Congo Life

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For their second album, Congo Life, the veterans of Congolese rumba who make up Kekele keep very much to the idea of their debut. But then, when you've done everything so right the first time, why make any major changes? There are refinements, and a few personnel changes -- the great guitarist Papa Noel and a couple of others aren't onboard this time around, but Rigo Star is on the six-string, so there's no dip in quality. In fact, it's a Star composition, "Oyebi Bien," that provides one of the standout moments, with a fabulous bass riff and a tremendous vocal from Nyboma, before hitting a crescendo and floating gauzily away. But it's almost a disservice to pick out any particular song here, because they're all so good, arranged with diamond clarity, whether it's the big tribute to the classic OK Jazz, led by the late Franco, or the medley of tunes from the golden age of rumba. There are, however, some surprises, but they come in the instrumentation -- neither violin nor clarinet ever had much of a place in rumba, although from the way they're used here, that seems more like an oversight than anything. As the men in Kekele prove over and over, you're never too old to rumba.

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