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Ballou Canta et Luciana


Ballou Canta & Luciana - biography

With pulsating guitars, a deeply romantic ambience and a wide range of acoustic sounds, “Rumba Lolango”, the new album by the duo Ballou Canta & Luciana Demingongo, returns to the best of Congolese rumba, a genre that has held sway throughout Black Africa since its appearance in the 50s.

It was then (with the advent of stereo sound and programmes broadcast by Radio Congo Belge) that the languid, impassioned strains of Cuban rumba hit the banks of the Congo, where the river forms a great lake and Kinshasa and Brazzaville, the world’s two closest capitals, stand opposite each other.

A salacious dance dreamt up by the children of African slaves in the seedy backyards of Matanzas and La Havana, this Latin-flavoured rumba was welcomed in the land of its ancestors like a prodigal son returning to his homeland. Derived from yuca, an old Congolese fertility dance performed to the insistent slapping of one stick against another (in Cuba, these became the legendary claves) or the dull rumbling of forest drums, the style was soon adopted by the pioneers of modern Congolese music. The likes of Wendo, Léon Bukasa and Dawayon, maestros of string instruments and vocals, then Grand Kallé, Franco and their peers, creators of the first urban bands, restored rumba’s African soul with giddying spiral guitar work on the famous sebens and fiery vocal harmonies fuelled by the musicality of Lingala, a language common to both Congos.

Born in the 60s, Ballou Canta and Luciana Demingongo have followed all the genre’s developments up to its last progeny, ndombolo (with a fevered beat, but short on creativity today). After working with stars such as Papa Wemba, Koffi Olomide and Ray Lema, the two singers decided to raise a bridge that would span three generations of Congolese music lovers and musicians by updating the refined, nonchalant elegance of yesterday’s rumba. They also added a personal note of colourful, richly-constructed poetry to produce “lolango” (love) rumba, the Lingalan expression denoting the joys and torments of amorous passion.

Anthology-style, their original compositions allude to the various schools that have fuelled the legend of Congolese rumba since the end of the 40s. To do so, the two partners have produced arrangements that vary from one piece to the next – more or less acoustic, with or without drums (an instrument that was not actually used in the Congolese repertoire until the 60s) and so on. After a moving prologue of two initial songs featuring notes of accordion and the purr of a double bass, a tribute to rumba’s very beginnings, we hear the lyrically poignant melodies that made the group Bella Bella famous in the 70s (“Pokola”), the Afro-Cuban accents of Brazzaville band Bantou de la Capitale (“Gradi”) and the torrid ambience of Franco’s OK Jazz (“Yvon”). Performed in Lingala (or Spanish in the case of the two songs with the strongest Latin influences) and with one Afro-Caribbean-style track (“Kumbe Kumbe”), the album breathes a languorous, typically Congolese sentimentality, a reminder that in the discos of Brazza and Kin, the steamy thrusting and swinging of hips sometimes gives way to equally steamy smooches…

 

 

Ballou Canta & Luciana “Rumba lolango” - CD Lusafrica 462112

 

Artist's albums

Rumba lolango

Rumba lolango - Ballou canta & Luciana - CD, world music albums, lusafrica
12.00 €

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