Wednesday, 1 April, 2009

Nico, Rochereau, Rocher - L'African Fiesta Volume 1: 1962-63

Hailed throughout Africa as "le Dieu de la Guitare," Nicolas Kasanda was born of Baluba parentage on 7 July 1939 in Mikalayi in the Kasai province of the then Belgian Congo. His father played accordion. In 1950, aged 11, Nico was introduced to Opika Studios by his cousin Tino Baroza and older brother Mwamba Déchaud who were session musicians there. At 14, he joined Joseph Kabaselle's African Jazz. In 1957 he took up electric guitar and can be heard playing electric guitar on 'Sophie ya motema,' recorded in 1960. In 1961 he temporarily split with Kabaselle and formed African Jazz Aile Nico before returning to Kabaselle in 1962 and 1963. (Vincent Luttman cautions that some of the early Surboum African Jazz recordings of this period thought to be featuring Nico are played by Tino Barozo. Luttman also points out, very perceptively, that Nico's later signature choppy guitar style when he is chording behind a vocalist, is based on Manu Dibango's piano technique: which was his own unique version of the montuno piano style he brought to collaborations with Kabaselle.) Young Nicolas Kasanda graduated with honours from high school and went on to college, while keeping his night job as Leopoldville's hottest young guitarist. He taught auto mechanics at the Christian Brothers school in N'djili district, Kinshasa, which earned him the nickname 'Docteur.'

Nico quit teaching and broke away from African Jazz to form African Fiesta in 1963 with Tabu Ley Rochereau, brother Déchaud, Kwamy, Mujos, Depuissant on conga and bassist Joseph Mwena. The band was joined by Roger's brother Faugus Izeidi on third guitar, with Paul Mizele and a Congolese woman singer (with a Greek name) Photas Myosotis ("Forget-me-not") on vocals; Dominique "Willy" Kuntima doubled Jeef Mingiedi on trumpet. When Rochereau split in 1965 to form African Fiesta National, Nico reformed his group as African Fiesta Sukisa, which existed until 1973. They ruled the roost in the late sixties, with endless hits. However, in 1969, the entire band, except his brother Déchaud, walked out because they felt they weren't getting their due. Nico quickly assembled a new band that included Josky Kiambukuta and Lessa Lassan on vocals. Bopol Mansiamina joined on guitar in 1970 and they kept it together for a few more years. Success eluded Docteur Nico in later life and he drank heavily, leading to his early death in a Belgian hospital on 22 September 1985. His improvisations are so surprisingly fluid and ecstatic that he truly earned the nickname 'God of the Guitar.' (

01. Bilomba Ya Africa
02. Mwasi Abandaka
03. Pesa Le Tout
04. Toyei Na Sango
05. Ngonga Ebeti
06. Natuna Nani
07. Mobembo Eleki Tata
08. Mwasi Ya Bangando
09. N'soso Pembe Na Lipopo
10. Libaku Ya Nguma
11. Nalembi Nalembi
12. Cubana Na Vis-A-Vis
13. Le Chant De Malory
14. Foti Ya Ye
15. Pablito
16. Sukisa
17. Biantondo Kasanda
18. Nakokoma
19. Merenge President



icastico said...

A great artist.

Here's some more of his stuff...

fado alexandrino. said...

Talking Timbuctu here


bravo juju said...

Thanks, Icastico & Fado Alexandrino, for the suggestions. Thanks in particular for those great posts on "Le Docteur", an excellent way to know more of his work. said...

What do you mean by success eluded him in later life? The man was an epitome of pure talent and almost 27 years after his death, the world still misses him and still enjoys his seminal works. What could be more successful than that? He was in the league of Mozart -- geniuses who did not reap financial rewards from their exceptional talents. That was not a shortcoming of his, it was that of a messed up economic system in Africa.

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