Olympia African Série
The Belgian Olympia label’s African Série was released by Société Belge du Disque, a company founded in 1935 by Fernand Janssens. Shortly after the end of WWII the company began to make recordings in the Belgian Congo. The recordings was organized by Dr. Patou, a former military with Mr. Gert, a Belgian subject, in charge of the technical side. In all some 285 discs was released dating from c. 1946-1947. The matrix numbers starts out in the 17000 series for the first 100 releases, then continues in the 19000 series, which indicate that recordings were made in two different stages. Where the first focused on Léopoldville (present day Kinshasa), the second also included the lower Congo region, Elisabethville (Lubumbashi) in the south and Stanleyville (Kisangani) in the east of the colony.
The catalogue of Olympia’s African Série include popular artists and bands as well as traditional music, military bands, choirs, Christian hymns, readings from the Koran and a 20 lesson Lingala language course. The catalogue reflects the urban music scene in Léopoldville and the popular artist and bands of the early and mid-1940s before the formation of dance-bands modelled on the Afro-Cuban idiom and predates the recordings made by the more famous labels Ngoma, Opika and Loningisa.
Among the artists are singer and guitarist Manoka Souleymane called De Saio, the son of a Senegalese father, who recorded with his own group or accompanying singer Robert Weye, the singer and guitarist Wendo and the bands Orchestre Odéon Kinois, Orchestre Siluvangi, Kin Jazz and Orchestre Victoria Kin. The recordings from the second part of the series include the guitarist Sinuku Jean accompanying the singers Safu Bembo Jean and Bibi Elisabeth, the guitarist Kodia Alexandre accompanying the singers Nkiangudi Julienne and Ninganga David, and the bands Orchestre Camille Ferouzi, Orchestre Opera Jazz and Orchestre Rhodesien Black and White from Elisabethville and Orchestre Odéon from Bar Oriental in Stanleyville. The series also include some of the earliest recordings of Angolan music.
Two titles attract special attention. “Marie-Louise”, the song made famous by Wendo in 1948 in a recording for the Ngoma label (Ngoma 23), was also the title of a song recorded a year or so earlier by Orchestre Victoria Kin (Olympia 159), a band set up in Kinshasa in the mid-1940 by Wendo himself to rival the popularity of Orchestre Vicoria Brazza led by Paul Kamba. However, Wendo’s two recordings of “Marie-Louise” bears no resemblance. On the other hand, the title “Marie Tiebo” (Olympia 163) appears to be identical to the song recorded as “Maria Tchebo” by Group d’Oliveira (G. Edouard & M. Oliveira) on Ngoma 110, by Adou Elanga on Ngoma 201, and subsequently recorded by Sam Mangwana in 1980 as “Maria Tebbo”.
The singer and guitarist Manoka Souleymane called De Saio seems to have inspired another artist, Ebengo Paul, when he started his recording career for the Loningisa label in 1953 as Wayo, later changed to De Wayo, eventually to become known as Dewayon, the founder of Group Watam and later l’orchestre Cobantou.
The Société Belge du Disque and the Olympia label never followed up on their initial attempt in the mid-1940s to establish themselves on the Congolese market. The company was eventually sold to Fonior in 1969.
Gary Stewart: Rumba on the River. A History of Popular Music in the Two Congos. London & New York, NY: Verso, 2000.
Jeannot ne Nzau Diop: Evolution de la musique congolaise moderne de 1930 à 1950, Le Potentiel, 14 Mai 2005. Re-posted 25 Juillet 2010 LINK
Catalogue c. 1948 – LINK
Manoka Souleymane called De Saio
Orchestre Victoria Kin set up by Wendo
Sleeve for Olympia’s African Série
Page created 08/06/2014 © Flemming Harrev