See unseen James Brown in Bongo Flava

BONGO Flava artistry now enjoys a global appeal after finding a key to American Rhythm and Blues, most importantly the  mastery of its syncopating phraseology.

It is mission accomplished for Bongo Flava music today and the genre has been passed globally as a gleaming fusion of the American beat and traditional poetry of Coastal Swahili-speaking people of East and Central Africa that existed for over five centuries now.

Bongo Flava has made a sky-high success globally as seen through the works of artists like Diamond Platnumz, Rayvanny, Ali Kiba, Marioo, Zuchu, Aslay  and  Mbosso, the current megastars of the genre.

James Brown, the most sampled American artist by many Hip Hop artists, has never been in the menu of inspirational figures of Bongo Flava today, though he is everywhere in the music of the new generation from the golden days of Cavacha, Ndombolo and Techno Soukous to modern days’ Afro Beat(Naija Beat) Bongo Flava and Amapiano,

James Brown’s mega hits; 𝗚𝗲𝘁 𝗨𝗽 (𝗜 𝗙𝗲𝗲𝗹 𝗟𝗶𝗸𝗲 𝗕𝗲𝗶𝗻𝗴 A) 𝗦𝗲𝘅 𝗠𝗮𝗰𝗵𝗶𝗻𝗲, Give It Up Or Turn It Loose and Funky Drummer has a lot to tell the new generation since they have been sampled, copied or re-mastered by countless music practitioners worldwide.

Michael Jackson, whom the megastars of the continent’s music adore, is the most successful James Brown disciple of many generations.

One of James Brown’s global fans, Manuel Caesars Algadolopez, hailed JB as the man who created Michael Jackson.

In his views written in Spanish, he said: “Grande James!.. rey del soul, Michael Jackson aprendiò de el.(Big up James, the King of Soul, Michael Jackson is his disciple).

James Brown’s Funky Good Time is also worth considering in the kit of the most sampled James Brown hits and that and many more make it hard to overstate James Brown’s contribution to music, both through his own works, as well as the artists that have sampled him ever since. He’s the most sampled artist in music and hip-hop owes a lot to his music – especially his 1970 track, Funky Drummer. The drum break, improvised by his band member, Clyde Stubblefield, has been used by both hip-hop and pop musicians everywhere.

James Brown’s drum break has been used by the likes of Public Enemy, N.W.A, LL Cool J, Run-DMC and more and all these are direct influences of the early Bongo Flava practitioners such as Juma Nature from Naughty by Nature, Professor Jay, Mr Two(From Tupac Shakur)  Afande Sele, Zay B  and Crazy, all Bongo Flava superstars of the late 1990s.

James Brown’s music fan signed as Daniel Mciver added: “The trumpet solo always gets me he did his thing,”

Kimbo Goldfist’s views on Sex Machine stated: “This is by far my favorite James Brown song and I’m huge fan. That beauty just hits me. RIP Godfather of Soul.

“This is one of the best JB grooves out there.  The modulation down to “d” is killer,” added RFD Andrea.

Thomas Franco wrote: “That Guitar Riff takes it to another Level. I remember when I was a kid playing pool in my garage with all the neighbourhood kids who were white. They would crank up the radio when this record would play.

“The funk you hear is phenomenally the impact of what music is and forever more is the blueprint never could be duplicated. It lifts your spirits and makes you wanna get down,” commented Jarmont Smith.

Ronnette Davis had the best description of James Brown artistry: “This was a time when music was made from instruments not a board of tunes; this was bass guitars, saxophones, drums, trumpets and real musicians.”

While Larry Herbert could say this:

“This is a funky tune that’s gettin’ down in the D, funky D, go ahead on Mr Brown, brother you know what you’re doing and all the great musicians that played with you, Mr Fred Wesley’s solo on trombone is fantastic.”

But Daniel Lea had a profound love for James Brown’s guitarist Jimmy Nolen, the inventor of the chicken scratch guitar style and its augmented 13th chord.

“I love Jimmy Nolen on the guitar!!!!”

It was in 1974 when James Brown performed live in Africa during the Rumble in the Jungle project in Kinshasa. After his performance, James Brown changed the whole music of East and Africa at large.

Jimmy Nolen’s guitar style initiated the cavacha guitar style of the then Zaire in 1974. Though it didn’t observe Nolen’s chicken scratch style, playing it to facilitate body and leg shakes was the major exponent of cavacha guitarists of the era like Mpia Mbongongo Porthos, Professor Samunga Tendiagaye, Bongo Wende (Bojack) and Djuke Mokanda who played for Kiam.

Lidjo Kwempa of Zipompa pompa fame was quoted as telling reporter Ado Yuhe that James Brown initiated changes in Zaire Music  and mentioned Bongo Wende among the notable disciple of James Brown funky guitar.


Featuring Bobby Byrd on supporting vocal and b𝗮𝗰𝗸𝗴𝗿𝗼𝘂𝗻𝗱 𝗱𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲𝗿: 𝗔𝗻𝗻𝓮 𝗡𝗼𝗿𝗺𝗮𝗻, 𝗚𝗲𝘁 𝗨𝗽 (𝗜 𝗙𝗲𝗲𝗹 𝗟𝗶𝗸𝗲 𝗕𝗲𝗶𝗻𝗴 A) 𝗦𝗲𝘅 𝗠𝗮𝗰𝗵𝗶𝗻𝗲, for those who saw James Brown perform live labelled him the most hardworking man on stage

“One of the tightest bands on earth!  Bar NONE!”  Nuff said.

“RIP James Brown, Bobby Byrd, and Chadwick Boseman, who played James Brown so good you forgot you were looking at an actor portraying James Brown.”

“JB is the MAN!! We had a lot of fun with James Brown! The man could dance and set a lot of high standards for other people to follow in his footsteps.”

C Magnus North Fleet added: “James Brown was the first person I ever saw in concert and I remember it like it was yesterday. There is no one on earth who could out “SOUL” James Brown. He truly is the Godfather Of Soul, a title only he can wear.”

Michael Wilks said: “I had no idea that James Brown also played the keyboard before watching a similar video of Sex Machine years ago. That cat was something else; he was a musical savant; he was definitely a genius at what he did.”

James Brown, as the most sampled artist of all time, had many disciples and among them are those who influenced the figureheads of early Bongo Flava acts.

The funk legend has been sampled a staggering 8554 times. From Kendrick Lamar to Kanye West; Boogie Down Productions to Childish Gambino; Madonna to The Stone Roses, everyone has found sampling gold in James Brown’s vast discography. Though artists like The Winstons and Lyn Collins follow in second and third, Brown remains a foundational reference for the sound of hip-hop.

The art of sampling is one of the cornerstones of music and it’s a great way for modern listeners to discover music from years gone by.

One of the indirect samples from James Brown is Bring The Noise by Public Enemy, one of the Hip Hop groups admired by many Bongo Flava fans of the 1990s.

A big track in its own right, Public Enemy’s Bring The Noise was built off samples – before being sampled itself. The track’s producers, The Bomb Squad, feature samples from James Brown, Funkadelic and The Commodores.

Since then, it’s been sampled by the likes of De La Soul, Kanye West, Beastie Boys, Prince and Ludacris, so the track has ‘paid it forward’ when it comes to the art of sampling.

Miguel Suleyman is a Tanzanian ethnomusicologist based in Dar es Salaam

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