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Take a Musical Journey to Africa

Take a Musical Journey to Africa

The Land of Yangalele, a new children’s music CD by Congolese-American artist “Papa Siama” Matuzungidi and singer “Auntie Dallas” Johnson, introduces children to African culture, rhythms and music. Yangalele (Yawn-gah-LAY-lay) means “happiness” in Kikongo, one of the Bantu languages spoken by people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Republic of the Congo, and Angola (and one of the African languages featured on this CD).

Take a Musical Journey to Africa

Disclosure: We received a complimentary copy of the CD below for review purposes; however, all opinions are our own. 

The Music

“The Land of Yangalele” captures the happiness of Siama’s childhood in rural Zaire (now Democratic Republic of the Congo), where generations of family and friends would gather to share songs and stories under the stars. Listeners are greeted in the opening track with, “Welcome to Bas Congo, land of yangalele, smiles, games, dancing and music!” And off you go, on your musical journey!

Monkey Game  “Monkey Game, Monkey Game. Do ya wanna play Monkey Game?” Laugh, swing, and jump through the jungle as the sun is going down. The middle section is a traditional children’s song that is sung in Kikongo.

It’s So Easy To Make a Song  “It’s so easy to make a song. Just play a rhythm and sing along.” It’s hard not to move with this one!

“To the right, to the right. To the left, to the left.
Now reach, reach to the left. And reach, reach to the right.

Now turn around, turn around.

Other way. Turn around, turn around.

To the right, that’s right. To the left, reach down.

To the right, that’s right. To the left, reach down.

Let’s turn around, turn around. Lean into it, turn around.

Other way now, move those hips. Turn around. Turn around.”

Sweet Water  “Plants and trees, roots and leaves need sweet water. Birds and bees, chimpanzees need sweet water.” This song reminds us of the importance of water – and teaches another Kikongo phrase, Maza ni Luzingu (Maw-zaw nee loo-zeen-goo) which means “Water is Life.”

ABCD  “Oh mommy, I want to go to school. Oh, Daddy, to learn more, to learn more.” (Who doesn’t love these lyrics?!)

Ko Yimbi Ko  When Siama was young, sometimes a big hawk would fly overhead scaring the kids, so they’d run around, flapping their arms like a bird’s wings, singing, “Ko Yimbi Ko” (KO yeembee ko) which means “No, Hawk, No!” in Kikongo.

Auntie’s Song” (Yangalele)  “Make it a good day, a good day, oh, my Tantine say.” In this song we learn more words and phrases (in African languages Lingala and Swahili) and greetings (in many different languages).

When We’re Free  This song includes inspiration by the young men of Woodland Hills in Duluth, MN.

Nalingi Bosembo (Peace Lullaby)  This song is sung first in Lingala, then Swahili, then English.

“I want peace in the world. I want every mother to breathe a sigh.

That her babies are asleep with their bellies full and their eyes dry.

Hear my prayer and my plea that we’ll get there and then just let it be.

Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.”

Bokongo Chant (Your Journey) “I hope you enjoyed your journey to The Land of Yangalele. Keep making music!”  A beautiful message to finish the album.

Stream the album. 

The Instruments

Siama plays most of the instruments himself, including acoustic guitar and bass and traditional instruments such as balafon (calabash marimba, or wooden xylophone), mbira (thumb piano), and Jamaican rumba box. Dallas adds penny whistle and toy piano, and David Tullis plays conga drums.

The Artists

As a composer and guitarist from DR Congo (later Uganda, Kenya, Dubai and Japan), Siama performed with major African artists and was a studio musician, recording hundreds of songs during the era of soukous music (1970s-80s). After landing in Minneapolis in 1996, Siama performed in various groups until 2014 when he rediscovered the traditional music of his Bakongo heritage and launched a solo acoustic career. He’s received a McKnight Fellowship and other honors, including being featured on Twin Cities Public TV’s “Lowertown Line”, which aired nationwide throughout 2017.

Dallas M. Johnson was raised in a rural area and began singing and writing songs at age twelve. She moved to New York City for several years before settling in Minneapolis in 1995. She’s released two solo jazz CDs (available on digital outlets), composed two songs on the latest album of Grammy- and Academy Award-nominated singer Jevetta Steele, and composed and performed a song (“Sunday Morning”) on Om Records. Dallas is also a community arts organizer, hosting fun events for kids in her neighborhood.

Siama and Dallas met in 1996 through playing music. Years later their friendship blossomed into love and Dallas started singing and composing with him in 2015. Children’s enthusiasm for their music inspired the birth of “Papa Siama and Auntie Dallas.”

A Musical Journey to Africa

In addition to concerts for grownups, they host interactive African music programs for young children. Kids love their “Instrument Petting Zoo” (a hands-on music experience) and they teach workshops on Songwriting and African Singing.

The album release is March 23, 2018 from Siama Music. CDs and downloads are available now.

Journey Further

  • Learn about the DR Congo, its history, people and environment, and the issues facing the country.
  • Watch a special PBS program about Siama’s life and music here, or watch him playing mbira with singing birds near the headwaters of the Mississippi River on his YouTube channel.
  • The album liner notes include lyrics and guitar chords, a glossary, an African map, pictures of instruments, and a quiz to enhance the educational fun relating to these 10 tracks. Discover more, and download the lyrics and a coloring page by award-winning cover illustrator Kayla Harren at SiamaMusic.com.

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