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Do they yodel in DR Congo ?: Wendo Kolosoy

31 August 2008

Antoine Kalosoyi, known to all as Wendo Kolosoy, was born in 1925 in northwestern Congo, then under Belgian colonial rule. He became an orphan in his early childhood and was taken to live with the Christian Brothers where he began to sing and play guitar. Expelled by them because of the lyrics of his songs, he became a professional boxer and worked as a sailor but soon started a career as singer in the mid 40s with his band, Victoria Bakolo Miziki. His first succes came with Marie-Louise in 1948, a song he would re-record many times. He was the first superstar of Congolese music and the founder of the Congolese rumba. He decided to stop performing in the 60s because of the political situation of the country and because he didn’t want to sing praises of Mobutu. In the 90s, he restarted his career and recorded new albums, a bit like the Buena Vista Social Club. He died on July 28, 2008.

He sings in this old-fashioned style, with a hoarse voice, swirling guitars and short but vigorous yodels that became his trademark. He could yodel from the beginning of his career, even if I found no evidence of that in the recorded songs, but I’m sure lots of vinyls must exist somewhere. Here’s what he says in an interview:

AW: So did you already [in the 50s] have that high head voice, then? Your trademark yodeling sound?

WENDO: Yes. To find this voice was not easy. Lots of people were after me to know how to do that, even poor [Grand] Kalle.

AW: Who inspired that?

WENDO: Nobody. I don’t know how I got that. It’s a gift from God. People really went for that, especially the little ones. They would ask me in the street. “Wendo, Wendo. How do you do that? How can I do that?”

So here are songs recorded in 1999 in Abidjan (Ivory Coast) and in 2002 in Kinshasa with the remaining members of his old orchestra, Victoria Bakolo Miziki. It were favorable sessions for yodels it seems, I found most of them in these songs. I included two older versions of songs as example of his early style but they don’t contain any yodel.

Youyou aleli veka (1999, with Victoria Bakolo Miziki)

Paul Kamba (1999, with Victoria Bakolo Miziki) and Paul Kamba atiki biso (1950, Ngoma 234)

Marie Louise (2002, with Rumbanella Band) and Marie Louise (cha cha version from 1958, with Beguen Band, Ngoma 1842)

Victoria Apiki Dalapo (2002, with Victoria Bakolo Miziki)

Soki oyoki Victoria (1999, with Victoria Bakolo Miziki)

Essengo Ya Ngai Wendo na Moundanda (2002, with Antoine Moundanda playing the likembe thumb piano)

Link 1: biography and discography

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