 1984, p. 53.

61Ralph A. Austen and Rita Headrick, “Equatorial Africa under Colonial Rule,” in David Birmingham and Phyllis M. Martin, eds., History of Central Africa, vol. 2 (New York: Longman, 1983), pp. 70-1.

62Comhaire-Sylvain 1968, p. 16.

63Bemba 1984, p. 53.

64From a lecture by Florence Bernault in the course The History of Equatorial Africa at University of Wisconsin-Madison, November 1996.

65Bemba 1984, p. 53.

66Bemba 1984, p. 55. Original text reads: “À Brazza comme à Léo, les Africains de l’Ouest furent attirés par l’établissement des premiers factoreries hollandaises et belges auprès desquelles ils remplissaient la fonction enviable et enviée de comptable. Mais ils ne vînrent pas seuls, et, comme dit la Bible, ils étaient accompagnés de leur servante, de leur âne, de leur bœuf, mais aussi de leur musique, de leur culture.” [Translation and emphasis mine].

67Phyllis M. Martin, “The Violence of Empire,” in David Birmingham and Phyllis M. Martin, eds., History of Central Africa, vol. 2 (New York: Longman, 1983), p. 20.

68Tchebwa, pp. 53-4.

69Martin 1995.

70Tchebwa, p. 48.

71Pwono, pp. 9, 11.

72Bemba 1984, p. 70.

73Kazadi 1971, p. 25; Kazadi 1992, p. 76.

74Martin 1995, p. 131; Chris Stapleton and Chris May, African Rock: The Pop Music of a Continent (New York: Dutton, 1990).

75Martin 1995, p. 131.

76Kazadi 1992, p. 77.

77Pwono, p. 10; Kazadi 1992, p. 76.

78Kanza 1972, p. 36.

79Martin 1995, p. 131.

80John Storm Roberts, Black Music of Two Worlds (New York: Praeger, 1973) p. 241; Stapleton and May, p. 139.

81Kazadi 1981, p. 147.

82From two photos in Nos Images (Kinshasa). Orchestre Odéon de Stanleyville (no. 15, September 15, 1949, p. 9) and Groupe Scolaire (no. 52, October 15, 1952, p. 7).

83Kazadi 1992, p. 74-5.

84Ngoma, The Early Years, 1948-1960 (Popular African Music PAMAP 101, 1996).

85 Dr. Wolfgang Bender and Günter Gretz, liner notes in Ngoma, The Early Years, 1948-1960 (Popular African Music PAMAP 101, 1996).

86Martin 1995, pp. 89, 94, 96.

87Kazadi 1992, p. 75.

88Martin 1995, p. 133; Tchebwa, p. 155.

89Kanza 1972, p. 37.

90Kazadi 1980, p. 659.

91Andrew L. Kaye, "The Guitar in Africa," in Garland Encyclopedia of World Music, vol. 1., Ruth Stone, ed. (New York: Garland, 1998), p. 358; Cynthia Schmidt, "Kru Mariners and Migrants of the West African Coast," in Garland Encyclopedia of World Music, vol. 1., Ruth Stone, ed. (New York: Garland, 1998), p. 377.

92Deborah Pacini Hernandez, Bachata (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1995), p. 37.

93Kanza 1972, p. 37; Kazadi 1971, p. 25; Martin 1995, p. 131; Stapleton and May, p. 143.

94Kazadi 1980, p. 659.

95Lonoh 1969, p. 22.

96Kanza 1972, p. 39.

97Kazadi 1980, p. 659.

98Kanza 1972, pp. 38-9; Tchebwa, p. 155.

99Kazadi 1980, p. 659.

100Kanza 1972, pp. 37-8.

101Kanza 1972, p. 39. Original text reads: “On ‘allait au Matanga’ pour désigner des réunions traditionnelles, coutumières, mais on ‘allait au Maringa’ pour parler des manifestations plus extra-coutumières, se déroulant dans des endroits déterminés.” [Translation mine].

102Ngugi wa Thiong'o, quoted in Amuta, p. 162.

103Martin 1995, p. 135.

104Jerzy Bartz, “Afro-Latin Connection,” Jazz Forum 119 (1989), p. 40.

105Martin 1995, p. 136.

106Tchebwa, p. 155.

107Tchebwa, p. 48; Bemba 1984, p. 70.

108Lonoh 1969, p. 23

109Lonoh 1969, p. 56.

110Cuba Eterno: La Colección Cubana (Music Club 50091, 1999).

111Stapleton and May, p. 20.

112Roots of Rumba Rock, Zaïre Classics vol. 1, 1953-1954 (Crammed Discs CRAW 4, 1991).

113Kazadi 1992, p. 75.

114Kazadi 1998, p. 387.

115Kanza 1972, p. 40.

116Kazadi 1992, p. 79.

117Roots of O.K. Jazz, Zaïre Classics vol. 3, 1955-1956 (Crammed Discs CRAW 7, 1993).

118Comhaire-Sylvain 1968, p. 36. [Translation by Kazadi (1992, p. 79)].

119Information on the musicians was culled from various sources, including Bemba 1984, p. 95-7; O.K. Jazz Originalité (RetroAfric RETRO 2, 1990); Roots of Rumba Rock, Zaïre Classics vol. 1, 1953-1954 (Crammed Discs CRAW 4, 1991); Roots of O.K. Jazz, Zaïre Classics vol. 3, 1955-1956 (Crammed Discs CRAW 7, 1993); Roots of Rumba Rock 2, Zaïre Classics vol. 2, 1954-1955 (Crammed Discs CRAW 10, 1995); Ngoma, The Early Years, 1948-1960 (Popular African Music PAMAP 101, 1996); Ngoma, Souvenir ya L'Indépendance (Popular African Music PAMAP 102, 1997).

120Vincent Kenis, et al., liner notes in Roots of O.K. Jazz, Zaïre Classics vol. 3, 1955-1956 (Crammed Discs CRAW 7, 1993), p. 2.

121Gilroy, p. 7.

122Al Angeloro, “Back-to-Africa: The ‘Reverse’ Transculturation of Salsa/Cuban Popular Music,” in Vernon W. Boggs, ed., Salsiology: Afro-Cuban Music and the Evolution of Salsa in New York City (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), p. 303.

123Kazadi 1998, p. 386.

124Vincent Kenis and Dizzy Mandjeku, liner notes in Roots of Rumba Rock, Zaïre Classics vol. 1, 1953-1954 (Crammed Discs CRAW 4, 1991), p. 9.

125Dr. Olavo Alén Rodríguez, From Afrocuban Music to Salsa (Berlin: Piranha, 1998), p. 90.

126Figs. 8-10 are from Kazadi 1980, p. 660.

127Kenis 1991, p. 6.

128Kazadi 1980, p. 660.

129The sebene apparently derived its name from the English "seven," due, according to Pwono (84), to musicians' habit of featuring the seventh chord, a technique learned from Coastmen. My listenings, however, could identify no such habitual technique.

130Vincent Kenis, et al., Roots of Rumba Rock 2, Zaïre Classics vol. 2, 1954-1955 (Crammed Discs CRAW 10, 1995), p. 11.

131Paddison, p. 204.

132Ngoma, The Early Years, 1948-1960.

133This spelling was used by the Congolese record labels (as opposed to "béguine," which is preferred in Europe and the Americas.

134Les Merveilles du Passé: 1957-1975 (Sonodisc CD 36501, 1991).

135Kazadi (1971, p. 26) claims the improvised section of "Liwa ya Lumumba" ("Death of Lumumba") incorporates "Kyrie Eleison" and the prelude to “Liwa ya Champagne” works in "Dies Irae." Elsewhere (1992, p. 79) he cites the guitar interlude of "Liwa ya Wechi" as borrowing from "Dies Irae." Outside of M. Makeba's cover of "Liwa ya Wechi," I was unable to find recordings of these songs to verify Kazadi's information.

136Roots of Rumba Rock, Zaïre Classics vol. 1, 1953-1954 (Crammed Discs CRAW 4, 1991).

137Original lyrics: "Tango! Eponi banganga!" [Translation mine].

138Kenis 1991, p. 8.

139Lonoh 1969, p. 22.

140See Martin 1995.

141Bemba 1984, p. 96

142Excerpted from Jean Welle's "Rumbas congolaises et jazz américain," Congopresse 57 (January 15, 1950), pp. 1072-3. I discovered a reprint (untranslated) in African Music 1/5 (June 1952), pp. 42-3. The latter credits La revue colonie belge 143 (September 1951). Original text reads: "[J]e n'ai jamais entendu des musicians congolais jouer du jazz -- j'entends du vrai jazz, à la façon des noirs américains. On m'a même prétendu que l'audition de disques d'outr'Atlantique [sic] les laissaient [sic] insensibles. Et de fait lorsqu'ils dansent aux sons d'un pick-up, ce sont des enregistrements de romances, airs de slow-fox ou valse lente, que les congolais [sic] affectionnent. . . . Mais si les noirs d'Harlem se livrent, au roulement de batteries nickelées, à des dances frénétiques dont les titres évoquent la jungle ancestrale -- leur frères du Congo, lorsqu'ils ne dansent pas la rumba aux sons de leurs orchestres, préfèrent sans hésitation la voix tendre de Tino Rossi à la trompette de Louis Armstrong. . . ." [Translation mine].

143Quoted in Indépendance, October 2, 1959, p. 3. Original text reads: "Et c'est là que jaillit, magnifique,/Sensuelle et virile comme une voix d'airain/Issue de ta douleur, ta puissante musique,/Le Jazz, aujourd'hui admiré dans le monde/En forçant le respect de l'homme blanc,/En lui disant tout haut que dorénavant,/Ce pays n'est plus le sien, comme aux vieux temps,/Tu as permis ainsi à tes frères de race/L'avenir heureux que promet la déliverance." [Translation mine].

144Stuart Hall, "New Ethnicities," in Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths and Helen Tiffin, eds. The Post-Colonial Studies Reader (London: Routledge, 1995), p. 223.

145Hall 1995, p. 223.

146Lonoh 1969, p. 71. Original text reads: "Trois ans post-primaires? C'est beaucoup pour les Congolais de l'âge colonial! Être possesseur d'un diplôme ou d'une attestation de trois ans post-primaires, durant la colonisation c'est être classé parmi l'élite intellectuelle noire." [Translation mine].

147Kenis, et al., 1995, p. 8.

148Graeme Ewens, Congo Colossus (Norfolk, UK: Buku Press, 1994), p. 55.

149Ewens 1994, p. 60.

150Ewens 1994, p. 69.

151O.K. Jazz Originalité (RetroAfric RETRO 2, 1990).

152Ewens 1994, p. 28.

153Quoted in Kazadi 1992, p. 79. [Source not cited].

154Roots of Rumba Rock, Zaïre Classics vol. 1, 1953-1954. [Translation by Dizzy Mandjeku].

155Roots of Rumba Rock, Zaïre Classics vol. 1, 1953-1954. [Translation by Dizzy Mandjeku].

156Roots of Rumba Rock, Zaïre Classics vol. 1, 1953-1954. [Translation by Dizzy Mandjeku].

157Ngoma, The Early Years, 1948-1960. [Translation by Sylvain Konko].

158Roots of Rumba Rock, Zaïre Classics vol. 1, 1953-1954.

159Roots of O.K. Jazz, Zaïre Classics vol. 3, 1955-1956. [Translation by Dizzy Mandjeku].

160Roots of Rumba Rock, Zaïre Classics vol. 1, 1953-1954. [Translation mine].

161Ngoma, The Early Years, 1948-1960.

162Gretz in Bender and Gretz, p. 12.

163Ngoma, The Early Years, 1948-1960. [Translation by Sylvain Konko and Jesse Samba Wheeler].

164Kenis 1995, p. 10.

165Gretz in Bender and Gretz, p. 25.

166Les Merveilles du Passé: 1957-1975.

167Lonoh 1971, p. 22. Original text reads: "La musique négro-africaine de conception congolaise est l'art de la liberté: de 1945 à 1960, elle a pris activement part, d'une façon clandestine, à la lutte pour l'indépendance, ce combat commun auquel avaient été engagés tous les peuples opprimés." [Translation mine].

168Quoted in Frith, p. 119.

169Radio Congolia's practice of broadcasting live performances affirms performance's power. The knowledge that something is happening makes one feel part of it, much more than listening to a record does. See Kazadi 1998, p. 387.

170Kazadi 1992, p. 74.

171Bemba 1984, p. 56.

172Pwono, p. 9. He adds that loso ya Ghana now describes the similar American long-grain variety.

173Gretz in Bender and Gretz, p. 17.

174Congopresse 76 (November 1, 1950), p. 1531.

175Comhaire-Sylvain 1968, p 268.

176Comhaire-Sylvain 1968, p. 45.

177Comhaire-Sylvain 1968, p. 48. Original text reads: "Il y avait enfin en 1945 plusieurs associations récréatives de femmes extrêmement florissantes. Cela avait commencé en 1937 quand le "Club Américain," créé à l'exemple du "Club Excelsior" des "Coastmen" (Africains d'Afrique Occidentale engagés par les grandes compagnies por les travaux de bureau à une époque où ceux-ci étaient encore trop compliqués pour les Congolais) avait décidé de s'adjoindre une Société Américaine féminine qui grouperait les femmes de fonctionaires.

178Comhaire-Sylvain, pp. 366-9.

179Kazadi 1992, p. 74.

180Kazadi 1992, p. 74.

181Comhaire-Sylvain, p. 48. Original text reads: "'L'Harmonie Kinoise' qui datait de 1940 et possédait le meilleur orchestre de Kinshasa avec un jeu complet de cuivres, de bois et d'instruments à cordes se contentait des femmes de la famille des membres pour organiser ses 'manifestations,' tandis que l''Odéon Kinois' son rival avait recruté des membres féminins." [Translation mine].

182Comhaire-Sylvain 1968, p. 268. Original text reads: "Tous les orchestres ont des "supporters" féminins qui leur sont attachées en tant que "filles du protocole" ou "filles d'honneur," seul l''O.K. Jazz,' l'un des plus grands, s'est annexé un club mixte dont le comité comprend plusieurs jeunes filles: Thérèse Liyala, vice-présidente; Marie Kisangani, trésorière-adjointe; Caroline Lonkunku, commissaire aux fêtes; Hélène Kamunga, chef du protocole; Florence Ekwa, chargée des affaires féminines." [Translation mine].

183Bemba 1984, p. 73.

184Comhaire-Sylvain 1968, p. 49. [Translation by Kazadi (1992, p. 75)].

185Kazadi 1998, p. 385.

186Ewens 1994, p. 68.

187Ewens 1994, p.68.

188Bemba 1984, p. 100; Cover to Ngoma, Souvenir ya L'Indépendance.

189Bemba 1988, pp. 50-1. Original text reads: "Le bar-dancing est précisément le lieu d'une telle trêve sociale, l'espace où tous les conflits s'apaisent provisoirement avant de reprendre avec plus d'acuité sur le champ de bataille de la lutte pour l'existence." [Translation mine].

190Lonoh 1969, pp. 23-4.

191Excerpted from Welle, pp. 1072-3. Original text reads: "Nuit sur la cité indigène de Léopoldville. Sauf l'avenue centrale, bordée de hauts lampadaires au sodium, les innombrables ruelles qui sillonnent cette ville de plus de cent trente mille habitants, s'ouvrent comme des canaux d'ombre. . . . Mais voici que d'une parcelle plus vivement éclairée sort une musique de danse. Non pas un battement de tam-tam ou le son grave d'un balafon, mais le nasillement sentimental d'un saxophone, le clair vacarme d'une trompette, les cris aigus d'une clarinette. Poussons une porte jalousement gardée par un portier -- et nous sommes dans un bar. C'est un vaste enclos, ceinturé de murs blancs, à ciel ouvert, orné de guirlandes et de lampions. Chargées de verres et de bouteilles de bière, les tables sont entourées de nombreux clients. Au centre, la piste de danse et, sur une estrade, l'orchestre. . . . Il compte une bonne douzaine de musiciens armés d'instruments rutilants. Comme leurs confrères des orchestres européens, ils sont tous uniformément vêtus et devant leurs yeux attentifs un chef, soucieux d'harmonie. . . . En ce moment, la formation joue un tango. Sur la piste danseurs et danseuses enlacés glissent souplement avec une grâce légèrement déhanchée. . . . Quand soudain, tout change! Le tango terminé, dans le bref silence qui suit s'amorce, vif et nerveux, un battement sourd de tambour qu'accompagne, rythme sec et rapide comme une légère grêle tombant sur un toit, le bruit d'une infinité de grains agités en cadence au creux d'une courge. C'est la rumba qui s'ouvre. . . . Les cuivres bientôt enchaînent, lançant la mélodie. Encore une fois, ils ne vont pas s'en écarter d'une croche. Ce sera le même chant inlassablement répété jusqu'au dernier sursaut de la batterie. Mais ici, ce chant toujours semblable n'est pas désagréable, au contraire. Sans doute, parce qu'il est original, parce que sa sonorité est inattendue. Sur les rythmes de rumba, de conga et de samba, les musiciens congolais sont, en effet, parvenus à greffer des mélodies qui sont bien à eux, et la danse qu'ils exécutant, si elle n'est plus tout à fait une mélopée africaine, n'est pas entièrement non plus une musique sud-américaine. [Translation mine].

192"Papa Wemba: Le Sapeur," in Simon Broughton, et al., eds., The Rough Guide to World Music (London: Rough Guides Ltd., 1995), p. 321. Orig. pub. 1994.

193Rodríguez, p. 82.

194Rodríguez, p. 83.

195Rodríguez, p. 87.

196Rodríguez, p. 89.

197Yvonne Daniel, Rumba: Dance and Soical Change in Contemporary Cuba (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995), p. 114.

198Daniel, p. 112.

199Daniel, pp. 113-8.

200Daniel, p. 118.

201Daniel, p. 119.

202Daniel, p. 114.

203Daniel, p. 112.

204This discussion of body and memory has been largely informed by Paul Connerton, How Societies Remember (Cambridge: University of Cambridge Press, 1989), pp. 44-88.

205Connerton, p. 88

206Kazadi 1971, p. 25.

207Anderson, pp. 30-35.

208Kazadi 1992, p. 77; Pauwels-Boon, p. 157.

209Kazadi 1992, p. 77; Lonoh 1985, p. 9.

210Pauwels-Boon, p. 182. Original text reads: “Vu avec le recul du temps, le grand mérite de radio Congolia fut d’avoir suscité, la première au Congo, des émissions pour la population noire, se distinguant ainsi des cinq autres émetteurs privés qui ne pensèrent pas ou à peine à un public noir.” [Translation by Kazadi (1992, p. 78) and Jesse Samba Wheeler].

211Pauwels-Boon, p. 182. Original text reads: “. . . la population souhaitait, musique moderne congolaise de danse aux rythmes sud-américains plutôt que musique traditionelle africaine.” [Translation mine].

212Pauwels-Boon, pp. 176-7, 182.

213Kazadi 1992, pp. 77-8.

214Congopresse 94 (August 1, 1951), p.1992.

215Ewens 1994, p. 57.

216Kazadi 1998, p. 385.

217Ewens 1994, p. 57.

218Pauwels-Boon, p.107.

219Pauwels-Boon, pp. 119-128.

220Pauwels-Boon, p. 119.

221Pauwels-Boon, p. 129.

222Congopresse 33 (January 15, 1949), p. 337.

223Kazadi 1992, pp. 78.

224Pauwles-Boon, p. 136.

225Nos Images 94 (August 20, 1954), supplement; Kazadi 1992, pp. 78.

226Kazadi 1992, p. 78; Kazadi 1998, p. 385.

227Pauwels-Boon, pp. 44-5.

228Nos Images 50 (August 15, 1952), p. 12.

229Nos Images 73 (October 10, 1953), p. 15.

230Nos Images 81 (February 10, 1954), pp. 2-3.

231Nos Images 98 (October 20, 1954), p. 5. Original text reads: "Ya ngai, mpe nazali lolenda mingi mpo na yango. Ezali radio PHILIPS. Ezali kitoko mingi mpe ezali motuya te. Kutu PHILIPS ezali se PHILIPS . . . mpe kitoko!" [Translation mine].

232Nos Images 60 (March 20, 1953), p. 15. Original text reads: "Yoka malamu, Maria, miziki okooka awa, bakobete yango sikawa o Léopoldville, esi na bisu ba kilomètres mikama na mikama. Radio ezali solo eloko ya bakamoi!. . . . Lisano wana likosepelisa bango mingi mpe bakosala noki kozwa litomba na yango!" [Translation mine].

233Bender in Bender and Gretz, p. 6.

234This format of alternating talk with music continues to this day in Kenya.

235Nos Images 94 (August 20, 1954), supplement. I was not able to determine the content of the Force Publique broadcasts.

236Nos Images 94 (August 20, 1954), supplement.

237The Request Music category was not included in the totals, since its content cannot be determined.

238Congopresse 94 (August 1, 1951), p. 1993.

239Gretz in Bender and Gretz, p. 19.

240Quoted in Pauwels-Boon, p. 136. Original text reads: “’ . . . sauvant ainsi de la disparition un patrimoine artistique d’une réelle valeur, qui hélas ne se renouvelle pas.’” [Translation mine].

241 Pauwels-Boon, p. 135.

242Peter Linebaugh, "All the Atlantic Mountains Shook," in Labour/Le Travailleur 10 (Autumn 1982), pp. 87-121. Quoted in Gilroy, p. 13.

243Martin 1995, p. 133. Webster's New World Dictionary of 1976 describes a gramophone as an arbitrary, chiefly British inversion of phonogram, which is "a sign or symbol representing a word, syllable, or sound, as in shorthand." A phonograph is an American term for "an instrument for reproducing sound that has been mechanically transcribed in a spiral groove on a circular disc or cylinder. . . ." I chose to use the British term gramophone for the disc, as items carrying the "Made in England" stamp were highly valued.

244Ewens 1994, p.70.

245Nos Image 52 (October 15, 1952), p. 11. Original text reads: "phono, disques, milangi, buku, etc..." Notice the linguistic flexibility necessary to balance three powerful, competing ideologies -- Lingala, French and English. [Translation mine].

246Nos Images 127 (January 1, 1956), p. 15.

247Martin 1995, p. 133.

248African Jazz’s cover of “El que siembra su maiz” by Miguel Matamoros (Les Merveilles du Passé: Grand Kallé et l'African Jazz 1958, 1959, 1960, Vol. 1 (Sonodisc CDS 36503, 1991)) is another example.

249Kazadi 1998, p. 386.

250Martin 1995, p. 135.

251Bender in Bender and Gretz 1996, p. 6.

252Ronnie Graham, The Da Capo Guide to Contemporary African Music (New York: Da Capo Press, 1988), p. 185.

253Kazadi 1979, p. 38.

254Bender 1996, p. 3.

255Quoted in Bender and Gretz 1996, p. 5.

256Ewens 1994, p. 84; Kazadi 1992, p. 81.

257Farewell to the Queen . Last Modified: March 24, 1998. Accessed: Febraury 22, 1999.

258Bender 1997, p. 3.

259Kazadi 1992, p. 81.

260Congopresse 83 (Febraury 15, 1951), p. 1730-1.

261Tchebwa, p. 156.

262Nkashama, p. 64. Original text reads: "Dans la mesure où ces chansons s’exécutent presque exclusivement dans les quatre langues principales érigées en langues nationales (le lingala de la capitale Kinshasa, mais aussi le swahili parlé dans tout l’Est, le ciluba du Centre, et le kikongo du Sud) pour un pays immense qui compte plus de trois cent cinquante langues différentes, la chanson peut être considerée comme un espace privilégié où s’affirme une conscience historique." [Translation mine].

263From a lecture by Femi Osofisan at University of Wisconsin-Madison, March, 1999.

264Kazadi 1981, p. 146.

265Austen and Headrick, pp. 71-4.

266Martin 1995, p. 44. Munukutuba is a simplified Kikongo. It is also known as Kikongo ya Leta, "Kikongo of the State," from the French l'état.

267Martin 1995, p. 42.

268Johannes Fabian, Language and Colonial Power, African Studies 48 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), p. 46.

269Fabian, p. 48.

270Tchebwa, p. 47.

271Anderson, p. 133.

272Anderson, p. 3.

273Anderson, pp. 42-3.

274A Congolese friend of mine referred to recordings from the 40s and 50s as their “Classical Music.”

275Anderson, p. 44.

276I do not mean to imply that print media played no role in increasing the Lingala based community in the Congos. I am aware of at least one magazine published during this period in Lingala, Nos Images. This magazine was also published in French, Kikongo, Ciluba and Kiswahili editions, however, so its effect may not have been to spread Lingala or a greater Congolese identity, but to counter this motion.

277Library of Congress/Federal Research Division/Country Studies/Area Handbook Series/Zaire. . Last modified: Unknown. Accessed: December 16, 1997. [Emphasis mine].

278Anderson, p. 145.

279From a personal communication with Robert Yungu, October 1997.

280Library of Congress/Federal Research Division/Country Studies/Area Handbook Series/Zaire, 1997. [Emphasis mine].

281The following discussion derives largely from Tchebwa, pp. 119-142.

282Pwono, p. 43.

283Ngoma, the Early Years, 1948-1960.

284Gretz in Bender and Gretz 1996, p. 22.

285Roots of O.K. Jazz, Zaïre Classics vol. 3, 1955-1956.

286Congopresse 86 (4/1/1951), etc.

287Tchebwa, pp. 119-142

288Tchebwa, p. 119. Original text reads: “Dans cette décade 50-60, une partie de cette jeunesse a même donné l’illusion d’échapper à son milieu d’origine pour se constituer un univers mythique fondé sur une vision plus aléatoire de la société et qui masque l’envers du décor.” [Translation mine].

289Ngugi wa Thiong'o. Decolonising the Mind (London: James Currey Heinemann, 1986), p. 26.

290Margaret Thompson Drewal, Yoruba Ritual (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1992), p. xiv.

291Allen Feldman, Formations of Violence (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991).

292Quoted in Debhonvapi Olema, "Société zaïroise dans le miroir de la chanson populaire," Canadian Journal of African Studies 18/1 (1984), p. 122. Original text reads: "elle était exigée par le dépassement d'une situation sociale qui achevait de désintégrer l'homme traditionnel." [Translation mine].

293Waterman, p. 9.

294Clifford Geertz, quoted in Waterman, p. 372.

295Frantz Fanon, "On National Culture," in The Wretched of the Earth. Trans. Constance Farrington, in Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths and Helen Tiffin, eds., The Post-Colonial Studies Reader (London: Routledge, 1995), p. 155.

296Quoted in Frith, p. 122.

297Charles Hamm, Afro-American Music, South Africa, and Apartheid, ISAM Monographs 28 (Brooklyn: Institute for Studies in American Music, 1988), pp. 24-5.

298See Gilroy, p. 9, and Anderson, pp. 153-4.

299John F. Carrington, “Tone and Melody in a Congolese Popular Song,” African Music 4/1 (1966-67), pp. 38-39.

300Bender and Gretz, pp. 14-5.

301For the Lari burial practice see Martin 1995, p. 135; for the “alternative” clinic see Michael Taussig, Mimesis and Alterity (New York: Routledge, 1993), p. 247.

302Kenis, et al., 1993, pp. 6-7.

Download 1.35 Mb.

Share with your friends:

The database is protected by copyright © 2020
send message

    Main page