Toto Bona Lokua – Bondeko (No Format!, 2017)
We use music for a variety of things. We use it as entertainment, to get across a message, to get through our daily workout, to get up in the morning or to fall asleep at night. It is our emotional release allowing us to sing and dance at will. It sets the mood for our carnal encounters and plays a central role in many of our religious rites. Music can convey all shades of human emotion, having us politely applauding or behaving like animals. A piece of music can be played to a gargantuan crowd and still the meaning can be felt individually. But perhaps one of the best things is when music surprises us, when it snags those invisible cerebral threads and enthralls us.
That being said, I am pleased, surprised and utterly enthralled by Toto Bona Lokua’s Bondeko out on the No Format! record label. Silky smooth riches eke out of every track on this offering by French-born composer, singer and multi-instrumentalist Gerald Toto; Cameroonian singer and jazz bassist Richard Bona; and singer and songwriter Lokua Kanza from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Slyly cool and cleverly crafted, Bondeko perfects a sound that is smoothly flavorful and richly worked homage to Caribbean breeziness, Afro-beat lushness and African troubadours.
Opening with the birdsong laced “Ma Mama,” listeners are treated to this trio’s spectacular vocals before giving way to the sassy guitar, bass and percussion backed “Naleki.”
“Youwilé” is stunning in its delicate simplicity of vocals backed by a pair of acoustic guitars. Bondeko lightens the mood with the sleekly cool “Je Kango” before giving way to the delightfully deliciously version of Toto’s “Love Train” with percussion and vocals supplied by Mr. Toto.
Equally scrumptious are offerings like “Ngum Nya Ko,” “Thitae and fluidly cool “Tann Tanbou A.” Listeners get a dose of flute and keyboard wrapped guitar and vocals on “Bukuvu” that is surely to lull even the most reluctant listener. Closing track “Awo” is all savage coolness with bass, smart percussion and vocals.
Bondeko’s particular brand of joyfulness makes this remarkable trio an irresistible lure to those cerebral threads. We will just have to content ourselves to be entertained, surprised, enchanted with Bondecko and wait, sort of patiently, until Toto Bona Lokua comes up with something new to dazzle us.
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