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July 28 - August 4, 2000

[Music Reviews]

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** Stacey Earle



At 75, Congolese singer Wendo Kolosoy is the great-grandfather of the music we know as soukous. With his group Victoria Kin, he hit the scene in Leopoldville (now Kinshasa) in 1946 and soon thereafter had a 78-rpm hit with the song "Marie Louise," which is reprised here nearly a half-century later. Wendo languished in obscurity as Congo music went international in the 1970s and '80s. But now, wonder of wonders, he's back. The voice is big, a tad rough and wavy with age, but still capable of a clear yodel-like falsetto, as on the humorous "Youyou Aleli Veka."

This set of 10 swinging numbers invests the gentle, seductive sound of classic Congolese rumba with the clarity of modern recording techniques. Before the pummeling bass drum of soukous arrived, rumba singers crooned over lively, open shaker-and-conga accompaniment, a stripped-down version of the old Cuban son percussion, and that's what we get here. Lilting, melodious guitar playing has always been a mark of Congo music, and Vulu Missy's picking here is gorgeous throughout, whether she's chunking out low accompaniment passages or crafting lively soukous leads as on "Soki Olingi Ngai." Wendo's improvised vocal duet with Cameroonian veteran Anne-Marie N'zié, "Tokutani," is particularly choice.

-- Banning Eyre
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