Golden Sounds Band
Swahili Rumba (Naxos World 76055-2, 2003)
Congolese rumba reigned so long as Africa’s most popular dance music that it’s no surprise how easily certain African nations were able to make the rumba sound their own without undermining the sweet core essence of it. In Kenya, such styles as benga (music defined by regional cultural characteristics) and
Indo-Arabic taarab have long been in favor, along with rumba that holds true to the classic Congolese variety. With lyrics largely in Swahili and songs reflecting a proudly Kenyan point of view, this album is sure to delight legions of rumba lovers. Golden Sounds Band structures most of their songs around the
format in which several minutes of sensual, medium-tempo groove eventually gives way to a faster section (the Congolese call it a sebene) emphasizing high-flying guitar work, celebratory vocals (animations) and drum rhythms that go from a trot to a full gallop. They stop short of appropriating the slick,
fast-starting, fast-staying extension of rumba known as soukous, generating ample energy regardless.
I don’t know how old these recordings are- the sound is clean and clear without a lot of the studio sheen that might suggest something recent, so your guess is as good (or better) than mine. Guitars get much of the attention as chiming rhythms, fuzzy solos and deft interplay fill lengthy tracks also laced
with warmly joyous vocals, subtle metallic percussion, occasionally emerging saxophone and lyrics that wax wise on love, faith, human nature and the finer points of East Africa. It’s bright, vibrant music, full of the stuff to hook you in and make you move.
At the very end of the opening “Kazi Ni Kazi” a spoken voice asks “hey, what’s up man?” Well, what’s up is a band that lives up to it’s name by making sounds that are truly golden, and a disc that glitters brightly from beginning to end.