Tabu Ley “Seigneur Rochereau” (1940-2013)

Original releases

Tabu Ley “Seigneur Rochereau” started his recording career as a vocalist with Joseph Kabasele’s African Jazz in 1959. The earliest recordings with African Jazz were released on the Esengo and Surboum African Jazz labels. In 1963 most of the band-members defected and formed African Fiesta with Tabu Ley as lead vocalist and “Dr. Nico” Kasanda wa Mikalay on solo guitar as joint band-leaders. Some 115  45 rpm vinyl single discs with African Fiesta were released from 1962 to 1965 on the Vita label before the band broke up and split into two formations, African Fiesta Sukisa lead by Dr. Nico and African Fiesta “66” – soon renamed African Fiesta National – lead by Tabu Ley.

The 45 rpm vinyl singles with African Fiesta National were initially released on the Flash label. In 1969 Tabu Lay established his own organization International Service Artistic (ISA) and a label of the same name.  Subsequently the band’s name was changed to Afrisa – a combination of African and ISA. The recordings released on the Vita, Flash and ISA labels were re-released in France by the Ngoma label and above all by Fonior / Decca France on the Decca and African labels. When Fonior / Decca France was declared bankrupt in 1980 it left Tabu Ley without an international distributor. A deal was made with Daniel Cuxac, director of the Disco Stock label in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, to release a series of albums for international distribution based on 45 rpm ISA singles released in Congo 1978-1982. This in turn led to a re-structuring of ISA into a new company and label Genidia which handled Tabu Ley and Afrisa’s recordings throughout the 1980s including his collaboration with Mbilia Bel. The Genidia label also marked a change in format for new releases from the 45 rpm single play record to the vinyl album.  All previous albums released by NgomaFonior / Decca France and later by SonoDisc had been compilations based on singles previously released in Congo.

In the early 1990s Tabu Ley went to live in the USA and the era of African Fiesta National and Afrisa came to an end. Tabu Ley recorded several solo albums before he returned to Congo in 1997 and pursued a political career as cabinet minister in the government of President Laurent Kabila and later as Vice-Governor in charge of political, administrative, and socio-cultural questions, for the city of Kinshasa. His musical career took a new turn in the 2000s when he recorded a string of playback music videos based on his past hits.

In later years Tabu Ley suffered from a stroke in 2008. He died on 30th November 2013 at the age of 73.

Interview in French with Tabu Ley from 2005 how he began his musical career
Jump to 2:13 to avoid intro – Obs. interview repeated from 6:55

Discographical notes

A discography of Tabu Ley’s recordings with African Jazz 1959-1963 released on the Esengo and Surboum African Jazz labels is still pending. Recordings on the Vita label with African Fiesta and the collaboration with “Dr. Nico” Kasanda wa Mikalay 1963-1965 is available in Alastair Johnson’s “Docteur Nico Discography” 2nd revised edition (Poltroon Press, 2012) 88 pages (ISBN 0-918395-25-9). Copies can be ordered here LINK

Flash and Vita 1000
After the split with “Dr. Nico”, Tabu Ley formed his version of African Fiesta, soon after renamed African Fiesta 66, in 1967 changed to African Fiesta National with a (Le People) added later that year. The band’s first 45 rpm singles came in 1966 on the Flash label. In total 50 singles were released on the Flash label with possibly 4 catalogue number not used.

In 1968 they were followed by a series of releases on the Vita label that had initially been used by African Fiesta 1963-1965, i.e. the new Vita 1000 series, identified by its matrix numbers, was released using both both Vita and Flash labels. The Vita 1000 series was licenced by Ngoma, which by now had relocated its activities to Paris, and re-released 1969-1970 with Ngoma catalogue numbers and Vita 1000 matrix numbers.

As well as being re-released on the Ngoma label the first 8 tracks in the Vita 1000 series were also re-released as singles on the African label as Flash 300-303. All 8 track were also re-released on 3 identical compilation albums Ngoma J 33 002 P1969, African 360.004 P1969 and Sonodisc SAF 50.004 P1975.

An additional 8 tracks from the Vita 1000 series, also re-released as singles by Ngoma, were equally re-released  on the identical compilation albums Ngoma J 33 005 P1969 and Sonafric ‎SAF 50.002 P1975. In total 25 singles and 2 compilation albums were released by Ngoma.

Vita is also printed on the labels on the compilation album African 360.009 “Tango ya ba viex Kalle N° 2” released in1969 giving “Le Seigneur Rochereau et l’African Fiesta National” as the band. But the 10 tracks are original Vita recordings with African Fiesta from 1963-1965 and not with the new band African Fiesta 66 / National formed in 1966.

ISA was a series of original 45 rpm singles released in Congo from 1969 into the mid-1980s. With the exception of ISA R. 114 and 115 from 1980 all other singles released this year and later years were taken from original albums or identical with tracks on international compilation albums released by Afric Music in Paris, Disco Stock in Abidjan or – starting in 1983 – from Tabu Ley’s new album label Genidia.

The number of original ISA singles identified runs from ISA R. 1 in 1969 to ISA R. 92 in 1979 in addition to ISA R. 114 and 115 from 1980. Several track-titles known from re-released in Kenya in the 1970s on the ASL label, however, remain unidentified when it comes to their original Congolese label. These and several other known track-titles released in the 1970s are listed separately at the bottom of the ISA releases, as they most likely would fit to some of the empty ISA catalogue numbers.

African re-releases  and Edition Ley
Selected singles from the Congolese ISA series were re-released on Fonior / Decca France’s African label and are listed under their ISA catalogue number. The 6 singles releases in the ISA 500 series appear to be special releases on the African label and have been added to the ISA catalogue and listed here chronologically by year of recording. However, the 500 series was soon abandoned in favour of the Congolese ISA catalogue numbers. It should also be noted that most of the tracks issued on the African label in the ISA 500 series were also released in the Congolese ISA series.

Several of the later African releases, only indicate ISA as the original label but have no Congolese catalogue number. In these cases, where no identical Congolese ISA release has been identified and only an African re-release is available, the tracks are listed chronologically following their African catalogue number and by year of recording. Edition Ley was another short-lived label c.1972 with 2 known releases with Orchestre Afrisa. They have also been included here alongside original ISA releases from 1972.

ISA I.01 and I.02 albums
The ISA 500 series on the African label included 4 tracks from two albums released in 1970 on the ISA label as ISA I.01 and I.02. The albums included 15 different tracks (with 3 tracks appearing on both albums) that were recorded in the fall of 1970 prior to Tabu Ley and African Fiesta National’s epic concerts in December that year at the Olympia Theatre in Paris. The albums were distributed by CEDDI, the Ngoma label’s distribution company and most likely also manufactured at Ngoma’s pressing plant in Paris Disco France. At least 2 tracks from the albums were also released on the ISA label as the 45 rpm single ISA IC. 5 (also included here). But the distribution deal with Ngoma seems to have faltered when the company suspended its activities in 1971. Instead 13 of the 15 tracks on the ISA albums were re-released in 1971 in a completely rearranged order on the two African albums “Seigneur Rochereau à l’Olympia Vol. 1 and 2” (African 360.028 and 360.029) together with one track from the single Flash 12, another track from the single ISA R. 8 and with one of the original ISA album track appearing on both African albums.

Financial and artistic control
Only 6 of the initially 15 new tracks on the 2 ISA albums with the “I” prefix were also released on 45 rpm singles, 13 were re-released on 2 African albums mixed with tracks from Flash and ISA singles. This rather bewildering picture perhaps reflects some of the difficulties Tabu Ley encountered in creating his own financial as well as artistic platform in the form of an independent label when dealing with manufacturing and distribution companies like Ngoma and Fonior / Ecodis / Decca France that dominated the Congolese music business around 1970-1971.

Tabu Ley “Seigneur Rochereau” et African Fiesta National (Le Peuple) 1970

The re-structuring of ISA led to the formation of a new company and label Genidia with 29 original albums released 1983-1993 including one double album. Parallel to the ISA singles still released in Congo with tracks from the various Genidia albums, two Genidia singles were also released with tracks from the album produced in support of President Mobutu’s presidential election campaign in Zaïre in 1984. In Kenya “Génidia” released a number of albums for the East African market with a different selection of tracks parallel to a series of singles with a GENI prefix. The singles are listed on the Ken-Tanza website LINK. The track “Baba Moi” on Génidia GENI 006 P1984 is the only “original” release in the form of a tribute song in KiSwahili to the Kenyan president at the time Daniel Arap Moi sung by M’Bilia Bel accompanied by Afrisa International. The recording is based on the instrumental soundtrack for “Nakei Nairobi” released that same year on the album Genidia GEN 114.

Besides the collaboration with Franco and O.K. Jazz in 1983 Afrisa as a band, but without Tabu Ley audibly present, participated in a couple of original album productions. In 1983 they recorded 4 tracks with Lemed Janvier from Bénin. More remarkable is another album recorded in 1992 with the Malian diva Ami Koita, released on cassette and appropriately titled “Nouvelle dimension”.

Page created 17/11/2012 © Flemming Harrev- latest update 30/12/2017