Wuta Mayi: La Face Cachée

Light and Shadow

Listening Post 237. Just as the Congo (Kinshasa) inhabits Africa’s center, Gaspard Wuta Mayi is central to the nation’s musical saga. The rumba singer-songwriter is a veteran of a series of seminal ensembles, including Orchestre Bamboula, which represented the Congo at the landmark 1969 Pan-African Culture Festival in Algiers; TPOK Jazz, the leading Congolese band from the 60s to the 80s; the Paris-based Quatre Étoiles, which surfed the soukous wave of the 80s and 90s; and Kékélé, an acoustic rumba revival group that toured North America in the early 2000s, taking Congolese music to a wider audience. Now 70, Wuta Mayi’s latest album is a masterpiece of light and shadow. Light in two senses—super mellow music, filled with luxurious vocal harmonies and a soothing guitar-accordion-brass mix with gentle percussion; and in the illumination kindling the collection’s nine songs, sung in Lingala with occasional French refrains. Shadow (La Face Cachée means The Dark Side) because it accentuates life’s compromises, complications and contretemps. Kata ba liens (Cut the Ties) portrays a mature couple simultaneously coming apart and clinging together, bitter dialogue offset by the sweetness of their soundtrack (video 1). Passage obligé (The Inescapable Pathway, video 2) is a meditation on death’s inevitability. Pairing the reality of dying with an afterlife is Présence na ngai (My Presence) by Lutumba Simaro, renowned poet-composer and Wuta Mayi’s longtime band mate: Simaro died in 2019, leaving his music to posterity and giving new meaning to this song title (video 3). Other album highlights include the mbube-style harmony of L’union forcée (Forced Marriage) and the reggae inflection of Moninga fungola miso (Friend, Open Your Eyes). The title track likewise wields uplifting sound to cushion hardship (video 4). La Face Cachée generously offers the wisdom of Wuta Mayi’s seven decades: On the scales of life, music weighs mightily on the plus side. (Sterns Music)

La Face Cachée by Wuta Mayi*
Vocals: Wuta Mayi, Nyboma Mwan Dido, Luciana de Mongongo, Elba Top A, Wuta Yale Manza, Mav Cacharel, Nadege Odimba, Deborah Yale
Guitars: Caien Madoka, Fofo le Collegien, Paty Moleso, Samba Emmanuel, Rama Ramazani
Bass: Flavien Makabi, El Cuchi
Accordion: Viviane Arnoux
Sax: Nzeza Freddy, Nicholas Gueret
Trumpet: Kabert Kabasele
Drums: Komba Bellow
Percussion: Jimmy Mbonda, Miguel Gomes
Programming: Nyboma Mwan Dido
Produced by Wuta Mayi

* Due to family practice and also the move to adopt more “Congolese” names after the nation achieved independence in 1960, Gaspard Wuta Mayi is also known as Gaspard Wuta, Paschal Gaspard Mayi, Wuta Mayandi Yundula and Blaise Pasco.

 

Kata ba liens / Cut the Tie
Wuta Mayi

(from the Lingala lyrics, translation by Ken Braun)
In my heart I keep the counsel my parents gave me
If there’s any doubt why I change men as if they were clothes, in my mind I don’t know whom I wronged
Perhaps I’m paying for the sins of my ancestors/Alas and alack!

In my heart I keep the counsel my parents gave me
If there’s any doubt why I go through men as if they were tissue paper, I’ve never known who it was that I wronged, O mother!
Perhaps I’m paying for the sins of my ancestors
O my god!/Cut the ties!

You, Mwutwa Ya Mbuntu, be careful!
Father of children, your years are passing/Beware of young girls!
Father of my children/They will squander your wealth.

Simon, tell me where I can draw the breath to argue with my rival/Young girls today have no fear of an older man
Young girls are coveted/Young girls with eyes wide open
They are not like me/I’m your wife, sir!
They are not like me/Your fanatic in love!
Simon, call me when your blood pressure begins again to rise,
When women tease you upon catching you with your underage mistress

Eyes, never tire that I should still desire him
Yes, woman, yes! Let’s hold ourselves together a little longer, we two. Eyes, never tire, I do declare!
Eyes never tire that I should still desire him/ Even if he’s with someone else
Let’s hold ourselves together a little longer and give it our best/Even when he’s with someone else, right!
Eyes never tire that I should still desire him.
My god!
Let’s hold ourselves together even in tears.
Many tears!

 

Passage obligé  / The Inescapable Pathway
Wuta Mayi

(from the Lingala lyrics, translation by Ken Braun)
Nobody will sing to Death
The inescapable pathway/We will all enter there.

We cry, cry, cry a long time for our friends and relatives who have died/So many tears we shed and hopefully dry
We cry, cry, cry a long time for our friends and relatives who have died/So many tears we shed and hopefully dry

Me, I decline to judge you, Death, for you lack remorse
Whether we love you or hate you, Death/We can never escape you
I decline to judge you, Death, for you lack remorse
Whether we love you or hate you, Death/It will never be possible to destroy you.

O Death! From the beginning of the world, we eat only to remain hungry
I cannot spread doubts about you, Death/On whom could I put the blame?

All we know is how to weep and to bury the dead with some dignity
In the same way we care for a child when he is sick
Our sorrow returns time and time again.

We people in this world don’t know how to heal the sick/Why not?
We cry cry cry a long time for our friends and relatives who have died/So many tears we shed and hopefully dry
We cry cry cry a long time for our friends and relatives who have died/So many tears we shed and hopefully dry.

Nobody will sing to Death/The inescapable pathway
We will all enter there/We are already on the way.

O Death! O Death!
O Death, why are you so evil?
O Death, you took the mother of my children,
And two years later you returned for my younger sister, Anna.
Ah! Ah!

O Death, we follow you wherever we go/O Death, we know you lead us all
Is there anyone who supersedes you? Only Death
Monarch or commoner, Death awaits you/Rich or poor, Death is all you have
You have no ruler greater than Death/Both judge and lawyer defer to Death
Minister of God and witchcraft priest alike bow to Death/O Death, you rule!

Nobody will sing to Death/The inescapable pathway
We will all enter there/We are already on the way

 

Presence na ngai / My Presence
Lutumba Simaro

(from the Lingala lyrics, translation from the Lingala Institute)
You begin again/I know because my eye vibrates
Gossips, gossips
You will want me to talk/People will not know that I was provoked
Gossipers will spread the news
If I say something/You’ll say that I talk too much
You are gossiping again/I know because I bit my tongue

Problems, sorceries/You want a mute person to speak
He will not know that I was provoked/I don’t like insults through insinuations
Then you will blame me

You begin again/I know because my eye vibrates
Gossips, gossips
You will want me to talk/People will not know that I was provoked
Gossipers will spread the news
If I say something/You’ll say that I talk too much

My presence at parties/Makes them so frustrated
Couples get in trouble/We need a doctor, someone is dead

They will crucify me on a cross/Even though I am innocent like Jesus
I am dead because of rivalry/Well, dead, my body is dead

Enemies found a lawyer/They accept to witness
They hate me to death
I have no one to share a secret with/All my friends have become my enemies
So many weak men in Kinshasa/They are afraid of rivals

Troubles in houses/Well, they get rid of their anger through the phone
And you relatives, we know about each other’s ego/You will not win for real
Someone’s value/Doctor, I don’t want problems

 

La Face Cachée / The Dark Side
Wuta Mayi

 


One thought on “Wuta Mayi: La Face Cachée

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s