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The roots of Orchestra Super Mazembe lie in Zaire’s Super Vox, a group from Likasi that was formed in 1967 and led by Didos Mutonkole Longwa. After Super Vox disbanded, Longwa assembled Orchestra Super Mazembe and took them from southern Zaire to Zambia and through Tanzania before finally settling in Nairobi. The journey to Kenya proved worthwhile when the Congolese ensemble scored a hit with their song “Kassongo” in 1977. This proved to be the start of a prolific period for the group as they recorded batches of singles and released them throughout the year while they toured Kenya extensively. Most of this music has long been out of print, but thanks to Doug Paterson and Sterns Music, the first batch of these singles have been compiled on Mazembe @ 45RPM Vol. 1.
These nine tracks, never before released on CD, offer listeners a great overview of Orchestra Super Mazembe’s carefully crafted compositions. 45s were the popular format in Kenya from the 1960s to the 80s due to their affordability. In order to get the most out of a single, Orchestra Super Mazembe split songs in half to give listeners 8-9 minute tracks. For an uninterrupted listening experience, these songs have been restored to their full length.
This outstanding collection is a welcome addition to the international market. Each song works through the verses for a couple of minutes before there is a long pause succeeded by an uptempo dance-section where the band cuts loose. The interplay between the two guitarists in the band is infectious. The long, repeated guitar riffs harmonize into a sort of trance while chugging bass and pulsing drums setup irresistible grooves. “Mazembe” is a Lingala word which translates to ‘movers of earth.’ Mazembe @ 45RPM Vol. 1 shakes the foundation.
Originally published in RootsWorld Magazine.
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