Song of the Day: Zazou/Bikaye/Cy1 “M’pasi Ya M’pamba”
The collaboration album, Noir et Blanc (translation: “black and white”) from the cohort of Zazou/Bikaye/Cy1 sounds like music from an alternate reality. The music was the work of two Congolese musicians producer Bony Bikaye and electric thumb pianist Hector Zazou and the Swiss electronic duo Cy 1 (composed of Guillaume Loizillon and Claude Micheli). “M’pasi Ya M’pamba” is a great example of the otherworldly sounds that the collective achieve. The song is grounded in a minimalist electronic pulse before being joined by electrified percussion and chanted, call and response vocals. Eventually, electrified thumb piano is also layered in. The net impact is a truly unique sounding groove. This is tribal music that, despite initially being released in 1983, still sounds brightly futuristic. It is an almost perfect blending of the electronic and the earthy into something genuinely new and unique. Eventually, an almost North African sounding horn sound is added to the mix.
The whole record is well worth listening as each song takes you someplace completely different.
The record was recently reissued (by obscure Belgian label, Crammed Discs who also originally issued the LP) and is quite the rediscovery. A recent review on Pitchfork describes the process of recording and guitar tones that session player Vincent Kenis devised for the record:
At times, it’s difficult to tease out exactly what is electronic and what’s acoustic. In the liner notes, Kenis describes how Konono Nº1, whom he had discovered around that time, inspired his use of guitar effects, and in “Mangungu,” his guitar bristles with harmonics, while vine-like synths wrap around a convoluted rhythm. In “Eh! Yaye,” a dry, flat drum machine is garlanded with pings, chimes, and even a bicycle bell, while Bikaye’s voice is spun into an entire chorus. Kenis’ guitar solo here—a tribute to to Demola Adepoju, King Sunny Ade’s steel guitarist—is among the album’s most electrifying moments.
The otherworldly groove of “M’pasi Ya M’pamba”:
Bonus! The hypnotic guitar work on “Mangungu”: