Alain Nkossi Konda
Africa-Pella(Afrikool Music Productions–Germany, 2003)
While there is plenty of folk roots music coming from the African continent, a multitude of African pop artists hailing from the Diaspora have also appeared on the scene including such artists as and others too numerous to mention here. And in fact, new genres have been created for African pop to distinguish it from its folk-rootsy cousins. Newcomer Alain Nkossi Konda is a member of a new generation of Afro-pop artists in their 30’s and blending modern technology with African rhythms and sensibilities. This new generation of musicians appears more interested in love and relationships than previous generations that explored spirituality and social issues. That seems to be the case on Nkossi Konda’s Africa-Pella, a recording that marries stylized African beats and guitar with warm programming, resulting in pleasant light pop that will please listeners who would rather walk on a road paved with commercialism, that the old dirt road of the ancestors. That’s not to say that Africa-Pella lacks sincerity or passion, but is most likely the product of Congolese musician spending most of his years in one of the world’s music capitals, New York City where a musician can’t help, but be shaped by the pop music industry. His penchant for entering songwriting contests has also led him on the road to commercial success. He was the first artist to sign to Harry Belafonte’s Niger Records label (Palm Pictures). However, Konda is manning his own ship and destiny. True to his animal namesake, (Nkossi means “lion” in the Kikongo language), Konda too has a lion heart going boldly where other musicians fear to tread and his only safety net comes from his familiarity with pop structure and African music. Yet, the tracks on Africa-Pella leap frog into various genres ranging from Marley anthemesque Middle Passage and Let Me Hold You to the funky Bolingo and the haunting chamber piece, Flame and the Wind. The opener, Unconditional Love (winner of the John Lennon Songwriting Contest, 2003) and the radio-friendly Manuela also appeal to Konda’s songwriting talents.
The music here is fresh-face and overly slick at times. It sometimes suffers from an artist trying to tame the musical force. Konda could certainly benefit from working with musical collaborators and a talented producer while finding his true musical roots as opposed to cribbing off of pop musicians that came before him. There’s an original voice waiting to be released, if only he would give up control and tap into it. As it is, with so many African pop artists releasing CDs with a pop emphasis, we might grow weary of this genre in the near future.