Rumbanella Band

El Congo: Congolese Rumba

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Real Congolese rhumba had a lilting rhythm that's almost irresistible, especially when paired with harmonizing voices on top. And this, although it's new, is definitely real rhumba, not the speeded-up soukous that ruled in the '70s and '80s. The sensuous mix of Cuba and West Africa is safe in the sure hands of Rumbanella Band, a young group of musicians who are not only skillful, but imbued with the spirit of history. But this is more than a re-creation -- some of the genre's early giants also perform, like Wendo Kolosoy, whose "Marie Louise" (done anew here) was one of the first Congolese rhumba records in 1948. He's wonderful with the veteran band Victoria Bakolo Miziki, but one of the joys is to hear him perform with his old friend Antoine Moundanda (who plays thumb piano) on "Wendo Likembé." This is an easy joy of a disc, quietly effervescent, going through some classics of the genre with taste and real elegance, but never forgetting that at its heart this is music for dancing. Perhaps, in the long wake of Buena Vista Social Club, this music is due for a real revival -- and this mix of old and young musicians might well be rhumba's Buena Vista. It's certainly every bit as glorious and luscious.

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