SONG OF THE DAY Henri Bowane – Wabon’kum Blues

R-8365993-1460208907-2474The happiest accidental tangent of the most fortunate kind befell my lucky ears earlier today when I found this little beauty!!!!

Emerging in the late 1940’s, guitarist, singer and bandleader, Henri Bowane was a pinnacle figure in the development of Congolese rhumba. Celebrating a career that would span over forty years, he was one of the first generation guitarists to record in Kinshasa (then Leopoldville) during the early 1950s. As resident bandleader and arranger at Loningisa studios, Bowane was the first professional boss and mentor of the legendary Franco (who has been featured in my blog and is definitely worth checking out, here)

Combining a guitar style rooted in the folklore and zebola rhythms of the Mongo people and the Latin-American music he heard in the city, Bowane created a sound that blended the poly-rhythms of highlife and the melodic guitar tradition of soukous. Releasing dozens of 78s, he became one of the wealthiest performers in Central Africa. Some of his more popular songs and hits included the joyous Marie-Louise, Netale Natal, and today’s beauty, Wabon Kum Blues (which he recorded with Zaiko Langa Langa)

Bowane also became the first Congolese musician to perform outside his homeland when he appeared in Angola in 1955. Leaving the Congo in 1960, as founder/manager of Ry-Co Jazz, Bowane helped to introduce the rhumba to West Africa and went on to record his only full-length album, Double Take — Tala Kaka, in Ghana in the mid-’70s (which I also think was reissued in the mid-1990’s?  Wabon’kum Blues features on this record and, sang in English, stands out for many reasons, but for me its that bluesy, soulful feel. Not many of his songs sounded quite like this. Check it out above.

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