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World Music CD Reviews Africa

Orchestra Makassy

By Tom Pryor
Published August 1, 2005

Legends Of East Africa: The Original Recordings

Led by the great Kitenzogu “Mzee” Makassy, the Orchestra Makassy was one of the giants of Tanzanian rumba in the late ’70s and early ’80s. Though originally from Zaire, Makassy went to University in Kampala, Uganda but was soon forced into exile during Idi Amin’s regime. He took his band with him, and based in Dar Es Salaam, the group held it down for Bongo while other East African rumberos were making their names in neighboring Kenya. As one of the best games in town, Makassy saw more than a few greats pass through its ranks, including Mose “Fan Fan” Se Sengo and Remmy Ongala (Makassy’s nephew). This album is actually a reissue of their stellar 1982 set, Agwaya, and it still packs a punch today. Gently lilting guitars are driven to a polyphonic frenzy by throbbing basslines and insistent percussion, while massed horns provide a funky, sinuous counterpoint. Tracks like “Mambo Bado” and “”Mke Wagnu” are sweaty funk workouts, while “Zimbabwe” and “Mosese” are African rumbas as sweet and graceful as they come.