Song:Sous le Ciel d'Afrique
Album: The Essential Collection: Recordings 1930-1938
The German vocal group The Comedian Harmonists were very popular in early 30s Europe. They were unknown in North America. They sang with the legendary Josephine Baker in the 1935 film Princesse Tam-Tam. Soon after they split up due to Adolf Hitler's dictatorship and there has been some interest in them in recent years. The Comedian Harmonists were started in 1927 by unemployed actor Harry Frommermann influenced by the US vocal group The Revelers. After auditions, the other members were singers Ari Leschnikoff, Erich Collin, Roman Cycowski, Robert Biberti and pianist Erwin Bootz. They were very popular but by 1933 there were problems because of the rising Nazi regime. Frommermann, Collin and Cycowski were Jewish. It became so difficult for the group to perform that those three moved to Austria. In the meantime, The Comedian Harmonists were hired to record with Josephine Baker who was probably the biggest star in Europe at the time. Their vocals appeared in two songs in the 1935 film Princesse Tam-Tam. Because the film was shot in Tunisia, The Comedian Harmonists don't appear in the film. But that is them singing. The members who left for Austria formed a new version of The Comedian Harmonists. The members who remained in Germany were forced to change the group name to Das Meistersextett. Neither group was successful and they weren't able to tour the US because no one wanted to hire German acts. The Comedian Harmonists split up for good in 1941. They would have remained forgotten except for a 1977 documentary that aired on German TV. In the 90s, Hannibal Records owner Joe Boyd released a Comedian Harmonists CD. I recommend this 2CD comp from the British jazz label Avid. They were also the subject of the 1997 film The Harmonists and there was even a musical written by Barry Manilow that played in Los Angeles in 1997. Today there is a tribute group called The Berlin Comedian Harmonists that recreates the original arrangement. Here's The Comedian Harmonists featuring Josephine Baker performing Sous le Ciel d'Afrique from the 1935 film Princesse Tam-Tam.