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1x Vinyl LP Reissue
Feb 22, 2022
Drunkard - vibro success international orchestra
Finally reissued !
Vibro Success Intercontinental Orchestra was an extraordinary group from the Central African Republic, founded by the sax player Rodolphe 'Beckers' Bekpa, also known as Master Békers, in the late 60's. The band achieved surprising domestic success after Beckers introduced the first drums to the Congolese Rumba rhythm. His innovation proved to be wildly popular so they were hired as the resident band of “ciel d’Afrique au Km5”, a night club in Bangui. The club was renowned as the temple of the Olympic Réal football team's fans and that visibility propelled them into becoming the official national orchestra.
1970 marked beginning of the band's international fame . Their fame spread beyond national borders until they became so popular that invitations began to arrive from nearby countries like Cameroon and Chad, the former of which the band would then tour that same year. The success of their performances prompted a further tour in 1972. According to Rodolphe Bépka, the audience enthusiasm Vibro encountered was bewildering. "We filled the old military stadium in Yaoundé in 1970, in 1972 the new Amadou Haïdjo stadium ... We are running with great success in the cities.” Their popularity was also growing in Chad, where they would tour several times through the early and mid 70's.
Towards the end of 1976, Vibro Success decided to take their music global and introduce Central African music to listeners worldwide. It worked. The turning point came in Nigeria. There the group achieved extraordinary success, with live performances followed by contracts with local labels like Scottie and Ben/Clover resulting in hit releases. Most of their LP's were originally released on this later label, Ben Limited, owned by Ben Okonkwo.
Ben, also known as Clover Sounds, brought a great number of the biggest bands from the country to market, bands like The Apostles, Akwassa,The Doves, Aktion, The Visitors, Mansion, Folk 77 and many others. Nearly all those groups started their recording careers in the label's studios based in the commercial heart of Aba, Abia State, one of Southeastern Nigeria’s largest cities. Aba at that time was a flourishing city, an important crossroads of people and culture with an intensive and active and cutting edge live music and nightlife.
But after that golden era the group began to lose its popularity. In the 1980's they returned to Bangui and resumed their old-time gigs in dance halls there - only to realize that their music didn't have the appeal it used to. Making matters worse, the domestic economic downturn accelerated, forcing the orchestra to slowly end its activities . Vibro Succès Intercontinental Orchestra disappeared at the end of the 80s and most of its members died in the 90s.
We discovered this LP during our first trip to Nigeria in 2016. While traveling in the east to meet up with a musician, we stopped for a night in a village. As often happens in Nigeria, information has a way of traveling fast. The news that a couple of white guys looking for records had arrived in the village the day before spread like light. When we awoke, we found a couple of elderly music lovers in the hall of our hotel with a little pile of records for sale. The nice cover of the “Drunkard” album was right on top!
At first we thought it was just another really good soukous album made by Vibro Success but after we heard “Drunkard” - we knew we had stumbled onto something very special. That was the “easy” part. Soon after, we had the idea of reissuing this LP and that was a bit harder. There were no credits on the cover and not much information about Vibro Succès. We started to ask to our friends to ask around, see if somebody knew them or the producer. That's when sadly we discovered that Ben Okonkwo had passed. So with no leads to follow and seemingly without any possibility of making progress on the matter, we "gave up" and returned to Italy.
A couple years later, in the summer of 2019, we found ourselves again in Aba. This time we had the chance to meet Nnamdi Okonkwo, the eldest son of the late Ben Okonkwo. After Nnamdi's mother and family agreed, he was glad to cooperate with us for the re-release of this special album.
One of the foundational beliefs of Dig This Way Records is to work hard and try to do everything possible to bring back this rare, unknown music to market, allow people to enjoy these beautiful, vibrant vibes!
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