OPIKA

1950 - 1957

Following the example of Ngoma, Opika was the second record label to be set up by Greek businessmen in the Belgian Congo. When the brothers Gabriel and Moussa Benatar established their recording studio in 1950 they already ran a successful company SOLBENA for the manufacture of shirts with shops in Léopoldville and across the Belgian Congo. Later in 1950 the Greek cousins and businessmen Athanase and Basile Papadimitriou began recording for yet another label they named Loningisa.

Opika’s commercial as well as artistic success came in 1951 when Moussa Benatar signed a typist working for SOLBENA who also happened to be an accomplished guitarist.

Opika became a starting point in the career of Joseph Kabasele alias Kallé Jeef or Grand Kallé, who is regarded as a founding father of modern Congolese music and African Jazz as the first modern Congolese rumba orchestra.

International distribution
In order to expand its marked potential Opika enter into a number of exclusive deals with trading companies for whole sale distribution across Africa. Silvades with branches in Brazzaville and Pointe Noire handled distribution in l’AEF (L’Afrique équatoriale française present day Congo Brazzaville, Gabon, Centrafrique and Tchad), S. A. Madubo in Douala covered Cameroun, John Holt Ltd. the Gold Coast and Nigeria and Maison du Disques (Madame Dubois) in Abidjan and later C.I.C.A. Côte d’Ivoire and Upper Volta. The exclusive distribution deals also included agreements to record local artists from Cameroun and from the French as well as English colonies in West Africa that resulted in several hundred releases with artists other than Congolese.

In 1956 Moussa Benatar signed a group of Latin-American musicians to re-record some of Opika’s most successful releases. This business strategy according to one Congolese observer, however, was a miscalculation to such a degree that it eventually led to the label going bankrupt the following year.

Source: Afrodisc

 

Gallery

  • Opika-1420
  • Opika 1801