Wendo Kolosoy / Amba
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Wendo Kolosoy
Amba
World Village (www.worldvillagemusic.com)

cd cover Now nearing 80 years of age, Wendo Kolosoy still sings with more style, grace and emotive distinction than many a younger man. Affectionately (and accurately) called the grandfather of Congolese rumba, Kolosoy has been making hit records since 1948. In 1997 he resurfaced after nearly 30 years of inactivity (coinciding with the despotic reign of Mobutu, during which the Congo became Zaire and musicians deferred to the dictatorship or kept quiet) and stepped comfortably back into his status as an African music legend. Things had changed- the easygoing, percolating rumba style had been largely overtaken by the slicker, glossy sounds of soukous.

Listen!
Nonetheless, Kolosoy stayed true to the roots of the music he'd pioneered decades earlier, and Amba, recorded in the Congolese capital of Kinshasa, makes no concessions to anything but a desire to make sweetly seductive rumba. Congas and small percussion roll out the rhythms that crossed the Atlantic from Africa to Cuba and back again, and the sparklingly conversant guitars and bass that add melody to the beat invite dancing as well as simply laying back and enjoying. Horns are added here and there, but this is mostly rumba at its rudimentally brilliant best. Kolosoy's gravel-and-honey voice, admittedly weathered but still full of verve, floats and dances amid solid support from a quartet of harmony and singers who sometimes take over lead vocals entirely.

Indeed, although it's Kolosoy's name above the title, this is very much an ensemble effort, and the exemplary work of the Victoria Bakolo Miziki Orchestra (if it's proper to call an 8-member group an orchestra) keeps the feel collaborative. But all the trademarks of Kolosoy's singing, including those great clipped falsetto yelps, are a big part of the appeal here. Particularly lovely is "Essengo ya ngai Wendo no Moundanda," on which Kolosoy is accompanied only by Antoine Moundanda's likembe (thumb piano), bringing together two Congolese veterans unafraid to go for something different, regardless of how late in the game it may be. If you're among the many who enjoyed the recent back-to-basics works by such Congolese artists as Sam Mangwana and Kekele, you'll love this too. - Tom Orr

CD is available from cdRoots

Audio ©2003 World Village and used with their permission (www.worldvillagemusic.com)


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