Traditions Meet the Future
The sound of rich African rhythms rises from traditional musical instruments. Fused with cultural handclapping and foot-stomping - along with percussion sourced from pots, pans and other kitchen utensils?
This unique sound belongs to the orchestra of Les Mamans du Congo - an all-female quintet from Brazzaville in the Republic of Congo. The group was formed two years ago by the singer, Gladys Samba - known as Mom Glad, in order to empower and educate women in the local region while still honouring cultural tradition within the scope of gender equality.
Today's New African Woman
Gladys Samba, shares her vision for founding the group, "An African mother, especially a Congolese mother, is always forced to work every morning: doing the dishes, washing clothes, washing everything. To forget this suffering, we are used to singing, when we work we sing church songs and based on that I had the idea to create a show that will reflect the image of the African woman, the Congolese woman. That's why you see there are the kitchen utensils."
In addition to the uplifting and positive messages contained in their music, Les Mamans du Congo have also created an association called Les Femmes au Foyer, a safe space for young mothers can learn from volunteers about finances, health care, family planning - amongst other things in order to see them to financial and true independence. A positive move for everyone within the community.
Tombo Alida, a beneficiary of the community association, "The association did a lot of things for me because before, I couldn't even get the necessities for the house, following the association's advice, I learned to buy plates, I learned to arrange my house, I learned to give advice to my children, to educate them well, to supervise them."
Old Habits Die Hard
Challenging and transforming elements of patriarchy towards the emancipation of all women in Congolese society is one of the group’s core missions. But not everyone is in alignment with the messaging.
The uplifting songs fused with rap and traditional tunes in the Lari language has not only been successful in highlighting the history of the local ethnic group but has also made it easier for women within the region to receive the empowering messages contained in the song lyrics.
Faustin Keoua Leturmy, the Manager of Les Mamans du Congo, recalls some of the issues group members have faced within the community, "In our adventure (with the group) we had several complications with some women who had received threats at home after performing in a show. Those women did not come back because their husbands had told them to choose between music and home."
The band has also enjoyed huge success outside of the Congo - boasting both African and European tours that have only slowed in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, Les Mamans du Congo continue to hone their craft as they also give back to the community by way - not just music, but food and supply distribution.
The all-female band is set to release their first single in late November and the ladies also look forward to going back on tour post-pandemic.