Man From Kinshasa

You can buy all the Tabu Ley records you want — and there have been literally hundreds in a 30-plus year career that is to African music roughly what James Brown’s is to American pop — but you’ll never really get it until you see him live. Onstage, leading phalanxes of twinkling guitars, rafts of percussion, and legions of backup singers, the king of Zairean soukous can lead audiences to heaven, especially in the long, deliriously polyrhythmic second half of standards like ”Kinshasa.” But Rochereau’s albums always seem to miss something — maybe it’s his sense of glitzy spectacle — and Man From Kinshasa is no exception. This set of new and old songs makes an interesting comparison to the artist’s last Stateside release, 1989’s Babeti Soukous, and not just because they both include a version of ”Kinshasa.” The earlier album has sharper sound quality and approximates the flow of an actual concert, but Man From Kinshasa feels looser, friendlier. Still, it’s not until the chugging climax of ”Ponce-Pilate,” the sixth song in, that the album at last puts across the insane happiness that marks great soukous. I say buy them both anyway and wait for the next U.S. tour. B

Man From Kinshasa
  • Music