Splash FM Website of the Day, 1st August 2005. Be Impressed.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Koffi Olomide – Loi.

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Unlike Hong Kong, the ironically named Democratic Republic of Congo (the country formerly known as Zaire) is swimming in natural resources. It mines huge amounts of copper, zinc, coltan and tin (in high demand to make circuit boards). It is also the world’s largest exporter of ethically unsound diamonds and largest consumer of Um Bongo. Yet it remains at the bottom of the league table for wealth – or it would do if they could afford any statisticians.

By the time he was deposed in 1997 Mobutu had been the despotic ruler of Zaire for over thirty years. During the early years of his reign he had violently put down a number of rebellions with the help of the CIA (who in return were able to use Zaire as a base to attack neighbouring communist countries). He used the power he gained through this to embark on a staggering policy of embezzlement. He seized over 2000 Western owned companies and distributed them amongst his friends – unsurprisingly they were incompetently run and the economy rapidly deteriorated.

By the mid-90’s the ethnic violence in neighbouring Rwanda spilled over into Zaire. The Hutus that fled Rwanda began attacking Tutsis in Eastern Zaire with the help of the Zairian government’s forces. The Tutsi militia, under the leadership of Laurant Kabila and with the support of Rwanda and Uganda, quickly gained the upper hand and sent Mobutu packing to one of his many European mansions in May 1997.

However, Kabila was unable to stop the ethnic violence in, what he renamed, the Democratic Republic of Congo and was himself assassinated in 2001 and replaced with his son, Joseph Kabila.

The Congo remains one of the most unstable countries in the world. Many areas of Eastern Congo are lawless. UN troops have decided it is too dangerous for them to enter. Not so for journalists apparently; you can see pictures from a mine in Eastern Congo on the Channel 4 website.

Despite its many problems the Congo somehow managed to produce the world’s most joyous and uplifting form of music – Soukous. Soukous has never had the exposure it deserves in this country. This is largely due to the fact that world music types have their head rammed up their arse – which, oddly, doesn’t preclude them from scratching their beards. In 1997 the deathly dull Buena Vista Social Club was all they could talk about. However, Koffi Olomide had his guitarists playing their guitars the way they were meant to be played – loud, fast and vulgar.

This made Olomide a huge star in Africa. In 1998 he won the Kora Best Artist Award; voted for by a phone poll covering the whole of Africa. But, unless they’re willing to lower themselves to collaborating with Sting or Peter Gabriel, African artists get no coverage in this country.

Loi is an absolutely stunning track and one of my favourite songs of all time. So download it, play it LOUD, sign the Live 8 list and buy the absolutely essential Rough Guide to Congolese Soukous.

Make Poverty History

Koffi Olomide – Loi

Buy Loi

Buy The Rough Guide to Congolese Soukous

Download Um Bongo stuff


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