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A golden age reborn: classic Kinshasa rumba. (Music).




Cat: 45805-2

In March 2002, surviving pioneers of Africa's most beloved dance music - Congolese rumba - came together in a Kinshasa recording studio to recapture the glorious, sensuous music of their collective past.

In the 1950s, when Congolese rumba came of age, Cuban music was an important model, but the tangling, cyclic guitar lines and mellifluous vocal harmonies sung mostly in Lingala quickly came to define a sound that will be forever identified with this city on the banks of the Congo River. The music on this CD offers a rare glimpse into one of the most potent and influential chapters in modern African music.

Rumbanella Band was formed in 1986 under the leadership of Madou Lebon Mulowayi, a guitarist and singer who got his start as the accompanist for the late John Bosco Mwenda, one of the founding fathers of Congolese music.

After a decade working with John Bosco Mwenda, Madou wanted to create his own band dedicated to keeping the classic rumba sound alive. Three other members of Rumbanella Band participated in this recording project: vocalist Lola Bivuatu, bassman Bolita Mzela Zimbika, and guitarist Kankonde Joseph, a.k.a. 'Serpent.'

Serpent actually won his nickname for his football moves as a boy in the 1950s. But when he picked up a guitar and began playing alongside Congolese guitar legend Docteur Nico, the epithet applied just as well to his nimble finger work.

Like Nico and many other Congo music pioneers, both Madou and Serpent grew up and learned their musical skills in the mineral-rich Kasai region, in the southeast of this vast Central African country. They came to the capital, Kinshasa, when it was in its prime, the cosmopolitan cultural hub of the entire region. By then, they were well primed to soak up the fantastic new music that was bursting from every bar and record stall in the city. Soon, they were integral parts of the scene.


After parting ways with Nico over money - a familiar story! Serpent played in a series of important bands before teaming up with Madou to create Rumbanella Band.

Rumbanella's recreation of classic hits, especially by the legendary African Jazz and African Fiesta, make up the core repertoire on this CD. There's also a version of John Bosco Mwenda's signature composition, Masanga Djiya, and an original composition by Serpent, Na Luki Motungisi.

Madou was raised on music recorded for Kinshasa's first record label, Ngoma, music by singers like Wendo Kolosoy, now in his late 70s, who features extensively on this album. Wendo Kolosoy and his pioneering band, Victoria Bakolo Mizike, were on hand as they were just completing the recording of their sensational comeback album, Amba, at the same Kinshasa studio. In a career that stretches back over 50 years, Kolosoy's biggest success, by far, was Marie Louise, a song that could reputedly raise the dead and heal the sick The song also introduced the concept of the sebene, the instrumental bridge, which became a natural part of Congolese musk; and probably Kolosoy's greatest legacy to the genre.

"The sebene began for dancing," explains Kolosoy. "When we played, people wanted to dance more, and this gave them the chance to do, and it gave the musicians a real chance to play. So everyone was happy!"

This collection includes a Wendo composition, BotiakiTembe, performed by Victoria Bakolo Mizike, and a fresh version of Wendo's aforementioned classic 1948 song, Marie Louise, which he sings here backed by the Rumbanella Band. Also found on the album is the king of the likembe (thumb piano), Antoine Moundanda of Brazzaville who contributes a solo composition, and a spontaneous improvisation with his old friend and colleague Wendo, the perfect finishing touch for this rumba pioneers' summit.
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Publication:African Business
Date:Jun 1, 2003
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