At the end of the day, people
in the village gather around a fire. They come to discuss, to
make music, to confront problems, and to touch the world of spirit.
This creates community. This is Mbongi.
Mbongi (pronounced Bone-gee) is a Congolese
word that means "the learning circle". Mbongi tends
to reduce social strata, promote unguarded interaction, and inspire
respect and joy.
When Titos Sompa and Christopher Hedge
get together with an audience it is also called a Mbongi. It
is as much an action and an event as it is the name of this project
The music of Mbongi allows its listeners
to reach beyond the limits of their immediate cultural experience.
Influenced by a diverse range of musical styles, the composers
instinctively find the common ground. They work with instruments
and musicians from around the world, all of whom contribute the
fruits of their own musical journeys to the mix. Classical, American
Bluegrass, Jazz and Irish folk, Avant Garde electronic and African,
Arabic and Oriental, Mississippi blues and Big Band swing are
just a few of the musical styles that contributed to the birth
The Mbongi style of music and poetry
is not an abstract, conscious attempt to combine world music
but rather, the inevitable expression of its' creators. The chance
meeting of Christopher Hedge and Titos Sompa has resulted in
an ensemble of musicians that embody the inclusive philosophy
that is community, that is Mbongi.
(These samples are in Mp3 format)
I Know What I Want
Dance in Fire
Ma Ma Ngo Ngo (Friendship)
A Big View of the World
Mbongi (The Learning Circle)
You and I
Trail of Tears
the title for a RealAudio sample)
The orchestra tuning, the African drums and many other elements
were recorded with a "Holophone" (the 3-D microphone
used on Pink Floyd's "The Final Cut"). It was one of
three ever created by Hugo Zucherelli, the other two were on
loan to Michael Jackson and The Disney Studios. When Hedge made
Sompa aware of this "once in a lifetime" opportunity,
Sompa called in African drummers from Paris, New York, New Orleans
and throughout the Bay Area to a large sound stage, where they
proceeded to record for days. The voices yelling at the start
were recorded across a valley in the Big Sur National Forest.
What I Want
in Fire" was recorded originally for a live performance
with the legendary, Paul Horn, in a two hundred year old opera
house in Rieti, Italy. The performance eventually became the
subject of the Tony Papa film," Inside Italy". Horn,
Hedge and Mbongi violinist Julian Smedley, were accompanied by
multi-media projections designed to match the intricate architecture
of the opera house.
Ma Ma Ngo Ngo (Friendship)
A Big View of the
Mbongi (The Learning
You and I
Rings of Saturn"
The child's voice before "You and I" , talks about
riding a bicycle around the rings of Saturn. He is Christopher's'
son Nicholas, who was being filmed on the set of a PSA that Hedge
was directing. Nicholas, several High School and college students,
Titos, and Christopher's daughter Brandi, were discussing world
peace in a live filming session, that was eventually aired across
the US and Canada. Over fourteen million people heard their simple
plea for common sense.
background singers on "Animals" are Titos, Christopher
and Jeanie Tracy. They are simply saying "uh-huh" but
meaning a different thing each time. The piece is about slavery
and slave ships but, when they were recording, they were responding
to pictures ranging from corporate cubicles to fast food stores,
dispossessed youth to "singles" clubs. The transition
to "Trail of Tears" was recorded during a Mbongi concert
where Titos is calling for the audience and their ancestors to
celebrate their freedom. He was spraying whiskey over the crowd,
from his mouth.
background telephone voices on "Trail of Tears" , were
friends and family that called in from all over the world. They
were each personally connected with the words "All the people
of the World have a Trail of Tears". They were holocaust
survivors, Central Americans, WWII survivors... Each person understood
that they were speaking directly
compositions © 1997 Titos Sompa/Christopher Hedge - All
rights reserved - BMI/ASCAP
let us know what you think of this music! Email
songs by Titos Sompa and Christopher Hedge
at The Magic Shop
Lyrics - Titos Sompa
English lyrics - Christopher Hedge
by Titos Sompa and Christopher Hedge
and Mixed by Christopher Hedge
Sompa - Lead and Background vocals, African Drums, Kalimbas,
Bells, Baliphone, Percussion
Hedge - Background vocals, Piano, Guitars, Mandolin, Banjo, Bass,
Drums, Keyboards, Percussion
Jett - Lead and Background vocals
by Arthur Blythe, Chico Freeman, Hamiet Bluiett, Olu Dara
McClary - Drums
- Background Vocals
Sompa - Conga - Robert Powell - Dobro (Overture)
Smedley - Violin (Overture - I Know What I Want)
Loeckle - Sax chorus (I Know What I Want)
Brown - Bass (Overture - I Know What I Want)
Pointer - Mandolin (Overture - I Know What I Want)
Shaff - Vocal Chorus (Overture)
Khan - Tabla (Trail of Tears)
- SF Conservatory
of Tears Voices:
Smedley-England Mary Hedge-America Toshi Onuki-Japan Bernard
Argueles-Cuba Erika Luckettt-Portugese Cat Schlyder-Austrailia
Santiago-Mexico Emile Borel-France Kim Hong Seob-Korea Sukhawat
(Julia Zdarsky)-Austria Ron Nasim-Israel
of Saturn" voice and inspiration for "Trail of Tears"
- Nicholas Hedge
people are saying about Mbongi...
want to tell you all about one particular CD that I used in the
fund-drive that got an instant, record-breaking, phenomenal response
from my listeners. It's called "Mbongi" and is put
out on "The Magic Shop" label out of South San Francisco.The
song "Trail of Tears", which is about 13 minutes long,
is one of the most powerful pieces of music I have ever heard.
There is something VERY SPECIAL and unusual about the way Chris
Hedge mixed this CD. My pick for best record so far this year
Producer, "Music of the World"
KPFA, Berkeley, California
is a magical CD. I'll pitch it to my usual outlets, Wired, SF
Chronicle, Pulse, East bay Express, E!online, etc."
j. poet San Francisco
finally here! Mbongi is really as good as I hoped or even better.
I'll do special radio-show about your music 15 of June at 21.05-21.55
(Monday evening here). For me listening of your CD is really
great pleasure,there's something I was looking for a long time.Thank
You once more!"
think it is a lovely album...Sandy was right about the mixing.
Great professional sound without being overproduced. Nice mix
of American and African music.Your Mbongi CD is really a hot
Judith Gennett-Operations Director
you so much for the CD MBONGI. Truely new and unusual music,
just what I like. All morning I've been enjoying it."
your CD with Titos! It is really has a great sound! So very original!
Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame
and special thanks to:
McClary, Rob Powell, Julian Smedley,
Gary Brown, Biza Sompa, Dakota Aime
Nancy, Poppa Joe, Paul Horn, Anthony Choy, Loris Mounkala Nkodia
Gilbert,Jack Hsu, Scott Dewar,
Panattoni, Total Video, Ed Martinez, Dennis Stearns, Kendis Lowe,
MaMaSharon, Brandi, Ryan, Nick, Kinwani,
Tony Papa, Marathon Studios (NYC), Different Fur Studio (SF),
Dolby Labs (SF), Cutting Edge Audio, Matsco