For better or worse, technology has changed the way we humans interact with one another. Though geographically distant, we are only a phone call, Facebook message, Skype chat, or YouTube clip away from one another. In other words, the world is truly becoming a global village. But this new community isn’t merely cyber. With the flux of emigration and immigration going on all over our planet, our communities are overlapping a lot more than ever, and as a result are influencing one another to an ever greater degree. And nowhere is this more apparent than in music.
There’s nothing novel about incorporating foreign sounds into one’s own – many elements of the blues can be traced back to the 'motherland', for example – but there’s now a slew of respected contemporary American bands like Vampire Weekend, Fool’s Gold, Dirty Projectors, and Givers, who can all be categorided as indie Afro-Pop. What their success has done is help make African music more palatable – and much less “foreign” - to Western indie and mainstream audiences. It’s no longer uncommon to read rave reviews from culturally relevant American music blogs and magazines like Pitchfork, Spin Magazine, and The Fader of contemporary urban African artists like Spoek Mathambo, The Very Best, Die Antwoord, K’naan, and Nneka. These artists differ stylistically, but they share a common talent for organically mixing Western aesthetics with African rhythms, melodies, and sounds.
In fact, some say a reluctance to incorporate “foreign” sounds into music has contributed to the perceived decline in Congolese pop music. As a recent article on allAfrica.com pointed out, Congolese pop music dominated the African scene for decades. But in Congo, adding different sounds to the music is regarded as unoriginal at best and unpatriotic or inauthentic at worst. Ironically, the origins of rumba, considered one of Congo’s “truest” art forms, can be traced to Cuba.
Because of traditions that eschew outside influences – or at least recognised outside influences – the global revolution happening in the music world forms an antithesis to the psyche of the Congolese artist.
Yet a growing and vibrant class of Congolese urban artists is taking Congolese pop to new heights. The landscape is wide – hip-hop, electro-coupé décalé, pop, R&B, urban rumba – and it is my pleasure to introduce a few of these artists to anyone new to the contemporary urban music scene in the Democratic Republic of Congo. For anyone who's glanced at the pix and is about to scream, "where's Fally Ipupa?!", please note that the focus here is on emerging artists and artists who've been around a while but are yet to receive their fair due. So, kick back, relax, and welcome to Congo!
LiL Sam is the 17-year-old protégé of DJ Meji, one of Kinshasa's leading DeeJays. The emerging rapper creates his own South Florida-influenced beats and knows how to make catchy, danceable hip-hop and crossover records. This kid has what it takes to export his music beyond Kinshasa.
http://content.omroep.nl/ghettoradio/musicblog/lil_sam_la_bas.mp3 Là bas
http://content.omroep.nl/ghettoradio/musicblog/lil_sam_feat_stematik_first_session_2010_prod_by_sammusic.mp3 Lil Sam Feat Stematik - First Session (2010)
Pathy Pacheko is a former member of Viva La Musica, a popular band founded by Congolese icon Papa Wemba. Pacheko is a soulful singer who’s taking Congolese rumba in a new direction. His work blends soul music and traditional rumba, giving birth to a new urban rumba sound, à la Papa Wemba’s Emotion album. I hope more rumba artists will take this route.
When it comes to diverse sound, Kibistone is your man. He does hip-hop, R&B, afrobeat and even messes with a bit of South African kwaito. He also raps in various languages: French, Lingala, and Zulu. I believe with such a range he has all the elements necessary to push him to the forefront of the African music scene.
When it comes to hip-hop crafted in Kinsasha, Lexxus Legal is the key figure in the game. This politically-conscious and didactic emcee was voted Best Hip-Hop Artist during Congo’s 2009 Ndule Awards and earned a place in the finals for the 2010 RFI World Music Prize. Mark my word, Lexxus will one day be seen as a giant in African hip-hop.
Youssoupha, son of Congolese rumba musician Tabu Ley, is an emcee par excellence. He’s known as the Lyricist Bantu for his poetic brand of hip-hop, and he’s helping to re-focus hip-hop on lyrics rather than just on a hot beat.
Maitre Gims is the leader of the French platinum group Sexion D’asault and has a solo track on the group’s latest project, En Attendant L'apogée: Les Chroniques du 75. If this track serves as any indication of what we can expect from a full-on solo album, Maitre Gims’s eagerly awaited project could be one of the francophone hip-hop highlights of the year. Keep an eye on this guy.
Official site, Sexion D'assault
This is just a small taste, and in Part 2 I’ll introduce you to the artists modernizing the style of music known as coupé décalé.
Written by Yves-Alec Tambashe