Bayekeleye (LAA Records LAA001, 2004)
Classic Congolese rumba has long since all but completely morphed into the faster, slicker, more glossy dance music called soukous, though thankfully there are a few masters who have brought about a resurgent interest in the old style.
Artists like octogenarian Wendo Kolosoy and supergroup Kekele continue to show that there’s plenty of sweetness left in the acoustic (or semi-acoustic), Latin-laced rumba sound that prevailed in Africa years ago. Veteran guitarist Mose Fan Fan (who played in such influential bands as Franco’s TPOK Jazz) is another who’s intent on going that same route for now.
Fan Fan’s superb 1999 disc The Congo Acoustic was but one piece of proof that retro rumba was far from dead, and the recent Bayekeleye is rich with the same sort of delights.
The instrumentation is simple- lead and rhythm guitars, bass, a couple of saxes, percussion and a smallish battery of singers is all. But the interplay is so tight, the grooves so grand and the vocals so sweet that the stripped-down approach sounds unbeatable.
Seven lengthy tracks bubble like a warm musical bath, cascading with easygoing guitar wizardry, Afro-Latin beats (got some marvelously subtle Brazilian percussion in there), inviting group and
solo singing and arrangements that often modulate from simply great to downright heavenly. Lovers of the original Congolese rumba should go to whatever lengths are necessary to track down this jewel of an album.
Author: Tom Orr
Tom Orr is a California-based writer whose talent and mental stability are of an equally questionable nature. His hobbies include ignoring trends, striking dramatic poses in front of his ever-tolerant wife and watching helplessly as his kids surpass him in all desirable traits.