Kekele

Kinavana

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Always one of the best Congolese musical outfits, Kekele have made a career connecting the dots between rumba and rhumba -- Cuba and West Africa -- it's even in the title of this disc, Kinavana, from Kinshasa and Havana. But whereas they've taken a generalist approach to the musical melding before, this time they're far more specific, with an album of music written or recorded by Guillermo Portables, who was hardly a household name in his lifetime. But in the hands of Kekele you'd certainly imagine him to be a master. The arrangements sparkle and the guests, including Manu Dibango and M'Bilia Bel as well as others, offer incisive contributions. Guitarists Papa Noel and Syran Mbenza are the standouts in the band, but there are absolutely no passengers in this outfit. It's class all the way, taking the music back to its Caribbean source and letting the melodies speak for themselves in a glittering framework of wonderful singing and playing. What you hear is absolutely what you get here. But, of course, however they play it there's inevitably an African twist to the whole, subtle but pervasive, to give an extra kick to the music (which originated in West Africa centuries before the Cubans returned it). If you think of this as an exercise in multiculturalism at its finest, you won't be wrong.

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