It took me months to find Charles Rodriguez but I eventually did. "Samy, I found the guy you are looking for..... what his name again?" On the other end of the line the legendary Melome Clement. "We all knew him, he use to hang at our concerts all the time, but i didn't know his name."
About a year earlier I had bumped into a strange looking single. Strange because it was released with a Decca label Sticker but for another label named Alofty Music, which apparently was a shop in Lagos. I had never heard of that Label before and no one in Nigeria had ever heard of that shop...obscurity was total. The two sides of that single are quite similar, while most prefere Side.1 I had fallen in love with the flip Side, "L´amour ne s´achetes pas" (You can´t buy Love) and its amazing Organ Solo (Listen Below)
Melome and myself took a commuter to Ouidah on the very next morning and met the guy that I have been searching for so long. At the entrance a sign board saying "Bar Charlie". A very happy chap, warmly welcomed us:
"You Know Samy, This Bar use to be hot. I am from a highly regarded family so all the heavy guys who wanted a rest in Ouidah, came here for a drink or two. Politicians use to spend their nights sleeping here on the terrace, under the palm trees with their "maitresse". But then everything came to a halt when I had a very severe car accident. I was in a coma for 13 days and had to stay 8 months at Boni hospital. I had saved Three millions CFA, its all gone now. They even cut the light because I couldn't pay my bill."
Charles lived on a very nice parcel of land, on it, two beautiful old houses. He showed us around. We entered one large room painted in a light green, on the ground, carefully laid against the wall, picture frames. Photos of the deceased relatives of the Rodriguez family. In front of the central picture, old brandy bottles, fruits, candles and some other bizarre stuff. I suddenly realize I was in a shrine.
"This is the picture of my grand grand father, Joachin Jacintho Rodriguez, he is buried here. He was a Portuguese trader, he used to ship slaves to Portugal and other european regions. He also had huge lands in Porto Novo, that area is today the center of the town and still carries his name, Jasin. My father was a renown doctor in this region, Fernando Candido Fernandez. We used to be a highly influential family around here so I´m sure you can imagine the reaction when they found out I wanted to be a singer. You will become a dagga smoker, you will be a beggar etc, It was very discouraging. I still believe my family betrayed me. I´m sure that I would have reached something with music.
I started my musical career in ´58 or ´59. At that time Nel Oliver, a friend, was playing with the Daho Jazz Orchestra at the Cheklebo Bar In Cotonou, so I joined him as a vocalist. Few month later I joined a Zairian band, Los Cubano Fiesta which was a Rumba band. We traveled to Lomé in the early 60´s and from there further to Abidjan in the Ivory Coast, I later moved to Accra where I formed a band called Ufredas, I was the bass player. At that time Ignace de Souza and his legendary Black Santiagos were the resident band of the Ring-way Hotel in Accra, I teamed up with them and we moved to Abidjan. I stayed with Ignace till late into the 60s and then decided to come back home. All I found was angry family members telling me "you are the son of the Rodriguez, an Agouda (portuguese ancestry), no no no its not possible, you are spoiling our family's name", this and that."
"I had time to do few more recordings with El Rego before I eventually gave up under the parental pressure. El rego had a club, Le playboy. (when I tell him that he still has it but its now a horehouse - "Un Bordel" - and that El Rego goes there every Tuesday to collect his money, He burst into laughter) Oh really he still has it? I didn't know that. Anyway I did some "chansons Francaises" and he backed me with his band Les Commandos. I was performing with them at the club when I was approached by the owner of the Alofty label based in Lagos. He loved my voice and asked me if I would like to record something for him. I agreed. so we formed a band which were composed of some artist from here and some members of the EKs, a Nigerian band. We practiced for a month and in August ´73 we recorded four Afrobeat tracks which were recorded in a house with a reel to reel recorder. I sang and played the Organ on all four. The music was distributed by Decca"
"In the track "L´amour ne s´achete pas" I´m telling prostitutes to stop drinking and sleeping with men for 2000 or 3000-CFA per day, thats they are wasting their lives. Oh Man, when that song was released I got in all kinds of trouble with the hores of Cotonou, they gave me hard times, but i didn't care..........thats it, that was my last recording." (S)
Charles Rodriguez, Ouidah July 12th, 2006
1.L´AMOUR NE S´ACHETE PAS LISTEN HERE