Today we bring you a tale of two Nicos - one a doctor, one a prince.
Dr Nico (real name: Nico Kasanda) was a Congolese guitarist who was one of the pioneers of the soukous sound. He started his career in the 1950s with Grand Kalle et L'Africain Jazz, but left in 1963 to form L'African Fiesta with legendary singer Tabu Ley Rochereau. Tabu Ley in turn left in 1965 but Dr Nico kept the band going until 1973. Apparently he developed a bit of an alcohol problem in later life which led to his premature death in a Belgian hospital in 1985 at the age of 46.
I picked up a compilation of his 1967-69 recordings while in Brussels early in the year. To be honest it doesn't really do much for me, but I do like this rendition of the Percy Sledge standard.
"When A Man Loves A Woman" - Dr. Nico & L'African Fiesta
Much more my sort of thing is Prince Nico Mbarga, leader of Rocafil Jazz, whose "Sweet Mother" is one of the biggest selling singles ever on the African continent, having sold over 13 million copies since its release in 1976. This track was on the "Sweet Mother" LP.
"Aki Special" - Prince Nico Mbarga & Rocafil Jazz
Prince Nico had a Nigerian mother and Cameroonian father and these influences were reflected in his music, which mixed highlife rhythms with soukous-style guitar playing. Like the good doctor, Prince Nico also sadly came to a premature end, being killed in a motorcycle accident in 1997 at the age of 47.
I'm not sure what it is with Nicos and dying in their forties, but this one only made it to 49: