His Master’s Voice G.V. series 1933-1958
The introduction of the G.V. series in His Master’s Voice’s newsletter “Records for May 1933”, page 6-7.
Impact of the G.V. series
At first glance His Master Voice’s G.V. series with Cuban and Latin American music might seem an odd choice for the inauguration of a site for African popular music. But the series had a profound effect in the 1940s and 1950s on the formation of bands across Africa, especially in French speaking countries like Senegal, Guinea, Mali, Bénin and above in Central Africa on both side of the Congo River.
The series was manufactured by His Master’s Voice in the U.K. specifically for the African market and was based on recordings made by the Gramophone and Victor companies in the USA, hence the G.V. prefix. But which Cuban and Latin American records were in fact available in Africa? The question has puzzled many researches.
The first 78 rpm shellac discs in the G.V. series were released in 1933 and the series reached G.V. 249 before it was abandoned by EMI / His Master’s Voice about 1958.
The G.V. series has been mentioned by many African musicians who grew up in the 1940s and 1950s and was an inspiration for the formation of the first dance-bands in Africa modeled on the Afro-Cuban instrumental line-up and repertoire. Afro-Cuban and Latin American music served as a matrix, at first copied then infused with local musical ideas from which a number of national styles of popular music evolved. To this day the most widely used generic term for popular music in the two Congo republics remains rumba congolaise.
The G.V. series had the same impact on the future development of African popular music as soul and funk had in the 1960s and 1970s, reggae in the 1980s and 1990s and hip hop and rap in the 1990s and 2000s. Beyond the sheer pleasure of listening and dancing in appreciation of the music in its own right, the G.V. series served as an inspiration to combine African musical ideas and elements of traditional music with the new instruments introduced to Africa during the colonial period. In the Congos bands like Les Bantous, African Jazz, Franco et le T.P. O.K. Jazz, African Fiesta started out emulating the Afro-Cuban idiom, as was the case with Star Band de Dakar, Orchestre Baobab, Etoile de Dakar in Senegal, Rail Band and Les Ambassadeurs in Mali, Bembeya Jazz and a host of other bands in Guinea as well as Ignace de Souza et l’orchestre Black Santiago, Gonnas Pedro and Orchestre Poly Rythmo in Bénin.