Pepe Kalle, Young Africa

Chris Nickson

By Chris Nickson

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
Don’t cry dube, the Elephant is here!

They called Pepe Kalle the Elephant, an apt moniker for the 300-pound man who was a pan-African star until his death from a heart attack. A homeless child raised by Congolese musician Joseph Kasabele, he had music in his blood, and his slightly husky, bluesy voice was a perfect vehicle. This is what they were listening to in Kinshasa in the ’80s, and though they can't capture his stage antics (including the dancing dwarf!), these tracks are a guaranteed party — especially “Don't Cry Dube” and “Keba Na Mopede,” where the grooves never stop and the guitars ring loud and clean. Kalle isn't as effective on slower material like the unfocused “Karibu,” but get him on the faster, convincing soukous and the man was a demon. At times the ’80s sound (Syndrums and synths) date it, but overall, the music is so convincing and powerful that it can overcome any reservation.