“(T)he Congolese are ‘un peuple qui bouge’, a people who move,” writes Christopher Clark at World Travel Guide. With their embrace of rumba music and their resolve against controversial President Denis Sassou Nguesso, the people of the Republic of the Congo use art as a source of reverie and weaponry. Here are five groups contributing to the scene in Brazzaville and beyond.
Calling Brazzaville their home base, this collective of Congolese, French and Senegalese rappers and singers rhyme to rebuke war. Their 1999 debut album, Racine, explored their childhood roots in rumba, soukous and mythical storytelling. Crewmember Passi has also enjoyed a successful solo career in Africa and throughout Europe. For fans of Fugees and Arrested Development.
Martial Pa’Nucci is as abrasive as Bisso Na Bisso are smooth. Unapologetic and forceful, Pa’Nucci’s flows address abject poverty with a timbre somewhere between Eminem and Kendrick Lamar. “All of us knew someone who died during the war,” Martial told Clark in 2015. He creates to honor those who succumbed to the bloody ordeal that reached its apex between 1993-1997.
This bright vocalist and musical shape-shifter moved from Congo to Germany at age 13 and knows how to turn alienation into a killer tune. Splicing Euro-trance with rambunctious soukous and feverish horns, Okomo can count Janelle Monae among her aural kin. Her debut CD, Afroplastique, is out now. (Thank you to the CBC for the recommendation.)
Each performance of this pygmy band is a lesson in history. The group, consisting of members of the Kombola village, dance in detailed grass skirts, convey legends in a conversational yet spiritual tone and plunk and pat on organic instruments. Ndima have traveled the planet on the strength of their stage mastery and flair for the authentic. (Thank you to allAfrica for the suggestion.)
Les Bantous de la Capitale
Hailed as one of the pioneering music groups to come out of the Congo, Les Bantous (“the people”) literally crossed borders to write. In the early 1960s, jazz artists from Brazzaville and Kinshasa in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo convened in the name of melody. Their songs were kaleidoscopes of surf rock, rumba, folk and Latin influences, making for a freeing mix.
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