Nanga Boko Records release "Njitna! from Cameroonian singer Ometh

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Nanga Boko Records release "Njitna! from Cameroonian singer Ometh

Hi Armand! Could you introduce yourself in a few words and present your different projects/site including your label Nanga Boko Records?
Hello, and hello to the entire Exit Stamp team!

First of all, a huge thank you for your support and interest in my projects! As I always say, it's important to support each other in our projects, whatever they may be, this world sometimes needs more kindness and mutual help!

I'm Armand de Preseau, record collector, reissue label boss and DJ.  I have been collecting records for over 25 years now. Over time, I specialized in music from Africa, the West Indies, Asia, the Maghreb, the Middle East and the Indian Ocean from the 50s to the 90s, which we call quite simplistically " World music ". I also manage the reissue labels "Nanga Boko Records" & "Nubiphone", which I founded in 2016, and on which I have released to date 6 records with Afro Jazz, Funk, Folk and Disco accents, initially recorded in the 1970s and 1980s.

On this subject, I have just released on the occasion of the music festival on June 21 “Njitna! », my new and 6th reissue in vinyl and digital format, compilation bringing together 9 psychedelic tracks Afro Soul, Funk, Soukous and Reggae by the Cameroonian composer and musician Ometh (Théodore Mounta), recorded in Benin between 1979 and 1980.
Note that I am working ethically, with 50% of the profits being donated to the artist.

In 2010, I also founded the website www.africangrooves.fr where I share musical discoveries taken from my records, K7, tapes or CDs twice a week, alongside my YouTube channel African Grooves”.

 

I spent a good part of my childhood abroad: 12 years shared mainly between Cameroon and Madagascar. Regarding my musical journey, I started collecting records quite young, around the age of 12. I started by being interested in Techno and House records from Detroit and Chicago (the legendary Trax Records and Dance Mania labels!), and then set out to discover the classic US Soul / Disco / Funk samples that these Techno/ Tracks sampled. House (eternal love for Philadelphia music and records from the Salsoul label!). I then went down to the Bahamas, attracted by the hybrid Reggae/Disco covers of these US classics. There, I drifted towards the music of the neighboring French Antilles, to finally shine throughout the world, and discover African, Middle Eastern, Indo-Oceanic and Asian grooves.

Indeed, as my musical culture was constructed in a logical way, I became aware of what I really liked in this music, their common denominator: the notion of mixture and influences, these borrowing from both in the distant cultural roots of countries, as well as in more recent influences.

I stay close to my musical roots, and even today, I love Detroit Techno classics as much as traditional Malagasy pieces... It depends on my mood at the moment!

Aware for a long time of the importance of preserving the cultural aspects represented by this music, far too often forgotten today since not necessarily transferred to K7, CD or digital, I have also been traveling for several years in search of record collections, in a logic of backup (sometimes arriving too late, I have seen a lot of them destroyed and thrown into the trash), preservation, and bringing back to light. Also, always curious and eager to preserve the legacies and testimonies of the past, I look for artists on site, whether to ask them to work together on re-edition projects or, quite simply, to interview them to find out more. about their past. I also seek to collect their testimonies and stories, so that the public can rediscover them, because many today live disastrous lives and are forgotten even in their own countries.

Regarding my website “African Grooves”, as stated above, I believe in sharing. Having started my collection quite young, and it growing over time, I quickly told myself that it was a shame to store all these treasures without being able to enjoy them with people, that something had to be done with them !

Also, naturally curious myself, I told myself that this could necessarily interest other people.

This is how I initially had the idea to create the blog "African Grooves" in June 2010, which finally gave me the opportunity to share part of my collection online, from the Middle East to Antilles via Africa. I focus on hard to find tracks, which can be difficult to access in the "all digital" era, as they are often small local pressings...

Driven by the desire to share with more people, and having reached a technical glass ceiling on the Blogspot platform, I subsequently created the site www.africangrooves.fr in January 2017 (recently updated in real digital musical cartography ), on which I share every Wednesday and Sunday rare pieces from my collection as well as thematic selections, in parallel with an associated Youtube channel (African Grooves), my Soundcloud account (https://soundcloud.com/armand_de_preseau) , and my social networks Facebook and Instagram (@armand_de_preseau).

Also, always in this approach of sharing, I never miss an opportunity to play records for events, conferences, shows and DJ Sets, always with great pleasure!

I would like to point out here that records are not at all my main activity, a passion that I do on the side, in the evenings and on weekends, in conjunction with personal and family activities.

 

 

You also host a radio show on Rinse.fr with a lot of fairly cutting-edge pieces. Can you tell us more about this show?
I have been hosting the show “Diggers Of The Lost Ark” on Rinse France for 3 years now (the last show of this season is in preparation). I would like to take this opportunity to thank the entire Rinse France team again for their trust.

The principle of the show, whose title is a nod to the first part of the adventures of Indiana Jones (“Raiders of the Lost Ark” or “Raiders Of The Lost Ark” in its original version), is to take listeners on a 2-hour musical journey every 3rd Sunday of the month across the African continent, the Antilles, the Maghreb and the Middle East using more or less obscure nuggets. And entirely on vinyl of course!

In short, the idea is to offer alternatives to what we can hear on more mainstream radio stations, always consistent with my policy of preservation, bringing to light and sharing!
I then upload the replay shows to my Soundcloud account (https://www.soundcloud.com/armand_de_preseau).

 

On June 21, you released a reissue of the album “Njitna!” » by the Cameroonian artist Ometh. How would you define the musical style of this artist, the influences and the languages sung?

Unlike other Cameroonian albums from this period recorded or locally, or in Ivory Coast (because there was a large Cameroonian artistic diaspora in this country from the 1970s) or in France, the compilation that I am offering is from (apart from 2 exclusive tracks ) of the only album in 33 rpm format and the only 45 rpm of the artist, both recorded and pressed in Benin at the end of the 70s alongside the legendary Beninese orchestra Black Santiago led by the illustrious composer and musician Ignace de Souza (and other Cameroonian and Ivorian musicians).

Indeed, Ometh having made the choice to leave his native Cameroon for Benin at the start of his career in 1979, attracted by the musical breeding ground of that era8 and wishing to cross an artistic glass ceiling, has never recorded in his native country, but still in West Africa.

This artistic context of the album, which draws from a broad musical and geographical diversity, can explain the fact that it stands out musically from the Cameroonian albums that we are used to listening to, which draw their influences from and roots rather in the side of more "traditional" genres of the country, like Bikutsi (specific to the Central region of the country, towards the administrative capital Yaoundé) or Makossa (specific to the Coastal region of the country, towards the capital economic Douala).

However, the artist does not forget his roots, the majority of the titles being sung in the Bamoun language, the vernacular of the western region of the country where Ometh comes from.

Also, you should know that Ometh was influenced very young by the great Soul musical figures popular in the 60s in Europe or America, like the crooner Otis Redding to name only him (whose titles he covers on stage again today!).

Everything brings coherence to the record and gives it a very Soul, Funk, Soukous and Reggae flavor. Without forgetting some psychedelic accents brought by the wild synths, famous Cameroonian organist Dieudonné Tsanga!

 

There is also a very complete biography inside the vinyl with beautiful period photos and we must also congratulate the layout and graphics of this release. What was the response to this album when it was first released in 1980? Has this record crossed any borders?
Thank you, glad you like it! Indeed, when I decide to reissue a record, one of the sine qua non conditions of my approach is to always include a biography and unpublished photos and documents, which are keys to understanding the author's approach, and the context. cultural and artistic of the time! I couldn't edit a record without incorporating these elements.

In this regard, you should know that - apart from pressing the records of course - I do almost everything myself in the re-edition process:
-          The process of investigating to find the artists (sometimes a real treasure hunt!) to explain my projects to them and, if interested, sign them;

-          The design of the covers and graphic elements linked to the records;

-          Writing artist biographies in French and English through exchanges and interviews with them;

-          The back and forth opinions with the sound engineer who digitizes and corrects the defects of the original discs (while respecting my credo of remaining as faithful as possible to the original);

-          All aspects related to communication around my labels and projects on social networks;

-          Accounting and management of the Bandcamp account;

-          Promotion around projects, and email exchanges with my distributor and partner stores;

-          Sending records to individuals and stores that do not go through my distributor.

As for the response around this album when it was released in 1980, it allowed the artist's notoriety to explode, thus making him known in Benin, but also in Côte d'Ivoire, in Nigeria and neighboring Togo, to the point that today he continues to perform successfully in the most fashionable cabarets and clubs in the capitals of these countries, capable of playing on many registers: Soul, Jazz, Gospel...

 

How did you discover this artist and this album in particular and what was the reissue process like, from discovery to release? Is this a complex task?
Having a fairly good knowledge of the Cameroonian artistic breeding ground having lived there for several years, and having gone there on many occasions in search of artists and record collections, I however had absolutely no knowledge of Ometh, until finding during a trip his album, then in the process his 45 rpm (records which I never found there afterwards).

This surprised me, because all the Cameroonian artists of that time that I knew released their records on local, Ivorian or French labels.

In fact, for Benin, this was not common, especially since these two discs were recorded as I indicated to you above alongside the legendary Beninese orchestra Black Santiago led by Ignace de Souza, which was for me a first in the Cameroonian musical world.

Furthermore, from the first listen to this album, I really had a shock (I don't know if we could speak of musical love at first sight?), perhaps due to the multitude of influences and musical genres in from which it draws, differentiating itself from the Makossa and Bikutsi albums that I used to listen to.

Like the 5 albums that I previously re-released, it had such an effect on me that I said to myself: “I have to do something with this one too”. As I have defended since the beginning of my adventure of re-issuing records, it does not matter whether my projects work or not (well, for me, for the artist of course I want them to work!), I absolutely do not seek not the commercial side of things, nor to flatter my ego. I'm not looking to release the highly sought-after Afro Funk record from the moment I don't know what, no. Above all, a record must touch me, to the point that it is visceral to bring it out, that the project fits my approach, with a desire to share it, to make it known!

I then set out to find the artist, which was not going to be easy. Indeed, I had absolutely no information on it, apart from the meager biography on the back of the original album confirming its country of origin. Also, no one in the community of Cameroonian artists with whom I was in contact had spoken about him (for good reason, he has lived in West Africa for more than 40 years!).

After a long process of investigation, of more or less hazardous leads, I managed, the result of the combination of a lot of luck, chance but above all determination and will, to get in touch with him (far from simplifying my research, he has since changed his stage name, calling himself “Teddy Mount Ometh”).

I explained my project to him and, having passed the stage of surprise and disbelief to be contacted by a “little young person” who came to talk to him about works from 40 years ago that he himself no longer owned, he , after a period of reflection, agreed to embark on the adventure, seduced by the sincerity of my approach aimed at paying tribute to him, and giving a spotlight to his career in order to make him known outside the African continent , in Europe, the United States and Japan.

From then on, we were in contact almost daily until the reissue came out. It was indeed fundamental for me to fully integrate him into the re-edition process, of which I managed all the stages: validation of titles, long discussions to enable me to write his biography and obtain documents, photos and titles. exclusives, validation of the quality of the remastered titles, validation of the graphic elements and the cover, which I entirely designed for the occasion.

(As part of my reissues, I like to reuse all or certain elements of the vintage album covers as a wink, which was not possible here, the design of the 33 rpm and 45 rpm original containing extremely few graphic elements suitable for reuse).

Since the release of the record 2 weeks ago, I have systematically sent him photos and initial kind feedback from listeners of the record, and he is very touched!

 

We remind you that 50% of the profits will be donated to the artist and it is therefore important to support labels like yours. Can you tell us where we can get the album?
Thank you for your support, extremely touched!

Indeed, in the reflection linked to this release, I decided that, in an approach that I hope is ethical, I will henceforth donate 50% of the profits on the sales of the reissued albums. This seems to me to corroborate with the more global desire to highlight and conserve this heritage, for which I have been fighting for years.

Also, at the risk of breaking down open doors, we must not forget that without these artists/groups/producers, no reissues!

And the pleasure of seeing an artist (too many of whom have often been forgotten over time) marveling at the energy spent finding him and trying to bring him back to light, is priceless for me!

The album is available for order on my label's bandcamp (https://nangabokorecords.bandcamp.com/), for order by direct message, and already at many French and international partner record stores (we won't say never enough, but support your local record stores, they are vectors for saving, discovering and spreading musical alternatives!).

Also, on this subject, in case some of your readers are the happy owners of record stores, it is possible to place an order with my distributor “The Pusher Distribution” for boutique prices.

 

Are there any other projects coming up at Nanga Boko Records? Where among your many other projects?
Yes, I am already working on my next reissue on my label Nanga Boko Records! I can't tell you more at the moment, but you will have news soon!

And beyond the re-editions, several surprises and new features which should see the light of day soon!

 

Thank you and see you for the rest!
A big, big thank you to you, and the entire Exit Stamp team for your interest and support for my approach! Long live Exit Stamp!

Get "Njitna!" in LP / Digital

 

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