Musician, club owner, producer, talent scout: Verckys (born Georges Mateta Kiamuangana) was a giant of Congolese music, with fingers in all manner of music business pies. Recruited by legendary rumba band leader Franco, he cut his teeth in the ’60s with OK Jazz, then one of the biggest bands on the Kinshasa scene and a foundational influence on the development of modern Congolese music. Eventually Verckys left to lead his own band, Orchestre Vévé, where he continued to hone his sound, marked by bright guitar melodies, funky horns (Verckys named himself after saxophonist King Curtis: Curtis, Vurkis, Verckys, you see how it happened), and drum patterns that are both intricate and highly danceable.
Verckys’ influence on the Congolese music scene wasn’t limited to his own music–he was also instrumental in producing and promoting the music of other artists, including Bella Bella, Empire Bakuba, Grands Maquisards and Trio Madjesi. He built his own studio and nightclub that became a major music venue in Kinshasa, and in 1974 founded his own label, Éditions Vévé.
Now Sterns Music, venerable distributor of African records, is doing a comprehensive digital reissue of the label’s catalog –10 singles, 15 albums, plus six compilations albums–and some of it is already available, with much more to follow. Here’s a four-track taster to get you started. Enjoy!