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Gaby Lita Bembo and Orchestre Stukas du Zaïre
Kita Mata ABC(RETRO18CD)

Lita Bembo – the great showman of Congo-Zaïrean music – was one of the most inspirational musicians of the ‘new generation’ that stormed Kinshasa in the late 1960s and early 1970s with his band Stukas du Zaïre. His unique blend of impassioned Ekonda vocal styles and frenetic guitar patterns turned his compositions into instant hits, while his eccentric stage antics and innovative dance routines endeared him to young and old alike. The music, like the man, remains larger than life.

Never afraid to use onstage props for maximum impact, live TV footage from the 1970s shows Lita carrying a 6ft high crucifix to visually emphasise the message in a song. That same performance also shows Lita singing with his hands shackled together with iron chains – looking like a slave about to be transported to the new world. Libekk Lita Bembo – a unique, larger than life character.

Stories abound about how, in the mid 1970s, during the school holidays, Stukas would occupy long daytime slots on Voix du Zaïre television. Clustered around the cheap black and white TV sets a nation of youngsters gathered, gazing spellbound at Lita’s every movement.. Such was the impact of Stukas that the authorities thought them a useful tool to clear the streets of troublesome youngsters.  

Orchestre Stukas began in 1968 as a lose formation of musicians lead by the vocalist Alida Lomingo. Lita drifted in a few months later. Like many of their contemporaries the Stukas Boys – Lokole Stukas – drew inspiration from the sound of young Kinshasa.

Many of the members of this great orchestra have passed unrecorded on sleevenotes and other ‘semi-reliable’ information sources. Lita himself says he worked with more than 50 vocalists during Stukas’ lifetime. Just a few of the many singers who deserve a mention here include; Alida (co-leader), Kisola, Djo Isa, Kojos, Theo, Djarrys, Ilton and Makolin. Of the solo guitarists we have  ‘le professeur’ Samunga, Bongo Wende, Kembo, Jon Pierre, Le Pop, Dengas and Dodoli. Drummers included Mama Yes and Awilo Longomba, and Bassists Dada Koma, Nguma Loketo.

The tracks on this compilation date from 1974 to 1983, running in reverse chronological order. These are some rare and righteous grooves from a master of modern music.

‘Kita Mata ABC' – Get Down, Get Up and take it from the top.


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