Tshibaka Mulomba, Chanteur de Demba, Kasaï Occidental

In December 2003, I spun off a highway driving through a blizzard.  I landed in the median strip, my nerves shattered and my car--a two-door Toyota, low to the ground--hobbled.    I had left Columbus, Ohio, in the early morning and made it to Buffalo around lunchtime.  I stopped for a snack in a truck-stop south of the city.  I was heading for Ithaca, to spend a few days with a friend who was teaching at Cornell.  In the early afternoon, back on I-90, heading east, the storm started.  I am a New Englander.  This wasn't my first time pushing through a blizzard on I-90.  Traffic was down to one-lane, visibility limited, and I had been driving for six hours.  Caught in the wake of a long-haul truck, my front tires pulled to the left and I spun out.    

I rocked the car back to front, shifting the manual transmission between reverse and first gear--this wasn't the first time I had been whipped into the median strip during a blizzard, either--got back onto the highway, slid into the single-file traffic, and took the first exit, looking for a gas station.  The suspension was knocked out of alignment and the car rattled worryingly whenever I slowed.  It was mid-afternoon, Ithaca was another six hour drive, through the blizzard, away.  I didn't have the money to call it a day, to wait out the snowstorm in a Motel 6.  

Fuck it.  Back into the snow.  Eight hours later, I wobbled into Ithaca.  During those eight hours, I focused on two things, keeping the car steady, and Tom Waits' 1992 release, Bone Machine.  I haven't listened to the cassette since, but can still feel The Earth Died Screaming, Jesus Is Gonna Be Here, and Murder in the Red Barn.  

I have survived these final months of the shitstorm that has been 2020, much as I did on I-90 pushing east to Ithaca, by ignoring my environment, focusing on one activity (reading), and listening exclusively to one cassette.  This time, an hour of songs by Tshibaka Mulomba, from Demba,  a small town in the Kasaï Occidental (now part of the Kasaï Central).  These songs were recorded in 1993--not long after Bone Machine.  

This is the sixth cassette from the Kasaï that I have shared, all purchased from street vendors in Kananga or Mbuji-Mayi, in 2011.  This one doesn't sound like a live performance--that is, made in front of an audience.  I don't think it is a live-to-boombox recording, either.  My guess is that these songs were recorded in a radio studio.  

I hope Tshibaka Mulomba can help you, as well, get through these final weeks of 2020.   

Keep it on repeat. Enjoy!! 


  1. such a warmth to this. thanks so much for sharing. these are some of my favorite sounds in the world. still desperately searching for more stuff like this

  2. Loving these joyful sound! Thanks, Matthew!

  3. Great Tape & Sublime singing choirs!!!!
    Definitely helpful during this hard times on the I-90 of life... pushing with focus !
    Blessings & Love


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