2007-12-30Beginning in the late 1950s, visionaries in the Congo began inventing a new kind of pop music that would eventually sweep the continent. Combining Cuban rhythms, Congolese percussion, repeating electric guitar figures, and gorgeous vocals, African rumba continues to influence African and Afro-Latin styles around globe. The Voice of Lightness, a career retrospective of legendary singer and bandleader Tabu Ley Rochereau, collects some of the most heavenly sounding music ever made. Opening track "Kelya" suggests some idealized tropical island, but even those delicate vocals are scant preparation for the fragility of the opening notes to "Christine". Also remarkable is Rocherau's vocal on "Mongali" a song told from a woman's point of view, which dispenses with the usual cascading electric guitars in favor of subdued acoustic accompaniment. Every track justifies its inclusion in this two-CD set, from the looping vocal line of "Savon Omo" that echoes the circular guitar lines, to the contrast between the simple, almost cabaret-style melody of "Pesa le Tout" and Dr. Nico's highly ornamental guitar. Rochereau and his band created some of the most sophisticated pop ever made, and if anything, it sounds better than ever now. -- Bob Tarte
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