Music Is The Soundtrack Of Our Lives: Breaking and Breaching The Musical Sound Barrier
Music In the Historical Groove
Music My Way
Music and its soundtracks are part of our lives and it has been naturally been wired into our DNA. There's many types of Music the world over, and the music helps breaks the sound barriers. Different types of music exist in all cultures all over the world. But, at the same time, there was music from other cultures in the international world which has added to the dimensions and effects on music no matter what culture one is in.
Growing up one started hearing church music sung in different homes and those around us; cultural music, sacred music, drums, hand clapping, wailing and humming; outright full throats songs for the ancestors and that music of the healers, initiates and big-band church marches and singers from different churches throughout the ghetto; Then there was music sung by street a Capella troupes; music by local groups singing and practicing music and dance steps. Music was everywhere in the churches; one would hear hymns from local known and secret societies.
Roman, Lutheran, Seventh-Day Adventists, African Methodists; The African Church of Shembe; Zion Christian Churches; ZCC Male Groups thumping and stumping the ground in rhythmic unison and percussive rumblings; there was music that was performed by the local drum majorettes along with their drummer and bugle blowers in semi-military-civilian garb in bright colors; and, in the local trains there were singing trio, duets, quintets of church music and local "type" of Doo-Wop music as the carriages rattled into the sprawling smoke filled ghettoes.
There was music of gumboot dancing from the local miners(which is akin to Step Dance amongst the African American); One has been exposed to street by street musical competitions amongst the children, youth and adults singing, dancing by taking out their best performances and singing their hears out in different harmonious duets, quartets, quintets and small group choirs, and so on.
There was also cultural music performed by the different ethnic groups who were only too eager to show-off their new styles and singing their newly composed songs; whether it be praises of their clans, kings, important personalities; these would be clad in all their cultural garb and decorations denoting the importance of the musicians, performing the Indlamu male dance, or women dance, Mokgibo by the Basothos, or the smooth and stylish Batswanas, to the energetic Shangaan drummers and dancers; one would see the Amaswazi with long reed-like sticks adorning their cultural cloth, along with the Xhosas and their very melodious, boisterous and very cocky and confident short-stepped-shuffling-like dance holding a stick. Music was to be seen and head or appreciated in various events on weekends, holidays and special days.
Over 80% of south Africans visits a Sangoma/healer many times a month or year. They receive counseling and herbs to heal their ailments. Since Mandela became President, he had has encouraged a formation of An Association of the the Healers, who are now working in tandem with local and Provincial hospital. There are times when Sangomas become engaged in celebrating their ancestors, and then they would beat drums and dance to specific and particular ancestral dances. This is a wonderful occasions for this is when they will display their various dances, songs and moves as danced by their elder Ancestors.
The Zionist Churches proliferated throughout Southern Africa, and became African Independent Churches; research in 1996 suggested that 40% of all African south Africans belonged to a zionist Church. Its followers say that the reason they like being in these churches was because they were African. They say everything they did in these churches - the songs they sings, they way they jump and do things - one does not feel like a foreigner, but one feels like an Africa.
Some of its adherents say that the whole secret led in obeying what the ancestors require of one. The men dance in formation and have different routine. The Lekganyane's ZCC dancers and singers wear Khaki uniforms and white shoes made of car-tires for the rhythmic jumps, dances and styles backed up by their coral-a Capella-choir-like singing in unison and harmony.
One got exposed and acculturated to all these forms of music from gang-workers singing and swinging their working implements in unison whilst working, to those in the vegetable and sugarcane fields workers steadily tending to the fields and crops. There was also music which was born in the prisons and there was music that could heard coming from the earlier times from the Missionaries and choirs, Minstrels, Marabi, Kwela, Mbaqanga and Mbaqanga Jazz, The New African Jazz, Jazz in Exile, Jazz at home in south Africa, Pop, rock and crossover and so forth.
South African Music is entwined with dance, and runs through the blood of its people, and is an inseparable part of their hearts, minds, souls, spirits. What can be witnessed is that its diversity of music ranges from raucous and lively festivals(Opikopi) to fashionable classical concerts, from the unique Maskanda and Township Kwaito Style(South African hip-hop version), to world renowned African Jazz, rock and cultural music in the mix.
Cultural Wars- The Video Story Of Africans and their Cultural And Customary Dance Routines With Their Accompanying Retinues..
am an unashamed "Cultural Warrior", and I battle more intensely and passionately on that forgotten front- Music, Dance and Poetry/Drama. In this article, I am concentrating on the War against Africans and their culture, and I will utilize all the cultural dances of the Zulus, Sothos, Xhosas, Pedis, Tswanas, Shangaans, Vendas, Ndebeles, Swazis the Khoisan, "Colored" people through videos.
I have been posting a lot of music from all over the world, and specifically, that is, 98.5% of the times I have been exploring music of Africans from South Africa, The Whole of Africa, South America, Latin America, the Caribbean and the USA. The next coming posts are going to be strictly from the 10-12 Peoples(nations) of South africa. It is important that we, in Mzantsi, begin to start dispelling these false notions that we are a different people from each other as instructed and promoted by the Boers and their lackeys.
What I found on YouTube about our African South African Music and culture, it is more admired by the listeners of other cultures all over the world, but only a motley crew and paltry few of us even care to comment or listen to our own productions and our performed cultures, traditions, dance and music. This says a lot about our mind-set, and it is a shame that we are doing what Bob Marley, who I have cited often, singing, "You Can't Run Away From Yourself".
We are avoiding ourselves; we feel edified if we identify with western culture and its mores and norms-msuic and culture. We are so dumbed-down, we think that our own culture, which we perform with such gusto, energy an, finesse,grace and energy that it is still baffling the people of the west-were one to read some comments on YouTube of the people who have watched these videos, is of no consequence.There are some South Africans who chirp and chip-in on the videos and make some great comments. But, in all, we hardly see our culture presented and produced as I am about to do, very intensely and in a big way, that is, in its variegated form, for all the 10-12 peoples of Mzantsi I have already mentioned above, present our dance and music on a lot of musical videos.
Clear Channel, an American Conglomerate, owns all the Radio stations in Mzantsi, and the diet of the programming is heavily biased, tinted and leaning towards the American music and artists. Television leaves less to be desired. The constant image that is being filtered and disseminated on our Plasma TV and those old fat TV boxes we the poor own, is nothing but American Cultural Imperialism.
Bob Marley sings in his track "Trenchtown Rock" that "..We Feed People With Music.". He was right and he knew what it was he was saying and singing about. If one were to give oneself a chance to look at our dance and music as I will be posting them here on FB, one begins to discern various patterns in style execution and technique that they are of 'One People'. This is the nub of the problem and issue that bedevils our development as a people. We have as yet to come around to embracing our culture with all that it has to offer us in order to "BE"!
Some of the music we dance to profusely is infused with Mbaqanga music which runs the gamut of this 'whole' culture. In other instances we use the homegrown and original music of the culture itself, of any of the 10-12 people I have mentioned above. We have been dislocated from understanding and fully appreciating that, like in wearing our cultural pride on our sleeves and not giving a care in the world who says what, so long it is us who are owning, controlling and disseminating our culture, without making excuses to no one-nor asking for permission to do so.
Some of us are good at explaining things to "White" tourists, and if one listens carefully, they do not really know what they are saying, and they are spreading falsities about our our own cultures, customs, traditions and practices/performances and wrong interpretations about and on our languages-because they do not really know it, nor are committed to it, and are trying their level best to accommodate the "Tourists."
As I was researching the music and dances of South Africa and Africa throughout the Diaspora, I have seen how censorship and ownership of our music, dances, and culture is owned, "Under Some Bogus license" and therefore, one is hard-pressed to get information about these artists, and is hardly accessible. In some instance, the Websites beg people to 'edit't the biographies of these African Artists, musicians and performers because they do not know them too.
There can be no successful revolution of wholesome struggle if we leave behind the cultural relevance of our people. One need to look at their faces, at the effort they pour-into and put-forth in their singing, dancing and performing[everythig thy got] as if that there is nothing else that matters to them and for them, as a nation with diverse, but same culture, but their culture which has been stymied in many ways. We have not yet given ourselves time to talk about, analyze, put into proper context that which is our cultures, customs, traditions practices/performances because we a are still suffering from "Apartheid Hangover(Setlamatlama-Babalazi).
The crowds that are in the different videos, are attentive, observant, not as to the beauty of cultures, dances or music only, but also as to whether the performers are interpreting everything 'rightly' and in a way that they approve. At time some people, in some videos are seen giving money to the performers by putting it on the ground. In some videos they ululate and participate by encouraging the dancers using certain words and encouraging and cajoling utterances, which are positive. Our culture is so vibrant and energetic and "ORIGINAL", that we need to begin to really pay attention to it, and respect it-teach to our children and youth.
The little children are a marvel to watch whenever they are given a chance to perform. The Babies and the under ten year olds are magnificent. The youth-teenagers and young adults are really pros on it. The women are strong looking and perform well on the Xhosa, Sotho, Tswana, Zulu and the Sahngaan/Tsonga videos. The men are incredible, especially the Shangaan men who are supra energetic and vigorously agile, fit and energetic-in synchrony.
The Basotho are stoical and easy going and take their own time and keep a different rhythm which is in sync with their singing-you find some others in the troupe of the Basotho men singing doing some actions which do not take from the whole performance, but have an aded value and differentiated concept, but the same dance theme and response to the music and dance. The Xhosa dancers and the Batswana have same patterns towards rhythm and dance, of foot-stomping, rhythmically and hand-clapping along with ululating.
Viewing and reviewing our Cultural-customary and traditional dances and music in a holistic manner affords us a learning opportunity about ourselves and our capabilities, not as segregated "TRIBES of which we are really not-why is there no French, British, Italian tribes, but us? I dismiss such references to us with disdain and am ready to rumble with anyone from anywhere who dares name us that way. We learn from others in our midst, the performers and players of our culture, what ought to be and where and how does acquiring power come into even much more sharper focus the part of our collective african polity
Our wholesome culture, seen in a very intense and differentiated form,is where our power and energy and rallying point lies. One cannot be a self-proclaimed revolutionary and is not cognizant of their own and other cultures, besides their own, as important.Screw Marx and all the Western philosophers, I'd sooner listen to, and be closer to the men and women who are on these videos elaborating our culture to edify and confirm myself as a person of Mzantsi with being apologetic to nobody.
He or She who knows not my culture is useless, and I do not want our culture to be seen as something exotic. No! It is self-sustaing, evolving, but remaining constant, and empowers us by mainly watching it in its differentiated form, that in the end it become one united and seamless pattern of performance that can be only found in and amongst the Africans of Mzantsi.
No one can argue that, and I expect no one to, because, in reality, what I will be posting here will speak for itself, without any need for me to interpret it. The whole African people of Mzantsi understand it, even if they pretend to be European. some men, in their best shirts and shoes, forget themselves and join in the cultural fray and celebration(albeit inappropriately) but they get taken by the spirit exuded by the dance ad music.
Many people here on FB call for a revolution amongst our people. But are they with the masses when they perform these cultural and dramatic performances? Our dancers travel the world and fill up halls and theaters, and leave the crowds overseas begging for more. Our people in the rural areas and townships partake in these cultural events, and seem to be oblivious to all that, and ignore it to our own peril. Do we know about that, and what have we done with it?
I really do not care if people come to my Wall or not or on those FB Walls wherein I post these videos, or whether they comment or not. I am not looking for that, inasmuch as it would be good to see some response from ourselves about these postings. I am working, more or less, towards vitalizing and viralizing our cultures, customs and traditions on the Web to the extent that there will eventually be people, over the decades, centuries and millennium who will find these videos and admire them and maybe, respect us for who we are and how we present ourselves to the world. That is my goal, and I seek no renumeration for it, but am doing it for the dignity and respect that African people of Mzantsi deserve.
Amos Wilson intones: "The clarion call for the writing/[disseminating] of a restorative Afrikan-centered historiography/musicological and 'performance arts' - a critical undertaking - is a call for the healing of the wounds of Afrikan peoples; for Afrikan unity' for the freeing and expansion of Afrikan consciousness; for the reconquest of Afrikan minds, bodies,lands, resources [and I might add, music, dance, performing arts and crafts, traditions, customs, etc.], and Afrikan autonomy.
"To manipulate history is to manipulate consciousness; to manipulate consciousness is to manipulate possibilities; and to manipulate possibilities is to manipulate power." For us to control and won and disseminate our own cultures, customs, traditions, history, music and damce.is to manipulate the possibilities of empowering ourselves.
"Eurocentric history writing and controlling our music, is essential an exercise in apologetics and cultural imperialism for the European oppression of Africans. It seeks to impose a social/historical/cultural and amnesic tax on the heads of Afrikan peoples and thereby rob them of their most valuable resources - their knowledge of truth and reality of self; their cultural heritage and identity, minds, bodies. and souls; their wealth,lands, products of their labor, as in music and dance and menial or professional work, and their lives, specifically. Every Eurocentric social institution conspires with Eurocentric historiography and cultural imperialism to handcuff and incarcerate African consciousness, to justify and facilitate the subordination and exploitation of Afrikan peoples."
So that, according to Wilson, "... when an individual or a group is compelled by various circumstances to repress important segments of his/her its formative history, he/she or it at the same time loses access to crucially important social, intellectual and technical skills associated with that history.[culture, customs, traditions, practices, languages, music dance, and arts and crafts-my two cents), , which could be used to solved current problems."
I have seen the response one gets from posting various videos here on FB, and those that pertain to our African culture, is often scorned, ignored or paid no mind, at all. Those that are from His master's voice and technology-Music or dance enculturation(some kids are taking ballet lessons, and cannot even dance their own African dances nor sing the community of local peoples songs), will need to re-ducate ourselves about our culture. Our children are aping the Hip-hop music at the expense of their own musical idioms, dance and culture.
Restoring our culture cannot only be paid lip-service to, but involves the action one sees some of those petit-bourgeois who jump into the dances, in an inopportune time, and do their thing. I have no problem with kids learning ballet or ballroom dance, nor the elite forgetting their immaculate dress, to duke it out on the village dust or township tar roaads-instead, what bothers me is the lackadaisical attitude and an attitude we hold on to, and if one is confronted and affronted with this 'backward culture' meaning, their backward-selves, which, having being 'edumacated' in western education, are instead the ones that are vehemently opposed to our own cultures, and would give their lives defending White culture, etc.
Our cultures, customs, traditions, histories, language are staring at us in the face, and we veer away or look askance from it, and shun it, and in the end dismiss it, deny it and finally ignore it. We are very good at that, and very adept at being 'poor copies' of other peoples dance and music, etc.. And when the white tourists or some other ethnic groups come into our midst, we are the first ones to interpret for them our culture which we have avoided and paid no attention to, nor know it very well, and become the cultural spokespeople of our people. Most of us are hung-up of Westernization that we feel that what we have, as the remnants of our culture, is irrelevant and out of sync with the supposedly "modern world' of our imaginations and wishes- which is far from the truth. Some invent how we feel and think and appreciate music or anything African culture as being backwards and irrelevant. I plan to be in "ya'lls faces" all the haters and detractors of African South African culture, no matter your race, creed or religion you are. I welcome and applaud those who will show respect and will to understanding our Culture.
For me and those I am in action with about music and dance in Mzantsi, I am dedicating the year 20115 to an all out offensive distributing and disseminating African Culture. Oh, I might add, I will also be playing music of the Colored people of South Africa(whom I regard as Africans) and some Indian artists, too, because they too, the Indians, are African. I will soon be posting a barrage of videos about African traditional music from all the Nguni/Bakone(11 to 12 peoples) of Mzantsi, and it is for all those who wish to sit and lean on the African Baobab tree and enjoy its shade that they are 'all ' welcome'. I will take some time off, and will then begin posting these African traditional music videos all the way into next year.
So, Let The Music Begin!
The Group AMAMPONDO
Amampondo was originally founded by Dizu "Zungulu" Plaatjies. Mzwandile Qotoyi and Simpiwe Matole in Langa township, in 1978 and is South Africa's most recognized and world-renowned Master Marimba, drum, percussion and dance troop: still active today after 30 years in the business. Amampondo are proud and recognized ambassadors of South African Culture and music. Originally with influences from the Xhosa Culture they hail from, fused with influences from other south African 9 nationalities.They soon grew to exponents of wide-ranging Pan-African, Brazilian and Cuban Sounds thorugh their work and touring with Airto Moreira and Changuito. Amampondo collaborated with the likes of Juno Reactor Alan Skidmore, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu with whom they worked on "Give Praise Where Praise is Deserved". One of Nelson Mandela's favorite bands, Amampondo have played and taught the world over from Japan, to the USA and everywhere-in-between, bringing and sharing their intoxicating rhythms and sound to millions... Instruments include: drums(isghubhu), marimbas (wooden xylophones); Kudu Horns(African Antelope horn), amadinda, umrhumbhe, uhadi and isitolotolo - unique ancient African instruments, but also modern age instruments like trumpet, sax, flute, piccolo, accordion and of course the voices of various Pondo choirs(You can read my hub on the Pondo people).
Imitation is Limitation
Some time ago, ICASA travelled to various centers, where experienced music industry professionals gave he a simple and clear message: Give South African the Oxygen of airplay. Half a decade later, they preside over a system which, on most commercial stations, is nothing more than a cultural tragedy. Airplay is confined mainly to international acts that faithfully reproduce their "American Brand", or local acts whose music message also closely resembles the US Template. The sales success of the few exceptions to the rule prove the connection between play and demand, and also beg the question: Why are so few South African Artists given the kind of heavy rotation afforded overseas artists and acts? The surrender of SA radio to this kind of formatting means that the majority of SA artists are excluded from local radio, and no airplay means no demand. Many internationally acclaimed Musicians like Louis Moholo, Busi Mhlongo and Vusi Mahlasela never get any type of airplay on South African commercial radio station. Many like them, are finding it easier to make progress in their careers by leaving South Africa. They are forced, by the recording industry and their old apartheid rules, to choose between giving up their musical calling, or writing off their beloved country as a home base. They are also plagued by the thorny subject of 'payola' which has a choking control on the playlist of the commercial stations. Every time this happens, South African culture looses. Music is as important to a nation's sense of self as is its sport, food, or wide open spaces. It is no exaggeration to say that transformation is urgently needed. South Africans, and their music, deserve to be heard - especially in their own country. Not because it's South African, but because it is brilliant. You can read up on the different types of South African African music in my Hub: "The Music of the People: Africans in South Africa and their musical Sound Systems. This Hub has just highlighted some other forms and genres in the South African Musical ecological systems
The World's Way Of Music
The melding and morphing of African religious, Western Church traditions, African Cultural traditions of the 9 (nine) various African South African groups, makes up for a fusion of music with polyrhythmic syncopations and beats that in the final analysis, as this is encrypted in one soul, consciousness and reality, the listeners becomes a reception aerial for the music the world over. One listens to Caribbean "steel pan" music, Reggae, Calypso, Zouk, Konpa, Rumba, Samba, Music of Candomble, Afro-Brazil, Samba Sounds of Bahia, The Music of Peru Negro from Peru, Salsa, Bon Son, Charanga, Afro-Beat, Music of Morocco Cuban Jazz, Merengue, Afro-Peru, Reggae, Latin American Jazz, African American Jazz, Soul, R&B, Gospel, Funk, Blues, New Orleans Sound, The Sound of Philadelphia, Stax Sounds, Motown, Rap music, African Jazz, Kwela, Marabi, Mbaqanga, Township Music, Scathamiya(a Capella music of the Black Mambazo) and so on.
There is a lot that has affected ones tastes and listening choices. Take for instance the Afro-pop sounds of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, previously Ransome-Kuti, who was born in Abeokuta, Nigeria, in 1938. His family belonged to the Egba branch of the Yoruba clan. His father, like his grandfather, was a minister of the protestant church, and director of the local grammar school. His mother was a teacher, but later became a politician of some considerable influence. As a teenager, Fela would run for miles to attend traditional celebrations in the area, already feeling that authentic African culture of his ancestors ought to be preserved. His parents sent him to London in 1958, but rather than study medicine like his two brothers and sister, Fela chose to register at the Trinity School of Music, where he was to spent the next five years. Whilst till a student, he married a Nigerian girl called Remi and had three children. In his spare time, Fela played in a high-life band called Koola Lobitos with other Nigerian musicians living in London. Among these were J. Bremah, who had previously influenced Fela by introducing him to African Music circles in Lagos at a time when western music predominated there.
Fela returned to the Nigerian capital in 1963, three years after independence. Soon after, he was playing high life and jazz, fronting the band with those of the musicians who had come back from England. Over the next few years, they performed regularly in Lagos and then in 1969, in the midst of the Biafra War. Fela decided to take Koola Lobitos to the United States. In Los Angeles, he changed the name of the group to Fela Ransome-Kuti and Nigeria 70. At the club where they were playing, he met an African American girls. Sandra Isodore, who was a close friend to the Black Panthers. She introduced Fela to the philosophy and writings of Malcolm X, Eldridge Cleaver and other Black activists and thinkers, through which he was to become aware of the link existing between Africans all over the world. Through this insight, Fela also gained a clearer understanding of his mother's fight for the rights of Africans under white colonial rule in Nigeria, together with her support of the Pan-Africanist doctrine expounded by Kwame Nkrumah, the Ghanaian Head of State, who had negotiated independence for his country with the British.
Whilst in Los Angeles, Fela also found the inspiration he was seeking to create his own unique style of music, which he named "Afro-Beat." Before leaving America, the band recorded some of these new songs. Back at home, Fela once again changed the name of the group to Fela Ransome Kuti & Africa 70. The LA recordings were released as a series of singles. This new African music was a great success in Lagos and Fela was to open a club in the Empire Hotel, called the Afro-Shine. At that time, he was still playing the trumpet, having not yet changed to the saxophone, and piano. He started singing mostly in "Pidgin" English rather than in Yoruba, so as to be understood all over Nigeria and in the neighboring countries. In his songs, he depicted everyday social situations with which a large part of the African population were able to identify. Young people from all over Nigeria flocked to hear his songs which developed themes relating to "Blackism" and Africanism, encouraging a return to traditional African religions. Later he was to become satirical and sarcastic toward those in power, condemning both military and civilian regimes for their crimes of mismanagement, incompetence, theft, corruption and marginalization of the underprivileged.
In 1974, pursuing his dream of an alternative society, he built a fence around his house and declared it to be an independent state: The Kalakuta Republic. To the chagrin of the bourgeois section of Nigerian society, this act of defiance was soon to spread throughout the entire neighborhood as more and more people were inspired by Fela's stance. The authorities remained vigilant, fearing the potential power of his 'state within a state'. On countless occasions, he was to suffer the consequences of his scathing denunciations with arrests, imprisonment and beatings at the hands of the authorities. With each incarceration and violent confrontation with the powers that be. Fela became more outspoken, changing his family name from "Ransome-Kuti" to "Anikulapo" - ('he who carries death in his pouch'). His notoriety spread and his records began to sell in their millions. The population of the Kalakuta Republic grew amidst mounting criticism, particularly of the young people, many of whom were still in their teens, who left their families to live there.
During the "festival for Black Arts and Culture" (FESTAC) held in Lagos in 1977, Fela also sang Zombie, a satire against the military, which was to become enormously popular throughout Africa, thus bringing down the fury of the Nigerian Army upon him and his followers. As Fela relates in "Unknown soldier," a thousand soldiers attacked the "Kalakuta Republic," burning down his house and beating all of its occupants. The song tells that, during the course of his attack, his mother was thrown from a first floor window and later died from her injuries. Homeless and without a shrine, which had also been destroyed along with the entire neighborhood, Fela and his group moved to the Crossroads Hotel. A year later, Fela went to Accra to arrange a tour. Upon his return, to mark the 1st Anniversary of the destruction of the Kalakuta Republic. Fela married twenty-seven girls in a collective ceremony, many of whom were his dancers and singers, giving them all the name "Anikulapo-Kuti". After the wedding, the whole group set off for Accra where concerts had been planned. In a packed Accra Stadium, as Fela played Zombie, riots broke out. The entire group was arrested and held in custody for days before being put on a plane bound for Lagos, banned from returning to Ghana
Upon his return to Lagos, still with nowhere to live, Fela and his entire entourage squatted the offices of Decca, where they remained for almost two months. Soon after, Fela was invited with the seventy-strong Africa 70 to play at the Berlin Festival. After the show, almost all of his musicians ran away. Despite this catalogue of set-backs, Fela returned to Lagos determined to continue. The King of Afro-Beat and his queens went to live in Ikeja, in J. K. Bremah's house: a new Kalakuta. There, Fela, more political than ever, went on to form his own party, "Movement of the People." He presented himself as a Presidential candidate in 1979 elections that would return the country to civilian rule. His candidature was refused. Four Years later, at the next elections, Fela once more stood for president, but was prevented from campaigning by the police, who again rampaged through his house, imprisoning and beating Fela and many of his followers. However, any further presidential aspirations were crushed when a coup brought Nigeria back to military rule.
In 1984, with General Buhari in power, Fela served twenty months of a five year prison sentence on trumped-up charges. He was only released when under General Babangida, the judge confessed to having sentenced him with such severity because of pressure from the previous regime. The judge was dismissed from office and Fela was given his liberty. Over the next decade, with an entourage of up to eighty people, now called Egypt 80, Fela made several visits to Europe and the United States. These tours were to receive tremendous public and critical acclaim, and made an important contribution to the worldwide scene and sense of music.
Considering himself to the spiritual son of Kwame Nkrumah, the renowned Pan-Africanist, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti was a virulent critic of colonialism and neocolonialism. Over the past twenty or more years, he became famous as a spokesman for the great mass of people, in Nigeria and elsewhere in Africa and the African Diaspora, disenchanted with the period of post-independence. His sad death in August 1997 was mourned by the nation. Even those who did not agree with him were among the millions plus who attended his funeral. Even the many governmental letters of condolence sent to his family were eloquent testimonials to a great man. His death was attributed AIDS related causes, though a more popular diganosis was that his system was sufficiently weakened by the countless beatings at the hands of the authorities to allow disease to enter. Throughout his life, Fela was sustained by the unconditional ove and respect offered to him by the millions of people whose life he touched. In death he retains the legendary status by which he was proclaimed by the throngs of pwople who came to pay their their last respects at his laying in state in Tafa Balewa Square 'Aabami Eda' (Chief Priest). "He will live forever.(Rikki Stein)
Fela's other Collectible CDs
Fela Anikulapo Kuti and Roy Ayers- "Music of Many Colors"
Fela Kuti- "Stalemate-Fear Not For Man"
Fela Kuti- "Monkey Banana/ Escuse O"
Fela Kuti- "Ikoyi Blindness/Kalakuta Show"
The Master Musicians of Morocco
These Black musicians of Morocco called "Gnawa" (G' na' ua) were brought there hundreds of years ago from Su-Sahara Africa (Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Senegal, Niger) Western Sudan, as slaves and also used as soldiers in 1591, at the conquest of Mali by the sultan of Marrakech, Ahmed El Manur. Mulay Ismail (172-1727) in Meknes and Mulay Abdulah (1757-1790) in Essouira did the same later. They were all converted to Islam and formed a brotherhood. They united under the protection of the holy marabout, Sidi Bilal, an African slave freed by the prophet Mohammed (PBUH). Sidi Bilal became the first muezzin (caller to prayer) of Islam.
The Master Gnawa musicians believe that everyone has a color and a note to which he or she vibrates. Each individual responds to his or her chosen color and note as the healer musicians play the hag'houge (guinbre), in particular. The 'kakobars (or graqeb), which resemble 'castanets', are used to heighten the effect of the hag'houge (guinbre) although the latter instrument is often used alone, if necessary. In public, the drum, called the T'bel or T'bola, a large round instrument, is added for effect. The ultimate goal of a Gnawa M'Alem or 'Master' is perfection in playing lest he play a wrong note and destroy the healing power of the music for those who are listening. This music is also used to Extol God and the spirits of the saints. The Gnawa are noted for their healing ceremonies, called the 'Leila'. It was at such a ceremony many years ago, that Randy Weston responded to the color 'blue', which is the color of the saint, Sidi Musa(Blue Moses). Randy has made his adaptation for the Gnawa spiritual, "Blue Moses," a staple composition at all his live performances.
These healer musicians are often hired for purification ceremonies, and they are also known for their ability, and they are also known for their ability to treat scorpion stings and psychic disorders, mostly by the sheer power of the Gnawa rhythms. It is worthwhile to note that these rhythms,however, can be heard in other forms of modern music, most typically in the Blues Jazz, Calypso, Latin and Brazilian music. Randy Weston recognized this connection nearly thirty years ago, when he first heard the Gnawa play while visiting Morocco. He has been captivated by them ever since as evidenced by taking residence in Morocco and by his adaptations and creative compositions influenced by the Gnawa and their culture such as "Tanjah," "Gnawa in Paris," "The Healers," "Blue Moses,""Chablati Blues," and others.
The spiritual energy and sheer force and power of African traditional music has been mostly forgotten, lost to dreams of long ago or simply ignored. The divine elements missing from muchof modernday music, as well as a rediscovery of our true connection with God, because in its true form, untinted, what is musci but the voice of God? What are musicians but God's instruments? The recorded music of the Gnawa people reminds us all that we have to get bak to listening to the voice of God, that we may quiet the noise of man.(R. Elaine McNeil, 1994)
Randy Weston writes about the recording of the Gnawa Music as follows:
"This recording took place on September 17, 1992 in Marrakech, Morocco. It was kind of a dream of Abdella Gourd and myself of getting the masters (M'Alems) together to record, because a lot of the elders were dying. A long time ago we had talked about that and we finally had the possibility to do it So what happened was I spoke to Jean Philippe Allard of Polygram Jazz France the producer. The whole idea, though, came from Abdella of Tangier. He was the first Gnawa that I met to put together the great masters of the "hejhuj" ("hag'houge"), also called a "guenbri," a three-stringed lute made of goat gut, to put together a recording. We were at La Mamounia for 4 days. We were in Marrakech forabout a week. We recorded on September 17, 1992. Anyway, getting back to the gnawa, we contatcted through Abdellah, from Tangier, from Esouira, all from various cities in Morocco. We got together 9 masters and it was really wonderful because we spent 3 full days together. Some of them hadn't each other in 40 years!
To get the sound right took a lot of work because Vincent had his new equipment and had to get the sound of 9 different hag'houges (guinbres) and also to add the piano to the piece called, "Chalabati." So, most of the time was spent getting the proper sound. We lined the 9 Masters according to age. We had the elders and it was a magic evening because, to their knowledge, never in the history of their culture have there ever been 9 hag'houges (Guinbres) together with 2 percussionists. That's how you will hear it on recording. For all of us it was an historic moment. This has never happened before.
One month later, the eldest Master, he died, and 4 months later, the second eldest died. So, we were blessed to have them and recored with them before they left us. Some of the songs are about certain saints, (Sound Playing) are about the Bambara, the ancient civilization that the Gnawa have lost memory of but they continue to sing the history of Bambara. "Chalabati", is a song of their slavery and in the song they sing for God to help them, to help free them and at the same time they're asking for the spirits of the ancestors, the musicians who lived before them. It is a very deep, a very moving piece.
M'Alem Ahmed Boussou drew an even clearer picture when he described Randy's connection to the Gnawa music during an interview which was held in 1987 during a week long Gnawa Festival in Casablanca. He said during the Interview: "Randy Weston's music is related to Gnawa music, by virtue of its African roots; the exodus of African people during the age of slavery transported Gnawa ritual both to America and to North African Maghreb. Such ritual, after its development in America, was lost in concentration on sheer Rhythm, while the influence of the church gave rise to the "Negro Spiritual." The Gnawa is an honorable calling. I trust and hope that 'Gnaouism' will continue to flourish and gain respect of the public, which is often uninformed about it. Then, there is the "guenbri we must get to know. Meeting Randy Weston has done much to promote the instrument and its music, in general," the great master ended.
Mildred Pitts Walters, a renowned African-American author, observed and experienced the connection when she attended a 'Leila', a Gnawa healing ceremony, in Tangier, recently. She and her daughter-in-law, Johari , and friends. Estella and Louise had been invited to attend by Randy Weston. At this time, she had met Abdellah and participated in the ceremony. Later, she worte, "When she said goodbye to Abdellah's family and friends,the sun was shining on the blue Mediterranean Sea. Abdellah's family lives in Old tangier, waking distance from the Hotel Rif, not too far from the sea. We walked back to the hotel through the streets noisy with merchants opening their shops sand people beginning their day. We were silent, savoring the long night. I recalled the ring games, and circle dances of my childhood; the music and dance in the Pentecostal Church; the dancing to drum beats in Haiti, In Nigeria, in the Gambia and Senegal, and I knew that the mysteries of that music were connected to what I had just heard and seen there, in Morocco."
Colors of the Gnaoui Music
It is the color of the opening of the ceremony; it signifies peace, love and goodness
It'sthe color of the spirit called "Hammadi."
This color has many pieces of music in which they sing the greatness and depth of the oceans as well as their danger; for the sea gives a lot to mankind: fish. beautiful beaches, etc.
It the color of a slave called "Bacha Hammou", a butcher who was courageous, slaughtered sheep, etc... and saw blood. This spirit shows strength just as the color red.
It's the color of the great Marrakchi saint "Moulay Brahim" who loved Gnaouis and used to treat them and used to treat them well. Gnaoui loved him too, and this color is a recognition of, and in honor of, the saint.
In this color, you find the sky spirit with all tht the sky repreents; that is, greatness, beauty, ambiguity, etc...
WHITE WITH BLACK DOTS:
It's the spirit of the "Hawsas" clan of ancestors.
The color represents the spirits of the woods, enigmatic, magic and powerful. the woods spirits are numerous. The first piece is "Laila Mimouna"; the last is "Marhaba" (Landou) which means "Welcome".
It's the color of the girls' and ladies' spirits, who are the daughters of "Bacha Hammou" of the color Red.
The spirit of 'Sidi Samharouche", a great "Fkih" and astrologist who controlled the "D'jins". He is buried in a mountain which bears his name. The mountain is in 'Moulay Brahim'. The spirit of Sidi Samharouch. The spirit of Sidi Samharouch is worshipped by Gnawa.
"Bouhali" used the colors, thus unifying all the spirits. Multicolors is the end of the ceremony. The last piece means "God is unique and replies when one appeals to Him".
The Music of Afro-Peruvians
The slave trade touched nearly every corner of the Americas. From the United States, throughout the Caribbean coasts, However, this horrific legacy reached the Pacific coast as well, and lasted in Peru until 1845. Today, descendants of these African slaves live in villages and cities along Peru's Pacific coast while their music, rhythms and dances all trace their roots back to West Africa. It was in one of these villages, El Carmen, where the group Peru Negrowas formed on the 26th of February, 1969 by Ronaldo Campos de la Colina. El Carmen is a village approximately 2 hours south of Lima. The town looks much as it did nearly a century ago, an old colonial town, a park in the center, a large Spanish facing this square, and about 20 blocks of pastel painted stone houses divided by dusty dirt roads. Today, as always, music in the village of El Carmen is something that you won't find in concert halls. Instead, you'll find people in tis predominantly African village in Peru, singing and dancing in the streets and in corner bars. Campos' mission was to both preserve and develop Afro-Peruvian music and dance.
Three decades later, the group is recognized around the world as one of the leading exponents of Black Peruvian culture. They are no longer based in El Carmen, having moved to the megalopolis of Lima. It is a city almost bursting at the seams, full of traffic, shopping malls, slums, old Spanish architecture, picturesque balconies and spectacular ocean vistas. It is the new center for Afro-Peruvian music. In this city of contrasts, amidst the trendy neighborhood of Barranco is the upscale night-club Manos Morenos. On most weekends, it is where you can find the legendary PerU Negro. While Peruvians have known for decades about Peru Negro's music,manu in North America and Europe only first heard some years ago when David Byrne and Yale Evelev of Luaka Bop released the landmark compilation, "The Soul Of Black Peru". The Album featured many of Peru's legends, including Susana Baca, Lucila Campos, and of course Peru Negro.
Those who are not used to the sound of Peru Negro would mistaken it for its cousins in Venezuela, Cuba and Puerto Rico, a mix of Spanish and West African: percussion, scrapers, acoustic guitars, bass and vocals. Without the visuals, one would regrettably miss the spectacular Afro-Peruvian dances and its unusual set of musical instruments. During colonial times, the Spanish actually banned drums throughout Peru.
Percussionist, and documentarian Manongo Mujica explains hat there is evidence in old drawings by French and British travelers, as well as some Spanish muralists that African drums and marimbas once existed in Peru. Fearing its use in communication on one hand, and its overpowering effect on its audience, transforming participants into trance-like states, something not very popular with the Catholic Church, the authorities were paralyzed.
They were no longer able to preach their christian dogmas. They thought, "Maybe the music, the rhythm and the religion are connected. Maybe it is a signal from the devil." So they decided to ban these instruments. The prohibition was for drums with skins, marimbas and other traditional instruments.
While the Spanish were able to ban these specific instruments, they couldn't eliminate human creativity. The slaves began playing chairs, tables, and the wooden boxes used to cary agricultural products. These wooden boxes were soon developed into the "cajon", large wooden boxes that today are the national instrument of Peru. Flameco fans have also seen legendary guitarist Paco de Lucia with a cajon player in his ensemble.
When Paco de Lucia visited Peru nearly more than twenty years ago, the Spanish Ambassador threw a party. Among those present was Caitro Soto, One of Peru's top percussionists. Soto gave Paco de Lucia a cajon as a present. He then started sowing Paco de Lucia basic tips on the instrument, an instrument that is now an essential part of Paco de Lucia's flamenco ensemble. Ironically.
Today , many people think that the instrument is Spanish.It is 100% Peruvian. Another one of Peru's famous musical instrument boxes is the "cajita". Imagine a trapezoidal shaped box about the size of a child's jack-in-the-box. The lid is opened and closed with one hand and while the other hit the box with a wooden stick. The cajita also had Catholic origins. It was adapted from the wood in boxes used every sunday in church that the priests would use to pass around for its weekly collection.
The result wasn't exactly what those priests had in mind. In much of Africa and the Americas, Scrapers and shakers are frequently made by cutting ridges into gourds, or by attaching shells to them. Black Peruvians, of course, have a different tradition. They use the "quijada de burro". (The Jawbone of a Donkey). They take an old jawbone from a dead donkey, let it dry out and loosen the teeth.
Then, if struck with the palm, it produces a wonderful sound "shhhhh-tshhhhhh" sound. Running a stick along the teeth allows it to double as a scraper. While Peru isn't the only place that uses quijada, it is the place most associated with one of the most unusul scrapers and shakers (unusual for non-Peruvians, that is). It is something not to be missed during a live' Peru Negro Show.
Peru Negro - HOMENAJE A "PERÚ NEGRO"
Bob Marley and the Reggae Sounds
A lot has been written about Bob Marley I will simply add my two-cents here. No one in the Reggae music has received as much attention, as much Press, or as much acclaim as the undisputed King of Reggae, Bob Marley. Born in a small country village of Nine Mile in St. Ann, Bob moved s a teenager to the kiingston ghetto or "Trenchtown", where he was know as "rude bwai" before discovering the message of Ras Tafari. He began singing as a young man at Clement Sir Coxsone Dodd's Studio One, the first college of Reggae Music, and soon joined with Peter Tosh and Bunny Livingston to form the Wailing Wailers.Until his tragic demise from cancer in 1981, Bob Marley was the voice of Reggae Muisc. Combining a radically peaceful message with the Unifying strength of Rastafari religion, Bob Marley created songs of the disenfranchised peasantry out of the Kingston ghettoes to the uneducated ears of the world. His songs have influenced nearly everyone in rock and Reggae including Eric Clapton, Keith Richard, and Lucky Dube, etc
Bob Marley - Survival (1979) - Full Album
Los Van Van - Soy Todo
Los Van Van - The Best Dance Group
"People love to dance to Los Van Van and I try to always be aware of this when I write. This is my primary function - to make people dance." -Juan Formell. "What does Van Van have that makes them keep on going and going?" These are the opening words in one of Loss van Van's theme song, "Que Tienne Van Van?" With a legacy that transcends several generations, integrating a precession of musical styles, sonorities and innovations, Los Van Van has maintained a consistent place at the forefront of Cuba's popular music scene, both at home and abroad. under the extraordinary leadership of musical director Juan Formell, the group has spawned three decades of immensely popular Cuban dance music which is always in sync with the times and has outlasted many musical fads. Juan Formell and Loss van Van have always represented the epitome of Cuban popular musical innovation, taking the inspiration from popular Afro-Cuban music such as that of Beny More, Arsenio Rodriguez and Orquesta Aragon,combining it with a truly eclctic taste in music from the United States, Europe and elsewhere.
The traditions of the Charanga orchestra (rhythm section with flute and strings), the Son (Cuba's prominent ancestor to modern -day "Salsa"), and the trova genre (a direct descendant of simple Spanish balladry or "country" music), combine with influences from North American popular music such as 'Funk', 'R&B', 'Rock and Roll and even European Classical music. In 1965 Juan Formell joined the popular group Orquesta Reve, Immediately transforming the group's sound. He not only revamped the 'Charanga' instrumentation by adding two electric guitars and a trap drumset (an instrument he retained when forming Los Van Van), but also by creating a new pop-influenced style called the 'Changui-shake', as well as a prolific body of new songs which became instant hits.
Restless and eager to continue evolving his new ideas in a group of his own, Formell left Orquesta Reve, taking with him the core members of the orchestra, including pianist Cesar "Pupi" Pedroso, flautist Orlando Canto, violinists Iva Rocha, Fernando Leyva, Jesus Linares and gerardo Mira, alllong with cellist Luis Marsilli, and singers Jose Luis Martinez and Miguel Angel Rasalps ("Lele"). He retained certain innovations he had brought to Orquesta Reve, such as the two electric guitars and trap drumset, along with some of the early material he had tried out with Reve. The new group was soon named Los Van Van, or "The Go-Gos". The first concert was not an instant hit. Because Van Van was formed of the same musicians as Orguesta Reve, they had to change their sound and although they got a lot of airplay before, Orquesta Reve was more popular by then. The influences of Elvis Presley and the Beatles were evident in songs like Marilu, because Formell was fearless in his innovations in orchestration, timbre, and rhythmic styles were heavily mingled with elements from the North American Pop music. The twangy guitars, loads of reverb, and the "cheesy" organ fills, breaking away from classic Cuban "Son" form of song-writing into a more "American" verse-chorus form. When Jose Luis Quintana, better known as "Changuito" replaced Blas Egues, Juan Formell had already created "Songo", a new musical style which evolved into a complex series of rhythmic patterns. Changuito took the 'Songo' but birthed by Formell and made it his own, creating sophisticated variations with a swing which captured the feet and ears of dancers and music-lovers everywhere, globally.
In three decades 'Songo' went through many variations, often given nicknames such as "Songo Beat", "Bolero Songo", "Songo 86', etc. Changuito explains that each version of Songo, developed as a direct result of the particular song the group was working on at the moment: Sometimes the bassline or the melody line would inspire a specific feel, so Raul Cardenas (the Conga player, also called El Yulo") would create a groove which worked with that feel. The end result was a constantly evolving style. Despite the US-Cuba embargo and Cuba's isolation from the United States, Los Van Van songs have been continuously released in the States by Commercial Latin artists and throughout the world by foreign recording companies.
By 1981 he had eliminated the electric guitars but had begun to introduce other electronic elements into the group such as electronic pick-ups on the flutes and violins. He had also begun to play the fender electric bass, replacing the Arias he had played throughout the '70s. The '80s were a powerful time for the people of Cuba. The atmosphere, despite the embargo and isolation from the United States, was upbeat and idealistic. Musical groups such as Los Van Van were able to thrive, the system supported the musicians and the schools provided a consistent supple of new virtuosos. However, the '80s drew to a close, forces outside Cuba were bringing changes that were greatly to affect the life on the Island. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War. culminating with the collapse of the Soviet Union, were to affect Cubans and their lives in ways they had never anticipated.
Already strained by by the US-Cuba trade embargo, Cuba's economic situation became dire. Of course, the musicians were affected along with everyone else. Even musical institutions such as Los Van van had to find new ways to keep going. In 1989 Los Van Van recorded their first first album outside Cuba, in Paris, for a French producer which was released on Island Records under the title Songo. Although this album was criticized for its lack of feeling compared to the Cuban recordings, its wide distribution brought a larger audience to the group and signaled a growing awareness of the group outside Cuba's shores. In 1992 Los Van Van recorded Azucar, the last album for EGREM. Inspired by a three-month stint at the Disco Azucar in Cancun, Mexico, this album marks several endings and new beginnings; it is the last album with Changuito and the last which features Pedro as the primary lead singer. In 1993 Juan Formell began a process of revamping the group's configuration for the first time in many years, giving the group an influx of youthful energy. He brought in his son who replaced Changuito. Samuel gave the rhythm section a more innovative integration than ever. Mario "Mayito" Rivera, also known as "Mayito" was added. He injected a young voice and physical presence, with his dreads and hip-hop gear, electrified and freshened the group. In 1994 Juan Formell made his first three recordings for the Caribe Productions, a new Havana-based company, operated by Federico Garcia. This album "Lo Ultimo En Vivo, was recorded live at Loss Van Van's turf, The Salon Rosada in the Tropicale Nightclub, and it captures the true feeling of Loss Van Van show better than any recording to date.
Again in 1994 the Palacio de la Salsa opened in the lobby of the Riviera Hotel, becoming a venue for all of Cuba's important dance dance and one of the most flamboyant scenes on this side of the Atlantic. In this hothouse environment an exciting new dance to the music, timba, began to flourish. It could be said that timba first appeared in its present form in the music of 'NG LaBanda', the innovative dance band formed in the early '90s by Jose Luis Tosco, in the 1993 mega-hit "Echalle Limon", soon to be followed by new set of exciting groups such as 'Paulito y Su Elite', 'Manolin ('El Medico de la Salsa') 'Charanga Habanera', later followed by 'Isaac Delgado', 'Bamboleo', and 'Klimax'.
Although obviously based on Cuban derived forms such as 'Son', 'Songo', and 'Salsa', it could not have existed without the unparalleled virtuosity of a generation of musicians trained in fusion jazz. Timba is a music of breakdowns: percussion breaks, horns breaks, multiple rhythmic and key signature changes. Popular Cuban groups have truly perfected this, to the extent that the repertoire of the more recent timba groups is based almost entirely on the breakdown, with scarcely any formal structure. Although Los Van Van is not really a timba band, important timba elements such as the breakdown, have always existed in Los Van Van's arrangements, and the dancers despelote to Los Van van as well as to Paulito.
The process of reconfiguring the personnel and instrumentation of the group, begun again in 1993, continued with the recording of Ay Dios 1 Amparame. New young members such as the electronic violinist Pedro Fajardo, and flautist, Jorge "Lele" Leliebre brought in a "jazzier" sound to the flute improvisation. Keyboardist Bris Luna , added texture to the groups sound, and also adding tres-like patterns or string pads to the groove. Juan Formell also changed to an Azola Baby Bass, resulting in an entirely new and more powerful sound. One of the most important additions to the group was Roberto Hernandez as a third lead singer, a place left open by the departure of Angel Bonn. The singers of Los Van Van have always had the dual role of vocalizing and 'audience management,' and Roberto with his warm, deep voice and friendly bear-like demeanor, is particularly effective in his relationship with the audience: outgoing, encouraging and often engaging them directly.
By 1998 Juan Formell was ready for a fresh start, signing for the first time with an international company outside Cuba: Harbor Bridge, a Dutch company with a close relationship with the New York-based Havana Caliente, an affiliate of Atlantic Records. As Los Van Van hits on their 40th anniversary, their popularity is increasing, and starting in April 2010, they will be on a 70 city tour, and this was due to the Obama initiative of easing relations with Cuba, and the two countries cultural exchanges agreement. Juan Formell sees as a positive indication that his music was achieving a universal message. Sadly, this sense has not always reached those closest to home: Los Van van's popularity and identification with Cuba's post-revolutionary society has traditionally been a point of conflict within the Miami-Cuban exile community. In March 1997, after numerous requests, a commercial Miami radio station began to play songs by Los Van Van. Within a week most advertisers had cancelled their spots, the station had received bomb threats and was forced to stop playing Los Van Van. The Miami exiles even picketed the Los Van Van fans when hey entered the Miami Arena where Los Van Van was to perform. Perform, they did!
President Obama has made it possible for Los Van van to be seen in many cities throughout the US, and this is good for Van van's fans and music lovers all over the world. As Los Van Van emerges from is 40 years of misc performance, it is more than likely that more music, dance and social changes will be spawned by the groups' explosive musical performances. It is also clear that the multitudes of musical lovers will be inspired by the music of Loss Van van for decades to come.
Gnawa Music Of Marakesh - Night spirit Masters
Fela in performance (1971)
Outernational Meltdown 1994 Amampondo & Friends
Outernational Meltdown Amampondo & Acr
Orquesta Aragon De Cuba
Orquesta Aragon De Cuba
Orquesta Aragón is truly one of the most historic names in Cuban music. Founded in 1939, Aragón has been burning up dance floors around the world with their steamy blend of Cuban roots. One of the pioneer charangas, a type of ensemble that uses violins and flutes over a swinging rhythm section, Orquesta Aragón is responsible for many classics of the Cuban repertoire.
The Orquesta Aragon's extraordinary adventure started on 30 September 1939, when acoustic bass player Orestes Aragón Cantero brought his small charanga to Cienfuegos, the third largest town on the island, for their debut. The band comprised violins, piano, flute, percussion and a singer. Charangas were specialized in the danzón, a style that was then about fifty years oldwith its sung variant, the danzonete, it was quite the rage at the time.
The group, which called itself Rítmica del 39, then Rítmica Aragón before settling on its final name of Orquesta Aragón at the end of 1940, also played waltzes and fashionable Spanish tunes. The band was no doubt just one of a number that played at dances and parties, but its founder's personality was to make all the difference. He held advanced social ideas (he was active in the popular socialist party, with communist allegiances), so he declared war on stardom.
Performance fees were to be shared out evenly between all the musiciansit was out of the question that the lion's share would go to the director, or a star singer. "I want to found a musical family", he said. "I'm not looking for virtuoso players but musicians with human qualities." Aragón was to conduct the band that bore his name for nine years, until a serious lung infection forced him into early retirement in 1948. Aragón appointed violinist Rafael Lay, who was only 20 years old but had already played for seven of them in the band, to take up the baton.
On Lay's instigation, Orquesta Aragon gave its first concerts in Havana, which to provincial musicians had always been held up as an impenetrable fortress. In 1953, when the vogue for cha-cha swept out the mambo, the Aragón seized its chance. It clinched a recording contract with American label RCA Victor, that was very active in Cuba, and in no time had a string of successes.
In 1954, flautist Richard Egües brought his stunning virtuosity and unequalled sense of improvisation to the band. Orquesta Aragón meant cha-cha, and the world over people danced to the rhythm of the band from Cienfuegos. In that ten-year period wide-eyed and joyful with the progress of science as sputniks and flying saucers criss-crossed the skies, the Aragón sang "I'm going to the moon for my honeymoon", and treated Cuba to its first demonstration (home-made) of stereophonic reproduction. Audiences were invited to tune into their radios and televisions simultaneously, and heard the sound of Egües' flute or Lay's violin pass from one speaker to the other. There was a succession of trips: Panama, Venezuela, United States, right up to 1959 and the triumph of the Revolution.
Embedded with its founder's left-wing ideals, the band placed itself at the service of the new regime. All of Cuba's musicians became State employees and were awarded the same salary, which boiled down to extending to the whole of the profession the co-operative principle instituted in the past by Orestes Aragón. Henceforth the Aragón served the people, to get them to dance but also instruct them, introduce them to their musical heritage. The band traveled the length and breadth of the country, which had just tasted agrarian reform and one of the largest ever literacy campaigns ever undertaken, to play in sugar cane production complexes, villages, factories, schools and hospitals.
The revolution knew how it could turn music to its advantage to spread its message. It was fast to form the habit of sending musicians abroad to act as ambassadors for Cuba's culture and new values. In 1965, the grand Cuban Music Hall tour brought the Aragón to France for the first time, where the musicians were mobbed throughout their three-week residence at the Paris’ Olympia. In November 1971, the Aragón discovered Africa, long after Africa had discovered the Aragón. The countries of Black Africa had lived through the end of colonialism and access to independence to the accompaniment of the cha-cha. The Cuban models had far-reaching influence on modern African forms, starting with the Congolese rumba. To Africans ears, the Aragón was "the" standard by which Cuban music was judged and almost everywhere it went, the band was given a welcome befitting a head of state. Africa in return left its mark on the group's music, with numbers such as Muanga, by Franklin Boukaka from the Congo, and later the Bembeya Jazz National.
In the 1980s the Aragón went through a difficult period. Rafael Lay was killed in a car crash in 1982, Richard Egües moved on from the band in 1984, and the musicians who had been there from the very beginning (timbalero Orestes Varona) or played during its golden age, followed each other into retirement.
Today's Aragón consists of a mixture of old and new members, including the children and nephews of the original legends. Rafael Lay Jr, the son of original front man Rafael Lay Sr, now leads the group. While they maintain the classic sound of the past, they also incorporate the new flavors in Cuban music.
Orquesta Aragón has been dubbed "The Seminal Charanga Band" by The Rough Guide to World Music, and is known well for its unique and tasty renditions of the cha cha cha. Rafael Lay Sr. (the original director) and the world-renowned flautist, Richard Egües, could both be considered responsible for the band's unsurpassed reputation. Their hits include such classics as Sabrosona, Cachita, Bodeguero, Nosotros, Esperanza, Pare Cochero.
Pare Cochero-orq. Aragon De Cuba
Next Stop... Soweto
Soweto's Mbaqanga Music from the 1960s
The South Western townships (aka Soweto) of Johannesburg, South Africa, have produced hundreds of excellent recordings over the years, from the dawn of mbaqanga's rhythmic folk in the '50s to equally impressive and virtuosic township jazz. Strut, the dance imprint that gradually expanded its focus to embrace the whole world, released three great volumes of Soweto-based music during 2010, brought together into the four-disc box Next Stop... Soweto Vols 1-3. The first volume of Next Stop... Soweto concentrates on mbaqanga from the late '60s and early '70s, when groups such as Mahotella Queens, Dark City Sisters, and the Soul Brothers brought the music to its commercial and artistic peak.Next Stop... Soweto Vol. 2 takes in mbaqanga's growing embrace of non-African styles -- from funk to psychedelic rock -- during the '70s. The final volume, Next Stop... Soweto Vol 3, is a two-disc set surveying township jazz from artists including Dudu Pukwana, Chris McGregor, Themba, and others. The individual volumes allowed listeners to pick and choose based on their interest, but the box set is no less an achievement. Although a few great artists are left off for unknown reasons, there are few releases that do more to introduce the curious to great South African music of the '60s and '70s.
The Mgababa Queens - Maphuthi
Soul Brothers: Mama Ka Sibongile (Live in Concert)
Soul Brothers - Hluphekile (Poor One)
"Soul Brothers" Of South Africa
STALWARTS of South Africa’s music scene, the Soul Brothers have recorded over 30 albums since their formation in 1974.
Initially formed in KwaZulu Natal, the group have remained the slickest and most successful proponents of the mbaqanga sound which dominated South African urban music for over three decades
While their costume, choreography and some harmonies bear comparison to the American Soul music which inspired them, the group originated a sound and style which captivated South African audiences, most especially amongst migrant labourers who under Apartheid, were forced to leave rural homes to seek work in the cities.
The Soul Brothers themselves trod this path to Joburg, and it was this shared frame of reference which endeared the group to the massive working class audience of South African cities.
The band was built around the rhythm section comprising bassist Zenzele "Zakes" Mchunu, drummer David Masondo, and guitarist Tuza Mthethwa who first played together in the “Groovy Boys?in Kwazulu Natal, and later as part of the “Young Brothers?
It was in Joburg that keyboardist Moses Ngwenya joined to create the Soul Brothers, and David Masondo made the move from drums to lead vocals. The combination of Masondo’s quavering soprano voice and Ngwenya’s percussive Hammond organ playing gave the Soul Brothers a unique and instantly recognizable sound. This core rhythm section was typically augmented with a brass section, guitars, and multiple vocal harmonies.
Although the Soul Brothers enjoyed massive acclaim and commercial success, the audience remained limited to South Africa, and neighbouring states. In 1983, members of the group travelled to Botswana, where they worked with the then-exiled Hugh Masekela, affording a mbaqanga underpinning to his seminal “Technobush" album.
Car crashes saw the deaths of three band members in 1979, and then bassist and founder member Zakes Mchunu in 1984. Despite these setbacks, Masondo and Ngwenya continued, performing with an expanded group that included not only musicians, but dedicated dancers.
The Soul Brothers visited UK and Europe in 1990 on their first international tour. Despite international releases, the group remain primarily a domestic phenomenon, who continue to notch album after album achieving gold status. They also operate their own successful recording, publishing and entertainment companies.(Steve Gordon)
Salif Keita live: Tekere
Orquesta Reve From Cuba
ORQUESTA REVE mi salsa tiene sandunga
ORQUESTA REVE mi salsa tiene sandunga
Anikulapho Ransome Fela Kuti
Fela Kuti - ODOO (Overtake Don Overtake)
Orchestre Polyrythmo de Cotonou
Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou - Agnon Dekpe - Melynga
Heads-Up On Orchestre Polytythmo de Cotonou
The group above was recommended for posting on this hub by a reader, DaveysRecipreRead, who can be found here on HubPages, when he ehe wrote and said: "Bands like " Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou" did fantastic work and still influence modern bands, even some of those who make Alternative Music. With tunes such as "Agnon Depke" the Orchestre succeeded in delivering a complex and pulsating mix of beat and "edgy" vocals that remain unmatched to this day."
So, I looked for some bit of historical writing on this group, and found an article written by Cecile De Comarmond on Yahoo! News:
West African Funk Band Mounts Stunning Comeback
Cotonou (AFP) - They were huge in the early 1970s, playing alongside some of the greatest names in African music, then faded into obscurity after a communist revolution destroyed nightlife in their homeland.
Many in the tiny west African country of Benin even thought most of the members had died but the Orchestre Polyrythmo de Cotonou is enjoying a remarkable comeback.
The band's renaissance has been compared to the Buena Vista Social Club, the veteran Cuban musicians rediscovered in the 1990s who were the subject of a hit documentary film and successful album.
Since their revival -- helped by a young French journalist -- the Orchestre Polyrythmo de Cotonou has performed in Barcelona, Paris, New York and at the prestigious Barbican in London.
The New York Times has even said they were "on the very short list of the world's greatest funk bands".
"We been all over the world," lead singer Vincent Aehehinnou told AFP. "The only place for us to discover is Asia."
- Marxism and Khadafi -
The orchestra was formed in 1968 and played in clubs across West Africa, lining up alongside the likes of South Africa's Myriam Makeba and the legendary father of Afrobeat, Fela Kuti of Nigeria.
They also recorded at a frantic pace, churning out an astonishing 400 albums in 10 years, but political turmoil cut short their success.
In 1972, military general Mathieu Kerekou seized power in Benin, one of many coups in west Africa after the dismantling of colonialism in the early 1960s.
From 1974, Kerekou rolled out rigid Marxist policies that gradually led to the closure of nightclubs and music halls across the former French colony, which had been famous for its vibrant nightlife.
Dictatorships elsewhere in Africa also contributed to the band's demise, notably that of Moamer Khadafi in Libya.
While touring Libya in 1982, the authorities accused band members of possessing narcotics and destroyed their instruments one-by-one, apparently in a search for drugs.
They returned to Cotonou devastated and fell further into obscurity.
- A chance discovery -
French journalist Elodie Maillot was preparing for a trip to Benin in 2007 when she came across some old vinyls from the band in the record library at Radio France Internationale in Paris.
Once in Cotonou, she began investigating.
"I made a quick tour of the clubs that remained... and when I asked questions about Polyrythmo people answered, 'We haven't seen them in years... They are probably dead'," she recalled.
Maillot then travelled to the town of Abomey, where various local bands were performing to celebrate the anniversary of Benin's independence.
"There, at nearly 2:00 am, they went on stage and started playing 'Angelina,' a song that I'm a fan of," she said.
Despite the poor sound quality and clear lack of rehearsal, Polyrythmo still had the funk -- and the crowd went wild.
She interviewed band members and returned to Paris to broadcast a story about them. Before leaving Benin, she promised to try to help them achieve their dream of playing in France.
- Funk, blues and voodoo -
No promoter was prepared to take on the financial risk and logistical hassles of bringing 11 west African musicians to Europe for a concert.
None of them had passports and they had hardly performed together for more than three decades.
So, Maillot did it all herself, securing a gig at France's Villette Jazz Festival and returning to Benin to help get the band to France.
Arriving in Paris for the first time in 2009 "was unbelievable", said Aehehinnou. "It was a dream come true."
In 2011, Polyrhythmo released an album called "Cotonou Club", which included prominent guest performances from two members of Scottish rockers Franz Ferdinand and Angelique Kidjo of Benin.
Lately, they have been rehearsing two to three times per week, typically gathering at a private home in Cotonou to refine their sound.
Drifting out from under a tin roof is funk blended with soul, blues, latin notes and the occasional voodoo chant -- a nod to a form of worship which is still powerful in their home country.
- Fisherman, salesman... musician -
Aehehinnou said the group was currently waiting to confirm the dates for their next international tour.
He was animated talking about the band's early success, including the release of their 1968 hit "Gbeti Madjro" as well as a performance at the Africa shrine, Fela Kuti's famed music hall in Nigeria's largest city, Lagos.
Band members may miss the days when they first found success, playing in bustling clubs each weekend in Cotonou and recording an album or two each week.
But music isn't the only thing they do. When they're not rehearsing or performing, band members can still be found working as fishermen or selling satellite dishes.
Previously in 1960s and 70s, Polyrythmo could only dream of one day performing anywhere outside of Africa. Now they can travel the world.
The best african chillout - Mama Africa (mixed by SpringLady)
A Review Of The Posted Cultural Videos Of The People Of Mzantsi..
I have just finished a series of videos that I had started by posting first with an article articulating my objectives(See Older Posts): to create a format and structural form of our music and culture and frame it such that it has a National body and appearance. What I mean by this is that, I made some means of collating our 'different,' 'variegated,' 'variable' and 'diverse' culture, which up to the point before I started posting it in that manner, and having written a preface to my intentions, had never been done like so. Also, what I did was create the bios or small histories of each of the musicians, performers and bands so's to lay out a matrix that most of the South Africans on FB, might get a glimpse of it holistically.
This exercise in Cultural defenseis not a "practice in Promoting My music " as has been claimed by those who are left behind in what I was doing. It seems there is culture of obfuscating the 'right' things for our people in order to "Dumb Them Down". Our people of Mzantsi are prohibited by a new species of "Censurers" and "Gatekeepers". not on the TV and radio only, but viciously here on these social media that can reach millions of people in Mzantsi and the world over.
Some of us are patently ignorant of these new, burgeoning, emerging, converging, moving-at-the-speed-of-viral-data phenomenon and gizmos. Our people who are in different privileged position are scared of an Independent African South African, who has the potential to learn, and become better, if not different from the. Some of these leaders are cloaked in Pan Africanism of a "Type". The Pan Africanism that cannot even recognize Africanism in the efforts some of us are trying to disseminate, without us being crass and ignorant about what we are posting and how we are posting it-as African peoples.
The response might not have been an earth shaking event when I posted all the videos, short histories of the 11 people of Mzantsi, namely: The Zulus, Pedis, South Sothos, Shangaans, Vendas, Ndebeles,Swazis, Xhosas, Tswanas, Vendas, Colored and the Khoisan. The main thrust of posting such music, was not, and I still emphasize, to "Promote My music/videos" on the Pan African Sites on FB. Apparently there are people working as spooks and moles of the FB owners, and the present ANC government, of which they are on its pay and beckon-and-call. The aim of laying these viral videos was specifically to, in a coordinated and structured way(that of choosing relevant 'cultural ' videos with as much 'authentic' dances and live videos as such as possible), to help us beggining to learn much more better and in a 20/20 way the breadth and depth of our cultural matrix and mosaic as it has manifested itself in our daily realities; and, undergirding this first aim, was the second one, wherein I was trying to parlay an ideas, way of seeing, and conceptual ability of our people to begin to see that we are really one people, as opposed to the apartheidized way of seeing, thinking and being that we are a different disunited collectives of "TRIBES". A Term I have consistently rejected, until we end up having a "French Tribe", "British, Italian, Danish," and so forth tribes, then I might reconsider.
But, since that is not what I am talking about, we need certain perceptive ways and perspective of beginning to realize ourselves not as a collection of different "Tribes", but a nation with a diverse, vibrant,energetic, similar and one culture. Even if we were to try and interrogate or investigate the notion that our languages are different and not the same, and that they emerged from our trekking South from the north, is utter balderdash! We have always been here in Mzantsi for eons, and now there is proof of 'supposedly' disappeared civilization of here in Mzantsi, andit can be traced back to 170,000 B.C, and there is a lot of physical material proof that we have been here since the formation of the earth! So that, when I use our music, culture, customs, dances, languages and their practices, techniques and uniqueness, I am working toward reconstructing our Nation (through all the mentioned building blocks, and making them real through our Music, Dance and interpretation of our Culture) and that they should be viewed as being one,, not different or unrelated to one another-but one National Culture, etc..
For us to see ourselves as a Nation of Africans in Mzantsi, we need to see ourselves, in some shape of form, as one people who are having a diverse culture, which is in essence, one culture. It is one culture when one starts listening to the music, which we can group into Mbaqanga and those songs unique to different groups in various regions throughout South Africa. We need to have a sense and way of seeing our different cultures as they seemingly are different, but see them for their commonalities, originality, energy, similar dances, hand-clapping, rhythmic foot-stomping, movements of all kinds, from the gyration of the Shangaan women, to the active and energetic synchronic dances of their men
; to the smooth foot-shuffling ad gentle stepping Batswana , Swazis mass singing, and for the men Zulu-type of dancing; up to the easy, steady and deliberate dance of the Basotho men, with their "kotos" always held high and the foot-stamping well calculated and seemingly off rhythm, but on the beat; to the 'mokgibo' of their women kneeling on the ground, chest-vibrating to their musical rhythm-along with the Xhosa mix of the Batswanas, khoi, Zulu and Sotho cultural dance nuances, as in the case of the "Xhosa" who perform the "Mtjitjimbo" same as the Basotho women, but in a Xhosa male stylistic fanfare(and of the older Xhosa women generation, more akin to the the Basothos) in dance, actions and technique; and the Khoisan animistic dance, projecting the action of different animals(they hunt) in a dance form and which too is related in style and presentation to the Zulus, Xhosas, Pedis and all the other groups. We saw children put up their best efforts, imitating their parents, in dance and song and style(which promises continuity). That in the final analysis, what I am saying here, is not quoted or cited from some book, but what we are creating through viewing the Music I have been posting, and I do not get paid a cent, and do not own these videos, nor composed anything in them, or am I gaining in any way, shape or form. This is part of my contribution to our struggle, and am using much needed innovative ways of teaching all and reaching all-through creating, form the old, new ideas and ways of seeing for our self on our own.
I intensely dislike our detractors, whether they be Africans of Mzantsi or from anywhere else. I have a passionate and offensive attitude when it comes to us and now we are blocked by those ignoramuses who are in service of deep vested fiscal pockets. Nobody said I should do what I am doing. I am doing it because we need many different ways of executing and making sure our struggle survives, but we will not get this from those who Police The Pan Africanist Walls, which are humming and howling for revolution, and the truth is that there is not one way to making a revolution: ask the Zimbabweans with their Chimurenga; learn from the Angolans and their MPLS; Frelimo; I mean, from all revolutionaries if whether in executing their revolutions, they listened and worked on one single idea. That is an inexact way of making a revolution. A revolution uses all that is relevant to it to succeed. Not a prescribed panacea from some Facebook revolutionaries who are really out of touch with the people in the country, and how we should be trying, our darnest, to liberate them- By Any Means Necessary [a la Malcolm X).
I have been viciously attacked here on face book on different sites and in my in-box. I can be just as vicious too, but I do so tactfully. I cannot stand Bullies and Ignoramuses. Most of us are in position that prevent our people from dreaming big, and bettering themselves. It does not mean that posting here on FB is not "Free". No, according to the minions that are in service of Big Capital and they themselves vulture-capitalist and self-serving-morons, they do so at the expense and to the detriment of people learning and yearning to becoming much more better. I beg down to no such quislings! These gendarmes tell us of "Bottom Line" as they have been instructed to trumpet that by their handlers in various places, institutions and the whole bit! They attack our culture that I am working on here on FB with venomous vengeance, and multiple 'exclamation marks" to drive their point home. The Defend the Master's wish that our people should remain dumb, not made to be awake, by anyone. If some os us remember, when the ANC and some of the PAC people came out, I have the press cuttings, many of the revolutionary ANC cadre and PAC cadre were mercilessly murdered by goons of the Death and torture squads of the mode of the Vlakplaas executioners, and they worked with some of our brother(terrorists) who made it their business to eliminate all fierce and what they considered to be vexatious elements amongst our worthwhile and erstwhile stalwarts. Is it not then a wonder that some of them(african quislings) have morphed into the FB police, when we should now be working with our people to create a Sane Society and an independent and well -self-willed and developed polity. No! we have people telling us that they are "Guarding some Walls", and they are the first ones to eat up what they claim to dislike.. I am not really scared of such quirks, but I will use the FB too, to go for their tainted and fattened jugulars.
Our African Cultures, Customs, Traditions, Languages, Rites, Histories and Practices, they too need Warriors. They need fearless and very culturally self-loving and defending Warriors. It is not only the gun "revolution" that has have to be monitored, but our cultural revolution, too. This methodology I have carved up in laying out our culture Bare and bringing them to the fore, with their own structure they already have, but am giving form, meaning and dignity, is what ought to preoccupy us. Or attaining power will be the one way that will be made realistic by relearning, and developing 'new ways of seeing and looking', shedding off the Apartheid blinkers in the process, will be what might do for us in moving the struggle forward our own culture of which we live-daily-by our knowledge, control and ownership of our culture.... Our struggle is lined to the International African diaspora and Africa itself. I have posted music of Africans from Cape to Cairo; from South America to North America-and throughout the world, to show how same its its matrix and mosaic-in all genres- that in actual reality(in the Garvey-ite mode and sense).
I posted all the different nations of Mzantsi to show the 'similarities', 'commonalities' and 'converging' points of performance, technique and style(both musically and dance-wise) to be of one people-one nation. We are one nation, but we have not yet even ready to energetically defend and protect it, if not develop what we have as a culture because, as I usually say say, most of us have been 'edumacated into ignorance', and 'we are running away from ourselves'. If fact, there are still people in our midst who are still ashamed of, and deride our culture as backward, because they have been conditioned to be so by their masters whom they now serve with zeal and gusto.
They go out of their way to please the master-they might as soon take the disease plaguing their controllers/master and have it manifest itself on them-on his behalf. There are some who attack the way I use this foreign language of English. Well, my take is that, if we ever do anything, we better do it well, and good. This will not and does not take away from me being an African of Mzantsi. It is just like presenting the videos that I have been posting or have posted thus, I still hold on to the belief that we need to do our own things right. We need to taken control, shape and form, mold and design our cultures, customs, traditions, history, music, dance and all its styles and techniques fully and correctly.
It is amazing that going through YouTube, one discerns the way the Cultural imperialists are using all manners of obfuscation, censorship, and licensing and holding on to information pertaining to our music, cultures, dances-pattened to be released at their own discretion. When researchers like me come and look for the music, artist, it's either there's limited information of the bio, or the music has not yet been uploaded or are ignored, or we have not yet developed ourselves to be in a position to really own, control and disseminate our culture as we see fit: to be able and be also in a position to disseminate our data in any form we wish to.
I hope the thrust of the small idea I have implemented on all the PAC Walls should be seen as me 'showcasing our music. I put a lot of short history for the listener/reader to get an idea about what they are listening to, and I posted it en-masse as I did because I was swelling the viral stream with positive vibes and dances. On some other far flung and rare FB Walls, our music rules; our music rocks; our music makes people all over the world come back wanting more- whether it is contemporary music, or traditional/cultural music we make. For people who think that I have backed off from posting music and originally written articles about various, they have got another think coming..
We are much better than this- Ons is nie 'Moegoes', and have never been di-Bari, never! For me, I post what I like, and like what I post, and if anyone on any site needs to block me, go ahead, make my cultural day! I will post, if not create my own Wall on various topics and keep on working for our people for no Renumeration.. None at all..
All I have done was collate a culture of music and dance that has already survived for itself without me doing what I am doing, so what I did was that I made sure that it becomes well structured and well-formed for the world to see that we are who we say we are; we have a powerful, colorful, variegated, diverse and same and one culture here in Mzantsi. And I thought that my presenting it as I did by posting it on the Pan Africansts Walls, will be seen for what it is-and yet, what does one see, cultural quislings who have no regard or use for their own culture, and personalize their dimwitted-myopic and narrow-minded selves and work assiduously to prevent its being made too look as great as it is. Look for yourself, without ass-licking anyone, at all the different posts I have brought forth.. Is that a culture that should be oppressed(apparently this has not worked with the Boers-but our brothers are working around the clock to suppress and depress it). Well, so long as I do not have arthritis, I will type and post; I will use "Word" and "Image" to put out Culture of Mzantsi of the Glogal Cultural Map-and put it up to speed with the spreading and speed of the viral stream. For me, to Date! ... there is no other better culture than our culture in Mzantsi...
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