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Lokua Kanza
Toyebi Té
Universal France

cd cover Born in the Democratic Republic of Congo to a Congolese father and a Rwandan mother, singer/songwriter/producer Lokua Kanza has established himself as in important figure in the French world music scene. While Kanza's strengths as a producer and arranger earned him work with Miriam Makeba, Papa Wemba, Koffi Olomide, Wasis Diop, Youssou N'Dour and countless others, it is with his vocal gifts that Kanza truly excels. Blessed with a gorgeous, mellifluous voice, Kanza's singing style reflects influences from Central African polyphony.

While Kanza has performed with popular soukous bands and heavily-produced African pop groups, his 1994 eponymous debut album created waves because of its quiet simplicity and almost total reliance on Kanza's rich vocal acrobatics. Kanza abandoned that approach for his next two albums, both of which fell victim to elaborate production, excessive overdubbing, and occasionally unbearably cheesy songwriting.

With his new album, Toyebi Té, Kanza has rescued himself from the abyss to create his best work since his debut album, and perhaps his best album to date. On Toyebi Té, Kanza returns to the primarily acoustic production of his early work, and allows his voice to speak for itself. The lovely "Le Bonheur" features Kanza's trademark rich vocal arrangements, and subtle acoustic guitar and piano accompaniment. "Mbiffe" proves that synthesizer can be a good thing if used judicially to provide effect and ambiance. The track is laid-back and funky with a catchy chorus that will prove hard to remove from your head. "Na Mileli" will remind the listener what gained Kanza such acclaim in the first place: beautiful vocals and haunting melodies.

Kanza does force his horrible English-lyrics and indecipherable accent on us in the songs "Come Back to Me" and the title track, but they're not as painful as his earlier efforts. Indeed, the cute, bouncy song "Good Bye" is kind of fun and a great childrens song.

This return to form should help give Kanza the recognition he clearly deserves, because at his best Lokua Kanza is one of African music's most creative and gifted voices. - Jacob Edgar

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