Name: Les Mamans Du Congo
Interviewee: Gladys Samba
Occupation: Songwriter, vocalist
Current release: Les Mamans du Congo have teamed up with producer Rrobin for their self-titled album out via Jarring Effects.
If these thoughts by Gladys Samba piqued your interest, visit the Les Mamans Du Congo facebook profile.
When starting out, many artists want to "change the world" with their work. What was this like for you? What were some of your early ambitions and in which way were you able to realise them?
I will say that I am not, in this place, different from other artists. I have things to say, to denounce, get people back on track, educate or give my reading of society. I think that's what wanting to change the world is. I do it through my songs and my various interventions on stage. My texts are intended to educate.
In the song "Boom" for example, I criticize these mothers-in-law who mistreat their daughters-in-law because it is not uncommon to see in our society several women tend to transform the wives of their sons into servants. (laughs) They force them to almost do all the household chores when the young couple lives under their roof.
My first ambitions therefore include the education of society, the enhancement of those of our traditions that I consider good to preserve, the enhancement of our lullabies. I manage to do that thanks to the music, to the show.
The emancipation of the African woman is a key goal of Les Mamans du Congo. Why do you feel so passionately about this topic?
Within the Les Maman du Congo group, we want women to find their rightful place in society, not to be inferior to men. For this they must be free to express themselves wherever the need arises because we find that in many homes it is the man who dominates; the last word is his. This is a flaw in our society. Yet it is often the woman who spends more time with the children (laughs). This sufficiently shows that she contributes greatly to their education. Fight.
Tell me a bit about the situation of women in your own country, Congo, right now. How would you describe the possibilities for women to express themselves through music or other forms of art?
Women do not fully occupy their place in our society. There are too many situations that do not allow us to move forward and especially to be autonomous.
This is due to two major causes: poor social organization which has given rise to bad habits. Men have, for far-fetched reasons, wanted to put women in second place, which should make them their assistants without any rights to equal them. There are exceptions but I'm speaking in general terms here.
On the other hand, there are also, unfortunately, those women whom I call lazy. Those who think that it is the man who should solve all the problems in a home. When I say everything, I think of their clothing, meals, children's education, rent ... For women devoted in art or other fields, the possibilities for advancement are there and are sometimes very great. But help yourself, heaven will help you (laughs).
While giving themselves the means to claim their place in society, women must also take responsibility and like the drop of water which by dint of falling on the stone ends up piercing it, it must be a fighter and then arm itself with perseverance.
How did Les Mamans du Congo get founded? Who are the other players in your group?
It is a project that I had for a long time. (laughs) To value these songs which rock or rock children in our Congolese and even African culture. I wanted to ensure that they do not disappear and are children who will be born tomorrow and we were there in 2000-2021. I ran a restaurant and the idea came to me to bring together a few women for a residency to show them the value of lullabies and how to use them in the education of our children. Children singing in our languages facilitates understanding.
I did it twice then the organizers of the Brazzaville Mantsina theater festival on stage asked me to lead workshops during the festival. This was the meeting in 2018 with Marie Audigier, the deputy director of the French institute, who had recently arrived in Brazzaville. It was her who had the good idea to retain a group that had to work with me in a way permanent. There I integrated into the artistic work what is linked to the daily life of women in my country.
It must be said that the composition of the group has not remained the same from the start. Women who were there at the creation left for various reasons, some like Argéa KIMBEMBE or Odette GHABA stayed. Others like Pénina LIVANGOU, Emira MADIETA and Vanessia NGOUNGAMILANDOU arrived afterwards. There are also men in the group: the percussionist and the DJ.
What were audience reactions to your concerts like?
The public was very moved by this successful mixing and later by the way we worked in the concert. For the new generation who ignored those melodies and who were born into hip hop, rapping is like serving burgers in the grandmother's pot they are seeing for the very first time. I have seen this curiosity even in my own children. For the older generation it was nostalgia, a return to the source.
How did you get in touch with Rrobin and what were some of your goals when you started to work on the project?
I met Rrobin thanks to Marie Audigier, the deputy director of the French Institute of Congo in Brazzaville, whom I would like to thank here. The stated goal was to create hybrid music.
The album fuses African lullabies, electronic music and hip hop. What do these types of music have in common that made it seem like a good idea?
What these types of music have in common is the rhythm. Rrobin created his music and I sang with the same rhythm.
We recorded in two stages. Rrobin came to Brazzaville with Céline FREZZA, sound engineer, and there we did a first job at the Christ Roi studio. Then I went to Lyon where we recorded at Jarring Effects.
The lyrics to the songs seem to be of particular importance for this project. What do they deal with, concretely?
Several subjects are mentioned. The words are sometimes addressed to the child to console him and from a certain age to educate him. It is also the fight against social injustice that is put forward without forgetting the transmission of cultural values and the valuation of women.
I also sing the daily newspaper in Congo and in Africa.
In which way do you feel as though music can also bring about change and lead to tangible improvements? What have been some of the most important successes you've had so far?
Music should change by improving the musician's daily life. It is a profession that should support those who practice it. Sometimes this is not the case in Congo, but it should be. And the musician, through his songs, positions himself as both an educator and, in any case in my case, a guardian of memory and all this for the well-being of society.
I have very beautiful memories of the sixth games of the Francophonie in Beirut, in 2019 I was the first winner in music in Congo of the creation visa program of the French institute, passed on several times on rfi is also for me a great success. There I go on an African and French tour (; it is also a very important success.
Do you feel it important that artists become more engaged with the political / ecological / social challenges facing us? If so, what are the best ways to do this?
For me, the artist must be useful. This is what I developed above.
Commitment is a very important act because it allows you to defend noble causes. I’m not in politics, that’s clear, but I do take a stand. Preserving the environment, gender equality, educating children and defending their rights … this is what should concern an artist. You have to sing it all, bring it to the stage.
For interested readers, what are books, websites, articles or other sources of information you recommend for them to educate themselves on the topics addressed on the album?
You have to listen to the words of African griots, storytellers and other keepers of memory who have left writings. I follow in their footsteps in my own way. But I draw mainly from oral literature.