VERCKYS ET L’ORCHESTRE VEVE-CONGOLESE FUNK, AFROBEAT AND PSYCHEDELIC RUMBA 1969-1978.

VERCKYS ET L’ORCHESTRE VEVE-CONGOLESE FUNK, AFROBEAT AND PSYCHEDELIC RUMBA 1969-1978.

There’s a very good reason Georges Mateta Kiamuangana a.k.a Verckys, can remember the 5th of April 1969. It was the exact date he founded Orchestre Vévé. He’d just returned from Paris, where he suffered a life-threatening illness. At the time, Georges was a member of Congo’s most successful and influential band, Franco’s OK Jazz, and had travelled to Paris to record an album. However, in Paris, he became seriously ill. 

Franco, the band’s founder, couldn’t pay for Georges’ treatment. So, Franco´s OK Jazz returned home to the Congo, leaving Georges behind. Desperately ill, Georges travelled to Paris, where he headed to Decca’s headquarters. Having secured a meeting, Georges managed to sell some recordings he’d made in Congo’s capital Kinshasa. This may well have saved Georges’ life.

With the money he made from selling his recordings, Georges managed to cure himself. However, he had some money left over. He used that to buy new clothes, two cars and have a couple of weeks holiday. Once his holiday was over, Georges headed to Antwerp, where his cars would be shipped home to the Kinshasa, in the Congo.

On his return home to the Congo, Georges was in for a surprise. The journalists who awaited his arrival told Georges he was no longer a member of Franco´s OK Jazz. He’d been fired in absentia. For many musicians this body blow could’ve derailed their career. Not Georges Mateta Kiamuangana.

He founded Orchestre Vévé, in Congo’s capital Kinshasa, on 5th of April 1969. This would allow Georges to give Congolese music what he believed was a much needed makeover. With Georges, a talented multi-instrumentalist at the helm, Orchestre Vévé would fuse Congolese merengue, rumba and soukous with funk, jazz, psychedelia and rock. This was very different to Franco’s O.K. Jazz’s approach to music. 

It was ambitious, innovative and influential. Soon, Orchestre Vévé would become one of Congo’s most successful bands. They released a series of successful albums. Orchestre Vévé were also hugely popular within Kinshasa’s clubs. For much of the seventies, they provided the soundtrack to dance-floors. Forty-five years later, and Orchestre Vévé’s are still remembered fondly by connoisseurs of African music. 

Recently, on 8th December 2014, Analog Africa released Verckys Et L’Orchestre-Congolese Funk, Afrobeat & Psychedelic Rumba 1969-1978. It’s an eleven track compilation that’s best described as an introduction to Orchestre Vévé’s genre-melting music. Its origins can be traced back to 1963.

That’s when Georges joined O.K. Jazz. He was only eighteen. The six years Georges spent with O.K. Jazz, was akin to a musical apprenticeship, for the multi-instrumentalist. 

Georges’ introduction to music was at school. That’s where he first started to play the flute. Not long after that, he joined a church big band, and switched to the trombone. After school, Georges decided to become a musicians. This was despite his father wanting Georges to further his education. Education didn’t interest Georges. All he wanted to do was make music.

So he joined O.K. Jazz. That’s where he met saxophonist Isaac Musekiwa. He would become an important influence on Georges, who tried to copy his style. However, after a few months, Georges joined Dewayons Conga Jazz Orchestra. 

This came about after Georges spent time jamming with Johnny Bokelo. Dewayons Conga Jazz Orchestra was Johhny’s brothers band. However, Dewayons Conga Jazz Orchestra was only a stepping stone. 

Georges decided that now he was ready to make a living as a professional musician. So he joined George Kazembe’s Jambo Jambo Orchestra, which played twist and jazz numbers. After a while though, Georges decided to approach his musical idol, Franco about joining his band, Franco’s Ok Jazz.

One night, Georges saw Franco and some of his band in a bar. Georges plucked up the courage to go across and play the saxophone. This impromptu audition worked. A few days later, one of Franco’s band came to visit Georges. Franco, apparently, wanted to speak to Georges.

This was the start of a six year period with Franco’s Ok Jazz. During that period, Georges flourished and developed as a musician, and also, as a businessman. 

Whilst playing with Franco’s Ok Jazz, Georges started improvising. The way Franco’s Ok Jazz played, they left space for individual musicians to improvise. Georges thrived as a musician. He also thrived as a businessman, setting up his own publishing company.

This resulted in Georges recording some of Franco’s Ok Jazz’s songs. These would be the ones that they’d try to sell to Decca in Paris. However, Georges reason for heading to Paris was to record albums by Franco’s Ok Jazz.

During the Paris recording sessions, Georges suffered a life-threatening illness. As if this wasn’t bad enough, the band were penniless. Franco tried to sell some music Decca/Fonoir to raise money, but to no avail. As a resuly, neither Franco, the band’s founder, nor any of the band, could afford t pay for Georges’ treatment. So, Franco´s OK Jazz returned home to the Congo, leaving Georges behind. 

Desperately ill, Georges travelled to Paris, where he headed to Decca’s headquarters. Having secured a meeting, Georges managed to sell some recordings he’d made in Congo’s capital Kinshasa. This may well have saved Georges’ life.

With the money he made from selling his recordings, Georges managed to cure himself. However, he had some money left over. He used that to buy new clothes, two cars and have a couple of weeks holiday. Once his holiday was over, Georges headed to Antwerp, where his cars would be shipped home to the Kinshasa Congo.

On his return home to the Congo, Georges was in for a surprise. The journalists who awaited his arrival told Georges he was no longer a member of Franco´s OK Jazz. He’d been fired in absentia. While this was a huge disappointment, Georges founded Orchestre Vévé on 5th of April 1969.

Having founded Orchestre Vévé, Georges brought onboard singers Bovic Bondo and a trio of other singers who’d become Madjesi. Accompanying them was Georges, a true-multi-instrumentalist. Whether in the studio, or on-stage, Georges flitted between guitar, saxophone and Hammond organ. Along with the rest of Orchestre Vévé, Georges created a genre-melting sound. Orchestre Vévé fused Congolese merengue, rumba and soukous with funk, jazz, psychedelia and rock. From the get-go, this new and innovative sound proved popular.

Straight away, Orchestre Vévé enjoyed hits with Mfumbwa and Fifi Salange. This however, was just the start, of the rise and rise of Orchestre Vévé and its founder Georges Mateta Kiamuangana.

Quickly, it became apparent that Georges was much more than a musician. He was a budding entrepreneur. First of all, Georges founded his own studio. Then record label Les Editions Vévé, a distributor called Zadis, and record shop followed. It was vertical distribution at its finest. Especially, when Georges began producing up-and-coming orchestras. 

One of the first orchestras George produced was Les Grands Masquisards. After that, Georges would produce Orchestre Kiam, Orchestre Bella Bella, Lipua Lipua, Les Kamale and Baya Baya. He would then send them out on tour using one of the twelve sets of equipment he’d imported from Italy.

After starting with new artists, Georges quickly progressed to producing much more experienced artist. Georges pulled off a coup by signing Tabu Ley Rochereau, one of the legends of African music. He recorded a quartet of albums, including Maze, one of Tabu Ley Rochereau’s most successful albums. Meanwhile, Orchestre Vévé were establishing a reputation as one of the Congo’s most successful and innovative bands.

During the seventies, Orchestre Vévé released a series of albums. Their debut album was Verckys and Orchestre Vévé’s 1970 album Dynamite” Verckys. It was released just a year after Georges founded Orchestre Vévé. This would be the start of a series of genre melting albums, where Orchestre Vévé innovative and influential music evolved.

By 1972, Orchestre Vévé released one of their  most controversial songs, Nakomitunaka, which translates as “I Ask Myself.” In the lyrics, Orchestre Vévé ask “why are angels and god white? why is the devil black?” In deeply religious Congo, this was a step too far. Georges was expelled from his church and ostracised. However, while his spiritual life was in tatters, his career was in the ascendancy.

In 1973, Orchestre Veve and Orchestre Les Grands Maquisards released an album Verckys. It featured the controversial song Nakomitunaka, plus a trio of other tracks from Orchestre Veve, who a year later, would accompany the self-styled Godfather of Funk.

1974 saw James Brown touch down in the Congo. He’d arrived for the Rumble In The Jungle between George Foreman and Mohamed Ali. The fight was delayed for a couple of weeks, after George Foreman suffered a minor injury. James Brown took the opportunity to opportunity to hear Congolese artists. This included Orchestre Veve, who blew James Brown away. He was not alone.

As the seventies progressed, Orchestre Veve released a series of singles and albums. This included Verckys and L’Orchestre Veve, which was released in 1975. It was released on the French label Sonafric. Still, Orchestre Veve’s music continued to evolve. Genres melted into one, with African and Western music becoming one. This is apparent on Verckys Et L’Orchestre-Congolese Funk, Afrobeat & Psychedelic Rumba 1969-1978.

On Analog Africa’s recent compilation, Verckys Et L’Orchestre-Congolese Funk, Afrobeat and Psychedelic Rumba 1969-1978, the eleven tracks showcase Orchestre Veve’s eclecticism. 

No two tracks on Verckys Et L’Orchestre-Congolese Funk, Afrobeat and Psychedelic Rumba 1969-1978, are the same. That may seem like the case. It’s not. Far from it. Listen carefully and subtleties, surprises and nuances unfold. Elements of Congolese merengue, rumba and soukous with funk, jazz, psychedelia, rock and soul. The music veers between jazz-tinged, soulful, psychedelic and uber funky. This is the case throughout Verckys Et L’Orchestre-Congolese Funk, Afrobeat and Psychedelic Rumba 1969-1978,

Bassala Hot, which opens Verckys Et L’Orchestre-Congolese Funk, Afrobeat and Psychedelic Rumba 1969-1978,  is best described as a fusion of funk and Afrobeat. It’s followed by the sultry, scorching horn lead Cheka Sana, and then the funky, psychedelia of Cheka Sana. It sounds Doors’ inspired. Sex Veve sounds as if Orchestre Veve have combined blues, jazz, rock and soul-jazz. As they fuse musical genres, they showcase their considerable skills. Talali Talala finds Orchestre Veve at their funky best. The rhythm section and horns join forces, producing a track that wouldn’t sound out of place on a seventies Blaxploitation movie. However, Orchestre Veve don’t turn their back on Congolese music. 

Ya Nini has a traditional Congolese sound. Not as much as Nakobala Yo Denise, Sisa Motema and Zonga Vonvon. They’re beautiful, understated fusions of gospel and soul. Sultry horns add the finishing touch to Nakobala Yo Denise and Zonga Vonvon beautiful, spiritual and latterly, dramatic tracks. Nakomi Paralise is another track with a traditional sound. It’s a joyous marriage of African and Western music. Again, the Orchestre Veve’s vocalists play a starring role, as Georges gives traditional Congolese music a makeover. After that, there’s only one track left.

Matinda Comono, which closes Verckys Et L’Orchestre-Congolese Funk, Afrobeat and Psychedelic Rumba 1969-1978, you think is an urgent eleven minute epic, with a twist. You’re wrong. After 2. minutes 40 seconds, the music stops. You wonder what’s happened? Is the disc faulty? After two minutes silence, the music begins. It’s joyous, uplifting and irresistible. No wonder the Orchestre Veve filled Kinshasa’s dance-floors. 

They continued to do this throughout the rest of the seventies. The Orchestre Veve’s unmistakable trademark fusion of Western and African music won friends and influenced people. No wonder. How many groups could seamlessly combine Congolese merengue, rumba and soukous with funk, gospel, jazz, psychedelia, rock and soul? Georges Mateta Kiamuangana, a.k.a Verckys’ Orchestre Veve could. That’s apparent from the first time you listen to Verckys Et L’Orchestre-Congolese Funk, Afrobeat and Psychedelic Rumba 1969-1978. Their mix of African and Western music is a heady, potent and irresistible brew, one that must be experienced.

From the opening bars of Bassala Hot, right through to the closing notes of Matinda Comono, the Orchestre Veve have you hooked. This you realise, is unlike so much of the African music released during 2014. There’s two reason for that. Orchestre Veve were unlike no other band. With Georges at the helm, their raison d’être was to create music that was innovative and moderne. Congolese music needed a makeover. The man to do that was Georges Mateta Kiamuangana, an ambitious and pioneering musician. For over a decade, he took Congolese music in the most unexpected directions. As a result, Georges played an important part in the development of Congolese music. However, Georges Mateta Kiamuangana was much more than a musician and bandleader. 

He was an entrepreneur Georges owned a recording studio, pressing plant, record label, distribution company and record label. This allowed him to record an orchestra, press their album, distribute it and sell it in his shop. If the orchestra wanted to tour, Georges just happened to own twelve sets of equipment. Essentially, Georges offered a one stop shop for aspiring musicians and orchestras. This included his own orchestra, Orchestre Veve.

Recently, on 8th Decmeber 2014, Analog Africa have released Verckys Et L’Orchestre-Congolese Funk, Afrobeat and Psychedelic Rumba 1969-1978. It’s an eleven track celebration of the Orchestre Veve’s music. Just as I’ve come to expect from Analog Africa, Verckys Et L’Orchestre-Congolese Funk, Afrobeat and Psychedelic Rumba 1969-1978, is a lovingly compiled compilation. It was compiled by label owner Samy Ben Redjeb. He’s dug deep into the Orchestre Veve’s vaults, and has compiled a compilation that reflects their eclecticism. As a result, Verckys Et L’Orchestre-Congolese Funk, Afrobeat and Psychedelic Rumba 1969-1978 is a fitting tribute to one of the most innovative, influential and pioneering Congolese orchestras, Orchestre Veve, which was lead by musical maverick Georges Mateta Kiamuangana,

VERCKYS ET L’ORCHESTRE VEVE-CONGOLESE FUNK, AFROBEAT AND PSYCHEDELIC RUMBA 1969-1978.

512ptF8MOpL

51jAGbvgLZL

2 Comments

  1. Edward Luyinda

    Please send me the lyrics/translated in English of the song NAKOMITUNAKA. I will appreciate the effort

  2. KAWEESA ROBERT DAVID

    Hope this legend is still alive and kicking, please send me periodical info on this man and the others as we do enjoy their music

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: