Joyful Sounds From Congo
Sometimes the only music happy enough is African music, and before I'm accused of speaking of the continent like I think it has a monoculture, today I'm referring in particular of the music of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
After dismissing my entire music collection as unfit for listening, I turned to the internet. I was pleased to discover that there is finally a new post at No Condition Is Permanent (this blog is highly recommended - take a moment to look through his archive). Count Reeshard was nice enough to share the music of Pamela M'ounka. It's a foot-tapping kind of music that evokes warm weather, good times, and a kind of smile in the face misfortune. His songs speak of love and its victims, and offer sly commentary on his country's economic and sociological conditions. Check out this description:
Pamelo's songs follow the traditional soukous pattern of creeping forward in a slow burn of almost ballad-like quality, and then gradually building up heat until they burst into flame with infectious guitar-driven rhythms that are impossible to ignore. While almost all artists of the era respected this musical structure, many singers seemed to be anxious to put the slow stuff behind them and get on with the guitar attack. Franco's songs, for example, often sound raw and under-produced as they build to the climactic rush of the "main" part. In contrast, Pamelo's great strength is that he complemented his irresistible melodies with controlled, almost delicate, vocals and superior production throughout. He convincingly conveys a wide range of emotion in each song-- his lush, unhurried introductory phrases are as carefully crafted as the feverish, extended ecstasies of the main body of the song.There's an informative article about the music of Congo in The Economist, of all places. To help put it all in context I'll need to find recordings from some other important (and better remembered) artists of M'Ounka's day, such as Sam Mangwana, Tabu Ley Rochereau, and Franco Luambo.
For the moment, anyone interested can grab more of M'Ounka's songs here.