Henri Dikongué

Mot'a Bobe

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Zouk, soukous, and makossa are types of West African pop for those who like their music fast, exuberant, and danceable. Those preferring something more introspective from a West African vocalist would be advised to seek out Cameroon native Henri Dikongué, whose Mot'a Bobe is the essence of subtlety and restraint. Singing in two African languages (Douala and Lingala) as well as French, Dikongué doesn't scream or belt to get his points across. In fact, this excellent CD (which was recorded in France in late 1999 and early 2000) is so subtle and relaxed that anyone accustomed to hearing more aggressive pop sounds from West African artists might not fully appreciate its richness the first time around. But the more Mot'a Bobe is played, the more one realizes how substantial and creative tracks like "N'Oublie Jamais" and "Ongele" are. Dikongué, who sometimes inspires comparisons to Sting, has a variety of influences -- this album finds him incorporating everything from reggae and jazz to various types of Latin music (including Afro-Cuban salsa and Brazilian pop). And true to form, the singer doesn't beat the listener over the head with his influences; just as Dikongué favors subtle lyrics and a gentle vocal style, he employs a variety of rhythms (African as well as European, Caribbean, North American, and Latin American) in a subtle fashion. With Mot'a Bobe, Dikongué continues to provide a soulful, inviting alternative to the high-energy approach that has characterized so much West African pop.

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