Indépendance Cha Cha

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"Indépendance Cha Cha"
Congolese rumba by Vicky Longomba[1]
Released January 27, 1960 (1960-01-27)[2]
Genre Congolese rumba
Length 03:05
Label Fonior
Writer(s) Joseph "Grand Kallé" Kabasele[1]
Language Lingala and French

"Indépendance Cha Cha" (French; "Independence cha cha") was a song performed by Joseph Kabasele (best known by his stage name, Le Grand Kallé) from the group L'African Jazz in the popular African Rumba style. The song has been described as "Kabasele's most memorable song" and one of the first Pan-African hits.[3]

The song was composed and first performed in 1960, the so-called Year of Africa, to celebrate the imminent independence of the Belgian Congo (the modern-day Democratic Republic of the Congo). The song achieved considerable successes and remains the most internationally best-known examples of Congolese Rumba.

Composition and recording[edit]

Hotel Plaza in Brussels where the song was first performed

As a prominent Congolese cultural figure, Le Grand Kallé and his band, African Jazz, were chosen to accompany the Congolese delegation to Brussels, Belgium for the Congolese Round Table Conference on Congolese independence in early 1960.[1] Kabasele took part in the discussions.[4] The song was written on 20 January 1960,[5] incorporating instruments and rhythms of music of the African diaspora, particularly Cuba.[6] It was first played at the Hotel Plaza in Brussels on 27 January 1960.

It was sung by Victor Longomba and Nico Kasanda played the guitar.[1] For the first performance of the song at the conference, Le Grand Kallé brought together four musicians from his own band, L'African Jazz (Kasanda, Roger Izeidi, Pierre Yatula and Déchaud Mwamba) along with two members of the rival band, OK Jazz (Longomba and Armando Brazzos).[7]

The group recorded the song during the Round Table Conference, along with Kabasele's "Table Ronde" and Longomba's "Vive Patrice Lumumba", in a His Master's Voice–affiliated studio. The record label wasn't interested in the recordings, so Kabasele showed the masters to various other companies before reaching an agreement with Fonior.[8]

Lyrics[edit]

The song's lyrics called for unity in the post-independence Congo between the different factions and prominent figures of the nationalist movement in the Congo.[1] The refrain attributed the achievement of independence entirely to the Congolese people:[6]

Indépendance cha-cha, tozoui e
Oh! Kimpwanza cha-cha, tubakidi
Oh! Table Ronde cha-cha, ba gagné o
Oh! Lipanda cha-cha to tozoui e.
(Independence, cha-cha, we've won it
Oh! Independence cha-cha, we've achieved it
Oh! The round table cha-cha, we've pulled it off
Oh! Independence, cha-cha, we've won it.)

The principal verses of the song include the acronyms for the major political factions within the Congolese pro-independence movement. The Association des Ressortisants du Haut-Congo (ASSORECO), Alliance des Bakongo (ABAKO), Confédération des associations tribales du Katanga (CONAKAT), Cartel Katangais (Cartel), Front Commun, Mouvement National Congolais (MNC), PDC, UJECO, Alliance des Bayanzi (ABAZI) and Parti Solidaire Africain (PSA) are all mentioned.[9]

A number of politicians (some of them party leaders) are mentioned by surname. In order, these are: Jean Bolikango, Joseph Kasa-Vubu, Patrice Lumumba, Albert Kalonji, Paul Bolya, Moise Tshombe, Cléophas Kamitatu, Fernand Essendja and Daniel Kanza.[9]

Reception[edit]

From its first diffusion, the song proved extremely popular and has been described as the "first Pan-African hit".[7] Musician Gilles Sala later said that it (along with the other two His Master's Voice recordings) "sent a musical shock wave. It was pretty extraordinary, this spontaneous, natural music."[8]

The choice of language in Indépendance Cha Cha, Lingala, supplemented by French loanwords, meant that the song also became a hit in the neighbouring French Congo where the language was also widely spoken.[1] It was widely broadcast across Africa by Radio Congo Belge. The song's tune and optimistic lyrics chimed with the popular mood in Africa, particularly in Francophone countries, many of them made independent in 1960 or soon after. Indépendance Cha Cha was adopted as the "song of the emancipation of the dark continent" and became extremely popular across Africa, although it achieved longest-lasting success in the modern-day Democratic Republic of the Congo.[1]

Legacy[edit]

Indépendance Cha Cha is performed in one of the scenes of the 2000 film Lumumba, directed by Raoul Peck. It also appeared in Peck's documentary Lumumba, la mort d'un prophète.[6] An adaptation was made by Belgian-Congolese musician Baloji, entitled Le Jour d'Après / Siku Ya Baadaye in the album Kinshasa Succursale. Another adaptation has been made by Gérard Addat, entitled La Liberté Cha Cha.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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