4 Generations of Congo Music



from afropop.org and http://www.worldmusic.net:

Click on the link below to listen.


Afropop Worldwide produced a nice podcast that takes us on a historic trip through four generation of music from the Democratic Republic of Congo. No other country’s music on the African country spread so much like the Rumba or Soukouss which was engineered in Kinshasa and fascinated millions on the continent.

Congo has always played an oversize role in entertaining dance lovers on the continent and beyond–Franco, Tabu Ley, Doctor Nico, Zaiko Langa Langa, Papa Wemba, Pepe Kalle, and others.

We start in pre-independence Congo with the beloved “Papa” Wendo Kolossoy (RIP), the grandfather of rumba, as he talks with us at his home in Kinshasa. We talk to the man and listen in on a recording session. After sitting out most of the 3-decade Mobutu era, Wendo put together a band of veterans with stories to tell, and sweet melodies and rhythms to share.

We also talk with the legendary singer and composer Simaro Lutumba who sat at the right hand of Franco. We catch Simaro rehearsing his band, Bana OK. We also check in with dueling superstars Werrason and JB Mpiana.

There are two countries called Congo—The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the Republic of the Congo. While both capital cities have been involved in the musical developments, it is the capital of the DRC, Kinshasa, that has provided most of the Congolese superstars. Kinshasa was Africa’s undisputed musical heart, pumping out and endless flow of dance music and great bands. Each generation brought its own style, but all played music known in the West as rumba or soukous.

Afro-Cuban rumba stormed West and Central African before and after World War II. It was quickly reappropriated by the Congolese who adapted the piano part for the guitar. Unlike Ghanaian highlife, Congolese music was less influenced by European taste and in many ways more African.

The forefathers of Congolese music include Feruzi, often credited with popularizing the rumba in the 1930s. The cross-border popularity of Congolese music was boosted by a number of practical factors. It was ‘non-tribal’, using the interethnic trading language, Lingala. The guitar style was an amalgam of influences from Central and West Africa.

Finally, postwar Belgian Congo was booming and traders were taking advantage of the commercial potential including the sale of records. Early Congolese labels released a deluge of 78rpm recordings and in the early 1940s Radio Congo Belge started African music broadcasts.



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