The events of this week find me wanting to temporarily curtail my sojourn into woodwinds in world music and present something both fun, and from Kenya. So here we are, spending a little time with an East African bar band; a bar band putting their own particular spin on a classic Perez Prado tune, in fact. While the Cuban influence was felt from West Africa, across Central Africa, and into East Africa in the 78rpm era – boleros, rhumbas, and cha-chas galore, especially in Congo – this is one of the few 78s in my personal collection where Africans actually cover a Cuban pop song.
Where were the Kiko-Kids from exactly? According to the scant information available, they were from Kenya, though there’s at least one source that indicates they were itinerant. The independent Tom Tom label, who released this week’s post, was based in Kampala, Uganda, and recorded music from across East Africa. The sleeve for this record, however, indicates that it was recorded in the Equator Club in Nairobi. (Boy, would I love to see some photos from that place in full swing.) Making things more complicated, on one of John Storm Roberts’ long out-of-print CD releases on his phenomenal Original Music label (Dada Kidawa Sister Kidawa) they are credited as Kiko Kids Jazz, from Tanzania. So, it’s quite possible that they should be best referenced as an “East African” band, but let’s, just for today, say they’re from Kenya.
As mentioned, Tom Tom was based in Kampala and their records were pressed there too, by the Opel Gramophone Record Factory, Ltd. “Opel” stood for Dr. Georg von Opel (1912-1971), the German industrialist. Opel was the grandson of the founder of the Opel automobile company, a member of the International Olympic Committee, and Vice-President of something called the International Leisure Association (I must remember to emulate that career track). According to reader Peter Steinringer, the Opel Gramophone company was founded in 1956 and closed in 1960, due to a Ugandan boycott of businesses owned by foreigners. Also according to Steinringer (in the comments), Opel produced 50,000 discs a month and had nearly 200 employees. The independent 78 rpm record label scene in East Africa was varied and broad, with dozens of small and large labels securing their places in the market. Most are also quite scarce, today.
Label: Tom Tom
Issue Number: TR 683
Matrix Number: T 5007