The inter-locked guitars, swinging horn sections and sublime vocal harmonies are what make Congolese rumba the most exciting and infectious dance music in Africa. The Rough Guide To Congo Gold picks out some of the best examples from rumba innovators that include Franco & OK Jazz, Tabu Ley Rochereau, ‘Docteur’ Nico, Sam Mangwana and Madilu.
Franco was undoubtedly the greatest bandleader in Congolese music and the celebrated history of his band TPOK Jazz stretches back to 1956. ‘Azda’, from 1973, features one of the best advertising ‘jingles’ ever committed to wax – Franco’s sales pitch for a Volkswagen dealership. ‘Mujinga’, from 1981, is typical of Franco’s conversational style of composition and features two women bickering. One of the most internationally successful Congolese singers, Sam Mangwana assimilates numerous other styles into his rumba including highlife, makossa, salsa, marabenta or merengue. On the 1980 track ‘Tchimurenga Zimbabwe’, Sam offers his solidarity in the struggle for independence. Wendo Kolosoy is acknowledged as the great surviving legend of the country’s first generation of musical heroes and ‘Marie Louise’ was his biggest hit. The original version included here was released in 1949.
Joseph ‘Kalle’ Kabasele was the first great Congolese bandleader and his group L’African Jazz was the launching point for the vocalist Tabu Ley Rochereau, who went on to become the greatest singer in Zaire. Rochereau – featured here on the memorable and melancholic song ‘Adios Tete’ with L’African Jazz – eventually broke from African Jazz along with ‘Docteur’ Nico to form the rival band African Fiesta. Nico, one of the Congo’s most innovative and refined guitarists, displays his subtle melodic prowess on the Hawaiian guitar on ‘Mamu Wa Mpoy’. Nico and Rochereau eventually split and by the early 1970s, Rochereau had renamed his African Fiesta group as L’Afrisa International. Rochereau was also responsible for launching the careers of many of Zaire’s greatest singers including Mbilia Bel, one of Africa’s finest and most popular female artists. Celebrating a uniquely global musical hybrid, this ‘Gold’ selection stretches from the early pioneers of the late 1940s and 1950s like Wendo Kolosoy and Kallé Kabasele right up to the great 1990s recordings of former OK Jazz veterans Papa Noel and Madilu System. ‘Bon Samaritain’ is from Papa Noel’s 1984 album and Madilu’s distinctive and popular chuckle is showcased on the song ‘Biya’.
Rooted in Congolese traditional rhythms and influenced by Cuban music, European folk, jazz styles and colonial military and church orchestration, The Rough Guide To Congo Cold is packed full of sweet harmonies, spiralling interlocked guitars, sassy horns and swivelling hips.