Mondo Melodia / Ark 21
For those who are unfamiliar with soukous (or “rumba” or “Congolese,” as it’s also called), you don’t know what you’re missing. A beautiful marriage between Congolese and Cuban music, soukous can move your hips to dance and your eyes to tears with its rhythmic beauty. With the guitar replacing the clave, the former provides a soft, sweet sound that reminds one of waterfalls or warm, spring rains.
Mondo Soukous shows the genre at its best, and brings some of its greatest artists to the fore, explaining why the rumba has spread all across central and eastern Africa, has packed halls in Paris, and is making a slow, steady percussion to your American ears. It is a wonder that such musical joy can come out of the misery of Mobutu’s Zaire. But it has. And it’s a life-affirming experience for those who love to dance and celebrate what is truly beautiful in African music, in life. Legends such as the simply angelic Mbilia Bel (whose children I would have if it were physically possible), Papa Wemba, Papa Noel, Rigo Star, and Sam Mangwana all add brilliant contributions to this exquisite compilation. All flowers and sunny days, this disc would have even recalcitrant Goths wearing pastels.