Franco & TPOK Jazz: AZDA

Track

AZDA

Group

Franco & TPOK Jazz

CD

Francophonic: Franco & le TPOK Jazz (Sterns Music 3041/3042)

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Musicians:

Franco (guitar, vocals),

and unidentified band

.

Composed by Franco Luambo

.

Recorded: Kinshasa, 1973

Albumcoverfrancophonicsfrancoandtpokjazz

Rating: 93/100 (learn more)

When this song was released in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) in 1973, few paid attention . . . at least initially. But over time, it spread across Africa and into Europe, where it introduced many new listeners to the sound of the now legendary Franco and his band TPOK Jazz. Many assumed that this gently lilting performance was a love song. But A.Z.D.A. was actually the acronym of a Volkswagen dealership with outlets located in a number of Zairean cities. When the band starts singing Vay-way, vay-way, vay-way, vay-way vay-way, a chant that takes up about half of this lengthy track, they are simply relying on the local pronunciation of VW.

Yet there is much to savor in this song beyond the astute product placement. "AZDA" sounds deceptively simple, but the structure is intriguing. An odd call-and-response serves as the centerpiece and "hook" to the tune, and is based on a lopsided repeating five-bar structure. The call is one bar of solo vocal with four bars of harmonized response—not a pattern that you would find in Western commercial music, but it works in this context. This peculiar interlude kicks in around the two minute mark, and seems to go on forever (actually three minutes of official iPod time). When it finally ends, we get a taste of horns—but only a taste: few recordings bring along so many musicians for so little work. Then comes dessert, an electric guitar solo. But instead of the single note lines one would encounter in the West, we are treated to some classic Congolese guitar: a kaleidoscope of sound built on pinging, open chords, sometimes little more than two notes, played strong and bright. The energy level picks up, and even the hornplayers decide they need to put in some more work in order to earn those free Volkswagens (24 musicians in the band reportedly got a free car). They come back from their break in time for the fadeout as we approach the eight minute mark. Don't tell the AZDA folks, but this song is a Cadillac, pure and simple.

Reviewer: Ted Gioia

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  • 1 momodou Dukuray // Mar 30, 2009 at 07:04 AM
    I WOULD LIKE TO HAVE FRANKOS HIT CD,S OR ANY OTHER OF HIS MUSIC, BUT DONT KNOW WERE TO BUY THEM. THANKS, MOMODOU
  • 2 Chris // May 06, 2009 at 11:33 PM
    Thanks for the background on this terrific song. Very informative.