Reporting from “Twist & Shout” in Denver, Colorado—one of the few independent record stores in the U.S. If you’re looking for new music to discover, vinyl records, CDs, and you're in Denver -- this is the place to go. They also buy your vinyl and CDs too.
Recently, I was there listening to music that sounded Cuban, Mexican, and African. It was quite exciting to hear and pick out familiar rhythms, to immediately feel the urge to move to the beat. The crowd of people there were also reacting to the music: swaying to the guitar riffs, the harmonies.
“Who is this?” I asked at the information counter.
“Franco!” they shouted in unison.
I remained at the information desk for the next hour listening to Franco (whose full name was Francois Luambo Makiadi, born in 1938 and died in 1989) and discussing the links between Latin American and African music with two of the workers there. And that’s the great thing about independent record and bookstores. There is time for sharing of information. There's even time for dancing. A number of us created an impromptu dance space on one of the songs. For a few minutes, "Twist & Shout" became a mini-dance space. And why not. During the year, they also hold concerts in the music store. Concerning Franco, I quickly learned that Franco is music legend in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He’s also been called the “James Brown” of Africa. Unfortunately, he died much too soon (age 51). He died in 1989 when AIDS was spreading quickly in Africa. However, it's never been confirmed that he died of AIDS. Yet, one of the last songs he recorded (in 1987) was a warning about the disease. It became one of the most important songs at that time: (click here).
So if you haven’t heard of Francois Luambo Makiadi, “Franco,” click here for further information. As well, click on these links to hear all the complex influences inherent in this music:
Link one (click here)
Link two (click here)
Link three (click here)
Franco and his fellow musicians were enthralled with Cuban music they heard on the radio, and early on they incorporated various Latin American rhythms and beats. Their music is known as Congolese jazz music. In 1955, Franco and his band performed for the first time in the OK Bar in Ngiri-Ngiri. Later, they named their band “OK Jazz” in honor of the OK Bar.
|At "Twist & Shout" record store|
In an article about the parallels between African and Latin America, Shingi Mavima writes: “Much of Latin America’s music and dance has its roots, or, at the very least, possesses definitive characteristics in African rhythm. Cumbia has its origins in African slave courtship ritual, salsa is a modification of West African traditional dance, and so are several others. Rumba, the afro-Cuban dance, has had such a cross-cultural impact that, although the dance originated there, Africans have adopted the Spanish-derived name ‘Rumba’ for their version of the dance!” (Click here for full article.)
Finally, a short "p.s." on independent record stores: If you’re not in Denver, you still may have an independent record story near you.
In New York, there’s “Other Music.”
The Midwest has “The Electric Fetus” in Minneapolis, MN, and ‘Reckless Records” in Chicago, IL.
Wishing you all a New Year filled with music, and dance. Adelante!