Last Sunday, September 22, 1974 (On a day like today, Fania All-Stars made history by performing for the first time in Africa in front of 80 thousand spectators.
A magical night that included wonderful moments. This is their story.
In mid-1974, American boxing promoter Don King organized a fight in Kinshasa, Congo, for Muhammad Ali to regain the crown against the then heavyweight champion of the world, George Foreman, a bout that was called ‘The Rumble in the Jungle’.
Parallel to the boxing match, musician Hugh Masekela and renowned producer Stewart Levine scheduled a series of concerts at the 20 du Maipara stadium in Kinshasa (Zaire) as part of a 3-day festival (September 22-24, 1974) that would later become one of the most important musical events of the century in Africa, which the organizers called ‘Zaire 74’Unfortunately, an injury suffered by George Foreman while training forced the fight to be postponed for almost six weeks, but the music festival did take place.
The event was attended by 31 groups (17 local and 14 foreign) and featured artists such as James Brown, BB King, Bill Withers, Manu Dibango, Miriam Makeba, Fania All-Stars, among others.
The Fania musicians who traveled to Africa and performed at the festival were: Johnny Pacheco (flute), Larry Harlow (piano), Bass: Bobby Valentin (bass), Nicky Marrero (timbales), Ray Barretto (congas), Roberto Roena (bongos), Yomo Toro (Cuatro), Pupi Legarreta (Violin) Jorge Santana (Electric Guitar), Victor Paz, Kurt Ranno, Luis ‘Perico’ Ortiz (Trumpets), Lewis Kahn (Violin and Trombone), Ed Byrne (Trombone), and 6 singers: Celia Cruz, Ismael Miranda, Jose ‘Cheo’ Feliciano, Hector Lavoe, Santitos Colon, Ismael ‘Pat’ Quintana (vocals and backing vocals).
Everything was ready to return to the Big Apple, New York but a major misfortune forced Johnny Pacheco and company to stay.
Although it may seem incredible, musicians and singers had to stay 11 additional days due to a political and social problem in that country, unable to leave the hotel where they were staying. This is how Bobby Valentín tells it in an exclusive interview to Rafael Vega Curry, journalist of elnuevodia.com
“We couldn’t get out. (Jerry) Massucci had to pay an extra $18,000 because we would gather in the rooms to order food and empty the coolers (laughs). There was always someone who said “tomorrow we’ll play in my room”, says the well-known ‘King of Bass‘.
With the concert in Zaire, Fania All Stars had become the first tropical orchestra to set foot on African soil. The show, held at the Statu Hai stadium in Kinshasa, was attended by more than 80 thousand spectators.
It was part of the “Zaire 74” event held from September 22 to 24 of that year, and also featured R&B and Soul artists such as James Brown, Bill Withers and BB King.
In 1974, salsa was at its peak in New York. However, its top representatives were confined within four walls.
Among the musical geniuses were Johnny Pacheco, Ray Barretto and many others who made this orchestra the most important salsa orchestra in its history. Héctor Lavoe could not be missing in that directory.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo, also popularly known as D. R. Congo, Democratic Congo, Congo-Kinshasa or Eastern Congo, and called Zaire between the years 1971 and 1997, is one of the fifty-four countries that make up the African continent. Its capital and most populated city is Kinshasa.
Between October 27, 1971 and May 17, 1997, the African country currently known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo was known as the Republic of Zaire (in French, République du Zaïre).
The name Zaire was given to it during the rule of Mobutu Sese Seko, who ruled it with an iron fist during a long dictatorship, and from whom emanated the political system and the characteristic ideology of the State.
The instability and rebellions that plagued the Congo until 1965 culminated in the seizure of power by Lieutenant General Mobutu Sese Seko, then Commander-in-Chief of the Congolese Army.
Mobutu proclaimed himself president for five years and in 1970 consolidated his power by being elected president without opposition.
In 1971 the new name of the State was adopted, with the official proclamation of the denomination: Republic of Zaire. This name and the new national symbols would remain until 1997, when at the end of the First Congo War Mobutu was overthrown and fled the country.
Upon assuming the presidency of the country the guerrilla leader Laurent-Désiré Kabila proclaimed the Democratic Republic of Congo, recovering its own name.
You can read: Fania All Stars
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