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Baloji - Kinshasa Succursale

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Artist: Baloji

Album: Kinshasa Succursale

Label: Crammed Discs

Review date: Mar. 30, 2012

Congolese born, Belgian raised Baloji shared his creative journey in words and sound on the 2007 album Hotel Impala. That eclectic work laid the groundwork for the deeper journey communicated on Kinshasa Succursale.

Baloji’s sonic vision as rapper, poet, film-maker and composer is strongly aligned with the confluent energies that have for so long fed so much of Congolese music: rumba, soukous, mutuashi, afro-funk, and more — sounds with strong home roots and the wings of travel and return.

This music has a dizzying story, indeed, and the artist’s personal journey between countries and cultures seems to echo that. Baloji narrates and raps — along with other voices — over, under, around and through, a constant flow of grooves, songs and textures.

To be sure, the work of collaborators here utterly enriches the experience. Baloji’s band, Le Orchestre De La Katuba — under the direction of Didier Likeng — provides the rippling guitar interplay and supple, popping grooves at the heart of much central African popular music. But, as influenced as they are by the past, they also offer new perspectives: the blending, for example, of clear-ringing and gorgeously dirty electric guitars on the album’s opener, a remake of the great Kabasele’s 1960 classic “Independance Cha-Cha.”

Other voices and sonics abound. From the amplified urban likembes of Konono No. 1, to the warm, round horn sounds of Fanfare La Confiance, instrumental colors are complex and fulfilling throughout. And the vocals — Baloji’s urgency; Monik Trembay’s intimate elegance; Royce Mbumba’s deep soul; the soaring choir La Chorale De la Grace — carry the journey’s arc perfectly.

There is a lot going on here. What holds it all together is an almost magical inherence of shared intent and musical energy. Baloji’s deep engagement with seeking and finding reveals not only a past and its roots, but a present and future as well.

By Kevin Macneil Brown

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