Crammed Discs is releasing Roots of Rumba Rock: Congo Classics 1953-55 in North America. This essential collection documenting the early days of Congolese pop is finally re-issued as a double CD including both of the separate, original volumes. Lovingly put together by (Congotronics man) Vincent Kenis, RRR contains 40 tracks and chronicles the birth of what was to become Africa’s most popular musical style.
In the early 1950s, Kinshasa (then called Leopoldville) became a musical beehive. Situated close to the mouth of the Congo river whose countless affluents always were the main means of communication in Central Africa, it was a meeting point for a wide variety of ethnic groups which soon merged their traditions to create new musical styles. But the main reason why the music of Kinshasa grew so strong and conquered all Africa lies in its spectacularly successful reappropriation of Afro-Cuban music, which was instantly recognized and adopted as a prodigal son coming back home.Despite its brutality, the Belgian colonial system didn’t interfere much with
the social life of the ‘natives’. On the contrary, to promote the myth of
‘Kinshasa the fun city’ and attract cheap labor towards the industrial centers,
the powerful Radio Congo Belge broadcast intensively its local music, not
suspecting that it would be perceived all around Africa – just like rock’n’roll
was perceived in Europe and the USA at the same moment – as something completely
new, radical, exciting and subversive, because it suggested a modernity which
owed nothing to the Europeans.
The origins of Congolese rumba, its strange links with traditional music, French
crooners and Belgian brass bands… the spectacular reappropriation of Afro-Cuban
music by Kinshasa musicians who recognized some of the old likembe (thumb piano)
patterns originally brought to Cuba by Congolese slaves and proceeded to adapt
them to the electric guitar.
The social context and the lifestyle of Congolese musicians in the early
Fifties is extensively described in the liner notes written by Vincent Kenis and
based on interviews with musicians from that era.
The artists featured include Bowane, De Wayon, Liengo, Adikwa, Franco (then in
his early teens) and some other founding fathers of rumba.