Kékélé, Congo Life

Banning Eyre

By Banning Eyre

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
Rumba as it might have been.

Beginning in 2001, these Congolese veterans triggered a move away from the bloated, high-tech conventions of Congo music, back to its Latin and acoustic roots. On their second album, Kékélé hit stride not so much with retro authenticity as with reimagined originality — rumba as it might have been. Each soaring voice, snap and sizzle of percussion, and gleaming acoustic guitar note (mostly from the great Syran Mbenza) sounds vivid and in perfect balance. Four vocalists — Wuta-Mayi, Nyboma, Bumba Massa, and Loko Massengo — trade leads throughout, and join in brilliant choral backing. Tasty accordion spicing from Regis Gizavo of Madagascar, and an all-clarinet horn section make for a unique soundscape. "Issake Shango" showcases Nyboma's soaring tenor and Syran's brisk acoustic guitar. There is one 6/8 number, "Oyebi Bien," but the rest is rumbaof the '60s Kinshasa variety, with Cuban flavoring: violin charanga on "Bebe Yaourt,” and son on "Affaire Mokuwa."