We now move south into the very center of the continent... and here we discover my favorite of all African music, the angelic sounds of soukous, the music of Congo/Zaire. This region dominates the continent's musical world, and rightfully so... its a languid but utterly spellbinding sound which is at the heart of the debate of whether Latin music originated in Africa or the New World.
The typical soukous song is marked by two parts; the beginning, slower section-known as the rhumba; and the seben, the high-energy, longer tail-end of the song that typically kicks into gear with a drum riff. Trop C'est Trop is a great example in brief, with the rhumba giving way very quickly to the sweet seben section. Tabu Ley is a Congolese legend that can regularly sell out 200,000 seat stadiums in Paris... and I saw him with Katrina & 10 or 12 others in Blind Melon's in Pacific Beach, CA. That remains one of the most unlikely, and mind-blowing, concerts of my life...
10-Trop C'est Trop by Tabu Ley Seigneur Rochereau et l'Orchestra Afrisa, from Trop C'est Trop (France Gefraco, 1990)
Next up is Tabu Ley's predecessor on the soukous scene, Franco. This is classic in every sense of the word, and really shows you where the rhumba debate originates. Vicky has some sweet and super-clean guitar work starting 1.50 in, Franco's trademark...
11-Vicky by Franco, from La Bell Epoque 1966-67 (Sonodisc, 1996)
Diblo Dibala was a member of Tabu Ley's band, but after years of being the featured lead guitarist he wanted to strike out on his own. Loketo was the band he formed, and they went on to make some great albums under his leadership. Extra Ball is classic, but has some cheesy keyboard sections... Soukous Trouble is a bit more rootsy so I'll give it the ever so slight nod. Kimia Eve is but one of the many classic tracks from these two albums.
12-Kimia Eve by Loketo, from Soukous Trouble (Shanachie, 1990)
Charlotte Mbango is next with an all-time Casa Gomek classic. This one has been on repeat play since the late '80s, an absolute scorcher where everything falls in place together... the web of guitars, the shuffling drums, the horn blasts, the Lingala lyrics... it just all works. One of my top ten songs EVER.
13-Dikom Lam La Mota by Charlotte Mbango, from African Typic Collection (Stern's/Earthworks, 1988)
And finally Sam Mangwana, a Congolese of Angolan ancestry. Mangwana was another member of Tabu Ley's band to make good on his own, and this song is yet another example of how guitar SHOULD be played... not as a shrieking air-raid siren but as a weaver of dense sonic webs, nestling you ever deeper in their seductive grasp.
14-Yenga Yenga by Sam Mangwana, from Eyebana, Volume 2 (Ngoyarto, 2003)
Next Destination: South and South-East Africa...