Congolese music has a storied history and, over the past 40 years or so, Kanda Bongo Man has been right at the centre of it all, developing his sparkling brand of soukous initially with Orchestre Bella-Mambo and then, following a move to Paris at the end of the 70s, his solo career.
Kanda sings in his native Lingala, a relatively young language, and it is testament to the power of soukous music that it has in itself helped the spread of Lingala in becoming the lingua franca of that region of Africa.
His development of soukous led directly to the genesis of kwassa kwassa, a dance where the hips move back and forth to the rhythm and the hands follow. Soukous literally means ‘to shake’. That’s what kwassa kwassa is all about, and that’s just what this music makes you want to do.
African rumba music was always very moving, but the advent of soukous, with its increased tempo and emphasis on the dance, meant that there was a new party in town. Nobody has shone brighter in championing this style than Kanda Bongo Man, although he still prefers to refer to it as Congolese rumba.
The essence of this music is to make people happy, to elicit some positive emotion. On occasion, Kanda will use his music to aim a barb at the corruption within the Democratic Republic of Congo’s politics, but mostly this sound is one of fun and nutrition for the soul. Singing mid to high-range tenor tones, his vocals weave in and out of the core of unrelenting dance rhythms and darting guitar licks, and the result is both mesmerising and joyous. If you’re down, this music has the power to lift you up. And if you’re up, it can take you higher.
Kanda loves to cook and, on 12th October at Komedia, he is guaranteed to feed us something delicious.
Within seconds of entering the room, the sense of anticipation was palpable. One felt sure that some exciting Congolese rhythms were certain to banish any rainy-day blues. The band made their way on to the stage, nonchalantly picked up their instruments and began to play their opening number, sung by…
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