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cd cover Kékélé
Congo Life
special price: 15.99

Says fRoots:
"It doesn't sound so difficult: all you need is a bunch of veterans who've served their time in Congolese rumba and ask them to play the music that moved them in the first place. Then see what they do with it. This is what happened when three-quarters of the golden-voiced Quatre Etoiles - Nyboma, Wuta Mayi and Syran Mbenza - joined up with Bumba Massa, Papa Noel, Yves Ndjock, Jean-Papy Ramazani and others, retreating from the flash and grab of soukous to the acoustic wellsprings of rumba. On the strength of their album Rumba Congo, a new career took off - and here, a couple of years down the line, comes number two, an album that shows even more warmth, wit and soul than its predecessor.

"The voices are not unexpectedly glorious, the arrangements as rich and intelligent as you could wish for, with some startling instrumental innovations - violins, for instance, and flutes, a crooning line of clarinets. Papa Noel, Ramazani and Ndjock are no longer with the band, but two key members are: Vincent Hamndjian on bass and Miguel Gomez on percussion. Their contribution, though rarely to the forefront, is massive - in particular, some of the bass lines are fiercely imaginative, practically avant-garde, protecting against any sense of retro debilitation. For this - with all roots showing - is live music for now. There may be a long tribute to OK Jazz, a medley of hits from the Golden Age, but two new songs that follow are more compelling - one, Oyebi Bien, is a composition by the great guitarist Rigo Star Banumdélé, filling the elegant vacant shoes of Papa Noel, and it's an absolute stunner - an unremitting bass riff holds down a Nyboma vocal that pushes up, pushes up, banging its head on the ceiling, liftoff denied, causing the most beautiful suspense. And then the bass relents, the ceiling disappears, and off we go into dreamland. Following this blessed release along comes Bumba Massa's Silence, a truly existentialist cri de coeur concerning the shadow of the past and what you might do about it. The voice is up to it, a torrent of feeling, impassioned but clear-sighted, altogether quite uplifting: which is about fair for the album as a whole." - Rick Sanders

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